New & Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

Even though it is early in the new year, there are several new books in the PRC Seminary library that can be highlighted. As always, I could give a much longer and larger list, but I will limit us to some of the “top titles” that have been added in the last month.

My goal is to make this a more regular feature of my blog, not only to keep you informed as to what is new in the Seminary book stacks, but perhaps also to stimulate some reading ideas for you personally.

Here are a few books with a narrower interest (for preachers and pastors) and a broader interest (for the general reader). I include the publisher’s description and link for your benefit.

  •  Scholte-Heideman-2015Hendrik P. Scholte; His Legacy in the Netherlands and America, Eugene P. Heideman. Holland/Grand Rapids, MI: Van Raalte Press/Eerdmans, 2015.
    • DESCRIPTION

      Series: The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America (HSRCA)

      This book offers a careful contextual theological analysis of a nineteenth-century schismatic with twenty-first-century ecumenical intent.

      Hendrik P. Scholte (1803-1868) was the intellectual leader and catalyst of a separation from the Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk. Leaving the state church meant being separated from its deacon’s funds, conflict with the laws of the state, and social ostracism. Due to poverty, Scholte emigrated with a group that settled Pella, Iowa. Schismatic tendencies continued in this and other nineteenth-century Dutch settlements with the most notable division being between those who joined the Reformed Church in America and those who became the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

      As Heideman says: “Although this book concentrates on what happened in the past, it is written with the hope that knowledge of the past will contribute to the faithfulness and unity of the church in the future.”

 

  • Theodore BezaTheodore Beza: The Man and the Myth, Shawn D. Wright. Fearn, GB: Christian Focus, 2015.
    • Description

      Theodore Beza? Who is he? Why should I care about him?

      Well, I’m glad you asked!
      Theodore Beza was a man who in his day was one of the luminaries of the Protestant world, who took the reins of the beleaguered Calvinistic movement after its namesake’s death, and who influenced English-speaking Protestantism more than you might imagine. Shawn D. Wright casts light on a figure often neglected and helps illustrate the significant impact of his faith and influence.

       

  • For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America, Sean Michael Lucas. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015.
    • The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is the largest conservative, evangelical Presbyterian denomination in North America. And yet ministers, elders, and laypeople know only the barest facts concerning the denomination’s founding. For a Continuing Church is a fully researched, scholarly yet accessible account of the theological and social forces that brought about the PCA.

      Drawing on little used archival sources, as well as Presbyterian newspapers and magazines, Lucas charts the formation of conservative dissent in response to the young progressive leadership that emerged in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in the 1920s and 1930s. Their vision was to purify the PCUS from these progressive theological elements and return it to its spiritual heartland: evangelism and missions. Only as the church declared the gospel with confidence in the inspired Scriptures would America know social transformation.

      Forty years after its founding, the PCA has nearly 400,000 members and is still growing in the United States and internationally.

 

  • HBavinck2Essays-Bolt-2013A Theological Analysis of Herman Bavinck’s Two Essays on the Imitatio Christi: Between Pietism and Modernism, John Bolt. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2013.
    • Professor Bolt defended his original dissertation in 1982 at the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, under the title, ”The Imitation of Christ Theme in the Cultural-Ethical Ideal of Herman Bavinck.” For the published edition he has updated the scholarship and added a concluding chapter on application and relevance. Also, he has included the first available English translations of Bavinck’s two imitation articles of 1885/86 and 1918.
    • Bolt’s investigation of Bavinck’s essays on the imitation of Christ . . . immerses us in some of the most important aspects of the Christianity and culture debate. What is the relationship of God’s work of creation to his work of redemption? What is the relationship of nature and grace? What is the significance of common grace and natural law? What is the relationship of the Old Testament law, as summarized in the Decalogue, to New Testament ethics, especially as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount? Can the Sermon on the Mount really direct our social-cultural life and, if so, how? These will undoubtedly remain central questions to discussions about Christian cultural activity, and Bolt reflects on all of them as he expounds Bavinck’s essays. I predict that his conclusions will surprise many readers, challenge simplistic assumptions about Bavinck’s view of culture, and inspire many people to read Bavinck anew. (David VanDrunen, “Forward,” v–vi)

 

  • The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, R.Kent Hughes; Douglas S. O’Donnell, Contributing ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.
    • Pastors are tasked with the incredibly demanding job of caring for the spiritual, emotional, and, at times‚ physical needs of their people. While seminary is helpful preparation for many of the challenges pastors face, there’s far more to pastoral ministry than what can be covered in the classroom. Designed as a reference guide for nearly every situation a pastor will face, this comprehensive book by seasoned pastors Kent Hughes and Doug O’Donnell is packed full of biblical wisdom and practical guidance related to the reality of pastoral ministry in the trenches. From officiating weddings to conducting funerals to visiting the sick, this book will equip pastors and church leaders with the knowledge they need to effectively minister to their flocks, both within the walls of the church and beyond.

 

  • LetEarthHearVoice-Scharf-2015Let the Earth Hear His Voice: Strategies for Overcoming Bottlenecks in Preaching God’s Word, Greg R. Scharf. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
    • Uniting theological encouragement with practical advice, Greg Scharf identifies eight common bottlenecks that can clog a sermon’s fruitfulness and faithfulness—humanly speaking—and gives diagnoses, strategies for addressing the problems, and exercises to overcome them. Seminary students, occasional preachers, and seasoned pastors will be given profound tools and insights for preaching faithfully, clearly, and applicably. A cross reference allows the book to be easily used alongside Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching.

 

  • 2Samuel-WoodhouseSeveral new volumes in the excellent “Preaching the Word” series published by Crossway. We have recently added volumes on 2 Samuel, Judges and Ruth, and I Corinthians.
    • For years, Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series has helped pastors, preachers, and anyone who teaches God’s Word to better interpret and apply the message of the Bible. Under the careful editorial oversight of experienced pastor and best-selling author R. Kent Hughes, this series is known for its commitment to biblical authority, its pastoral tone and focus, and its overall accessibility

Christian Apologetics: Defending the Resurrection – Guy Waters

TT-Jan-2016To wrap up the featured articles on apologetics in the January 2016 issue of Tabletalk, Dr.Guy P. Waters addresses the vital subject of the resurrection (cf. link to full article below).

To show the Christian defense of this doctrine, he takes us to Paul’s defense of it in Athens on Mar’s Hill as recorded in the Scripture in Acts 17.

This is how Waters ends his treatment of Paul’s defense of the resurrection of the dead, with the calling for the church to continue to do so:

Thus far, Paul has reasoned with the Athenians based upon what they know of God and of themselves from the creation. He then turns to a particular fact of history—God raised a man from the dead (v. 31). That God has lifted the sentence of death from Jesus and publicly vindicated Him means that Jesus was a righteous man. That is to say, He is unlike any other person who walked the face of the earth. This righteous Jesus had claimed on earth that He would judge all people (see John 5:19–29). The resurrection vindicated this claim. In raising Jesus from the dead, God publicly affirmed Jesus’ claim to judge the world at the end of the age. Because this judgment is certain and imminent, Paul pleads with his hearers to “repent” (Acts 17:30), to turn from the service of idols to the worship of the triune God. The resurrection and the worldwide preaching of the gospel has brought to an end the “times of ignorance,” during which God was pleased to withhold final judgment (v. 30). The days of comparative but culpable Gentile blindness have come to an end. Only the gospel can dispel the ongoing ignorance and blindness in which unrenewed humanity finds itself.

Paul’s mention of the resurrection yields two very different results. Some mock and sneer—the very idea that one’s body would have immortal existence was laughable to the Greek mind (v. 32a). Others, however, want to hear more and, trusting in Christ, follow Paul (vv. 32b–34).

Proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus did not, on this occasion, win Paul the accolades of the Athenian intelligentsia. Neither did it yield a visibly impressive host of converts in Athens. But Paul did not preach the resurrection because it was popular. He preached it because it was true. The resurrection of Jesus confirmed the coming judgment but also secured blessing for the undeserving. However God is pleased to use this truth in the lives of unbelievers, the church’s task remains the same—to tell others that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

Source: The Resurrection by Guy Waters | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

The Prayers of J. Calvin (26)

JCalvinPic1On this last Sunday night of January 2016 we continue our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fifth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:16-23, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”:

This passage contains a valuable truth, – that faith ever brings us peace with God, and that not only because it leads us to acquiesce in God’s mercy, and thus, as Paul teaches us, (Rom.v:1,) produces this as its perpetual fruit; but because the will of God alone is sufficient to appease our minds.

Whosoever then embraces from the heart the truth as coming from God, is at peace; for God never suffers his own people to fluctuate while they recumb on him, but shews to them how great stability belongs to his truth.

If it was so under the Law and the Prophets, …how much more shall we obtain rest under Christ, provided we submit to his word; for he himself has promised it, ‘Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ And ye shall find rest, he says here, to your souls (p.342).

And this is the prayer that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to give Thee occasion of offence, and as Thou ceasest not, in order to promote our salvation, to call us to the right way, – O grant, that we may be attentive to Thy voice, and suffer ourselves to be reproved by it, and so submit ourselves to Thee, that we may continually go on towards the mark to which Thou invitest us, and that having at length finished our course in this life, we may enjoy the fruit of our obedience and faith, and possess that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen

Family worship – Joshua and his house

family-worship-whitney-2016A recent publication of Crossway that I asked to review is Donald S. Whitney’s little book Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.). It came in the mail Friday and I thought I would share an excerpt from the first chapter this evening.

The chapter is titled “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord” (with the sub-title, “Family Worship in the Bible”), taken from the familiar verse in Joshua 24:15. After treating the family worship of Abraham and Moses (and subsequently Job, Asaph, Paul, and Peter), Whitney gets to Joshua, where he has the following to say:

     Have you ever considered how infrequently people gathered for congregational worship in the centuries comprising nearly the entire Old Testament? Even after the tabernacle and temple were built believers did not gather in large groups to worship God as often as is sometimes assumed. Only after the Babylonian exile, late in Old Testament history and hundreds of years after Solomon built the temple, did the local synagogues develop and people begin to worship God congregationally on a weekly basis. Of course, with the coming of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, most believers are now privileged to experience the riches of being in God’s family through regular participation in a local church.

But God was worthy of worship in the days before regular congregational worship as he is now. Those who believed in and loved God, people such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and others, wanted to worship God in their days as much as people do today. Keep that thought in mind as you read the famous words of Joshua 24.

And then after quoting v.15 – Joshua’s exhortation to the people, along with his own example – Whitney writes:

     How would Joshua and his house have served the Lord? Part of serving the Lord for them back then, just as it is for us now, is worshiping the Lord. But in a day when congregational worship was so infrequent  – after all, for many Israelites it involved a trip of several days to travel to the tabernacle – regular family worship of some sort would have been a part of carrying out Joshua’s resolve, ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (pp.19-20).

As we experience the blessed freedom of public, congregational worship on the Lord’s Day tomorrow, may we also remember that true worship begins in our own hearts and in our own homes. May we have Joshua’s resolve for our personal families, even as we gather with the family of God on the morrow.

Sem Student Pictures: Holding to the Traditions, or Being Imitators?

For our Friday Fun item today we have something a bit unusual. Not that we post some pictures; you are accustomed to that. But that these two pictures are a sort of matching game.

Thanks to some recent Sem student shenanigans (stimulated by a picture Prof.Gritters shared with them – the first one here!), it seems like these two photos are designed to be alike.

But are they? Who is who? and who is trying to be who? You be the judge!

OldSem-CA-pic.jpg

NewSem-CA-pic-Jan-2016

And, if you are really good, you will be able to place these two pictures in our Seminary history. Both quite recent, but one more recent than the other.

Special thanks to Matt Kortus for choreography and David Noorman for photography. :)

Published in: on January 29, 2016 at 11:03 AM  Comments (5)  

PRC Archives – Mystery Photo #3 of 2016

Last week for our PRC archive item we posted another picture of a church council. We did have a few guesses, but, not surprisingly, one was unsure and the other was incorrect.

PRCA-Mystery#2-2016

This is what I can tell you: this is the Council of Pella, IA PRC during the years that Rev. George Lubbers (1909-2001 – front center) served as pastor there (1937-1943). The only other person I know on the picture is Mr. Conrad De Vries, Rev. Michael De Vries’ (currently at Kalamazoo PRC) grandfather (top, third from left).

UPDATES: BUT now – thanks to Rev.M. De Vries and Mark Hoeksema – I am able to add three more names to the photo: Mr.William C. Stursma (front far left), Mr. Wiebe De Vries (top, second from left), and Mr. Cecil Vander Molen (top, far right).

So, we could still use some help! The PRC 25th anniversary book does have a Pella Council picture too, but the men appear quite different.

At the same time, I have some other items for you. These are from a PRYP’s Convention “Souvenir Booklet.”

Myst-YPsConv-1

I will let you work on the year and other details, but here are some of the pages from it:

Myst-YPsConv-3

Myst-YPsConv-4

And finally, here is the special dedication page:

Myst-YPsConv-2

 

 

Published in: on January 28, 2016 at 1:31 PM  Comments (4)  

Gopher Delegation vs. Stewardship Delegation

Whats Best Next -PermanWe have been looking at “The Art of Making Time”, which is the title of Chapter 17 of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014). Part of the fifth main section of the book, called “Reduce,” at this point in the book Perman is addressing the problem of cramming our schedule with so much – even good things – that we become unproductive in getting the best things done.

Belonging to the ways of freeing our schedules is the task of delegating, and the last two weeks we have been quoting from this section of the chapter. We do so one more time, where Perman distinguishes between “gopher delegation” and stewardship delegation,” with the latter method being the best way to free up your time.

First, here’s how he describes “gopher delegation”:

…In gopher delegation, you hand people specific tasks as the need arises and are closely involved in supervising how they do them. The other person does not utilize much independent judgment and initiative, but is basically operating in a ‘wait until told’ context. You have something for them to do, and you tell them to do it. Responsibility for the results and methods lies with you, not them. You have not handed off responsibility; the other person is simply doing what they are told.

In this approach, the other person doesn’t grow because this relationship doesn’t require the other person to use their wisdom or judgment or insight. They are treated almost like a tool.

Now contrast this with “stewardship delegation”:

Stewardship delegation, on the other hand, has the aim of not just getting tasks done, but of building others up through the accomplishment of tasks. It is concerned about tasks, but it is equally concerned about the other person. As with good management in general, the aim is not just to get things done, but to develop people in the process. The aim is the effective accomplishment of tasks and the good of the other person.

Stewardship delegation delegates the task – or, more often, an area of responsibility – and allows the individual to determine their own methods for accomplishing the tasks. The focus is on achieving the intended results, not on how they are done (as long as they are done in alignment with the overall guidelines and values). The one delegating hands over true responsibility for the accomplishment of the task to the one being delegated (p.232).

When you look at delegation in this light, it should be clear which is the better way to hand over your work to others so as to free up your time. I appreciate the use of that word “stewardship”, both because it indicates what you are trying to do with your own time (namely, be a better steward of it) and because it indicates what you are teaching the delegated person to do (be a good steward of new tasks and responsibilities).

Which kind of delegation would you like to be involved in? Would you rather be a gopher or a steward?

Happy 179th, Michigan!

2000px-Flag_of_Michigan.svg.pngYes, indeed, today is the 179th birthday of the magnificent state of Michigan, and while it is late in the day, we are going to celebrate it and provide a little history of our part of the country.

Here’s a fun video from “Seeking Michigan” giving an overview of the origins of the 26th state in our union:

This is also the anniversary date of the great blizzard of 1978 – a year I remember well. I was a Junior at Calvin College and newly engaged to my bride-to-be. I was still living with my parents on Kenowa Ave. across from Fennessy Lake and the drifts on our road seemed to reach 15 ft.! I recall being “socked in” for days – exciting at the time!

“Michigan in Pictures” featured this blizzard today and provided (in part) this story (read the rest at the link provided:

Today is Michigan’s 179th birthday, but it’s also the anniversary of one of the most significant storms to ever hit the state, the Great Blizzard of 1978. There’s a cool video below with a lot of photos from the storm (thanks Steve for sharing). William Deedler’s article A Great Storm is Upon Michigan says in part:

While there are several contenders for the worst blizzard ever to hit the Great Lakes in relatively modern times (since 1870 when records began in Detroit), the immense and intense Blizzard of January 26-27th 1978 must rank at or near the top along with the Great White Hurricane of 1913 (my link) with its similar track and powerfulness.

Local Meteoriologist Bill Steffen also featured it on his blog today, making these opening comments:

Today is Blizzard Anniversary Day (38th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78 and 49th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’67 – see thread below). The Blizzard of 1978 ranks as the #1 snowstorm ever for Grand Rapids and much of Lower Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The barometer reading of 28.28″ in Cleveland still ranks as the lowest non-hurricane barometer reading in U.S. history.

 

Published in: on January 26, 2016 at 10:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

Thinking about Change: How about the book? – Tim Challies

codex-1In this month’s Tabletalk, Tim Challies has an interesting and important article on how we as Christians face change in this world – especially in the light of God’s sovereignty and our hope for the return of Jesus Christ.

Challies demonstrates from several examples of history how change has worked for the good of God’s cause and kingdom in this world, as well as for the coming of Christ. He comments:

With all of the changes—not to mention the speed at which they occur—we can develop a deep uncertainty about the future. Whatever we know about our current situation, the future will be very different. We know that we cannot predict future changes with any degree of accuracy. After all, the technologies we consider so normal today existed only in the realm of science fiction just twenty short years ago. And as a result, many Christians have a nascent fear of the future, wondering what it may hold both for them and their families.

Understanding the past allows us to identify trends and to see that even though the pace may have changed, the pattern has not. Seeing history through the lens of God’s Word comforts us with the sure knowledge that all change is unfolding only and exactly within God’s good and perfect will.

KindleereaderOne such example is that of the book. Here are his thoughts on that:

Consider the book as well. The book—printed pages bound between two covers—is a relatively new innovation, a new technology. For the vast majority of human history, the book as such did not exist. King David never read a book. Jesus never read a book. They read scrolls. The book as we know it today is a product of developments in the centuries after Christ’s life. First the codex, an ancient form of the modern book, was invented, and then the printing press was invented many centuries later. Yet the book has become so deeply embedded in our society that we cannot imagine the world without it. We even call the Bible a book, as if it had always existed in this format.

It seems comical now, but when the book was introduced to society, people feared it, just as they had feared the rise of writing centuries earlier. People feared that the book would take ideas too far, too fast. They tied knowledge so closely with memorization that they feared the ramifications of recording words on paper instead of in human minds. After all, why would we ever want to store something in our memories if we can store it on paper? And yet today we can see how the book was used to record God’s Word and to spread it across the world. We can see that it sparked a great Reformation. We can see that it sparked revival and awakening. We can see that the Bible quickly became the best-selling book of all time. That technology changed the world. God used that technology for His own purposes.

To read the rest of Challies’ thoughts on this subject, follow the link below.

Source: Thinking about Change by Tim Challies | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Note to Self: What is Preaching to Ourselves?

Note-to-self-ThornLast Sunday I began to introduce you to a “new” book I picked up in a local thrift store – Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011).

The main part of the book consists of specific “notes to self”, applying the gospel we hear each week to ourselves. These personal applications are grouped into three sections:

  • Part One: The Gospel and God
  • Part Two: The Gospel and Others
  • Part Three: The Gospel and You

We will be taking a look at some of these specific “notes to self” in the weeks ahead, but for today we should start by looking at the author’s introduction. Under the heading “Preaching to Ourselves?”, Thorn starts by defining what he means by “the discipline of preaching to yourself”:

…Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness.

In that connection, he also explains why this is so important and so necessary:

     …It is critically important to sit under the preaching of the Word in your local church. Additionally, we can listen to podcasts and read books as God continues to work through his Word to impact our lives. But even in the midst of all this listening, it is not enough to hear; we must take the Word preached and continue to preach it to ourselves.

Good preaching always shows how truth is relevant, applicable, or experiential, but preachers can only take the Word so far. They do not know what lies in our hearts or the specific ways in which we may be struggling with doubt, fear, or failure. When hearing the Word preached, we still must apply it to our own hearts and lives. Therefore, my explanation of preaching to ourselves is applicable to those times when we hear another preach the Word to us, as well as when we take in God’s Word privately.

And he closes out this part of his introduction with these words:

     This personal, devotional work is essential to our own health, but also to our effectiveness in sharing the law and the gospel with others. The more deeply we understand and experience law and gospel, the more capable we become in communicating and applying it to those around us. A good teacher or evangelist is first of all a good preacher to himself (p.24).

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