Tag Archives: Gospel

Thoughts on Psalm 131

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Psalm 131 contains just three verses but gives a good pattern for prayer.

PRAY HUMBLY.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes not raised too high… (v. 1a)

The Psalmist begins with the inner man. A prideful heart ruins even the most eloquent prayer and haughty eyes spoil even the most lofty supplication. This is not to say that words aren’t important, but that a humble heart matters more.

Lord, help me to pray humbly and acutely aware of what a great grace it is that you hear me. Stamp out any hint of self-exalting pride and make me like the tax collector in Luke 18: “God be merciful to me a sinner!”

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. (v. 1b)

There is sweet freedom in trusting God for the many great perplexities of life. “God is good,” and “God is sovereign” must be enough. It is foolish to speculate about matters He intentionally shrouds in mystery and better to rest upon the revealed counsel of God. Additionally, there is wisdom in diligently serving Him wherever He has placed us doing whatever He has given us to do. There are no unimportant servants in God’s economy and neither do we serve Him in vain.

Heavenly Father, humble my arrogant heart that insists on placing myself on equal terms with You. Conform my will to Yours and let my actions be pleasing in Your sight. Let me seek what you have revealed in Scripture as valuable treasure, for knowing You only deepens my love and devotion to You. You are my Creator. It is enough that You know. It is enough that You see. It is enough that you hear. I am content; for You Yourself have said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

PRAY WITH CHILD-LIKE FAITH AND IN THE SIMPLICITY OF JOYFUL SUBMISSION.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. (v. 2)

A child who is weaned from her mother’s milk has ceased to depend upon it for nourishment and is content to sit quietly in her mother’s arms. We often come to God with troubled hearts, agitated and impatient, struggling to grab hold of a perceived need when what we really need first is God Himself.

O God, wean me from this world. Wean me from worldly desires, temporal pleasures, and self-seeking patterns of thought. Let me come to you as a contented child, completely trusting in Your provision and wholly resting in whatever Your will is for me. Let my heart be still and simply trust in You.

O  Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. (v. 3)

PRAY WITH UNWAVERING HOPE.

Here the Psalmist exhorts us to fix our hope forever on God and God alone. He is a God who keeps His promises. There is no firmer foundation upon which to rest our Hope than God Himself. He is perfectly trustworthy and cannot lie. His promises are sure, His Word imperishable, and His Covenant is everlasting.

Lord, thank you that my hope in You can never be disappointed. Thank you for the extravagance of my Gospel inheritance that makes it possible to draw near to Your throne of Grace with confidence and receive unending mercy, unmerited Grace, and help for my needy soul.

(Luke 18:9-14; 1 Cor 15:58; Prov 2:1-5; Ps 139; Gen 16:13; Isa 59:1; Heb 13:5;  Ps 46:10; Num 23:19; Heb 4:16)

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

 


December Days and Wisdom

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So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

As a child, waiting just fifteen minutes for some looked forward to pleasure seemed impossible. As a 60 plus year old woman, those quarter hours fly by like calendar pages flipping haphazardly into a vacuous past just like they did in the cartoons I watched as a young girl.

November is almost gone. We are on the verge of stepping into December, a time of year I both love and loathe.

I love December for obvious reasons. It’s the time of year we celebrate the birth of Christ. I loathe December for obvious reasons. It’s the time of year we celebrate the birth of Christ, or rather, it’s how we celebrate that for me often devolves into a mess of plans and purchases, desire and failure to do everything perfectly, and an undercurrent of anxiety as I compare my faltering efforts to celebrate Christmas “rightly” with the relative ease that others seem to enjoy.

So this Christmas season, I’m asking the Lord to help me number my days and apply wisdom. There’s something to growing older that makes me want to slow things down. But in order to number these December days aright, I need the Lord’s wisdom to do it.

It is wise to ask for wisdom from the One who gives generously…that is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, sincere wisdom.

It is wise to take my eyes off myself and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

It is wise to reflect on the brevity of time and ponder anew the beauty of eternal perspective as it relates to the Christmas story.

It is wise to celebrate the season as simply as possible and guard my sense of wonder and awe in honoring the birth of the One whose life, death and resurrection changed the world.

It is wise to stop comparing myself to others resulting in prideful arrogance at doing better or self-centered pity at doing worse (oh, how grievous are both of these pitfalls!).

It is wise to look past the clamor and commotion of the season and find time to be quiet and still before God.

It is wise to cultivate a thankful heart, to count my myriad blessings and appreciate the loved ones near and remember those who live in memories of Christmas past.

It’s inevitable that I will fail to thoughtfully number my days and apply wisdom perfectly. So, it is wise to let the Gospel inform the truth and miracle of Christmas. My sins do not change who Christ is, and my sins do not change who I am in Christ.

Lastly, it is appropriate and wise to consider these words from Spurgeon:

“Our lives are illustrations of heavenly goodness, parables of divine wisdom, poems of sacred thought, and records of infinite love; happy are we whose lives are such tales.”

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

 

 

 

 

 

 


Crazy Times and an Eternal Perspective

One week ago, the electorate chose Donald J. Trump to be President of the United States of America.

It was a crazy campaign season and honestly quite discouraging for me. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the best we could come up with. Do these two people really represent what America has become?

For the record, I did not vote for either candidate. And now, I’m just glad all the campaign nonsense is over. It was the most brutal, rancorous, vitriolic election cycle I have ever experienced.

This is not a political blog, of course, so the goal of this post is not to rehash all the rhetoric we’ve heard over the last several months or even argue whether or not our President Elect was the best choice for the highest office in the land, but rather to take a step back and try to get a glimpse of an Eternal Perspective.

I do not know what kind of president Mr. Trump will be. We can try to guess, but only time and experience will give the answer to that question. But there are a few things about the future we can know.

We can know God is Good.
You are good and do good… Psalm 119:68

We can know God is righteous and just.
The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice. Deut. 32:4

We can know God is subject to none.
“…for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish my purpose,…'”  Isaiah 46:9, 10

We can know He is the One who works all things according to the counsel of His will. Ephesians 1:11

We can know God is Sovereign over all of human history.
…His kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19

We can know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

We can know that our [true] citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. Philippians 3:20

We can know peace through Christ, and we can move forward.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid…Rise, let us go from here.”
John 14:27, 31

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


We Must Know This

“If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God?”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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I think Nietzsche got it right here. Even as a believer, I struggle against this natural bent. How can I bear to completely surrender to someone other than myself? Surely, I know what is best for my loved ones and me. My reality often reflects this mindset. If something I’ve prayed for goes my way, Hallelujah! God has answered my prayer. If God says, “Wait” or, “No”, then hasn’t God failed to hear me and my prayer gone unanswered?

The Gospel itself reflects this tension. We need a Savior. But, God chose to effect our salvation by sending His perfectly innocent Son to die an excruciating, agonizing death on a cross in our stead. How many of us would think to have prayed for that? The apostle Peter failed in this regard and shows us his humanness.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Jesus’ response to Peter is shockingly direct.

But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

So much hinges on setting my mind on the things of God rather than on the things of man. To trust Him, I must know that God is utterly sovereign and completely good. But it is even more than that. I must also be willing to set aside my own plan for God’s plan. Submission to God’s will is paramount in trusting Him.

Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego discovered this as they placed their faith in God rather than in mere deliverance from Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace declaring, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…but if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods nor worship the golden image that you have set up.” A courageous Queen Esther demonstrated this when she asserted, “If I perish, I perish.” And, Job exemplified this when he said,“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

This same good and sovereign God sometimes withholds temporal deliverance or works in ways we never would have sought out or imagined. In the most ultimate way possible, Stephen discovered this as he was ushered into martyrdom. Battle-worn saints throughout the ages have come to know that even without understanding the why of it, suffering is evidence of God’s will and not a deficit in His character or a failure of their faith in Him.

We must know this, too. There is a God and He must be God.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Matthew 16:21-23; Daniel 3:16-18; Esther 4:16; Job 13:15; Acts 7:54-56; Hebrews 11


Open Letter to My Daughter-In-Law

My son and his wife are expecting their first baby the first week of August. This is a letter I read to my daughter-in-law at her recent baby shower.

Dear Sarah,

I’m so excited for you to experience the overwhelming feelings of love and joy that come the first time you cradle your newborn baby in your arms. Mommy love is a powerful thing, all-consuming really, and you will be surprised at the strength of your new-found Mama Bear emotions.

I have no doubt that you will be able to look baby Hunter straight in the eye and avow in all truthfulness, “I will do anything for you.” And you will mean it. Take the bullet? Step in front of a speeding car? Move mountains? No problem. You will stand ready to fight to the death anyone or anything that could bring him harm. But in reality, it is unlikely that you will ever be called to act upon such grand declarations of maternal love. Instead, what you will be asked to do for him is infinitely more difficult.

Your calling will be to love your baby boy like Jesus loves him. And that will entail a million little self-sacrifices, dying again and again to yourself over the course of the rest of your life.

1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives us a picture of what this kind of love looks like.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy or boast.
It is not arrogant.
It is not rude.
It does not insist on its own way.
It is not irritable or resentful…
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Sarah, you are soon to embark on a grand adventure. You will discover that you are stronger than you ever dared think, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You will develop amazing biceps, acquire lightning-fast reflexes, and hone your ability to do fifty things at once. You will learn to swallow your words, bite your lip, and smile when all you really want to do is lie down and take a nap. You will cultivate the aptitude to laugh at spit-up on your new outfit, wipe runny noses with the inside of your shirt, and become quite adept at changing your baby’s diaper in the cramped back seat of a car. You will also grow in trusting the Lord for the wisdom and help you need to raise your little charge. But just as certain, dear Sarah, motherhood will expose in you weaknesses that you would never have believed possible.

There will come a day when you will respond to your beloved baby with impatience. Believe it or not, you have the capacity to be unkind to him. You will be tempted to envy that other mother who always seems to have it all together (she doesn’t) and on your good days make the prideful assumption that you have it all together. You may rudely interrupt your boy in the middle of a sentence to answer a text or sneak a peek at the book you are trying to read, and you will insist on your own way, not because it is best for him, but more convenient for you.

As the years pass, your sweet boy will find creative ways to irritate you. There will even be times you resent the time and energy it takes to train up a child. There will be moments when the weight of your responsibilities will seem unbearable and any hope of relief, dim. You will question your abilities as a mother and wonder if motherhood is beyond your capacity to endure. And even if you are able to keep all of these wrong responses in check outwardly, your heart will give you away. You will know and the Lord will know. So in light of the magnitude of the task set before us, what are we as mothers to do?

I hope you can see the truth and necessity of what I am about to say:

Sarah, you need Jesus!

Look to the One whose love is perfect in its effect and infinite in scope and run to Him as fast as you can and as often as you can. Run to Him with a grateful heart when things go well and run to Him with a humble heart when things go sideways. And most importantly, run to Him when you fall and be assured that your brokenness is where the Gospel of Christ will prove itself in your life over and over again. It is in the midst of your failures that God’s Grace is most precious and His love most clearly seen.

Jesus is the flawless and most excellent representation of what true love is as described in 1 Corinthians. Jesus will be patient with you. Jesus will be kind. You are His precious daughter and He awaits you with open arms, never with hostility or irritation. Go to Him to receive forgiveness and love and you will see your love for Hunter become a reflection and overflowing of Christ’s love for you.

It’s true that little Hunter will get the best and worst of you and you will get the best and worst of him. Motherhood will bring your richest and most treasured moments and a few you would rather forget. You will laugh and you will cry and work harder than you ever thought possible. But somehow, our good God will take your feeble attempts at motherhood and graciously and patiently teach you what it means to love your child.

Look around you, Sarah. All of these ladies, many of them mothers themselves, love you and are willing to help and pray for you. But remember one thing, God chose you to be Hunter’s mommy and for him to be your son. And, he’s given you the blessing of a strong husband who loves you and is your partner in all of this. This paradigm of family is where you and Josh (and soon little Hunter) will grow in your understanding of how utterly and profoundly you need God’s mercy, wisdom and strength. And believe it, God is faithful who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

You will be a wonderful mother, Sarah! I can’t tell you how thrilled Opa and I are to see all that the Lord has planned for you and your growing family. My prayer is that you will experience no greater joy in life than to hear that your children are walking in the truth.

With much love,

Terrie
(aka Hunter’s Oma)

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Rest Here

Sun Rays Through The Clouds

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Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!   Psalm 4:6

Surely, this prayer is answered for those of us who believe! The Lord’s turning toward His own is an eternal turning, a never rescinded invitation sealed in Christ’s own blood.

We live our lives abundantly beneath His watchful eye, encompassed by His love, safeguarded by His protection and encouraged daily by His help. The light of His face upon us offers forgiveness for sins, growth in our sanctification and a promise of our future and final glorification.

His love is never divided between His children, but exponentially multiplied, grace upon grace.

His attention is a benefit unlike any other offered by mere mortals even though they be men of power and renown. His is an attention to the most minute detail our souls can require with an eye towards our good end. And, He not only has our good in mind, but the absolute power to bring it to pass!

We imagine that friendship with the rich and famous may afford luxuries and opportunities that will give rest to our souls, but the truth is that relationships like these take a lot of work. One must be able to keep up, wear the right clothes, exhibit the appropriate level of intelligence and match resource for resource in an ever evolving appreciation for the finer things in life. And, should we be unable to reciprocate, our worldly alliances wither and die. Amity based on our ability to perform is absolutely exhausting.

How much better to be a friend of Christ!

Because of the Gospel blessings we have in Jesus, the relationship we have with God is not based on our performance but upon the performance of His Son. He took on human flesh. He was tempted and yet did not sin. He humbled Himself unto death on the cross. He took the punishment we deserved. He paid the death penalty that we owed. He rose again and conquered even the grave on our behalf.

It is finished. We need not work. We need not fear. When we fail, our Father does not fold His arms in anger nor sigh and turn away but calls us back with open arms, accepting us in the beloved for Jesus’ sake. And so we pray along with the psalmist, “Look here, Lord! Shine the light of your face upon us!”

This is the saving reality of the Gospel. Rest here.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Grace, Grace, Glorious Grace!

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God’s Grace is immense. It spans the universe. His Grace lends significance to everyday life. Grace plucks the sinner from the mire that is despair and sets him on a wide place, the Rock that is Jesus Christ. Grace asks no favors; it is the favor of God. God’s Grace is deep. God’s Grace is wide. It is also pointed and precise. A blade that cuts to the quick, then heals and quickens. Grace preserves, transforms, destroys and builds up. Grace is the hammer that softens the blow. Grace does not flinch at the truth. It is safe and predictable. It is dangerously wild. God’s Grace reaches to the heavens. It stoops low to illumine the dark hearts of men. Grace is freely given, yet its worth is incalculable. Grace sentences the God Man to a tortured death on a wooden cross. Grace absorbs wrath. Grace gives life. Grace will have its way. Persistent, constant, irresistible Grace!

Oh, to be the recipient of such a Grace as this! And so I am. Herein lies a mystery. How can it possibly be? By Grace the Son is my salvation. By Grace I am the object of the Father’s love. Grace invites me to fellowship with the Spirit. Bound by Grace, I am a willing slave. Utterly dependent, I am set free. Saved by Grace, unto Grace, and for the glory of God. In and of myself, I stand empty-handed save for God’s wondrous, astonishing Grace!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  2 Cor 13:14

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


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