Reshaping Marriage, Reformation Style – “Refo Thursday”

On this Thursday, the last day of August, we bring to mind again the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And we do so through another video clip from the Church History Institute, which they are sending out each Thursday this year – what they refer to as their “Refo Thursday,” “your weekly throwback to the Reformation.”

This particular video, sent out on August 10, celebrates the Reformation’s reform of marriage, including Martin Luther’s wonderful union with Katherine von Bora. On this day of my own thirty-ninth wedding anniversary to my lovely bride (August 31, 1978!), this post seems appropriate. Verna and I are personally grateful to the Reformers for restoring this aspect of the Christian life to its biblical foundation!

The article that goes with it – “The Reformation of Marriage” – includes these paragraphs at the beginning:

It is a remarkable fact that none of the leading Protestant reformers ended up a bachelor—Luther, Zwingli and Calvin all married in the course of the Reformation. It is remarkable because the prevailing late medieval ideal was that one should not marry in order to devote full attention to serving God. The same ideal prevailed for women. St. Jerome, writing in the fourth century, even offered a kind of algorithm for measuring one’s devotion to God. He assigned a spiritual value of 100 to virginity, but to marriage he assigned a paltry spiritual value of 30. The message was clear: if you really loved God, you would remain a bachelor or bachelorette.

The Reformation is most often identified with theological debates, whether over  justification by faith alone, predestination, or the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. However, it can be argued that the most enduring consequence of the Reformation was not theological developments, but the transformation of the institution of marriage. By 1520, just three years after the 95 Theses, Luther publically renounced clerical celibacy in his famous pamphlet, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.

Read the rest of the article at the link provided, and be sure to watch this video and many others that make up this informative and interesting series. You can sign up to receive the “Refo Thursday” posts each week at the CHI website.

A Wedding in the Family

Today our youngest son, Justin, married his sweetheart, Tessa.


It was a cool but sunny day, and the wedding plans went through beautifully, with family and friends witnessing, participating, and celebrating. Needless to say, our grandchildren were giddy beyond words. And they played their roles marvelously, with youthful joy and excitement.


The focus in the ceremony was on Jesus Christ and His love for His children, a love we – by His grace – manifest to one another as members of His bride, the church. We are humbly thankful Justin and Tessa share this love of Christ and have chosen to found their marriage on that faithful, enduring love.


As they start their lives together, we share two prayers for them – one written by Luther and the other by Calvin – both taken from the little prayer book, Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Epworth Press in 1958).

O Lord God, who hast created man and woman and hast ordained them for the marriage bond and hast typified therein the sacramental union of thy dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the church, his bride: We beseech thy groundless goodness and mercy that thou wouldest not permit this thy creation, ordinance, and blessing to be disturbed or destroyed, but graciously preserve the same through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. ~ M. Luther, 1529

O God, almighty, all-good, and all-wise, who from the beginning didst see that it was not good for a man to be alone, and therefore didst create for him a companion, and didst ordain that the two should be one:

We beg of thee, and humbly request, that since it hath pleased thee to call these persons to the holy estate of marriage, thou wouldest of thy grace and goodness bestow on them thy Holy Spirit, in order that they may in holiness abide in faith, true and firm, according to thy good will, surmounting all bad affections, living purely, and edifying each other in all honesty and chastity.

Give thy blessing as thou didst to thy faithful servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that through their children they may praise and serve thee, teaching them and bringing them up to thy praise and glory, and the good of their neighbor, through the advancement and exaltation of thy holy gospel.

Hear us, Father of mercy, through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy very dear Son. Amen. ~ J. Calvin, 1542

Note to Self: Love Your Husband

Note-to-self-ThornAfter our post last week on the calling of husbands to love his wife, it is the wives’ turn to be reminded of her calling in relation to her husband.

When you read Joe Thorn’s brief “note to self”, I believe you will see your calling in a new light and be renewed in your commitment also to model Jesus in your marriage.

Begin by reading Eph.5:22-24.

Dear Self,

It is your calling and privilege to represent Christ to your husband in a way that he will see in no one else. You are called to submit to his godly leadership, support him in his leadership, and help him become what God desires.

Your occasional thoughts of the smallness of this calling demonstrate that you have not yet grasped the beauty of being your husband’s ‘help-mate.’ Thinking of yourself as your husband’s ‘helper’ is not demeaning of small. It is actually a glorious position, and one that Jesus himself knew well.

Before his ascension, Jesus told his followers that he would ‘give you another helper.’ (John 14:16). He spoke of the Holy Spirit, but do not miss the point that the Holy Spirit is ‘another helper’ – one like Jesus. Jesus did not have a problem thinking of himself as a helper, or even a helper to sinful men. This was his calling, the reason he was sent by the Father – to serve, help, and save sinners.

Being considered the help of your husband means that he cannot succeed without you. He needs you to help him become the man God has designed him to be. Your role is reflected beautifully in the gospel, and you get to represent Jesus as ‘helper’ to your husband in a way that no other person will, for no one else is called to this position.

…You are called to love your husband and represent Christ and the gospel to him. This means praising his hard work and expressing thanks for his working to provide for his family. It means doing him good and not evil (Prov.31:12) and speaking honorably of him in public.

Taken from Chap.17 “Love Your Husband” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.71-72.

Note to Self: Love Your Wife

Sunday night in Faith PRC (my home church) Rev.C. Haak (Georgetown PRC) preached a powerful sermon from Prov.5:15-21 under the theme “Satisfied in One’s Own Marriage.” Whether you are married or not, you ought to listen to that sermon (Keep in mind that every believer is married to Jesus Christ and ought to learn over and over again how He loves and cares for His bride).

But especially if you are a husband, and especially if you are tempted to make excuses not to love your wife and begin to set your eyes, heart, and hands on a “strange woman”, listen to this sermon. And then listen to it again. And then again, from time to time. And let the Word sink into your soul and drive you to seek your satisfaction ONLY in the woman God gave you. That’s the way of wisdom, the wisdom of your Husband Jesus Christ. And that is the way of holiness and, therefore, of happiness.

Note-to-self-ThornIn that connection, the next chapter in Joe Thorn’s book is “Love Your Wife.” I post that too for your edification – and mine.

Begin by reading Eph.5:25-27 and praying about this calling.

Dear Self,

It is your calling and privilege to model Christ as husband to your wife through sacrifice and service. You are familiar enough with this passage to quote it and talk about it, but what counts is living it. Don’t you know Jesus? Haven’t you learned from him what love, sacrifice, and service look like? If so, you should be ready and eager to demonstrate this to your wife, because grace gives birth to grace. Because you know and follow Jesus, you are ready to truly love your wife.

That doesn’t mean love is easy. It isn’t This is why it must be commanded and why you must be reminded. And consider this calling. You must not only have warm affection for your wife, you must love her as Christ loves the church. This is sacrificial love – one that denies self and seeks the good of the bride.

…You should seek to be the brightest representation of Jesus she sees, as you represent Christ as Savior and servant to her. That would look like seeking her out when you get home from work, instead of seeking solace for yourself. It means affirming her calling and gifts, listening to her, speaking words of encouragement to her, and at all times working for her good. Jesus loves you this way, and in like manner you are called to love your wife.

Taken from Chap.16 “Love Your Wife” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.69-70.


Reformed Marriage – April 15, 2016 “Standard Bearer”

The April 15, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer is now out – a very special issue, we might add – this time on the subject of “Reformed (i.e., biblical) Marriage.”

The issue covers a variety of subjects, from dating and courtship to the meaning of marriage, and from the wedding ceremony to the wedding reception (cf. the cover below). The issue makes for timely and instructive reading for young people, young couples, and long-time married couples.


Editor-in-chief Prof.B. Gritters introduces the issue in these words:

     We have been planning a special issue on a Reformed Marriage for a long time now, and are very pleased to mail this issue to you this Spring.  We think you will be edified by it.
     You will notice immediately that most of the articles are co-authored, that is, written by husband and wife teams.  It was evident to us that when it comes to marriages and weddings, the women often have a great deal to say, and rightly so.  We take opportunity here to thank the women who participated, as well as the long-time elder and his wife for their contributions.
     The articles range from pre-marriage preparation by parents to the question that should be answered by couples before marriage:  what do they hope for with regard to having children?
      May our covenant God bless our marriages to His glory, and preserve them for the sake also of the “godly seed.”  We hope the marriage ceremonies and the celebrations that follow also bring Him due honor.
As a sample of the instruction given in this issue, we also give you an excerpt from the meditation by Rev. James Slopsema, “Two Become One:”

     The bond that God makes in marriage by gluing a man and women together makes the marriage bond a permanent relationship.  Were marriage a human invention and the bond of marriage only of man’s making, any marriage could be terminated at will.  However, when God glues two together, He does so for life. The only thing that dissolves the marriage relationship is death.  “For the woman which hath an husband is bound (tied, fastened) by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.  So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” (Romans 7:2-3)  Consequently when asked about divorce Jesus proclaimed “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”  (Matthew 19:6)

Let every married couple or those contemplating marriage understand this. Take this perspective in marriage. Marriage is permanent. Should problems arise in your marriage, divorce is not an option except in the case of adultery.  But even then the marriage bond is not broken.  Only death breaks the marriage bond.  Let husbands and wives be committed to their marriages and in Christ work out any problems that may arise.  And let those dealing with what may seem insurmountable problems in their marriage remember, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

If you are interested in this issue or in subscribing to the SB, contact the RFPA at the information on their website.

WIMTBR: Covenantal – Implications … for Marriage

SB-March15-2015In the latest Standard Bearer issue (March 15, 2015) Prof. Barry Gritters continues his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed” (WIMTBR), in connection with the 90th anniversary of the forming of the PRCA. He is answering this question by organizing the Reformed faith under five (5) “Cs”, the first of which is “Covenantal”.

In the March 1 issue he laid out the meaning of this primary Reformed truth, showing its distinctive unconditional and particular nature, especially as developed, maintained, and defended in the PRC. In this March 15 editorial Gritters draws out four (4) implications of this covenant doctrine. The last one is “The Covenant of Marriage”, and it is from this one that I quote today:

Finally, a Reformed church will be a church that defends the precious institution of marriage. If marriage is the preeminent biblical illustration of God’s covenant with His elect, what better way for the covenant seed to learn about covenant than by observing good marriages! If one were an enemy of God’s church, one of the main bulwarks he would assail – with mortar after mortar and one battering ram after another – would be the bulwark of Christian marriage. Thus, the institution we most earnestly defend is the institution of marriage.

No one can write such words in AD 2015 without feeling a great sense of sadness, and a good deal of righteous anger, that the devil had made such headway in his battle against the covenant by ruining so many marriages.

…Reformed believers must give their entire life and all their energy, working and praying, that God preserve our marriages. We must preach and preach, and teach and teach, and then preach and teach some more, the biblical doctrine of marriage – preach that God ‘hates putting away;’ preach that, even if marriage is only temporal, it is still one of the most important temporal institutions God created in the beginning for the preservation of His covenant people.

…And may our gracious God forgive (and correct) what sins He may be judging in churches where the covenant perhaps is accurately taught but not truly lived, one of the most flagrant ways to offend the covenant God (272).

Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Ligonier Ministries Blog.

holding handsMen, this is for you (Wives, you may read this and pray that we take this to heart.) – from one man to another. From a fellow husband (R.C. Sproul, Jr.) who lost his beloved two years ago.

If this doesn’t move (convict!) you to think about one small but significant way to show our wives we love them, then something’s wrong – with us. And let’s admit, we don’t do this enough. But we can learn. Before it’s too late. So, be brave and manly – and take her hand from time to time.

Read on, but here’s how it starts:

That is likely my deepest regret, that I did not hold her hand more.

It’s not, of course, that I never held her hand. It is likely, however, that I didn’t as often as she would have liked. Holding her hand communicates to her in a simple yet profound way that we are connected. Taking her hand tells her, “I am grateful that we are one flesh.” Taking her hand tells me, “This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” It is a liturgy, an ordinary habit of remembrance to see more clearly the extraordinary reality of two being made one. It would have, even in the midst of a disagreement, or moments of struggle, communicated, “We’re going to go through this together. I will not let go.”

Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 8:03 AM  Leave a Comment  

Happy & Blessed 50th Anniversary, Don and Judi D!

Today, June 26, 2014 marks the 50th wedding anniversary of Don and Judi (nee Bylsma) Doezema, longtime kingdom servant-workers at the PRC Seminary (Don full-time since 1988 and Judi since 1989). Together they have lived in love and labored in love throughout their married years, having both served as Christian teachers prior to their coming to our Seminary.


We take this opportunity to congratulate them heartily and to express our joy with them in this special milestone. They would be the first ones to tell us that their fifty years together is a testimony to GOD’S faithfulness and abiding love for them, and we would agree. But we also acknowledge that the power of God’s love has kept them in love for one another for fifty years. Their faithful love is a godly witness to us and to the church of Jesus Christ. And we need that witness in our day. So, we thank God today. And we thank God for them today.

Don&Judi 50th-2

I was able to help a few friends get into Seminary to decorate last night, so that they had quite a surprise this morning. I only wish I could have been here camera in hand when they arrived bright and early this morning! But, amazingly, I did get them to pose for a few pictures this morning. They were so cute together. I even caught them kissing! But I will spare them from that picture as they are both quite shy about PDA’s. 🙂

Don&Judi 50th-3

If you wish to send a congratulatory note to them, you may do so at their email address ( or here at the Seminary address (4949 Ivanrest Ave. SW, Wyoming, MI 49418).

Don&Judi 50th-4

And here they are with the special gals who pulled off the surprise – including a special cake for coffee time today, where we heard all about that June 26, 1964 wedding day and the honeymoon out West that followed. Special times. For a very special couple.

Don&Judi 50th-5Don & Judi with Sheila and Jenn Van Donselaar

Recent Book News from the RFPA

The Reformed Free Publishing Association recently sent out its Spring 2014 Newsletter, which contains news on the work of its various committees and an extended review of Marvin Kamps’ new book 1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church. To access this newsletter (in pdf), visit this page on the RFPA website. There you can also sign up to receive this newsletter by email if you so desire.

I would also like to call attention to significant new editions of two older works published by the RFPA. Below is the publisher’s own advertisements of these books. With the wedding season upon us, the first of these titles would make a great gift item.

And the second title should be of interest to every Reformed person who loves the gospel of sovereign grace and who desires to see the call of that gospel to sinners properly understood and consistently maintained.

Follow the links for information on ordering these “new” books.

Christ was sent into the world to establish the kingdom of God and rule it as king... This kingdom required that Jesus stay on the cross.

New second edition!

This 128-page small paperback provides straightforward, practical instruction for single and married believers alike, taken directly from the classic Bible passages on sex and marriage. Added to this second edition are two appendices which treat the remarriage and prohibition of the remarriage of the “innocent party”.

Back in print!

Is there a “well-meant offer” of salvation to all men? Or is the call of the gospel restricted to the elect only? Is there an alternative to these two extremes? This book sets forth and defends the Reformed position of the gospel call to all mankind. (224 pages, paperback)

Blessed and Happy Wedding Day!

Yesterday was a special day in our family, one which we wish to share here today. Our fourth child, son Thad (age 29), was united in holy matrimony to Sarala Poelman (age 22), second daughter of Rev.Steven and Nalani Poelman from northern India.

A family picture - Verna and I with our six children and eleven grandchildren.

A family picture – Verna and I with our six children and eleven grandchildren.


Though the weather was cool and drizzly, the setting inside the Goei Center (Eastern Floral’s banquet facility) on the near west side of Grand Rapids was colorful and cozy (lots of plants, flowers and water fixtures).

To honor his military service (Army Reserves, Military Police) Thad wore his full dress uniform.

Thad in his dress uniform waiting for his precious bride.

Thad in his dress uniform waiting for his precious bride.

Rehearsing for a key part of the ceremony - confessing dependence on the Lord and pledging to look to Him for all their needs.

Rehearsing for a key part of the ceremony – confessing dependence on the Lord and pledging to look to Him for all their needs.

To honor Sarala’s land of birth and culture, the wedding had a distinctive India flavor to it, as the bridesmaids wore traditional Indian dress, Indian food was available, and other Indian customs were acknowledged. I give you just a few pictures taken prior to the actual wedding to share the events of this wonderful day with you.

Sarala with flower girlsBride Sarala with her little flower girls!

Congratulations, Thad and Sarala, and may God richly bless your union in the Lord! May God keep you as you enjoy your honeymoon in India, and return you safely to us in a few months!

Thad and Sarala practicing their wedding kiss

Thad and Sarala practicing their wedding kiss