Thoughts on Psalm 131


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


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.”


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)


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


The Big Resolution 2017

One of my resolutions for 2017 is to limit my time online. It seems I’ve finally got my fill of screen-staring stupor. Instagram and Facebook apps have been deleted from my phone and 4 out of the 7 news sources I used to check are also gone. And wonder of all wonders, I can no longer check my email from my phone. I’m FREEEEEE!

I didn’t have the courage to actually close the accounts yet (technically, I could download them again and jump right in), and I kept FB messenger on my phone so I can still contact people and they can still contact me. I still have G-mail on my computer so I can check my email from there if needed. So, I haven’t completely cut myself off.

The one reason I have NOT made these changes is to set myself up as an example. Just want to make that clear.

In summary here are the two main reasons for this change:

I’ve found that spending too much time on the internet, checking IG or FB, reading or even re-reading news articles, retards my thought life. Much of the information found on the internet comes in short, underdeveloped snippets of thought. It was common for me to read something interesting and say to myself, “Hmmm, I have to think about this.” And then, SWIPE, on to the next article. Reading on the internet seems to short-circuit my thought process. It inhibits daydreaming and disallows time to cultivate ideas and just let thoughts unfold. There’s certainly a time and place for brevity in information gathering, but a steady diet of it…not so much. Better to actually study a subject or read a book to get a more thorough understanding.

The second reason has more to do with social media. I came to realize that IG and FB only give the illusion of personal relationships. The nature of social media casts such a “wide net”, it kind of gave me an excuse (although unintentional) to skip the hard work it takes to connect with people. I believe the hard work is worth it. I understand that social media can be a way of keeping up with what’s going on in the lives of family and friends, but what we post on social media is only a shallow representation of life. Better to contact people directly by text, a phone call, a note or card sent by (gasp!) good old snail mail, or when possible, face to face.

Also related to this reason, I found that my phone took away from enjoying life in the present. How many times did I miss a beautiful sunset or look away from a precious grandchild in order to fumble with my phone to capture the moment for immediate posting on social media. Why? Better to enjoy life’s blessings singularly and give them my full attention.

These are just the two main reasons. There are many others. Lots of junk online, especially on Facebook. There’s also the fact that I want to simplify my life and avoiding too much time online seems to lend itself to that goal.

And then there’s this: I only have 20 or 25 years (Lord willing) left on this earth. Do I really want to waste more time than necessary staring at a screen?

In order to successfully stick to my resolution, I know that the most important thing is to exercise self-control. This means controlling the urge to re-download (is that really a word?) apps or reach for my phone every time I have a spare moment. May the Lord give me strength to do so.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


December Days and Wisdom


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

It’s Been a Year

It’s been a year since I’ve posted anything on the Gospel Apprentice. I don’t know how that much time has gone by so fast.

Lots of stuff has happened over the last twelve months. Good and bad, joy and sorrow, victories and failures as well.

I write in my Bible journal almost every morning, just bits and pieces of ideas or fragments of lessons that the Lord is teaching me. I’ve also been affected by some good old-fashioned writer’s block lately–all of that and the cares and concerns of life have conspired together to dampen my desire to write.

So, this afternoon I had the idea of using my journal entries over the last year as inspiration, a jumping off point if you will, and develop them into blog posts.

I miss blogging. We will see how this goes.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,




We Must Know This

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


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

Update on My Brother

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2

You can read my original post about my brother here.

Just an up date on my brother, Camie. Not too long after my original post, Camie began to improve markedly. Currently, he is completely off the GI tube and feeling well. He has gained back almost all the weight he lost and started back to work just this week. Going back to work is a monumental step and we would appreciate your prayers for strength for him.

I am so grateful to have my little brother “back” again. We text and speak on the phone often. The twinkle in his eye has returned and he is back to making us all laugh. He is involved in day-to-day life with his wife and kids and even eating and enjoying REAL FOOD! We are looking forward to football season together and especially excited to follow and cheer on our favorite college team–the Oklahoma Sooners. All of these things and more, the little things we take for granted each day, are graces given to my brother and our family from the loving hands and heart of our Heavenly Father.

I want to thank everyone who prayed for Camie and for our family during this difficult trial. I won’t lie, there were some bleak moments. Cancer sucks. Although the cancer is gone, it took months of fighting and recovery to win the battle. Thank God for His faithfulness, mercy, and grace as demonstrated by the faithful prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

A Stunning Truth

Honor your father and your mother…  Exodus 20:12a

Recently, my youngest son told me that the older he gets (he is 24 now) the more he realizes all that his father and I have done for him. He went on to apologize for not always appreciating me and for theDSC_0092 times he was ungrateful or dishonoring.

As a parent, that is always a blessing to hear. Part of my response to him was that maturity often brings a better appreciation for our parents and that it was true of me with my mom and dad as well. As I considered his words and thought about my own life, I realized afresh the profundity of my sins against my own parents. It grieves me to think about the myriad ways I broke the fifth commandment, especially during my years as a young adult.

It strikes me that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. There is a wider sense to this truth, but it also applies more narrowly to my failure to honor my parents. Jesus fulfilled every nuance of what it means to honor and obey His earthly parents and His Heavenly Father. Because of Christ’s perfect obedience, God credits Christ’s righteousness to me through faith. (See Romans 4.)

The Gospel in a nutshell: For our sake, He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

Although Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life, God credited my sin to Christ and punished Him for it. Jesus didn’t deserve the cross, I did. But the beauty of the Gospel shines even brighter here, for not only does God impute my sin to Jesus, He also imputes Jesus’ perfect obedience to me.

This is Good News! Earth-shaking, momentous, joyous and freeing Good News!

Read John Bunyan, writer of Pilgrim’s Progress:

“One day as I was passing into the field . . . this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before [in front of] him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, “The same yesterday, today and, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.” (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners)

Because of Christ, there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any more, and there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any less. The righteousness of Christ is mine. Stunning, indeed!

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Unchanging Grace

When darkness hides His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging Grace…

Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. My younger brother, Camie, was born when I was almost eleven years old. To my little girl self, it was as if my mother had gifted me with a real, live, breathing baby-doll. I think this is part of the reason why I cherish my relationship with him so much.

My brother is now, of course, a grown man. He is the kind of man people are drawn to. Everybody loves Camie. He remembers people’s names. Grocery clerks, bank tellers, his kids’ friends and their parents. To my brother, there are no strangers. He is easy-going. He makes people feel comfortable and at ease. And he makes people laugh. Oh how he makes people laugh! He is fiercely protective over his children and loyal to his wife. My brother loves Jesus. My brother is a good man.

In November of 2014, Camie was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus or esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is rare and in Camie’s case, was a risk factor because of another disorder he had coped with for many years, achalasia of the esophagus (inability to move food down the esophagus). We are thankful that my brother’s cancer was treatable. But, the treatment for his cancer has been so very difficult.

Chemo devastated him. Radiation not only burned away the cancer, it cooked his esophagus and rendered it useless leaving him unable to swallow even his own saliva. He has not been able to take anything to eat or drink by mouth since late December of 2014. There have been multiple hospital stays. Several 911 calls and ambulance rides. Too-numerous-to-count blood transfusions. Bouts with neutropenia, dehydration and nausea. Weight loss. Extreme fatigue. Delays in treatment. Financial concerns.  And there was a frightening incident when a bleeding ulcer had to be cauterized.

After all that came the actual surgery. It was a twelve-hour operation involving three surgeons. They removed his esophagus and used the small bowel to fashion him a new one. Three weeks in the hospital and then home. The surgery was successful (thank God the cancer is gone!), but the recovery has been agonizingly slow and incredibly hard. And, it is ongoing.

There have been dark moments during this whole ordeal for all of us, not least of all for my brother. As for me, I have cried out to God and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. There have been tears and sleepless nights and times when I wanted to smash my fist through a wall.

But, looking back, there is an important truth that has sustained me. The Grace of God that was so obvious in the many mercies, answered prayers and kindnesses shown to us by family, friends and medical personnel is the same Grace that rescued us when humanly speaking, we had come to the end of what others or even we ourselves could handle. When there was nothing anybody could do, there was Grace.

This is no cowardly, weak-kneed Grace. It is Grace with a steel-spine. Grace that refuses to bend under pressure. There were times when my faith faltered and my hope sank. But even in the midst of despair, God’s stubborn Grace dug in deeper and gripped me tighter. The anchor held.

In spite of my failure to trust God completely in this trial, I have found that God’s Grace is enough. It has been enough looking back, and so I believe it is enough for whatever lies ahead. It is enough for me, and it is enough for my beloved little brother.

And so I have found the truth of these words to be a soothing balm to my embattled soul:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Unsettled Ramblings On


Sometimes I attempt to achieve a settledness in my life, but reality interrupts my plans.

I look around and try to figure a way to make this happen. I fall into a weird pattern. Ironically, I need rest so I work toward that goal. But. the harder I work the further my goal slips away. There is always something more to do. Always something out of alignment. Something always breaks. Someone always disappoints.

The Lord has given me a certain kind of life. In most places of the world, my circumstances would be considered ridiculously rich and comfortable. Yet, I still expend an obscene amount of energy in a fruitless endeavor to avoid every little bump and level all the rough spots.

What an insult to God that His boundless, expansive and pervasive Grace is not enough. What an affront to the Gospel of Christ when I refuse to rest in Him.

All of this exposes me for what I am–an idolator worshiping at the altar of Life-Easy.

My striving after a rest found in something other than the Sovereign Lord (who has ordained my circumstances) is like chasing after the wind. But, it only gets worse. In my anxiousness to secure smooth sailing for myself, I often fail to notice the sinking ships all around me. I am, after all, spoiled and immature.

Forgive me, Lord!

Create in me a grateful heart, first of all. Then, help me to rest even in the struggles and difficulties of life. Allow me to see that You are my only joy and true peace. Let me settle in You, and You alone.

Grant me a holy self-forgetfulness and the ability to look beyond myself with an eye toward offering the hope and help of the Gospel to people around me who labor and struggle alone.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.  Psalm 62:5

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel













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