Update on Trichelle Beeke

(The following is an update on the cancer treatment of my niece, Trichelle Beeke.)

Dear Friends and Family,

Yesterday Trichelle had a busy day meeting with her oncologist in Abbotsford and her surgeon in Vancouver. The plan was for her final two Herceptin treatments to occur over the next three weeks followed with surgery on Nov. 19. Unfortunately, the MUGA scan of her heart muscles shows that currently her heart is too weak to endure surgery.  According to the oncologist it is “borderline” whether to allow the final two Herceptin treatments, but they will go ahead with a treatment tomorrow and again in 3 weeks. Surgery will have to wait. It is more important that all the treatments occur.

We met with the surgeon and had to cancel the Nov. 19 surgery date. This was disappointing as we were looking forward to having all of these treatments and procedures completed sooner rather than later. At the meeting, the surgeon walked us through what will occur with surgery and what to expect for recovery. Provided the remaining treatments occur on schedule and Trichelle’s heart muscles strengthen, we will hear back about a new surgery date possibly scheduled sometime in early 2015.

So we are called today to follow the instructions in Psalm 37:7,

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Thank you for your prayers and care.

Please pray that Trichelle’s heart muscles will strengthen and that the cancer will never appear again.

Dave, Trichelle, Breyden, Quinten, and Emilee Beeke

Listen to Talks on Assurance, Perseverance, Etc.

Mary and I hope to leave for the NCFIC in North Carolina on Wednesday (2000 attendees expected). I hope to speak four times on Life in the Word,  Assurance of Faith, Perseverance in the Word, and Perseverance by the Spirit—then return on Saturday evening.

If you cannot be there, but would like to listen to the conference addresses via livestreaming or video recorded online, you can do so by going here.

Brazil, Part II (October 17–21, 2014)

With Pastor and Mrs. Samuel Vitalino

With Pastor and Mrs. Samuel Vitalino

(written by Mary Beeke)

On Friday, we were driven back to São Paulo, where a group of us flew to Salvador for a mini-FIEL conference which dealt with the same general theme. Joel spoke on how the Holy Spirit works genuine repentance and on the indwelling work of the Spirit in the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4). On Sunday, he preached at Igreja Presbiteriana de Brotas, whose pastor is Samuel Vitalino, on Philippians 1:21. For the Sunday school he preached on coping with affliction. After the sermons, we met a blind man who was wonderfully converted from a spirit form of worship similar to black magic. His eyes have been truly opened to the gospel.

With Pastor Josafa Vasconcelos, at the Church in Salvador

With Pastor Josafa Vasconcelos, at the Church in Salvador

Joel’s first trip to Brazil years ago was in response to Dr. Manuel Canuto’s invitation to the Puritan Project, where he met Pastor Josafá Vasconcelos, who has since become a close friend. (My husband even dedicated one of his books to this very dear brother.) This present trip ended with Joel preaching the first time in Pastor Josafá’s church, with Dr. Canuto in attendance. It was a very emotional experience for them. There is nothing like a mutual love for the Lord Jesus Christ to bind friends together. He preached on Hebrews 12:1–2. As Pastor Josafá eases into retirement over the next years, the plan is for Daniel Silveira, one of our present PRTS students, to take up the mantle. Daniel, his wife Flávia, and their daughter Isabel have brought Brazilian warmth to our church and seminary communities here in Grand Rapids.

After the service Sunday evening, so many young people wanted to ask my husband questions, that he offered to have a sit-down, twenty-minute Q&A session—a session that quickly turned into an hour of great questions.

Q&A with Young People in Salvadoryoung people's questions about assurance of faith and Puritanism after the service

We had time to see Salvador Monday morning. Samuel Vitalino was our able tour guide. Salvador is a coastal city of nearly three million, and a place of much religion: few evangelicals, many Pentecostals and Roman Catholics, but also a large presence of the cult Candomblé, which is a mix of African worship and Roman Catholicism. Many of the souvenirs have idolatrous significance. The slaves that were brought here in the 1700’s and 1800’s were from the same parts of Africa as those brought to America. We saw the public square where slaves were publicly beaten. In 1888, Princess Isabel set all the slaves free. Racism is absent in the church. At the conference and at all the churches that we visited, there is a beautiful mix of different ethnic backgrounds. We loved the Brazilian folks before, and we love them even more now.

As I write this account of our trip, my dear husband is sitting next to me. Reading is his normal airplane activity. But the last eleven days, two consecutive trips for him which involved speaking 22 times, have worn him out. The page he is attempting to proofread is entitled “Learning to Enjoy Meditation.” But I think he is actually taking a power nap. I do love him so very much. :-)

Brazil, Part I (October 13–16, 2014)

(written by Mary Beeke)

We are thinking it is Joel’s twelfth trip to Brazil, and it is my fourth. We met in Detroit, him flying in from Seattle and me from Grand Rapids, then on to São Paulo on an 11-hour overnight flight. Four hours by car—hills and curves—brought us to Águas de Lindóia, where the FIEL Conference is held. In total, it was a 31-hour trip for my husband, and 25 hours for me. The place and the people have become pleasantly familiar. This year’s conference drew 1900 people at which time they cut off the registration due to lack of accommodations for more people. About 70% of the attendees are pastors and their wives. Five to six thousand people heard the addresses through livestreaming. Many thousands more will tune in in due course, we were told. God is doing great things in Brazil.

FIEL Conference Attendees

FIEL Conference Attendees

This year’s theme was “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” Kevin DeYoung spoke on how the Holy Spirit speaks to us, the Spirit’s role in our holiness, and on the conscience. R.C. Sproul Jr. spoke on the Holy Spirit as Lord and Giver of life and on sanctification. You may recall R.C. lost his wife about two years ago to leukemia. Their eight children range in age from 4 to 20 now. He spoke of how God is glorified through struggles, and that He sends trials for our good and for His glory. Deep ways—I can’t imagine. The tears flowed—his and ours. The Brazilian speakers were Davi Charles Gomes, Franklin Ferreira, Leandro Lima, Mauro Meister, and Silas Campos. Skilled interpreters were Heber Campos Jr. and Eros Pasquini.

Most of the FIEL Speakers and Wives

Most of the FIEL Speakers and Wives

Joel’s first two addresses were on the importance of the Holy Spirit’s saving work and on the Spirit’s role in bringing believers to full assurance of faith. For his last address, which was the closing address of the conference, he decided to change it to something that the people could go home with, something to encourage and inspire them, something to apply all the other messages to their hearts. The Lord helped him in a wonderful way as he preached from Revelation 21:1–8 on the glory that awaits God’s people as the culmination of the Holy Spirit’s saving work in their lives.

It was great for us to meet old friends again. Joel enjoyed seeing Augustus Nicodemus Lopes again, a friend who served as president of Mackenzie University for ten years and is now pastoring a church of twelve hundred. We are also very fond of Bill and Mary Barkley. Bill translated and published Meet the Puritans in Portuguese. What warm, loving friends they are! And of course, we again enjoyed immensely our time with Tiago Santos and Rick Denham, able leaders of FIEL.

PRTS Alumnus Roberto Azevedo and Wife Marta. God has used them to plant 8 churches in Brazil.

PRTS Alumnus Roberto Azevedo and Wife Marta. God has used them to plant 8 churches in Brazil.

Between the addresses, many people like to have their pictures taken with the speakers, have them sign books, and show appreciation and affection. There was lots of boisterous talking, smiling, and hugging. My husband’s new book, in Portuguese, Puritan Reformed Spirituality, sold 650 copies, and his Living for God’s Glory sold 300 copies. It is very special to hear how God has used books and past sermons and addresses to touch people’s lives. A sampling of some of the stories we heard were:

  • Two formerly Pentecostal pastors told Joel that reading Living for God’s Glory was used by God to enable them to fully embrace Calvinism, which has transformed their lives and ministries.
  • Several people told Joel that after his talk on family worship a few years back that they started family worship for the first time and were blessed in doing so. Others revived the practice. One brother told Joel movingly that his quotation of Thomas Brooks that a family without daily prayer is like a house without a roof exposed to all the storms of heaven deeply convicted him. He started doing family worship again, and his family’s life has been transformed.
  • One husband told my husband that the Holy Spirit used his and Steve Lawson’s addresses two years ago to deliver his wife from spiritual bondage. She found freedom in the gospel for the first time in her life.
  • One woman told us with tears how my husband’s address on the Spirit’s work in bringing His people to heaven where they will gaze on His face forever was an overwhelming blessing to her. She also said that a blind man sat next to her and wept throughout the address, longing for the day when he will be able to see Christ forever.
  • Several ladies told me how my book on kindness and speeches a few years ago impacted their family life.

(to be continued in part 2)

True Prayer (1): Five Characteristics of Prayer

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

At the heart of the Reformation, Martin Luther spent the best two hours of each day alone with God. On one occasion, facing particularly difficult labors on the coming day, he told his friends: “I have so much scheduled for tomorrow that I must arise an hour earlier to have an extra hour alone with God.”

John Welsh, the God-fearing son-in-law of John Knox, kept his robe close to his bed because a night seldom went by in which he did not rise to pray to his God. Often his wife would find him praying and weeping after midnight. She would ask the cause and receive the answer: “Oh my dear wife, I have three thousand souls to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!”

Considering these forefathers and other saints of God, truly we do not know how to pray as we ought.

Prayer is necessary for the believer for at least three reasons. God demands it, and this is certainly sufficient in itself (Matt. 7:7–8; Luke 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17). Our own nature demands it, as we are needy and dependent by nature, even after receiving grace to believe. Every person needs a prayer-giving, prayer-hearing, and prayer-answering God for both natural and spiritual blessings, for in God alone do we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). And the route to fulfillment of right desires demands prayer. As a rule, it is upon prayer (not because of prayer) that God gives His grace and Spirit to those who ask Him.

One of the best definitions of prayer is that of John Bunyan: “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.” This definition highlights for us a number of things that are part of true prayer.

PrayingSincerity and affection to God. Prayer must be sincere because, as Bunyan says, “sincerity carries the soul in all simplicity to open its heart to God, and to tell him the case plainly, without equivocation; to condemn itself plainly, without dissembling; to cry to God heartily, without complimenting.”

Prayer must be affectionate. We must disclose our thoughts and feelings before God and pour out our hearts in sighs and groans. We must say with David: “All my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee” (Ps. 38:9).

Faith in Christ. Christ is the way through whom we have access to God; without Christ it is impossible that any petition would even reach the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. He says, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). So we first must believe in Christ and know Him, then come to God in prayer through Him, trusting in Christ’s meritorious righteousness.

This is why we pray for the sake of or in the name of Jesus Christ. Our prayers and life contain no merits or foundational grounds with God in themselves; only Christ can meritoriously and foundationally claim the ear of God (Matt. 3:17; John 11:40–41). He is the great High Priest and Intercessor of His church before the Father (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:14).

Assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God also touches the wellspring of our affections, provoking and stirring up prayer within us. He touches the strings of the believer’s heart and creates a sort of music within the heart. The consequence is that we cannot but pour out our desires to God in a manner consistent with Scripture.

Romans 8:26 teaches us that in true prayer the Holy Spirit groans within us groanings which cannot be uttered—they are beyond expression. Without the Spirit, our prayers are mere empty words; but with Him, prayer becomes the effectual unbosoming of our hearts to God.

Respect for the boundaries of Scripture. Bunyan says, “Prayer is only true when it is within the compass of God’s Word; it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is unrelated to the Book.” You know that your prayer is not true when you can’t affirm that it is scriptural. Using Scripture as our guide keeps us from much false prayer.

Submission to the will of God. True prayer is submissive, from the heart, to God. It says, “Thy will be done.” In true prayer, Bunyan says, “the people of the Lord in all humility lay themselves and their prayers, and all that they have, at the foot of their God, to be disposed of by him as he in his heavenly wisdom sees best.”

This is what we see pictured for us in the biblical postures that are used in prayer: kneeling, showing reverence (2 Chron. 6:13); standing with a bowed head, showing humility (Luke 18:13); prostration, showing surrender (Luke 5:8, 12); and bowing, showing submission (Gen. 24:26). The attitude of reverence overlaps into a reverential posture.

May each of us seek the Lord daily, asking: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Hat Off Kneeling in Prayer

Washington State: Family Conference (October 10–12)

Young Attenders at Family Conference

Young Attenders at Family Conference

More than a thousand people—nearly all home-schoolers—attended the “Family Relationships and Parenting Conference” held at the Ocean shores Conventions Center in Ocean Shores, Washington. The conference was presented by Christian Heritage Home Educators of Washington, and was well-organized by Danny Craig (25 years old), together with his father and brothers. I gave five addresses: How to Bring Your Children to Christ; The Church and Healthy Family Relationships; Nurturing Intimate Communication with Your Spouse; Puritan Insights for Husbands and Wives; How the Gospel Changes Relationships. I also participated on a panel on Advice for Husbands and Fathers.

Other major speakers included Gregg Harris, Craig Houston, and Lou Priolo. I enjoyed getting to meet and know them. Gregg Harris, well-known for his leadership role in the homeschooling movement over the past twenty-five years, is the father of Joshua Harris (author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, Not Even a Hint, etc.) and Alex and Brett Harris (co-authors of Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations). Craig Houston is a faithful pastor and father of twelve who is a joy to be with. We promised to try to find time to get to know each other better.

I also enjoyed my time with Gerry and Eileen Epp and their children, including mealtimes and talking around an evening campfire they made on the ocean beach with the waves rolling in behind us in the darkness. Joining us around the campfire were two additional families from Canada: Brian and Ann-Marie DenHertog, and Marvin and Wilhelmina from Alberta. Together the three families had more than twenty children with them!

With Isaac and Joseph Epp after Selling All the Books

With Isaac and Joseph Epp after Selling All the Books

Isaac Epp was particularly helpful in chauffeuring me from the airport and assisted me at the book table together with his brother Joseph. We were able to sell all eighteen boxes of books that we had sent out to the conference, including scores of books written for children. It was also great to meet some of the other large families that were present—many having from seven to twelve (even one with fourteen) children. Many of those children’s maturity level—both intellectually and spiritually—appears to be quite astonishing.

On Sunday morning I preached for Carl DeyArmin at Shiloh Bible Camp on “The Only Way to Live and Die” (Phil. 1:21). We went to the camp because Pastor DeyArmin’s church only holds about seventy people. He has built the church up from 20 people to 40 people in three years. That is really a major achievement in this rather deserted area. The church belongs to a group of churches being supported by Village Missions, which seeks to place pastors in rural settings to serve dying churches. The goal is to preserve and build of these churches across rural North America.

On Monday, I flew to Detroit, landing an hour before Mary joined me from Grand Rapids. Several hours later we were winging our way to Brazil on a long overnight flight to Sao Paulo. I am scheduled to speak about ten times in the next seven days—mostly on the Holy Spirit and His saving work.

Litchfield, New Hampshire and Limington, Maine (October 2–6)

My trip to New England got off to a rough start. The flight coming in from Chicago to Grand Rapids arrived three hours late because the flight crew had worked too many hours to continue flying. So, while they were resting in Chicago, I realized that I would miss my connection in Newark, New Jersey, so I managed to get rerouted through Laguardia, New York. The plane from Chicago finally arrived in Grand Rapids three hours late, however, which meant I would now miss my flight from Laguardia to Manchester, New Hampshire as well. Since there were no more flights into Manchester that day and I had to preach in the evening, United re-booked me again—this time putting me on a flight to Boston. Happily, Pastor Dave McClelland of the Grace Free Presbyterian Church of Litchfield, New Hampshire, was willing to drive all the way to Boston to pick me up. I landed in Boston at 4:15 p.m. (five hours late), and we then battled traffic getting out of Boston.

Pastor Dave McClelland of Grace FPC

Pastor Dave McClelland of Grace FPC

On the way, Dave told me the fascinating story of how he went through the motions of appearing fairly religious as he grew up since he didn’t want to displease his father who was a quiet, faithful pastor. He then began to date an attractive girl named Gina who had no religion at all. She had a troubled past, but he was attracted to her looks and honesty. For a while he tried to hide this relationship from his parents—also because of her worldly appearance (she had sixteen earrings in her ears!), but finally could hold out no longer. To his surprise, his father said he should bring her to church. To his astonishment, she was impressed, asked numerous questions, and was eventually converted. Her worldliness dissipated and she then became a positive influence on him, God using her in his own conversion! They now have a wonderful relationship as husband and wife.

We arrived at the Grace FP church ten minutes before the evening service was to begin. I could have flown more quickly to Europe than to New Hampshire, but was glad to arrive in time for the service, and felt helped in delivering the message.

With David Dicanio, Missionary to Liberia

With David Dicanio, Missionary to Liberia

The following morning I breakfasted with Dave, one of his elders, and a fellow FP pastor, David Dicanio, who is serving as a missionary in Liberia but had to leave his post temporarily due to the Ebola crisis. We had a fascinating conversation about the issue of “separation” from erring brethren and shared with each other how the Lord converted us.

Dave then drove me to Maine. The time flew; again, we had great fellowship on the way. He has become a good friend and it was great to get to know him better. By God’s grace, he has built up this FP church in New Hampshire—a state that is hostile or at best indifferent to the Reformed faith—to become a flock of 250 people, most of whom are quite young and have been drawn to faith from out of the world.

Pastor Leonard Gulstrom drove halfway from his church in Limington, Maine to meet Dave and me for lunch. To my surprise, they did not know each other despite the fewness of sound Reformed ministers in New England. After lunch, Leonard—a friendly, humble, steady brother who has run an effective ministry in Maine for eleven years—drove me to his beautiful country home, where I homesteaded for the next three days. I enjoyed my fellowship with him and his hospitable wife, Sonya, and their son Jason (the only one of seven children still at home) immensely. The Gulstrom parsonage is only two blocks from their quaint country church—Limington Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which is commemorating its 225th anniversary. For most of those years it was a Congregational church, but under Leonard’s leadership became an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 2011, and is growing steadily. The church now has four elders and four deacons.

Limington OPC

Limington OPC

Over the weekend, I delivered five messages on “The Faithfulness of God” in commemoration of the church’s anniversary. I also presented the work of Puritan Reformed Seminary at a Sunday school hour. Visitors came from near and far. A great friend and co-author, Pastor James La Belle, together with six of his children, and one of his elders with two of his children, drove up four hours from Cape Cod, Massachusetts early on Saturday to spend most of the day with us. I was able to treat them to a meal prior to their return. On Saturday evening, I had an engaging discussion at the Gulstrom home with three elders and a deacon from Limington’s OP church. Though the attendees never rose much above one hundred throughout the weekend, fellowship was great, the people were hungry and appreciative, and the books I had brought were nearly all sold already by Saturday.

I was particularly touched by some of the children in the congregation. Seven-year-old Veronica was deeply touched when I gave her one of my children’s books and gave me a thank you card on Sunday evening for it, telling me that she had already read the first chapters. “They were good,” she said in a mature, confident voice. Then there was a three-year-old boy who walked up to me and said sincerely and articulately on Sunday, “Sir, thank you so much for coming to preach for us this weekend.”

Travels (September 9-21)

Ministry Wives Institute at PRTS

Ministry Wives Institute at PRTS

Grand Rapids (September 9)

The Ministry Wives’ Institute (MWI), which aims to help train women to be biblical and faithful ministers’ wives, is a great blessing to PRTS’s seminary community. It is particularly appreciated by the wives of foreign students who often find themselves in a rather lonely situation in a “foreign” country while their husbands are studying hard and working long hours. Led by my wife, and assisted by the wives of the other faculty members and a few wives from the student body, MWI meets every other week to fellowship and to address various themes and issues that arise in the role of being a minister’s wife in a pastor’s family. Addresses are arranged for a three or four year cycle, with every semester focusing on a particular major theme confronted by ministers’ wives. Speakers for these occasions include faculty members, their wives, and outside speakers as well.

This year I gave the opening address to the MWI on “Being Busy But Fruitful: How to Organize Your Time for God’s Glory.” I addressed the foundational use of our time—namely, to be used for God’s glory, and then expounded eleven practical ways to help wives organize time.

Lake Mary, Florida (September 11)

I spent the day at Reformation Bible College, which is a fairly new college on a very beautiful campus, replete with a large pond and remarkably tame sandhill cranes moving about, situated some forty miles from Orlando, Florida. The college is associated with R. C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries, and has huge potential for growth—especially in our day when so few colleges or universities teach from a self-consciously biblical and Reformed perspective. The president of the college, Steven Nichols, a personable and able 43-year-old church historian, was my guide for the day. It was great to spend some time with him, as I had long wanted to get to know him better.

I first taught a class on Puritan Preaching for a few dozen students in their Church and Ministry Course, then delivered a chapel message for the student body and faculty (approximately 125 people) in the magnificent St. Andrews Church, after which I gave a PRTS power point presentation to nine students who expressed an interest in hearing more about PRTS in connection with their future studies. Four of the students seemed openly interested in attending PRTS once they have completed their college degree at RBC. In the afternoon, I spoke again for about two dozen students—this time for a class on the The Church Before the Reformation. My address was on Anselm’s view of the atonement and its impact on the Reformers and Reformed theology.

With Chris Larson Holding Diodati and Greenham

With Chris Larson Holding Diodati and Greenham

I then had a short visit with Dr. R. C. Sproul just before he was going on the air with Dr. John MacArthur. It was great to see him again and to hear that he is feeling reasonably well and pressing on in the Lord’s work. I also spent some time with Chris Larson—Dr. Sproul’s right hand man who does an amazing job of overseeing the entire Ligonier Ministries operation. Chris has in his office several antiquarian Reformed and Puritan books, so we took a picture of him holding the Pious Annotations of John Diodati and of me holding the complete Works of Richard Greenham.

Iowa and South Dakota (September 12–15)

After overnighting at home, I flew the next day to South Dakota to meet Mary there. She had gone ahead of me (while I was in Florida) to spend a few days with her sister (Linda VanBeek). On Friday evening and Saturday we visited about a dozen families—mostly in their own homes, to fellowship and show them our new PRTS power point presentation. It was an intensely busy but encouraging and profitable time.

On Sunday, I preached twice to the Hull, Iowa HRC, once on “the woman that was a sinner” (Luke 7:37) and in the evening on heaven’s genuine utopia (Rev. 21:1-8). I felt remarkably helped in the evening message. As we flew home on Monday, we said to each other that in addition to enjoying time with our relatives, this weekend bonded us to the dear Hull congregation more than ever.

Cheyenne, Wyoming (September 19–21)

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Cheyenne, Wyoming

On September 19 and 20 I gave four addresses for a conference put on by the Northwoods Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming around the theme of “Families Living for God’s Glory.” Topics included lessons from the Puritans for contemporary marriages and child-rearing, family worship, training children to follow Christ, and how to live godly through difficult times of family affliction. I also preached twice on Sunday, did a presentation on the seminary, and participated in a Q&A session.

Over the weekend I spent considerable time with Pastor Milan Norgauer—a tender-hearted minister who deeply appreciates the Reformed experiential emphasis. On more than one occasion, he wept on the pulpit in reflecting upon the truth being expounded. By the time I left, I felt like we had built a remarkably good friendship for only knowing each other for three days. The gospel has a way of allowing believers to do that, doesn’t it?

I also enjoyed time over breakfast with some of the elders who picked my brains on a number of edifying subjects. Equally delightful was a time of fellowship over a Sunday dinner at the beautiful home of Dr. and Mrs. Alexander Ramig, Jr. out in the rather barren countryside.

Conference attendees came from a variety of backgrounds. Most were of Reformed persuasion. Some Baptist families were present. Many came from small, rural congregations scattered throughout the sparsely populated state of Wyoming. A few families came from Denver, Colorado, include the Roy VanZweden family. It was great to have lunch with them and catch up with their lives.

 

In Memoriam: Phil Huisjen (1913-2014)

Phil Huisjen, 99, reading his Bible

Mr. Huisjen Reading His Bible with a Magnifying Glass at the Age of 99

Last week I was privileged to conduct the funeral of a very close friend, Phil Huisjen, who was also the oldest member of our congregation. He died at the age of 101.

I love(d) this brother immensely. He was one of my favorite friends to visit. I often felt that he pastored me more than I pastored him. There was something so real, so godly, so self-effacing about his entire demeanor and conversation that I cannot put it into words. Suffice it to say, we never wasted more than a minute talking about his health or mundane things like the weather. He always wanted to talk about spiritual matters, and would often ask me questions about various theological issues he had been wrestling with. Many times we talked about faith, assurance of faith, the character of God, and especially the righteousness of Christ.

When I first began to pastor brother Huisjen nearly twenty-eight years ago, I found him to be a rather lonely man (he had lost his dear wife Lucia ten years earlier in 1977), while at the same time a contemplative brother of deep spirituality. He was a humble, sincere believer, but was still caught in the bondage of a kind of hyper-calvinistic “hard believism.” He didn’t think salvation could ever be possible for him, even though he couldn’t deny that he hated sin with passion and loved the Lord Jesus Christ as His only hope for salvation, and longed to know Him better.

What a reader he was! In those early years of pastoring him, he most commonly read William Huntington’s writings, and would comment frequently how they would give him hope at times, then dash those hopes to pieces.

Over the years, God graciously blessed preaching and pastoring to his soul to give him more hope outside of Himself in Christ alone for salvation. He once told me with tears that when I preached on the righteousness of Christ as the sum and substance of our salvation his soul could rejoice. But then he would still look back toward himself and get caught in the snares of unbelief again.

I never met a man who hated his unbelief so much as Phil Huisjen. He would openly weep over it. I still remember him sobbing in my presence, crying out, “Oh, my unbelief, my cursed, wretched unbelief; Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” Gradually, however, instead of taking ten looks at himself and one look to Christ, he began to take an equal number of looks at both himself and Christ, until the last years of his life when he truly followed the advice of Richard Baxter to take ten looks at Christ for every look at self.

For seventeen of the last twenty-eight years I pastored him over the phone as he moved to Texas to be near his daughter. Before he went to Texas, he gave me his set of Huntington’s Works, telling me that he was coming to more assurance of faith but still had a ways to go; nevertheless, he felt that there were other writers who could help him along to assurance better than Huntington. He also told me that he thought he would die soon and asked me to conduct his funeral. I gladly agreed, but neither he nor I imagined that he would live for another quarter of a century!

Mr. Huisjen went through some hard times, but his faith did not waver. He grieved greatly over the death of his two sons, David and Donald. During his Texas years, he endeared himself to his daughter Cheryl and her husband, as well as to his grandchildren, even more than before.

When he returned from Texas some years ago, it became more evident that he had come to a more settled assurance in Christ for his own soul. All those years he had listened to sermons from afar, and slowly but surely came to embrace Christ as the Surety of his own soul. His former problem that he had never seemed to have an extraordinary experience of Christ seemed to have given way to a quiet childlike faith of certitude in Christ’s righteousness.

Mr. Huisjen’s mind was strong until a day or two before he died. Two hours before he died, I asked him if he had pain. He could not speak well but clearly shook his head no. I then asked if he was resting in Christ’s righteousness alone to which he responded by mouthing the word “yes” and clearly shaking his head up and down in affirmation. I told him that though we would never see each other again on this side of the grave, that I wanted him to know that I loved him and that we would meet sin-free on the other side in glory where Christ would be all-in-all. Again he mouthed the word “yes.”

I buried my dear friend with these words, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). His gain is our loss. I will miss him, and yet I know that He is far better off with the Lord. Phil Huisjen now has finally received his desire to focus on Christ fully and forever. Hasten the day, Lord, when the shadows will flee away, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and this mortality shall put on immortality.

Are you too trusting in Christ and His righteousness alone for salvation? With less than that righteousness, you cannot stand before God on the great Judgment Day; more than that righteousness you do not need.

The Union of God and Man in Christ

Concerning the hypostatic union in which one Christ is both God and man, J. C. Ryle wrote: “We should settle it firmly in our minds, that our Savior is perfect man as well as perfect God, and perfect God as well as perfect man. If we once lose sight of this great foundation truth, we may run into fearful heresies.”

In this precious union, the Son of God assumed our human nature to His divinity, though God remained God and man remained man in Him. Consequently, He did not become two persons, but remained one divine Person—the Son of God, Second Person in the holy Trinity. Christ took a human nature to Himself, but never became a “human person.” Thus we must be careful when we speak of Jesus as the God-man, that we underscore that He did not become two persons.

Throughout church history there have been numerous errors that have developed against this doctrine, such as those of the Gnostics, Arians, Socinians, as well as the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses. The early Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) corrected several heretical teachings regarding the essence of the relationship of the natures of Christ. They directed their confession against certain groups. Against Eutychians, the Council stated that Christ’s natures were without mixture and without change. Against Nestorians, they stated that Christ’s natures were without division and without separation. Christ did not have two identities but a strict unity in one Person.

The Belgic Confession of Faith also stated the hypostatic union clearly: “We believe that by this conception, the person of the Son is inseparably united and connected with the human nature; so that these are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in one single person; yet, that each nature retains its own distinct properties” (Article 19).

Once Christ’s divinity assumed humanity, His two natures are never separated. They were never separated during His life or after his death, nor will they be separated in the future. The Belgic Confession continues: “These two natures are so closely united in one Person that they were not separated even by His death. Therefore that which He, when dying commended into the hands of His Father, was a real human spirit, departing from His body. But in the meantime the divine nature always remained united with the human, even when He lay in the grave. And the Godhead did not cease to be in Him, any more than it did when He was an infant, though it did not so clearly manifest itself for a while” (Article 19).

Many Christians today have trouble applying this truth to themselves with profit. But the union of Christ’s natures in one Person should be very sweet to a Christian’s soul since the hypostatic union accords with the believer’s mystical union with Christ.

A number of Puritans paralleled the hypostatic union with the mystical union of Christ and the believer. Thomas Watson noted that Christ’s assumption of a human nature corresponds to the “sacred union” of His person with the believer. He noted, however, that “if there is no more than this natural [hypostatic] union, it will give little comfort.” Thomas Cole, in his Discourse of Regeneration, also noted: “The Human Nature of Christ [in the hypostatic union] is the foundation of all our Communion with God: our access to God is through the veil of his flesh.” Isaac Ambrose wrote, “It pleased God to assume and unite our human nature to the deity,” and, likewise: “It pleased God to unite the person of every believer to the Son of God.” Edward Reynolds and John Bunyan wrote similarly.

But Thomas Manton explained this in detail. He distinguished a number of analogies between the hypostatical union and the believer’s mystical union with Christ. Here are five:

 

  1. “In the hypostatical union, our nature is united with Christ’s nature; in the mystical union, our person with his person.”
  2. “In the hypostatical union, Christ matched into our family; in the mystical union, the soul is the bride…. Thus Christ first honored our nature, and then our persons; first he assumeth our nature, and then espouseth our persons.”
  3. “In the hypostatical union, Christ was a person before he assumed the human nature; [and thus] the body is a passive instrument…in the mystical union, on Christ’s part active, on ours passive.”
  4. “The hypostatical union is indissoluble; it was never laid aside, not in death…. So it is in the mystical union; Christ and we shall never be parted.”
  5. “By the hypostatical union, Christ is made our brother, he contracted affinity with the human nature; by the mystical union he is made our head and husband, he weddeth our persons.”

Truly, for the Christian, as Manton concludes, “the hypostatical union is the ground of all that grace and glory that was bestowed on the human nature, without which, as a mere creature, it would not be capable of this exaltation; so the mystical union is the ground of all that grace and glory which we receive.”

For further reading of the Puritans on this subject, see:

Isaac Ambrose, Looking unto Jesus in Works, 215.

Edwards Reynolds, Joy in the Land: Opened in a Sermon Preached at Pauls, May 6 (London 1655), 9.

John Bunyan, in Richard L. Greaves, John Bunyan: Miscellaneous Works (Oxford, 1979), 8:84.

Thomas Cole, A Discourse of Regeneration, 1969, 137.

Thomas Manton, Vol. 11 of Works, 35ff.