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Come, let us look and see what love is;

All love is God and God is love.

Love starts with God. All love is His;

Love had its birth in heaven above.

 

Come, let us look and see what love says:

“I love Thee first — I really do —

With all the strength my spirit has,

And for thy sake, my neighbor, too.”

 

Come, let us look and see how love sounds:

Love does not echo from a hollow heart.

With praise of God all love abounds;

The sound of peace is love’s true art.

 

Come, let us look and see how love acts:

Love tells the truth, and quietly.

The poor and weak it soon attracts;

Love lives in perfect harmony.

 

Come, friends, and look at love with me:

Look up and see the Giver great;

Look round and see how beautifully

Love flows from us to all our mates.

 

Come, friends, what’s wrong? Your love is not

At all so perfect as you’d like?

Your tongue unkind, your temper hot?

You do the evil you dislike?

 

Come, let us look now at the sin

That makes us blind to Love’s great light,

And pray that God will work within

Our hearts, to make us love aright.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose

mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth

in thee.”

  —Isaiah 26:3

 

Evil days, we often hear, are these.

Restlessness and strife in all degrees,

Hate and turbulence and riot rife

Seem to be our troubled way of life.

…And our children’s, too.

 

Inner conflicts Lust for living well,

Packing life with pleasure ere death’s knell,

War against our wish to strangers be,

Striving to live lives of sanctity.

…With our children, too.

 

Deeper worries: How can we whose sin

Seems to burst from ev’ry depth within

Teach our children how their sin to fight,

And to struggle more to do the right?

…For our children do.

 

Probing problems: Need our harried pace

Sweep us on to lose a futile race?

Is there not an answer we can find,

Giving us our needed peace of mind?

…For our children, too?

 

Perfect peace the Lord has promised them

Who in trust have stayed their minds on Him.

In the Lord is everlasting strength,

Bringing courage to our souls at length.

…Promised our children, too.

 

Sweet serenity and quiet calm,

Sought through prayer, the precious, soothing balm

Is the gift our Lord for us reserved

Freely given, although undeserved!

…To our children, too!

 

—Gertrude Hoeksema

Dear children of God, do your fears arise

When you look at your sins day by day,

When you know you have wandered much too far,

And as lost sheep have gone quite astray?

 

Remember: our Shepherd is watching o ‘er us—

Our Shepherd Who knows us by name.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them all.

Follow Me,” we can hear Him exclaim!

 

Our Shepherd takes care of us all of our lives;

He assures us we’ll never be lost.

We know why He never will let us go.

On the cross He has paid the great cost.

 

Our Father Who gave all His children to Him

Has put us in Jesus’ own hand,

Where we will be safe, protected in love;

And none can us snatch from His hand.

 

He has promised the joys of a wonderful life

For His children, the great and the small,

Where we never can perish–in heaven above.

For our Father is greater than all.

 

He tells us that no fearful enemies

Can keep us away from His love.

For we have the vict’ry! Praise to His Name!

Our glory awaits us above!

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

—Habakkuk 3:17–18.

 

I will rejoice at this Thanksgiving time and say,

“To God the Lord, who is my God eternally,

The blessed God of my salvation, I will pray

In perfect confidence that He will give to me

The eyes to see and heart to know that—come what may—

Whate’er He sends I will receive contentedly.”

 

Although the fig tree shall not bloom with fruits to eat

And we shall find no clustered grapes upon the vine,

The harvest of the barren fields will yield no meat,

The olive tree that labored hard all year, shall pine

And die, and flocks and herds from field and stall retreat

In death in days of drought before Thy breath divine;

 

Although the wheels of industry grow slack and slow,

And giant factories can give no work to men,

And when inflation’s mighty power seems to grow,

When economic answers are beyond man’s ken,

When funds are tight and usury has stopped their flow,

Still we rejoice in God and turn to Him again.

 

When social unrest seems to be a way of life

And men rebel and stop their work to gain their ends,

When greed is glory, bringing crime and hateful strife,

When man and wife are no more married, but are friends,

Or live in lustful unions, all their actions rife

With evil, we rejoice, to Thee our prayers ascend.

 

Oh Lord, we do not joy in all these dreadful things

As such: in famine and in drought in all the earth;

For though the fig tree all her blossoms never brings

And though the vines and olives fail because of dearth,

We joy because they come from Thee. Our spirit sings,

Our heart rejoices in Thy work, with thankful mirth.

 

We joy not in calamities of industry,

In sordid poverty and strife on every hand;

It grieves us sore, O Lord, to hear the prophecy

Of war, and fears of mighty men in ev’ry land.

Our only hope is that we know it comes from Thee

And then, with thanks, we take all things as from Thy hand.

 

Now we give thanks to Thee, O Lord, Who art the God

Of our salvation. Give us grace each day to say

That we rejoice, for we are saved through Jesus’ blood!

No matter what may lie ahead, we’ll always pray

That Thou wilt show us mercies great and flood

Our hearts with thankfulness and joy along the way.

This speech was given at the gathering of the Grand Rapids area Sunday School teachers at Hudsonville Church in the summer of 1993.

 

Why is teaching our children so important and enjoyable? Primarily because God gave these chil­dren to us their parents and told us to teach and nurture them. Already in Genesis 18:9 God said about Abraham: “For I know him, that he will com­mand his children and his household after him, and shall keep the way of the Lord…?” And in Deu­teronomy 6:7 God said to us parents: “And thou shalt talk of them (God’s Words) when thou sittest in thine house and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

Why does God emphasize this? Because in this way God has directed the lives of His children—from Paradise until now in the twentieth century. God planned that His covenant promises to His people would go through the organic lines of their children: Adam, Seth, Enoch, Abraham. To Abraham He said, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee,” Genesis 17:7. And we know that God stressed the organic line of His people through all of the Scriptures. In our situation God also has chosen to give His babes to us—parents in the covenant line—for their nurture. That does not mean that we may not delegate some of their training to the Christian schools if we are not capable or circumstances do not allow us to teach them, especially in these days of technology. Nor should our Sunday School classes be disbanded. And we must stress the im­portance of attending church services and cat­echism classes.

However, as parents we are still responsible for all of their instruction, delegated or in the home, with an emphasis on godliness as we walk together toward our eternal home. And as parents we must be aware of and utilize a few basic truths that ap­ply to the instruction of our children. (1.) Teaching and learning in school, and in catechism and Sun­day School, must in the nature of the case be more formal. I know this from 30 years of teaching in a Christian school. Children need structure and some degree of formality to learn. (2.) Teaching in the home is more relaxed but never haphazard or care­less. (3.) Teaching Bible truths in our homes re­quires thought, planning, and atmosphere—calm, loving, firm, godly, and eager. Parents furnish the atmosphere in their homes. That’s a rather awe­some task, isn’t it? (4.) But remember that children furnish the home, and, all other things being equal, our children will more easily express the questions and feelings deep down in their hearts about God’s wonders along with their indignation against evil­doers in the home.

What methods should parents use? Each home is different, of course, and methods will vary. Teach­ing Bible and applying biblical truths in the home tends to be more spontaneous and informal. And naturally, structure differs with five-year-olds and teenagers. Each family will find what fits in their lives.

Whatever time frames parents choose should be regular and systematic. The obvious time is Bible reading after the evening meal, often a rather re­laxed time. Other times can be Saturday nights as preparation for Sunday services, Sunday after­noons, or on boring trips—our family specialty!

Parents should carefully set an atmosphere for teaching Bible. The atmosphere should be regular, orderly, consistent, but not rigid and dull. It could be as simple as “Let’s play a Bible game now.” or “Time to learn your catechism.” or “Find a quiet place to go over your Sunday School verse.” Or it may be a lesson for which both parents and chil­dren prepare. In reading the Scriptures at meal­time or bedtime, parents and children can take a few minutes to prepare—to read the passage and get in the mood for study. If we parents set an at­mosphere of joy, enthusiasm, and interest, our children are likely to respond in kind. And if we read short passages, we are more likely to hold the attention of our children.

Reading short passages has several advantages. Study can be thorough. In a family setting we have the opportunity not only to study portions of God’s Word but to discuss them intimately—without hav­ing Johnny at school turning around and staring at you. And there isn’t so much peer pressure— there shouldn’t be, anyway—in the comfortable atmosphere of the home. In studying a short pas­sage, parents can encourage their children to in­terrupt to ask questions, right away before he for­gets the question. Parents can also encourage chil­dren to make observations during Scripture read­ing—“I never thought about it this way.” This, of course, can be carried too far and become counter­productive and irreverent. Common sense must prevail.

A couple examples will illustrate how studying a text can generate questions and discussion. In reading Matthew 22:41-46 (use your Bible to read now), a child may ask, “How could Jesus be David’s Son and His Lord?” By discussing this ques­tion, parents encourage children not only to try to understand the question but also to delve into the spiritual depths of this wonder. And in studying John 6:66-71, children usually respond from their hearts and ponder how Jesus could endure having the devil with Him for three years, especially with Judas present as a constant reminder. Our chil­dren—God’s children—respond not only to the facts of biblical history but also to the spiritual pathos that such a text evokes.

How can parents and children prepare for in­struction at home? Preparation is not always easy, and for that reason it is good to have some refer­ences and resources available when there are hard questions. Three references are basic: a Bible dic­tionary for explanations, a concordance as a tex­tual guide, and a Bible atlas for help with times and places. Parents can use these helps when chil­dren ask hard questions, but more importantly they can study to gain a clearer outlook, an over-all view of the Scriptures, before they teach the children. If parents teach their children at an early age how to use these helps, the children will be comfortable using them and will reap a large harvest of knowl­edge, which will be of benefit for the rest of their lives. But big books and difficult study are not al­ways necessary to teach. Especially for younger children, when parents read a Scripture passage or Bible story, the children will live the story. An example from my days of teaching first grade will illustrate this reaction of young children.

The Bible lesson that morning had been about Rachel and Leah, the quarrelling wives of Jacob. We learned that Rachel was godless and self-cen­tered and that Leah was God-centered. Then at recess time as the children were putting on coats and mittens, they were interested in something else and making a commotion. I asked what all the noise meant, and they told me “Oh, don’t worry! We were just voting, and we all voted for Leah.” What a beau­tiful response from our children!

Finally, as far as methods are concerned, par­ents must always teach the antithesis—something crucially important in these times. Not only must parents teach their children to recognize the an­tithesis in Bible stories, but they must also live the antithesis and teach their children to live it as well.

So far the focus has been on teaching the sto­ries and concepts that children need to learn. An­other aspect of instruction is memorization. Memo­rizing should not be a severe burden and not usu­ally a punishment; rather it should be viewed as a crucial part of a godly upbringing. It can be a beau­tiful alternative to watching TV, even though at first children may resist. Parents need to draw a con­trast between the jewels of God’s Word and the trash on television.

How do parents teach their children to memo­rize? Start when they are young. Start slowly and with short, easy passages. Recite together. Try some classics: Psalm 19—God’s care—“The heavens de­clare the glory of God…” and for older children Prov­erbs 15—about ethics—“A soft answer turneth away wrath….” Learn Psalm 23, Romans 9, and Hebrews 11. To avoid a negative attitude with longer pas­sages, start with 2 or 3 verses, and children may soon begin to enjoy memorizing. Offer an incen­tive—a new Bible or a worthwhile book—for memo­rization of a long passage. Make it a family project on Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons, espe­cially in summertime. Experience has taught me that children don’t memorize only words, but God’s Words.

Another way, very enjoyable and very instruc­tive, to teach in the home is with Bible games. Most children enjoy the “Who am I?” games—“I’m think­ing of a man in the Old Testament.” Several com­mercial games are also available, and all serve to increase and sharpen knowledge of biblical history, geography, time settings, sequence, and charac­ters. I once had a child ask me if it was right to say who we would like to see first when we get to heaven. And could I guess, who he would like to see first? If done in reverence, a game of this sort can open up the Scriptures. More importantly, it serves to make children identify the admirable characteristics of the saints of ages past. Such a game can spark a discussion that draws the whole family closer to heaven.

Finally, parents can teach the Bible by having their children sing the Psalms in the Psalter and learn their riches by memorizing and carrying them in their hearts. This can be done at dinnertime devotions, on Sunday afternoons or evenings, or on long trips. Here again, no two families will teach their children alike, but all homes must be one in their goals.

To conclude, let me tell you about the custom of a family in another country. After the evening meal and reading of a Scripture passage, the fam­ily goes to the living room. There the father asks some review questions to reinforce the Scripture reading. Then they stand in a circle, holding hands, and sing a psalm or two and close with a prayer. Though it may take a little extra time, their devo­tions tie together all the aspects of teaching the Bible to our children and praising our God.

______________________________________________________________________________

Mrs. Hoeksema (the widow of the late Prof. H. Hoeksema) has brought up 4 children and has spent many years teaching in our schools and leading Bible studies.

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

-Habakkuk 3:17, 18

 

I will rejoice at this Thanksgiving time and say,

“To God the Lord, Who is my God eternally,

The blessed God of my salvation, I will pray

In perfect confidence that He will give to me

The eyes to see and heart to know that—come what may

Whate’er He sends I will receive contentedly.”

 

Although the fig tree shall not bloom with fruits to eat

And we shall find no clustered grapes upon the vine,

The harvest of the barren fields will yield no meat,

The olive tree, that labored hard all year, shall pine

And die, and flocks and herds from field and stall retreat

In death in days of drought before Thy breath divine;

 

Although the wheels of industry grow slack and slow

And giant factories can give no work to men,

And when inflation’s mighty power seems to grow,

When economic answers are beyond man’s ken,

When funds are tight and usury has stopped their flow,

Still we rejoice in God and turn to Him again.

 

When social unrest seems to be a way of life

And men rebel and stop their work to gain their ends,

When greed is glory, bringing crime and hateful strife,

When man and wife are no more married, but are friends,

Or live in lustful unions, all their actions rife

With evil, we rejoice, to Thee our prayers ascend.

 

Oh Lord, we do not joy in all these dreadful things

As such:  in famine and in drought in all the earth;

For though the fig tree all her blossoms never brings

And though the vines and olives fall because of dearth,

We joy because they come from Thee.  Our spirit sings,

Our heart rejoices in Thy work, with thankful mirth.

 

We joy not in calamities of industry,

In sordid poverty and strife on ev’ry hand;

It grieves us sore, O Lord, to hear the prophecy

Of war, and fears of mighty men in ev’ry land.

Our only hope is that we know it comes from Thee

And then, with thanks, we take all things as from Thy hand.

 

Now we give thanks to Thee, O Lord, Who art the God

Of our salvation.  Give us grace each day to say

That we rejoice, for we are saved through Jesus’ blood!

No matter what may lie ahead, we’ll always pray

That Thou wilt show us mercies great and flood

Our hearts with thankfulness and joy along the way.

As often happens in the history of the church on earth, God uses the events of the past to teach His people in the present time, even though these historical events may have happened hundreds of years ago.

One of these events in church history which we Americans still celebrate had its beginning across the seas nearly four hundred years ago, while the Protestant Reformation was still spreading over Europe.  This special event had its setting in England, where the Reformation was not as strong a movement as it was in continental Europe.  King Henry VII, who ruled at that time, was not a true Protestant.  On the other hand, he hated the pope and wanted to escape from his authority.  At the same time he was happy to have his country remain basically Roman Catholic.  In the upheavals of doctrinal struggles, the king saw to it that the new church which emerged in England after the Reformation – the Anglican Church was a state church, under the control of the government.  The liturgy and system of church government in the Anglican Church resembled that of the Romish Church, but the theology, which the church stated in the Thirty-nine Articles, was mildly Calvinistic.

What about those Protestants in Great Britain who wanted a more pure reformation – a true return to the doctrines of the Scriptures?  They could not and did not attend the State Church.

Their name came naturally.  They were called Separatists.  They were also called Puritans because they left the State Church and tried to live pure and spiritual lives.  Rather than unite themselves into a denomination, these dissenters, as they were also called, were congregationalists, or separatists, with no common or denominational ties to one another.

Weary of their persecution by the State Church of England, many of them decided to leave the country; and by it they gained another name:  the Pilgrims.  In the year 1620, a group of them left in the small Mayflower, under the leadership of William Bradford.  They left on September 6, and arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 6, 1620.

After bidding their families, relatives and friends good-bye (God-be-with-you), they had sailed into the unknown of a long, dangerous voyage through the wintery Atlantic into the snow and cold of a North American winter; and when they landed, they also experienced the fear of withstanding savage attacks by the American natives.

At last spring came, followed by growing plants and a plentiful harvest; and after their harvest – still in sadness and hardships – these Pilgrims made a celebration of thanks to God.  They never realized that this event would start a tradition.

Why not?  Because these people were humble children of God, who were seeking religious freedom.  Their Bibles were their most precious possessions.  They were ready, with hearts filled with praise and thanksgiving, to say, “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works,” Psalm 26:7; and “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee,” Psalm 116:7.

These Pilgrims were also Calvinists, who praised their Father in heaven as the God of sovereign, free grace by saying, “O taste and see that the Lord is good:  blessed is the man that trusteth in him,” Psalm 34:8.  They humbly trusted their God and never realized they would be recognized in future history.

What does this history mean to us?  Why write about it in Beacon Lights?  Does it – should it – affect us?  Should we celebrate just because they had a special thanksgiving?  Although the Puritans were not in the line of the Reformation as far as church structure is concerned (for they were separatists) they did show that they were not only Bible believers, but also Calvinists.  William Bradford, after describing their sad and desolate condition in the new land, commented on their lives as follows:  “Thus out of small beginnings great things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone to many, yea in some sort to our whole nation:  let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.”*

It is true, of course, that the history of God’s church after the time of His revelation to the apostle John at Patmos is no longer inspired history.  That does not mean that we stop celebrating God’s goodness in our own geographical and historical settings.  As in the springtime we ask our Father to care for us through the season of the growing crops, we also thank Him at harvest time, according to His instructions to one of the Old Testament saints, to “come again with rejoicing, bringing in his sheaves with him,” Psalm 126.

How about our sister churches and the churches in other lands whom we have gotten to know and with whom we have contact?  These churches do not share our historical background.  Possibly they have never heard of our Thanksgiving celebration at the end of harvest:  those in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, or the British Isles.  Although their celebration of thanksgiving could not be the same as ours, for they have different cultures and historical backgrounds, it may be profitable for them also to set aside a day for thanksgiving, to praise our Father’s goodness in His providence and in His grace.

We, as the Protestant Reformed Churches of America, remember the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day.  However, in obedience to God’s Word, we celebrate not merely a day, but we celebrate His continued goodness in seed time and harvest, as did our spiritual ancestors both in the Old and New Testament times.  We remember and celebrate because “the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations,” Psalm 100:5.

*Eerdman’s Handbook to Christianity in America, 1983, p. 29.

God’s people are a singing people. Both in the Old and New Testaments, the Lord tells us that His people sang of their joys and sorrows, of their struggles and victories. We, God’s people in the Reformed tradition, sing from the time we are tiny tots until we stoop with old age. Together we sing at home, all through our school lives, at meetings, programs, celebrations, and singspirations. I have even attended funerals where we sang a solemn song or two.

What do we sing? The psalms, of course. God’s people have always done that. We know that the psalms will never be outdated, because they are the voice of the Lord speaking to us, and they vividly express our every experience. We can, I am sure, express, through psalm singing, any thought that is in our hearts, from sadness, penitence, and grief to wonder, thanks, and joy. We have but to read the psalms to know that they are just as truly ours as they were David’s and Asaph’s.

But our Psalter is only a versification of these psalms, with melodies and harmonies added based on the psalms for liturgical use in our worship service, is non-inspired, bound by language and culture. Some logical questions might be: can the Psalter be revised; should it be improved; may it be enlarged; or would it be better to replace it? In the light of the liturgical world, we may want to give our own Psalter a critical look to find out whether we should be doing something about it. We do not want change for the sake of change, or for that nebulous quality called “relevance;” rather, we want to do our best as a covenant, psalm singing people. This, I think, the staff had in mind when they asked me to write this article.

First, then, we will take a look at the melodies in our Psalter. The Reformed singer of average ability and musical background either “likes” or “dislikes” a tune. Often he is vague as to why a certain song is his favorite. It just is. Similarly, he cannot tell you why he wishes his pastor would not choose number 42 so often. Something about that tune… However, his neighbour really enjoys that melody, and sings it lustily. So we see that if our criterion were merely subjective likes or dislikes of melodies and harmonies, we would need as many revisions and improvements as there are people who sing them.

In order to have songs that the congregation of Jesus Christ, made up of people of average musical ability will enjoy singing, and through which they can express their collective prayer or praise to God, there must be objective standards. At the risk of coining a new word, I would call the first one “singability.” The melodies and harmonies should be rather simple, flow in a musically smooth fashion, without strange intervals or difficult timing. Another standard may be call fitness; the words and the melody must fit and complement one another. A third standard could be called “worshipfulness,” the quality that characterizes a song, be it ever so joyful, as fit for the worship of our Almighty God – solemn without being staid, happy without being frivolous.

That is quite an order for our Psalter. Does it meet these standards? And, again, if we would go with this question to our Psalter singing people, we would probably get mostly no for an answer; and there would be as many ideas for improvement as there are people. Obviously, this would not be the proper way to come to the answer.

Instead, we should take a brief look at the history of psalm singing since the Reformation. Shortly after the Reformation in Geneva, John Calvin and his congregation were already singing versifications of psalms, set to some familiar melodies of the day. In 1542, Calvin looked for the best talents he could get; the poet Marot worked on the versifications of many psalms; the composers Bourgoeis nad Goudimel worked on melodies and harmonies. The result was the Genevan Psalter, used for two hundred fifty years (with some changes in each country) in the Reformation churches of Europe. Many of these songs measured up to the standards we mentioned earlier in this article.

Then came the great tide of immigration to America. Our forefathers – mostly from the Netherlands – were face, as they adapted to a new language, with the problems of singing psalms in a new language. They found It hard to translate the words into English and yet fit the tunes of their Dutch musical heritage, many of them Genevan Psalter tunes. It was easier to use the English tunes and lyrics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from composers such as Isaac Watts. And they took the easy way. The result is that our English-speaking fathers dropped most of the old music and adopted music mainly from one era of time, the Victorian period.

We may want to criticize them for this. We may accuse them of not being far-sighted. We may object that the early music of the church is not sung by us in our services. We may find some of the music of the church is not sung by us in our services. We may find some of the music in our Psalter (much of it written in threes) to be light and almost “waltzy.” There may be reason for some of our criticism, too. I, for one, dislike the light, waltzing melody for the solemn words, “Dust to dust the mortal dies,” of Psalter #136.

We may want to compare the music of other reformed psalm singing churches. This past summer my husband and I had the delightful experience of worshipping with people of mostly Scotch and English backgrounds. We sang, with them, from the Scottish Psalter, whole tunes date back to an earlier period of church history, and which includes several Genevan Psalter songs; and we found the songs appealing, singable, and worshipful. We found poor melodies, too, rather hard to sing and not very appropriate for the words.

Other Psalters, too, have been published lately, none above some kind of criticism. But our problem remains. Is our Psalter outdated? Should we try for something else?

Before we start looking for a committee, let us look at our local congregations. Three or four generations rise to sing together the familiar melodies that have been taught from father to son; the quavering voice of great-grandfather blends with the proud voice of the three-year-old who has just learned “In Sweet Communion,” Psalter tune 203. We are used to our Psalter. It is a part of us an of our singing heritage, something that grows with us, melodies and versifications which we carry in our hearts day and night. Is it wise to tamper with this? Or would you young people be quick to answer; if our Psalter could be improved let us get on with it and take the best of all Reformed church music and put together one beautiful, improved Psalter.

Let us consider the implications and alternatives.

First, we Protestant Reformed people, also Protestant Reformed young people, are denomination-conscious and denomination-loyal. We must also keep our priorities straight. Are there not far more pressing matters in our churches right now which need our attention and the work of capable, dedicated men and women: covenant education, the work of the ministry, the work of writing down and distributing our distinctive views, mission endeavours and church extension work to which the Lord has opened the doors so wide, and work in our various congregational and denominational organizations?

Second, although we are not opposed to change and progress – in fact, we must progress – we must be very sure that change will be progress, and progress in the right direction. We should consider well the danger of tampering with the musical heritage of the church as we represent it in the Protestant Reformed denomination. Much of the distinctive appeal of our denomination is our strict adherence to our heritage, also our psalm singing heritage. For ourselves, it would be wrong to upset our congregations with unwelcome musical change.

Third, if we would decide to remain conservative and add only solid, Reformed church music as a replacement for some of the unsuitable music of our Psalter, who determines how slight or how broad the revision shall be? How do we determine what is the most suitable music for a given lyric – most suitable to worshippers in the Protestant Reformed denomination, worshippers with an American culture and a rather stiff, conservative, Dutch background?

Fourth, this would have to be done synodically. Synod would have to appoint a capable committee who would be willing to work hard for a long time. Without demeaning the qualifications of the members of our churches (for we have many able people) do we have people that measure up to the following qualifications: a good background in music theory and history; a thorough understanding of the tone of our denominational worship in song; an ear tuned to the desires of our congregations; a good measure of practical common sense; a stamina for a long, hard task; and, practically, the geographical nearness in our large country to work together?

In conclusion, one thing more. Changes and revisions must be made when the time is right. When is that? When the people, the psalm singers, see the need, and start to ask the leaders to help them. A change imposed from the top down is seldom well-received. Is there need for a change? Have we heard a clamor for it? Is the Psalter outdated? Not yet, I think.

I watched God wash the world today

With sudden shower hard and clean.

He scrubbed the sloping sandy beach,

And pelted rocks and stones with sheen.

 

I watched Him freshen feathered birds

And wash the dusty, woolly sheep;

He splashed the green and yellow fields,

And rinsed the rising hillside steep.

 

I watched a covenant child in church

By solemn father gently held.

Baptized with sprinkled water, sign

That stains of sin were all dispelled.

 

I watched with eyes of faith and saw,

Through God’s own Word, the reason why. —

God washed a special chosen world

In precious blood. It made Christ die.

 

I watched Him bathe the blades of grass

And wash the pansy’s pretty face;

Each leaf He laved with sparkling drop

And edged each tree with sequined lace.

 

I’ll watch and wait until I’ll be

Among the saints arrayed in white

Who washed their robes in the Lamb’s own blood,

To dwell by living fountains bright.

Slow, syncopated, stumbling ones

By tiny tot with tremulous pace;

In youthful strides, long, lusty ones

Rough, ruthless in their frenzied race…

Unto old age.

 

In days of sunshine, buoyant ones,

When blithe our mood and bright our gait;

Through days of pensive, ponderous ones.

When sore we feel some sorrow’s weight…

Until they fail.

 

Thou numberest all these steps, O God.

Mere mortal man who walks alone

Cannot direct his devious course.

The way of man is not his own…

It is all Thine.

 

When rough terrain appears, and we

Must circle boulders in our way.

Pursue a rough, harsh mountain path.

Our steps shall never slide…

They stay Secure in Thee.

 

We pray, as steadily we climb

Life’s ever steeper, rugged hill.

To order ev’ry step we take

In Thy most Holy Word… until

We rest in Thee.

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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