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Reformed News Asia - December 2020 (Issue 63)

 
Issue 63
Pamphlets

We print pamphlets written by our members and those from other Reformed churches of like-minded faith. They include a wide range of topics from doctrines to church history and practical Christian living. These pamphlets serve to promote knowledge of the true God as expressed in the Reformed faith.
NEWPamphlet!

Please click the picture to get the online copy of the pamphlet.
Questions in the Bible - Job, Psalm
By Prof Hermon Hanko

This project was inspired by 'Pastoral Voice' written by Rev. Andy Lanning for CERC in Oct 13-Jan 14 which covered 6 questions in Genesis.

There are many questions within the Bible, 2,540 to be exact.

The Christian Literature Ministry has shortlisted and compiled a list of them based on certain criteria:

i) Can be linked to Christ
ii) Significant in history of church
iii) Spiritual lesson for us
iv) A question we may also ask

After 6 years of effort, 12 books of the bible have been completed. In addition to the 6 meditations from Rev. Lanning, the writers are: Prof. Herman Hanko, Rev. Richard Smit and Rev. Cory Griess. We are grateful for their labour of love.

May you benefit spiritually from the meditations, and pray with us that gradually we may compile more meditations from questions in other books of the Bible.


Click hereto view our catalogue of pamphlets.

Click here to make an order.

All pamphlets are free. CERC reserves some discretion regarding large orders and/or orders from those outside Singapore.
 
Featured Book
For local orders (S'pore), please contact Ms Daisy Lim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
For international orders, click here.

His Friends and Servants
Tell His Wonders, volume 2


by Nathan J. Langerak

 

From the RFPA website:

By the wonder of salvation in Jesus Christ God establishes a covenant with us his people and makes us his friends and servants. And in his mercy he also makes a promise to us: I will be your God, and I will never forsake you.

God is always faithful to keep the promises he makes to us, even as he kept his promises to the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob. We may suffer terrible troubles in this world like Job or Joseph, but God rules all things for our sakes, and so his plan for us is always good.

As his friends and servants we seek heaven and flee the temptations of the world. The God who delivered his servant Daniel from the lion’s den also delivers us from the devil and keeps us safe until he brings us to heavenly glory.

This second book in the Tell His Wonders Bible story book series includes stories about Job and the patriarchs, Joseph and his brothers, several judges, King David, Daniel and his friends, and more.

Nathan J. Langerak is a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. In addition to the two books in the Tell His Wonders series, he has written Walking in the Way of Love, a two-volume commentary on the book of 1 Corinthians. He and his wife and their six children live in Crete, Illinois.

Michael Welply has illustrated more than eighty books, including The Random House Book of Bible Stories and Biblical Times, published by Simon and Schuster. He has two adult children and three grandchildren. He and his wife live in Levet, France.

For ages: 7-10

 
Audio Recordings
Series of Sermons from Prof Dykstra on the three Gentile Mothers of Christ:

Tamar, A Gentile Mother of Christ
Rahab, The Second Gentile Mother of Christ
Ruth: The Third Gentile Mother of Christ
 
Upcoming Events!
 
Stay tuned...
 
 
Past Events...
 
Prof. and Carol Dykstra 

Over the last few months, we were extremely blessed and thankful to have Prof Dykstra who was able to bring to us God's word via live streaming. In the last month, Prof. Dykstra was allowed to be relieved from his seminary duties and to come to Singapore to help us with pulpit supply. Prof. and Carol Dykstra arrived in Singapore on 15 Dec and has since provided pastoral help while serving their two-week Stay-Home Notice. They have recently did a swab test and tested negative for COVID-19. Thank God for His preservation and grace in granting to them a safe journey to Singapore and good health.

We are thankful to God for showing to us His will and that we could continue to receive the preaching of God's Word despite the circumstances that we are currently in. We are also thankful for the labour of love and the sacrifice of the Dykstras.

 
 
 
CK Camp 2020

This year, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the annual CK Camp was conducted in a different manner. The camp participants were split into three groups where they gathered in three different homes while having their various activities. Prof. Dykstra gave the talks for the camp and discussions and outings were conducted as well. We hope that the youths had a good time of fellowship and we pray that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thank God for this opportunity. 

 
 
 
One of the activities - Stand Up Paddle, exploring some of the mangroves in Singapore
 
Christmas Gospel Meeting

Similar to most of the activities conducted this year, the Christmas Gospel Meeting was brought online and conducted over Zoom. Many homes were opened to receive friends and guests, where they gathered to listen to the Gospel message by Prof. Dykstra on Mark 2:17. This was followed by singing of carols and a meal at each respective houses. It was a good time of fellowship and it was a good opportunity for many to get to know other members better. Thank God for this occasion. 

 
 
 
 
Notes
 
Salt Shakers
 

Salt Shakers is a bi-monthly magazine published by the youth in Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC). Included in each issue are writings pertaining to bothReformed doctrine and practical theology. Contributors to Salt Shakers include our pastor, youth and members of CERC, and pastors and professors from the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Salt Shakers also features articles from the Standard Bearer and other Reformed publications. Click here to access.

 
Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church
We are a Reformed Church that holds to the doctrines of the Reformation as they are expressed in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt.

Lord’s Day services on Sunday at 930 am & 2 pm • 11 Jalan Mesin, #04-00, Standard Industrial Building, Singapore 368813 • www.cerc.org.sg 
 
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Philippines Mission Newsletter - November 2020

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
NOVEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ in the PRCA,

Another update from your missionaries in the Philippines. While many of you enjoyed the warm fall colors, crisp cool air, and sweet apple cider, we enjoyed rain, rain, and more rain! This rainy season, one particular typhoon (hurricane) was quite remarkable, to say the least. I will come back to that.

Missionary Labors

Last August, we missionaries began our second year of training men for the ministry of the gospel on behalf of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (PRCP). I am teaching Biblical Hermeneutics again and have added OT History. Rev. Kleyn is teaching Homiletics and Church History again and has added Reformed Symbols (the study of the creeds). Rev. Smit is teaching Dogmatics and has added Greek Reading and NT Exegesis. We are teaching a total of 3 seminary students. A few visitors have also been attending or watching our online lectures on Zoom, Skype, or YouTube. It has been a very different format for teaching, sitting in front of our computers in our studies at home and teaching through a webcam. But it is working well enough. We expect to finish the first semester in early December when the students will take their final exams.

3 missionaries 2020

Although the Philippine government has been very strict throughout this pandemic, there have been some happy developments recently. In their quarantine guidelines, mass gatherings, including religious services, are now allowed up to 50% of the venue capacity. So, with much thanksgiving to God, the churches of the PRCP are gradually returning to normalcy in terms of their Sunday worship services.

Phil sem students 2020

First year seminarians Jethro Flores (left) and Emmanuel Jasojaso (right) taking a midterm exam.

In other labors, I have continued to pastor the Provident PRC with preaching on Sundays in their sanctuary and teaching during the week on Zoom. We recently completed a very enjoyable and very relevant Bible study on the book of Revelation on Wednesday nights from April through October. I am currently teaching OT Bible stories to the children and Essentials of Reformed Doctrine to the youth. We rejoiced greatly when three of the young women in the Essentials class came before the Council to profess their faith and to ask for approval to make public confession.This they will do, Lord willing, on December 13. I also attend (as advisor) the meetings of the Mission/Contact Committee and Translation Committee of the PRCP. However, Provident’s outreach work to two Brethren churches north of Manilawas put on hold because the congregations were not gathering during the quarantine. The work will continue, Lord willing, in January. In the meantime, the pastor of one of the churches (Pastor Ronil Domingo) has been attending many of our seminary classes as a visitor.

Rev. Kleyn, in addition to his full-timeload of preparation and teachingat the seminary, also continues to preach regularly on Sundays when requested by area churchesof the PRCP. He also attends(as advisor) themeetings of the very busy Finance Committee of the PRCP (on Zoom). However, the mission work in Southern Negros Occidental, which is primarily the workof Rev. Kleyn and Rev. Smit,has been put on hold due to the tight travel restrictions between the islands.

Rev. Smit, in addition to his full-time load of preparation and teaching at the seminary, continues to preach regularly on Sundays mainly for the Maranatha PRC through their Facebook page. He also attends the meetings of the Theological School Committee of the PRCP (as advisor) and devotes a lot of time to theological studies (reading and writing) for a program he is taking at a local Presbyterian seminary.

All three of us attended the Classis of the PRCP (as advisors) on October 31 which is currently recessed and scheduled to continue on November 30.

Typhoon!

On November 1 (a Sunday), a super typhoon passed through the Philippines. Due to the potentially strong winds and heavy rain, Provident’s Council decided to cancel the worship services. In the end, though, the storm did not hit Manila very hard or result in much damage. The experience was like so many before. A typhoon comes. It looks menacing on the radar. Then it breaks apart, at least in our area. And we are thankful.

typhoon 2020

But then came the typhoon of the evening of November 11. The Philippines called it Typhoon Ulysses (the rest of the world named it Typhoon Vamco). At midnight, we lost our electricity. Our fans turned off. Our kids’ night lights went dark and they woke up. The mighty hurricane wind rushed over our house like a freight trainin gust after gust. Having grown up in Michigan, far from hurricane territory, I had rarely heard the wind blow like that before. After a night of little sleep, we discovered the results the next morning. A large branch had fallen from a tree in our front yard. One of our neighbor’s mango trees fell down. More trees were down in the streets.

But the worst damage was not in our neighborhood, which is up in the mountains east of Manila. The worst, we soon discovered, was down in Metro Manila, in the city of Marikina where Provident PRC is located. The Marikina River overflowed the dike around Provident Village and filled the village with muddy water. The flood waters rose higher and higher, submerging the first story of all buildings and rising into the second story of many, including Provident’s church building. Perhaps you saw the bulletin announcement from the Contact Committee of the PRCA regarding this flood. Although all thel ibrary books were lost, as well as the sanctuary Bibles and Psalters, much equipment was destroyed, and there was even some structural damage... Although personal property was also lost by some of the five families of the church who live in that area... Yet the congregation is thankful to God for sparing all their lives and comforting them with the precious Reformed faith that they have come to know and love: the truth of the sovereignty of God over rain and drought, riches and poverty, and all things, and His eternal love for His elect and beloved people in Christ, using our light and momentary afflictions to work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

typhoon flooding 2020

As of this writing, the church building is still being cleaned and repaired from the flood damage, but our heavenly Father is meeting the needs of the congregation. Please remember our Filipino brethrenin Christ and us missionaries in your prayers. We the Holsteges look forward to seeing many of you on our furlough from December 16-June 30, the Lord willing.

In Christ,
Rev. Dan Holstege

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Covenant Reformed News - December 2020

Covenant Reformed News


December 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 8



Adam’s Federal Headship and Common Grace?

A friend forwarded the following to me from one of his theological opponents: “You believe in creation ordinances. Don’t you also believe that Adam was the federal head of humanity (of the reprobate as well as the elect)? Yet Genesis 1:28 says that God ‘blessed’ that federal head of all men, implying that all mankind in him (including the reprobate) partook of that blessing and favour of God. The rest of this verse mentions the privileges of (1) marriage, (2) having children and (3) exercising dominion over the earth as part of this general blessing upon the federal head.”

Right at the start of our response, we need to consider the significance of Adam’s federal or covenant headship, as the first man and one who represented the human race. What does Adam’s federal headship include and what does it not include?

Like the animals and birds before the fall, Adam did not eat meat (29-30). Since he is the covenant head of humanity, should everyone be vegetarian? The first and representative man was commanded to cultivate the Garden of Eden (2:15). Does this require or imply that all work as gardeners? Prior to his sin, Adam, our federal head, did not wear clothes (25). Ought everybody be a nudist, therefore?

I would anticipate that you, dear reader, are somewhat puzzled by the (specious) reasoning of the previous paragraph. You sense that the answer to all three of the questions is, “No!” However, you may not be sure why this is the correct response, though you probably think that, with some time, you could come up with the proper explanation.

This underscores the point that the Bible itself must tell us what is, and so what is not, included in Adam’s covenant headship. The answer is at hand, for Scripture treats this topic definitively and at some length in Romans 5:12-21.

“One” man (12, 15, 16, 17, 19), namely, Adam (14), was constituted by God as a federal head—over against Christ, the other federal head (14-19), whom he typifies (14). More specifically, the one man, Adam, represented us in his one and singular act, referred to as his “transgression” (14), “offence” (15, 17, 18) or “disobedience” (19), namely, his eating the forbidden fruit and not any of the subsequent sins he committed during his long life of 930 years (Gen. 5:5). All of humanity, Christ only excepted, “sinned” in Adam (Rom. 5:12), and have thus fallen under God’s judgment (16) and condemnation (16, 18), causing us to be totally depraved by nature (Ps. 51:5). This is the unique, astounding and humbling Christian doctrine of original sin.

There is a second biblical passage that presents Adam’s covenant headship, again contrasted, as to its results, with Christ as the federal representative of His own: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:21-22).

One might think, at first blush, that mankind receives two (unrelated) things through Adam’s headship, with Romans 5 teaching that we sinned in Adam and I Corinthians 15 declaring that we died in him. However, sin and death are intrinsically linked, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), a point made repeatedly in Romans 5 regarding Adam’s sin and our death (14, 15, 17, 21), and stated most famously in the key text in that passage: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (12).

In short, Adam’s federal headship means that sin has come upon mankind and, therefore, judgment, condemnation and death. Thus my friend’s correspondent has it all wrong. Instead of humanity being “blessed” through Adam, our covenant representative, the human race is cursed in him (cf. Gal. 3:10; Rev. 22:3)!

Now we come to the creation ordinances. First, to those who are in Adam and, therefore, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), marriage, though a good thing and a privilege, is not a blessing. Potiphar’s wife, Maacah, Jezebel, Athaliah and Herodias were not signs or bearers of God’s love to their ungodly husbands!

Second, being “the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:6) in Adam, having children is not a proof or manifestation of divine favour either. Idolatrous Sennacherib was murdered by his two wicked sons (II Kings 19:37; Isa. 37:38)! Regarding unbelieving parents and children, God declares, “Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field … Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body” (Deut. 28:16, 18).

What about, third, the earthly dominion of the ungodly? Think of profane Esau (Heb. 12:16) to whom God in His providence gave Mount Seir with much wealth and livestock (Gen. 36:6-8). Yet Jehovah “hated” him (Mal. 1:2-5), something which is true of all who are reprobate (Rom. 9:13). The Antichrist will be powerful and popular throughout the whole world (Rev. 13), being worshipped by absolutely everyone on earth, except the elect (8). But surely it is a terrible blasphemy to claim that God loves the “man of sin” and “son of perdition” (II Thess. 2:3)!

The truth is that all of Jehovah’s blessings are found alone in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3), “the last Adam” (I Cor. 15:45), the other and far greater covenant head! By His sacrifice on the cross, He “redeemed us from the curse,” which came through the sin of the first Adam, so that God blesses all who believe His gracious promise (Gal. 3:13-14).

As those who receive Christ’s imputed righteousness and not Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:16-19), and so will be gloriously resurrected (I Cor. 15:21-22), marriage and children (Ps. 128), and whatever land and possessions we may have (Deut. 28:1-14), are to us a blessing through faith and in the way of thankful obedience. This clear Christian doctrine is opposed to the anti-biblical philosophy that things are or convey God’s blessing to those who are in unbelief in Adam and outside of the Lord Jesus (cf. Ps. 73; Mal. 3:15).

The quotation with which this article began shows how the theory of common grace—a temporal, changeable (and unrighteous) divine love for the ungodly reprobate apart from the Saviour and His cross—leads to a side-lining and corrupting of the biblical and confessional truth regarding the federal headship of Adam (and, therefore, also of Christ), original sin and the creation ordinances. False principles work through! Using ingenious (but fallacious) arguments, common grace claims that the reprobate wicked are cursed and blessed in Adam, and so are blessed in all their activities—despite their being enemies of God and Christ (Gen. 3:15)! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

The Church and Israel (2)

In the previous issue of the News, focusing on Acts 7:38, we showed that Old Testament Israel and the church of the New Testament are one people, one body. Israel, according to Acts 7:38, was “the church in the wilderness” and the New Testament church is the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:15-16). Coming in the New Testament to the general assembly and church of the Firstborn is the same as coming to Mount Sion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22-23). When the angel shows John “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” he has a vision of the new Jerusalem “descending out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:9-10).

We should remember, as we consider the biblical identity of the two, that not all who were of Old Testament Israel were the true Israel of God (Rom. 9:6). There were those who were Jews only outwardly. Really, they were not Jews at all, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:28-29).

The same is true of the New Testament church. There are those who are members of the church in name, who receive the sacraments and hear the preaching, but who are merely tares among the wheat, as those sown by Satan, the arch-enemy of the church (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:19). All of which is to say that the identity of the elect, redeemed and regenerated people of God in both testaments is that of the true Israel of God and “the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).

This is of immense importance as far as the promises of the Word are concerned. If Old Testament Israel is not the church, then the promises God made to Israel are not for the church. Then, though the Old Testament may be a matter of curiosity to me, it has no application to me as a New Testament Gentile member of the church. Then the Psalms, those precious melodies, may be sweet music to my ears but the words are of no real value to me. Then my singing them or reciting them is little different from the poetry of John Keats or William Wordsworth. The rhythms may tickle my ears but they speak a different spiritual language.

It is this truth, that Israel and the church are one, that makes the promise of God concerning children applicable to New Testament Christians. Then, and only then, are the words of God to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7), the promise not of an Old Testament covenant that does not include New Testament believers, but the promise of one everlasting covenant sealed by the circumcision of infants in the Old Testament and the baptism of infants in the New Testament.

“But,” someone will say, “these two signs are so different in appearance that they cannot be the same.” Nevertheless, they are fundamentally the same. Both signify the removal of sin by the shedding of blood, though in the New Testament that blood must be symbolized, for no actual blood may ever be shed again, since the Lamb of God has died. Colossians 2:11-12 identifies the two for the reality of circumcision, the circumcision made without hands (from which no female is excluded), is the same as being buried and raised with Him in baptism through the faith of the operation of God.

The identity of Israel and the church means that I, a Gentile, am a true child and a descendant of Abraham, not by fleshly generation but by spiritual descent, by the same faith in Christ that Abraham had: “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). As a child of Abraham, all God promised him is mine also, not those earthly things, for they were only shadows, but the true spiritual realities: Canaan, really Messiah’s land (Rom. 4:13); a city (Heb. 11:16); a seed (Gal 3:16) and all the rest. The identity of Israel and the church means that I am justified, as Abraham was, by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law (Rom. 4). There is only one way of salvation, and that is the way of free and sovereign grace.

The identity of Israel and the church means, too, that there is but one future home for both. As we have seen, to come to the true and heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, is to come to the general assembly and church of the Firstborn (Heb. 12:22-23). Abraham, who never received the inheritance of the earthly land of Canaan, “not so much as to set his foot on” (Acts 7:5), though God had said, “to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Gen. 13:15), was content for he “desire[d] a better country, that is, an heavenly” (Heb. 11:16). All those who go to that heavenly country will rest in the bosom of Abraham as Lazarus did (Luke 16:22).

The Heidelberg Catechism’s teaching on the unity of the church is both true and comforting: “What believest thou concerning the ‘holy catholic church’ of Christ? That the Son of God, from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to Himself by His Spirit and Word, out of the whole human race, a [or one] church chosen to everlasting lifeagreeing in true faith; and that I am, and for ever shall remain, a living member thereof” (Q. & A. 54). Rev. Ron Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - December 2020

Rev. Martyn McGeown

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

 Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Within two weeks of writing my last newsletter (October 8) Ireland entered “Level 5” of the coronavirus lockdown. “Level 5” restrictions are the most stringent: no mixed household gatherings, which makes “in person” Bible studies or worship services at our home impossible; no public worship services (online only); and a 5km (3.1 miles) travel limit, except for “essential journeys.”

Two bodies are involved in these decisions: NPHET (The National Public Health Emergency Team, the medical professionals who advise the government) and the Irish government, who makes the actual decisions. It appears that NPHET is more cautious than the government, for NPHET’s advice is often much stricter than that adopted by the government. For example, the government is trying to “save Christmas” (not the religious holiday as such, but the pre-Christmas shopping spree on which many businesses rely) and the government wants to avoid being seen to “ruin Christmas” for families. Therefore, the Irish authorities imposed a “Level 5 lockdown” (October 21 to December 1) with the hope of a more relaxed Christmas-New Year period.

Two examples stuck out for me. First, NPHET advised allowing public worship only from December 21 to January 3, while the government agreed to allow public worship capped at 50 persons from December 1 until January 6 with a review thereafter. This came after a lot of lobbying from religious groups here, including a meeting of the Taoiseach (prime minister) with the Irish (Roman Catholic) bishops, as well as petitions from evangelical groups. We shall see how long freedom for public worship continues in January, D.V. Second, NPHET advised a ban on all travel to and from Northern Ireland. The government rejected that idea, and will review it on December 18 when inter-county travel is permitted. At the moment we must remain inside our own county except for “essential” journeys. Therefore, time will tell on whether I am permitted to travel to Northern Ireland to see my family at Christmastime and to preach in the CPRC in Ballymena. I would be very surprised if the Irish government ever closed the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The political ramifications would be huge.

MMcGeown livestream preach Nov 2020

During the “Level 5” period I contacted the local Garda (police) station seeking advice on holding worship services in my home. The officer with whom I spoke was very cordial and sympathetic to my concerns, but he said that there was no “wriggle room:” gatherings of any kind, whether religious or secular, in public or in private, were prohibited under the legislation. I have also heard reports of priests celebrating Mass with a handful of souls whose meetings the police interrupted and who were threatened with prosecution if they persisted. Therefore, I preached to the handful of souls entrusted to me from my study: I began with “Christ in the Midst of the Smallest Gatherings” (Matt. 18:20) and I am preaching a series on “The Kingdom Parables of Jesus” (Matt. 13).

On December 1 the “Level 5” restrictions came to an end and we were delighted to hear that public worship would indeed be permitted again. We have secured the hall for the month of December and the first Sunday of January, five Sundays, with the hope that we might be allowed to continue after that. With the Wattersons and Kuhs moved to Northern Ireland, and one other person making that transition, we have fewer than 10 people (including Larisa and me) in attendance. Still, we were very happy to be together on Sunday (December 6): for one thing we could sing again, something we cannot do very well over the computer.

We continue our Bible study online on Tuesday evenings (Prov. 6), and I teach catechism to Providence PRC (Monday evenings) and to my nieces (Thursday evenings). In addition, we are permitted to meet with one other household in a public setting, so we go for walks with various members when the weather is dry enough.

Shortly before the Kuhs left Limerick the LRF gave me a gift: they rebound my Bible in beautiful, soft leather with an inscription: “In Gratitude for 10 Years of Faithful Shepherding: With Love from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship 2020.”

McGeown Bible 2020

As you have undoubtedly heard, our immigration appointment scheduled for November 6 was cancelled. The next available appointment, which we have booked, is March 8, 2021. That was certainly a disappointment, but in these trials, which are relatively light in comparison to what many others suffer, the Lord is teaching us patience. The Lord is good, and we remember His blessings to us.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

 

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

 

 

 

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A Pastor’s Prayer for God’s People (Meditations on Ephesians)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

A Pastor’s Prayer for God’s People

Meditation on Ephesians 3: 14-19 

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.

In times like these, we need praying pastors who love their flock. There are the sick, sorrowing, unemployed, and those who are lonely with the Covid pandemic. There is upheaval in state and federal government, and even upheaval in the church. How we need praying pastors! I remember taking my church directory and praying each day for five or more of the members or families of the church, each with their own particular needs and circumstances, making sure that none got forgotten.

Notice the posture of the pastor Paul. He was on bended knee. Posture in prayer is never a matter of indifference. The slouching position of the body, while one is supposed to be praying, is an abomination to the Lord. On the other hand, it is also true that Scripture nowhere prescribes one and only one, correct posture. Different positions of the head, arms, hands, knees, and the body as a whole, are indicated. All of these are permissible as long as they symbolize different aspects of the worshiper’s reverent attitude, and reflect the sentiments of his heart. “Bowing the knees” pictures humility, solemnity, and adoration.

The prayer is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, in Christ, to the Triune God who is our God and Father. The prayer is for the Father’s Family, which in Greek is a play on words: patera pasa patria. What a beautiful picture of the church! Jew and Gentile are one church or family of God. It is one family, whether already taken to heaven or yet here on earth. How close the ties are that unite the part of the church that is in heaven with the part that is still on earth. When we recite the words of the Apostle’s Creed, we say, “I believe an holy catholic church, the communion of saints.” Do we cherish those that have gone before us? Do we remember in our prayers the martyred church? What about pregnant mothers and their unborn children? It is the whole family for whom Paul prays: Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, young and old, educated and uneducated, sick and healthy, those faithful and those who are straying: everyone! It is in the family as a whole that God’s great purpose of making known His manifold wisdom is fulfilled. May the pastor remember all these in his prayers, both privately and in his congregational prayers. It is the church that is found in different nations, cultures, and denominations.

What did the Apostle Paul ask for God’s family? Let me list them briefly in this meditation.

First, it is that believers may be strengthened internally through the Holy Spirit. Paul had been talking about suffering for God’s cause. It is in suffering that the grace of God is manifested. But who has strength for suffering? We certainly do not choose suffering. We shrink from it. But it is not only in times of suffering that we need to be strengthened. We need strength every day of our lives and in every circumstance. Is it in temptations, the needed strength to resist it and be victorious? Is it in tough moral choices at work, that you need the strength to do the right thing, so that Jesus is honored? What about the strength that the busy wife and mother needs to do all the chores around the house without complaining or becoming weary is well-doing? Do not we all need strength to be powerful and faithful witnesses, speaking and living the truth?

Second, Paul prayed that believers may be indwelt with Christ by faith. Oh, may Christ abide mightily in our hearts and lives! Do you see here the concept of the covenant? Christ not only dwelling with us, but He dwells in us! The result will be that as believers, we will be rooted and grounded in love. There are two figures used here, one from agriculture and the other from architecture. Love is pictured as something that nourishes us and then also is pictured as a solid foundation.

Third, Paul prayed that believers may be able to grasp the fullest dimensions of Christ’s love, a love that surpasses our full knowledge. It is a prayer that we may know the breadth and length and depth and height. May we grow in our awareness of that love, particularly through the routine hardships, sufferings, and persecutions of our lives.

Fourth, Paul prayed that believers may “be filled with all the fullness of God.” This is the climax, the top of the ladder in the prayer. In other words, the knowledge just described is transforming in character. We, beholding as it were in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit (II Cor. 3:18). Contemplating the love of Christ’s love means that we are increasingly transformed into that image!

What a prayer! How I need that prayer! How God’s family needs that prayer! May God give us pastors that are in prayer, praying these things for us!

O love of God, how strong and true, Eternal, and yet ever new, Uncomprehended and unbought, Beyond all knowledge and all thought.
O heavenly love, how precious still in day of weariness and ill, In nights of pain and helplessness, To heal, to comfort, and to bless.
We read thee best in Him who came to bear for us the cross of shame; Sent by the Father from on high, our life to live our death to die.
O love of God our shield and stay through all the perils of our way; Eternal love, in thee we rest, forever safe, forever blest.
~ Virgil Taylor

 

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Paul Is Made a Minister (Meditations on Ephesians)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Apostle Paul 1 2

Paul Is Made a Minister

Meditation on Ephesians 3: 7-8 

Whereof (the gospel) I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

The Apostle Paul cannot get over the fact that he was set apart in a special way to preach the gospel. It is a gospel in which he glories (Rom. 1:16,17). God had chosen him, the persecutor of the church, to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God in Christ. “I was made a minister.” That was the task that had been assigned to him, the cause that he had been called to serve according to the gift of God’s grace that was given unto him. The Apostle Paul had not taken to himself the distinction of being a gospel minister. The office with which he had been invested was a gift of God’s grace, something that is stressed over and over in Paul’s letters. How did it come to him? The Apostle says in vs. 8 that “God’s grace was given to me…according to the effectual working of his power.” How mightily that power of God had operated, and continued to operate in Paul’s life and ministry. The Lord receives all the credit for whatever Paul as a gospel minister had accomplished. How every gospel minister needs to understand this!

What was Paul’s estimate of himself? It was a very humble one; he was not proud at all! “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given…” We read the same things in I Cor. 15:9, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Again, the apostle says in I Tim.1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” In our present passage, Paul does not give the reason for calling himself “less than the least of all saints.” But we come to a sensible conclusion that he says this because of his former or even current life. He was a persecutor of God’s people and considered himself the chief sinner. This sense of humility is also needed in pastors today as they mount the pulpit but also as they bring the Word of God from house to house. “I am the chief of sinners!”

The calling given to him was to preach to the Gentiles “the unsearchable riches of Christ!” These are riches that cannot be tracked or traced; unfathomable and unlimited resources of grace of God in Christ. There are ocean depths that can never be plummeted and treasure stores that are inexhaustible! But to proclaim to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ was only part of Paul’s task. His mission was broader. It was also to make all men to see “what is the fellowship of the mystery” that had been hid and now is revealed. Salvation is for both Jew and Gentile, by grace through faith. Now instead of fear between these two groups, there is trust. Gloom is replaced with gladness, hatred with love, separation is replaced with fellowship. This mystery had been concealed. Now, however, it was being revealed by the world-wide preaching of the gospel.

What an incentive for us to break-out from our exclusiveness. We seek to bring the gospel not just to Dutch middle-class folks, but to African, Asian, Indian, and South American peoples, wherever the Lord opens up a door for us! May “all men” be enlightened by the fellowship of believers that goes beyond one’s own culture and background. This is something God’s angels in heaven as well as the church on earth may wonder at: God’s manifold wisdom and purpose.

What boldness and access we have with God through faith. May the church boldly proclaim the truth of God’s grace and wisdom! Let us pray for and encourage young men to seek the ministry! May we pray for and appreciate the pastors that we do have! And let our pastors be humble men, not boasting of their gifts or lording it over the congregation. The privilege of bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ causes us to stand in amazement that God is pleased to use us for the gathering and building of his church!

We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy, A story of peace and light, A story of peace and light.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning, And the dawning to noon-day bright,
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth, The kingdom of love and light.
(H. Earnest Nichol)

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