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Articles posts of '2017' 'November'

Four Reasons Why Christ Came to Earth

Rudyard Kipling called why one of the “six honest serving-men” who taught him all he knew. Why is a marvelous teacher because it helps us to identify the purposes, reasons, and meaning behind events that we observe. Christ himself frequently employed this “serving man” as he taught about his first coming. Learning the reasons for his advent will help us more deeply celebrate his birth and understand how it is connected with the rest of his life and why it is important for our lives. So why did Christ come to earth? Here are a few reasons.

To Become Like His Brethren

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (Heb. 2:14; cf. vv. 15–17). Christ came to earth as God to partake of our flesh and blood. This is a profound statement. The baby in the manger had the same human nature as you and I, only without sin. Christ was born as the perfect human. As the perfect man, Christ represents the hope of imperfect men. Sometimes little babies inspire the hope of a fresh start. Much more so this little baby.

His incarnation says to us, “You cannot solve your problems on your own. You cannot attain perfection and peace by your own strength. I am what you need.” Christ did not come to earth simply to be our moral example. If he had, he could have come as an angelic being without our flesh and blood. Instead, he came to become like one of us so that he could raise us up to be like him. This purpose of Christ’s coming relates directly to his death, as Hebrews 2 says. Christ came to be like us so that his death would actually accomplish healing for us.

By faith, when we think of Christ we see ourselves in him. As we glimpse into the manger we can say, “There is my flesh and my blood.” As he grows and matures and continues to do the will of God, we can say, “There is my flesh and my blood.” As he goes to the cross and bleeds and dies, we can say, “There is my flesh and my blood.” When we see Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, we can say, “There is my flesh and my blood” (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 49). And when we see Christ return on clouds of glory to take us home to be with him we can say, “There is my flesh and my blood.” None of this would be true if Christ had not taken on our flesh and our blood and been born in a crude stable in Bethlehem.

To Bear Witness to the Truth

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice’” (John 18:37). Christmas is a curious time of year because it tends to bring together people of various backgrounds. Even those who disagree regarding significant truth claims seem to mutually enjoy the so-called “Christmas spirit.” The amazing thing is that Jesus declared to Pilate on a world stage shortly before his death that he came “to bear witness to the truth” (and by implication to expose falsehood).

We live in a day where the existence of truth itself is questioned. Sometimes we may even wonder whether truth matters. When we think about Christ’s coming, we should be considering the truth claims to which Jesus’ birth testifies. He came to testify to the truth that all men are sinners and that God hates sin. But he also came to address the problem of sin through his righteous life and redeeming death. Notice how freeing this truth is. Pilate questions the very existence of truth, and his life bore the fruit of these doubts. He lived in fear of losing his position. He gave deference to the mad requests of the people against his own conscience. He disregarded the sane advice of his wife who urged him to have nothing to do with Jesus’ death. Pilate was in bondage because he didn’t know the truth.

When we look to Christ by faith, we will be overwhelmed by the radical truthfulness of God and the radical deception that is found in each of us. As Paul says in Romans 3:4, “Let God be true but every man a liar.” Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Christ came to bear witness to the truth that frees. Have you received his testimony?

To Bring Light to a Dark World

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). There are few things in this world that are more precious to us than light. We take light for granted, but when it’s gone we notice. You may remember the last time you tried to find your way in the darkness. You probably held your arms out in front of you as you groped for something to take hold of (cf. Acts 17:27).

The world into which Jesus came was dark. There was little true religion being practiced, even by God’s people. The religious leaders had become little more than legalistic life coaches. A pagan nation, Rome, ruled over much of the world. Men and women lived without a light to guide them.

Every person is conceived into this world under this same darkness. We can’t see which way to go because of our spiritual darkness. We can’t make sense of our lives until the light of Christ shines into our hearts, leading us to God.

How appropriate that the birth of Christ was marked by a bright star and bright lights. The shepherds were watching their flocks by night. All of a sudden, in the midst of this darkness, “an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9). Later, the magi were directed to Jesus by a bright star (Matt. 2:1–12).

A more glorious light accompanied Jesus’ life and ministry. The apostle John says that when the Word became flesh he beheld his glory (John 1:14). Shortly before his death Jesus said, “A little while longer the light is with you . . . while you have the light believe in the light, that you may become sons of the light” (John 12:35–36). In this same context, Jesus says, “If I am lifted up I will draw all peoples to myself” (John 12:32). When Christ was born, the light fell, as it were, from heaven. As Christ ministered throughout his earthly life, the light was held close to the ground. But when that light was lifted up, it shone for all to see! On the cross the spotlight of God was shining on his justice and love.

To Save Sinners

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). The first coming of Christ was the implementation of a rescue plan conceived in the mind of God from eternity past. He did not come to promote holiday cheer. He did not come to boost end-of-year sales or to be the central figure in a nativity scene. He came to save sinners. Paul recognizes who that sinner is when he says, “I am the chief of sinners.” It’s not enough to say that Christ came to save sinners. Each of us needs to affirm that Christ came to save sinners—and that I’m one of them!

Several years ago I sat next to the bed of a man who was in his last years in a nursing home. As we talked about his life, he began to painfully recall some of the sins he had committed. Beginning to weep, he blurted out, “I’m such a terrible sinner. I’m such a terrible sinner.” I said to him, “That’s wonderful!” He looked at me as if I had misunderstood him so I explained: “You are a terrible sinner. But that’s wonderful because it was exactly for people like you that Christ came to earth.”

Paul doesn’t just say that he is a terrible sinner. He says he’s the worst. Isn’t he exaggerating? No. Paul refuses to focus on the greatness of the sin of others. He will look only at his own sin. If he had been the only sinner in the world, Christ would still have had to shed every drop of that precious blood to save him.

Great sinners need a great Savior. And that is exactly what Christ is. Christ, says Hebrews 7:25, is able to save to the uttermost—that is, completely! If he can save a Paul who was a blasphemer and a murderer, then he can be a Savior to you. Are you a flesh-and-blood sinner in need of the light of God’s truth? Then Christmas is for you.

This article appeared in The Outlook, Nov/Dec 2012.

 

Rev. William Boekestein
is the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, MI.

 

The Hands of God

When we think of the hands of God we often think of them as upraised in blessing.

Thus, God told Aaron to bless the people in his name: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24–26, New International Version). That the hands were also raised in blessing can be gathered from the practice of Aaron in Leviticus 9:22, where after offering sacrifice, “Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them.” Our Lord Jesus did the same thing upon departing from his disciples: “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them” (Luke 24:50). It is only natural, then, that when we think of God’s upraised hands, we think of them as bestowing a blessing on us.

However, the hands of God also represent much more than blessing people. God’s hands are said to be mighty and powerful. That’s how Joshua explains God’s backing up of the Jordan River so that Israel could cross over on dry land. He declares that “he [God] did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Josh. 4:24). God’s mighty acts are not done simply to cause us to be filled with wonder and awe at them, though that also happens. There is a purpose to what God does with his powerful hands, namely, that “you might always fear the Lord your God.”

In contrast to God’s powerful hands being indicative of blessing, there is another important aspect which we must not fail to observe. The Lord’s hands can also be symbolic of opposition to his enemies and of strong punishment upon them. That’s how the symbolism is used in regard to the Philistines after they had captured the Ark of God and took it to Ashdod. Scripture tell us that “the Lord’s hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors” (1 Sam. 5:6). God’s hands, therefore, may be conveyors of his opposition to people and indicative of judgment to come because of their sins. Such a truth is made clear to us by the prophet Isaiah when he relates that because the people “rejected the law of the Lord Almighty” (Isa. 5:24) and practiced injustice, “therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people; his hand is raised and he strikes them down” (Isa. 5:25). Regarding this text, E. J. Young comments: “The preceding judgments had all been insufficient. God’s outstretched hand, the symbol of His power and strength, will still carry out His purposes, inflicting new judgments beyond those which had already been executed” (New International Commentary on the New Testament, Isaiah I, 226).

The same truth is imparted to us in Isaiah 10:4, where the prophet, describing the consternation of the unjust in the judgment upon them, adds: “Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.” Again, Young comments: “This is not the end but the prelude to greater judgments” (ibid., 358).

When we speak of the hand of the Lord being upon one, we must always ask whether it is for blessing or for judgment and condemnation for sins. We need the Lord’s hand of blessing upon us to be the faithful people of God. Without God’s hand of blessing upon us, there is nothing that we do which will truly be a good work. Yet, thanks be to God, there is still hope for us if we detect his hand of judgment upon us. God’s purpose in punishment is that we may repent of sin and turn to him in faith. It is because God’s people “spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 5:24) and did not repent when he punished them that “his hand [was] still upraised” (Isa. 5:25)

When we think about the hands of God, therefore, we must also reflect on our own lives and behavior to determine how God’s hands are raised upon us. If we sense that his hands are raised upon us in condemnation of our sins, then we must heed the call to repent of sin and seek him anew. In Jesus, God’s hands are outstretched in human form, and he calls sinners who are under the judgment of God “to come to me, . . . and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). It is in returning to Jesus in penitence and faith that we “will find rest for our souls” (Matt. 11:29).

Let us, therefore, consider the hand of God as calling us to always fear the Lord. The psalmist says that God’s right hand is filled with righteousness. That’s why God’s people can rejoice and be glad because of his judgments (Ps. 48:10b–11).

 

Dr. Harry G. Arnold
is a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church and lives in Portage, MI.
He is a member of Grace Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, MI.

 

Marks of a Healthy Church: Biblically Grounded

Introduction

In recent months my wife and I have been thinking a lot about healthy eating. There is no shortage of information on the subject, from Internet blogs and websites to magazines, books, and articles. And everyone seems to have an opinion! More fruits, less meat. More meat, less carbs. Coffee is bad, a little coffee is good, coffee is great, and so on. It’s all so complex.

Yet one thing every health expert can agree on is this: vegetables are important. Really important. Especially the green ones. So go ahead and help yourself to an unlimited heaping plate of Brussels sprouts and your doctor will be proud.

And water. Lots of water. I have yet to hear someone ask me, “Could it be that you’re drinking too much water?”

After extensive research, we have discovered that by far and away the two most important staples of a healthy diet are . . . green vegetables and water (I was hoping that Chick-fil-A would crack the top two, but it didn’t even make honorable mention).

In this series of articles I am attempting to highlight some of the most important characteristics of a healthy church. But don’t worry, they’re more exciting than green beans and H20.

Yet they are basic. No real surprises here. There is nothing that I’m going to say that hasn’t already been said, nor that will surprise you. But sometimes, like with physical health, it’s helpful to take a step back and remember what is most important.

Last time we considered that any healthy church must be shaped by the glorious gospel of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. The gospel isn’t a slogan we tack on; it’s the essential message we preach, teach, and celebrate.

But there is more to a healthy church than this. In addition to being gospel-shaped, our churches must be biblically grounded. Of course, you could make an excellent claim that this should have come first. The gospel we treasure is revealed in the Word God has given.

What does it mean to be biblically grounded? Every Protestant church I know claims to be Bible-believing, and thanks be to God, many of them are. We should praise God for the unity we share with other denominations that elevate the Word of God above tradition and the philosophies of this age.

Yet my concern in this article is to consider what it means to be biblically grounded when it’s easier to say it than to be it.

Churches are spiritually healthy when the Bible is shaping them in at least the following three ways: when the Word is prioritized, known, and shared.

When the Word Is Prioritized

This year we are celebrating the five hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the start of the Protestant Reformation. Among the most important reforms was a return to the Scriptures as the ultimate authority.

Next time we’ll consider the importance of our Reformed confessions in shaping our identity as churches, yet a warning must be issued. Our confessions are not inerrant, infallible, or inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And while we all know this, there is a practical danger. This came to my attention several years ago when I was teaching a new members class. One of the attendees was a man who grew up in a confessionally Reformed church. As I was teaching on the relationship between the Scriptures and the confessions, he admitted that as a kid he was quite confused. His church preached through the Bible one service, and through the catechism the other service, so he figured they were equal.

Now I have no doubt that this would horrify the church where he grew up. I’m certain they had no intention of communicating this. Yet, this was his perception. He grew up concluding that the confessions were just as important as the Bible. And that’s a problem.

How do we avoid this same trap in churches where we use the Reformed confessions in our services and in our preaching?

Pastors, teachers, and parents need to be clear and intentional. We need to communicate what the confessions aren’t, what the Scriptures are, and the difference between the two. I’m not suggesting that they are pitted against each other; this would be a false dichotomy. We’ve never said that the confessions are authoritative, nor do the confessions themselves claim to be. Yet we must bend over backwards to teach our people, our kids, and our visitors that we prioritize the Bible. That it, alone, is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.

When Paul addresses Timothy, he doesn’t say, “In season and out of season, preach the catechism!” He says, “Preach the Word.” So as we use the catechism as a scaffold, let us make sure that it serves the Word, not the other way around.

Another way we ought to be prioritizing the Word in our churches is in our worship and discipleship. Our services and studies should be robustly scriptural. We should be singing Scripture (see the Psalms), praying Scripture, preaching Scripture, and hearing Scripture. Our Bible studies, too. While it might be appropriate at times to cover topics, there is nothing quite like studying the Word together. The Bible transforms our minds!

When the Word Is Known

We are living in biblically illiterate days, and the church is a big part of the problem. Dr. Albert Mohler, in “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” writes, “Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments.” He continues: “Secularized Americans should not be expected to be knowledgeable about the Bible. The larger scandal is biblical ignorance among Christians. Choose whichever statistic or survey you like, the general pattern is the same. America’s Christians know less and less about the Bible. It shows.” He concludes: “We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.”

We can hold up sola Scriptura all we want, but the Bible was never meant to collect dust on our shelves or in our pews. Healthy churches are churches where the Bible is known, studied, examined, discussed, memorized, and taught.

To know the Word is to know God. If we don’t know the Word, we don’t know God. And if we don’t know God, we can’t be healthy.

Let me press this close to home. How well attended are our adult Sunday school classes? Our adult Bible studies? Our evening services? Have our adults graduated from needing to learn more about the Word? Or are we on cruise control now that we’ve made profession of faith? Satan’s trickery includes his ability to persuade lifelong church members that they already know enough about the Bible.

When the Word Is Shared with Others

The final indication that a church is truly biblically grounded is when the the Scriptures are faithfully and eagerly shared with others.

The Word has a way of multiplying. The more we study it, the more we want to share it. Like dining at a great restaurant or visiting the Grand Canyon, we want to share our experience with others.

If the Bible bores us, we’ll have no interest in telling others about it. But when it interests and captivates us, we can’t help but want others to bask in its glory.

Healthy churches have fathers sharing the Word at home in family worship. Healthy churches have women gathering around the study of the Bible. Healthy churches send missionaries who love reaching the lost with the gospel. Healthy churches have Sunday school teachers who are eager to pass on the faith to the next generation. Healthy churches know the Word, and the God of the Word, and want others to know God in his Word, too. And healthy churches treasure the opportunity to make the Word plain to visitors, to explain why we do what we do as churches, and to point them to the hero and center of Scripture, Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

We all want to be Bible-believing. But these can easily become empty words. In churches where Scripture grounds everything, the Word is prioritized, known, and shared. May this be our prayer: “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).

 

Rev. Michael J. Schout
is the pastor of Grace URC in Alto, MI.
He welcomes your feedback at mikeschout@gmail.com.

Remembering Rev. Arthur Besteman May 23, 1933 – October 1, 2017

 “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 

–Philippians 4:19

I first heard of the Rev. Arthur Besteman when I was a seminary student more than thirty years ago. He had a call to First Christian Reformed Church in Rock Valley, Iowa, where my wife, Kathy, and I were on summer assignment back in 1985.

We showed Rev. and Mrs. Besteman the parsonage and talked about the wonderful people in that wonderful northwest Iowa town. Three weeks later, I read his letter of decline to the congregation. His name came up again in 1991. After serving a church in Ireton, Iowa, for five years, the Lord led me to accept a call to western Michigan. While still packing all our worldly goods in Ireton, the congregation extended a call to Rev. Art Besteman. Once again, Kathy and I showed Rev. and Mrs. Besteman the parsonage and talked about the wonderful people in that wonderful northwest Iowa town. Three weeks later, I read his letter of decline to the congregation.

I still have both of those letters—along with several others that I read in various other vacant churches that had called Rev. Besteman to be their minister. By the time I left northwest Iowa, I thought, “Who is this man who seems to be wallpapering his office with letters of call?”

And then we met.

It began simply enough. Road trips with Rev. Besteman and his good friend, Rev. Ed Knott, to Dyer, Indiana, where Rev. Besteman often served as president of the board of trustees for Mid-America Reformed Seminary. To listen to those two seasoned ministers talk was not only educational; it was absolutely amazing for a young man just five or six years in the ministry.

Then there were the Concerned Member meetings, Alliance meetings, Reformed Fellowship meetings, and more. The knowledge these men had of church history, their love for the church of Jesus Christ, and their love for the Lord was truly genuine and obvious.

Rev. Besteman frequently served on the board of Reformed Fellowship. He began to write in The Outlook already in the early 1960s lamenting the lack of gospel preaching in many Reformed pulpits. Rev. Besteman was instrumental in starting the federation of United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA). He was the first minister to be deposed for leaving the Christian Reformed Church. Years later, he would confide in me his fear that the URCNA was slowly becoming more and more legalistic and less and less focused upon preaching about God’s grace freely given through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

When Rev. Besteman retired, he served as the interim pastor at the Covenant URC in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while they were vacant. I followed him to Kalamazoo after serving the Faith URC in Holland, Michigan. Rev. Besteman followed me to Faith URC as their interim pastor during their vacancy.

While we lived in Kalamazoo, Kathy and I would have lunch with Rev. and Mrs. Besteman on a regular basis. His boisterous laughter would fill the restaurant. He would comment on some current event in the local and universal church only to receive a mild rebuke from his wife, Audrey.

“Art!” she would say, but her shoulders would rise up and down as she tried to stifle a giggle.

It didn’t take very long for me to realize that the reason that Rev. Besteman had declined all those calls was because he, along with Audrey, had a dear, dear love not only for the Lord but also for the people that God had called them to undershepherd.

And then there was his preaching.

Readers of this article who heard him preach may recall the wonderful catchphrases he used. When he was about to make a dramatic point, he would say, “Hold on to your pews!” When he proclaimed the good news of the gospel—faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone—he would act startled and then add, “I’m not making this up! If I were to say this on my own you would accuse me of heresy, but it’s all right here! It’s right here in the Bible!”

What made Rev. Besteman an amazing preacher was not that he could explain the great doctrines of the faith in deep theological terms that no one understood. It was not because he was a man of great stature with a great imposing pulpit presence. No. It was because his preaching was simple. He preached to the seventy-two-year-old lady in the back pew and the seven-year-old child sitting with his parents. “Wyb,” he would tell me, “there’s a heartache in every pew.”

He met those heartaches head-on. He met their concerns, their griefs, and their worries and gave the perfect answer to them all. He gave them the gospel. Straight up, pure and simple, he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. He would bring people in need to the cross of Jesus Christ. That was always his bottom line.

Ordained in 1959, Rev. Besteman proclaimed the grace of God, shown to a sinful human race in the death of his Son on the cross, for more than fifty-five years. He was emphatic about that. Every sermon would reflect that.

His favorite verse was Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

It was an incredibly fitting verse for a young boy who lost his father when he was two years old. After her husband’s death, Rev. Besteman’s mother moved back to her parents’ home, and little Arthur grew up living with his grandfather and grandmother. As a young boy who grew up in severe poverty, he saw all his needs supplied by the Lord.

The Lord called him to the ministry. While serving in Leota, Minnesota, he was in correspondence with a minister’s daughter named Audrey Hondred. Soon they were married, and the Lord led them to serve several churches in western Michigan. They were encouraged to buy a condo while serving Beverly URC in Wyoming, Michigan. By the time Rev. Besteman retired it was pretty much paid for. He would frequently remind us that God had supplied his every need.

Social Security took care of most of his needs, but he would tell me that it was really the income he received as interim pastor in Kalamazoo, Holland, Walker, and Eastmanville that tided him over from month to month. He would add, with tears in his eyes that—YES—God had supplied his every need.

It wasn’t that he and his wife weren’t frugal. Shortly after their forty-fifth wedding anniversary my wife and I were visiting at their condo. Even though Rev. Besteman didn’t drink coffee, we would have the hottest coffee ever. It was made in a coffee percolator that he and Audrey had received as a wedding gift.

While we were visiting, the coffee percolator quit perking. It had perked its last cup of coffee. Mrs. Besteman said, “O dear.” She always said, “O dear.”

Rev. Besteman said “Wait a minute.” He ran downstairs and returned with a coffee percolator still in the box. “We got two of them as wedding gifts,” he said. We had coffee in a brand new forty-five-year-old coffee percolator. Rev. Besteman’s comment: “God is so good to us.”

Through his entire life, Rev. Besteman’s constant refrain was “God is so good to us.”

Rev. Besteman knew that it was not only our physical and material needs that God supplied; he faithfully proclaimed that our spiritual needs were met by God’s Son, as well. He preached it every week not just for the seventy-two-year-old lady in the back pew; not just for the seven-year-old sitting with his parents; he preached it because he knew it was for him, too. He needed to be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And God had supplied that need for him.

Rev. Besteman’s last pulpit appearance was on January 7, 2016, at the ordination service of Rev. James Oord at Community United Reformed Church in Schererville, Indiana. His charge to this young man entering the ministry was the same advice Rev. Besteman had given to ministers young and old for decades: “Jim, I’ve been a three-point man all my life. You know that I’m a three-point man, but I can only think of two points for you to remember: Preach the gospel and love God’s people.”

That little sentence—preach the gospel and love God’s people—exemplified the life and ministry of Rev. Art and Audrey Besteman.

This past May, Kathy and I had the joy of visiting with Rev. Besteman at the care facility where he was living. He knew this would be his last home and was selling his condo. I asked what he was going to do with all those wonderful sermons. He said he had told his daughters to shred them.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but my wife tells me that the look of horror on my face startled Rev. Besteman, and he asked, “Why? Would you want them?”

Seriously?

Rev. Besteman was ordained in 1959. More than fifty-five years of ministry. Fifty-five years of sermons. Two boxes. All his sermons were in two boxes. Some of the early ones from his first charge in Leota, Minnesota, are typed out on paper older than many of our readers. Most of his sermons are little one-page or half-page outlines. All of them bring the reader to Jesus Christ.

And sometimes, out of these two boxes, when I pick up an old sermon or an old outline for my morning devotions, I can still hear him say, “Hold on to your pews! It’s all right here in the Bible!”

Well done, good and faithful servant.

 

Rev. Wybren Oord
is the former editor of The Outlook. He is the pastor of Grace Reformed Church in Lethbridge, AB.

 

 

Letters from Inmates Who Receive The Outlook and/or Books from Reformed Fellowship

 

An inmate who was transferred to another prison facility in the state wrote,

I am finally settled in and boy is it hot here. No climate control!! But God is going to use this too for his glory and my good! :) I wanted to let you also know that I just received a letter from a pastor down here in the OPC. He said that you sent him my way. Thanks!! I’ll be sure to let you know how things go.”

He added a PS: “Please keep me in prayer for the following:

1.That all of those whom I’ve hurt so badly over my life will forgive me and be reconciled to me.

2.That God helps and allows me to overcome all things that are standing in my way to being closer to him.

3.That God help me to be the man that he wants me to be and grant
me the wisdom that I need to help those that he has put in my path.
(So many hurting people.)”

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Another inmate, a woman, wrote to ask for books that would be of help to her. She wrote, 

Almost three years ago God saved me during a class I was taking on the doctrine of grace. In an instant I saw how big my sin is to our holy God and how much bigger his grace is. Since then God has given me a desire to know him and his Word more.”

A letter was sent to her informing her that books are being sent along with a subscription to The Outlook, thanks to contributors to a designated fund for that purpose. She replied,

“Thank you so very much for your letter. I am humbled and thankful for the forthcoming books. :).”

She added that the class on the doctrine of grace was taught by an inmate friend who has since been released. 

Some of my Christian sisters and myself have been able to continue to introduce and teach the basics to other offenders on a one-on-one basis. My desire is to one day help other broken women after my release by sharing the hope I have in me, God willing.

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Another inmate describes his sinful past which resulted in losing his family and being sentenced to prison for life. He wrote, 

“It so happens my first two Christian friends in that level 4 prison were of the Reformed faith and they helped me understand the gospel and discipled me. Once I was saved I began to read everything Reformed, especially regarding the atonement. I was introduced to the Westminster Confession of Faith in 2010, and the Three Forms of Unity in 2012, and I hold to these. In time I grew in Christ and by grace began teaching Reformed Bible study in 2013, and have a great love for teaching the truth for God’s people.”

He goes on to say that he met a Reformed Christian inmate and they have become good friends. There are 750 inmates in their yard with whom they share Reformed literature, including The Outlook. He says, 

“I am always trying to be a good steward of God’s blessings and hope to use The Outlook, not only for my personal edification but as an instrument to bring sound doctrine to many men here.”

Outreach Donor Investments Influence Many Lives

The picture above shows the pastors of the RPCCEE (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe) assembled together for a week of prayer, teaching, and fellowship during which they received books donated by Reformed Fellowship, Inc. Pastor Peter Szabo (pictured second row, third from left) offers this introduction to the RPCCEE

The RPCCEE was founded in 1998 when sixteen young men started to plant faithful biblical Reformed congregations in fifteen places throughout Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine. During the 2000s the work progressed slowly in the midst of spiritual darkness and heavy disinterest of the people. By the grace of God, our men persevered and we rejoice that in recent years the work has started to speed up. Though half of our congregations have severe financial difficulties, beginning with 2013 we were able to start the first steps toward self-governance and self-support. Right now we are doing church planting work in more than 20 places and we have 16 men working full-time in this ministry.

Besides the church planting efforts, we continue to have our own theological training program at the KGITM for those who are called to ministry. We also have a small publishing house called “Presbiterianus Kiado,” where currently we are working on the translation of R. C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. (For the already published titles see www.reformatus. net/en/publications). Moreover, we organize church-wide conferences and great variety of summer camps (evangelistic, youth, family, English-teaching etc.) Over the years we have been blessed to host such speakers as Jay E. Adams, Dr. Jack Whytock, Maurice Roberts or Pastor William Boekestein.

You can find more information about this work on the Internet (www.reformatus.net/en) or through Peter Andras Szabo, Pastor of the RPCCEE Church in Budapest (peter.a.szabo@gmail.com).

Rev. William Boekestein
s the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, MI.

Book Review: David Meengs Excelling in Relationships

Everyone is surrounded by relationships. First, and foremost with God, our Creator; then with others including family, friends, fellow workers, and casual acquaintances; and finally, ourselves.

David Meengs’s book, Excelling in Relationships, is a clear and simply written guide for daily Christian living and a biblical guide for solving and overcoming present and potential pitfalls that we all face at some time or another in our everyday interpersonal relationships.

Excelling in Relationships is suitable for both personal study and for group discussions. It is laid out in thirty-two short two-page lessons. Each lesson is backed by biblically related proof texts. A third page for each lesson is devoted to questions for further study and discussion, along with scriptural references that are relevant to the questions and lesson. Although the author does not state it, I’m sure he recognizes that there are times when a competent Christian counselor should be engaged for assistance in resolving deep-seated problems in relationships.

Throughout the lessons Meengs makes a strong argument for following Christ’s directions found in Matthew 25:35–40 for putting God first, others second, and then self. He also emphasizes the need to fix our own hearts through confession, forgiveness, and repentance before we can fix our own problems properly. The final lesson is devoted to a study of Psalm 23.

Some of the topics he covers include:

•Why and how you must forgive others

•Fear and worry stop relationships

•Addictions and idols

•Depression

•Tests, trials, and temptations

This book belongs on every Christian’s bookshelf. I heartily recommend it without reservation.

David Meengs, Excelling in Relationships.
Distributed by Reformed Fellowship, Inc.
104 pages, paperback, $6.99.

 

Mr. Gaylord J. Haan
is a retired Christian school teacher and guidance counselor.

 


Current Issue: November/December 2018
Volume 68 Issue 6

Click on current issue above for
free preview!

 

Listen to a 42-minute audio lecture by Dr. Carl Trueman
Click on link below to stream online or left click and choose "save linked file" to download to listen on your player

This lecture was given at the annual meeting of Reformed Fellowship held November 7, 2008, at Trinity United Reformed Church, 7350 Kalamazoo Ave SE, Caledonia MI.

 

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