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Many of you have received the Beacon Lights for a long time. However, some of you are new sub­scribers. Here is a bit of the history of the Beacon Lights for those who didn’t know.

In the late 1930’s, an organization was started in the Chicago area by young people of the Protestant Reformed Churches. This organization was called the Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies. The purpose was to unite and provide spiri­tual edification for the members and to promote and maintain the doctrinal standards of the PRC. One of the means proposed to fulfill their objectives was the publication of a paper targeted towards the young peo­ple. In 1941, the first issue of the Beacon Lights was published. This was followed by four more, and was met with so great a response that Rev. C. Hanko, the first editor-in-chief, proclaimed, “The Beacon Lights is here to stay!”

Through World War II, the Beacon Lights was a source of comfort for 400 or more servicemen and remained in our churches through the trials in 1953. The magazine has seen many changes and yet is still very much the same. Many revisions in technology have taken place, yet the magazine is printed on a 40-year old printing press. We have had 16 different edi­tors, from ministers to teachers to lay people. Our cur­rent issues contain many of the same topics and arti­cles as were found in the first issue – editorials, cur­rent events, Bible outlines, and book reviews. Other topics no longer apply, such as Military Mailbag. Our subscriptions total about 930 copies, and the maga­zine is sent to young people in at least 7 different countries.

Currently, we are in our 52nd volume. A new edi­tor, and a few new staff members, as well as dedicated work from “old” members, has brought about a new format, new ideas and a renewed zeal to carry on the Lord’s work. We feel that the Beacon Lights has, and the Lord willing will continue to spread the Word of God and strengthen Reformed believers in the midst of the world.

What is typical of the world in our day; the world in which you, as a young Christian, find yourself?  Well, you might say, the knowledge of the world is increasing.  Technology is making advances far beyond what anyone could have imagined or thought possible.  One example of this is the computer industry.  A whole roomful of equipment is now replaced by a tiny chip that can perform the same functions in a fraction of the time.  What else can be said of today’s world?  Barriers that have been built up over years have fallen seemingly overnight.  The cold war is ended, communism in many countries has crumbled, and recently the whole world was united against one man in the Middle East.  Also typical is the increased awareness of hunger and poverty, and a combined effort by many lands to solve these and other problems.  But is there nothing else typical of the world in our day?  What else can be said, besides all these “advancements”?  The world today, and down through the ages, is characterized by selfishness.  Men in the world are self-seeking and self-satisfying.  Their actions and deeds all point to one fact:  I must look out for number one.  I have to get what I deserve.  We find agreement with Paul in Philippians 2:21. “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”  It is in such a situation that the young Christian finds himself, and that the young Christian servant must live.

As we have seen, the world has really no concept of serving.  It is every man for himself, and only the strong survive.  But what about the Christian?  What about you and me?  Are our thoughts of serving really that different?  What images come to mind when you think of servants?  Joseph was a servant: he was sold into slavery by his own brothers.  We also read of other servant in the Bible:  Hagar, the servant of Sarah, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, and Onesimus, the servant of Philemon, to name a few.  Other thoughts that come to mind are those of the countless slaves that were brought to this country in the 1800’s.  Much like Joseph, they were captured and brought in chains to a strange land, subjected to the worst possible treatment, and forced to constantly serve their master.  Webster’s definition of a servant is “one that performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employer.”  Is this our calling?  Should we as Christians become servants to others in the world?  I would think not.  But what does it mean then, to be a servant?  If we don’t serve other people, then whom should we serve?  The answer, quite simply, is God.  It is to God that all our praise and honor should be directed, and yes, it is Him that we must serve; and Him alone.  We read in Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters:  for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

The child of God is called to serve God, and not himself or any other.  But how can we do this?  How is it possible for us to serve God?  One way is by doing God’s will.  The Scriptures teach us that following God’s will is much like walking down a path.  Imagine yourself walking down a path in a field:  The path divides, and you have a choice to make.  On closer observation, you realize that these paths are not alike, and your decision becomes more difficult.  One of the paths is broad, smooth and easily traversed; the other narrow, rocky and treacherous.  The way of the broad path appears to be more pleasing:  it is dotted with friendly people, all beckoning you to come and join them and travel the path together in peace.  A glance up the narrow path reveals no people, no companions and no safety or peace.  Natural inclinations are to take the broad path; but what can we learn about that path from Scripture?  In Matthew 7:13, Christ teaches us “…for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”  Isaiah 59:7-8 instructs us further as to the “friends” that may lie along that path:  “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood:  their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.  The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings; they have made them crooked paths:  whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.”  Is this the path that you would choose?

On the other hand, the narrow path in the light of Scripture is clearly the way that the Christian should go.  Psalm 25:10 tells us that “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.”  Jeremiah commands:  “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).  There is true peace, the peace of the Christian, the peace that comes from the assurance and comfort that God is guiding our feet along our path in life.  “A man’s heart deviseth his way:  but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Our service to God also calls us to witness.  This is often more difficult to do.  Many times we—myself included—find it “convenient” to forget that we are called to be Christians in every aspect of our lives.  How many times have we turned away when hearing someone take God’s name in vain?  How many times have we failed to express our Christian views to others when given the opportunity?  How many times has our walk of life given “great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (II Samuel 12:14)?  By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been chosen as His people.  Should not our very walk of life reflect this salvation?  And if it does, then we also should “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).

And so, we can serve God by being a light in the midst of darkness.  But is there more?  Can we be content to serve Him simply by doing His will and living as witnesses of His grace?  It would be easy to stop there; however, there is one more idea of being a servant that we should consider.  It may prove difficult to live according to God’s will, and harder still to be a witness to all those around us, but more difficult yet is our service to other Christians.  In serving other fellow believers, we must be very humble; we must bend to help those who, in our sinful pride, we feel are below us.  This is not easy to do.  So often we are quick to point the finger.  We stand with almost the same attitude as the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of Luke 18 “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are…”  We ask others “Did you hear about so-and-so?  Can you believe what they did?”  So quickly we all can fall into this sin of gossip; but our prayer should be “God be merciful to me, a (the) sinner.”  There is another way to have true humility than for us to come to the realization of how great our sins and miseries are.  And brought to that realization, we come before God on bended knee, and implore that He will remember not our sins and transgressions, but will forgive even those hidden sins and secret faults.  Then we will be humble, and then we can, and will serve others.

Direct your thoughts with me to one more passage n Scripture:  John 5:1-15.  We find here the well-known miracle of Jesus in which He cures the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda.  At this pool, a great number of people were gathered—not healthy people, but the helpless, blind, lame and crippled.  At a certain time, which was not revealed, God sent His angel to stir the water in the pool; the first person into the pool after this stirring was cured of his disease—thus the name Bethesda, House of Mercy.  There were five porches around the pool to shelter the many sick that were gathered there.  Undoubtedly many of the people had been there a long time; the man healed by Jesus had been there for thirty-eight years.  Certainly many of the people at the pool were also true believers, Jews longing for the coming of Christ.  (Immediately following his healing, the impotent man is found worshiping in the temple).  We can also draw the conclusion that many of these Jews became friends during the time they spent together.  And yet the first response that Jesus hears upon asking the man if he would be healed is “Sir, I have no man when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool.”  After thirty-eight years, this man had no friends, and no family to help him; what is more, no one who used to be in his place, and were healed, stayed behind to assist him.  They all left, returning to their own lives and families.  Can this be said of us?  How many of us have struggled with sins and weaknesses, or have had problems, only to forget them when they were past?  Shouldn’t we be helping others with their daily struggles instead of fulfilling our own whims and desires?  Is this not what Christ also teaches us?  Of all the places our Lord, the King of all glory could visit, He shuns the palace, and goes to a hospital.  And how does Christ, the Ruler of all, the Son of God, describe Himself?  Matthew 11:29b “for I am meek and lowly of heart.”  And in Matthew 20:28 “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto (served), but to minister (serve), and to give his life a ransom for many.”  It is this God our Savior who Paul calls us in Ephesians 5:1, 2 to “follow (imitate) walking in love.”  This same apostle instructs us in Philippians 2:305 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  And farther on we read that Christ “took on him the form of a servant” (vs. 7) and humbled himself” (vs. 8).

Does our walk display this same humility?  Is this our goal to be imitators of this God?  If we make that our goal, as it well should be, then we know that we will be truly blessed, for His word also promises that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:3, 5).  For this we must pray, that God will give us strength to be servants in a self-serving world.  But we also have the assurance that in God we have an ever-present help.  “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20, 21).

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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