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Note from the Society for Protestant Reformed Special Education: “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Day” at Heritage Christian school quickly becomes one of the favorite school days for students and staff alike. On this special day, volunteers pour into the school to present a particular disability to the students, generating in them a deeper love for our special needs children and a keener awareness of their God-given disabilities. Each year, this day is a tremendous success. To begin this year’s “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Day,” Seminarian Brian Feenstra led the school chapel reflecting on our calling to honor the Maker of the poor by showing mercy to all, especially those with special needs. What follows is his speech. 

Psalm 119:14 “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Proverbs 17:5 “Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

Proverbs 14:31 “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”

God is the God of the poor. That is what we sing in Psalter 112, stanza 4:

Although I poor and needy be,

The Lord in love takes thought for me;

Thou art my help in time of need,

My Saviour, Lord, art Thou;

Then, O my God, I pray, I plead,

Stay not, but save me now.

This is a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures. God loves the poor. God helps the poor. God saves the poor. God defends the poor. These two passages from Proverbs teach us how God views the poor, and how we are called to treat the poor.

Who are the poor?  To be poor means to lack something.  The poor person does not have something that he needs.  The poor person does not have enough.  Usually we think of poor people as people who do not have enough money.  But a person can be poor if he lacks ANYTHING that he needs.  A person can be poor if he does not have enough strength, knowledge, ability, friendship, or anything else that he needs. So as we consider the poor, do not think only about money, but also about other things of which our classmates and friends do not have enough.

What do the poor have to do with the event that we celebrate today, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”?  Today is a day to learn about the poor among us, and what we can do to help them.  We are especially concerned with those who have disabilities and special needs. But we are also concerned about every one of our classmates who are poor: those who have troubles, difficulties, or weaknesses.  And let us not be uncomfortable to think of our classmates as poor this morning.  Being poor is nothing to be ashamed of, which is why I began that way that I did. We are all poor. We all have troubles and difficulties and weaknesses. And we all need help from one another.  When we give that help to the poor, we honor our Maker, the God who loves the poor.

The Mockery of the Poor

Mocking the poor is laughing at the poor for their problems or difficulties. Oppressing the poor is hurting them and holding them down, so that pain from being poor is made even worse.

There are many examples of the mockery and oppression of the poor in Scripture. Jesus pointed out the wickedness of the Pharisees because they mocked and oppressed the poor. The Pharisees liked the rich people better than the poor people. When the rich man came into church, the Pharisees would give him the best seat. But when a poor man came to church, they gave him the worst seat or no seat at all. This is one of many instances in which the Pharisees did not love the poor and seek to do them good.

The greatest example of the poor being mocked and oppressed is with Jesus himself. The world mocked and hurt our poor Savior, Jesus Christ, as he hung on the cross.  They laughed and shouted at him: if you are the son of God, get yourself down from that cross; you saved others but you cannot even save yourself!  They spit in his face and slapped him. Men mocked and oppressed Jesus.

These proverbs imply that the poor are often mocked and oppressed. It is always our tendency to mock and hurt one another other, especially the poor.  It is not all that hard for us to mock a poor person for his problems. Much easier it is to avoid helping them, and instead join in mocking them.

I still remember how that happened when I was in school.  We had a wonderful special needs girl in our class. She was so sweet. She almost always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude even though she could not walk, could barely talk, and would never learn most of the things that the rest of us were able to learn. But I also remember a few people saying mean things to her and about her.  How sad!  Even more sad was that I did not say anything to stop the mockery. I was afraid to defend her.  It was much easier to join in and speak lowly of her behind her back.  And that still bothers me to this day.

Why are the poor mocked and hurt? The poor are not great in the eyes of men.  The wicked world says that the poor are weak.  The wicked world praises the rich, the professional athletes, and the good singers. But we would be wrong to think that the famous people of this world are more important than the poor.

Mocking the poor is rooted in pride. We are tempted to mock the poor and hurt them because we think that we are better than they are. Do you think that you are better than any of your classmates? Do you think that you are better than anyone who has disabilities or special needs?  Do you think that being a fast runner makes you better?  Do you think that being smarter makes you better?  You are not!  Thinking that you are better is pride.

And thinking that you are better than the poor is sin. Mocking the poor because you think you are better is even worse.  God hates it when we mock the poor, because he is the maker of the poor.

The Maker of the Poor

God is the maker of all men. God created all of us, each a special creation of God.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made by our maker (Ps. 139:14). We are an amazing creation of God. The creation of man is so amazing that no scientist will ever discover all there is to know about man’s body. We are masterpieces of our maker.

God made each one of his masterpieces different.  God made both the poor man and the rich man.  That is what 1 Samuel 2:7–8 teaches us: “The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.”  God made the boy who can run fast, as well as the girl who needs a walker to walk around.  God made the smartest girl in the class, as well as the boy who cannot understand his math. Both the strongest and the weakest are all masterpieces, amazing creations.

Because God is my maker, I may not be unhappy with who I am. He made me just the way that he wanted me to be.  I may not be unhappy with what I look like. I may not be disappointed with my abilities.  And I may not be jealous with what God gave others.  God is my maker.  He made me just right.  I must be content with the way that God made both me and my neighbor. Why do we not always see that? Why is it that we look at the poor person as though he or she is not a masterpiece, but a monster?  Because we forget that God is our maker. How do you see yourself?  How do you see your classmates? You are God’s handiwork, a marvelous creation.

Thus, mocking the poor is reproaching God, who is the maker of the poor.  That is what makes the sin of mocking the poor so terrible. Reproaching God is telling God that he did not do a good job—his masterpieces do not look so nice. This is the opposite of honoring God.  Honoring God is praising him for the wonderful work he has done.

The point of this proverb is that when you mock and hurt the poor, you tell God that his work is bad.   God made all men. Man is his handiwork.  When you mock God’s creature, you are mocking God himself. God also chose what to give every man.  God chose who would be poor and who would be rich. God chose who would be a fast runner and who would not even be able to walk.  God chose some people to have disabilities and special needs. The maker makes everyone just the way he wanted, and he gives them exactly what he wanted to give them.

Who are we to tell God that his work is bad?  We are nothing. We may never disapprove of God’s work. His work is perfect. Do you realize that when you make fun of someone for being poor that you are spitting on God’s masterpiece? Let us not mock or hurt the poor, but have mercy on them.

Honoring the Maker of the Poor through Mercy

Our calling is to have mercy on the poor. Mercy is feeling the pain of the poor person who is in trouble and helping them out of that trouble.  This is the very opposite of mocking them and hurting them.  Mercy is helping them.

It is as though the poor person is stuck in the mud-pit.  Mercy is seeing his pain and feeling it myself. It hurts me to see him in such terrible pain.  I want to help him! I need to help him!  So I reach for his hand and drag him out of that mud-pit.

How do we show mercy for the poor in our class?  Love the poor, and desire to help them.  Put their needs above your desires.  Eat your lunch with your classmates who have special needs, and spend your recess time with them.  I think you will soon find that both of you will enjoy it. Make a special point to include those with special needs in your conversation.  Pick first the players who are normally picked last. Defend the poor person that everyone mocks on the bus.  Leave an encouraging note in the desk of that person who does not have very many friends.  That is a very short list that all of you need to make longer. Do all that you can to show mercy toward the poor.

Do that because this is what Christ did for us. This is the gospel. Christ had mercy for us poor sinners.  Christ saw us hopelessly stuck in the mud-pit, the pit of sin. Because he loved us, he felt bad for us, and desired us to be free of our sin.  So he went down into that mud pit of sin, covering himself with our muddy sin, and pulled us out. He cleaned us up and gave us new clothes.  Christ, the glorious Lord, was mocked and hurt for us. He died in the place of poor sinners to pay their debt.   He did not save us from our sins because we deserved it. He had mercy on us because he loved us who were poor sinners.

We are followers of Christ!  The things that he did for us, we want to do for others.  If we love Christ, then we will have mercy on the poor.  We will help our classmates out of the mud too.  No, we can never clean away sin like Christ did for us, but God certainly calls us to help our poor classmates in their troubles.

When we show mercy to the poor, we give honor to the God who made them.  Helping our classmates who have needs gives praise to God.  Having mercy on the poor shows that we think highly of God’s masterpieces.  I pray that you learn much today at school that will teach you how to be merciful to the poor.  For then you will learn to praise God for his fearful and wonderful creation of man.

In addition to the regular business of the federation Board, we are presently working on the upcoming convention and future conventions.  We are eagerly looking forward to the convention this year, which will be held at Hope PR church of Redlands, CA.  Their theme will be “Living in the Last Days” from 1 Thessalonians 5:1–8. One note on the convention: the Federation Board cannot feasibly organize widespread transportation for everyone this year.  You will have to get to Redlands on your own.  But we sincerely encourage everyone to go.  All of the work going into this convention is for your edification.  Not only will this convention be exciting, but it is our prayer that it will be spiritually profitable for you.

Planning a convention is a lot of work, especially for the host church.  One recently formed committee is working to establish a better process for hosting conventions.  We hope to develop a streamlined planning process to reduce the workload of host churches.  Another committee is working some of the kinks out of the present policies for convention travel subsidies.  Some of the guidelines for distribution need to be clarified, as well as a greater amount of money devoted to the travel subsidy.  We want all of our young people to be able to travel to the convention.

In addition to convention work, we are working with the Young Calvinists group to establish it permanently.  The Young Calvinist Committee has worked in close conjunction with our Youth Coordinator to bring edifying events to you for the past year on a trial run.  Our work as a Federation Board is to decide the most appropriate ways that the Young Calvinists can work with the Board  to serve the young people.  The Board faces many questions with taking on a new committee.  All of these questions must be sorted out to ensure the best possible outcome.

Closely related to the Young Calvinists is another important question: does the presence of the Young Calvinists indicate a need for more integration of the young adults, that is, our young people after high school?  Presently, the Young Adults societies of our churches are not united under one board, and it can be difficult to encourage participation in society life among young adults.  Young adults must be active in the church.  The presence of the Young Calvinists may indicate that more could be done for the Young Adults.  Thus a committee from the Federation Board is also looking into those future possibilities.

Over the next several months, as these committees continue to meet and the regular business of the Board is performed, pray for us.  Pray that our decisions will profit our churches.  Above all, pray that God will be given all the glory among us.

Greetings from the Federation Board!  It is our duty to report to you, young people of the PRC, regarding who we are and what we do.

 

Federation Board: Who Are We?

The Federation Board is a 10-member group that works for the Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies.  The president, Brian Feenstra, leads the monthly meetings.  The Vice President, Matthew Deboer, assists the president, leads certain board sponsored activities, and prepares to take over the president’s position the following year.  Joseph Holstege, our treasurer, takes care of all the board’s finances, including convention costs.  Brad Ophoff, our vice treasurer, assists Joseph and prepares to take his position the following year.  Our secretary, Erica Schipper, prepares all the secretarial work, such as agendas and convention binders, and stays in contact with each society.  Lynette Kleyn, our vice secretary, assists Erika and prepares to take her position next year.  Our youth coordinator, Dan VanUffelen, works with the Young Calvinists group to coordinate events for the Young People’s Societies.  We have a librarian, Lydia Koole, who plans mass meetings, and contributes important materials to meetings.  Our spiritual advisors, Rev. C. Haak and Rev. W. Langerak, advise the board in its decisions from their extensive experience.

 

What Is Our Duty?

Our greatest duty is to serve the young people.  We serve you by uniting all of your individual Young Peoples’ Societies under the Federation Board.  The official link between your Young Peoples Society and another Protestant Reformed Young People’s society is this board.  This link is crucial for the unity of all the Young Peoples’ Societies.  In addition, it is the duty of this board to guide your societies collectively in development of faith and doctrine.

 

How Do We Carry Out That Duty?

  • Meetings: The Federation Board holds meetings every month to make decisions regarding your societies.
  • Committees: The Federation Board oversees different committees, such as the PR Scholarship Committee. This committee serves all the young people of our churches by providing scholarship opportunities for those who desire to be pastors and teachers in our churches.
  • Events: The Federation Board carries out this calling by planning events for the Young People’s Societies. The Board hosts mass meetings, holds a pre-convention singspiration, and assists in convention planning.  These are ways in which your societies are united by the Federation Board.
  • Publication: The Federation Board also oversees committees such as  Beacon Lights, which is designed to guide your societies in the development of your faith and doctrine.
  • New Events and Publications: In addition, the Federation Board is working with a new group, the Young Calvinists, with the goal of further promoting unity and fostering a godly zeal. You may have heard of the Young Calvinists in the last year.  They maintain a Protestant Reformed blog specifically meant for you, young people.  They also host different events to encourage you to interact with other society members.  These events serve the purpose of both unification and edification.

 

Your Involvement

Young people, participate in your societies, both in the Bible discussion and in the activities.  Seize this opportunity to grow spiritually.  After all, you will be the next generation of the church.  For the sake of God’s beloved church, participate! You will undoubtedly profit from the Young People’s Society in your church, and in turn you will profit the church.  Make it your goal to both read Beacon Lights and to attend the broader activities sponsored by the Federation Board.  Our work is for you, and you can profit from it only if you participate.

To that end, young people, we welcome your suggestions and ideas.  We would love to know how we can serve you better.  And we covet your prayers.  Pray for us concerning our decisions, brothers and sisters, as even we pray for your spiritual growth.  May God’s name be magnified by us all.

 

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