Vol. LXI, No. 5; May 2002
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We ended the last article hoping to look at several areas related to how we perform good works. We saw in the last article how the standard for good works is spiritual and that God judges our deepest motives and thoughts. Now, we will move on and take note of how all of the activities of both our mind and body have a spiritual character to them.
As children of God, we tend to separate our lives into two categories. There are the activities of everyday life such as going to school, going to work, spending time with friends, reading, and such things. And then there are spiritual activities which we perform such as personal devotions, going to catechism, going to church on Sunday, and studying the Bible. While there are times when we are and should be more spiritual, we ought to remember that even in our everyday activities we are laboring spiritually. Even though going to school and doing our homework may seem like very unspiritual activities, they are not, if we consider our thoughts, motives, and desires as we go about these duties.
This is a frightening reality to consider. There are many texts from the Scriptures that could be used to prove this point, but one will suffice. Ephesians 6:5-8 reads,
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Notice from this text the spiritual nature of the employee’s obedience and service to his employer. The servant’s obedience proceeds from the heart and is centrally unto Christ. The employee’s service is to the Lord and is called “doing the will of God.” This reality is true in all spheres of our lives, whether we are students obeying our teachers, citizens submitting to the authority of the state, or teenagers honoring our parents. Our deepest desire in all of our thoughts, words, and deeds must be to do the will of our Father in whatever station and calling He has placed us. God is not pleased with the teenager who outwardly obeys his parents, but whose inward thoughts are of rebellion and disobedience. Outward obedience to God’s will is no obedience at all. God requires that our desires and motives be according to His will.
The spiritual nature of all of our labors is made known to us when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Specifically, when we pray the second and third petitions, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are praying to God for grace to walk in good works. How is this? As the Heidelberg Catechism explains these petitions, when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are asking God to “rule us so by Thy Word and Spirit, that we may submit ourselves more and more to Thee” (Q & A 123). When we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking God to “grant that we and all men may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey Thy will, which is only good; that so every one may attend to, and perform the duties of his station and calling, as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven” (Q & A 124).
In order for us to walk in good works, we must be doing the will of our Father and not our own will. Jesus, the Son of God, said in John 6:38, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” And we must do the will of our Father from the heart, by faith, and to His glory. We know that we are performing good works to God when we experience within ourselves a battle. Within us, there is the old man of sin which seeks to fulfill the evil desires of our flesh. He is self-seeking and in complete opposition to the will of God. But, there is also the inward (new) man, who delights in the law of God and desires to do God’s will. We find this battle to be intense, especially when the world places before us the “easy way” of self-fulfillment and self-promotion. This battle becomes more intense as we grow older and as we more walk in good works and are faithful in the stations and callings God has placed us in.
How are we to know God’s will for us? Briefly, we know God’s will for us as He has revealed it to us in His Word. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” we read in Psalm 119:105. We also come to know God’s will for us as He providentially rules the circumstances of our lives. God providentially caused David to care for his father’s sheep so that he might be prepared to be king of Israel. Likewise, God sovereignly rules our lives so that we are led to know His will as to our stations and callings by the preparations He gives us and the circumstances He leads us through. Always we are to examine, by His Word and prayer, whether we are really performing the work which God has called us to perform.
Quite often, we are tempted to set up our own standard of good works apart from God’s will. This is what the Catechism refers to when it speaks of works “founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men” (Q & A 91). When we are not living by faith, and therefore not content with God’s will, we vainly imagine that God will be pleased with our works which are not performed according to His Word. Or, we think that if we are doing what worldly men declare to be good that God will be pleased with us. One example of this will help us better understand.
God’s will for the younger women of the church is recorded in I Timothy 5:14 where we read, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” What the world declares to be good is nearly the opposite. The world says to young women, “live it up as long as you can before you marry, and when you marry, have only two children (and wait to have them) so that your career can flourish and so that you do not have to be tied down at home.” According to the old man of sin it is very tempting for the young married women (and more importantly their husbands) of the church to live according to what the world calls good in this area. Further, it is very tempting to imagine that God is somehow pleased with this worldly philosophy. Yet, God calls each of us to renounce our own wills and to do that which He calls good. If we are young men, God calls us to be “sober minded” and to show ourselves “a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:6-8). If we are young people, we are called to obey our parents in all things, “for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20). If we are employees we are called to obey our employers in all things, and to perform our work “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:22, 23). No matter who we are and no matter where God has placed us in this life, we find that His Word throughly furnishes us unto all good works (II Tim. 3:17).
Another error that prevails with regards to good works is that one has to be performing some grand and glorious work before men in order to be really performing good works. There are those in the world who spend all of their lives perfecting and practicing completely vain activities (such as sports) in order that they might have the praise of men and be considered to be doing good. There are those in false and apostatizing churches who, for example, cook up grand mission or witnessing schemes and who direct all kinds of attention to themselves in order to prove that they are performing some great work with which God will be pleased, all the while ignoring the responsibilities which God has called them to perform. We must not fall into this error. We are walking in good works when we are doing, from the heart, what God has truly called us to be doing. When we consider the work of the godly mother in the home we are struck by the reality of this truth. By all the standards of the world and of men, her work is at best a drudgery and her time would be better spent doing almost anything else more satisfying or fulfilling. Yet, if we look at the spiritual aspect of the godly mother’s labor in the home, there is no more glorious work. Yes, it is very difficult, with long hours, little sleep, with no medals or awards, and no cheering crowds, yet God is pleased with the mother who renounces her own will and who labors willingly and faithfully in the place God has put her. This is just one example of how one truly walks in good works. The young people of the church do good to consider the work of their own mothers and of the the other godly mothers in the church as an example of good works. May God give us grace to renounce our own wills and to seek to do His will. May we not seek the praise of men, but may our desire be to please our heavenly Father in the place He has given us in His kingdom.
Lisa is an eighth grade student at Covenant Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. She wrote this essay for a Language Arts assignment.
I am convinced that predestination is the biblical perspective on salvation. There are many Scripture texts that support the sovereignty of God in choosing His elect. If you believe that God chose everyone and you also believe that it was our choice to be saved, you support salvation through works. You also believe, although you may deny it, that you are the one with the power instead of God. We are finite creatures and God is the Almighty and an infinite ruler. How can we, lowly as we are, challenge God Who has chosen? It is not even a question whether or not God is “fair.” He is God so how can we challenge what He says?
I am able to support my argument and position with several Scripture references. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…” These verses are saying that God has chosen His elect from the beginning of time. It is not our “free will” that chooses Him; rather, He causes us by His choice to “choose” Him.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.” We are saved by God’s grace and mercy. Our faith and salvation are a gift from God, not an action that we commit. By saying that it was your definitive decision to choose God, you are saying that your salvation was caused by your own action. This is a form of works righteousness, which is the belief that you save yourself by your own actions and goodness. God’s people do not save themselves. God saves them.
Romans 9 is full of verses supporting predestination. Verses 15-16 say, “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” God does not choose everyone to be His elect as this verse shows. He is the one that says who will believe in Him and who will not. It is not man that decides to choose God. God is the one that shows mercy in choosing us. If you think it is “unfair” of God to choose some people and reject others, not even giving those people a chance at salvation, read verses 19 through 21. They say, “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” We as the creation of the Creator cannot dispute anything that God says or does. He has chosen a specific people to be His elect, and they only will be the ones to enjoy Him in Heaven.
God chooses His people and rejects those He has not predestined to be His own. He is the Almighty and can do whatever He wants. Humans, as the creation of God, cannot label God as “unfair” or as one who shows “favoritism” because He is God and has infinite power. He is perfect and can do no wrong.
Writing in response to the article “Deadly Poison” by Mrs. Dilys Watson in the January 2002 issue of Beacon Lights, I shall confine myself to the points that I regard as a misrepresentation of my views.
I do not believe that God is ignorant of anything. In particular, I do not believe that God is ignorant of who the elect or reprobate are. This would, in fact, make these terms meaningless.
The section of the tape to which Mrs. Watson first refers was as follows:
God shows love to the non-elect in this world and we are to be patterned after God in this world. He shows love to the non-elect in this world; therefore we love our neighbor, including our non-elect neighbor (we don’t know what he is, whether elect or non-elect), because God does it. But in the eternal world, God will show no love or favor whatsoever to the damned in Hell. And in Heaven, our hearts and minds will be perfectly conformed to God. And because God does not show kindness to the lost in hell, therefore we will not love the lost in Hell and will not be disturbed by the knowledge of their condition.
Mrs. Watson has misquoted and perhaps misheard “God does it” as “God doesn’t” and then added the word “either” which is not there. I realize that the view stated above differs from the PRC position, but I did not say and do not believe that God does not know who are the elect and reprobate. Such a view would be blasphemous indeed.
To make the matter abundantly clear, at my ordination I subscribed to the Westminster Confession of Faith and hold to Chapter III without reserve. If required, I could also wholeheartedly endorse the Canons of Dordt, Article 6, when it states, “That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree (Acts 15:18, Ephesians 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy…”
Even making maximum allowance for Mrs. Watson misunderstanding a rather cumbersome sentence, she ought to have known from statements elsewhere on the tape that I could not possibly be saying what she has suggested. Also, her misquotation stands in contradiction of the whole of the first tape, where the foundation truth of God’s sovereignty over all is explicitly stated. Charity, as well as carefulness, ought to have prevented Mrs. Watson from concluding that I had contradicted so much of what I had previously said.
A second misrepresentation is when Mrs. Watson refers to what I said about the PRC position and the Westminster Standards. What I actually said was, “That is why the Protestant Reformed Churches’ position is utterly incompatible with the Westminster Confession of Faith.” The context of this statement is the PRC position regarding conditional promises in the covenant of grace. There is no suggestion that the PRC position as a whole does not share a large amount of common ground with the Westminster Confession. Nevertheless, to say that the PRC view is at variance with the Westminster Confession on this point is only saying what the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema acknowledged. Having quoted the Westminster Confession, Chapter VII, paragraphs 1-3, he stated, “Here, then, we meet with the notion that the covenant is something secondary, a means to an end, a way of life, a device unto salvation. And since then this has been the prevailing conception of the covenant.” A little later he states, “Grave objections may be raised against this presentation of the idea of God’s covenant” (The Covenant—God’s Tabernacle With Men, p. 2f).
The quotations from “more modern men” as Mrs. Watson calls them, were of 17th century writers, including some who actually helped to produce the Westminster Confession.
I have never made any secret of the fact that, notwithstanding my respect for the Protestant Reformed Churches, I disagree with the PRC position on the free offer of the gospel. The purpose of this letter is not to defend my views, but to make clear what those views are, in the light of Mrs. Watson’s distortions. Fairness and accurate representation of those with whom we disagree should be a characteristic of Christian doctrinal discussion.
“Speak not evil one of another, brethren” (James 4:11).
Yours sincerely in the gospel,
Rev. Buddingh had come to Hilversum to preach for the Secessionist congregation there. He was taken to the town in the night because the Secessionists knew that his presence, if known, would bring upon them the wrath of the municipal authorities. Manus Rebel, an old, cynical retired soldier, had helped them get into the village. Although they had met some unexpected obstacles, they had succeeded in bringing Rev. Buddingh to his destination, the home of Gijsbert Haan, where he would stay for the weekend. They thought they had succeeded in keeping his coming a secret, but they were mistaken.
Constable Van Huizen had promised himself a quiet night on duty. A few hours earlier he and his colleague, De Nooij, had emptied up the taverns with the usual hubbub. Yes, they had done this together…, but De Nooij had done the lion’s share of the work and he had held back.
After completing this chore, Van Huizen had sauntered through the back alleys and lanes, here and there checking a door or with some idle chatter lifting a drunk to his feet—the usual work on Saturday night and early Sunday morning. But now he stood pondering the unusual event that he had just witnessed: a number of men, who obviously did not want to be seen, had entered the farmhouse of Gijsbert Haan in the hollow of the night. Haan was seemingly an honest citizen, but nevertheless he belonged to “the Cocksian brood,”1 as De Nooij called it.
Van Huizen’s curiosity won out over his hesitancy. After all he was justified in going to investigate.
The constable crossed the Groest and remained standing for a while at the gate of the farm. Then he carefully stepped over the small area where clothes were bleached to the closed shutters. He drew one slowly and carefully open and stared inside. He witnessed the hearty reception that Reverend Buddingh received. Astonished, he wanted to open the shutter a bit more, but then somewhere a dog began to growl. The next moment Van Huizen was outside the gate. Still a bit uneasy he walked from there over to the Groest, while his brain slowly worked. What a strange man had stood there, with short trousers and a three-cornered hat on his head!
Suddenly he stood still and tore his cap from his head greatly agitated. Obviously, that was one of those Secession ministers, who secretly wanted to preach here tomorrow! But, Van Huizen thought, that fellow will be bitterly disappointed.
Van Huizen did not have any particular grudge against the Secessionists. As a Roman Catholic he felt very little involvement in their affairs. But he had discovered something special…
When he reached the Kerkstraat his mind was made up. He would immediately report his discovery to the mayor.
For a moment he considered walking to his home in the Doelen to get his tall dress hat, but he thought better of it. His wife Johanna would probably scare awake, and moreover he would make much more of an impression if he had come directly from the field of battle.
Swiftly he ran down the Kerkstraat. At the Zeedijk2 a drunk lay on the road, but the constable gave it no thought.3 He simply stepped over him. He was hunting nobler game.
* * * * *
At the corner of the Schoutenstraat stood the peaceful and important home of Mayor Barend Andriesen. For twenty years he had filled this office, initially as a sheriff and after 1825, as mayor. He was Van Huizen’s immediate superior and the constable did feel his courage fail a bit when he stood in front of the closed gate.
But finally he carried on and made the heavy knocker boom on the thick front door. With a hollow echo the sound carried through the nightly silence of the house. Soon an upper window grated open and the head of the mayor himself, adorned with a fancy nightcap, appeared in the window. “Who is there?” he scolded, not entirely awakened.
The sergeant immediately sprang to attention. “Constable Van Huizen reports, your honor! I have a discovery to report which is of greatest importance!”
“Really?” the mayor responded without enthusiasm. “Well, then, wait a moment.” The window closed with a slight sigh.
After a “moment” of ten minutes he opened the door, fully dressed, and let his subordinate into a side room. Perfectly at ease he began to stuff his long pipe, while Van Huizen nervously twisted his cap. A large crucifix that hung above the chimney reminded him that the mayor was of the same faith as his.
“Well now, Van Huizen,” he finally began, puffing out a cloud of smoke, “tell me your tale.”
The sergeant gave a broad account of his discovery. The mayor listened to him in silence and after hearing the story, sat painfully still for a few minutes.
Finally the mayor cleared his throat. “Why do you come to tell me this in the darkest part of the night?”
“We can take that fellow while he is in his bed, your honor!”
“The two of us?” responded the mayor with slight mockery. “And on the basis of what? Because he lodges there? Use your head, Van Huizen. Tomorrow I will give De Nooij orders to keep an eye on that house.”
But Van Huizen would not be sent on his way so easily. “But, your honor, that type of person stirs up unrest and riot.”
“Therefore we must awaken no sleeping dogs. Let those Protestants settle that matter among themselves.” The mayor stood up and carefully tapped his pipe empty in an ashtray.
Now Van Huizen made his final effort, a vicious one. “It is my modest determination, your honor, also to inform Mr. Perk about this.”
The mayor felt rising in him the inclination to throw the ashtray at Van Huizen’s head. “Mr. Perk” was the fiery town clerk; one that hated all that belonged to the Secession. According to some he was the actual head of the municipality.
“Fine,” the mayor spoke sharply after a few moments, “If you are determined to carry the matter to an extreme, let us go together to Mr. Perk.” He hung his pipe on the rack and put on his hat.
“You mean right now?” asked Van Huizen, quite upset.
“Yes, that is what I mean,” stated the mayor, not without satisfaction. “Didn’t you want to haul someone out of bed?”
Soon both men were walking down the Kerkstraat. From the direction of the courthouse on the Kerkbrink rang a suspiciously happy song. It was the members of the civic guard, for whom it was quitting time. They were appointed to assist the policemen in their night duty. That “assistance” usually consisted of spending their hours drinking and playing cards in the guard room.
“Good peace keepers,” joked Van Huizen, “You can hear them coming a long way off. If we constables did not use our eyes and ears so well…”
“Yes, we get a lot of pleasure from your alertness,” answered the boss sarcastically.
* * * * *
Albertus Perk, the town clerk, was not a little disturbed when he was called out of bed. But his mood changed like a leaf on a tree when Van Huizen had finished his tale.
“My compliment on your attentiveness, Van Huizen,” he said to the beaming constable. Then he turned with a determined movement to the mayor.
“Your honor, I have advised you so often to deal with that rabble with a strong hand. Now you see what is happening. If tomorrow we do not take strong action our noble town will soon become the breeding nest for all sorts of fanaticism and dispute. What would the governor of the king think of that?”
Mayor Andriesen decided to resign himself to the inevitable. He pushed his hat back a bit and cleared his throat.
“Well then, I summon you both to the court tomorrow morning at nine o’clock. I expect constable De Nooij at the same time. Maybe our friend Van Huizen will transfer the order to him.”
“Our friend” stood at attention and saluted. “At your service, your honor.”
Shortly after, the mayor and the constable each went their way, the first nervous, the second tense.
It was June 12, 1836. The golden glow of the rising sun announced a glorious Sunday morning. But above the small Secession congregation dark clouds gathered threateningly.
1 This was a nickname for the Secessionists. It comes from the name of their leader, Hendrick De Cock, who had begun the Secession in his church in Ulrum in the northern part of the Netherlands.
2 Literally “the sea dike,” apparently a reference to the dike which directly held back the North Sea.
3 This chapter’s description of drinking in Dutch villages is no exaggeration. Such frequenting of taverns and open drunkenness were usual.
Kris is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
On December 12, 1953, Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma was born in Lansing, Illinois. His parents are Wilbur and Dorthy Bruinsma. He grew up in his hometown of Lansing, although he lived for a few years in South Holland. He attended South Holland Protestant Reformed Church until he left to go to pre-seminary at the age of 19.
When he was young, Rev. Bruinsma worked and didn’t have much time for hobbies, but he did enjoy sports. Softball was his favorite sport and he also enjoyed football. He even dabbled in wrestling a little bit! Now he does a little wood working; and since he owns his own house, he enjoys doing a little remodeling here and there.
Until our own Protestant Reformed School started, Rev. Bruinsma attended Lansing Christian School. When he entered the third grade, South Holland Protestant Reformed Christian School opened, and he continued his education through the ninth grade there. Then he attended Illiana Christian High School.
After he graduated from high school, Rev. Bruinsma attended Trinity College in Palos Heights, Illinois, for one year. Then he transferred to our own Protestant Reformed Pre-Seminary program in our seminary. During this time, he also took classes at Calvin College and Grand Valley State College.
As a teenager, the peer pressures Rev. Bruinsma confronted were very similar to those teenagers face today. He lived during the 60’s when young people were rebelling against the authority of the government and their parents. This was the hippie era when free love was the order of the day. The civil rights movement was under way. Rev. Bruinsma was confronted with the pressures of listening to ungodly music and going to movies. Drunken parties were becoming a part of the scene even in a Christian school. The pressure of fornication was also a growing concern. These same pressures are around today in an even more advanced form. Having lived through, and experienced those pressures, helps Rev. Bruinsma as a pastor understand young people today and what they face.
Rev. Bruinsma did not decide to pursue the ministry until the second semester of his freshman year in college. He had not thought about it much before then. When a couple of his close and godly friends decided to go to the pre-seminary program in Grand Rapids, he decided to go with them. He was prepared for the ministry by living with these friends for six years and attending classes at our seminary. These experiences helped shape the rest of his life. He says, “Of course, one cannot forget the instruction, discipline, and nuture received by the hands of godly parents. I thank God every day for my parents.
When they heard of Rev. Bruinsma’s desire to enter seminary, his parents were overjoyed; but they had a little doubt, especially on his dad’s part. Rev. Bruinsma can remember him saying, “Yah, but you know, its those languages that will make or break you.” Then after he made the grade as far as the languages were concerned, his dad said, “Yah, but its that practice preaching that will make or break you.” As far as the reaction of his peers is concerned, two of his friends went with him to seminary. He doesn’t know what the reactions of the rest of his friends in South Holland were. He thinks maybe he should ask them sometime.
With regards to his years in seminary, Rev. Bruinsma has many good memories. He lived with a bunch of good guys, several of whom became ministers in our churches. (Haak, Flikkema, Koole, DeVries) He has some bad and some good memories of practice preaching. He appreciated studying under Professors Hoeksema, Hanko, and Decker.
On June 17, 1977, Rev. Bruinsma married Mary Zandstra who was also from our South Holland church. They were married in South Holland by Rev. Engelsma. How can Rev. Bruinsma begin to express the blessings that his wife has provided for him in his life? He could not live without her! He knows he must if God would take her from him, but she has made his life complete. She has been a source of constant encouragement to him. She has been his greatest critic, which he needs. She has been his best friend and companion. She has also walked with him, holding him up and guiding him when he is weak. She has been a tremendous blessing. They have also been blessed with five wonderful children whom he loves very much. He and his wife are surely blessed.
In 1978, Rev. Bruinsma was ordained and began his labors in Faith Church in Jenison, Michigan. He labored in Faith Church until 1984, when the Lord called him to the mission field in Jamaica. When his work in Jamaica was finished, the Lord called him to become pastor of our church in Holland, Michigan in 1989. He labored in Holland until 1996, when the Lord called him to his current charge in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Concerning teaching young children in catechism, Rev. Bruinsma has lots of memories. Once in Faith church he was teaching a beginners class in the middle of winter. He was telling the story about the walls of Jericho falling down. There was a little boy who seemed not to be paying attention to the story, but was playing with his gloves and standing them up leaning against each other. Very shortly after Rev. Bruinsma had spoken about the walls of Jericho falling down he let loose with a loud explosion noise and swatted his gloves halfway across the room. Rev. Bruinsma stopped the story and everyone looked at the boy who turned red and smiled. His imagination was working overtime. Rev. Bruinsma did not have the heart to scold him.
As a minister, one of the most rewarding things for Rev. Bruinsma to witness in the life of the church is the children growing from childhood through their teenage years and taking their places with their parents in the church. It makes Rev. Bruinsma’s work worthwhile when a young man and woman make confession of faith after years of catechism instruction.
Regarding memories of controversies our churches have faced, Rev. Bruinsma has seen individual congregations struggle with their own internal controversies which have left them depressed and frustrated. He has seen classis struggle with many of these problems. He has even sat on a number of Synods that equally struggled with controversy. He has never had to go though a 1953, and prays our churches never will.
Rev. Bruinsma has lots of memories of laboring in Jamaica. Looking back at the years he and his family labored there, he concludes that they were the best years of his life.
To young men considering the ministry to be their calling, Rev. Bruinsma says that if you believe you are called then pursue it. He knows there are doubts and fears because he had plenty of them. He always believed that if the Lord did not want him in the gospel ministry, then He would show him in some objective way, such as not making the grade. His advice is: “Work at becoming a minister and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands. He calls and confirms the call.”
Having served in charges in the Grand Rapids area, in a charge outside of it presently, and having served on the mission field in Jamaica, Rev. Bruinsma would like to see two changes in the thinking, attitude, and behavior of the young people. First, there needs to be a renewed zeal for the truth that God has given to us as churches. He believes that parents and youth do not realize enough what great things God has done for us as a denomination of churches. We have lost our first love and become rather complacent. Secondly, Rev. Bruinsma would love to see our youth become better witnesses to others of what God has given us. There is a need for a proper way of witnessing to others in life and confession.
Throughout the years of his ministry, Rev. Bruinsma has witnessed some very, very sad situations as far as some of the youth are concerned and this grieves him. He also sees young men and women taking their places in our churches who are sincere and who take seriously their calling as members. He also sees young men and women marrying in the Lord and establishing good covenant homes. He praises God for this!
Karl is a member of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
There in the darkness did I lay,
In the pit of mire and clay.
The darkness was so cold and deep,
And to my soul then did it creep.
The presence of one else was near,
It chilled my bones with sick’ning fear.
It’s cruel voice did drown my soul.
He came to me, I looked about,
There in the darkness did I shout.
I shook the deep with shrilling cries,
Then to the heav’ns I turned my eyes.
There was a light approaching me,
He scooped me up on bended knee.
He brought me up with wings of doves,
And in His hands was warmth and love.
Upon a rock He set my feet,
He strengthened bones, which were so weak.
Then down the pit then did He go,
He took my place far below.
I heard the pounding of the nails,
I split the silence with my wails.
It seemed that all my hope was lost,
He laid down his life for my cost.
Then in the pit I saw in sight,
It was the very same bright light.
It brought me up to heav’n above,
Show forth did He His gracious love.
And there will I forever stand,
And sit there at my Lord’s right hand.
A Savior to me then was He,
A Savior in the time of need.
Reprinted from May 1993 Beacon Lights
Paul was ready to die because he knew the glories in heaven were greater than anything in earth. Are you ready to die? Have you given this idea much thought lately? Death always brings to mind sadness. It shouldn’t, because death is the passage into heaven. Even young people should consider this thought. Even though they may think that God has much for them to do on this earth, their work may be finished. Are we living so that dying is glorious? Sing or read Psalter 313.
Have you talked to your parents and grandparents lately, young people? No, I do not mean about the daily cares of life, or the weather, or any other such mundane things. Have you talked to them about the cares of the kingdom of heaven? Timothy must have had a good spiritual relationship with his mother and grandmother. Paul mentions it more than once. How is yours? Do you cultivate it? What about you, parents and grandparents? Do you make yourself someone to talk to about these things? Sing or read Psalter 278.
Grandparents and parents sometimes chastise in the way of the Lord. What is our reaction? Do we listen to their chastisement outwardly, and when their backs are turned do what we want? That was Joash’s great sin. As long as Jehoiada was alive, Joash did that which was right. When Jehoiada died, Joash went his own way even to killing the son of the man that saved his life! God judged Joash and God will judge us if we do not listen to godly instruction all the days of our lives. Sing or read Psalter 244, especially stanzas 1, 2 and 5.
Young people, do you have cares that weigh heavily on your soul? Are you burdened by circumstances in life? Do you feel that answers are not coming fast enough? Stop and read Psalm 121. Reread verse two. “My help cometh from Jehovah, which made heaven and earth.” The creator of the whole world cares about us and will give to us help! Then read verse seven. Do those cares seem so impossible now? Jehovah preserves us from all evil and He brings salvation to our soul! Thanks be to God for such comfort! Sing or read Psalter 344.
We take the name of Jesus on our lips frequently. Do we stop and think about His power? Jude 24 and 25 tells us about Him. He is able to keep us from falling into sin. More than that, He presents us before the most holy God as if we have no sin. He also does that with joy even as He knows that the way of our salvation was through His suffering on the cross. We must take the name of Jesus on our lips and give Him glory, majesty, dominion, and power now and forever! What else can we do? Sing or read Psalter 352, especially stanza 4.
In this short prophecy Judah’s captivity, along with its return, is foretold. For us, we can see this as a picture of the church today waiting the return of Christ. Are we singing as we wait? Are the songs of Jehovah in our hearts, in our minds, and on our lips? Are we happy about the goodness of Jehovah? Do we show our happiness by bursting forth with His praise in song? We will not find this type of singing on a majority of radio stations today. We will not even find it in many churches. Singing which is God-glorifying must give God all the glory. There may be nothing given to man. Are we singing? Are we giving God the glory? Sing or read Psalter 424, especially stanzas 1 and 2.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” Is this our desire? John the Baptist had many followers in a short period of time. Some of them had the wrong idea. They were following the man, not the message. John, however, realized that he must fade away so that the glory of Christ would shine forth. Are we like this? If not, we better do some hard thinking. Are we putting our glory in the way of Christ’s kingdom? If we are, we must stop and learn the lesson shown in these verses. Sing or read Psalter 366.
Are we making sure the work of Christ’s kingdom is being carried out? Is the gospel being spread throughout many lands by us? Are our churches lacking? Are the poor in our churches hungry? Are our Christian schools in need of finances for their operation? God brought Israel back from captivity. They did not build the temple immediately. God had to bring the judgments of verses 9-11 on them. We, too, have the command to do His work. Are we doing it wholeheartedly? Sing or read Psalter 348, especially stanzas 1 and 6.
This passage comes from a larger section which describes Paul’s work in Ephesus. When we hear the preaching of the Word, are we moved with zeal to remove the means of sin from our lives even as the Ephesians did? Do we destroy those things which are not God-glorifying even if it means financial loss? Or do we justify them and add more and more of such things to our lives. You know what I am talking about. What kind of tapes or CD’s are in our cars? For what are our televisions and VCR’s used? God’s Word grew because of such actions in Ephesus. Will it grow in our lives? Sing or read Psalter 146, especially stanzas 1 and 2.
Two days ago I asked you to consider our work in Christ’s kingdom. After thinking about that are you eager but do not know how it can be accomplished? The answer to that fear is in verse twenty-one. The Lord will do great things. Jehovah has done great things for His Church throughout history. Ask Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, John Calvin, John Wycliffe, Herman Hoeksema, and saints living today. Ask them, “Has God done great things for you?” The answer will undoubtedly be YES! What should be our response for these great things? Look at verse twenty-three. Be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God. Sing or read Psalter 357.
Tomorrow we again go unto God’s house. We prepare today. Are you preparing your offerings to God? Now this does not mean are you just making sure your have you checks ready or the correct cash available. Are we preparing our hearts to give to the cause of Christ’s kingdom? Reread verse six. Do we understand that God blesses those who give with a good heart? If we are not sure then reread verse seven. God loves a cheerful giver. Why? God loves a cheerful giver because a cheerful giver is thankful for his salvation. Sing or read Psalter 175, especially stanzas 1-3.
“For I am the Lord, I change not.” What a comfort! When we fall into sin, we do not have to fear that God will consume us in His righteous anger. God in His holiness could do that, but He does not because He has promised to bring His people to eternal glory. Israel of old deserved punishment because of its misuse of God’s commands and gifts. God did chastise them with captivity. The church of today stands under the same commands. If we did not have a changeless God, we, too, would deserve the severe punishment of hell. Aren’t we glad that we have the comfort that Jehovah changes not. Was our worship today an expression of thanksgiving to the changeless God we have? Sing or read Psalter 281, especially stanzas 3 and 4.
Some of us are enjoying the fruits of our labors as we pick from our gardens those firstfruits of spring. There are fruits in our lives as well. What kind are we enjoying? Are we enjoying the fruit of wild oats sown in sin? We see some of those spoken of in verses nineteen through twenty-one. Or are we enjoying the fruit of the Spirit as listed in verses twenty-two and twenty-three. Both kinds of fruit are evidence of the lives we live. Both kinds of fruit will be shown before God. May He give us the grace to present fruit of the Spirit. Sing or read Psalter 406.
The first fruit of the Spirit is love. Young people, do you know what that is? Are you caught up with an emotional type of love for someone or something? Do you really know what it means to love someone? We all need to be reminded what true love is. True love is the love Christ had for His Church when He died for them. All other loves must be based on that idea. If you love someone even so much that you are contemplating marriage, do you share the love of Christ with that person? If you are wrapped up in some idea, is Christ’s love wrapped up with you and that idea? Because Christ loved you, do you love all those in His Church? Love is powerful; read I Corinthians 13 if you do not believe that. Love is beautiful; read Revelations 22 if you do not believe that. Sing or read Psalter 74.
Joy is a nice word. Joy brings to mind smiles, happiness, and contentment. David did not always have that feeling. Sometimes we do not have that feeling. This is because there is sin in our lives. Sometimes it is very grievous sin. God brought David to his knees, and David finally had to ask God to restore him to the joy of his salvation. We must do the same if we are to experience true joy. Joy is only for the child of God because joy only comes from the way of salvation. There is a response to having joy. The response is found in verse thirteen. Is it our response? Sing or read Psalter 400, especially stanzas 1, 3, and 7.
Is there any doubt that these things should not be called fruit of the spirit? Perfect peace is a condition sought after by people throughout history. Different religions try all different means to achieve this state. What a blessing it is that we can confess that perfect peace only comes from Jehovah. How can it be achieved? The only way is through a complete trust in the everlasting strong Jehovah. We need that peace in this tumultuous world. Pray for this peace for yourself and for all of God’s people. Sing or read Psalter 232.
The term longsuffering is often used to refer to God’s being longsuffering with His people even while they wallow in their sins. This should be a great comfort to us. If God was not longsuffering towards us, we would surely be consumed in His wrath. But we, too, must be longsuffering. It is also a fruit of the Spirit. We must be patient in adversity, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, as we await the unfolding of God’s plan for us. We must also be longsuffering towards those who we think are doing us wrong. I am afraid that longsuffering is not an attribute which characterizes many of us. We must pray that this fruit of the spirit is evident in our lives. Sing or read Psalter 284, especially stanzas 3 and 4.
To examine the idea of gentleness we can look at the shepherd. A shepherd in Israel had to care for his sheep in places and times of adversity. But he had to be gentle with those sheep because of a sheep’s nature. God is our shepherd and is gentle with us. David says that God’s gentleness made him great. We must be gentle with those around us. This can be very hard. It goes against our nature. Even when we have someone’s good in mind, we can be very harsh. Pray that all of us can be gentle and pour forth this fruit of the spirit. Sing or read Psalter 35, especially stanzas 1 and 6.
There is much in the lives of the Old Testament church that we can apply to our lives today. This chapter is no exception. In these verses we see that even though captivity was near there was hope for God’s people. This is to be found in the goodness of the Lord. The phrase “God is good” should not be an idle idea in our lives. God IS good. We must reflect this goodness in our lives. It is one of the fruits of those who walk by the Spirit. Goodness must permeate all of our being. Does it? Are we good to others? Sing or read Psalter 81, especially stanzas 1 and 4.
We all know the story of Daniel. We can easily speak of his feats and enjoy them. Do we realize that Daniel in chapter 1 may have been as young as 15-17? Do we understand that it was by faith that Daniel and his three friends accomplished what they did? Faith is a beautiful idea. Faith is a gift from God. How are we using this gift? Does our faith shine so that all around us see its effects? Are we willing to confess our faith unto all who are around us? Do we take our faith seriously, or is it a matter of convenience? Do we live the faith of Hebrews 11? We must, because it is God’s command. Sing or read Psalter 20.
When we looked at the beatitudes of Christ, we looked at the idea of meekness. There we saw that Moses was meek as he led the children of Israel. We must be meek as we receive God’s Word. The opposite of receiving God’s Word with meekness is to rebel against it. Sometimes we are unhappy with what God says to us. We do not want to hear it, and we rebel against it. James says we must receive that Word with meekness. We must see that this is also a fruit of the Spirit. Let us pray to our heavenly Father that we can receive His Word with meekness and then do His Word. Sing or read Psalter 330, especially stanzas 1 and 2.
We come to the last expression of the fruit of the Spirit. Simply put, temperance is the ability to exercise self-control over all aspects of your lives. Temperance is living a life that is always God-glorifying. Temperance does not let us do things because they “feel good” to us. Temperance does not let us use the reason “because I felt like it” for any situation. When we glorify God in all walks of life, we will show temperance. The final result of temperance is the crown of glory that fades not away. Be temperate young people, and exhibit all the fruits of the Spirit all of the time. Sing or read Psalter 172.
“He ascended into heaven.” With those words of the Apostles Creed, we confess that Christ is in heaven waiting the day that He will return to “judge the living and the dead.” Christ is not idle in heaven: He is our constant advocate with the Father. He is a sign that we will also go to heaven either in our deaths or when He returns. Because He is in heaven, we can seek heavenly things knowing that those things which are good for us He will give us. On this Ascension Day let us give thanks for the ascended Christ who sits on the right hand of the Father. Sing or read Psalter 183, especially stanzas 1 and 2.
What are you doing since Christ has ascended into heaven? According to our passage Christ Himself promises that He will return from heaven. But He does not tell us to be idle. In this passage and others He gives the command that the gospel be preached in all lands. Are we doing that? Are we making sure that all in our immediate area know the truths of God’s Word? Are we spreading the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth? Is there anything a young person can be doing in this area? Young people should be interested and knowledgeable in mission work. They should find out from ministers and elders what they can do. Older young men should search their hearts to see if maybe their life’s calling can be found here. We can all pray sincerely for this work. Sing or read Psalter 195, especially stanzas 1 and 2.
Young people do you keep your feet from sin? David wrote of this topic often. If you search the Psalms, you will find this topic repeated many times. Solomon also addressed this idea in the book of Proverbs. Last month we addressed this idea from the aspect of the Christian soldier. Today I want us to see that this is done by comparing our lives to God’s law. In this Psalm David makes many statements about the beauty of God’s law. In the last verses he prays that God will keep him from all kinds of sins. That must be our way as well. We must search the Scriptures and pray for God’s care in this matter. Sing or read Psalter 1.
Jesus often taught His people by means of parables. In this one He warns us about the error of taking the kingdom of heaven lightly. Are we ready for Christ to return, or are there many things that we would rather do on this earth? If Christ would ask us if we want Him to come today, what would be our answer? Sometimes I fear we would rather Christ wait awhile until we are ready. This parable leaves no room for this feeling. We must be ready, we must be watching, and we must make His return our earnest desire. Sing or read Psalter 263.
“And God said…” “And God saw that it was good.” Do you believe in creation as recorded in Genesis 1? Most of you, if not all of you, would quickly answer “Of course.” Do you know exactly what that means? Again most of you would answer “Yes,” but maybe the second answer would come a little more slowly. Are you ready to give an answer to all who oppose your belief in creation? We must be ready at all times to answer these questions. The reason is not just because we believe creation is better than evolution. The reason is not just because God has given us faith to believe His Word. The reason is because our salvation depends on creation. If God is not the creator of heaven and earth, then Christ is not our Savior. Young and old must make it their business to know these things. Sing or read Psalter 404, especially stanzas 2, 3 and 5.
School is almost over for many of us. I would like you to stop and think about school and instruction. Verse eight is the statement of every God-fearing father. Have you listened to your father’s instruction and your mother’s law? Are you proud to have their ornament of grace around your neck? Now go back to verse seven. Have you realized that the purpose of covenant instruction was to teach you the fear of Jehovah? Please do not be verse seven’s fool, covenant children and young people. The fool’s path is toward hell. Be wise and love your father’s instruction. Sing or read Psalter 213, especially stanzas 3 and 4.
Let’s continue our thoughts about school and covenant instruction. In this passage Solomon starts off with many “if” statements. The meaning of those statements is that we must seek after wisdom and do it diligently. Verse nine gives the results of such seeking. We will know righteousness, judgment, and equity. We also will know every good path. Seniors, have you had trouble finding your life’s path? The answer for you and really for all covenant people is to seek the wisdom of Jehovah and He will make the path known unto you. Sing or read Psalter 60, especially stanzas 1, 3, and 4.
Today is Pentecost. About two thousand years ago the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church of Christ. Do we recognize the Spirit’s work in our lives? Do we listen to the Spirit? Do we pray that God will send His Spirit to enlighten us as we read the Bible? We may not see the same effects of the Spirit as the New Testament Church saw on Pentecost, but the Spirit works today. We must pray that we are not guilty of quenching the Spirit. We must also live lives that show we are not guilty of quenching the Spirit. Sing or read Psalter 389, especially stanzas 5 and 6.
Summer is right around the corner. School will be letting out. Catechism is over. Most societies have recessed. What are you going to do this summer about your study of the Word of God? We do not read anywhere in the Bible of a three month vacation from this important calling. Parents, you still have the calling to “train up a child.” Children and young people, you still have the calling to seek after wisdom. We still need to take the time to study God’s Word daily. Satan will not take a vacation: we must not either. Sing or read Psalter 420, especially verses 7 and 8.
Melissa is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Come be my bride,” a young man asks, his face glowing with anticipation. “Ummm, sure I guess,” the young lady replies, never looking up, her mind still intent on the sewing project at hand.
Under normal circumstances, a young man and woman who have developed a relationship of love and respect for one another would both be eager to enter into the full bond of marriage. Both would enthusiastically tell others of the love they have found. Both would be singing the praises of the other. It would not be the case that the girl would so lack in enthusiasm. What could possibly bring this on, you ask?
Well, let’s compare this to something else. Let’s compare this young man to Christ and the young lady to the Church. Christ calls to us and says, “Come be my bride! I have saved you from sin, took you in as my own, and loved you.” We, the bride, can sometimes, if we are not careful, fall into the shameful way in which the young lady responds to the young man. How, you ask, does this tie into the normal music articles?
Well, let me explain. Christ in the sermons to us on Sunday acts as this young man does. He proclaims His love and what He has done for us. We normally respond in singing: a glorious way to respond to the love that Christ has given us! Often the tendency is just to sing without thinking on the words, and do what is expected. In doing that, we act as the young lady. What a sad situation! Christ tells us He has given His life for us and we respond with no gusto whatsoever. No joy. No love. Complete emptiness. What shallow people we can be! Shallow as the young lady mentioned earlier. May we not be that way.
With joy and love towards our groom, may we look to Him in rapt attention. May we tell others of Him. May we be as the bride who is eager to sing her beloved’s praises. Yet, the key part is that we respond to Him with love. We are to sing with joy in our hearts. What proceeds from our mouth should be that which is truly from our heart. This includes singing from the heart especially those songs which are given to us in the Psalms. How can we not sing with joy? Especially when considering some of the songs in the Psalter:
Oh royal Bride give heed, And to thy words attend,
For Christ the King, For sake the world,
And every former friend.
Thy beauty and thy grace shall then delight the King;
He only is thy rightful Lord,
To Him thy worship bring.
To thee, since thou art His, Great honor shall be shown;
The rich shall bring their gifts to thee,
Thy glory they shall own.
Enthroned in royal state, All glorious thou shalt dwell,
With garments fair, in wrought with gold,
The Church He Loveth well.
And they that honor thee shall in thy train attend;
And to the palace of the King
Shall joyfully ascend.
O King of royal race, Thy sons of heavenly birth
Thou wilt endow with kingly gifts
As princes in the earth.
Thy Name shall be proclaimed Through all succeeding days,
And all the nations of the earth
Shall give thee endless praise.
What a precious song we have! There also are so many more that we sing. What a sad thing not to sing something like this from the heart. May we all sing our love to Christ our King and Groom! May we not be as the bride and young lady that doesn’t seem to care!
Rev. Lubbers was a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches from 1934 to 1978. This article is reprinted from the August/September, 1973 issue of Beacon Lights.
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” Acts 2:16.
Spoken by the prophet Joel!
Who Joel was and when he prophesied is a matter of debate and speculation. It was not important to the Holy Spirit to inform us concerning Joel’s time and history. Our attention must be fixed on what Joel spoke. The man Joel is not important; it is Joel the prophet which demands all of our attention. He was one of the holy men of God; mouth-piece of the LORD was he.…
It is the end of all contradiction and the testing-rod of the reality of the mighty words of God!
Joel is not the author of what he said; he was the spokesman of God.
He spoke the prophetic word, which shines as a light in a dark place until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts.
Blessed Word of God; a light in the darkness of our night of sin and death.
Spoken by God Himself through Joel!
* * * * *
These men are not drunken as ye suppose!
Unbelief cannot and will not understand even when the mightiest signs of God are wrought from heaven. When it is noised abroad in the streets of Jerusalem that Galilean men, disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, are speaking in other tongues the wonderful works of God, cruel unbelief mockingly lifts up its head. The fact cannot be denied, but the true character and origin of this wonder must be denied and contradicted. Unbelief is both blind and deaf. The sounds from heaven it cannot and will not heed, and the flames of fire it cannot see. The gospel of sovereign grace is foreign to unbelievers. They will not put off the shoes from their feet.
These men are full of new wine!
Drunken gibberish is all that they desire to perceive. And in the folly of unbelief they perish. They are not pricked in their hearts for their sins’ sake. The promise of the Spirit they cannot receive. What here transpires is hid from them!
Stupid blindness of sin!
These men are not drunken as ye suppose…
* * * * *
Lofty plane of the prophetic Word!
The things foretold by God are come to pass. It might seem that the Word of God to Joel was shrouded in darkness and mystery. And in a sense the Word of God by Joel is apocalyptic. The imagery is bold and strong. The situation in Israel is desperate. The curse of the Lord as the expression of the law is in the land. The armies of God’s fury are sent in the form of locusts. They devour the bread of God’s people; the land of plenty, of corn and wine, is become a vast and horrible wilderness and wasteland. The curses foretold by Moses in the law are present.
The prophetic word calls for a genuine fast of repentance. The congregation, young and old, great and small must all gather in the temple. And they must humble themselves for their sins. They must be pricked in their heart. To call upon the Name of the Lord is the need of the hour. And God in heaven will hear!
To such comes the comforting message of the prophetic Word. Yes, then will the LORD be jealous of His land, and pity His people. Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto His people, Behold I will send you corn and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith…
Fear not, O land…
Be glad and rejoice.
For the LORD will do great things for His people!
More sure prophetic word unto which we do well to give heed…
Until the day dawn…
* * * * *
Suddenly there was a sound from heaven! It was as the sound of a mighty rushing wind. It filled the whole house where the church was gathered, which would be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets of which Jesus Christ is the chief corner-stone.
Yes, the wind was blowing where it listeth; the Spirit was sovereignly going where the Lord of glory was sending Him.
The church heard the sound of the mighty rushing wind, but did not know whence it really came, although this sound came from heaven. It was from above; it came from the Lord who had been crucified by wicked hands, but who had been raised from the dead, set at God’s own right hand, and now shed this forth which they hear.
And the appearance like unto cloven tongues of fire was seen upon each of the church. It was the fire of purification of the Spirit of Christ. It was the church, a little “bush” in the wilderness filled with the strange sight of the fire of the Spirit without being consumed by it. The church is really “under the cloud” here. The cloud of glory, the very Shekinah of God rests upon the church. It is the Spirit of grace and glory resting upon the church.
Jehovah is pouring forth His Spirit upon all flesh. It sat upon each of the members in the church. Were there one hundred twenty souls presents? Men and women, old and young, children and adults? It was all flesh. It was poured out upon the church in a house. God had removed the tent-of-meeting outside of the camp of Old Testament Israel.
Blessed sound in all the house!
Purifying power to present the church one day to God without spot or blemish or any such thing!
* * * * *
Upon my servants and my handmaidens!
Selective, sovereign grace of God. It is not for all, this outpouring of the Spirit. Since we are sons we have received the Spirit of the Son, crying, Abba Father. He cries this in the hearts of all the “servants” in such a mysterious way, that we cry, Abba, Father. Yes, it is but the first-fruits which we have now. But it is eating already of the new wine and corn, the plentiful supply of grace which faileth never.
Is not the feast of Pentecost the feast of harvests? Was not this feast one of the three great feasts to be celebrated in Israel? And was not this feast a reaching out in hope to the year of Jubilee, the complete liberation from the slavery of sin and death, guilt and corruption?
Grace without measure, it is.
The Spirit is poured out. It is bountiful grace. Where sin abounds, grace will much more abound. It is the only hope for God’s servants. Dead in trespasses and sins, under the curse and damnation of the law, the only hope for Abraham’s seed is the promise of the Father: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Yes, He takes it out of Christ and gives it unto us. He comforts us and leads us into all the truth. He dwells in the church with His infinite riches and blessedness, never to leave her. And always the supply of grace from the throne of God is there, grace for grace. All the spiritual blessings in heavenly places are for the servants even as they were elected in Christ from before the foundation of the world.
Grace for grace. Rivers of waters flowing from the mouths of the faithful servants.
Sovereign grace of the Holy Spirit.
Spoken by God through Joel, the prophet!
In the midst of the dark of the emptied sun, and the awful spectacle of the blood-red moon, there is deliverance. Yes, the great and notable day of the Lord has come. But the servants are safe.
The Name of the LORD is a strong tower. The righteous flee thither and escape.
The Spirit-filled saint calls upon the Name of the LORD; he alone escapes. He shall be saved, whether he be Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or female. None that comes to the Lord called by the Spirit, regenerated, called, justified, will be cast out.
Listen to Joel’s beautiful feet upon the mountain.
God spoke through Joel of old. He spoke at Pentecost in the sound of the wind and in the cloven tongues like as of fire. He gave utterance to those who preach the Gospel. Tens of thousands have preached this fulfilled Word of God through Joel.
Heaven and earth shall pass way.
But the Word spoken through Joel is timely and fitting forever…
John is a member of Randolph Protestant Reformed Church in Randolph, Wisconsin and is Editor of Beacon Lights.
Ingredients: While many of these ingredients cannot be found in pure form in nature, they can be purchased quite reasonably at a good chemistry supply store.
Oxygen is a very abundant element on earth. About 21% of the atmosphere is oxygen, and about 49% of the weight of the earth’s crust is from oxygen and its compounds. The gas costs 5¢/ft3 in small quantities, and about $15/ton in large quantities.
Carbon is also an abundant element on earth. We find it most commonly in pencils. Flashlight batteries also contain a few ounces of carbon. A more pure crystalline form can be obtained from diamonds.
Hydrogen is the lightest of all gasses. Most of the hydrogen on earth is combined with oxygen to form water. The hydrogen can be separated from oxygen by passing an electrical current through water. Most of the hydrogen produced is used to make hydrogenated vegetable oil. It is also used for rocket fuel.
Nitrogen gas makes up 78.1% of the earth’s air, by volume. Nitrogen, as a gas, is colorless, odorless, and does not react readily with other elements. The atoms combine with other elements to become the building blocks of all living organisms, and when they decay, bacteria breaks these molecules down again to form nitrogen gas.
Pure calcium is a silvery metal that burns easily with a yellow-red flame. It is never found in a pure form in nature, but is always combined with other elements to form compounds such as limestone and shells. It is commonly used in cement and plaster of paris. It is important for the structure of bones and teeth.
The name “phosphorus” means literally, “light bearer.” There are a number of different forms of this element, but ordinary phosphorus is a waxy white solid, and when pure, it is colorless and transparent. This element in the pure form is extremely poisonous and burns spontaneously and violently when it comes into contact with air.
Together, these first six ingredients will make up about 99% of the body’s mass. 80% of the body will be composed of water which will form from the combination of only two of the elements: oxygen and hydrogen. All the structural material of the cells, the antibodies, and the hormones are composed of various combinations of the first six ingredients. These structural materials, antibodies, and hormones are all proteins. Proteins are like the building blocks and the machinery parts found within a factory. They form the walls of cells, form bullets that lock onto viruses and destroy them, form the machinery that extracts energy from food, and are responsible for vision, taste, and smell. Proteins come in an enormous variety of shapes, and sizes to suit their particular function.
What follows are some ingredients that come in much smaller quantities, but are very important for the proper functioning of the proteins and the proper flow of fluids and electrical signals throughout of the body.
Potassium is the second lightest metal. It is a soft, silvery metal that can be easily cut with a knife. It quickly rusts in the presence of air, and spontaneously burns with a violet color when it comes into contact with water. It is most commonly used in fertilizers. It will be needed within the body fluid to maintain the correct pH and regulate the transfer of fluids through cell walls.
Sulfur is pale yellow, odorless, brittle solid used to make sulfuric acid, gunpowder, and fireworks. Sulfur is essential for some of the proteins used for growth and eliminating waste from the body.
Sodium is a soft, bright, silvery metal which floats on water. It often bursts into flame in the presence of water. When this element combines with chlorine atoms, it produces salt. In the body, it is necessary for maintaining the correct pH level in blood and other body fluids and also regulates the flow of fluids in and out of cells.
Magnesium is a light, silvery-white, and fairly tough metal. It is commonly used to make racing bikes. If heated, it burns with a brilliant white light. In the body it is needed for proper bone structure and muscle operation, and allows the body to use calcium properly.
A pinch of each of the following elements, the total weight of which is not to exceed 16.8 oz. These are needed to regulate chemical reactions within the body that “read” the genetic code on DNA and produce the proper building materials, etc., in the proper quantities for making the body grow new cells. Some are also important to make certain proteins fold into the proper shape.
Copper – Copper is a reddish metal used mainly for electrical wires. This element is needed to build certain enzymes in the body which are needed to break down certain molecules of food. Not enough of this element will make the body weak, and too much will cause the liver to malfunction.
Zinc – Zinc is a silvery blue metal used in a variety of industrial applications. In the body, a few atoms are needed in certain reproductive hormones and in enzymes needed to break down toxins in the body.
Selenium – Selenium is an element that is similar to sulfur and is used in photocopiers and various electronic devices because it’s electrical properties change in the presence of light. A few atoms are necessary to make an enzyme in the body that prevents damage to the cell walls.
Molybdenum – This element is a very hard and tough metal used in light bulb filaments. It is needed to make an enzyme in the body that gets rid of waste products.
Fluorine – Fluorine is a pale, yellow, extremely corrosive gas that reacts with everything. Small amounts added to water can prevent cavities, but little else is known regarding its function in the body.
Iodine – Iodine is a bluish-black, shiny solid. It is needed for regulating the rate of energy production in the body.
Chlorine – Chlorine is a greenish-yellow gas that combines directly with almost every other element. It combines with sodium to make salt.
Manganese – A gray-white element resembling iron.
Cobalt – Another hard metal like iron.
Iron – Iron is a metal important for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
A dusting of each of the following elements, the total weight of which is not to exceed 8/10 oz.
Lithium – A metal similar to sodium.
Strontium – Another metal similar to sodium.
Aluminum – A lightweight, strong metal used for cans.
Lead – A soft metal very resistant to corrosion.
Vanadium – A metal like lead, except stronger.
Arsenic – A semi-metallic silvery gray solid
Bromine – A heavy reddish brown liquid.
And likely a few other elements that would be present in sufficient quantity in a handful of ordinary dirt.
Now, it is quite clear from observing living and even dead bodies of human beings that these ingredients are combined in very special arrangements. The task of fastening atoms from each unique element one at a time in the proper order as determined by the billions of lines of instructions found in the genetic code is infinitely beyond your own ability.
If you are an unbeliever, you will need to mix the above ingredients in a sealed glass container with a pair of electrodes protruding into it. At first, it will look like a thin, watery soup. Cross your fingers and apply a high voltage to the electrodes to help stimulate the random possibility that at least a few of the necessary combinations will take place. Then you will just have to wait, perhaps a few billion years, as the potential of those first few correct combinations evolves into a human being. Of course there is no guarantee of the results, but you really have no other choice as an unbeliever. In your pride, you may be thinking that some day, with the cooperation of many scientists and powerful computers, man will be able to put the atoms together in such ways that will astound everyone, but such unbelieving pride will be punished. The elect will not be deceived.
If you believe in the one and only God who created each element with its unique properties and who holds in His eternal counsel a perfect understanding of and plan for each particle of the universe, stand back. Confess the folly of even the thought of you, mere man, making a human body. Bow humbly before Him. Read in His Word how He formed man in an instant, carefully, by His infinite wisdom, and breathed life into his body. Stand in awe as new bodies are curiously wrought by the hand of God in the space of nine months within the womb. Our God is God alone.
Tom is a member of First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.
Throughout our lives it becomes necessary for us to examine our beliefs as children of God and determine what we stand for and how these beliefs impact others and ourselves. Most often this is not of ourselves but is occasioned by God through trials and hardship. Especially, it seems, are these beliefs tried, tested, and proved throughout the teenage years and young adulthood. Most often the testing of these takes place during the highs and lows or the good and bad times in our lives. In each of these cases, these extremes, when it seems that we as Christians would and should draw close to our heavenly Father, most often instead we have drifted away from Him. When we most require the guidance, love, and care of our God, we instead have turned our backs on Him. As a result we lose sight of the fact that God has a plan for all mankind as well as for each individual; believer and unbeliever alike. We have lost sight of, and do not have a proper understanding of, the loving care of our Lord as brought about by His eternal council. This was recently brought to the fore following the terrorist attacks that devastated New York City and brought the world to its feet in indignation. Heard throughout our own nation were the prayers, but also the questions of how God could allow something like this to happen? How could a supposedly loving God have any part in such a horrific event? The conclusion that many have come to is that He didn’t. It could not have been the will of God that these things occur. What these fail to understand is that man’s definition of good and bad, beneficial and disastrous, does not correspond with the definition that God puts with these, at least as it relates to His Church. We must notice here that the trials which God sends affect the world and the Church in drastically different ways. For those of the world, each trial is a fiery coal set on their head serving only to further their condemnation. But for the Church these trials serve as the chisel and hammer with which God, the master sculptor, readies us for heaven.
For that very reason we need not fear, nor be disheartened when these trials are come upon us, even though Satan would have us become overwhelmed by them. Our Father has given a promise that stands clear in the eye of the believer through faith by the grace of God. It is the great truth to which we as sons and daughters of God cling to: that God will preserve not only His church as a whole until the end, but that He will also preserve His children individually. He will work all things in this life for our salvation.
In order to better understand this, it is necessary that we realize and observe that God places each individual believer in various circumstances in this present life. The question that often arises in regards to this is why? Why isn’t what is good for you good for me? Why is it not possible for me to experience those things that you experience? As foolish as this sort of questioning seems for Christians, for Christ Himself teaches us that we must have a childlike trust in God (Mark 10:14, 15), they are questions that plague each and every one of us in our daily walk. Questions that Satan and his hosts delight in and, if it were possible, would that we would be consumed by them. A thorough examination of Scripture however reveals the simple yet amazing answers to these questions. The apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians 4:15-17: “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” God has called each of us to walk a particular pathway through this life, and although it is possible for those paths to seem very much alike at times, they are at other times drastically different. This is easily seen by looking briefly at the lives of those around us. Some have found a mate with which to spend the rest of their earthly lives while others seek but never find. Some have been blessed with many children while other couple’s homes remain childless. Some must deal with sickness and infirmity daily, while others seem to live relatively healthy lives. There are those who must constantly deal with an errant loved one, but others have entire families that never seem to stray.
As children of God we must bear in mind three main points as we regard our lot in this life. First of all, the Lord brings all things in our lives to pass in order to strengthen our faith. James 1:3-4 clearly demonstrates this: “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Talk to any sports coach or leader in the armed forces of our country and they will tell you that adversity works to strengthen individuals. Likewise this is true in the lives of God’s people. It is the conviction of the child of God and the clear teaching of Scripture that God has a plan for the world, the wicked, and His Church. If that is true, and it is, it must follow then that all those things which God sends on us as part of that plan are for our good, for our salvation (Psalm 73:24). Is it not true that the whole reason for the existence of this world is that through the condemnation of the wicked and the salvation of the righteous, in accordance with His plan, God Himself may be glorified? Having just set forth the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, the author goes on in chapter 12 to encourage the Hebrews, as well as the church of all ages to follow these heros in the example they have set. If they could endure such great trials of faith, the reward of which was their very salvation, surely we also can and must endure those things by grace, with which the Lord supplies us in abundance. Through these things our faith is strengthened and proved in order that we may be assured of our salvation. More and more we look to Him for all things necessary for body and soul until that time He has determined when He will call us home.
Secondly, in sending these things in our lives God uses them to work out our salvation. Very really, each happening in our lives God uses to save us. It is truly wonderful and incomprehensible how God leads us through this valley of tears in order to take us home to Him. And that indeed is what we must understand and confess. You see, that is the basis, the foundation if you will, of the hope that we cling to. Our Father has elected us and has before ordained that we should be His children (Acts 13:48), however, it is in part through our walk in this life that the Lord works out our salvation. Elihu, one of the friends of Job, in speaking to Job of the way in which God works deliverance in us through those things we experience in our lives, exhorts Job in Job 30:29, 30: “Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.” This is also the clear teaching of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, 1:29: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for His sake.” What a joy then it is for us to be given the opportunity to endure suffering and trial for the sake of Christ! This wonderful and comforting truth is illustrated in Romans 5:3 where we read: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Also, there is the well known Word of God in Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Our Father sends many adversities or tribulations into our lives, each of which is a gentle shaping by the great sculptor in preparation for our place in glory. For the Christian, each experience in this life points us directly back to the Father as He who sends those experiences. Indeed what a great comfort it is to know that I am so preserved “that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1).”
And thirdly, God prepares us for our own particular place in heaven through our lives here on this earth. Our afflictions, and even our successes, are specifically tailored by God to each individual believer as He shapes and forms us in and through this life in order that we may fill our place in glory to perfection. When finally the day arrives that we are called to glory it will only be upon the completion of our place in heaven (John 14:2, 3). Likewise we also must be prepared to fill that particular place that has been prepared. The fact that each individual believer experiences unique circumstances throughout life points directly to the reality that each of us will have a peculiar place in glory. The Lord gives to each in the church certain gifts and abilities. God then uses the experiences of this life, whether positive or negative, to build upon those gifts and abilities. When our pilgrimage comes to an end here on earth, our gifts and abilities will remain with us in heaven, only to be perfected there. These will then be used in the particular charge into which God will place us in heaven. Although Scripture does not give great detail as to what exactly our duties will be, it is sure that they will involve enjoying and praising God. There is great encouragement in this for the child of God. To know that all those things which we endure here on earth: sickness, pain, sorrow, etc., all work to perfect our salvation within the council of God. In them we are made aware again and again of the hope we as believers have that one day God will call each of us home at the time that He has appointed, having been prepared completely, to live forever with Him in glory.
As is plain by now, this requires a great deal of faith, which our gracious God, by His grace has equipped us with, whether young or old, black or white, man, woman, or child. In no way is it ever possible for us to believe without the grace that God in His good pleasure gives to us. In no way are we ever able to earn that faith (II Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:9). God, through the work of the Holy Spirit works that faith in our hearts continuously. He does not give us faith, leaving it up to us whether we will keep that faith or not. For were that the case, we would all be damned to eternal hell fire and none would be saved. God has chosen a people whom He has saved through the death of Christ on the cross, and to them He gives faith. We must however add here that simply to have faith is not enough. There must also be works. God glorifying, filled with adoration and thankfulness, so moved by the Holy Spirit to be sure. As James 2:26 illustrates, the very spirit of faith is works. The result of a true faith will always be these works. Without these works of thankfulness and gratitude, our faith is dead. For this we must be ever thankful. Article twelve under the third and fourth heads of doctrine in the Canons speaks of our regeneration as “a supernatural work…most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable.” This is followed by article thirteen which states, as it refers to those to whom this salvation is bestowed, “Not withstanding which, they rest satisfied with knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Savior.”
Then, by the grace of God, through faith we view our own lives and the events which take place within them in the light of these marvelous truths. For we have been given faith, and are assured throughout the Scriptures that our heavenly Father works all things not simply for our good in this life, but through them and in them He works our very salvation. As Romans 11:33 proclaims: “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” Knowing this we are enabled to view the events of September 11 along with any other situation in our daily lives and confidently say with the apostle Paul in Romans 8:37-39, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Lord give us the strength and unfailing grace to see His hand in all the trials and hardships which He sends upon us in our lives, regarding them as blessings always, and in seeing this, to give Him all the glory, forever and ever.
Rev. Hanko is a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches. Reprinted from the Loveland PRC newsletter.
Scripture’s testimony concerning the coming of Christ raises the question, “When (and how) shall He come?” It is in answering this question that the subject of the millennium of Revelation 20 comes up. The different millennial views, premillennialism, postmillennialism and amillennialism, therefore all have to do with the time and manner of Christ’s coming.
From one point of view it is to be regretted that millennialism, something mentioned only a few times in Scripture and that in one chapter of a difficult and symbolic book, should have become such a matter of debate and disagreement among Christians. Nevertheless, the difference between these different millennial views is important and not to be dismissed as of no account. The time and manner of Christ’s coming are important!
For example, the constant testimony of Scripture that Jesus comes quickly, is of enormous importance for our hope while we live our lives in the world (cf. II Pet. 3:8, 9, 17). So is the fact that He comes suddenly and unexpectedly (cf. I Thess. 5:1-10).
So, too, the different views of the millennium also raise questions about the nature of Christ’s kingdom, whether it is earthly or heavenly, present or future, Jewish or Christian, and these questions, too, are of the utmost importance. We are called to seek the kingdom and we must know what it is we seek, if we are to fulfill this calling.
We will not, therefore, dismiss the subject of the millennium as unimportant, but will attempt to explain the different views, and to show from Scripture what ought to be believed. We do this not to further divisions among Christians or to offend those who hold differing views from ours, but to show what the Word teaches and why.
We trust that everyone understands that “millennium” means “a thousand years,” and refers to the “thousand years” mentioned six times in Revelation 20 . During that thousand years, according to Revelation 20, Satan is bound, and those who have part in the first resurrection live and reign with Christ. At the end of that period, whatever period of time it describes, Satan is loosed for a “little season” the nations are deceived by him and gathered to battle against the holy city. God then intervenes and judgment follows. That much is clear to all from Revelation 20. What that all means, however, is not so clear.
Some believe this is all in the future, including the thousand years itself (premillennialism), others that it has all already begun and that we are already in the period described as a thousand years (amillennialism). Still others teach that while it may have begun, its principle fulfillment is still future and will be seen only when a period of unprecedented peace, blessing and prosperity comes for the gospel and the church (postmillennialism).
In connection with this some believe that the next personal coming of Christ is prior to the millenium (pre‑), others, that it is after the millennium (post- and a-). The former also teach more than one future coming of Christ, the latter two expect only one future coming. To these different views we turn in our next article.
Connie is the mother of 5 children and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The air outside was light and fresh, and the city bustled about as usual. There was nothing to tell that this spring day would be different from any other spring day in the past. But the air was heavy with tension inside the meeting hall of Blackfriars, London. Eight bishops and thirty-seven other officials gathered into the room. One man, the Archbishop of Canterbury, cloaked in red, purple and gold, sat as judge. One man, the plain and frail professor and preacher, John Wycliffe, stood as one accused and worthy of death.
What was his crime? Preaching the truth from the Word of God, translating Scripture into English (which no one had ever done before), and worst of all, teaching that the Mass was idolatry. Anathema! The trial was hardly needed. The only question in the bishops’ minds was how Wycliffe ought to die.
* * * * *
“Esteemed members of the council, we are considering in this tri—”
Wait. What was this? Chairs rattled. Curtains swayed. Walls crumbled. The city was in an uproar. Earthquake!
“P-perhaps w-we should a-adjourn,” sputtered some of the men as they prepared to leave.
But the man accused was not afraid. God had kept him safe through trials before, trials that were sure to condemn him to death. God could keep him safe now too. “This earthquake comes as God’s judgment upon this council,” he told them.
“This earthquake comes as the earth heaves of your heresies!” the archbishop replied, and he persuaded the council to stay.
By the end of the day, John Wycliffe was found guilty. No longer would he be allowed to be a professor at Oxford. But the council did not dare sentence him to death. Yet would he be able to preach and teach and translate Scripture. Yet would the work continue that would let many people hear the Word of God with understanding for the very first time in their lives. The man known as the “Morning Star of the Reformation” was used of God for a mighty work, a work that prepared the way for the Reformation to dawn some 130 years later. His life was spared, and so was the truth of Scripture.