Old Year’s Night with the Voices of Victory

As we end this year of our Lord 2019, the Voices of Victory quartet would like to invite you to end the year on a high, spiritual note – by worshiping the Lord in His house with His people (If you are looking for a place to worship, these churches have services!) and by attending the special Voices of Victory concert Tuesday night in downtown Grandville, MI from 8-11 pm!

Here are the details from our Facebook page and poster:

The Voices of Victory male quartet’s annual concert on Tuesday, December 31 will be held from 8-11 PM at First Reformed Church in Grandville (3060 Wilson Ave SW, Grandville, MI 49418). As in past years, you are welcome to come and go whenever you would like throughout the evening. The Voices of Victory will be joined by the Sacred Harmonies quartet and Bryan Westra, piano. Admission is free, coffee and cookies will be served, and the free will offering will go to Georgetown Harmony Homes. End your old year, and begin your new year in praise to God!

VOV-NYE flyer 2019

Maybe the weather forecast sounds bad, but don’t let that discourage you! It’s a short drive from wherever you are, and once there, you will be safe and warm! We would be delighted to see you there! And we hope we do! It promises to be a wonderful night of praise and fellowship. And the cause is a good one – housing needs for young adults with special needs in the West Michigan area!

Come on out – you won’t be disappointed!

Published in: on December 30, 2019 at 10:29 PM  Leave a Comment  

Justified (Saved) by Grace – H. Hoeksema


… and whom he called, them he also justified.- Romans 8:30

One of the greatest, and certainly the most fundamental, of all the blessings of salvation that are bestowed upon us through our Lord Jesus Christ by grace is that of justification.

In general, we may say that justification is the act of God whereby we become righteous before Him. It means that we stand before the judgment seat of God, as we always do; that God judges us, as He always does; that He applies the perfect standard of His holy will to us, to our being and nature, to our life and walk; that He expresses His verdict upon us, and that this verdict declares us free from all sin and guilt and perfectly righteous, so righteous as if we had never had any sin, as if we had always perfectly kept His every commandment. It also means that He inscribes that verdict by which He declares us righteous in our very hearts, so that we are conscious of it, are assured of our righteousness before God.

This gift of grace is so fundamental and all important because it is the key to all other blessings of grace. For God loves the righteous, and He hates all the workers of iniquity. He cannot look with favor upon the ungodly. If, then, we are to become the objects of His loving kindness, it is prerequisite that we are righteous. And the possession and consciousness of this righteousness fills us with unspeakable joy and with a great and profound peace. “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Romans 4:6-8) And again:”Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5: 1)

The wonder of this justification is that at the very moment when God declares us righteous, we are very really sinners, worthy of damnation in ourselves, and that of this we are deeply conscious. The believer who receives this grace of justification is a justified sinner. For “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4: 5) That is the great marvel of it.

It is very important that we clearly understand this. The justified sinner is not one who formerly was ungodly and therefore was the object of God’s condemnation, but who has reformed, converted himself, become godly, pious, religious, and who now appears in the judgment of God with his new piety and good works, and on the basis of them is declared righteous. Not at all! The contrary is true. The justified sinner is very really a sinner in himself, and as such he appears in the moment of justification before the tribunal of God. He is an enemy of God. His nature is corrupt, and there is no good in him at all. He is wholly inclined to all evil. He has transgressed all the commandments of God and kept none of them. Yea, what is worse, at the very moment when he stands before the judgment seat of God, he sins and violates God’s precepts. And he knows this. He carries the testimony in his own conscience that he is a sinner, worthy of damnation; that he is inclined to all evil and incapable of doing any good; that he trampled God’s holy law under foot, and that even now, as he stands before God’s holy judgment seat, he continues to transgress. He is deeply conscious of the fact that if God will enter into judgment with him and deal with him according to his nature and deserts, he cannot stand for a moment, but must expect that he will be sentenced to eternal damnation. All he can do, and even that he cannot and will not do of himself, is to cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” And the marvel of justification is that this sinner, who has nothing to bring before God but corruption and rebellion, is declared righteous before God, and hears the verdict that he has no sin, that all his sins are blotted out and forgiven, that he is clothed with a righteousness that makes him worthy of eternal life and glory. He is justified by grace!

Such is the clear teaching of Scripture. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3 :23, 24) The sinner receives a righteousness that is not his own, but wholly of God, and that is given him, imputed to him, reckoned to him by grace. For, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” (Romans 3 :20-22) All boasting is excluded, for “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3 :28) And even “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18, 19) From all this it is abundantly evident that God is revealed as the God Who justifies the ungodly, and that the sinner is made righteous by a righteousness which is of God, without any works of righteousness on his part whatever.

wonderofgrace-hhTaken from chapter 8, “Justified by Grace,” in The Wonder of Grace by Herman Hoeksema (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1944), pp.66-68. This work has now been republished by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.

More on this aspect of salvation by grace in a subsequent post.

Best Books of 2019

It is that time of year (the end!) when we find not only great book sales but also great book lists – the favorites of writers, publishers, and readers for this year. Many of these lists are being posted on blogs and published on websites, and so it is a good time to call attention to some of the good Christian ones as well as others of general value and interest. This is a great way to find those hidden treasures and your next great read – and perhaps spend that gift card you received.

The one I have linked to here is pastor Kevin DeYoung’s, which held many surprises for me. Many new titles there are here that were not on my radar, and while I might not gravitate toward many of them, nevertheless, it is healthy to gather ideas from others.

Here’s a couple from the middle of his list that stood out as relevant and useful in our frantic world:

7. Cal Newport. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (Portfolio). After reading Newport’s earlier book on Deep Work, I was eager to get this follow-up volume on reducing digital distraction. Newport wisely observes that we are succumbing to screens not because we are lazy (though that may play a part), but because billions of dollars have been invested to push us into digital addiction. The call for digital minimalism, therefore, is not about efficiency or usefulness, but about autonomy. Like Newport’s book on work, I find this one easier to agree with than to put into practice.


6. Robert Caro. Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing (Knopf). Fascinating from start to finish. I confess I have not read all of Caro’s famous work on LBJ, but I have read enough to know that as a researcher and political biographer, he has no equal. This little book is a snapshot into the subjects of his big biographies—Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson—as well as a glimpse into the method behind Caro’s own brilliant madness.

Another good source is Tim Challies, whose recent post, “The Collected Best Christian Books of 2019” is filled with worthwhile reads. Here are a few:

We will begin with the titles that found their way onto at least 3 best-0f lists:

And he follows that up with links to other lists of best books, so follow the link above to find many others.

Another book reviewer list (secular) to pay attention to is Kirkus, which produces fine lists of the latest publications in all categories. Here is the link to their lists for 2019.


And while many of us (I include myself) are sometimes critical of the way Amazon has monopolized bookselling and hurt authors and publishers, yet one has to pay attention to the best book lists it produces too. Here is a link to its 2019 lists, which you can also search according to category (history, non-fiction, etc.).

Source: Top 10 Books of 2019

Christmas 2019: “In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.”


From our home to yours, wherever you are, we wish you a bright (with the Sun of righteousness!) and blessed (from the God of boundless, sovereign grace!) Christmas 2019!

For this special day of joy and hope, we post a wonderful prayer/devotional from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Arthur Bennett ed., Banner of Truth, c.1975, p.16) that I have used before but which is fitting again.

May it instruct our minds and strengthen our souls, directing us to the Gift of all gifts, Jesus Christ and filling us with praise to the Giver of the greatest Gift, our Father in heaven!

O Source of all good,

What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
he was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on
wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.

Published in: on December 25, 2019 at 7:12 AM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 greatest Christmas carols of all time – Classic FM

While searching for a Christmas carol or poem to feature this week, I came on this list of the 30 greatest Christmas carols compiled with featured videos by the Classic FM. “From ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ to ‘Gaudete’, these are the best Christmas carols ever written,” says the online station.

The one I’ve chosen for this post is one of my favorites, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” written by Christina Rossetti (c.1872). The lyrics are as follows:

1 In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

2 Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

3 Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

4 What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

And who sings it better than the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Enjoy!

To listen to the other Christmas carols, visit the link below.

Source: The 30 greatest Christmas carols of all time – Classic FM

Published in: on December 23, 2019 at 10:44 PM  Leave a Comment  

Church Organist (at Lake Wobegon Lutheran)

For a little “Friday fun” for once in a long time, I share a snippet from Garrison Keillor’s Life Among the Lutherans, a collection of his Lake Wobegon stories involving the Lutherans of his fictional (but often realistic) town. I have been reading a chapter an evening at end of day for a little lighter end to my day.

This part is taken from the chapter “Church Organist” and involves an incident where the Lutheran Church had to find a substitute organist for a Sunday while their regular one tended to his dying father. In typical Keillor style, he injects both humor and serious jabs at some parts of American church life. See if you can catch both in these paragraphs:

Tibby Marklund [Lake Wobegon Lutheran’s regular organist] is an ideal organist. She’s a violinist by training, had a little piano, taught herself to play the organ, can’t play very well and is aware of it. That’s the best organist you could hope for. A one-handed organist would be good, too. A one-handed legless organist even better. The organ is the enemy of worship, as most Christians know. Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This is not the organist’s philosophy. Organists despise stillness. They’re sitting there with the organ equivalent of a 300 hp Ferrari and they want to put the pedal to the metal and make that baby fly. This dude [the substitute organist] came up from the Cities early Sunday morning – he’d sent up an anthem and a motet for the offertory, sent them up for the choir to rehearse Tuesday night, and they couldn’t make head or tail of it – the motet was in French, for crying out loud, and the anthem was piece of fifteenth-century plainsong with odd little square notes – so instead they practiced “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation” for the anthem and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” for the offertory.

He arrived Sunday morning, this pale, thin man with colorless hair and no chin and wire-rimmed glasses, got out of his big boat of a car with an armload of music, came trudging into church, looked at the organ with barely disguised contempt, and heaved a big sigh and settled in to endure the humiliation of subjecting his vast talent to this throng of Philistines. He warmed up for half an hour, with five or six incredibly virtuosic pieces, all of which he knew by heart – it was like the artillery barrage before the invasion, to stun them into submission. For the prelude he chose a big heroic French piece that showed off his footwork. People arriving in church thinking they were coming to meet God found themselves at an organ concert, and the music was not about contrition or humility. It was about triumph.

…The opening hymn was a sort of musical hair shirt, something in  a minor key with weird intervals, and it sounded like there should have been bagpipes, and …it was basically unsingable, so the first verse was the most pitiful sound that can come out of a congregation. It sounded like a fishing village keening for its dead. There were eight verses. He meant the choir to sing all of them. A sort of torture. And he played louder and louder, evidently thinking this would inspire them, but it had the opposite effect. Like most organ playing, it made you lose your interest in music; it made you sit up resolute and brave and try to think back to a happy time in your life and meditate on that, as you do in the dentist’s chair. During the sixth verse, Cindy Hedlund in the alto section leaned over and said to Marilyn Hedlund, “He’s not the organist; he’s the Enforcer.”

Published in: on December 20, 2019 at 10:15 PM  Comments (3)  

Christmas Book Alert! “Born for Our Salvation” by Rev. M. McGeown


Just in time for the Christmas season is the latest RFPA publication – Born for Our Salvation: The Nativity and Childhood of Jesus Christ by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor in Limerick Reformed Fellowship (Republic of Ireland). The book is published in an attractive, durable hardcover, is 288 pages in length, and retails for $26.95.

The seminary library has received its copy and I began reading in it tonight. In his “Introduction” the author ends with these thoughts:

As exciting as the narrative in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 is, the main focus of scripture – and therefore of this books – is Jesus Christ. He alone is the Son of God made flesh; he alone is the savior of sinners; and he alone is the redeemer of God’s elect. The biblical history is not a sentimental story about the birth of the ‘little Lord Jesus,’ but it describes the first step of Christ’s humiliation, which is his lowly birth. This is the first step that Jesus took in our salvation and the first step that would lead to his death on the cross. Since Jesus did not come to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Matt.20:28), it is fitting that his birth be lowly in Bethlehem’s stable (p.2).

The publisher gives this description:

The nativity story is the message of salvation, for in the words of the Nicene Creed, “Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” Jesus was born for our salvation!

Follow the inspired evangelists, Matthew and Luke, as they relate the wonderful events that surround the birth and early childhood of Jesus Christ. Marvel at the announcement of the angel Gabriel. Rejoice with Mary, Elizabeth, the unborn John, and Joseph. Trace the steps of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, where the Savior is born. Listen to the heavenly song of the angelic host as they announce the gospel to lowly shepherds. Meet patient Simeon and aged Anna in the temple, and hear Simeon’s mysterious prophecy of the Savior’s rejection. Make the long trek from the east with the wise men who eagerly seek him that is born King of the Jews. Enter the palace of ruthless King Herod and witness his satanic enmity against the newborn Savior. Flee with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt to escape the king’s wrath. Observe Jesus’ childhood development in Nazareth, and, finally, accompany Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem in his twelfth year, where he must be about his Father’s business.

There is already a review of the new title posted on the RFPA’s blog. Allow me to quote a few paragraphs from the end of Rev. Jon Langerak’s comments on Born for Our Salvation:

In order to live up to its title “Born for our Salvation,” Rev. McGeown must bring out the gospel in all the events of Christ’s birth. This he does, repeatedly and beautifully. To mention a few: In his explanation of the name Jesus in chapter 5. In his reminder that “the baby Jesus cannot save us except by becoming the crucified and risen Jesus (84).” In reminding us in connection with God calling his Son out of Egypt that Jesus’ suffering in this flight was “because of our sins (219)” and that “through Jesus’ perfect obedience, his atoning sufferings and death, and his resurrection, God calls us out of Egypt also (224).” “Let us not dwell too long on the manger. Instead, let us lift our eyes to the cross, for it is not in the manger, but in the cross and in the empty tomb of the resurrected Lord, where our salvation is found (84).”

What is our reaction to the wonders of the nativity and childhood of Jesus Christ? Rev. McGeown calls us to wonder, adore, and magnify the name of God, the God of salvation, the God who is with us in Immanuel. “We must stand in awe of this word of God (20).” “Let us adore the mystery of the birth of the Son of God (84).” “We see from the angels’ song what is important to angels and should be important to us. Their first words are ‘Glory to God in the highest’ (Luke 2:14). Something, declare the angels in song, has happened in Bethlehem that reveals and displays the glory of God, and we have come to sing about it. And you should sing about it, too (100)!” The last note of the book is a doxology: “We praise him for the gift of his Son, God’s Son who was born to die for our salvation (278).” May all readers of this fine volume join Rev. McGeown in that praise!

Even as that reviewer heartily recommends this book to the reading public, so also do I. This will make edifying reading not only in this time of the year but throughout the year. And, of course, the book also makes for a fine gift to give to a family member or friend. Use the links above to order the book for yourself and others! It’s not too late to get it in time for Christmas!

Believing in Jesus: “Always believe! Never do anything else than believe!”

John6-29Last month we quoted from the first part of this meditation of Abraham Kuyper (“Doing God’s Work”), pointing out that he also had some good thoughts on the nature of faith and specifically on the relation between believing and working that are worth considering. So in this post I quote the next part of the meditation, where Kuyper describes how true, saving faith always acts. In a future post, we will return to the final part where he speaks to the relation between believing and working.

And if someone asks whether Jesus hasn’t expressly said: ‘God’s work is all about believing in Jesus!’ then we give the following answer. ‘Definitely, as long as you’re convinced of that and do so in the way he has prescribed.’

Believing …when it comes to knowing the truth. This means that I regard myself as a complete fool in order to honor Jesus as ‘the wisdom of God.’

Believing …with respect to atonement. This means that I cannot bring or offer as much as a grain of sand in payment of my debt, but that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega where the work of atonement is concerned.

Believing …in finding my way forward. This means that I don’t dare to put one foot in front of the other based on my own insight, but that I follow Jesus my faithful Shepherd closely, step by step.

Believing …when the seas are raging and the waves are crashing over my lifeboat. It means knowing with absolute certainty that I’m going to die and sink into oblivion if I have to depend on my own rowing and navigating. It also means depending only on Jesus, who calmly clamps his divine hand on the tiller.

Believing …where life’s struggles are involved. Then it means being convinced that I will fall and be totally defeated before I even know it if the outcome depends on me. It also means being absolutely persuaded that no arrow will pierce me and no spear strike me as long as my Defender leads me and his shield covers me.

So believing always has a different sense depending on the matter at hand, on what you happen to be facing, on what the issue is, and on what the discussion is all about.

Every situation in life poses the same question: ‘What now?’ To it there is always one and the same answer: ‘Believe in Jesus!’ Always believe! Never do anything else than believe!

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.237-238.

This particular meditation (#74 of Volume 1) is titled “Doing God’s Work” and is based on John 6:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

PRC Archives – The Early Years: Communion Wine and Curatorium Report

Kevin R. putting in place in the new archives room the last of our “official” archive boxes.

Today we feature a couple of fascinating items out of the PRC archives – both from the early years. Both were discovered yesterday while sorting through and cataloging old Theological School Committee (TSC) files, which Bob Drnek has been working on, in part because he is TSC secretary and has a personal interest in the history of the seminary and its committee. 🙂

For years these files had been stored in a cabinet in the seminary building, but this summer we decided they belonged in the archives, both for better protection and for preservation. And we are glad we made that decision, because these are a valuable part of our history and because there are some real treasures here!


GMO-faculty-report (2)

This first item is a report of the rector of the seminary, at the time Rev. George Ophoff (the professors, as they still do, held this administrative position by rotation), to the Curatorium, the “committee” that oversaw the seminary prior to the formation of the TSC. Writing on behalf of the faculty, Ophoff reported on the work that was being done both by the professors and the students, as you will see. But the brief report breathes the spirit of Ophoff. Don’t waste words, get to the point, and if there isn’t much to say, make sure you indicate that “something was also accomplished.” We think this report dates from the 1930s but are not sure as yet.


This second item is even more fascinating. Remember the Prohibition Era, when alcohol was mostly prohibited and strictly controlled?! Well, most of us know about this age only in name, since it goes back to the early years of the 1900s in this country. What you may not know (I didn’t!) is that churches had to fill out a special form to gain permission to use wine for communion (the Lord’s Supper)!

So, what you see above is such a form (stored away in the seminary’s early history files) filled out by the clerk of our Hudsonville PRC to purchase two gallons of wine from a U.S. government-approved, wine supply house in Milwaukee, WI! The date? May 24, 1928!

Amazing! Can you imagine?! No wonder, given the times, they ordered by the gallon! I’m also guessing that that “domestic Muscatel” was a rather cheap, red wine. Anyone have memories of these times?

Published in: on December 12, 2019 at 3:54 PM  Leave a Comment  

I’d Rather Be Reading (but keep a log of your books too!)

We’re nearing the end of the year and I need to wrap up some books I have been on (my stack of “reading-now books” alongside my chair in the den is diminishing) before the new year begins and I delve into the new ones (the stack of “to-be-read-next books” is increasing!).

rather-be-reading-bogel-2018And so tonight I read the last short chapter of Anne Bogel’s I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life.  This wonderful little volume has been a fun and motivating read, as this fellow bibliophile has reflected on a lifetime of reading and gathering books. Her final chapter is taken from the book’s title (or perhaps, the other way around), and it is from”Id Rather Be Reading” that I quote in this post.

Here are Bogel’s closing thoughts on keeping a journal of what you read:

Logging my books changed my reading life in another way. The act of writing things down inspires me to read more. Sure, it’s fun to add another completed title to my list. But my log also helps me notice when I’m in a busy period and reading takes a backseat, nudging me to do something about it before too many days go by without adding a book to my list.

…Reader, if you’d rather live in your reading moment than document it, I totally get it. I’d rather be reading too. But learn from my bookish regret: I don’t care what system you use (and I use the word system loosely) as long as you use one. Start today, because as soon as you begin, you’re going to wish you’d begun sooner. Record your books as a gift to your future self, a travelogue you’ll be able to pull off the shelf years form now, to remember the journey.

We are readers.  Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts. Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers. They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives. Good reading journals provide glimpses of how we’ve spent our days, and they tell the story of our lives. [pp.144-45]



And so I will also mention that this weekend I picked up a very special edition of Dante’s Inferno. A nice addition to my collection, methinks.


Published in: on December 9, 2019 at 10:33 PM  Leave a Comment