Saturday’s Tornadoes and Our Seminary

On Saturday, August 20, 2016, West Michigan was hit by some powerful storms, which included 2-3 inches of driving rain, fierce winds, and a number of small tornadoes. One, in fact, touched down near the PRC Seminary and caused some minor damage – not to the building but to the property.


We lost two noteworthy trees – the last large crabtree in the front and our large apple tree in the back. Both missed hitting the building – the crabtree fell to the west and the apple tree to the north (if it had fallen south, it would have struck the building).


In addition, many large branches came down in the woods around us, including two near the south side of our parking lot. And there was debris everywhere, littering the parking lot, driveway, and grounds.


We also lost power for a day, but that was restored late Saturday night already. Phone and Internet were restored yesterday late in the afternoon. So, today, we have returned to normal – for the most part. There is still some cleanup to do and some decisions to be made on the crabtree.

We are thankful that the Lord of the storm (Yes, Jesus Christ marched through our area!) spared us more serious damage and that there was no loss of life due to the storms. But many suffered much more devastation to property (You may read about this at this local news link or this one). We are also grateful for those who work to clean up and to restore essential services in our area.


Last night, the Lord also gave us a wonderful sign of His faithful covenant Word. My wife captured this on her phone as we came home from church and our daughter’s home through the muck fields south of us. It was amazing!


Just as we stood in awe of God’s power in the storm Saturday, so we stood in awe of His comforting peace last night. God is great. And good. To His own. In His Son. Shall we praise Him in the storms and in the calms of creation and life?



Published in: on August 22, 2016 at 7:09 AM  Comments (5)  

Thinking about Change: How about the book? – Tim Challies

codex-1In this month’s Tabletalk, Tim Challies has an interesting and important article on how we as Christians face change in this world – especially in the light of God’s sovereignty and our hope for the return of Jesus Christ.

Challies demonstrates from several examples of history how change has worked for the good of God’s cause and kingdom in this world, as well as for the coming of Christ. He comments:

With all of the changes—not to mention the speed at which they occur—we can develop a deep uncertainty about the future. Whatever we know about our current situation, the future will be very different. We know that we cannot predict future changes with any degree of accuracy. After all, the technologies we consider so normal today existed only in the realm of science fiction just twenty short years ago. And as a result, many Christians have a nascent fear of the future, wondering what it may hold both for them and their families.

Understanding the past allows us to identify trends and to see that even though the pace may have changed, the pattern has not. Seeing history through the lens of God’s Word comforts us with the sure knowledge that all change is unfolding only and exactly within God’s good and perfect will.

KindleereaderOne such example is that of the book. Here are his thoughts on that:

Consider the book as well. The book—printed pages bound between two covers—is a relatively new innovation, a new technology. For the vast majority of human history, the book as such did not exist. King David never read a book. Jesus never read a book. They read scrolls. The book as we know it today is a product of developments in the centuries after Christ’s life. First the codex, an ancient form of the modern book, was invented, and then the printing press was invented many centuries later. Yet the book has become so deeply embedded in our society that we cannot imagine the world without it. We even call the Bible a book, as if it had always existed in this format.

It seems comical now, but when the book was introduced to society, people feared it, just as they had feared the rise of writing centuries earlier. People feared that the book would take ideas too far, too fast. They tied knowledge so closely with memorization that they feared the ramifications of recording words on paper instead of in human minds. After all, why would we ever want to store something in our memories if we can store it on paper? And yet today we can see how the book was used to record God’s Word and to spread it across the world. We can see that it sparked a great Reformation. We can see that it sparked revival and awakening. We can see that the Bible quickly became the best-selling book of all time. That technology changed the world. God used that technology for His own purposes.

To read the rest of Challies’ thoughts on this subject, follow the link below.

Source: Thinking about Change by Tim Challies | Reformed Theology Articles at

“A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working.” – A.Kuyper

If the Lord is to come as a thief in the night, the church should go about its daily duties in quiet devotion, until He suddenly appears. We are not to keep looking out the window, or climbing to the housetops to gaze eagerly into the distance, while neglecting our work and giving our household duties but scant attention.

Indeed we must watch. We must so live that we are ready to welcome Him at any moment. Like a Christian family that, having commended home and children to God’s care for the night, quietly goes to bed and to sleep, and awakens in the morning to resume the daily task, so the church of Christ upon earth must go on quietly, prayerfully, with its common daily tasks, until He comes, in His own time, to break off this round of daily duties.

A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working. For included in God’s covenant are also all the chosen who are yet to be brought into the fold, though they may now be drunkards, or thieves, or self-righteous rejectors of the truth. They are destined to be saved; and it is through the ministration of the church that they must be brought to the light and taught in the truth.

This one confession, that God is God, and that He will bring in His own, makes us patient to bear with the imperfections and weaknesses of the church, since He has seen fit to place that cross upon us. And it also keeps us humble before Him, as we must confess our own guilt. ‘The sin of the church is also my sin. I, yea even especially I, am at fault.’

…Being keenly aware of his own sins, and knowing full well that he has fanned the flames of sin perhaps more than others, the true Christian fights against sin the more earnestly and zealously.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ”, found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.56-57.

“I Will Come Again” – Prof.R. Dykstra – August 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-Aug-2015-coverThe latest issue of The Standard Bearer has been published and is now available. The August 2015 issue (published monthly in the months of June, July, and August; otherwise bi-monthly) contains a good variety of articles once again – from a meditation on 1 Cor.12:3 to material on Reformed doctrine, world and life view, missions, and family matters (cf. cover image to the left; click on it to enlarge).

Among these is the powerful reminder from the editorial of Prof.R. Dykstra that the Lord’s promise to come again is being fulfilled in many ways – a striking call to us to prepare ourselves for His return. Below is an excerpt from this article.

To receive this Reformed magazine, contact the Reformed Free Publishing Association at the “SB” link above.

“I will come again.” This is Jesus’ word to each and every believer. By this He promises: This world is not your eternal habitation. Your eternal dwelling place is in Father’s house in heaven where I have gone to prepare a place for you to live. It is My good pleasure to deliver you from this world of sin and death in order we may dwell together in blessed covenant fellowship forever. I will come again for you “that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Sad to say, even it is a shame to express it, believers do not often live in the consciousness of this gracious promise. We are so earthly minded that we can scarcely devote an hour at a time to spiritual things. The weekly sermons on the Lord’s day set before us the promises of our crucified and risen Lord, but even that is not enough. We soon return to our work and play, and heaven is far away from our thoughts.

“I will come again, and receive you unto myself.”

There are times when Jesus forcibly reminds us of His promise. He comes. He takes to Himself. An eight year old boy. A new born child. A beloved grandmother or grandfather, full of years. A former teacher. A thirty year old husband and father.

There are times when our Lord speaks very loudly and forcefully. In the Protestant Reformed Churches in western Michigan Jesus has spoken again and again from the end of May on as He came. He came repeatedly. Surely during this year already the Lord came repeatedly to His church all around the world and He continues this very day taking His people to Himself.

Every coming of Jesus – through death—is another reminder: I will come again.

The Lord speaks. How long will we consciously remember His promise? How long will it be before work and play, earthly possessions and pleasures control almost all our thoughts and activities again?

Ascension Thoughts: Seeing Jesus Crowned – Rev.M.De Vries

The May 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is out, and the meditation this time focuses our attention on the glorification of Jesus Christ in His ascension to heaven and sitting at God’s right hand. Rev.Michael DeVries, pastor of Kalamazoo PRC, is the author of this instructive and comforting article.

To view more of the content of this latest issue of the “SB”, click on the image to the left. For information about subscribing to this solidly Reformed periodical published by the RFPA, visit the link above.

Here are a few of Rev.M. DeVries’ thoughts on the glory of our ascended Savior-King:

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9

Like the multitudes of Jesus’ day many today want an earthly Jesus who will satisfy their carnal desires by creating an earthly kingdom of peace and prosperity. They minimize and ignore His ascension and its significance. But by grace we rejoice in the ascension and exaltation of Christ. We see how necessary it was for the salvation of the church. We understand that were Christ to have remained here on this earth, His coming in our flesh would contain no advantage for us at all.

But even more, by faith we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor at God’s right hand! No, we could not be there with the disciples to see this side of the ascension. But by faith we see Christ exalted on the glorious, heavenly side! We behold His coronation and see Him set at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, (Ephesians 1:20, 21). The very sight of Him in His glory ought to fill our hearts with joy and peace. And see Him we do according to this Word of God!

And then, after explaining the nature of this exaltation and its purpose in the plan of God for our salvation, Rev. DeVries closes a note of comfort:

What comfort the exaltation of Christ affords us! We may face the future with courage and confidence. With the natural eye what we see is frightening and discouraging. For as we note from the preceding verse, “But now we see not yet all things put under him.” We see man far, far lower than the angels, yea, in the depths of depravity. We see abounding iniquity and immorality. We see a generation of the ungodly having apparent control in this world, committing horrible atrocities. We see the faithful church hated and persecuted as never before. We see the powers of darkness increasing in their bold and wicked attempt to destroy the church of God. We see our place in this world becoming smaller and smaller.

…But let us not despair! For we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honor!

With the eye of faith we see Him in perfect control over all these enemies of the church. We see Him with the Book of the seven seals of God’s counsel. He faithfully and powerfully causes all things to come to pass which must shortly occur in order that He may return to glorify His Church. By faith we see that we are secure and that our salvation is absolutely sure. Seeing Jesus crowned with glory and honor means that the victory is already ours! We are now more than conquerors!

As long as we see Him there all is well. How blessed it is to look into heaven by faith and see Jesus there in His glory and honor, working all things for our good! Make no mistake, all things work together for good exactly because Christ was crowned with glory and honor for all those for whom He tasted death.

Premillennialism, Revelation 20, and the Great Tribulation – D.J. Engelsma

Also in the March 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer,under the rubric “Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass”, Prof. (emeritus, PRC Seminary) David J. Engelsma delves deeper into the errors of premillennialism by taking on its explanation of Revelation 20, a key passage for a proper understanding of the doctrine of the last things (eschatology) and the believer’s hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Among the serious errors that Engelsma addresses in this article is the error of teaching that the NT church (Christians) will avoid the “great tribulation” (trial of persecution) at the end of this age. Properly showing how dangerous this is to the life and hope of the believer, Engelsma makes these comments – comments that ought to alert us to our true hope of the one coming of Christafter the tribulation – indeed, to deliver His own out of the midst of this fierce battle with its great personal cost.

Let every Reformed, indeed Protestant, reader take note that premillennialism has the coming great tribulation fall upon the Jews.  We Christians will be exempt, for we, of course, are supposed to be in the air somewhere or other while the tribulation rages.  All Christians will have been raptured before Antichrist rampages on the stage of world history.

…This exemption of the church and the Christian from the persecution of Antichrist is an outstanding sin of premillennial doctrine.  The sin is eminently practical.  Premillennialism does not prepare God’s people for the looming threat of persecution for Christ’s sake at the hands of the antichristian world-power.  In this respect, premillennialism is one with postmillennialism.  Both of the millennial errors assure the church of the 21st century that she has nothing to fear, or prepare for, with regard to suffering the great tribulation.  Premil-lennialism tells the church that she will be raptured prior to Antichrist’s raging in the world, and that the object of his hatred will be the Jews.  Postmillennialism preaches to the church that, whoever the Antichrist was and whenever he carried out his antichristian work, Antichrist and his fulminations are safely in the past.

     Exempting the church from the persecution by Antichrist helps explain the popularity of the two millennial errors.  Humans shrink from persecution, especially from that persecution about which our Lord said, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).

     Nevertheless, this is altogether the wrong attitude of Reformed Christians with regard to the coming persecution.  The believer should regard it an unspeakably great privilege to be counted worthy by the Savior to confess that Jesus is Lord in the face of the greatest attack on God and His Anointed in all history, and to seal this confession with his suffering and even with his blood.  And the divine reward for this spiritual battle against the beast and this faithfulness to Jesus will be correspondingly great.  This reward is described in Revelation 20:4-6:  resurrection in the soul at the moment of death into the life and glory of heaven, where they reign with Christ.

Premillennialism: Why a Reformed Critique?

StandardBearerIn the November 1, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer professor emeritus (PRC Seminary) David J.Engelsma began a new series on premillennialism in connection with his rubric “Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass.” In pointing out the absurdity of dispensational premillennialism Engelsma raises the question whether it deserves serious attention from the Reformed camp. “…A Reformed teacher might be tempted to limit his critique to the bare statement that premillennialism is un-Reformed and ridiculous, or to ignore premillennialism altogether” (p.59).

But he goes on to show why we ought to consider it and critique it carefully, both biblically and confessionally. I give you here his first three reasons why Reformed Christians ought to and why, therefore, he intends to continue a lengthy series on this significant error.

First, premillennialism is a theological explanation of the thousand-year period of Revelation 20. A thorough study of the millennium, therefore, ought also to take premillennialism into account.

Second, by contrasting his amillennial belief with the premillennial error the Reformed Christian will better and more clearly understand the truth he confesses.

Third, even though premillennialism is un-Reformed from stem to stern and is not the internal threat to the doctrine of the last things for Reformed Christians that postmillennialism is, premillennialism is prevalent and popular in Christian circles. Likely, a majority of Christian churches today proclaim the gospel of premillennialism and entertain themselves of a Sunday evening by producing and studying elaborate premillennial charts. Multitudes of professing Christians believe, support, and witness to the premillennial gospel, making their ‘blessed hope’ (Titus 2:13) the rapture of themselves out of the world and its history at any moment.

The Rise of ISIS – Rev.D.Holstege (Nov.1 “Standard Bearer”)

StandardBearerIn the newest issue of The Standard Bearer (November 1, 2014) we find a timely and significant commentary by Rev.Daniel Holstege (First PRC, Holland, MI) on the rise of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). To introduce this issue, we give you a part of his article today.

But is there any significance to the rise of ISIS and the ongoing Middle East conflict? After all, we are not postmillennialists either, who discard these wars as signs of Christ’s coming, who dream of a world that is getting better and better, who close their eyes to reality and look for a golden age of Christian history over the whole world.

No, the rise of ISIS and the wars in the Middle East are clear signs of the coming of Christ. Jesus said to His disciples that in the whole period prior to His second coming, “Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass: but the end is not yet” (Matt. 24:6). Christ sits at God’s right hand now and opens the seven seals. He opens the second seal too. This is what John then sees: “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (Rev. 6:4). Christ sovereignly rules over all wars. He causes nation to rise against nation in order to prevent, until the proper time, the antichristian kingdom from achieving world dominion and peace. He prevents this in order that His Church might do her work of preaching the gospel in all nations and training up her children in the fear of the Lord, until the full number of the elect is gathered. According to Rev. Herman Hoeksema, if the red horse did not run, if there were no wars, “the kingdom of Antichrist would reach the height of its development prematurely,” and it “would naturally leave no standing room for the true church of God on earth. It would persecute and, if possible, destroy the kingdom of God in the world” (Behold He Cometh, p. 214).

The rise of ISIS and this new war is a means Christ is using to prevent that premature development of the kingdom of the Beast and to give His Church time to finish her work in the world.

If you desire to receive this Reformed magazine, visit the “SB” website for information on subscriptions, including digital formats.

Running Toward the Plague: Christians and Ebola

Running Toward the Plague: Christians and Ebola.

Antoine plague-3rd centuryAs the news around the world and in our own country swells with reports of the spread of the ebola virus, I found this brief commentary about how Christians have reacted to plagues throughout history to be a welcome perspective.

Not only is this 21st century plague a sign of our Lord’s coming and the judgment of death He justly brings on sinners (including ourselves apart from His grace!); it is also an opportunity for Christians to show their true colors and minister to their neighbors, believing and unbelieving. Some are showing this already, especially in West Africa.

If ebola came to our neighborhood, would we be willing to do the same? Are we not the only ones who can offer real, abiding comfort and hope – for the living as well as the dying? Something to think about today and in the days ahead.

Here’s a segment of this article; find all of it at the link above.

Between 250 and 270 A.D. a terrible plague, believed to be measles or smallpox, devastated the Roman Empire. At the height of what came to be known as the Plague of Cyprian, after the bishop St. Cyprian who chronicled what was happening, 5,000 people died every day in Rome alone.

The plague coincided with the first empire-wide persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius. Not surprisingly, Decius and other enemies of the Church blamed Christians for the plague. That claim was, however, undermined by two inconvenient facts: Christians died from the plague like everybody else and, unlike everybody else, they cared for the victims of the plague, including their pagan neighbors.

This wasn’t new—Christians had done the same thing during the Antonine Plague a century earlier. As Rodney Stark wrote in “The Rise of Christianity,” Christians stayed in the afflicted cities when pagan leaders, including physicians, fled.

For yet another story and perspective on Christians and ebola, see this Christianity Today story (dated Oct.15, 2014).

Book Alert! The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer

Coming_of_Zion_s_Redeemer -LgI was excited to find in my mailbox at church Sunday the latest offering from the Reformed Free Publishing Association – an important and significant new commentary on the last three prophecies of the OT. The 527 page book is authored by Rev.Ronald Hanko and carries the title, The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer: The Prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2014). The author is a Protestant Reformed pastor, ordained since 1979 and currently serving the Lynden, WA congregation.

In the “Foreword”, former parishioner Joel Sugg, provides this perspective of this new commentary:

The full commentary on each book may be read with great profit by virtue of the author’s trained, experienced, and studied insights. Three perspectives stand out: first, a living picture of Judah in the generation following the return from the Babylonian captivity with her special charge to reform true worship of God; next, a sharp delineation of the truth that these ancient prophecies especially have direct and significant application to us as the church today; and finally, a humble bowing in living fearfulness before the one only true God of heaven and earth, Jehovah of the scriptures, who sovereignly carries out his absolute rule over all to its culmination in the unconditional, covenantal salvation of his church, all to his own honor and glory alone (vii).

And the author provides this overview of these three prophecies in his “Introduction”:

The three prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi form a unit, not only because these three and they alone are the prophets of the restoration, that is, of Judah’s return from exile in Babylon, but also because they have the same general theme and purpose. That one great purpose is the preparation of God’s covenant people for the coming of Christ.

..Thus these prophecies continue to be of value to the covenant people of God, for the church is still waiting for the realization of God’s promises concerning the coming of Messiah, promises that will not be entirely fulfilled until he returns at the end of the ages. Though the types and shadows of the Old Testament have already vanished, the people of God must still be reminded to lift up their heads and see that their redemption draws near (Luke 21:28). They need to look away from a perishing world and be watching and waiting for the coming of a kingdom that will never be moved (xi).

It should be evident that this commentary would make for a fine addition to your Reformed home library and/or church library. And with Bible study season here, this volume will be an excellent guide through an oft-neglected and frequently misinterpreted portion of God’s Word.

Visit the RFPA website for details on obtaining your copy. And think about joining the book club to receive these new titles automatically, so as to build a solid Reformed library that will benefit you and your family for years to come.

*P.S. If any of our readers are interested in receiving a review copy of this book for the Standard Bearer, let me know and I will obtain one for you. Thanks!