FILTER BY:

The most dangerous man to the Roman Catholic Church stood alone.

It was the morning of July 6, 1415. Everyone who was anyone—the highest ranking Catholic clergy and even Emperor Sigismund himself—gathered in the towering German cathedral, the site of the Council of Constance. Their goal was finally to rid the Catholic church of the lonely preacher standing in aisle 24.

“Since the birth of Christ,” the Catholic church venomously spat at the preacher, “there has not arisen a more dangerous heretic than yourself—except John Wycliffe!”[1]

This preacher was dangerous, indeed. But he was no heretic. He had exposed the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, he opposed the sale of indulgences, and he defied the authority of the pope over Christ’s church.

For that the council condemned the preacher, sentencing him to death by being cooked over an open flame. But before they would light the match, the council cruelly heaped humiliation on this dangerous preacher. In the plain sight of everyone in the cathedral, he was stripped of his clothing. His head and beard were shaved. A paper hat covered with red devils and the word heretic was placed on his head.

Then came the church’s final pronouncement: “Now we deliver your soul to Satan and to hell!”[2]

“But I commit myself to my most gracious Lord Jesus,” quietly replied the condemned preacher.[3]

Then the condemned said one more thing. With piercing eyes and heart aflame, he looked out over the dignitaries. In a commanding voice he cried aloud:

“Today you cook a goose, but in one hundred years you will hear a swan sing—and him you will have to hear!”[4]

What could this mean? Who was this “goose”?

The preacher’s name was Jan (John) Hus. He was born in a little village called Husinec, meaning “goose-town,” in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic). Hus, whose name means “goose,” was born a poor peasant. After his father passed away in his early childhood, his mother desired that Hus would become a priest, perceiving as did many others that this was the best way to escape poverty (which to my mind is a stunning indictment on the state of the Roman Catholic Church).

After many years of study, Hus was hired as a professor at the University of Prague and ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. As a professor, he soon became a student favorite. It is said that Hus broke from the old tradition of being a crabby, stern professor, preferring rather to joke and banter with his students even while lecturing. For a time as a priest, Hus was entirely committed to Catholicism. But then something unexpected occurred. The teachings of John Wycliffe—the Englishman known today as the “Morning Star of the Reformation”—caught fire in the heart of Jan Hus.

The more Hus studied the teachings of Wycliffe, the more his heart became captive to the word of God. Following Wycliffe’s lead, Jan Hus believed and taught that the church was made up of God’s people, the elect who are predestined to grace and glory. This led Hus to reject the leadership and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church from the pope on down. Hus specifically denounced the pope for claiming to be head of Christ’s church. He wrote, “No Christian can be the head of the universal church along with Christ—for the church cannot be a monster having two heads!”[5]

At about that time, Hus was appointed as the preacher of the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague. This unusual church was a private chapel established by a wealthy businessman who despised the greed of Rome and was starving for the bread of life found in God’s word. Adeptly naming it the Bethlehem Chapel—the name Bethlehem meaning “The House of Bread”—this house of worship would be a center of truly biblical preaching, hosting two sermons per day in the language of the people (and not Latin). It was there that Hus was appointed to preach Jesus Christ, the “Bread of Life.” And many hungry souls were satisfied.

Above all else, Hus was a preacher. He was at home in the pulpit, and from there he fed his swelling crowd of three thousand worshipers the gospel. His preaching was clear, powerful, and easily understood. He elevated Christ-centered, biblical preaching to its central place in the worship service. He stressed the authoritative role of Scripture in the lives of God’s people. He even restored congregational singing, which was all but lost in the church of Christ for hundreds of years.

Soon enough, Rome set its sights on Jan Hus. She would never tolerate this preacher who defied her authority. Like the Jewish leaders of the apostles’ day, Rome banned Hus from preaching Christ crucified in the Bethlehem Chapel. But Hus defied this order, obeying God rather than men. For that Hus was excommunicated not once, not twice, but four times.

The pope had to solve his “Bohemian Problem.” In the fall of 1414, he summoned the menace Jan Hus to the Council of Constance. To lure him there, Emperor Sigismund promised Hus that he would be kept safe. With that promise, Hus was determined to go, excited with the opportunity to preach and defend the gospel of Christ before powerful men.

Hus’s friends warned, even begged, him not to go—they knew all too well what Rome was capable of doing to those she deemed heretics. But none of those things moved Jan Hus. When Hus left his friends, he spoke to them one last time: “I am going to this great assembly, where the Lord will give me grace to endure trials, imprisonment, and if it be His will, even the most dreadful death. Whatever happens, our joy will be great when we meet in the everlasting mansions.”[6] With those words, and with the emperor’s promise of safety, Hus traveled to Constance.

But it was a trap. Almost immediately after his arrival into Constance, Hus was arrested and imprisoned for heresy. “We don’t keep promises to heretics!” reasoned the Catholic church. Hus was thrown into a basement dungeon, next to the city sewage, where he was left to rot for eight months. Chained to a wall for most of the time, Hus was nearly starved to death. His captors’ cruel treatment caused his health to decline significantly. He suffered from vomiting, migraine headaches, fainting spells, and even uncontrolled bleeding. Throughout his imprisonment next to the putrid sewers, Hus was permitted no books, not even his Bible.

But Hus was able to write a few letters. On March 24, 1415, he wrote to his friends with hopes that “the goose” might be released from prison and that “if you love your poor goose” try to send whatever aid possible to make his release happen.

Release didn’t happen. On July 6, 1415, Hus was pulled out of prison and placed on trial before the council. By now, Hus and everyone else knew there would be only one outcome—burning at the stake. But even with that knowledge, Hus was still not moved. In sheer wonderment, one zealous Catholic observer commented, “Hus prepared for the fire as if he were going to a marriage feast.”

Hus was ordered to condemn the English reformer John Wycliffe and recant his own teachings. Hus refused to do so. Frustrated, the council breathed out threatenings and slander. Jan Hus did not waiver. “I refuse to be an enemy of the truth and will resist to the death all agreement with falsehood…It is better to die well than to live badly.[7]

Finally, the council had heard enough. Having condemned and humiliated Hus, they dragged him out of the city to the execution site, known as The Devil’s Place. There Jan Hus—the “beloved goose”—was cooked. As the flames and smoke choked out his life, Hus died singing, “Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me.”[8]

* * * *

“Today you cook a goose!” Jan Hus is remembered for saying. “But in one hundred years you will hear a swan sing—him you will have to hear.”

Jan Hus was that goose. But who was the swan?

Though he couldn’t have known it, Hus was nearly a prophet. On October 31, 1517, Hus’s pronouncement rang true. One hundred two years after the goose was cooked, a swan did, in fact, start to sing. With his ninety-five theses, that swan began to sing of Jesus Christ on the church door of Wittenberg. From there that swan trumpeted forth the truths of Christ and his word—starting a new fire, the Protestant Reformation.

That swan’s name was Martin Luther.

He sang of Jesus Christ.

Him the church still hears today!

Karl serves as a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Walker, Michigan. He and his family attend Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church.

 

Originally published Vol 80, No 10 October 2021

 

[1] Steven Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Orlando: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011), 380.

[2] Diana Kleyn and Joel Beeke, Reformation Heroes (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 22.

[3] Kleyn and Beeke, Reformation Heroes, 22.

[4] Stephen Nichols, “The Goose and the Swan,” October 4, 2017, in 5 Minutes in Church History, Ligonier Ministries podcast, https://www.5minutesinchurchhistory.com/the-goose-and-the-swan/.

[5] Lawson, Pillars of Grace, 383.

[6] Kleyn and Beeke, Reformation Heroes, 21.

[7] Lawson, Pillars of Grace, 380.

[8] Lawson, Pillars of Grace, 381.

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

 

Everything had changed!

For the early Jewish New Testament Christians who had embraced Jesus Christ by faith, everything in life had changed. Young and old alike, Jewish Christians were shamed by their synagogues, were cast away from their communities, and were forsaken by their families. Christ-believing young people witnessed the horror of their believing grandparents and parents being tossed out of the synagogues by the very members with whom they had worshipped since childhood. Their fathers, who previously had a place and calling in their Jewish community, were fired from their jobs and had no prospects of employment. Their mothers, once esteemed highly for their many virtues, were either passively dismissed or treated with obvious contempt. And all because of their confession of Jesus Christ! Even uncles, aunts, and other close relatives, who couldn’t understand why anyone would embrace Jesus Christ, wanted nothing to do with these early believers.

Family gatherings were over. Worship in the synagogue was forbidden. Involvement in the community, now a thing of the past. So much of life was now unsettled. Everything had changed.

But even that doesn’t really begin to describe the suffering of these early believers. For just as Jesus told them that their own family members would “put them out of the synagogues” – and it happened,  he also told them that “whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service” (John 16:2) – and that happened too. Jewish Christians, formerly regarded highly in their communities, became hated of all men for Christ’s sake. And thinking they were doing some service for God, unbelieving Jews wickedly slandered their Christ-believing family members, viciously berated them, spoke “all manner of evil against them falsely” (Matt. 5:11), and finally delivered many of them up to the Jewish councils to be shamefully beaten, violently persecuted, and finally killed. For the Jewish New Testament Christian, everything had dramatically changed.

And though inwardly they had peace with God, their lives had changed into one filled with struggle and turmoil. Do you hear the young believer, faced with an onslaught of mockery and cruel torture, momentarily second-guessing his confession of Jesus Christ? “How long can I endure this?” the young believer may have cried out as loved one after loved one was hauled away to prison, perhaps never to be seen again. Do you hear the lonely lament of the wounded young Christian daughter, forsaken by her unbelieving parents? Perhaps even the young Christians wondered at times of intense mockery, “Maybe it’s better not to confess Christ. Can all this really be worth it? Since I believed everything in my life has changed!”

Those were days of hot persecution, awful rejection, and profound fear. Do you see the small seed of doubt beginning to sprout in the believing young person’s heart?

Everything in their life had changed.

Everything is changing!

How about you? As you observe the fast-moving, ever-growing current of change, do similar anxious doubts creep into your heart? In your lifetime, perhaps now more than ever, things seem to be loose, unstable, and shifting. These are strange and fearful times we live in. And nothing more than a passing glance is needed to demonstrate this.

Taking a broad perspective, we notice the tremendous changes in the very fabric of our society. An unmasked rebellion against our God’s honorable ordinance for marriage and sexual purity is what we witness in a society increasingly given over to unnatural, “vile affections” (Rom. 1:26). What was once shameful to even discuss, is now celebrated by an LGBTQ+ community and culture that glories in its shame. Christians today wonder what pressures will come tomorrow from a society that is increasingly growing impatient with our insistence on God’s good way of sexual purity.

Then there is the unmasked dishonoring of law enforcement, ringing true the Jesus’ warning that in the last days lawlessness will abound (Matt. 24:12). It doesn’t seem too long ago that society gave our police officers some place of honor. This certainly has changed. Leading cultural figures and the talking heads in the mainstream media vilify the police forces. Riots rage and pandemonium plagues the streets of major cities across our nation as the mobs call for an end to “police brutality,” campaign for the defunding of the police, and hurl obscenities at law enforcement, while also destroying property and lives. We shudder with horror as the news reports indicate that our at-one-time honored police officers are now being hunted in some major cities. Lawlessness abounds! Things certainly are changing.

Added to this mix is the anxiety-inducing 2020 presidential election, which promises to be nothing less than tumultuous. Given all the increase in lawlessness, and as opposing political parties and ideologies wrestle for power, we cannot help but wonder what will happen during this election. But no matter the outcome of the election, concern arises about what our country will look like after this election! And what impact will there be on the church of Jesus Christ?

In both society and the sphere of government, the young Christian has growing concerns for some seismic changes.

But let’s bring us a little closer to home now, shall we? I hardly need to speak of the changes in our schools and churches resulting from the COVID-19 virus. Government-issued executive orders and restrictions, all of which we willingly obey, have dramatically changed everything about the way we both learn in our schools and worship in our churches. After over half a year of changes, months of worshiping at home, and weeks of schooling with masks, who among us hasn’t wondered at least once, “When will things just go back to normal?”

The young Christian has experienced some unsettling changes in our schools and churches.

But there’s another far deeper concern that you have for our churches isn’t there. Doesn’t the controversy in our churches trouble you? I’m not trying to set myself forward as one who has the “inside scoop” on our young people, but enough of you have expressed your fears and confusion as you try to make sense of it all. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention your concerns because they are real. Why is there all this controversy? What has happened yesterday to cause this controversy?  What will happen tomorrow in our churches? Do we confess yet the same truth? Where do my friends stand in this controversy? Where do my family members stand in this controversy? And as these anxious questions pile up in your mind and soul, and as you also look around at all the changes in the institutions of men, there is this question that burdens your heart: Will there also now be changes in one of the major constants in my life—the church?

Changes. Fearful changes.

Jesus Christ is the same.

The accelerating and ever-growing current of change threaten to unsettle and shake us. On what solid truth can our burdened, anxious souls rest?

Here’s the answer. It’s the same, simple, necessary confession that the Spirit-inspired apostle reminded the early Christians:

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever!” (Heb. 13:8).

Jesus Christ is the same! Though all around us changes, swirls, and churns, this truth sets our souls at ease: Jesus never changes. He is always the same.

He is the same! What wonderful news this is. Do you ever feel overwhelmed at the exhausting speed of change? Finally, something, or Someone rather, is secure! Jesus is the same today as he was yesterday. He will be the same tomorrow as he was today. He is reliable. He is consistent. He is my Rock. He is the same!

What is it about Jesus Christ that is the same? At least these three things:

First, Jesus Christ’s control over all things will not change. Though everything in the world seems to be out of control, Jesus isn’t. He is Jehovah God! And as King he sits on his throne directing everything. He is not changed by time. His power is not changed by the institutions of men. With the same authority by which he ruled Roman emperors, he rules over Washington’s politicians. And as time rolls on, his control over everything in this world will never, no, never diminish.

Second, his love and care for you will not change. His love and care cannot change! He is eternal God! Time doesn’t change him! His love for you is everlasting. It has no beginning. It has no end. His love cannot and will not flicker out. The love he showed you on the cross is the same love he shows you today, tomorrow, and forever! He will never stop caring for you. In the middle of all the changes in your life, in the presence of so many fears and questions, hear your Christ Jesus say, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee!” (Heb. 13:5).

Third, Jesus Christ holds the future. Everything in the future can fall to pieces, but my Savior is the same. The future can be a scary place, can’t it? But knowing your faithful, unchanging Savior holds the future, you can face tomorrow. Do you need this demonstrated? Think about yesterday. Think about many yesterdays. Has Jesus ever failed you? Has he failed you today? Has his care for you changed in any way? Has he given any indication that he won’t hold you up tomorrow and keep you safe? Of course he hasn’t. He is the same. He will faithfully preserve you tomorrow. He will faithfully preserve his church tomorrow. And his faithfulness to you and his church will extend to all eternity.

Young people, the world is changing. We can expect it to continue to change. As you live through and experience these changes, in whom will you place your trust? Do you find yourself more excited about a politician than you do Jesus Christ? Does your confidence for the future rest in a president? Be reminded, no president is changeless like our Christ Jesus. Is there a political party that has your unwavering support? You won’t find salvation in that political party. Whatever promises politicians or parties can make, they aren’t the secure, unchanging promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Satisfaction, security, and salvation are only found in Christ. Here on earth, we find no lasting city, but we seek the unshakable kingdom built on the solid, unchanging Rock, Jesus Christ. (Heb. 13:14).

We need the unchanging Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ. The early Christians needed this unchanging, faithful Rock as they were thrown to the lions of the Coliseum or dragged off to the mines to die as slaves. So also we need our unchanging Rock, our faithful Friend, as the winds of change in this world blow fiercely, and the oceans roar with the swelling thereof.

Everything in this world changes and will continue to change. But not Jesus Christ. He is the same. Place your confidence in Christ alone. He alone is the solid Rock on which you can stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

Your Savior, Jesus Christ, is the same, yesterday, today, and forever!

And you belong to him! Isn’t it wonderful being a Christian?

 

Originally published November 2020, Vol 79 No 11

In light of several recent events, the Federation Board has recognized that we may not be as visible in our operations as we would like. As elected representatives of the young people in our churches, we feel the need to ensure that they are aware of what we are doing. And not only the young people, but also their parents and any other member of the church—we are beneficiaries of your support in many ways: encouraging the young people in their volunteering (and often being the ones to drive them around), attending their fundraisers, or volunteering to help or chaperone at conventions. You too are a very active part of what we are trying to accomplish at the Federation Board, and we would like you to understand what you are supporting.

The current members of the Fed Board are Karl Dykstra (President), Joel Bodbyl (Vice-president), Bennett Meyer (Treasurer), Jon Pastoor (Vice-treasurer), Leah Koole (Secretary), Emily Dykstra (Vice-secretary), Lauren Kraker (Librarian), Justin Koole (Youth Coordinator), Rev. Garry Eriks (Spiritual Advisor), and Rev. William Langerak (Spiritual Advisor).

Much of our schedule is spent completing the annual duties of the Fed Board—planning our various Mass Meetings and Singspirations, overseeing the Scholarship Committee and the Beacon Lights, and keeping track of and aiding the progress of the upcoming conventions. We are constantly trying to ensure that these events and institutions are both beneficial and interesting to the young people of our churches.

In addition to these annual duties, another major concern of the Federation Board is finances. We often deal with large sums of money, handling money from fundraisers and young people’s dues. In respect to this we have undertaken a major project that will solidify the legal standing of the Federation Board in the eyes of the IRS, a standing that was somewhat gray before. We are in the process of becoming 501C3 certified—which will register us as a non-profit agency, allow tax-exempt donations, and clear up any potential confusion that may have arisen.

Also, there have been several questions as to the Federation Board’s disbursement of funds for various projects. In the past, the balance of the Fed Board varied greatly, and the Board had to be very careful in its financial dealings. We have been blessed recently with a large increase of funds, and while good financial stewardship is still our major concern, we have re-evaluated our practices and decided that we should have more freedom in our funding. After all, our goal is not to build up a large balance, but to serve as an intermediary for the young people, providing funding when necessary and prudent.

As we said before, we are the representatives of the young people. As such, we desire the prayers and considerations of the church as we set out to complete the work that is before us. In all we do, we strive to be good stewards of the resources we have been given, to represent the young people well, and to set a godly example by our actions, events, and attitudes.

In Christ,

Karl Dykstra, President

There in the darkness did I lay,
In the pit of mire and clay.
The darkness was so cold and deep,
And to my soul then did it creep.
The presence of one else was near,
It chilled my bones with sick’ning fear.
It’s cruel voice did drown my soul.
He came to me, I looked about,
There in the darkness did I shout.
I shook the deep with shrilling cries,
Then to the heav’ns I turned my eyes.
There was a light approaching me,
He scooped me up on bended knee.
He brought me up with wings of doves,
And in His hands was warmth and love.
Upon a rock He set my feet,
He strengthened bones, which were so weak.
Then down the pit then did He go,
He took my place far below.
I heard the pounding of the nails,
I split the silence with my wails.
It seemed that all my hope was lost,
He laid down his life for my cost.
Then in the pit I saw in sight,
It was the very same bright light.
It brought me up to heav’n above,
Show forth did He His gracious love.
And there will I forever stand,
And sit there at my Lord’s right hand.
A Savior to me then was He,
A Savior in the time of need.

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 […]

Continue reading

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 […]

Continue reading

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 […]

Continue reading

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 […]

Continue reading

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 […]

Continue reading

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 […]

Continue reading

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 […]

Continue reading