PRTS Conference on the Christian Worldview

L-R: Brian Cosby, Gerald (Jerry) Bilkes, Charles Barrett, Michael Barrett, Joel Beeke, Sherif Atef Fahim, and Mark Kelderman

What do we mean when we speak of a worldview? At a conference in August of 2016, Dr. Joel Beeke defined it as how “we see and evaluate everything” with “assumptions that control how we think and feel and act.” A worldview, he said, is “not just a pair of glasses or contact lenses that we can take off or remove at will, but more like our eyes themselves, which are an organic part of who we are.”

Dr. Beeke was one of several speakers at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary’s eighth annual conference, The Beauty and Glory of the Christian Worldview. About 400 people attended the event, held at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids, MI, from August 25-27, 2016.

Dr. Charles Barrett began the conference by addressing A Worldview for Pilgrims. In separate lectures, Dr. Derek Thomas spoke on two aspects of the Christian worldview: The Trinity and Daily Life. He summarized the latter by saying, “It’s realizing who Jesus Christ is and who you are in Jesus Christ that is the key and the secret to powerful, victorious Christian living.”

Other aspects of the Christian worldview included Dr. David Murray on Human Identity and Rev. Brian Cosby regarding Suffering. Attendees could choose from two breakout sessions: Rev. Mark Kelderman on A Christian Worldview of Sexuality or Dr. Charles Barrett’s Viewing This World by Following Jesus into the Next.

The Jubilee Women’s Ensemble

The blended voices of the Jubilee Women’s Ensemble provided special music to open the Friday evening session. In his speech on The Puritan Worldview, Dr. Joel Beeke spoke of how the Puritans took Calvinistic doctrines and applied them to every area of life, bringing “vital, Reformed, experiential, confessional piety” to the average person in the pew. He identified “one great truth that illuminated” the Puritan worldview as “God’s sovereignty, and more importantly, God’s fatherly sovereignty in Christ.” Friday’s session concluded as Rev. Kelderman moderated a Question and Answer session with a panel of speakers and one PRTS student, Sherif Atef Fahim.

Attendees were welcome to attend a Saturday morning prayer meeting, which was followed by lectures about two additional aspects of the Christian Worldview: Dr. Michael Barrett on The Old Testament and Dr. Jerry Bilkes on The Great Commission.

In a video overview of the event, Rev. Cosby spoke about how helpful these conferences are in encouraging Reformed believers that they are not alone.

The conference is an annual highlight for Mr. Randall Kirkland, who travels each year from St. Louis, MO, and is an elder at Christ Fellowship Bible Church. “The conference has been consistently rewarding in several respects,” he says, “solid Reformed experiential preaching, accessibility to the speakers, and wonderful hospitality.” He says, “All of the speakers very capably addressed the pivotal importance and implications of a Christian mindset or grid through which to process these challenging times, but with varying points of emphasis.” He found Dr. Thomas’s speech on daily life “a powerful overarching perspective that helped to frame the other messages.”

Dr. Derek Thomas

According to Chris Hanna, Director of Development, organizers were “very happy with the attendance, messages, book sales, and general response from those who attended.”

Speakers included several members of the PRTS faculty. Dr. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics as well as pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids. Dr. Michael Barrett is Vice President for Academic Affairs/Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament as well as a minister in the Heritage Reformed Congregations who serves as the denomination’s Professor of Theology. Dr. Bilkes is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology and is ordained in the Free Reformed Churches. Rev. Kelderman serves as Dean of Students and Spiritual Formation as well as instructor in Pastoral Theology. Dr. Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology and pastors the Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church.

Two speakers serve as ministers at Wayside Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, TN. Rev. Brian Cosby is Senior Pastor as well as Visiting Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Charles Barrett (the son of Dr. Michael Barrett) is Assistant Minister. Both men additionally teach as adjunct professors at Belhaven University in Chattanooga.

Dr. Derek Thomas is the Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Columbia, SC, and the Robert Strong Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries and Dean of its DMin. program.

Plans are being made for the ninth annual conference, The Beauty and Glory of the Reformation, to be held from August 24-27, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 16 & 17 of the November 9, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal. thomas-crowd.jpg


Puritan project

reformation_heroes_front__33203__81433-1294352909-1280-1280Since last March, I’ve been writing biographical sketches about Puritans. These will appear in Puritan Heroes, which I’m writing with Dr. Joel Beeke for Reformation Heritage Books. Puritan Heroes will be formatted similarly to RHB’s popular Reformation HeroesMarketed for all ages, it will be written to appeal to twelve-year-old readers.

This is a big project that I was reluctant to take on. Puritans? What do I know about the Puritans? The required research seemed staggering. And weren’t the Puritans a bit boring? How in the world would I make biographical information about them interesting to adolescents?

But the Lord led me to believe this was something I should do, so I signed the contract. My life seemed busy before, but it has been intense since. And, like most people, I have family and other commitments that keep me from focusing exclusively on work.

As usual for a large project, I created a chart to schedule my writing. I’d have about three weeks per Puritan. Wow! That was tight. A little too tight for comfort, but I kept on schedule…until what we euphemistically call “the holidays.” That oxymoronic time of year when we feast and fellowship with family, giving thanks to God for all He’s given us and (a short time later) praising Him for the great gift of salvation through Immanuel, God with us. The last two months of one year and the beginning of the next are full of joy, but always seems to include unavoidable stress. This year, my schedule became unexpectedly complicated with another project and family matters.

I fell behind on the Puritans. Still, I’m more than halfway through the project with the first drafts for twelve of the twenty-two proposed subjects completed. I’ve focused on one at a time, and God has provided the information needed for each story.

Something surprising happened along the way. I fell in love with the Puritans. I felt an amazing affinity for each individual and rejoiced in their wholehearted faith. I had long known Anne Bradstreet as a fellow poet and kindred spirit, but many of these dead white men now live vibrantly in my mind as well.

41fser4qegl-_sy346_What joy to learn from John Howe about Delighting in God, to witness the marital love and fruitful ministry of Joseph and Theodosia Alleine, and to discover the “warm-hearted divinity” of Richard Sibbes (p. 128, Richard Sibbes, Early Stuart Preacher of Piety by Harold Patton Shelly).

Lord willing, Puritan Heroes will be close to being in your hands by this time next year. Meanwhile, I’m embracing the challenges and blessings of my Puritan journey.

Puritan Reformed Conference on God’s Word

Conference speakers: William VanDoodewaard, Ronald Kalifungwa, Geoff Thomas, David Murray, Michael Barrett, Joel Beeke, Gerald Bilkes

The Beauty and Glory of the Word of God was the theme of the seventh annual conference hosted by Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS) from August 20-22, 2015. About 425 people attended the conference at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids, MI.

This year’s speakers featured Dr. Geoff Thomas, a familiar author and pastor for 50 years at Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, Wales, and Rev. Ronald Kalifungwa, pastor of the 700-member Lusaka Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia.

In “The World’s Most Powerful Authority,” Dr. Thomas spoke from John 10:35 on Scripture as the basis of theological convictions, the only ethical rule, and the guideline for worship. He noted that Christians should “marinate ourselves in the fascinating truths” of the Bible. Dr. Thomas also spoke on “Scripture’s Sufficiency” from Luke 16:29.

Rev. Kalifungwa spoke on “Holding Fast to the Word of Life” from Philippians 2:14-16.

He additionally spoke on “The Making of a Christian” from 2 Timothy 3:16-17, addressing specifically the pastor’s role.

The speaker line-up also included members of the board and faculty of PRTS.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 33 of the October 7, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.


Speaking for the Lord

Showing the women how to draw creation days from the Answers in Genesis website.

What an incredible week! Last Thursday, I did a book party in the Chicago area. On Friday and Saturday, I spoke as the keynote for a women’s conference at Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI. And on Monday, I met with two publishers in Grand Rapids.

As I drove on Thursday toward Chicago, a tune kept running through my mind. I couldn’t think of the words or identify the song, but I thought it might begin with, “Speak to me” or something similar. When I arrived at my host’s home, I asked her about it. She’s an accomplished pianist and organist, and she immediately identified it as “Speak, O Lord.” She printed off the lyrics, which I’m pasting here so you can see how they fit with my experiences.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

(Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend)

My prayer about the “Soul Rest: Resting in God” conference had long been that God would speak through me, feeding the women through His Word and planting His truth deep inside each of us. My desire was for God to shape us in His likeness that we might go forth and show His love, fulfilling His purposes for His glory.

Presentations spoke about obedience, humility, as well as developing thoughts and attitudes that contribute to rest. The radiance of God’s purity reminded me of the last line of my final presentation, about how “the pale moon of each individual I must fade in the blazing sun of the great I AM.” I had written my talks with a view to showing hearers not only God’s power and authority, but also His great love. The presentations were saturated with Scripture’s “words of power.” I had written at length about renewing our minds to focus on God’s plans and His eternal truths, His gracious promises, and our walk in the Spirit. It seemed the song had been written for me and all the women at the conference.

That Thursday evening, I enjoyed fellowship with about a dozen women at a book party, and I left the next morning for Michigan. I was able to check into my hotel room early and had lunch with a woman with whom I’ve communicated for years regarding my books published by Reformed Fellowship, for which she works. It was great to finally meet this forever sister in person, and she was extremely helpful, showing me the church and helping me set up (and tear down after the conference). I had a light dinner (I was too nervous to eat much for a few days before the conference) with conference organizers, who were a terrific bunch of friendly and kind sisters in the Lord. Then women began to arrive for the conference. What a joy to meet many I’d communicated with by email, but met now for the first time face-to face! Two I met were the wife of my editor at Christian Renewal and the secretary for that magazine. After the first presentation, I had the opportunity to chat with my editor, when he and the secretary’s husband came in to pick up their wives.

The next day, I presented twice and signed books when I had free time. While I was signing books before the last session, some women gathered at the front of the sanctuary for an informal hymn sing. Suddenly, the strains of “Speak, O Lord” wafted out to me. Tears filling my eyes, I explained the connection to the women standing by my table and we all agreed how amazingly God sometimes works in our lives. I was still signing books as women filed into the sanctuary and found their seats. The song leader asked several women to come forward and sing a song before the afternoon presentation began. Can you guess what they sang? Yes, “Speak, O Lord.”

By the time I got on stage, I was pretty emotional. I shared how God had been speaking to me through that song, although I wish I’d taken time to go through the lyrics and point it all out, as I did earlier in this post. But I’m not sure I had my copy of the lyrics with me, and I might not have made it through that process without breaking down.

Throughout the conference, God blessed me with many meaningful interactions with women, including times I prayed with some and times others prayed for me.

That Saturday evening, I was incredibly blessed to spend some time with the Christian Renewal people. For one thing, I could actually eat! But primarily because this was the first time ever that the editor and secretary and I were together. I felt like part of a visible team of which I’ve been an invisible member for years.

On Sunday, I worshiped at a Sovereign Grace URC in Grand Rapids and had lunch at the home of a couple I know. The husband had edited my book on infant loss, and the wife had edited both my published devotionals. I also spent some lovely time with a nephew and his wife who live in Grand Rapids.

On Monday, I attended meetings at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (the home of Reformation Heritage Books). After a tour of the beautiful building, I joined everyone present for their usual 10:00 prayer meeting. Then Dr. Beeke and a few others met with me to discuss a proposed project. Before I left the Seminary, I signed a contract to write with Dr. Beeke a book called Puritan Heroes. The goal is to publish this in a similar format to RHB’s popular book, Reformation Heroes. It may come out at the end of 2017 or in 2018. While at PRTS, I had the opportunity to do some research in its extensive library of Puritan resources.

That afternoon, I also met with an acquisitions editor at a different publishing house. I’ve been communicating with her for some time regarding Exoneree (a memoir collaboration with Uriah Courtney, who was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for over eight years). She and her team had already reviewed the manuscript and expressed an interest, but preferred that it be cut down by nearly 20,000 words. She wanted to hear about my January trip to San Diego, when Uriah and I met with the California Innocence Project’s book club and participated in their discussion about the memoir. She shared some promising information about possible opportunities, and I’m more eager than ever to focus on revising the manuscript and book proposal.

In God’s providence, I was able to avoid the busiest Chicago freeways during rush hour by driving down into Indiana to spend the night with a friend. She and another friend and I enjoyed a great evening together, and I was blessed with a good night’s rest. The next morning, I drove on secondary roads until I got on I-80 at Morris, IL, far past the heaviest traffic that makes me feel like a bug boxed in by trucks. I arrived safely home yesterday afternoon. My husband was already home from work and happy to see me (as I was to see him). My little lapdog, Libby, nearly licked me to death. She always mopes around and barely eats while I’m gone. My husband says she must think that if she fasts and prays enough I’ll come back home. But she ate all her food last evening.

God spoke. He was with me every step and every mile of this amazing adventure. It was exhausting, but exhilarating to see Him working through everything!

Seminary students from near and far

Some seminaries within the Reformed community welcomed students from overseas as well as from Canada and the United States to their campuses this fall.


First-year students at Mid-America Reformed Seminary represent every continent except Antarctica.

image from the Mid-America Reformed Seminary website (

Master of Divinity (M.Div.) students include Joshua Flinn from the RCNZ in New Zealand and Pete Van’t Hoff from the URCNA in Leduc, Alberta. Two other URCNA students are from opposite coasts: Daniel Ragusa is from New York, while Bryan Punter is from California. Jeremy Baker, a member of the OPC, is from Arizona.

Another M.Div. student, Arjen Vreugdenhil, is attending seminary at the same time as his father, Jaap Vreugdenhil, who is enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree program. Both are from the Netherlands, although Arjen has lived in Michigan for a dozen years.

Three MTS students have foreign countries of origin, although they have been in the States in recent years. Moody Wasif was born and raised in Egypt, Pablo Martinez is from Chile, and Sung hwan Kan is from Korea.

Daniel Dumont is a part-time student from Canada, who was originally from Haiti. Another part-time student, Moses Sanchez, is a member of an OPC mission work in Chicago.

Greenville Presbyterian

The incoming class at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary includes six Americans in the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program and one foreign student in the Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) program.

The M.Div. students come primarily from southern states. Trevor Setzer, from South Carolina, and Thomas Booher, from North Carolina, are both members of the PCA. Another North Carolina student, Michael Spangler, belongs to the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). Steve McCullough, a member of the ARP (Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church), hails from Georgia.

The two remaining M.Div. students come from opposite sides of the country. Caleb Bouma is from Idaho and belongs to the CREC (Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches). Christopher Colby, from Pennsylvania, is a member of the ARBCA (Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America).

Steven Cliff is a non-denomination student in the B.D. program who came to Greenville from New Zealand.

Puritan Reformed

The incoming class at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary includes six US and seven foreign students in three programs.

Five students are in the M.Div. (Master of Divinity) program. Americans include Kevin Grasso, a member of the PCA, Robert Sass, who belongs to the CRC, and Phillip Stoffregen, a Baptist. Kuen Su is from Malaysia and belongs to the Kuala Lumpur Reformed Evangelical Church. Xiongzhi Yin is from China and belongs to the Chinese Christian Church/Presbyterian.

Four students are in the MAR (Master of Arts in Religion) program. John King is from the US and belongs to the PCA. Confex Makhalira is from Malawi and is a member of CCAP (Nkhoma Synod). Getachew Woldeamanuel and Gemechu Almi are both Baptists who are from Ethiopia.

Four students are pursuing a ThM (Master of Theology) degree. Michael Borg, who is a member of the OPC, and Shelby Gemmen, a member of the CRC, are both U.S. citizens. Ian Macleod is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church from the UK. Nicodemus Ude belongs to the Nigeria Reformed Church and came to PRTS from Nigeria.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-13 of the November 13, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

Expansion plans for Puritan Seminary

picture linked to website of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation

When Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary built its colonial style building in 2004, the school had about a dozen students. Counting part-timers and distance learners, the school now has around 150 students on its list, of whom 54 are taking courses this semester.

The PRTS building also houses Reformation Heritage Books, a publishing enterprise that continually expands its titles. Increased enrollment and burgeoning business require more staff, all of which translates into a need for more space.

In January of 2012, the Board of RPTS approved a proposal for an addition to the building that could double the school’s current square footage, provided 75% of the approximately $3 million was pledged prior to proceeding.

“We have 82% committed at this point and hope to start as soon as possible,” says Henk Kleyn, Chief Executive Officer.

A group of fundraising volunteers manages a capital campaign that has garnered this support; the biggest boost from one donor of a $1 million matching gift. Another $500,000 is needed for a two-story plan with an additional $500,000 required for a plan with a basement.

Mr. Kleyn explains the two options for which bids are being sought. The two-story plan includes main and upper levels. The main floor would consist of two classrooms, a cafeteria, a book store, six offices, a shipping room, rest rooms, and entry. The upper level will enlarge the library, add eight offices, study rooms, a formal board room, rest rooms, book circulating area, as well as several study offices and group study centers. The basement plan would add a lower level with a couple of classrooms, rest rooms, and a large storage area. The proposed addition will enlarge the IT room and provide storage space for book processing. It will join the east side of the current building with a new parking area in front of the existing structure.

PRTS offers three degress: Master of Arts in Religion (a two-year degree that prepares students for teaching or further study), Master of Divinity (which must be completed in eight years or less), and Master of Theology (which prepares students for teaching or PhD work).

“If the Lord opens the way, we hope to offer doctors degrees in the near future,” says Mr. Kleyn. “Five of our current full-time faculty are qualified to provide PhD level courses.”

Students from around the world are attracted to the school’s Reformed experiential heritage and program. Other contributing factors include Dr. Beeke’s international popularity and a rising interest in Puritan theology, low tuition and a well-funded scholarship program, as well as a holistic view of ministry (head, heart, hands). More international than national students are currently represented in the student body.

Mr. Kleyn says, “God is blessing us with growing opportunities to prepare His servants for sacred ministry around the world.”

For more information about the Seminary or its fundraising campaign, visit the PRTS website:

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 13 of the April 10, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

“Light and heat” in Puritan Reformed Conference on Holy Spirit

It’s no secret that the topic of the Holy Spirit sometimes gets short shrift in Reformed circles, but an August conference hosted by Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS) focused on “The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit.”

The conference was held from August 25-27, 2011, at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids, MI. According to conference manager Mr. Chris Hanna, Director of Development and Marketing at PRTS, between 450 and 500 people attended the conference.

“Leading up to this year’s conference, I was a little concerned about the final tally of attendees, but when I was told we had over 60 walk-ins on the first night, I knew that this was going to be a packed conference,” says Mr. Hanna. “The people came from all over the US and Canada. Approximately one-third of those in attendance were new to the Puritan Reformed Conference; something that is very exciting to us.”

Mr. Hanna explains that the PRTS faculty began hosting an annual conference in 2009 with the “simple mission” of promoting the “biblical, historic, and experiential Reformed faith.” Since the 2010 conference was on ”The Beauty and Glory of Jesus Christ,” it made sense to continue the theme while focusing on the Holy Spirit this year. Next year’s theme will focus on “The Beauty and Glory of the Father.”

The conference opened on Thursday evening with Dr. David Murray (PRTS Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology) speaking on “The Spirit and Revival.” He defined revival as a “sovereign, powerful, concentrated and rare work of the Holy Spirit that renews and multiplies God’s people,” noting that it occurs regularly in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.

Dr. Murray delineated several common features of revivals and summarized its effects as increased spiritual knowledge, deepened spiritual feeling and wider spiritual obedience—all caused by the Holy Spirit. He then examined what has been called the greatest Old Testament revival, the revival under King Solomon when the temple was dedicated.

“And the main point I want to emphasize as we look at this passage is: Spiritual revival is rooted in united prayer,” he said, pointing out that was true in the New Testament Pentecost as well as in parallel accounts of the “Old Testament Pentecost” under King Solomon.

Illustrating the Spirit’s work in every part of the revival, Dr. Murray described Solomon’s prayer as “corporate, comprehensive, contrite, cosmic, and Christ-centered.” He reminded listeners that revival is possible today, even though finite minds cannot understand the mystery of the infinite Holy Spirit. When humility is present as a necessary prerequisite, we can have confident hope.

“Let us read these revival accounts to kindle hope in the rebuilding of the church and the future glory of the Davidic King,” he concluded. “And above all, let’s kindle hope that if such things can happen in Old Testament times when the Holy Spirit’s work was not yet at its fullest, what more might we expect in our days when the Spirit has been promised in even greater measure.”  

Also on Thursday evening, Dr. Geoffrey Thomas (pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, Wales) spoke on “The Father’s Gift of the Holy Spirit” by looking at the familiar passage of Luke 11, which commands believers to ask, seek, and knock.

“Geoff Thomas challenged us as believers to precisely that, in every occasion and in every need and in all circumstances,” said Mr. Randall Kirkland, who is filling the pulpit in the Christ Fellowship Bible Church plant in St. Louis. “He summoned me to return to the only real resource that matters—God’s sufficiency in my every need. The Spirit does indeed sustain and nurture God’s children. We can and must ask and seek and knock.”

On Friday morning, Dr. Gerald Bilkes (PRTS Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology) described “Precursors to Pentecost.”                                                                                        

“Dr. Bilkes provided a grand sweep of biblical theology starting with the Spirit of God brooding over creation and bringing order out of chaos,” said Mr. Kirkland, “and moving through God’s Word to many other works of God’s Spirit anticipating Acts 2. He summoned us to plead for God’s Spirit to once again work gloriously in our midst.”

Conference speakers, L-R: Malcolm Watts, William VanDoodewaard, Joel Beeke, Michael Barrett, Geoff Thomas, John Thackway, and Jerry Bilkes (absent is David Murray)

Also on Friday, Rev. John Thackway (pastor of Holywell Evangelical Church in North Wales) addressed “The Supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” from Phil. 1:19.

According to Greg and Katherine Gurunlian, who attended from Pineville, LA, and have recently affiliated with the Heritage Reformed Congregations, Rev. Thackway first demonstrated the Spirit’s supply to Christ through His prophecy, incarnation, baptism, equipping, crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation. He then described the supply of the Spirit in our personal experience, which is furnished in measure according to our need in God’s providence. We are to pray for the Spirit’s supply “by His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Dr. Herman Selderhuis, general secretary of the International Calvin Congress, reported on the work of Ref500. From 2010 until the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Ref500 is focusing on renewal, change, and relevance through nine themes: Education and Learning, Confession and Conflict, Money and Power, Doctrine and Church, Living and Dying, Art and Culture, Freedom and Preaching, Renewal and Piety, and Bible and Language.

Malcolm Watts (minister of Emmanuel Church, Salisbury) lectured on “The Ordinary and Extraordinary Witness of the Spirit” from Romans 8:16. The ordinary witness is the growing assurance in believers’ hearts. The extraordinary witness is the immediate or sudden work of the Spirit, which always accompanies the Word.

Mr. Kirkland was particularly struck by Dr. Joel Beeke’s treatment of “Richard Sibbes on Entertaining the Holy Spirit.” Dr. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at PRTS.

“He carefully developed for us what is meant by the phrase Sibbes used often,” said Mr. Kirkland. “Indeed, we must prepare our lives for the Spirit’s use as we would afford a much-loved and eagerly anticipated honored guest. We walk by the Spirit, living lives of consecration…not by some self-reliant means, but in utter and complete dependence on His enabling grace.”

During Saturday’s sessions, Dr. Michael Barrett (president of Geneva Reformed Seminary and an associate minister of Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC) expounded on “The Outpouring of the Spirit: Anticipated, Fulfilled, Available” using texts from Joel and Acts. He related that the Spirit works in believers’ hearts by regenerating, indwelling, empowering, and influencing.  

“Geoffrey Thomas displayed his gift of preaching on the theme of ‘The Love of the Spirit’ in a fresh and penetrating way,” say the Gurunlians, “as James appealed boldly to cease friendship with the world and all its adulterous trappings which are at enmity with God. The remedy supplied is the knowledge and application of the divine love of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”

Breakout Sessions during the conference included Dr. Barrett on “KJV Text, Translation, and Tradition;” Rev. Thackway on “How the Holy Spirit is ‘another Comforter’” from John 14:18; Rev. William VanDoodewaard (PRTS Associate Professor of Church History) on “The Holy Spirit in the Early Church;” and Rev. Watts on “The Ministry of the Spirit in Glorifying Christ” based on John 16:14-15.

“The most tangible expression of my appreciation for this conference, is that I made my reservations at the Prince Conference Center for next year as I was leaving,” said Mr. Kirkland. “The best way I could summarize the preaching is ‘light and heat,’ which accords well with a conference sponsored by a seminary focused on the treasures of Puritan theology.”

Panel Discussion, L-R: Geoff Thomas, Michael Barrett, John Thackway, Malcolm Watts, and David Murray

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6, 7 & 9 of the October 5, 2011, issue of Christian Renewal. Conference photos by Lydia Beeke.