Mercy to Generations

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Book review by Glenda Faye Mathes

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin
Bethany; paperback; 400 pages; © 2018

Because I grew to love the main characters in Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy (Bethany, 2016), I was thrilled to read more about the lives of Anna and Geesje in her sequel, Legacy of Mercy. My hopes were not disappointed, and new characters found a place in my heart.

The novel is aptly-named as it effectively portrays the ramifications of withholding or extending mercy within family generations. Austin is at her best when showing the emotional turmoil of women who have been deeply wounded. The engaging plot gradually reveals secrets and provides satisfying resolution.

The first-person, present tense point of view from main characters pulls the reader into the story with a sense of active participation, while the first-person, past tense point of view from secondary characters helps keep perspective among the multiple narrators.

Geesje functions as a believable truth-teller, with wisdom based on personal losses and authentic faith. Her advice and observations in a multitude of situations reflect a soundly biblical perspective.

Austin’s literary touches delight the reader and help convey character. When Geesje meets Dominie Den Herder, she notes that he “has to duck his head as he enters the door of my tiny house. He looks around as if the house is for sale and he’s trying to decide if he will buy it.” While he’s a “handsome, distinguished-looking man,” he “carries himself with the rigid posture of royalty. He doesn’t return my smile, and his expression is one of a man who has been squinting into bright sunlight all his life.”

Another nice touch occurs when Mrs. Marusak describes the change in Christina after a year of marriage: “It was as if Jack had pulled a stopper from a sink full of water and drained all the life from her.”

And when Anna realizes the depth of another young woman’s deception, she observes: “Clarice is as phony as this beautiful conservatory—seemingly green and lush and fragrant, when the cold reality beyond the glass is startlingly different.”

This is another of Lynn Austin’s novels that combines an entertaining plot and delightful literary touches with a sound biblical perspective. Highly recommended!

NOTE: As a member of the launch team for Legacy of Mercy, this reviewer received a complimentary Kindle copy of the book prior to its October 2, 2018, release.

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Truth for today

In light of the state of our country and our current political climate, this text from my morning devotions seems particularly appropriate:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4, ESV).

Redeemer Reader reviews Matthew Muddles Through

PrintGreetings, readers!

Janie over at Redeemed Reader has posted a review of the first book of my Matthew in the Middle series, Matthew Muddles Through

Her review captures the spirit and time frame of the novel as she describes Matthew and his problems in creative ways. She notes that any reader with siblings can relate to some of them. She also mentions his struggle with how to grow up as a Christian “without necessarily thinking in those terms.” She writes:

As the son of a pastor he knows the expectations of his community, but his inclinations don’t always match up. He’s at the age where kids are beginning to question of what they’ve always been taught and how it applies to them personally. Matthew has no hidden supernatural abilities and will not be chosen to save the world, but the Holy Spirit is at work in him anyway, and it’s a struggle worth watching.

Check out the entire review here!

The Bredenhof cousins: Going to minister down under

Reuben Bredenhof familyHow often do two pastors, serving the same denomination in the same country, accept calls to churches in a different denomination and country (but the same for both men) within days of each other? That scenario seems even more unlikely if the two pastors are first cousins—with the same last name.

In God’s providence, that’s the unlikely situation for Rev. Wes Bredenhof and Rev. Reuben Bredenhof. On September 19, Pastor Wes (currently the minister of Providence Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, ON) accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Launceston in Tasmania. And in mid-September, Pastor Reuben (currently the minister of Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church in London, ON) accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Mount Nasura in Western Australia.

When asked if these calls had been arranged or were a surprising turn of events, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof responded, “This was completely arranged and orchestrated—by our faithful Father, who upholds and governs all things in his providence. But no, we were surprised to both receive calls from churches in the Southern Hemisphere at roughly the same time, and probably both a bit surprised to feel the need to accept these calls. But while we had some contact during the calling process, there was no secret pact or anything to initiate a Bredenhof invasion of the FRCA.”

Rev. West Bredenhof
Rev. Wes Bredenhof

The island of Tasmania is part of the commonwealth of Australia. And the Free Reformed Churches in Tasmania are affiliated with the Free Reformed Churches in Western Australia. Rev. Wes Bredenhof explains more about their relationship and history.

“The Free Reformed Churches of Australia have approximately 4,500 members spread over 16 congregations,” he says. “Most of the churches are located in Western Australia, grouped around the Perth metro area and, further to the south in the Albany area. In Tasmania, there are two Free Reformed Churches. Launceston is the original congregation, instituted in 1953. Legana is 14 km to the north and was instituted as a daughter church of Launceston in 1988.”

As if sufficient similarities don’t already exist in the two calls, both men have served their current churches for five years. And both will find it difficult to leave their present church families.

Pastor Wes calls it “quite painful” and describes the last five years as “fantastic.” He adds, “I didn’t accept this call because of any dissatisfaction about my current ministry in Providence. Far from it.”

Pastor Reuben says his family’s time in London has been “richly blessed,” that God has been “gracious,” and the congregation’s future looks “bright.” His family, too, is sad to part from the people they’ve come “to know and love.” He adds, “And yet, we are also excited about the possibilities of life and ministry in Mt. Nasura.”

Both ministers are uncertain when they’ll be able to take up the work in their new charges. Rev. Wes Bredenhof won’t be able to leave until July or August of 2015 due to obligations in Hamilton, including a teaching contract at the Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College, where he teaches North American church history.

Rev. Reuben Bredenhof reflects, “It’s hard to say when my work can begin there: the critical question is the matter of visas and immigration. It could be a patience-trying number of months, but we entrust all this to the Lord and his perfect timing.”

At some point, presumably soon after the men arrive in their new locations, each will undergo a colloquium doctum under the auspices of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, with whom the Canadian Reformed Churches have ecclesiastic fellowship.

The FRC of Mount Nasura in Western Australia
The FRC of Mount Nasura in Western Australia

“The FRCA are the sister churches most like the CanRC,” says Pastor Wes. “Nevertheless, we do have some small differences in terms of church government. The colloquium is not really an exam, but a discussion ensuring that the minister understands the new context he’s going to be in.”

Both colloquiums will take place in the same classis. Pastor Reuben explains why: “Actually, the two churches on Tasmania are part of the same classis as the church of Mt. Nasura, together with a few other churches in the Perth area, despite the great geographical distance between them (nearly 4,000 kms).”

Rev. Wes Bredenhof relates that the FRC in Launceston, Tasmania, has about 230 members and is located in the heart of this city of 100,000 people.

“Most of the members live right in the city,” he says. “You could say that it is an urban church, but since the city is not that big and nature is never very far away, it doesn’t really have an urban ‘flavour.’ Many of the members enjoy outdoor pursuits like fishing and hunting.”

According to Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, the church in Mt. Nasura, Western Australia, is about 250 members strong.

“It is a suburban congregation, part of the city of Armadale, and a suburb of Perth, the capital city of Western Australia,” he adds. “It’s about half an hour from the sparkling warm waters and golden beaches of the coast of the Indian Ocean.”

A final similarity the cousin ministers share is a desire to faithfully proclaim God’s word.

The FRC in Launceston, Tasmania
The FRC in Launceston, Tasmania

“My number one goal in Launceston is going to be to keep doing what I’ve been doing here in Providence: preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Pastor Wes. “I aim to faithfully teach and preach the Scriptures from the pulpit, in the catechism classroom, in homes, and wherever else I can. The church there wants to be an outward-looking church, a church with a heart for the lost. I want to encourage that desire and see it bear fruit.”

“It was a hard decision to make, in fact, the most difficult call I’ve ever had,” he adds. “But through the entire process, we prayed for the Lord’s guidance and it became clear. My family and I are at peace with it. We’re convinced that it is the right thing to do and we pray that God will bless it for the good of his people, for the advance of the gospel, and the glory of his Name.”

Pastor Reuben describes his “simple” goal. “I pray that I may be faithful in my task of preaching and teaching the Word of Christ, and pastoring his blood-bought people.” Almost as an afterthought, he adds, “And I hope to learn how to surf!”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6-8 of the November 5, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations On Loving God’s Law: A Book Review

Lesley Eischen reviews Discovering Delight.

The Hallowed Path

512qljIuhpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations On Loving God’s Law by Glenda Mathes

In today’s culture mentioning God’s law is often met with raised eyebrows or swift accusations of being a legalist.

But King David said, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

In Discovering Delight, Glenda deftly illustrates how our own delight will be found in meditating on God’s law just as King David proclaimed.

“Hold on to God’s Word. Lift that lamp before you and let it illuminate your way. Keep walking on the right path. Delight in the light!”

As a devotional there are thirty one meditations. Each meditation begins with a Scripture reading and an individual Scripture passage. Each meditation ends with a section of questions for reflection.

The majority of the focus is developed around Psalm 119; though other Psalms and Scriptures are employed. Sections of Reformed Confessions and authors…

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Meditating on meditations

Because this is going to be a busy summer for me, I may not be able to post meditations as regularly as I’d like for the next few months. As I schedule my work for May, I see that I need to make some time sacrifices.

Rather than spending precious hours writing blog meditations, I need to complete a devotional manuscript promised to a publisher. So forgive me in advance for sporadic posting.

River of Delights, Psalm 36

Since I have a lot going on in my life right now, I’m not taking time to craft a new meditation on Psalm 36 today. Instead I’m posting a link to a brief reflection on some of the most beautiful images of the psalm, which I originally posted almost three years ago:

Drinking from God’s river of delights.

Trusting in God’s Name, Psalm 20

In God’s perfect timing and following recent discussion with friends about trusting in God, Psalm 20 becomes more meaningful than ever.

Do you feel that today is your day of trouble? Read and rejoice in this psalm!

The psalm begins with seven exclamations pleading for specific actions and outcomes (Psalm 20:1-5, ESV):

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
    May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
    and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

May he grant you your heart’s desire
    and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
    and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!

The first of these five emotional verses expresses a deep desire that God will answer you during your difficult trial and that God’s name will protect you. The second verse conveys the hope that you will also receive help from the church and God’s people. The third trusts God to recall your past and present faithfulness.

Verses four and five depict the marvelous outcome: God will grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans. We will shout for joy over the way God rescues you and we will witness publicly to God’s name as he fulfills all your petitions.

God’s rescue is so certain that the psalmist speaks with remarkable conviction and confidence:

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
    he will answer him from his holy heaven
    with the saving might of his right hand (6, ESV).

God is holy and enthroned in heaven, but he will answer those anointed with is Spirit just as surely as he saved David, his anointed king, and Jesus, his anointed Son.

Why should we doubt? Where is our trust?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
     but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (7, ESV).

We don’t trust in military might, presidential power, legislative law, or judicial justice. We trust in something far superior: God’s name.

Those who trust in worldly powers or personal intelligence will fail:

They collapse and fall,
    but we rise and stand upright (8, ESV).

As they fall from their temporary height, we rise from our temporary descent. We stand upright in the righteousness of Christ.

The psalm concludes with this prayer:

O Lord, save the king!
    May he answer us when we call (9, ESV).

The king may be David, who represented the true king, Christ. But this rescue also applies to any person who bears Christ’s image as a prophet, priest, and king.

God will be close to the true believer. He will answer you when you call. He will protect you and surround you with the support of fellow believers. He will grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans and petitions. Those with misplaced trust will fall, but we will stand. When all this comes to pass, we will shout for joy and praise God’s name.

May the Lord answer you today in your time of trouble! Trust in his holy name!