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.

King James Version Study Bible

Reformation Heritage Books is excited to announce the planned publication of a new study Bible. Amid the vast array of study Bibles written in the past century, there has not been a single Study Bible using the beloved and trusted King James Version written from a sound Reformed perspective. The KJV Study Bible for Personal and Family Worship (KJVSB) will promote the preservation and use of the KJV while leading the reader into a deeper and richer understanding of the Word of God.

One of its unique strengths will be its focus on personal and family worship. Each book will begin with an introduction that will give not only a clear synopsis of the book, but also will explain how the book fits in the redemptive history of Scripture. In addition to highlighting key interpretational issues and explaining archaic words, the KJVSB will strongly emphasize the application of the Scripture to the heart and life. This “head-heart-hand” focus will speak to both the intellectual as well as the experiential needs of the reader. Unique to the KJVSB are the recommendations and pointers for personal and family worship at the conclusion of every chapter.

For more information on this project and how you can help, please see the KJV Study Bible ad.

Two Joys Today

1. Someone once asked me, “Besides preaching, what is your favorite thing to do in the ministry?” I responded immediately, “Elementary and high school chapels.” Today I got to lead chapels for the 500th time in my life—both the elementary and the high school of our own church schools which have four hundred students from K–12. I spoke about Abraham offering up his son Isaac, pointing to Christ as the greater Isaac who bore the real sacrifice. What a delight it is to bring the gospel to children and young people!

2. Once week ago today A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Mark Jones and myself was printed (4,000 copies). To our surprise, nearly all of those copies have been sold, so today we ordered another 4,000 copies. It excites both of us as authors to know that so many people are interested in reading Puritan theology. You can order your copy here.

“A Puritan Theology” Has Arrived!

Presenting a copy to Dr. David Murray, to whom I dedicated “A Puritan Theology”

A few hours after I arrived home safely from Brazil, Steve Renkema, manager of Reformation Heritage Books, together with its staff, presented me with a copy of A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, which I coauthored with Mark Jones. This book is the first secondary source Puritan systematic theology ever written, and Mark and I are praying earnestly that it will serve as a great blessing for God’s people around the world as interest in the riches and spiritual depth of Puritan experiential theology continues to grow. Please join us in praying that this book would be a tool in God’s hands for His glory!

Ministry in Ireland (IV)

Mrs. Eileen Paisley, Dr. Ian Paisley, and Me

On Wednesday, September 12, Paul Thompson and I had a private, two-and-one-half hour lunch with Dr. Ian and Eileen Paisley, now both of the House of Lords (hence their official titles are Lord Bannside and Baronness Paisley). At first, it was a rather surreal experience as the Paisleys pulled up with their security guards, but what a delightful time we had. Dr. Paisley, now 86 and feeble (last February he nearly died in the hospital), came across as being open, honest, thoughtful, spiritual, and humorous. His wife is quite a lady as well—like her husband, she also has served in Parliament, is an author, and articulates well and in detail their past experiences.

While Dr. Paisley was still enjoying his fish and chips, he willingly answered some questions I prepared for him. Here they are together with his answers:

1. After many decades of experience in ministry, what two major pieces of advice would you give a theological student who is about to enter a lifetime of ministry?

Know your Scriptures and be a man of prayer. These are the two most important things in the ministry. If ministers are strong in the Scriptures and strong at the throne of grace, well, they are nearly in heaven already.

2. In the midst of an incredibly busy life, how does one manage to stay close to God in terms of personal experiential fellowship with Him and His Son by His Spirit?

You must not let anything break into your personal prayer and devotional life. The first book I reached for all my life is the Bible. As a minister and a politician, it is essential to be grounded in the Scriptures well since you’re engaging in spiritual warfare. You need to be instructed from the book, and you must remain on speaking terms with the Lord.

Communion with God, as you well know, is a scarce thing today. The prayers of many Christians are far too shallow, and mostly selfish. We need to rise above these things as leaders.

Another important thing to maintain is family worship. We kept up family worship from our earliest days. We all prayed together on our knees and the Lord has blessed that for ourselves and for our children. Our one son is now a minister and the other is in Parliament.

3. You have been a major leader in both the ecclesiastical and political spheres. In terms of exercising leadership in these spheres, do you see any difference between them? Are the same skills needed in both?

In both professions it is all about getting your orders from above and obeying them. No one in public life should leave home in the morning prayerless and careless. Leaders must remember that they are constantly going out into deep combat, so they need to know God’s will and then do it.

4. You and I have a common love—great Christian books. You have a great and a tremendous library which you are presently opening up as a reading room so that others can greatly benefit from the tens of thousands of books you have collected over a lifetime. What has your library meant to you throughout your life? What two books have most impacted your thinking? What is your favorite book? 

Let me say first that in homiletics and church history and the exposition of Scriptures, we have been left a great treasury. Through books in your hands, you can benefit greatly from godly men who were guided by God and spoke with God. A minister or even a lay Christian who doesn’t unlock this treasury, is a poor man.

Second, the big problem of many Christians today is that they don’t read the books they should read. They read largely trash. They could better burn most of those books.

Third, it is important for ministers not to become merely the echo of what they have read. But ministers do need to know what others have said. Our big problem today is that television has destroyed the nation in terms of reading and study. Another big problem is that people are not consistent in their Bible reading. They act as if when they do read that they are obliging God, but don’t realize that God is actually obliging you by giving you His word.

Finally, in terms of books that have transformed me, the first book that touched me deeply as a child was Pilgrim’s Progress. It is amazing that in Bunyan’s own day some did not want him to publish it—and actually warned him not to do so, but it is pure gold. As for a second book, I would just like to say that all of the Puritan works as a whole have greatly impacted me. The Puritans are the finest of the wheat. If a man owns Puritan writings, he has all the finest of the wheat and doesn’t need much else. These great Puritan works, when brought together, make a superb treasury when all brought together.

(In the next post I will share the rest of my conversation with Dr. Paisley.)

Inheritance Publishers

Wednesday night I was privileged to chair the annual meeting of the Inheritance Publishers (IP). The IP is an interdenominational organization nearly a century old that prints small sermon booklets of pre-20th-century Reformed ministers, most of which are no longer in print. Sermons are mailed free of charge to recipients around the world. Over the years this ministry has grown to reach 22,000 booklets per mailing. [You can also download some recent booklets.]

Members of the committee hail from the Heritage Reformed, Netherlands Reformed, and Free Reformed churches. Henk Kleyn serves as clerk, Len Mol as treasurer, and other committee members include Kevin Ash, James Bazen, and David Bleeker. I have had the privilege of serving as president for 25 years. For most of these years, I have selected the sermons to be printed and I also write a biographical preface for each booklet.

IP is a labor of love for the gospel on behalf of all the committee members. At our meetings, we often read letters received during the past year that illustrate how God is using these booklets for the well-being of souls.

This past year we received a beautiful letter from a friend whose father passed away several years ago. His father had received the IP booklets for thirty years, so quite a pile of booklets had accumulated—including another dozen or more after the father’s death. Being in some dire strait, the son, who had ignored these booklets for more than thirty years, decided to read one, partly because he felt needy and partly because he was curious why his father had enjoyed them so much. God used his reading to his saving conversion, and now he wrote to tell us that he “devours” these sermons and wanted more copies so that he can hand them out to others. Only eternity will reveal the fruits of this quiet, unassuming ministry.

Generally, IP print three booklets per year, depending on incoming gifts. The printing and mailing of each booklet costs over $12,000, so we don’t print another booklet until our balance reaches that amount. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, write ip@hnrc.org or The Inheritance Publishers, P.O. Box 1334, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501. You will enjoy a rich feast of old sermons.

Doctrine for Life

A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for LifeNot doctrine and life, like two fish swimming in separate streams. Not doctrine or life, as if we must choose between dead orthodoxy or mindless activity. Doctrine for life. As our Lord said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31). That’s the goal.

I wear several different hats. I’m the President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. I am the editorial director for Reformation Heritage Books. I serve as a pastor at Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My goal in life is to promote intelligent, Reformed piety (to borrow a phrase from John Murray). I intend to use this blog to do just that, to seek the coming of God’s kingdom to head, heart, and hands. Hence the title of  this blog, Doctrine for Life.

The Puritans excelled in applying truth to our lives. William Ames wrote almost four centuries ago, “Theology is the doctrine of living to God” (Theologia est doctrina Deo vivendi). From the days of John Calvin, godliness or piety has been the lifeblood of Reformed Christianity. Truth comes down from heaven like rain upon us, and we spring up like trees reaching for the skies, reaching for God in practical, daily holiness.

The title of the blog coincides with the subtitle of a book that has gladly consumed a great deal of my time lately. Co-authored with Dr. Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, is the first attempt to provide a systematic theology of Puritan doctrine. It covers sixty areas where the Puritans made significant contributions to Reformed theology, organized by the six traditional loci of the doctrines of God, man, Christ, salvation, church, and the end of the age. It concludes with eight chapters on how the Puritans put their theology into practice.

I am excited to report that today we have just sent this 1000+ page book away to have it indexed. It’s hard to believe that this project is finally coming to an end. We hope that it will be released in October. You can pre-order the $60 book at a discount rate of $40 if you call Reformation Heritage Books at 616-977-0599.

Early tomorrow morning I’ll be leaving for London, England. I’ll be doing a conference on Saturday the Evangelical Reformed Church, an all black church in the heart of London. Then on Sunday, God willing, I’ll preach for Dr. Peter Masters at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the morning and evening (often called Spurgeon’s church or Met Tab). From Tuesday to Thursday I hope to attend and speak four times on sanctification at the Met Tab School of Theology.

I’ll be posting regularly on this blog about my conference experiences.

Welcome to my blog! Please pray that my posts will glorify God, help God’s people to grow, and be used to the salvation of the lost.