The Reformed Witness Hour at 55 Years – 1941-1996

Yes, it is true, as we have noted several times already this year, that 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the Reformed Witness Hour radio program – a program under the supervision of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI and supported by the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, our sister churches, and other friends.

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But today for our PRC archives post, we feature the program from the 55th anniversary, which was held at Faith PRC in Jenison, MI on April 18, 1996. This was another “live broadcast” program; in other words, part of the program was recorded live for broadcast on the RWH program (which turned out to be broadcast #2886).

You will note that one of our current radio pastors spoke that night – Rev. Carl Haak – under the theme “That All the World May Know.” You will also see that a variety of musical groups were part of the program – the Voices of Victory quartet, the Faith PRC choir, and the SE PRC choir.

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Inside the program was a special insert for this RWH “rally”, with notes on it from Rev.R. Van Overloop, who led the program. Those notes included some special recognitions for those who served on the radio committee: Stu Looyenga (treasurer) had served 18 years at that point, Dwight Monsma (president and announcer) for 15 years, and Bill  Swart (recording, dubbing, printing/mailing) for over 30 years.

As we celebrate our 75th this year, we may continue to be thankful for these men and the many other men and women who have served on the RWHC over the years.

And, while we are on the subject, we hope you will join us THIS SATURDAY for our very special 75th anniversary program and mission awareness morning, to be held from 9 a.m. to noon at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI. If you need the details, visit this page on the PRC website.

Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 4:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

Note to Self – Initiate

Begin by reading and meditating on Matthew 28:19-20.

God has placed you in a unique context and equipped you in a unique way to be the one who reaches out to those in need – this means those who need encouragement as well as those who need correction. And this includes those who do not know Jesus, as well as his disciples, those who are apparently healthy, and those who are obviously hurting. You will have more opportunities to initiate than you can take, but you are likely to take fewer than you should.

Look around yourself. God is giving you chances to act. He has put people near you who need your help financially, your time relationally, and your words of bold encouragement and gentle rebuke. The opportunities are always there, but they are difficult to see if you are too focused on yourself. You must take the time to be truly present where God has put you. Begin to think of others as they really are – men and women in need of grace.

What will compel you to take the first step toward those around you in need? The deepness of their need? The desperateness of their situation? Perhaps it will be an understanding of what you have received from others who have been faithful to God and have taken the initiative with you, to help you see the truth, know Christ, grow in grace, and persevere through difficulty. Or maybe it will be that God not only commands you to do this but empowers you to do it, as well. Wherever you are, today you should be the first to move. Initiate for the glory of God and the good of those around you.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.21 “Initiate” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.79-80.

Reformed Witness Hour in PRCA 25th Jubilee Book

In the Twenty-five Year Jubilee of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America, 1925-1950, the Reformed Witness Hour was featured (along with four other radio programs sponsored by PR congregations! Can you name them?) on pages 59-67.

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There are several pages of information (see above image) and some pictures (see below), some of which I post today.

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Keep in mind that in October of this year the RWH will celebrate her 75th anniversary. And, don’t forget the special celebration event planned for Saturday, August 13 at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI, from 9-12 in the morning.

Published in: on June 30, 2016 at 12:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

Christianity and Islam: Theologies Compared and Contrasted – J.D. Greear

TT-April-2016Yesterday I finished reading the main articles in this month’s issue of Tabletalk, including those on the theme of Islam. Both of the last two on this subject were excellent, including this one by Dr. J.D. Greear, author of Breaking the Islam Code (the other article  is “Sharing the Gospel with Muslims” by Dr. Bassam M. Chedid).

In his article – as the title indicates – Greear compares and contrasts the teachings of Christianity with those of Islam. After addressing a few misconceptions, he focuses on what he believes is the central difference – the doctrine of salvation. He calls Islam “the ultimate religion of works” and lays out plainly why this teaching is false and why Christianity has the only answer for man’s need of salvation.

This is what he says by way of introduction to this matter:

The biggest difference between Christianity and Islam is our view of salvation. Islam stands as a paragon of works-righteousness. Christianity alone stands as a religion of grace.

The Qur’an gives a long and detailed list of how to act, dress, think, and behave. If you follow carefully these instructions, Allah will approve of you, and you are more likely to be accepted into eternal bliss. Islam is the ultimate religion of works. From top to bottom, it exemplifies the principle “I obey; therefore, I am accepted.”

From here, Greear lays out three (3) reasons why this religion of works never works. Here is the first:

(1) Works-righteousness fails to address the “root” idolatries that drive our sin.

The root of sin is esteeming something to be a more satisfying object of worship than God. Works-righteousness religions, including Islam, fail to address that issue. They simply give a prescribed set of practices to avoid judgment or inherit blessings.

Islam, for example, warns Muslims of the terrors of hell and uses that to motivate Muslims to obey. It promises them sensual luxuries in heaven if they live righteously. Many Muslims pursue these things without caring for God at all. They are using God. For them, God’s favor is a means to an end. But any end other than God is idolatry.

The starkest New Testament example of this kind of attitude is Judas Iscariot. Many New Testament scholars believe that Judas betrayed Jesus because he was disappointed with him. Judas wanted a Messiah who would reward “the righteous” (himself included) with power and money. Jesus taught that He Himself was the reward. Judas never accepted this. For him, Jesus was always a means to something else, and never the end itself.

Love for God is genuine only when God is a means to nothing else but God. Righteous acts are righteous only when they are done out of a love for righteousness and not as a means to anything else.

The Qur’an is not an adoring, worshiping love letter about God. It is a guide for what behavior will increase your chances of avoiding hell. Merit, threat, and reward form the entire foundation on which Islam is built. And this never addresses the root of man’s sin—our desire to substitute God with something else.

To finish reading the other two reasons, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Theologies Compared and Contrasted by J.D. Greear

An Apology for Apologetics – Stephen Nichols

TT-Jan-2016The first issue of Tabletalk for 2016 treats the important subject of apologetics, with the sub-title “giving an answer for our hope.”

You may recall that this branch of theology (practical) deals with the Christian calling to defend his faith, not only against attack from outright enemies (polemics), but also in answering those who ask us a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet.3:15-16) – an aspect of evangelism or personal witnessing.

Editor Burk Parsons gives his usual introduction to the subject in these opening words:

When people first hear the word apologetics, they typically think of our modern use of the word apology. They often conclude that the task of apologetics is apologizing for the Christian faith as if to say we are sorry for our faith. However, the word apologetics derives from the Greek word apologia, which means “to give an answer” or “to make a defense.” Apologetics is not an apology, it’s an answer—a defense of what we believe. In his first epistle, Peter writes, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols has the first featured article on this topic (linked below) and adds this by way of further definition:

The Command

The Greek word apologia means literally “to speak to.” Over time, it came to mean “to make a defense.” When Athens accused Socrates of being harmful to society, Socrates had to offer his defense. He titled it Apologia. He stood before the “men of Athens,” offering his reasoned defense. The New Testament uses the word seventeen times. Many instances concern court cases, such as the time Paul appeared before the Jewish Council in Acts 22 and before Festus in Acts 25. Paul also speaks of his imprisonment in Rome as an apologia of the gospel (Phil. 1:716).

The classic text for the Greek word apologia is 1 Peter 3:15–16. Peter’s first epistle was written to the “exiles” living in Asia Minor, located in modern-day Turkey. These exiled Christians were ostracized for their faith and suffered persecution. They were insulted and slandered. Some of them suffered at the hands of their own family members.

Peter commands these exiles not to live in fear or cower before opposition. Instead, he commands these exiled Christians—and us—to be always ready to make a defense. The main verb “to make a defense,” from the Greek word apologia, is in the imperative mood. The imperative mood is used for commands. There’s no procedure for deferment here. The command extends to all of us.

Further, Peter tells how to make our defense. He notes that we should “always be prepared.” That’s a tall order. Questions about our faith tend to come at unexpected times. In order to be always ready, we must know our faith, which means knowing our theology. We must also know our audience. We see this in Paul’s example of being an apologist on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16–34).

Peter also tells us that we need to make our defense “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s an even taller order. The word translated “respect” could equally be translated “reverence.” It’s the same word used of how we should approach God. So we exiles are to treat our examiners with gentleness and reverence.

Then there’s verse 16. Peter reminds us that who we are is every bit as crucial as what we say. May the testimony of our lives not put the testimony of our words to shame. Instead, “may our good behavior in Christ” also be our apologetic.

Source: An Apology for Apologetics by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

If you are seeking to learn how to defend your faith in this unbelieving world, you will also find articles on general revelation, God, man, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, and the resurrection. Visit the Tabletalk website for details.

Sept.1, 2015 “Standard Bearer” – “Visiting (YOUR) Mission Fields” – Prof.R. Dykstra

SBcover-Sept1-2015The latest issue of The Standard Bearer (Sept.1, 2015) contains an editorial by Prof.R. Dykstra in which he addresses the importance of church members taking interest in the mission work of the churches. While this interest certainly includes financial and prayer support for the fields, Prof. Dykstra specifically encourages us to visit the mission fields, which means visiting with the missionary and his family as well as fellowshiping with the members of the field.

He has many good and profitable points in this opening editorial (a following one on this subject is also planned and will appear in the Sept.15 “SB”.). Below are a few of his general comments related to visiting your mission fields:

     The goal of this editorial (and the next) is to encourage the members of the Protestant Reformed Churches to visit your mission fields. The Protestant Reformed Churches have missionaries preaching in two areas – Pittsburgh, PA, and in the Philippines. A visit to our some of the smaller churches is included in this goal. Readers who are not members of the Protestant Reformed Churches should know you are cordially welcome to do the same, and the editorial intends to encourage you also to visit a mission work of the PRC, or a mission field of your own church(es).
Visiting a mission field is to be encouraged because of the many benefits it yields both for the field and for the visitors. This was reaffirmed recently in another connection. This past summer five seminarians had opportunity to live for three to six weeks on a mission field (or a small congregation in a mission-like situation, Spokane Covenant of Grace P.R.C. of Spokane, WA). All the students returned aglow with enthusiasm for the work being done, for the saints they came to know and love, and for the worship they enjoyed in these places. Likewise the reports from the fields/congregation expressed appreciation for the visits and labors of the students.
Obviously the longer the visit, the greater will be the mutual benefits. But even a one-Sunday visit is usually better than no visit at all.

From here, Prof. Dykstra treats some of the specific benefits of visiting mission fields:

     What, specifically are the potential benefits of a visit to a mission field, (or a small congregation with a good mission outreach mentality)?
For the people on the field, the benefit is first and foremost, encouragement. This includes a boost in the attendance at the worship services in the day, weeks, or months you attend. Probably only members of small congregations will fully appreciate this point, and yet, do not we even in large congregations enjoy visitors to the worship services? But in a small group, to have additional voices in the singing and confession of faith, more chairs filled, more fellowship before and after the service, add an unmistakable vivacity to the service. The benefits are perhaps difficult to quantify, but they are real.
In addition, the mission group is encouraged by your interest in them and in the work. Your presence indicates to them that the churches are aware of them and are behind the work, not merely the calling church, consistory, and mission committee. For the same reasons, your visit also encourages the missionary greatly. He can at times feel quite alone and forgotten in the work, far from family, from the calling church, and from the center of the churches’ life. Your visit reminds him that he and the work are both remembered and supported by the churches as a whole.

To learn more about the Standard Bearer or to become a subscriber, visit the “SB” website.

Luther on Catechism and Singing in Relation to Missions

Church-comes-from-all-nations-LutherSpeaking (and writing) of Martin Luther today, this afternoon I cataloged a book published by Concordia Academic Press with the title The Church Comes From All Nations: Luther Texts on Missions (2003, edited by Volker Stolle).

Online I found this brief summary of this work:

This book originally published as Kirche aus allen Volkern: Luther-Texte zur Mission, is a collection of key excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther on Christian missions. Drawing from the reformer’s lectures, sermons, treatises, hymns, and devotional writings, the author presents the excerpts according to themes and provides commentary on the reformer’s understanding of mission in the world.

On the back of the book the publisher has this description:

In Luther’s understanding of the Gospel, every believer is anointed and sent ‘to confess, to teach, and to spread God’s Word’ (1523). Thus participation in God’s mission becomes the task of every Christian. This collection of texts on mission have been selected from Luther’s writings by Volker Stolle, a mission director in Germany, to demonstrate the breadth of Luther’s thinking on the subject. For the reformer,  mission is not something that ‘plays itself out on the outer edges of Christianity, but instead as a lifestyle for every Christian congregation within its particular surrounding.” In this way, Luther contributes toward the reformation of our church today, a Christianity that has often become introverted.

As I quickly thumbed the book to get an idea of the type of quotes the editor had selected, I found these two striking passages side by side on opposing pages. I include the headings the editor has added, so that you will know something of the content.

I believe you will find these quotes as significant as I did, for we also place a strong emphasis on catechism training and on singing/music.

Catechetical instruction as preparation for missionary witness

And finally, I strongly urge that the children be taught the catechism. Should they be taken captive in the invasion [The quote is taken from Luther’s “Admonition to Prayer against the Turks.”], they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them. Joseph as a seventeen-year-old youth was sold into slavery into Egypt, but he had God’s word and knew what he believed. And he converted all Egypt. The same is true of Daniel and his companions. (p.46).

The singing of Christian songs as Gospel witness

God has made our heart and spirit happy through his dear Son, whom he gave for our salvation from sin, death and the devil. Whoever honestly believes this, cannot leave it alone, but he must sing cheerfully and with joy and speak about it in order that others might listen and draw near. If, however, one does not want to sing and speak about it, it is a sign that he does not believe and is not in the new, cheerful testament but belongs under the old, rotten, unhappy testament. Therefore, the printers do very well when they diligently print good songs and make them pleasant for the people, with all kinds of ornamentation so that they are stimulated to this joy of the faith and gladly sing [Preface to Babst’s Hymnal, 1545] (p.47).

Have you thought of catechism and singing in this light before? Worth our while to ponder what Luther says, even if we may not agree on everything he says here.

How Libya’s Martyrs Are Witnessing to Egypt | Christianity Today

How Libya’s Martyrs Are Witnessing to Egypt | Christianity Today.

This “CT” story of how Egypt’s Christians are responding to the intense persecution they are suffering at the hands of Muslim terrorists (ISIS) is as heart-warming as the recent slaughter of 21 Libyan Christians is heart-chilling.

As you read the report of this response, may we be led to pray for the body of Christ in that part of the world, and for many others suffering for the name of Christ throughout the Middle East and, indeed, throughout the world.

Here is the first part of the story; read the rest at the “CT” link above.

Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity.

“We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, Two Rows by the Sea was sent to the printer.

One week later, 1.65 million copies have been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever. It eclipses even the 1 million tracts distributed after the 2012 death of Shenouda, the Coptic “Pope of the Bible.” [A full English translation is posted at bottom.]

Arabic tract (outside)Image: Bible Society of Egypt

Arabic tract (outside)

The tract contains biblical quotations about the promise of blessing amid suffering, alongside a poignant poem in colloquial Arabic:

Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching paradise open?
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?

“The design is meant so that it can be given to any Egyptian without causing offense,” said Atallah. “To comfort the mourning and challenge people to commit to Christ.”

PRC Archives – The Reformed Witness of NW Iowa & MN

The Protestant Reformed Churches in America have a long history of local evangelism and “church extension” work performed by the congregations (besides her denominational mission work), much of it involving the use of printed materials – sermons, radio messages, pamphlets, and brochures.

The PRC also love the name “Reformed Witness”, with at least four ministries bearing this name, including our well-known radio program, The Reformed Witness Hour.

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Yesterday, while processing a few items that had come in from Harold Schipper (through his son-in-law Bob Ensink), archive assistant Bob Drnek discovered a few old pamphlets (1960s) produced by “The Reformed Witness” of NW Iowa (with “committee” added to that name to give you the group responsible for the evangelism work) – a cooperative effort of the NW Iowa PRCs and Edgerton, MN PRC – and still active in that ministry, I might add.

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I scanned two of these older issues, so that you can see the progression in style (click on them to enlarge). Both contain articles written by Rev.Herman Hanko (You will see the titles from the covers). Yes, I said, REV. H.Hanko, not Professor, for Rev.H.Hanko was minister of Doon PRC at the time of their writing. Which places the pamphlets between 1963 and 1965, the years he was Doon’s pastor. It was in 1965 that he accepted the call to serve as professor in our Seminary, a position he held until his retirement in 2001.

But then, much to my surprise, when I opened up the one edition (the one on “Evolutionism”), there was a Bible Quiz inside! So, there we have a “Friday Fun” item too – a day early!

I cut and pasted the quiz so that it would be on one page. You and/or your family can be challenged by that this weekend. I would be interested in your “score” (“excellent, good, or fair”?!). Click on the image to open it separately, and then right click on it to print it. Enjoy!

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No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman

No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman by Dave Furman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

DFurman sketchPart of my Sunday reading also included this fascinating “TT” interview with Pastor David Furman, who pastors Redeemer Church in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

While there are many interesting insights in this interview about planting and maintaining a Reformed church in the heart of the Middle East, I truly appreciated the way Furman answered two questions in particular. I post them here, encouraging you to follow the link above to learn more about this church in Dubai.

TT: What aspects of the reformed tradition have most equipped you for ministry in Dubai?

DF: The first and biggest thing that came to mind when I read this question was the crystal-clear call of Christ. Jesus says: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). It is hard to describe how encouraged I am by the Reformed doctrines of grace that describe how Christ assuredly calls His elect, that the elect respond, and that He keeps them forever. This strengthens my heart to endure hardship, to labor over expositional preaching, and to glorify Jesus when I see fruit or face rejection. Reformed doctrine has fueled our sharing of the gospel and emboldened us to be faithful to Christ in difficult times.

TT: What advice can you give Christians for sharing the gospel?

DF: Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God. There is no need to change it, distort it, add to it, or subtract from it. Indeed, we must not alter the gospel. If you add one drop of works to the gospel, you destroy it, change it, reverse it, and oppose it. Gospel revision always equals gospel reversal. I would tell all Christians to hold on to and herald the one true gospel. We’ve seen it change lives time and time again. I read in a biography of Charles Spurgeon a story about his grandfather preaching one night. The story goes that one night Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher, was running late getting to the church, and by the time he got there, his grandfather had already started preaching. Young Spurgeon was already widely known at that time, and when he walked in, his grandfather paused his sermon and said something to this effect: “My grandson is here now; he may be a greater preacher than I, but he can’t preach a greater gospel.” All Christians are equipped with the same message. We need to hold out the gospel. There is no better message and no greater news.