Appreciating Heritage Blessings

In my last young people’s society meeting with Reverend Huizinga before his departure for the seminary, he urged us all to know and appreciate our heritage. Recognizing the wisdom in this, and wanting to be able to understand this passionate urging, I decided to look more into the beginnings of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America (PRCA). I have now begun to read God’s Covenant Faithfulness. I often lack an interest in studying the history of the church, but as Reverend Huizinga suggested, it made me to greatly appreciate the heritage and many other things I have been blessed with in the PRCA. So I extend Reverend Huizinga’s urge to you as well; know your blessed heritage! I now want to take a moment to remind us of days long ago so that we might see how easily at times we take God’s blessings to us for granted.

  1. We take for granted the practical technologies that God blesses us. I start with this point with the mindset of saving the best for last. Remember the beginning of the PRCA at First Church. Most of the congregation walked downtown to meet for worship. People were so excited about hearing the truth that despite snow they would still make it to church. Heating was also an issue at times. Some churches, such as Hudsonville, lacked heating and struggled through the cold in a barn so that they might hear God’s gospel. In South Holland, someone would trek up to seven or eight miles on cold winter mornings at five o’clock so that the church might be warm for the congregation at nine o’clock. However, we have it so easy today. We do not have to meet in barns, bakeries, or store buildings, but God has blessed us with many beautiful church buildings. These buildings are equipped with heating, air conditioning, libraries, bathrooms, nurseries, and they are well furnished. Not only do we have nice buildings, but with cars our journey to church is much easier. It is not uncommon to live twenty plus miles from church and yet we still can travel more quickly and comfortably than those in the early days of our church.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” and God has surely supplied us with beyond that with our beautiful churches and our convenient transportation (Phil. 4:19).

  1. We have been blessed with many ministers in almost all of our churches. As synod has pointed out, we will start to face many vacancies in years to come; however, we still can appreciate how richly God has provided us with ministers currently and in years past. This blessing of many pastors stands out to me because so many churches that started out did not have ministers. A common trend I noticed was that new churches in the 1920s-1930s sat vacant for four years before receiving their first pastor. Many churches shared pastors with nearby churches. Reverend Hoeksema and Reverend Ophoff had much work during this time. They not only preached in their own congregations, but helped organize new churches, taught  in the seminary, and preached in vacant congregations. Then and now, God has been faithful to provide young men capable and ready to sacrifice their lives for His word.

God is faithful to His promises: “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15).

  1. I speak from experience that we take for granted the abundant resources we now have. God has granted such great abundance of knowledge to us about His truth. We know so much about His word and we have so many books, recorded sermons/lectures, pamphlets, and so forth to learn of His word. So often we take these resources for granted and do not read. Read! To take Reverend Huizinga’s picture, when we are not in the Word and studying/reading we are like the person who has laid in the hospital bed for months. His body has no strength so that he cannot even start to bench press half of his weight. We must never find ourselves so weak. The early members of the PRCA set a great example to us of a vigor for God’s word. In the beginning, families were eagerly inviting pastors (especially Hoeksema) to come and lecture on God’s word. There was a resilient excitement to hear the truth.

May we never neglect God’s great liturgical blessings to us, but rather may we be as the Bereans and our forefathers who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11).

  1. God has blessed us with great peace. Peace that we feel and experience. There have been many protests at synod and many letters in the Standard Bearer discussing the place of works in the life of a believer. Despite that there is peace that we share in the truth. The denomination has not strayed from God’s great truth. We have a fellowship in the good doctrines, we have good catechism classes which teach the youth the truth of God’s word, and we have Bible studies to come together and in “one faith and one hope” discuss God’s word together (Eph. 4:4-5). In the 1920s-1930s, the PRCA experienced much opposition from the Christian Reformed Church. Hear the troubles faced to meet together for the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland in 1926, “influential men in Christian reformed circles, who were not enthusiastic about Hoeksema’s overflow crowds, stymied all attempts to rent adequate meeting places. Bock’s hall, in Lansing, Illinois, above a hardware store and sandwiched between apartments, was the last resort of the persistent group who were pressing to hear the reformed truth.” Today, we rest comfortably as a denomination united by the truth of God’s Word. We stand fast in the same truths confessed by men in the 1920s when our denomination first was born, and the same doctrines confessed by God’s people through all ages.

What great blessings we experience today! How easy it is for us to become lethargic in our blessings. It is easy to lose the enthusiasm and the persistency of old which brought many through raging snow to church to be able to hear the truth in fellowship and instead for us to get used to coming to church only out of habit or tradition. May we be filled with excitement during the week and on the sabbath for God’s preaching. God has blessed the PRCA very richly and we see how much He has blessed us with growth, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17).

Luke Christian Potjer

 

Maternal Instinct

A couple of years ago, I was working as a vet tech at a regional equine hospital during the spring foaling season. A foal came in with its dam due to an illness, and unfortunately the foal had to be humanely euthanized after trying our best to correct the problem. Now, the protocol for such an event (since, in veterinary medicine we can’t explain things to the mare) is to perform the euthanasia and leave the mare with her deceased foal for a few hours to give her time to understand. Then, either the foal is removed, or the mare is transferred to a different stall. In this case, I was instructed to move the mare. So, I clipped a lead rope on her and she followed me calmly and willingly across the facility. Until she saw another mare and foal; then she pulled at the lead, and turned to try to go back to her old stall (where her foal was still laying). She whinnied frantically and kicked me in the hip. I was fine, but very upset. What is wrong with her?? She KNOWS her foal is dead, why freak out now?? I wondered. I’d understand soon enough.

This past spring, my husband and I welcomed our first child to our family. However, in February of 2018, I had a miscarriage with my first pregnancy at about 6 weeks along. I was shocked at how heartbroken I was.  Not because I don’t value life, but because I thought that since I only knew of the pregnancy for a few short weeks I should have gotten over it pretty quickly. When I first realized that I was in the beginning stages of miscarriage I was devastated. The only way I knew how to describe how I felt was the way that mare panicked and cried out when she left her dead foal behind.

I felt this horrible maternal instinct, but had nowhere to go with it. For the next six months I wanted desperately to have a baby, and cried over what felt like hundreds of negative tests. Every pregnancy announcement and image of moms with their kids killed me, and every time I felt that way I understood a little better why that mare kicked me that spring day a year or so before. Maternal instinct isn’t just for people. God created animals to feel that powerful, protective desire as well.

It’s for that reason that the recent battle between pro-life and pro-choice has me so upset. If I hurt so badly after knowing about my baby’s existence for only 2 weeks, how could a mother go on living life normally after aborting her child at any stage, but especially late term? Even the animal kingdom knows better than to abandon their young and not feel pain over it. I even thought that once I had my son in my arms this spring, I would recover more completely from my losses, but I was wrong. I still mourn my miscarriages. It still hurts; I expect it always will. After all, it’s not just about how many kids are in your family pictures. It is about life itself.

Of course, this is only my story. There are many others with similar and even more painful stories out there. God declares that children are a heritage of the Lord (Psalm 127:3), and they are to be valued! The price to pay for hurting one of God’s precious children is high: Luke 17:2 says “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea than that he should offend one of these little ones.” That’s a very vivid picture of the absolute sanctity of life.

I certainly don’t have all the answers to society’s problems, or even the answer to the abortion crisis happening right now, but this I know for sure: life is precious. Deep down, we all know it. Even the animal kingdom knows it. We may not ever succeed in improving the society we live in, but may God help Christians to hold fast to His Word and value our children the way He calls us to.

Suzie Altena

My Comforter

“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” asks David in Psalm 22:1. We can fall into what seem to be terrible times of trial and feel like everything, even our own God, is against us. This feeling is what David expresses in his question. Trials can come in many ways and forms: perhaps we feel so fallen into a sin that even God can no longer save us, a loved one has been taken from us despite their youth and healthiness, or we ourselves suffer with some terrible illness. However, all of these things are only a minor comparison to what Christ, our caring Shepherd, has suffered. Christ suffered the full pouring out of God’s wrath for innumerable sins of an innumerable amount of His elect people. In His suffering, Christ became our Mediator who knows all our burdens and grants us full assurance of peace in salvation.

For us, Christ “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men,” (Phil. 2:7). As a man, we know that “Jesus wept” and felt the pain, weakness, and tiredness of our bodies (John 11:35, John 4:6, Matt. 8:24). He also knew what it felt like to be hated and unjustly tortured. Countless times the Pharisees questioned Jesus with wicked motives, men tried to push Him off of a cliff, He lost His friend Lazarus, and all His suffering climaxed when He bore the wrath of God on the cross. Now, the One who suffered all these unimaginable miseries has become our Mediator. Jesus, who suffered more than is imaginable–for this punishment came from the all powerful God– understands any pain that you or I may ever encounter. This merciful Saviour, our gracious Comforter, speaks to us and comforts us in the scriptures, through His voice in the preaching, and in speaking with us and answering our prayers.

In His word, Jesus assures us of our salvation, which brings us peace in any trial, saying “therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Every week Jesus spiritually renews us with the preaching so that it is fitting to compare the preaching to milk or meat as is done in I Corinthians 3:2. On the Sabbath, we are assured that we have no need of fear, but may live instead devoting all our heart and soul in joy and thankfulness praising the God of our salvation. Lastly, Jesus works peace within us by answering our prayers. He is our “Emmanuel… God with us” and He knows everything we need (Matt. 1:23).  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Pet. 3:12)

Through any affliction we may face, our Lord Jesus is our comfort. He has been touched with our infirmities and knows the feelings of temptation (Heb 4:15). There is no man who can comfort us like our gentle Shepherd. He fully understands and comprehends the burdens we may face and has a compassionate love towards us, His sheep. How blessed we are to have a full assurance and confidence in Him knowing He is our faithful Mediator who “change[s] not” (Mal. 3:6).

Luke Christian Potjer