The mail delivery man on a snowy, frigid, winter day, January, 1941, followed the usual delivery route with mail for the day to be placed in a diminutive mailbox at 609 Peace Street, Pella, Iowa. This time the mail was almost too large for the mailbox. It was a brand new magazine, Beacon Lights for Young Protestants.
Lying near me on my desk as I write is the very same magazine that was delivered in January, 1941, now celebrating 75 years of existence, slightly wrinkled and yellowed but completely preserved. This precious treasure with other yellowed and important documents and papers were moved from home to home by my parents when they served the churches.
I can imagine myself as a 10-year old youngster dashing into the house with this first edition of the magazine that was published by the very recently organized Protestant Reformed Young People’s Federation. As I looked at the magazine, I am almost certain I would have wondered, “What are Young Protestants?”
The decision of the delegates at the second annual young people’s convention convened at the First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan in August, 1940, had authorized the publication of the magazine.
Of course, I could not have known at that time the total significance of the name of the publication of this magazine and the influence of the Federation that published Beacon Lights. That the Federation and Beacon Lights did have a large influence on me and many in the long and fruitful seventy-five year history is an indisputable historical fact.
The parsonage to which that first Beacon Lights was delivered was the home of the Lubbers family and Rev. George C. Lubbers (1937-1944), the minister of the Pella Protestant Reformed Church located at the intersection of Main and Peace Streets, and a block east of the Central College campus, a college associated with the Reformed Church of America.
I remember well the congregation of the Pella Protestant Reformed Church, which, sad to say, no longer exists. Pella PRC was established in the late 1920s in a predominantly Dutch Reformed community. The congregation that I remember was a peace-loving and peaceful congregation meeting in those days in a church purchased from a Methodist congregation.
Only fifteen years had passed since the Protestant Reformed Churches of America had been organized. I heard from a reliable source—my Dad, of course—that the congregation of young and old supported enthusiastically and faithfully the causes of Christ represented by the PR churches.
Pella was and is still today a lovely town established in the rich farm land of rolling hills that are adjacent to and part of land near the Skunk and Des Moines Rivers. This was the country land in Iowa that was settled and established by 800 Dutch immigrants who followed Hendrick Scholte and his aristocratic wife from the Netherlands in1847. Here for a hundred years Reformed fathers and mothers lived, worshiped, and reared their children and young people. They were godly and quality people with names such as the now famous Vermeer family, the Van Zees, the Van Weeldens, the Wassinks, the Stuursmas, the three DeVries families (a descendant of two of these families is Rev. Michael De Vries, pastor of the Kalamazoo PRC.), the Vander Molens, the Edemas, the Boenders, and the old but faithful Mrs. Kleyn.
Members of these families attended with others the services and activities of the Pella PRC. The children of several of these families went to the Peoria and Pella Christian Schools, as did children from my family, and were students in the weekly after-church-service catechism classes, where our theme song that I especially remember and learned to love was Psalter number 367, a versification of Psalm 132. The song entitled “God and His Church” began with the well-known words, “Gracious Lord, remember David, how he made thy house his care.” I did not totally realize at that time that my Dad, who was our catechism teacher in those important years, was teaching his students to sing history and sing about love of King David for the church, the love we have for the church when we sing praise and glory to God. When I sing this song and hear this song sung my mind is immediately turned to time in my life when I first learned this song and to the significance of this song for young and old Christians.
Let’s get on with Beacon Lights.
When we pause to commemorate and celebrate Beacon Lights, it is most necessary and appropriate to contemplate and celebrate the goodness, faithfulness, and grace of God. In spite of our unfaithfulness, failures, and sin, Beacon Lights has flourished and grown. Although the Pella PRC no longer exists I am convinced that the young people in Pella PR church in those days, especially the Wassinks and VanWeeldens, who were old enough to attend society, were the happy and thankful recipients of this new magazine.
Eighteen months prior to the first publication of Beacon Lights, on a warm summer day in August, 1939, I watched my dad, George Lubbers, and Mr. Cecil Vander Molen (our Uncle Ceis) direct an excited and happy group of young people and young adults as they readied themselves to attend the very first Convention sponsored by the PRYP Federation. I was about eight years old and in the second grade in the Pella Christian School, and I remember that the young people and young adults from the Pella PRC and the Oskaloosa PRC (both Iowa churches) boarded a truck used most of the days of each week for milk delivery from Iowa farms to the creamery. It was to be the mode of transportation for the young people and young adults of the Pella and Oskaloosa, Iowa, Protestant Reformed Churches to make the round trip of six hundred miles. South Holland, Illinois PR church was the destination. Although Uncle Ceis’s truck was not a Model T Ford or a Greyhound bus, a trip like this looked super exiting to me. That bumpy and exhausting ride from Pella to South Holland and the return must have often been one of the stories they told each other and must have lived long in the minds of these young men and young women and their chaperones. How times have changed since the pre-WW 2 days more than seventy-five years ago. Can you imagine a trip like that today? Can you imagine the home coming of all those who attended this first convention? Think of the excitement and anticipation for the fatiguing and bumpy trips to future conventions.
The results of that first Convention were significant because the emphasis already at the first convention, 1939, in South Holland, Illinois PRC was focused on the plans for the publication of a periodical that would be called Beacon Lights.The main item on the agenda for the second annual convention convened in the summer, 1940, at the First PRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan was to approve the publication of five issues—January, February, March, April, and May 1941. The publication period was declared a trial period, and it was the first of two trial periods. At the third annual convention, Oak Lawn, Illinois, August 1941, the main business was once again the Beacon Lights. At this convention the monumental decision was reached to continue publication for eight months: October, 1941 through May, 1942, the second trial period, and then hopefully into the unknown future. However, according to the unchangeable counsel and providence of God, the young people with the advice and counsel of the ministers of the gospel then serving in the churches went home with deep satisfaction because they made the decision that resulted in the publication of a magazine that has existed for 75 years and commences now the 76th year of its existence.
The year 1941 is virtually impossible to forget. Soon we will celebrate again the targeting and bombing of U.S. possessions in Hawaii, December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, which began WW 2 for the U.S. It was a devastating attack, and those who are old enough to remember know that WW 2 had an immediate impact upon the church and the young men of the church. It also had immediate results for Beacon Lights because the magazine began to address the needs of young men who were drafted or enlisted to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Letters from Rev. Hoeksema and others to the soldiers were included in Beacon Lights. Young men in the armed forces responded with gratitude for the Beacon Lights and for the letters published in the Beacon Lights. A system was devised so that letters would consistently be sent to the men in the armed forces. In this and many other ways Beacon Lights has contributed to the organic life of the church, to societies, and to the lives of the members of the churches. Praise God!
Seventy-five years is important in the life of our churches that are now over 90 years old. Seventy-five years is the number of years that we can celebrate both the existence of Beacon Lights and the Reformed Witness Hour. The broadcast of the first program of the Reformed Witness Hour was featured and announced on the back cover of the October, 1941, Beacon Lights as “The Protestant Reformed Hour.” The announcement informed the readers that Herman Hoeksema would be the speaker, and that the program would also feature a mixed choir, called the Radio Choir. This introductory broadcast would be aired Sunday, October 12, 1941, at 4:15 PM on WLAV, at 1340 AM on the radio dial. This was a live broadcast with no replays. It is perhaps significant that the Young Men’s Society of the First Protestant Reformed Church, which was responsible for the program, was also very active in the production of the Beacon Lights. The message that day was “God is God.” I remember well that several weeks later the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, forced the cancellation of the Reformed Witness Hour that December day so Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the USA, could address the nation about this attack and consequences of the declaration of war.
When Beacon Lights came into existence and first appeared in the homes of the initial subscribers and readers in January, 1941, I can imagine the animated conversations and discussions among the recipients in the homes of the members of churches spread across the United States in Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, and California. Young people from homes in these States had not merely attended a convention like many of us do and did—but these three conventions were the basic precedent-setting forerunners for future conventions that would occur annually for the next seven decades. These early conventions were new occurrences, new events—a frontier that needed to be explored, tested, and conquered. These conventions of the Federation can be compared to the life of the colonists who were required to clear the forests, plow new ground, build new houses and farm buildings and establish new villages, towns, and cities. Most of these early young Protestants, as Beacon Lights named them, are now deceased and have departed from the church militant and have joined the church triumphant in glory, but the results of their decisions and endeavors remain.
Young people most certainly went to the conventions to have a good time, but not with the thought or plan that they would attempt to outdo the mischief and adventures of past conventioneers. The circumstances did not contribute to this. Those attending conventions stayed in the homes of families of the guest churches. Conventions were usually small enough for this arrangement. In addition the young men and women had been charged with important and significant responsibilities. They had work to do. The challenging and aggressive agenda for the convention business meetings required important and consequential decisions. Attention to important details in a short two days was the requisite. The challenge and goal was apparent.
The young people heard Rev. Herman Hoeksema, the keynote speaker at conventions for many years, urge them to make progress and go forward. As a young Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church pastor, Herman Hoeksema had worked relentlessly and vigorously in the1920’s to organize young men into a movement and federation called Young Calvinists. His position as the first editor of the magazine, The Young Calvinist, was certainly a stimulus and an influence for the development of both the Federation and Beacon Lights. In addition the leaders of the Federation were urged and encouraged by the enthusiastic young thirty-year old ministers and pastors from the various PR churches to move forward in the process of federation and organization. These pastors obviously understood and recognized that the future of the church on earth is rooted in the life of the militant young people of the church with whom they had the blessed privilege to live and work. The stimulus, encouragement, and leadership given in these ways were certainly obvious to the young men and women who attended the first three conventions and in the process had caught the enthusiasm and developed desires and a sense of urgency. The minds and hearts of the young men and women were captured so that they in unity and not mere union went to work. This unity would be the incentive, and the drive to continue the construction of the Federation that brought Beacon Lights into existence.
These Young Protestants of 1939, 1940, and 1941, were similar to the strong and vital young men and women who accompanied Nehemiah in c.500 BC for the restoration and building of the walls of Jerusalem. The young people, like the followers of Nehemiah, were of a mind to work and in this way bring into existence the walls of the PRYP Federation and Beacon Lights. The young men and women of 1939-1941 and following years were warriors in the faith who worked with the trowel in one hand and with the sword in the other hand—the sword of faith, which is the word of God. In this manner they established a national organization in the fifteen fast-moving and therefore short years following the organization of the PR churches in 1924. These young men and women with great zeal would through this zeal develop a humble but worthy magazine to be an instrument of instruction, edification, and unification of the young people of the churches for seven decades in several states of the USA.
It bears repeating that Beacon Lights came into existence at a time, 1941, when it was the receipt of this publication was an enormous necessity for our young men that were being drafted or enlisted in the Armed Forces because of WW 2, 1941-1946. Concerning Beacon Lights it can rightly be said, “See what God hath awesomely wrought.”
Recently I have read and paged through the first issues of Beacon Lights (Volumes 1–4). I was surprised to find two letters that show how very early in its life Beacon Lights became a medium for our young people to speak to one another. I discovered in my examination of the December, 1941, Beacon Lights a letter from a young adult, Wilmina Rutgers. I said to myself, I know her. Wilmina is the widow of the late Rev. George Lanting. She was a member of the Oak Lawn, Illinois PRC young people’s society that hosted the third convention in August, 1941—the convention that made the decision that Beacon Lights would no longer be published on a trial basis but would move on to be a permanent publication. Wilmina is a member of the Crete, Illinois PRC and is certainly one of the few living past conventioneers of 1939-1941 era. She wrote as a representative of the host society for the convention at Oak Lawn of PRC 1941 to express great appreciation for the convention and concludes with the comment that “we are thankful to have our own paper, but especially thankful that this is one of the first fruits of our Protestant Reformed Young People’s Federation.”
Wilmina wrote again in the October, 1943, Volume 4, Number 1 issue. Her letter contains the following: “Today I received my Beacon Lights. I read through it from cover to cover. I intend to reread various articles so that I will get the full value of them.” She writes that since this is war time many of the young men have gone to the armed services. God sends his covenant young men to war against men with weapons, but also to war against temptations. This makes it hard for them to fight the good fight of faith. If we could see their surroundings we would say it is impossible for them to keep walking uprightly.
Wilmina continues: “At home in the churches a war is going on and we wonder sometimes what the outcome will be. Families are broken up because of doctrinal differences. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and cousins are separated from worshipping in the same denomination. When we work, we must fight unions and Sunday work. Where is the peace today? What has the youth today?” She completes her letter by saying, “We know true joy and happiness come from within. The law of God is in our hearts by the new life within us.”
I believe you can say with me that the battle has not changed; only the time and the circumstances. This is cause to be rejuvenated in the desire to see Beacon Lights continue and perhaps improve.
If you know or see Wilmina, please say hello and wish her God’s blessings from you to her and from me to her. I remember Wilmina from meeting her on many occasions and when I taught her children many years ago. It should be apparent that we both have had similar opportunities to participate in the early conventions. If you see her in church, please tell her that you read about her in Beacon Lights and that 75 years ago she wrote letters that were published in Beacon Lights of 1941 and 1943. If you are her grandchildren, thank her for her love and tell her how much you appreciate her faithfulness as a member of the church these many years.
I believe I can safely assume that if Beacon Lights was published at least ten times per year since the first issue in January, 1941, it has been delivered to societies and to subscribers about 750 times. This, I believe, is a notable and illustrious history and ranks high with other magazines and periodicals of this type. Having passed through the history of 1953 it’s remarkable that the magazine is still being published each month. When two-thirds of the church membership of the churches left the Protestant Reformed Churches in the 1953 era, many who were subscribers, supporters, and writers left. Therefore it is astounding that this God-ordained magazine has continued to exist and to do that which it was founded to accomplish. Confer the editorial by Cornelius Hanko, January 1941, Volume I, Number 1, to study for reading this mission and purpose.
“1/ Unite all Protestant Reformed Young People and Societies so that they may work in close unity and secure a sense of solidarity.”
“2. To seek the mutual edification of the members of this Federation and to strive for the development of talents as becomes Christian young people.”
“3. To maintain our specific Protestant Reformed character with a united front.”
“4. To promote the welfare of the Protestant Reformed Churches in which we have a name a place.”
The statements are statements set a high and necessary goal. The goal that the men and women of 1941 thought and lived has not changed and must still be the goal of the Federation.
In 1941 Editor Cornelius Hanko, wrote: “One stride toward realizing this purpose is made. And hereby Beacon Lights takes upon itself to serve this purpose.”
The first step is the first step of many hundreds or thousands of these steps. The first step is so significant.
The resulting enthusiasm and industry caused by the decision of the fledgling PRYP Federation to authorize and begin the publication of Beacon Lights after only two conventions attended by delegates from far-flung churches is evident in the editorials by the editor, Rev. C. Hanko. He writes with an obvious flair and a flourish of enthusiasm in his first editorial, January, 1941, Volume I, No. 1, page 1 as follows:
“The Publication Committee of the P.R.Y.P.F. takes great pleasure in introducing the first issue of our new periodical into your midst. It means to them the fruit of concentrated effort put forth during the last few months to make this paper possible, the removal of what at times appeared to be insurmountable barriers, and the satisfaction of having reached a certain goal. But we realize that it means far more to members of the young people’s Federation. To you it is the first-fruits of the youthful, yet lively and ambitious organization it represents. Not eighteen months ago the Federation was organized in South Holland, Illinois. Not five months have passed since the second annual Convention was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Today you have your own paper. And what this means toward filling the long-felt need in our young people’s societies can only be surmised.”
An imposing lighthouse and tower adorns the faded blue cover of the very first issue. A beam of light issued from the light house with the familiar words quoted from Psalm 35:9, “In Thy Light Shall we See Light.” The articles that appeared in the first issue were Editorials, Bible Outlines, Discussion of the Canons of Dordt , Book Reviews, Tomorrow’s Man of God, and Exciting Quotations. The masthead listed the editorial staff. They were the twelve ministers from the PR churches at that time, none of whom are still living on this earth, but I believe have received the reward of Christ for their labors. It is disappointing and sad that only four of the contributors to Beacon Lights in 1953 and prior to 1953 remained with the Protestant Reformed Churches after the painful, sad, consequential, and obviously necessary history of 1953. I remember all of them and met at some time all of them, and I remember very personally and well the events of that time and the necessary but in some ways painful consequences.
Those who remained to work for Beacon Lights were editor in chief, Rev. Cornelius Hanko, of Oak Lawn, Illinois; Herman Hoeksema, George Lubbers, and Marinus Schipper. The original editors who left the PRC in 1953 were the editor of Bible Study Outlines, Rev. Peter De Boer of Holland, Michigan; Book Review editor, Rev. Leonard Vermeer; the Canons of Dordt, editor Rev. Heman Hoeksema; and the regular writers and contributors: Andrew Cammenga, John D. deJong, Lambert Doezema, Martin Gritters, Andrew Petter, and John Vander Breggen. One must say that this periodical with a humble beginning had an array of ministers prepared to give of their time, understanding, and talent to this production.
“All things have worked together for good” (cf. Rom. 8:28). This theologically correct, it is salvatorily true, and it is experientially real.
One additional person, namely, the first subscription manager should be identified. Peternella Poortinga received the subscription cost of seventy-five cents (75 cents) or fifteen cents per copy for the first five issues (January-May, 1941). Ah!!!! Seventy-five cents. What can you purchase for 15 cents today? How about 75 cents? Seventy-five years and seventy-five cents. Quite a coincidence, I must say. Don’t you think so?
It was May, 1941 that editor Editor Cornelius Hanko wrote again as follows:
“Beacon Lights has made its appearance and has met with a hearty reception, far beyond our fondest expectations. By this time it has gained for itself a definite place in the society life of our Protestant Reformed youth, besides supplying them with edifying reading material. Yet as was said at the outset, these first five issues were merely an experiment from every point of view.”
It was October, 1941 after an absence of four months (June, July, August, September, 1941) the Beacon Lights made a renewed appearance at 609 Peace Street and other homes in Pella and Oskaloosa, and on the farms, and in villages, towns, and cities in the USA
Volume 2, October, 1941 of Beacon Lights appropriately contained another introduction as Editor C. Hanko commences this aspect and part of a volume of the magazine. Editor Hanko wrote that “Beacon Lights comes to you again as a friend and companion, an invaluable guide throughout the new season of society activities…Once more it takes upon itself to maintain that only in God’s light do we see the light…It appears in new garb….The appearance has undergone change. For practical reasons the size was reduced and the number of pages increased. We hope that our readers will find the magazine in its present form more convenient to carry about with them.”
The implication of all this is that the editor and those working with him were advocating with enthusiasm and with determination that this good work had not only begun, but that there was more that should be accomplished. All that was needed was the vote for the proposal to continue in the future, with continued enthusiasm, continued fidelity, and continued willingness and devotion for the endeavor and task. Beacon Lights has stayed. We have observed this for seventy-five years. God is good. God is faithful.
SOME SPECIFICS CONCERNING THAT FIRST VOLUME: THOSE FIRST FIVE ISSUES
One of the noteworthy and significantly indicative rubrics in terms of the mission and goals of Beacon Lights that were published in the first five issues and further issues is the Bible Outlines rubric edited initially by Rev. Peter De Boer. These Bible discussion outlines provided study material to help direct the discussion in the society meetings each week of the society season. It is obvious that a feeling of unity must have been experienced by the young people when they realized that all young people’s societies were studying the same scripture undoubtedly on the same day or evening. A thorough-going series of outlines on Matthew 5–7 in the January–May, 1941 issues were published for the young people to use and prepare for the discussion. This was an obvious attempt to unite all Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies. This rubric and practice went on for many years when men like Rev. George Lubbers, Rev. Homer C. Hoeksema, and Rev. John Heys began serving in this capacity.
I discovered that the book reviews written by Rev. Leonard Vermeer are interesting and helpful. I am particularly impressed with his review of the Dutch Trilogy Publications of Dr.Klaas Schilder by Henry Zylstra, my excellent English professor at Calvin College. This Triology entitled Christ in His Suffering, Christ on Trial, and Christ Crucified were reviewed with the assumption that young readers should become familiar with Klaas Schilder’s excellent writings published at. $3.00 per volume.by Eerdmans Publishing. The Dutch were part of the books on the shelves in Dad’s study.
Along with the discovery of the review of these books in a 1941 issue of the Beacon Lights, many could have known what I discovered and remembered about Klaas Schilder, because in 1939 he had spoken in many of the Protestant Reformed Churches. I recall that in 1939 Schilder had visited in our home in Pella, Iowa, on a speaking tour in the churches and visited in our home in Randolph, Wisconsin, in 1947 on a second speaking tour. His lectures in 1947 were primarily concerned with his concept of the covenant.
In 1948-49 my father was the most initial translator of De Geloovigen en Hun Zaad (Believers and Their Seed) written originally in the Dutch by Herman Hoeksema and published in the Standard Bearer in 1927. In my opinion by the visits and conversations and lectures Dad was influenced to produce his translation so that others who could not read Dutch would be able to read these articles and this explanation of covenant in opposition to the errant covenant theology of Dr. Schilder. I am certain that Dad believed this a careful and accurate scriptural explanation of the doctrine of the covenant.
As I think of this accomplishment and effort today, I believe that a serial publication of these articles and the translation from the Standard Bearer and a little previously published paperback would have been valuable for the instruction of young and old.
These remembrances, associations and other interests helped to capture my intention to read the review of this series of books that are theological tomes in Beacon Lights, and it has also stimulated me to read these translations that are still published or on the shelves of theological libraries.
It surprised me that the book review editor, Rev. Leonard Vermeer, who left the PR church in 1953, would review books of this quality and of this kind in the young people’s magazine. Today reviews like these would more likely be published in the Standard Bearer or a theological journal. Nevertheless the reviews are there and Leonard Vermeer heartily recommends the three volumes by Schilder. Vermeer writes that the contents offer material for the study of the passion and death of Christ found nowhere else. Continuing, Vermeer says: “Throughout the trilogy a marvelous light from the Old Testament passages of Scripture fall upon the New Testament passages concerning the suffering of our Lord.”
Vermeer continues by saying: “It is true that Dr. Schilder, who wrote these valuable books in the Holland language as early as 1929, would have made certain changes today (1941) in exegesis and concepts that appear in the works.” Vermeer also wrote that he believed that “Dr. Schilder since 1929 has edged more and more away from the theory of Common Grace. Common grace as you obviously know was a theory that had been developed and expounded particularly by the Neo-Calvinist Abraham Kuyper in the 1880s and following years. His edging away was especially noteworthy as this theory is embodied in the “Three Points” of the Christian Reformed Churches. Vermeer wrote that this was very plain from Schilder’s more recent writings, in which he has repeatedly stated that he said he could never believe in the “Three Points” as they are maintained by the Christian Reformed Church.”
It was in part because of Schilder’s opposition to the CRC concept of common grace and (contrary to Article 31 of the Church Order) his removal from the ministry of the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands (allies of the CRC in the U.S.) that Herman Hoeksema and others in the PR churches began to believe that theological friendship with Schilder and his churches was a necessity and certainly a possibility. Schilder was not well received by the CRC. The PRC in 1939 and 1947 received him cordially and also his theological ally Rudolph Van Reest as speakers in the churches. The history respecting covenant theology proved to be the separation between Herman Hoeksema and those who agreed with him after after the return of Schilder to the Netherlands.
History like this and influences of this kind could have made a more devastating effect on Beacon Lights. Faithful writers and men women who loved the truth expounded by PR churches helped Beacon Lights to survive.
In this celebratory article and brief review of a monumental effort I have focused primarily on the very first issues of the Beacon Lights that resulted in the production of Volumes 1, 2, and 3. Much more could be written and said, but the birth and the laying of the keel, because it is interesting and undoubtedly the least well known, I believe, is most important and vital for us to recite and recall while in this celebratory mood.
Many were the editors, the writers, varieties of contributors, subscribers, and those who prayed and payed so that beloved publication and Federation would progress and continue. We pray to the Lord that He will make men and women and young people continue to rise up and work to continue this good work. The work is Christ’s. Like many other responsibilities of the Christian, it is kingdom work led by the Spirit of Christ because of the work of Christ in the hearts of believers who have a desire to serve him in this important way.
I have not been able to begin to recount the many interesting and valuable articles that appeared in the magazine over the many years of the existence and publication of Beacon Lights. A review and continued research and republication of them would be significant, profitable, and enjoyable. As the goal and mission statement in 1941 says, “Let us give thanks to God for the display and use of the talents that have served edify and served for the survival of Beacon Lights.
We are deeply thankful that God has continued to provide talented, dedicated and Christ-believing editors, writers, and subscribers who continue to provide for the most wonderful and important cause—Beacon Lights, Magazine of the Protestant Reformed Young People.
Finally I and many others give thanks for all that current Beacon Lights staff, editor, assistant editors, proof readers, etc., do. Thank you my young brothers and sisters as you go on with this important and weighty task.
The house-cleaning season is both frustrating and amusing. When one engages in the annual ritual called housecleaning, the boredom and drudgery of the activity can be somewhat lightened by intriguing discoveries. In remote corners of closets, in neglected boxes, and in fragrant cedar chests one finds old hats, out-dated shoes, musty scrap books and treasured photo albums which seem to have been saved and stowed away for just such a time as this.
Humorous anecdotes are rehearsed and retold accompanied by gales of laughter as old hats and antiquated shoes are fitted and returned to their dust-gathering storage spots. Photo albums are fondly examined and each picture extracts an additional comment and reminiscence or chuckle.
As I prepared for this article, I did some house-cleaning and collating to refresh a memory gone stale because it has been several years since I last attended one of the highlights in the Protestant Reformed young person’s life. That highlight is the Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention. One of the speakers at this year’s convention called it “the focal point of the society year” when he wrote the annual message from the president’s desk to the conventioneers in 1960.
The 35th Annual Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention will convene in August, 1975, and my mind must travel back to the year 1947 to remember the first convention I attended as a naive, tender teenager. That was the 7th annual convention. Now it is about three decades or 28 conventions later. That really dates me, doesn’t it?
I won’t easily forget that convention because I was only 15 years old then, and I had just finished my first year in high school. I was going to be a sophomore in high school. I also won’t easily forget this convention because I was one of four delegates, who had traveled in my father’s forest green 1935 Chevrolet from Randolph, Wisconsin to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I had been to Michigan, the place of my birth many times before, but this was my first trip to attend the Annual Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention. John De Vries, member of Hope P.R. Church, and Gerry De Vries, member of S.E. P.R. Church, and my sister Greta (spelled Garretts Lubbers in the convention booklet of 1947), now Mrs. Thomas Newhof. Jr., and member of the host church this year, were the other delegates from the Young People’s Society of the P.R. Church in Randolph, Wisconsin. The host societies that year were the Young Men’s, Tabitha, and Esther Societies of the First P.R. Church of Grand Rapids.
This was a memorable year for the Protestant Reformed Y.P.S. of Randolph because one of the proposals from the Federation Board to this convention was that the Y.P.S. of Randolph be granted membership in the P.R.Y.P. Federation. Doon, and David Society of First P.R. Church also became members of the Federation that year.
For a teenager from one of the small Western churches, a trip to attend a first convention is both a spiritual and exhilarating experience. I will always remember the inspirational mass meeting that year. That mass meeting was held in the spacious confines of the First P.R. Church in Grand Rapids. It was one of those typical warm August evenings in Michigan, when the locusts had been singing all day. Throngs of people poured from Bates Street, Worden Street, Neland Avenue, toward the corner of Fuller and Franklin where they would fill every corner of a structure that could seat nearly 1300 people. The building was packed. Additional chairs had been set up in aisles and spare corners.
Another convention that I will personally not soon forget was the convention that was sponsored jointly by the societies of Hope and Creston P.R. Churches. The theme of that convention was, “Hold Fast to That Which We Have.” The theme of this convention was based upon Revelation 3:11, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” This convention held in 1958 had several unique features. The inspirational mass meeting was held at the Zeeland City Park. Zeeland City Park was a central location for many people of Western Michigan and those who came could hear the late Rev. H. Hoeksema speak for the 16th time, but this time under the open sky. Rev. Hoeksema spoke on the theme: “Holding Fast to the Truth.”
The outing of this 18th annual convention was held at Long Lake and the program included a debate and a survey of the history of the P.R.Y.P. Federation and of Beacon Lights. This historical survey was entitled “This Is Your Life.” Several, although certainly not all, of those who had been instrumental in the founding of the Federation and Beacon Lights were invited to this meeting and were introduced to the young people assembled in the shelter house at Long Lake. I remember particularly that Mr. Homer Kuiper, member of Kalamazoo P.R. Church, and first president of the Federation could be present at this meeting.
I said that we could have some but not all of those who had given leadership in the Federation. This is true because 1953 preceded 1958. 1953 was the year of the most disturbing split in the Protestant Reformed Churches. This split seriously affected our Federation too.
The Federation president, Edward Knott (Rev.), had written in the convention booklet of 1947 as follows: “It is also a pleasure to be able to write seventh annual. And although annual is not quite correct due to the fact that we were unable to meet for a few years during the war, the seventh is correct, and for it we rejoice. For it means that we are no longer an infant organization, but by the grace of God are growing up.”
That was 1947, my first convention.
But the convention of 1953 was drastically affected by the doctrinal controversy which had been waged and which swept across the Protestant Reformed Churches as a denomination. This doctrinal controversy resulted in a split which decimated the numbers of people who had previously called themselves Protestant Reformed. When the roll was called at the convention hosted by the First Protestant Reformed Church, some societies could not send all of their delegates, and some societies were simply not represented because they would not attend this convention.
I remember vividly and with sorrow the events of this year. I became the secretary of the Federation in the midst of these distressing circumstances and had to correspond with society secretaries to determine the exact status of the Federation that society year, 1953-1954.
Doctrinal controversy and the serious matter of being Protestant Reformed was on the minds of the members of the host society and the conventioneers at that 13th annual convention in August of 1953. The program plans included a debate on Thursday morning with the resolution: “Resolved that Doctrinal Controversy is Healthful for the Church of God.” The afternoon session of the some day featured an essay on the topic, “What is Protestant Reformed?”
Two decades have passed since the wounds inflicted by the split of 1953 were first felt by the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. These wounds also affected the united and federated cause of P.R. young people. Those, who were members of the host society of 1953, the same society that hosts the 35th annual convention, and other members of the Federation have become parents of many of those who will attend the convention this year. God has been good to us. He has established His covenant with us and with our covenant young people.
As we celebrate the Jubilee Year of our Churches, we are particularly reminded of God’s unchangeableness and His faithfulness in the midst of the strife and the turmoil of the times in which we live. We feel a profound affinity with the poet, who wrote Psalm 48. “Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. Walk about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”
In this year of Jubilee we, who see our sons and daughters, our nephews and nieces, become active in these important areas of Christian living, say with Joshua, “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Covenant young people of 1975, the torch has been passed! Run with it. As you run, REMEMBER! Don’t forget and don’t merely remember the past but “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh.” “Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
Have a blessed 35th Annual Convention! This is my prayer for you.
Christian instruction has a distinct and most unique contribution to make. It is intended to be one of the means whereby the people of God can instruct the seed of the covenant. In order to accomplish the task of covenant education, the seed of the church must be thoroughly instructed in the history of the church and must know the background and origin of the doctrines which the faithful church of the twentieth century loves and cherishes. The heritage of the church is precious and must never be spurned by those who have been sealed with the sign of the covenant in their foreheads.
In this apostatizing age it becomes increasingly important for the children of God’s covenant to be aware of the firm foundation upon which the church is built and also to be thoroughly apprised of the facts of the history of God’s church, as God has chosen to establish and gather his church in time through the work of his eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. To appreciate and love the heritage of the church, each individual member must know the sufferings and struggles which God has sovereignly sent upon his church through all the centuries of its existence in the world.
There are at least five substantial and crucial reasons for studying the history of the Christian church. Although these reasons overlap somewhat, they are nevertheless significantly unique so that they can be used as a motivation for studying church history. They are significant enough so they can be used to satisfy those who will ask the question (which ought to be asked) concerning the need for this kind of study in the life and training of the Reformed Christian.
These five reasons are the following:
- The Reformed Christian cannot correctly understand world history unless he understands the history of the Christian church. We adopt the position that all history is fundamentally and centrally church history. The Apostle Paul says to the church at Corinth in I Corinthians 3:21ff as follows: “…let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours: And ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” And in Colossians 1:18, 19, and 20, we read as follows: “…that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
We can say therefore that because all history is church history and because all things happen for the sake of the church, it is essential that the history of the world be understood and studied in terms of the history of the church.
- The Reformed Christian studies church history because the history of the church aids him in understanding the Scriptures. Although the Scriptures are perspicuous, the history of the gathering of the church, as this is recorded in the Scriptures, can be more clearly and more fully understood when these Scriptures are read and studied by one who is thoroughly familiar with the subsequent history of the church. All of history is integrated. All of history is one history. All of history is for the sake of Christ and his church. The Scriptures, which record sacred or Bible history, are also part of the record of the gathering of the church by the eternal Son of God, who gathers his church out of the whole human race from the beginning of the world and until the last elect saint shall be born. The Son of God, who gathers, preserves, and defends his church by his Spirit and word, does this through the Holy Gospel, which is recorded for the saints of all ages on the pages of the holy Scriptures. This gospel which is God’s means to gather the church was first revealed in Paradise to Adam and Eve, later it was published by patriarchs and prophets, it was represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law, and was lastly fulfilled by his only begotten Son. (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, questions 19 and 54.)
We can say therefore that the Scriptures, the infallible spectacles through which we (the members of Christ’s church) understand all history, can be understood more comprehensively when historical facts and events in the later ages of the history of the church are used to aid in the investigation of the prophetic word of the Scriptures.
- Reformed Christians, who are citizens of the universal and catholic church of Jesus Christ, have an obligation to know their own history. Young people and children desire to know the history of the country in which they have their natural and earthly citizenship. This is right. Young people wish to be acquainted with their family ancestry. They never tire of hearing the tales concerning the exploits of their grandparents. Because the Reformed Christian confesses that God gathers, defends, and preserves his church out of the whole human race by means of the instituted offices and activities of the church (eg. the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and Christian discipline), it is the calling of all Reformed Christians to know that history. It is the history of the Christian from the time of its initial institution in Paradise to this very day that the Reformed Christian studies.
- The Reformed Christian also knows that the history of the church cannot be separated from the history of the development of the doctrines and dogmas of the church. So that he may understand these doctrines and dogmas, which have been developed as the Truth of the Word of God, the Reformed Christian must study the history of the times in which these doctrines were developed and correctly articulated by the church. Believers and their seed must attempt to become involved in the history of the times when these doctrines were first stated in the form that we have them today in our Ecumenical Creeds and our Reformed Confessions. The heritage of the truth is important.
- The Reformed Christian has a calling, which is distinctive and is enormously important in these last days. He has a calling, which demands certain intellectual and spiritual accouterments so that he can fulfill that calling. The man of God must be thoroughly furnished to stand forth as a courageous and informed defender of the truth of the Word of God. In these last days the enemy of the church becomes sinister and strong. The Bible declares that even the elect would be deceived were it not for the preserving power of God. Because the “present is the fruit of the past” and the “germ of the future,” the Reformed Christian is called to fight the battle of faith in the defense of the truth—a truth which was once delivered to the saints. Unless the Reformed Christian knows the battles which the church has fought in the past and through God’s sovereign power has won, he cannot be strong in the present struggle. The Reformed Christian may not neglect to use the divinely ordained means for fighting the battle of faith. The Reformed Christian has to fight many of the same kinds of enemies fought by the church of the past, and there is a certain fundamental truth in II Timothy 3:7, to which he must listen. The Reformed Christian is not to be one who is “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Although every generation must fight against the same principalities and powers, the present generations must rely upon the truth developed by the fathers, and future generations will rely upon the truth elaborated and articulated by means of the battles fought by the present generations. II Timothy 3:14a exhorts as follows: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned….”
The battle never changes fundamentally. The Church can learn from the victories and failings of the past. Good generals in the armies of the world always study the great wars and strategy of former generals and armies. The enemy is always principally the same. “There is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). That means there is no totally new heresy under the sun either. The name may change, and there may be slight mutations, but the fundamental error continues to exist. The church always fights against SIN.
The church which does not learn nor love the heritage of the truth will lapse into error.
God grant that we may be faithful and that we may cling to the certain promise given by Christ. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Ideals! I have ideals. You have ideals. Yes, I believe we all have some ideals. Some think of the ideal car. Others think of the ideal vacation. Still others think of the ideal job. Yet how many think of the “ideal convention?” This, however, is the topic of my article.
We hope you have thought of the convention to be held this year. Maybe you haven’t thought of the “ideal convention” and maybe you have, but you have at least thought of the convention.
Not only the host committee and the Federation Board should be thinking of putting on the best convention yet but we should also be thinking about ways of making our convention really ideal.
Let us suppose that you have thought of an ideal convention. You thought about the weather? Possibly you thought about the banquet? You thought about the business meetings? You thought of the home in which you stayed if you were “from out of town?” You thought of the new friends—“friend” you would meet? You thought about the speeches? You thought about the theme? You thought about the outing? You thought about the programs? Ah, yes, there are so many things to think of in thinking about an “ideal convention.”
To have an “ideal convention” all things have to be ideal. It’s wonderful if the weather is just right—and it usually is. It’s wonderful too, if the programs are well prepared—and we aren’t often disappointed. God has given us talents which we are to use and we therefore should not neglect the use of them. The selection of the food is rarely a disappointment to young people with spacious appetites. How about those business meetings? Are they always as well attended as they could be? I know that voting can sometimes be drab and uninteresting, but isn’t that necessary too in order that the Federation of which we are a part can be properly run. You’re interested in that aren’t you? We can’t surely have that “ideal convention” if the business meetings are not properly attended. Not only do we have to attend but we should all try according to the measure of our ability to contribute to the discussion. Along with the business meetings are usually some sort of program. At the “ideal convention” we’ll all want to stay and enjoy those programs for which some have prepared themselves. It is a great gift when we are able to listen as well as perform, to the honor and glory of God.
The wonderful thing of our young people’s conventions and that also makes them ideal lies in the fact that it is here that we have fellowship with young people who are one with us in the faith. It is here that we make new acquaintances and renew old acquaintances and have the opportunity of rejoicing in our youth with those of Protestant Reformed persuasion. Many miles may separate us during the year but yet we are never distant because we are united in the faith. During convention time not only are we united in the faith but we are also united in the sense that we are not separated by distance. Haven’t you noticed though, that sometimes we don’t mingle and acquaint ourselves as we should. We stay in groups and with those whom we always associate with from our own societies and churches. It seems to me that it is part of the idea of the ideal convention that we also as much as possible try to mingle with others so that our unity may be physical as well as spiritual. Remember too that you might meet that “friend” and not just make new acquaintances. More than one have found their life’s partner in this way.
The ideal convention is always equipped with an interesting topic and a theme that is fitting to the needs of those who attend a convention. I think that is true of this year’s theme. Not many of us know all the implications of the theme “The Gospel of the Promise;” and yet it is very important that we do know these things. Therefore we must have topics and subtopics which bring out all these points so that our young people may go home and may be able to say that they had a “good time”—a few days of spiritual refreshment. We as young people need this too. This should not be reserved for the days when we become older but we should realize that life is very serious and that we need the pure milk of the Word when we are in the prime of our life. When we are in the. robust years of our life we often forget this and often do not even fully realize this. Therefore the speeches delivered by our ministers devoted to the proclamation of gospel, should hold a very prominent place in our convention activities. Apart from the Word of God, we as covenant young people are never satisfied.
If we truly seek to walk in the good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in, we will be satisfied. Then we will have a truly ideal convention. Yes, our convention will not simply be an ideal as an ideality but it will be ideal as a true reality.
After six years in the seminary 1928-1934, he was examined in the spring of 1934, before the Classis held in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He was declared eligible for the ministry and that summer he received calls from the PR churches of Orange City, Iowa, Rock Valley, Iowa, and Doon, Iowa. He accepted the call from Doon and become the second pastor of the Doon PR church that had been organized in 1929.
Since Rev. Lubbers had accepted the call to work in Doon, Iowa, he had to make arrangements to move his family from a small home in Jenison, Michigan on 12th Avenue. He took his wife and two young daughters (Agatha about three and Garretta just one year old) to Doon in northwest Iowa in the Model T Ford, the family vehicle. This first of many future trips was long, monotonous and exhausting. The end of the eight-hundred-mile (thirty-two hour) trip in a very primitive conveyance on the roads of those days brought them to the little town called Doon on the Rock River.
A few days after his arrival and settlement in the parsonage in Doon he was ordained on September 7, 1934, into the gospel ministry by Rev. C. Hanko, pastor of the Hull Protestant Reformed Church.
The history of his pastorates is as follows—
Doon, Iowa PRC, 1934-1937
Pella, Iowa PRC, 1937-1944
Randolph, Wisconsin PRC, 1944-1950
Grand Rapids, MI, Creston PRC, 1950-1954
Home Missionary of the PRC, 1954-1964
Wyoming, Ml Southwest PRC, 1964-1970
Missionary to Jamaica, West Indies, 1970-1975
Pella, Iowa PRC 1975-1978
Emeritus Pastor, 1978-present
It was while he was pastor in Pella, Iowa, that he studied philosophy, Latin and German by taking courses at Central College. He worked with his own hands to earn a little money to pay the tuition for his college courses and to pay for the tuition of his children in the Pella Christian School.
While he was the pastor of the Randolph PRC, he became ill for eight months with undulant fever. The family had purchased contaminated non-pasteurized milk from the Stone Dairy. Rev. Lubbers became sick because of this contamination. While he was recovering from this illness, he became depressed and experienced a spiritual struggle. It was the kind of struggle that caused him to learn anew the truth expressed in the song, I sought the Lord and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me. It was not I that found, O Savior true; No, I was found, was found of Thee.” Of this struggle he can say, as he looks back, Luctoret Emergo—I struggle and I emerge. The Lord graciously lifted him out of the miry clay and set his feet upon a rock, and that Rock is Christ. He learned profoundly that the Lord did not need him. He learned to pray, “Use me Lord.” It was a time in his life when he was led to see more clearly than ever before that salvation is not at all a work of man but is entirely the work of a sovereign covenant God, who is faithful to His promises.
One of the projects undertaken by Rev. Lubbers in the 1950’s while he was a minister in Randolph was the translation of the book, Believers And Their Seed, by Rev. Herman Hoeksema. I remember this project well because I typed every page of that translation from the handwritten script of my father, Rev. Lubbers. Believers And Their Seed was written originally in the Dutch language. Rev. Lubbers fulfilled the desire of his mentor, Herman Hoeksema. Rev. Hoeksema had always hoped that someone would prepare an English translation of this work—a work he believed would serve to instruct God’s people in the Scriptural and Reformed truth of God’s everlasting covenant of grace with believers and their seed.
During the seventy-four years that Rev. Lubbers has been associated with the Protestant Reformed Churches, he has been faithful to the cause of Christ as this is represented by the PRC in America. One of the most trying periods in his life occurred during the controversy of 1953—a controversy that rocked the churches. During this time he served as the Stated Clerk of the churches and was secretary of the Theological School Committee. It was a time of great stress in the churches because many of those who had at one time been co-workers and friends in the cause of the churches left and eventually rejoined the Christian Reformed Churches.
During the years 1955-1964, Rev. Lubbers was domestic missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches. These were the days following the triumph of our churches against the error of a “conditional promise.” They were the years during which more than half of the ministers and more than half of the membership had returned to the Christian Reformed Churches. They were the days of small things—of heroic efforts on all fronts. The labors began with work in Pella, Iowa because the minister and this PR church had returned to the Christian Reformed Church. Later labors included work in Loveland, Colorado, where there is now a thriving PR church. The labors next turned toward work in Isabel and Tripp, South Dakota, and Forbes, North Dakota. In these early labors in Colorado and the Dakotas Rev. Lubbers worked with people whose roots were in the German Reformed Churches and who were familiar with the Heidelberg Catechism. Later work was done in Houston, Texas, among those whose ecclesiastical roots were in the traditions of the Westminster Confession or the Baptist Churches.
After six and one-half blessed years in the Southwest Protestant Reformed Church (1964-1970), Rev. Lubbers took the call to be missionary on the island of Jamaica. Rev. and Mrs. Lubbers spent five years (1970-1975) there. Rev. Lubbers labored in churches that were Pentecostal or Holiness Churches and were more Methodist than Reformed. During this time Rev. Lubbers worked not only as a missionary pastor but used much of the time to instruct four young men for the gospel ministry in what were to become indigenous Protestant Reformed Churches of Jamaica. The Lord gave Rev. Lubbers and his wife Rena the strength they needed each day. In His own way the Lord blessed these labors in Jamaica. Twice since their departure from Jamaica in 1975 they made return visits of two months—1976 and 1982.
After leaving Jamaica Rev. Lubbers received a call from Pella, Iowa. He accepted this call, and he and his wife were once again in Pella, Iowa, 1975-1978, a church they had left thirty years before.
In 1978 Rev. Lubbers retired from the active ministry after forty-four years of service.
After his retirement Rev. Lubbers continued to write in the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights, and taught some catechism classes. Writing exegetical studies in the Standard Bearer was a good discipline. It was this work that made it possible for him to publish two commentaries—one on the book of Galatians and the other on the book of Hebrews. The commentary on Galatians is entitled Freeborn Sons Of Sarah, 1982. The commentary on Hebrews is called The Glory Of The True Tabernacle, 1984. The commentary on Hebrews he called the Jubilee Exposition of Hebrews because it was published during the fiftieth year since he was ordained as a minister of the gospel. In 1989, he published a third book, The Bible Versus Millennial Teachings, An Exegetical Critique.
Since January 1992, Rev. Lubbers has lived at Raybrook Manor, a part of the Holland Home of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is now 90 years old and can no longer walk, can no longer read, and cannot manage tape recorders or other electronic sound devices. He enjoys the times when someone reads to him. He is confined to his wheel chair, and it is difficult and often impossible for him to go to church or to leave his residence in the nursing department. As often as he can he listens to the services by telephone from his church—the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
During his gospel ministry Rev. Lubbers had to learn to confess the truth that we sing in one of the songs based on Psalm 126.
When Zion in her low estate was brought from bondage by the Lord;
In ecstasy we sang for joy, by grace and wondrous love restored.
The sower bearing precious seed may weep as in his toil he grieves,
But he shall come again with joy in harvest time with golden sheaves.
It is Rev. Lubbers’ confession that he has only done in the gospel ministry what a grateful child of God can do in thankfulness for the great grace of God. He is, as are all of God’s faithful servants, an unprofitable servant utterly beholden to His Sender.
He looks for the reward of grace in the great day of the Lord when he will hear, “Well done faithful servant, ye have been faithful in little, I will place you over much.”
Rev. George C. Lubbers, member of the First Protestant Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, emeritus pastor, writer, father, grandfather, and great grandfather, became a minister of the gospel in the Protestant Reformed Churches 65 years ago.
Rev. Lubbers has been retired from the active ministry since 1978—now more than twenty years. Prior to his retirement he wrote for the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights, served as a pastor in five different churches, and was a missionary for many years both in this country and in Jamaica.
Rev. Lubbers was born in Beaverdam, Michigan, on August 6, 1909. Beaverdam, an area between Hudsonville and Zeeland where he spent the first nineteen years of his life, was and is a farming community in Western Michigan. At the time of his birth, more than ninety years ago, Beaverdam was a small settlement of Dutch Reformed farmers.
Rev. Lubbers was baptized by Rev. Eldersveld in the Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church and attended the Beaverdam Christian School (1914-1922). He received all his catechism instruction during the first years (until about 1916) in the Dutch language. He vividly remembers the tolling of the church bells on Armistice Day ending World War I, November 11, 1918.
Because the church was not connected to a supply of electricity, he took his turn as a teenager in pumping the bellows that provided the air for the pipe organ in the church. Rev Lubbers has always loved to sing and he reported that sometimes he would continue singing when the congregation had already concluded for an interval in the song.
The parents of Rev. Lubbers were Cornelius and Aggie (Van Putten) Lubbers. Although the families of his grandparents could trace their origin to immigrants from the Netherlands, both were native United States citizens. They too had grown up in the Beaverdam area where they became acquainted, were married and reared their family of eight children. Half of the children in the family are now deceased. Two brothers John C. Lubbers, member of the Hudsonville PRC, and Henry C. Lubbers, member of the Holland PRC, are still living. One sister, Cobie Berens, lives at Sunset Manor in Jenison.
Rev. Lubbers was reared in a community and family in which an eighth grade education was all that was considered necessary. When he graduated from the eighth grade his formal education came to a conclusion for a period of time. Although an aunt thought he should go on to secondary school and then go to college just as many other young men growing up in the cities would do, he began to work on the farm of his father. He worked the clay fields of his parents’ farm in Beaverdam with the team of horses—Frank and Mack, and often worked for other farmers in the community. He hauled many loads of gravel with the team of horses, because one of the important responsibilities of the taxpayers and farmers in that area was to haul their share of gravel from the neighboring gravel pits so that the roads could be properly covered.
When Rev. Lubbers was sixteen years old, the Synod of 1924 met. The members of the small Christian Reformed community of Beaverdam heard of the trouble in the Christian Reformed Churches, particularly in Grand Rapids. A young talented minister, Herman Hoeksema, pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, had been opposing the teachings of Abraham Kuyper regarding the theory of common grace. His opposition had stimulated the formulation of the infamous three points of common grace adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo of 1924. Because of Hoeksema’s opposition to the three points and because of protests against his teachings by members of the Eastern Avenue CRC, Grand Rapids Classis East decided that Hoeksema must agree with these three points or be deposed. Because he would not agree, the Classis wrongly deposed him.
The events during this period of time (1924-1925) in the Christian Reformed Churches had a profound effect upon Rev. Lubbers. With his uncles and his father he attended lectures and church services in Grand Rapids and the Hudsonville area led by Rev. Hoeksema, Rev. Danhof and Rev. George M. Ophoff. He and other relatives became followers of the cause that resulted in the formation of the First Protesting Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, later called the First Protestant Reformed Church. His mother would not associate with the movement led by Rev. Herman Hoeksema during these early days, although later she became a faithful member of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church, organized in 1926.
During the years 1925-26 he heard Rev. H. Hoeksema lecture and preach in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church. He heard a lecture given in the Dutch language on “Kerklijke Hierarchie” (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy). The first sermon he remembers preached by Rev. Hoeksema was on Matthew 11:11-12. “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This sermon was in also in the Dutch language. Later he attended a worship service held in the St. Cecilia Building. The sermon was on James 3:1-2. The elders were to begin family visitation and they were charged not to be many masters, but to know their own weaknesses, also the weakness of their own tongue. It was a bit later that he heard Rev. G.M. Ophoff lecture on the “Error of Common Grace” in the Spoelman Barn in Hudsonville.
Rev. Lubbers began to attend activities at the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in 1926. During the fall of 1926, Rev. Ophoff came to teach the catechism class that he attended. Rev. Lubbers shall never forget the pointed and clear exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism teaching concerning “our only Comfort in life and death.” He was still a baptized member of the Beaverdam CRC, but he attended regularly the catechism classes and the divine worship services at the Hudsonville PRC instead of attending the services and catechism classes in the Christian Reformed Church of Beaverdam. Although Rev. Lubbers could not be a charter member of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church because he had not made public confession of faith, he was a participant in all the activities during the early days of the church.
It was during these years that Rev. Lubbers and Mrs. Lubbers (Rena Schut) met and their courtship began. Both Rev. Lubbers and his future wife made confession of faith in the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in the spring of 1928. Rev. George Ophoff asked the questions both in the Consistory meeting and a few weeks later from the pulpit at the time of the public confession of faith. Rev. Ophoff preached on I Corinthians 6:20, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit which are God’s.” It was a powerful message. For this reason we can say that Rev. Lubbers is a spiritual son of the Hudsonville PRC.
During the time that Rev. Lubbers became interested in the issues that resulted from the controversy of 1924, he came to the conviction that he should become a minister of the gospel. He decided that he would study for the ministry in the small Protestant Reformed Theological School that met in the lower level of the First Protestant Reformed Church, on the corner of Franklin Street and Fuller Avenue. He began to attend the seminary in September 1928, and here he spent the next six years of his life until his graduation in the spring of 1934. His professors were some of the advanced students in the school, Rev. Herman Hoeksema and Rev. George M. Ophoff.
The first two years were difficult years in preparatory studies for a young man who had left the classroom at the age of twelve and at the end of the eighth grade. He was required to study English grammar, Dutch grammar, Greek grammar and Hebrew grammar during his first year in the seminary. This was a rigid assignment—a good discipline to try the fledgling student to the utmost. It worked.
In August 1930, he married Rena Schut in a special Sunday evening service in the Hudsonville PRC. Rena was his faithful wife until her death in December 1998. Rev. Lubbers and his wife Rena became the parents of four children: Agatha Lubbers, Mrs. Garretta Newhof Cornelius Lubbers, and Lamm Lubbers. In covenant faithfulness God gave them thirteen grandchildren, many who have married. Now there are many great grandchildren as well, who are all members of the PR churches.
(Continued next month with the ministerial labors of Rev. Lubbers.)
The Second Parliament of World Religion convened in the robust city of Chicago, Illinois, August 28-Sept. 5, 1993, the centennial year of the First Parliament of World Religions. The 1893 meeting of the World Parliament of Religions convened in Chicago at the same time as the Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair in Chicago).
James Stephens, director of the Sonrise Center for Buddhist studies in Sierra Madre, California, stated that “the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago was the event that was most responsible for introducing Buddhism and other non-Christian religions into the United States.” (cf. National & International Religion Report. Sept. 6, 1993, hereafter NIRR). Stephens opined that a study of Buddhist documents reveals that Eastern philosophies and even the architecture accompanying the Columbian Exposition profoundly affected many who attended the Exposition. David Neff writing in Christianity Today, Sept. 13, 1993, described the 1893 Parliament as “a landmark in interfaith dialogue, and in the view of many, the first-wave of invasions on these shores by Eastern mystical religions.”
John Zipperer describes the 1893 gathering as follows: “The first parliament featured representatives of 41 denominations and religious traditions gathering at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. That meeting introduced Victorian-era American to Eastern religions and helped establish Roman Catholicism and Judaism as important American religious movements.” (Christianity Today, October 4, 1993)
Noteworthy is the fact that although the 1893 Convention was largely a Protestant operation, it was opposed by evangelist Dwight L. Moody and his followers.
The editors of the NIRR report that “Paul Carus, owner of Open Court Publishers, became so enamored with Buddhist teachings at the 1893 Parliament that he wrote The Gospel According to Buddha.” It is reported that religious scholars assert that this book was a major factor that contributed to the spread of Buddhist philosophy in America. Carus also funded the writings of D.T. Suzuki, a famous Zen scholar, to help propagate Buddhism in America.
Six thousand persons from 150 divergent world religions converged on Chicago for the 1993 convocation. John Zipperer writes that “Evangelicals were divided over whether to embrace such interfaith gatherings or to condemn interreligious dialogue outside of mission work.” (cf. Christianity Today, Oct. 4, 1993.) Zipperer also indicates that this year’s gathering was dominated less by any one group and seemed to concentrate more on a search for harmony. The search for truth took a back seat to a quest for interreligious peace.
The agenda of 1993 Parliament of World’s Religions upset some evangelicals. Hoping to bridge gaps between faiths, the parliament’s council released a nine-page manifesto, “A Global Ethic,” calling for a consensus on essential ethical principles. The difficulty of formulating a statement acceptable to members of the group called COVENANT OF THE GODDESS as well as to lifelong BAPTISTS resulted in a document that calls for more peace and less intolerance. The document contains vague terms that avoid such examples as abortion and euthanasia, which might undercut support.
Peter Jones, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California said sessions by politicians and technocrats made it clear that the pre-programmed agenda of the organizers was “to create liberal-humanistic unity.”
The September 20, 1993 NIRR reported that one of the prime demonstrations was the approval of THE DECLARATION OF THE GLOBAL ETHIC, which outlined core values and beliefs common to many faiths.
Peter Jones indicated that “facilitators were primed to ensure that nothing, including substantive theological issues, would stop the parliament from realizing its unstated goal: a mystical experience of pluralism.” Jones affirmed that the “apostle Paul would doubtless have called the pagan interfaith celebrations fellowship with demons.”
The focus of the parliament was not on theology but was largely on the environment. Jones stated, “That’s the new source of revelation – science and the earth.”
Traditional Christianity and Christian missions were implicitly and sometimes explicitly criticized by the parliament’s delegates. David Steindl-Rast noted that “he could not use Scriptures mentioning Jesus or God because use of those words would offend some faiths and cause disunity.”
Peter Jones, when quoted in Christianity Today (Oct. 4, 1993), noted the recurrent complaints about abuse perpetrated by Christians during the last 2000 years. He said, “The only thing that’s not mentioned about Christianity so far is Jesus Christ.”
We ought to be struck by the significance of this omission. The identity of Jesus Christ is the only issue of real significance that separates the Christian religion from all other religions.
Christianity Today (Oct. 4, 1993) reported that an agreement against proselytizing at the parliament was not enforced but that some evangelical Christians were uncomfortable with a conference in which Christian and non-christian religious leaders would come together to find common ground and to confirm each other.
Ruth Tucker of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, said, “Something like that in some respects almost flies in the face of biblical Christianity, which is a missionary, evangelistic religion. Typically at a gathering like this, they’re not really welcoming people who would affirm a strong missionary zeal.”
This did not deter Charles Colson. In his September 2 speech he said that Jesus Christ is the living God, and is the way, the truth and the life. Colson also spoke critically of the four illusory horsemen of the present apocalypse, i.e., 1/ that man is innately good, 2/ that utopia is around the corner, 3/ that truth is relative, 4/ that man is autonomous.
NIRR (Sept. 20, 1993) quoting Peter Jones, said that “the Parliament of the World’s Religions was proof that the Gnostic Empire will strike back.”
I believe it is proof that the Gnostic Empire has never really died. All men in the world of any religious stripe can co-exist and work together except the man who is truly committed to the cause of Jesus Christ. Christ said concerning Himself that he was a “rock of offence” and the “stone of stumbling.”
Writing in his book THE GNOSTIC EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Peter Jones correctly analyzes the situation. “Only one religious option will not be allowed to live life in peace, namely, biblical Christianity.” (p.4).
Thus the 1993 Parliament of World Religions, an assembly of demons and a convocation of idolaters, was not an appropriate place for orthodox Protestants because it was a conference that included Roman Catholics, native Americans, self-described neopagans, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists.
We live in a time of strange events. We ought to be able to see these as the signs of Christ’s coming. Now more than ever we should be able to comprehend and understand the interpretation of these events by the Scriptures. Chapter 17 in the Book of Revelation speaks of the woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names. This woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and was bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, and in her hand she held a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication. On her forehead was written a name of “Mystery, Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
The false church is pictured by the harlot who revels in her abominations and impurities. It is this false church and the members of the false church that make allegiance with the anti-christian religions of this world. Against this believers in Christ must stand
We who live in the last years of the Twentieth Century are in the same situation as Paul was when he visited Mars Hill and was surrounded by a host of unfamiliar and doubtless false gods. In these wicked days marking the end of the Twentieth Century, members of church need to be spiritually discerning.
The church needs discerning and dedicated leaders who will say with Paul, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)
Paul’s exhortation to the church is as true now as it was many years ago. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11)
Do they catch your attention? I’m talking about those signs hung in the windows of passing automobiles, those license plates with special messages, and the bumper stickers advertising a radio station or some place of amusement.
When I was a child and had the opportunity to travel with my parents, we often would see automobiles announcing places that the owners had visited. WALL’S DRUG STORE—that sign sticks in my mind. Another was CAVE OF THE WINDS. I remember the feeling of anticipation. I hoped that we would stop and that we too would be sporting one of those bumper stickers on our 1935 Green Chevrolet (the model that had front doors that opened from the front).
Times have changed, but we still see vehicles that display special messages—some religious in content and others vulgar and repulsive. What do you do when you see the vehicle that says, HONK IF GOD LOVES YOU? How do you react to the sign that says, IF THIS CAR IS DRIVERLESS, THE DRIVER HAS BEEN RAPTURED?
Witnessing is an important aspect of the calling of the child of God. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.” The witness of Christians is so important that it is an integral part of the good works that flow from their life of thankfulness and gratitude. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that Christians must testify by the whole of their conduct their gratitude to God. The Catechism also teaches that by the godly conversation (life style) of Christians others may be gained to Christ.
I can hear you saying it now. Since what you have said is true, “Shouldn’t we do Bumper Sticker Witnessing?”
Bumper sticker witnessing or advertising can neither be condemned nor advocated. It is neither right nor wrong. It is obviously a trite means to tell and display the great message of redemption. Every creature of God is good but not all the means that are available to the church are necessarily the kind of means that the church and its members ought to use. Let us presume that you want to announce to all observers that you are a Protestant Reformed Christian. In order to do this you attach to your vehicle a sign which says, I AM A PROTESTANT REFORMED CHRISTIAN. Would you be witnessing concerning the truth that is in Jesus or would you merely be announcing to the reader that among the many other denominations that call themselves Christian and Reformed, you belong to one that is called Protestant Reformed. I think the latter. You would merely be identifying yourself as a member of a certain denomination. This in itself cannot be condemned or condoned. It is a matter of your personal discretion.
A true statement of faith that would witness concerning the truth in Jesus would have to include important doctrines. We should have to say that we have an only comfort in life and death. This comfort is that we belong with body and soul to a faithful Saviour Jesus Christ who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all our sins. We would mean that only the sins of God’s people are taken away. We should have to say that we believe the doctrines of the Scriptures confessed by the Apostles’ Creed. This would be a condemnation of all Modernism and those who deny that Jesus is truly God and a real righteous man. We should have to say that we believe the neglected and maligned doctrines of the Scriptures that have been summarized and explained in the great Canons of Dordtrecht. This would be a condemnation of all Arminianism and Pelagianism.
If a person is a Jehovah’s Witness and announces what he truly believes, he must say more than “I am a Jehovah’s Witness.” He is obliged to say, “JESUS IS NOT GOD.” This is anti-Christian. This is false. This is the lie of the Devil.
If one is Mormon, it would not be sufficient for that one to say that he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. That would be a form of identification but it would not be the kind of witness that would be a truthful statement of the beliefs of the Mormons. He should have to say, “YOU CAN BECOME A GOD AND POPULATE YOUR OWN PLANET.” This is one of the lies of Mormonism but it is the kind of witnessing that any Mormon should do.
The real issue is not the method but the content of the message. Does the sign in the window, the sticker on the bumper, or the license plate on the car say that which is scriptural or does it teach the lie? Bumper sticker witnessing in order to be part of the sweet incense that arises before God must have a content that is true to the Word of God.
I can think of many such short scriptural statements that would witness the truth. Here are just a few.
–GOD IS LIGHT AND IN HIM IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL.
-THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH AND THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE.
-LOVE NOT THE WORLD NOR THE THINGS OF THE WORLD.
-YE ARE IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF IT.
-LITTLE CHILDREN, IT IS THE LAST TIME.
-JESUS SAYS, “YOU LOVE ME BECAUSE I FIRST LOVED YOU.”
-GOD DOES NOT LOVE ALL MEN, ONLY HIS REPENTANT PEOPLE.
We must condemn with all our hearts the witness of the lie. We may not advertise or represent that which is false and repulsive. It is contrary to the calling that we have as children of the light. Those who have been renewed by the Holy Spirit after the image of Christ have a special calling to witness concerning the truth that we have in Christ. We may not cast pearls before swine, but we must testify by the whole of our conduct that we are grateful to God for His blessings. This means that we cannot and may not say that which is false and demeaning to the cause of Christ.
What is the purpose for the bumper sticker on your car? Is it intended to attract attention toward yourself or is it your intention to bring glory and honor to your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? No one can judge your motives when you display your bumper sticker. God knows the heart.
Bumper stickers belong to the area of Christian liberty that the Christian must use with sobriety.
The students and faculty of Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the youth of the Protestant Reformed Churches in Michigan, particularly in the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church, were suddenly cast into deep sorrow because of the sudden death of Richard Scott Miedema, son of Mr. and Mrs. Pete Miedema. (Pete is one of the Young Peoples Society leaders of Hudsonville Prot. Ref. Church.) Rick was a member of the sophomore class of 1979-80. Rick died suddenly and unexpectedly in a snowmobile accident on Saturday, February 16, 1980.
The shock of seeing Rick die, the shock of the announcement of Rick’s death, and the experience of seeing the body of Rick in the casket affected immensely each of the students and young people who knew Rick. The levels of the intensity of this shock and grief varied, however, because some knew Rick better and were therefore more emotionally distressed because of this experience. Six young men who are students at Covenant were the pallbearers at the funeral. Although others were not so emotionally disturbed by this experience, it did give them cause to pause and consider their own life. One student who was a member of the same basketball team with Rick said, “I think Rick’s death taught everyone that old people are not the only ones who die.” Another student writing more intimately about the experience said, “Rick’s death taught me something – to take a look at my own life and to sort out the bad and plant the good.”
As an expression of the love and concern that the students and faculty of Covenant Christian High School have for the family of Rick Miedema, the student council purchased a beautiful Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. On the blank pages beneath the covers of that Bible were written the words taken from Psalm 27. “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the Living.”
It was my privilege and pleasure to be one of Rick’s teachers. He was an energetic and enthusiastic young man. He was pleasant and evidenced that he loved God. I too grieve, but I grieve not as one who has no hope but as one who has hope for myself, for Rick and for our Covenant youth who love God. As a memorial tribute to my former student, Rick, and as a message of comfort to the family and to all of our young people who knew him and loved him, I write this brief meditation.
The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote in “The Reaper and the Flowers” the following: “There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,/ And, with his sickle keen,/ He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,/ And the flowers that grow between.” In this short stanza Longfellow describes the grim reality of death that we with the psalmist David also observe. “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” And it is grim when we experience it–particularly for those who are in the prime of life and more particularly for those who have so much hope for their children, who are the seed of the Covenant of God’s eternal promise of grace to thousands of those who love him.
Against death, called the last enemy in I Corinthians 15:26 (although it is a conquered and vanquished foe for the Christian), man constantly battles in the valley of the shadow of death in which we live the days of our Christian pilgrimage. It is therefore both divinely ironic and providentially fitting that during the very week of the death of our departed friend, fellow saint, and dear student, Rick was a member or the CPR classes (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) that would teach each student in the class how to give basic life support to a victim whose heart had stopped beating and who was no longer breathing. Three fellow students and friends of Rick had an opportunity to use their newly-acquired skills. They attempted to restore life to the heart of Rick by administering CPR – (It is reported that they did an excellent job too.) – but because of massive chest injuries and severe heart damage no matter how well CPR was administered Rick could not be brought to consciousness and his physical life could not be saved. The Lord who has our times in His hand said, “It is time for Rick to come to Me.”
Fifteen years ago, I wrote an article for Beacon Lights (December 1965). In the article, “What Must Be Taught About Death?” I observed, “It is decidedly true that the child cannot help but observe death. He sees it all around him. His pet dies. He observes the baby bird fall from the nest and die. He watches the flowers wilt, sees the petals fall to the ground, and then blow away. Each fall he witnesses the leaves turn brown, then fall to decay upon the ground. He may experience the sudden death of a brother, sister, mother, father, or friend.”
This has been the recent most poignant experience of the bereaved family and of us who knew Rick.
The terrifying thought of death causes natural man to be concerned with the reality and possibility of death at every level of his existence.
How do we Protestant Reformed teenagers, young adults, and more mature adults react to this reality of death? Should we join the nineteen-year old American poet William Cullen Bryant in his stoic meditation upon death and his romantic and humanistic trust in nature expressed in the poem, “Thanatopsis” (A Meditation Upon Death”). “…sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
No, we do not place our trust in the immortality and eternity of nature nor in the inherent goodness of man, but we rest our case in the eternity of God’s grace. For this reason, we faint not but believe. We say not merely as Tennyson said in his poem, “Crossing the Bar” “I hope to see my Pilot face to face/ When I have crossed the bar.” But we say with the assurance and confidence of faith as David said it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”
One young classmate wrote as follows: “God took one of His children away for a purpose to make us think a little and it does. It makes us think back on all the bad things we did and it makes us realize too that Christ died for the sins of us, His people. I am sure that if God did not take His children away we would not think about this. Some of us in fact are even scared to die, but we must have faith that if we do die we will be taken to heaven.”
Another classmate wrote; “I heard the news last weekend. It hurt me and everyone around me. It’s hard to believe. We say, ‘He was only sixteen years old, that’s too young to die.’ It really isn’t. It was in God’s plan right from the beginning. No ‘ifs’ about it. It wasn’t really an accident. It was His plan. That was the way God chose for him to die.”
Another sixteen-year-old classmate wrote: “I think the death of Rick shows us many things. It reminds us that we have to be prepared to die. We never know when we will die, therefore, we must be prepared and not take it for granted that we probably won’t die until we are older. We always know in the back of our mind that we might die young, but something like this brings us back to God. Even though this is hard to understand we know it was God’s will and His will is best. We must also pray to God for guidance through this time not only for us but for Rick’s parents and family. There will always be an empty spot in the home of Rick and the lives of the parents. Things the parents will see will remind them of Rick. The hardest part for them is still to come. During the last week, since Saturday night they were always busy and didn’t really have a chance to miss him, since they were at the funeral home and funeral. We must pray to God that He will comfort them and assure them that this is best. There will also be an empty spot in our life. He was a friend to everyone and he will be missed because he will no longer be at school. His desk will be empty. This is something nobody will forget. Since I went to school with him for eleven years, I will not forget him.”
Such outpouring of genuine grief and concern could cause one to sink into despair. One could curse God and die or one could assume an attitude of stoic indifference. One could express a hope in the ultimate goodness of humanity and indestructibility of nature. None of these are the Christian’s hope.
The great Mystery of Godliness is the legacy of the Christian in all of his activities–in his living and in his dying. (cf. I Timothy 3:16) It is the Mystery of Godliness revealed centrally in the manifestation of God in the flesh, Christ our Messiah, that gives us grace to believe, to understand, and thereby to know that although death is not our friend, as the romantic poets would want us to believe, death is not the end. Death need not be proud. Death is swallowed up in victory. In the life but also in death we can say with the assurance of faith that we belong to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who is the Mystery of Godliness.
With the poet John Donne we not only say “Death thou shalt die!” but “Death thou are in reality dead!” Christ has killed you Death. Death has been swallowed up in the victory of Christ over Death, and the grave. Just read the message of the great apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15. Let this be your song in the night of sadness!
Say with Paul and say through the Holy Spirit that you count that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the far greater glory that shall be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18) We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us and gave himself for us. (Romans 8:37).
We are often justifiably dumb in experiences such as these. One of Rick’s classmates wrote, “The death of my classmate and friend, Rick Miedema, has taught me a great deal. I am now trying to prepare myself for the day in which I too shall go. I did not tell Mr. and Mrs. Miedema this because I could not speak. I tried to though.”
At times like these we echo David, the sweet-singer of Israel, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it. Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.” In these experiences, we sing with profound agonizing before the throne of mercy and with indescribably great joy through our tears, as we did at the funeral, “I have followed truth and justice; Leave me not in deep distress; be my help and my protection, Let the proud no more oppress. For Thy word and Thy salvation, Lord, my eyes with longing fail; Teach Thy statutes to Thy servants, Let Thy mercy now prevail.”
We sing with a paradoxical but true awareness of the goodness of God. “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.”
As family and friends, who have lost the physical presence of Rick, we have gained much. We have a more certain and indestructible hope worked in us by the Holy Spirit. It is exactly through experiences such as these that God in His great wisdom and sovereign grace works the reality of this hope. The Devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh will always militate against this hope and will always attempt to tarnish it. But we say with the psalmist David who spoke from the midst of great sorrow and seeming defeat, “Jehovah is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
We all who with body and soul for time and eternity belong to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ have been taken through the crucible of affliction and distress and we have come out refined as gold. What great comfort we find in repeating the words of Psalm 16 (my favorite Psalm among many) “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: I have set the LORD, always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither will thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
A student wrote: “But I know he is happy where he is right now and he would never want to live back down on earth again.” Another wrote, “We may cry and feel our sorrow for Rick’s death and feel our sorrow for Rick’s family, but we also must look at the fact that he is the most happy of us all. We may not wish for him to come back, like I did Saturday night.”
Instead we say with the firm confidence of faith, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
To the Pete Miedema family and to all of us we say, “Wait on the LORD, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)
With renewed courage we take up the battle until we arrive on the shores of eternity, and we will be among those concerning whom the elder asked, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?”
His answer was, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
Beloved, faint not but believe.
One of the critical discussions that is often heard concerns the place of the Scriptures in the Christian Schools. The Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship (AACS) has little place for the Scriptures or the Reformed Confessions in the Christian Schools. They say that the only way the Scriptures may be normative in the Christian School is in an indirect way. There is another “word” of God that must be discovered that will direct the Christian School, say the AACS proponents.
Rev. David Engelsma, who writes concerning the “Scripture in the Schools” in Reformed Education, takes another radically different but historically reformed position.
“. . .Historically, the Christian Schools have always taught Bible, the medieval schools, the schools of the Reformation, the schools in the Netherlands, and our own schools. I have little expectation that Bible will be dropped. If it would be dropped, not only parents, but also the church would have to do more in the way of instructing In Scripture. If we continue the present practice, could someone please work at coordinating the teaching of Bible In catechism, in the Christian school, and in Sunday School? Only let it be remembered that the teaching of Bible in the Christian school does not exhaust the calling of the school to provide Biblical teaching and, in fact, does not yet touch the heart of this calling.
“Scripture must be taught thus: as the foundation, light and center of every subject. Scripture is to be worked into every subject, naturally and matteroffactiy, as the ground on which that aspect of reality solidly stands; as the light that illumines both the particular aspect of creation, so as to give It meaning, and the student in regard to his knowledge and use of that aspect of creation; and as the core, or center, of the subject, thus unifying all the subjects.”
Recently this same topic came under discussion in the Outlook, March, 1979. Rev. Peter DeJong writes an article entitled “Are Christian Schools Teaching the Bible?” He concludes that if they use the Revelation-Response textbooks that are currently distributed by the Christian Schools International (formerly National Union of Christian Schools) they are not teaching the Bible. Editor DeJong writes:
“They take up, In rather random fashion, a number of ‘themes’ or topics chosen according to the inclinations of those who were planning the course. Accordingly, popular, even ‘faddish’ themes get emphasized; subjects that are not popular In our time are Ignored. We are confronted with a very elaborate system of Bible Introduction8 that do not really Intend in any orderly way to teach the Bible itself”
Rev. DeJong concludes his article in which he is critical of the Bible materials as follows:
“Today many Christian churches, including our own, (an obvious reference to the Christian Reformed Church, A.L.) are fast losing their biblical, and therefore also their doctrinal and moral deflnltlons and often begin to look more and more like what the Lord described as salt that has lost its taste. If they are not to experience the Lord’s judgment of being discarded (Matthew 5:13), they will have to return, in a movement like that of the Reformation, to God’s Word. Even a limited review of some of the newer materials being used for Bible courses in many of our Christian schools discloses the same distressing departure from the Word of God that we are observing in churches. One speaker at the recent Chicago meetings of the Council on Biblical inerrancy observed that the Devil seems to concentrate his efforts on misleading church leaders and the Institutions In which they are trained. Our Christian schools are properly parental, not parochial, so that they operate separately from the churches. One effect of this arrangement has been that churches after encouraging their establishment and support tend to give them little attention. What happens in them is largely left to decisions of a few overworked board members and teachers. A look at some of the newer Bible manuals suggests that, in the words of our Lord, ‘while men slept’, the ‘enemy’ has been sowing his ‘tares’ also In this ‘field’ (Matthew 13:25). We need to direct some serious attention to whether and how the Bible isbeing taught in our Christian schools. In some research through the earliest records of our Dutch Reformed churches of 400 years ago I was surprised to observe that those early, enormously influential, Reformation churches gave as much attention to securing sound Bible teaching in the schools as they did to getting it in the churches. If we and our children are not to stumble but to become effective servants of the Lord In our own and coming generations, we will have to pray and determine that God’s Word will be our Light in the classroom as well as in the pulpit.”
With this evaluation of Rev. DeJong I heartily agree.
May God bless us and keep us in this way of instructing the youth of the Church.
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