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.

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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"I Am for Peace"

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

Meditation on Psalm 120: 2,6,7

 "I Am for Peace"

Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue…My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

Psalms 120- 134 are titled, “Song of Degrees” or “Song of Ascents”. The fifteen psalms are called the “Pilgrimage Songs”, sung as God’s people would travel to Jerusalem for the three great feasts of the old covenant religious calendar. How fitting they are for all believers in this world. We journey through the week, looking forward to Sunday when we can go to church to hear the gospel of peace. All of our life is a pilgrimage, with eager expectation to the time when God delivers us from this vale of tears to the Jerusalem which is above. In this pilgrimage, we sing songs of pilgrimage.

When we stand for God and His kingdom, we can expect to be slandered by a world that is opposed to God and his Word. But how sad it is when the slander and hatred come from those of our own household. If this psalm was written by David, he knew the slander of those from whom he should not expect it. Having fought battles for King Saul, David was forced to flee as King Saul sought to kill him as a troubler of Israel. Later in his life, David fled from the wrath of his own son, Absalom. Absalom presented himself to the people as one who would judge them and give them justice over against his father who was getting too old or careless. In this way, Absolom stole the hearts of the men of Israel ( I Sam. 15:4-6). Absalom lied to his father, telling him that he wanted to fulfil a vow made in Hebron to serve the Lord. But instead he gathered a strong conspiracy against his father.

Slander and lies bring disharmony, hostility, and opposition. Over against this, the Psalmist said, “I am for peace.” He desired peace with God, peace with his brethren, and even with his enemies. How is this possible? It is only as we are justified by faith alone that there can be peace with God and peace with our neighbor. By nature, as the Heidelberg Catechism instructs us, we hate God and hate our neighbors. When the psalmist stated that he was for peace, he implied his hatred for lies, strife, war, deceit, and slander.

What anguish the psalmist endured in his soul because of slander and lies. He cried, “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.” The psalmist had confidence. He cried unto the LORD, and he heard me (vs.1).” God hates slander. What will be given to the liar and false tongue is “sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper” (vs. 4). God will shoot His hot arrows at those who slander and tell lies. This is true both now in time, and unless repented of, eternally.

This psalm is correctly the first psalm of ascent, because it is the desire of the child of God to be delivered, brought up to Jerusalem, which means, “city of peace”. The Psalmist felt as if he wa in the midst of the wicked nation of Japheth, north of Israel, or a ruthless nation from Ishmael, southeast of Israel. Both nations are used figuratively in vs. 5 to represent the psalmist’s feeling of isolation even though he resided in Israel. In Jerusalem was the temple where the peace offering was made. Jehovah spoke peace to His own through the offering.

Ultimately, this psalm finds its highest realization in Jesus Christ. “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” Jesus lives in perfect harmony with His Father in heaven. He came to make the peace offering, taking away the sins of His people. He makes the church a place of peace. How His soul was distressed when He was slandered during the duration of His ministry. He was slandered by the leaders in Jerusalem. They said He cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub, a troubler of Israel, and guilty of blasphemy because He made himself equal with God. His disciples were called liars when they said that Jesus rose from the dead. God delivered Jesus from lying lips and deceitful tongues when He raised Him from the dead and Jesus ascended into heaven.

There is a sense in which all Christians live in Meshech and Kedar; the world is no friend to grace or to God. It is easy for us to feel out of place in a world where values are the opposite of truth. God, the gift of salvation, the hope of eternal life, and our obedience to God’s laws receive mockery. When we stand for the unbreakable marriage between a man and a woman, when we oppose abortion, when we say that there is only one way to the Father, and when we hold the truth of a six-day creation, we are slandered as those that are narrow-minded, bigoted, and mean spirited. It is to be expected. Although we are in the world, we are not of it. “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.”

But when it is fellow Christians who charge us with being hyper-Calvinists, unscientific, narrow when it comes to Sabbath observance, etc., we feel it and we feel isolated. When the devil stirs up disharmony and bitterness even in our own churches, how sad and distressed we are. Who can bring harmony and peace back? We must look and go, as the psalmist did, to the only one who can help. “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.” We look to Jesus, the Prince of peace, who by His offering for our sin brings peace with God and peace between fellow believers. We need to go the cross of Calvary and confess our sins of bitterness, hostility, false accusations and slander. With Him there is plenteous forgiveness and deliverance from the power of sin. By His grace we have peace with God, who hates slander, as well as peace with our fellow believers. May we, by the work of the Holy Spirit, be able to say on our pilgrimage to the city of peace, “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” May we strive to live in harmony and love in righteousness.

Near the end of the Songs of Ascent, we have Psalm 133:

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” “...for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

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Desiring Jerusalem's Peace

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

Desiring Jerusalem's Peace

Meditation on Psalm 122: 1, 8

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD...for my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee”

 

I used these verses this past Sunday as a call to worship when I led the worship service at Peace PRC. It was the first worship service that I have led where the whole congregation was again present. What a joy to be with fellow believers in worship of our God. We love to go to church!

But we need to pray for the peace of the church. Our Synod meets this week with various protests and appeals before them. The peace of Jerusalem is threatened. What a damper on our joy when there is division, disunity, fighting, and schism in Jerusalem, the city of peace. There is disunity because of sin and our sinful natures. Notice, the Psalmist is not praying for a peace from those outside the church who hate her. The Psalmist prays, “I will now say, peace be within thee.” It is a peace that is desired within the walls, within the gates, and within the palaces of the city of God (vs. 7).

God, a God of peace, has broken down the wall of hostility between himself and his justified people through the giving of his only begotten Son for our salvation. Jesus is the prince of peace. Christ by His Spirit gathers God’s people together in corporate worship, as various members of a body. That body is threatened and does not function well when it fights itself. I know that from my own autoimmune disease. There must be real covenant unity and harmony in the church.

This means that we love one another, pray for one another, worship the one true God in spirit and in truth. How terrible when there is disruption of that unity by snide remarks, gossip and slander against others, or the fighting over which ministers we follow. The Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthian Church deals with the matter of disharmony and fighting: “contentions among you” (I Cor. 1:11) . One said that he was of Paul; another that he was of Apollos; one of Cephas; and still another dared to say that he was of Christ! “Is Christ divided” (I Cor. 1:13)? The elders of the church must guard against and if necessary, discipline those who bring disunity, slander, and schism in Christ’s body, the church.

Now that we are finally able to worship together in our churches, may we have a desire and fervent prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. “I will now say, Peace be within thee.” While it is a desire expressed to the church, it is a prayer to God. Lord, reign over my mind, my heart, and the words that I speak. It is a personal prayer. The Psalmist says, “I will now say…” May it not only be the pastors in their private and congregational prayers. May it not only be the prayers of the elders as they guard the faith and life of the church. It must be the prayer of every believing child of God. “I will now say, Peace be within thee.” Each true believer needs to pray, knowing the sin within him or herself, how easily words tumble off from our lips, and how sharp and slanderous can be the written page. “God forgive me and help me to be an instrument of peace.”

And of course, as Christ Jesus came to fulfill the Scriptures, the words of our text are in reality the word of Jesus Himself. “I will now say, peace be within thee.” We have the confidence that God will hear us for Jesus’ sake. This humbles us, knowing that it is not our work that creates peace, but it is the grace of God and the Spirit of Christ working in the hearts and minds of believers.

Why is it that we pray for the peace of the church? We love the church. The Psalmist says, “For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee.” We desire and pray for peace because of the glory of God is at stake. God hates division, strife, and fighting in His church. God is glorified when God’s saints love and labor together in the gospel because it is all possible by His Word and Spirit.

We desire and pray for Jerusalem’s peace because we care for one another as saints. There is an unbreakable bond between brothers and sisters in the church family. We do not just care about our own interests, but we uphold one another in our thoughts and prayers. As brothers and sisters in faith, we prosper (vs. 7) when there is peace. When there is fighting, suspicion of one another, and even avoidance of one another, the joy of worshipping together is seriously hurt.

We desire and pray for peace in the church for our witness before the world. How our enemies are filled with derision when they hear or see fighting, slander, and disunity among God’s people. Why would anyone want to attach themselves with that kind of body? Why would even our children desire to remain in that kind of body? Those who trouble the church do not show a love for God, a love for Jesus Christ, or love for their fellow saints. There will always be conflicts in the church because we are sinners who have to daily fight against our sinful natures. We forgive one another for our sinful attitudes, words, and actions. Redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and indwelt with his Spirit and Word, we strive for, desire, labor, and pray for the peace of house of God.

“How good and pleasant is the sight when brethren make it their delight to dwell in blest accord;

Such love in peace and joy distils, As o’er the slopes of Hermon’s hills refreshing dew descends:

The Lord command his blessing there, And they that walk in love shall share, In life that never ends” (Psalm 133).

 

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Seize the Little Foxes That Spoil the Vines!

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

Meditation - "Seize the Little Foxes That Spoil the Vines!"

Song of Solomon 2:15 - “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

 

It is springtime; not only now in Michigan, but also in this passage of God’s Word. “For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over, and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of the birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (vs. 11,12). I love Spring! Sitting the other morning on my front lawn, I saw a fox walk out of the woods with its prey in its mouth. A beautiful, sly creature, it crept across the lawn, looked around, and then continued on its way.

Why is God’s Word warning us to “take up the fox that spoil the vines”? What does that have to do with the love poem of the Song of Songs? Solomon is comparing his love and devotion for the Shulamite woman to his love and care of his vineyard. A lot of planning, work, and tender care is expended in the marriage relationship, and so also in the care of a vineyard. These both are earthly things that God has created to be a picture of his relationship to his church in Jesus Christ.

Often the church is compared to a vineyard. Just a couple of examples from the Old and New Testament are Isaiah 5:1-7 and Matt. 21:33ff. God expects the fruit of judgment, righteousness, and thankfulness from his church. In Old Testament Israel, instead of grapes there were only wild grapes. In the Matthew 21 passage, the Old Testament prophets as husbandmen did not bring to God the fruit of the land. And when he sends his own son, the Pharisees kill him.

Now in our text, the bridegroom says, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vine.” The vine is the church. Little foxes spoil the vines, especially the vines that are blossoming with buds. What are these foxes? Most commentators see these foxes as false teachers who undermine the fruitfulness of the church. We read in Ezekiel 13:4, “O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the desert.” This most likely refers to jackals, scavengers; the simile stresses the selfish, greedy, and callous nature of the false prophets. Yes, false teachers and doctrines are indeed a tool of Satan to bring destruction and disarray in God’s vineyard. But the text speaks of “little foxes.” It is springtime, and there are these cute young little foxes. How fun to watch them dart around and roll in the grass. Surely, little foxes cannot be so dangerous. Little foxes are symbolic, representing all that would spoil and damage the church, so that they do not bring forth the fruit that is expected. The power of darkness wants to destroy the work of God in his vineyard. While the church will not be destroyed, it can be damaged by the little foxes.

Do you see in the church how pride could be such a little fox? How can you put your finger on it? It is not a censurable sin. How about a critical attitude, is that so bad? Let us go on to see and recognize other little foxes: covetous thoughts, slander, bitterness, envy, wrath, a combative attitude, too high an opinion of self or one’s own thoughts, condemning others, self-love, personal agendas, or anything that disrupts the unity of the church. How the devil delights to take these sins to bring saint against saint, church against church. Is sabbath desecration or the entertainment that you watch or listen to leading you to distance your self from the fellowship of the church? While in our homes in the past months, one could listen to a sermon with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cinnamon roll in the other. How easy it was. Now that we can finally return to worship in church, will it seem to some that the leeks and garlic of Egypt are preferable?

The calling of Christ to us is to seize those foxes in our lives and in our families. Maybe it is friends that are leading us astray. We must cast out of our homes, lives, and churches whatever hinders the fruit that we are to bear.

What do we do to one another in the church, and especially to the blossoming vines, the young children? Do we speak evil of other church members or voice church disagreements that we might have in front of our impressionable children? How little foxes can damage the roots of the vines or knock the blossoms off from the vine! What a terrible witness we can be at a time when we are trying to evangelize and bring others to Christ!

The words, “Take us” in our passage is one word in the Hebrew which means to seize, to catch, to take up, trap those little foxes and remove them from the vineyard. Around the outside edge of the vineyard would be hedges to keep others from intruding or harming the vineyard. In the center of the vineyard would be a tower with a watchman inside to guard the vineyard. Are we being watchful? What things are bringing ruin and being destructive for Christ’s vineyard? As the husbandman must care for the vineyard lest the weeds take over, so we also need to weed out, seize, grab, and catch these little foxes that spoil the vineyard. These little foxes can be so elusive and so stubborn, not easy to catch and remove. May the elders in the church be diligent watchmen in removing the little foxes that disrupt the life of the church.

Diligent prayer, a searching of the Word of God, and a searching of our own hearts and lives are necessary. Cast out whatever hinders us from being a well-tended vineyard that produces the abundant fruit of thanksgiving. There will be grapes to harvest in the way of repentance and God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of one another. Oh, that is easy to say, but it is so hard to do! How we need to fly to Jesus Christ our Savior! How we need to mortify our flesh, putting off all these: “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” How desperately we need humility and the denying of self. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Col. 2 12-15).

 

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His Banner Over Me Was Love

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

His Banner Over Me Was Love

Song of Solomon 2:4 - “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”

 

Many of us have been cooped up in our homes, unable to socialize or worse, not able to enjoy the fellowship of the saints worshiping together in God’s house. Oh, how good it is now that we can once again go to church twice on Sundays.

This book is a song sung between King Solomon and the Shulamite. As they sing together of their great love for each other, they are a picture of the love between Jesus Christ and His church. It is an intimate love, longing for each other and delighting in one another. The bridegroom’s left hand is under her head, and with his right hand he caresses her. He whispers his love to his bride, and the bride expresses her love to him. We have a celebration of Christ’s love for His church and every individual believer personally. “His banner over me is love.”

Can we know this love, not only intellectually but also experientially? Do you know it? We can! He tells us of His love. That is what make worship so joyful. At the beginning of the worship service, He says to his bride, “Beloved.” The gospel is preached, and He tells us that though we are black, we are comely (Chap. 1:5). We are black or dark with sin. We are black with suffering persecution, as one forced to work long under the hot sun; compared to the dwellings of nomadic Arabians in the desert. Outwardly, the true church is not glorious but suffers in this world, especially from hypocrites; yet she has true, inward beauty. She is washed from her sins, delivered from the power of sin, clothed with the righteousness of Christ Jesus.

The relationship between Christ and His people is not merely one of faith or service, important as these are. Believers are loved by Christ , and they in turn, love their Lord. We know that love because the gospel reveals it. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:9,10). We know it through the preaching of the gospel. We know it when we celebrate the sacraments. Oh, how we love coming back again to worship in church!

“He brought me into the banqueting house.” How did he bring us? He chose us in eternity to be the bride of Christ. Christ Jesus suffered and died to purchase us as His bride. By His Spirit and by His Word He draws us to Himself in faith and love. The literal wording in Hebrew for “banqueting house” is “house of wine.” Wine is the symbol of joy, happiness, fullness, and exuberance. The wife of Solomon says, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love” (Chap. 2:5). This expression means ‘love sick’—being full of and satisfied with His love. This must be the song of Christ’s bride, the church, and every individual believer within her.

God reveals in His Word and sacraments His great love to us. By faith, we know that love. Faith is a sure knowledge of all that God reveals in His Word, and a hearty confidence, that not only for others, but for me also is by His grace forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and the hope of eternal life. There is certainty because it is Christ that brought me to the banqueting house. It is not I who with a fickle love chose Him. It is not I who by my own beauty allured Him. It is not by my works performed that drew His attention. No, He, by His grace and mercy, sought me and bought me and brought me to His house of wine. By faith, I experience this love and break forth in singing! There is no doubt or fear in the child of God regarding Christ’s love for us. It is certain!

But we do not always walk on that high plain, do we? There are times that we wonder and even question His love. The Shulamite woke up in the night and did not find Solomon in bed with her. She stated “I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.” So also, the Church and individual believers at times question, “Where is my beloved?” It seems that He is gone from us, gone from the bed of intimacy. When we walk in the way of sin, we will not experience God’s favor or love. He will seem far from us, just as we do not feel the sun’s light and warmth when a cloud covers it.

David surely experienced this when he was walking in sin. By withdrawing from us, Christ causes us to seek Him, to seek Him diligently.

How delightful is knowledge of Christ’s love for His bride, the church: more lovely than the earthly love of a husband for his wife. We read in vs. 5 and 6, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” The result of knowing Christ’s love is comfort, satisfaction, joy, and peace. Completely satisfied, more so that any other comfort can bring. We go up to God’s house feasting, feasting on Christ Jesus in the word preached and the sacraments portrayed and enjoyed. May you and I be overwhelmed as we worship and live before Him.

Read The Song of Solomon. The expressions used in this wonderful book speak of physical love and describe the gestures and attitudes that are familiar to us in our human understanding of marital love. God has seen fit to represent His love for His people in the institution of marriage (Eph. 5:22-33). Yet the love of God in Christ Jesus transcends all earthly relationships. His love is eternal, infinite, and unchanging.

Experiencing Christ’s love for us, my we sing:

Thy love to me, O Christ, Thy love to me,

Not mine to Thee I plead, Not mine to Thee.

This is my comfort strong, this is my joyful song,

Thy love to me, thy love to me.

 

Thy record I believe, Thy word to me;

Thy love I now receive, full, changeless, free-

Love from the sinless Son, Love to the sinful one,

Thy love to me, Thy love to me.

 

 

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