A Day in the Life

Just a note to share my yesterday with you. In the morning, Reformation Heritage Books was hopping both with finalizing manuscripts and with a groundswell of book orders. Also, e-books are taking off well. In response to several Tweets, nearly 2000 e-book copies of A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life sold through Amazon in the last few days. I spent part of the morning finalizing the indexes of Andrew Woolsey’s magisterial study, Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought: A Study in the Reformed Tradition to the Westminster Assembly and Brian Cosby’s excellent Suffering Sovereignty: John Flavel and the Puritans on Afflictive Providence.  We’re excited to get both books in print by mid-December. I also submitted the final minor proofing changes for a 500-page book by Godefridus Udemans, The Practice of Faith, Hope, and Love, which is a remarkable Dutch Further Reformation treatment of the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. That should be available before December 25 as well.

Then I led a student chapel for our seminary, preaching on Acts 24:24–25. I tried to model for the students how to preach a warning yet alluring sermon from a biblical story. We had a good discussion about it afterwards. After a quick lunch with my wife, I lectured for two hours on spiritual adoption to my 36 Soteriology students—what great men they are and what a great class to teach! After that, three of my colleagues and I led a “practice preaching” critiquing session following a sermon expounded by Koos Truter, one of our students from South Africa.

Late in the afternoon, I put finishing touches on my editorial, “Raising Children to be Gatekeepers,” for the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, which was due today and will be published in the January issue. Then I met with a Brazilian Th.M. student briefly about his last chapter of his fine thesis on the covenant views of Robert Rollock. He and his wife will be returning to Brazil next month, where he has already accepted a pastoral position that will probably soon entail teaching responsibilities in a seminary as well.

HNRC Sunday School Dinner

I then rushed over to our Christian school which was hosting an annual dinner for our Sunday School attendees. Every Sunday afternoon about 40 of our adults and young people are involved in teaching about 75 children from our area Bible stories and doctrine. Most of the children come from broken homes. It is a valuable and challenging ministry.

Late in the evening, I spent about an hour preparing some material for a Korean conference next February, where I hope to speak to 20,000 expected attendees on “Puritan Worship.” Then I got my liturgy ready for preaching in Monarch, Alberta, this coming Sunday, and did some preliminary packing, including four downloaded books that I need to do a final edit this coming weekend on the long plane rides: a first-ever biography on Arthur Hildersham by Lesley Row; Ryan McGraw’s Christ’s Glory, Your Good; A Faith Worth Teaching: The Heidelberg Catechism’s Enduring Heritage, edited by Jon Payne and Sebastian Heck; and Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans, coauthored by Terry Slachter and myself. I’m excited about all of these titles and can’t wait to give them a final read. Hopefully, I’ll get through at least two or three of them this weekend.

Finally, I spent a sweet hour with my wife.

As usual, I covet your prayers.

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (VII)

Question: What does it mean to know the Mediator?

Abraham Hellenbroek said that we must know the Mediator “in His names, offices, natures, states, and benefits” (A Specimen of Divine Truths, 38).

What are these?

His offices are prophet (Deut. 18:15), priest (Heb. 5:6), and king (Luke 1:32–33).

His natures are divine as the Word and Son of God (John 1:1, 14), and human as the Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3:15) and Son of Man (Luke 9:22).

He came to earth in the state of humiliation to be the suffering servant of the Lord (Phil. 2:6–8), and now reigns in the state of exaltation as Lord over all (Phil. 2:9–11).

His benefits are many. For example, He is the light of the world (John 8:12), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

How many names, titles, and symbols are found in Scripture?

James Large found 280 titles and symbols of Christ in the Bible, and there are probably even more.

Why does He have so many names?

Every name of Christ is an act of God revealing Himself to us. Every name is a gracious gift whereby God lowers Himself to meet sinners like us. In the names of Christ, the gospel is preached in its richness and glory.

What is the difference between His names and our names?

Our names only represent us. We identify closely with our names, but other people also have the same name as we do. Sometimes we don’t live up to our names. Absalom means my father is peace, but he proved to be a son of war. Judas means praise, but he betrayed Jesus instead of glorifying God.

Jesus holds His names in a unique fashion. He not only uses His names as a label to identify Him. The Lord’s names are who He is. He and His names are one. In Scripture His name is His glory and the object of our worship (Ps. 148:13). His name is His presence near to us (Ps. 75:1) to judge (Isa. 30:27) and to save (Acts 4:12).

Thus we must fear the name of the Lord and love the name of the Lord (Isa. 56:6; 59:19). What have you done with the name of Jesus? Perhaps you know much about Christ. Perhaps you know little. Either way, what place does the name of Jesus have in your heart? Do you delight to fear His name? Or do you take up His name as a vain and empty word?

Update on Victoria (XIV)

I have wonderful news to share with you: Victoria was allowed to come home—hopefully for good. Here is the happy recent post of her mother Jen:

Victoria decided to surprise her Dad, Grandma, and I by walking all the way from her hospital room, down the hallways, into the elevator, and almost to the Tim Horton’s coffee shop downstairs! The look on her face was priceless, a mixture of determination and pure excitement. (At one point Grandma was so excited she had to pick her up and squeeze her.)

Today I was able to give her a second bath with the nurses. They are applying a cream to help the over stimulation of tissue. This was the reason why we were not able to come home on Tuesday. I could already see some improvement.

Again our family has been so surrounded with love, with visitors we never would have expected, beautiful messages, cards, babysitters, sisters that cleaned our house, and meals. Victoria’s walls in her room were so full of cards, it looked like wall paper. Every nurse and doctor loved her room, and commented on all the love and support we have received. Those messages and texts were read and re-read! So many times I have been so taken back by people’s kindness, and thoughtfulness. What a complete blessing to belong to the family of God!

On behalf of our family, thanks so much for all your prayers for Victoria and her family. Please continue to pray for her continued recovery, the strengthening of her legs, the dissipation of flashbacks, and the sanctification of her soul.

Updates on Victoria, Conference, and PRTS

We covet your prayers as yesterday my niece, Victoria, and the family received discouraging news. The surgeons changed the dressings and were not pleased with how the new skin was developing. The dressings will need to be changed every day now and ointment applied. The family was so hoping that today Victoria would be able to return home for good, but this will now be delayed. We trust that our heavenly Father knows best and we commend Victoria and her family into His merciful hands.

My wife and I had a wonderful time this past weekend at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois. God was in the midst of us. The conference went very well, and the 200 attendees drank in God’s Word eagerly. Their questions, love, appreciation, and book-buying spoke volumes about this church. Seldom have I spoken at a conference this size that radiated such a pathos of being in the Word and living on the growing edge of God’s grace. God is clearly blessing the work of their dear pastors, Dale Smith and Steve Tigner. Love abounds between the pastors and the flock, and also among the flock itself. It was so refreshing to hear the people tell us how much they appreciate their pastors and their church.

Last night Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary held its annual Fund-Raising Dinner. Chris Hanna, our Director of Development and Marketing, served as MC for the evening. He interviewed three of our students who gave testimonies of what PRTS has meant to them. Dr. Michael Barrett, our Academic Dean, gave a fitting address, based on Exodus 17, on “Advancing the Kingdom.” He stressed how that advance depends on (1) the unity of service, (2) on knowledge, and (3) on the power and promise of God—and applied the whole in a moving way to Bible-based, faithful seminary work.

I then gave an update on the seminary’s present needs and our vision for the future. Presently, $2.3 million of the $2.8 million needed has been raised in gifts and pledges for the proposed addition. Though this is very encouraging, the Operation Fund is now low. ATS Accreditation hopes to be achieved by February of 2014, after which PRTS hopes to begin a Ph.D. program, God willing. We are most grateful for and humbled by God’s evident continued blessing on our seminary. Soli Deo Gloria!

NAPARC, ETS, and Rockford

Good fellowship transpired at the NAPARC meetings in Dyer, Indiana on Tuesday and Wednesday. On behalf of the HRC, Rev. Mark Kelderman and I met with NAPARC delegations from the URC, the RPCNA, and the OPC. NAPARC continues to struggle with the idea of organic union, however. Rev. Danny Hyde addressed us on union and called us to repentance and dependency on the Holy Spirit.

My own conviction is that NAPARC churches should continue to fellowship with each other and cooperate on various ventures where they may see eye-to-eye and strengthen each other’s hands, but not press any kind of federational union through the watering down of denominational distinctives. Most of these distinctives are of major importance to the various denominations in NAPARC. Non-essential distinctives, of course, may and should be set aside for purposes of union, but few NAPARC denominations view their distinctives as non-essential, or else they would have dropped them long ago.

We also need to remember that real, vital union lies in the invisible church, not through the forced merging of church denominations. If such mergers happen naturally and are a good fit, such that neither merging denomination suffers loss of membership or convictions, that of course would be ideal. But if merges are forced, often what happens in church history is that the merging of two denominations only produces three denominations: the new denomination, and a remaining denomination from each of the merging groups, consisting of churches that could not in good conscience acquiesce with the merging into a new denomination.

ETS Banquet

The Evangelical Theological Society met from Wednesday through Friday in Milwaukee, with 2,200 professors and ministers in attendance. The major theme of the conference related to Christian views of creation, though many other themes were addressed as well. As usual, ETS papers varied widely in value.

I gave two papers—one on the Puritan view of preparatory grace (Paul Smalley and I hope to publish a book on this important topic next spring—it is presently in its final editing stage), and one on “Laurence Chaderton: An Early Puritan Vision for Church and School.” Chaderton, who lived to be 104 and has been nicknamed as “the Puritan Methuselah,” gave his life to training young men for the ministry. Hundreds of Puritan ministers were trained under him—more than under anyone else in Puritan history. The reason he is not better known today is because he didn’t write any books.

When I wasn’t delivering papers, attending sessions, or meeting with various friends, I was assisting our Reformation Heritage Books manager, Steve Renkema, and my dear wife, Mary, in selling RHB books. In all, we sold nearly $10,000 worth of books.

Today, Mary and I are driving to Rockford, Illinois, where I am speaking on “Knowing and Living the Christian Life” (5 messages in all) this weekend for the Grace Reformed Baptist Church. Please pray for the Spirit’s blessing upon the conference.

Heartfelt Questions about Christ (VI)

In previous posts in this series (Sep. 28; Oct. 2, 3, 5, 12), I talked about Christ’s work as the Mediator. The Lord Jesus made satisfaction to God’s justice for the sins of the elect. I began to discuss the topic of particular redemption in the last post. Now I continue that subject.

Question: Why don’t you believe that Christ died for every person?

The Bible teaches that Christ died to save “many” (Isa. 53:11; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Heb. 2:10), but not to save each individual sinner. Christ came to save “His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He gave His life for those given to Him by the Father (John 6:37–39; 10:14–15, 27–29). His blood purchased “the church of God” (Acts 20:28). His death expressed His special love for the church, as a husband loves his wife (Eph. 5:25). This is an exclusive love. When the Father gave His Son for His elect, He guaranteed that He would also give them all things and nothing can condemn them because Christ intercedes for them (Rom. 8:31–34). That cannot be said of those ultimately lost. Christ said that He does not intercede for the entire world, but only for those whom the Father gave to Him (John 17:9).

How does Christ’s particular redemption of His elect fit into the bigger picture of salvation?

G. H. Kersten explained it in this manner (Reformed Dogmatics, 267).

(1) Christ’s death for His people fits together with the Father’s sovereign predestination of some unworthy sinners to eternal life (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 9:10–18). If Christ were to redeem every sinner, then He would not be doing His Father’s will.

(2) Christ’s death for His people fits with the complete and perfect accomplishment of His death. If Christ died for every sinner, then either every sinner will be saved, or we must add something to Christ’s death. Did Christ really do all He could to save Judas, yet still lost him? Far from it! Christ’s death does more than make it possible for us to save ourselves. Christ’s blood makes complete satisfaction to God for the sins of His people, and in due time they shall be saved through faith.

(3) Christ’s death for His people fits with the particular work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate some sinners and make them alive towards God (John 3:5; 6:63). The Spirit applies what Christ accomplished, being poured out through Him (Titus 3:5–6). If Christ died to save a sinner, then how could the Holy Spirit not give him life?

(4) Christ’s death for His people fits with the inability of fallen man to choose God. Most people who believe in universal redemption do so because they think man’s will trumps God’s will. If this were so, then no man could be saved, for sinners are unable to trust in Christ unless God supernaturally draws them (John 6:44). Thanks be to God, God’s will rules over man’s will! God’s will is to save out of the world by the blood of Christ a vast number of sinners whom no one can count from every nation (Rev. 5:9; 7:9–10, 14). Christ knows them by name (John 10:3, 11, 14–15).

What does this mean for me personally?

It means that Christ must become everything to you. You must see Him as a full Savior for the total sinner who is so dead that He cannot even receive Christ without Christ’s grace. You must look to Him as the One who has done everything when we could do nothing. We had no legs to run to Him, no arms to embrace Him, no lips to kiss Him. He purchased all for us by His obedient suffering, and He applies all to us by His Spirit. Therefore He will receive all the praise and glory forever and ever.

Learn to pray, “Lord, let room be made for Christ in my soul. Reveal and apply Him within me by the Holy Spirit. Grant me faith to trust and embrace Him. Let me know Him more fully in His Person, benefits, natures, offices, states, and names. Grant that I may live in Him and draw life out of Him. May He become my all-in-all, and I become nothing at all. Amen.”

NAPARC, ETS, and Rockford, Illinois

Today my wife and I are leaving for Indiana where I hope to attend NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council) on behalf of the Heritage Reformed denomination, then move on tomorrow to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to deliver two papers (and sell books) at the ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) meetings, where more than 2000 professors are expected. I’m giving one paper on Laurence Chaderton, whom God used to train more Puritans for the ministry than anyone else, and another on Puritan preparatory grace. On Friday, we move on to Rockford, Illinois, where I hope to speak over the weekend five times for the Grace Reformed Baptist Church on “Knowing and Living the Christian Life.” We covet your prayers.

Celebrating the Heidelberg Catechism’s 450th Anniversary

Heidelberg Castle

In 1563 the Lord blessed His church with a remarkably clear and warm-hearted statement of biblical Christianity. The Heidelberg Catechism was written by two men in their twenties, yet it has served as a book of comfort to the international Reformed movement for four-and-a-half centuries. It is doctrinal, experiential, Christ-centered, and practical.

Let me invite you to two opportunities to make use of its historic 450th anniversary to enrich yourself personally and spiritually.

This winter, on January 18–19, 2013, Canadian Reformed Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario will host a special conference on the Heidelberg Catechism. Lyle Bierma, Herman Selderhuis, Jason van Vliet, and I will speak about the rich heritage we have in the catechism.

This summer, on July 11–19, 2013, Dr. Van Vliet and I will lead The Legacy of the Reformation Tour through Germany and the Netherlands. In addition to learning more about the history and doctrines of the Reformation, you will enjoy delightful scenic excursions to the Het Loo palace and gardens, the Bad Bentheim castle, the Gothic Dom church in Cologne, a cruise on the Rhine River, and, of course, Heidelberg Castle.

Those interested may also register for the Heidelberg Conference on Reformed Theology from July 18–21, 2013. It will be a fitting way to cap off our tour through Europe to Heidelberg. Speakers include Lyle Bierma, Michael Horton, Jason Van Vliet, Jon Payne, Victor d’Assonville, Sebastian Heck, and myself.

Update on Victoria (XII)

Five-year-old Victoria DeHaan suffered severe wounds after being attacked by dogs a few weeks ago. Here is an update on her condition.

Tori had her surgery for 130 square inches of skin grafting yesterday. We thank our heavenly Father that He has made all things well. The surgeons were pleased with how surgery went. Victoria experienced severe pain when she first came through surgery but her pain is now being controlled by morphine. As I write, she is eating and painting a picture. God is good!

Update on Victoria (XI)

Here’s an update on Victoria (Tori) from one of my nieces, Kerry Brouwer, written last night:

Amazing things have happened today! Tori with the help of a therapist and behind a walker, took twelve steps today and another seven steps this evening! We stand amazed at the Lord’s goodness to us and our little Tori! How fitting is Lamentations 3:22–23, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness!”

We ask for specific prayer for the nightmares that Tori has been having. Many nights she sleeps very fitfully and is disturbed by frightening nightmares. Please ask the Lord to take away these nightmares and pray for the rest that she so needs. Pray also for Jen and Gerald (her parents) as caring for Tori takes so much energy. Pray that today (Thursday) as the surgeons do the skin grafting that the Lord’s hand will be upon Tori and that this will be successful and that He may ease the anxiety and the pain that she will experience.

Jen and Gerald thank the many, many people who have showed their love and support in one way or another! Through your reaching out, they feel God’s goodness. Tori’s walls in her room are literally covered with cards, colored pictures from children, notes with Bible texts, and thoughtful words! This is a constant reminder to her of the many people praying for her.