The NOV/DEC 2023
VOLUME 73 ISSUE 6
72 YEARS: 1951– 2023 reformedfellowship.net
DEDICATED TO THE EXPOSITION AND DEFENSE OF THE REFORMED FAITH
A Great Light Seen in Total Darkness Family Visitation: The Why (1) The How (2)
What Is the Trinity? What Do You Believe about God the Father?
2023 RYS National Convention
Preparing Your Family to Receive the Preached Word
Revisiting the Italian Reformation: Interview with Rev. Michael G. Brown
Assurance of Salvation through the Holy Spirit’s Testimony and Sealing
Covenant in the Garden
Contents | November/December | Volume 73 | Issue 6 3 | A Great Light Seen in Total Darkness
Mr. Cornelius Van Kempen When Jesus Christ the Light of the world shines in our dark hearts. A Savior becomes a necessity!
15 | Covenant in the Garden (9) Rev. Peter H. Holtvlüwer
What was the garden of Eden and why was it so special? What was the Lord’s purpose in placing man in a garden?
4 | Family Visitation: The Why (1) The How (2) Rev. Paul Ipema
The Why, Part 1: Family visitation is used by many pastors to connect with their congregants on a more personal level. Learn why pastors do family visitation, including the biblical basis for this practice and the benefits it provides to both pastors and congregants. The How, Part 2: Practical family visiting dos and don’ts for pastors and elders on how to conduct visits in a respectful and effective manner.
10 | 2023 RYS National Convention Mr. Andrew Engelsma
Report on this years RYS National Convention: “But God,” based on Ephesians 2:4–5.
12 | Revisiting the Italian Reformation: Interview with Rev. Michael G. Brown Mr. Michael R. Kearney
Board member Michael R. Kearney interviews URCNA missionary Rev. Michael G. Brown for The Outlook regarding the spiritual past and present of Italy.
The Outlook | 2
18 | Strange Gifts
Mrs. Elisabeth Bloechl
28 | Preparing Your Family to Receive the Preached Word (3) Dr. Joel R. Beeke
Having seen in the last two issues of The Outlook how to prepare your family for the preached Word and how to receive it, let us focus now on how to teach your children to practice sermons properly. Here are some guidelines for you to counsel your family about putting the preached Word into practice
Can inefficiency and limitations be a gift? Living in Mbale, Uganda, has given me the answer.
20 | Church Order Rev. Greg Lubbers
Article 13: The Election, Term, and Ordination/ Installation of Elders and Deacons
31 | Assurance of Salvation through the Holy Spirit’s Testimony and Sealing
Article 14: The Duties of Elders
Dr. Cornelis P. Venema
23 | Prison Ministry
This article/essay focuses especially upon the distinct role of the Holy Spirit in granting believers an assurance of their salvation. Dr. Venema argues that the Spirit works through the gospel to assure believers of their salvation. Indeed, the Spirit Himself is given to believers as a “downpayment” and “seal” of their inheritance in Christ.
Mrs. Hope Staal
Letter from a reader in prison.
24 | What Is the Trinity? (8) Rev. William Boekestein
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8. Q&A 24 and 25.
26 | What Do You Believe about God the Father? (9) Rev. William Boekestein
33 | Good Question
Rev. William Boekestein Good Question 55: How can I be a peacemaker?
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Q&A 26.
Cover layout/design concept/ composition by Jeff Steenholdt.
37 | Book Review
Little church in Seydisfjordur, Iceland, courtesy Unsplash/ RedCharlie.
Jesus Christ Revealed in the Psalms.
Rev. Bartel Elshout
A Great Light Seen in Total Darkness To understand darkness as it is seen in the Word of God is to be separated from God. “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). When God created the world the first word He gave was, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), and there was light. God in Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. Where does this darkness come from? Man, the crown of God’s creation, rebelled against his Maker, bringing darkness upon himself and the whole world. This would have been the end of the story, but God revealed His plan of salvation, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. In the fullness of time He came to dispel the darkness through His birth, life of suffering, and death for darkness-dwelling rebels. This is a recreation and making alive, restoring them from darkness to His marvelous
Mr. Cornelius Van Kempen known as Case, has been married to Susan for fifty-seven blessed years. They attend and are members of Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, MI.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. —Isaiah 9:2, KJV light. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). This light has come, and yet many walk in darkness. How can this be explained? “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10–11). The Light is sufficient to light the whole world, but many are blinded to that light. “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isa. 6:9–10). Have your eyes been opened to see the Light? This is what Jesus Christ came to do. He came to save His people from their darkness of sin. Christ was born in Bethlehem and lived a life of suffering and death, but death could not hold Him. He arose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of
power as King of kings. He rules and guides all things in the world for His glory. Christ, through His servants, is bringing the message of this great light to the ends of the earth, gathering His elect. When the last of His elect are brought in, He will come again as Judge, separating light from darkness forever. His people shall inherit unending eternal light from Him. Those that refused the light will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be no light forever. “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Rev. 22:12–13). This Light is still shining today. Ask the Lord to open blinded eyes not only to see the light but also to flee to it. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19).
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FAMILY VISITATION: THE WHY (1) i THE HOW (2) Rev. Paul Ipema
n this article, I’d like to talk about the practice of family visitation, and by family visitation I am referring to the practice of the elders and the pastor making regular visits to the homes of parishioners. In many traditions, that’s done on an annual basis, but during recent years that practice has fallen out of favor with many churches. I think there are several reasons for that. First, there is the constraint of time. Pastors, elders, and parishioners live busy lives, and so it’s difficult to find time for those kinds of visits. Then there is the difficulty of parishioners living further and further away from the churches they attend. So we have a lot of commuter congregations where traveling becomes an issue in making those visits.
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However, I want to write about family visitation because I believe it’s an important part of pastoral ministry. I believe it’s an extension of the ministry of the Word, the preaching of the Word, and at the root of the practice is an attempt to assess, on the part of the pastoral leaders of the church, the effectiveness of the preaching ministry in the lives of God’s people. One can look at the Bible and see a precedent for this sort of practice in the public ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ not only preached in public settings but also taught and preached in the synagogue. He preached in the open, but he also made visits to people’s homes. He healed the sick. He spoke with Zacchaeus, and there are many other instances where there was personalized ministry. In the apostolic period, the Bible tells us, it was the practice or the expectation that not only the apostles but also elders would make a practice of visiting people from home to home. The apostle Paul, for example, mentions to the Ephesian elders that he had gone from house to house (Acts 20:20). So not only did he preach in public, but also he applied that preaching ministry and teaching ministry in the context of home visits. In Hebrews 13 we have the exhortation to elders to do their work well and to shepherd God’s people because they will have to give account to the Lord for their work. When we think about pastoral visitation and family visitation, the imagery that seems to stand out is the imagery of the shepherd
and the sheep. We call it pastoral ministry. We refer to it as a shepherd ruling in the name of Jesus Christ, the chief shepherd, ministering to God’s people, who are often referred to as God’s sheep. To do that well, one has to be involved in the in the lives of God’s people. I think it’s important, for example, to make sure that the elders, the leaders of the church, get to know the congregation well. If we limit that time to what takes place on a typical Sunday, the knowledge of the congregation, of the struggles they go through, of the challenges they face, of things that are happening in their lives, will be limited. Sundays are busy, not only with worship, but also with educational ministry and fellowship as a congregation.
That decline took place over many centuries, until by the time of the Reformation, it was almost unheard of that pastors made those kind of visits because so much was done by way of looking to the sacraments as the means by which God’s grace was conveyed. So one participates in the Lord’s Supper (the Mass), goes to confession, makes penance. But the idea of ongoing spiritual care, of applying the Word of God in the context of a person’s ongoing journey in the Christian faith—that was unheard of until that practice was renewed during the time of the Reformation. We read of not only Luther and Calvin but also others who made a practice of visiting parishioners and attending to their spiritual needs.
But there is a place for individual visitation, and so when one thinks of a shepherd watching over his sheep, it speaks of the kind of personalized care that the Lord calls elders and pastors to do. That care ought not to be neglected because many things can happen in people’s lives that will remain unknown to the elders or to the pastor unless there is personal contact. There also seems to be in the history of the church at least a precedent for this sort of thing—we read, for example, of Clement of Alexandria, of Cyprian, of Ambrose of Milan. All make reference to the fact that it was the practice for the first several centuries of the church’s history to have leaders in the church make regular visits to the sick but also regular visits to the parishioners to address any specific needs that arose.
In terms of the purpose of visitation in assessing the effectiveness of preaching the Word, it ought not to be understood as a negative practice. It ought not to be understood as looking to criticize the pastor or the preaching of the Word in a local congregation. It’s a means of determining if the Word is having an impact upon the lives of God’s people. Are the people in the congregation growing in godliness? Are they making use of the Word in their homes? Are husbands and fathers, for example, being good pastors in their own homes, leading by example but also leading in terms of the reading of Scripture and talking about Scripture, praying with and for their families? How is that being done? Those sorts of things cannot be assessed unless there is personal, individual contact with the family. Visitation also lets pastors and elders see what has been going on in the lives of the members of the congregation in terms of what their struggles are in the Christian faith. Are there things that they wrestle with? In terms of biblical teaching, what has the Word to say about the events of their lives? Visitation can
What began to change was the rise of the Roman Catholic view of the sacraments, particularly of personal confession, where one goes to the priest to confess one’s sins rather than having confession as part of congregational worship. One begins to see the decline of the practice of pastoral visitation in the home.
challenge and encourage members of the congregation to participate in the communion of saints. We look at the church as the body of believers, made up of many parts with many different functions. Yet they all serve a common purpose, and that is to build up the body and to glorify Jesus Christ. And so home visitation can be an excellent opportunity to challenge and to encourage members, whatever their age group, to see how they can use their gifts in ways that are edifying to the body as a whole and to make use of opportunities available at the church to grow in their faith and to minister to others, not simply in terms of educational ministry but ministries of service. Ministries of the deaconate need ministries of evangelism and missions, and those can all be excellent opportunities to encourage the growth of the congregation. Visitation is also an opportunity to see how well the congregation understands the Word that is preached. Is it clear? Is it obvious to the elders that the preaching of the Word on a regular basis is effective in terms of the preaching of the gospel? Is the gospel clear, is the gospel received and understood? Assessing this is important in family visitation. We could also talk about assessing the vitality of the family in terms of their relationship one with another. Does the family appear to be harmonious in terms of the relationship between husband and wife? How about the relationship between parents and children? That often can be a fruitful discussion in terms of the stresses and strains that every family has to face; how are they dealing with that? How are the children growing in their understanding of the gospel? Is there a challenge, perhaps for young people to make a public profession of their faith? How are they responding to the educational ministry? Are
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they growing in their understanding? Are they responding positively to the message? When those things are done well, it ultimately enhances the overall ministry of the Word and develops the spirituality of the local congregation in terms of becoming more Christ-like, more mature in their faith. The insights gained from visitation assist the pastor in identifying specific needs that must be addressed from the pulpit again. Sometimes those things have to be carefully sorted through, but perhaps there are growing concerns spiritually that are being expressed in these visits, things that perhaps the pastor should address, perhaps things that should be prayed about. Perhaps there are follow-up visits that should be required as well. Regardless of the specific situation, when that kind of visitation is done well, it will help the pastor. It is not designed to criticize him or to put him on edge, so to speak, in terms of his ministry. It can be an opportunity for a pastor to reflect upon things that he perhaps should change, revise, or improve. I can speak as a pastor when I say that we often have gaps in our ministry, blind spots. We too are fallen creatures, and therefore we need that kind of input from others, from parishioners and from elders in particular, about what we need to work on to improve our overall ministry. We are always learning, always growing, and we ourselves are maturing. And so it’s important for us to have that kind of feedback as a means of enhancing the effectiveness of our ministry. From the most basic point of view, especially for a pastor who may be new to a congregation, it’s a great way for a pastor to get to know the members of the congregation, to get to know the sheep that he must care for. If, as a minister of the Word, he’s unfamiliar with his people, it will limit the effectiveness of his pastoral ministry. In terms of the development in recent years of much larger churches, much larger ministries we call mega churches, one of the challenges is that it’s difficult if not impossible for a pastor to get to know all the members of the congregation. Certainly there are cell groups, small groups that meet, where there is accountability. Spiritual edification takes place, but pastorally speaking, it is well-nigh impossible to get to know people and what’s really going on in their lives. If one has so many people, one does not have time to make all those visits. I remember a number of years ago attending that kind of a church where two people were welcomed into the fellowship of the church as new. And the pastor got their names reversed. He was not even aware who they were, and that struck me as a sad thing in terms of a pastor not knowing the congregation well. He didn’t have time to get to know hundreds if not thousands of people in the congregation. So there is great benefit for a pastor getting involved personally in the lives of his people and for them to get to know him as well: someone they can look to for guidance, for help, someone they can reach out to in a time of difficulty or trouble. The last thing we want to convey to people is that we as pastors are too busy to help the people of the congregation. At any time, a pastor needs to be prepared to reach out and make that visit when necessary. This article is adapted from “Family Visitation: The Why,” a podcast with Rev. Paul Ipema and Jared Luttjeboer. This podcast (episode 172 of MidAmerica Reformed Seminary’s Round Table) and others can be found at midamerica.edu/podcasts.
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FAMILY VISITATION: THE HOW (2) Elders often don’t know how to conduct a visit properly. Over the years, I’ve made it a practice to spend time at elders’ meetings or council meetings to explain different aspects of pastoral ministry: why and how we do what we do. But I have also made it a practice to set times of training for office bearers. In two of the churches I served, the requirement was that if one was serving as a deacon or an elder for the first time, one was required to go through a course of training. Training can be done in the local church, or, if there are a number of similar churches in a given area, it would be a great opportunity for churches to do that together. They can pool their resources so elders and pastors can share their wisdom with those who aspire to the office of elder or deacon and give them the proper training. With that in mind, I’d like to consider the practice of family visitation. 1. How much should the pastor participate in family visitation? Some churches prefer that the pastor not participate or that he focus on other aspects of pastoral ministry, but in one congregation, a smaller church planting, I was involved extensively in family visitation. There’s no set rule for the extent to which the pastor should assist the elders. There’s benefit for the pastor and for the elders; if the pastor goes with the elders, not only does the pastor get to know the congregation face to face, and at home, but also it can be an opportunity for a pastor to train especially newer elders on how to do that work well. Oftentimes we assume those who are newly elected to that office know how to do that work. It’s incumbent upon us as pastors and leaders in the church to devote ourselves to training the leaders to
do that work well. It’s important that elders understand their role in terms of family visitation, and that pastors conduct some of those visits. Much may depend upon the pastor’s schedule or other pastoral work that must be done, such as counseling or visitation of the sick or the elderly. But it’s something a body of elders should discuss and seek their pastor’s input. There are times where a pastor may want to make those visits, even if the elders think perhaps that should be done almost exclusively by the elders.
a strategy. They should include a passage of Scripture that they would read, preferably at the beginning of the visit, so that the conversation stays on course. It’s easy for an elder or for a family to sidetrack the discussion and make it merely a social visit. But if we start with the reading of Scripture and talk about that Scripture and how it applies to the nature of the visit, it can be a good way of keeping everyone on track and reminding them of the spiritual and pastoral purpose of that visit.
2. Preparation for family visitation is key to a successful visit. If elders and pastors are winging it, so to speak, when they go to a person’s house or a family’s house, they shouldn’t expect the visit will produce the kind of results they want. It’s important, for example, for elders at least on an annual basis to highlight the things they want to address in the course of the year. What are some of the key issues or key concerns that need to be addressed? Some churches will use a program or a theme for the year, such as statements in the epistles of the New Testament and how they could be applied to a family or to the life of the local congregation. These include “bear one another’s burdens,” “love one another,” “greet one another,” that sort of thing. There can be variations, but a theme keeps us on track in terms of what we’re trying to do with visitation. It’s not merely a social visit. It is a pastoral visit. It is an extension of the pulpit. It is an application of the Ministry of the Word in the lives of God’s people and an assessment of how effectively that’s being done.
4. Before an elder team or a pastor and an elder enter a house, it’s important that they offer a brief prayer asking for the Lord’s blessing, for wisdom, for discernment, asking that they demonstrate a pastoral heart for the members of the congregation they’re about to visit. I’ve had that experience with elders who are thoughtful about that, and I’ve appreciated the encouragement that takes place through that kind of prayer before a visit.
3. In preparation, I’ve encouraged elders, pastors, and seminarians to think long and hard about how they’re going to conduct that visit. What sort of questions are they going to ask? If necessary, they can write out questions about different topics that could be addressed. They also need to make sure they go in with
preaching been helpful or effective or useful in your spiritual life? I would ask, In what ways has the preaching ministry in our church been helpful in your spiritual life? Give the person or the people an opportunity to address that. Also, talk about one’s devotional life, one’s spiritual, personal life, or what some call family worship. 7. Address some questions to the children. My father, who served as an elder for many years, was accompanied by an older elder for a number of years who, regarding family worship, would address those questions to the children. So, he asked, Is the Bible read every day? Is the Bible read at dinner time, and is there a time of family devotions? He knew little children would give a yes-or-no answer, whereas an adult might be tempted to skirt around it or say, For the most part, or Yes. The children always gave an honest and straightforward answer.
5. As a way of preparing for the visit, make sure the elders and the pastor know the names of all the family members, especially the children. It’s easy for pastors and elders to think only of the adults in the room, but there are children as well, and those children are part of the visit. They need to be addressed. They need to be thought of. And so it would be appropriate not only to know their names but also to speak to them and to assure them that they are to be shepherded as well as the adults.
8. It is appropriate for elders to talk about how the family is functioning in terms of their harmony, their unity as a family. Are there struggles they face in terms of work, or of a spiritual nature, or any other things that are going on in their lives? Perhaps there are problems with the extended family that impinge upon the life of that family. An elder would be wise to discern that, talk about that, and offer resources for help. An elder might say, We can talk about that further sometime, or, If you’d like to speak to the pastor about that, we would encourage you to do that.
6. After the introductions are made and the Scripture is read, what we want to talk about are questions relating to the effectiveness of the preaching ministry. I encourage elders and pastors to ask questions that don’t require simple yes-or-no answers, but ones that lead them into a further discussion or questions about what is being addressed. So, for example, I would not ask, Has the
9. It’s also important for the elders to talk about participation in the life of the local congregation. What sort of ministries are members involved in? If there is no involvement, it will be a time of encouragement, or maybe even stated more strongly: We believe it’s important for the life of our congregation that we try to be involved as much as we can, realizing that we have many other
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commitments in our lives. But for the life of our church and the life of our families, it’s important that we try to be involved in that. We use our gifts. The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21, talks about the variety of gifts that God gives to his people and how we are to use them for the building up of the body of believers. Thinking of Ephesians 4, how are we doing that? If one isn’t able to attend, say, Bible studies, are there other ways one can serve God’s people? Or maybe people are serving, and the elders are not are not aware of that. It could be an opportunity again to encourage and strengthen members, to show them the needs of the congregation and opportunities for them to enhance the life of the congregation. 10. Visitation is an appropriate time to talk about opportunities for serving as a council member. Depending on the husband’s age and where he is in his Christian faith, maybe he should be encouraged to aspire to the office of deacon or the office of elder. Is there a desire to do that? Many men are reluctant to serve, for a variety of reasons, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for our churches to find enough men to serve as elders and deacons, elders in particular. In the pastorate I’ve encountered men who say to the elders, I don’t want to serve. Maybe visitation is an opportunity for further discussion. Or maybe the conversation needs to take place without the children present, concerning the reasons and the legitimacy of not wanting to serve. 11. Find out what’s going on in the children’s lives. Do you know where they’re going to school? What sort of things are they involved with? If they’re high school age, what are their plans after high school? Are they involved in the church’s youth ministry? Talk about how catechism classes have gone. Who is your teacher? What book is used? Again,
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these things measure and assess how effective the Ministry of the Word is. It’s a great opportunity also to challenge those of junior high age to at least start thinking about making a public profession of faith. If they are in high school and have not made a public profession of faith, talk about that again. This is not to pressure them to do something they’re not prepared to do, but at least get them to think about how they respond to the promises made to them and to their parents at their baptism. I’ve often addressed that as a pastor, not only in visitation but at the beginning of the catechism year. It was my practice for many years to begin the catechism year by bringing my students to the baptismal font and explain to them what took place at their baptism, that it was a sign and seal of the covenant and that God had made a promise to their parents and to them regarding his covenant. That promise also implies a duty to respond to respond in faith and obedience of commitment to Jesus Christ, as one who has been consecrated by the covenant relationship that we have. There also ought to be opportunity for the family to bring up any concerns they have or any struggles they face and request the prayers of the leaders. 12. Use caution about entertaining or looking for criticism, particularly of the pastor or the preaching. This is not to say that the pastor is above criticism, but it is unwise, for example, to ask, Do you have any complaints about the preaching of the Word?, or, Do you have complaints about the pastor? That sort of concern ought to be addressed in terms of, are there things about the preaching of the Word that you could bring to our attention? Are there matters that concern you, matters that you struggle with? Are there things about our preaching and teaching ministry that we could improve? Things that we’re
not addressing that we should be addressing? By framing the questions in this way, criticisms are not aimed personally at the pastor. Instead, this can be an edifying discussion rather than opening an opportunity to lay out one’s criticisms, complaints, or grievances. And if there are grievances or complaints, a wise elder will not circle the wagons but will address them in a wise and loving way. When that concern is expressed to the broader body of elders at the next elders’ meeting, the elder can do so in a way that protects the pastor and the integrity of his office. 13. The elder can end the visitation with a reading of Scripture, a call to serve one another and love the Lord Jesus Christ. He can then offer a closing prayer asking for the Lord’s blessing upon that family and their involvement in the local church. 14. Without proper preparation, one can let visitation degenerate into a social visit or an airing of grievances. We want to avoid both of those extremes and make visitation something truly edifying and worthwhile. After all, the elders are taking a night out from their week. The family is carving out time from their schedule to meet. Let’s make it worthwhile. Let’s make it productive, and ultimately we want to do it in a way that honors Jesus Christ and builds up his church. This article is adapted from “Family Visitation: The How,” a podcast with Rev. Paul Ipema and Jared Luttjeboer. This podcast (episode 173 of MidAmerica Reformed Seminary’s Round Table) and others can be found at midamerica.edu/podcasts.
Rev. Paul Ipema is assistant professor of ministerial studies, director of the ministerial apprenticeship program, and dean of students at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN.
DO YOU ENCOUNTER STRIFE OR DISCORD IN YOUR LIFE?
Due to sin, all of God’s people experience conflict. Join us to explore ways to promote harmony in relationships and resolve conflict in God’s way.
Blessing of pursuing Peace The
Leading in Peace
Our lives may never be free of conflict on this earth, but we can learn to respond in a way that honors God.
“The Blessing of Pursuing Peace” is a Friday night and Saturday morning conference hosted by The Shepherd’s Way Biblical Counseling of Bethany United Reformed Church. We invite Reformed believers ages high school and up to come away for a short time of encouragement, instruction, fellowship, and growth.
This year, we are pleased to offer “Leading in Peace” a pre-conference for pastors, elders and their wives on Friday from 11am-4pm.
SCOTT O’MALLEY Keynote Speaker
REV. PAUL IPEMA Sectional Presenter
REV. MATTHEW NUIVER Youth Sectional Presenter
REV. GARRY ERIKS Sectional Presenter
REV. ERIC VAN DER MOLEN Sectional Presenter
PROF. BARRY GRITTERS Sectional Presenter
Our conference also includes a Youth Portion, where high school students enjoy the keynote speeches and then attend unique sectionals planned especially for them.
MERIBETH SCHEIRBEEK Sectional Presenter
DR. MARK KELDERMAN Sectional Presenter
All these are part of the “O Church, Arise!” conference series held annually at Bethany URC. Our mission is to teach the peace and comfort that comes from God’s Word and how to utilize the Word in discipling others who struggle with the trials and temptation of this sinful world. We invite God’s people to join us for this opportunity to learn, grow, and flourish in our walk together and with our glorious God.
March Bethany 22-23 URC 2024 Wyoming, MI ochurcharise.com
O Church, Arise! conference series
Sponsored by The Shepherd’s Way of Bethany URC
Reformed Youth Services National Convention t was a sad day on July 21 when we all climbed aboard our buses and prepared for the six-hour trip back to Michigan. Convention 2023 (July 17–21) had come to an end, and for me, it was my second convention and my last one. I was happy to discover that there was a lot more to
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July 17-21, 2023 Asbury University Wilmore, KY
Reformed Youth Services (RYS) than simply fellowship. Clearly God uses these conventions to help build us up spiritually as well as to meet likeminded young people. The theme this year was “But God . . .” taken from Ephesians 2:4–5. There were two main speakers this year: pastor Ken Anema, who teaches in the Divine Hope
Seminary, and pastor Shaun Furniss, who is co-pastor at Sparta Christian Reformed Church. Pastor Russel Herman did a workshop on “What’s Your Identity?” This workshop focused on how we as Christians, specifically Christian youth, find our identity in Christ.
No matter what we do in life, no matter our career, our relationships, our interests, everything is secondary to our identity as a Christian; and if those sort of sub-identities contradict, then it isn’t a valid identity. You can’t be a Christian bank robber, for example. This theme of our identity was a recurring theme in many of the different workshops. Another workshop I found beneficial was “Loving the Lord’s Day,” by Pastor Nuiver. Christians differ wildly on how they honor the Lord’s Day, some being stricter than others. Pastor Nuiver, however, gave us all many targets that we should aim for no matter what we do or don’t do on Sundays.
When you ask the RYS attendees what their favorite part is, you’ll get different answers. Many will point to the singing and music, which truly is amazing. There aren’t too many things better in life than hearing 800+ voices praising the Lord at the same time. The most common answer, however, would probably be the Day Away. This year the options were an amusement park and the Ark Encounter. I ended up at the Ark. We had a great time and were given many opportunities to fellowship with each other. The park has a large playground (yes, some of us played on the playground), a zoo featuring a zorse, a large gift shop filled with ark-related goodies, and, of course, the Ark itself. I left with a
fresh appreciation for the massive size and bulk of what Noah built under God’s direction. So yes, it was with some degree of sadness that we all got on the bus that would take us back to our homes. I look forward to the day when I can return to convention as a sponsor. I think every one of the attendees would encourage all of our young people to make every effort to participate. You won’t regret it!
Mr. Andrew Engelsma is a member of the Covenant URC in Kalamazoo, MI.
Nov/Dec 2023 | 11
HOW CAN I BE A PEACEMAKER?
God’s remedy to worldly conflict is to create a new, peaceloving humanity cleansed by his blood and renewed by his Spirit. Restored peacemakers are truly blessed; they will be easily identified as children of God (Matt. 5:9). So how do we get there? Become pacified by the gospel. The disease of original sin inclines us to pass our “days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life he draws us to trust in Jesus and begins to extinguish our hatred toward God and others.
peace” (Eph.6:15). Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that the first practical step in peacemaking is this: learn not to speak. Being quick to talk is disastrous; our strongest feelings are often poisoned by ignorance and grandiosity. Listening corrects faulty first impressions James 1:19) and promotes empathy. Christ-like peacemakers also sacrifice their right to exact a penalty over every offense, and initiate reconciliation. Jesus made peace by a bloody cross (Col. 1:20). How far will you go?
Deliberately practice peace. Peacemakers renounce the weapons of the flesh and pledge to walk only in the “gospel of
DOING SOME RESEARCH? Remember to utilize The OUTLOOK ARTICLE ARCHIVES at www.reformedfellowship.net Just click the dropdown menu under THE OUTLOOK MAGAZINE and choose ARCHIVE WEBSITE. Recent editions are partially available; editions more than three years old contain full article archives! All articles are available from Reformed Fellowship’s founding in 1951 through mid-1975. After an eighteen-year gap, articles pick up again from 1993 to the present. We are working hard on closing the gap, and new articles are added every day.
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STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND CIRCULATION (Act of October 23, 1962, Title 39, United States code). Filing Date: October 19, 2023 THE OUTLOOK (formerly Torch and Trumpet) Published bi-monthly at 1988 140th Avenue, Dorr, MI 49323.
The name of the publisher is Reformed Fellowship, Inc. The name of the Editor is Dan Van Dyke, 3718 Earle SW, Grandville MI 49418. The owner is Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 1988 140th Avenue, Dorr, MI 49323. Known bondholders, mortgagees or other security holders owning one percent or more of the total amount of bonds, mortgages or other securities are: none. Total number copies printed (net press run) preceding 12 months 5,450, last issue 1,044. Sales through counter sales: none. Mail subscription average 790, last issue 900. Free distribution by mail averages 85, last issue 140. Copies distributed to news agents: none. Office left over average 15, last issue 50. Total number distributed average 900, last issue 1,044. I certify that the statements made by me are correct and complete. Hope Staal, General Manager
The Outlook | 12
2023 & 2024 MINISTRY DEVELOPMENT TRIPS
CONSTRUCTION | EVANGELISM | MAINTENANCE
Haiti Feb. 7-16, 2024
Dominican Republic Jan. 11-18, 2024
We are frequently asked for donations of our Reformed Bible studies, devotionals, doctrinal books, catechism books, and our magazine The Outlook. Often these requests come from prison ministries, prison inmates, missionaries in foreign countries, churches, and college libraries. Our desire is to grant as many of these requests as possible. Please help us to be able to continue doing this.
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(ISSN 8750-5754) (USPS 633-980) “Exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” —Jude 3 Journal of Reformed Fellowship, Inc. Send all copy to: Editor, Dan Van Dyke 3718 Earle S.W. Grandville, Michigan 49418 Email: email@example.com Website: www.reformedfellowship.net Board of Trustees Al Rumph, President; Rev. Casey Freswick, Vice President; Rev. Doug Barnes, Secretary; Rev. Andrew Compton, Vice-all; Glenn Hop, Michael Kearney, Tom Kooienga, Dr. Daniel Ragusa, Rev. Mark Vander Hart, David Vander Meer, and John Velthouse, Directors Editor: Dan Van Dyke Contributing Editor: Dr. Cornelis P. Venema General Manager: Hope Staal Manager's Assistant: Emily Postma Art, Design & Production: Jeff Steenholdt This periodical is owned and published by Reformed Fellowship, Inc., a religious and strictly non-profit organization composed of a group of Christian believers who hold to the biblical Reformed faith. Its purpose is to advocate and propagate this faith, to nurture those who seek to live in obedience to it, to give sharpened expression to it, to stimulate the doctrinal sensitivities of those who profess it, to promote the spiritual welfare and purity of the Reformed churches and to encourage Christian action. The publishers of this journal express their adherence to the Calvinistic creeds as formulated in the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.
Costa Rica Apr. 11-19, 2024 Peru Nov. 28 Dec. 7, 2023 VISIT RMS.ORG/TRIPS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE OPPORTUNITIES TO ASSIST THE CHURCH ABROAD!
Reformed Fellowship holds the copyright to all material published in this magazine. All contributions represent the personal views of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members of Reformed Fellowship, Inc. Subscription Policy The Outlook (USPS 633-980) is published six times per year (bi-monthly) by Reformed Fellowship, Inc. Annual subscriptions are $30.00 per year in the United States; outside the US, $36 per year (foreign subscribers please remit payment in US Funds; Canada add GST). Digital download subscriptions are $12 annually, and are included FREE with a print subscription. Unless a definite request for discontinuance is received, it is assumed that the subscriber wishes the subscription to continue without the formality of a renewal order and he will be billed for renewal. Anyone desiring a change of address should notify the business office as early as possible in order to avoid the inconvenience of delayed delivery. Zip code should be included. Periodical postage paid at Grandville, MI and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Outlook, 1988 140th Avenue, Dorr MI 49323 Advertising Policy 1. The Outlook cannot accept announcements or advertising copy inconsistent with the stated purpose of RFI. All advertisements and announcements must be approved by the RFI board prior to publication. We reserve the right to reject, edit, or request resubmission of announcement text or advertising copy. Books, pamphlets, or CDs to be advertised are to be screened as to author and content prior to publication of the advertisement, and such material should not conflict with the stated purpose
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Nov/Dec 2023 | 13
Lesikar, a member of the Maasai tribe in Tanzania, experienced a life where men spent little time with their families, and marriages were rarely based on love. However, everything changed when he discovered Jesus. Lesikar began prioritizing his family like never before and started attending church with them. Despite lacking formal education and being unable to read, Lesikar understood the value of learning and ensured that most of his children and grandchildren received an education. Still, he yearned to learn more about Jesus and share the Gospel with others. His prayers were answered when a visiting evangelist gifted him a Talking Bible. Now, a group gathers at his home every Friday to listen to the Talking Bible. This group has become a source of unity and reconciliation within their community, inspiring others to follow Jesus.
Lesikar says he is growing as a Christian through listening to the Bible and hopes the Talking Bible will lead many others to know Jesus. Give people like Lesiker God’s Word. Give Now!
Reformed Fellowship, Inc. 1988 140th Avenue Dorr, MI 49323 (616) 532-8510
A Year of Reading and Reflecting on God’s Word Glenda Mathes Finding Faithfulness is a one-of-a-kind yearly devotional guide that combines simplicity with viability. Each entry lists seven suggestions on an easy-to-read page that invites participation. The approach is inductive, as readers are encouraged to actually read the Bible and discover its meaning and personal application. The book’s careful orchestration begets confidence that reading the entire Bible in a year is not simply a possibility but also an inviting prospect. After reading the opening pages, I felt that I had just been offered the deal of a lifetime. –Leland Ryken Leland Ryken has published some twenty books on the Bible, including Ryken’s Bible Handbook and the Literary Study Bible.
A year of daily reading and reflecting on God’s Word. $22.00 Paperback, 384 pages
CHRIST’S PSALMS, OUR PSALMS: Devotional
$21.00 Hardcover, 395 pages
Edited by Peter H. Holtvlüwer Each devotion helps us to know our Savior more deeply. Three appendices add Psalm devotions for those special dates on the Christian calendar: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. Thanksgiving and the New Year are also reflected upon. A year’s supply of daily meditations on each of the 150 Psalms, for individuals and families.
SPECIAL PRICE $15.00
November 1 through December 31, 2023
A PSALMS DEVOTIONAL God’s Comfort and Direction for Us David Meengs On our own, we lack hope and a real purpose. Through many trials, God then over rules our hopeless existence. He lovingly forgives us and then puts hope and a new song in our hearts. The Psalms so beautifully direct and redirect us to God, who is our help and shield. We love Him more for who He is. As we love Him more, our Heavenly Father battles for us. This book has 250 devotionals. $8.00, Paperback, 264 pages
To order please visit our bookstore at www.reformedfellowship.net, call 616-532-8510, or email email@example.com. Order it for yourself, and for someone you love!