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Today, as in any age, various styles of music abound. It can rightly be said that more styles exist today than ever before simply because music doesn’t necessarily die, it just gets older. It is understandable that most of the earliest forms of music are not available to us today; however, since the invention of preservation tech­niques and mass production and reproduction many forms of music are with us and can be used and performed indefinitely.

In the popular secular venue, music styles change frequently. And today, in the religious venue, music styles change nearly as quickly. Some claim this to be the result of influence exerted by “contemporary Christian music.” This style of music follows the general fads which are popular in secular music. One such example of this is a now already “old” song called, “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” This song, in its entirety, has been adopted from the secular scene into the contemporary Christian scene.

Influenced by rock-n-roll, as well as by charismatic TV preachers, today’s religious music and church music is little more than something nice to listen to. Religious music is losing its meaning and church music is becoming too popularized. In many churches Psalms and Hymns and Gospel Songs are being replaced by “Scripture choruses.” These choruses, normally accompanied by catchy music, are basically a few phrases, such as “Let’s Just Praise the Lord,” repeated over and over again.

Corporate (church) worship and smaller group settings are caving in to a peer pressure which over stimulates the emotions. The result is a clouding of the proper balance be­tween the emotions and the intellect. Therefore, the way in which Scripture choruses are commonly used is exploiting the emotions of those who participate in worship.

Worship of the God who has become one’s Savior and Lord does require his/her emo­tional involvement and preparation. The use of choruses prior to church, family, or per­sonal worship can be an effective way to prepare one’s self. In the same way, these cho­ruses are useful in bringing one down from the demanding heart of worship at its conclu­sion. Therefore, with a clear understanding of the proper use of Scripture choruses the Christian can make effective use of them in his/her worship.

In the past hymns were written to express and teach doctrine and their use along with psalms in churches was based on a “Word-centered” form of worship rather than “feeling           or emotions-centered” form of worship. At heart then, this whole concept of worship is being lost.

Fewer and fewer people want to work when they worship. More and more people are becoming engaged in observation rather than participation. Many don’t seem willing to think about or grapple for their faith.

When Christians stood to sing such hymns as “How Great Thou Art” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” they stood along with thousands of believers who have gone before. These larger hymns call one to adoration and they recall the magnificence of God.

In our less literate age, because there is minimal desire to think deeply, meaningful and profound liturgical statements are being reduced to words that everyone will read and understand immediately. I suggest that this should be a profound concern to all of us. Parents, church leaders, and teachers must be called upon to lead the people and children to the Word and to a deeper understanding of their faith through study and reflection.

Bible-based words and poetry can reach people at the deepest levels of their being. If Reformed people cannot comprehend this in the music that we sing and if there is no desire to comprehend this then the Reformed faith as we know it is in jeopardy of bankruptcy.

I plead with you to read the poetry of the Psalmist, David and of the great hymn writers. Good song books are compact handbooks of theology in poetry form. Therein are contained noble forms of prayer, adoration, thanksgiving and dedication.

In your mind’s eye picture a pail of the type in which paint might be purchased. No, not just the typical one gallon paint can, but rather one that would hold five gallons. Sometimes this size pail is even called a 5-gallon pail or bucket. Next, picture a group of young men setting this pail up on a stump and taping a paper plate with a bull’s eye on it to the pail. I’m sure you can imagine what happens next. Of course, with each shot which comes close to or hits the target, two holes are blasted through the pail. It doesn’t take many tries and this pail has many holes in it. Soon the pail is so shot through with holes that tape will not hold the plate to the now jagged surface, and the pail is thrown out and replaced.

Having spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon together target practicing, this group of young men has accumulated quite a number of discarded buckets. Without question, some of the pails are worse off than others. One pail may have many small holes in it as the result of being shot through several times with a .22 caliber rifle. Another may have larger holes in it from the blasts of a large caliber rifle or 12 gauge slugshot. And still another bucket may have a whole side or bottom shot away from the blast of 12-gauge buckshot. The degree to which each bucket is ruined will vary, and this can be shown by filling the buckets with water. With each bucket the water will drain away at a different rate, but in the end, all are empty. All are ruined. Therefore, the significance of a holey bucket is, it simply will not hold water.

Can the life of a Christian be compared with the story of a holey bucket? Does any one of the holey buckets describe your life? The negative implication of the story is that everybody’s life is changed by the experiences that the Lord God brings him through; however, this is the natural, human perspective. It is a sad thing when a young person is deprived of a physical ability and must spend the rest of his life handi­capped. It is tragic when a parent or a child is taken from a family and those who remain must live on with that loss. These would be the traumatic incidents that change one’s perspective in life. However, every experience, by the Lord’s grace, emp­ties one of himself and draws that person to God. Every experience that the Lord brings your way is designed to make you more conformed to Him and useful to Him.

How then is a person, who once was brimming with wholeness or emotional stabil­ity, more useful to God when he has a handicap or has to live without a family mem­ber? The Lord God will dwell within the empty. He will accept no cohabitation with any other thing within the believer. In II Corinthians 12:9, Paul quoting Jesus said, “for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” and in verse 10 Paul states, “when I am weak, then am I strong.” Also in II Corinthians 13:4, Paul, after condemning the obstinate and sinful Corinthians for their boast of might in Christ says, “For we also are weak in him (Jesus), but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.”

Pause here and think about what you just read. Does God handicap the believer or take away family members because wholeness or family members were put before God by that individual? God’s providential love is far too multifaceted to be limited to that single scoped view. Further, one’s love of God displayed in his physical ability or through a loved one are only some of the ways he demonstrates his love for God. Therefore, when health is taken away, the believer can say, praise God, and continue to praise Him throughout his handicapped life. Even in the soreness of the wound of death, the believer must say, praise God, and continue to praise Him. God will accept the love that the believer directs to Him through a family member as proper love to Him, and He demands this. This is the beauty of God’s design in the family as a divine ordinance. But the ability to love God does not leave the believer when a family mem­ber is taken away. Job, with spiritual sensitivity and a willingness to conform his love to meet whatever God would send him could say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).

With an understanding of what it is to be shot through with holes and empty, look now at Genesis 12:2; 26:4 and 28:14. In each of these passages God is conferring the covenantal promises upon the spiritual fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and in each instance some form of “blessed to be a blessing” is stated. God’s intention is to bless the recipient of His covenant and also bless them so that He might use them to bless others. The believer understands himself to be the recipient of God’s blessing by virtue of his participation in God’s covenant and therefore is an instrument through which God blesses others.

A bucket shot through with holes cannot maintain any level of fullness unless it is continually filled. The believer whose life has been radically changed by the Lord God will not be satisfied unless he is continually filled from the River Glorious (that time­less river of God’s grace) and knows of the power, presence and friendship of God through Jesus Christ in a personal relationship. This same believer cannot keep the blessing either, lest it become stagnant and he lose the freshness of his relationship with God. Just as a bucket cannot continually be filled unless it is continually drain­ing, so God will not pour His blessing where there is no craving for it and that which He has delivered He will not allow to become pungent.

In this year that lies before you endeavor to seek God early and in the midday and in the evening as a Daniel. Seek Him as one who has been radically changed and is in constant need of His grace and blessing. Seek Him as an instrument through which He is pleased to bless others.

Mr. Bill Clinton (president of the United States) has, in the past, courted the minorities (people of color, women, etc.), the union, and special interest groups in his bid for the presidency and now has begun a relationship with the evangelicals of our day.  Mr. Clinton has called on some well-known evangelical Christian leaders to spend the night, as his guests, at the White House, and for others he has arranged to have breakfast meetings.

In the April 25, 1994 issue of Christianity Today, Editor-at-Large Philip Yancey reviewed in an article entitled, “The Riddle of Bill Clinton’s Faith,” what has come to be known as “The Controversy” (Mr. Clinton’s ever-growing relationship with evangelical Christians).  Yancey elaborated on key issues, of which evangelicals doubt Mr. Clinton’s sincerity.  Yancey quoted several scathing remarks concerning Mr. Clinton’s position on these key issues and concluded, “When it comes to Bill Clinton, I sense in many Christians a feeling beyond anger, something closer to betrayal” (p. 24).  The first one hundred days of Mr. Clinton’s presidency saw the enactment of new policies easing abortion restrictions and talk of resumed fetal tissue research, expanding homosexual rights, and the appointment of staff members who are opposed to the religious community.  Did those Christians who felt betrayed really think anything different would happen?  We all heard his campaign and knew going in essentially where he stood on the key issues.  It was the issue concerning abortion with which Yancey dealt most extensively in his article.

Mr. Clinton is a very capable man who claims to be a Christian.  He grew up in Bible Belt Arkansas as a Baptist and married a life-long Methodist and “today,” says Yancey, “feels most at home with the more emotional worship style of African-Americans and Pentecostals” (p. 26).  Mr. Clinton attended Georgetown and Yale Universities, and then as a Rhodes Scholar he attended Oxford in England.  Among other things, Mr. Clinton has proved himself to be a capable speaker.  According to Yancey, “school teachers thought young Bill might grow up to be an evangelist” (p. 26).  And so the riddle begins.

In his interview with Mr. Clinton and subsequent article, Philip Yancey exposes the key to Mr. Clinton’s riddle concerning abortion and maybe the key to all of his riddles.  Mr. Clinton does not have perseverance, and he lacks perseverance because he adheres to no Divine Standard.

As a young man, Mr. Clinton assumed that life began at birth.  However, over the last few years he has become less certain about when life begins.  He seems to grapple with the issue but still can’t come to a clear answer.  Mr. Clinton seems to get stuck with the issue when he tried to make, as he states, “a sophisticated judgment about personhood which is really a spiritual determination and not a biological determination…” (p. 29).

The key to this riddle concerning Mr. Clinton’s position on abortion is born out in his comment, “The truth is, no one knows when the spirit enters the body” (p. 29).  However, this true confession only makes the matter more difficult for believer and unbeliever alike to understand how Mr. Clinton can shift, within three years, from opposing abortion to fully supporting Roe v. Wade.  Mr. Clinton is not sure when, but sometime before birth, a fetus becomes a baby.  Mr. Clinton believes “personhood” is attained when the spirit enters the body.  Using Mr. Clinton’s logic, we can conclude that becoming a baby and attaining personhood are one and the same thing.  The obvious question is, how does Mr. Clinton know when a fetus is extracted or when a baby is killed?  Mr. Clinton does not know and therefore is in violation of his own standard, and remember Mr. Clinton claims to be a Christian who believes the Bible to be authoritative, and this is the key to the riddle.

Mr. Clinton exposes his lack of adherence to the Divine Standard when he states, “My position has always been that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare” (p. 29).  Yancey states that “Clinton defends this shill by saying the approach to specific moral issues in a democracy should change as popular opinion changes” (p. 29).  One wonders how Mr. Clinton can square this position with the Biblical mandate to be holy even as I am Holy when the God of the Bible does not change.

This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God had decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: “According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Eph. 1:4,5,6      Canons of Dordt, First Head, from Article 7.

 

Unconditional Election is the second doctrine which John Calvin treated in what have come to be known as the Five Points of Calvinism of the TULIP.

Unconditional Election is the working out of predestination.  Predestination has for its backdrop the counsel of God (also known as His determinate plan), which is wise, good and holy.  Therefore, Election is one of the works of God.

Predestination is a particular application of God’s all-encompassing determinate plan that pertains to the eternal destiny of all mankind.  God ultimately determines the final destiny of man by choosing His own out of the world and ordaining them, out of free love, to eternal life and passing by the rest ordained to dishonor.

As Adam’s descendants, all people share in his transgression and inherit God’s sentence upon sin.  This sentence we know to be eternal death.  In unconditionally electing, God “passes by” the reprobate out of wrath for his sin and lays His gracious redeeming hand on another whom He calls His Chosen.  The unconditionality of this act is shown to the one elected to eternal life in that his direction was no different than the reprobate who was passed by.

Election and reprobation are equally ultimate.  Both trace their origin equally and ultimately to God’s decree and are not conditioned upon anything in man.  However, damnation does not flow forth from reprobation in the same manner as salvation does from election.  In between election and salvation is faith (a free gift of God); whereas between reprobation and damnation there is sin (a responsibility of man).

God makes no humanly perceptible distinction between the actions of the one He will pass by and the actions of the one He will save.  Therefore, prior to conversion, one’s life makes no difference to God when we speak about election.  There is no human explanation for the action taken by God.  This is God’s sovereign choice.  This is God’s unconditional election.

“Suffer me a little, and I will shew you that I have yet to speak on God’s behalf.  I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.  For truly my words shall not be false: he that is perfect in knowledge is with you.”     Job 36:2-4

The author of these words is a little-known young man by the name of Elihu.  This young man was present when Job was visited by his well-known “three friends” who came to encourage him when he was ruined and childless.  Elihu heard the speech of Job and the responses made by the “three friends.” Not satisfied with the self-righteous speech of Job nor with the inadequate responses of the “three friends,” Elihu had chosen to step forward as a critic of both sides.  Elihu is upright, sincere and by what he says, he means well.

Elihu thought it good to speak to men for God.  He could not have been more correct.  He had sat through the speeches of Job and of the “three friends” and no doubt had given considerable thought to the arguments they presented.  It could well be that Elihu laid upon his bed at night thinking of the ruin of this great man.  He may well have agonized over the loss of his friends (Job’s children).  And now his heart has the added burden of having heard these “men of wisdom” speak.  There upon his bed, Elihu speaks with God.  He pours out his heart in prayer with God for men.  Now God touches the heart of Elihu and compels him to seek these men for himself.  He could not leave the audience of these men without passionately speaking on God’s behalf.

Do you speak with men for God?  More important, do you speak with God for men?

God’s work in this world is in the way which He has chosen to reveal himself, His triune nature. The father promises, the son procures, and the spirit secures the work of God. The ground of the church is the triune God. The purpose of the church is the glori­fication and enjoyment of the triune God. Therefore, the church emerges out of the ground and purpose of God because He takes enjoyment in the way of the glo­rification of the church.

Many today when asked to explain the idea and reality of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ would begin with a very clear and convincing account of the church invisible and the church visible. It may not be improper to speak of the church as characterized by attributes that are invisible; however, only God infalli­bly knows who are His and whom He has given unto His Son. No person could take a census of the elect or regenerate. The church itself cannot even do this. God alone sees the inward parts of a man and scrutinizes the heart. Man is not even permitted by God to do this but rather commanded to try the spirits, confess his faults one to another, and build up the brother (or sis­ter) in the faith. This is the area of the perceptible fruit of the church member; the activity of man rather than the spirit of man. The terms “visible church” and “invisible church” are not well grounded in scripture and have lead in many ecclesiastical circles to abuse or misunderstanding. The church is better understood as administered upon earth wherein its many mem­bers minister to one another for the purpose of glorify­ing God.

The church is everlasting, but it emerges in time- space history through the person of Jesus Christ and the apostles. The church is built on the foundation of the apostles with Jesus Christ as the chief corner­stone (Eph. 2:20). The apostles are foundational to the church but only to the event that they were taught of God (Matt. 16:17) and lined up with the person and work of Jesus Christ as the cornerstone (16:22,23).

The apostles are a strong foundation. The apostles are unique in that they were eye and ear witnesses of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:22). The apostles are powerful because they received the Spirit (John 20:22) and their very word is sharper than any two-edged sword.

Those built on this foundation are in terms foun­dational for future generations, but only in as much as they also are taught of God (Jn. 6:45, Is. 54:13, Jer. 31:34) and in line with Jesus Christ. The church then can be viewed as a superstructure with many “generational tiers.”

Today the superstructure of the church has many generational tiers. These tiers can be read of in church history. They are the many church fathers who have succeeded the apostles and have formed the basis for the church yet to come. These generational tiers have been forming throughout the ages and even include the history of denominations and individual congrega­tions all around the world. Yet the church is more than a structure, it is personal.

Church leaders are part of this superstructure and foundational to those for whom they are responsi­ble before God. Men who proclaim the truth must do so in love (2 Cor. 5:14) out of holiness (Rom. 15:18, 1 Thess. 2, I Tim. 3:16) and in full dependence upon God in prayer (Rom. 15:30). Parents and teachers are a part of the superstructure and also foundational. The apos­tle Paul reminds his spiritual son Timothy, that he has known the scriptures from childhood (2 Tim. 3:14) and here parents and teachers are reminded of their responsibility regarding the covenant children of the church. Every member of the church is called to activ­ity in the Biblical injunction, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The church is yet under construction. This is a process which will one day be complete. It is out of the ground and purpose of God that the church has emerged and come into being. When this church is fully glorified, we shall be a part of the vision of Rev. 7:21 and 22 because God will enjoy this and be glori­fied everlastingly.

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“. . . the primary objective of our quiet time should be fellowship with God – developing a personal relationship with him and growing in our devotion to him.”

-p. 78, “The Practice of Godliness” by Jerry Bridges, Navpress 1983

It’s Christmas time. A great time of the year for Christians when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The Beacon Lights staff has a great way for you to celebrate Christmas and keep our giving in perspective. Consider with us the follow­ing: suppose that Protestant Reformed families spend an average of $200 on Christmas gifts. (While some families spend less than this, there are other who spend considerably more.) There are about 1400 families in the P. R. Churches. This computes to $280,000 spent on Christmas gifts. The Beacon Lights staff, when considering this was compelled to make it possible to give to a cause, instead of just talking about it.

Using some of this money for the worthy causes listed below would help us each keep this giving in perspective.

Our two causes are the following:

  1. The Protestant Reformed Seminary Expansion Project

As you may know, the P.R. seminary has proposed an expansion to its facilities and this has been approved by Synod. However, you are probably not aware of the urgency of this endeavor, as it concerns not only this Seminary, but also the whole denomination. It is true that the Seminary provides our church­es with the service of preparing men for the ministry of the gospel, but there is even more that it can do.

Our Seminary is willing to provide classes for the lay people of the church but at this time is not able to do so. These classes among others would include a distinctively biblical “Ethics” class which is desper­ately needed by our young men and women entering business and professional careers, and also a similar­ly distinctive “Reformed Philosophy of Education” class for aspiring teachers.

The present facility has been outgrown. There are no quiet areas for students to do research; the library has grown beyond capacity and continues to grow. The Seminary presently turns away much need­ed volumes of archive material because it has no climate controlled and fireproof room in which to keep them.

With the Lord’s blessing, the P. R. Seminary will become the choice of more young seminarians. We have seen evidence of this already.

Prayerfully consider this cause.

  1. Randolph, Wisconsin “Proposed” Protestant Reformed Grade School

On November 3, 1992; the Randolph P. R. School Society passed a proposal to begin classes in the fall of ‘93 in either a new school building or rented facility pursuant to the results of the present fund drive and final determination of the school board in early January 1992.

Many of you are products of P. R. education and others of you have taken full advantage (and rightly so) of being able to send you children to P. R. schools. Randolph School Society has been considering this possibility for several years and only now has deemed it prudent to begin these steps of serious prepara­tion toward this goal.

Please give financial and prayerful consideration toward this cause as Randolph is in great need of the broader denomination’s significant initial support.

All money given by YOU will be divided equally and immediately forwarded to these causes. Please make checks payable to BEACON LIGHTS – GIFT FUND. Use attached envelope or send to: Beacon Lights P.O. Box 375 Jenison MI 49428. Monies should be received by January 1, 1993. Receipts sent upon request.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!!

The Holy Spirit is referred to in the Trinity as the third person.  Third to whom, we may ask?  To that question the Jews of Jesus’ day, modern Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Unitarians and Armstrongians of the Universal Church would reply, nobody!  They reject the Trinity of the Godhead.  Heated exegesis also took place during the days of Sabellius and Arius (third and fourth centuries, respectively) to accommodate the oneness of the Godhead and the three different persons spoken of in Scripture.  Sabellius saw the Son and the Spirit as divine and chose to absorb them into the Divine Essence.  This resulted in a three-faced oneness with one center of consciousness (Modalism).  Arius placed the Son and the Spirit outside the Divine Essence resulting in a Monarch type oneness in the Father (Monarchianism).  Both of these views were unjust to the Godhead as well as unscriptural.

Tertullian coined the terminology that prevails to this day to describe orthodoxy; “God is one substantia (essence) and a three-fold subsistentia (person).  There are three centers of consciousness; all three are Divine and are one God.”  The Trinity therefore contains a perfect oneness and a perfect threeness.

In answer to our question, the Holy Spirit is third to nobody but rather is only spoken of that way in Scripture’s chronological ordering of the Trinity.  The Holy Spirit is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son, but He flows forth from the Father and the Son.  Again the statement might be made; He must be third because the Father and Son had to be first for the Holy Spirit to flow from them.  That is not true; because, the Holy Spirit is employed in the Trinity by upholding the Father and the Son from eternity and to eternity.

There are many references to the Holy Spirit in Scripture which validate His place in the Trinity.  Here are a few:  Gen. 1:2; Isa. 48:16; I Cor. 3:16 and John chapters 14, 15 and 16.

We now continue with the “Works of the Holy Spirit” in the Baptism and Temptation of the man Christ Jesus.  This story is found in Matthew 3 and 4 (and in all the synoptic accounts).

The baptism of Christ Jesus is paramount to all baptisms because of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God is untouchable by Satan.  Satan is able to make us doubt our salvation and he is able to seduce us to fall into his temptations, but this he could not do to the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.  That is, until the second person of the Trinity became fully man by being baptized with a sinner’s baptism.

Christ Jesus established an identity through the baptism.  This identity was the sign and a symbol of “engrafting.”  This identity is important because we identify with the man Christ Jesus Who was baptized as we are; but, we are engrafted into Christ Jesus the eternal Son of God.  “In like manner, when we are baptized in the name of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost assures us, by this holy sacrament, that he will dwell in us, and sanctify us to be members of Christ, applying unto us, that which we have in Christ…(baptism form).”  John the Baptist knew Jesus was the eternal Son of God and for that reason he drew back from baptizing Him with a sinner’s baptism (3:14).

Christ Jesus came to be made in all things like His brethren with one exception.  He was sinless.  For Christ Jesus to be the Savior of even one person given Him by the Father (and He is the Savior of an innumerable host) baptism must hold good for Him for it to hold good for His brethren.  Therefore, baptism is fitting, uplifting and purposed by eternal authority for believers and their children.  “And Jesus answering [John] said unto him, Suffer it to be so now:  for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15a).  According to the Confession of Faith, Article XXXIV – Of Holy Baptism reads thus, “Therefore he has commanded all those who are his, to be baptized with pure water, ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’:  thereby signifying to us, that as water washeth away the filth of the body, when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized, when sprinkled upon him; so doth the blood of Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost, internally sprinkle the soul, cleanse it from its sins, and regenerate us from children of wrath, unto children of God.”

Not much is spoken in Scripture of Jesus “and the Holy Spirit” before His baptism, but God knew that once His Son was made capable of bearing His wrath for sin and the eternal destiny of all His children that then Satan would attack Him.  Is that not why the Holy Spirit was so quick to descend on Christ Jesus after His baptism?  “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:  and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: (3:16).”

The next event that is recorded is the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (v. 17).  Whether or not this event and the descent of the Spirit of God were perceivable to others is not known, but all that matters is that the man Christ Jesus experienced them.  At this point the man Christ Jesus must have recalled the account of Job when God “boasted” of him to Satan; “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8), and felt very vulnerable just as Job became upon the will of God.  It is proper to say that children of God are not lead along by Satan nor that testing is at the discretion of Satan.  Overarching everything is God’s Divine purpose.  The Spirit of God active in the man Christ Jesus led him into the wilderness “to be tempted of the devil” (4:1b).

In the desert the man Christ Jesus calls upon the Holy Spirit to defend Him.  He draws upon the resources of God through covenantal agreement by the Holy Spirit and not upon His Divine nature.  He has two defenses: (1) the anointing without measure from the Holy Spirit and (2) the Word which the Spirit inspired.  Christ used nothing that is not available to us to use.  Throughout His temptation, Christ Jesus never comes out of His carnal obedience.  He obeys completely and relies completely upon the Holy Spirit.  Christ Jesus was also an expert swordsman with the Word.  In response to the tempter He quotes from Deuteronomy (the Old Testament book of wilderness trials): “It is written:  It is written:  It is written.” (4:4, 7, 10).

Warfare was focused as never before and was not again until our Savior was on the cross and actually endured the torments of hell.  Satan knew this was the last Adam and representative head.  Christ Jesus in “suffering” is tempted and what is true for the older brother is certainly true for all God’s children.

That the Holy Spirit was present during the testing of the man Christ Jesus and is the one who prompted such by leading Him gives us assurance in our trials.  The role of the Holy Spirit also shows us that He is in control of the testing; He picks the battlefield (the desert) and He sets up the lines of contact (hunger and physical danger – wild animals).

The Holy Spirit leads us today as we are also led into strange places.  We at times are lonely, but never will we know the loneliness of our Savior in the wilderness.  When we think we are alone and being swallowed up, the Holy Spirit is fighting for our “spiritual lives.”  Sometimes God blesses us when we have no feelings at all.  That comfort is realized through knowledge of doctrinal truths (of which the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is part).

It is our sonship in Christ (which Satan wants) that causes us to be led into the wilderness.  Characteristic of children of God is the leading of the Holy Spirit. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

To you who hold the office of all believer the inspired apostle penned these words: “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and much assurance.”  (I Thess. 15); and “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father.”  (Gal. 4:6)

As a member of the staff of this magazine, I am a part of ground level issue planning; themes, securing writers, etc.  As well, I am a contributing associate editor, and occasionally you will read my articles on these pages.  As a result of the above capacities, I have written the following article in such a way that it will associate with the featured articles of this issue.  Therefore; by intent, the nature of this article is supportive.

It has been my experience most often that when young people (men and women) study or discuss leadership – as to its character and content – it is among other things, understood as “that state of being to which one will attain in the future.”  That is true but I ask you to notice as you read the feature articles that these writers bring out the idea of “natural groundwork being laid from early on.”  As to this groundwork, I want to direct your attention to beliefs, values and norms which are influential in leadership.

Beliefs, values and norms are within the realm of human responsibility – that is to say, those things that you are able to and expected to develop.

BELIEFS are assumptions or convictions that you hold to be true regarding people, concepts or things.  All people have beliefs about things, concepts and people.  One may believe that being a student means putting in time only from 8:00 to 3:00.  Another may understand being a student as an occupation – albeit not lifelong – for which they are responsible to themselves, other people and though not in an immediate direct sense, ultimately to God.

Some people believe a car is simply a means of transportation.  Others believe a car is a status symbol.

Some people in authority (those from whom guidance is expected) believe young men and women tend to be lazy and irresponsible, that they must motivate by fear.  Others believe true leadership is no threatening experience.  They lead with the understanding that they too are in subjection to God and that their leadership arises out of this ideal.

VALUES are attitudes about the worth or importance of people, concepts or things.  You may place high value on a family heirloom such as your grandmother’s pendant or grandfather’s watch.  You may value a clean, well maintained car.  You may value freedom to make certain decisions or to go places.  You may value a friend, a relative or an adult who helped you during a particular time in your life.

Values influence your behavior because you use them to weigh the importance of alternatives.  For example, a person who values personal pleasure more than he values a fit, healthy body continually makes choices about eating and exercising that will result in his becoming overweight and out of shape.  Your values guide you in choosing whether to go out with your friends for the evening or to a family gathering on your grandfather’s 75th birthday.

NORMS are formal and informal.  Formal norms are official standards or laws that govern behavior.  Traffic signals and other laws of the land direct the behavior of American people.  They dictate what actions are required or forbidden.

Informal norms are unwritten rules or standards that govern the behavior of group members.  Certain military regiments have held an informal norm that the wounded were evacuated after a battle, regardless of danger.  At the root of this norm was a shared value about the importance of caring for each other.

While I was a young teenager there was a group of young men (late teen and early 20’s) who shared an informal norm that was not at all dissimilar to that of the military regiment.  Whether they were fully aware of it or not the norm they shared guarded their spiritual life.  They each were a watchdog for the others.  They each were accountable to the others.  For example, if one of the group was getting physically involved with a girl and any of his friends was knowledgeable of the situation he/they confronted him and if need be removed him from the impending peril.

Each of these young men and members of military regiments, mentioned above, found comfort in knowing that they would be cared for when in danger or wounded.

Informal norms can also be counter-productive.  Norms such as heavy drinking or drug abuse are physically harmful and also spiritually harmful.

Negative informal norms create peer pressure to conform.

IMPORTANCE:  Beliefs, values and norms guide the actions of individuals and groups.  They are powerful.  People will risk danger and will often die for deeply held beliefs and values.  Many early Christians died for their beliefs because they valued service to God more than their lives.  Death in the service of God was an accepted norm.

Ever since Satan’s great deception in the Garden of Eden, he has been conspiring with his fallen host to deceive the whole world.

Two endeavors stand as Satan’s greatest attempts to overcome God besides his attempt at Christ on the cross.  These were at Job of old, who was God’s delight, and the man, Christ Jesus at the time of his baptism and wilderness trial.  These were his greatest endeavors because so much was to be gained.  In these trials God expressed his delight in the servant quality shown by both Job and the man, Christ Jesus.  God, as it were, laid his sovereignty on the line.  A victory, at least in Satan’s mind, would have put the seat of authority in the lowest echelon of hell.  Satan failed and in rebellious tenacity he conspired against the church of God and, today in particular, he conspires against the remnant of the seed of the woman.

How foolish for the devil to think he can overcome Sovereign God.  And why does he not learn?  Despite his long (six thousand years) battle against God, the devil is a finite spirit creature.  Because of this limitation, he is unable to plumb the depths of God’s knowledge and eternal council.  Also, unlike God’s redeemed – the seed of the woman, Satan will not and cannot believe.  He has no saving faith, and he has no desire to serve as a servant; therefore, he will never believe.

Revelation 12, which is a recapitulation and representation of things past, sets the scene of conflict.

The dragon awaiting the birth of the man child to devour him went hungry because the man child was snatched up to heaven by God.  Following, in heavenly warfare, Michael and his host defeat the dragon and his host.

The dragon was cast into the earth because there was no place for him in heaven.

Upon the heavenly proclamation, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ…”  Satan (the dragon) is wroth.  There is also given a heavenly warning, “woe unto you inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

The dragon then attempted to kill the woman but was thwarted.  “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

The tactics of the devil according to Revelation 12 are a very threatening thing to every Christian personally in the days in which we live.

In the beginning the devil directly assaulted God and he failed.  He then assaulted the woman (church institute).  Though making martyrs of many and minimizing her size often throughout history, he has not been able to eliminate her and therefore has failed.

It is not to be said that Satan does not attempt to dethrone God or eliminate the church today.  He does as can readily be seen in the latter.  The church today is soddened with error and misleading.  Only in clusters, strongly fought for, does the earthly manifestation of God’s Church exist.  The church of the day has become, in many cases, the very tool Satan uses to do his bidding.

With such conspiracy in place, the devil is now turning his deceitful ways upon individuals more than ever.  As a salesman for the local union works amongst the factory workers stirring discontent and envy, dashing the legitimate authority of the employer, so Satan is now by way of many modern tools conspiring for the remnant of the seed of the woman.

As is the case in any spiritual warfare, God has established the boundaries within which the battle is to be fought.  In the case of the remnant of the seed of the woman, the place of battle is the human heart.  That which initiates this battle is God’s imperative requirement; “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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