So likewise you,
when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was
our duty to do." - Luke 17:10
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Hope in the LORD now and forever
8:35 am edt
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I was blessed when I received an e-mail last evening from our sister Lynn Piesnikowski
who tells me every two weeks what Bible verse she is planning on posting up on the illuminated church sign. I am glad
that her focus is putting biblical truth before our eyes and the eyes of those who pass by, along with the occasional program
announcement. The verse she is using this week is Psalm 131:3, "Put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore".
This text, and the entire Psalm spoke to me, because our family needs to hope in the Lord for our situation
now, trying to get into the house at 47 Hidden Hills, walking with our daughters and son through the academic transitions
and challenges of growing up, and like all of you, dealing
with the intricacies of living life as we
in the home,
labor in the yard,
deal with medical problems,
labor for the
Lord in the spread of His kingdom!
Now is the time to hope in God for His gracious purpose and
plan to work out in our lives, for the development of our character in Christ-likeness, for the blessing of all creation,
for the spread of gospel of salvation through Christ.
The context of verse three arrested me. Verse
1 (ESV), "O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high, I do not occupy myself with things too
great and too marvelous for me." The footnote in the Reformation Study Bible helped me unpack this: "The first
verse has a threefold denial of pride in the heart, in the eyes, and in actions". So often my inability to hope
in the Lord "now", is because my pride of heart, eyes and actions tempt me to think too highly of myself. On
the one hand, I live like "I can handle this." Or I might have an attitude that "I am above this."
Or, "I don't deserve this." That is pride. I am not above situations of difficulty in life. We
are but unprofitable servants, to use the words of Jesus. God specifically allows rain of blessing and showers of affliction
to fall on both the just and the unjust, to crucify our pride and build dependency on Him. And I say that recognizing
that each of us has done just and unjust things in the last year. We cannot call ourselves uniformly just, just because
we're believers in Christ!
If verse 1 challenged me, verse 2 comforts me. "But I have
calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." Lois
noticed that when the children went onto pureed or other types of food more solid than milk, that the children slept longer,
more contentedly, more peacefully. When she had been feeding them entirely with milk, occasionally they would awake,
or look at her with frantic gestures and sudden cries, as if to say, I'm so hungry it hurts ! But when weaned, the hunger
crept up more slowly, and there was relative calm and quiet. I think as we get older, and have walked a while with
the Lord, and have the solid food of the word - Hebrews 5:12,13 - it helps us cope, be quiet, be peaceful with our God. When
the pain comes, when the hunger hits, we've learned that our God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory,
and though it may hurt now, "joy cometh in the morning". This does not mean we are not supposed to share
our pain with fellow Christians as God allows that. We are to bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2). But it does
mean we are to quiet and calm our souls before God.
Thank you for reading these reflections, and
I am aware that many of you face worse than us. Hurt relationships, wandering children, sickness, sadness. These are
the ills that flesh is heir to. In particular, I am thankful for the quiet spirit of Elder Jack and Marilyn who have provided
their home to us, even while Jack fights Parkinson's, and they are now are at their son, John's, second home at Paradox Lake
for a while. They have been most kind, and reassuring of us, and we will be moving out soon, as we move toward a closing
soon, one way or another. But the point is, many of you could teach me volumes about Psalm 131.
live in the hope of the Lord, now. Please pray that we get a "clear to close" statement from the lender today.
I didn't even talk about hope forevermore (Psalm 131:3) ! Alleluia, eternity with
our Savior in heaven !
Saturday, April 24, 2010
3:18 pm edt
Pasted at the bottom are the memory verses for the last six months that we have been seeking to learn as a congregation.
For me, Bible memory work has been a bridge in my life.
Sometimes memorizing the Bible has been
a bridge to a closer walk with the Lord. God is always close to believers. We read in Hebrews 13:5, I
will never leave you nor forsake you. But when I focus on God's Word, it is like a bridge that assists
me in closing what I sometimes perceive to be the gulf between me and God. Sometimes I feel a separation, a distance
from God. But when I'm reading the scripture, I mean when I am actually in the act of reading it, and when I'm seeking
to memorize the scripture, I am walking across a bridge that guides me into the possibility of an all-through-the-day closeness
with the Lord. And at night, if I have memorized the Bible, and I wake up in the darkness with no light and no inclination
to reach for the lamp, it is true that I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me
in the night seasons (Psalm 16:7). That happens as I recollect and recite God's Word, and am encouraged by
In other seasons of my life, Bible memory work has become a "bridge too far", an
attempt at learning too many verses, all at once, with the long term result that I have not retained many of them permanently!
There is value in learning verses that you cannot later recall, because learning those words and reflecting upon them
shape our character in godliness in ways that last beyond the immediate moment. We would hope that even for those who
have wandered away from their Lord, a verse may come back to them, to remind them of Who they need in their life, while like
a prodigal son or daughter in a far off land they hear the Father's voice calling them home.
when it comes to developing a personal walk with God, for me at least, if I don't recall a scripture either by knowing
the words or by knowing where a thought is found in the Bible (book, chapter, verse), that revelation loses the power of being
a bridge for me. It not longer functions as a pathway to practicing the presence of Christ in my life. It's still
true. For me and you. But if I can't remember it or remember where to read it, it is no longer a bridge for me.
It is harder for me to trust the Lord when I am not hearing Him speak to me from His written revelation.
I get all kinds of feelings in my life. I bet you do also. There's a lot of "clutter", some of it innocuous,
some of it tempting, in all of our lives. But the Word of God read or memorized brings CLARITY, ENCOURAGEMENT, AND
CLOSENESS TO GOD. I can't "walk over" verses into closeness with God that I don't remember !
So how do you remember the verses you memorize? If you are anything like me, it is
hard to keep to habits of spiritual disciplines unless I get those habits worked into the rhythms of my life. Grasping
a brand new verse every week and trying to retain all the previous ones just doesn't seem to be where my rhythm is set right
now. If you are memorizing more, then by all means keep going. Don't let me hold you back.
But think about this plan. Bible memory becomes part of the rhythm of our personal lives, and our life together
as sisters and brothers at Redeemer Church. Two years ago a member of the Preaching and Teaching Team at First Reformed
Church, Elder Russ Herman, a brother who will be studying at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids next
year, came up with an idea. He suggested, let's memorize one verse each month as a congregation, using that verse in
all the settings of the church, like Sunday School, youth groups, worship services, small groups. I hope that this plan of
a "Verse of the Month" works for us here at Redeemer Reformed Presbyterian Church. May you discover CLARITY,
ENCOURAGEMENT AND CLOSENESS TO GOD, as you use the verses pasted below as a congregation. Use them in Sunday School,
say them together in worship, and recite them at the supper table ! My plan is to give a new verse until next October,
and then the second year, we'll only add six new ones. But Lord willing at the end of two years, we will have eighteen
verses learned cold.
Let's try it ! Not a bridge too far, but instead a bridge that we walk
over together, bringing us close to God experientially.
I'm looking forward to meeting many of
our seasonal members who will be north for the spring/summer/autumn ! I encourage you to learn these verses also !
With affection in Christ Jesus,
Truly I know it so,
how can a man be righteous before God? - Job 9:2
And she will bring forth a Son,
and you shall call
His Name JESUS,
for He will save His people from their sins. - Matthew 1:21
The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe in the gospel. - Mark 1:15
For even the Son of man
did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give His life a ransom for many. - Mark 10:45
faith comes by hearing,
and hearing by the word of God. - Romans 10:17
But God demonstrates His own love toward
in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8