Help us, O Lord, Behold we Enter

Help us, O Lord, for now we enter
Upon another year today.
In you our hopes and thoughts now center;
Renew our courage for the way.
New life, new strength, new happiness
We ask of you — oh, hear and bless.

May ev’ry plan and undertaking
Begin this year, O Lord, with you;
When I am sleeping or am waking,
Help me, dear Lord, your will to do.
In you alone, my God, I live;
You only can my sins forgive.

And may this year to me be holy;
Your grace so fill my ev’ry thought
That all my life be pure and lowly
And truthful, as a Christian’s ought.
So make me while I’m living here
Your faithful servant through the year.

Jesus, be with me and direct me;
Jesus, my plans and hopes inspire;
Jesus, from tempting thoughts protect me;
Jesus, be all my heart’s desire;
Jesus, be in my thoughts all day
And never let me fall away.

And grant, Lord, when the year is over,
That it for me in peace may close.
In all things care for me and cover
My head in time of fear and woes.
So may I, when my life is done,
Appear with joy before your throne.

– Johann Rist



Another Update

I really have to think of better titles for these. It’s been a busy and fruitful number of weeks since I last posted an update. My studies continue to prove challenging and beneficial, and I’m daily reminded of how much more I have to learn. I’m also reminded of the great salvation we have in Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

I submitted two papers last week, one was a text critical assignment on 2 Corinthians 14, and the other a personality reflection paper. Both did not involve too much research, basically just the notes which I had on hand.

I’ve also helped restart a program called Moses’ Clinic. It’s basically a workshop for seminary students where we work on our public speaking skills, reading abilities, and similar things. It’s been fruitful so far and I’m hoping it will continue to help me grow in my abilities. Thankfully it doesn’t take much planning or organizing. Basically I send out an email once a week with what we’ll be covering in the workshop and then hope people show up 🙂

Yesterday, Friday November 3, I had an oral exam on the Heidelberg Catechism. In preparation I had to memorize the first 31 Lord’s Days and the major themes of the catechism. This was easily the greatest challenge for the freshman so far. I stumbled a fair bit, mainly due to the stress of the situation, but am happy with the B grade I received. Aside from reciting a number of questions and answers, one of the interesting things I was asked about was the use of Faith in the Catechism. It’s remarkable that Faith is referred to in three different ways in the catechism.

First we are told that faith is necessary for salvation and the only means by which we can be saved. It is defined in LD 7 as “a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.”

Second, it appears in Lord’s Day 23 where we confess that this faith is our righteousness before God, yet we are not righteous because of the worthiness of our faith, “for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.”

Third, it is mentioned in Lord’s Day 25 where we confess how this faith is worked in us by the Spirit, “who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and strengthens it by the use of the sacraments.”

So faith is spoken of in three ways, it’s defined as a firm confidence, confessed as our only grounds of salvation, and spoken of as the result of the Spirit’s work.

Looking ahead, I have that paper on the Descent into Hell to write over the next seven days. I think I may have bit off a bit more than I can chew with this one… It’s an incredibly interesting subject but I’m having trouble narrowing down my topic which has made things quite difficult.

I also have the last Hebrew test of the semester on Wednesday. We’ll be tested on the rest of the catechism in February, so I have a nice chunk of time to work on that yet 🙂

Lord’s Day 10

What do you understand by the providence of God?
God’s providence is
his almighty and ever present power,
whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds
heaven and earth and all creatures,
and so governs them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and barren years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
riches and poverty,
indeed, all things,
come to us not by chance
but by his fatherly hand.

What does it benefit us to know
that God has created all things
and still upholds them by his providence?
We can be patient in adversity,
thankful in prosperity,
and with a view to the future
we can have a firm confidence
in our faithful God and Father
that no creature shall separate us
from his love;
for all creatures are so completely in his hand
that without his will
they cannot so much as move.

Rufinus on the Crucifixion

The Apostle Paul teaches us that we ought to have “the eyes of our understanding enlightened” “that we may understand what is the height and breadth and depth.” “The height and breadth and depth” is a description of the Cross, of which that part which is fixed in the earth he calls the depth, the height that which is erected upon the earth and reaches upward, the breadth that which is spread out to the right hand and to the left. Since, therefore, there are so many kinds of death by which it is given to men to depart this life, why does the Apostle wish us to have our understanding enlightened so as to know the reason why, of all of them, the Cross was chosen in preference for the death of the Savior.

We must know, then, that Cross was a triumph. It was a signal trophy. A triumph is a token of victory over an enemy. Since then Christ, when He came, brought three kingdoms at once into subjection under His sway (for this He signifies when he says, “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth”), and conquered all of these by His death, a death was sought answerable to the mystery, so that being lifted up in the air, and subduing the powers of the air, He might make a display of His victory over these supernatural and celestial powers.

Moreover the holy Prophet says that “all the day long He stretched out His hands” to the people on the earth, that He might both make protestation to unbelievers and invite believers: finally, by that part which is sunk under the earth, He signified His bringing into subjection to Himself the kingdoms of the nether world.

– Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, Sage Library, ECF 3.3. pp. 1127-1128

Week 2

I’ve finished my last classes of the week and thought I would post another update. Probably wont be doing this every week, but I’d like to post when I can. As I told a friend, it’s a good way for me to go over what I’ve been taught and keep it fresh. It was a good week, with most of the time spent progressing in my language studies. It is still review for the most part, although we have now translated 1 John 1-2 from Greek to English. Vocab and grammar rules are slowly starting to come back to me. We had a Hebrew test today which focused on transliterating from Hebrew to English and English to Hebrew. It went well and I’m looking forward to getting my mark back.

In Intro to Theology(Systematic Theology/Dogmatics) we reviewed the basic concept of Theology. Looked at what makes it a science, rather than an art, and discussed what relationship Theology has with the other sciences. It was an interesting discussion, with the only thing we could really agree on was that when we as humans work within any area of science, we ought not to and are not generating our own thing. Rather we’re studying what already exists.

One thing that was fascinating to look at was just how well preserved the Old Testament text has been. After comparing the Dead Sea Isaiah b scroll, with the Leningrad Codex of Isaiah, scholars have found that there are less than 200 discrepancies. These discrepancies are incredibly minor. 107 different spellings of words, were the meaning is still obvious; 29 discrepencies over a waw (a Hebrew conjunction), 4 definite articles, 10 consonants, 5 misspellings, 24 different grammatical forms are used, 9 times different prepositions are used. It’s quite remarkable to see just how faithful the scribes were in copying the scriptures, and also assuring to know that Critical Text theory is a useful field and it’s not all in vain. We do text criticism because we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and by comparing the various manuscripts we can gain more knowledge about what the original autographs looked like.

In Ecclesiology we looked at the importance of Creeds and Confessions of faith, and how they have been used by the Church to summarize the Word of God. They steer the church away from works righteousness and legalism by emphasizing the fact that deeds are an important part of our thankfulness. Our Reformed confessions summarize and compare scripture and put it in logical form. Of course there are times when people use creeds erroneously, for instance often logic is applied back onto scripture – that’s a mistake as it forces one to read scripture in light of the confession instead of vice versa.

In Ministry and Mission (Practical Theology/Diaconiology) we had a brief explanation of what to expect in the course. Basically we’ll be looking at the work that occurs within the church, especially the office bearers. Essentially all the things that are studied in the other courses, ecclesiology, exegesis, etc., are applied here.

The other courses were uneventful, at least according to my notes 🙂 I’m still working on my speech for the public speaking workshop. Haven’t made much progress but I’m confident it will come together. I also settled on the topic for my research paper and am going to be working on the introduction this weekend already. Start early finish early right?

As for my schedule, a friend of mine asked what my days are like so I figured I’d post that here too: Basically each morning is spent in class and then in the afternoons I study. I’m memorizing a Lord’s Day every day and got the Nicene Creed down pat. I spend a fair bit of time preparing for my language courses. With all that I still do have some free time – most is spent studying while doing something else. I’ll also be joining a Young People’s Bible study with my church. We’ll be studying Growing in the Gospel by Jason Van Vliet. It’s a great book and there’s a free preview available here:

The End of Week One

Well, the first week of school has come to a close. What did I learn so far? Well, I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn! In the next three months I’ll be enrolled in seven classes. Two of these classes meet for two hours a week, namely Ecumenical Creeds and Intro to Ministry and Mission. Intro to Theology, NT Textual Criticism, and OT Textual Criticism are all one hour a week. The Final two courses, OT Hebrew and NT Greek, meet for 3 hours a week.

The bulk of the work will come from our Hebrew and Greek language classes, as expected. By the end of the semester we should know all the vocabulary used more than fifty times in the scriptures. So far the language classes have focused on seeing exactly how much knowledge the different students have, and working towards getting us all on equal footing. In Hebrew we’ve started by reviewing the basic grammar rules. Because I’ve studied Hebrew for three years I seem to be doing quite well. In Greek we worked on translating a passage in 1 John. The whole class seems to be having difficulty right now, as our vocabulary and grammar is a bit rusty. Some students have never read Greek out loud while others, like me, have done ample amounts.

Our textual criticism and Intro to Theology classes seem to be quite heavy on the readings with minimal assignments. Which is great except that the final exams are worth 60-80% of the course grade… Let the note taking begin 🙂

In Ecumenical Creeds we’ll be studying the importance and history of Christian Creeds, as well as their function in the church.  As far as assignments go, this course has quite a few. First up is memorizing the Apostles’ Creed (done) and the Nicene Creed (working on it), we also have to know the outline of the Athanasian Creed and its main points. In early November we will be tested on our knowledge of the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 1-31 (I’ve learned up to 11 so far). Final we have to write a 4000 word research paper addressing an aspect or article of a creed. I think I will look at the history of the descendit, (He descended into Hell), but I’m not totally sure right now.

We also have a Sermon Session which meets for a two hour block on Wednesdays. Freshman don’t prepare any sermons in the first semester thankfully, so it is basically an opportunity to think critically about the structure and delivery of a sermon. To help with this we have a public speaking workshop once a semester. In two or three weeks I’ll by taking the opportunity to tell about an event that happened to me in the past. I’ve already started working on that assignment and have decided to right about a minor car accident I was in a few years ago.

Our first Intro to Ministry and Mission class will be on Monday. I suspect that it will have a similar structure to the Ecumenical Creeds course. Overall it’s been a very exciting week. I’ve really enjoyed the reading assignments and am looking forward to the weeks to come.

In my Reading I came across a nice quote by John Calvin that I thought was relevant

“Let us show ourselves to be such disciples as our Lord wishes to have – poor, empty, and void of self wisdom; eager to learn but knowing nothing, and even wishing to know nothing but what He has taught[.]” – John Calvin, Psychopannychia

Depending on God

(I can’t remember where exactly I found this prayer)

O Jesus Christ, Thou Son of the Blessed, Lamb of God, Which takest away the sins of the world : In Thy all-sufficient merits alone we trust for the remission of our sins. Through the Blood of Thy Cross we hope for peace with God, for strength against the powers of darkness, for safety, and help, and salvation ; the communion of Thy Holy Spirit here, and everlasting bliss with Thee hereafter. In Thy unfathomable grace, and the unsearchable depths of Thy love, is our trust. In Thy Name standeth our help. Have mercy on all broken hearts, and heal them ; all struggling with temptation, and rescue them ; all fainting in despair, and raise them up. Have mercy on all that groan beneath their sins ; on all that fall away from Thee ; on all that waver in their faith, and stablish, strengthen, settle them. O Blessed Jesus, Who didst shed Thy Blood for our souls to save them, shed Thy Holy Spirit upon all, and heal them. Have mercy on all in misery, or peril, or pain. Preserve them, Thou Who didst on earth so mercifully relieve and succour the distressed. Thou God of all help and comfort, take us to Thy tender care, and save and succour both our bodies and our souls. Thou that didst redeem us all, keep us for ever Thine, we pray Thee, for Thine infinite mercy’s sake ; and keep us in the love of God, until we come with all the multitude of Thy redeemed saints to those eternal mansions which Thou hast prepared in the kingdom of Thy Father. Bring us in Thine own good time to share Thy glory, and to praise Thee, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, One God for evermore. Amen.