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

Finding Confidence

Confidence to speak in group settings has always been a life long struggle for me. It seems like whenever I am in a discussion group or something like that, I find it hard to contribute any of my thoughts. I’ve seen this throughout the years in numerous cases such as school, catechism, societies, convention discussion groups, and even now in committee meetings.  Every time I leave without contributing,  I feel bad because I know that I had thoughts to add, but was too scared to speak up, even if I felt that those ideas  would benefit another person.

I think part of what feeds my fear of speaking up is where I had the privilege of growing up: West Michigan. I am very thankful for the many Christian schools and teachers we have here, but in class I would often rely on all the other students to “take my place” when answering questions. When going to convention and having discussion groups, I always hoped for those kids in my group who I knew would “take my place,” or conventioneers from other states and smaller churches. Having friends that grew up in those churches, I knew that they were “forced” to answer questions because they had fewer students in the class. Instead of having 20 other kids in their class, there were only three or four.  To me it seemed like they were never afraid of what others thought while speaking up, and I appreciated and admired them so much.

During group settings, I have thoughts to contribute, but wonder about what others might think about me if I say this. Will I be judged? Will they think I am stupid for saying this or asking that particular question? Will it be perceived as though I don’t feel strong in my faith? Is this too obvious? But I’ve noticed that if I do get the nerve up to say something or ask a question and share my thoughts, I feel better and relieved.

After thinking about this issue for a long time (years), I finally came to a conclusion. I realized that I should have nothing to worry about.  As Christians, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be building each other up in love and helping each other where we fall short.  I shouldn’t be worried about my fellow Christians tearing me down, especially if we want to follow our Lord’s example and serve one another.

Laura Feenstra

 

Practical Steps for a Christ-Centered Relationship

Chances are, you have been told before that when dating, you should seek to maintain a Christ-centered relationship. But this is not as simple as it may sound. The Bible, after all, contains no step-by-step guide on how to please God in your dating, nor are there any children’s Bible stories which directly teach us how to date. The culture of Bible times was very different from our own, especially regarding marriage. This is not to say, however, that the Bible can simply be thrown out when we consider how we ought to date. Whether you are currently dating someone or are single and looking to the future, the Bible contains much wisdom for you on this subject. There are principles in Scripture which we can apply to our relationships, taking practical steps to ensure they always remain centered on Christ. We are concerned here with three such practical steps: attending spiritually formative activities together, doing devotions with one another, and dating for marriage.

At the end of Acts 2, we find a striking passage. After Peter gave his sermon on the day of Pentecost, we read that roughly three thousand people were converted to the faith, and that “all that believed were together, and had all things common” (vs. 44). The people had fellowship together and enjoyed the benefits of that fellowship, which included the spiritual growth and unity implied here. Growth in the faith need not be only a private activity. Rather, there is something beautiful about spiritual growth occurring corporately.

In a relationship, too, spiritual growth is a beautiful thing. To grow together, make a point of spending time with one another at the sorts of activities or events which stimulate development, not only those that “sound fun.” Instead of going out to eat next week, consider going to that speech being put on by one of the churches’ evangelism committees. Instead of heading to the beach tomorrow night, head to the Young Calvinists Talking Points event. Go to church together for one of the services next Sunday. More importantly, do these things with a purpose. In our circles, it is somewhat normal to attend such events together while dating (especially going to church together). But doing so ought not merely be a formality. Talk together about what you learned at the speech. Discuss differences in delivery or style between your pastors. Spiritual growth does not happen in an entirely passive way; you need to take the initiative if you want to grow together. When you do continue to develop in the faith together, Jesus will inevitably become more central in your life, as well as to your relationship with one another.

Another means of growing spiritually is by doing devotions together. If you are already doing personal devotions each day (and hopefully you are), it should be obvious to you that this causes you to grow closer to the Lord. Choose a book of the Bible and work through it together, looking for themes and application to your relationship but also to life in general. Pray for one another and for wisdom in your relationship. Pointing one another to spiritual matters, even from a very early stage, is Biblical. In the book of Ruth, a beneficial read for anyone in a relationship, Boaz pointed Ruth to God almost immediately after meeting her, and she said that this “comforted” her (see Ruth 2:5-13). Reading the Bible, discussing it, and praying together are invaluable ways of ensuring that Christ always comes first, even if you have not been together for very long.

Just as we ought not fear to point one another to Scripture and spirituality early in a relationship, we ought also not fear to consider from an early stage whether or not our significant other would make a godly spouse. “But,” you may say, “I’m not ready to think about that yet. I just want to enjoy spending time with him/her and go on fun dates together.” If that is your attitude, you should give serious thought to this question: am I ready to date? Dating is not merely an opportunity to have some fun. It is the means by which you determine whether or not God is calling you to marry someone, and we ought to take it seriously. This does not mean, of course, that we can never have fun in a dating relationship. On the contrary, if you are never having fun with your boyfriend or girlfriend, that too bodes poorly for the future. But if your only focus is to spend time and have fun with a person to whom you are attracted for physical and emotional reasons, you open the door for making your relationship entirely focused on personal pleasure. This is not how we should date. The Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:16). To make your relationship purely about enjoying one another’s presence and the nice things you do for each other is to adopt a dangerous attitude, one which cares more for the things of the world than those of the Father.

Alternatively, we should date with a view toward marriage. In Genesis 24 we read of the marriage of Isaac. When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, the servant found Rebekah and desired her to immediately come back with him. Rebekah’s brother and mother wanted her to “abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go” (verse 55). But when they asked Rebekah to choose in verse 58, she decided to go immediately. Again, it should be noted here that dating is a practice very different from that of Biblical arranged marriages. However, the attitude of Rebekah is an admirable one, and we can all learn from it in our dating. Do not simply delay thinking about marriage to enjoy the pleasures of this world for a time; instead, be willing to consider immediately whether it is God’s will for you to marry one another. In so doing, Jesus will become more central to how you date: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

There are countless different influences from the world around us telling us what our relationships should be like. For the child of God, however, the center must always be Christ, our King. Maintaining such a relationship is admittedly difficult, but the Bible does provide some help for us. By striving always to have Christ at the center of our relationships, we can effectively follow Paul’s advice to Timothy in II Timothy 2:22 together: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Matt Koerner