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Once again, the month of December, a month that is so significant in the life of a Christian, is come upon us with its many joys and happiness. Around about us we see everyone hustling and bustling, making plans for the holiday. The business districts are over-crowded with everyone buying gifts for friends and loved ones; family gatherings are being planned around large holiday dinners, and everybody is filled with the spirit of Christmas.

When we look at Christmas with its family gatherings, large dinners, gifts and brightly-lighted trees, we find that we are completely missing the real, true and glorious meaning of which the day is a symbol. To find real Christmas joy, we need only to go to the Scriptures and read the glad tidings of great joy: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Such was the brief but tremendously significant gospel of what God had done for the salvation of His people. The world may change the joy of the day, that unto us is born a Saviour that is able to remove the fear of sin and death from our souls, into a rejoicing in the things of the earth. Let them hide this heavenly joy under the worldly idea of Christmas joy. Nevertheless, its joy cannot remove the fear of our sin, nor can it cleanse the heart from sin and deliver our soul from death and condemnation.

Its joy is not the joy of the gospel. “For unto you is born a Saviour!” This is the real true spirit of Christmas. And what is a Saviour? As Rev. Hoeksema has so ably explained it in one of his books, “It is one who is able to deliver us from the greatest evil; one who is not only fully able, but who also surely shall deliver His people from all their misery. And what is that greatest evil? It is that which causes our hearts to tremble with miserable fear of condemnation and damnation in the presence of the Lord. It is our guilt and our sin, our corruption and our death, our hatred and enmity against the Most High, our darkness and foolishness, our being in the power of the devil and in the slavery of unrighteousness. A Saviour is one who, while delivering us from that greatest of all evils, will make us partakers of the highest good.

And what is that highest good? It is all that lies at the root of that great joy of which the angel speaks, of that joy which we may experience in the presence of the Lord. It is to be cleansed from sin and clothed with righteousness, to be delivered from the power of the devil and to be subjects of Him that purchased us with the precious price of His blood. It is righteousness and holiness, love, life, light, and eternal glory. It is to taste that the Lord is gracious and to dwell in the fellowship of His covenant-communion, to know Him as we are known, to love Him because He loved us, to see Him face to face and behold His beauty. It is to be heirs of the heavenly Kingdom.”

Such is the joy of Christmas; and seeing it in this light, we as Christians may rejoice and be glad, giving praise and Glory to God in the Highest.

“The President has had a mild coronary thrombosis.” Those eight words spoken in Denver by a White House secretary thudded on the nation and the world. The first concern turned on the man, a figure of affection and respect in the hearts of more millions throughout the globe than any man of this decade.

Throughout the world a widespread confidence was placed in this man. Critics in his own party, diehard Democrats, and French neutralists, who even having opposed him, believed that he would really never do anything very radical. World trade along with American businessmen had such faith in the man that it sent business activities to an unbelievable point of economic limitation. Even the Communists professed to trust in him more than other American leaders.

Eisenhower himself had warned of the danger to believe in his own indispensability. Three weeks before, answering to an insistent demand that he run again, he said: “Humans are frail – and they are mortal. You never pin our flag so tightly to one mast that if a ship sinks you cannot rip it off and nail it to another.” So much of international and national progress and reassurance had come to be symbolized by Eisenhower, that it now looked like there was real danger that the prospect of his retirement would pull the linchpin of trust.

However, as true believers in the Word of God, we may never put our trust in the things of this world, but rather take heed to the scripture lesson which we find in Psalm 2: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

Oh, what an exact picture we see here in this text of the situation that is prevalent in our day. “The heathen rage,” they become worked up, production is increased, wages are increased, the stock market is increased to an all-time high; “they imagine a vain thing,” peace talks appear to be successful, world trade increases and their attitude becomes more and more like that of “brotherhood.” All seems to be running so smooth. However, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, He shall hold them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.” All of a sudden God speaks to them in his wrath and knocks down that object of their trust, showing them that He is the Sustainer of all things, rather than mere man. “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling, for – Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

During the month of August in a courtroom on Governor’s Island in the New York Harbor, there sat a court-martial of eight U.S. Army Officers, gathered together for the purpose of hearing the charges of murder and collaboration with the enemy brought against Sergeant James Gallagher.

During his 33 months as a prisoner, Gallagher testified that he was not a murderer but a dispenser of mercy to the weaker prisoners; he said that he had not informed upon his fellow prisoners, nor accepted rewards from the Communists. To this, 28 former PW’s protested and testified to the contrary, accusing him of consorting with the Chinese Communists and causing the deaths of three of his comrades. By the end of the month, the court martial rendered its verdict: guilty of the unpremeditated murder of both the sick men he put out into the snow, of the maltreatment – but not the murder – of the third man he had strung from the peg, and guilty of collaborating with the enemy. The sentence to be served was the maximum: confinement at hard labor “for the term of his natural life.”

Here in this morbid trial, we see how one man was found guilty of pouring out his hatred upon his fellow comrades. To most of us, an incident like this is one that receives extraordinary attention from everyone, an incident that is very unusual. No doubt the reason for this was the fact that this case has been and was in the front page of nearly every newspaper and magazine throughout the country. But let us examine the principle of a case like this and notice how that on every side of us this very thing is going on continually.

To the people of the world, success, wealth, and good fortune is the main objective in life. If a man is to be a success, he must have wealth, and if he is to be wealthy, he must have good fortune, and in order to obtain all this, you will very often find that the principle of his success lies in his belief that “the end justifies the means.” There are many successful people today in the world who are respected by their neighbors as diligent and kind people who have made great contributions to mankind, but who really are none other than “thieves and murderers” who have reached the top by disqualifying their fellow workers and who have cast aside those who “just didn’t count.”

But as Christians, let us remember the great commandments which Christ laid down for us in Matt. 22:37-40, when he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” From this commandment where Christ teaches us how we ought to act and feel toward one another, we all might well take a lesson, and practice this principle in our everyday life. So many times we become guilty of the same sin of hating our neighbor as did the Army Sergeant. How often we talk about our neighbors behind their backs, or disqualify them for something that they are rightfully entitled to. Or how often we take the credit for something that our neighbor is entitled to. In doing these things, we are no different than the man who was found guilty and who is serving his life sentence for the mistreatment of his neighbor. We find it so easy to pass judgment on a man like this who committed such morbid crimes, but fail to notice that we ourselves are often guilty of principally the same sin. Paul asks us in Romans 2:21, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?”

Let us then, as true believers in Christ, strive to live a life consecrated to God and our neighbor, keeping “Life’s Golden Rule” before us always, namely: Matt. 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”

 

Once again, in the month of June, we experience the closing of our schools temporarily for summer vacation. For some, this vacation from scholastic studies will be temporary, to be continued in the fall by more advanced study; for others, it means the end of their schooling and a beginning of different varied interests. When one looks back upon his schooling, he finds that during all the years that he has been in school, his education has been different from that of others; that is, from those who attend schools supported by the state and national government. Oh, yes, on the surface this “distinctiveness” appears to be rather indistinct; rather small and unnoticed; but let us examine the difference, and notice this certain distinctiveness of which we are a part.

Throughout our land, we find that there is a very large education system, built up and maintained for the purpose of instructing the youth and adults, the necessary knowledge one should possess in order to live as a decent citizen of our country. To the world, education means culture, refinement, and a better understanding of life with an aim to earthly wisdom, power, and wealth. This aim in life is not that of seeking to glorify God in all things; but rather, to seek the pleasures and treasures of this world, to which this education is generally directed.

However, as believers in the institution of Christian education, we remain distinctive in two ways: the bond of unity which exists between the home and school, and the aim to which our education is directed.

The answer to the question, “What is a Christian school?” is given simply in the following words: “A Christian school is a school in which the instruction is given by members of Reformed persuasion, and in which the instruction is in harmony with the Word of God.” The instruction in the Christian school is based on the Word of God. This is as it should be, for only under such circumstances can the teaching be done with inspiration and enthusiasm, and in such a way that there is unity in the education of the child and agreement between home and school.

And secondly, let us notice the difference in the aim to which our education is directed. Considering the Christian school in its nature, we find that it pretends to be nothing further than a school; that is to say, an institution, auxiliary to the family in the education of the youth for their position in life. It is content with this function. It has no aspiration to supplant the church or the state. The program of the Christian school is to educate the youth for their calling; that is, to educate them for society, state, and church. This program is characteristic; for the public school confines itself particularly to educating for society and state; ecclesiastical and religious life being purposely eliminated. We notice here that the people of the world, in their aim of education, purposely eliminate religious education and the acknowledgment of God as the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of all things.

So then, we find that their aim and purpose in education is centered in the pleasures and treasures of this world, rather than in the calling which is set before us, namely, Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

During this month of May, the leaders of the automobile industry are gathered together for the purpose of answering a proposal; one that is of great importance at this time, both to the union and to the corporations. In all the news happenings, we hear and read much about this relatively new term in industry, called GAW. The fear of a nation-wide strike; a drastic setback in our economy; thousands of dollars lost because of idle production; are but a few predicted results that would develop, if such a proposal would not be approved.

In the last fifty years, the labor group has come a long ways toward better working conditions. Sick benefits, paid vacations, shorter working hours, and better working facilities are some of the few things that they have gained; but this year they are asking for something that they have never proposed before: GAW, or Guaranteed Annual Wage. Briefly, this new proposal, if approved, would give them a guarantee that they will work so many hours a year and receive so much pay, thus protecting them against layoffs and setbacks in business. The labor group feels that a proposal like this would give them a certain guarantee of a good economic standing, harboring them, to a greater or lesser extent, from financial incompetency.

However, as Christians, to rely on the powers of a labor union to provide for us, our earthly needs, is indeed a dishonor to God. Let us adhere to the words of Christ in Matt. 6:31-33 where we read, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Throughout the whole of this discourse, Christ reproves that excessive anxiety, with which men torment themselves, about food and clothing. We know that men are born with cares. But excessive care is condemned for two reasons: either because, in so doing, men tease and vex themselves to no purpose, by carrying their anxiety farther than is proper or than their calling demands; or because they claim more for themselves than they have a right to do, and place such reliance on their own industry, that they neglect to call upon God. We ought to remember this promise; though unbelievers shall “rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of sorrows,” yet believers will obtain through the kindness of God, rest and sleep. Though the children of God are not free from toil and anxiety, yet, properly speaking, we do not say that they are anxious about life; because, through their reliance on the providence of God, they enjoy calm repose.

Hence it is easy to learn how far we ought to be anxious about food. Each of us ought to labor, as far as his calling requires, and the Lord commands; and each of us ought to be led by his own wants, to call upon God.

The Lord, who has given life itself, will not suffer us to want what is necessary for its support. And certainly we do no small dishonor to God, when we fail to trust Him, that He will give us necessary food or clothing; as if he had thrown us on the earth at random. He who is fully convinced, that the Author of our life has an intimate knowledge of our condition, will entertain no doubt that he will make abundant provisions for our wants. Whenever we are seized by any fear or anxiety about food or clothing, let us remember, that God will take care of the life which he gave us. Psalm 37:3-5: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Fourteen years ago, on December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the forces of the Empire of Japan. Japanese planes swept down on Pearl Harbor, our great naval base in Hawaii, while submarines sank many of our battleships, killing almost five thousand men. Soon the whole world was in the Second World War and everyone was experiencing the terror and horrors of war. Mighty battles that will live on in the memories of many were fought, such as “The battle of the bulge, D-Day, Corrigador and Iwo Jima,” until finally on September 2, 1945, the Japanese came aboard the USS Missouri and formally surrendered to General Douglas McArthur “unconditionally.” Two great empires that had been flourishing and heading for greater power than was ever seen before, were totally crushed and disbanded as the defeated remnant of “world conquest.”

Today all around us we hear and read news articles on such things as “German re-armament, the fall of another French Premier, the dangerous Formosa situation, and a new series of A-bomb tests.” After hearing these things, the question is often asked, “Just what is this all about?” Ten years ago, we became the victors over two nations whose aim was to conquer the world for themselves, and now we turn right around and propose to rearm these nations. After three years of futile fighting in Korea, we finally agreed on a “cease fire” that gained us nothing as far as territory is concerned, and now we become involved in the Formosa situation, a situation just like the one of Korea. In the southern part of our country, our government is holding a series of tests with weapons that are powerful enough to wipe man off the face of this earth.

To the world, this life becomes more of a “survival of the fittest” every day. The more powerful we remain, the longer we will survive. Millions of dollars are spent every year on atomic research, a research that has given our country weapons that cause our aggressors to hesitate and think twice before becoming involved in an all-out war with us. The Formosa situation as far as our country is concerned, is good for business. It causes our economy to remain at a high level. The re-arming of Germany to the United Nations is simply another step in holding back the ever-increasing fear of the Communist, even though it means giving arms to a nation that fifteen years ago tried to destroy us. In all these matters, it becomes very evident that the world does not look to God for their protection, but rather, they seek to control their own fate.

As Christians, we do not place our trust in the destructive power of the atomic bomb as earthly protection from our enemies, nor do we feel that the re-arming of Germany would give us greater security against Communist aggression, but rather we put our trust in God to Whom we can flee for refuge in time of trouble. Deut. 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.” To seek refuge in the powers of this world is folly, for there is no peace or refuge apart from the living God. Many times the troubles and cares of this life overtake us and all would seem as though we are in this world without any protection at all, therefore let us not fear, but let us heed the words of the Psalmist in chapter 27 of the Book of Psalms: “The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.”

Looking back at the month that has just passed, we have had occasion to commemorate the birthday of two of the greatest American leaders in the history of our country. In the classrooms of our schools, in our newspapers and magazines, and in the thoughts of the American people, the lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were remembered; numerous pictures and illustrations of their famous past were seen; news editorials on their contributions to our country were written; dinners were held in remembrance of the political position which they held; and the youthful incidents such as the episode of the cherry tree and the well-known rail-splitting contests were heard with enthusiasm by both young and old.

Let us take a few moments and look at the lives of two men who have no doubt played one of the most important roles in the life of each and every one of us, and ask ourselves personally, “Are we missing the point?”

On February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, George Washington was born. Reared by wealthy parents, he was taught at an early age many wise and prudent ways. As he grew up, he advanced in knowledge, and at the young age of 20 years he was commissioned a major in the colonial army. For thirty-one years, he devoted his life to the army for the establishment and protection of American freedom. Then at the age of fifty-seven, in 1789, he was elected the first President of the United States. This important event in his life is no doubt the most well-known event with which we associate him. To the people of that day and to all the American people, he became known as “The Father of our Country.”

Ten years after the death of Washington, in the backwoods of Kentucky on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. He was a wilderness child, born in a clay-floor cabin that had no windows and one door. Nevertheless, he also at an early age acquired much knowledge, and especially, a deep sense of feeling for his fellow countrymen. He began practicing law and in 1847 was elected to the House of Representatives. It was here where the dreadful practice of slavery aroused his innermost convictions. After taking an active part for thirteen years in the abolishment of slavery, he was elected the sixteenth President of the United States. One month after his inauguration, war broke out, and be became burdened with the dreadful horrors of a civil war. “A house divided against itself cannot stand”; and so the war continued for four long years, and even though he did not live to witness the victory, he became known to all as “The Great Emancipator.”

Looking back at the lives of these men, the question is often asked, are the works of these men great? Can we say that they are good in the sight of God?

The world honors these men as heroes, as men to be highly esteemed and honored for bringing freedom to this country. They proclaim a national holiday in remembrance of them so that the spirit of Washington and Lincoln shall live on for generations to come.

But as Christians, we do not honor these men as heroes. We ascribe all honor to whom honor is due; the Almighty God. Psalm 104:1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art clothed with honor and majesty.” We do not honor any human being for the work he has performed, for, Job 7:17, “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?” Realizing this fact, we then speak as the Psalmist does in Ps. 8:3-4 where we read, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”

As we begin another new year, we cannot help but hear optimistic statements around about us. On the radio, in the newspapers, and in magazines, we hear and read such things as: “More and better things for more people”; two cars in every garage; tax reductions; unemployment reaches a new low; private incomes reach a new high; private savings have gone up while private debt has declined; and the standard of living in America has reached a point where everybody is enjoying yesterday’s “luxuries.”

Let us look at these things in a two-fold manner; first, looking at it from the viewpoint of the world; and secondly, from the viewpoint of the Church.

There is no doubt at all that America is enjoying earthly abundance in a measure that has never been equaled. The standard of living in our country has never been challenged or even compared to that of another nation. Peace and prosperity has entered our land, and America as a nation is prepared to reach new heights, allowing everyone to enjoy more and better things. Social security and retirement programs that provide security are had by more people today than ever before. True it is that business in America is very prosperous, that unemployment is lower than ever before, and that the new year does look very promising, as far as earthly abundance is concerned.

However, what must we as Christians think of these things? Must we turn our backs to prosperity and try to ignore the abundance that lies around about us? Or should we go out and enjoy all these things and try to derive as much joy and satisfaction from them as possible?

For Christians to ignore prosperity is folly. For prosperity is not made by this world, but it is given by God, as it is written in Deut. 8:18, “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” We should not dispose of these things, nor shun them; but we should accept all of these things in a spirit of thanksgiving, and acknowledge that God is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. I Thess. 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” We are not of this world, but we are in this world, to use these material things in the fear of the Lord.

On the other hand, should we go out and try to derive as much joy and satisfaction from these things as possible? Not at all. For all these things are given to us by God to use them to his Name’s honor and glory. Matt. 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Surely, a true Christian would not accept all this abundance and use it in a way of earthly pleasure, as it is written in Luke 21:34, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be over charged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” Rather, let us accept these things in a spirit of thanksgiving, and try to use them in a manner which is acceptable unto the Lord. Thus it is written in Tit. 2:12: “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”

So then, as Christians let us live in this world, taking heed to the words of Christ in Matt. 6:19-21 where we read, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

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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