A few thousand years ago Noah lived in a wicked world. The same is true for us in the year of our Lord 2019. We live in a terribly depraved and wicked world. We know that’s the case because Jesus makes that comparison in Luke 17:26: “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” The “days of the Son of man” refer not only to that point in time immediately preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ; but all the New Testament era can be considered the “days of the Son of man.” Right now we live in the days of the Son of man. And these days are becoming increasingly wicked and corrupt.
What was it like in the days of Noah?
First, the wickedness began many years prior, when members of the church began to marry the people of the world. That’s the teaching of Genesis 6:2: “[T]he sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” This is a description of the intermarriages that took place between those of the line of Seth (sons of God) and those of the line of wicked Cain (daughters of men). The women of the world made themselves available to the descendants of Seth. The descendants of Seth were smitten with their beauty. These women were willing to give these men their time and attention, and the men were more than happy to reciprocate.
Second, as the years went on, these mixed marriages resulted in extreme wickedness. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”! (Gen. 6:5). Men and women and children over the face of the whole earth were expressing their wickedness and depravity. This tells us what happened in these ungodly marriages. Did the wicked women become more and more godly? No. But those of the line of Seth became more and more wicked. The principle is this, namely, that the church does not sanctify the world. But rather these unholy unions only served to corrupt the church.
As more of these unholy marriages took place, and as the earth became more populated, what became true of people? Genesis 6:5 says that God looked down and saw the human race, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Every imagination, every thought that ever entered into the mind of man, was evil. It was only evil. There was no good mingled with it whatsoever. It was entirely void of any good and anything glorifying to God. This was the state of man’s mind continually. This tells us the duration of their wicked thinking and doing. It kept going on and on and on. Think of that wicked man Lamech. He lived early on, but he’s a man indicative of the spirit of the age. He boasted to his two wives about killing a man and essentially said, “And what’s God going to do about it? And if God would punish me I’d be punished more than Cain!”
What did all this mean for Noah? Remember that Noah was a righteous man. Noah loved the Lord. How did others treat him? You can be sure they treated him with scorn and contempt. They hated Noah. They hated Noah’s God. They counted Noah a fool for his love and devotion to God.
They counted Noah a fool especially in connection with Noah’s obedience to the Lord to build an ark: to build an ark in the middle of dry ground, to build an ark so large as to hold so many animals and birds, to build an ark in anticipation of a worldwide flood! And they let Noah know that he was a fool for wasting his time. They hated Noah. He became the laughingstock of the world.
That’s what it was like during the days of Noah. Ungodly marriages produced ungodly children. The imaginations of men’s hearts were only evil continually. Genesis 6:11–12 give us the summary: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.”
Sometimes I wonder how Noah would have responded if he could have seen into the future, to behold our culture and to see all the filth and corruption in our society. And I wonder if Noah would not have said, “If there was ever a time during the world I would not want to live, it would be in 2019. Too much evil! So much corruption! Every man doing that which is right in his own eyes.”
We don’t know what Noah would have thought. My point is that sometimes we consider the days before the flood, and we say, “That was the most wicked time on the face of the earth.” And yes, it was wicked, so wicked that God said, “This present world must be destroyed!” But the wickedness of the present day is for sure not less than it was in the days of Noah. If anything, it’s more. This is the wicked world in which we live.
“[A]s it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.”
First, we live in a culture where every man does that which is right in his own eyes. The mentality is, “Nobody tells me what to do. Nobody may tell me how to live my life. And if somebody does tell me what I should do and how to live my life, I’ll simply take it as a suggestion.” The result of that kind of mentality is rebelliousness. Children rebel against their parents. Young people then do not heed the words of Mom and Dad, but instead challenge their authority. The danger is that that ungodly behavior rubs off on us. That’s the culture in which we live, so let’s be aware of it.
Second, in our day and age the devil is working hard to distort the truth of God’s word. The advances in science and technology lead scientists to declare, “The earth is billions of years old, and this is an indisputable fact, along with the evolution of species along the way.” For young people especially who go off to college and university, you will be confronted with these claims. And when you raise your voice in biology class and say, “The word of God does not allow this universe to be that old, nor the evolution of species,” then you will be ostracized.
Third, the devil is also working hard so that you young people would begin to have eyes for someone of the world. That’s what happened during the days of Noah. The descendants of Seth looked at the beauty of the daughters of the world, and they were smitten! Young men, the daughters of the world will present themselves unto you as fair and beautiful. Young women, some dashing young man of the world might pursue after you and flatter you with all kinds of words and all manner of money. Beware, young people! We live in a wicked world.
Further, there’s all the ungodly entertainment the world sets before us. To be sure, there is legitimate entertainment for the Christian to enjoy. But for every legitimate form of entertainment there are thousands of other forms that are forbidden to the Christian: the TV shows, the movies, the songs that are recorded, all the taking of God’s name in vain, all the setting forth of promiscuity and fornication as something that’s normal and something that’s good. The danger is that we assimilate that kind of thinking and ungodly behavior. To assimilate means that once you become exposed to this filth and corruption, and the more you’re exposed to it, the more you begin to absorb it into your own thinking and living. We live in a wicked world!
Do you sense the danger? Are you aware of the wickedness of the day: the drinking, the promiscuity, the pornography, the foul language, the hedonism of the day?
Young people, do not be deceived. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security. We can become very comfortable with our lives, comfortable with the internet, comfortable with the culture around us. We can become very comfortable with our sins and the old man within us lusting for more and more pleasure. Don’t become complacent in your lives. Sin is nothing to be trifled with. God takes sin seriously. Look what happened to the world before the flood. It was so filled with sin and wickedness and violence that God sent the flood to destroy it all.
In the midst of this wicked world God gives us the calling to live godly.
That was the command that came to Noah long ago. The Bible doesn’t tell us much of Noah’s day-to-day life leading up to the flood. But the Bible does tell us in 2 Peter 2:5 that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Amidst all the violence and wickedness and all the pleasure seeking of the world, Noah was a preacher of righteousness. He testified against the ungodliness. He didn’t accept it as something normal for him and his family. He didn’t sit idly by. He didn’t keep his mouth shut. He preached to his own family the good and holy ways of God. You can see Noah gathering his family round about him and telling his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, together with their wives, “You may not go out into the world and become friends with the ungodly. You may not go out and engage in all that pleasure seeking. Serve God! Worship him alone! Love him! Seek your pleasure in him!”
Not only did Noah preach to his family, but as God gave him opportunity he preached to those around him. He preached the righteousness of God. Noah preached, “The judgment of God is coming for all your sins and all your wickedness.” And in all this Noah lived godly. He didn’t partake in those sins. He lived godly in a wicked world.
The calling also comes to you young people: live godly in the midst of this wicked world. That’s simply another way of saying, “Live antithetically.” Testify against the ungodliness the devil presents to you. Say, “No, I will not partake in that wickedness. No, I will not listen to that music. No, I will not watch that garbage. No, I will not engage in the lusts of the flesh!” Live godly. Live in gratitude, knowing the great salvation God has given you in Jesus Christ.
Then demonstrate that godliness in the friends you seek. Demonstrate that godliness in the marriages you desire. That means you say, “I will seek that one to be my spouse who has the same faith and who believes the same Christ.”
Exercise yourselves unto godliness. Refrain from the evil. Do the good. And know that the Lord is the one who delivers us from this wicked age.
Scripture Reading: Acts 8:26–35
Have you ever felt that way? The way the Ethiopian eunuch felt as he was reading the Bible? He had his Bible open to Isaiah 53. He read it. But he couldn’t understand it!
Has that ever happened to you? You’re around the dinner table. After eating, your father opens the Bible and reads a passage. Then he asks some questions. Is it the case that you’ve ever said, “I don’t know what it means”? Or you’re in Young People’s Society. After reading the scripture passage, your young people’s leader begins to ask questions about the passage. Maybe you feel stumped. Is it the case that you’ve ever said or thought, “I don’t know what it means. It means what it says!”? That’s something we all can relate to because it’s happened to all of us at one point or another in our lives.
But we don’t want that to happen! We want to open the Bible in school and at home and in the Bible society, and we want to understand what it means. After all, these are the holy scriptures we’re talking about: the revelation of God unto us in Jesus Christ our savior! Herein is contained truth. You know no truth at all unless you know Jesus, for Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The Holy Spirit says concerning scripture, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). The Bible, as the object of our study, is from beginning to end the revelation of our Savior and the work he set out to do and accomplish to save us from our sins and bring us to glory. Therefore how important is the Bible! And how needful it is for us to understand it!
The theme for this article is “A Crash Course on How to Study the Bible.” It’s not easy. It takes work. But with time and diligent study, and through much prayer, God will give you that deeper understanding of the Bible that you so crave. We take our cue from this history of the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8.
Please keep in mind, the list that follows on how to study the Bible is by no means exhaustive. It is simple. It is basic. It is designed so that you may take this list and go to any passage of the Bible and apply it, and by God’s grace study the Bible and profit from it.
- READ the Bible.
In the first place, and probably the most important; something so simple, and yet so profound; something that’s so easy to do, and yet at times it becomes a chore to do it; this is so very important in your study of the Bible—you have to READ the Bible! That’s what the Ethiopian eunuch was doing. He was reading the Bible. You will not be able to study the Bible, let alone understand it, if you do not read the Bible.
There are no excuses here for any of us. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like to read. You must read the Bible! I am not only referring to the time you read the Bible as a family around the dinner table; not only referring to the reading of the Bible in church twice every Sunday. Yes, those times of scripture reading are important. But I have in mind when it’s just you sitting down and reading the Bible whenever that has to be, whether in the morning before you go to school, at night before you go to bed, or better yet, even multiple times throughout the day. But YOU have to set aside time every single day and read the Bible and have your own personal devotions.
You may not say, “But I don’t have time.” I suppose the Ethiopian eunuch could have said that too. “I don’t have time to read the Bible. I’m a man of great authority! I have so many responsibilities being in charge of all the queen’s finances, and I’ve got to get back to Ethiopia and get back to work.” I daresay the Ethiopian eunuch was much busier than any of us are. Yet what was the case for him? He found the time. He made the time to stop and take a break from his labor. He rested for a bit and read the Bible even in the midst of his busy schedule.
How do you study the Bible? First, you’ve got to read the Bible.
- A Desire to Understand
Second, when you read the Bible, you have to desire to understand what you read. It doesn’t do you any good if you read the Bible not exerting yourself to understand it and lacking the desire to comprehend the words you read.
Sometimes that happens to us. Have you ever opened a book and started reading a paragraph or two, maybe an entire page, then suddenly come to the realization, “I have no clue what I just read!”? Perhaps you were tired. Maybe your mind was elsewhere. One thing is certain—your desire to understand what you were reading was lacking. And for all the words you read, it simply never processed in your brain. Why? Because you got off on the wrong foot. You didn’t have the desire to understand. Similarly, when you read the Bible, you have to desire to understand what you read.
Isn’t that true with the Ethiopian eunuch? When he was reading Isaiah 53 he was thinking about the words he read. You can see him sitting in his chariot, and his mind was working! He was pondering the word of God. He was trying to understand it. And for that matter, that was the concern of Philip too. Philip approaches him and says, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” Philip was very concerned that the man was not only reading but understanding what he was reading. That ought to be our approach to the Bible: reading, but reading with knowledge and understanding.
- Asking The Right Questions
In the third place, closely connected with the desire to understand what you read, in order to study the Bible profitably, you have to ask the right questions about the passage.
The danger is that you start asking the wrong questions: questions that may be somewhat relevant to the passage, but questions that really only distract and lead you away from the true meaning of the passage. For example, consider Job 40 and 41. In these two chapters God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. God teaches Job, and us, of two great creatures—behemoth and leviathan. Usually the question we ask right away is, “What is the identity of these two creatures?” Some of the answers (or shall I say, speculations) you might hear are as follows. Behemoth—“It’s an elephant! No, it’s a hippopotamus! No, it’s definitely a brontosaurus!” With regard to leviathan, “A blue whale! No, it was a giant crocodile! No, it was some ancient sea creature!” Now, there is a place for that kind of a question and discussion. But my point is this: if that’s the only kind of question you ask about Job 40 and 41, “What kind of creatures are these?” then you’re missing the whole point! The right questions would be, “What is God’s purpose in speaking about these great creatures? Why would God so impress upon Job so many details about these creatures?” If you want to get at the meaning of a passage, you have to ask the right questions.
Consider the Ethiopian eunuch. He didn’t get sidetracked with wrong questions. He asked a good question. “Philip, who is the prophet Isaiah speaking of? ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.’ Is the prophet speaking this of himself, or of another?” That’s a good question! It gets to the heart of the passage.
And you can never go wrong when you ask questions that have to do with Jesus. “What does this passage teach me about Jesus? What does it teach me about his obedience, about his suffering, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his coming again on the clouds of glory? What does this passage teach concerning a particular blessing of salvation Jesus merited for me on the cross?” The key to profitable Bible study is to ask the right questions.
- Compare Scripture with Scripture.
In the fourth place, in order to study the Bible you need to go to other places in scripture. Compare scripture with scripture.
That’s what Philip did with the eunuch in Acts 8:35. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” Notice, he began at the same scripture (Isaiah 53), implying that Philip also went to other passages of scripture: went to other passages in Isaiah that spake of the Messiah, then perhaps went to Moses, then went to the psalms and to the other prophets. What Philip did was the same thing Jesus did with the travelers to Emmaus. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Philip did the same thing. He went to many other places in scripture to help explain and interpret Isaiah 53 to the Ethiopian eunuch.
This means that when you’re having a difficult time understanding a passage, go to other passages that shed some light on the one you’re studying. That’s what we call comparing scripture with scripture. Let scripture interpret itself. Don’t try to come up with some unique and novel understanding of a text. But always ask yourself, “Does what I think this passage teaches fit with the rest of scripture? Does it fit with the teaching of the rest of the Bible?”
To help you compare scripture with scripture, it’s very helpful to have a Bible with cross-referencing. The cross-references will point you to parallel passages, to other passages where the same word is used, to passages where the same doctrine is taught. If you don’t already have a Bible with cross –references, I would advise you to invest in one that does. In order to study the Bible, you must compare scripture with scripture.
- Get Help.
So you’ve performed steps one through four, and yet you’re still having difficulty understanding a passage. Now is the time you get help! That’s what the Ethiopian eunuch did. He read the Bible and tried to understand it. He was asking the right questions. But he still had a hard time of it. God sent Philip to help him in his study. And Philip explained what the passage meant and made clear its meaning.
When you’re having difficulty ascertaining the meaning of a passage, don’t be hesitant to seek help. You may seek the help of commentaries. What did John Calvin have to say about this passage? What did Rev. Herman Hoeksema write about this verse? You can ask your minister. Ask your elders. You can search in old volumes of The Standard Bearer or Beacon Lights for commentaries on particular verses. The Spirit of God has worked in the church of the past, and we do wrong if we would not stand on the shoulders of others. The Ethiopian eunuch received help in his study of the Bible, and so may we.
However, don’t get this one out of order. I have this listed at number five. Do not put this at number two, so that first you read the Bible and then instantly resort to the commentary without even bothering to try to understand it for yourself. That’s when somebody reads a passage and says, “Well, I read it. Now is the time for me to get help, and somebody else must tell me what it means.” That’s the wrong order!
I think that happens too often in our circles, where there isn’t enough critical thinking taking place first, and a person says, “Just give me the answer! Just tell me what the passage means!” And nowadays we have study Bibles—study Bibles with the Bible on the top half of the page and a commentary on the bottom half. Yes, they are very good and worthwhile commentaries. But do you see what the temptation is? The temptation is that I read the Bible passage on the top of the page, and I go right down to the commentary without even thinking about it for myself first.
So when you’re studying the Bible, there comes a time and a place when you may seek help. But don’t seek that help too quickly and without doing some of the hard work yourself first.
Last, in order to study the Bible, you need to pray. I have this listed at the end, but it’s something that has to happen at the beginning too. Really, it ought to be interspersed throughout all your studying of the Bible. If you will ever be a serious student of scripture, you must be a man, a woman, of prayer. You have to acknowledge before God that unless God reveals the scriptures unto you, you will know nothing. Therefore pray unto God that he will open your mind, that he will open the scriptures, that you may be given the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit would lead you in your study of God’s word.
A crash course on how to study the Bible. A few simple, basic steps we learn right here from Acts 8. Follow these steps and discover from God’s word treasures both old and new.
Originally published in September 2019 Vol 78 No 9
2019 YP Convention Discussion Group Outline #1—The Signs of the Times
Rev. David Noorman
With a simple prophetic reference to the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2), the disciples’ minds immediately went to the end of the world, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (v. 3). Jesus’ answer begins with a sobering warning, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (vs. 4–5) and from there he identifies the signs of his coming that they would see, hear, and experience.
Following that introduction of vs. 1–3, the remainder of Matthew 24 can be considered in three parts. First, Jesus gives a general outline of the various signs of the times (vs. 4–14). Second, he provides a more detailed explanation of the very last days of this age, including the appearance of the Abomination of Desolation, the Great Tribulation, and the glorious appearance of the Son of Man himself (vs. 15–31). Third and finally, Jesus applies this instruction to the disciples (vs. 32–51).
It is important that all of God’s people, young and old, understand and are able to recognize the signs of the end. Jesus was not willing to leave his disciples without giving them this all-important lesson!
- Observing the Signs: Matthew 24:4–14
- What are some of the different kinds of signs that Jesus outlined? Which of these do you see most prominently today? Can you see how these signs have increased in frequency and intensity since the days of the disciples?
- What one sign seems to stand above the rest? Why might this be?
- Why is God pleased to give us signs at all? What purpose do they serve?
- Experiencing the End: Matthew 24:15–31
- What is the message of Christ to those who shall see the Abomination of Desolation (Antichrist) standing in the holy place?
- What will be the nature of the Great Tribulation? And what comfort is afforded to those who will endure it?
- Being Ready: Matthew 24:32–51
- Seeing that no man knows the day or the hour of his coming, the calling Jesus gives to us is “Watch!” How do we do this? What might distract us from this calling? How, as young people, can we help each other with this?
- Jesus builds on this command in vs. 44–51, where he teaches us that he will come in such a day that the wicked are not looking for him, “Therefore be ye also ready!” What does it mean to be ready? How can we as young people be prepared for his coming?
2019 YP Convention Discussion Group Outline #2 — Unashamed of the Gospel
Rev. Heath Bleyenberg
We live in the midst of a wicked world where the gospel truths are openly mocked and ridiculed. Thus, there is great pressure placed upon the Christian to live godly and there is great pressure to compromise our faith. The apostle Paul knew firsthand the pressures of godly living and yet he boldly confesses in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”
- The Gospel—The gospel literally means “the good news.”
- When you survey the Bible, what at bottom is the good news? Why is this truth so precious to God’s people? (Cf. Gen. 3:15, 2 Sam. 7:12–14, Isaiah 9:6; Malachi 4:2–3, Matthew 1:20–23).
- The gospel includes ALL the truths of Scripture, including the distinctive doctrines of the Reformed faith. Make a list of as many distinctive doctrines of the Reformed faith that you can think of and give a Scripture proof for each.
- Unashamed of the Gospel
- What does it mean to be ashamed? What would be some of the reasons why we would be ashamed of the gospel or some particular aspect thereof?
- We are called to live unashamedly of the gospel truths we confess. Look up the following Scriptural references and write down how God’s people were unashamed of the gospel: Daniel 3:16–18, Daniel 6:10ff, Acts 6:29–32 & 40–41; Acts 26.
- Write down how God uses the following means to help us stand strong in the faith so that we’re not ashamed of what we believe: faithful membership in the church, godly friendships, personal devotions.
- The Punishment and Blessing
- Jesus says in Mark 8:38 “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” What does it mean when the Jesus would be “ashamed” of someone in the final judgment? (Cf Matt. 10:33).
- Jesus says in Matthew 10:32 “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” What does that mean when Jesus confesses us before the Father? How is this such great incentive for us to live unashamed of Jesus and unashamed of his words?
That is a foolish man indeed who, traveling down the road, refuses to be led. He’s unsure exactly how to get to his destination. And yet he refuses to look at the map. Refuses to ask for directions. Refuses even to listen to the good counsel of others when they sense that he just might be lost. And all along he assures himself “It’s just a matter of time. Other people have made it. So will I.”
Such is the foolishness of that young dating couple who refuses to come to God in prayer.
In the sermon on the mount Jesus instructs us, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7–8). God has given us the gift of prayer. Every one of God’s children must engage in this holy exercise. And now I write simply to emphasize the importance of prayer for that young man and young woman who find themselves dating.
If you, young couple, desire to have a healthy, godly relationship with each other and with Jehovah God, then you will pray. You will pray individually. And you will pray together. Prayer is the means God has given us to communicate with him. Prayer is the means whereby we are able to thank God for all he has done for us, and the means whereby God gives us more grace and a richer measure of the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, we cry out to God in our distress. We call upon him in the day of trouble. Through prayer, we worship and praise the God of our salvation. From beginning to end Scripture presents God’s people as a praying people. And you—who find yourselves in a dating relationship—must be a praying couple.
Be wise and discerning when you begin praying together. You ought always to be praying privately. Whether or not you are dating, you must be bringing your petition to God every night, “Father, lead me and guide me in that good and perfect way.” But when God does see fit that you begin dating, praying with the other need not necessarily be on your first date. Perhaps not even in the first few weeks. But there will come that point in your relationship when you’ve spent time with each other, you’ve grown comfortable in one another’s presence, and now you’re able to hold hands and in reverent humility approach God’s throne of grace together in prayer.
What then are those things you ought to be praying for? What I list are matters you ought to be praying for individually, but then in the course of time that you ought to be praying for together.
First, pray that God will lead and guide and teach you. Psalm 25:5, “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me.” Psalm 143:8, “cause me to know the way wherein I should walk,” and verse 10 “Thy spirit is good, lead me into the land of uprightness.” Implied is that you and I cannot lead and guide and teach ourselves. We don’t know how to do these things naturally. If the health and welfare of any of our relationships depended upon us, then our relationships would end up in ruin! Rather, we look to the Lord for guidance. We seek the Spirit for his leadership. And we always resort to and submit ourselves to the good instruction of God’s word.
Second, pray that in your dating relationship, while you would enjoy one another’s friendship and fellowship, that all things may be done to the glory of God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do” which includes the places you go and the things you do together, “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
Third, pray for grace that you may always submit to God’s will. We may not use prayer in an attempt to persuade God to perform our will, but we always pray in the consciousness and fervent desire that God’s will be done. This can become especially important when, in some instances, it becomes apparent that God’s will is that you no longer be in a dating relationship with that other person. He or she might decide to break up with you. Will you become angry? Will you become bitter? Will that anger and frustration now dominate your life? When we submit our will to the Lord’s will, then that frees us from anger and bitterness. Breaking up may not be what we wanted to happen, but insofar as we know this is God’s will, we rest assured knowing that God’s will is best and always good. He is in control of my life, and not me. God sees and knows everything, and all I see are the few circumstances surrounding me at the moment. So even in the case of a difficult breakup, I can proceed on in life, submitting my will to God’s will, and believing that my God does all things for my good and my salvation. Young people and young adults—pray for this grace that you submit your will to the will of your heavenly Father.
Then finally this—pray for godliness. Young man, do you want to present yourself as handsome and attractive? Young woman, do you want to present yourself as lovely and beautiful? Of course you do. This is your beauty; this is your attractiveness—GODLINESS. To be godly means that the life of Jesus Christ is within me, and I know myself to be a child of God. To live godly means that I will deny myself the things this world holds precious, and I will take up my cross and follow my Savior. Godliness is holiness—separation from sin and devotion to God. Pray that you may recognize that godliness in others and that you personally grow in that godliness.
We don’t want to be like that foolish man who refuses to ask for directions. In his pride, he thinks he can do it all by himself. In his pride, he ignores the good counsel of others. But the same man, in his pride, becomes lost. He finds himself in unfamiliar territory. And his last state becomes worse than the first.
There are so many more things that can be said about the importance of prayer between boyfriend and girlfriend. I’ve mentioned only a few. But in all things let us be a praying people. Praying for grace. Praying for guidance. Praying for contentment. Praying that the Lord’s will be done. Praying for godliness. In so doing you may have the confidence that the Lord will bless you personally, and that his blessing will also extend to your relationship with others. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5).
I was born August 18, 1975 in Pipestone, MN, to Jim and Gloria Bleyenberg, and am the second oldest of five children. My earliest years were spent on a farm outside of Edgerton, during which time I attended the Protestant Reformed Free Christian School for two years and was instructed through the preaching in Edgerton PRC.
In 1982 our family moved to Chino, California. We lived there eight years and attended Hope PRC, in Redlands. Eight years later, in the fall of 1990 (my freshman year in high school), we moved back to Edgerton, and I finished my high school instruction at the local Christian Reformed high school.
I decided to attend Dordt College, majoring in mechanical engineering. In 1998, having graduated from Dordt, I packed my bags, loaded my car, crossed the Mississippi, and enterered uncharted territory (at least for me), and at long last arrived in Grand Rapids, MI. Though it was a long day of driving, it turned out to be a good day. I arrived just in time to attend Bible study that night at Hope PRC.
From 1998 to 2004 I worked as a mechanical engineer making construction documents and designing many of the mechanical features present in grocery/retail stores. People have often asked me, “You must not have liked your job, seeing that you entered seminary?” On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed my job. But the call of God is irresistible, and he would give me more enjoyment and comfort in the way of submitting to his will. In 2008 I graduated from seminary and was called to be the first minister of Providence PRC.
My days in seminary were memorable. The classroom instruction was top-notch — Reformed, godly, and edifying. So lively were the classroom lectures that once, during church polity, the ceiling fell down during the middle of class! During my seminary years I had the privilege of providing housing for two other seminarians. (Rev.) Cory Griess lived with me for one year. After that, the Irishman (Rev.) Martyn McGeown took up residence in my basement for two years. I provided the housing. He provided the dry Irish wit. We had many a good discussion late into the night. I count both men dear friends of mine.
In November of 2008 I was ordained into the ministry. For some seven months I was a bachelor living in the parsonage. I met my wife, Deborah Key, the summer before I was ordained, and we were engaged shortly after ordination. She has been a faithful help to me in the ministry. My wife and I enjoy all things nature —bike riding, hiking, gardening, and especially bird watching. Every four years you can find me cheering for the USA and the Netherlands in the World Cup.
The Lord calls a man to the ministry in different ways and at different times in his life. Some men know when they are younger and begin preparing already in high school. I did not feel the force of the call until my mid-twenties. That’s not to say that the Lord hadn’t planted the seed earlier in my life. Once while I was in college, I traveled home to Edgerton for family visitation. During the meeting, the elder asked me if I had ever considered the ministry. I was rather startled by the question. Startled, because my answer was, “Yes, I have considered it,” but all too often would dismiss the notion very quickly. The Lord also worked in my heart by giving me more and more an interest in spiritual things. That interest led me in my junior year of college to purchase Reformed Dogmatics and In the Sanctuary, books by Herman Hoeksema. What a thrill when the books arrived in the mail! I take the time to thank the RFPA for giving students free subscriptions to the Standard Bearer. Any of you young men (and young women) in college, by all means take advantage of this free gift! I recall reading with an excited interest the “News from Seminary Hill,” and especially Prof. Decker’s convocation address from 1 Thess. 5:25: “Brethren, Pray for Us” (Vol. 73, p.55).
After I graduated from college and moved to Michigan, I struggled with the call to the ministry more and more. Eventually the issue boiled down to this — how will God have me serve him? How would the risen and exalted Christ use me in his kingdom and covenant? The churches needed ministers. I had an interest in spiritual things. By God’s grace, I loved Jesus Christ and his church. I did not have the other commitments that go along with having a wife and children. The Lord led me very slowly, and at times painfully, to seek admission into seminary and thus into the ministry.
I’ve been asked to give any advice to young men who may be considering the ministry.
First, by all means pray to God. Pour your heart out unto Him. Ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit that you may be led to know God’s will. In so doing, you may have the confidence that God will lead you.
For many men the answer God gives is the same answer Jesus gave to the Gadarene demoniac whom he healed. The man, understandably, wanted to be near Jesus and be with Jesus in a special way. But the word of Jesus to him was, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee” (Mark 5:19). Jesus was saying “You’ve tasted of the healing mercies of God. You want to be with me. You want to be my special disciple. That’s a good desire in and of itself. But that’s not my will for you. My will for you is that you go home, and tell your family, tell your neighbors, all the great things I’ve done for you.” I say, for many men, the answer of Jesus in response to their prayers is “You wonder about being a minister? That’s good that you think about that. But that’s not my will for you. My will for you is that you serve as elder, as deacon, or as a God-fearing man in the office of all believer: prophet, priest, and king.” What a high and noble calling that is! May God grant our churches more of these men to serve in this capacity!
But for other men, the Lord calls in a special way. In response to their prayers, God will impress that call upon the man’s heart so that that man has no peace as long as he puts off preparation for the ministry. The desire for the ministry simply does not go away. It consumes the man’s thoughts day in and day out, and so long as he remains idle, makes him a miserable, miserable man.
Young men, pray to God. And do not dismiss so easily your leanings toward the pastoral ministry. Your serious consideration of it might very well be an indication that God has called you to it.
Second, for you men considering the ministry, speak to somebody. Speak to parents. Speak to that teacher who knows your strengths and weaknesses. Go to your minister. Seek the advice of the elders. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. Speak to these people and tell them you are considering the ministry and whether they see in you the natural gifts for the labor. They will be able to give you good advice and encouragement. And when necessary, they will spur you on in your preparation. The longer a man resists the call, the more difficult it becomes later in life to begin—though it is not impossible.
Above all, demonstrate in your life humility, godliness, and a fervent love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for his blood-bought people.
The 2009 annual PRC Young People’s convention is right around the corner! Trinity PRC will be hosting the convention August 17-21 on the beautiful grounds of Lake Williamson, Illinois. Are you planning to go? Maybe this is your first convention. Perhaps it might be your last. Whatever the case…are you ready?
For many of you (conventioneer and chaperone alike) the past few months have been full of preparation. There have been all the fundraisers you and your fellow young people were involved with in the past year. Perhaps you’ve had to work more overtime this summer to help pay your way to convention. If you live out of state you need to arrange transportation to Grand Rapids.
And then there’s the necessary planning immediately before you leave for convention. What do I need to pack? You look at the PRC Convention website and you see that you need to bring your Bible along. Don’t forget your ball glove. You’re going to need a towel to dry yourself off after a dip in the lake. Bug repellent is a must. If you plan on sleeping, a pillow and sleeping bag are required. Do you want a souvenir? Don’t forget to bring along a little extra spending money.
Finally, the list is checked off! We’re prepared! We’re ready to go!
Or are we?
If our preparation includes only the above mentioned items, we still would be ill-equipped. If our preparation consisted exclusively in having our registration money ready and our suitcase in hand…we would be utterly unprepared for convention this summer!
Without preparing ourselves spiritually, the convention will be an absolute waste of time.
So let’s prepare ourselves.
The first thing we must do is pray. Prayer is absolutely necessary if we plan to have a week of good fellowship with other believers our age. Before you leave for convention pray that God would grant that his name be glorified by the behavior of the conventioneers. Thank God that you have the privilege of attending a convention with hundreds of others of like mind and like faith. What a blessing! Pray that God would bless the word from the speakers so that all are built up and spiritually edified. Pray that friendships may be made, friendships that may last a lifetime! Pray that you, personally, may be holy and godly in word and in deed. Pray for divine guidance and care over all the activities of the convention. Has not God promised that all things work together for our good? Ask of God, and in the way of our asking him he is pleased to provide.
The second way to prepare spiritually is to familiarize yourself with the theme of convention. This year’s theme is A Church Gathered From All Nations taken from Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
The text gives us a description of the church of God from the beginning to the end of the world. Notice that the members thereof are “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.” The church is catholic, i.e., universal! Jesus Christ is a universal Savior and Lord. He is not a Savior of one people, but of all peoples! Not of one kind of human being (poor and oppressed) but of all kinds of peoples! And with regard to this church, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21 you and I confess, “I am, and for ever shall remain, a living member thereof.”
These are the kind of people that surround you at convention! Yes, most of us are of Dutch heritage but you’d be surprised if you could look far enough back in one’s ancestry. Take time to meet others of the universal body of Christ at convention. Venture off into unchartered territory and strike up a conversation with someone who is different from you. Remove yourself from your close quarter of friends for a while and befriend someone from across the country. And this should be an easy thing to do.
Because you have this in common—you confess the same thing! What is this confession? Revelation 7:10 pictures to us this great throng crying out with one voice, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
In preparation for convention, resolve to speak to one another of the common salvation that belongs to the Lord, which he has freely given to us in Jesus Christ. Do that in your study groups. Do that in your devotions at night. Do that as you interact with others throughout the day.
Parents, help your young people prepare for convention. Help them prepare spiritually! Go over the rules of convention. Discuss with them the theme of convention. Impress upon their minds and hearts that convention is a time for spiritual fellowship! That fellowship may consist in games and activities, in eating and dining, in swimming and canoeing…but fellowship nonetheless.
Convention is right around the corner. Are you ready? Don’t forget the toothbrush. Remember the flashlight. But remember this—prepare yourself spiritually—and you will have a convention you’ll never forget.
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