Praying for All Saints

Each Sunday night we and the congregation of believers to which we belong confess with one heart the Apostles’ Creed. The ninth article of this creed reads “I believe an holy catholic church”. This is a truth we confess with sincerity and joy each Lord’s Day.

As we gather for worship tomorrow, we will probably be standing among people who look much like we do. They act, speak, and live very similarly to us. Even though this is true, we truly believe, as we confess, that God gathers His church from all nations, races, cultures, and languages.

Yet how real is this truth to us? How much thought do we give to our brothers and sisters in Christ as they are scattered throughout the world?

Ephesians 6:18 tells us what the Christian should always be doing: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

We belong to the church militant on earth, as Ephesians plainly teaches when it describes the armor of God in the verses immediately preceding verse eighteen. Prayer follows the six pieces of armor, not as a seventh piece, but as the “means by which each piece is effectively employed.”[1] For this reason, prayer is vital to any soldier’s success, for without it all other efforts, all the other pieces of armor, are in vain. What is particularly striking about this calling to pray is that we are not commanded to pray first for ourselves in our own personal battle, but for all saints, for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for our fellow soldiers. We are not fighting this battle alone, and one of our greatest assets is that we have the catholic church praying for us that we might be faithful, that we might persevere in our warfare together, as the body of Christ. So let us, tomorrow and always, pray for the catholic church, that she be gathered, that Christ may come again, and that the church militant become the church triumphant.

How amazing to think that as we worship tomorrow there are saints all over the world lifting their voices with us in worship of God! That there are saints all over the world praying for us as we also pray for them! That one day we will all gather around the throne of the holy God, singing His praises into all eternity.

Revelation 7:9,10 “And after this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

Emily Feenstra

[1] Borgman and Ventura, Spiritual Warfare, Reformation Heritage Books, 88.

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

Always Aware of His Presence

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139 has long been one of my favorite psalms. Years ago, this psalm was brought up at the funeral of my father’s brother, which was the moment at which I first experienced how a death feels to those left behind. Thus, the psalm has also become one of the most memorable psalms in my quiver of Bible verses. Even though I was too little to recall much from that day, I remember the psalm being explained as a poem of presence – that is, being always in the presence of God, whether in life or in death.

It’s also taken on meaning for me as I live abroad, reminding me that there are people and places that I’ve left behind, too (whether temporarily or permanently). I look forward to returning to my home church of Grace in Standale, my temporary home of Calvary in Hull, and the bubbles of community in each city. I’ve consistently attended a Dutch church with my host family here, and it’s a wonderful feeling to experience worship in another language! But I am more than qualified to look back now and realize how valuable it is to belong to a community of believers who know and are known by me, a community in which I feel the presence of God communicated through each individual around me.

Still, wherever I end up and wherever I choose to call “home” for the moment is a place where God dwells with me. Where shall I go, away from the Spirit of the Lord? If I were to ascend to the tallest mountains in Central Europe, the Swiss Alps, I would look out over the green hills and white snow and see God in the immensity surrounding me. If I made my bed in the lowest parts of the Netherlands, sometimes 15 or 20 feet (5 or 6m) below sea level, I would sense His presence, His design, in the winding canals and the fields of pastureland. I see His hand of intelligent design in everything around me, and in turn I feel His eyes on me always. If I were to take up a backpack and start out in any direction with no plan and no phone, with none to guide and leaving nothing to remember me by, God would be there with me as well as with those I left behind. I am known by a mighty God, from here in an unfamiliar country (slowly becoming familiar), to a little college town in the middle of Nowhere, the United States of America, the continent of North America, Earth. You and I are so small, a blip on the radar of history, but your history – the places you have been and have called home – are known and remembered by this God we worship together.

As you prepare for worship this coming Lord’s day, consider this psalm (and the many others that speak of God’s presence in the lives of believers). You may be in your comfortable house in a neighborhood where everyone knows your name. You may be a college student in the midst of hundreds or thousands of strangers, planning an early ride with a friend or two to catch the morning service tomorrow. You may be a stranger in an unfamiliar land, across the world from your comfort zone. But wherever you are, God is there. Our God is a mighty and ever-present God.

Ashley Huizinga