Friday, May 26, 2017

No "If's"

"What if?" is a common but pointless question that arises when I listen to myself instead of talking to myself. Maybe you know what that's like? Usually for me such second-guessing leads to imagining how some specific uncomfortable circumstance would be (in my finite, biased imaginings) less uncomfortable if this or that action had been different:

  • "If that medication had come on schedule..."
  • "If we had waited a little longer..."
  • "If we had not waited so long and missed that opportunity..."
  • "If I had stuck it out in that job/degree/church/relationship..."
  • "If I had acted (or not) on that intuition..."
  • "If I had only known..."

It may be some small mark of progress that I at least recognize the futility of the exercise now.

On a recent reread of Corrie ten Boom's classic The Hiding Place, this brief passage took my breath away, and the Lord brings it back to mind often when I start to ruminate in that unhelpful "what if?" direction. May He bless this crumb to your soul's nourishment too.

The scene occurs in the ten Boom family home in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, during the German occupation of Holland during World War II.

The Germans had repaired the bomb damage to the airport and were using it now as a base for air raids against England. Night after night we lay in bed listening to the growl of engines heading west. Occasionally English planes retaliated and then the German fighters might intercept them right over Haarlem.
One night I tossed for an hour while dogfights raged overhead, streaking my patch of sky with fire. At last I heard Betsie stirring in the kitchen and ran down to join her. 
She was making tea. She brought it into the dining room where we had covered the windows with heavy black paper and set out the best cups. Somewhere in the night there was an explosion; the dishes in the cupboard rattled. For an hour we sipped our tea and talked, until the sound of planes died away and the sky was silent. I said goodnight to Betsie at the door to Tante Jans's rooms and groped my way up the dark stairs to my own. The fiery light was gone from the sky. I felt for my bed: there was the pillow. Then in the darkness my hand closed over something hard. Sharp too! I felt blood trickle along a finger.
It was a jagged piece of metal, ten inches long.
I raced down the stairs with the shrapnel shard in my hand. We went back to the dining room and stared at it in the light while Betsie bandaged my hand. "On your pillow," she kept saying.
"Betsie, if I hadn't heard you in the kitchen--"
But Betsie put a finger on my mouth. "Don't say it, Corrie! There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety--O Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!" (The Hiding Place, 66-67).
For the ten Boom family, the center of God's will was not safe as we humans define safety. God's safety does not mean absence of danger or pain. Corrie lost her beloved Betsie and their father in concentration camps. Yet they were safe in that they were hidden with Christ in God, and nothing could separate them from His love. They were safe in that none of the terrible things they suffered were beyond God's providence and ability to turn them for good. Even the fleas in their barracks proved a means of blessing. They came to know the Lord and His Word better in the concentration camp than they had in their cozy and loving home in Haarlem. They were safe because the Lord is good, whether we can recognize it or not, and His steadfast love endures forever. He is worthy of our trust, though it be through tears.

Blessed be His name.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Memorial Stones: Words Like River Boulders

When Yahweh parts the flood and a nation walks through on dry ground,
nothing wet but the priests' feet,
When granola bars and sardines become a feast with 12 doggy bags,
When stone and slingshot slay a giant,
I heap up words like river boulders,
memorials of God's mighty hand and outstretched arm.
His love endures forever.

I heap up words to remember,
Lest, not remembering, I forget
And, forgetting, drift
Back to slavery of burdened unbelief.

When God's people are the giants put to flight by few,
When the handful of flour and bit of oil run out, yet famine does not lift,
When waves swamp the boat and still He sleeps,
When very God bleeds on a cross and angels of deliverance do not come,
Those heaped-up words like river boulders,
memorials of God's mighty hand and outstretched arm,
they remind me:
His love endures forever.

from the archives, March 2011

Monday, May 15, 2017

Qualifying for Grace

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

European Starling

“Remember Martin Luther’s way of cutting the devil’s head off with his own sword. ‘Oh,’ said the devil to Martin Luther, ‘you are a sinner.’ ‘Yes,’ said Luther, ‘Christ died to save sinners.’ Thus he smote him with his own sword. Hide in this refuge and stay there: ‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ If you stand on that truth, your blasphemous thoughts, which you do not have the strength to drive away, will go away by themselves, for Satan will see that he is achieving nothing by plaguing you with them.”
Charles Spurgeon, All Is Grace, p. 77

“That which is necessary to salvation is not continuous thought but a simple reliance upon Jesus. Hold onto this one fact: ‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ This truth will not require you to do any deep research or profound reasoning or convincing argument. There it stands: ‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ Fix your mind on that, and rest there.

Let this one great, gracious, glorious fact lie in your spirit until it permeates all your thoughts and makes you rejoice even though you are without strength. Rejoice that the Lord Jesus has become your strength and your song—He has become your salvation. According to the Scriptures, it is a revealed fact that in due time Christ died for the ungodly when they were yet without strength. Maybe, you have heard these words hundreds of times, and yet you have never before perceived their meaning. There is a wonderful thing about them. Jesus did not die for our righteousness, but He died for our sins. He did not come to save us because we were worth saving, but because we were utterly worthless, ruined, and undone. He did not come to earth out of any reason that was in us, but solely and only because of the reasons which He took from the depths of His own divine love.

“In due time Jesus died for those whom He describes not as godly but as ungodly, describing them with as hopeless an adjective as He could have selected. Even if you think little, fasten your mind to this truth, for it is fitted to the smallest capacity and is able to cheer the heaviest heart. Let this text lie under your tongue like a sweet morsel till it dissolves into your heart and flavors all your thoughts.”
Charles Spurgeon, All Is Grace, pp.71-72, emphasis mine

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Goodness and Mercy

You have only to turn round, or to swoon backward, and you will find yourself caught in the arms of God’s goodness and mercy, which are following you always. You may not realize that they are near; you may feel lonely, and sad, and desolate; it may be one of your bad days, sunless and dreary, without a ray of comfort or a flash of hope, surrounded by objects and forms of dread. Yet there, close by you, evident to God’s angels though veiled from your faithless sight, stand the glorious, loving, pitying forms of God’s infinite goodness, which cannot fail, and His tender mercy....

Now faith when in proper exercise, does two things. First, it reckons that a position belongs to it, which we do not feel, but which it dares to claim on the warrant of God’s Word. Second, it lays hold on the power of God to make that position a reality in daily and hourly experience.

~F. B. Meyer, The Shepherd Psalm, Kindle Locations 1011 and 1138

Monday, May 1, 2017

Singing Through the Gloom

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4, ESV

"God is testing us, to see whether we can trust Him in the dark as well as in the light; and whether we can be as true to Him when all pleasurable emotions have faded off our hearts, as when we walked with Him in the light.

"Blessed are those that do not see, but who yet believe; and who are content to be stripped of all joy and comfort and ecstasy, if it be the Shepherd’s will, so long as there is left to them the sound of His voice, and the knowledge that He is near.

"...the most timid spirit, which is conscious of the presence of the Good Shepherd, can sing as it passes onward through the gloom, and its notes vibrate with the buoyancy of a courage which cannot flinch or falter.

"The darkness is sometimes too dense for us to be able to see Christ. But faith can always be sure that He is there; not because of the evidence of sense or feeling, but because He has said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee' (Hebrews 13:5). He cannot break His word. He has not left us alone. He is looking down on us with unabated tenderness. The depths may sever Him from the apprehension of our love; but neither death nor life, nor height nor depth, can separate us from the strong grasp of His faithful and unchanging affection.

"O Christ, who did tread the dense darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary—alone, desolate, and forsaken of Your Father. But You know the way, since You have trodden it. You are as near to us as when we can see and feel You near. And You were lonely that we might never be lonely; You were forsaken that we might never be forsaken; You did tread the winepress alone, that each poor timid child of Yours in all future ages might be able to sing the words of undying comfort, 'I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.'

"It would sometimes appear, indeed, that God puts us into special circumstances of difficulty and trial in order that He may make manifest to us the infinite resources of His consolation; just as we need to go out into the dark night in order to behold the stars."

(F. B.. Meyer, The Shepherd Psalm, Kindle locations 523, 527, 534, 546, 551, 567)


It's moving week for Amore, Ebony, and me. We worked all of last week and through the weekend, with help from kind friends and family, but today and tomorrow are crunch time. We welcome your prayers and pray you also receive the Lord's "daily bread" for your needs at the time you read this.