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Two Special Evenings: RHB and GCA

Two special evenings: we had a special year-end dinner and gift exchange with most of our 30 Reformation Heritage Books (RHB) employees and a few of their children (photo 1) at the RHB store (photo 2) and a special evening of Christ-centered singing and instrumental music put on by our church’s Christian school students last night (Grace Christian Academy [GCA], K-12, 200 students; photo 3). Both evenings were wonderful and both ministries have been greatly blessed this year. RHB had its greatest number of books sold ever. SDG!

28 Sermons on Ruth by Ludwig Lavater

I am excited to announce that RHB has released the Reformer Ludwig Lavater’s (1527-1586) 28 sermons on the book of Ruth for the very first time in English. Jonathan Gibson provides a helpful biographical introduction, Michael Hunter’s translation is excellent, and the book is packed with 250 pages of edifying and helpful insights. It would make an excellent daily devotional for 2023!

Blessed Lord’s Day in Alberta

We had a blessed Lord’s Day in Alberta yesterday. In the morning, Mary and I attended Shiloh Free Reformed Church in Picture Butte, Alberta, where our newly ordained son-in-law, Isaac Epp, gave his first full sermon as the pastor of this church (photo 1). He preached well to the 200+ attendees from Genesis 3:15 on its threefold promise of a war, a seed, and a victory. After the church service was over, several dozen children from the congregation (photo 2) sang songs and recited Scripture related to the birth of Immanuel. I snuck a quick picture of Isaac and Lydia, and their son Abraham, enjoying the singing of the children (photo 3).

We had a blessed time over a delicious soup/sandwich noon meal at the home of Henk and Sue Van Rhee and their daughter Allisa. Henk is the chairman of the consistory, where our son-in-law is now the pastor. Isaac’s parents and one of his brothers and his family joined us.

At 4:30 p.m., I preached for about 400 people at Trinity United Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alberta for our good friend, Rev. John VanEyk, on Jacob’s contagious blessings through the advent of Messiah by means of his Peniel experience in Genesis 32. (We had also spent a delightful evening visiting with Pastor John and his wife Lucy earlier in the week.)

After church, we had a wonderful dinner and fellowship at our children’s home together with Isaac Epp’s parents, and one of his brothers and his family. Here we are in photo 4, with Lydia and Isaac and our grandson, and Eileen and Gerald Epp. Both sets of parents are very grateful for God’s mercies shown to us throughout this weekend and are humbled by Isaac’s ordination. Please pray that his ministry may be very fruitful and also pray for our daughter, Lydia, for a safe delivery of another baby in a few weeks, D.V.!

After a beautiful drive up to the Calgary, Alberta airport this morning (photo 5), we are now winging our way home to Grand Rapids, having completed our last preaching trip for the year. Thank God with us for bringing us safely through 25+ conferences this year (115 days gone from home), which entailed a few hundred sermons and lectures on the road in various countries and continents. We are now more than ready to spend some quiet holidays at home for a few weeks. Every blessing to you and your family in Immanuel and for 2023, D.V.

Saturday in Alberta

After the high point of the Friday evening ordination into the ministry and the inaugural sermon of our son-in-law, Isaac Epp, in Picture Butte, Alberta, we spent all day Saturday visiting. In the morning, we thoroughly enjoyed brunch at a local restaurant with Isaac’s parents and close to twenty of his relatives, most of whom made the trek of several hundred miles from British Columbia to Alberta for his ordination (photo 1), including five of his brothers (photo 2) (The Epps have 7 sons and 2 daughters.). In the afternoon, we had a special time of fellowship with Albert and Rita Boon in their beautiful new home together with many of their eleven children (and even more grandchildren!). We also spent time with our incredibly gracious hosts, Clarence and Johanna Arnoldussen (photo 3), who, thankfully, didn’t seem to tire of our five-day stay with them. And in the evening, I shared a PowerPoint about Puritan Reformed Seminary with about a dozen friends in the Arnoldussen home. We very much enjoyed the company of these dear people.

We also enjoyed meeting Isaac and our daughter Lydia in their beautiful new home. When we pulled up, Lydia was already poking her head out of the door in the bitterly cold Alberta weather (photo 4)!

My Son-in-Law’s Ordination

Last evening was one of the most moving and humbling experiences of my life. I had the great privilege of preaching the ordination sermon for my son-in-law, Isaac Epp, a recent PRTS graduate, in the Free Reformed Church of Picture Butte, Alberta. (This church of 180 members was officially organized about 9 months ago, and Isaac is their first pastor.) I spoke on the need for Isaac (and every minister!) to embrace Paul’s paradoxical view of ministry as recorded in 2 Corinthians 6:8-10, as a pattern of how Christ ministered, willing to be of no reputation, even though He had an incredibly great calling. Rev. David VanBrugge then read the form of ordination, gave Isaac a personal charge, and led the impressive laying on of hands (photo 1), while each of the ministers recited a text. The newly ordained Pastor Epp then preached his inaugural sermon well and movingly from Proverbs 8 on “The Gospel Cry of Jesus Christ” that calls all people to come to Him.

Afterward, five men spoke some personal well wishes to Isaac and our daughter Lydia: Elder Henk Van Rhee, Rev. John Procee, Elder Gerald Epp (Isaac’s father), Rev. Jan Neels, and me (photo 2). Isaac then concluded the 2 1/4-hour service by expressing warm words of appreciation to a number of people and to the church family as a whole (photo 3). His words to his parents, his wife, and his son were particularly moving. Another 1.5 hours of warm fellowship transpired after the service.

The whole evening was a joyous, moving, and humbling holy delight in the Lord. God is unspeakably good! Please pray for God’s rich blessing on Isaac and Lydia as they now embark on a lifetime of ministry (together with their 2-year-old Abraham and the child expected in 3 or 4 weeks), that many would be truly converted, many would grow in grace and holiness, and that God’s name would be honored to the highest!

Dead Men Walking Podcast

I had the privilege of being a guest on the Dead Men Walking Podcast this week! I had the chance to discuss the benefits of reading the Puritans and correct some misconceptions about them, as well.

The hosts mentioned that people have searched the term “Puritan” 1000% more in the previous two years than in years past. It is a blessing to see more people turning to these godly men for their wisdom.

You can find many of the resources I mentioned here: https://www.heritagebooks.org/categories/ultimate-puritan-reading-list.html

In Loving Memory of Janna VanKempen

Today I preached the funeral sermon for Janna VanKempen, the oldest member of our church, whose soul passed on to the Lord at the age of 101. The older she became the more precious her Savior and Christ-exalting sermons became to her. It was her habit to read five Psalms a day. Psalm 146 was her favorite Bible chapter so I preached on that, especially verses 7-10 which stress that the Lord delivers, enlightens, sympathizes with, loves, preserves, and reigns over His own.

She loved the Lord most of all, but she also dearly loved each one of her family members. In addition to having three children, she had 70 descendants: 21 grandchildren, 43-great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren. I had the privilege of pastoring her for 36 years, and loved every visit I ever had with her. Her husband, Pieter, was an elder and pillar in the church (and a very dear friend of mine) whose soul and conversation was full of Christ. As the old divines used to say of the passing on of robust believers: the church militant on earth is one poorer, but the church triumphant is one richer. Pray for this large family, please, that every one of them may know or come to know Jesus Christ savingly.

Quote of the Week— December 13, 2022

Here’s a quote from my most recent sermon on Thankful, Post-Communion Worship from Genesis 8:20-21! You can listen to the sermon here: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1272216953521

Around the World 40 Times!

On the way home from South Carolina this afternoon, I heard my name called as we approached our gate in Detroit. To my surprise, the Delta attendant said, “Congratulations! On this flight today you have reached one million miles flown with Delta!” They gave me a bag of goodies and the note below which says that flying a million miles is equal to flying around the world 40 times. This got me thinking about all my flights on United and American (probably each of these airlines about as many as Delta), plus all the hundreds of flights in foreign countries over the last decades on other airlines, which in turn led me to contemplate God’s amazing grace in sparing me these last seven decades and giving me the inexpressible gift of preaching the gospel around the world. God’s faithfulness in Christ to an unworthy sinner and unprofitable servant like me is just stupendous: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:12-13). I hope, and pray, and trust that when you look back over your life, you can also then cry out with me in astonishment so that all that is left is to say from the bottom of your heart: “Soli Deo gloria—glory to God alone!” 

A Full 70th Birthday! Thank You, Lord!

Today was a full, final day of the sermonaudio.com Foundations Conference at Bob Jones University. It ended with a luxurious meal at our Westin Hotel in Greenville, enjoyed by the speakers and their wives and sermon audio staff. After the meal, they surprised me with a birthday cake (photo 1) which was capped with “three score years and ten” because it is my 70th birthday today. On the front of the cake was the text that I felt the Lord gave me as a 16-year-old to be the primary message I was to bring for a lifetime of preaching and pastoral ministry: “I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only” (Ps. 71:16). This was also the text of the first sermon I prepared as a theological student at the age of 21, and it has been precious to me all my life. God’s righteousness in Christ alone: that is the gospel!

There were three excellent sermons today. Our good friend Dr. Steve Lawson (photo 2) preached movingly on Matthew 24:14, providing a tour de force message on the importance of preaching. Dr. Steve Pettit’s exposition of 2 Corinthians 12 on the believer’s experience of humiliation and exaltation was equally powerful. And Bob Bradenburg spoke convictingly from John 4 about our need to bring big prayers to a big God to honor Him. Afterwards, a picture was taken of most of the speakers (photo 3).

Book sales were remarkably good throughout the conference (photo 4). And we also had meaningful conversations with a number of people, including an 11-year-old boy who was weeping with encouragement about encouraging instruction he felt he received about prayer from my address.  

After the conference was over, Steven Lee (photo 5) gave us an hour-long presentation and dedication of the Vault of sermon audio sermons housed in the Bob Jones University. I was privileged to give the closing dedicatory prayer.