Assurance for the New Year

When we look at the world there are many things that frighten us. Tornadoes, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, AIDS, cancer and many other disasters and diseases cause untold amounts of suffering for thousands of people all over the world.  Homosexuality and transgenderism are rising in popularity and their advocates are screaming out for our hearty approval and endorsement of their wicked lifestyle, branding anyone who speaks out against it an “intolerant bigot,” “homophobe,” “transphobe” and worse. Feminists cry out for more abortion funding and call anyone who doesn’t jump on their bandwagon “sexist.” Then there are the problems in the church. Many of the same evils found in the world around us are also found in the church. Then there is our own sin. We all have sins of various sorts whether it be anger, pride, laziness or not putting spiritual matters at the front and center of our lives. As we begin 2018, we may wonder, is there any place for refuge? Is there anywhere we can go to escape from these and other troubling thoughts? The answer is yes. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1, 2). God provides us refuge in the storms of life. “He shall cover thee with His feathers and under his wings shalt thou trust” (Psalm 91:4). The remaining verses of this Psalm talk about the “pestilence” and “destruction” that rage around us like a tornado, the great wickedness in both the world and the church that seeks to overwhelm us. Despite all of the wickedness and apostasy around us, God watches over us and protects us in His sovereign providence. This doesn’t mean that life will be an easy, affliction-free breeze, but it does mean that somehow, in some way that we won’t always completely understand, He is working all things out for our good. We’ll still get sick, lose our jobs, break bones, and maybe even have family members or friends turn on us and leave the church. There will be great pain in our lives, but when we look by faith at what God has planned for us, we know that He is watching over every step we take and that when we feel alone, He is always there to guide us. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord which made Heaven and Earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2). May God grant us this comfort in the year that lies before us!

Kevin Rau

The Beauty of Music

Whether on the internet from an instrument, or from your own voice, music is all around you, and it is a great blessing. It’s a way of calming oneself, of relaxing. Music has many faces and many forms. It can move you to such deep emotions you may find yourself pouring out your soul to God. It may excite you or motivate you. It may put you to sleep. Music is something God has given his people from the beginning of time. The Israelites, when they crossed the Red Sea and escaped Pharaoh, they sang with timbrel and harp the Bible says.

Although you may not think you have any musical talent, (I believe everyone does to some extent) you can still listen to music for hours on end. Good music is one of the few truly beautiful, almost perfect things I believe God placed on this world. There is beauty aplenty for the eyes in this world, but it takes a special ear to hear beauty. Listen. Can you hear it? Can you hear nature’s music? Nature sings, the wind whistles, the trees sigh, the birds complete the melody with their gorgeous soprano. All around us God has placed music, beautiful music for us to enjoy, and to praise him with, to give thanks. Song of Solomon 2:12 says“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, the LORD hath done great things for them.”

Thank the Lord for music, for showing us His voice through His creation for us to enjoy and treasure. In this dark and dreadful world there are few things that hold true beauty and true pure music is one of them. Thank Him for this light shining in a world of darkness, this respite from a land of woe. We should forever sing praises to Him so that one day we might sing in the ultimate choir, a host of angels, in heaven.

Jared Vandyke

Scripture

Article 7 of the Belgic Confession calls the Holy Scripture “the only rule of faith.” Lord’s Day 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism, when speaking of good works, describes these works in part as only those that are “performed according to the law of God,” that is, the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura, as we were reminded in the recent celebration of the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary, means that Scripture alone gives us everything we need to know for life and faith. II Timothy 3:15 teaches us that Scripture is “able to make us wise unto salvation.” Scripture indeed is important and should occupy an important place in our lives.

Why is Scripture so important? First, it is God’s Word. What could ever be more important and worth our time than the Word of our covenant Father to us? By it God reveals Himself to us so that we can know Him and live with Him in sweet fellowship.

Second, God’s Word is Jesus Christ our Savior. He made the perfect sacrifice to satisfy for the sins of all His people. Therefore when we appear before God in the final judgment, we are not condemned, but have Christ’s perfect righteousness counted as ours. There can certainly be no greater gift, no more amazing grace than that Word!

Third, Scripture gives us everything we need to live and die happily: knowledge of our sin and misery, how we can be delivered from our sin and misery, and how we can show our gratitude to God for that deliverance (Lord’s Day 1). We can only know those three things through God’s Word, which shows us our sin through the law, reveals Christ’s work on the cross for us, and instructs us in our lives of thankful obedience.

Scripture is everything for the child of God. There is never an hour or circumstance in which God’s Word is not there for us. In joy, it directs us to praise the One from whom all blessings flow. In sin, it rebukes us, calls us to repentance, and assures us of forgiveness. In sorrow, it gives us the only comfort there can ever be in life or in death, that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. In doubt, it shows us God’s unchanging love and faithfulness and gives us hope for the future. The following poem, by Amos R. Wells, says it nicely.

When I am tired, the Bible is my bed;

Or in the dark, the Bible is my light;

When I am hungry, it is vital bread;

Or fearful, it is armour for the fight;

When I am sick, ‘tis healing medicine;

Or lonely, thronging friends I find therein.

 

If I would work, the Bible is my tool,

Or play, it is a harp of happy sound.

If I am ignorant, it is my school;

If I am sinking, it is solid ground.

If I am cold, the Bible is my fire;

And wings, if boldy I aspire.

 

Should I be lost, the Bible is my guide;

Or naked, it is raiment, rich and warm.

Am I imprisoned, it is ranges wide;

Or tempest-tossed, a shelter from the storm.

Would I adventure, ‘tis a gallant sea;

Or would I rest, it is a flowery lea.

Scripture indeed is everything for the child of God, and the study of Scripture is infinitely profitable. Let us now be faithful and diligent in our use of this great gift.

Emily Feenstra