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

 

Communion of the Saints

Some congregations are very large, consisting of hundreds of people, several office bearers, and many small children milling around. Other congregations are quite small. Maybe they’re without a pastor of their own, only a few office bearers, and only a few young ones who usually have the attention of every member of the congregation. But wherever you are, and whatever the size of the church is, in the true church of God, there will certainly be one thing. Communion of the saints.

“Q. 55. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”? A. First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are, in common, partakers of Him and all of His riches and gifts; ”secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.”  (Heidelberg Catechism, Lords Day 21)

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will all be experiencing communion of the saints within our congregation.  We will experience this with the old, with the young, with the members we don’t know well, and even with the members that we “don’t get along with.”

The communion of the saints is a beautiful, sweet gift from God that is not ours to receive or reject, but rather a gift to treasure and to flourish in! We are to enjoy it every Sunday, and to use this precious gift to glorify God. It is our duty to partake of Christ and His gifts, and readily and cheerfully to employ our own gifts! Not so that we may have a relaxing and self-fulfilling Sabbath, but for the advantage and salvation of other members.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for Brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133: 1)

Despite the beauty of this union, some members struggle to see themselves as an important member to the congregation. Some members see the truth pouring into others, but they don’t feel fed themselves. Some members are too busy inspecting the actions of other members, they’re not contributing their own duties and gifts. However, despite our human downfalls, this communion of the saints is still there! As we just read in Heidelberg Catechism, “everyone who believes, being members of Christ, partake of Him and all His riches and gifts.”

Everyone! This is extremely different than,“everyone who feels it,” or “everyone who realizes it,” or “everyone who wants it.”

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” (John 17:21)

But we still ask, what about the differences? What about the sins that we see in ourselves and others? Differences provide the opportunity for good, profitable discussions. Differences provide a chance to teach, and differences sometimes lead to beneficial changes. Sin will always be present, and we have a Lord who forgives our sins.

Take your opportunity this Sunday to partake and cheerfully employ your gifts. In this way we will be able to taste and understand the communion of the saints.

The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Averly Kikkert

The Crystal Sea

“And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” ~ Revelation 4:6, 9-11

The book of Revelation includes many descriptions of heaven and the new heavens and earth.  One such description is found in the above passage.  The image of “a sea of glass like unto crystal” is a beautiful one, and we do well to consider it alongside the words of the hymn which so effectively versifies the passage, By the Sea of Crystal, by William Kuipers.

The first verse of this hymn emphasizes the truths of the size and diversity of the body of Christ: “By the sea of crystal saints in glory stand, myriads in number, drawn from every land, robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood, They now reign in heaven with the Lamb of God.”  The Bible speaks of the appearance of the body of Christ on multiple occasions, and it is a one of my personal favorite truths from Scripture.  On the one hand, it is characterized as being absolutely immense.  When Christ returns, we will be able to see the body of Christ in all its glory, and we will likely be stunned by its sheer size; the hymn’s word “myriads” will likely not even be able to do it justice.  God will prove Himself faithful to His promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 to make his seed “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.”

Additionally, the body will be incredibly diverse.  This too is found in Scripture; in Revelation 5:9, we read, “…for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”  That God calls His people out of every corner of the earth and out of all races and peoples stands in stark contrast to what we would do.  If we are honest with ourselves, the body of Christ would look much different if we were to pick its members than how it does in actuality.  This is because, while man looks only on outward appearance, God judges the heart (I Samuel 16:7).  God, who makes the true decisions on the body’s members, “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).  God elected the body in eternity entirely apart from any merit of theirs.  That body will one day stand together, united by our status of justified, “robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood.”  What a knowledge!

The final verse of the hymn is also quite striking.  It begins by attributing all glory to God alone: “Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne, And the Lamb, victorious, be the praise alone.”  As did the 24 elders of Revelation 4, we will bow down at the feet of God’s throne, confessing that He is worthy “to receive glory, and honor, and power.”  The song concludes with an amazingly powerful rhetorical question.  We sing, “God has wrought salvation, He did wondrous things, Who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of Kings?”  No person worldwide will be able to stand before the presence of the Lord in defiance; everyone will be forced to extol Him.  Indeed, it will not simply be the 24 elders or the elect people of God who will bow before Him.  We read in Romans 14:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”  While it is impossible for us to fully comprehend this idea, it is still incredible to attempt to picture the scene, and doing so is enough to bring tears to the eyes of the child of God.  We are again led to ask, “Who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of Kings?”

Matt Koerner