Jackson, Mississippi: September 14–16, 2015

With Dr. Elias Medeiros, his wife Fokjelina, and her parents, Margerita and Frans, former seminary president in Brazil

With Dr. Elias Medeiros, his wife Fokjelina, and her parents, Margerita and Frans, former seminary president in Brazil

(The following post was written by my wife, Mary.)

Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson invited Joel to speak for their seminary chapel and their mission conference. His chapel message was “Keep on Keeping On” from Hebrews 12. His mission conference addresses were on “The Age of the Spirit and Revival” and “How to Promote Genuine Church Growth.” He also lectured spontaneously for a preaching class on “The Golden Age of Puritan Preaching.”

Our dear friends, Dr. Elias (RTS’s mission professor) and Fokjelina Medieros, organized our itinerary and took us around. Elias had just returned from Brazil Tuesday morning and planned to go back Thursday to be with his ailing mother. He told how she was giving Gideon’s Bibles and evangelizing everyone from her bed in ICU, including the respiratory therapist as he was giving her a breathing treatment. Now we know from whom Elias gets his evangelistic zeal!

Fokjelina’s parents were also on campus, and were a delight to visit with. Her father served for many years as a president of a notable seminary in Brazil.

It was good to visit the RTS campus again, touching base with faculty and students. Joel also thoroughly enjoyed his serendipitous visit with Guy Richardson, the seminary’s personable president. Pray that God would richly bless RTS-Jackson and that the RTS students would go out and preach with passion.

Jackson Antique Shop with Two Widowers

After Joel was done speaking, we stopped at an antique store. The owner, Gary, had recently lost his wife. I asked him if he knew the Lord. He said he did and it was a great comfort to him. A customer, James, a bricklayer, chimed in that he had lost his wife four years before. He too was strengthened through his faith in Jesus. Joel pastored them and prayed with them. The joys and sorrows of the human condition—birth, growth, marriage, children, aging, death—were so poignantly felt. Seeking comfort and refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ created an instant bond between us. Pray for these two lonely men.


Update on Summer Travels

If you would like to read about my ministry trips this past summer (some of which have been posted on this blog already), you may download my latest pastoral letter.

Lusaka, Zambia, Africa, Part 2 (August 27-September 1, 2015)

Zambia Elephant

(The following post, a continuation of the previous blog post on our trip to preach at the Reformed Family Conference, was written by my wife Mary.)

On Thursday, Joel spoke about Willem Teellinck to the ministers; what an example that man was of piety and perseverance! At the Family Conference he spoke on “The Puritans on Prayer.” We went to a potluck lunch for about 70 people at the home of the parents of PRTS student Katolo Mendamenda. We heard an update on the proposed African Christian University (ACU): all the plans are laid, staff and faculty in place, and the venue is ready. The only thing they are waiting for is approval from the government. They are hoping it comes next month so they can start in January. This is the fruition of the bold vision and work of Ronald Kalifungwa, Conrad Mbewe, other pastors in the area, and their churches.

With Dr. Voddie Baucham

With Dr. Voddie Baucham

Dr. Voddie Baucham has come from the United States to direct the ACU Seminary. Their mission is to provide both a liberal arts university as well as a seminary of Reformed persuasion. They feel called to prepare students to be gatekeepers who carry out the Christian mandate in society to follow God’s commandments and to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. Rather than just complaining about corrupt politicians and business leaders, they feel called to take action. Pray for this worthy endeavor.

On Friday, Joel spoke to the ministers on “Wilhelmus à Brakel’s Biblical Ethics of Spirituality” and to the families on “The Puritans on Sanctification.” I was able to go with Sarah Kalifungwa to a market to buy some fabric. After seeing all these ladies in their beautiful outfits, I wanted to get some cloth for the ladies in my family and myself. At $1.75 a yard I was quite happy. The market was a real experience!

With Ladies from Namibia--Note Hats Like Cow Horns

With Ladies from Namibia–Note Hats Like Cow Horns

The conference concluded that evening with Joel preaching “Keep on Keeping On!” from Hebrews 12. It was very encouraging to be reminded to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, as we run the race set before us. A young man came up to Joel and Ronald afterward with tears streaming down his cheeks. The only words he could say were, “Thank you,” but his eyes said a lot more. Another young man that I had noticed the first night looked furtively around, like he didn’t want to be there, and he wasn’t singing. I have to admit I was suspicious of him. But during Friday night’s sermon, he was singing and looked less burdened. He came up to us afterward and said, “I was in withdrawal from drugs Wednesday evening. Now I know where I can find the strength to stay away from drugs, and I am determined to do so!” There was a peaceful smile on his face. Pray that he will remain strong!

On Saturday our hosts drove us to Ronald and Sarah’s house. The parsonage is on a three-acre lot, and Sarah grows all sorts of palms, vegetables, herbs, and flowers to sell. She is a true Proverbs 31 lady. The six of us went to a large game park over a long, bumpy dirt road an hour and a half away. After a BBQ buffet lunch, we boarded an open-air truck and saw lions, lynx, hyenas, and cheetahs in cages. Wandering around the 10,000 acres were giraffe, kudu, ostrich, zebra, waterbuck, impala, heartbeast, guinea fowl, kafue lechwe, wildebeest, bandit mongoose, sable antelope, and an elephant. We then took a boat ride on a beautiful lake and saw numerous species of birds, including a variety of cormorants, weaver bird, jacana, grebes, herons, paid wag, and kingfishers. Some of the birds were so different from ours, and so very colorful. God’s creation is awesome!

With Pastor Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa and Sylvester and Joyce Hibajene

With Pastor Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa and Sylvester and Joyce Hibajene

On Sunday, Joel spoke to the adult Bible class at Lusaka Baptist Church and then preached to the church of about 700 people about Jesus being the only one who can meet all our needs. Peter’s pride, denial, restoration, and subsequent usefulness are encouraging lessons for us. Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa and their three sons hosted us for lunch. After a short rest, we were off to a daughter church of Lusaka Baptist Church called Kabwata Baptist Church. Their pastor, Conrad Mbewe, was preaching elsewhere. Joel preached on how the Lord matures our faith. The theme of Jesus working through hardships to mature our faith always moves people, for suffering is part of the human condition, in some parts of the world more than others. Praise God, He works all things for good if we are His children!

On Monday we headed for home, arriving about thirty hours later in Grand Rapids, grateful for the Lord’s provision throughout our journey and for the great work He is doing in Zambia. We are also thankful for being reunited with family—our own, the church family, and the seminary family.

Lusaka, Zambia, Africa, Part 1 (August 24-26, 2015)

Zambia Conference

(The following post was written by my wife Mary.)

It was a long journey to Zambia; from Grand Rapids we went to Atlanta, then to Johannesburg, and finally to Lusaka (19 hours flying, 29 hours on the way). Pastor Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa were our travel companions. Ronald had just finished speaking at our Puritan Reformed Conference, and Joel then spoke at the Zambian Reformed Conference at Ronald’s church, Lusaka Baptist Church.

We stayed at the home of Sylvester and Joyce. He is an engineer who used to work for the government in the energy department; now he works for a private firm. She was a physical therapist and had a clothing business. They have two sons who are studying in Australia. They provided us with a comfortable, beautiful place to stay, and delicious food to eat! Other friends, Henry and Rosemary, an orthopedic surgeon and a secretary, also stayed a few nights.

A nation of 14 million, Zambia is surrounded by eight other countries in the southern part of Africa. Lusaka, the capital, has four million people. Zambia is a Christian nation by law. Poverty is a large problem, though the situation is improving. Some of the other problems that plague many African nations, such as HIV/AIDS, corruption, Islam infiltration, drugs, immorality, and unemployment are considerably less pronounced in Zambia. About 70 percent of the people attend church, though many are Arminian and Pentecostal. The presence of Christianity is attributable in part to David Livingstone, who ministered in Zambia and surrounding countries in the mid-nineteenth century.

With Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa

With Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa

Years ago, we heard of God’s blessing in Zambia. At that time, Joel overheard someone ask Conrad Mbewe, a well-known Zambian minister, how the church prospered. At first Mbewe ignored the question. When asked again, he humbly answered, “In countries where there is more prosperity, people relax in the evening with their TVs and other entertainment. In Zambia, many people don’t have those things. They basically only have their Bible, so they spend time reading and studying and having family worship.” Modernization has increased in recent times, but God is still blessing Zambia.

There are seven main tribal languages spoken in Zambia, but at least seventy-two dialects. Until 1964, the country was called Northern Rhodesia and was under the rule of the United Kingdom. All education is in English, which is a unifying factor for all of Zambia. The sad thing is that many children are too poor to go to school, so they only pick up a bit of English in society and are forced to find whatever menial labor they can find as they grow up. An elder’s wife is starting a non-profit to provide education and training for poor children.

The economy was as strong as Singapore’s in 1964, but due to the socialistic policies of President Kaunda until 1991, the country has become poverty-stricken. Nevertheless, we were told that Kaunda did promote concern for one’s neighbor and treating all Zambians equally. Since then, capitalism has replaced socialism, but they still have a long climb. The U.S. subsidizes health care and agriculture in Zambia. A lady at the conference said that under President George Bush, many lives in Africa were saved from HIV/AIDS and malaria. She was also glad that most African nations have stayed strong against President Obama’s threat to cut aid if they didn’t allow homosexuality.

Talking to Well-Taught African Children about Their Bible Lesson

Talking to Well-Taught African Children about Their Bible Lesson

The Zambian Reformed Conference started small twenty-six years ago. This year’s theme was The Godward Life. Three conferences happen simultaneously at the same venue: the School of Theology for ministers and church workers, the Family Conference for everyone, and (new this year) a conference for the youth. It was obvious from the friendly greetings and cheerful banter that this is a special time of fellowship and encouragement for many ministers and families. The 1,400 attendees come mostly from Zambia and Southern African countries, but also from many parts of Africa. Some even came from India, the U.K., and the U.S. Our dear friend Dr. Steve Lawson was the other main speaker.

We arrived Tuesday evening and on Wednesday, Joel spoke four times. He likes to hit the road running, and he surely did this time! God has given him a lot of stamina. He spoke at the School of Theology on the “Dutch Further Reformation” and at the Family Conference on “The Puritans on Receiving and Doing the Word of God,” “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” and in the evening, “The Only Way to Live and Die.” The first three were lectures with application, but he felt he needed to just preach for the evening session, when all attendees were there. First our hearts were primed as we raised our voices in singing some beautiful, familiar songs. Then our hearts were filled with the call to live for Christ and to anticipate dying as a gain. It was a blessed time!

A middle-aged Kenyan minister named Obed came up to Joel afterward and told him how his wife of twenty years had died July 2. She had had a headache off and on for two months. She was vomiting, but the doctor would not admit her to the hospital. He asked the doctor to just admit her for rest. He left and got called back two hours later, after she had passed away. He was devastated. They have a 19-year-old son. He has never gone back to his church; the leaders have been taking care of it. He had not been able to accept this, but submission broke through for him during this sermon. He emailed, “As I came from Kenya, I felt a desire just to join her (his wife). Your message has changed all that…. To die is gain… Praise the Lord, Thank you so much for that message. It was mine.” Please pray for this dear man.

(To be continued in another post.)

Two Trips to the Creation Museum

(The following post was written by my wife, Mary.)

Speaking On "Using Not Abusing the World"

Speaking On “Using Not Abusing the World”

June 11–13, 2015

The Creation Museum was the setting for the Reforming Families Conference sponsored by the Free Presbyterian Church and Sermon Audio. It’s a great combination as families can tour the museum as well as take in the conference. The theme was “The Christian’s War against the World.” The addresses were, “Biblical Marriage and Gender Distinction” by Steve Ham (younger brother of Ken Ham), “Using, not Abusing the World” by my husband Joel, “The World Wants Your Affections” by Armen Thomassian, “Equipped to Take on the World” by Michael Barrett, and “Overcoming Evil with Good” by Kevin Swanson. This was the first time we met Pastor Thomassian—he is Irish, though his father was Armenian. He was brought up in the church, but rebelled, then was dramatically converted from atheism to Christ at age 19. He pastors a church in Calgary. He is young, serious, eager to learn from the older pastors, and a good preacher. Bill Noonkesser, Steven Lee’s assistant, presented the mission of sermonaudio.com. Our daughter Esther drove our van down, loaded with Reformation Heritage Books. As it was a family conference, we brought many books for children and parents, as well as our signature books—the KJV Study Bible and books on the Puritans.

On Friday afternoon, we flew to Atlanta, rented a car, and drove two hours northwest to Mountain City, Georgia. Grace Bible Church held a men’s conference. The theme was “The Necessity of Godly Men Leading in the Home and the Church.” Joel gave four addresses on how (1) men should conduct family worship, (2) love their wives, and (3) lead their families as office-bearers and (4) in the church. One man was broken as he was convicted of his sins that were causing his wife to divorce him. He was going to go home and confess to her. Pray that their marriage can still be salvaged. Even though this conference was small, we pray that it will impact these men and their families for good in a powerful way.

As I sat through some of the addresses, I couldn’t help but silently thank God for a husband who passionately preaches and practices this leadership. Our country needs a revolution of godly fathers taking back leadership that is strong, compassionate, responsible, and pure. We experienced real fellowship and quickly felt very close to our hosts, Pastor Kevin and Pam Hurt, Pastor Zack and Brittni Ford, and Jim and Dianne Anderson. They took us to Dillard’s Restaurant (we also stayed at the hotel) for Southern family style dining. What an experience! Plates of food—various meats, vegetables, potatoes—free refills—delicious! On Sunday, Joel preached on “Running the Race.” After dinner at the Hurts, we headed to dear friends, Dr. David and Ann Hall in Powder Springs (a suburb of Atlanta). A cup of tea, a bit of catching up, and off to church. Joel preached on “The Utopian Marriage: Christ and His Church” in their beautiful, new sanctuary. Their church just paid off their new building, and they have set a goal to raise a considerable sum of money over the next ten years to seminaries and to the translation and promotion of sound Christian books all around the world.

With Steve and Ken Ham

With Steve and Ken Ham

June 24–26, 2015

Two weeks later, we found ourselves at the Creation Museum again, this time for the Answers in Genesis (AiG) Mega Conference. Normal attendance is close to 2,000, but many folks are waiting for next year, when the life-size replica of Noah’s Ark is slated to be finished. Still there were 600 people there.

The theme of the conference was “Answering the Skeptics.” Most of the speakers are on staff at Answers in Genesis and have their background in the sciences or engineering. Each firmly believes in six-day creation, a young earth, the inerrancy of the Bible and its authority to answer questions of today. They seek to take the complexities of astronomy or biology or geology or structural design and distill it down to the level of everyday people like you and me. Their ultimate goal is to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost sinners and to equip believers to do the same. It was fascinating to see the intricate design of creatures and plants, which are so complex and work so well that they can only point to a great Designer. Also, engineers and inventors find the most success when they follow nature’s design when building a machine.

Many of the speakers pointed out the numerous and blatant gaps in evolution theory and the Big Bang theory. It was encouraging to hear that many secular scientists are skeptical of the Big Bang, but it was discouraging to learn of the peer pressure (or persecution or loss of employment) they face if they question these theories. These theories cannot even stand up to the very principles of science itself—that they can be observed, repeated, and documented. I may be very simple, but I will believe eyewitness accounts of stories (Adam→Noah→Moses, and their families) which were passed on down through the years, first by oral tradition then written, over someone who looks all around and guesses what happened (Darwin, etc.). Sadly, many Christians today are also skeptical of creation. AiG teaches that if you start toying with the validity of scripture, where do you stop? Man’s word soon overtakes God’s word. They teach how science supports the Bible rather than being at odds with it.

In his two addresses, Joel was asked to address the historical perspective—what Calvin and the Reformers believed about creation, as well as the spiritual perspective—the only way to live and die (Phil. 1:21). The van-load of RHB books that we drove down was very well received. We were able to spend some time with Ken Ham. He is very excited about the construction of the ark as an avenue to reach millions of people. We spent more time with his brother, Steve Ham, who gave us a personal tour of the museum.

A sense of sadness descended on the last hours of the conference as we learned of the Supreme Court’s decision to legitimize gay marriage as a constitutional right. How ironic that the very symbol—the beautiful rainbow—that God designed to show His mercy, after destroying the earth because of its evil, is the same symbol that the homosexual movement has taken as its own in promoting a lifestyle contrary to Scripture. What must God think? Lord, have mercy on America!

What Is at Stake in Adam?

HistoricalAdamWhat is at stake if the church rejects a literal understanding of the Genesis account of Adam? Tim Challies recently asked that question of my colleague Dr. William VanDoodewaard, author of The Quest for the Historical Adam.

Dr. VanDoodewaard replied, “The teaching of God’s Word is at stake here. God’s character is at stake. The gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake. Accepting an Adam with evolutionary origins immediately impacts what it means to be human, created by God in His image. It opens a Pandora’s box of theological problems—from Adam’s relationship with his animal parents and surrounding community, to the doctrine of sin and the fall, to God’s holiness, goodness, and justice. It immediately impacts the doctrine of Christ as the One by whom all things were created, as well as His incarnation and work of salvation. It’s an issue that touches so many others: from soteriology to race relations to sexual ethics to the new creation at the second coming.”

To read the rest of the interview, go here.

Dr. Beeke’s Travels II (Including Israel)

2000 Year Old Tree in the Garden of Gethsemane

2000 Year Old Tree in the Garden of Gethsemane

If you would like to read about my itinerant ministry in April and May, including many pictures from our tour of Israel, you may download Pastoral Letter #150.

Dr. Beeke’s Travels (Dec. 2014-Mar. 2015)

If you would like to read of my ministry travels from December of last year through March, including trips to Ethiopia and Colombia, you may download my Pastoral Letter #149.

Tour of Israel #19: The Tomb in Joseph’s Garden

With Tour Group at Empty Tomb

With Tour Group at Empty Tomb

The Gospels record that in the later afternoon of the day when Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathaea requested permission from Pilate to take the corpse of our Lord. Wrapping it in a clean linen clothe, Joseph laid it in his own tomb cut from the rock, and sealed the tomb by rolling a large stone over its door (Matt. 27:57–60; Mark 15:42–46; Luke 23:50–54). The tomb was located in a garden (John 19:41; 20:15). Joseph was helped by Nicodemus, who had once visited Christ by night and heard Him speak of the new birth by the Holy Spirit (John 19:38–42; cf. John 3:1–8). Though it was a terrible risk for them to identify with a man condemned by the Jewish Sanhedrin and killed like a criminal by the Roman governor, they honored Jesus even in His death because their hope was in the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51).

On the third day, the kingdom of God came with an earthquake, for the King rose from the dead (Matt. 28:2, 6). Just as Adam fell in a garden, so the last Adam rose up in a garden as the Firstborn of a new creation. His resurrection was no mere resuscitation of a dead body, but God’s decisive victory over death and hell (1 Cor. 15:21–22; Rev. 1:18), the exercise of the exceeding greatness of God’s mighty power for His people (Eph. 1:19–20). When God raised up Jesus Christ, He raised up with Him all of His chosen people from spiritual death to spiritual life, and ultimately to eternal glory (Eph. 2:6–7). No wonder the earth shook!

While we glory in the atoning death of Jesus Christ, we do not serve a dead Savior. The faithful covenant God raised up Jesus and exalted Him to God’s right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to His people, both Jew and Gentile (Acts 5:30–31; 11:18). Though we cannot see the living Lord, the presence of the Holy Spirit in believers is a living testimony that Christ is risen.

Do you know the power of the empty tomb? Many people believe in Jesus as a past historical figure, a great teacher and perhaps even a Savior who died so that they could go to heaven. But do you know the living Lord Jesus? Is He alive and at work in you by His Spirit? True Christianity is not just a philosophy of life, but union and communion with the risen Lord. May He dwell in all our hearts by faith, and do so more and more until we are filled with all the fullness of God, so that He who works powerfully within His church will be glorified in Christ Jesus through all ages, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:16–21).

Preaching on Christ's Resurrection at the Garden of the Tomb

Preaching on Christ’s Resurrection at the Garden of the Tomb

Tour of Israel #18: Calvary

Possible Location of Christ's Crucifixion

Possible Location of Christ’s Crucifixion

The Gospels tell us that the soldiers crucified Christ on Golgatha, “the place of the skull” (Matt. 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17), or in Latin “Calvaria” (Luke 23:33). Christ died outside the city gate (Heb. 13:12), and yet “nigh to the city” (John 19:20). It was a horrible place and a horrendous atrocity when the wicked rejected the Holy and Righteous One, and “killed the Prince of life” (Acts 3:14–15).

Yet here God did His greatest work. There are different words that the Scriptures use to describe the mighty work of the cross, such as redemption and reconciliation, but perhaps the most significant word is one rarely heard today: propitiation. The apostle John wrote, “he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). He also said, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

To propitiate means to appease or atone. If you anger someone, you make propitiation for your offense in one way or another to appease him. You offer a peace offering so that your guilt is atoned and your relationship can be restored.

In our relationship with God, Christ’s propitiation addressed the wrath of God. It quenched the terrible fire of His burning anger against sinners. Jesus Christ is the propitiation that delivered His people from God’s anger against us by taking it on himself. He suffered the wrath and judgment that their sin deserved. Since Christ is God, His propitiation has a value greater than all the sins of the world. He did not merely die for the Jews or a small group of first-century believers, but to redeem a vast number of people from every tribe, language, and nation throughout all the ages.

So at Golgotha, the ugly place of death, we find God’s hatred and God’s love coming together in an astonishing fashion. God hates sin and is so angry with sinners that nothing less than the death of His Son will appease His anger, satisfy His justice, and set them free. Apart from Christ’s blood, God’s wrath will send sinners to hell forever. However, even when God hated sin so much, He loved sinners so much that He willingly sent His Son to suffer that wrath for the very sinners who hated Him. Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, My God, shouldst die for me?! No condemnation now I dread; Jesus and all in Him is mine. He is the propitiation for our sins, and believers are saved forever. Child of God, let the wonder of Calvary wash over your soul, and never stop praising the Lamb that was slain for you.