Penitent Worshipers

This special meditationhas been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Meditation on Psalm 130: 3,4

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

This is the eleventh psalm of the Songs of Ascent. As we go up to the Lord’s house to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness, immediately there is, should be, the sense of our unworthiness because of our sin. The psalmist begins this psalm with the acknowledgment of depths. This could be the depths of the ocean or sea. It could be the depths of a dungeon or an empty cistern , (like the ones in which Joseph and Jeremiah were thrown by those who hated them. The depths is a position of helplessness and great need. Think of Jonah when he was in the belly of the great fish. The psalmist, aware of the depths of his sin and perversity cried “Out of the depths!”. His iniquities were against God! Surely, he has earned punishment; he is in these depths justly. The depths refer to guilt, the objective result of sin that brings a person under God’s condemnation. He deserves and experiences a sense of God’s wrath.

Affliction and guilt can bring a person very low. But in these depths, one must not give into despair or hopelessness. We must pray with great earnestness to the One who alone can rescue us. Notice, the psalmist cried unto the LORD. God gave him awareness of his sin. Faith makes us aware that we have earned what we received. Our sins bring God’s wrath! Faith cries; it does not whisper. Oh, the loud penetrating voice arises out of the depths. We have no right to be heard. Why should we be brought out? We cry out and supplicate Jehovah, our covenant God to look down in His mercy and hear our cry. Who can stand before the holy God who cannot endure iniquity? But if we do not want God to “mark our iniquities”, what do we wish for Him to do? Do we wish for Him to wink at our sin or pretend it is not there? To mark is literally to “watch over, tally up and keep a record of.” How awful and how long would be such a list! One sin against the holy God would damn us to hell, let alone the pile of sins heaped up. Who will be able to stand up and defend himself? No sinner can be justified before God by his own efforts. It is a cry of supplication, pleading for grace and favor. The guilty must pray for salvation.

Verse four begins with a significant “but”. Faith sees that with God there is forgiveness. This means that God lifts off from us the responsibility to pay for our sins. God also restores to us the right to live before Him. God alone can pardon the guilt of sin. What is the basis of this forgiveness? How can a holy God forgive? The answer is found in verses seven and eight. “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

There is forgiveness by the redemption that God gives. Mercy is God reaching down to us, in our helplessness, and helping. He delivers us from the depths. With God is plenteous redemption. A redeemer was a near kinsman who was willing and able to pay the debts of a person or family, like Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth. Redemption is with God. It is never something that we have earned or merited. God pays the debt that we have accrued. The cost of our redemption was the blood and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the wrath that each and every sin of ours deserves. No, God does not wink at our sin or ignore it. He is holy and just. God provided for our redemption. In I Cor. 1: 30 we read, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” We must acknowledge that we cannot stand before God on our own merits. We in faith look to God as the God who forgives sin through Christ. How gracious is that forgiveness! It is not deserved by us. It is graciously given. Faith focuses its hope and desire upon Jesus Christ. He gave Himself as “a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:6). Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation? If so, then how has your faith evidenced itself in a childlike fear of the Lord?

God forgives us by redeeming us. The purpose is that you and I may always stand in awe of Him and His grace. Oh, the wonder that God loved me! Have you stood in wonder at your redemption? Aware of the great punishment that your sins deserve, are you made speechless that God forgave you? Instead of standing in the rags of your sin, you have been cleansed and clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus. O, the wonder of it all! God’s salvation is abundant. Do you rest your hope entirely in Him?

My sin — O the bliss of this glorious thought! — My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul. It is well…with my soul; It is well, it is well with my soul.” Philip Bliss 1876

A Prayer in Time of Affliction – John Knox (It’s harder than you think!)

Just and righteous art Thou, O dreadful and most high God, holy in all Thy works and most just in all Thy judgments – yea, even then when as Thou punishest in greatest severity. We have before, O Lord, felt Thy heavy hand on us, and when we cried on Thee in our calamities and afflictions, most mercifully Thou inclined Thy ears unto us. But, alas, O Lord, we have not answered in our lives glorifying Thy holy name as Thou answered us when we called in our distress, but we did return unto our accustomed sin and so provoked Thee through our misdeeds unto displeasure.

Therefore hast Thou most justly turned Thyself to punish [read as chastise] us again in bringing among us this troublesome and destroying pestilence, according to the threatening of Thy law, because we have not made our fruit of Thy former corrections. Our repentance, O Lord, hath been like the dew that suddenly vanisheth away; yea, the great multitude remained hardened in heart through their own pride and, walking in the lusts of their own hearts, confidently despised Thy blessed ordinances. For who hath mourned for the universal corruption of this blind age? …Yea, Lord, where could the man be found that sought not himself, even with the hurt of others and defacing of Thy glory? So universally did and presently doth that root of covetousness reign throughout this whole country. Yea, Lord, they to whom Thou granted worldly blessings in greatest abundance have been and are possessed with this unclean spirit of avarice. The more Thou gave, the more insatiably thirsted they to have, and they ceased not till they did spoil Thee of Thy own patrimony; yet in this matter they will not know themselves to sin and offend Thy majesty. Therefore cannot Thy justice longer spare, but it must punish and strike us as Thou threatenest in Thy holy law.

Now we know, Lord, that Thy judgments commonly begin at Thy own house, and therefore hast Thou begun to correct us, albeit yet in Thy mercy and not in greatest severity. Wherefore, good Lord, either else in the multitude of Thy mercies remove this bitter cup away from us or grant us Thy grace patiently and obediently to drink the same as given out of Thy own hand for our amendment.

We acknowledge, O Lord, that afflictions are disturbing, vexing, and hard to be borne with of fragile flesh; but Christ Jesus hath suffered heavier torments for us, and we have deserved more than we sustain who so oft have merited the very hells. If it shall please Thy Majesty to continue our punishment [read, chastisement] and double our stripes, then let it please Thee in like means to increase our patience and make our corporal afflictions serve to our humiliation, invocation of Thy name, and obedience to Thy holy ordinances. Or if of a fatherly pity it shall please Thee to be content with this gentle correction, let the calm appear after this present tempest that in respect of both the one and the other we may glorify Thee, in that first Thou hast corrected to amendment lest we should have slept in sin to our destruction and, secondly, that Thou hast taken away the bitterness of affliction with the sweetness of Thy comfortable deliverance, in Thee first having respect to the necessity and in the last to our infirmity.

…But, O Lord, now it is Thy own inheritance, for the which we sigh and groan before Thy Majesty. Look on it, therefore, from the heavens, and be merciful to Thy people; let Thy anger and Thy wrath be turned away from us, and make Thy face to shine lovingly on Thy own sanctuary. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, consider, grant our requests, for Thy own sake, O our God, and that in the name of Thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ, our only Savior and Mediator, in whose name we pray unto Thee…. So be it.

collected-prayers-jknox-2019Taken from The Collected Prayers of John Knox, edited and introduced by Brian G. Najapfour (Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), pp.37-39. This is the first prayer in the section “Supplication in Times of Difficulty,” and when I read it last week, it struck me as so relevant for the present time. This prayer of Knox is prophetic.

And yes, it smote my own conscience. How fitting for our age, our country, our churches, yes – but, especially for my own heart and life, as we have sat in such prosperity, lusting for more and trusting in our idols to deliver us. And now the Lord is judging us, unmasking the vanity of our false gods and calling us to true repentance and full faith in Him alone.

Can we pray these words of Knox? Yes, as children of God we can, and we must. But will we? May God humble us to do so, and work genuine repentance in us in this time of affliction.

Saved by Grace: Called Efficaciously

Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called. Romans 8:30

In the previous chapter we discussed regeneration, or the new birth.
We explained that regeneration is that marvelous work of God through the Spirit of Christ whereby the sinner is translated from death into life. The new birth is a spiritual resurrection. It is the implanting of a principle of new life. That new life is different from the old life of sin not only in that it is holy but also in that it is heavenly. The new birth is a birth from above. Through it we become spiritual citizens of the New Jerusalem and, in principle, strangers in the earth.

But suppose now that no other operations of grace followed that of regeneration: would such a regenerated sinner of himself develop into a conscious and living believer in Christ? In the new birth the sinner receives new spiritual powers or faculties, the power of faith, and the power to repent, the power to embrace Christ and all His benefits. But if nothing else is done to that reborn sinner, will those powers of themselves spring into activity, so that the sinner now actually believes and repents, enters into the state of reconciliation, and receives the forgiveness of sins? Perhaps you reply: of course not, such a regenerated man must be brought into contact with the gospel! Well, suppose then, that you give him a Bible to read, or that some preacher instructs him and makes him acquainted with the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, will he merely through that contact with the Scriptures come to conscious saving faith, so that he actually repents and believes? Not at all. The wonderful work of regeneration as we discussed it in the previous chapter must be followed by another stage in the great work of salvation, a work, too, which is accomplished by the same Spirit Who regenerated the sinner. The seed of the new life that was implanted into his heart must be quickened into activity if it is to bear fruit, by the calling. The sinner must be called by grace.

Very often we read in the Bible of this calling of the sinner. The apostle Paul writes that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11 :29) To the Corinthians he writes: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (I Corinthians 1:26) And in Hebrews 3: 1 the “holy brethren” are called “partakers of the heavenly calling.” The apostle Peter admonishes us: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” (II Peter 1: 10) The Lord Jesus tells us that He is “not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13) The saints are named “the called of Christ Jesus,” and they are “called to be saints,” and “the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 1 :6, 7; 8:28) In I Corinthians 1: 23, 24 the apostle states that the preaching of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” God’s people are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that they “should shew forth the praises of him who hath called (them) out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9) And they are called unto glory and virtue. (II Peter 1: 3) And not only do the Scriptures thus directly speak of the calling, but they also furnish us with concrete illustrations of what this calling should be. They call the sinner to repent and believe, the thirsty to drink, the hungry to eat, the weary to rest, the wicked to turn from his evil way.

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“Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1) “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 45:22) “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, a house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33: 11) “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11 :28) “Repent ye therefore, and be converted.” (Acts 3: 19) “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16: 31)

You see from all this how important is the calling as a part of the work of salvation by grace. It is through this calling that the sinner comes to true repentance, so that he is filled with sorrow after God, that he comes to the water of life to drink, and to the bread of life to eat, that he is translated from darkness into light, from the state of enmity into that of reconciliation with God, and that he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is saved. Without and apart from this calling, the gospel of the crucified Christ is a stumblingblock to him, foolishness, and a savor of death unto death; but through the saving efficacy of this calling all this is changed, so that Christ becomes the power and the wisdom of God, and the gospel is a savor of life unto life unto the smner.

The calling, then, is that work of God’s mighty grace in Christ, through the Spirit, and by the preaching of the gospel, whereby the sinner is changed from darkness into light, so that he repents and consciously embraces Christ and all His benefits.

Finally, this divine calling is always effectual. This does not mean that the preacher may expect that all who come under the external preaching of the Word are also called unto salvation. Always there is a twofold effect; the preaching is a savor of death unto death, as well as a savor of life unto life. But the elect are surely called. They receive the hearing ear, the seeing eye, the willing heart. They hear the Word of God, and they tremble. They are sorry for their sins, and repent. They cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” and receive forgiveness. They hear the voice of Jesus say to them personally, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest!” And they come to Him and do find rest. They hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and know that they are of His sheep. And they follow Him, and He gives them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hand. For the gifts of God and the calling are without repentance. For “whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

We are called by irresistible grace unto virtue and eternal glory!

wonderofgrace-hhTaken from chapter 6, “Called by Grace,” in The Wonder of Grace by Herman Hoeksema (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1944), pp.50-57. This work has now been republished by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.

Good Soil Hearers of the Word

Jean-François_Millet_-_The_Sower_-_Walters

The good soil represents those who hear and understand and accept the preaching of God’s Word (Matt.13:23; Mark 4:20). They have an open, receptive heart toward the Word of God. Furthermore, they seek not only to understand what it means, but also to strive to obey it, to put it into practice in their life. They are not just hearers of the Word but doers (James 1:22). As a result, the Word continually produces results in their life. They experience true, lasting change as a result of the sermons they listen to.

The presence of fruit is the only thing that sets the good soil apart from the other three soils in this parable. Every true Christian will consistently bear spiritual fruit in their lives (Matt.7:16; Gal.5:22-23). …There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian. Granted, not all Christians are as fruitful as others. The issue is not the amount of fruit in a person’s life, but the presence of it. Jesus said, ‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples’ (John 15:8 [NASB]). Does this describe your heart? Do you have a soft, receptive heart that produces the fruit of a true believer?

And then, after examining Jesus’ other teaching as recorded in Luke 8 – the entire context of the parable of the sower – the author ends with this:

In other words, the ultimate evidence that proves you are a Christian is that you hear and obey God’s Word. This entire portion of Luke was designed to emphasize the importance Jesus placed on listening to the Word (vv.8,18,21). Good soil yields the fruit of obedience from the Word of God. That fruitful life is a light that shines for all around to see, and it is the only real demonstration that you are spiritually identified with Jesus.

What kind of soil does the Word find when it falls on you? What kind of heart do you have for the Word of God?

Taken from Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word by Ken Ramey (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), Chapter 2 – “Hearing with Your Heart” (pp.31-33). We are currently taking time to read and draw on some of the author’s good thoughts concerning our calling to listen believingly to God’s Word proclaimed.

Praying with the Psalms as Guilty Sinners and Innocent Saints – D. Bonhoeffer

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferIn connection with his treatment of the “penitential Psalms” (That is, prayers for repentance), D. Bonhoeffer writes:

The Christian will find scarcely any difficulties in the praying of these Psalms. However, the question could arise as to how one is to think about the fact that Christ also prays these Psalms with us. How can the sinless one ask for forgiveness? In no way other than he can, as the sinless one, bear the sins of the world and be made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Not for the sake of his sins, but for the sake of our sins, which he has taken upon himself and for which he suffers, does Jesus pray for the forgiveness of sins. He positions himself entirely for us. He wants to be a man before God as we are. So he prays also the most human of all prayers with us and thereby demonstrates precisely that he is the true Son of God.

And then, in connection with the prayers of the saints in which they declare their innocence, he writes:

But the question is not which possible motives may stand behind the prayer, but whether the content of the prayer itself is appropriate or inappropriate. And here it is clear that the believing Christian certainly has to say not only something about his guilt but also something equally important about his innocence and his justification. It is characteristic of the faith of the Christian that through God’s grace and the merit of Jesus Christ he has become entirely justified and guiltless in God’s eyes, so that ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). And it is characteristic of the prayer of the Christian to hold fast to this innocence and justification which has come to him, appealing to God’s word and thanking for it.

So not only are we permitted, but directly obligated – provided we take God’s action to us at all seriously – to pray in all humiliation and certainty: ‘I was blameless before him and I kept myself from guilt’ (Psalm 18:23)…. With such a prayer we stand in the center of the New Testament, in the community of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Quoted in Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the twelfth section, “Guilt” (pp.50-55), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.

New from Simonetta Carr: “John Newton”

We have featured the titles of Reformed author Simonetta Carr before, and tonight we do so again, because there is a new release from her and Reformation Heritage Books in the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series. That new title is John Newton (2018).

jNewton-Carr-2018

This fine series has books for young readers on such major church history figures as Augustine, Irenaeus, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and John Knox among others) and this new addition also looks to be a valuable contribution.

The publisher provides this description:

John Newton’s life was full of adventure, danger, travels, exotic places, and romance. Young readers will encounter each of these things in Simonetta Carr’s carefully narrated and charmingly illustrated book. But more importantly, readers will come to appreciate the way Newton’s life was changed for good, even when he was attempting to run as far as possible from God. In spite of Newton’s rebellion and sin, God’s grace finally won—a grace that Newton recognized as amazing, invincible, and completely undeserved.

Besides covering the life and work of this noteworthy Anglican churchman and hymnwriter, Carr includes at the end a timeline of Newton’s life, a “Did You Know” section, and a sampling of his writing. The book is beautifully illustrated by Amal.

The contents of John Newton are as follows:

Introduction

Chapter 1 – A Boy at Sea

Chapter 2 – Seabound

Chapter 3 – God’s Hand at Work

Chapter 4 – New Start

Chapter 5 – Pastor, Hymn Writer, and Friend

Chapter 6 – Opposing the Slave Trade

Time Line

Did You Know?

From Newton’s Pen

If you are willing to write a short review of this book for the Standard Bearer or for Perspectives in Covenant Education, this title is yours. You may contact me by email or in the comment section of this post.

And if you haven’t started collecting these books for your family library, it is high time you did! We have a nice selection ourselves for grandchildren reading and browsing.

“Goodness is a spotlight ..on our shame, our filth.” ~ W. Wangerin, Jr.

To sinners, the mere presence of goodness can feel like an attack.

…Goodness is a spotlight. It shines on our shame, our filth, our deformities; it picks out the parts we hide from the world and even from ourselves. We will strike at that light.  We’ll haul it into court, discredit it, and smash it in order to put it out. We’ll spit on it and belittle it. We’ll blindfold it, hit it, and ask it to prophesy – all to prove what a fraud this ‘prophet’ is (And to dehumanize him! Get it?)

Where patience shines, impatience is revealed and hates the attention. Kindness shows unkindness to be hideous. True joy intensifies true bitterness; gentleness enrages belligerence; and self-control proves the pig to be nothing but a pig.

The real trial in Caiaphas’s house is not of the guilt of Jesus. Rather, Jesus is judging the guilt of the others, not by speaking, but by being perfectly innocent. Innocence accuses its accusers. (This is the great war between secular powers and genuine religion; the trial continues even today.) They hate it. They scream to drown the sweeter truth; they condemn him to death in order to put out the light. They want dearly to put out the light.

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Save me, Lord, from blaming anyone but myself:
— not you (whose innocence spotlights my sin),
— not your foes (whose sins are my sin),
— not people whose virtues reveal my evil.

I must suffer my guilt, my own guilt; this is the pain of an earnest repentance; and repentance alone can hear your forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness. Amen.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Quoted from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on Mark 14:65 with John 3:19-20, pp.85-86

John Newton’s Conversion by “Amazing Grace” – March 10, 1747

JNewtonPic&QuoteSince we missed out on our weekly church history/archives post on Thursday (busy last couple of days), we will do so today.

According to the Church History Institute “daily story,” today, March 10, 1747 is the date of John Newton’s (1725-1807) conversion. This is their note about this:

1747

John Newton, a sailor on a slave ship, is converted to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He eventually becomes an Anglican clergyman, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” and a zealous abolitionist. “That 10th of March is a day much to be remembered by me; and I have never allowed it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748. For on that day the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”

 

“Today in Christian History” (part of Christianity Today) also noted it in their daily email, posting this additional information:

March 10, 1748: John Newton, the captain of a slave ship, converts to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He had been reading Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, and was struck by a line about the “uncertain continuance of life.” He eventually became an Anglican clergyman, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” and a zealous abolitionist

You may find more on Newton at this Christian History link. Perhaps we know him most by his famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Belonging to the back ground of this classic song is this (taken from the above article):

After leaving the sea for an office job in 1755, Newton held Bible studies in his Liverpool home. Influenced by both the Wesleys and George Whitefield, he adopted mild Calvinist views and became increasingly disgusted with the slave trade and his role in it. He quit, was ordained into the Anglican ministry, and in 1764 took a parish in Olney in Buckinghamshire.

Three years after Newton arrived, poet William Cowper moved to Olney. Cowper, a skilled poet who experienced bouts of depression, became a lay helper in the small congregation.

In 1769, Newton began a Thursday evening prayer service. For almost every week’s service, he wrote a hymn to be sung to a familiar tune. Newton challenged Cowper also to write hymns for these meetings, which he did until falling seriously ill in 1773. Newton later combined 280 of his own hymns with 68 of Cowper’s in what was to become the popular Olney Hymns. Among the well-known hymns in it are “Amazing Grace,” “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” “O for a Closer Walk with God,” and “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”

While there are thousands of editions of the singing of this hymn, perhaps my favorite is this one by Wintley Phipps. He also includes a little background on Negro spirituals and why the minor key is so important to “Amazing Grace.” Enjoy this amazing performance.

Grace-PRC-extAs an aside, if you are looking for a wonderful night of music, tonight Grace PRC is hosting its “Night of Music” fundraiser for the young people – in her new sanctuary. This is the note you will find on her website about it:

GRACE NIGHT OF MUSIC will be held THIS Saturday at 7:00 PM in the new sanctuary. Please join/support our Young People at this annual night of praise and convention fundraiser. This year’s lineup features the Voices of Victory, Covenant Quartet, and much more. Refreshments will be served following the program.

Maybe we will see you there! 🙂

Help and Hope for the Bullys and the Bullied – The March 2018 “Beacon Lights”

Anti-Bully BL-ad-2018

As we pointed out in a post a few weeks ago, the March 2018 issue of the Beacon Lights (the Protestant Reformed youth magazine) is devoted to the subject of bullying. Now that it is out and available, we can encourage you to get it and read it so as to benefit from its timely theme.

This is not an easy subject to treat. Not least of all, because it convicts all of us of the sins of bullying that we have committed. And that exposes us in the sins of hating our neighbor and of hating the God who made our neighbor, as the editor and other writers for this special issue point out.

But is there hope for us? And is there hope for those who have experienced the painful reality of this sin? Yes, indeed there is. And, as we might know, it is found alone in our Savior, Jesus Christ and in His sin-crushing, peace-making, love-producing cross.

The editorial by new editor Dewey Engelsma, “Delivering the Helpless,” is as significant as his story that precedes it, “Murder on a School Bus.” Read the latter first and weep, for yourself and for those we have hurt in such a way. And then read this from Engelsma’s editorial:

Where then for relief, for the bullied, the bully, and bystander alike? For that we must look to the one of which Job was merely a type. And it is that someone greater that not only provides a perfect example of a holy life, but himself gives courage to the redeemed bystander, so that they no longer stand idly by, but jump up to the defense of the bullied person, and show “mercy and compassion every man to his brother” (Zech 7:9).

Where else for relief but the cross that stands at Calvary? At the foot of that cross three parties come together in peace at last, the bullied, the humbled oppressor, and the repentant bystander, all clinging to the One crucified. For it is the bullied child herself, the reed that was not broken, and the flax that was not extinguished, who finally by the grace of their Savior experienced “judgment unto victory” (Matt. 12:20). It is the bully himself who is transformed by God into a blessed peacemaker, and who now is at peace with his God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

And for you, the young person who doubts they have the strength to stand up for the bullied person? You are right. When God’s people rely on their own strength, “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isa. 40:30). You don’t have the strength. You will fail time and time again. Until you finally find your strength in the Son of God, the Son who not only stood up for you, but gave himself for you (Gal. 2:20). This is the one who empowers you courageously to defend the weak and powerless, so that when you have against all odds delivered “him that had none to help him,” your victory cry will be, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

In that light we can weep for joy, even as we seek the joy of those wounded spirits among us.

Shall we fight the sin and find the joy in Christ alone?

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If you are not yet a subscriber, visit the Beacon Light’s subscription page where you will find information on how to become one. Now would be a good time to join the ranks of young (and old) Reformed readers.

A Whole Issue on Bullying?! Yes, and Necessary – The March 2018 “Beacon Lights”

Anti-Bully BL-ad-2018

Soon the March 2018 issue of the Beacon Lights will be out (the Protestant Reformed youth magazine), and it is an entire issue devoted to the subject of bullying.

Yes, bullying, that subject which has received so much attention in the world about us and which is now also being confronted in the church of Christ and kingdom of God. Bullying, that hateful, shameful, powerful conduct that has such tragic consequences in the lives of children and young people – covenant, Christian children and young people too. Perhaps all the more so because it has been carried out by fellow professing covenant, Christian children and young people. Indeed, it is time for this conduct to be called out and confronted, confessed and killed – with the sword of the Spirit and the blood of Jesus.

Are we ready to face the sad sin of bullying?

In this special March issue you will read the subject introduced by managing editor Ryan Kregel. Part of what he has to say is this:

Today, the violence of bullying exists in homes and workplaces. Bullying happens in schools, public and Christian. Bullies come in all ages, male and female. Bullies use many means to accomplish their goal of dominating another person. Sometimes physical abuse is the method, whether a violent, even bloody assault at one time or the daily slapping, spitting, and tripping of the victim. Bullying is also manifest in words. Sometimes the victim endures a barrage of insults day after day. Other times the words are written in notes passed around the classroom, sent as text messages, scratched into the wall of the bathroom stall, or posted on social media. No matter their form, they are meant to hurt, cut down, and kill.

Maybe you have witnessed bullying at school or elsewhere. You probably noticed that the victim didn’t go on the defensive because most victims do not. So did you do anything about it? Did you make their unspoken voice heard? Did you defend the victim or did you join in? Keep in mind that helping a victim of bullying must go further than just “telling off” the bully. Helping ought to include befriending the victim. Through this action we show an awareness of how we ourselves have been befriended by God through Jesus Christ.

From the editor, Dewey Engelsma, you will read about “Murder on a School Bus” and “Delivering the Helpless” (more on these in another post). You will also find articles on “The Offense of Cyberbullying” and “A Letter of Comfort for the Bullied Young Person.”

Yes, the sin of bullying is exposed in this BL issue. It is a painful matter.  But the marvelous mercy of God is also laid bare. Mercy that leads to confession and prayer for help. Mercy that forgives and heals. Mercy that makes us merciful to confront the bully and to help the helpless. As Mr. Kregel adds at the end of his introduction,

Thanks be to God that there is comfort for the
victim of bullying. God promises to “give his angels
charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps.
91:11). He also says of the one in need of help, “He
shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be
with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor
him” (v. 15).

BL-logoWatch for this issue, and when it comes read it carefully and prayerfully. If you are not yet a subscriber, visit the Beacon Light’s subscription page where you will find information on how to become one. Now would be a good time to join the ranks.