Assurance for the New Year

When we look at the world there are many things that frighten us. Tornadoes, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, AIDS, cancer and many other disasters and diseases cause untold amounts of suffering for thousands of people all over the world.  Homosexuality and transgenderism are rising in popularity and their advocates are screaming out for our hearty approval and endorsement of their wicked lifestyle, branding anyone who speaks out against it an “intolerant bigot,” “homophobe,” “transphobe” and worse. Feminists cry out for more abortion funding and call anyone who doesn’t jump on their bandwagon “sexist.” Then there are the problems in the church. Many of the same evils found in the world around us are also found in the church. Then there is our own sin. We all have sins of various sorts whether it be anger, pride, laziness or not putting spiritual matters at the front and center of our lives. As we begin 2018, we may wonder, is there any place for refuge? Is there anywhere we can go to escape from these and other troubling thoughts? The answer is yes. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1, 2). God provides us refuge in the storms of life. “He shall cover thee with His feathers and under his wings shalt thou trust” (Psalm 91:4). The remaining verses of this Psalm talk about the “pestilence” and “destruction” that rage around us like a tornado, the great wickedness in both the world and the church that seeks to overwhelm us. Despite all of the wickedness and apostasy around us, God watches over us and protects us in His sovereign providence. This doesn’t mean that life will be an easy, affliction-free breeze, but it does mean that somehow, in some way that we won’t always completely understand, He is working all things out for our good. We’ll still get sick, lose our jobs, break bones, and maybe even have family members or friends turn on us and leave the church. There will be great pain in our lives, but when we look by faith at what God has planned for us, we know that He is watching over every step we take and that when we feel alone, He is always there to guide us. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord which made Heaven and Earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2). May God grant us this comfort in the year that lies before us!

Kevin Rau

Though Foaming Waters Roar

I recently had the opportunity to go white-water rafting on a river in West Virginia. While riding through the roaring rapids of the river, I could not help but be struck by the power of the water. Sitting at the front of my raft, I met the huge, rolling waves head-on as they towered and crashed over me. All around me, foamy water swirled as the powerful current rushed dangerously. This experience brought to mind many Scripture passages about the power of the water and seas and prompted me to ponder the awesome power of the One of Whom it is said that, “the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:5). God “rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, [He] stillest them” (Psalm 89:9).

Psalm 107:23-31 describes the experience of those “that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters” and encounter the power of the stormy seas much as I was reminded of it a few weeks ago. When they “see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep,” who “commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof,” the magnitude and strength of the waves is enough to strike fear in the hearts of seasoned sailors: “They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. But when they acknowledge the One who created this great power and “cry unto the Lord in their trouble, he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.”

“Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:31).

Not only should we see the power of God in the strength of the seas and be prompted to praise Him as the great Creator, but this truth contains a great comfort for the child of God. Not only has He created the stormy seas and given the swirling current its power, but He controls its seemingly uncontrollable depths. He has “placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof… roar, yet can they not pass over it” (Jeremiah 5:22). His is the voice “that even the winds and the sea obey” (Matthew 8:27). He is “the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared” (Isaiah 51: 15). That same sovereign God is our Father. We are His precious children, and He has promised to control all things for our good.

This is especially comforting when we encounter the storms of life. Often fears and troubles swirl about us like a foaming current, threatening to pull us under into the depths of despair, never to return to the surface. We can flail about with all our strength, trying to fight the waves and save ourselves, but we will find that we are weak and helpless. But when we cry to God, He will save us. His alone is the power to bring us through such trials and calm the stormy seas. He has the power to dry up the entire sea so we are once again standing on dry ground, or He may choose to part the waters and lead us through with towering walls of water looming over us. And sometimes it is His good pleasure to allow us to struggle in the storm for a time, but He will always be there, holding us up with His almighty hand, never permitting us to drown.

So whenever you are experiencing the stormy seas of life and you are tempted to despair, turn to the One who has placed those trials in your life. He alone is the Rock to whom you can turn. He is your refuge and strength.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1-3,7).

Anna Langerak

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