Everlasting Love

I have this picture in my house; it was given to me by my mom because it is a painting of horses with Jeremiah 31:3 written on it: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” It is a beautiful picture with a beautiful verse, and it has provoked a lot of thought over the last few years that I’ve been looking at it. I’ll tell you why.

Working with horses over the years, I’ve learned to accurately read their body language. One of the horses in the picture is displaying interest, attention, and care toward the other horse. His ears are up; head held high, eyes are bright! Everlasting love, right? Just like the verse written below it says!

The other horse in the picture, however, isn’t quite on the same page. He is quartered away from his companion. His ears are pinned back, head lowered and eyes diverted. He is displaying annoyance, anger, and maybe even disgust. This is why I’ve spent so much time staring at this picture over the years. Why put a verse about the everlasting love of God below a painting that seems contradictory to that verse?

At first, I thought maybe the artist was just naïve, and probably didn’t know a thing about horses, putting a verse like that on such a picture. I don’t know the author, but the more time I spend looking at the picture, the more I think the artist knew what she was doing. After all, with some contemplation, the verse makes perfect sense in that context!

Everlasting love is an easy concept when we think of loving our friends, or when we think of God loving us while we sing in church, pray, or study His word. Even though we know our sin, that everlasting love is warm and fuzzy, and easy to see, but what about when we pin our ears? The moments (and they are constant) that we turn away from God, show Him annoyance, anger and even disgust at His will for us are the moments where the everlasting love of God is most amazing. Realistically, each moment of our lives is a “pin our ears” moment, whether we realize it or not.

So, what if this artist knew what she was doing? Maybe this picture is more than a pretty painting and a beautiful verse. Maybe the artist is saying something about this everlasting love. Even when we don’t show love to our God, even though we quarter away and pin our ears, His everlasting love holds us. He doesn’t stop and leave us alone in our misery. He continues to love us because that love is everlasting!

Let’s spend each day not only trying to reciprocate that love, but thankful for each moment that we reject and try to run from God that He draws us in with lovingkindness time and time again. No matter how many times we pin our ears and turn our heads, His love is unconditional and everlasting, and gently leads us back to Him. Recognize the moments in life that you pin your ears at God, or at friends and loved ones, and apologize to them and to God for those moments of annoyance, anger and disgust. Pray that He will show you also to love with everlasting love!

Suzie Altena

If you’d like to view the painting in reference by Jennifer Pugh, please click here.

The Simplicity of the PRC

This past Sunday, my fiancé had to usher at our church (Doon PRC). So, I rode to church with him, per usual, and sat down really early near the back of church. This gave me an opportunity I don’t get very often. I got to sit and watch as our little Doon church filled up with people, from back to front. Those of you who know Doon know that we’re a pretty small congregation, but it got me thinking a bit. Many of the Protestant Reformed churches are actually bursting at the seams! Although we are a small denomination, there are quite a few churches that are at or even over their capacities!

So, I started thinking about why. Why is this little, unknown denomination growing and thriving so much? Here’s my thought process. It’s pretty simple, and it’ll only take a short article to explain it to you.

This past Sunday was Resurrection Sunday. Most of you probably call it Easter. So, as is expected, many of the people in church had on bright, beautiful colors to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Although everyone was dressed up and looked nice, I noticed that the style remained fairly simple. That’s pretty common in the PRC, modest and simple clothing. So, obviously, it isn’t our flashy clothes and stylish dresses that attract people to the PRC.

Next I got thinking about our building. Doon is a very simple building; in fact, we didn’t even have lilies decorating the front of church! Although many PR churches do decorate with flowers, the buildings are typically somewhat simple. We don’t use large sound systems or expensive décor to attract people to our denomination either.

Then, the organ started playing. Although it was beautiful, I realized that again, compared to the disco, loud, attention-grabbing music and lights the mega-churches use, our music is quite simple.  It usually consists of just an organ or piano playing Psalter numbers or hymns to help people focus on the upcoming church service.

After thinking through those few things I realized the word “simple” had come to mind quite a bit, and I suppose that’s how many people would see the PRC. Although there is a time and a place for more extravagant clothes, buildings and music, the Protestant Reformed Churches have made and effort to keep these things simple in the church settings. This is because we recognize the most important thing in our service is the gospel itself!

The reason for the growth of the PRC is because we teach good, sound doctrine (NOT to say we are the only ones who do!).  The simplicity of the PRC is that we are doctrine based. At the heart of our denomination is a focus on the Lord and His work in our lives. As long as we continue to do that, the world will never drown us out. They may continue to outnumber us, and sometimes seem to drown our voices out, but God will richly bless the churches that take pride in doctrine. Church is about the gospel of our Lord, not us! That means although pretty clothes, well-kept buildings and beautiful music is great, our focus is to remain on Him. It’s that simple, really.

Suzie Kuiper

Date Like You Mean It

It’s easy not to think too deeply about the things that we do when we are young. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the excitement or passions of the moment without giving a lot of hard considerations to the choices we are making. Dating is a perfect example. It is so easy to get caught up in how attracted we are to someone, how they make us feel, and the fun of the adventure, that we forget how to take it seriously. But as young Christian people, we should be dating like we mean it.

The “imperativeness” of this can be understood when we realize what dating is meant to accomplish and picture. Ultimately dating is a means to an end: marriage. And marriage is not just about our wants or our happiness. If that were true, then there would be nothing wrong with gay marriage, divorce and remarriage, or even polygamy. The truth is, however, that marriage is all about God. It was created and instituted by the King of Kings at the beginning of time (Genesis 2:18-24). It is of His invention and not our own- He set the rules. He established what it was made to picture: the sacred and beautiful union of love between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His bride the Church. That is the holy relationship we are meant to emulate as we walk before the One who established such a bond! Marriage is no trivial matter. Likewise, the activity of dating cannot be either.

Also, the closer that two young people become, the greater the physical attraction between the two becomes. The deeper that your intimacy becomes in sharing time and conversations with one another, the deeper the desire for physical intimacy grows as well.  This is natural. After all, God created us to become “one flesh.” All the raging hormones of our youth does not help matters- it only makes the desire for that physical relationship that much stronger and overwhelming. In fact, so many relationships become so wrapped up in the physical, that they forget to nurture the spiritual and emotional bonds. It can so easily become the focus. And so, it is very easy for individuals, young and old alike, to “burn” in their lusts (I Corinthians 7:9).

Thus, dating leads to temptation. When it is done flippantly, with no view of the future or toward marriage, there is nothing to “wait for.” How easy it becomes to “burn” in lust. Of course this is no different for a young couple looking to marry, however, with the promise of marriage there is an end goal. They have something to look forward to, and know that the physical intimacy will be a blessed part of their union in Christ. This is yet another reason to take dating seriously. Can you stay pure as you draw close to another person, when you aren’t even thinking about marriage? If you are lost in the fun and thrill of the idea of a relationship, but aren’t developing the boundaries and the bonds that will keep you strong and connected spiritually and emotionally, then what are you expecting to get out of the relationship? Your thrills and desires can carry you away. And so, as Paul said, “it is better to marry than to burn.” Date like you mean to take it seriously, not just because you are infatuated or thrilled.

Marriage is about so much more than just the physical. Sure, that is a blessed and important part of marriage, and pleasing in God’s eyes when done in the context of marriage, but it is not what the marriage itself is grounded on. Therefore that shouldn’t be the focus of dating, either. Don’t just look for someone “cute” or “funny,” though those traits are by no means bad! But rather, look for a man of God who will lead you and his family in Christ. In life, God is first, above all things (I Cor. 10:31). In our dating and marriages the same should be true. Establish a relationship that is pleasing to the Lord. Spend time getting to know one another and growing in your faith. Make God your first priority. Love for one another can only come from Him (I John 4:7-19). A strong marriage is built on the love that flows out of our Lord, and without Him, we have no strength.

Let this guide both who you choose to date, and how you both go about spending time together and getting to know one another. Date a man who is strong in the Lord, and nurture a relationship of service to him and to your Lord, and not to your own lusts, wants, and feelings. Put God first:  don’t sacrifice Him for the approval of a person you are attracted to. And don’t forget: while you date you are getting to know the person that you may very well spend your whole life with. Are you using that time wisely to get to know them? Are you using this time to know their thoughts, their views, their attitudes towards life? Now is the time for that. Use it wisely. Remember… take dating seriously.

Abby Huizing