Archives for August 2012

Hitting the Mark at Seminary

Today, I was walking home from the seminary for lunch when I caught our new academic dean, Dr. Michael Barrett, an avid hunter, doing a few minutes of target practice on his lunch break. He missed the bull’s eye by an inch!

Dr. Barrett has been a great blessing for us already in his first weeks on the job. Please continue to pray for him and Sandra as they adjust to Michigan and the seminary community.

A God-fearing Father (I)

I received so many responses from my posts about my late mother that it seems good for me to share also about my father. The following posts are adapted from what I wrote as a pastoral letter for my congregation the week after the sudden passing away of our dear father, John Beeke, while he was leading the Sunday morning worship in Kalamazoo, Michigan on March 14, 1993. It was not easy to write this, but I felt compelled to do so, and I pray that even now many years later God would bless many through it.

I do not write about memories of and lessons from our deceased father in any way to exalt him; rather, my desire is that God may be glorified and that we may all learn from the experiences and examples of God’s people. 

On Sunday morning, March 14, 1993, a brother deacon handed me the following note a few minutes before the end of the sermon: “While reading a sermon this morning your father had a heart attack.  He is on his way to the hospital now.  He is not so good.”

I felt immediately that this was my dear father’s hour of translation from the church militant to the church triumphant.  Thus, we were not surprised when we arrived in the emergency room an hour later in Kalamazoo to hear our dear mother say through tears, “He’s gone.”

And yet . . . we are never ready for death.  We cling to the smallest remnant of hope—especially when it is one of our loved ones.  Oh, the awesome, unnatural finality of death!  Death always arrives sooner than we reckon.  It always comes as a shock.  Death hits us hard and heavily.  We confess, “Thou hast showed Thy people hard things: Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment” (Psa. 60:3).

You can understand that we wept many tears in those hours.  We lost a teaching prophet, praying priest, and guiding king in our family circle.  We lost a loving father, a spiritual companion, a bosom friend.  Late that afternoon, the Lord gave some encouragement by directing us to Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”  We may believe that He also provided strength to preach from these words that same evening to the mourning consistory and flock of Kalamazoo who were all live witnesses of their elder’s death on the pulpit.

The following Monday and Tuesday evenings in the funeral home were unforgettable.  After we heard numerous testimonies from those who were blessed by our father’s teaching and visits, these encouraging words of Paul kept pressing themselves upon our soul: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).  God’s Word will not return to Him void, but will accomplish His good pleasure (Is. 55:11).

In future posts, I will share more about my father’s life and death.

Legacy of the Reformation Tour in Europe

I’m excited to be partnering with Witte Travel on a beautiful, historic tour in Europe next summer. Please consider joining us on a first-class tour next July 11–22, traveling through the Netherlands and Germany, taking in various sites related to the Reformation, and ending in Heidelberg (in commemoration of the Heidelberg Catechism’s 450th anniversary). Dr. Van Vliet and I hope to fill one bus each, so the tour is limited to 96 people—48 people per bus. Check out this summary, and a 10-page, detailed brochure. I’d love to have you along, God willing. Send in your reservation today!

First Day of Class

Today I began teaching for the 2012-2013 school year at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. I have 36 students in my Soteriology class—the study of salvation. What a joy they are to teach! They are from 14 different countries and more than 20 denominations. You can see here how they are crammed into our largest classroom. We can’t wait for our much-needed building expansion. So far, we have received $1.8 million in gifts and pledges. We have $1 million to go (the 18,000 square feet expansion will cost about $2.8 million). We need another $300,000 before we can begin building. If you, or friends you know, are vitally interested in seeing solidly Reformed preaching spread around the globe, please consider helping us close this gap now. You can donate and/or pledge by contacting Chris Hanna (616-977-0599 x138) or going here.

Consider Christ in Affliction (VIII): The Plan of Christ

Finally, when you face affliction, consider the plan of Christ. Highly exalted, there is no name like His. At His name, every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10). The eternal plan lying behind all His affliction was eternal glory.

Eternal glory—not only for Himself, but also for you. He returned to His Father differently than He came. He returned with His blood-bought bride, just as He planned in His eternal covenant with His Father. His church, figuratively speaking, ascended into glory with Him, accepted by the Father in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). Oh, then think more of God’s eternal plan for you and your eternal end in glory if you would be more submissive under affliction and learn to praise God in trial!

Your trials in this life are but for “ten days” (Rev. 2:10). Your life-to-come glory is forever. The “ten days” here are preparation time for glory to come. Affliction elevates your soul to heaven (Heb. 11:10); it paves your way for glory: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Your rainy days on earth are nearly over. Don’t overestimate them. Think more of your coming crown and your eternal communion with God Triune, saints and angels. “He that rides to be crowned,” John Trapp wrote, “will not think much of a rainy day.”

Light after darkness;

Gain after loss;

Strength after weakness;

Crown after cross;

Sweet after bitter;

Hope after fears;

Home after wandering;

Praise after tears.


Sheaves after sowing;

Sun after rain;

Sight after mystery;

Peace after pain;

Joy after sorrow;

Calm after blast;

Rest after weariness;

Sweet rest at last.


Remember, you are but renting here; your personal mansion is reserved there. Expect no heaven on earth (apart from spiritual foretastes by means of sanctified affliction!), but trust that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Be assured: the Shepherd’s rod does have honey at the end. Don’t despair. Your afflictions are imposed by a fatherly hand of love in the context of grace, not (as you are too prone to think) by a punitive hand of judgment in the context of works.

Keep your eye on Christ. Consider Christ—His passion, power, presence, perseverance, prayers, purposes, and plan. Seek grace to live Christianly today through and in your afflictions, and you will soon discover with the apostle, “For me to life is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).

Conference and Family Joys

Joel Beeke, Derek Thomas, Burk Parsons, Bart Elshout, and David Murray

What a blessed and packed weekend this has been! First was the Puritan Reformed Theology Seminary conference on “The Beauty and Glory of God the Father,” which went far better than I expected. Nearly 500 people attended. Dr. Derek Thomas’s closing address alone was worth the price of the conference. Addresses can be heard on

Derek Thomas and Me

Then our son Calvin became engaged to Laura Sweetman—to our great joy! One hour after she showed us her ring, my oldest daughter, Esther, came home with a birthstone ring from her boyfriend, James Engelsma—again to our great joy!

Calvin, Laura, Lydia, Esther, James, Mary, and Me

In addition to two sermons, and a Youth Group meeting, yesterday was packed with visitors, family, and friends who attended the conference. And this morning, Esther left for Lithuania for a semester of study (yes, my wife and I both cried), while our youngest daughter, Lydia, was leaving on the bus for her first day of 11th grade. Meanwhile, I rushed back from the airport to give an opening address on “Eleven Commandments for Theological Students” for the fall semester (which will be posted at And now I need to rush down to Kalamazoo to meet with my brothers and sisters who have also come from British Columbia and Ontario to divide up the few possessions that our dear Mother left behind. I’m so glad that the treasury of prayers she left behind was far greater than her treasury of earthly things!


Consider Christ in Affliction (VII): The Purposes of Christ

When suffering affliction, consider the purposes of Christ. He lived to do His Father’s will, to be sanctified through suffering, to merit salvation for His own, to present His church without spot or wrinkle to His Father. In a word, His life was God-centered.

His God-centered goals are numerous for you, too, in sanctified affliction: Sanctified affliction humbles you (Deut. 8:2), teaches you what sin is (Zeph. 1:12), and causes you to seek God (Hos. 5:15). Affliction vacuums away the fuel that feeds your pride. Bell-like, the harder you are hit, the better you sound. You learn more under the rod that strikes you than through the staff that comforts you. You discover the truth of Robert Leighton’s words: “Affliction is the diamond dust that heaven polishes its jewels with.”

Sanctified affliction serves to keep you in Christ’s communion, close by His side—to conform you to Him, making you partaker of His suffering and image, righteousness and holiness (Heb. 12:10–11). Stephen-like, the stones that hit you only knock you closer to your chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ, opening heaven the wider for you. Affliction rubs the rust off your locked heart and opens your heart’s gates afresh to your King’s presence-chamber. Yes, the rod of affliction is God’s pencil for drawing Christ’s image more fully on you.

Sanctified affliction serves to wean you from the world and to cause you to walk by faith. A dog bites strangers, not homeowners. Perhaps affliction bites you so deeply because you are too little at home with the Word and ways of God, and too much at home with the world. “God,” says Thomas Watson, “would have the world hang as a loose tooth which, being twitched away, does not much trouble us.” In prosperity, you often talk of living by other-worldly faith, but in adversity, you live your talk.

Consider Christ in Affliction (VI): The Prayers of Christ

When we consider Christ in affliction, we can find peace by resting in His saving work, and by following His godly example.

Consider the prayers of Christ. How often He set time apart on earth to pray to His Father, especially in hours of need! How continually He prays in heaven for all His church! How effectual all His prayers are!

You, too, ought to make more use of prayer, especially in combating spiritual depression under afflictions. Bring all your needs steadily to your praying High Priest. Be assured He hears your every whisper.

And when you grow drowsy or sloppy in prayer, pray aloud. Or write down your prayers. Or find a quiet place to walk in the fresh air to pray. Just don’t stop praying. Conversation with God through Christ is the antidote that wards off spiritual depression in the thick of affliction.

A prayerless affliction is like an open sore, ripe for infection; a prayerful affliction is like an open sore, ripe for the balm of Gilead—the healing ointment of Jesus’ blood. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Consider Christ in Affliction (V): The Patience and Perseverance of Christ

So far in this series, I have urged you to consider Christ in affliction (I), and given particular attention to His passion (II), His power (III), and His presence (IV).

Next, consider the patience and perseverance of Christ. As you know, the form of “Chinese torture” that drips one drop of water at regular intervals on the forehead of a prisoner strapped beneath a faucet gets all its power from the duration of the trial, not from the first one or two hundred drops. Insanity is usually the end result.

And so matters might end with you, were it not for Jesus. I know very well that what makes affliction so severe for you is its duration. You often wonder if there will ever be an end and, if so, how you will hang on to the end.

But it is Christ who provides you the strength to bear one more drop, take one more step, live one more day, in the severest of tortures and persecutions. He has earned that provision by enduring His sufferings to their end. Gethsemane, Gabbatha, Golgotha—in each place, He confirmed: “Jesus . . . having loved his own . . . he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). Blood drop by blood drop, for six long hours He poured out His life. And never flinched. Never answered His mockers a word. Never yielded to their taunts: “If thou be the Christ.”

It’s through Jesus’ strength that you too have endured. Look back at the heaviest of your afflictions. How did you bear them through those long nights, months, and years? How did you retain your silence when persecuted? How did you continue on when many challenged, “If you are a Christian”?

Must you not say: Only through the perseverance of Christ have I by grace persevered? Oh, the depth of Paul’s confession: “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10a)!

Despite your fears of perishing at the hands of “Sauls” through sixteen long years of persecutions as David did, you will not perish. Jesus has done too much, persevered too long (He is still persevering in intercession!) to let you slip through His fingers. “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

Look more to Christ. Trust more in His promise. Rest more in His perseverance, for your perseverance rests in His. Seek grace to imitate His patience under affliction. Your trials may alarm you, but they will not destroy you. Your crosses are God’s way to royal crowning (Rev. 7:14).

Consider Christ in Affliction (IV): The Presence of Christ

In our meditations on how considering Christ helps us in affliction, I have talked about the passion or sufferings of Christ and the power of Christ.

Third, consider the presence of Christ. He is at no time absent from you, even when your faith lacks active exercise to grasp Him. Even in your thickest hours of Egyptian darkness, He is close beside you. Only of Him can it be declared, “The darkness and the light are both alike to Thee” (Ps. 139:12).

How comforting this is! In all your dark afflictions, your High Priest retains you in His high-priestly eye, preserves you in His high-priestly heart, bears you on His high-priestly shoulders, does not remove you from the engravings on His high-priestly hands, and never ceases to remember you in His high-priestly intercessions. “He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Oh, what tender love! You are never forgotten by Jesus Christ, despite your negligence toward Him. Your unbrotherliness to Christ never unbrothers this precious Elder Brother from you. From His perspective, He ever remains a friend that sticks “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), even when you cannot see or feel it. Even then He is whispering to you in midnight seasons, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7).

Take heart. The Jesus who never failed you in yesterday’s afflictions (did He not rather give you extra tokens of His care!) is still present to give you today’s strength (Matt. 6:34). Just as waves are cut down to melodious whimpers at shore’s reality, so He will break down your waves of tomorrow’s impossibilities as (not before!) they break in on the beachheads of your life. Wait on your ever-present Savior. He will not let you down. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).