Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Domestic Missions

revaspriensma 1With the organization of the Pittsburgh PR Fellowship into an established congregation in 2016 and the calling of missionary-pastor W. Bruinsma to serve as her pastor, the PRC appointed Byron Center PRC to be the calling church for a new home missionary. In September of 2017 Rev. Aud Spriensma accepted the call to serve this position.

Pastor Spriensma works out of the West Michigan area, where he assists Byron Center PRC's evangelism efforts (for example, the bi-weekly Bible study on the gospel of John held at Dorr Public Library on Thursdays) and other PRCs in the area in their evangelism work. But he is also involved in preaching, presenting mission/evangelism programs, and following up on contacts wherever requested and needed - in the PRCA and beyond.

If you are interested in having the home missionary contact you, please visit this page.

May the Lord of the harvest continue to bless these home mission labors of the PRC and her missionary.

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Who Is Jesus?

Would you like to know who Jesus is and why He is the only Savior of sinners?

Pastor Spriensma has developed a series of brief, basic gospel tracts and podcasts explaining who Jesus is as set forth in the gospel according to John. The entire series may be found on this page and here (podcasts). The individual tracts and podcasts are also listed here with the link (with a printable pdf also attached).

1. Who is Jesus? The Word Made Flesh (podcast)

2. Who is Jesus? The Lamb of God (podcast)

3. Who is Jesus? The Bread of Life (podcast)

4. Who is Jesus? The Light of the World (podcast)

5. Who is Jesus? The Door of the Sheep (podcast)

6. Who is Jesus? The Good Shepherd (podcast)

7. Who Is Jesus? The Resurrection and the Life (podcast)

8. Who is Jesus? The Way, the Truth, and the Life (podcast)

9. Who is Jesus? The True Vine (podcast)

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Below you will find some of our home missionary's recent reports on his labors.

Secretary for Domestic Mission Committee: 

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

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What Are We Doing?

Report from PRC Home Missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma

[This report was also published in the September 1, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer.]

Notice the title of the article, “What are we doing?”  Missions is the work of the church.  In the year 2001, we had three home missionaries, working in three different declared fields with church plants:  Northern Ireland, the eastern United States, and the Western United States.  The calling of the church was to pray for our missionaries and, of course, financially support the work with their offerings.

In the year of our Lord, 2019, we have one home missionary, with no declared field of labor, except of course, the whole of the United States and Canada.  Are we doing anything?  Is it the case that eighteen years ago the PRC was considerably more involved with domestic mission work than we are today?  Have we lost our mission-mindedness?

First of all, the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) does not jump in today and start a church plant immediately when we receive a call to “come over and help us.”  When we received these requests in the past year, the DMC sent their home missionary and others to investigate whether it was feasible to begin a church plant in those areas.

Second, the DMC, with diminished requests “to come over and help us,” is working with a new approach to establish a definite field of labor.  In this model, our congregations are more involved in starting evangelistic Bible studies in their communities and their outlying areas.  To date, we have or have had nine of our congregations busy establishing these outreach Bible studies in various areas along with teaching men in correctional facilities.  Our congregations are developing contacts that they can pursue or refer to our missionary to labor with.

Is this not the labor of home missions?  The congregations are doing the work of missions, not only praying for and financially supporting the work of paid missionaries.  The PRC, I believe, is becoming more evangelistic and energetic in this labor.  Mission work is a very important calling from Christ to His church, for He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matt. 28:19).  In the Canons of Dordt we have a beautiful statement:  “And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom He will and at what time He pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified” (Canons I, Art. 3).  Again, in the Canons, we read, “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons II, Art. 5).

How important this work is, especially for rather isolated churches!  The apostle Paul on his missionary travels preached, and the Holy Spirit established churches that were geographically close to one another:  Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  These churches could encourage and labor together as the churches of Asia Minor.  In the Philippines, our missionaries labor not only with the first church that was organized, but with pastors and churches that are near the first congregation, so that we now have a federation of churches laboring together.  How important this work is for small churches that have been dependent upon synodical subsidy for many years. It is easy for an organized church, whether large or small, to be content with their church life, not bothering to go and seek to save the lost in the communities around them.  It is through missions that the Lord is pleased to add to His church such as should be saved.

You might ask, “Why have Bible studies in our areas when we already have Bible studies within our churches?  Why go out into the communities when others can come to our worship services?”  There are a number of reasons.  First, one cannot expect those who have little or no church affiliation to travel long distances to come to our churches.  It just will not happen.  Second, these community members would not feel comfortable in many of our church societies or services.  Many of them know little of our Reformed terminology or even Bible history that we take for granted and use.  Third, they do not know anyone else that goes to our church and who often huddle in small groups afterwards.  These people from the neighborhood are often intimidated.

The church and her members must obey Jesus’ command to “Go!”  As we live in different neighborhoods, work in the world’s workplaces, shop in their stores, and eat in their restaurants, we must be friendly, approachable, caring about and listening to our fellow human beings and their life situations.  As the Canons teach, “As to others, who have not yet been called, it is our duty to pray for them to God, who calls the things that are not, as if they were.  But we are in no wise to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ” (Canons III/IV, Art. 15).  One way to reach those in our communities is to set up Bible studies and personally invite folks to join us in seeking the truth from the Scriptures.

And we might then ask, what is our missionary doing?  Your missionary seeks to encourage and inspire our churches in this work by preaching ‘mission sermons’ and doing mission presentations.  The missionary is also available to help the churches set up these Bible studies and pick material to be used. We are also writing material or tracts that will be more easily understood by those with a limited knowledge of the Bible.  Just finished is a series of nine tracts on the subject of the person of Jesus Christ.  It is entitled, “Who is Jesus?”  And when contacts come in to the missionary and the DMC, the New Fields Committee does investigative work to determine if this is where the Lord is opening up a door for us to labor.  The missionary then goes to such contacts and begins a Bible study there.

May the Lord Jesus be pleased to continue to cause His church to love the truth that we have been given and to love our neighbors as ourselves, to seek and to save the lost.  This is our work in home missions.

A Vision of God's Glorious Holiness

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

A Vision of God's Glorious Holiness

Meditation on Isaiah 6: 1-3

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto the other another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

What a vision is given to the prophet Isaiah! A terrible thing has just occurred. The godly king, Uzziah, had died. What an unsettling blow to the people. Uzziah had kept the wheels of commerce spinning and the walls around the nation secure. Now that he has died, people are wondering whether the good times will continue, whether their nation would be secure. I know that many are asking those same questions at this time in our nation and in the world.

Isaiah is being called to address Judah who is walking in sin. Isaiah’s task will not be pleasant. He must bring a message of God’s judgment and a time of captivity in Babylon. Jerusalem will be destroyed. Israel will be redeemed by judgment! It is not a word that the people want to hear and his message will not be received well at all. Isaiah will endure much opposition and suffering. Isaiah must have the unshakeable conviction that he speaks the word of God according to the mandate of God Himself. The wicked will be revealed as they contradict the prophet and refuse to listen. But God’s true people need to hear this word to be assured of the comfort and hope of his prophecy.

To strengthen this servant of God, he is given a vision of God’s glory! In his vision, Isaiah sees the heavenly temple. God is sitting on a high and exalted throne and the Lord’s garments filled the temple so that there is no place left to stand. Pictured first is the sovereignty of God. In addition, Isaiah sees seraphim, angels of some sort standing above the temple. They are calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is filled of his glory.” As Isaiah stands in the doorway, the posts of the door shake and tremble and the room is filled with smoke.

The meaning of the vision centers on God. He is the highly exalted Lord of heaven and earth. He is glorious in His appearance and holy in his nature as judge of heaven and earth. His throne is described in vs. 1 as “high and lifted up.” But that throne is not in a palace, but there in the temple! The idea is that God is present with his people in covenant fellowship. Where the Lord dwells in his royal majesty and glory, there is no room for any other than the exalted Lord. This is still true in your and my hearts. God and God alone!

The glory of God is in all of his virtues, but what is especially brought forth is the glory of His holiness. This is the virtue whereby God is eternal and unchangingly consecrated and dedicated to Himself alone. The word “holy” is repeated three times. It is the Hebrew way of expressing the greatness and superlative holiness of God. It also pictures all three of the persons of the Godhead being full of holiness. As king and judge, He demands that His creatures be consecrated to Him in all that they are and all that they do. With those who are consecrated to Him, He is full of favor, grace, and love. Against all the wicked, God manifests His holiness in wrath and as a consuming fire! That the whole earth may be filled with His glory means that no place shall be left for the wicked.

While this is a glorious vision, it is also frightening. We see that in Isaiah’s reaction, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah recognizes his own sin and unworthiness. He also must go and speak the word of God to a people of unclean lips. What a difficult calling! He must take a message of trouble, of judgment, of destruction and death, and of captivity to others. That message must be brought against Judah.

We also today, as a church, must bring that message to a world in trouble and sin. And in order to do so, we need, like Isaiah, to see God’s glory and holiness and our own sins and unworthiness so that we do not self-righteously exalt ourselves above others. This is true of every child of God.

How wonderful that in order for Isaiah to speak God’s word, the Lord sanctifies him. The live coal taken from off the altar of sacrifice represents the love of God whereby He is appeased by the blood that was shed. That coal was laid upon the unclean lips of Isaiah, and he is told that his iniquity is taken away, and his sin purged. Now Isaiah is fit to be the instrument to bring not his own word but the word of God. The blood of Jesus has been shed upon the cross, so that all those who are His have their sins removed, and by Christ’s Spirit we are sanctified to be instruments of His peace.

God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” May we answer with Isaiah, “Hear I am; send me.” This is a difficult task, because many today, as in Isaiah’s day, do not want to hear about their sin and God’s judgment upon the sinner. But it is also a glorious task, for pointing to ourselves, we declare that there is blood that was shed for the remission of sins. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). The whole earth is filled with his glory!

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Though the darkness hide thee,

Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see,

Only Thou art holy; there is none beside thee,

Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

 

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Peace in the Storm (A Special Meditation)

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

Meditation on Isaiah 26:3,4

Peace in the Storm”

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

Our text is part of a song, sung by God’s people. It reflects upon the coming day of God’s deliverance of His people. It is sung in the midst of troubles that must yet be faced. The theme of the Book of Isaiah is that “Zion shall be redeemed by judgment” (Isa. 1:27). This means that the wicked will be punished, but also that God’s people will be chastised for their own good. How desolate she shall stand in this world. God’s people must be reminded of the deliverance that will be seen and experienced. We hold on to the promise of God that He will build a strong city with salvation as its walls. The gates of that city must be opened up for us that we may enter in and enjoy the security. If the gates are shut, the walls will not be helpful. It is through the Lord Jesus that we have access. The church as a righteous nation enters the city by Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. There we receive perfect safety and will dwell forever. The keeper of the city gives protection.

Perfect peace: literally in the Hebrew it is: “Peace, peace.” Isaiah, using repetition, conveys the thought of super abundant peace. God gives supernatural peace to those who trust Him (see also Phil. 4:6,7). This peace is a gift of God. It is the opposite of fear and doubt, anxiety, trouble, conflict, and warfare. It is not an earthly peace or a peace wrought by human hands or treaties. It is a spiritual peace, a peace with God and with other believers.

What a great conflict there was between us and God and between us and our fellow human beings because of sin. God is wrathful with those who contend against Him. Because of their idolatry, Judah is going to be brought down to Babylon. God hides Himself in His anger. But here is a beautiful promise. God will not always be angry. He gives double peace. What good news! There is more peace than all the world can promise or give you. Peace is through the cross of Jesus Christ and the righteousness He imputes to us. There is forgiveness for all our sins. The gospel points us to peace so that we can face all our troubles with confidence. Our peace is in the safety of being children of God, under His protection and care. May we then live in the consciousness of His gracious forgiveness! If God is for us, who can be against us? God reigns over all things and circumstances.

When our conscience accuses us, Satan is busy trying to cause us to doubt our salvation. We know that we are still inclined to all wickedness. But we read in I John 3:20, “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” God sees us in Christ Jesus! We face death, and we know that death is the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23). But when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have peace, for we know that Christ won the victory over sin and death. Jesus Christ takes His own home to glory.

There is no peace if we are willingly walking in the way of sin and disobedience! Our minds must be stayed or fixed on the LORD. The word “stayed” in our verse means to be propped up, leaned upon. In other words, we are not self-confident. We know our own weakness and sinfulness. We lean upon the Lord like a crippled man leans upon his cane. He cannot stand or walk with out it. We are unfaithful. God is Jehovah, the one who is unchangeably faithful to His covenant for Christ’s sake. He established his covenant, realizes it in Christ, and will perfect it. God sent his Son, removing the wall of depravity and sin. We read in Romans 5:1, “Therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We look, our eyes are fixed upon our God.

When Peter looked at Jesus, he was able to walk on the water. But the moment he took his eyes off Jesus to the storm-tossed waters, he sunk. Christ alone is our peace. May the Holy Spirit work on our minds by the Gospel. There we hear the voice of our Savior. Looking to Him, the fears, doubts, and anxieties of our minds are chased away, and instead there is a calm spirit, joyful peace. When the Lord chastises us His children, we do not doubt His love or power to save. Instead, we see it as His fatherly testing of us and working to purify us and strengthening our faith. Christ is our peace (Eph. 2:14).

So, trust in the LORD. Fix your eyes and mind and heart upon Him. He cares for you. In Him, we need not fear. In Him is all our hope. In Him is all our strength. Trust Him in every situation. The trials of life often bring doubt and anxiety to our minds, but we must cast these off. It is only when our mind and thoughts are propped up upon the Lord, thinking of Him, that we will experience peace regardless of circumstances. What anxieties trouble you? How can you lean upon the Lord?

Open up your Bible. Cling to His promises. Listen to His voice. I do not know which was more troubled: the disciple’s minds or the storm-tossed sea (Mark 4:37ff). They cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish? Jesus arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?”

“Trust ye in the LORD for ever.” Jesus is in your storm-tossed boat. Look to Him in faith and trust. May you hear Him say, “Peace, be still.”

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; What ever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

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Living or Dying in Christ

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

Meditation on Philippians 1:21

Living or Dying in Christ

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

A short Scripture text means a short meditation, right? No, it does not, especially for ministers. The less notes I take in the pulpit, the longer the sermon is. In our text, we need to understand what it means for the Apostle Paul when he states, “to live is Christ.” Second, how we learn to live for Christ, Third, we need to know why “to die is gain.” Should we wish for death?

The Apostle Paul wrote these verses to the believers in Philippi. They were concerned for him. Paul was a prisoner in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar. This trial could end with the Apostle facing death. In Paul’s absence, there were some who were preaching Christ out of envy and strife, and therefore they were adding affliction to Paul’s prison life. Paul wrote to comfort those saints who were concerned about his welfare. He said that all that was really important was that Christ was being preached. Paul was only concerned that his Savior was exalted and the gospel extended. Paul’s greatest concern in either life or death was magnifying Christ, his Master (vs. 20). Paul informs the Philippians that he is not afraid to die. He would be with Christ.

When the Apostle said so emphatically, “to me” placing this word at the very beginning of the sentence, he is giving a profound personal testimony. At the same time, he was drawing a contrast between the preachers who are proclaiming Christ out of selfish ambition. Paul was not self-centered, but Christ-centered. “For me to live is Christ.” Is this true of your life? Paul was concerned with the honor and glory of his wonderful Redeemer.

Paul was speaking of his life lived from day to day, continuous living on earth as a child of God. He could have spoken of the continuous hardships that he had faced. He experienced a thorn in his flesh that he had prayed might be removed. He had been beaten, stoned, and left for dead. He had been in prison both in Philippi and now in Rome. Oh, how he had suffered for the sake of the gospel. But he did not speak about those things. He spoke about Christ! Christ was the center of his whole life. Christ was everything. This was not just his preaching to others. Paul himself relied upon Christ for the whole of his salvation. He would boast in nothing but Christ crucified.

What is it to live in Christ? It is to derive one’s strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13), to have the mind, the humble disposition of Christ (Phil. 2:5-11), to know Christ with the knowledge of Christian experience (Phil. 3:8), to be covered with Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:9), to rejoice in Christ (Phil. 3:1; 4;4), to live not for self but for His glory (II Cor. 5:14,15), to rest one’s faith on Christ and to love Him in return for His love (Gal. 2:20).

How is this life possible? Not in ourselves. We would live for pleasure, sin, earthly things. Paul had been trying to by his own works to be right with God. It was only by Christ taking ahold of him on the Damascus Road. It was by the Spirit of Christ giving him a new heart and working conversion and faith. Paul was turned around from a physical life that leads to death to a new life lived for Jesus Christ.

Can you make this personal confession, “For me to live is Christ”? Do you and I live this confession with our daily lives: in our marriage, being a parent, in the workplace, the friends that we have, in our recreation, what we think, what we desire, and everything that we do? May God work in us and give us the grace to live in Christ.

Then “to die is gain.” This seems so strange, for death is loss. It is the loss of earthly relationships, family, friends, earthly things, and even our earthly bodies for a while. We know from Rom. 6:23 that death is God’s punishment for sin. But my friend, the sting of death has been taken away ( I Cor. 15:55). Christ bore all the punishment for our sins in our place. Death now becomes a servant to take us as pilgrims and strangers to a far better land. Dying physically meant gain for Paul. It meant that he would be with Christ (see vs. 23), “at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Death is the gateway to a clearer knowledge, more wholehearted perfect service, more exuberant joy, and a closer walk. No more sin or temptation, no more sickness, pain, trial, sorrow, affliction.

Death is gain! I will be with Christ. I will be like Christ. All the blessings of Christ will more abundantly be poured out. What do you live for? Is the glory and honor of Christ’s name more important to you, or is comfort and ease of life? Paul’s life was so wrapped up in Christ and the gospel that he wanted nothing more than to see the gospel advance, even if it meant that others sought to add to his affliction. When life’s circumstances get difficult, it is easy to become focused on self. May we say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall. Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better friend; I trust him now, I’ll trust him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend; Beautiful life that has no end,; Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my friend.”

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Confidence in the Midst of Calamities

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

Meditation on Job 19: 25,26

Confidence in the Midst of Calamities

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

Job was in the midst of calamities. In one day, everything was taken away. All his children died. His servants were killed or stolen. He had a dreadful disease in his body: an awful breath, he was skin and bones, sores all over his body. Job was an outcast of society. His wife told him to commit suicide, and his friends despised him as a terrible sinner. He is reproached and persecuted. Job was all alone! What a terrible condition.

But Job had hope. He made an amazing confession. “I know that my redeemer liveth!’ He knew that he suffered this at God’s hand even though he did not know why (vs. 6ff). Let’s look at Job’s confession.

“Redeemer”: the Hebrew word has the idea of a vindicator, one who takes up the cause for another. There are many examples of this in the Old Testament. If someone murdered a member of your family, you could appoint a person to avenge the blood that was taken. If a family was sold into slavery because of debts owed, one like a Boaz came so that the household of Naomi and Ruth could be freed from bondage. It was a near kinsman who took care of Naomi and Ruth by allowing them to glean in his fields. He would take their land and harvest the crops for them. He would marry Ruth, so that there would be children. Without children, the woman would be cut off from God’s promise and inheritance. In Boaz’s marriage, Naomi and Ruth had a rich lineage, resulting in the Christ.

There was nothing that Job could do to stop his calamity, persecution, rebuke, or the accusations made against him. He clung to the One who would vindicate him and his righteousness: God in Christ Jesus. Job clung to his righteousness in Christ. While the dark clouds of calamity swirled around him, he lifted his eyes heavenward. “I know that my redeemer liveth.”

“My redeemer lives!” What a confession. While Job saw his own death (“though after my skin worms destroy this body”), he saw that his redeemer lives. He saw two things by faith. First, he confessed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Job’s faith was like the faith of Abraham, when Abraham was called to kill his only son, Isaac, he knew that God was able to raise his son back to life (Hebrews 11:17-19). Second, Job knew that this vindicator “shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” Over against what Satan, Job’s so-called friends, or the world had to say, his vindicator would declare Job righteous in God’s court. This was Job’s hope. He had a vindicator who would pay for his sins, who would take up his cause. Although accused as a terrible sinner by his three friends, Job knew that one day the redeemer would stand as Judge, declaring him righteous. He would be declared righteous, not by his own works but by the work of his redeemer. By the grace of God, Job had faith in this redeemer: one who would take up his cause before God himself! It is the promised seed of the woman, promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. One would come who would pay the debt for his sins.

The beauty and significance of this confession is found in how personal it is. Job speaks of “my redeemer.” Not only is there a redeemer, but he is mine! He will stand up for me and vindicate me. That means that Job was certain that God declares him righteous. God is for Job even though his so-called friends and society were against him. Notice the words, “I know that my redeemer lives.” “I know!” Not, “I think so” or “I hope so.” There is no certainty in that at all. Can you say, “I know that my redeemer lives”? Surely, if Job who lived in the time of types and shadows could have this certainty, how much more can we who have the completed Scriptures and who live after the fact of Jesus’ birth, suffering, death, and resurrection! “I know that my redeemer lives.” No ifs, buts, or perhaps; that would surely rob us of peace and comfort!

Job, facing his own death had the certainty of life afterwards. “And though after skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” They say that there are only two certainties in life: taxes and death. But for the child of God, there is the certainty of life after death. We shall see God. How? God is Spirit and therefore invisible. The answer is that we shall see God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ. We shall dwell in his beauty and love and fellowship. Is this what you desire?

Job did not know why God had so afflicted him. You and I should not ask, “Why are these troubles coming to me? Why does God allow or cause it?” Know this, child of God; affliction is for our profit. By it, God is testing us. He is also weaning us from this life and all it has to offer, to the world which is to come. He is saying to us, “Look to me.” We are taught to live as those who desire to see God’s face. When is the last time that you have included in your prayers the petition, “Come Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly”?

I know my Redeemer lives. Therefore, I shall see God! This statement shows the indestructible nature of true, saving faith. In the midst of circumstances that Job did not understand, he nevertheless fell back on the most basic truth of the gospel: his redeemer lives! Redemption brings to mind the glorious truth that the Christian is owned by God, purchased with his own blood, declared righteous with the righteousness that God freely gives to him by grace alone through faith. Can you say, “I know that my Redeemer lives”?

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Murmuring or Singing? (A Meditation on Numbers 14:1,2)

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

Meditation on Numbers 14: 1,2

Murmuring or Singing?

And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured...”

God’s people were standing at the border of Canaan, the promised land! This was a time for celebration and praise to the God who had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt and led them through the wilderness. They were right on the border of blessing. But they were faced with another crisis of faith. The twelve spies had returned from the land with vivid proof that the land was all God had promised it would be.

There was a majority report and a minority report. The majority report of the ten made no mention of God. Rather they reported: “The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitant thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

The minority report declared: “the land that we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it unto us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.”

Both reports acknowledged that the land will only be taken by fighting and conquest. Certainly, it would not be easy to conquer the land. It was not lying there vacant, ready to be taken. There were many and strong people there, and Israel could not simply walk in and possess it. They would have to fight. (In reality, there was no need for the spies to scout the land, but we read in Deuteronomy 1:21,22, when Moses set before the people the land that the LORD had promised them, they demanded of Moses to send men before them to search out the land. This was in itself an act of unbelief.) The first report was evil, because it was given with an evil purpose and great exaggeration. The report of the majority of the spies intended to impress one thing on the minds of the people. “We be not able to go up against the people” (Numb.13:3). It did not take into account the power of the unseen God. It did not remember the mighty deliverance out of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the manna that fell from heaven, or the many deliverances the Lord had given them. The manna was still there, as was the cloud that still overshadows them by day or that blazes above them by night. We read that all the congregation cried, all of the people wept, all the children of Israel murmured. Theirs was the sin of self-pity, unbelief, and disobedience. They wish to die in the wilderness, or go back to the bondage of Egypt.

In contrast was the faith of men like Joshua and Caleb over against the unbelief of the rest of the children of Israel. We read “all the congregation cried” and “all the children of Israel murmured”. Of course, this does not refer to every individual. We know that there were those who did not murmur. There is always a small remnant such as those like Joshua and Caleb whose voices are drowned out by the noise of the whole. They speak of the glory and sureness of God’s promise and His help in the battles to come. For victory comes only by way of struggle and fighting. “They took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the LORD our God doth give us…The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes” (Deut. 1:25,30). There was no need for fear or dismay, no reason to weep and wail. They were near the promised land. God was with them; he had fulfilled all his promises! Over against the lies of the ten spies, Caleb and Joshua bore witness to the truth. They warned the people not to rebel against the LORD. “The LORD is with us.”

Dear reader, do you today murmur in unbelief or sing praises in faith? What is your response when forced to stay home, or not able to work, or perhaps seeing your stock portfolio crumble? We are near the land of promise, heaven. Jesus is coming, coming soon. In the world, we can expect tribulation and trouble. The victory is gained not without a fight, the battle of faith. How are you dealing with the trial set before you? God is with His people. As He has so wonderfully delivered us in the past, led us all the way through our wilderness, do you cling and believe His promise? We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We have a greater leader than Moses or Joshua. Our Lord Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and death by His own death on the cross. He will give us the good land flowing with milk and honey! Sing and shout His praises. Stand firm in unwavering faith and hope. The LORD is with us: fear not! Not murmuring but singing!

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Who Will Show Us Any Good? (A Meditation on Psalm 4:6-8)

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

Meditation on Psalm 4:6-8

Who Will Show Any Good?

There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”

Once again, a sharp contrast is presented in these verses! It is a contrast between many who seek happiness in the things of this world and the spiritual joy given to the godly. Which are you? The blind person, outside of Jesus Christ, ignorant of what is truly good, is filled with a longing and desire for earthly things: “their corn and their wine increased.” Corn and wine represent both what is necessary and that is luxurious in life. Therein they will be happy. Of these, the Psalmist says, “There be many who say, Who will show us any good?” Over against these, the godly join with one another seeking God’s favor and love. “LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”

As we learn in our last meditation on Jer. 17:5-8, the green tree produces faith, joy, and peace. We see these three things in this Psalm. What is good? The person outside of Christ asks this in the midst of the necessities, trials, and difficulties of our lives. Have you asked this same question, perhaps in the political and economic upheavals these last months? Perhaps you were unable to work. You were unable to go to school or be involved in sports. You or a loved one were sick and laid up in the hospital, unable to have family with you. You are an aged person in a rest home, and the children and friends could not visit with you. “Who will show us any good?”

What do you mean by good? The Bible tells us that none but God are good. We read in Micah 6:8,” He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” There you have a definition of good. If you have that, you are happy now in our pilgrimage and in eternity.

Faith looks up. In contrast with the wicked looking all round them in the world, the child of God prays. “LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” We desire and pray for the smile of God’s face in favor and love. But how can we experience that favor? We are not just, loving mercy, nor walking humbly with God. Instead, we are just the opposite. How can we be reconciled with this God? The answer is in one person whom God has given for us, his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of what God requires of a person. Jesus did justly all his life, never wavering. All of his life up to his hanging on the cross, he took the punishment for our sins and fulfilled all righteousness. Oh, how he loved and showed mercy, having compassion on the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. He has brought his sheep out of the pit of despair and set their feet upon the rock of ages. We hear Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go, sin no more.” Did you hear Jesus’ answer to the thief on the cross who cried, “Lord, remember me when thou comest to thy kingdom.” Jesus walked humbly with his God and cried out, “Not my will but thy will be done.” Our faith stands in our God in Christ Jesus.

What joy this gives us, even in the midst of difficulties and trials! “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” The best that the world can give us is corn and wine, staples of a luxurious living. You can smile when you belly is full of food and your cup is full of wine, making glad the heart of man. But do not build anything on that gladness. It only lasts until the crops fail and the economy drops. When the LORD lifts our hearts with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then there is gladness that is overwhelming and eternal! It will fill all your real needs, even if the corn and wine fail.

We have peace. There is terrible anxiety in the hearts and lives of many today over their jobs, stocks, and future. They worry and worry and maybe cannot sleep at night. Those who have the light of God’s countenance upon them have peace. The Psalmist says, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. When you know that all your needs are fulfilled, you are at peace. If you know that God is for you, who then could ever be against you? God did not spare his only begotten Son but gave him up for me; what can then be against me? No, all things work together for good unto those that love God. We can sing:

In God’s love abiding, I have joy and peace, More than all the wicked, though their wealth increase. In his care confiding, I will safely sleep, for the Lord my Savior, will in safety keep.” (Psalter #7, Stanza 3

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In Whom Do You Trust? (A Meditation on Jeremiah 17:5-8)

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

 

Meditation on Jer. 17:5-8         

In Whom Do You Trust?

“Thus saith the LORD; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh the flesh his arm, and whose heart departed from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

What a sharp contrast is presented in these verses! It is a contrast between a person who trusts in man and his abilities and the person who trusts in Jehovah. It is the contrast between a brown lifeless shrub in the desert and a green fruitful tree planted by waters. It is a contrast between a person who is cursed by God and the person who is blessed by God.

Although the question is not stated, it is implied: “In whom do you trust?” This question demands a response. Jeremiah writes to the Old Testament church, Judah. In the threat posed by the kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon, there were those who trusted in themselves or in the help of  the nation of Egypt. These were terrible times. Do you look to the arm of flesh, or do you look and trust in God’s mighty arm? We may ask in these current troublesome days the same questions. Do you trust in the economy, politicians, scientists, hospitals, health care, or government policies and handouts? Or do you rest and have confidence in Jehovah who is sovereign and does all things well? The question arises out of the text.

How foolish and weak is the arm of flesh. The economy changes. Governors and presidents can threaten or make promises. Scientists can maybe find a vaccine that works but also can create viruses that kill. Money can be given out by the government, but it is not free. It will have to come from somewhere, namely new taxes. The arm of flesh is sinful and mortal. The person who trusts in man is the one “whose heart departed from the LORD.” Do you see, there is no possibility of trusting in both man and God? It is either/or. It is a matter of taking our eyes off from the LORD and putting them instead on our own abilities. One is able to have a correct knowledge of God in one’s head, but not in his heart.  

In whom do you trust? God’s word says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.” How dreadful! The person that lives and dies in unbelief is cursed, under God’s wrath and hatred. God’s curse is a powerful and effective word that brings death. The figure is given of a brown scrub in the desert. This shrub never gives any fruit, and even if rain comes, it has no roots to drink it up. What a picture of the person who does not know and love God!

The contrast is the child of God who trusts, has saving faith, depends upon the LORD. That person has hope, which means confidence. Why do we have this confidence even in difficult times? The reason is that the LORD is the God of our salvation. He loves us. He will work all things for good to them that love him, who are the called according to his purpose. He has provided for our salvation in his Son, Jesus Christ! Our eyes, our mind, and our heart are stayed upon him. Jeremiah’s confession is found in vs. 17, “thou art my hope in the day of evil.” May we say with the Psalmist, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (Ps. 56:3,4).

The person that trusts in Jehovah is compared to a green and fruitful tree. He is planted by the waters. He is planted there by God himself. He is given deep roots, roots that keep on spreading by the river. Christ Jesus is that water of life. Christ’s life flows to us by the Holy Spirit. When times of trouble come, the person who trusts in God does not shrivel up or become unfruitful. Rather, his roots sink further and deeper into Jesus Christ and his Word. He becomes stronger. He is not anxious in these troublesome times but has the fruit of joy and peace. God’s Word says that God blesses those who trust in him!

So once more the question comes, “In whom do you trust?” The Psalmist Asaph once doubted and was anxious and despairing. But God led and taught him, and he was able to say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee… it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works” (Ps. 73:25,28).

May the trials and difficulties we currently face cause us to draw closer to our God in Christ Jesus in faith and confidence. 

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Home Missions Newsletter - January 2019

revaspriensma 1Missionary Report to the Churches

The year 2018 has come to an end, and the year 2019 has begun. So also it is with some of the mission work done in 2018 and work now begun in 2019.

The calling of the missionary is to “work to develop a field of labor and then preach and teach on any field that the Spirit gives through that work.” My wife and I were in St. Petersburg, Florida for three weeks at the end of March and the beginning of April. It was a group of folks from many different Christian backgrounds and expectations of what church and worship ought to be. We can expect that in missions. It is what missions are all about, giving biblical instruction. On Easter Sunday, we were joined in our worship by several families from our churches that were on vacation that week in Florida. Members of the Fellowship were delighted at the many visitors, and surprised that these families were willing to drive for two hours to attend the worship service. What a nice testimony to the group of what Sabbath observance means to us!

We returned there again in late June. By this time many of the members of the fellowship had left in order to join a charismatic church nearby. The fellowship was reduced to one married man and his three sons. There were serious challenges to doctrines that we in the PRC hold dear and there was not a desire to reach out and do evangelism in the neighborhood. There were not sufficient contacts to consider St. Petersburg as a possible church plant.

Dorr library 2I was able to work with several Evangelism Committees of our churches in regard to how to set up Bible studies in their outlying areas, attending and at times filling in as a leader. I continue to lead Byron Center PRC’s Bible study, begun before I was a missionary. Byron Center started one in Wayland, and about one year ago transferred the Bible study to the Dorr area, gaining many new members. Those who attend come from a variety of church backgrounds. It is a pleasure to see men and women faithfully come, eager to dig into the study of the Word. This group meets year around, no breaks! This, I believe, is important for consistency, rather than having to start up again each fall. This group has been meeting for about three years. We began by going through the various loci of Reformed doctrine. Having finished that, we have now begun a study of the Gospel of John.

At our Dorr Bible study in July, a contact suggested that I help fill the pulpit of the New Hope Reformed Fellowship in Dorr. Meetings were held, and a request came to our DMC New Fields committee for me to preach twice a month in the second worship service. After various committees examined this request and gave approval, I began to lead these worship services the first Sunday of January 2019. An elder from BC-PRC is present to gauge interest and receptivity. What a privilege to share the rich reformed heritage that has been given to us as churches.

I am also presently following up on two contacts that came to two of our churches requesting a church plant in their area. There were communications via email, and the distribution of our literature. We are thankful for such literature; for it causes folks to examine the Scriptures as did the saints in Berea of old. Visits were made to each of those contacts, and we wait to see if this is where the Lord is opening up a field for us to labor in. Again, I encourage our churches to send me contacts that they have that they wish for me to follow up on.

Working with those, whose knowledge of Scripture is limited, demands that we produce tracts that are easy to understand with plenty of Bible texts to support it. Therefore I have written nine tracts with the theme, “Who is Jesus?” These are based on the Gospel of John, including the seven “I am” statements of Jesus. These are being proofread and edited, and will soon be available for our churches and members to distribute to others.

I have enjoyed giving presentations in our churches in Wisconsin, the greater Chicago area, and in Singapore regarding the work of the home missionary, and the role of the church members in evangelism. I look forward to doing so in the future in other areas of our churches. While in Singapore in January and February, I hope to be working with their evangelism committee, looking at what they have done in the past and what they are continuing to do now.

I continue to work with the DMC to develop a manual for doing home missions. This demands that we look at all pertinent synodical decisions, write up scriptural principles, and then practical applications as we do the work as missionary and denomination. This way, the wheel does not need to be reinvented each time there is a new missionary.

I close with thanks for the many prayers that are uttered for our work in domestic missions.

In Christ’s service,

Missionary-pastor Audred Spriensma

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