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I read with interest three Beacon Light articles (June and July 2011) on the subject of the disabled. Two articles by Karen Daling, who now suffers from multiple sclerosis, analyzed her feelings, including the four ways fellow Christians have reacted to her disability: the avoiders, the Pollyanna encouragers, the mourners, and the listeners. One article by Stephanie Buteyn gave admonition that people with Downs Syndrome need to be included socially in the body of Christ. These articles alerted me to the fact that most of us Christians need more sensitivity training regarding those with special needs.

The day after reading these articles, I was back in my study of the book of Job. I had reached chapter 12, where Job responds to the first set of speeches by his three friends. And there it was, reminiscent of the Beacon Lights articles: Job is a diseased, disabled person, and his “friends” are being insensitive.

Job starts out by rebuking his friends, telling them he is not inferior in intelligence or wisdom to them, even though his body is wracked with pain from head to foot. In the past, his friends had respected him, but now that he has lost everything and is diseased besides, they are mocking his words, as if they have all the answers to his problems if only he will listen to them.

In verse 5 Job tells them, “He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.” I think Job sees his influence as greatly reduced because of what has happened to him, almost like a lamp that gives off very little “light” at present. And what do his three friends who are healthy and prosperous do? In their “ease,” they despise him now that he has told them how much his body hurts and how it is so bad that he wishes he had never been born.

Job goes on to say that “the tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.” This should remind us of Psalm 73, where Asaph tells us, “As for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain” (vv. 2-6). Job brilliantly puts his finger on the attitudes his three friends are exhibiting.

Then Job says that even the brute creation knows that the hand of the Lord has wrought everything: “Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening” (v. 14). Does not this suggest that any infirmity we suffer somehow serves God’s purposes and we need to trust it is for our ultimate good?

I really paid attention to verse 20: “He [God] removeth the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding the aged.” I had never really considered old age as a disability, but of course it is. The “trusty,” according to Strong’s Concordance, is someone who has supported the lives of others and been faithful and trustworthy in his duties, such as parents are to their children. But what happens when parents reach their older years? Their strength and energy is failing. They can’t lift heavy things anymore. Maybe their eyes have developed macular degeneration and they can no longer even read their Bibles. They may not be able to go places except in a wheelchair. Their deteriorating minds may not be able to figure things out as formerly, and someone else may need to take over their checkbooks, tax returns, and health insurance applications. They need help, and I observe, at least in Protestant Reformed circles, that church office-bearers and the children and grandchildren of aged parents are very good about taking care of their elderly. The caretakers themselves could probably use some help from others.

Chapter 12 of Job speaks not only of disabilities, but also so strongly about God’s sovereignty that it could be used in proof texts. Read it for yourself, and see if this isn’t true. Thank you, Beacon Lights, for opening up this chapter in Job for me in a new way.

Dear Editor

I am very much enjoying the reminiscences of the late Rev. Cornelius Hanko in the Beacon Lights as edited by his granddaughter, Karen Van Baren.

In Chapter 2, which appeared in the July 2005 Beacon Lights, I happened to notice an error on the map on page 8. Eastern Avenue Church (Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church) should have been moved one block north (a little confusing since the map did not take the usual orientation of north being “up”).

That church was, and is, on Eastern Avenue between Logan and Bemis Streets in Grand Rapids, not between Bemis and Baxter.

The old First Protestant Reformed Church appears on the map, but Rev. Hanko is talking about a time before that church was even built. Old First Church is in the right spot on the map and still exists in the real, but who knows for how long? It is in much disrepair. The parsonage for that church, where Rev. Herman Hoeksema lived, is not shown on the map. It is to the left of the church on Franklin, and it can still be seen by anyone who wants to take a trip to Franklin and Fuller.

I went to see the Eastern Avenue CRC one morning in 1997 on the #4 bus because I wanted to get off the bus and really look around and study it for awhile. In hand I had Gertrude Hoeksema’s biography of Rev. Herman Hoeksema, Therefore Have I Spoken, showing an old photograph of the church and the old parsonage to the left of it where Rev. Hoeksema’s family once lived.

Imagine my surprise one day when riding the #4 south on Eastern Avenue several years later; I saw that the parsonage was up out of its foundation! I found out it was being moved. Eastern Avenue CRC decided to use the land to the left of their church to build a spacious new community ministry center with classrooms, space for dinners, etc., and they did build this addition once the old parsonage was moved north on Eastern Avenue about a half-block and on the other side of the street. It is in use today by CRC seminarians who have an interest in ministry to the inner city.

I am surprised that aside from one 75th anniversary tour of First Church, no tours of these areas are ever officially given. Such sites help to make the history of the denomination come alive! I would suggest mornings Monday through Friday when the streets are fairly quiet.

I am enclosing some photos taken this summer of the relocated parsonage as well as the church and its new addition (the addition was completed about the spring of 2001). I’m sure many in the Protestant Reformed Churches have never laid eyes on these places.

Therefore Have I Spoken, which is my favorite RFPA book, is no longer in print. The RFPA sold out of all its copies several years ago. It is, of course, a rare book now. Don’t give a copy away to some yard sale—either your copy or one belonging to your parents or grandparents. This is historically valuable, and if you are planning a trip to see the old locations, this is the thing to have with you. This book is definitely worthwhile reprinting, and perhaps for some Protestant Reformed anniversary, it would be appropriate to do that, if not sooner. Any reprint does needs to be indexed, however, and a list of photos and their locations in the book prepared as well.

Besides the account of the difficult childhood from which Hoeksema emerged and the many obstacles he had to overcome before the common grace controversy ever broke out with the CRC, Therefore Have I Spoken tells us many fascinating things about Rev. Hoeksema that are found nowhere else, and the historic photos are a treasure. Don’t try to find the church Hoeksema first served as a CRC minister in Holland, Michigan, however. I tried to locate it, based on the picture in the book, at the cost of a lot of shoe leather. It turns out that it was taken down some years ago and a new church built in its place.

Sincerely,

Natalie Jefferson

On the back cover of the August/September 2002 Beacon Lights, Editor John Huizenga has a questionnaire in which he asks for suggestions to improve the magazine. He has often invited young people to contribute articles and join the staff as well.

This opens up a topic that is bigger than just the needs of Beacon Lights. Protestant Reformed literature will decline in coming years unless some young Protestant Reformed people are preparing themselves educationally and vocationally for callings related to publishing.

By “calling” I mean a line of work—be it in or out of the home—where you enjoy making use of the gifts God has given you to serve Him and to benefit others.

Scripture Speaks

One general Scripture regarding our callings is Psalm 90:17: “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

Isaiah 52:7 uses the word publisheth, which has in it the idea of “proclaims,” “shows forth,” and “witnesses to”: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” This kind of publishing means all types of communication, such as sharing ideas with your neighbors, preparing the written word, teaching, and preaching. God sent His Son to earth, and the apostle John tells us this about the Son: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Scripture thus indicates that He was sent to communicate with us. If He has done this, we, in turn, communicate His great salvation to others.

Unlike so many other publishers, those who publish Protestant Reformed materials have God’s truth to proclaim. It is important that this truth be written, edited, printed, and distributed. Publishing is already happening among us, as we see from our periodicals, pamphlets, newsletters, catechism materials, Sunday school lessons, books, and even church bulletins.

Types of Workers

Written materials don’t just magically write and print themselves and arrive in your mailbox or in the narthex. Also, more than just writing is involved in publishing. Like publications anywhere, those produced by members of the Protestant Reformed Churches require the following sorts of workers:

  • Writers, editors, and proofreaders for the editorial part of the job
  • Designers who create artistic book and pamphlet covers and page designs, and who suggest layouts for promotional pieces, catalogs, and order blanks
  • Typists who know enough about word processing to make corrections to electronic manuscript files and to perform other typesetting tasks
  • Scanners or typists (if previously written material not in electronic format needs to be put on disk)
  • Business and accounting minds who can project costs and earnings, follow a budget, report earnings, and deal with money received
  • Promotional/advertising writers
  • Computer whizzes who can design and update websites, network office machines, fix computers, and maximize computer efficiency
  • Those who take orders that arrive by phone, e-mail, and regular mail, and who can learn to input these facts into a computer to generate invoices and mailing labels
  • Packers and shipment people who can lift heavy loads, assemble orders accurately, and learn how to run postage meters and follow postal regulations for bulk mailings and for packages being sent overseas

Why Give Yourself to PR Publishing?

In 1924, when the Christian Reformed Church was afraid to let articles of the outspoken Rev. Herman Hoeksema be printed anymore in CRC magazines, Hoeksema and some men in his church formed the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) so that they could freely speak out in a magazine they called the Standard Bearer. The first issue was published October 1, 1924, and the Standard Bearer has been published ever since. This is why Standard Bearer volumes run from October through September rather than from January to December. The word “Free” in the title of the RFPA means free from denominational control, so that a classis or synod can never shut it down. It is the reason why in 1953 the words of Hoeksema and other ministers who agreed with him could not be hushed up. The opposition was allowed to write articles for the Standard Bearer, too, but the point was that those standing for the truth were not silenced, and church members could compare the two points of view. Magazines, pamphlets, and books have played a large part not only in the formation of the Protestant Reformed Churches, but also in her preservation. If we ignore publishing of Protestant Reformed literature and do nothing to help it today, its vital witness may disappear altogether. Then you may experience what happens when a denomination begins to lose its distinctive doctrines and heads down the road to apostasy.

Whether you make contributions to help our publications, subscribe to our periodicals, buy our books, or lend your expertise as a volunteer or salaried worker to publish them, your participation is definitely needed. Actually very few individuals are now involved in the production of written materials needed by those in the Protestant Reformed Churches, and the majority of them are middle-aged or older. They have heavy workloads. Who will replace them when they can no longer work so many hours, or are unable to work at all?

Preparing Yourself

Not everyone is interested or gifted in the tasks described in this article, but a few young people who are interested and are gifted may want to consider training for this work.

The editorial jobs of writing, copyediting, and proofreading probably take the most education. A wide liberal arts background is helpful, with a major in English and courses in literature, writing, editing, and perhaps journalism. It would be smart to improve your library research skills and to work hard at the footnotes and bibliographies in your high school and college research papers according to the accepted stylebooks, because proper documentation can make a difference in the quality of our publications. You can gain experience in some of the skills mentioned by becoming part of the Beacon Lights staff even while you are still in school. It is assumed that writers and editors love to read and do a lot of it. Reading the Bible and worthwhile books helps you to unconsciously absorb the principles that go into the best writing so that you recognize it when you see it. Even without any special training, editorial types should be able to pick up some of the errors in what they read, because those with a talent for it have built-in “eyes” and “ears” for grammar, punctuation, spelling, agreement, word choice, and the like.

Still another kind of eye and brain belong to the budding designers, who can head to art school and study techniques of commercial and other types of art, of photography, and of software that manipulates lines, colors, and images the way that word processing manipulates words. If you have these interests, you can go to the large bookstores and see how books and magazines are being designed and illustrated these days. You can also work alongside an experienced designer as a sort of apprentice for awhile.

Typesetters are the people who take the words of a manuscript from disk and apply the designer’s specifications so that the final printout looks the way it will in the finished product. The Standard Bearer is typeset by a staff member. RFPA books are typeset by a commercial typesetter. Typesetters need good English and word processing skills as well as an ability to read designer specs and the handwriting of copyeditors who have made corrections to manuscript pages and galley proofs. It is not particularly creative work, but it requires an ability to follow directions and to learn computer typesetting techniques. Physical ability to sit for long hours indoors and to focus on a computer screen are also basic requirements for this job.

Business administration, math, and accounting courses in college would help “number people” who are interested in the financial and order fulfillment side of publishing. Without such people, a non-profit organization may not be ready for tax season, may not properly keep records of employee earnings, and may be fearful of taking risks or trying new ways of doing things, resulting in its getting bogged down with antiquated systems that slow production and keep an office from getting the printed word out to new customers.

Advantages of Volunteering

For young people especially, volunteering in an area of your interest may be just the way to discover whether you would like it as a job. While you are still living at home is the perfect time to volunteer, especially if your parents are willing to give you six months or so to live rent-free, with food at their expense. Whether you are a paid employee or a volunteer, you can still put the experience and work dates on your resume and use your supervisor as a reference. Sometimes the simpler duties given to volunteers are the very springboard you need to move ahead. Volunteering allows you, even by observation, to absorb many things about the world of work. What if you can’t find a job immediately after high school or college? Wouldn’t a short-term volunteer job be valuable, even if a company does not have the time to train volunteers in the more advanced skills?

If volunteering leads you to become a paid member of a Protestant Reformed publications staff, it may mean working for less money and benefits than you could earn on a secular job. Would you be willing to make this sacrifice?

A Word to Those in Charge

I have a question for those who now produce our publications. Are you willing to let young people volunteer to help you with something, if they ask, and to mentor them if they show special promise? Let me take this one step further. Are you willing to go looking for such young people, and then to let them learn some skills directly from you? Waiting until you die some day when others will have to figure out how you did your job may prove detrimental to the organization. Think how much information would die with you! Parents pass on vital information about life to their children. Shouldn’t those in charge of various publications now be training the younger members of our denomination to have a part in this great work?

“The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it” (Ps. 67:11).

God Does It All

Readers, be blessed by reading Exodus 31:1-11, 35: 30-35, and 36:1-5. The Lord had given Moses instructions about the tent of meeting and its furniture, the fabric and form of the holy garments for the priests, and the mixtures for the anointing oil and incense. No doubt Moses wondered how all this was to be accomplished. But God not only gave the commands that these things be made; he also formed the hearts, minds, and bodies of some people with the very abilities needed to do the work. Read about Bezaleel and Aholiab and take courage. So will the Lord equip his servants, even now in the twenty-first century, for the tasks to which He has assigned them.

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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