Church Picnic

Several hundred members from our congregation gathered together for a church picnic and fellowship this beautiful evening. We had a truly blessed time; it is so good to experience the ongoing communion of saints and unity of the church. Tomorrow morning we are looking forward to communion with our God and fellowshipping around the Lord’s Table; I hope to preach on the compassionate power of Jesus Christ as the great I AM in calming the storms that impact believers’ lives. What a blessing the bride of Christ (that is, the church) is to true believers in Christ!

Two Prayer Requests

I have two prayer requests:

First, at 11:00 this morning I am leading the funeral service for a sister in Christ, Laurie (Van Ree) Thomas, who died at the age of 65 this week after suffering from a mild heart attack and from COVID and developing additional complications. Please remember especially her dear husband Bill, and her daughters, Rebecca and Melissa, and other mourning family members. Our loss is her gain.

Second, please be in prayer for a dear Christian friend of ours, Joyce Griffiths. She traveled to Mexico City to quarantine for two weeks en route to Grand Rapids. While there, she contracted salmonella poisoning and COVID. She has been very ill for almost three weeks. She stayed in her hotel first. Then the parents-in-law of one of our seminary students graciously took her into their home. This pastoral couple are modern-day good Samaritans! God has also providentially provided others along the way to care for Joyce. Now, after some lab tests, we are learning her kidneys are functioning very poorly. Thankfully, she no longer has COVID. Joyce agreed to go to the hospital last evening, despite being very afraid. We just received word that her diagnosis is typhoid fever and acute kidney failure due to severe dehydration. Please pray for peace and a felt presence of the Savior, and pray that re-hydration will work wonders in restoring Joyce to health and strength.

Arrived Home Safely from Iowa/South Dakota

We just arrived home safely from Iowa/South Dakota. Yesterday I preached in Hull, Iowa in the morning on the tragedy of postponed faith (Felix, Acts 24:24-25) and in the evening on building abiding convictions in children from Proverbs 23. It is always nostalgic for me to preach there as the older people there now were mostly part of the younger part of my first pastorate some 40+ years ago in Sioux Center, Iowa. Over the weekend they gave me three humbling encouragements I had not heard before:

(1) One friend, who as far as I know was the first person converted under my ordained ministry, told me that the Lord began working savingly with her on April 9, 1978 (the second Lord’s Day after I was ordained) under a sermon I preached from John 21, “Lovest thou me?” She said that she had nursery duty that evening, but the babies were quiet, so that she could listen well. The Lord converted her listening to a sermon from the nursery!

(2) Another friend told me that a pastoral visit I made in the 1980s was used for his mother’s conversion. He said that as a boy he noticed immediately that her life was changed by God and that she never went back to her old life.

(3) And a third brother, now an elder in the flock, told me that he had a friend in Phoenix who used to listen to my sermons, and under his influence this elder and another friend began to listen as well to the old cassette tapes and eventually both of them moved to churches in our federation—one in Hull, Iowa and the other to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both of these dear people have been a great blessing to many over the years in their respective churches.

God’s ways are mysterious, amazing, and humbling. For me, humbling stories like these are a minister’s real “wages.” God is so good. Soli Deo gloria!

Returning to the home where we were staying last evening, we passed by some beautiful rapids on the border of Iowa and South Dakota (see picture above). We then had a late dinner at the home of Pete and Linda VanBeek (parents of the bride newly wedded on Friday evening) with about 15 family members (mostly from Michigan—pictures 1 and 2 above), closing out our evening singing a number of beautiful classic hymns. How rich and Christ-centered those hymns are!

Post-wedding Family Dinner

This evening we had a delightful post-wedding family dinner and get together in South Dakota at brother Pete and sister Linda’s home (parents of the bride). Here is a picture taken of Mary’s parents and siblings, together with their spouses. Tomorrow I hope to preach twice in the Hull, Iowa Heritage Reformed Congregation.

Wedding of Leah VanBeek and Jade Basting

On Thursday, Mary and I flew to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, together with our two daughters and their babies to officiate and attend the wedding of Leah VanBeek (our niece) and Jade Basting. (Other family members drove out.) The last part of the flight in thick clouds was very rough and then became even more difficult. Just as we were landing in Sioux Falls and could faintly see the runway beneath us through the clouds and rain, our pilot shot the plane upwards. We then circled around and came in for a landing again, only to have the process repeated. The pilot then ended up flying our plane to Sioux City, Iowa (about 100 miles south), and en route explained to us that the visibility was too poor to land in Sioux Falls. We ended up renting an SUV to drive back up to Sioux Falls.

The rehearsal on Thursday evening and the wedding on Friday evening for Jade and Leah went a lot smoother than the flight out. It was a privilege for me to officiate at the wedding for this dear couple from Psalm 128 about the blessing that accrues to a married couple when they fear the Lord. My good friend, Rev. Bartel Elshout, who did their premarital counseling, presented them with a Bible at the end of the ceremony with some edifying comments. (The second picture above is of our daughter Lydia with the bride; Lydia made Leah’s wedding dress from scratch, without a pattern.) Please pray for Jade and Leah that they will know the profound happiness of all those couples who truly fear the Lord.

Weekly Sermon Quote – August 29, 2021

Seminary Community Dinner

This evening the seminary community of PRTS—students, spouses, and their children—got together for a salad and pizza dinner followed by a few hours of animated and sweet fellowship. The students’ theological questions keep on coming even at a picnic.

We as faculty are truly blessed to have a godly, international student body from 20 countries and 30 denominations. God is so good to us! What a privilege and what a responsibility we have to train men for the ministry and to send them back to their countries preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ for needy sinners. Please pray that we will remain centered and focused on this worthy task and that the Holy Spirit will bless our feeble efforts.

Convocation and New Student Orientation Day

We just completed our “Convocation and New Student Orientation” day at Puritan Reformed Seminary. I was privileged to give the Convocation address from on the theme, “Trust God—Always!” We are grateful to have the largest incoming class (see picture #1 for some of them) that I think we have ever had.

Regular classes commence tomorrow. Pray that God will bless PRTS—its students, faculty, staff, and board—immensely in Immanuel in the 2021-2022 school year.

Two New Titles from RHB

I am pleased to announce that Reformation Heritage Books has received two new titles from the printer—the first being “God’s Grace Shining through the Law,” which I edited. Contributors include Michael Barrett, Gerald Bilkes, David Murray, Stephen Myers, Michael Riccardi, Clarence Simmons, Daniel Timmer, and William VanDoodewaard, and me. If you want a good book on the critical subject of the law that is both biblical and pastoral, and that will help you live in joyful obedience to God’s Word, try this book.

Second, in “A Practical Theology of Family Worship: Richard Baxter’s Timeless Encouragement for Today’s Home,” Jonathan Williams examines the encouragements Baxter gave for family worship, and his family-equipping ministry in his church. This study develops our understanding of this vital spiritual discipline among the Puritans while simultaneously drawing out implications for families and family ministry in churches today. In a day when family worship is seldom practiced diligently in most Christian homes, this book is sorely needed.

2021 Puritan Reformed Conference – Day 3

Our annual Puritan Reformed Conference is over. This morning Dr. Josh Buice—pastor in Douglasville, Georgia, and organizer of the G3 conference—delivered a powerful message on “Gospel Empowerment” based on Romans 12:1-2, stressing how the Holy Spirit empowers believers for both total surrender and for sanctification (see picture below with him and his wife Kari).

Our own Dr. Mark Kelderman (picture below) gave the final address on “Gospel Hope” based on 1 Peter 1:3ff, bringing the conference to a close by taking us, as it were, to the joys and fullness of heaven where hope will be swallowed up by love forever.

To the hundreds of you who attended in person throughout the conference and the thousands of you who livestreamed into our conference, please receive my hearty thanks. I hope and trust you were richly blessed. Pray with us, as the old divines often said, that God will be the “after-preacher” to apply His Word to our hearts and lives. And God willing, please join with us again next year, August 25-27, as we take up the glorious theme of “The Grace of Salvation.”