Summer time off

The kids and I are taking a break from school, which means lots of fun "extra" activities! Here's what's on our list for the near future:

teaching drawing classes
sewing, sewing, sewing! -dress to finish, baby puzzle balls, restore/finish antique quilt, finish the 10-year quilt (king sized, hand quilted, 10 years in progress)
gardening - we have 9 zucchini plants, 10 green beans, 2 bell peppers, 3 lettuces
landscaping - the house needs flowers/shrubs/etc. I have a design in mind, but my time has been filled with watering the existing plants to keep them alive.
knitting - started socks, sleeved shawl, baby blanket...
reading - the kids have an ice cream incentive for reading books this summer. I have lots of kid books to reread to refresh my memory!

We'll be making plenty of local trips too, but those are less planned and more ad hoc as the weather dictates.


Thought for the day

"Under Christ, the church is the ministry of grace and truth, the civil magistrate is the ministry of justice, and the family is the ministry of health, education, and welfare. Christ is Lord, and He has three cabinet positions, and the responsibilities of each are specific and defined for us in the Scriptures."
Douglas Wilson


Old Friends, New Friends - Always Best Friends

We're back from Michigan, and despite what you might infer from Steve's post, we did NOT spend all our time in book stores. We had many great gatherings with family and friends, and bumped into folks we knew all over town. Steve has a group of friends who have known each other from infancy, and while they remain tried and true old friends, many new friendships are forming within the next generation of this group.

Thanks to Rebecca Laarman for this great photo.

Ages from left to right (1, 32, 1, 2, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7, 8, 6).

Here's the next group of Overisel sprouts. Grace surprised us by being the tallest, despite being 3rd from top in age. The kids are all lined up here as an excitement-control measure while waiting for hot dogs. The rain and cold weather didn't daunt these guys as they took control of the playground and welcomed other park-goers to a fast-paced game of "tunnel tag." Read a great write-up about these old and new friendships at Val's blog.

The bearded kid 2nd from the left had the hardest time waiting for his hot dog - I think he's trying to cut in line.


Vacation book buying

We now have two full boxes of books, 74 volumes all told, of sale books from various bookstores and sales here in West Michigan. We never come here intentionally for the books, but sometimes they practically fall into our laps. Here's the rundown, if you're interested...

Eerdman’s Publishing bookstore
most of these were 70% off, factory damaged goods

Christian Reflections, Lewis, CS
Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Thielicke
Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized, Willimon, Will
Contemplative Pastor, Peterson, Eugene
Christ Plays in 10,000 Places, Peterson, Eugene
Jesus Way, Peterson, Eugene
Above All Earthly Powers, Wells, David
Church in History, Kuipers - textbook for younger readers
Preaching Christ from the OT, Greidanus, Sidney
- my preaching professor at Calvin Seminary - very good
Spiritual Depression, Lloyd-Jones, Martin
Graded Reader of Biblical Greek - time to brush up!
Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew
Biblical Greek Exegesis
Basics of Biblical Hebrew

Baker Used book store – Grand Rapids
Binding of God, Lillback, Peter - analysis of covenant in Calvin's writings
God Who is There, Schaeffer, Francis
Postmodern Times, Veith, Gene Edward
Kingdom of the Cults, Martin, Walter
Method for Prayer, Henry, Matthew
Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Ramm, Bernard
Universe Next Door, Sire, James - rundown of competing worldviews
Examples of Holiness, Ryle, JC
Call to Prayer, Ryle, JC
Reading Between the Lines, Veith, Gene Edward
Kingdom of Priests, Merrill, Eugene
Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, Poythress, Vern

Calvin College bookstore
Solomon among the Postmoderns, Leithart, Peter - study on Ecclesiastes
Work of the Holy Spirit, Kuyper, Abraham

Baker store – Holland
store was being sold – half off all but one of these

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus, Wright, NT
Back to Basics, Hagopian, ed - excellent summary of Reformed basics
Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, Schenck, Lewis Bevens
Future of Justification: A Response to NT Wright, Piper, John
- heard it was good, and not just from the anti-Wright crowd
Matthew commentary, Boice, James
Talmud: A Close Encounter, Neusner, Jacob - Neusner is excellent
To 1000 Generations, Wilson, Doug
Symphonic Theology: the Validity of multiple perspectives in theology, Poythress, Vern
House for My Name: A Survey of the OT, Leithart, Peter

Used book and curriculum sale in Zeeland at the Baptist church

Wizard of Oz, Baum, L. Frank
101 Devotions for Homeschool Moms, Wellwood
Tramp for the Lord, ten Boom, Corrie
Matchlock Gun, Edmonds, Walter
Quilt Story, Johnston and dePaola
Black Beauty, Sewell, retold by Simpson, Anne
Paul Revere’s Ride, Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
What the Bible Says about Being a Girl, Pearables
Chocolate Touch, Catling
Daniel Boone, Wilkie
Indian in the Cupboard, Banks, Lynne Reid
Mouse and the Motorcycle, Cleary, Beverly
Man in Bearskin, Keuning, J. - local West. Michigan history
Danny and the Dinosaur, Hoff, Syd
Caps for Sale, Slobodkina
Children’s Book about lying, Berry, Joy
Saxon Math 2 workbook
Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Arminianism: A Workbook, Talbot, Kenneth
McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader set
Life of David Brainerd, Edwards, Jonathan
Knowing God, Packer, JI
Colonial Williamsburg Official Guidebook and Map (!!)
Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and Their Music, Gross, Milton, 2 vols.
Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Hughes, Barbara
Bulwark of the Republic: A Biography of the Constitution, Hendrick, Burton
Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Edersheim, Alfred
Mom's house (!)
What Say the Prophets, Mennenga, George
Pilgrim's Regress, Lewis, CS
Money, Sex and Power, Foster, Richard

Vacation reading, part 3

This was a nice little 25 page essay on how we view our children in the faith. The author argues (1) that our children are in covenant with God, as children of believers, and thus to be baptized, since God’s promises of salvation to us and our children carried through from Abraham (Gen 17) to the early church (Acts 2:39). Then the author asserts that (2) each child must embrace Christ himself, which is conversion/belief. But (3) parents or the church can pressure or impose an artificial point of conversion upon a child, seeking to evangelize them and have them pray the sinners prayer over and over. This results in the child doubting his faith and sincerity of his conversion. This was one of the better sections of the essay (pgs 20-23). Next, Smallman argues in good Presbyterian manner, that (3) regeneration must precede that conversion, and regeneration is symbolized in baptism. So parents are to bring their children in faith to Jesus, who will not turn them away, by baptizing them. He wades into the baptismal regeneration issue, coming out clean. Baptism does not automatically save or regenerate the baptized. But neither is baptism merely a family celebration. He quotes Archibald Alexander, president of Princeton 150 years ago, at this point, which I found worth reprinting. It shows there used to be a time when Reformed people weren’t afraid to speak of baptism and regeneration together, connecting the two, while still denying Catholic (or Lutheran?) baptismal regeneration:

“If piety may commence at any age, how solicitous should parents be for their children, that God would bestow His grace upon them, even before they know their right hand from their left; and, when about to dedicate them to God in holy baptism, how earnestly should they pray that they might be baptized with the Holy Ghost – that while their bodies are washed in the emblematic laver of regeneration, their souls may experience the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. If such sentiments expressed above be correct, then may there be such a thing as baptismal regeneration; not that the mere external application of water can have any effect to purify the soul; nor that internal grace uniformly or generally accompanies this external washing, but that God, who works when and by what means He pleases, may regenerate by His Spirit the soul of the infant, while in His sacred name, water is applied to the body.”

Smallman concludes that (4) children should profess their faith individually in church, and thus be admitted to the Lord’s Table. I’ve come to a different point of view, that Romans 10:9 does not require an official ceremony for each individual in the time of corporate worship. Children profess their faith in their participation in corporate worship, saying the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer, for instance. Also, the author assumes the public profession of Romans 10:9 is linked to Communion. But there is no basis for this, and all those who are baptized should be welcome to the Table, unless they reject the faith, not showing signs of belief and repentance, in which case they should after a time be disciplined and kept from the table. 1 Corinthians 11:28 is not saying we should keep children from the table, since they can’t understand it maturely yet; it condemns adults who hypocritically partake of the meal of unity while being divisive in practice. Smallman does note correctly that (1) the NT does not lay out all the specifics of how children entered the church, and that (2) those who profess faith aren’t “joining church,” since they were already members before. A good read, overall, especially for those new to the church or to the Reformed understanding of covenant. Check it out here.

Vacation reading, part 2

While on vacation, I was informed this book was the hottest bestseller. For some reason, this time instead of shrugging and moving on to more lasting and quality books, I picked it up and read it. The blurb on the front by Eugene Peterson made me lose quite a bit of respect for that author – this generation’s Pilgrim’s Progress, The Shack is not. It is one part truth about the nature of God, relationship, sin, the problem of evil and forgiveness; one part smarmy sentimentalism, complete with “Let it all out” cry sessions; and one part doctrinal error.

[Spoiler alert]
Since I don’t recommend reading the book, I’m going to summarize it to save you time…
The main character, Mack’s, 6-year old daughter is kidnapped and killed by a serial killer. They track her to an isolated shack, where her bloody dress is found. Mack’s wife addresses God the Father as Papa, and 3 years later, Mack gets a note in his mailbox, “Come see me at the shack. Papa.” He goes and God is there. He transforms the shack into a peaceful haven in which Mack spends the weekend with Elousia (God the Father), Jesus, and Sarayu (Holy Spirit). God confronts Mack’s anger which at root is a lack of trust in God and His allowing of the killing. He learns about faith and forgiveness. It is a compelling storyline, with a good basic emphasis upon God’s design and desire to include humanity within His Trinitarian fellowship of love. But there are lots of wrong, or just plain silly points, too, like Mack walking on the lake with Jesus.

The rest of this is reaction to various points in the book – some good, some bad…

Revelation stopping with Bible denied, though “overt communication” (God to a modern person) is a bit vague. “Reducing God to a book” is dismissed with revulsion by the author; but are we not to test the spirits against the gold standard of His Word? Are we not to judge the truth of “The Shack” only by the truth about Himself that God has revealed to us in the Bible?

Chpts 6-7
A bit on the smarmy, sentimental side, describing the ideal relationship of Trinity

Elousia – clever name for the Father, and helpful. El = God; ousia = substance/being.
Trinity – some good stuff on unity, importance of relationship

Elousia as woman – God revealed Self as Father because of “the enormity of its absence” among us.
This assumes that mothers sin less in their mothering than fathers do in their fathering. But the sin of fathers (which tends to be absence, more than the abuse portrayed in the story) is just more visible than that of mothers.
Reducing gender to metaphor is not helpful, reducing God’s revelation by gender to whatever is pastorally practical. This is not how God reveals Himself, adapting His gender to our need. In Scripture God never reveals Himself as a woman, except in a handful of isolated metaphors. All pronouns for the Father and the Spirit are masculine.
The fact that this book’s Trinity is 2/3 female, combined with the above, shows how deeply feminism has penetrated our view of God.

Chpt 9
Very good on knowledge of good and evil, defined not by us, but by God. Probably helpful somehow, in discussing the problem of evil – could be explored more.

God is very modernistic, here – no presence of authority or hierarchy allowed.
Contradicts 1 Cor 11:3; Matt 28:18; Eve being Adam’s helper (not vice versa) before the Fall

God had nothing to do with the murder. It was human evil, not God’s design or plan.
Sovereignty of God? Amos 3:6? Hello?

Good, on new earth as our final destination, and not just “going to heaven.”

God has no expectations of us, and is never disappointed
This is said from the perspective that God is omniscient, knowing all about us. Yet in the author’s zeal to avoid “rules and requirements” the author also seems to be asserting that God accepts you as you are, repentant or not, remaining in sin or not.

Chpt 16
Smarmy, again – kissing father on the lips; assuming men relate the same way as women

“In Jesus, I [God] have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.”
But if God forgives everyone for every sin, that would include the sin of not choosing relationship.
Matt 26:28; John 10:26-28

Pretty good on forgiveness: “taking your hands from around his neck,” and distinguished from forgetting and trusting.

Vacation reading

This was a change of pace for me!
I got hooked on the current TV series and eventually found this and wanted to read it for comparison. The book was written in 1978 or so, and has that original Star Wars feel. It wasn't really worth the read. Shallow characters, much better developed in the current TV series. Plot was unsatisfying, again compared to the current thing, though one has to credit this book with the compelling plot of the destruction of most of the human race, although the fact that the bad guys were created by the humans is original to the newer series.

I'd recommend renting the 2003 movie if that idea intrigues you at all.


Functional Knitting

I saw the most practical application of knitting tonight - a Swiffer dust mop cover. All the convenience of a Swiffer, none of the disposable cost. Love it. Click the title to see pictures.

My own knitting has been sporadic lately, mostly due to other hobbies elbowing their way in like a bad high school girls basketball game. I started taking cello lessons 2 months ago after almost seven years of "resting". It's tough to undo all the bad habits I picked up in those 7 years!

I also started sewing a dress for myself. Drafting my own pattern. It hasn't gone well, and I aborted the mission and headed to JoAnn's to buy a pattern in hopes of salvaging the project. I did, however, learn a lot about pattern design and hope to get the 1942 book "Modern Pattern Design" by H. Pepin to continue learning about this incredible design process. Baby blankets have been an ongoing sewing project. Our church is blessed with babies!

The knitting front has been engulfed by lace - what else do you knit when it's 100 degrees? A circular lace shawl with sleeves, lace knee socks, and some top secret gift knitting. And since summer is here, that means I need to start planning and working on Christmas knitting.


Scripture of the day

2 Kings 2-5

Elisha asks Elijah for a double portion of his spirit, just before Elijah ascends to heaven.
I haven't counted recently, but remember 7 miracles of Elijah's recorded in Scripture.

Elisha performs 14.

The 14th is the resurrection of a man whose body touches Elisha's dead body, just as the final miracle will be the General Resurrection to life of all those who are united with Christ in His death.

Communion exhortation - 6/1/08

Text: Genesis 1-3

You stand by the trees in the middle of the garden. Satan continues to tempt us to the forbidden tree, by slandering God. He says “you don’t want what God’s selling. God is trying to keep you from being all you could be. Just look at all those commandments! Take one of them and you’ll be ahead of His game.”

I stand here as Christ’s representative telling you that is a lie. You can believe God’s Word, you ought to trust Him. He is not pulling a fast one on you, making you believe and do all this. He gives you trials and tests to strengthen you, b/c He loves you. Adam and Eve should have known that love as they looked around. We should know His love as we look at the tree, the cross.

So, you cannot eat of the Lord’s table, and the table of demons.

The other tree is the tree of life. Jesus’ body is the eternal fruit on that tree, and when pierced, the river of blood flows down the mtn to the whole world, the healing of the nations.
Yet even here, if we turn to the right tree, we can partake without realizing God’s true character. He is not angry with you, shaming you with the guilt of the cross. We are not out of the garden b/c He doesn’t want us anymore, but b/c it is not safe for us yet. He has not fully prepared us for Himself. Let Him prepare you now, as you remember His covenant, His blood in faith.

Communion exhortation - 5/25/08

Text: John 17

Most great stories have foreshadowing, where the author hints at what is to come. God does this for us here at the Lord’s Table. We need the reminder of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself and crediting His righteousness to us. And we also need the reminder of where the cross is taking us. Those who are justified are sanctified and glorified. We will be like him, as we sit down with Him in glory. Then He will drink of the fruit of the vine with us again, face to face. So come, enjoy the foretaste, the foreshadowing of that here.

Jesus was of two minds the night before He died. In Gethsemane He prayed, "Take this cup from me. Don’t make me drink it; find another way." But He did drink it, and so we drink of these cups. His other desire was expressed in John 17: “Father, I desire that those You gave Me may be with Me where I am.” So He went to the cross, and He calls you to Himself.

We invite all those who are baptized into the Triune God to come to the Table. If you are not baptized, and believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then we invite you to be baptized, and then come and commune with Him at His table. Come in faith that Jesus has paid for your sins, and wants you with Him in glory.


Scripture of the day

2 Kings 1

Interesting how Ahaziah destroys those around him as long as he rails against God, trying to bbe in charge himself. But as soon as someone shows submission to the Lord, things turn around, though not for Ahaziah.

I noticed again the same sort of thing last night as my family watched part of "The 10 Commandments" movie (the old one with Yul Brenner). Egypt is destroyed further and further until Pharoah relents.

A leader of men can only lead well by serving them. He can only serve the men he leads by serving and submitting to God first. All earthly authority must be surrendered to, and guided by, heavenly authority.

Our Gracious God

In the 3rd volume of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Richard Muller, with whom I had a church history course at seminary, writes:

"Although by far the larger discussion of divine grace belongs to the soteriology of Reformed orthodoxy, the theologians of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries also consistently place the gratia Dei among the divine affections. Divine grace, as indicated both in the doctrine of the divine attributes and in the developing Reformed covenant theology of the seventeenth century, is not merely the outward favor of God toward the elect, evident only in the post-lapsarian dispensation of salvation; rather is it one of the perfections of the divine nature. It is characteristic of God's relations to the finite order, apart from sin, in the act of divine condescension to relate to finite creatures. Beyond this, it is a characteristic of the divine being itself, at the very foundation of God's relationship with finite, temporal beings."
~PRRD vol. 3 pg. 570

In a footnote, Muller adds:
"There is, both in the orthodox Reformed doctrine of God and in the orthodox Reformed covenant theology of the seventeenth century, a consistent identification of grace as fundamental to all of God's relationships with the world and especially with human beings, to the point of the consistent assertion that the covenant of nature or works is itself gracious."


Communion exhortation - 5/18/08

Text: Colossians 4:7-18

We were exhorted before our confession of sin not to disregard the body as we come to the table. In the sermon we found Paul taking care to get various parts of the Body sharing in fellowship with Christ. So as we come to the Table, do not leave all that behind and hunker down within yourself, to find Jesus somewhere in the deep inner recesses of your soul. His visible Body sits all around you. If you must consider your sins, do so by remembering your forgiving the guy sitting ahead of you when he offended you. Call to mind your lingering resentments or animosities toward others here, and resolve settle them within yourself or with that person. The more you know one another as believers and followers of Christ, the more you will know Christ. The point of this meal is to share together in Christ, not to each get our own piece of Him for our private consumption. We are one bread as one body, sharing in Christ’s body. And what we need most is to share in His cleansing blood, washing our sins away. If you do not share in Christ in that way, by faith, you are lost. So come to Him. Believe on His name. Share in His Body.

Communion exhortation - 5/11/08

Text: Colossians 4:2-6
Theme: Pentecost - Spirit opening doors to faith

After Pentecost, the church gathered together at the Table to break bread together.

The door is open. Hades and death were shut tight. But the true king, the son of David was worthy and he took their keys, and flung open the doors. He walked the path of the dead, and is alive forevermore. The doors he opened are open for you – not down to Hades but up to heaven. The door is open for you and for your neighbors and friends and co-workers. We go through that door here every week. Jesus is the door; the Spirit opens it with the Word, Water, bread and wine. The Father is within, arms outstretched, feast prepared for our return. We are all invited through the door to a feast. We must come with faith in Jesus Christ, cleansed by His blood. So we must have the sign of cleansing, baptism, before we can sit down to the feast. This cleansing calls for a change of heart and mind and life. But as we do this, we are invited to a feast, abundant life. Pleasures forever more at God’s right hand.

1 Cor 12:12-13: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

Communion exhortation - 5/4/08

Text: Colossians 3:22-4:1
Theme: our vocation as slaves of Christ

As Jesus gathered with His disciples in the upper room around the table, Jesus spoke of His vocation and service before His Father. First, He acted out the role of servant, washing His disciples’ feet. He gave them a lasting reminder of His coming bloody sacrifice for them. And then He prayed to His Father, declaring His faithfulness to Him in John 17:2: “You have given Me authority over all flesh, that I should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” This was Jesus’ calling. Under His Father’s authority, He served us by washing us clean with His blood, shed for us. His Father rewarded Him for His faithful work with the nations for His inheritance. We are His inheritance, and we partake of the Father’s Table as sons and daughters. Our Lord Christ has ascended to His Father, but continues to feed us with His body and blood at this Table, by the Holy Spirit, who unites us with Christ.


Communion Exhortation - 4/27/08

Text: Colossians 3:20-21

As God’s children we have not always obeyed Him. God has provided for our forgiveness through Jesus Christ. This should motivate us to greater obedience, but not out of guilt. Satan whispers half-truths in our ears all the time, and he does not stop at this Table: “See what Jesus had to do for you? How could you? You don’t deserve to partake!” Some think that entertaining such thoughts while holding the bread makes them more spiritual. But it is a gross perversion of what this meal symbolizes. God does not feed us at this Table to provoke us to lose heart about how guilty we are. He often shows us our guilt here, that’s the half-truth Satan bases his lie on, but God shows us our guilt in order to restore us to Himself, to show us THAT we are restored, to show us HOW we are restored. By the sacrificial offering of the innocent Christ’s body and blood.