Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (6)

As we were coming home from our evening service at Faith PRC (Jenison, MI) last night, I said to my wife: “We are so blessed to have the preaching we do in our church and churches!” What a day of being fed by and of feasting on the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ! Our souls were filled with the good news of Christ crucified for sinners such as ourselves!

In the morning we attended a special family baptism event at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI and were richly fed by pastor Carl Haak’s message on Mary of Bethany’s act of anointing Jesus’ head (Mark 14:1-11). He is doing a series on significant events that took place during the days of the Passion week of Jesus, this sermon being the one for Wednesday, and titled “A Memorial Left Behind”. You will be able to find this sermon and others in the series at this link to Georgetown PRC’s Sermonaudio page.

Last night we were favored to have Rev.James Slopsema from our First PRC of Grand Rapids as our guest preacher. He is doing a series on the seven (7) cross words of Jesus and he preached on the middle one for us: “Forsaken by God”. It was another wonderful message, which brought us to the dust in the knowledge of our sin and lifted us up in the knowledge of what our Savior did for us on Calvary. You may find this message on Faith PRC’s website.

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieWith these gospel messages in our hearts – and many more that you have heard, I am sure – we also hear again today from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (ed. by Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2009). I plan to post something each day this week from this wonderful devotional. Today’s quote is from a piece by the Anglican J.C. (John Charles) Ryle. Titled “The Sufferings of Christ” and based on Matthew 27:27-44, it is taken from his familiar Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. May his thoughts also serve to humble us as well as lift us up through the knowledge of our deliverance from sin.

But we must not be content with a vague general belief that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of his passion. We may follow him all through, from the bar of Pilate to the minute of his death, and see him at every step as our mighty substitute, our representative, our head, our surety, our proxy – the divine friend who undertook to stand in our place and, by the priceless merit of his sufferings, to purchase our redemption. Was he flogged? It was done so that ‘by his wounds we are healed’ (Isa. 53:5). Was he condemned, though innocent? It was done so that we might be acquitted, though guilty. Did he wear a crown of thorns? It was done so that we might wear the crown of glory.  Was he stripped of his clothes? It was done so that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness. Was he mocked and reviled? It was done so that we might be honored and blessed. Was he reckoned a criminal,a nd counted among those who have done wrong? It was done so that we might be reckoned innocent, and declared free from all sin. Was he declared unable to save himself? It was so that he might be able to save others to the uttermost. Did he die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful death? It was done so that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

Let us ponder these things well: they are worth remembering. The very key to peace is a right apprehension of the vicarious sufferings of Christ (pp.58-59)

Word Wednesday on Thursday – “Homiletics”

First, allow me to apologize for not posting my customary word items yesterday. The day got away from me and I had no time for posts! But the good news is we are doing it today! “Word Thursday” we will call it this week! :)

HomileticsLet’s tackle another good Seminary course word today. How about “homiletics”? You may have heard this word before but perhaps do not remember what it means or to what course it refers. Today we will help you better understand what “Homiletics” is all about.

If you go to the PRC Seminary catalog, you will discover that this word is at the top of the list under “Practical-Theological Studies” – and with good reason. Because “Homiletics” is the

“study of the history, principles, and methods of sermon preparation. Included is a study of the liturgical forms used in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (treating their history, content, importance, and doctrinal teachings), as well as a study of the history of liturgy and the biblical principles and elements of Reformed worship”.

Homiletics, then, includes (at least in our Seminary) “Liturgics” (the study of worship – perhaps we can look at the origin and meaning of that word in the future), what Prof.B.Gritters is teaching this semester. But “homiletics” proper has to do with the making of sermons. And, as you know, this is at the heart of what is taught in our Seminary. Because the chief task of the minister of the gospel is to preach the Word. And preaching means crafting sermons, usually two per week for our pastors, and sometimes three.

So at the core of Seminary training is sermon making. The students are taught how to make “homilies”. And they start their first semester already. And they never stop learning to make sermons their whole way through. Nor when they are in the ministry. “Homiletics” is truly a lifetime course. Ask any of our pastors or professors.

But how did a course on sermon making get this fancy name? will help us:

World English Dictionary
homiletics  (ˌhɒmɪˈlɛtɪks)
( functioning as singular ) the art of preaching or writing sermons
[C17: from Greek homilētikos  cordial, from homilein  to converse with; see homily ]


And under “homily” the entry is:



noun, plural hom·i·lies.


a sermon, usually on a Biblical topic and usually of a nondoctrinal nature. (But that’s not what we want, is it?! -cjt)

an admonitory or moralizing discourse.

an inspirational saying or cliché.
1545–55;  < Late Latin homīlia  < Greek homīlía  assembly, sermon, equivalent to hómīl ( os ) crowd ( hom ( ) together + -īlos,  masculine combining form of ī́lē  (feminine) crowd) + -ia -y3 ; replacing Middle English omelie  < Middle French  < Latin,  as above


There, now you have learned another word and have another course in our Seminary down. I trust this is of interest to you. If it isn’t, it ought to be!

Last semester the first year students started putting some homilies together (more of a meditation) and delivering them in class. This semester they are doing even more – exegeting a passage and putting together their first sermons. It has been interesting watching them go through this process. Though they have heard many sermons, this is the first real one they have to make. They are meeting often with the professors to discuss the process of making this initial sermon. They are focused and taking this very seriously. Which is good and what we want.

Pray for them, that they may become good homiletes. Because good homiletes make good preachers. And that’s what the church needs!

PRC Archives – Thursday’s Answer and Challenge!

Student Sermon-2_Page_1Last week we published a mystery document again for our PRC archives item (mystery item #5) – some handwritten sermon notes. It seems that most of you were stumped by this one, and I will grant you that this was not an easy one, even with the hints.

But one sharp fella in Edgerton, MN got it – Skip Hunter (see the comments under that post)! He correctly guessed Rev.Herman Veldman (1908-1997), who was actually Seminarian H.Veldman at the time (PRC Seminary, 1929-1932 – ordained and installed in 1st PRC of Pella, IA in Sept. of 1932), for these sermon notes on Psalm 19:15 were found in his student sermon folder in the archive room.

That sweet smell emanating from these notes was from Rev.Veldman’s pipe, which he smoked diligently until the end of his life, and is one of my own fond memories of him (sorry, anti-smokers, but that was a wonderful odor!). We also took note of his fine handwriting, another characteristic of this meticulous minister. I asked if anyone had heard this sermon, or knew where and when it had been preached, and it appears that will stay a mystery – at least for now.

I have many good memories of Rev.H.Veldman (besides his dignified Genevan preaching gown!). He was my own pastor at Hope PRC, Walker, MI when I was a young boy (1963-66). Later on, when I was in Seminary, I believe, he preached our Heidelberg Catechism sermons in the morning while we were vacant. He memorized his sermons word for word, and I will say I was mesmerized by his style of preaching. I still recall him ending many sermons with his arm raised and his finger pointed out, a large smile on his face, as he would state with utter confidence, “And that’s the way it is, beloved!” O, I loved that! And God used that to build my own confidence of faith in the truth of the gospel at a challenging time in my life.

After I was married, I lived in the same trailer park as he did and had the privilege of picking him up for catechism classes. What a treat! Yes, he smoked his pipe in my car, and I didn’t mind it at all. And if I had, he probably would have smoked it anyway! :) But he was always full of advice and stories. I only wished I had written them down and kept them to heart.

I also have some fun(ny) memories of this servant of God – some of my own and some from my father. Rev.Veldman liked to enjoy his glass of cold water (with ice!) on the pulpit, and let his audience know it. He would lift it high, rattle the ice around, and then take a drink, letting out a loud “Ah!”, as if to say, “Now, that was a great glass of water! Thank you very much!”

Rev.Veldman was also known to be quite helpless when it came to practical matters at the parsonage. My father, who served on the Building Committee (he was an electrician), told us a few choice stories. Such as the time Rev.Veldman called him to change a light bulb in a dark closet. And asked him to come over and get his study fan working again. Dad looked it over, traced the cord back, and plugged it in. Bingo, fan working! :) That was Rev.H.Veldman too.

Perhaps you have your own stories. Feel free to share them here. I could tell you many more, such as how he handled unruly teenagers in the back of church, or crying babies, but I will stop for now.

Because now we have to get on to the next mystery item! Today we return to the photograph feature. And once again it is a Young People’s Convention picture. I found this yesterday in some Beacon Lights’ folders in the archives room. It is a collage of pictures (There is also a first page, which I will wait to reveal.), which makes it quite interesting and challenging. I recognized some of these people immediately, even though they preceded my own birth (1958!) – there’s your one and only hint. But I had no idea what year this one was and where the convention was that year until I looked.

So, go ahead, pour over this collage, and let me know who these folks are if you recognize someone. And what year you think this convention was. And who the host societies were that year, which will include where the convention was held that year. The pictures are numbered, so that will help you when we leave a guess (Click on it to enlarge even more). Enjoy mystery item #6!


PRC Archives Day! Mystery Item #4 Solved and Item #5 Published: Old Sermon Notes

It’s Thursday, and that means time for our PRC archives feature! Last week we posted something different from a photo for the first time – a church bulletin – thinking that perhaps this would stump our audience. But, no, Mr.Ken Hoksbergen got it without a problem (see the comment)! Another of you guessed the church correctly, but I believe that means the rest of you were mystified! Good! Mission accomplished! Well, except for Ken.

MysteryBulletin-Jan1953This was indeed the bulletin of Rock Valley PRC (Iowa – a congregation no longer in existence), where Rev.Sebastian Cammenga was pastor (who left us after the schism of 1953). Great job, Ken! I am curious to know how you knew. Was the sole name given in the bulletin enough for you to guess?

I can add a personal note here connecting myself to this former PRC minister. When I was attending Calvin College and working part-time at the Grandville D&W Foods grocery store, I met Rev.S.Cammenga’s son Robert, who also worked in the produce department. Rev.Cammenga was then serving as pastor of Hope CRC in Grandville, MI (There’s another PRC connection, you may remember!). Robert and I became good friends, to such a degree that he stood up in my wedding. I met Rev.Cammenga a few times when I was in Robert’s home, though we never talked much about what happened in 1953. I regret that now. :( But Robert and I had our share of discussions and disagreements about CRC-PRC doctrines and relations.

Student Sermon-1_Page_1

But now it is time to introduce PRC archive mystery item #5! And once again we draw from a document, not a picture. I have culled from the file cabinet in the archive room a sweet-smelling (There’s a little hint :) ), hand-written sermon by a PRC minister (to the end of his life – there’s a second hint) – a sermon produced when he was a student in the PRC Seminary according to the file in which it is enclosed. And, as you will see, this young man had rather fine handwriting (Do they teach penmanship anymore?)!

Above is the cover to the sermon; below are the first two pages, which include the introduction, sermon title, and sermon divisions. Give me the name of the minister (student at the time) and the years he was in Seminary. And if any of you ever heard this sermon, you may answer this bonus question: where and when was it preached in our churches? Have fun! (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Student Sermon-2_Page_1

“One Holy Passion” – Rev.C.Haak

haak_smallSpeaking of excellent, edifying Reformed sermons, we were blessed in Faith PRC last evening to hear the above-titled sermon by Rev.C.Haak (pastor of Georgetown PRC, Hudsonville, MI), based on Romans 11:36. If you wish to learn what the Reformed faith is about at its core; if you wish to know why the doctrines of grace are so God-centered and man-abasing; if you wish to know what the Christian world and life view is; if you wish to be stirred in your soul to thank and praise God for the gracious gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, – then listen to this sermon – “One Holy Passion”.

I have also been updating the sermon audio page on the PRCA website. Check it out for a fine selection of recent sermons preached through the PRC.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Investing in Our Children – R.C. Sproul Jr. & Conversion and the Covenant Child – R.Dykstra

Secure Investments by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed Theology Articles at

TTOct2013Yesterday morning during our worship service in Faith PRC we witnessed two infant baptisms. As is my custom, I took my issue of Tabletalk along to read some of the feature articles. Prior to the morning service I read the above article by R.C.Sproul, Jr., in which he writes under the rubric “Seek Ye First”, based on Jesus’ words at the end of the great Sermon on the Mount.

Belonging to those words of Jesus are his admonition in vss.25ff. about fear and worry, words that tie in well with the theme of this month’s TT – “The Seven Deadly Fears” (And, by the way, you  too may read the next article on this theme “Fear of Failure” by Dr.R.Pratt, Jr.). Toward the end of his article Sproul had some fine thoughts about our worries about finances in comparison with our concerns about our children’s destinies.

Needless to say, his words hit home – and fit well the occasion of baptism. I quote a portion here and encourage you to read the full article at the Ligonier link above. Caution: your conscience will be pricked. But that is a good thing.

Were I to poll the evangelical church and ask this question, “Which is more important, the eternal state of the souls of your children, or your financial position?” chances are we’d have a radically lopsided poll. If, however, I were to construct a worry meter, and attach it to the hearts of those evangelicals, what would it show us?

Again, the two, our money and our children, may be connected. We excuse our money worries by asserting our concern is for their inheritance. But why, then, are we so much less concerned about the spiritual inheritance we give them? Our treasure is where our fear is.

Which is why, of course, Jesus directs us to love, to cherish, to treasure that which can never be taken away. When we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we are not merely pursuing the more valuable as opposed to the less valuable. Rather, we are also pursuing what we cannot lose, as opposed to what we cannot hope to keep. When we seek to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, when we teach them the way they should go when they are young so that they will not turn from it when they are old (Prov. 22:6), we are not just investing in eternity, but we are investing in that which cannot be lost. When we plant the seed of the Word, we know it will not—because it cannot—return to Him void.

There is a simple and wise trick to get us over our worries. We need only to ask ourselves, “In a thousand years, will this really matter?” With respect to our children, the answer is always “Yes. For thousands of thousands of thousands of years it will matter.” Invest in eternity. Invest in your children.

RDykstra1I might add here too that Prof.R.Dykstra, who has been preaching our Heidelberg Catechism sermons in the morning at Faith PRC since our pastoral vacancy, preached a fine baptism sermon on “Conversion and the Covenant Child” based on Romans 6 and LD 33 of the HC. I also encourage you to listen to this sermon by using this link.

PR Seminary Convocation Tonight!

The Protestant Reformed Seminary will be holding its annual Convocation program tonight in Faith PRC in Jenison, MI, beginning at 7:30 p.m. You are hereby cordially invited to join us as we mark the beginning of a new year of instruction and preparation for the gospel ministry. Below is the announcement which was placed on the PRCA website. We would be honored and delighted by your presence this evening.

For our friends and supporters who cannot attend tonight’s program, please note that the event will be live-streamed (Eastern time, U.S., 7:30 p.m.) from Faith PRC’s website. (See the note at the top of the website.). We hope that in this way too you may join us for our special night.

RDykstra1The 2013 PR Seminary Convocation, marking the beginning of the new school year, will be held this week Wednesday, September 11, in Faith PRC at 7:30 P.M.  Prof.Russell Dykstra will speak on the topic “Pray for Us.”  The male quartet, “Voices of Victory”, will provide special music. The seminarians (10, maybe 11 of them!) will also be introduced as part of the program.  You are welcome to join the seminary in this convocation for the new year and to fellowship with professors and students alike. If you cannot attend, the evening will also be live-streamed through Faith PRC’s website, starting at 7:30 p.m. Visit their website and follow the link at the top of the page.

Spurgeon’s First Five Years in Ministry: “Authors on the Line”

Spurgeon’s First Five Years in Ministry: An Interview with Tom Nettles and Christian George Authors on the Line – Desiring God.

CHSpurgeonPicIn this new installment of “Authors on the Line”, Tony Reinke talks with two authors about the early years of ministry in the life of Charles Spurgeon. New material has been found on this part of Spurgeon’s life, and that serves as the basis for this discussion. Visit the “Desiring God” link above to listen to this podcast (about 35 minutes in length). Below is the introduction to the interview by Reinke.

The celebrated preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834–92) was converted at age 15. He preached his first sermon just after his 16th birthday. By age 18, he took his first pastorate in the country. And before turning 20, Spurgeon was pastoring in London.

Spurgeon’s entire life and ministry are fascinating, but those first five years of his Christian life, between 1850–54, are years that especially interest me, and in this episode of Authors on the Line we go on the line with two Spurgeon scholars to learn more.

First, we talk with Dr. Tom Nettles, the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s also the author of a forthcoming book, Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Christian Focus, Sept 2013). He provides us with a historical overview of these first five years of Spurgeon’s Christian life.

Second, we talk with theologian and author Dr. Christian George, the Jewell and Joe L. Huitt Assistant Professor of Religious Education at Oklahoma Baptist University. While studying in London, George stumbled onto eleven handwritten journals kept by Spurgeon over these same early years. The journals have never been published. George is now transcribing them for publication, and he joins us to share what’s in the 1,400 pages.

“The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther”: An Interview with Steven Lawson

The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther: An Interview with Steven Lawson by Nathan W. Bingham | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

MLuther-SLawsonReformation Trust, the book publishing division of Ligonier Ministries, has recently released the next title in their “A Long Line of Godly Men Profile” series. This one is on Martin Luther, titled The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, and is authored by the editor of this series, Dr. Steven Lawson. Lawson focuses on Luther’s commitment to the Word of God and his powerful preaching of that Word. To this point, titles in this series have been on Calvin, Knox, Edwards, and Spurgeon. Posted yesterday on the Ligonier website was an interview by Nathan Bingham with Dr. S.Lawson about this new book on Luther. You are encouraged to watch/listen to the interview and also start adding these fine titles to your library. These are high quality, hardcover books, around 140 pages each. They are also available in several e-Book formats. Click on the Ligonier link above for details on the book and the interview.

RC vs. Evangelical Writers – C.Trueman

trueman-fools.indd…Catholicism has produced the most stimulating literary figures of the Christian tradition, broadly considered. First, there is the incomparable G.K. Chesterton. Humor and irony in the service of theology? Can a Protestant do that? Well, Luther would have approved of the idea; it’s there at the very inception of the Protestant tradition, and it is a great shame we have lost it. If you want to know how much we have lost, then spend a few hours perusing the works of Chesterton, who does for basic creedal Christianity what Terry Eagleton does for Marxist literary criticism.

Then for anyone wanting to wrestle with issues of evil and redemption, is there a better novel than Brighton Rock by Graham Greene? And to this one can add the names of Walker Percy (I recently picked up my first Percy title – cjt), Flannery O’Conner, Evelyn Waugh, and (at least arguably – I know scholars divide on the issue) William Shakespeare. Tolkien too – although, as a loyal English Brummy, I tend to claim him geographically for the Midlands, rather than theologically for the church. All of these writers offer literary expressions of various grand moral and theological themes with which Protestants should be able to resonate. Indeed, as a good Calvinist, I find myself more in agreement with Greene’s take on human nature than I do with the sort of Pelagian tosh one finds in most Christian bookshops (pp.146-47).

Carl R. Trueman in his eighteenth chapter, “Beyond the Limits of Chick Lit”, in Fools Rush In Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone (P&R, 2012).


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