Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

This Week's PRC and Sister-Church News, July 26 - August 1, 2020 *(Updated)

Jeremiah 29 11Today, July 26, is the thirtieth Lord's Day of 2020; we may report the following news and information concerning PRC congregations, the Seminary, sister churches, and mission fields.

Let us continue to bring to our Father's throne of grace the special needs of our churches, sister churches, and mission fields during these trying times of COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. And while there, may we find peace and hope in our Father's abiding love for us in Jesus Christ, and His will to do us only good - even everlasting good.

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. ...In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. ....No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. Isaiah 54:10,14,17

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

This portrait shows the child of God, simply trusting in the Lord, no matter the noise or troubles, calamities or circumstances around him. This was David’s situation. Oh, the calm times when David contemplated and sang songs to his God while he cared for his sheep. When a bear or lion came to snatch up one of his little lambs, or as he stood before the giant Goliath, he had a perfect trust in his God. What a nice picture of the full blown believer in the face of painful and trying circumstances. Does this picture tug at your heart? Do you say, “This is how I want to live and die?” Or do you find yourself often fretful moody, upset, frustrated, or even grumpy too often? May God give us grace that we may be able to say, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” May you have a calm, resigned, peaceful frame of mind, walking in faith and trust in Jehovah’s safe-keeping.

~ Rev. A. Spriensma in "Portrait of a Weaned Child," one of his special meditations from this past week

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  • For those who may still be limited to house worship, whether completely or partially, we invite you to visit the PR churches page and follow the links to the websites where the churches' livestream may be found.

  • From the bulletin of Immanuel PRC comes this good news: "Their 2-week quarantine having expired, Rev. Bleyenberg is therefore able to preach for us behind the pulpit, and will do so for both services going forward. Live-streaming will be available, and the Council requests that you worship with us by way of live-streaming for the service in which your family will be at home.  We give thanks to God for providing the Word to go forth physically from our new pastor in God’s house! Next Sunday Rev. Bleyenberg will be installed as minister of Immanuel PRC. Rev. Miersma will preach the installation in the morning, and Rev. Bleyenberg will preach his inaugural sermon in the afternoon. Because Immanuel PRC is too small to hold the entire congregation (taking into account social distancing), the consistory has arranged for these two worship services to be held at the local SDA Church -6910 - University Drive.  The consistory calls the entire congregation to come and worship. The service times will be the same: 10am and 4:30pm."

  • On July 12 Rev. G. Eriks accepted the call to Unity PRC (Byron Center, MI). According to Unity's July 19 bulletin, Rev. Eriks will preach his farewell sermon to the Hudsonville congregation on Sunday, August 16 and his installation will be the following week, August 23, during the morning service.

  • On July 19 the Council of First PRC, Edmontion announced a new trio: Rev. J. Engelsma (Doon PRC), Rev. M. VanderWal (Wingham PRC), and Rev. R. Kleyn (Covenant of Grace PRC). The congregation will vote, D.V. after the afternoon service today. Rev. M. Vanderwal has received this call. Rev. T. Miersma is leading the services there again today. 

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Hope PRC of Redlands, CA meeting outside for her services

  • Did you know... that
    • Our Hope PRC in Redlands, CA moved her services outside on her lawn (and that of the school) after the most recent lockdown order in that state? And they were able to do it with the whole congregation and still maintain social distancing! How wonderful under the circumstances!
    • Rev. J. Mahtani and his family did move into Hope's parsonage this past week, according to Hope PRC's bulletin this week? We trust they are settling in well to their new place and finding good neighbors in that locale.
    • Senior Sem. Josiah Tan is leading both services in First PRC today? In the first service he delivering his first sermon as part of his internship requirements, while in the evening he is filling the pulpit for Rev. C. Griess who has a classical appointment to Unity PRC.
    • Prof. David Engelsma has made a two-hour podcast with the Presbyterian theologian, Dr. Sonny Hernandez, critiquing the doctrine of common grace?  Anyone who is interested in listening to the podcast can access it through Dr. Hernandez website at reformingamericaministries.com and click on the link for the podcast (from Trinity PRC's bulletin today).

DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

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PRC Seminary News:

  • The seminary is now enjoying its summer break. Some of the plans the professors and students had for the summer have changed due to COVID-19 cancellations and postponements (trip to Mexico, PRYP's Convention, etc.), but there are other activities that may still be held. Continue to pray for faculty, students, and staff as they continue their labors this summer.

  • Now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted in Michigan, the seminary is open daily for any needs our members and friends may have. The library and bookstore are also open for use. Feel free to call or email the seminary if you wish to have your needs fulfilled in other ways.

  • The Fall 2020 semester schedule and calendar has been approved by the Theological School Commitee and posted on the seminary's website. The first semester will begin, D.V. the week of August 24. At this point we are planning to have onsite and in-person classes.

  • Seminarian Josiah Tan began his internship this month (July 1 - Dec.31) in First PRC under Rev. C. Griess. Pray that the Lord will use this part of his training to further prepare him for the ministry of the Word in our sister church in Singapore.

  • The PRC Synod 2020 approved the entrance of Luke Bomers (Hope PRC, Walker, MI) and Arend Haveman (Trinity PRC, Hudsonville, MI) into the seminary this Fall. Both are finishing their pre-sem studies this summer. Pray for them as they prepare to take up their studies for the ministry in a few months.

  • The Spring 2020 issue of the PR Theological Journal is currently available in digital (pdf and epub) form. We are currently working on getting the print edition produced. When that is ready, we will be mailing these out. There are good articles on nineteenth-century Southern Presbyterians, Calvin's view of the reward of grace, a plea for biblical languages, and two book review articles besides other book reviews. Check it out on the seminary's journal page!

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Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland

SISTER-CHURCH NEWS:

  • Concerning our sister church in Singapore, Covenant ERC, the following may be noted from her bulletin today (and recently):
    • The COVID 19 pandemic had limited us in many areas of the life of the church. For a few months, we are not able to congregate together to worship the Lord. We can only stay in our homes with our family or as individuals, worship through live-streaming. Though we are thankful we can still worship through live-streaming, yet it is far from the blessedness where the church comes together to worship the Lord. Since March, due to Government’s COVID-19 restrictions, we have missed the partaking of the Lord’s Supper (which is one of the means of grace the Lord gave to His church) for 2 consecutive occasions. We are also limited in the communion of saints when we cannot congregate in church or in meetings or Bible study. Beloved, the Lord uses this occasion to try us and to search our hearts if we are like the Psalmist when he cannot go to the temple of God to worship Him because he was held captive in Babylon. He confessed that his chief joy is Jerusalem which is the church of God in the Old Testament Is this also our confession? May the Lord grant us that grace to love and care for His church in which also reflect our love for God in our lives.
    • Due to the Phase 2 restrictions on travels and employment pass approval, Grandville PRC, our MOL calling church, has concurred with Session’s suggestion to suspend the calling of MOL for the time being. 
    • The June 2020 newsletter - Reformed News Asia #60 - was published and posted this past week. You may find it on this page.
  • Concerning our sister church in Ballymena, N. Ireland, Covenant PRC,  the following may be noted:
    • She resumed services earlier this month for the first time since the lockdown in the UK in March. Rev. A. Stewart continues to lead the services and the CPRC is livestreaming them for those unable to attend.
    • Read the latest CPRC newsletter - June 2020!
    • Read the new June 2020 issue of the "Covenant Reformed News"!

  • Concerning the PRC in the Philippines, the following may be gleaned from the bulletins of the Berean PRC, Bulacan PRC, Maranatha PRC, and Provident CC:
    • Congregational and Denominational News:

~ Berean PRC:

Rev. V. Ibe will lead us in our worship services today via live-streaming on Facebook Live. As to date, beloved, we are still under GCQ (general community quarantine). We pray earnestly to God that in soonest possible time, He may be pleased to lift us up from this crisis so that our regular corporate public worship services are restored, the Lord willing.

Rev. Ibe and Deacon Junno are scheduled to visit our brethren and sisters in the Lord in Gabaldon Nueva Ecija on Sunday (August 02), the Lord willing.

~ Maranatha PRC:  

 Rev. R. Smit will lead us in both Worship Services live stream via Facebook: Maranatha Protestant Reformed Church, at 9:00 a.m and 11: a.m., Lord willing. (*Our City of Valenzuela has authorized the churches to conduct their worship services on a limited number of 10 persons per service.)

We are in the 5th month that is from March to July, 2020 of being under the General Enhancement Quarantine in Metro Manila and still there are areas under the lock down rules with a close supervision of the authorities. There are equivalent penalty fees and/orcertain number of days of being in prison if caught with out any reasonable explanations.Let us therefore continue to pray to our Almighty God to bring us, the saints back to our normal gatherings in the sanctuary of the Lord.

~ Provident PRC:  

Rev. Holstege will teach the Heidelberg Catechism on Zoom at 9:00 this morning for BLCC and preach both times for PPRC, since he was not able to travel to Guiguinto yet....

Rev. Holstege will preach both times today. The worship services will take place again in the house of Elder Bien and will be live streamed on the “PPRC and Friends” Facebook page and on YouTube.

~ And for more on the life and work of our "sisters" in the Far East read the news under Philippine missions.

  • The PRC also has a "corresponding relationship" with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Australia. We remember these brothers and sisters in our prayers and labors also.

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PRC MISSION NEWS:

Domestic Labors

  • We remember in prayer our home missionary, Rev. A. Spriensma, who continues to labor in the West Michigan area and beyond through Byron Center PRC, the calling church.
    • Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, his present travels and activities are quite limited. The ongoing Bible study in Dorr, MI led by our missionary is currently postponed also.
    • But, he has been writing short meditations for the PRC website and is now speaking for the Reformed Witess Hour radio program (for four months, June - Sept.).

Limerick (Ireland) Reformed Fellowship News:

  • Rev. M. McGeown is still leading the services on the mission until he is allowed to enter the U.S. (see next note). They have also just recently restarted live services after the UK lockdown that began in March.
  • He has accepted the call to Providence PRC in Hudsonville, MI. Plans are being made for him to complete his labors in Limerick and move to Michigan as soon as it is possible, but it could be many months before that happens (see his most recent newsletter).
  • A new Limerick RF Newsletter was just published - July 2020. You may find that here.

Philippine Missions:

We remember in prayer the needs of these busy pastors and missionaries in the Philippines, especially in these difficult days of COVID-19  restrictions on their travels and labors. May the Lord of the harvest give them grace to carry on as best they can and to be encouraged in all their labors.

India:

  • Let us remember to pray for the Lord's blessing on Georgetown PRC's labor in Vellore, India. The saints in that part of the world continue to experience tight restrictions and limited functions.
  • Let us pray for our sister church's work (Covenant ERC in Singapore) in Kolkata, through Rev. E. Singh. This update was in CERC's bulletin today: Continue to remember our brothers and sisters in CERC Kolkata Fellowship. As you are aware that the COVID-19 situation in India is getting worse, pray that the Lord will keep our brothers and sisters safe in Kolkata. Pray for our Missionary Pastor as he cares for the saints in Kolkata.

Myanmar:

  • Let us also remember Hope PRC's (Grand Rapids, MI) support of and involvement with Rev. Titus' work in Myanmar. Our brothers and sisters here too need our prayers and encouragement as they suffer under coronavirus quarantines and economic hardships. Rev. Titus continues to minister the Word to his flock through the means of social media and modern technology.

SPECIAL NOTICES:

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Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you or on Sermonaudio wherever you are!

  • At present Rev. A. Spriensma (PRC home missionary) is delivering the messages and this month he is focusing on the truth of God's covenant of grace. Today's message is titled "A Smoking Furnace and a Burning Lamp" based on Genesis 15:. Listen to the broadcast on the station near you, on your favorite podcast, or visit the links provided here to listen to this program.

  • From the Reformed Witness Hour Committee:
    • The Reformed Witness Hour Committee wishes to remind everyone that you can receive their bi-monthly newsletter via email simply by signing up at http://eepurl.com/gikNsL.  Each newsletter contains information about places around our globe where the RWH is downloaded; news about the RWH’s witness on the radio and via the internet, printed booklet, and CD and links to many popular and relevant RWH messages.
    • A Spanish edition of the RWH has been produced and may be found on this YouTube channel (PRC Espanol). Why not check it out - and help spread the word!
  • Are you desirous to learn more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Visit the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.
  • The Reformed Book Outlet  is open again, with temporary limited hours. We will be open on Tuesday, 10am - 1pm, Wednesday, 1pm - 6pm, and Saturday, 10am - 1pm. Please follow the guidelines that will be posted on the door when visiting the store. As always, you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any orders as well!
    The Reformed Book Outlet’s 3rd annual summer reading challenge is beginning on June 15 and will go through August 22 this year! This challenge is for adults and children, and there are prizes for completing the challenge. Visit our store or Facebook page for more details. You can sign up and pick up a packet at the store during business hours, or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to sign up and we will send you a packet!

 
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ESPECIALLY FOR PRC Young People and Young Adults:

  • The Young Calvinists will be holding a Virtual Young People's Gathering via zoom on August 8 from 11am-5pm. As a small replacement for Convention, this will feature a lecture on Heaven by Prof. Gritters, online mixer games, discussion groups and more! There will also be an outdoor Singspiration (young people only) on Sunday, August 9 at 8pm. To help us safely prepare, please RSVP for one or both events by July 20 at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/young-calvinists-virtual. Follow our blog (youngcalvinists.org), Facebook, or Instagram, for upcoming details!

  • PRYP Convention News (good news from Georgetown PRC!): 2021 Young People’s Convention: Our Steering Committee has signed a new contract with Lake Williamson Christian Center for next year.  ...We have reserved the second week in August, arriving on Monday August 9 and departing on Friday August 13, 2021.  There will be no other groups at Lake Williamson on the second week and we would have the camp to ourselves (similar to this year). May the Lord preserve our enthusiasm and bless our plans for our Young People’s growth.

  • The latest issue of the young peoples' magazine, Salt Shaker, is available (from Singapore!). Find the June 2020 issue here.

  • Colorado Retreat: Registration for the retreat is closed! For further updates, please visit our Facebook page Colorado Young Adults Retreat 2020. Pastors Key and Guichelaar will speak for us on II Timothy 1:7, as we learn to be more 'Brave and Bold in the Faith'.

  • Save the date for a Singles’ Conference! Lord willing, we will have another short conference for Protestant Reformed Singles (geared towards those ages 25+) on September 25-27 in Grand Rapids, MI.  Rev. Jonathan Mahtani and Rev. Stephan Regnerus have agreed to speak.  To register, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or find us on Facebook.  Registration forms are due by September 7.
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Portrait of a Weaned Child

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

Portrait of a Weaned Child

Meditation on Psalm 131

LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.

Travelers going up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem came in contentment and trust. What beautiful words, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” In this psalm, David paints the picture of a little child. This is not a fussy or crying infant needing or rooting to suckle, hungry or perhaps wet and uncomfortable. No, this little child has been weaned, no longer being suckled at his mother’s breast. Here is a child of two or three years of age that is resting on mothers lap with his head upon her breast. He is just happy and content as a clam to be near his mother, to be held by her, enjoying her love.

This portrait shows the child of God, simply trusting in the Lord, no matter the noise or troubles, calamities or circumstances around him. This was David’s situation. Oh, the calm times when David contemplated and sang songs to his God while he cared for his sheep. When a bear or lion came to snatch up one of his little lambs, or as he stood before the giant Goliath, he had a perfect trust in his God. What a nice picture of the full blown believer in the face of painful and trying circumstances. Does this picture tug at your heart? Do you say, “This is how I want to live and die?” Or do you find yourself often fretful moody, upset, frustrated, or even grumpy too often? May God give us grace that we may be able to say, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” May you have a calm, resigned, peaceful frame of mind, walking in faith and trust in Jehovah’s safe-keeping.

Oh, the weaning process for David was not easy. He was hunted by Saul who wanted to kill him. He had to hide all alone in the wilderness. He even resorted to living among the his enemies, the Philistines. He had multiple troubles with his children, even having to flee for his life from Absalom., The weaning of the little child is a process. The little child does not know why he cannot suckle anymore. He might even be upset that mother is not doing that anymore. Things have changed. The weaning was not to hurt the child, but to help him on life’s journey. So also peace and calm of the soul does not just happen. There is a process to go through in order to sit and be content in our Father’s arms.

Pride must be subdued and driven away. David writes, “My heart is not haughty.” We are all proud by nature. But we have nothing to be proud of before God. The proud heart gives way to lofty eyes. We look down at others in a condescending way. We think ourselves so much better. We think that we do not deserve God’s chastening hand or the trials that He gives to us. David confessed that he, by God’s grace, has given up his proud heart and lofty eyes. He will not depend upon himself anymore in his difficulties and sin. He will give himself to trust in his Lord and in the Lord’s mercy and love.

We too must confess our sin and wretchedness. We need to humble ourselves before God. We are so undeserving of all that He gives. We must look to our covenant God for our salvation and trust Him in His leading us in our life. We do not need to understand everything that happens in our lives. We want to shout at times, “Why Lord? Why are these things happening to me? We are tempted to question His providence in our lives and in the world around us. David confesses, “Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” If David has learned this living in the Old Testament, how much more should this be true of you and me who live in the New Dispensation. We have God’s Word. We know God’s great love in the giving of His only begotten Son for our salvation. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). How beautifully it is put in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” I need this in the trying times and circumstances in my life, when I am tempted to fuss, grumble, be fretful, or grumpy. Instead of being angry and asking, “Why LORD?” I will contently state that my Father in heaven knows best. Do I trust Him? This is the way of rest and peace. This is the way to live and die. “My soul is even as a weaned child…Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.” Am I a portrait of the weaned child to those who know and see me?

Be still my soul – the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide –In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul -- thy best, thy heavenly Friend thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.  ~ Jean Sibelius 1865-1957

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Getting His Son's Attention

Getting His Son’s Attention

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge” (Prov. 5:1-2).

Solomon continues the instruction of his son. The instruction is very personal and we feel we are eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. Although we can almost imagine the father and son talking together in the privacy of their home, God, our Father, wants the instruction to be much wider. Through the inspired Word, He will address all His sons in the church.

Solomon is about to present a new topic of instruction. He is preparing to instruct his son concerning the relationship between men and women. It can be difficult for parents to discuss this topic with their children. It can be awkward. However, if Solomon thought such issues must be addressed during his day and age, proper instruction on the relationship between the sexes is even more important today. There are few places in which the foolishness of the world is more on display than the relationship between the sexes. We are now at the point where a growing number of people believe male and female are “social constructs” forced upon people. The new claim is that a free society will recognize the individual’s right to determine one’s own sexual identity. Was Satan himself surprised with how well such a ridiculous delusion has worked?

Solomon prepares to explain the dangers a young man faces if he were to give in to the lusts of the flesh. He will present the beauty of a good relationship a true man of God has with his wife in contrast to the bitter results of giving oneself over to the satisfaction of sinful desires. God created man as a sexual being. Man’s sexual nature is not a result of his fall into sin. Man’s sexual nature became depraved, and only by God’s quickening grace can a husband and wife find the blessings of an undefiled marriage bed. In His lovingkindness for us, our Father will teach us how important it is for us to govern ourselves.

Before beginning to speak on this important topic, Solomon needs to make sure he has his son’s attention. He commands his son to “attend.” The world presents us with distractions. Satan wants us to be caught up with the entertainments the world has to offer. The more attention we give to the world, the more we will think the world is a place where we may seek to amuse ourselves. We forget that the world is the setting for the great struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The more we view the world as a playground, the less we will recognize the temptations surrounding us.

Isn’t that what the world’s entertainments are? They keep us distracted so we do not think life is serious, even filled with death. When we spend too much time entertaining ourselves, we will forget to “count our days and set our hearts on wisdom’s ways.” Satan does not want us to contemplate ultimate ends. If Satan can distract us enough, we will live for the moment and give ourselves over to the lusts of the flesh.

The son must attend to the father’s wisdom. There is a type of wisdom which is a negative attribute. Such wisdom is subtlety or craftiness, a means to advance oneself in the world at the expense of others. Solomon speaks of the wisdom which aligns with the will of God. This wisdom is crucial for recognizing the world for what it is for it sees God’s law as his light in this dark world.

The son is told to “bow thine ear.” By nature we are rebellious. We don’t want others to tell us how to live or give us standards of good and evil. We will stiffen our necks in pride, and determine for ourselves what we will do and what is right. We are the captains of our souls! Bowing takes humility. The son must recognize his father’s wisdom. The father has much more experience in life. Not only has the father learned many things from his own experience, but he has also observed the lives and the consequences of the decisions made by many others. Only by the renewing of our hearts by God’s Spirit will the son “bow” his ear and attend. A humble, bowed ear is the portal through which the Spirit gently turns our hearts toward Him.

Solomon tells his son to “regard discretion.” God warns us many times through the Old Testament prophets about living in times and places where good is thought to be evil, and evil is thought to be good. The warning fits our age. We must highly esteem God’s Word and the instruction we receive from it. We don’t need to spend much time with the news and entertainment media to see the world’s mad, head-first rush to its own destruction and judgment. Even sporting events have become venues for social activism. The need for the church’s young people to be able to tell the difference between good and evil is clear. One can hardly venture into the marketplace today to make a simple purchase and observe the general population without wondering, “What is wrong with these people!” The time we have to instruct our children to regard discretion could be short. We must make good use of our time.

Solomon wants his son’s lips to keep knowledge. One might expect Solomon to go back to previous warnings given in earlier chapters about keeping knowledge in the heart or readily at hand. Why does Solomon mention lips keeping knowledge? God has given Solomon wisdom so he understands the hearts of men. Solomon is about to teach his son about the dangers of the adulterous woman. How does adultery begin? It often begins with impure speech. A young man seeking sinful adventure will test the waters with daring speech. The adulterous woman will use flattering speech. The young man can determine by the woman’s response how she feels about him and the satisfying their mutual sinful desires. Protecting the lips from foolish speech prevents the first step down the path to ruin.

With how blatant the world is in its marketing of adultery, we shouldn’t leave our daughters out of this instruction. The world seeks to entice the young women as well. Parents shouldn’t worry about giving instruction concerning relationships too early in life. The world certainly isn’t waiting for our children to reach a certain age to present their corrupt version of sexuality.

May God bless our efforts in the home, church and school to instruct our children about the dreadful dangers of adultery and the great blessings God has in store for husbands and wives who regard His enlightening Word.

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The Penitential Psalm

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

The Penitential Psalm

Meditation on Psalm 130: 3,4

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

This is the eleventh psalm of the Songs of Ascent. As we go up to the Lord’s house to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness, immediately there is, should be, the sense of our unworthiness because of our sin. The psalmist begins this psalm with the acknowledgment of depths. This could be the depths of the ocean or sea. It could be the depths of a dungeon or an empty cistern , (like the ones in which Joseph and Jeremiah were thrown by those who hated them. The depths is a position of helplessness and great need. Think of Jonah when he was in the belly of the great fish. The psalmist, aware of the depths of his sin and perversity cried “Out of the depths!”. His iniquities were against God! Surely, he has earned punishment; he is in these depths justly. The depths refer to guilt, the objective result of sin that brings a person under God’s condemnation. He deserves and experiences a sense of God’s wrath.

Affliction and guilt can bring a person very low. But in these depths, one must not give into despair or hopelessness. We must pray with great earnestness to the One who alone can rescue us. Notice, the psalmist cried unto the LORD. God gave him awareness of his sin. Faith makes us aware that we have earned what we received. Our sins bring God’s wrath! Faith cries; it does not whisper. Oh, the loud penetrating voice arises out of the depths. We have no right to be heard. Why should we be brought out? We cry out and supplicate Jehovah, our covenant God to look down in His mercy and hear our cry. Who can stand before the holy God who cannot endure iniquity? But if we do not want God to “mark our iniquities”, what do we wish for Him to do? Do we wish for Him to wink at our sin or pretend it is not there? To mark is literally to “watch over, tally up and keep a record of.” How awful and how long would be such a list! One sin against the holy God would damn us to hell, let alone the pile of sins heaped up. Who will be able to stand up and defend himself? No sinner can be justified before God by his own efforts. It is a cry of supplication, pleading for grace and favor. The guilty must pray for salvation.

Verse four begins with a significant “but”. Faith sees that with God there is forgiveness. This means that God lifts off from us the responsibility to pay for our sins. God also restores to us the right to live before Him. God alone can pardon the guilt of sin. What is the basis of this forgiveness? How can a holy God forgive? The answer is found in verses seven and eight. “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

There is forgiveness by the redemption that God gives. Mercy is God reaching down to us, in our helplessness, and helping. He delivers us from the depths. With God is plenteous redemption. A redeemer was a near kinsman who was willing and able to pay the debts of a person or family, like Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth. Redemption is with God. It is never something that we have earned or merited. God pays the debt that we have accrued. The cost of our redemption was the blood and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the wrath that each and every sin of ours deserves. No, God does not wink at our sin or ignore it. He is holy and just. God provided for our redemption. In I Cor. 1: 30 we read, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” We must acknowledge that we cannot stand before God on our own merits. We in faith look to God as the God who forgives sin through Christ. How gracious is that forgiveness! It is not deserved by us. It is graciously given. Faith focuses its hope and desire upon Jesus Christ. He gave Himself as “a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:6). Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation? If so, then how has your faith evidenced itself in a childlike fear of the Lord?

God forgives us by redeeming us. The purpose is that you and I may always stand in awe of Him and His grace. Oh, the wonder that God loved me! Have you stood in wonder at your redemption? Aware of the great punishment that your sins deserve, are you made speechless that God forgave you? Instead of standing in the rags of your sin, you have been cleansed and clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus. O, the wonder of it all! God’s salvation is abundant. Do you rest your hope entirely in Him?

My sin -- O the bliss of this glorious thought! -- My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul. It is well…with my soul; It is well, it is well with my soul.” Philip Bliss 1876

 

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This Week's PRC and Sister-Church News, July 19-25, 2020

Isa 49 23Today, July 19, is the twenty-ninth Lord's Day of 2020; we may report the following news and information concerning PRC congregations, the Seminary, sister churches, and mission fields.

As our PR congregations in the U.S. and Canada and some of our sister churches gather for corporate worship again today (though with continuing limitations), we praise God for this privilege and blessing, and we submit ourselves consciously to His wise and good ways with us and all His church the world over. We also continue to pray for our fellow saints in those lands and places where restrictions remain tight (especially India and the Philippines), knowing that our Lord cares for them too and will bless His people with peace.

I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it? This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise. Isaiah 43:11-13, 21

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

What is the result of this plowing of the field?  The wicked grow up like grass on a rooftop, which amounts to nothing when the hot sun of summer beats upon it. Those who belong to Jesus Christ are like the  luxurious  wheat  fields being harvested this week. “By his stripes we are healed…He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 51: 5,11).

The furrows upon the back of Jesus bear rich fruit. It is a field white unto harvest. Sinners such as you and I are by faith alone made righteous by the blood of Jesus. What about the afflictions that we as God’s people are made to suffer? Oh, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. God turns for good what is meant for evil. Think of Joseph’s brothers’ treatment of him, selling him. God used it for the preservation of  His people during the great famine.  Though the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers  put Jesus to death, God saved us through that death.  So let us say with the psalmist, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me” (Ps. 129:2). Let us learn the lesson of the plowed field!

~ Rev. A. Spriensma in "The Farmer's Psalm," one of his special meditations from this past week

*************************************

  • Did you know... that
    • Unity PRC recently purchased a parsonage for her future pastors? It is on the SW side of Grand Rapids and not far from the property she also recently approved for purchase along Kenowa Ave. And now Rev. G. Eriks and his family know where they will live.
    •  (speaking of parsonages), Hope PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) is remodeling her parsonage before her newly installed pastor and his family, Rev. and Mrs. J. Mahtani, move in? For the time being, the Mahtanis are residing with Rev. and Mrs. C. Haak.

DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

new back landscape 2020
New landscaping in back of the seminary library and new addition

PRC Seminary News:

  • The seminary is now enjoying its summer break. Some of the plans the professors and students had for the summer have changed due to COVID-19 cancellations and postponements (trip to Mexico, PRYP's Convention, etc.), but there are other activities that may still be held. Continue to pray for faculty, students, and staff as they continue their labors this summer.

  • Now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted in Michigan, the seminary is open daily for any needs our members and friends may have. The library and bookstore are also open for use. Feel free to call or email the seminary if you wish to have your needs fulfilled in other ways.

  • The Fall 2020 semester schedule and calendar has been approved by the Theological School Commitee and posted on the seminary's website. The first semester will begin, D.V. the week of August 24.

  • Seminarian Josiah Tan began his internship this month (July 1 - Dec.31) in First PRC under Rev. C. Griess. Pray that the Lord will use this part of his training for his further readiness for the ministry of the Word in our sister church in Singapore.

  • The PRC Synod 2020 approved the entrance of Luke Bomers (Hope PRC, Walker, MI) and Arend Haveman (Trinity PRC, Hudsonville, MI) into the seminary this Fall. Both are finishing their pre-sem studies this summer. Pray for them as they prepare to take up their studies for the ministry in a few months.

  • The Spring 2020 issue of the PR Theological Journal is currently available in digital (pdf and epub) form. Our printer has informed us that it will be a bit yet before the print edition can be produced. There are good articles on nineteenth-century Southern Presbyterians, Calvin's view of the reward of grace, a plea for biblical languages, and two book review articles besides other book reviews. Check it out on the seminary's journal page!

Australia map
Let's remember in prayer our brothers and sisters in the EPC in Australia, who have also been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions.

SISTER-CHURCH NEWS:

  • Concerning our sister church in Singapore, Covenant ERC, the following may be noted from her bulletin today (and recently):
    • What a great privilege we have as God’s people that we can come on the Lord’s Day to worshipHim. Beloved, for the last 2 weeks, you have been able to come, in least once to worship physically in the church premises. The experience, though with some restrictions, may have caused us to reminisce the past times where we could worship freely withoutrestrictions. We longed to be able to come together once again to worship without impediments. ...Despite some of the restrictions, if you had worshipped physically in church in the last 2 weeks, you would have found the experience meaningful and so much better than a live-streaming service. There was the soft humming along with the psalter numbers played by our pianist. We were able to participate in all the elements of the worship service (except offering) meaningfully and at the same time, we were able to see each other after a long absence.
    • Due to the Phase 2 restrictions on travels and employment pass approval, Grandville PRC, our MOL calling church, has concurred with Session’s suggestion to suspend the calling of MOL for the time being. 
    • The June 2020 newsletter - Reformed News Asia #60 - was published and posted this past week. You may find it on this page.
  • Concerning our sister church in Ballymena, N. Ireland, Covenant PRC,  the following may be noted:
    • She resumed services earlier this month for the first time since the lockdown in the UK in March. Rev. A. Stewart continues to lead the services and the CPRC is livestreaming them for those unable to attend.
    • Read the latest CPRC newsletter - June 2020!
    • Read the new June 2020 issue of the "Covenant Reformed News"!

  • Concerning the PRC in the Philippines, the following may be gleaned from the bulletins of the Berean PRC, Bulacan PRC, Maranatha PRC, and Provident CC:
    • Congregational and Denominational News:

~ Berean PRC: Rev. V. Ibe will lead us in our worship services today via live-streaming on Facebook Live. As to date, beloved, we are still under GCQ (general community quarantine). We pray earnestly to God that in soonest possible time, He may be pleased to lift us up from this crisis so that our regular corporate public worship services are restored, the Lord willing.

~ Maranatha PRC:  

 Rev. L. Trinidad, our Pastor will lead us in both Worship Services live stream via Facebook: Maranatha Protestant Reformed Church, at 9:00 a.m and 11: a.m., Lord willing. (*Our City of Valenzuela has authorized the churches to conduct their worship services on a limited number of 10 persons per service.)

Again, an extension of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila is up to July 31, 2020. The guidelines are as follows: distancing with Face masks, 21 yrs. old below and 60 yrs. old above still under the 24-hour curfew, for other people the curfew hours is from 10:00 PM - 5:00 AM. With this, let us pray that our worship services and Bible study will be backed to her normal activities.

~ Provident PRC:  

Rev. Holstege will preach both times today. The worship services will take place again in the house of Elder Bien and will be live streamed on the “PPRC and Friends” Facebook page and on YouTube.

~ And for more on the life and work of our "sisters" in the Far East read the news under Philippine missions.

  • The PRC also has a "corresponding relationship" with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Australia. We remember these brothers and sisters in our prayers and labors also.

Gospel to all nations

PRC MISSION NEWS:

Domestic Labors

  • We remember in prayer our home missionary, Rev. A. Spriensma, who continues to labor in the West Michigan area and beyond through Byron Center PRC, the calling church.
    • Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, his present travels and activities are quite limited. The ongoing Bible study in Dorr, MI led by our missionary is currently postponed also.
    • But, he has been writing short meditations for the PRC website and is now speaking for the Reformed Witess Hour radio program (for four months, June - Sept.).

Limerick (Ireland) Reformed Fellowship News:

  • Rev. M. McGeown is still leading the services on the mission until he is allowed to enter the U.S. (see next note). They have also just recently restarted live services after the UK lockdown that began in March.
  • He has accepted the call to Providence PRC in Hudsonville, MI. Plans are being made for him to complete his labors in Limerick and move to Michigan as soon as it is possible, but it could be many months before that happens (see his most recent newsletter).
  • A new Limerick RF Newsletter was just published - July 2020. You may find that here.

Philippine Missions:

We remember in prayer the needs of these busy pastors and missionaries in the Philippines, especially in these difficult days of COVID-19  restrictions on their travels and labors. May the Lord of the harvest give them grace to carry on as best they can and to be encouraged in all their labors.

India:

  • Let us remember to pray for the Lord's blessing on Georgetown PRC's labor in Vellore, India. The saints in that part of the world continue to experience tight restrictions and limited functions.
  • Let us pray for our sister church's work (Covenant ERC in Singapore) in Kolkata, through Rev. E. Singh. This update was in CERC's bulletin today: Do continue to pray for the brethren in Kolkata. Though the COVID-19 pandemic situation is getting worse in India and lockdown is being extended to December this year, the fellowship is allowed to worship with not more than 25 people. They will be commencing their worship service on 26 July. Unlike us, they are allowed to sing during their worship services. Do continue to pray for Rev Singh as he laboursdiligently. The Friday night Bible study has resumed. There is a new Bible study class on Saturdays for some new comers. Pastor has also started an Online Evangelism for about 22 young people, mainly from the northeastern part of India and Mumbai.

Myanmar:

  • Let us also remember Hope PRC's (Grand Rapids, MI) support of and involvement with Rev. Titus' work in Myanmar. Our brothers and sisters here too need our prayers and encouragement as they suffer under coronavirus quarantines and economic hardships. Rev. Titus continues to minister the Word to his flock through the means of social media and modern technology.

July Standard Bearer preview article
Are you reading your July issue of the Standard Bearer - it's the special PRC Synod 2020 issue - plus plenty of other good content! If you wish to subscribe, visit the SB webpage!

SPECIAL NOTICES:

  • Are you desirous to learn more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Visit the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.
  • The Reformed Book Outlet  is open again, with temporary limited hours. We will be open on Tuesday, 10am - 1pm, Wednesday, 1pm - 6pm, and Saturday, 10am - 1pm. Please follow the guidelines that will be posted on the door when visiting the store. As always, you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any orders as well!
    The Reformed Book Outlet’s 3rd annual summer reading challenge is beginning on June 15 and will go through August 22 this year! This challenge is for adults and children, and there are prizes for completing the challenge. Visit our store or Facebook page for more details. You can sign up and pick up a packet at the store during business hours, or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to sign up and we will send you a packet!

RWH Logo 2019

  • Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you or on Sermonaudio wherever you are!
    • At present Rev. A. Spriensma (PRC home missionary) is delivering the messages and this month he is focusing on the truth of God's covenant of grace. Today's message is titled "The Covenant with Creation" based on Genesis 9:9-11. Listen to the broadcast on the station near you, on your favorite podcast, or visit the links provided here to listen to this program.

    • From the Reformed Witness Hour Committee:

~ The Reformed Witness Hour Committee wishes to remind everyone that you can receive their bi-monthly newsletter via email simply by signing up at http://eepurl.com/gikNsL.  Each newsletter contains information about places around our globe where the RWH is downloaded; news about the RWH’s witness on the radio and via the internet, printed booklet, and CD and links to many popular and relevant RWH messages.

~ A Spanish edition of the RWH has been produced and may be found on this YouTube channel (PRC Espanol). Why not check it out - and help spread the word!

 
psalm 119 9

ESPECIALLY FOR PRC Young People and Young Adults:

  • The Young Calvinists will be holding a Virtual Young People's Gathering via zoom on August 8 from 11am-5pm. As a small replacement for Convention, this will feature a lecture on Heaven by Prof. Gritters, online mixer games, discussion groups and more! There will also be an outdoor Singspiration (young people only) on Sunday, August 9 at 8pm. To help us safely prepare, please RSVP for one or both events by July 20 at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/young-calvinists-virtual. Follow our blog (youngcalvinists.org), Facebook, or Instagram, for upcoming details!

  • PRYP Convention News (good news from Georgetown PRC!): 2021 Young People’s Convention: Our Steering Committee has signed a new contract with Lake Williamson Christian Center for next year.  ...We have reserved the second week in August, arriving on Monday August 9 and departing on Friday August 13, 2021.  There will be no other groups at Lake Williamson on the second week and we would have the camp to ourselves (similar to this year). May the Lord preserve our enthusiasm and bless our plans for our Young People’s growth.

  • The latest issue of the young peoples' magazine, Salt Shaker, is available (from Singapore!). Find the June 2020 issue here.

  • Colorado Retreat: Registration for the retreat is closed! For further updates, please visit our Facebook page Colorado Young Adults Retreat 2020. Pastors Key and Guichelaar will speak for us on II Timothy 1:7, as we learn to be more 'Brave and Bold in the Faith'.

  • Save the date for a Singles’ Conference!  We will host another three-day event in the Grand Rapids area, September 25-27, for singles ages 25+. The weekend will include two speeches, a discussion group, and several social activities.  Plan to attend and be encouraged and edified by other like-minded singles! Stay tuned for more details.
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The Farmer's Psalm

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

The Farmer's Psalm

Meditation on Psalm 129: 3

The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

The psalmist is making a picture of the afflictions that come to God’s people. The picture is that of a field which the famer is plowing in springtime. He is making the field ready for planting and of course, a field prepared for harvest. Today  there is a lot of no-till farming. But as a boy, our Case tractor could only pull a four-bottom plow through the heavy clay. In the psalmist’s day, the plowman had oxen pulling a single blade plow through the soil of Israel.  Maybe you remember Elisha, who was plowing his field with twelve yoke of oxen. When the call came to follow Elijah, Elisha took a yoke of oxen and killed them and boiled the flesh with fire made from the plow. Elisha fed the people and went after Elijah and ministered unto him.

In this psalm, the furrows plowed in the field are  a picture of the afflictions brought upon God’s people, Zion. The entire history of God’s people is one of suffering . The song sung was “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth.” Their youth was their early days in Egypt when they were made slaves for Pharaoh. Heavy tasks were thrown upon them, with taskmasters taking their whips upon their backs. Furrows were dug into their back by bits of bone or metal on the ends of the whips. The little male babies were to be thrown into the Nile River. Coming into Canaan, Israel was surrounded with wicked neighbors. Israel brought trouble against themselves with their idol worship. The remnant of true worshippers suffered also.

We should not be surprised when we too, for the sake of the gospel,  suffer, hated and persecution.  Here in the States, it is mainly ridicule. In many other countries, it is prison or death.  The entire history of the church is that of martyrs for the faith. The apostle Paul tells young Timothy about the persecutions and afflictions which had come upon himself. He writes, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). Do you remember to pray for the martyred church today in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East? Do you have scars for serving Christ? Maybe it is family that reject you or co-workers that mock you for your faith.

Did you notice how personal this psalm is? “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth… the plowers have plowed upon my back.” This singular pronoun is used collectively for the church.  But the psalm is not ultimately about Israel. It is the voice of Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, the true Israel.  He suffered for us. He came down from heaven, born in a cattle stall, suffered from His youth, yea, His whole life. He had to flee with His parents from Herod. “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (see Isa. 50:5,6  52:13,14  53: 3). Do you see the whip upon His back tearing furrows into it and the blood flowing? Do you see the crown of thorns upon His brow? Do you see Him hanging upon the cross, and the spear that is thrust into His side? Why did He suffer so? He suffered not  merely  at the hands of wicked men, He suffered the wrath of God in our place. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…but he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed…Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him: he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed…” (Isa. 53:4,5,10). But God raised Him from the dead. “The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked” (Psalm 129:4)

What is the result of this plowing of the field?  The wicked grow up like grass on a rooftop, which amounts to nothing when the hot sun of summer beats upon it. Those who belong to Jesus Christ are like the  luxurious  wheat  fields being harvested this week. “By his stripes we are healed…He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 51: 5,11).

The furrows upon the back of Jesus bear rich fruit. It is a field white unto harvest. Sinners such as you and I are by faith alone made righteous by the blood of Jesus. What about the afflictions that we as God’s people are made to suffer? Oh, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. God turns for good what is meant for evil. Think of Joseph’s brothers’ treatment of him, selling him. God used it for the preservation of  His people during the great famine.  Though the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers  put Jesus to death, God saved us through that death.  So let us say with the psalmist, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me” (Ps. 129:2). Let us learn the lesson of the plowed field!

Affliction has been for my profit, that I to thy statutes might hold;
Thy law to my soul is more precious than thousands of silver and gold.
(Charles H. Gabriel)

Sure as thy truth shall last, to Zion shall be given the brightest glories earth can Yield, and brighter bliss of heaven. Amen  (Aaron Williams  1731-1776)

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - July 2020

LimerickmeetingplaceLimerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

The last few months have been tumultuous for the Limerick Reformed Fellowship. On March 9, the CPRC Council, recognizing the LRF’s unviability, voted to withdraw me, the missionary, which effectively means the closing of the mission field. Since, sadly, we have seen the departure of people from the mission group in the last year, the conclusion of the Council was inevitable: we lack the criteria necessary—a large enough group, potential officebearers, and prospect for growth—for mission field viability. The decision, which Rev. Angus Stewart and Elder Brian Crossett communicated to LRF mid-March, was a huge, unexpected blow to the people here, but upon reflection they were able to understand. Nevertheless, many tears were shed, as the hopes and dreams of many for a Reformed church in Limerick were shattered.

The second reason for turmoil in Limerick is COVID-19 with the accompanying government-imposed restrictions to public gatherings. On March 22, just after the government had limited indoor gatherings, we worshipped as a congregation of only ten souls (young mothers and small children stayed away as a precaution). It was also the last Sunday that the Wattersons were in Limerick. Anga Watterson was very close to the end of her pregnancy at the time, so the Wattersons decided to move to Northern Ireland, so that they could be settled before their daughter Lara arrived on May 6. In a very short period of time, therefore, the Wattersons found work and accommodation in Northern Ireland before travel became impossible. Thus, the LRF is already down one family.

Most of the other members plan to relocate to Northern Ireland to join the CPRC, although not as rapidly as the Wattersons did. One family is making plans to move before the end of 2020, because on January 1, 2021 Brexit will make relocation from a EU country (Republic of Ireland) to a non-EU country (Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom) for non-Irish citizens more complicated. Others plan to relocate sometime in 2021, God willing. It thrills a missionary’s heart to see the Ruth-like faith of the people here, willing to forsake life in Limerick to join a true church in Ballymena. I know—and have heard—how painful it has been for them to inform their families that they will be moving to Northern Ireland, but they have bravely faced that pain in order to enjoy the benefits of church member-ship.

On March 29 we conducted our first “home service.” Because the Irish government prohibited all gatherings of people outside one’s own household and restricted movements of people to within 5 km (3.1 miles) of their homes, we were not permitted to gather in the hall, which was closed to the public; or even in our homes, which are too small to allow for social distancing anyway. A solution was quickly organised: I preached from my study through a computer with the various families watching from their homes. The solution even permitted singing, so that one family led the Psalm-singing, while the rest joined in. Various participants were muted so that, for example, during the sermon no one could interrupt my preaching, and during the singing, I was muted—only Larisa was privileged to hear my singing! The program, which I called “bubble church,” because the various people appeared in “bubbles” on the screen in front of me, enabled me to see my congregation while I preached, which helped me. Preaching to a blank screen is not enjoyable, nor is preaching to an empty room. The setup also permitted us to chat afterwards, so that we could still enjoy fellowship together. After fourteen weeks of “bubble church,” “bubble Bible study” (on Tuesday evenings we studied James and have now begun Ruth), and online catechism, we were very eager to be back together again. In the meantime, I preached on texts such as Deuteronomy 32:11-12 (“Jehovah Stirring up Our Nest”), Jeremiah 48:11-12 (“Moab Not Emptied from Vessel to Vessel”), a series on Psalm 46 and an ongoing series on Ephesians 2 (“The Gentiles Brought Nigh”).

Finally, after the Irish government permitted indoor gatherings for public worship again, we met on July 5. What joy it was to go back to the hall—even with a diminished congregation of fourteen and the obligatory social distancing! I preached on Psalm 122:1 (“Rejoicing in the Call to Public Worship”). Currently, we are also permitted to have six visitors to our homes, so we have resumed Bible study (on Ruth) in our house. We also resumed in person catechism: Old Testament History for Beginners for three children, one of whom who still joins by Skype from Northern Ireland. The Catechism season was actually over, but the families requested more Catechism, citing the great benefit that it has been to their children’s spiritual development.

Where does a missionary go when his work of almost ten years abruptly ends? We are so thankful for our sister church relationship, which makes me eligible for a call from a PRC congregation. Unbeknownst to me, God, who cares for His church, was already working to provide for our future: on March 22, the Sunday after the announcement, I received the call to be the pastor of Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), which call I accepted on April 4. Larisa and I are very grateful for this provision of a future place to labour.

Of course, it is not as easy as getting on a plane and heading to Michigan: immigration is a major hurdle. On April 28 Larisa submitted an I-130 (“petition for alien spouse”), which according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website has a processing time of 12.5—18 months! After obtaining further legal advice Providence PRC filed two additional immigration petitions (R-1 and I-360—for religious workers) in mid-June: they have currently 8—10.5 months processing time. The immigration lawyer hopes for a late 2020/early 2021 approval for the R-1. May God move the hearts of the immigration officials!

In the meantime, travel is greatly restricted. Only recently did the Irish government permit us to travel more than 25 km (15.5 miles) from our homes. International travel is not recommended, and the government recommends/requires a 14-day self-isolation period on return to Ireland. Besides, I am not permitted to travel to the USA because I do not qualify for an ESTA, which is essentially a visa waiver for tourists to the USA. To qualify for a short-term visitor visa, I would have to demonstrate that I do not intend to immigrate, which is difficult to do, for in the long-term, I do intend to immigrate.

So we wait on the Lord, while the LRF slowly winds down and the wheels of government agencies turn. In the meantime, for those who have asked, I am still missionary-pastor under the care and oversight of the CPRC Council. I will continue to preach, lead Bible study, and teach catechism to the group here, until I am permitted to travel elsewhere. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Our Need for the Lord's Blessing

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

Our Need for the Lord's Blessing

Meditation on Psalm 127:1

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.

This psalm is listed as “A Song of degrees for Solomon”. Obviously it was written by Solomon, the great builder of the temple to which the people went up to for worship. Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes in which we read, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity…Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12: 8, 13).  Psalm 127 lays before us the necessary activity of faith.

The activity described is that of building houses and keeping the city. God builds and God keeps through our activity. Without God’s blessing, all is in vain. Building the house is important. The sovereignty of God never minimizes our responsibility. As Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) wrote, “The Holy Spirit is not the patron of lazy and inert men; but he directs the minds of those who labor to the providence and power of God.” In our activity, we seek and acknowledge not only the providence and power of God but our need for God’s blessing and grace upon our activity. Our duty is to build and keep, as instruments in God’s hands. Activity is necessary.

The activity is building homes. These are covenant dwelling places. The city is a collection of homes. These must be built and kept and guarded. Physically, we do this by godly marriages, God-fearing homes, having and raising children, filling our homes. We do it through our worship on Sunday and planting churches.  The spiritual activity is caring for the hearts and souls of believers so that they love, serve, and obey the Lord. This takes place through the preaching of the gospel from Sabbath to Sabbath and from house to house. It is through the gathering of God’s children in missions. We do it through the Christian instruction of our children and the study of God’s Word in devotions and family worship. As fathers, we not only teach our children, but set a godly example. The house and church are built upon the foundation of God’s Word. This house-building is not easy but involves diligent, strenuous labor. Are you laboring?

How we need God’s blessing upon our labors! Twice in our text, we read the words, “in vain.” Without the Lord’s blessing, our labor is worthless, empty, for nothing, and a colossal waste of time and effort. We need the grace of God, His gracious hand blessing our homes and our churches. Only by His grace can our homes be houses of covenant fellowship. Only by His grace can His church be a communion of saints dwelling in blest friendship. That is the opposite of bickering, fighting, strife, and bitterness. May our homes and may our churches be places where God makes His abode!

How we as sinners need our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only by the work of our Lord Jesus, our Mediator, that our sins are forgiven and we receive God’s blessing. Is not this what we confess in Lord’s Day 1? “My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong,  body and soul, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ”? How desperately we need God’s blessing. Otherwise our building will be like the building of mighty Nimrod in the tower of Babel! Without God’s grace in Jesus  Christ, all of our marriages, child rearing, preaching, and mission work is meaningless. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Do you see your and my need for the LORD’S blessing?

We need to pray for God’s blessing upon our labors. My father would always quote to us children the Latin phrase, “Ora et labora!” Pray and labor. That is what this and many of the psalms are - prayers. The pilgrims to Jerusalem would go up to God’s house, praying. We are nothing. We need God’s blessing! Are you a praying saint? Do you start your labors at the beginning of the day only by calling upon Jehovah to bless and establish your work? That prayer is uttered in joyful expectation! We say with the Apostle Paul, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).  It is, as we sing in Psalter # 246,

So let there be on us bestowed the beauty of the Lord our God; The work accomplished by our hand establish thou, and make it stand; Yea let our hopeful labor be established evermore by thee, established evermore by thee.

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun, Let us talk of all his wondrous love and care; then when all  of life is over and our work on earth is done, And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there! James Black, 1856-1938

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PRC News Highlights for July 12, 2020

Ps25 5The following are special highlights of PRC News for this Sunday, July 12, 2020, the twenty-eighth Lord's Day of this year.

  • Last Sunday Kalamazoo PRC voted to extend a call to Rev. C. Spronk (Faith PRC). May the Lord grant him clear discernment of His will in this matter.

  • This past Thursday Rev. Heath Bleyenberg and his wife Deb made another attempt to cross the U.S.-Canada border, as he seeks to fulfill the call of Immanuel PRC in Lacombe, AB. Immanuel's bulletin today provides the good news: 
    Rev. and Deb Bleyenberg arrived safely into Canada this past Thursday.  We give all thanks to our heavenly Father who has opened the doors so they could now physically be here in Lacombe.  The Lord has cared for them and our congregation during all these months in His perfect and faithful love.  We rejoice that soon Rev. Bleyenberg will able to be installed as our pastor, preach for us in God’s house, and we will be able fellowship together with him and his wife face to face.  The Bleyenberg’s are presently under the fourteen day mandated quarantine set by the Canadian government.

  • Today Rev. G. Eriks answered the call from Unity PRC - and announced his acceptance if it. Lord willing, he will become the first pastor of this new congregation in Byron Center, MI. May the Lord be with him and his family as they prepare to leave the Hudsonville PRC he has served for many years and to take up this new labor.

  • Today Rev. N. Langerak declined the call from First PRC of Edmonton, AB.

Thought for contemplation:

Can you list some of the great things He has done for you? He gave His only begotten Son for our salvation! Think of the work of Jesus Christ: the wonder of His incarnation, His suffering and death, His resurrection, ascension, and His ruling at God’s right hand. Think of the Holy Spirit as He gives life to all things, works spiritual life in each of His children, and leads the church in the truth. God has done great things. When the church falls into apostasy, He brings reformation. Psalm 126 is another song of ascent sung when God’s people were traveling together up to Jerusalem. Let’s get even more personal. Can you hear one saint saying to another, “Come, hear, all ye that fear the Lord, while I with grateful heart record what God has done for me; I cried to him in deep distress, and now his wondrous grace I bless, for he has set me free” (Psalter 175 stanza 2)? Have you struggled with a besetting sin, and crying to the Lord, He set you free from that captivity? Have you or a loved one gone through a difficult illness or walked through the valley of the shadow of death and found that the Lord was a “very present help in trouble?”

How great it is that God says to you and me, “I will be your God. You are my beloved sons and daughters. God says that to us each Sunday morning and evening in the votum and salutation. How great is His mercy for us poor sinners, that He stoops to help and save. How great is His work of taking dead sinners and making them alive in Jesus Christ. By His Spirit He calls us, gives us faith, works our conversion, justifying, sanctifying, and preserving us.

From one of this past week's special meditations by Rev. A. Spriensma, PRC home missionary ("The Lord Hath Done Great Things")

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