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

 

Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention 2018

As summer starts to draw towards a close, many of us young people look forward to the convention that is going to take place. This is an exciting time for us all, and we must see the beauty in this event. The convention is such a blessing as it draws together hundreds of like-minded individuals of one faith.

With that in mind let us consider the beauty of the unity we share, and our duty to God as young believers.

In this convention, we see the unity of the church. Hundreds of young people can gather together in harmony, despite sometimes having never met one another before. It is as the church after the outpouring of the Spirit, “And all that believed were together, and had all things common;” (Acts 2:44). As the verse states, we are gathered because we believe together. We gather together and sing praises to God, learn about God’s word under the speeches, and learn about one another through discussion groups. Through these events we share all things in common. Through talking and getting to know one another, we share who we are and how as separate individuals we all fit and have our place in the body of the church (1 Cor 12:12).

In connection to the unity of the church we should strive to make acquaintances with others. I encourage everyone to meet new people at this convention even if you feel you already have plenty of good friends. Making new acquaintances at convention is a great way to experience the blessings of the church universal, and perhaps you are the friend that God plans to provide for someone without many friends or someone going through a trial.

During this convention, when we gather together as the body of the church, we must keep in mind our duty towards God. We must remember it is more than a young people’s convention, but that it is the Protestant Reformed young people’s convention. As children of God alike, together we must be diligent in fulfilling our created purpose. This purpose which we have already talked about (Adultery is Near! 1) always finds its way to come before us again. This responsibility comes to us on a personal level, and it comes as the duty of the whole church body. As we gather together may all our actions, words, and thoughts to and with one another bring honor and glory to God’s name for that is our calling.  Let us treat one another well and “be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Rom. 12. 10-11) and most importantly may we together, “give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name,” “in the midst of the congregation prais[ing] [him],” (1 Chr. 16.29; Ps. 22:22).

Let us heed special attention to the third commandment which we find in Exodus 20:7, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain…” Often we make the application of this commandment to our speech, and indeed this is a good application, but I would like to go further. As Christians, we all bear God’s name. We are children of God, or God’s people. However, you put it we are CHRISTians and we must represent and defend God amongst the world. Therefore, in all that we do, we must be good representatives of God. Even though the world may not be watching us as we gather together at convention, we must bear this in mind. It should not be the world’s eyes that motivate us to bear God’s name rightly, but it should be our love for God that makes us strive to honor Him.

May we all enjoy the convention. Thanks be to God for such a blessing and much gratitude to the many people who labored for such an event. I pray God grant traveling blessings to the many conventioneers and chaperones who come from all around for this wonderful gathering. I look forward to meeting many of you! By the power of the Holy Ghost working in us may we unite in one mind before God and praise Him with all our works.

Luke Christian Potjer

 

The Crystal Sea

“And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” ~ Revelation 4:6, 9-11

The book of Revelation includes many descriptions of heaven and the new heavens and earth.  One such description is found in the above passage.  The image of “a sea of glass like unto crystal” is a beautiful one, and we do well to consider it alongside the words of the hymn which so effectively versifies the passage, By the Sea of Crystal, by William Kuipers.

The first verse of this hymn emphasizes the truths of the size and diversity of the body of Christ: “By the sea of crystal saints in glory stand, myriads in number, drawn from every land, robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood, They now reign in heaven with the Lamb of God.”  The Bible speaks of the appearance of the body of Christ on multiple occasions, and it is a one of my personal favorite truths from Scripture.  On the one hand, it is characterized as being absolutely immense.  When Christ returns, we will be able to see the body of Christ in all its glory, and we will likely be stunned by its sheer size; the hymn’s word “myriads” will likely not even be able to do it justice.  God will prove Himself faithful to His promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 to make his seed “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.”

Additionally, the body will be incredibly diverse.  This too is found in Scripture; in Revelation 5:9, we read, “…for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”  That God calls His people out of every corner of the earth and out of all races and peoples stands in stark contrast to what we would do.  If we are honest with ourselves, the body of Christ would look much different if we were to pick its members than how it does in actuality.  This is because, while man looks only on outward appearance, God judges the heart (I Samuel 16:7).  God, who makes the true decisions on the body’s members, “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).  God elected the body in eternity entirely apart from any merit of theirs.  That body will one day stand together, united by our status of justified, “robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood.”  What a knowledge!

The final verse of the hymn is also quite striking.  It begins by attributing all glory to God alone: “Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne, And the Lamb, victorious, be the praise alone.”  As did the 24 elders of Revelation 4, we will bow down at the feet of God’s throne, confessing that He is worthy “to receive glory, and honor, and power.”  The song concludes with an amazingly powerful rhetorical question.  We sing, “God has wrought salvation, He did wondrous things, Who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of Kings?”  No person worldwide will be able to stand before the presence of the Lord in defiance; everyone will be forced to extol Him.  Indeed, it will not simply be the 24 elders or the elect people of God who will bow before Him.  We read in Romans 14:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”  While it is impossible for us to fully comprehend this idea, it is still incredible to attempt to picture the scene, and doing so is enough to bring tears to the eyes of the child of God.  We are again led to ask, “Who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of Kings?”

Matt Koerner