Poetry Saturday—Undying Love

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God hath not promised skies always blue,
   Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
   Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
   Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
   Man a burden, many a care.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
   Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
   Unfailing sympathy, undying love. —Annie Johnson Flint

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Poetry Saturday—Solitude

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Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
     Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
     But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
     Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
     But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
     Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
     But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
     Be sad, and you lose them all,
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
     But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
     Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
     But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
     For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
     Through the narrow aisles of pain. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Poetry Saturday—The Bag

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Away despair! my gracious Lord doth heare.
         Though windes and waves assault my keel,
         He doth preserve it: He doth steer,
         Ev’n when the boat seems most to reel.
         Storms are the triumph of His art:
Well may He close His eyes, but not His heart.

Hast thou not heard, that my Lord Jesus di’d?
         Then let me tell thee a strange storie.
         The God of power, as He did ride
         In His majestic robes of glorie,
         Reserv’d to light; and so one day
He did descend, undressing all the way.

The starres His tire of light and rings obtain’d,
         The cloud His bow, the fire His spear,
         The sky His azure mantle gain’d.
         And when they ask’d, what He would wear;
         He smil’d and said as He did go,
He had new clothes a making here below.

When He was come, as travellers are wont,
         He did repair unto an inne.
         Both then, and after, many a brunt
         He did endure to cancell sinne:
         And having giv’n the rest before,
Here He gave up His life to pay our score.

But as He was returning, there came one
         That ran upon Him with a spear.
         He, who came hither all alone,
         Bringing nor man, nor arms, nor fear,
         Receiv’d the blow upon His side,
And straight He turn’d, and to His brethren cry’d,

If ye have any thing to send or write,
         I have no bag, but here is room:
         Unto my Father’s hands and sight,
         Beleeve Me, it shall safely come.
         That I shall minde, what you impart;
Look, you may put it very neare My heart.

Or if hereafter any of My friends
         Will use Me in this kinde, the doore
         Shall still be open; what he sends
         I will present, and somewhat more,
         Not to his hurt. Sighs will convey
Any thing to Me. Harke, Despair away. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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The Divine Jesus

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I was teaching a class for my team members, and at one of the breaks a new employee came up to me to say how much he was enjoying the day, and to tell me that he would like to do what I was doing. I asked him, “But do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” When I explained that I read about 10-12 books for this training time, and that it took me about 40 hours to prepare for our 4-hour class, he didn’t seem as interested. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the results. As Christians we need to remember these words from William Penn: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” 

The human Jesus understands and empathizes with our painful struggles, and the divine Jesus helps us endure through these painful struggles to get the rewards on the other side. 

What do we mean by divine? The dictionary simply defines it as things relating to God or gods, so we need to use some context to help us understand who this divine Jesus is. After all, the New Testament refers to both Jesus and Artemis as divine (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 1:1-3; Acts 19:27). 

One way we can distinguish is by doing what the writer of Hebrews advised: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). We see that the so-called worshippers of Artemis were more interested in their own financial gain than they were her divinity (Acts 19:23-27). In contrast, the apostle Paul demonstrated a totally Jesus-focused lifestyle: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). 

Paul was following Jesus, and called all Christians to do the same. He noted that Jesus gave up all of His divine privileges to become our human Jesus, but because of this obedience, God made the divinity of Jesus shine more gloriously than anything else in creation! Then Paul transitioned to a word specifically for Christians: 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13) 

In essence this is like Jesus saying, “I want you to have what I have, but you will have to do what I did to get it: That is, go through the painful struggles of life. But I will be right here with you every single step of the way!” 

The writer of Hebrews echoes this idea by reminding us that Jesus was made perfect through suffering, and so are we. So he calls us to “not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” He also reminds us that although the times of suffering are not pleasant, there is an unimaginable reward on the other side (Hebrews 2:9-11; 10:35-39; 12:1-11).

I especially like this conclusion: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

The divine Jesus has made it possible for us to be rewarded as He was rewarded! His divine power leads to our divine nature. And His divine power helps us defeat the world’s weapons (2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 10:4) 

Jesus asks, “Do you want to do what I did in order to do what I’m doing?” The power of the divine Jesus can help us be perfected, but we only get to this perfected place by suffering as He suffered. That’s why we need to know our human Jesus understands, empathizes, and helps. 

Most people don’t want to put in the work, but they just want the rewards. Our divine Savior helps us work out what God has worked in us. He helps us get the rewards! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—Sorrowful, Yet Rejoicing

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“…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…” (2 Corinthians 6:10)

Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.

Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.

“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully.

“No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.” 

“My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs—the love song of the night—shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.” 

Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nail prints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.” 

“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nail prints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.” 

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.”

Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”Lettie Cowman

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The Hiding Place (book review)

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In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, her submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” This sentiment was never more fully displayed than in the lives of the ten Boom family. Corrie ten Boom relates her story in The Hiding Place. 

The ten Boom family had lived in Holland for a couple of generations at the time the Germans occupied their country during World War II. Immediately, their family home and watch repair shop became a hub for underground resistance activity. But the start of this war was not the start of their compassionate activity in their city. The ten Booms lived out their Christian faith in tangible, compassionate ways every single day, and their neighbors reaped the benefits. 

The entire ten Boom family was actively involved in the efforts to protect at-risk people during the Nazi oppression of their country, including the elderly and sick, their Jewish neighbors, the mentally disabled, and the young men that were being pressed into duties to support the German war effort. As The Hiding Place progresses, the story begins to zoom-in on two sisters: Betsie and Corrie, especially their activities inside the German prisons and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. 

The miracles that God performed for these women are too many to recount here, but it seems like hardly a page in the story passes before another miracle is seen. These Christian women took full advantage of each miracle and used them to continue to bring light and love into one of the most dark and hateful times in human history. Even after the war has ended and Corrie has returned to her Holland home, the ministry of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation continued unabated through her tirelessly loving activities. 

The Hiding Place is truly a heroic tale! I highly recommend parents and grandparents reading it aloud to their children and grandchildren. May all Christians follow the example of the ten Boom family in finding ways to daily share the love of Jesus to their neighbors-in-need. 

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Learning Empathy

I’m an up-and-at-em, carpe diem kinda guy. Nothing gets me down for very long—I’m resilient and self-motivated. So I used to have a hard time relating to people who weren’t wired the same way. That is until I went through a time in my life where getting up-and-at-em was one of the hardest things I had to do each day.  

In the midst of this dark night, I would ask God, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?” But I heard the Holy Spirit gently but unmistakably remind me, “This isn’t about you!” 

The dictionary says that empathy is nearly a transliterated word from the Greek word empatheia. It means to be in suffering, but the emphasis is more on imaginative empathy. Something like, “If I was them and I was in that situation, I bet it might feel like this.” 

In the New Testament, a different Greek word is translated sympathy, which is also a transliterated word from the Greek sympatheō. This word means to enter into another’s suffering, but the emphasis is on experiential empathy. In other words, I don’t have to imagine how you might feel, but I know how you feel because I’ve gone through the same thing myself. 

Just as the Holy Spirit taught me this lesson, let me say the same thing to you: the dark night you are going through isn’t about you. It’s about learning empathy SO THAT you can help others persevere all the way to the end! 

Think about the dark night Jesus went through just before His crucifixion. He might have asked His Father, “Why is this happening to Me? What did I do wrong?” But He knew why He was going through this night: it was to prepare Him to be the perfect empathetic High Priest for all of us (check out these verses in Hebrews).  

When we invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we become a part of His Body (1 Corinthians 12:13, 26). 

Dr. Paul Brand was a renowned hand surgeon and missionary who worked with leprosy patients in India for years. He learned that leprosy doesn’t mangle a person’s foot or hand, but their lack of ability to feel pain does. He wrote, “A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. … The body protects poorly what it does not feel.” 

Sometimes we have to go through the painful, dark nights so that we can learn to feel others’ pain so that we can learn empathy. 

Through those nights we can learn to hear what others aren’t saying, and feel what others aren’t expressing. We don’t have to ask, “Can I help?” but rather, “I’m here to help because I know what you’re going through.” 

You cannot truly empathize until you go through your own dark night. I can be thankful IN the night because God is growing my empathy so that I can help others! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series, you can check out the full list by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—The Thorn

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged Him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out of His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face. —Martha Snell Nicholson

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Why Did Jesus Suffer?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Why Did Jesus Suffer?

     Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it. If you cannot always understand how this or that grief worked toward the great end of the whole passion, yet believe that it has its share in the grand why. Make a life-study of that bitter but blessed question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     Why, then, did God forsake His Son? I cannot conceive any other answer than this: He stood in our place. There was no reason in Christ why the Father should forsake Him—He was perfect and His life was without spot. God never acts without reason, and since there were no reasons in the character and person of the Lord Jesus why His Father should forsake Him, we must look elsewhere. … 

     He bore the sinner’s sin and He had to be treated, therefore, as though He were a sinner, the sinner He could never be! With His own full consent He suffered as though He had committed the transgressions that were laid on Him. Our sin and His taking it upon Himself are the answer to the question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     So long as the smile of God rests on the man, the law is not afflicting him. The approving look of the great judge cannot fall upon a man who is viewed as standing in the place of the guilty. Christ suffered not only from sin, but for sin. If God will cheer and sustain Him, He is not suffering for sin. The judge is not inflicting suffering for sin if He is manifestly encouraging the smitten one. There could have been no vicarious suffering on the part of Christ for human guilt if He had continued, consciously, to enjoy the full sunshine of the Father’s presence. It was essential to being a victim in our place that He should cry, ‘My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?’ … 

     Beloved, see how marvelously, in the person of Christ, the Lord our God has vindicated His law!

From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

The great apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about his singular focus—When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2) 

“Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it,” Spurgeon said. 

That earth-quaking, darkness-inducing, temple-rattling, soul-piercing cry of Jesus—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?—could only have been uttered by someone perfect. I know plenty of reasons why God could have forsaken me, but Jesus knew only a single reason. 

Jesus did not suffer because of something He had done wrong, but because of all I had done wrong.

That Cross was stained with His blood for my sin. 

Because He was forsaken, I am now accepted in the Beloved Jesus (Ephesians 1:6-7). Think much on this: Jesus was crucified for you and me SO THAT we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of our sin. Justice was satisfied. Now, by faith in His sacrifice on the Cross, we can come to God not only with our sins forgiven, but we can be accepted by Him as His children. 

My friend, think much on this. Resolve to know the unspeakable value of Christ crucified for you. And then rejoice greatly that you are accepted in the Beloved. If you would like to know more, please contact me.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Turn The Scriptures Into Your Cries

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Turn The Scriptures Into Your Cries

     My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ … This cry is taken from ‘the Book.’ Does it not show our Lord’s love of the sacred Volume, that when He felt His sharpest grief, He turned to the Scripture to find a fit utterance for it? Here we have the opening sentence of the twenty-second Psalm. Oh, that we may so love the inspired Word that we may not only sing to its score but even weep to its music! … 

     When you are delirious with pain, think of your Bible. When your mind wonders, let it roam toward the mercy seat. And when your heart and your flesh fail, still live by faith and still cry, ‘My God, my God.’ … 

     Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian. Even the holiest, when in extreme agony, though they cannot speak otherwise than according to purity and truth, yet use a language of their own that only the ear of sympathy can fully receive.

From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Grief is a time to get real. As Spurgeon said, “Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian.” Grief is not a time to carefully choose our words. 

Get real with God in your prayer closet. Tell Him everything that frustrates you. I promise you, God is not going to fall off His throne and say, “What?! I had no idea you felt that way!” He already knows what’s in your heart, but it will do you much good to get it out. Much like someone with food poisoning needs to vomit out the poison, God will not be offended when you vomit out your “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” in His presence. 

Many scholars believe that Jesus probably sang the entirety of the 22nd Psalm from the Cross. Whether He did or not, listen to the assurances that Jesus had from just this psalm alone, even in the midst of His heart-wrenching cry—

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One; You are the one Israel praises. In You our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were saved; in You they trusted and were not put to shame. … But You, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. … I will declare Your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise You. … From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear You I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him. (vv. 1-5, 19, 22, 25-26) 

Jesus turned to the Scriptures to find the words He cried out to His Father in His darkest moment, and He invites you to follow His example. Make the psalms your own—turn them into your own prayers. God is close to you when you cry out, “My God!” to Him.

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