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Reformed Witness Hour Newsletter - August/September 2021

News from the
Reformed Witness Hour for August 2021
 

Upcoming Broadcasts for September



For the September 2021 weekly radio broadcasts, we will be continuing the 2006 series on Nehemiah by Rev. Carl Haak. Rev. Haak is the pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
September 5
Worshipping God in the Light of His Goodness
Nehemiah 9:1-31

September 12
Let Not Our Trouble Seem Little to Thee
Nehemiah 9:32-38

September 19
Covenant Renewal
Nehemiah 10

September 26
Jerusalem Filled with Boys and Girls Playing
Nehemiah 11
 
Listen to the Current Message Here
 
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July and August 2021 Traffic Sources
 
July and August 2021 Traffic Sources
 
Did you know that about 150 million Americans (or thirty-two percent) are monthly podcast listeners?[1] And Christians are three times more likely to listen to podcasts on a daily basis than the rest of the population.[2] With the availability of smartphones and similar screens to people across the United States and throughout the world, it has never been easier to listen to digital audio.
 
In 2020, the Reformed Witness Hour committee began the work of making our weekly messages available on the major internet radio and podcasting sites. In addition to our own website and Sermon Audio, our weekly messages can be listened and subscribed to on iTunes,  Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, PlayerFM, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, the Podcast App, and Himalaya.
 
 If you enjoy listening to podcasts, especially Christian podcasts such as sermons, consider subscribing to the RWH on one of the platforms listed above. Each RWH message is just 20–24 minutes, perfect to listen to as you go about your labors in the home, drive to and from work, or exercise. And while many evangelical churches and organizations are abandoning core truths of the Bible, RWH messages continue to boldly proclaim the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God’s grace, by which he saves his elect people through Jesus Christ without the dependence on the will or work of man.[3]
 
If you are blessed by the messages of the RWH, please consider sharing our podcast with friends or family, especially those who enjoy listening to digital audio.
 
We have seen great interest in our messages through podcasting. So far in 2021, 30% of our downloads have been through podcasts.

[1] “Podcast Statistics (2020) – Newest Available Data Infographic.” Music Oomph, January 3, 2020. https://musicoomph.com/podcast-statistics/.
 
[2] “13 Surprising Truths About Sermon Podcasts.” Pro Church Tools, September 7, 2018. https://prochurchtools.com/13-surprising-truths-about-sermon-podcasts-ep-184/.
 
[3] “An Analysis of Online Sermons in U.S. Churches.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, January 28, 2020. https://www.pewforum.org/2019/12/16/the-digital-pulpit-a-nationwide-analysis-of-online-sermons
 
 
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Covenant Reformed News - August 2021

Covenant Reformed News


August 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 16



Catholicity Reflected in Sacraments and Corrupted by Errors

The sacraments of the New Testament church reflect its possession of a greater catholicity than the Old Testament church. Baptism is administered to people speaking different languages all around the world in many countries. One does not have to join the nation of Israel or move to the land of Canaan to become a member of Christ’s kingdom. Females are baptized, whereas in the Old Testament they were not circumcised, with circumcision being the older equivalent of baptism (Col. 2:11-13).

The New Testament initiatory sacrament is not less catholic regarding the seed of believers than Old Testament circumcision. The children of at least one godly parent are recipients of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 59:20-21) and holy (I Cor. 7:14), for they are included in Christ’s church (Eph. 1:1-2; 6:1-4), embraced in God’s covenant promise (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39) and enrolled in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:13-16), though there are reprobate Esaus among our offspring, as well as elect Jacobs (Rom. 9:13).

Those promised spiritual baptism and salvation as members of Christ’s catholic church ought to receive its physical sign (Acts 10:47). “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (I Cor. 12:12-14).

The element of the sacrament of baptism also reflects the church’s catholicity. Water is relatively accessible all around the globe, even in a wilderness (Acts 8:26, 36), and not much is needed for sprinkling or pouring.

The Lord’s Supper also reflects the greater catholicity of the New Testament church. As with baptism, the second Christian sacrament is administered to females. From this perspective too, it is greater than the Passover, its Old Testament equivalent (I Cor. 5:7), for women were not required to go up to the temple for the pilgrimage feasts.

The Passover involved the sacrificing of lambs by Levitical priests upon the altar in Jerusalem. In comparison, the two elements of the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine, are much easier to administer in local churches around the world.

The Passover and the Lord’s Supper are alike in that neither is to be administered to children, for I Corinthians 11 requires that those who partake of the sacrament are able to examine themselves and discern how the Lord’s body is (spiritually) present (27-32).

The church’s catholicity also provides us with a useful perspective from which to critique and reject the alleged five additional sacraments of Rome (confirmation, penance, matrimony, holy orders and extreme unction). Fatally, Scripture does not teach that these things are sacraments. Moreover, they are not even historically catholic since it took many centuries of apostasy for Rome to declare some of these rites sacraments.

Let us now turn to four errors or perversions involving the doctrine of catholicity. First, regarding soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, many teach a universal love and desire of God to save absolutely everybody, including the Antichrist and all his predecessors (I John 2:18), rather than the truth of God’s effectual love and desire for the salvation of His elect and catholic church alone. Others go further by teaching a universal atonement, claiming that Jesus shed His blood for everyone head for head, the goats as well as the “sheep” (John 10:15, 26), and the reprobate “world” for whom He did not pray as well as those His Father gave Him (17:9). Some argue from a universal divine love and a universal atonement to sheer universalism: every man, woman and child will finally be saved as members of the triumphant catholic church (contra Matt. 25:31-46)!

The second error concerns eschatology, the doctrine of the last things. Postmillennialism foolishly dreams of a future golden age with almost everyone on earth being a true Christian prior to the Lord’s bodily return. Here catholicity is twisted to further the notion that the church is to become the vast numerical majority toward the end of this age (contra Matt. 7:13-14; II Thess. 2; II Tim. 3; Rev. 13:6-8).

Third, we come to ecclesiology. Catholicity in the hands of modernist Protestants and Roman Catholics becomes sheer inclusivism. False ecumenism accepts all or almost all churches and even the cults as if they were truly Christian, irrespective of the heterodoxy of their creeds, theology, preaching, office-bearers and membership.

This wicked disregard for God’s truth leads to syncretism. Those who belong to the so-called “Abrahamic religions” (Judaism and Islam) are also the people of God, as are those who belong to the other pagan religions (Hinduism, Shintoism, etc.). In fact, the ancient philosophers (like Socrates and Plato), atheists, evolutionists, humanists and agnostics are all God’s children in His image, as if Jesus Christ were not the only “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)!

Fourth, this perversion of catholicity is even used to promote the idea that there are contradictory and competing theologies in the Bible. Many claim that the Old Testament teaches a different religion from the New Testament (contra John 5:39), that Peter disagrees with Paul (contra II Pet. 3:16), that Paul deviates from Christ (contra Gal. 1:11-12) and that Paul even contradicts himself (contra II Tim. 4:7)!

Thus catholicity is abused so as to create disagreements and conflicts within Scripture, and to cover up massive and irreconcilable contradictions in doctrine, and between churches and religions. This is a false catholicity with no true unity for the many has eaten up the one! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

God's Restraint of Sin

The lengthy question for this issue of the News arises from a number of passages that speak of God’s restraining sin. “(1) In Exodus 34:23, God commanded the men of Israel to leave their plot of land to go and appear before Him three times a year. To ensure the protection of God’s people from invasion during these times, even though the pagan nations surrounding them desired their land year-round, He promised that ‘neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year’ (24). How is God’s protection of the land of Israel from being invaded by the pagan nations on their border by His restraining their wicked hearts explained apart from a gracious influence of the Spirit upon them?

(2) God restrained David from taking revenge on Nabal for scorning the messengers that David sent to greet Nabal (I Sam. 25:14). Abigail, Nabal’s wife, recognized God’s grace when she pleaded with David not to seek vengeance against her husband, ‘seeing the Lord hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand’ (26). David acknowledged this truth: ‘as the Lord God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee …’ (34).

(3) In Genesis 20, God restrained Abimelech from touching Sarah, Abraham’s wife: ‘I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her’ (6).

(4) In God’s punishment of Israel for its rebellion, we read that He ‘gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust’ with the effect that ‘they walked in their own counsels’ (Ps. 81:12). (5) Similarly, in Romans 1, where Paul describes those who suppress the truth by their wickedness, God ‘gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient’ (28). Does not this ‘giving someone over’ imply that there was previously a gracious restraint or influence of the Spirit upon them that was removed?”

(2) David and (3) Abimelech were both godly men, and there can be no question that God’s restraint of sin in both cases was gracious. He kept David from vengeful murder and Abimelech, King of Gerar, from unwitting adultery. That Abimelech was a godly man is clear from his knowledge of God, his confession that he and his nation were righteous, his understanding that adultery was sin and God’s Word concerning him: “Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” (Gen. 20:6), David was, as we know, a man after God’s own heart and a picture of Christ. That God restrains His people from sin is one of the great blessings of grace, for we are so foolish that we would go headlong into sin, were it not for His restraining hand and Spirit.

The other examples have to do with God’s restraint of sin in those who are unsaved. (1) He restrained the wickedness of the nations that surrounded Israel in order to protect His people and the promise of Christ. Our Belgic Confession says, “He so restrains the devil and all our enemies, that without his will and permission, they cannot hurt us” (13). (4) In giving up the men of Israel to their own hearts’ lust and (5) in giving up the ungodly to a reprobate mind, He most certainly did remove a previous restraint. We see such things happening in our societies. God, in His just judgment, removes the restraints that once kept homosexuality, murder of infants and other gross sins in check, as Romans 1 teaches. He does it because they hold the truth of God under in unrighteousness and do not like to retain God in their knowledge. So He takes even the knowledge that they are destroying themselves away from them. He does so that they may reach a certain measure of wickedness and become ready for judgment (cf. Gen. 15:16).

God does this by His Holy Spirit, just as He does all things by the Spirit, first restraining their sin and then removing His restraints through the sovereign operations of the Spirit. He does this for the sake of His beloved church and to bring to pass all that He has decreed, but this restraint is not grace to the reprobate. Its purpose in the salvation of His redeemed people is gracious but there is no grace of God in the restraint itself, no grace shown to those whose wickedness He restrains. His restraint is like putting a muzzle on a rabid dog. The dog is restrained from biting and others are protected from it, but its nature is not changed nor its disease cured. God even restrains Satan (Job 1:12; 2:6; Rev. 20:1-3) and that most certainly is not a gracious restraint. Indeed, it is proof that God is able to restrain wickedness by His almighty power without showing grace to those whose sin is restrained.

God uses many different means to restrain man’s wickedness: the fear of punishment; the desire for the praise of others; the social shame and disgrace that wickedness brings at times, even among the ungodly; the fear of revenge; the evil consequences of sin to one’s health, family or career. Even then, these restraints only just keep sin in check. When they are removed, it becomes evident that man’s heart was not changed by these restraints, for he is still just as depraved and prone to all evil as before.

God, in His justice, uses these wicked men themselves to remove those restraints. He uses their courts to legalize homosexuality, abortion and drug abuse. He puts the medical, financial and legal means in their hands to descend into lawlessness and gross wickedness. He gives them the knowledge to invent and create, and then turn it all to the service of sin and Satan. What a testimony to His justice and righteousness that is!

Our denial of common grace, therefore, is not a denial of God’s restraint of sin, nor of the fact that this restraint is the work of His Spirit, nor of His gracious purpose in restraining sin. It is simply that there is no grace except in the cross and shed blood of our Saviour, and no grace for those who are without Christ. Proverbs 3:33 reminds us that “the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked,” not His grace. It would be strange grace, anyway, that first restrained their wickedness and then withdrew.

To return to God’s gracious restraint of sin in His people, as in the case of David and Abimelech, we should remember that He also, in His justice, sometimes removes those restraints so that we fall into sin. This happens when we are hard-hearted and stubborn, and when we neglect prayer and watching. We must, therefore, be warned and be constant, lest we fall into temptation and into the snares of Satan. This matter of the restraint of sin should teach us, therefore, to look to Him always in the great battle we fight against Satan’s wiles and our own sinfulness. 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  
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Covenant Reformed News - July 2021

Covenant Reformed News


July 2021 • Volume XVIII, Issue 15



The Basis and Unity of Christ’s Catholic Church

What is the deepest theological basis for the catholicity of the church? God in the plurality of His Persons and the riches of His attributes! Thus the revelation of the mystery of the full equality of Jews and Gentiles in the catholic church to both angels (Eph. 3:10) and men (9) speaks frequently of God (2, 7, 9, 10, 19), the Father (14), Christ (1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 17, 19, 21) and the Spirit (5, 16), as well as His “manifold wisdom” (10), grace (2, 7, 8), love (19) and power (7, 20), yea, “all the fulness of God” (19).

In His eternal counsel, the infinitely perfect Triune God decreed the diversity of creation and the multifariousness of providence. Is the church’s geographical, anthropological and historical catholicity not what rich Trinitarian decretal theology would lead us to expect?

The Jews or any other nation could never be the number one idea or dominant party in God’s eternal plan and historic work of saving His people. He is the God of three Persons and unsearchable virtues! Could one nation (out of hundreds) really be His special goal? How could he display His manifold riches in them alone or chiefly?

Jehovah is the Lord of all creation and providence, of time and space! How could one earthly land or country be uppermost in the mind of the Creator? How could one earthly people be central in the purposes of the Governor of all the nations? Dispensationalism and Jewish premillennialism do not fit with the three Persons, infinite perfections and eternal purpose of God with His one catholic church in Jesus Christ.

Creedal Trinitarian Christianity places great emphasis upon, and is the only solid basis for, catholicity. This stands over against all unitarian religions, such as Judaism, Islam (with its ummah) and Sikhism (about 90% of all Sikhs live in India and some 76% of all Sikhs live in the one north Indian state of Punjab).

Now let us consider two of the church’s attributes together: unity and catholicity, the one and the many. The God who is one in nature and three in Persons saves a church that is one and catholic. The Bible, which is one book consisting of 66 books, teaches one truth richly presented, including the unity and catholicity of the church. Protology (first things) and eschatology (last things) proclaim that both this creation and the new creation include the one and the many, with both creations as the realms of God’s one catholic church, one for the church now and the other for the church in the future.

Jesus Christ is one Person (the Son of God). He possesses two natures as God and man, uniting eternity and time (as the pre-existent and incarnate One), and heaven and earth (cf. Eph. 1:10). The inscription on His cross “was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin” (John 19:20). Thus in God’s one catholic church, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

There is one Holy Spirit who is presented as the seven spirits of God (Rev. 1:4; 4:5) to indicate the many covenant graces, blessings and gifts that He communicates to the one catholic church saved by the Lord Jesus (Acts 2; I Cor. 12-14).

Scripture uses many images of the church to bring out the fact that it is both one and many (in different senses): one flock consisting of many sheep (John 10:16), one temple made of many living stones (I Pet. 2:5), one (spiritual) kingdom or nation or city with many citizens, one army of many soldiers (Num. 1:3), etc. There is one image and one chapter that especially speak of its unity and multiplicity: the church is one body consisting of many members in I Corinthians 12 (cf. Rom. 12:4-5).

By way of comparison, in the Old Testament the unity of God’s Being and the unity of His church have a greater prominence, whereas the New Testament places more emphasis on the threeness of God’s Persons and the catholicity of His church.

Yet, even in Old Testament days, the church included believers of different nations and peoples (geographical and ethnic catholicity). Rahab was from the Canaanite city of Jericho (Josh. 2), the widow of Zarephath from the territory of Tyre and Sidon (I Kings 17), Naaman from Syria (II Kings 5), and Moses’ wife and Ebedmelech from Ethiopia (Num. 12:1; Jer. 38-39). Ruth was a Moabitess, Uriah was a Hittite, Ittai the Gittite was a Philistine and Ornan was a Jebusite. Space forbids listing the many Psalms and Old Testament prophecies that predict the catholicity of the church in the last times.

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) states it well, “These all are citizens of one and the same city, living under one Lord, under the same laws, and in the same fellowship of all good things; for the apostle calls them ‘fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Eph. 2:19); terming the faithful upon the earth saints, who are sanctified by the blood of the Son of God. Of these is that article of our Creed wholly to be understood, ‘I believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints.’ And, seeing that there is always but ‘one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ’ (I Tim. 2:5); also, one Shepherd of the whole flock, one Head of this body, and, to conclude, one Spirit, one salvation, one faith, one Testament, or Covenant—it follows necessarily that there is but one Church, which we therefore call Catholic because it is universal, spread abroad through all the parts and quarters of the world, and reaches unto all times, and is not limited within the compass either of time or place. Here, therefore, we must condemn the Donatists, who pinned up the Church within the corners of Africa; neither do we assent to the Roman clergy, who vaunt that the Church of Rome alone is in a manner Catholic” (17). Rev. Angus Stewart

 

 

Is Hell Fire Literal?

This article is a follow-up of a previous article. One of our readers has disagreed with what I wrote about hell. He says, “I refer to the CR News of March 2021 in which Ron Hanko does not believe in hell fire. To my understanding of Scripture, this is a reality. Jesus quotes this as a fact in Mark 9:43-48, as well as Revelation 19:20 and other references. I feel Ron is using human logic to explain divine truth by not accepting the ungodly being in the fire without being consumed. I have no difficulty in accepting this, believing that with God it is possible. It is what the rich man in Luke 16:24 experienced, the flame of fire. I would rather believe Jesus than Ron Hanko. Is it just his opinion or the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC)? If God can cause a bush to remain unconsumed as in Exodus 3:2, He can also enable the wicked to experience eternal fire in hell without being consumed. Ron needs to reflect on this.”

It is really not correct to say that I do “not believe in hell fire.” It would be more correct to say that I do not believe in literal hell fire. God’s wrath is often described as fire in Scripture (e.g., Ps. 11:6; 18:8, 12-13; 21:9; 78:21; 89:46; Isa. 5:24-25; 10:16-18; 30:33; 66:16, 24). Sometimes His wrath is revealed in literal fire as in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the destruction of the universe at the end of time, but not always.

God’s wrath was kindled again Job’s three friends, but that does not mean that they were actually and literally burned with fire (Job 42:7). The kindling of God’s wrath against Israel in Deuteronomy 31:17 was not in fire, but in other troubles and judgments. Wrath, especially God’s wrath, is like fire in its consuming power and destructiveness. It is even worse than fire! God Himself, as a God of wrath and judgment, is described as a “consuming fire” in Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29, but that cannot be literally true. He is not something but someone, three Persons in one God, yet the descriptions of His wrath and even of His nature as fire ought to cause us to tremble.

The other argument for a metaphorical or non-literal understanding is that Scripture uses many different descriptions of hell and its suffering, and it is difficult to see how they can all be taken literally. Is hell literally being consumed by worms (Mark 9:44, 46, 48) or a moth (Isa. 51:8)? Is it also literally darkness (Jude 13)? Do those in hell physically drink the cup of the wine of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:10)? Is the punishment of hell literally all these things at the same time?

What needs to be emphasized is that coming under the judgment and wrath of God in time or for eternity is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. I have no doubt that God is able to burn the wicked with literal fire for all eternity without them being consumed, but the point is, even then, that the horror of hell is eternal suffering under the terrible wrath and hot displeasure of God.

In any case, it is not something I would argue long about or insist that my interpretation is correct. Much more important than believing or not believing in literal fire is believing that hell is a real place of eternal punishment where the ungodly and unbelieving suffer forever. That is a doctrine under attack. The doctrine of hell and of eternal punishment is denied by many leading evangelicals, such as John Stott, and some of the modern versions like the NIV have all but eliminated hell from the Bible. That important doctrine is also denied by many cults.

As to the members or leaders of the PRC, I do not know what they believe, nor is it a matter of debate in those churches. There are and have been different views among respected leaders and theologians. John Calvin indicates that he believed that the references to hell fire were metaphorical in his commentary on Matthew 3:12. Martin Luther did not think it necessary to believe in literal fire. Charles Hodge said, “There seems to be no more reason for supposing that the fire spoken of in Scripture is to be literal fire, than that the worm that never dies is literally a worm” (Systematic Theology, 3:868).

On the other hand, Louis Berkhof leaned to the view that the fire is literal: “Some deny that there will be a literal fire, because this could not affect spirits like Satan and his demons. But how do we know this? Our body certainly works on our soul in some mysterious way. There will be some positive punishment corresponding to our bodies.” Yet he then adds, “It is undoubtedly true, however, that a great deal of the language concerning heaven and hell must be understood figuratively” (Systematic Theology, p. 736).

There are, however, several important points here about interpreting Scripture. First, not everything in Scripture can be or must be taken literally. In Revelation 20:1-3, it is impossible to take everything, including key, chain, bottomless pit and dragon, literally. Nor is it necessary to take everything literally in order to maintain the truth that Scripture is the inspired and infallible Word of God. That must be taken into account when dealing with the Bible’s descriptions of hell. It is not necessary to believe that hell is literally darkness, a moth, a worm, a cup, and fire to maintain what the Bible does teach about eternal punishment.

Second, the principle for interpreting any passage of Scripture is that Scripture interprets itself. That is true of the references to hell. If the brother who has submitted the disagreement above is convinced on the basis of Scripture itself that the fire of hell is literal, then I am satisfied and ask him to make the same charitable judgment. It is not what he thinks or what I think that matters but what Scripture itself says, and I am convinced, as John Calvin was, that a study of Scripture shows that the references to fire are metaphorical. I am also convinced, however, that the punishment of the ungodly and unbelieving is terrible and forever.

One other thing we should remember is that the biblical doctrine of hell is not just a matter of theology and of theological debate, but a testimony to the righteousness and justice of God, the necessity of believing in Jesus Christ, and the evil of rejecting and despising Him. The sad thing is, however, that no one will ever be scared into heaven by the Bible’s teaching on hell and hell fire. The only way anyone sees his great peril and turns to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith is by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, implanting and giving the gift of faith, and opening one’s ears and heart to the sweet call and good news of the gospel of God’s free grace. 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/cprcni • www.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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PRC Missions in the Philippines - July 2021 Newsletter

3 missionaries 2020

PRCA FOREIGN MISSIONS IN THE PHILIPPINES
JULY 2021 NEWSLETTER 

Rev. D. Holstege (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. D. Kleyn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) – Rev. R. Smit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
PO Box 1173 ACPO, Antipolo City, Rizal 1870, Philippines 

Dear Congregations and Members of the PRCA. 

We send warm greetings to you all as we give this  update of our work and life among our fellow believers here in the Philippines. 

Many changes have taken place in recent months,  as will be explained below. However, one thing  which has basically remained the same is that we  continue to live under significant restrictions due to  covid. A few months ago our restrictions even increased for a while, and at this point we are not  yet back to the quarantine level we had prior to that  increase. Current restrictions require that we wear  both face masks and face shields when out in public.  

In addition, leisure travel is forbidden, and anyone under 18 or above 65 years is required to stay at  home (except for things that are “essential”). 

However, in spite of the restrictions we are able once again to go to Faith Academy (the school the  missionaries use for their children) for recreational  activities. We do need to sign up ahead of time, and we are limited to a maximum of five activities per week. But the swimming, basketball, tennis,  and playground activities provide a nice break for us all, especially now that the Smit children are out of school for the year (their last day was May 28). 

Another positive is that the restrictions for religious gatherings have slowly loosened (from 10 persons,  to 30% of the building’s capacity, to 50% of the building’s capacity). As a result, we are once again able to worship in church every Sunday with a good number of our fellow saints. In fact, a few weeks  ago my wife Sharon, in a letter to our families,  mentioned how significant this was when she wrote:  

“We both got choked up in church this morning. I sat down, looked around and there were all kinds  of children there! There must have been 18-20 of  them. This was the first time there were so many  since the lockdowns began more than a year ago (in March 2020). It was beautiful to see them all. And the attendance was the highest we have seen  it yet, at 65 or so. Almost all the chairs were  full. That, along with a couple good sermons and  good fellowship, made it a lovely Lord’s Day.” 

Due to covid, one aspect of our work which we’ve been unable to carry out in the past year and a half  is our monthly visit to the pastors and churches in  Negros Occidental. Even now the restrictions for  domestic travel in the Philippines make it very  difficult for us to get to Negros Island yet (among  other things, two weeks of quarantine is required  on either end). We did consider providing online  instruction to the pastors there, but due to their  poor internet connections, this wasn’t feasible. We  have, however, kept in touch with them, and they  and their congregations are doing well. We also  regularly send them a supply of magazines:  Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, etc. The pastors  and their members very much appreciate receiving  this literature. 

What has kept us missionaries especially busy in the  past months has been the work of providing  seminary instruction for the three seminary  students of the PRCP. Unfortunately, because of  covid the classes needed to be conducted online again (using Zoom). Rev. Smit taught NT Exegesis,  Greek Reading, and Dogmatics (Soteriology), Rev.  Holstege taught Hermeneutics (from the USA,  where he is currently on furlough), and I taught  Hebrew Grammar, Homiletics, and Church History.  The semester (including the final exams) ended on  May 21. The break is welcome. It also enables us  to prepare for the next school year, which is  scheduled to begin on August 10, the Lord willing.  Sad to say, the PRCP now has only one student left  in the seminary program (more about that on the  next page).

And speaking of Rev. Holstege and his  family being on furlough, although their furlough  has now ended, due to covid restrictions they are as yet unable to return to the Philippines as they had hoped and planned (they were scheduled to  arrive back here on July 1). It is all rather complicated, but to put it in simple terms, in order  for the Holstege family to return to the Philippines they will need and are trying to obtain a tourist visa,  but as of now the Philippine government is not yet  issuing one to them. Things are therefore rather  uncertain for the Holsteges at this time, specifically as to when they will be able to return here. As a  result, the furloughs of the other missionary families were canceled for this year, since our churches consider it necessary and important to have at least  two missionaries and their families on the field at  any given time, if at all possible. 

One more significant item remains for this newsletter, and it grieves me to report it. I refer to the fact that a split has taken place in the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines. This  happened when the PRC in Bulacan suddenly announced (on May 16) that they were withdrawing  their membership from the denomination. It is evident from one of the reasons the PRC in Bulacan gave for their withdrawal that this separation is  related to the schism that has taken place in the  PRCA. For reasons which remain in many ways a mystery to us, especially because there was no  doctrinal controversy taking place in the PRCP itself, the church in Bulacan has now departed, has associated itself with those who have separated  from the PRCA (namely, the RPC), and has even  taken as its new name the First Reformed Protestant Church in Bulacan. 

This split has hit the PRCP and all of us here hard. It troubles us greatly that they have separated from a faithful denomination here (the PRCP), and that thereby they have also broken ties with two faithful sister churches (the PRCA and the CERC in  Singapore). What is baffling is that they have done  all this without having or presenting valid reasons  for doing so. What adds to the sorrow is that they  have also taken with them the mission field of the  PRCP (the Protestant Reformed Fellowship in  Albuera, Leyte), as well as two of the PRCP’s  seminary students (which explains why we will only  have one student this coming school year). In light  of the fact that Maranatha PRC disbanded this past March (due to a lack of men to serve as office bearers, along with the retirement of Rev. Leovy Trinidad who is now 77), the denomination has gone from four churches to two in the span of a few months. God’s ways are often mysterious and  difficult. His thoughts and ways are certainly higher  than ours. And while we may at times be somewhat  discouraged and disappointed, yet we know and  believe that Jehovah’s work is always perfect. By  His grace, we strive to submit ourselves humbly to  His will and to His fatherly chastisement, confident  that His cause and His Name will always triumph. 

In relation to the above, the PRCP Classis (at its regular meeting on June 12) received a “Withdrawal  of Membership” letter from the church in Bulacan.  Classis approved a letter of response in which they  called Bulacan to reconsider what they have done  and to return to the fellowship of the PRCP. It  seems unlikely that this will happen, but we know the Lord is able to accomplish it, if that is His will. 

As a result of the split, the June 12 Classis also  made some necessary changes to the makeup of its  standing committees. Classis decided to reduce the  number of committees from four to two, and to  divide all the work between these two. By the way,  each of the two missionaries currently on the field serves as an advisor on one of these standing  committees. The Classis also decided to have the  missionaries take turns, along with Rev. Ibe (the  only remaining active pastor in the PRCP), to chair the Classis meetings. The missionaries will also be  carrying out Church Visitation for the PRCP. 

In light of all these events, we ask you to remember  us and also the two remaining churches here (the  Berean PRC and Provident PRC) in your prayers.  We are thankful for these two congregations and  for their continued love of the Reformed faith as  confessed in our churches. Please pray that they  may remain united in that truth and committed to  stand together for the cause of Christ’s gospel and  kingdom here in the Philippines. Be assured, too,  of our continued prayers for the PRCA. 

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not  consumed, because his compassions fail not. They  are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness”  (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

In Christian love, 

Rev. Daniel Kleyn

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Reformed Witness Hour News - August 2021

RWH Logo 2019

August 2021

August 1

Building with Sword and Trowel

Nehemiah 4
Rev. C. Haak

August 8

Ought Ye Not to Walk in the Fear of God

Nehemiah 5
Rev. C. Haak

August 15

O God, Strengthen My Hands

Nehemiah 6
Rev. C. Haak

August 22

Putting Things in Order

Nehemiah 7
Rev. C. Haak

August 29

The Power of the Pulpit

Nehemiah 8
Rev. C. Haak

 haak small

 

This month, we continue revisiting Rev. Carl Haak’s Nehemiah series. Rev. Haak is the pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.

 

 

 

 

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Reformed Witness Hour News - June/July 2021

News from the
Reformed Witness Hour for June 2021
 

July Message Series



For July we will revisit a 2006 series on Nehemiah by Rev. Carl Haak. Rev. Haak is the pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI.
July 4
When I Heard, I Wept and Prayed
Nehemiah 1

July 11
So I prayed and Said...
Nehemiah 2:1-10

July 18
Come Let Us Build
Nehemiah 2:11-20

July 25
The People Had a Mind to Build
Nehemiah 3
 
Listen to the Current Message Here
 
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Message Download Statistics

In the first half of this year, we have had 6,926 message downloads reaching seventy-five countries and forty-eight states. The countries with the most downloads include the U.S. (5,113), United Kingdom (414), Cambodia (197), Philippines (197) and Australia (125).

We have seen great interest in our messages through podcasting. This year, thus far, 32% of our downloads have been through podcasts. Other platforms include Sermon Audio Radio (30%), the Sermon Audio website and the Reformed Witness Hour website (22%), and mobile apps including the Sermon Audio Mobile App (16%).
 
Most Popular Messages of 2021
 
 

Favorite Message


The most frequently downloaded message so far this year is The Praiseworthy Woman by Rev. R. Kleyn.
 

From the message: God gives us here a template or portrait of a believing woman. God made the woman in the beginning. And here you have God’s goal and God’s purpose for the woman. This is the kind of woman that God delights in. This is the kind of woman that God makes by the work of His Holy Spirit. And every woman who is a Christian should seek to emulate and follow the woman described here.

But this is also written for others. It is written for husbands and for children. They ought to thank God for the godly wives and mothers that He gives to them. This is written for believing parents who are raising daughters to be godly women. This is written for young people who are dating and who are looking for a future spouse.

In verse 10 we read: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” This implies, first, that believing young men need to look for a wife. And, second, that the kind of wife they should be looking for is going to be very rare and hard to find. Who can find one like this? Her price is far above rubies. She is rare! In Proverbs 19:14: “a prudent wife is from the Lord.” So this is something that must be done with all seriousness, with great care, and with much prayer.

What is it that makes the woman described in this chapter so special, so worthy of praise? 

Click here to listen to The Praiseworthy Woman
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