Vi Van Den Top, of our Hull church, composed this poem for Hull’s 50th anniversary singspiration held June 15. With her permission we gladly include this in our special issue.
Thy people wander oft O God
Taking the way so smooth and broad.
With chastening rod and conscience sore,
Thou restorest them to thy path once more.
Thy youth are tempted to go astray;
To take the easier compromise way
Graciously leading and guiding them along
Thou bringst them to a faith that’s strong.
Each little child is known by Thee
And is written in thy firm decree
And when, as children, we disobey
Thou keepst us in the narrow way.
Thy faithfulness! it knows no bounds,
And in ourselves we have no grounds
To merit Thy unfailing love
Or to receive blessing from above.
They covenant which stands of old
Reminds us of Thy grace untold.
As we look back on fifty years,
How wonderful Thy love appears!
To God alone be glory giv’n
By saints on earth and saints in heaven.
For ages past, for years to come
He brings us to our eternal home.
Our fears and doubts are laid aside
As we safe in God abide.
He’s promised us he’d keep His race
What assurance! What unfailing grace!
Seeing our blessed heritage
May God give us the courage
To fight the battle ‘til vict’ry is won.
Then hear our Lord say, “My servant, well done.
God in heaven, grant that we
Ever fruitful vines may be.
Until we join the heavenly choir,
Our minds enlighten, our zeal inspire.
God of mercy, love and might
Show thy favor here tonight
And may our praise and thoughts arise
As sacrificial smoke in evening skies.
As a youth of a denomination, we often tend to think of creeds as being rather “stuffy” or cold. Creeds are equivalent (in our minds) to the vast sea of obscurities and less understood intricacies of doctrine. When we are asked if we feel that creeds are necessary, our automatic response is a fundamental yes.
Why? To answer this question, volumes have been written and one can never in one short article assume to discuss thoroughly that which scholars have delved into for years. Perhaps a few aspects of the importance of the topic will motivate us to think more on these things.
First of all, God is the God of order. Within Himself as He exists as one in three, there is order. In the vast creation, we can attest that the Creator is a Being of order for “to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). Events do not take place “willy-nilly.”
God’s people, then, desire to manifest this order within their own individual lives and also in their church life. A creed helps to attain this order.
A creed can be defined as an authoritative formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief necessary for the wellbeing of the church (both as individuals and as a unit). Creeds are the very basis of order for the church of Christ. For example, our Apostle’s Creed is a formulation of scriptural truths which we as members of one faith believe. There is a unity, an agreeing harmony based on the creeds. Those not believing in these confessional articles cannot be members of our church. We share one faith and the tenets of that faith are briefly but explicitly stated in a creed. The result is some order in the church – an order which is essential to reflect the order of God.
A creed is also authoritative. The men who formulated the creed certainly do not give it its authority or credibility. The authority of the creeds must be based on the Word of God, the ultimate authority. We do not believe because a creed says, rather, we believe because scripture testifies to the fact that God is Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and that Christ is His only begotten Son etc. If we may be so bold, we might say that a creed is scripture in brief.
Realizing the aforesaid, we can see how distorted our idea is when we think of the creeds as “stuffy.” An organized formulation of the truths of scripture does not smother us, but affords a means through which we can express our undoubted Christian faith. (We hear these words every Sunday but did you ever stop to think of their potency?)
Communion of the saints is an important aspect of the church life. This fellowship of believers is possible because we have a unity in Christ expressed in our faith. People with contrary ontological presuppositions do not afford us any real communion such as we can enjoy with other children of God. The creeds are our basic presuppositions; our “forms of unity.”
The “organized church” is bombarded with charges of all types. People are actually criticizing the idea of having any creed or order in the church. They feel stifled by a “creed”, loudly proclaiming a better way; that being to let everyone believe what he wants. No communion of the saints can be enjoyed there, no true preaching of the Word, for the manifestation cannot exist apart from scripture and God’s Word leaves no room for every man to do what is right in his own eyes.
Are creeds necessary? They form a unifying basis built upon God’s Word which nothing else can replace. May we by the grace of God ever cherish the beautiful confessions of our creeds and live in them forever.
A beige, rose colored casket stood open and to the left as we entered the room. Soft, downy puckers and a silken fluffy pillow filled in around the corpse. The mortician had done his work, too; very well, some said. But all the multi-colored flowers and all the silkiness and paint on his face could not dismiss the coldness of death. I stood in awe as I was struck again with the finality of that last enemy which we must all face.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.” This passage came to mind and I felt a reassuring sense of hope.
Strange, is it now, how God is always there just when we need Him? I was thankful that through faith I could cling to the promises of God in this time of sorrow. God is so close in a time of death.
Yes, God is there when we need Him and that is all the time!! God is not just a place to which to run when death strikes and we feel at a loss. Feeling a deep need, we throw ourselves on the mercy of God. Whether we admit it or not, God is always present. He is there when we are in the depths of sorrow and when we in a moment of weakness are cursing and swearing. “God is always there when I need Him” is not a complete truth for this statement presupposes that at times (when things are going well and I do not feel the need for God) we do not need Him. God is like a handy tool; He is there when needed but conveniently tucked away when not. What a foolish, blasphemous idea of Almighty God!
God has sent His Holy Spirit to be our Comforter but His work is not limited to comfort as we feel we need it. God knows what is best for us and that is why He is always everywhere present. We need the omnipresence of God for our very existence and He knows this in a perfect way. God is there to hear our cries of sorrow in the black of night and God is there to hear our heart commit murder.
You experience God’s faithfulness in a special way when crying out in your sorrow, He comes by His Spirit saying, “Fear not. I have overcome death and the grave.” Then, with a renewed heart you vow to live a life of thankfulness to God but mere moments later you find yourself walking in sin again. We have a constant need for the cross and the forgiving power of God through Christ. This struggle is the constant mortification of the old man which the Heidelberg Catechism speaks about. Impressed with God’s gracious omnipresence one moment; we are shaking our fists in His face the next. We leave the graveside and we soon forget all about death, God, and our need for a Savior. Let us be thankful that He does not forget us in like manner!
God is always present wherever we may be. May this truth be an encouragement to us as children of God; in life with its constant fight against sin and in death with its sorrow and joy born in hope. God is an ever present Help.
If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray.
If l have walked in my own sinful way,
Dear Lord, forgive.
If my marks of discipleship were not true
If I longed not Thy will to do
And I envied the world with their fair skies of blue,
Dear Lord, forgive.
If one could not tell by meeting me
That I was an elect: chosen by Thee
But rather appeared as every other to be.
Dear Lord, forgive.
If I was not proud to bear Thy name
When I or others took it in vain,
But rather kept still for fear of shame,
Dear Lord, forgive.
If l fed my soul with passion and lust,
If I considered all pleasures a “must,”
If I forgot in God is my trust,
Dear Lord, forgive.
If my faith was weak when temptations were strong,
If I wavered and doubted and thought all was wrong
If I gave in and quietly went along,
Dear Lord, forgive.
If I neglected the avenue of prayer
And went all day without meeting Thee there,
Trying alone my burdens to bear,
Dear Lord, forgive.
And now if I have asked amiss,
I have just one prayer
And that is this:
FORGIVE, DEAR LORD, FORGIVE.
“Did you hear the latest?”
“Well, Joe and Sherri got engaged last week and they are getting married next week; draw your own conclusion.”
“O well, it happens to a lot of kids.”
Does that little gossiping conversation make you laugh or maybe smile? Or maybe you think that it is an exaggeration. This sort of conversation is neither cute nor an exaggeration. Besides being gossip, the above quote demonstrates a wrong view of the sin of adultery. The situation nor the comments are unreal, both are common place in the world today.
Any Christian who pays any attention to the world about him cannot help but be struck and nauseated by the constant heavy emphasis on sex. Young people today are told that the new morality is the thing to follow, situation ethics will guide you to do the right thing. Absolute values do not exist; you must do whatever is right in that particular situation. So it naturally follows that if you love each other very much and you intend to get married anyway, then fornication is not wrong — in fact it is something to be enjoyed.
Sound familiar, young people? From every side we are bombarded with the sex ideal, with the “go all the way” philosophy. Virginity is a thing of the past as is “thou shall not commit adultery’.” After all, it is a real big thing to come in after a date and “brag” about how aggressive you or your date was.
Christian young people, we are called to tow a very different, antithetical line in this regard. God’s Word says, “Whatsoever things are pure . . . think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). This means that we do not uproariously laugh at “shady jokes,” neither do we flaunt the idea of sex as a primary factor in dates and marriage. We are commanded to be pure.
Purity is a most beautiful attribute of God. The idea of purity includes holiness, something undefiled and perfectly clean. Silver is tried by fire; the impurities are all burned away and all that is left is pure silver. The perfect purity of God we are called to reflect.
Purity of thought, purity of life, purity of action are all intertwined with our dating life. We are so much bombarded with the world’s philosophy of sex that we are beguiled by it. God demands that we as young people refrain from fornication and adultery. This means more than not getting pregnant (for with the modem contraceptives of today that is no longer the problem); it means to be pure — to refrain from the act of fornication completely. In order to do this young people must be very wise to keep out of situations which may lead to impurity of action. For to go in this direction is not in line with “whatsoever things are pure.”
For girls, this very concretely means that we do not attract young guys by exposing our bodies or by making up as a seducing girl of the world. Guys no longer then will use sexiness as a grading factor in looking for a girl to date. For our bodies are temples of the Hilly Spirit and not mere sex magnets. God created male and female and the true meaning of this beautiful wonder will find rightful expression — after marriage. To commit the sin of fornication is a desecration of the body created for us.
Purity is an inner beauty which we pray that God may increase within us so that we may reflect it more in our dating and everyday life. In sincerity, we ask our God, “Help me to present my body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Thee” (Romans 12:1).
Psychologists today say that one problem that most plagues adolescents is the problem of a vocation. What are you going to do when you get out of school? What are you going to school for? What would you like to do the rest of your life? These questions constantly bombard us as Christian youth. Less frequently heard, but more important than all of the above, is the question: What does God want you to do? As Christian youth we are called to consider all of the first questions in light of the last one. God calls each of us to do a specific task, and when a Christian considers this seriously, all the priorities of the money and prestige of this world fall away.
In Matthew 25, Christ tells the parable of the Ten Talents. Verse 15 tells us that different amounts of talents were given to each man. One received two, another five, and still another ten. God today has given each of us a certain number of talents, and these are entrusted to our care to do with as best we can. Everyone has different abilities and in different amounts. This is nothing new; you have heard it all before, but maybe that is our problem. We know so well that God has created us as individuals with individual talents that we forget to stop and think exactly what that belief entails. We get so engrossed in what we should do with our life that we overlook the most important part: God our Creator.
God today no longer speaks to us in visions or by prophets. That dispensation has passed. He does not come to Joe in a vision and say, “You are called to be a businessman.” Nor does He come to Jane and say, “You must be a housewife.” But do not let this lead you to believe that God does not speak to us concerning a vocation. On the contrary, God speaks to us through the talents He has given us. By giving Joe the abilities of meeting people easily and being able to work well with others. God can call him to be a businessman. The same can be said of any profession. God will not be mocked! Do not think that you will “get by” with saying, “I can’t do anything” or “I’m so dumb.” That is not humility, that is blasphemy. God has created each with talents, and for you to take the opposite stand is lying in the face of God your Creator.
God holds each of us responsible for the talents we have received and “burying” them will only bring God’s wrath upon us. Young people, awake to the realization that God calls you to your vocation through what you are able to do and what you like to do. Then God demands that you do all to His glory.
The question of a vocation is awesome — it is a lifetime decision, but never should it be seen as impossible or as resting entirely on your shoulders. God calls you to your place in life and He promises His sovereign blessing on His people. Certainly, we can take courage in the promise that God is an ever present help in time of need — even in the question of a vocation. If, after much prayerful consideration, you come to the vocation which you believe God has set for you, rest assured that you will hear your Lord say to you, “Thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21).
Basically we are all called to be faithful servants, but it is in carrying out that task that we find the will of God for us. In the way of faith, God calls each of us to a specific task. God leads us to this task through the work of His Spirit and there- by through prayer and diligent use of the talents entrusted to us.
No matter what your station in life, it seems there are always a “privileged few.” In grade school those privileged ones are the ones who get to help the teacher hand out papers and do those special chores. In high school the privileged ones make the team, get into choir and just get recognition in general. Upon taking your place in the working world, one finds that the “privileged ones” get the raise, the promotion and the credit.
What about the majority of people, “common Joes,” who aren’t so privileged? Well, they probably just sit back and feel like they have it pretty rough, they never get a break. Little by little, jealousy creeps in.
Sound familiar? A natural phenomenon? No, not for the child of Cod. Nobody is “privileged” compared to the elect — for we, the elect, are more privileged than we ever admit to ourselves or allow anyone else to see.
Do you feel privileged? God chose us to be His people — we with no merit in us whatsoever. He chose in his sovereign council a particular people from out among all the people of the earth. For us to choose Christ would not be such a privilege, but for the all powerful God to choose us! Indeed! What a privilege!
Do you feel privileged when your parents want to know where you are going? God-fearing parents are a gift from God and parents have cast upon them a great responsibility to rear their children in the fear of the Lord, and they are attempting to fulfill this duty when they ask you where you are going. God chose you to be brought into a Christian home — do not detest that privilege, then, but be glad that God gave you Christian parents who care and love God.
Do you feel privileged when someone asks your church affiliation? Are you thankful to God that you can profess to belong to a church where the Word of God reigns supreme? We are privileged to attend our place of worship twice every Sunday and we can attend catechism under the instruction of a shepherd of Christ in a church which stresses that the youth learn the Truth. Yet we never consider this a privilege. We are almost embarrassed to say we are Protestant Reformed because “it’s so small.” The most privileged creatures of God ashamed of their privilege! “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).
Do you make the most of your privilege by attending society regularly and taking an active part? By taking a healthy interest in church affairs? By living out your privilege among your friends?
Most of us have gone to a Christian school for twelve years — for some of us that has been covenant, Protestant Reformed education! Such a privilege for a child of God — to learn in an environment of other Christians — and we like to overlook it; just not mention where we go to school to save our “name.” Certainly, if we considered this a privilege, we would not be afraid to speak of it!
The “privilege” of being an elect chosen by God the Father will count through eternity! What an unfathomable wonder to be thankful for! Live, then, as one who is “privileged” and remember: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15).
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