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Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

Communication can sometimes approach the absurd. One notices this especially when part of this communication is carried on with a spelling-card. Alice often insisted on spelling out something which, subsequently to us, seemed utterly unimportant—especially for a person in her position. On one occasion, she expressively kept looking across the room. Obviously, she wanted to tell us something. All kinds of questions could not arrive at the problem. So we took out the spelling-card. Slowly she spelled out: d-r-a-p-e. A glance across the room quickly showed that the drape was not hanging quite right. A little adjustment was made, and Alice was happy again.

Good Morning Alice: 

Like David in many of his Psalms, Paul here tells of how he has lived in faith. I really can’t understand how they can talk that way, can you? It just seems I wouldn’t dare say I have fought a good fight when I know how many times I’ve failed. My sin is in me and with me until I die—how can I say, I have kept the faith?

I don’t know if I’m right or not, but I think Paul is speaking here of the new man in him, like in

I John 3:9

where John says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin—because he is born of God. Anyway, the verse does give us something to think about and strive for. 

Verse 8 is a most beautiful and comforting verse. That crown of righteousness is laid up for all those who love His appearing. 

The question I have to ask myself is: “Do I love His appearing?” 

It is easy to say I do, but if I really do, I would love the way He “appears” now too! Do I love to hear Him in the preaching? Do I love to hear Him in His Word? Do I read it often or only now and then? 

If I long for that wonderful day, then I must be preparing for it in this day. 

With love, Your friend 

Please read

Deut. 33:27

At times, communication by spelling could prove almost too slow. Once, Alice indicated a need to use the toilet. The canvas of the lift was adjusted carefully under her. Slowly she was raised to a sitting position and then lifted from the bed. As she was swinging in the air, Alice tried to say something which we couldn’t understand. So we stopped half-way between the bed and her destination. Was her arm pinched? “No”, she shook her head. Was her leg pinched? Frantically she signaled “NO!” Was she seated properly in the lift? More frantically: “Yes!” Should we get the spelling card? Desperately, she shook her head, “NO!” Finally, it dawned on us: “You have to ‘go’ very badly!” With relief she emphatically nodded, “YES!” We hurried!

Good Morning Alice: 

Did I ever talk to you about understanding who our enemies are? It doesn’t really matter to the beauty of this text, but I often wonder when we take an O.T. verse and apply it to ourselves—who is the enemy? 

For David or Isaiah it was real nations—wicked people; but who is it for us? Is it our own sin, or wickedness around us or what? Do you know what I mean? 

Anyway the first part of this text

Deut. 33:27

is wonderfully clear. 

The eternal God is Thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. 

The eternal God, my God, is my refuge, the place of safety to which I can always flee for safety from sin, safety from hurt, from depression, from fear. And then the text says, “and underneath are the everlasting arms.” We not only may flee to Him, but we may always know that He is holding us up with everlasting arms. His comfort is there forevermore to hold us up to keep us from whatever that enemy may be. 

In His love, Your friend

Please read:

Ruth 1:16-17

Alice paid close attention to details. Nothing seemed to escape her attention. One day she was clearly very upset. She had many knick-knacks collected over many years from many places—too many things, we kept telling her. Now she looked insistently in the direction of one of the shelves on which these were placed. We noticed nothing wrong. Finally, on her card she spelled: m-i-s-s-i-n-g! Someone had moved one of the objects. But who? Several days later, and after many accusing glances by Alice at various members of the family in turn, the object was discovered. Someone had packed it up while dusting, thinking it would be better off from the shelf. The object was replaced, to Alice’s great relief. Alice wanted things to remain unchanged. It was almost as though she had convinced herself that life could continue unchanged if everything about one remained the same.

Good Morning Alice: 

Did it ever strike you how Ruth could leave everything behind her as she did? 

Naomi actually tried to convince her to go back to her own people and her own gods. But God was moving so graciously in her heart that all desire for those old wicked ways was replaced by a desire to be with the people of God. 

No matter how strong her natural desire for her own family was, her new desire for God and His people was now stronger. 

It’s often that way with people God regenerates and converts as adults. They have so much more zeal for God’s Kingdom than we who have been blessed with a childhood under a Christian parent. 

Ruth’s confession should really make us stop and think—how much do I desire God’s Kingdom? Enough to willfully give over my sinful desires and press on with the spiritually sensitive children of God around me, or am I remaining in the Moab of my willful sin? 

With love, Your friend

Please read

Rev. 1:5-6

Alice had enjoyed attending evening church services as long as she could get out in her wheelchair. She enjoyed meeting the people at church even when she could no longer speak. But the time now came when it was no longer possible for her to be out and to sit that long, But a direct phone hook-up to church with an amplifier enabled her to hear the services in bed. She enjoyed that and could hear clearly everything that was said and sung.

Good Morning Alice: 

These verses are so beautiful! You know, I find that more and more. When you read a longer passage (which you have to first to get the right meaning) you just get a light idea of the beauty of it. It’s only when ” you spend time with a couple of verses and read them over and over, that it really speaks to you of the beauty and comfort that is there in them. 

These verses tell us, just reading over them, that Jesus loved us and died for us, and makes us kings and priests unto God. That’s what the verses speak about, but what they say to us if we really read them and seek to understand the full meaning for our life is much more than that. 

I really should have started with verse 4 because that’s where the sentence begins.

Grace and peace come to us from our eternal God and from Jesus Who is of God the Father, raised first from the dead, now ruling over all the nations of this world. Unto Him Who loved us, died on the cross to wash us clean from every sin we commit, and by Whose sacrifice we are also made kings unto God, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. And we know that He will reign forever. Amen. So will it be. 

If only we had time to spend really meditating on all verses in Scripture and be able to know what beautiful message they bring us, we would truly be closer to God. 

With love, Your friend

Please read

Heb. 12:1

Little things, the routine things, meant much to Alice. She had always taken great pride in the appearance of her hair. It was a lovely silvery-white. Always, she had had it washed and set weekly. She continued to have this done during her illness. One of the last times she went out to have this done was a week before Christmas. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t get out much anymore, her hair had to look “nice”. And since she had always done it this way, she insisted on doing it still.

Good Morning Alice: 

This verse will always mean something special to me. I think it’s always that way when you share a verse with someone else, or someone else shares it with you.

Maybe that’s why writing to you has meant so much to me. 

One time I stopped at the home of a couple who had gone through a tragedy and I knew were having a difficult time. I had no idea what I was going to do or say, but I just felt I wanted to go. 

Well, I got there and they were at the table together sharing the comfort of this verse. I will never forget it because as so often happens, I was spiritually uplifted instead of helping them. 

This is what the verse says to me: because God has surrounded us with the wonderful examples of the tremendous faith of so many of His children, we can and must in faith, set aside any burden we have, and push away that sin of not trusting in God’s promises, and with patience day by day live our lives true to Him. 

In His love, Your friend

Please read

Ps. 46:10a