April 25, 2012

You Cannot Reach Paradise Without a Cross - J.C. Ryle

All the children of God have a cross to carry. They have trials, troubles, and afflictions to go through for the Gospel's sake. They have trials from the world, trials from the flesh, and trials from the devil. They have trials of feeling from relations and friends - hard words, hard conduct, and hard judgment. They have trials in the matter of character - slander, mis-representation, mockery, suggestion of false motives - all these often rain thick upon them. They have trials in the matter of worldly interest. They often have to choose whether they will please people, and lose glory; or gain glory and offend people. They have trials from their own hearts. They have each generally their own thorn in the flesh, which is their worst foe. This is the experience of the children of God. Some of them suffer more, and some less. Some of them suffer in one way, and some in another. God measures out their portions like a wise physician, and cannot err. But never, I believe, was there one child of God who reached paradise without a cross. ~ J.C. Ryle

April 23, 2012

Trailer Season

It is three weeks until another season opens at the park where we have our trailer located. The season goes from May until Thanksgiving weekend in October. My grandsons (and sons) are anxious for the fishing season to begin. My granddaughters (and daughters) are anxious for the swimming and suntanning with magazines to begin. I never expected to be around for another season, but now there might be an opportunity for me to see the trailer one more time.

I should explain that I have had difficulty looking forward to anything for fear of being disappointed that I couldn't make it. I want to submit to God's will for my life, and don't want to be dissatisfied with His plan for me. Because of that fear, I think I have actually been robbing myself (and my family) of opportunities to enjoy legitimate things without being in
contradiction to God's plan. I have said to others that just because you are dying, it doesn't mean that you stop living, but I have not really been practicing it myself. Talking is easier than doing, I must confess.

So what now? Finding the proper balance between living one day at a time and trusting God for whatever tomorrow may bring. I have a lot to learn on this my journey and the impact it has on my family. So, I might be at the trailer
again, if the Lord wills.

"If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that". James 4:15b

April 22, 2012

Keep Looking Unto Jesus - J.C. Ryle

Keep on looking unto Jesus. Faith shall soon be changed to sight, and hope to certainty. Looking to Jesus on earth by faith, you shall end with seeing Jesus eye to eye in heaven. Those eyes of yours shall look on the head that was crowned with thorns, the hands and feet that were pierced with nails, and the side that was pierced with a spear. You shall find that seeing is the blessed consequence of believing, and that looking at Jesus by faith, ends with seeing Jesus in glory, and living with Jesus for evermore. When you awake up after His likeness, you shall be satisfied.   ~ J.C. Ryle

April 20, 2012

Lesson from Dandelions

Last fall, I was quite sure that I had removed most of the dandelions from my lawn. However, as the grass greened up and began to grow again this spring, there was suddenly about 50 yellow flowers in the lawn. Lena decided to go on dandelion duty, and carefully dug them out while I watched from my wheelchair on the driveway. She said that she had watched me do it for many years, and that now it was her turn. Dandelions can be tough to root out because they have a deep tap root. They can even grow in the cracks of the
sidewalk and driveway where there is very little soil and nutrients.  The next morning, to our surprise, there were again about 25 yellow flowers on the lawn. Lena diligently went on duty again, and removed them. The third day, we were greeted by about 15 flowers, and so it continues, day after day. Weeding is something you have to stay on top of or else you will be over run in no time. Seeds may have blown in from the neighbours, or were dormant in the soil from years before.

The dandelion problem can be compared to the Christian's fight against sin. Even though he has a renewed heart, there is still a problem with remaining sin, and the old sin nature. Sin can be deep rooted, and difficult to conquer. It can find cracks and crevices in our heart to grow in. The battle
against sin is one that, by God's grace, we may slowly gain some victory over, but we will never be done with. If we let down our guard, we can quickly be overcome by that sin. 'God made the garden of Eden, but we turned it into a garden of weed'n. '

Ephesians chapter 6 describes the Christian's life as a battle, requiring the weapons of warfare: helmet, sword, shield, belt, breastplate, and shoes. "Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."vs.11. The weapons can never be laid down, until life is
over. The battle can be tiresome, two steps forward and one step back, but it needs to be fought. God will ensure that His people will persevere and be preserved until the end.

So get busy weeding!

April 19, 2012

No Weariness in Heaven - J.C. Ryle

There shall be no weariness in heaven; there shall be no earthly labors to distract our attention. Here, in this present world, the cares of the world are continually breaking in, and these poor frail bodies of ours do often bind us down to the earth by their weakness, even when the spirit is willing. We may be on the mount for a short season sometimes—but our powers are soon exhausted. But there we shall have no wandering thoughts, no distractions, no bodily wants, we shall never faint!

How little indeed do we worship God in spirit and in truth; at our very best moments, how cold and dull we feel towards our blessed Redeemer, how willing to allow any excuse for shortening our prayers and diminishing our communion with our Father who is in heaven. But those who stand before the throne of God shall feel no fatigue, they will require no rest, they will count it their highest privilege to be continually singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, and saying, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him who sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever!"

~ J.C. Ryle

April 17, 2012

Lesson from a Cocoon

Outside my window, inserted in the bird house, is a dry twig with a cocoon on the end of it. The cocoon is brown and lifeless, and it rattles inside when you shake it. The chrysalis inside is hard, dry, and seems dead. But an amazing thing happens when a sufficient number of heat units accumulate. Scientists call it metamorphosis. The chrysalis changes into a beautiful butterfly. I can hardly wait to see it happen.

The ressurection of the dead is pictured in the metamorphosis of the cocoon. The spring weather brings out new life in all of creation. In 1 Corinthians 15, the great ressurection chapter, we find the two great pillars of the Christian religion: "Christ died for our sins" ( verse 3), and "he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" ( verse 4). On these two great gospel truths our salvation is founded. When a believer in Jesus dies, his hope rests in that same ressurection. Jesus has conquered both sin and death for His people, for those who believe in Him. That hope is a sure thing, just not attained yet. That is my hope too.

April 16, 2012

The Power of the Love of Christ - J.C. Ryle

What is the best antidote against a believer's fears and anxieties? What is most likely to cheer them as they look forward to the untried future and remember the weary past? I answer without hesitation, the doctrine of the final perseverance of God's elect. Let them know that God, having begun a good work in them, will never allow it to be overthrown. Let them know that the footsteps of Christ's little flock are all in one direction. They have erred. They have been vexed. They have been tempted. But not one of them has been lost. Let them know that those whom Jesus loves, He loves unto the end. Let them know that He will not allow the weakest lamb in His flock to perish in the wilderness, or the tenderest flower in His garden to wither and die! Let them know that Daniel in the den of lions, the three children in the fiery furnace, Paul in the shipwreck, Noah in the Ark, were not more cared for and more secure than each believer in Christ is at the present day. Let them know that they are fenced, walled in, protected, and guarded by the Almighty power of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and cannot perish. Let them know that it is not in the power of things present or things to come - of people or of devils - of cares within or troubles without - to separate one single child of God from the love that is in Christ Jesus.   - J.C. Ryle

April 13, 2012

An Encouraging Word

Recently a dear brother in the Lord sent me an email with an encouraging message and a reference to read Psalm 73:23 - 26. When I read that, it struck me that already in verse 1 it referred to those who are " pure in heart ". Well, I felt convicted already, because I am not pure in my heart. When you read on, then there is a list of sad and disappointing attitudes of those who should be trusting and believing. But thanks be to God, He does not leave us to ourselves. In His mercy, verse 23 begins with the gracious word "nevertheless ". In other words, God Who knows our sins, is still willing to have dealings with us. Then He gives a precious promise that we can hold on to, and receive comfort from.

The promise is "Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand." We, like sheep, will go astray, and wander away from Him, because of our natural inclination to be attracted to sin. But God promises to hold His people by their right hand. This is nothing else but 'amazing grace '.

I am writing this short blog post to you on my new DynaVox computer. It allows me to type using a mouse controlled by a piece of reflective tape on the bridge of my glasses. It is slow and tedious, but it gives me the freedom to communicate in various ways. It can speak out the sentences I write, and I can also email them. There is also a place where I can control my Bose sound system and iPod. This computer costs about $13,000 to purchase, but we signed for a monthly leasing plan which is fairly reasonable.

In a week or so, I will be getting a new seat for my electric wheelchair that has a seat tilting and leg raising function on it. There are many new things for me to get used to and accept and I must admit that it is sometimes difficult to process emotionally. My ability to walk with a walker and talk is pretty much gone now, and that is a tough loss for me. But I know that one day I will again be able to walk, talk, and even sing. I look forward to that day, but meanwhile I must endure and wait for God's time. He knows what is best for me, even when I think I know better. I pray for a submissive heart, and that I may be able to finish well and not dishonour His holy name.

Jack Westerink

Here is a family picture (minus our oldest grand daughter) taken on Good Friday.

April 11, 2012

Make Heaven More Full, Hell More Empty - J.C. Ryle

Look forward, look onward and forward to the end! Your best things are yet to come. Time is short. The end is drawing near. The latter days of the world are upon us. Fight the good fight. Labor on. Work on. Strive on. Pray on. Read on. Labor hard for your own soul's prosperity. Labor hard for the prosperity of the souls of others. Strive to bring a few more with you to heaven, and by all means to save some. Do something, by God's help, to make heaven more full and hell more empty. Speak to that young man by your side, and to that old person who lives near to your house. Speak to that neighbor who never goes to a place of worship. Speak to that relative who never reads the Bible in private, and makes a mockery of serious religion. Entreat them all to think about their souls. Beg them to go and hear something on Sundays which will be for their good unto everlasting life. Try to persuade them to live, not like the beasts which perish, but like people who desire to be saved. Great is your reward in heaven, if you try to do good to souls. Great is the reward of all who confess Christ before others. ~ J.C. Ryle

April 10, 2012

Easter Sunday Communion

This past Easter Sunday, we were privileged as a congregation to celebrate the Lord's Supper (Communion) together. What a wonderful combination! The sermon was based on Matthew 28:1-10. The message of the angels to the women looking for Jesus was "Fear not" (v.5), "he is risen, as he said" (v.6), "he goeth before you into Galilee" (v.7). Jesus then meets them on the way saying "all hail" (v.9), or 'good day'. He also says "be not afraid" (v.10).

What gracious and comforting words Jesus gives to His weak, simple followers, and also to all believers today. Despite our doubts, fears, and shortcomings, He comes to us with words of hope and encouragement. He speaks through His Word and Spirit to a sinful, undeserving people. Thank-you Jesus.

I would like to write more, but typing is very slow and physically draining, hence this message is brief.


April 4, 2012

Becoming Fit for Glory - C.H. Spurgeon

"The LORD will give grace and glory" (Psalm 84:11).

Grace is what we need just now, and it is to be had freely. What can be freer than a gift? Today we shall receive sustaining, strengthening, sanctifying, satisfying grace. He has given daily grace until now, and as for the future, that grace is still sufficient. If we have but little grace the fault most lie in ourselves; for the LORD is not straitened, neither is He slow to bestow it in abundance. We may ask for as much as we will and never fear a refusal. He giveth liberally and upbraideth not.

The LORD may not give gold, but He will give grace: He may not give gain, but He will give grace. He will certainly send us trial, but He will give grace in proportion thereto. We may be called to labor and to suffer, but with the call there will come all the grace required;

What an "and" is that in the text -- "and glory!" We do not need glory yet, and we are not yet fit for it; but we shall have it in due order. After we have eaten the bread of grace, we shall drink the wine of glory. We must go through the holy, which is grace, to the holiest of all, which is glory. These words and glory are enough to make a man dance for joy. A little while -- a little while, and then glory forever!

- C.H. Spurgeon

April 2, 2012

It's Been A Year

It's been about a year now since Mom and Dad first called us with the news that Dad was undergoing some testing and their trusted family doctor for more then 30 years feared it was a disease called ALS. I had only known a few people with the disease and knew next to nothing about it. 

We went through such a roller coaster of emotions those first few days … shock, disbelief, hope that it might be something else (MS? Lyme disease? Even Cancer? ). The grief that we felt as our worst fears, (that Dad really did have a terminal illness) were confirmed, led to a period of mourning for our whole family.

And then it seemed like we entered a new phase. There were still times of sudden grief and sadness but we all entered the phase of “living with ALS”. And thankfully we still have Dad here with us one year later, living with ALS. We didn’t want to waste precious moments being sad. We wanted to make the most of the moments we still had! 

We went through the summer with Dad still walking and talking and laughing and enjoying many special times with the whole family together. We experienced everything so vividly – savouring events with even more enthusiasm, grateful that Dad was still with us to enjoy them. Fishing trips, spending time at the trailer, birthday parties, wedding anniversaries etc. Each one was and still is a gem that we treasure; their beauty enhanced by knowing it may be an experience we may never again share with our Dad.

We began to ask ourselves questions like “Is there anything I still want to do with Dad while he can still walk?” “Is there anything Mom and Dad should still do together while they still can?” “Is there anything I need to say to Dad while I still have him?”

There is also a level of pressure that settles on the family – an urgency to add special significance to every event. This may be our last Christmas together – how should we spend it? This may be our last New Years Eve and Day together – what should we do?

Through the year Dad has steadily gotten worse. The prayed-for “plateau” has not come yet. The healing has not come. There has been no miracle to confound the doctors. Some days Willem would pray at the table “God, today let Dad jump out of bed, healthy and whole again… but Thy will be done O Lord, and help us to accept your plan.” That day has not come. 

The last few weeks have felt like Dad has gotten so much closer to leaving us. Whereas before, there were times when we could almost forget that he was sick, those days are done. Last fall, when he was sitting in his chair laughing in the living room with the family, we could pretend that it was all a nightmare. Now the signs are impossible to hide from.

The hospital bed arrived at my parents house. It's such a large, physical reminder, sitting in my parents' bedroom, that Dad is very very sick.

Dad’s speaking has become even harder to understand. From the last video we posted, he is again quite a bit worse. This weekend was the first time that he tried to say something and I didn’t know what he said. He repeated himself 4 times and we all struggled to figure out what he meant. That was so frustrating to him and so painful for us.

Dad’s CO2 levels are getting worse, and his breathing is getting much more difficult. Busy days and too much activity are causing him to have attacks which are heartbreaking to see. He has to stand up, gasping for air, and struggles for every breath. Even visits from precious friends and family members are becoming overwhelming for him. He needs things quiet and calm now and too much busyness can send him into an attack.

As we sense that Dad's days of being able to speak are very close to the end now, we have had some difficult conversations about end of life issues and what Dad’s wishes are. Mom and Dad now have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order in their possession and are making decisions regarding a feeding tube and respirator. 

All of these things together have made this walk along Dads journey with ALS feel so very dark these last few weeks. It really does feel like we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death right now. And I think that Dad’s last tent peg is slowly being loosened.

Letting go of his possessions was easy. Letting go of his job, his position as elder, his ability to be active in his home and his community was much harder. Letting go of family and friends seems to be the final stage of this journey, and somehow when we are together, Dad seems to be less “present”. 

He is starting to experience such times of discomfort that when we see him suffer we feel that wishing him to stay is selfish. That if his life on earth has to be filled with pain and struggling even to take a breath – that God would spare him any further pain and gently take him to Himself.

We have no idea how long Dad still has to live. Many people live with ALS for many years. But the reality before us is the fact that Dad’s disease is progressing every day, so quickly, and the past year has brought such devastating changes. 

Like the Psalmist David though, we can end our time of lamenting and crying out to God with a glorious BUT!. But…through all the changes, and with all the sadness, we can still testify that our foundation is firm. Our family has a rock beneath us – a rock called Jesus Christ and He is not moving. Though our emotions rise and fall, He stays constant. Though we waver in our confidence and in our faith and in our joy, He never changes. His Word comforts us when we turn to it. The prayers of our family, friends and church family support us. Never once on this journey have we felt abandoned and never once has God stopped showing us His love, through so many ways. He is using the hands and feet of our church community to love on us.

This week a member of our congregation brought my family a meal. I can't tell you what that meant to me! During our prayer time at Ladies Fellowship time my sister, sister-in-law and I were able to share a bit of the burden we are carrying and were so comforted by the communion of saints as they cried and prayed with us. I was able to speak with a member of our congregation today who has recently walked the exact same path that we have. He could testify and reassure that God is faithful. There are no words to describe what a comfort it is to be part of the communion of saints. To have fellow believers come alongside you and take on your burden with them.

My parents continue to receive baking and meals from dear friends. My Mom has recently been blessed with an extended visit from her sister (a former nurse) who has allowed her to have her first full night of sleep in many, many months. Some nights she is up 20 – 25 times and this weekend she slept through entirely one night – Praise God!

While my Dad is no longer able to receive as many visitors as he formerly did, he is still so encouraged by your cards and emails. Thank you so much for your love and support. We are encouraged to hear that this blog is helping so many of you also, as you face life’s difficulties. We all have pain in our lives. And if we love the Lord and have Him as our Saviour, we can be assured knowing that those one step ahead of us on this journey can testify that all will be well. And we can turn to those behind us, dealing with new hurt and new pain, to say the same thing. We won’t slip from His hand. All things are working for our good. He knows your pain. He cares. He hears your prayers and He answers every one.

I was fascinated to hear about people from another culture who do not speak candidly about death or dying and were so surprised to see our family openly discussing this process. We are called to do all things for God’s glory – whether that be eating, or drinking or even dying (1 Cor.10:31). Thank you Mom and Dad for beginning a forum to do just that – to make yourselves vulnerable in a time of pain and to glorify God in this last battle with the last enemy. To take this ugly process of dying and to make something beautiful out of it. Because when your confidence is in a God who makes all things new and all things beautiful, then even this can be held up for His glory and His praise.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7&8