Running the Race

I recently went to a cross country meet for Covenant Christian High School (Grand Rapids, MI). For those of you who don’t know much about the sport, it’s running a distance through grass (which can slow you down more than you think). For high schoolers it is a distance of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). Needless to say, the weather is not always perfect. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, grass or mud, they run. I was even crazy enough to run on the team for two years through high school. I loved it even though some days were tough.  Attending the meet made me realize how much I missed that atmosphere.

I was reminded again why the Bible often compares the life of a Christian to that of a runner, and participation in this sport taught me a lot of lessons for everyday life. Cross country taught me how to set goals and learn how to achieve them, thus it made me a stronger person. The Christian can and should apply this same enthusiasm to his or her spiritually life and tasks of everyday life.  Running allows you to be competitive with other teams and your fellow teammates, but it’s friendly, as we were instructed to let our light shine, even (or especially) on the running field.

Even though you are running for an individual place, there is a team spirit that comes through, no matter if you are one of the first placers, towards the middle, or at the back. Your team is there to support you and cheer for you. The body of Christ should operate in the same manner: encouraging everyone in their journey of faith; not just popular or well-known people.

Being part of a crazy cross country-loving team is one of the best things I did in high school. Yes, you have tough days and bad races, but you also have a team and friends that are ready to pick you up and help you. Even on those bad race days I liked to remind myself that it’s not the end of the world. There’s a lot of other good things in your life to be thankful for.  Like those team mates and friends that you have in your life to help you get through any struggles, running or not.  

“…and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1c-2a).

Laura Feenstra

 

Exultant Praise

God chose us before He formed the creation. He separated us out from all those whom He would create and proclaimed that He would be our God and we would be His people. He loves us now even though we daily reject the guidelines He has given us and turn instead to our old chains. What a great God we serve! Why would God choose to love us, miserable people that we are? Our great God chose to love us so that we would see His wonders and praise Him for His glorious grace.[1] We will then praise Him who He is and what He has done for us.

What a glorious God He is! God is the King of Creation. He is sovereign over all things, and has predetermined all of history to serve His own divine will. Not only is He the original being, the Creator of all, and the sovereign King, but He is also the only source of all good. Only God is worthy to be praised. Whom else can demand the praise of men? The greatest of us are but dirt and grime in the light of His boundless power and goodness. Every good thing is given by God, and every evil thing He gives power to and directs to serve His purpose.[2] If this Eternal King gave us nothing but punishment, He would yet be infinitely worthy of all our praise. If He had promised us hell, yet our every thought and desire could only be well directed if it served His commands.[3] He is the one and only God.

This great God is our God! This high and mighty Master of the universe came down to earth in the person of the Son. The Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, condescended to our filthy state to face every temptation and suffer the rejection of His Father, who was one with Him in being![4] All of our sins were erased before the sight of our righteous God as our bleeding Savior, rejected by man and by God, cried out, “It is finished!” Therefore it is not only our duty to praise our powerful Creator, but it is our joy to praise the endless mercies of our loving Father.

We praise our Father, for He has made us heirs of Christ’s reward. We praise Him, for He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings.[5] We bring glory to the Name of our Master as we direct our every purpose, goal, though, desire, and action to the service of His people in the station He has given us. We praise Him as we do His commandments, for only He could free such sin-bound creatures as us. We praise Him after we fail to do His commandments, for we know that only He could turn such stubborn sinners back to Himself. We honor Him for His perfection, and we love Him for He first loved us.

Our Father loves us now. He has loved us from the beginning and He will love us eternally. Despite our wretched state He has purchased us to be members of Christ and live in communion with Him. He has done all of this to serve His own good pleasure , so that we would praise Him for His beauty and grace. Let us praise our King forevermore!

Seth Bleyenberg

 

[1] Ephesians 1:5-6, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

[2] Examples include: God’s use of Cyrus, emperor of Persia (Ezra 1:1-4), God’s use of Satan’s work in the book of Job, and God’s use of wicked nations to purify His people and redirect their hearts to Him (Isaiah 1:24-28)

[3] Even the wicked are called to repent and believe, and therefore are called to obey God’s commands. (Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”)

[4] Jesus did not face every temptation, but He was “in all points tempted like as we are,” so that He fully understands our struggles against sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

[5] Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…”

Worthy: Gratitude & Praise (1)

Our lives are filled with thoughts and questions about worth. Is it worth it to take the time and read this article? Is this old thing worth keeping? Should I buy this object now or should I find a sale? Why did God save me when I am not worthy? We ask many questions regarding worth. From these examples we see some questions are important to think about while others are much more trivial. An important question we must ask is, of what is God worthy that I must render to Him? God is worthy that every aspect of our life be directed to Him. But it is easier to direct that life to God when we know of some things God is worthy of receiving. According to the Heidelberg Catechism (L.D 32 Q.A. 86), we must do good works, “that so we may testify by the whole of our conduct our gratitude to God for His blessings, and that He may be praised by us.” We learn here that God is worthy of gratitude and praise. We must know what these expressions truly are, and how they are related to one another.

Gratitude is perhaps the most important thing of which God is worthy. This is because all our other actions, although they are all distinct, flow from our gratitude. To understand gratitude, we can think of how we express it to one another. If a friend is given a great gift which gives him joy and fills his heart with excitement, then he might give a card or gift in return to make his generous friend happy. If expressing gratitude is the recipient of a gift giving pleasure to the faithful giver then we must know how to bring pleasure to God. Remember back to creation when God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass…And the earth brought forth grass…and God saw that it was good,” (Gen. 1:11-12).  God finds pleasure when His people, like the grass, fulfill their created purpose and give Him glory. To show our gratitude to God and please Him, we must be obedient to His holy law and give Him all glory. This faithful obedience must be revealed by our actions and flow from a heart of gratitude and love for God.

Our praise too comes from an acknowledgement for what God has done. However, it is not simply because He has given us so much that God deserves praise. It is because God is God that he is worthy of praise. Often, we find things on this earth worthy of praise because of their price or uniqueness. We may praise a house for its lavish decoration and elegant construction, but how much greater is God than the greatest thing one could ever give earthly praise and admiration to? God is worthy to receive praise because He alone is worthy of the glory that praising gives. In His essence, “God is infinitely exalted above all His creation and there is none like Him” (Hoeksema, Essentials of Reformed Doctrine, L:3).

As the children of God, we have so many reasons to give God this praise of which He is worthy. As God’s children we are not only more aware of who God is and how worthy He is, but also we feel His hand upon us bestowing us with many gifts. Yet, even with all our knowledge and experience of His blessings we still have so much to learn about God. My next few articles will continue to show what God is worthy of so that we might better render unto God that which is His.

Luke Christian Potjer