Vol. LXI, No. 7; July 2002
Beacon Lights is published monthly by the Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People's Societies. Subscription price is $10.00. Please send all correspondence, address changes, subscriptions, and article submissions to the business office.
The articles of Beacon Lights do not necessarily indicate the viewpoint of the Editorial Staff. Every author is solely responsible for the contents of his own article.
The Beacon Lights encourages its readers to contact the business office with any questions or comments. Letters may be edited for printing. We will not publish anonymous letters, but will withhold names upon request.
If any material of Beacon Lights is reprinted by another periodical, we will appreciate your giving the source and forwarding the printed periodical to the business office.
I am convinced that it is my duty as editor of this publication to apologize for the publication of a letter which I entitled “Deadly Poison” in the January 2002 issue of Beacon Lights which misquotes and misrepresents the views of Dr. Silversides. The misquote and misrepresentation has led the readers to believe something false about Dr. Silversides.
Having received the letter in which the author accused Dr. Silversides of mixing dreadful lies with the truth, I did not do the research necessary to ensure that what she said was in fact accurate. Instead, I published the letter simply because I thought it was important for our readers to beware of teachers who mix the lie with the truth. Failing to check the accuracy of the charges is a mistake I regret and I can only trust now that God will use this for my good and the good of the readers.
Upon publication, readers who were acquainted with Dr. Silversides and had serious doubts that he was quoted accurately, did the necessary research and informed me of the inaccuracy. They produced letters for publication in defense of Dr. Silversides, but we chose to publish his own letter of defense in the May 2002 issue.
I want it to be clear that I did not intend to mislead the readers of Beacon Lights. The author of the original letter admits that part of her accusation was the result of her own logical conclusion from hearing the tape incorrectly and says she did not intend to mislead the readers but only has “a very real concern for the defense of the Gospel as it is in Jesus Christ.”
It has been pointed out by Dr. Silversides himself that there are doctrinal differences between him and the Protestant Reformed Churches. These doctrinal differences also were a part of the accusation brought against Dr. Silversides. It is true that we as Protestant Reformed Churches take serious issue with these differences, and our young people need to be discerning. It needs to be understood, however, that these differences are typical of those in the Presbyterian churches and were not part of a secret attack upon the truth as we believe it. The issues have been the subject of public debates between Dr. Silversides and Rev. Ron Hanko while he served as missionary in Northern Ireland.
Having attempted to explain the mistake, I do not want to minimize the seriousness of my mistake. Beacon Lights gave a false witness. It does not matter whether it was intended or not. It does not matter either if we disagree with or oppose the one whom we falsely charge. Misquoting anyone, whether a fellow member of the congregation, a fellow believer we do not agree with, or a convicted criminal is a false witness. God makes it clear that we violate His law when we bear false witness.
The danger of bearing false witness must not make us shy away from defending the truth and attacking error. We must defend the truth and attack errors, but we must also be diligent to make sure we speak the truth and be humble when we err. I intend to continue using the tool of this publication to defend the truth of God’s Word and attack errors. Even so, I endeavor with more diligence to make sure that the defense of God’s Word and attack against deadly poison is accurate lest I myself become guilty of spreading the deadly poison of lies.
Jeanette is a member of Randolph Protestant Reformed Church in Randolph, Wisconsin. She wrote this paper for an 8th grade Language assignment at Faith Christian School.
Queen Elizabeth I of England helped spread the Protestant religion throughout England. Though she faced many difficulties, she continued to press on. Elizabeth helped the cause of the Reformation and promoted Protestantism in England by rooting the majority of the Catholic religion out of her realm and restoring the Protestant religion to England.
Elizabeth I was born on September 7, 1533, to Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII’s first wife had been executed on the charge of adultery; Anne Boleyn was also executed on that same charge. After Elizabeth’s mother was beheaded, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. At this time, she was only three years old (Southgate). Henry’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, brought Elizabeth back into the court where Sir Thomas Cranmer and other tutors taught her of the Protestant religion (Elizabeth I, Encarta Encyclopedia).
After Henry VIII died, his son Edward VI took the throne. He was a weak and sickly king, but he spread Protestantism throughout his realm. He died when he was very young. After Edward VI died, Mary, Elizabeth’s half sister, the daughter of Henry’s first wife, became queen of England. She was a devout Catholic and wanted to restore the Catholic religion to England. Mary was always suspicious of Elizabeth and they did not get along well because they were of two different religions. During Mary’s reign however, Elizabeth pretended to be a Catholic by going to Mass and practicing other Catholic customs. However, Mary was still suspicious of her. She once had Elizabeth thrown into prison because she thought that Elizabeth had been a part of an uprising against the throne. These charges were never proven. In 1558, Mary died, and Elizabeth became queen of England (Southgate).
When Elizabeth came to the throne, the people rejoiced because they had been subject to oppression and persecution under Mary. She was often called “Good Queen Bess,” and the people of England loved her (Southgate). She was a very smart woman and enjoyed music and learning different languages. Her reign is often called the Golden Age because of the many accomplishments and reforms during her reign (Thomas, 234).
Elizabeth had many important decisions to make. She had to decide if England would remain Catholic or become Protestant. During her reign, she signed the Supremacy Act, which said that the king or queen of England was the head of the Church of England and the pope was no longer head of the Church of England. Also, she revised the Prayer Book, and the Forty-two Articles was changed to the Thirty-nine Articles. Many changes were made throughout the doctrine, worship and government of the Church. These many changes are referred to as the Elizabethan Settlement. These changes firmly established the Church of England (Kuiper, 228).
Actually, Elizabeth did not care for religion; she loved ritual. The Anglican Church in England wanted a more complete reformation, but Elizabeth did not want this. She passed the Act of Uniformity in 1571, because she wanted uniformity in her whole realm. Some of the clergy members who wanted this reformation refused to sign this document; they were called Puritans or Non-Conformists. Elizabeth despised statements written against the throne—she resented John Knox, the Scottish reformer, because he wrote a pamphlet against women in control of the government (Hanko, 310).
Elizabeth never married, for she believed it would do her no good. Because she never married she is often referred to as the “Virgin Queen.” She used her single status as a political tool. She made many friendships however, and by her many friendships she avoided war with Spain for a time, for many in Spain supported the Protestant cause (Slavin).
The Catholics in the English realm believed that Elizabeth was illegitimate and that her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, who was a Catholic, should be queen of England. Elizabeth’s servants knew that Mary would try to take over the throne. They tried to capture her, but Mary fled to England where she was kept a prisoner and protected by Elizabeth, for Elizabeth could not restore her to the Scottish throne and she could not let her reign in France where there was unlimited support against Elizabeth. However, Mary was suspected of a plot against Elizabeth’s life, and soon after Elizabeth reluctantly signed a warrant for her execution (Thomas, 235).
In the Netherlands, the Spanish ruled the people. Elizabeth sent an army over to the Dutch Protestants to help them out because they were being persecuted under the Inquisition. She also told her “sea dogs” (pirates) to continue to raid Spanish ships. This angered Philip, the king of Spain, and he prepared an “Invincible Armada” that would destroy the English. The English ships were built better and carried more and better guns. The two sides had about the same number of ships, but the English fleet destroyed the Spanish fleet in 1588 (Slavin). After the defeat of the Armada, Elizabeth said, “I think foul scorn that Parma [a city in northern Italy] or Spain or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm. I myself will take up arms” (Thomas, 233). Even after this, the war continued with Spain for sixteen years.
With the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the Dutch gained more religious freedom. Elizabeth helped them as much as she could, even though many of the Catholics plotted to kill her. However, even forty years after Elizabeth’s death, the Dutch Protestants were still being oppressed and persecuted. During this time a group of Separatists were forming; this group would later go to America. Elizabeth took a great interest in the starting of these new churches (Hanko, 310).
At the end of her reign, Elizabeth was no longer as popular with the people because they felt that she abused the royal power and spent too much money. Also, her policies became weaker. Ireland revolted against her. “She spent the last years of her life unhappy and alone, having outlived a glorious age, the beginning of the history of what would become modern England. She died in London on March 23, 1603” (Elizabeth I, Encarta Encyclopedia).
Elizabeth helped the Protestant cause greatly. She brought many changes and great reform throughout her realm. Although many plotted against her, she continued to help the Dutch and spread the Protestant religion throughout England by the work of many great reformers.
The forbidden services of the Secessionists in Hilversum were held in the house of Gijsbert Haan. The worship service was interrupted by the mayor, the town clerk, the bailiff, and two policemen. Although all but the policemen left, these officers of the law watched carefully all that went on. Rev. Buddingh preached on the history of Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace.
Behind the green table in the courthouse sat the mayor, the secretary and a few members of the town council. Their faces were grim, the air was tense. In front of the table stood the two policemen who had to bring a report of their findings at the worship services they had just left.
“The usual bleating and crying, your honor,” De Nooij1 explained with disdain, “I do not know how else I must report this.” He shrugged his broad shoulders.
“That Buddingh even prayed for you,” remarked Van Huizen,2 who had wanted to put a penny in the collection.
Albertus Perk,3 fearing that the mayor might be influenced by this, hastily interrupted Van Huizen in his speech. “Let’s not wander from the subject. Is that agitator4 still in the town?” When the secretary noticed that the ‘agitator’ would lead another service in the afternoon he beat with his fist on the table so that the ashtray bounced up and down.
“That is what happens when you leave that scum undisturbed! The good name of our town is forever shamed! Isn’t it true that gentle doctors cause stinking wounds?5 My lords, weeds must be destroyed root and stem. I propose that this afternoon we drive out that bunch with as much force as we need!”
“Must the two of us do that?” asked Van Huizen uneasily.
His colleague sniffed with disdain, but one of the members of the council proposed to call out the civil guard, if necessary, to assist De Nooij and Van Huizen.
“An excellent idea!” shouted the secretary with enthusiasm, “If our minister of justice Van Maanen hears how we tackle the issue here, we will become an example for all of The Netherlands.”
His words were received with general approval; even the mayor Andriessen fell under the spell of it.6
Only one member of the council had the courage to protest against the shameful plan. It was the grocer Cornelis De Jongh, a neighbor of Gijsbert Haan, who represented the old Catholics in the council. “What wrong are they doing? They pray, they sing; is that wrong?”
He was attacked from all sides. “They destroy the precious unity among our people, which the king needs so badly,” called out another member of the council. “They are a danger to the country.”
“Nonsense,” answered De Jongh. “An acquaintance of mine took part in the Ten Day Campaign with the Hunter Company five years ago.7 He fought side by side with this Buddingh. For that matter there were other secessionist ministers among them. They are careful, faithful subjects of the king.”
“Alas, yes, the worst rubbish fought then,” taunted De Nooij.
“Our own civil guard, that you now want to misuse, went also,” answered the offended grocer. “Is the civil guard also rubbish?”
But his protests were in vain. They were fully determined to carry out the plan of Albertus Perk. The captain of the guard was called out and at noon the corps was ready to take action on the Kerkbrink.8
The mayor and the secretary took their place at the head of the procession, followed by De Nooij and Van Huizen, and behind them the guard.
The procession went through the Zuiderkerkstraat to the Groest. For this occasion De Nooij had exchanged his cap for a high hat with strings down to the throat. As a sign of his faithfulness to the king he wore an orange cockade9 to adorn his hat.
In the meantime the whole town was in an uproar. A large number of street folk, eager for a riot, followed the guard. The taverns emptied, infuriating the bartenders, who finally locked up and joined the crowd. At least the men who manned the beer taps would know what all the jokes were about which would later be told at the bar.
Soon the farm of Gijsbert Haan was surrounded by the members of the guard. Only a few of them, among whom was instructor Van Oostveen, were ashamed and held back.
So for the second time that day Mayor Andriessen stepped up to the door of Gijsbert Haan, who was already waiting for them. “In the name of the king I order the immediate emptying of these premises.”
“You do not have the right to do that, your honor. Our service is not yet started, we are just sitting together talking.”
But the mayor was no longer receptive to reason. “Out you go! Or else we will use force.”
When Gijsbert Haan, fully determined, continued to refuse, the mayor motioned to the police, “Court police, do your duty!”
Immediately these men stepped forward, pushed the home owner aside and rushed into the farm house.
In the part of the house where the Secessionists were sitting De Nooij grabbed the first one he could, Karsemeijer from Loosdrecht, and dragged him roughly to the door. Van Huizen grabb Karsemeijer’s wife’s arm, but she was able to pull herself loose and she fell screaming upon the neck of her husband. So both were dragged and pushed outside by the police, where the crowd received them with a roar.
“Go ahead and kill them!” bellowed De Nooij. “His wife is dead already,” the crowd bellowed; but she had fainted.
Karsemeijer managed with great difficulty to reach the grocery store of Cornelis De Jongh, where he washed his wife’s face with vinegar, so that she revived again. After that he took care of his own bleeding nose.
Meanwhile the police had again stormed into the room. Van Huizen grabbed Dunketstein of Hilversum, a man who suffered from fainting spells, by the collar and pushed him all the way off the farm. He finally landed on the farm of the old Catholic, while the blood dripped from his face.
“They are killing me!” he moaned when De Jongh picked him up. Reijmerink of Gravenlander was the fourth victim. De Nooij threw him outside and kicked him across the farm in the direction of the raging crowd, which mercilessly kicked, struck and spit upon the man. Bleeding from nose and mouth he stumbled into the town.10
The rest of them watched from the house until it would be their turn. Some wept, others stared straight ahead with blank faces, still others prayed for strength and courage.
Koen, like a small boy, went to sit on his father’s knee. Maarten bent down by his grandfather, who also was kneeling. “Doesn’t the Lord help us, grandfather?” he whispered as he sobbed.
The old man gave him a look which he would never forget. “The Lord is right by us, boy, especially now when we are being thrown into the fiery furnace. Apart from His will the enemy cannot stir nor move. But He allows this because He has His purpose with it.”
For the third time the police dashed inside. Thijs De Vries had to witness in helpless rage, how De Noolj struck his uncle on his head and pushed him toward the door like a criminal, while Van Huizen with great difficulty dragged Gilbert Hogenbirk away.
At that moment, on the other side of the house, a low door was opened from the outside. In the ray of the sunlight that shone into the room Maarten saw the tearful face of his sister Klaartje. At the beginning of the drama she was still outside and had hidden somewhere on the farm, until she discovered the low door, by which the pigs could enter.11
The eyes of Gijsbert Haan lit up. “Folks, we can now escape. Get out!” Maarten took his grandfather by the arm, “Hurry, you go first.”
“No, no, boy, first the women and the children.”
“Yes.” The strong voice of Jan Hartog sounded behind them. The giant from Bunschoten12 walked to the door and motioned to the children. First Koen and his little sisters went through the opening, followed by Maarten and Jan Roest, the son of the wagon maker. Then followed a few of the women.
Jan Hartog helped them through the low opening. On the other side of the house two visitors from Huizen, Schram and Verwelius by name, helped the escaping people to get to their feet. Manus Rebel was struck by that. Bunschoters and Huizers usually did not get along too well together, but here conflicts disappeared.13
However the sharp ears of the hussar14 again heard footsteps on the farm.
“This is going too slow, Hartog,” he whispered uneasily.
Hartog nodded and looked up with concern. Suddenly his eyes rested on the large wagon doors, which were opened at harvest time to enable the farmers to drive their heavily loaded wagons into the barn to be unloaded.15 These doors were now closed and barred, but Hartog had come up with a risky idea. To think and to act were for him the same thing. He ran to the doors, took hold of them, took a deep breath and forced them up with all his might.
Gijsbert Haan’s wagon doors were not strong enough to withstand such great force: they broke off their hinges and came down to earth with a crash. “Get out of the way!” screamed the giant, still panting from his exertion.
After the doors were opened, there was plenty of room to escape. When De Nooij and Van Huizen, now accompanied by a few of the guards, once again entered the house, they were just in time to see the last Secessionists disappear.
At the same time Reverend Buddingh appeared on the scene. Tired after the night-long trip and the disturbed morning service, he had slept a while in the house and was awakened by the tumult around and at the farm.
When Hartog and Manus Rebel saw him they turned back to the farm.
With rough curses the guardsmen pressed upon the minister, but Hartog fearlessly jumped in front of them. “Don’t you dare to touch him with your filthy hands!” he shouted with a thundering voice.
The guardsmen jumped back and Van Huizen went to stand by the door. Not because he was afraid, but just to be sure.
Then De Nooij stepped forward provocatively. He looked Hartog over, who was dressed from head to foot in the clothing customarily worn in his town. “I thought so,” De Nooij said mockingly. “It surely stinks like herring here! Here we indeed have the heel-licker of our pious colleague Koelewijn. I’ll soon get you, you blighter. But first I have to get that big scalawag!”16
For the time being that was the last that De Nooij said. When he took one step in the direction of the minister Jan Hartog leaped at him like a roaring lion. The policeman saw him coming and wanted to use his handcuffs on Hartog.
But this time Peter De Nooij had found his equal. With a mighty swing, behind which all his colossal strength was hidden, Jan Hartog threw the heavy body of the policeman into the corner of the threshing floor. His hat took the worst of the blow, and it came down over his nose, so that he could not see nor hear anything. His legs swayed like the legs of a shot pheasant. Then he fell stunned to the ground.
Reverend Buddingh knew how to quiet his excited protector with a single word.
However the fall of De Nooij meant the end of the attack. His fellow fighters stared for a few moments with big eyes at the fallen giant. Then the whole group fled, with Van Huizen in the lead, crying as they went: “De Nooij is knocked down. De Nooij is unconscious!” The reaction upon the crowd was indescribable.
When Jan Hartog came on the farm a little later to pump some water for the very purpose of bringing his enemy to consciousness, the cowardly mob spread out in all directions. Even the guard took to their legs.
No one witnessed the shameful departure of the “unconquerable” policeman, Peter De Nooij. Bare-headed, he stumbled into the Zuiderkerk street. Manus Rebel walked a short distance behind him to keep an eye on things. At the Zeedijk,Van Huizen suddenly popped up and hesitantly joined his colleague.
The old watchman remembered the day of the cattle market a few weeks before. “When one is in trouble his friends disappear,” he grinned before he turned away.
Gijsbert Haan thought it advisable that Reverend Buddingh should leave Hilversum as soon as possible. After a hearty and encouraging farewell, the minister, Jan Hartog and instructor Beukers went to the stable of Huig Corton on the Narnse lane. No one so much as pointed a finger at them.
Soon the horses were harnessed and the trio returned to Bunschoten.
Conditions remained tense in the town and in the evening the taverns were fuller than ever. Van Huizen had quite a time clearing them up, for his colleague was no more to be seen.
And in the mayor’s room of the courthouse things were extremely stormy.
Barend Andriessen outlined a plan of action…
1 De Nooij was one of the policemen who was particularly hateful of the Secessionists.
2 Another policeman, far more sympathetic to the Secessionists.
3 The town clerk who had really been responsible for the first attempt to break up the worship service.
4 The reference is to Rev. Buddingh.
5 An old proverb which means that a doctor who is afraid of hurting his patient will not be of much help.
6 When the mayor had first learned in the middle of the night that the Secessionists were bringing a minister into town, he was most reluctant to act.
7 The reference is to a battle in which Dutch troops had fought.
8 The general area where the Secessionists were meeting.
9 An ornament something like a roseate which served as a badge.
10 Such treatment of the Secessionists was not all that uncommon.
11 The meaning here is not entirely clear. On the farms in the Netherlands the barns were usually attached to the house, and a small doorway led directly from the house into the barn. That is probably the reference here. But animals were rarely allowed in the house proper. This only was permitted in those places where the farmer was very poor. The doorway referred to in the story cannot mean a doorway by which pigs entered the house, although it was the connecting doorway between house and barn.
12 The same village from which Rev. Buddingh had come.
13 That is, the people from these two towns and the churches in these towns did not get along.
14 Manus Rebel who once was a soldier in the Dutch army.
15 These people were now inside the barn, but faced with these huge doors.
16 Bunshoten was a village on the sea in which a great deal of fishing was carried on. Hence the reference to the odor of herring. Apparently Koelewijn was the Secessionist minister in Bunschoten, from which village Hartog had come, along with Rev. Buddingh.
Kris is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Rev. Steven Houck, the son of Merton Hilmer Houck and Jessie Elizabeth Houck, was born on January 31, 1948. His mother’s maiden name was Line. He was born in Cloquet, Minnesota, and grew up in Cromwell, Minnesota, which is a country town about 40 miles west of Duluth, Minnesota.
As he was growing up, Rev. Houck attended Eagle Lake Grade School and Cromwell High School. After high school, he attended Grace Bible Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, and Bellvue College in Bellvue, Nebraska, which is next to Omaha. He also had two years of pre-seminary at our seminary in Grandville, Michigan.
When Rev. Houck was a teenager, he attended a public school, so he faced many temptations to live like the world. Many in his class drank, smoked and caroused around. Dirty language was common. Someone was always pushing around someone who was smaller than he. Rev. Houck sees that these things are the same temptations facing young people today. A young person has to make up his or her mind whether he or she is going to live as a Christian or not. Rev. Houck says that it will mean standing out in a crowd. You will not be popular, but that is our calling as Christians.
As he was growing up, Rev. Houck’s hobbies included going bird and deer hunting and fishing often. He also liked to play chess. He still goes hunting and fishing now and then. He usually plays a game or two of chess on Christmas and Thanksgiving. He also likes to spend time on his computer.
While he was a student at Grace Bible Institute, Rev. Houck met Carolyn Joyce Riezanstein, who was from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. They courted for about a year and were married on May 17, 1969. The Lord blessed them with six children: Elizabeth, Sarah, Joel, Nathaniel, Jeremy and Daniel. Rev. and Mrs. Houck had many happy times together with their children. Next to spiritual things, children are the greatest blessing God gives to believers. The Houcks were married for 32 1/2 years. Mrs. Houck died on December 26, 2001, at the age of 56. Rev. Houck and his children miss her very much, but they know she is with her Lord and in perfect happiness.
When he was only nine years old, Rev. Houck began to think about the ministry. At that time his father died, and he began to think seriously about life, death and God. His father’s death made him realize that there was another life after this life, a heaven and hell, and that the life to come was the most important. When he was a junior and senior in high school, he felt God calling him to be a minister. God gave him a love of the Holy Scriptures. Rev. Houck would spend hours every day reading and studying his Bible. One of the books which God used to call him to the ministry was the book, “Through Gates of Splendor,” written by Elizabeth Elliot. This book is about the missionary labors of her husband, Jim Elliot, and his martyrdom. God used this biography to give Rev. Houck a desire to give his life for the gospel.
Besides the experiences He gave Rev. Houck while he was growing up, God also prepared him for the ministry through his Bible school training. This training gave him an understanding of God’s Word. Most of all, he values his seminary training where he learned about expounding Holy Scripture and preaching. God used everything in Rev. Houck’s life to prepare him for the ministry. Every person he has known, every experience he has had, in one way or another was part of his training.
When they heard of his desire to enter seminary, Rev. Houck’s family, especially his mother, was very happy. They knew that the ministry is a very high calling and that it is a great privilege for a young man to be called of God to serve Him in His kingdom. Since Rev. Houck attended a public school, his peers did not care one way or another about his desire for the ministry. They did not care about spiritual things, and they mocked and ridiculed him and the few others who were Christians.
Regarding the most memorable event of his years in seminary, Rev. Houck says he cannot remember one event that stands out above all others. He does remember that he greatly enjoyed the study of God’s Word and learning new things. This helped him grow spiritually. Most of all, he was impressed with how faithful God was to him and his family. Even though he had a wife and children and his time was very limited, God saw to it that he could finish his lessons, write his papers, read the outside reading, study for exams and still spend time with his wife and children. They were very dependent upon the Lord for everything, and the Lord never failed them. The Lord was always there and gave them what they needed spiritually and physically. Those were days when the Lord drew them very close to Him.
After he was ordained in 1979, Rev. Houck became a missionary. His first charge was in East Lansing, Michigan, and his second charge was Modesto, California. He has been the pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois for 12 years. This is his first pastorate. He loves the work of being a pastor, but he also misses the work of the missionary. He is thankful to God that He has given him the privilege of doing both kinds of work.
Regarding the teaching of children in catechism, Rev. Houck loves teaching both the younger children in grade school and the older children in high school. It is a wonderful thing for him to see the children grow up in the Lord. Having been at Peace PRC for 12 years, he has taught some of the young people ever since they were in the first grade. He considers them to be his children. He rejoices when he sees them make confession of faith and he is happy for them when he sees that they are sincere about believing and loving the truth. When they struggle with difficulties and face hardships, he sorrows with them. It also brings him much joy to witness young children coming to understand certain truths for the first time. Sometimes the young children bring a little humor into his life. Their misconceptions about certain things bring a smile to his face.
As a minister, it is most rewarding for Rev. Houck to witness a member of the congregation who had gone astray come back to the truth and to the ways of righteousness. The Lord has given him the opportunity to witness this many times. He feels so helpless when a member walks in sin and will not listen to the Word of God. His heart is broken when he sees one of God’s people forsake the Lord. But then God in His grace and mercy turns the sinner around and brings him to repentance so that he returns to the right way. This makes a pastor realize that God’s grace is an almighty power that can do anything. All the work the pastor and elders do is not in vain. The Lord uses their feeble efforts to build His Church.
Even though he is a middle-aged pastor, Rev. Houck does not have any memories of the two major controversies which we faced as churches. He did not even know about the PRC until just before 1974 when he and his family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Minneapolis and joined Hope PRC. He has studied the controversies of 1924 and 1953, and is convinced that the issues involved are very important. He says that as churches we must not abandon our heritage. We must be faithful in our rejection of common grace and the free offer of the gospel. We also must stand firm in our view of a sovereign unconditional covenant that God establishes with His elect people in Christ. These doctrines are dear to Rev. Houck. They are the reason why he joined the PRC. He was raised a Methodist and was for a time a fundamentalist, but he became Reformed, specifically Protestant Reformed, because he believes the Reformed faith over against all others to be the truth of God’s Word.
Rev. Houck has fond memories of the love that was shown to him and his family by the Hope congregation in Walker, Michigan. They started attending Hope Church when they moved to Grand Rapids from Minnesota and eventually became members there. They were received with open arms. There was always a place to go for Sunday coffee and Sunday evening. Their calendar was full for months. People were kind to them and helped them in many different ways. Whenever Rev. Houck runs across someone who falsely accuses the PRC of not being friendly, he points out this experience. No outsider could have been received better. It made them realize that the PRC not only had the Truth, but they also manifested their love for the Truth in their lives.
To young men who are considering the ministry of the Word to be their calling, Rev. Houck has this advice: “Every young man ought to consider the ministry. He ought to recognize that there is no higher calling and that the rewards of this calling are great. Not financially, but spiritually. If a young man is to consider this calling, he must love God’s Word, because a minister must spend a great deal of time in God’s Word. He ought to love to study the Scriptures. He also ought to feel a burden to bring God’s Word to others. The truth of Scripture ought to be so important to him that he must tell others.”
Concerning the thinking, attitudes, and behavior of the young people, Rev. Houck says that they, like the adults are greatly affected by the wicked world around us. We are too materialistic. We dress too much like the world. We have too much interest in fun and games. Living the antithetical life that is described in the Bible is the greatest struggle for young people and adults. Too many people call themselves Christians but live like unbelievers.
Rev. Houck is encouraged by our young people’s faith in and love of God’s Word. He has seen young people show great interest in the Truth and yearn to learn more about it. They are eager to discuss doctrine and want to know what to believe about things. They are willing to be mocked and ridiculed for their faith. They stand up for the Truth when they know it will bring them persecution. Unlike some adults, they do not want to be hypocrites. They would rather come out with their unrighteousness than to pretend to be what they are not.
Scott is a member of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Last summer I joined the Reformed Witness Hour Committee and became one of fourteen volunteers from five different Protestant Reformed churches to serve on the committee. This number includes our present radio minister, Rev. Haak.
I thought it would be a good idea if someone from our committee would write an article on our work, and also list our stations and times. Little did I know they would want me to write the article!
When I first joined this committee, I was astonished at how much work is done behind the scenes and how smoothly the whole committee seems to work.
The broadcasts are prepared on CDs by Rev. Haak, who preaches the actual radio message, and then filled in by Dr. Monsma, who introduces each program. The CDs are then mailed to each station without fail week after week. Also, booklets and tapes are made and sent out to regular subscribers and all who request them. This has been happening for almost 60 years now, which attests to the dedication and perseverance of the volunteers of the past. I would not doubt that the majority of people from First Protestant Reformed Church have served on the committee at one time or another.
Presently we are broadcasting on thirteen different stations in eleven different states and have a station in Canada that is ready to start broadcasting soon. We are also trying to get on Family Radio, which broadcasts in 38 states and on 55 different stations. Additionally, we would like to get onto Family Radio’s short-wave stations. Our goals for the future include trying to add five more stations.
We receive around ten to twenty responses every other month, the majority of which are very encouraging. If you listen, please drop us a letter or postcard. We also covet your prayers and support. Currently, our yearly budget runs roughly around $50,000 to $60,000. We are thankful for the generous support of so many of our listeners and churches.
May the Sovereign Triune Lord continue to bless this outreach and may the elect be gathered from the four corners of the earth!
Reprinted from June/July 1993 Beacon Lights.
As Israel began to rebuild the temple after the captivity it became apparent that this temple would not approach Solomon’s temple in beauty. God came to Israel to console them. He first reminds them that He is still with them even as He was when they came from Egypt. He then tells them that this temple will have Christ come to it. We need these words as well. Sometimes we forget that God is with us. We look back at the time of the Reformation and wonder if we could do what Luther and the others did. God comes to us and tells us to look ahead to when Christ will return to this earth. Sing or read Psalter 33.
Death is hard for us who are earthly. It is hard for those who are dying because they have families who seem to need them. It is hard for those who watch loved ones waste away in bed. Yet if we read the words of this chapter we can find great comfort in death for the child of God. While we remain on this earth, we are absent from the presence of our heavenly Father. Therefore death is nothing to be feared. Death for the child of God is that entrance into heaven where we can sit at the feet of Jesus with all the saints who have gone before us. Sing or read Psalter 312.
Now that we see death has such great promise, what about our life on this earth? Paul makes it plain that we have a calling here. We must carry out all God has given for us to do to the utmost of our abilities to His honor and glory. Why is this true? Verse 10 has the answer. Each of us must appear before Christ and give account of all we have done. Therefore while we remain on this earth we must always strive to glorify God in all that we do. Sing or read Psalter 161, especially stanzas 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9.
Why do we have such confidence that death will not defeat us? Do we have confidence that we will appear before Christ in heaven? The answer is found in these last verses. Christ loved us and died for us sinners. Not only that, God raised Christ from the dead and even now He is in heaven preparing for each of us our mansion. We struggle against the old man of sin daily, but we can struggle in the confidence that we have an advocate in heaven, even Jesus Christ, who went the way of the cross for our salvation. Sing or read Psalter 55.
Hosea through his prophecy brought many hard words to the church. The church had fallen far from what God had made it. But there is comfort in this prophecy as well. In verse one of this chapter we see that God chastises His church; but He also brings comfort to the chastised church. Read verse three and six again. Verse three talks of the benefits of returning from sin to Jehovah. Verse six speaks of the life that God wants. Here we see the two great commandments: love God (knowledge of God) and love the neighbor (mercy). Let us see that God is merciful even when we walk in sin. Let us see that we must have a knowledge of our merciful God. Sing or read Psalter 386, especially stanzas 3-5.
David had desired to build God’s house. God had told him that he could not do it, but that his son Solomon would perform such a task. David obeyed the word of the Lord, but he made as many preparations as he could so that his son could do the work. One of the last preparations was that he called Solomon to him and charged him with the task. David gave Solomon great help, but the greatest help is found in verses 11-13. Fathers, do you give your children great help? Are you making preparations so that they can carry out God’s work in the future? Do they know as Solomon did that they will only prosper when they keep the law of Jehovah? Sing or read 367, especially stanza 3.
Jesus had fed the five thousand. Now the huge multitude had followed him across the Sea of Galilee wanting more. They wanted the wrong bread. They wanted physical bread and other physical needs. Jesus had to show them and us that true disciples of Christ hunger after the bread of life. That bread cannot be found by earthly means. This bread comes from the Father who freely gives to His people Christ, the bread of life. Do we hunger after the bread of life? Is that what we feed our children? Sing or read Psalter 297, especially stanzas 1 and 3.
Most of us reading this are not blind. We have the ability with our physical eyes to discern those things around us. Even as physical light shows to us our physical surroundings, spiritual light makes plain our spiritual surroundings. Do we follow the light of the world? Do we trip spiritually because we do not follow Jesus, the Light? Psalm 119:106 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our paths.” Jesus is the Word. Follow Him and walk in the Light. Sing or read Psalter 334.
Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want to be with the other saints around the throne of God? How do you get there? Can you get there by yourself? Do you get there by doing good things for others? Will you get there by attending church regularly or because your family has gone to church for years? You can’t get there on your own works. You can’t get there by someone else’s works either. We know that our best works in this life are but filthy rags. How do we get to heaven? Jesus is the Door to heaven. Only through Him and His grace can we go to heaven. Sing or read Psalter 30.
In the days that sheep wandered through the lands of Israel and other countries, a good shepherd was an absolute necessity. Sheep need a shepherd to feed them, water them, and keep them from danger. A shepherd who shirked his duty often caused the sheep to die. We need a spiritual shepherd who is good. We are like sheep. That is the testimony of Isaiah 53. We have a good shepherd as this portion of the Bible tells us. We must always give thanks that the Father has given us Christ, the Good Shepherd, Who was willing to give His life for His sheep. Sing or read Psalter 56.
The story of the raising of Lazarus is familiar to the child of God. Using this circumstance in the life of His dear friends, Jesus taught them of His death and resurrection as well as the resurrection of all believers. Are you comforted by these words? Spiritually we are dead in our sins, without Christ. This truth cannot be disputed. But we become alive in Christ because He is the resurrection and the life. He has proved that with His resurrection. What must our reaction be to this great truth? We, like Martha, must believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Sing or read Psalter 47, especially stanzas 5, 10 and 11.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Where does that way lead? What truth are we talking about? What is this life? Jesus’ disciples had a hard time discerning spiritual truths and earthly truths. Let’s not be too hard on them. We often have the same trouble. Earthly cares cause the beautiful truths of this passage to fly from our hearts. We need to stop and realize that through Jesus is the only way into heaven. There is no other Truth but Him. The life that we should desire is a life that is spiritual on this earth and eternal in heaven. When we confess these truths, then truly our hearts will not be troubled. Sing or read Psalter 203.
Jesus is the Vine; we are the branches. Notice the vine comes first. That is only right since the sap of the plant must go from the vine to the branches. Jesus comes first and then the Church. From Jesus the Church draws its life. As the vine, Jesus gives character to the branches. A grapevine will have branches that bear grapes. Jesus also gives character to the church. The members must not decide what type of gospel must be preached. Jesus, as He is described throughout all the pages of the Bible, must be preached. We are allowed no other gospel. The vine is not cut down; branches are cut off. Sing or read Psalter 355, especially stanzas 1 and 2.
Four lepers had found that God had provided them with food and riches. After eating and securing for themselves many riches, they began to think about those around them. They realized that they should not hide the good that the Lord had given them. They called it a day of good tidings. What about us? God has given us good tidings as well. We have the gospel. Are we telling those around us? Are we carrying out His command to go into all nations to preach the gospel? The lepers worried about “some mischief” coming upon them. Do we have the same worry? Sing or read Psalter 49.
David deeply mourned the death of his friend Jonathan. What kind of friend was he? Verse 26 supplies us with the answer. Their friendship was pleasant. Their friendship was wonderful. Their friendship was closer than a man and his wife. Why is this true? There can be only one reason. Their friendship was based on the love of God. Jonathan willingly gave up his claim to Israel’s throne because he saw that David was the man of God’s choosing. On what are our friendship based? Are we willing to give up what we desire for our friends in Christ? Sing or read Psalter 369.
Young people, are you jealous for the Word of God? Do you fight for it? Do you let it be trampled under the feet of those around you? Why must you be jealous for the Bible The answer is found in today’s reading. Satan, through Jehoiakim, attempted to destroy the Word of God. He attempted to do so because in that Word was salvation. Satan is trying to do the same thing today. Oh, he does not use the obvious means about which we just read. He has more subtle means at his control. We must first of all know what God’s Word says. Then we must be jealous that His Word is not destroyed. Sing or read Psalter 336.
Do people in other areas hear of your faith? In this day and age of communication we hear news about others rapidly. What do they hear about us? When the telephone rings, what is the news? Paul heard about the faith and love of the Colossians when he received messages about them. That love was the love of Christ as manifest toward other saints. Does that love characterize our lives so that it is told to others? Don’t misunderstand, this is not for the sake of bragging; we know what pride does. A sincere walk of life gives the Christian assurance of the hope which is in heaven. Sing or read Psalter 365.
Do we confess that by Christ not only were all things created, but by Christ all things continue to exist? Is this our daily confession or do we fall into the error of trying to make it on our own? It is easy to fall into this error. We let the words “luck,” “fortunate,” and other such expressions slip into our vocabulary. We make plans for our future without considering if these plans are in accordance with the Word of God. We must stop and ask if we are causing glory to fall upon Christ by our actions. We do this because we must be conscious of the salvation that only comes from Him. Sing or read Psalter 363.
Is our faith “grounded and settled” upon the hope of the gospel? Yesterday, if the Lord willed, you heard the preaching of the Word. I pray that the hearing was with spiritual ears. Did something happen since then to move you away from that gospel of hope? Was it something you did? Was it someone with whom you met. Was Satan able to whisk God’s Word away from you before you could digest it? I hope not. We must be conscious of the bread of heaven. We must never let it be taken from us, but rather we must use it in this life as preparation for the life to come. Sing or read Psalter 362.
“Enticing words” are all around us. They come from the printed page, from the radio, from the television and from every other medium of communication known to man. Satan loves to use the media’s enticing words to lure us from the Word. In order to stay away from such enticing words, we need to use utmost caution when we use these things. We must be discerning viewers and listeners and make sure that what we see and hear is completely God-glorifying. God has given us His Word; we must walk in Christ and Christ alone. Sing or read Psalter 41, especially stanzas 1, 2 and 4.
If we have any thoughts of trying to gain our own salvation, we can put them to rest as we read these verses. Do any of us have the power to do what Christ did? He took those who were dead in sins and blotted all memory of those sins with His death on the cross. He spoiled the power of evil and openly triumphed over it. Let’s be happy with being buried with Him in our baptisms and risen with Him by the power of the Father. Let’s be so happy that we show it with lives of gratitude for such an unspeakable gift. Sing or read Psalter 83.
The early Christians had a problem with people who tried to insist that they follow the Old Testament laws. While the Church was in transition, some Christians felt a necessity to follow some of the old traditions. Paul had to show the Church that those things were no longer necessary because Christ had died. What about us today? We must see that we must not try to go back to a worship of ordinances. Christ has come, and we must only worship Him in spirit and in truth. Sing or read Psalter 227.
Are we risen with Christ? Do we seek heavenly things or earthly things? Are we ridding ourselves of all manner of ungodly practices that cause the wrath of God to be poured out on us? I have put these in the form of questions even though Paul used commands. These are commands of God which must be followed daily by us. Each day we must examine ourselves to see if we are walking in a way worthy of someone risen with Christ. Sing or read Psalter 383.
Now that we have examined our spiritual walk within ourselves, let us see how we are walking with the brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we guilty of the sins of verses 8 and 9? In fact, do we love the sins of those verses? Or have we put on the new man and walk in the ways of verses 12 through 15. There is a big difference in the first and last parts of this section. There will be a big difference in our churches and lives depending on what way we live. If we are constantly looking out for self, we will wallow in the sins of verses 8 and 9. If we show we love God through our love for the brethren we will have the peace of God ruling in our hearts. Sing or read Psalter 371.
This section is full of practical application of letting the Word dwell richly in us. It starts out with a glorifying worship of God. Was ours today? Then we must glorify God as husband, wife, child, father, or servant. Each of these is a calling from God. We must carry out that calling to His glory using the talents He has given us. That is the teaching of verse 23. Praise from men will get us nowhere in heaven. Praise from the Lord gives us the reward of the incorruptible inheritance. Does the Word dwell richly in us? Sing or read Psalter 38.
Have you ever eaten something so bland that you wished to spit it out? Are you conscious of the tastes of the food that you eat and do not wish to eat food that is unpalatable? Now that you have gotten some sensory images in mind you can understand verse 6 better. Speech with grace seasoned with salt is our goal. Why? We need to talk to every man about our love of Christ, This does not mean that we become a nuisance with our love of God, but rather that we use every opportunity to show that love. Sometimes it will be a long talk about things of the kingdom. Other times it will just be by an honest conversation. The only way we can be ready is if we study the Word and pray that we can have grace to have our speech seasoned with salt. Sing or read Psalter 105.
Do we care for those whom God has given a special calling in the kingdom? Are we mindful of their earthly needs so that they can carry out their spiritual calling? Paul was thankful for all those who had helped him in his labors. God has given to ministers, elders, and deacons a special calling. We can help such men by bearing their physical cares for them. Sometimes even just a word of appreciation can make their burdens lighter. Remember, they watch over our souls! Sing or read Psalter 243, especially stanzas 1, 2 and 15.
In the preceding three chapters of Job, God shows Job that He has made all things and causes all things to continue to exist. God makes Job to see that God alone is great and man is nothing in comparison. Job needed such a lesson because he had made himself wiser than God. Job understood and realized that he had sinned and asked for forgiveness. Do we understand the same lesson as we look at creation? Do we realize that God’s creation proclaims his majesty? Sing or read Psalter 286.
Joel had to sound an alarm of great doom for the children of Israel. Their enemies were all around them. But the problem was self-inflicted. God had to bring the enemies because of Israel’s sin. But there was comfort as well for God’s people. That comfort is found in verses 12 and 13. These verses are for us as well. Our enemies are all around us. Quite often the troubles are self-inflicted. We must rend our hearts and turn unto Jehovah who is gracious and kind toward all his people. Sing or read Psalter 266.
We often forget that the book of Jonah is one of the minor prophets. We see in it a nice story with a good lesson for God’s people. Look at verse 17 again. Does the time have any significance for us? It should. Christ told the Pharisees to look at the sign of Jonah as a picture of his authority. Jonah was in the fish for three days. Christ was in the earth for three days. Both came forth to carry out their work. Do we seek after the sign of Jonah and serve a risen Christ? Sing or read Psalter 310, especially stanzas 1, 2 and 6.
Joshua told the children of Israel about their history and the greatness of their God. But Israel had a problem. They were serving idol gods. From Joshua’s words it seems that there was a great variety of idols in Israel. Joshua told them that they needed to choose one god and serve that god alone. He, however, with his house was going to serve Jehovah. He told them that because they lived unholy lives they could not serve Jehovah. What about you, young people, can you serve Jehovah in your present life? Sing or read Psalter 309.
Melissa is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Ever notice how the more you hang out with depressed and distressed people, the more you start to think that way! If someone is constantly dwelling on things, especially that which is sinful, it often becomes a natural habit for them to think that way. This is certainly not a healthy Christian way to live: continually dwelling and wallowing in that sin! It’s sort of like a pig! If a pig is going to wallow in the mud the pig is going to get dirty! This is the same for us as young people in the realm of music. You cannot listen to music without being affected in every area of your life—emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and even sometimes physically.
Music has a powerful influence! The more we listen to it the more inclined we are to it and eventually it becomes a part of us. The more we listen to worldly music, the more we think as the world thinks in its songs. On the other hand, we begin to think more as a child of God when we listen to and meditate on the Psalms. Yet, our sinful nature makes it a whole lot easier to fall into the temptation of wallowing in the mud.
You don’t have to be listening to heavy metal rock to suffer the damaging effects of worldly music. Damaging effects can come from anything from easy rock, pop, country, and the good ole oldies! Some of these seem pretty docile, but if we take a closer look we will see why even this music can corrupt our lives. The devil works in many deceptive, subtle, and simple ways. Often we can’t fully make out the music lyrics. Or, we are found singing a small ditty to a song we have no idea of the true meaning. It’s just a catchy tune so we sing the words that go along with it without even thinking! But the tune sinks in and the meaning of the lyrics are planted with it. Sooner or later, the meaning will seep out and poison your soul. Can you truly say it is God glorifying?
The destructive effects are easier to see with rock music. This music plainly glorifies sin. It puts the sinner in the light, so to say. It promotes hormonal activity among the young people. Emotions rage. Feelings surge and romantic urges are encouraged! It promotes blasphemy and swearing! It is a sad thing to think we as young people are absorbing a good deal of our time listening to this garbage.
Rock is not the only music that has destructive effects upon our lives. What about that easy soft rock love music? Are we to welcome this into our lives because it’s “not as bad”? Absolutely not! This type of music portrays a false version of love. It’s a worldly type of love. It’s not a God centered love but that which is centered on man. It’s a promoter of lust! This easy rock hammers in the message that all a couple needs in order to get through tough times is their love. Such love in no way solves problems. If only they knew of the true love Christ has for His bride! Satan also uses this music to convince you that lust for that which is not your own is OK. Such music is contrary to God’s Word. It has no place in the life of a child of God.
Country music is no better. Most of the songs glorify ungodly behavior and encourage the listener to join in the hopeless despair and philosophy of the world. If you’re sick of your wife, just walk out on her. Live for today. Live wild. Live the life of leisure and drinking. Live for your lusts. Curse and blaspheme God for the sorrows of this life. Such music is contrary to God’s Word. It has no place in the life of a child of God.
The world is full of music. As Christians, we must use the Bible as our guide to tell what is right and what is wrong. Use much caution, young people! The devil works through very sneaky ways! He hits our subconscious without us even noticing! Be careful what songs you sing along with. Be careful what you allow your children to listen too. It can affect you in more ways than you may ever know! I have talked to people today that listened to the worldly music years ago and the music still pops up in their heads! What an amazing thing. But try to recall some Psalter numbers! Most of the time do you notice how it’s the trashiest of music that remains in our heads! Music is mentally damaging!
Young people, “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Deane is a member of First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.
One of the most interesting creatures of the lakeshore is an insect that is more of an import than a native. I am talking about the honeybee. This “hired hand” originated in Europe and has been put to work pollinating the blossoms of the fruit grown all along the lakeshore.
You may wonder why we are talking about bees and fruit growing when our topic is the western shore of Lake Michigan. The reason is “lake effect.” The big lake moderates the climate within thirty miles or so of the shoreline. The air is kept warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The air coming across the large body of water from Wisconsin is warmed to the point that it is more similar to the temperatures of Kentucky. In fact, plants thrive in this narrow band along the lakeshore that cannot survive further inland. This special ecosystem has become one of the primary fruit producing areas in the whole United States. The fruit that is grown includes cherries, apples, peaches, plums, and blueberries, a crop grown by my own family.
Farmers actually bring in truckloads of palletized beehives. They use a forklift to unload the hives and set them throughout the farm to pollinate the blossoms. The bees are so very busy gathering nectar and pollen by stopping at each blossom that they pollinate all the blossoms in the process. Pollination and cross-pollination are necessary for the fruit to develop and grow. In fact, without honeybees along with some other native insects that help them, there would be no fruit. Most other plants around the home and garden are greatly benefited by pollination also.
The hive of the honeybee is an amazing community, with each individual functioning in a certain role for the well-being of the whole group. The more that scientists study the honeybee they find more and more amazing facts. The queen bee lives up to five years. She controls the hive and lays up to two thousand eggs a day. They develop into workers, drones and new queens. The workers live for only six weeks in the summer before they burn out and die. At that time the hive can number from fifty to sixty thousand individuals. In the winter, the hive may only number ten to fifteen thousand. The workers live for nearly six months at that time. Queen bees are produced by feeding the larvae a special food called “royal jelly.” The drones are only there to mate and then die. They cannot sting or gather food. Most of them die before winter comes so that they are not a burden to feed.
One thing I have found especially interesting is that the bees control the temperature of the hive keeping it cool in summer and warm, up to sixty degrees, in winter.
The scout bees look for food then return to the hive to direct the other workers by a special dance shaped like a figure eight that guides the rest of them to the nectar. The scouts also have the job of looking for a new home.
When the queen begins to feel crowded she will prepare weeks ahead of time to leave the hive with many of the workers to find a new home. She leaves the old hive to the new queens who will soon be hatching from the eggs she has laid. When the queen makes this journey with thousands of her workers they are said to “swarm.” My experience with this amazing and fearsome event is the occasion for my writing on this topic.
A queen bee left her hive with her workers in a swarm to land in my backyard when the blueberries were in bloom in the fields next door in the spring. They seemed to block the sun and fill the air as they flew past. We ran for cover in the house. After several stops the swarm finally collected on a small sumac tree in my landscape. There were thousands of them clinging together. I learned later they were following the scent of the queen bee who was flying with them. They formed a teardrop shape with the queen in the center to protect her. The mass was nearly two feet tall and eighteen inches across. I called a beekeeper to ask if he wanted the swarm. He was there within an hour. I called my mother, a photographer, to see if she would like to see it and take pictures. She was there in ten minutes.
With the beekeepers there it became even more interesting. With bare hands and uncovered faces the keepers reached into the center of the mass of moving bees and shook the queen into the top of a hive that had been primed with honey to encourage her to accept it. The workers were so focused on the queen that they did not sting once. Immediately they began to drop into the hive to join her. She liked the smell of the hive so she stayed.
The keepers coaxed us to join them next to the hive for a close-up experience. They then picked out a drone to put on my hand. He did not have a stinger so he could only crawl around on my hand without hurting me. We sure had to swallow our fear and fight the urge to scream and run for cover! It was an incredible experience.
Half an hour later, most of the bees were in the hive. The beekeepers came back after dark to take the hive home. In the short time the swarm was in the tree. The workers had already put down a layer of pure white wax on the branch where they were hanging. They had already begun to make a honeycomb.
I am still amazed at what I saw. This “simple” insect exhibits an incredible amount of organization and complex “social” behavior. This can only be attributed to an almighty Creator with infinite wisdom. This shows us that our God is the origin of all order and structure in the creation. In fact all of the works of His hands are so ordered that even the scientists who are delving into the far reaches of space or the smallest atoms and their parts speak of the laws of physics that describe His providential structure in the creation. Our lives must be characterized by that same order so that we are most productive in our service of our Lord. We must make time to work, to spend time with the family and worship. It is fine to be “busy as bees,” but like them we must be orderly so that we are most productive. For that reason too, all things in the church must be done “decently and in good order”.
The bee holds a special place in the revelation of God because there is reference to it sixty-five times in the Bible. The primary focus is on the sweetness of the honey and the honeycomb. Honey was a precious food because of the sweetness it provided to the taste. Psalm 19:10 says the judgments of God are “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Also, Canaan, which pictures our heavenly home, is “a land flowing with milk and honey.” In our personal relationships it is said “pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones,” Proverbs 16:24. The study of honey and royal jelly could be an interesting topic in itself. May we learn from this amazing creature to “bee” wise in things spiritual and practical.
The Lord’s commands are pure, They light and joy restore;
Jehovah’s fear is clean, Enduring evermore;
His statutes, let the world confess,
Are wholly truth and righteousness.
They are to be desired Above the finest gold;
Than honey from the comb More sweetness far they hold;
With warning they Thy servant guard,
In keeping them is great reward.
Johnny found an acorn and put it in his pocket
Along with other treasures—a little plastic rocket,
A marble, six fat worms, and a tiny silver ring;
In the pocket of his jeans he stored ‘most anything.
He sorted all his treasures when it was dinnertime,
Gave sister Sue the ring, and she gave him a dime;
His worms, into his bait-can to save for fishing trips;
His rocket and the marble in a box marked: Snaps & Snips.
And after John had eaten, he took the acorn out;
He planted it with tender care and hoped it soon would sprout.
He watered it and watched the spot, but after many a day
His interest waned, soon he forgot, and heedless went his way.
Some years went by. Then Johnny saw a little seedling there;
Recalled just how he’d planted it and lavished it with care.
So through the years he watched the little tree grow strong—
And through the years John grew up too; ’twas really not so long.
John’s body grew, his mind grew too, and he increased in grace,
God cared for him his lifetime through, and now he takes his place
Among the “three-score years and ten”—the older generation,
And he discerns more fully the extent of God’s creation.
Throughout the years a special place within his memory
Was given to the thriving oak; he labeled it “my tree.”
But John knew that the Lord had made the acorn that his hand
Had put into the ground—’twas as the Lord had planned.
And God had made the soil, the sunshine and the rain
And everything the tree required. ’Twas really very plain
That his life and the tree’s life, both by God begun
Were nourished every moment while their race on earth was run.
Rev. Cammenga is pastor of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan. Reprinted from the Standard Bearer, v. 65, pp. 211-213.
At the end of our last article, we were busy discussing the basis for public confession of faith. We saw that the responsibility to make public confession of faith is based, first of all, on the general calling of the believer to confess Christ’s Name in the world. Confession of our faith is something to which the Word of God everywhere calls us. It is simply an integral part of the Christian life.
A second reason why Reformed churches have always insisted on a public confession of faith by the young people is the duty of the consistory to guard the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord has entrusted the sacraments to the church. The church is called to administer the sacraments. Besides, the church has been given by God the responsibility to protect the sacraments from abuse and desecration.
I Corinthians 11:17-34 teaches clearly that if the church knowingly allows profane persons to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the church sins and because of this gross neglect falls under the judgment of God. This responsibility of the church is spelled out in the Heidelberg Catechism.
Q. 82. Are they to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly?
A. No; for by this, the covenant of God would be profaned, and his wrath kindled against the whole congregation; therefore it is the duty of the Christian church, according to the appointment of Christ and his apostles, to exclude such persons, by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, till they show amendment of life.
Since the time of the Reformation, Reformed churches have exercised supervision over the Lord’s table by means of public confession of faith. By insisting on a public confession of faith prior to admission to the sacrament, the consistory makes sure that those who partake do so worthily.
The third basis for the responsibility of the young people to make public confession of faith has to do with the responsibility to partake of the Lord’s Supper itself. In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Christ said, “Take, eat, this is my body. Drink ye all of it.” It ought not to escape our attention that these words of Christ are a command, imperatives: “Take! Eat! Drink ye!” Christ obligates every adult believer to partake of this means of grace, the Lord’s Supper. As much as we are obligated by God to hear the preaching of the gospel, so we are obligated to partake of the sacrament. Young people, you must be impressed with the duty that is yours before God to use the sacrament. And being impressed with your duty to use the sacrament, you cannot but also be impressed with the attendant duty of making public confession of your faith.
There are at least two dangers that must be guarded against with regard to making confession of faith. The first is the danger of making confession of faith recklessly and insincerely. Some young people make confession of faith only because everybody else is doing it, and they don’t want to be the odd man out. Or they make confession of faith so that they can quit going to catechism. They have probably gone through the Essentials catechism book a couple of times, are tired of memorizing questions, taking notes, and writing tests, and so make confession of faith. Others make confession of faith because they have married someone in the church, and confession of faith is viewed by them simply as a way of “joining the church.” They do not make confession of faith because they personally and heartily agree with “…the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith and taught here in this Christian church…” But they simply make confession of faith for the sake of a husband or a wife.
This is wrong! Those who make confession of faith for these sorts of reasons sin grievously. Those whose confession with the mouth does not have its source in the heart, make a mockery of confession of faith. Better not to confess at all, than to make this kind of confession.
But besides this danger, there is also the danger of wrongly putting off confession of faith. There may be reasons for this. It may be that undue pressure is being exerted by parents or pastor, and the young person balks at making confession of faith lest he be making confession simply because of this outside pressure. Or it may be that a young person puts off making confession of faith because he feels that he just does not know enough. Or a young person may put off confession because he is mistakenly waiting for some special sign from God, some special occurrence in his life, that would indicate to him that now the time is right to make confession of faith.
Needlessly putting off making confession of faith is also a danger to be guarded against, although it may be said that quite often the reasons given by the young person for doing so at least indicate that he is taking confession of faith seriously.
This matter of putting off confession of faith seems to be a trend in our own churches. It seems that in the past several years young people are making confession of faith at an older age than was common in the past. Whereas in the past many young people made confession of faith in the middle and late teens, it is common for young people to make confession of faith today in the late teens to the early and mid twenties. It is doubtful that this is a good trend. As parents and officebearers we ought to do what we can to reverse this trend. The responsibility of officebearers to work with young people who may be needlessly putting off making confession of faith is brought out in the questions that are asked of the consistory at the time of the annual church visitation. One of those questions is, “Do the children of the congregation, when they come to years of discretion, seek admission to the Lord’s Supper? And if they are remiss, are they pointed to their obligation and treated as the need requires?”
Obviously, no hard and fast rules can be laid down as to when a person ought to make public confession of faith. The Scriptures lay down no set age at which a young person in the church ought to be partaking of the Lord’s Supper. One ought to make confession of faith when he has come to spiritual maturity. Just as physical and psychological maturity take place at different ages in different people, so does spiritual maturity. Undoubtedly there are some 12 or 14 year-olds who could make confession of faith, while others ought to wait until their later teens or even their early twenties.
The basic requirement for making confession of faith and for partaking of the Lord’s Supper is laid down by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 11:28, 29: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
The basic requirement for confession of faith and for partaking of the sacrament is “discerning the Lord’s body.” The man or woman who does not “discern” Christ’s body, partakes of the sacrament to his or her condemnation. Whoever partakes discerning the Lord’s body, partakes worthily.
What is it to discern the Lord’s body? Discerning the Lord’s body is not simply a matter of understanding that the bread of the Lord’s Supper is a sign of the body of Christ, and the wine a sign of His blood. Discerning the Lord’s body in the sacrament is understanding the meaning and significance of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as that suffering and death are set forth in the Lord’s Supper. Discerning the Lord’s body is discerning the reason for the suffering and death of Christ, which is the sins of His people. It is discerning the One Who suffered and died—the very Son of God Himself in human flesh. It is discerning the nature of His suffering and death, that it was satisfaction to God for all those on behalf of whom He died. It is discerning the extent of His death, that His death is a limited atonement or a particular redemption. It is discerning the efficacy of that death, the truth that by His suffering and death the sins of all those for whom He died are actually forgiven. It is discerning the calling that comes to those for whom He died to live thankful and holy lives in the world. All this is involved in discerning the Lord’s body.
And it is a personal matter. Discerning the Lord’s body is a matter of personal discernment. It is precisely for this reason that in the same text in which he calls us to discern the Lord’s body before we come to the Lord’s Supper that the Apostle says, “Let a man examine himself…” Coming to the Lord’s Supper is not a matter of mere head knowledge that you know in your mind all the truths connected with the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. But in partaking of the Lord’s Supper and making confession of faith, this personal, subjective element is on the foreground.
Coming to the Lord’s Supper is not just a matter of acknowledging the truth that the death of Christ is necessitated by sin; but that He died for MY sins. It is not merely a matter of acknowledging that the One Who suffered and died was the Son of God, Christ the Lord; but that He is the Son of God, Christ the Lord for ME. It is not just a matter of acknowledging that by His death He made satisfaction for sin; but that by His death He covered in the sight of God MY sins. It is not just a matter of acknowledging that His death was a limited atonement; but that I personally belong to the number of those for whom He died. It is not merely a matter of acknowledging that the calling of those for whom He died is to live thankful and obedient lives; but the personal conviction that this is MY calling, on account of MY salvation.
This personal element stands out in the Lord’s Supper. The one who approaches the Lord’s Table does so with the words of the psalmist on his lips, “O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1). A young person about to make confession of his faith must be able to take on his lips the opening statement of the Heidelberg Catechism:
That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me 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, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
The young person who discerns the Lord’s body, who discerns the Lord’s body in this personal, experiential way ought to make confession of faith. You have no reason to delay! No reason to put if off! Confess your faith! Partake of the sacrament! In this way honor the Lord whom you love! In this way experience His rich blessing!
J. P. de Klerk is an author and journalist from Ashhurst, New Zealand.
The only growing and flourishing Protestant churches in The Netherlands are the Liberated Reformed Churches. They not only buy the empty church buildings from the Synodal Reformed Churches (whose members left in droves since they associated themselves with the State Reformed Churches and the Lutherans), but they are also building many new churches themselves, all over the country. They are original designs, often without a tower or with a new kind of tower, as well as a completely new concept. I give you here some examples:
There is in Nieuwleusen (in the province of Utrecht, south of the city of Amersfoort) “De Voorhof” (this word means “the fore-court” or “Porch” bringing to mind the old temple in Jerusalem). This is all reinforced concrete and thick glass. You see the main entrance, with offices and rooms for catechism classes, meetings, etc. left and right, and above this the upper part of the church itself. The sunlight comes in in such a way that it does not shine from the side and it will not blind the people sitting there.
The pulpit was built by the congregation itself, covered with ash-wood veneer. There is room for 600 people. One of the windows shows the text of Psalm 100:4, which speaks about fore-courts and singing God’s praises.
In the city of Hengelo, in the eastern part of The Netherlands, where are many factories, there has been built the “Kristalkerk” (crystal church), at the P. C. Hooftlaan, and the corner of the Bredèro Street (glass piece in the wall and a tower, partly inside and partly outside, made of steel and concrete). Plenty of room for meetings of groups of a variety of ages and interests, a wedding, a conference, a social function, etc.
In Veenendaal (province of Utrecht), which is well known as a “Reformed territory,” the “Poortkerk” (“gateway church”) was opened December 12, 1999, with four divine services in a row, because there are many members. This church is very big (steel, glass and concrete) and was built in only six months time. Inside it is very light and colorful.
Amersfoort-Noord (a city in the middle of The Netherlands, which was founded in 1006 and became a city in 1259; during the second world war a big slave labor center of the Germans was here), recently got a new church building at the Watersteeg (Nieuwland district and Zeldertsedreef). It is an enormous building in the shape of a tent (concrete) with a front of glass. It meeds on the Lord’s Day as well as every day of the week, serving the whole congregation with the usual needs and formalities, including a beautiful organ and the choir “Testify.”
In Grootegast the building of a new church began, which will be ready in October of this year, the Lord willing. The first pole was rammed in the soil by Rev. Theun Hoff (89 years old) who founded the congregation there in 1946 (province Friesland) at the Weegbree Street. There will be room for 590 people. A picture is not yet available.
Connie is the mother of 5 children and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Psalms. He loved them. He loved to sing them. Permissible or not, he had to have them for his own. He would copy them secretly. His tutor, Finian, need never know—
“What is this, Columba? You copy the Scriptures for your own? Give the copy to me, Columba.”
“No,” was Columba’s firm reply. He couldn’t hand it over. He wouldn’t. Even if the king demanded it, he wouldn’t!
And the king of that land did demand it. And Columba wouldn’t.
Columba was a very gifted and forceful man. He gathered his clansmen on his side. With them, he would fight the king and win! And he did. 2,000 bodies lay strewn over the battlefield. Columba loved the Word he had tried to copy and keep. But now he looked at the sword in his hand, a sword that dripped with the blood of his own countrymen. That same Word he loved so much now pierced his own heart with a mortal wound. He laid the sword down. He would be sorry for this battle the rest of his life.
He picked up another sword. He now wielded the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, with all his might and gifts, and beautiful voice. He brought the Word to isles that had never known it before. He became a powerful missionary to the land of Scotland—when Scotland was yet a land of barbarians and beasts.
God used the life of Columba in a mighty way for the work of the church, especially in bringing the Gospel to the Scots. When he was seventy-five years old, he could still be found transcribing the Psalms he loved so much—though now he did it legally. He was faithful to the end.
It was his custom, as it was with all his fellow monks, to arise at midnight for prayers. He did so on the night of June 8 as well, but in his stricken age, he collapsed. He died before the sun arose on the morn of June 9, 597 A.D. But one of God’s faithful servants arose in heaven that morning, a triumphant warrior over all his sins. Truly, the Sword, the Word, had won.