There are times in the life of God’s people when they need counsel. There are times, often when they least expect it, that the child of God seems far from God and in deep distress. Troubles may overwhelm his soul and depression may separate him from the joy of his salvation.

These times fall not only on the “older” genera­tions but also on covenant youth. Lost job. Marks that are bad. A dislike of school especially the authority of the teachers. Bad attitudes. Sins of gross proportion drag into deep holes of gloom. Didn’t make the team. Confused. Hurt. Don’t know which career is for a Christian. The list could go on and on. Surprisingly as it may seem, this list or the results of what this list suggests can become work for those called to feed the flock of God. God has placed in His Church overseers called to feed the flock, to take heed to their spiritual care.

As a young person, you are a part of God’s flock, His Church.

Have you ever observed the feeding of livestock?

At a time, which is usually the same every day a farmer will begin his routine of feeding his animals. Whether he raises chickens, cows, horses or sheep, there are certain things which he does each time which will give the signal to the animals what is about to happen.

When its feeding time, the animals are hungry.

When this time comes, the farmer is prepared to give some food which is right and proper nourishment for his particular type of animal.

He has a place where the grain or silage is stored. And a means by which it is placed before his livestock. Let’s take sheep for example. They may be in another part of the barnyard or holding pen. When they see their keeper coming with the same food in the same way he did the day before and the day before that, they come running from wherever they are to get the nourishment that they need.

They come. They come running. They know inwardly that they need his help through his providing them with their food.

Feed the flock. The flock of God.

Such is the admonition given to the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ. Look at I Peter 5:2 where we read “Feed the flock of God which is among you, tak­ing the oversight thereof.” This article is about that. The nourishment, the care of, the helping of the peo­ple of God. It is also about their need of that care and their recognizing of that need and coming to the elders for a filling of that need.

The Scriptures use this picture many times when it refers to the elders and their relationship to the church which they are placed as overseers. Look at Acts 20:28 where Paul tells the Ephesian elders to “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God.” It also uses this figure in I Peter 2:4 referring to the returning Christ as the Chief Shepherd.

Christ, the Chief Shepherd, has entrusted His sheep to under-shepherds, your elders. They are called to watch over souls. Not just any souls, but those only of the Church of Jesus Christ. Your soul. That is a dif­ficult task for them. They know that they each have their own weaknesses which they must constantly be battling with, plus the added responsibility of watch­ing for weaknesses in members of the body of Christ. Your elders sometimes lie awake nights grieving for the fact that one of the sheep is not acting like a sheep but is going away from the flock and is not feeding with the other sheep. They can grow weary in the strain of the demands of dealing with the needs of a congregation. But they know that they must give an accounting someday to the Chief Shepherd and they desire to do that with joy in that day.

Your elders know too, that you are watching them. I Peter 5:3 says being examples to the flock. Shep­herds would never lead sheep down a dangerous path. They would never go anywhere or do anything to endanger the sheep. Shepherds know that the sheep will follow them. The sheep trust them. The sheep are accustomed to his faithful watering and feeding at a certain time of the day and are always aware of what the shepherd is doing. The elder lives with that thought, too, every day. He has to conform his own life to set standards and live and practice them each day so that he himself is a fit leader of the sheep. He scru­tinizes his own actions so that they do not conflict with his calling to feed the flock entrusted to his care. It takes work. And God uses weak vessels upon which He bestows the honor of flock feeder. Your elders have to often struggle against themselves to accomplish their tasks.

But what about you, the sheep? We have very briefly discussed the elder in his relationship to the flock entrusted to their care. We have also seen that they labor in weaknesses of their own. Do you trust them with your care? Would you obey such weak men?

The Apostle Paul in Hebrews I: 17 doesn’t give the option of even asking the question of whether or not to give them our trust or obedience. He puts it this way: Obey them! They rule over you. Submit yourselves to them! For they watch for your souls. No options. No choice. Alright, you say, “I’ll obey them. But how do I submit myself to them?” We have been drawing from our example of a shepherd caring for a flock of sheep to make certain points of the relationship of elders to the members of the body of Christ. To continue to use that analogy we may notice that sheep stay in the flock.

It is important that young people feel a part of the Church in which they have a name and place. The Body of Christ is in need of them also to be complete. They must see it as their calling, especially as those who profess belief in a Covenant of fellowship and friendship with the living God, to find their strength in the fellowship and communion of the saints. Christ, through the elders and teaching elder, your pastor, calls you to worship each Lord’s Day and on special occasions. You submit yourselves to them and through them to Christ by being present at these wor­ship services.

In the second place, your elders come to call at least once each year in what the Reformed tradition knows as Family Visitation. It is important that you are there, too. In this way, you submit yourselves to the inspection of the elders. They do this work to put their finger on the pulse of the congregation in their own homes. They are there to bring the Word to each family in their own specific circumstances of life. They are not prying into your life, but taking heed to the flock, watching for your soul for which they must give account.

In the third place, you submit yourselves to them by faithfully attending catechism. This too, is a means by which God gives grace to His people as they grow in the knowledge of Him. The consistory visits these classes now and then thereby showing that they are also responsible for the instruction there.

Finally, a way in which you submit yourselves to them is when you find that you cannot speak to your parents or anyone else about something that is plagu­ing you, and you need to speak to someone. Of course, the pastor is there and by all means you should seek his counsel but your elders are, too. Make use of these men and their gifts. They are called by God to labor in His church with weaknesses but also strengths which they will use to listen with concern to your problems and give counsel. True it is that they must earn your trust. They are not to be busy-bodies with the secrets of others. Shame on them if they violate that trust, but shame on the flock as well if they let this notion keep them from confiding in their elders.

In conclusion then, we know that God, in the building of His Church has promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. With the faithful preachers of the Word He has given overseers entrust­ed with keeping the preached Word pure. Feeders of the flock who must feed the flock by watching for their souls as they that must give account in the judgment day. We believe too, that it is profitable for God’s peo­ple to obey and submit themselves to the good rule of the Elders. The Presbyterian preacher Samuel Miller, around the turn of the 19th century left these thoughts as to our calling towards one another as elders and members of the church: “Every considera­tion which has been urged to show the importance and duties belonging to the office of Ruling Elders ought to remind you of the important duties which you owe to them.”

Remember, at all times, that they are your ecclesi­astical rulers: rulers of your own choice, yet by no means coming to you in virtue of mere human author­ity but in the name and by the appointment of the great Head of the Church and, of course, the ministers of God to you for good. In all your views and treatment of them, then, recognize this character. Obey them in the Lord, that is, for His sake, and as far as they bear rule agreeably to His Word. Esteem them daily with your prayers, that God would bless them, and make them a blessing. Reverence them as your leaders. Bear in mind the importance of their office, the arduous­ness of their duties, and the difficulties with which they have to contend. Countenance and sustain them in every act of fidelity; make allowance for their infir­mities; and be not unreasonable in your expectations from them.

May God grant His blessing upon the feeding of His flock.

This month, we remember the Reform­ation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five thesis on the church door at Wittenberg. You all know much of the history of that event and those events which followed. We all know right away that the sale of indulgences was one of the issues; that a monk named Tetzal was selling them to enrich the coffers of Rome; that Luther was called by the Church and State in 1521 before the Diet of Worms to recant, and that there he said “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Luther could do nothing else for he was standing for the gospel of grace proclaimed so richly by the infallible Scriptures.

He saw that the church had compromis­ed the truth, had trampled underfoot the Word of God. He did not fully realize, that God would use this event in history, which He had planned in His counsel, for the preservation of His Church and truth in the centuries to come. But he knew in his heart that Rome was wrong and that he was right, come what may.

Luther died and others arose like him. John Calvin was probably the most notable of these. You see, the Reformation did not die with Martin Luther or any of the others. It advanced through the centuries. It manifested itself in Synods and assemblies. Heresies and all sorts of attacks on Scripture were rooted out because of the spirit of the Reformation. The Church wrote her expressions of the truth in her confessions, often in the blood of martyrs who were filled with this reformatory spirit. The Reformation caus­ed the truth to cross oceans with the immigrants to America, here once again to be stood for at all costs.

Now in the 20th century, 1977, the spirit of the Reformation is still with us, still alive as much as it was in 1517. It is living still because the Reformation stood for the truth that man is saved by grace and that the Bible is the only authority in the Church. This stand is God’s stand and should be our stand also in this troubled church world of today.

The Reformation gave the Church the pure preaching of the gospel, the proper administration of the sacraments and the exercise of Christian discipline. Look about you and judge for yourselves. How many churches (even Reformed churches) manifest the unadulterated marks of the true Church? The Church that God cleansed by bringing her through the Reformation. So much of Protestantism flies the banner of true Church yet is lost in the maze of the social gospel, which is really no gospel at all. They are busy curing the problems of the world, seeking all kinds of church union at the cost of the faith of the fathers. So many trample the precious confessions the men of centuries ago died to defend. Many members are ignorant of the very doctrines on which the Church is built, finding themselves there only because parents and grand­parents were members there. They have become luke-warm, not willing to take a stand on the basis of Scripture for fear that some may be offended. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see all around us as time goes on that the marks of the true Church are fewer and farther between.

But keep looking. Do you see a Church where the principles of the Reformation still stand? Is there a church where the Gospel is preached as purely as is possible on this side of the grave? A gospel of “by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God. Not of works….”? Does she properly ad­minister the Sacraments and exercise Christian discipline? You see that this, by God’s grace, is your heritage as Protestant Reformed youth. A Reformation heritage. Yes, it’s as old as 1517 but it’s also as new as 1977. A heritage that has been kept because godly men were raised up by God at the proper time to defend the truth of the sovereign grace of God. They were willing to take a stand along with Luther and Calvin and the others saying “I can do no other”. It was not their own strength that caused them to say that, but God’s strength who was preserving the truth to His own glory.

One generation passes and you as church of tomorrow must take its place. Be ready for that place. Study to show yourselves approved. Be concerned with what your church does, always using the Scriptures as your rule and guide. Insist upon hearing the full counsel of God preached. Seek for the administration of the sacraments. Defend Christian discip­line. Be ready to defend the truth which you have at all costs, and know that the King of the Church will preserve her and will strengthen you as you stand in the spirit of the Reformation.

Beacon Lights is now in its 36th year of publication. It has continued to shed its beacon of light on the paths of our Protestant Reformed young people.

Each month approximately 750 issues are mailed. The bulk of these are sent to subscribers in the United States. It is sent as far west as Australia and as far east as India.

Many people contribute many man hours to complete and get each issue out on time. These include everyone from editors and rubric authors to subscription managers and mailers. Each doing their part, each contributing of their time and resources for the benefit of the youth of the church.

Let me take a few lines to give you a “tour” of what goes on. We begin with the staff meeting. The editor and staff meet once per month to plan one issue. The issue being planned is usually 4 or 5 months away yet. At the meeting topics for feature articles are thought of and likely authors are selected. Problems are discussed and new ideas are formulated to better the publication.

Thirty days prior to the month the issue is to come out, articles from the various authors are expected to be in the editor’s hands. The articles received must be proof read for grammatical errors as well as for content.

The corrected manuscripts are then sent to type-setting. Once type-set they must be once again proofread. They are then laid out and “pasted up” to fit actual page size. Beacon Lights is now a magazine in the rough.

From type-setting the master copy is sent to printing. Here each page is reproduced photographically onto a metal plate. This plate when placed in the press and inked, reproduces each letter as it comes in contact with the actual page and cover paper. It is then stapled, trimmed and ready for mailing.

Each subscriber’s name and address is pressed onto a small metal tab. When combined with an appropriately sized frame, it is called an Addressograph plate. These plates are placed in the Addresso­graph machine and each Beacon Lights is place in the machine to receive its proper address. They are then bundled according to Zip Code and are finally mailed.

This though is only the mechanics of it. We have not mentioned the hours spent in producing each article. The thought, research and typing of them by each author. And this is really the heart of it, its’ true content, through these articles the shedding of the Beacon Light of the truth on every area of life

As the first editorial in 1941 stated “Read and reread it, ponder upon its content, turning them over in your mind to formulate your own opinions…. Discuss it with your friends and get them interested. Learn to use it to your best advantage.” You will gain much and lose nothing if you follow that advice.

Prof. H. C. Hoeksema made this statement in Beacon Light once “(it) should be an all around magazine for Prot. Ref. youth. But let it never lose its fundamental aim of shedding the beacon light of our Prot. Refd. truth, the true and complete doctrine of salvation, upon the path of life. For if that aim should be forgotten, it would become a beacon without any light.”

Let our prayer be that God will continue to use this means for the Instruction and edification of His church.

In this issue (June/July 1977) there are three articles which deal with the Bible. The Editorial, dealing with our use of the Bible during the summer months: Rev. George Lubbers in “Pastor’s Study” deals with the literal symbolical ‘‘question”; and Jessica Poortinga in “Current Events and Com­ments” deals with finding proof texts from memory.

The Bible is the bestselling book in the country. More new, crisp Bibles are printed each year than any other book. They are to be found in nearly every home, motel room, and hospital room in the land. Men dedicate their lives to the distribution of the Bible. Societies and leagues are formed to translate it into every language on the earth.

Does such saturation of society with the Good News make you thrill just a bit? One would be inclined to. However, take a look purely from the surface.

Have you ever looked in the drawer in that motel room and found tucked away there that nice, new Bible? So new and unused, in fact, that the binding cracks and groans when you open it, and wants to close again because you are probably the first person to open it. Why?

Or how about that hospital room where the scene is often pain and suffering, or the waiting room outside the operation room. Is that Bible usually crisp and new? Why?

Have you ever noticed while visiting that grandparent or elderly saint in the church, that his Bible is quite different from the others you have noticed in motels and hospitals? Its pages are “dog-eared,” its cover shows brown cracks in the leather from being bent when opened time after time. And, yes, those are pencil lines on those soiled, hand-oily pages marking those passages that mean some­thing special to him. Why?

Have you noticed that graduation Bible of yours up there on the shelf? Is it still crisp and new? Why?

Also, in this issue are some “brain-teaser” questions which we hope to include regularly. Not only will they reveal interesting little facts, but they also may offer an easy and stimulating “use your Bible” exercise.

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 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 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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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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