Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Domestic Missions

revaspriensma 1With the organization of the Pittsburgh PR Fellowship into an established congregation in 2016 and the calling of missionary-pastor W. Bruinsma to serve as her pastor, the PRC appointed Byron Center PRC to be the calling church for a new home missionary. In September of 2017 Rev. Aud Spriensma accepted the call to serve this position.

Pastor Spriensma works out of the West Michigan area, where he assists Byron Center PRC's evangelism efforts (for example, the bi-weekly Bible study on the gospel of John held at Dorr Public Library on Thursdays) and other PRCs in the area in their evangelism work. But he is also involved in preaching, presenting mission/evangelism programs, and following up on contacts wherever requested and needed - in the PRCA and beyond.

If you are interested in having the home missionary contact you, please visit this page.

May the Lord of the harvest continue to bless these home mission labors of the PRC and her missionary.

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Who Is Jesus?

Would you like to know who Jesus is and why He is the only Savior of sinners?

Pastor Spriensma has developed a series of brief, basic gospel tracts and podcasts explaining who Jesus is as set forth in the gospel according to John. The entire series may be found on this page and here (podcasts). The individual tracts and podcasts are also listed here with the link (with a printable pdf also attached).

1. Who is Jesus? The Word Made Flesh (podcast)

2. Who is Jesus? The Lamb of God (podcast)

3. Who is Jesus? The Bread of Life (podcast)

4. Who is Jesus? The Light of the World (podcast)

5. Who is Jesus? The Door of the Sheep (podcast)

6. Who is Jesus? The Good Shepherd (podcast)

7. Who Is Jesus? The Resurrection and the Life (podcast)

8. Who is Jesus? The Way, the Truth, and the Life (podcast)

9. Who is Jesus? The True Vine (podcast)

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Below you will find some of our home missionary's recent reports on his labors.

Secretary for Domestic Mission Committee: 

Rev. James Slopsema: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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What Are We Doing?

Report from PRC Home Missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma

[This report was also published in the September 1, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer.]

Notice the title of the article, “What are we doing?”  Missions is the work of the church.  In the year 2001, we had three home missionaries, working in three different declared fields with church plants:  Northern Ireland, the eastern United States, and the Western United States.  The calling of the church was to pray for our missionaries and, of course, financially support the work with their offerings.

In the year of our Lord, 2019, we have one home missionary, with no declared field of labor, except of course, the whole of the United States and Canada.  Are we doing anything?  Is it the case that eighteen years ago the PRC was considerably more involved with domestic mission work than we are today?  Have we lost our mission-mindedness?

First of all, the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) does not jump in today and start a church plant immediately when we receive a call to “come over and help us.”  When we received these requests in the past year, the DMC sent their home missionary and others to investigate whether it was feasible to begin a church plant in those areas.

Second, the DMC, with diminished requests “to come over and help us,” is working with a new approach to establish a definite field of labor.  In this model, our congregations are more involved in starting evangelistic Bible studies in their communities and their outlying areas.  To date, we have or have had nine of our congregations busy establishing these outreach Bible studies in various areas along with teaching men in correctional facilities.  Our congregations are developing contacts that they can pursue or refer to our missionary to labor with.

Is this not the labor of home missions?  The congregations are doing the work of missions, not only praying for and financially supporting the work of paid missionaries.  The PRC, I believe, is becoming more evangelistic and energetic in this labor.  Mission work is a very important calling from Christ to His church, for He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matt. 28:19).  In the Canons of Dordt we have a beautiful statement:  “And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom He will and at what time He pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified” (Canons I, Art. 3).  Again, in the Canons, we read, “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons II, Art. 5).

How important this work is, especially for rather isolated churches!  The apostle Paul on his missionary travels preached, and the Holy Spirit established churches that were geographically close to one another:  Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  These churches could encourage and labor together as the churches of Asia Minor.  In the Philippines, our missionaries labor not only with the first church that was organized, but with pastors and churches that are near the first congregation, so that we now have a federation of churches laboring together.  How important this work is for small churches that have been dependent upon synodical subsidy for many years. It is easy for an organized church, whether large or small, to be content with their church life, not bothering to go and seek to save the lost in the communities around them.  It is through missions that the Lord is pleased to add to His church such as should be saved.

You might ask, “Why have Bible studies in our areas when we already have Bible studies within our churches?  Why go out into the communities when others can come to our worship services?”  There are a number of reasons.  First, one cannot expect those who have little or no church affiliation to travel long distances to come to our churches.  It just will not happen.  Second, these community members would not feel comfortable in many of our church societies or services.  Many of them know little of our Reformed terminology or even Bible history that we take for granted and use.  Third, they do not know anyone else that goes to our church and who often huddle in small groups afterwards.  These people from the neighborhood are often intimidated.

The church and her members must obey Jesus’ command to “Go!”  As we live in different neighborhoods, work in the world’s workplaces, shop in their stores, and eat in their restaurants, we must be friendly, approachable, caring about and listening to our fellow human beings and their life situations.  As the Canons teach, “As to others, who have not yet been called, it is our duty to pray for them to God, who calls the things that are not, as if they were.  But we are in no wise to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ” (Canons III/IV, Art. 15).  One way to reach those in our communities is to set up Bible studies and personally invite folks to join us in seeking the truth from the Scriptures.

And we might then ask, what is our missionary doing?  Your missionary seeks to encourage and inspire our churches in this work by preaching ‘mission sermons’ and doing mission presentations.  The missionary is also available to help the churches set up these Bible studies and pick material to be used. We are also writing material or tracts that will be more easily understood by those with a limited knowledge of the Bible.  Just finished is a series of nine tracts on the subject of the person of Jesus Christ.  It is entitled, “Who is Jesus?”  And when contacts come in to the missionary and the DMC, the New Fields Committee does investigative work to determine if this is where the Lord is opening up a door for us to labor.  The missionary then goes to such contacts and begins a Bible study there.

May the Lord Jesus be pleased to continue to cause His church to love the truth that we have been given and to love our neighbors as ourselves, to seek and to save the lost.  This is our work in home missions.

Portrait of a Weaned Child

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Portrait of a Weaned Child

Meditation on Psalm 131

LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.

Travelers going up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem came in contentment and trust. What beautiful words, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” In this psalm, David paints the picture of a little child. This is not a fussy or crying infant needing or rooting to suckle, hungry or perhaps wet and uncomfortable. No, this little child has been weaned, no longer being suckled at his mother’s breast. Here is a child of two or three years of age that is resting on mothers lap with his head upon her breast. He is just happy and content as a clam to be near his mother, to be held by her, enjoying her love.

This portrait shows the child of God, simply trusting in the Lord, no matter the noise or troubles, calamities or circumstances around him. This was David’s situation. Oh, the calm times when David contemplated and sang songs to his God while he cared for his sheep. When a bear or lion came to snatch up one of his little lambs, or as he stood before the giant Goliath, he had a perfect trust in his God. What a nice picture of the full blown believer in the face of painful and trying circumstances. Does this picture tug at your heart? Do you say, “This is how I want to live and die?” Or do you find yourself often fretful moody, upset, frustrated, or even grumpy too often? May God give us grace that we may be able to say, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” May you have a calm, resigned, peaceful frame of mind, walking in faith and trust in Jehovah’s safe-keeping.

Oh, the weaning process for David was not easy. He was hunted by Saul who wanted to kill him. He had to hide all alone in the wilderness. He even resorted to living among the his enemies, the Philistines. He had multiple troubles with his children, even having to flee for his life from Absalom., The weaning of the little child is a process. The little child does not know why he cannot suckle anymore. He might even be upset that mother is not doing that anymore. Things have changed. The weaning was not to hurt the child, but to help him on life’s journey. So also peace and calm of the soul does not just happen. There is a process to go through in order to sit and be content in our Father’s arms.

Pride must be subdued and driven away. David writes, “My heart is not haughty.” We are all proud by nature. But we have nothing to be proud of before God. The proud heart gives way to lofty eyes. We look down at others in a condescending way. We think ourselves so much better. We think that we do not deserve God’s chastening hand or the trials that He gives to us. David confessed that he, by God’s grace, has given up his proud heart and lofty eyes. He will not depend upon himself anymore in his difficulties and sin. He will give himself to trust in his Lord and in the Lord’s mercy and love.

We too must confess our sin and wretchedness. We need to humble ourselves before God. We are so undeserving of all that He gives. We must look to our covenant God for our salvation and trust Him in His leading us in our life. We do not need to understand everything that happens in our lives. We want to shout at times, “Why Lord? Why are these things happening to me? We are tempted to question His providence in our lives and in the world around us. David confesses, “Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” If David has learned this living in the Old Testament, how much more should this be true of you and me who live in the New Dispensation. We have God’s Word. We know God’s great love in the giving of His only begotten Son for our salvation. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). How beautifully it is put in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” I need this in the trying times and circumstances in my life, when I am tempted to fuss, grumble, be fretful, or grumpy. Instead of being angry and asking, “Why LORD?” I will contently state that my Father in heaven knows best. Do I trust Him? This is the way of rest and peace. This is the way to live and die. “My soul is even as a weaned child…Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.” Am I a portrait of the weaned child to those who know and see me?

Be still my soul – the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide –In every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul -- thy best, thy heavenly Friend thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.  ~ Jean Sibelius 1865-1957

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The Penitential Psalm

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Penitential Psalm

Meditation on Psalm 130: 3,4

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

This is the eleventh psalm of the Songs of Ascent. As we go up to the Lord’s house to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness, immediately there is, should be, the sense of our unworthiness because of our sin. The psalmist begins this psalm with the acknowledgment of depths. This could be the depths of the ocean or sea. It could be the depths of a dungeon or an empty cistern , (like the ones in which Joseph and Jeremiah were thrown by those who hated them. The depths is a position of helplessness and great need. Think of Jonah when he was in the belly of the great fish. The psalmist, aware of the depths of his sin and perversity cried “Out of the depths!”. His iniquities were against God! Surely, he has earned punishment; he is in these depths justly. The depths refer to guilt, the objective result of sin that brings a person under God’s condemnation. He deserves and experiences a sense of God’s wrath.

Affliction and guilt can bring a person very low. But in these depths, one must not give into despair or hopelessness. We must pray with great earnestness to the One who alone can rescue us. Notice, the psalmist cried unto the LORD. God gave him awareness of his sin. Faith makes us aware that we have earned what we received. Our sins bring God’s wrath! Faith cries; it does not whisper. Oh, the loud penetrating voice arises out of the depths. We have no right to be heard. Why should we be brought out? We cry out and supplicate Jehovah, our covenant God to look down in His mercy and hear our cry. Who can stand before the holy God who cannot endure iniquity? But if we do not want God to “mark our iniquities”, what do we wish for Him to do? Do we wish for Him to wink at our sin or pretend it is not there? To mark is literally to “watch over, tally up and keep a record of.” How awful and how long would be such a list! One sin against the holy God would damn us to hell, let alone the pile of sins heaped up. Who will be able to stand up and defend himself? No sinner can be justified before God by his own efforts. It is a cry of supplication, pleading for grace and favor. The guilty must pray for salvation.

Verse four begins with a significant “but”. Faith sees that with God there is forgiveness. This means that God lifts off from us the responsibility to pay for our sins. God also restores to us the right to live before Him. God alone can pardon the guilt of sin. What is the basis of this forgiveness? How can a holy God forgive? The answer is found in verses seven and eight. “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

There is forgiveness by the redemption that God gives. Mercy is God reaching down to us, in our helplessness, and helping. He delivers us from the depths. With God is plenteous redemption. A redeemer was a near kinsman who was willing and able to pay the debts of a person or family, like Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth. Redemption is with God. It is never something that we have earned or merited. God pays the debt that we have accrued. The cost of our redemption was the blood and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the wrath that each and every sin of ours deserves. No, God does not wink at our sin or ignore it. He is holy and just. God provided for our redemption. In I Cor. 1: 30 we read, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” We must acknowledge that we cannot stand before God on our own merits. We in faith look to God as the God who forgives sin through Christ. How gracious is that forgiveness! It is not deserved by us. It is graciously given. Faith focuses its hope and desire upon Jesus Christ. He gave Himself as “a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:6). Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation? If so, then how has your faith evidenced itself in a childlike fear of the Lord?

God forgives us by redeeming us. The purpose is that you and I may always stand in awe of Him and His grace. Oh, the wonder that God loved me! Have you stood in wonder at your redemption? Aware of the great punishment that your sins deserve, are you made speechless that God forgave you? Instead of standing in the rags of your sin, you have been cleansed and clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus. O, the wonder of it all! God’s salvation is abundant. Do you rest your hope entirely in Him?

My sin -- O the bliss of this glorious thought! -- My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul. It is well…with my soul; It is well, it is well with my soul.” Philip Bliss 1876

 

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The Farmer's Psalm

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Farmer's Psalm

Meditation on Psalm 129: 3

The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

The psalmist is making a picture of the afflictions that come to God’s people. The picture is that of a field which the famer is plowing in springtime. He is making the field ready for planting and of course, a field prepared for harvest. Today  there is a lot of no-till farming. But as a boy, our Case tractor could only pull a four-bottom plow through the heavy clay. In the psalmist’s day, the plowman had oxen pulling a single blade plow through the soil of Israel.  Maybe you remember Elisha, who was plowing his field with twelve yoke of oxen. When the call came to follow Elijah, Elisha took a yoke of oxen and killed them and boiled the flesh with fire made from the plow. Elisha fed the people and went after Elijah and ministered unto him.

In this psalm, the furrows plowed in the field are  a picture of the afflictions brought upon God’s people, Zion. The entire history of God’s people is one of suffering . The song sung was “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth.” Their youth was their early days in Egypt when they were made slaves for Pharaoh. Heavy tasks were thrown upon them, with taskmasters taking their whips upon their backs. Furrows were dug into their back by bits of bone or metal on the ends of the whips. The little male babies were to be thrown into the Nile River. Coming into Canaan, Israel was surrounded with wicked neighbors. Israel brought trouble against themselves with their idol worship. The remnant of true worshippers suffered also.

We should not be surprised when we too, for the sake of the gospel,  suffer, hated and persecution.  Here in the States, it is mainly ridicule. In many other countries, it is prison or death.  The entire history of the church is that of martyrs for the faith. The apostle Paul tells young Timothy about the persecutions and afflictions which had come upon himself. He writes, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). Do you remember to pray for the martyred church today in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East? Do you have scars for serving Christ? Maybe it is family that reject you or co-workers that mock you for your faith.

Did you notice how personal this psalm is? “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth… the plowers have plowed upon my back.” This singular pronoun is used collectively for the church.  But the psalm is not ultimately about Israel. It is the voice of Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, the true Israel.  He suffered for us. He came down from heaven, born in a cattle stall, suffered from His youth, yea, His whole life. He had to flee with His parents from Herod. “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (see Isa. 50:5,6  52:13,14  53: 3). Do you see the whip upon His back tearing furrows into it and the blood flowing? Do you see the crown of thorns upon His brow? Do you see Him hanging upon the cross, and the spear that is thrust into His side? Why did He suffer so? He suffered not  merely  at the hands of wicked men, He suffered the wrath of God in our place. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…but he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed…Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him: he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed…” (Isa. 53:4,5,10). But God raised Him from the dead. “The LORD is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked” (Psalm 129:4)

What is the result of this plowing of the field?  The wicked grow up like grass on a rooftop, which amounts to nothing when the hot sun of summer beats upon it. Those who belong to Jesus Christ are like the  luxurious  wheat  fields being harvested this week. “By his stripes we are healed…He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 51: 5,11).

The furrows upon the back of Jesus bear rich fruit. It is a field white unto harvest. Sinners such as you and I are by faith alone made righteous by the blood of Jesus. What about the afflictions that we as God’s people are made to suffer? Oh, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. God turns for good what is meant for evil. Think of Joseph’s brothers’ treatment of him, selling him. God used it for the preservation of  His people during the great famine.  Though the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers  put Jesus to death, God saved us through that death.  So let us say with the psalmist, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me” (Ps. 129:2). Let us learn the lesson of the plowed field!

Affliction has been for my profit, that I to thy statutes might hold;
Thy law to my soul is more precious than thousands of silver and gold.
(Charles H. Gabriel)

Sure as thy truth shall last, to Zion shall be given the brightest glories earth can Yield, and brighter bliss of heaven. Amen  (Aaron Williams  1731-1776)

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Our Need for the Lord's Blessing

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Our Need for the Lord's Blessing

Meditation on Psalm 127:1

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.

This psalm is listed as “A Song of degrees for Solomon”. Obviously it was written by Solomon, the great builder of the temple to which the people went up to for worship. Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes in which we read, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity…Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12: 8, 13).  Psalm 127 lays before us the necessary activity of faith.

The activity described is that of building houses and keeping the city. God builds and God keeps through our activity. Without God’s blessing, all is in vain. Building the house is important. The sovereignty of God never minimizes our responsibility. As Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) wrote, “The Holy Spirit is not the patron of lazy and inert men; but he directs the minds of those who labor to the providence and power of God.” In our activity, we seek and acknowledge not only the providence and power of God but our need for God’s blessing and grace upon our activity. Our duty is to build and keep, as instruments in God’s hands. Activity is necessary.

The activity is building homes. These are covenant dwelling places. The city is a collection of homes. These must be built and kept and guarded. Physically, we do this by godly marriages, God-fearing homes, having and raising children, filling our homes. We do it through our worship on Sunday and planting churches.  The spiritual activity is caring for the hearts and souls of believers so that they love, serve, and obey the Lord. This takes place through the preaching of the gospel from Sabbath to Sabbath and from house to house. It is through the gathering of God’s children in missions. We do it through the Christian instruction of our children and the study of God’s Word in devotions and family worship. As fathers, we not only teach our children, but set a godly example. The house and church are built upon the foundation of God’s Word. This house-building is not easy but involves diligent, strenuous labor. Are you laboring?

How we need God’s blessing upon our labors! Twice in our text, we read the words, “in vain.” Without the Lord’s blessing, our labor is worthless, empty, for nothing, and a colossal waste of time and effort. We need the grace of God, His gracious hand blessing our homes and our churches. Only by His grace can our homes be houses of covenant fellowship. Only by His grace can His church be a communion of saints dwelling in blest friendship. That is the opposite of bickering, fighting, strife, and bitterness. May our homes and may our churches be places where God makes His abode!

How we as sinners need our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only by the work of our Lord Jesus, our Mediator, that our sins are forgiven and we receive God’s blessing. Is not this what we confess in Lord’s Day 1? “My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong,  body and soul, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ”? How desperately we need God’s blessing. Otherwise our building will be like the building of mighty Nimrod in the tower of Babel! Without God’s grace in Jesus  Christ, all of our marriages, child rearing, preaching, and mission work is meaningless. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Do you see your and my need for the LORD’S blessing?

We need to pray for God’s blessing upon our labors. My father would always quote to us children the Latin phrase, “Ora et labora!” Pray and labor. That is what this and many of the psalms are - prayers. The pilgrims to Jerusalem would go up to God’s house, praying. We are nothing. We need God’s blessing! Are you a praying saint? Do you start your labors at the beginning of the day only by calling upon Jehovah to bless and establish your work? That prayer is uttered in joyful expectation! We say with the Apostle Paul, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).  It is, as we sing in Psalter # 246,

So let there be on us bestowed the beauty of the Lord our God; The work accomplished by our hand establish thou, and make it stand; Yea let our hopeful labor be established evermore by thee, established evermore by thee.

Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun, Let us talk of all his wondrous love and care; then when all  of life is over and our work on earth is done, And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there! James Black, 1856-1938

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The Lord Blesses the Home That Fears Him

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Lord Blesses the Home That Fears Him

Meditation on Psalm 128:1

Blessed is everyone that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.

This is another song sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for worship. Psalm 127 and 128 are known as “family psalms”. Each psalm has one musical rendition in our song book. Invariably, as I made ‘baby calls’ in my pastorates, I would read one of these psalms. For little sons given, I  usually read  Psalm 127:4, “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man.” For little daughters given I would often refer to  Psalm 128:3,”thy children like olive plants round about thy table.” Psalm 144 is a prayer “that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” What a blessing children are! I would like to call them, “gardens of the Lord.”

But while these psalms rejoice over family happiness, notice that our text states, “Blessed is everyone that feareth the LORD.” That “everyone” is inclusive: husbands, wives, children, those who are single, those couples that are childless, those who are healthy, and those with special needs. The everyone in the text are blessed in the families given because as the family of God, God continues to save in the line of our generations. He adds daily to the church such as should be saved.

The ”everyone” of our text is also particular. It is not everyone in the world, and not even everyone in the church. It is everyone that feareth the LORD. What does that mean? Do you fear the LORD? We should cultivate ‘fear of the Lord’. We should cultivate child-like fear of Jehovah. Stand in awe and reverence of our God. Like children, we should be afraid to offend Him. We should be anxious to please. We should be quick to submit to and obey him. We, as believers, are children of God, children by grace which have been adopted as sons and daughters through his only begotten Son, Christ Jesus.

This fear of the Lord is the fit foundation of holy living. Apart from this fear of the Lord, there is no holiness. None but those who fear the Lord can or will walk in His ways. That life which God declares  to be blessed must be practical. It is foolish and vain to talk about fearing the Lord if we act like there is no God in our work or recreation. God’s ways will be our ways if we fear Him. If our heart is joined to Him, our feet will follow after Him. Or, to put it another way, one’s heart is seen in His walk! What does your  walk say about you?

Faith is that bond that we have with God that God Himself works in us. But that faith is also a wonderful activity; we love God, trust Him, believe on Him, submit and obey Him. It is the activity of saying no to sin, and saying yes to His good commandments. It is in the way of obedience that we experience the smile, the favor, and the blessedness of the Lord. God whispers to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Those who are blessed by the Lord are blessed indeed! Undeserved blessings, all flowing to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Psalmist emphasizes in vs. 5, “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.”

I said that this is a family psalm. “Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children” (vs.6). How wonderful to see one generation passing down to the next generation knowledge of and love for the LORD , our Creator and Redeemer! May we experience in this way “peace upon Israel.” There is no peace for the wicked. They should be afraid of God, for He is a consuming fire. But to them that love Him, are called according to His purpose, there is supreme happiness, no matter the circumstances of their lives. Do you know this happiness? Is it evident in your life, your work, and in your family?

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The Lord Hath Done Great Things

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Lord Hath Done Great Things

Meditation on Psalm 126:1-3     

When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

It is so easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves and complain. But instead of looking at the negative, we, like Israel, need  to count our blessings. Israel had been in captivity in Babylon because of her sins. But God did not leave her there. Through chastisement, He corrected His people who were worshipping other gods, and then brought them back into their homeland.

What things had the LORD done? He created the world in six days. When Adam and the human race fell into sin, God came to Adam and promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. He translated Enoch up into heaven and saved Noah and his family with a flood. He gave to Abraham the promised son that was impossible, for Abraham and Sarah were unable to conceive. God delivered His people from Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land. With David and Solomon, God gave His people a great kingdom and prosperity and peace. More recently, God brought His people out of Babylon. With godly leaders, the temple was rebuilt and the walls of the city restored.

Our text exclaims that the LORD has done “great things”. The work of God was great because it was life changing. God’s people were once again in their own land, with the temple rebuilt and worship reestablished. These things were great because of what it revealed about Israel’s God. He is Jehovah. Even the heathen nations around Israel acknowledged His greatness: “then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them” (vs.2). The name Jehovah is His covenant name. He is all-sufficient, unchanging, wise, all-powerful, righteous, and He has chosen us for His people. Great things are done for us because He is great: great in His love, goodness, mercy, and faithfulness.

Can you list some of the great things He has done for you? He gave His only begotten Son for our salvation! Think of the work of Jesus Christ: the wonder of His incarnation, His suffering and death, His resurrection, ascension, and His ruling at God’s right hand. Think of the Holy Spirit as He gives life to all things, works spiritual life in each of His children, and leads the church in the truth. God has done great things. When the church falls into apostasy, He brings reformation. Psalm 126 is another song of ascent sung when God’s people were traveling together up to Jerusalem. Let’s get even more personal. Can you hear one saint saying to another, “Come, hear, all ye that fear the Lord, while I with grateful heart record what God has done for me; I cried to him in deep distress, and now his wondrous grace I bless, for he has set me free” (Psalter 175 stanza 2)? Have you struggled with a besetting sin, and crying to the Lord, He set you free from that captivity? Have you or a loved one gone through a difficult illness or walked through the valley of the shadow of death and found that the Lord was a “very present help in trouble?”

How great it is that God says to you and me, “I will be your God. You are my beloved sons and daughters. God says that to us each Sunday morning and evening in the votum and salutation. How great is His mercy for us poor sinners, that He stoops to help and save. How great is His work of taking dead sinners and making them alive in Jesus Christ. By His Spirit He calls us, gives us faith, works our conversion, justifying, sanctifying, and preserving us.

Our response, when we think on these great things, is that of joy, laughter, and gladness. It is the laughter of true faith. It is the joy of salvation. It is not only a joy in the good things God has and is doing. It is gladness in God himself. He is faithful to me even though I am so unfaithful. What a God we know, love, and serve. So go forth; “Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done” (Edwin O. Excell, 1851-1921).

“Come, all ye people, bless our God and tell his glorious praise abroad, who holds our soul in life,          who never lets our feet be moved and , though our faith he oft has proved, upholds us in the strife.” Psalter 175, stanza 1

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Trusting in the LORD

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Trusting in the LORD

Meditation on Psalm 125: 1,2

They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.”

There are two beautiful comparisons made in these two verses. Believers are compared to Mount Zion and the mountains round about Jerusalem are compared to the LORD surrounding his people. Both pictures reveal the unshakeable and unmovable status of the trust of believers and the security of believers. What comfort that gives us in these times of agitation, distress, dread, and fear. Are you distressed over your sin? Perhaps you have heard evil news about your or a loved one’s health. Are you going through trouble with a family member, co-worker, or fellow saint? Then there is always also the attacks brought against believers by the devil and the ungodly world around us. But, unlike Peter who looked at the storm-tossed sea, we fix our eye upon the LORD.

Verse one deals with the conscious activity of faith. Believers trust in the LORD. That trust is worked in us by God. That trust comes from a true knowledge of God. How can you trust a doctor unless you know that he is competent to treat your specific ailment? Likewise one cannot trust God without knowledge of Him. God reveals Himself to us in nature, in the Scriptures, and in His Son, Jesus Christ. The activity of true faith, as we know from Lord’s Day 7, is a sure knowledge of what God reveals in His Word and a hearty confidence, assurance, and trust.

The object of our trust is not in ourselves, doctors, politics, or anything but “in the LORD.” We know Him in His names, His virtues, and His wonderful works.

The word, “LORD”, in all capital letters is Jehovah. He is all powerful. He is all wise. He is all sufficient. He does not change, unlike the circumstances in our lives. He is always present, unlike Baal who appears to be sleeping or on a vacation as Elijah suggests to the false prophets. Jehovah is the name of our covenant God in Jesus Christ. Believers were given by God to Christ in eternity. Christ was given by God to us in His incarnation, suffering and death on the cross. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that we are united to Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who works and strengthens faith in us.

Believers who trust in the LORD are stable and unmovable right now, (not “shall be” as the italicized words in our text). The picture drawn for us is that of a mountain in all of its grandeur, height, and steadfastness. The rain and snow fall upon it and the winds blow, but the mountain stands, nothing threatens it. How unlike they are than the sand dunes of Michigan which are threatened by strong winds and high lake levels. The dunes are blown or washed away. As boys and girls sing, “The foolish man built his house upon the sand…The wise man built his house upon the rock…So build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is not just any mountain. There were larger mountains. But Mount Zion was where Jerusalem (the church) was established. In Jerusalem was the temple with the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat. God dwelt there in fellowship with His people!

Oh, at times we might be shaken by doubt or fear. But nothing in this world or even death itself can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He works in us to draw us back in faith and trust to Himself. The stability of the believer is not in himself but in the LORD. Those words, “in the LORD” are the key to this text. It is the Lord who establishes our hearts as He established the mountains. It is the LORD who surrounds us as the mountains surrounded Jerusalem. The believer cannot be moved, not so much because his trust is so great, but rather, Jehovah is ever present and all powerful. He always surrounds His people like As the three friends of Daniel were not touched by the flames in the fiery furnace because of a fourth individual that appeared with them, so God surrounds His people. The object of believer’s trust is in the LORD alone! Can you put your name in the text and say, “I, trusting in the LORD, am like Mt. Zion!

The psalm ends with the blessed serenity of the believer: “but peace shall be upon Israel.” God will give peace to those who trust in him. There is inner peace, calmness of heart, and confidence. The true believer is unmovable, for ever abiding in the love of God.

What time I am afraid I put my trust in Thee; In God I rest, and praise his word, so rich and free. In God I put my trust, I neither doubt nor fear, for man can never harm with God my helper near. In God, the Lord, I rest, his word of grace I praise, his promise stands secure, nor fear nor foe dismays.”  ~ Uzziah C. Burnap 1895

Never a trial that he is not there, never a burden that he doth not bear; never a sorrow that he doth not share, moment by moment, I am under his care. Moment by moment I’m kept in his love, moment by moment I’ve life from above; Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine, moment by moment, O Lord, I am thine.”  ~ May Whittle Moody 1870-1963

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide, In every change He faithfully will remain. Bew still , my soul, thy best, thy heavenly friend thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”  ~ Jean Sibelius 1865- 1957

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The Great Escape!

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Great Escape!

Meditation on Psalm 124: 6,7,8

Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

The title of this meditation might sound like the escape of a person out of a prison or a soldier escaping from the clutches of the enemy army.  I think of my father’s imprisonment by the German army when they invaded the Netherlands in World War II. He and several of the prisoners were able to escape the prison before they would have been taken away to one the German work (death) camps. The Holy Spirit led David to write this psalm, probably after his son Absalom with many followers pursued him over the Jordan River, and the LORD gave David a great victory over his enemies.

The church in this world is surrounded by enemies. There is first of all our own sinful flesh, which we have to fight against every day. Second, there is the world that is not a friend to grace, but hates and pursues the followers of Jesus. Third, our “adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” Apart from divine support, the church of Christ would quickly fall before its raging enemies. Several examples are given in this psalm. The enemies are like a hungry animal, ready to eat us up like a little morsel of meat. The wicked are like the undertow of Lake Michigan, which would suck the swimmer under and away from shore, or like a tsunami wave that wipes out complete villages. The last example in the psalm is that of a professional trapper in the woods who snares his prey in his net.

What kinds of snares are set before you to catch you unawares? Great are the temptations of our sinful  flesh: sexual lust, greed, pride, worldliness, drunkenness, bitterness, anger, and revenge. There are the snares of the world with flattery, pleasure, attention, or the threat of violence, ridicule, persecution, and death. Satan has a whole legion of demons with him who has had 6000 years of practice at seducing, tempting, and deceiving God’s saints. How can the church stand up to such power? How are you and I able individually to withstand them? The only reason the people of God continue in this world is the almighty power of their God. His strength is all sufficient. What would the people of God have been like if the Lord was not on their side?

Enoch, prophesying against the wickedness in his day, would have been killed if God had not translated him up to heaven. Noah and his family were the lone survivors when God saved him and his family with a flood. Israel would have been left under Pharaoh’s cruel slavery and the death of all their male infants in the time of Moses except for the Lord’s ten plagues against Egypt.. Unless the LORD fought for Israel against the Canaanites, the thick walls of the cities and the giants of the land would not have been conquered. The Midianites swarmed the land of Israel in the time of Gideon, but with the Lord on their side, Gideon with  only 300 Israelites won a decisive battle and routed the enemy. So we can continue to go through the history of the church. Over against the cruelty of the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestants were imprisoned, tortured, and put to death. But nothing was able to stop God’s reformation of His church!

The LORD changes not, nor does His compassion fail. He is on our side. We might despair when we see the world that we live in grow increasingly wicked and ferocious, and in the church we see great apostasy, slander, and schism. But our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. His purpose is to save us alive.  We must confess, “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say; If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when wicked men rose up against us: Then they had swallowed us up quick.” This is the believers’ confidence.  God is on His throne. If God is for us, who can be against us? Believers can rejoice in the promise of Jesus Christ, “ I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. All authority belongs to our Christ. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. All the power of our sinful flesh, the world, and Satan and his host cannot destroy the church because the infinite strength of the Creator defends and helps us. “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” This verse is used in many Reformed churches to open their worship services.

Looking at the unrest today in the world and even in the church, what comfort to say, “Our help in in the name of Jehovah who made heaven and earth.” He is on our side! We are escaped from the hands and plots of our enemies.

Now Israel may say, and that in truth, If that the Lord had not our right maintained, If that the Lord had not with us remained, Wen cruel men against us rose to strive, We surely had been swallowed up alive.”

“Blest be the Lord who made us not their prey; As from the snare a bird escapeth free, Their net is rent and so escaped are we. Our only help is in Jehovah’s name, Who made the earth and all the heavenly frame. Louis Bourgeois, 1551

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Help for the Weary Pilgrim

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Help for the Weary Pilgrim

Meditation on Psalm 121: 1,2,8

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…The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Psalm 121 is the second of fifteen Songs of Ascent. These are songs that were sung by the Israelites as they travelled to Jerusalem for the three yearly festivals. Some of God’s people had to travel over one hundred miles. As they went up to the temple, they would see the hills or mountains around Jerusalem. Mt. Zion was the mountain on which the temple was built. What great anticipation there was! They could see the temple there! The hills or mountains around Jerusalem were a great place to build the city. These hills served as natural protection from enemies around.

The psalmist expresses his confidence in God’s protecting providence. “I will lift up mine eyes.” This is a gesture of prayerful dependence. “From whence cometh my help?” This is a question, “where does my help come from?” Do we look to the hills for help? No, our dependence is not upon earthly things. The answer to the question asked in vs. 1 is found in vs. 2. “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” He, who created the hills and everything else, is able and willing to help me. There on Mt. Zion is the temple, with the holy of holies, the Ark of the Covenant, and the mercy seat. This was the place for worship of Jehovah. There the Lord dwelt in the midst of His people.

Many troubles come to the pilgrims in their lives and travels. Often we are fearful and despairing. Is Jehovah still gracious? We have sinned against Him time and time again. But the temple is before us with the altar of burnt-offerings. The temple before us tells us that our God is still there. The LORD is Jehovah God. He is the “I AM”; the self-sufficient, self- existent God who has no needs and changes not. His relationship with His people does not change, no matter how many sins they commit. He is their God who loves them, Yes, He will chastise those whom He loves. But can you smell the smoke of the sacrifices? There is the forgiveness of sins through the blood that is shed in our place. This all pointed forward to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on Calvary’s cross. Oh, what a day when Jerusalem the holy city comes down from heaven (Rev. 21). Then there will be no more sin!

We are weary spiritual pilgrims to that city. We must still wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness as well as our own sinful nature. But Jehovah is our help, someone who comes to our aid by surrounding and embracing us. “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved.” He gives us stability in our lives. He will keep us. That word, “keep” or “keeper” is used three times. But that same Hebrew word is used another three times, translated as “preserve”. The psalmist tells us six times in this short psalm that God guards, watches over, and protects us. Why does he mention it six times? There is so much repetition so that it soaks into our consciousness. What anxiety can survive these repeated promises? “Day and night”, “our going out and coming in”: these opposites designate totality. The Lord’s protection is continuous, without interruption, against all kinds of dangers. This does not mean that believers will never suffer, but that God’s providence will guard them from anything that would truly do them harm. He will work all things for their good (Rom 8:28).

Today, as believers, we are the temple of God. He is in you and me. In your pilgrimage in this world, look up and see how precious you are to Him. He is shaping us to prepare us for that city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God. Look ahead as the weary Israelites did in their travels to Jerusalem. Look up! Know who your helper is! Trust him. Love Him. Serve Him.

One of our greatest comforts is to know that God is always the guardian of His people. Even in the greatest trouble, God’s people have no reason to fear. Faith assures the Christian that all will be well. God is always there for us; He never slumbers or sleeps. If God did not spare His Son, but gave Him up for us, then surely He will give us all that we stand in need of. Look ahead! There is the city that has foundations. Look up. Jehovah God is our help and keeper for Jesus’ sake!

Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest, Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed. I know not, O I know not what joys await us there, What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare!”

There is the throne of David; and there, from care released, The song of them that triumph, the shout of them that feast; And they who with their Leader have conquered in the fight, forever and forever are clad in robes of white. (Bernard of Cluny, 12th century)

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"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Meditation on Lamentations 3: 21-24

“ This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3: 21-24)

On Sunday morning and evening, many of our churches have the pleasant task of trying to seat all of our members in the sanctuary for worship. Pleasant, I say; what a nice problem. In an age when many churches have a problem of trying to fill their seats, we have the opposite problem of crowded sanctuaries!  That is said with all humility. God has been, and is, so good. He has blessed us with faithful members who desire to worship and hear the gospel preached!

What is the cause of all of this? It is God’s great faithfulness to us; His mercies are new every morning. This is where the above text comes  and fills us with humility. We do not deserve this blessing.” It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not!”

We as Protestant Reformed Churches do not deserve this. We are sinners who deserve God’s wrath and condemnation.  It is all of His mercy to us in our Lord Jesus Christ! We are Christ’s church. Christ Jesus is continuing to gather and build His church.  By His Word and Spirit we continue to be preserved, so that our church is able to be a light in the midst of great darkness.

We are able to pass on to the rising generations the beauty and greatness of our God and His marvelous works. We are able to reach out to others in our community and share with them the rich and precious heritage that has been given to us.   We are sinners, but listen to the rest of the story: we are redeemed sinners, forgiven all of our sins through the spilled blood of our Lord Jesus. Imputed to us is Christ’s righteousness. We are new creatures, sons and daughters of God by adoption, filled with Christ’s Spirit. And we have a glorious hope! Jesus is coming again. As members of His kingdom, we  will one day be with Him in the new heavens and new earth. Yes, as Jeremiah says in the above text, “therefore we have hope.”

Listen then also to what God says in His Word through Jeremiah (Lam. 3:24- 26): “ The LORD is my portion. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” God is good to His church.

With this glorious truth we press on in our service to Christ. Filled with humility, love, trust, and dependence we serve the Lord with gladness, making known His mercies and faithfulness to the rising generations. To God is the glory both now and forever!

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