Isaiah 1:8-9, "And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah."
Large cathedrals have been erected in many lands for the worship and praise of the Name of God and His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. These have been costly ventures erected often over a period of hundreds of years. Their beauty is admired by countless of visitors throughout many centuries. One is reminded even of the great Old Testament king, Solomon, who built a temple so grand that many have claimed it to be one of the greatest wonders of the world.
And so, we would respond, it ought to be. Should we not worship God in houses which emphasize His greatness and His glory? Is any sacrifice too great, is any building too glorious and too costly when it involves our worship of Jehovah? Our hearts are moved when we enter such great establishments. The towering spires, the glorious stained-glass windows, or the majestic pipe organs seem worthy means of expressing visibly our adoration of Jehovah God.
But through the years, sad things have taken place. In many cathedrals, there appears to be rather a worship of images, prayers to Mary and other Saints but less-and-less emphasis of proper worship of Jehovah. Other cathedrals retain the old and traditional worship services--but the pews are virtually empty. Worship has become mere form and ritual--but the body, the members, no longer come. Those within the cathedral are visitors and tourists who enjoy seeing such magnificent buildings.
One observes other developments as well. A large number of "mega-churches" have been built. These attract thousands of worshippers each Sabbath day. Many seem to be attracted to a worship service designed to raise one's self-esteem. Often little or no reminder of our sins is made. Christ is set forth as a good example--but often, not the Savior Who alone delivers from sin and death. Worship appears centered about some charismatic preacher who knows how to move the crowd. Often the enthusiasm is evident, but the comfort of God's Word is lacking.
That brings us to the small water-color painting on the "front page" of our Web Site. Some have pointed out that perhaps this is not the best way to portray the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Those who enter this Site by its "front door," are greeted with the picture of a crooked, desolate "shack." Would it not be more God-glorifying to portray here a majestic church with its steeple pointed heaven-ward? And would not the readers be much more impressed with a stately church picture? It surely would not be wrong to have such a lovely picture.
The picture, however, was painted to portray the reality as presented in Isaiah 1:8-9. It is the church that God portrays in Isaiah as a "hut (lodge) in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city." The little "shack" of a church in the picture has nevertheless the cross. Christ Himself calls His church a "little flock." He reminds us that when He returns, shall He find faith on the earth?
So when one views these pages concerning the Protestant Reformed Churches, let him not look for some grand cathedrals, or powerful establishments. Let not one think that these churches can boast of wealth, power, influence--as though man is anything. Let him not imagine that these churches either are perfect and without sin here on this earth.
Rather consider these churches in light of Isaiah's prophecy:
1. In themselves they are nothing. They are frail and insignificant in this world. They are still imperfect while proclaiming the absolute Sovereignty and Perfection of their God. They are indeed as a "shack" which can quickly be destroyed by the powerful mountain gales. Anyone coming that way could, apparently, push over this frail little insignificant building. But note: it has the cross.
2. That this frail "shack" continues to stand is evidence of the power of Almighty God Who preserves His church through Jesus Christ. It is preserved, together with all of God's people over the whole earth, in the hands of God and of His Son (John 10:28-29). They are those who have run into that "strong tower" and are secure (Ps. 46:1-3). Then it stands until the end--despite its frail appearance. It needs not any "cathedral" to glorify God. It is His Word, proclaimed in truth, that is the real strength of this church.
Therefore, dear reader, peruse these pages with careful thought. See unfolded there truths concerning the absolute Sovereignty of God, of the Infinite Love of God revealed in the cross of His Son (John 3:16), of the certain salvation of all those whom He has given to His Son (John 6:37). Truly salvation is of our Lord from the beginning to its end (Rom. 8:29-30).
May God strengthen and encourage you through the weak means of this Web Site. GVB
Rev. G. Van Baren (Wife: Clara)
Ordained: October, 1956
Pastorates: Doon, IA - 1956; Randolph, WI - 1962; First, Grand Rapids, MI - 1965; Hudsonville, MI - 1977; Loveland, CO - 1994
Emeritus: 1999Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Gise_Van_Baren
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