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

 

Everlasting Love

I have this picture in my house; it was given to me by my mom because it is a painting of horses with Jeremiah 31:3 written on it: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” It is a beautiful picture with a beautiful verse, and it has provoked a lot of thought over the last few years that I’ve been looking at it. I’ll tell you why.

Working with horses over the years, I’ve learned to accurately read their body language. One of the horses in the picture is displaying interest, attention, and care toward the other horse. His ears are up; head held high, eyes are bright! Everlasting love, right? Just like the verse written below it says!

The other horse in the picture, however, isn’t quite on the same page. He is quartered away from his companion. His ears are pinned back, head lowered and eyes diverted. He is displaying annoyance, anger, and maybe even disgust. This is why I’ve spent so much time staring at this picture over the years. Why put a verse about the everlasting love of God below a painting that seems contradictory to that verse?

At first, I thought maybe the artist was just naïve, and probably didn’t know a thing about horses, putting a verse like that on such a picture. I don’t know the author, but the more time I spend looking at the picture, the more I think the artist knew what she was doing. After all, with some contemplation, the verse makes perfect sense in that context!

Everlasting love is an easy concept when we think of loving our friends, or when we think of God loving us while we sing in church, pray, or study His word. Even though we know our sin, that everlasting love is warm and fuzzy, and easy to see, but what about when we pin our ears? The moments (and they are constant) that we turn away from God, show Him annoyance, anger and even disgust at His will for us are the moments where the everlasting love of God is most amazing. Realistically, each moment of our lives is a “pin our ears” moment, whether we realize it or not.

So, what if this artist knew what she was doing? Maybe this picture is more than a pretty painting and a beautiful verse. Maybe the artist is saying something about this everlasting love. Even when we don’t show love to our God, even though we quarter away and pin our ears, His everlasting love holds us. He doesn’t stop and leave us alone in our misery. He continues to love us because that love is everlasting!

Let’s spend each day not only trying to reciprocate that love, but thankful for each moment that we reject and try to run from God that He draws us in with lovingkindness time and time again. No matter how many times we pin our ears and turn our heads, His love is unconditional and everlasting, and gently leads us back to Him. Recognize the moments in life that you pin your ears at God, or at friends and loved ones, and apologize to them and to God for those moments of annoyance, anger and disgust. Pray that He will show you also to love with everlasting love!

Suzie Altena

If you’d like to view the painting in reference by Jennifer Pugh, please click here.

The Simplicity of the PRC

This past Sunday, my fiancé had to usher at our church (Doon PRC). So, I rode to church with him, per usual, and sat down really early near the back of church. This gave me an opportunity I don’t get very often. I got to sit and watch as our little Doon church filled up with people, from back to front. Those of you who know Doon know that we’re a pretty small congregation, but it got me thinking a bit. Many of the Protestant Reformed churches are actually bursting at the seams! Although we are a small denomination, there are quite a few churches that are at or even over their capacities!

So, I started thinking about why. Why is this little, unknown denomination growing and thriving so much? Here’s my thought process. It’s pretty simple, and it’ll only take a short article to explain it to you.

This past Sunday was Resurrection Sunday. Most of you probably call it Easter. So, as is expected, many of the people in church had on bright, beautiful colors to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Although everyone was dressed up and looked nice, I noticed that the style remained fairly simple. That’s pretty common in the PRC, modest and simple clothing. So, obviously, it isn’t our flashy clothes and stylish dresses that attract people to the PRC.

Next I got thinking about our building. Doon is a very simple building; in fact, we didn’t even have lilies decorating the front of church! Although many PR churches do decorate with flowers, the buildings are typically somewhat simple. We don’t use large sound systems or expensive décor to attract people to our denomination either.

Then, the organ started playing. Although it was beautiful, I realized that again, compared to the disco, loud, attention-grabbing music and lights the mega-churches use, our music is quite simple.  It usually consists of just an organ or piano playing Psalter numbers or hymns to help people focus on the upcoming church service.

After thinking through those few things I realized the word “simple” had come to mind quite a bit, and I suppose that’s how many people would see the PRC. Although there is a time and a place for more extravagant clothes, buildings and music, the Protestant Reformed Churches have made and effort to keep these things simple in the church settings. This is because we recognize the most important thing in our service is the gospel itself!

The reason for the growth of the PRC is because we teach good, sound doctrine (NOT to say we are the only ones who do!).  The simplicity of the PRC is that we are doctrine based. At the heart of our denomination is a focus on the Lord and His work in our lives. As long as we continue to do that, the world will never drown us out. They may continue to outnumber us, and sometimes seem to drown our voices out, but God will richly bless the churches that take pride in doctrine. Church is about the gospel of our Lord, not us! That means although pretty clothes, well-kept buildings and beautiful music is great, our focus is to remain on Him. It’s that simple, really.

Suzie Kuiper