Tag Archives: encouragement

Out into the deep


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They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep (Ps. 107:23, 24).

He is but an apprentice and no master in the art, who has not learned that every wind that blows is fair for Heaven. The only thing that helps nobody, is a dead calm. North or south, cast or west, it matters not, every wind may help towards that blessed port. Seek one thing only: keep well out to sea, and then have no fear of stormy winds. Let our prayer be that of an old Cornishman: “O Lord, send us out to sea–out in the deep water. Here we are so close to the rocks that the first bit of breeze with the devil, we are all knocked to pieces. Lord, send us out to sea–out in the deep water, where we shall have room enough to get a glorious victory.”
–Mark Guy Pearse

 

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Of burdens and birds


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They shall mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31).

There is a fable about the way the birds got their wings at the beginning. They were first made without wings. Then God made the wings and put them down before the wingless birds and said to them, “Come, take up these burdens and bear them.”

The birds had lovely plumage and sweet voices; they could sing, and their feathers gleamed in the sunshine, but they could not soar in the air. They hesitated at first when bidden to take up the burdens that lay at their feet, but soon they obeyed, and taking up the wings in their beaks, laid them on their shoulders to carry them.

For a little while the load seemed heavy and hard to bear, but presently, as they went on carrying the burdens, folding them over their hearts, the wings grew fast to their little bodies, and soon they discovered how to use them, and were lifted by them up into the air — the weights became wings.

It is a parable. We are the wingless birds, and our duties and tasks are the pinions God has made to lift us up and carry us heavenward. We look at our burdens and heavy loads, and shrink from them; but as we lift them and bind them about our hearts, they become wings, and on them we rise and soar toward God.

There is no burden which, if we lift it cheerfully and bear it with love in our hearts, will not become a blessing to us. God means our tasks to be our helpers; to refuse to bend our shoulders to receive a load, is to decline a new opportunity for growth. –J. R. Miller

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The Sensitive Chord


This is a repost of an article I originally shared in 2011. I came across it today and it had, like so many stories about conversions and testimonies all new meaning. I think it’s such an amazing story of obedience in the hardest of times, and how even though our bodies die, through the shed blood of Christ we not only live on….the seeds we plant keep bringing new life. Like my answer to a comment from a friend below “The Russian doctor is still bearing fruit”. May our lives do the same.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is not what we do that matters, but what a Sovereign God chooses to do through us that matters. 

I had great plans for my Saturday off his past week. Having spent time on vacation, this was my first week back into the “Daily Grind” of the office and I looked forward to a  Saturday filled with hiking and time spent outdoors. Instead I woke up sick and spent most of my morning trying to just get moving. Eventually I felt good enough to shake off my dissapointment and run some errands. Along the way I came across a thrift shop and decided to run in for a minute. Often the books are a mish mash of outdated owners manuals or old paperback romance novels, but there is an occasional gem once in a while. I picked up a fifty cent book “Loving God” by Chuck Colson and headed home.  Not being a big fan of Colson,  I hesitated buying it, but upon further inspection I decided to post Chapter 2. ” The Russian Doctor” in it’s entirety.  Our obedience to God matters greatly, and the story of Boris Kornfeld should be told again and again.  Be blessed dear reader.

THE RUSSIAN DOCTOR
June 1st, 1983
No reporters have visited the prison camps of Soviet Russia, unless they have gone as prisoners. So to this day we have little information about the millions who have lived, suffered, and died there, especially during Stalin’s reign of terror. Most will remain nameless for all time, remembered only in the hearts of those who knew and loved them. But from time to time, scraps of information have filtered out about a few. One of those few was Boris Nicholayevich Kornfeld.

Kornfeld was a medical doctor. From this we can guess a little about his background, for in post-revolutionary Russia such education never went to families tied in any way to czarist Russia. Probably his parents were socialists who had fastened their hopes on the Revolution. They were also Jews, but almost certainly not Jews still hoping for the Messiah, for the name Boris and the patronymic Nicholayevich indicate they had taken Russian names in some past generation. Probably Kornfeld’s forebears were Haskalah so-called “enlightened Jews,” who accepted the philosophy of rationalism, cultivated a knowledge of the natural sciences, and devoted themselves to the arts. In language, dress, and social habits they tried to make themselves as much like their Russian neighbors as possible.

It was natural for such Jews to support Lenin’s revolution, for the czars’ vicious anti-Semitism had made life almost unendurable for the prior two hundred years. Socialism promised something much better for them than “Christian” Russia. “Christian” Russia had slaughtered Jews; perhaps atheistic Russia would save them.

Obviously Kornfeld had followed in his parents’ footsteps, believing in Communism as the path of historical necessity, for political prisoners at that time were not citizens opposed to Communism or wanting the Czar’s return. Such people were simply shot. Political prisoners were believers in the Revolution, socialists or communists who had, nevertheless, not kept their allegiance to Stalin’s leadership pure.

We do not know what crime Dr. Kornfeld committed, only that it was a political crime. Perhaps he dared one day to suggest to a friend that their leader, Stalin, was fallible; or maybe he was simply accused of harboring such thoughts. It took no more than that to become a prisoner in the Russia of the early 1950s; many died for less. At any rate, Kornfeld was imprisoned in a concentration camp for political subversives at Ekibastuz.

Ironically, a few years behind barbed wire was a good cure for Communism. The senseless brutality, the waste of lives, the trivialities called criminal charges made men like Kornfeld doubt the glories of the system. Stripped of all past associations, of all that had kept them busy and secure, behind the wire prisoners had time to think. In such a place, thoughtful men like Boris Kornfeld found themselves re-evaluating beliefs they had held since childhood.

So it was that this Russian doctor abandoned all his socialistic ideals. In fact, he went further than that. He did something that would have horrified his forebears.

Boris Kornfeld became a Christian.

While few Jews anywhere in the world find it easy to accept Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, a Russian Jew would find it even more difficult. For two centuries these Jews had known implacable hatred from the people who, they were told, were the most Christian of all. Each move the Jews made to reconcile themselves or accommodate themselves to the Russians was met by new inventions of hatred and persecution, as when the head of the governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church said he hoped that, as a result of the Russian pogroms, “one-third of the Jews will convert one-third will die, and one-third will flee the country.”

Yet following the Revolution a strange alignment occurred. Joseph Stalin demanded undivided, unquestioning loyalty to his government; but both Jews and Christians knew their ultimate loyalty was to God. Consequently people of both faiths suffered for their beliefs and frequently in the same camps.

Thus it was that Boris Kornfeld came in contact with a devout Christian, a well-educated and kind fellow prisoner who spoke of a Jewish Messiah who had come to keep the promises the Lord had made to Israel. This Christian—whose name we do not know—pointed out that Jesus had spoken almost solely to Jewish people and proclaimed that He came to the Jews first. That was consistent with God’s special concern for the Jew, the chosen ones; and, he explained, the Bible promised that a new kingdom of peace would come. This man often recited aloud the Lord’s Prayer, and Kornfeld heard in those simple words a strange ring of truth.

The camp had stripped Kornfeld of everything, including his belief in salvation through socialism. Now this man offered him hope—but in what a form!

To accept Jesus Christ—to become one of those who had always persecuted his people—seemed a betrayal of his family, of all who had been before him Kornfeld knew the Jews had suffered innocently. Jews were innocent in the days of the Cossacks! Innocent in the days of the czars! And he himself was innocent of betraying Stalin; he had been imprisoned unjustly.

But Kornfeld pondered what the Christian prisoner had told him. In one commodity, time, the doctor was rich.

Unexpectedly, he began to see the powerful parallels between the Jews and this Jesus. It had always been a scandal that God should entrust Himself in a unique way to one people, the Jews. Despite centuries of persecution, their very existence in the midst of those who sought to destroy them was a sign of a Power greater than that of their oppressors. It was the same with Jesus—that God would present Himself in the form of a man had always confounded the wisdom of the world. To the proud and powerful, Jesus stood as a Sign, exposing their own limitations and sin. So they had to kill Him, just as those in power had to kill the Jews, in order to maintain their delusions of omnipotence. Thus, Stalin, the new god-head of the brave new world of the Revolution, had to persecute both Jew and Christian. Each stood as living proof of his blasphemous pretensions to power.

Only in the gulag could Boris Kornfeld begin to see such a truth. And the more he reflected upon it, the more it began to change him within.

Though a prisoner, Kornfeld lived in better conditions than most behind the wire. Other prisoners were expendable, but doctors were scarce in the remote, isolated camps. The authorities could not afford to lose a physician, for guards as well as prisoners needed medical attention. And no prison officer wanted to end up in the hands of a doctor he had cruelly abused.

Kornfeld’s resistance to the Christian message might have begun to weaken while he was in surgery, perhaps while working on one of those guards he had learned to loathe. The man had been knifed and an artery cut. While suturing the blood vessel, the doctor thought of tying the thread in such a way that it would reopen shortly after surgery. The guard would die quickly and no one would be the wiser.

The process of taking this particular form of vengeance gave rein to the burning hatred Kornfeld had for the guard and all like him. How he despised his persecutors! He could gladly slaughter them all!

And at that point, Boris Kornfeld became appalled by the hatred and violence he saw in his own heart. Yes, he was a victim of hatred as his ancestors had been. But that hatred had spawned an insatiable hatred of his own. What a deadly predicament! He was trapped by the very evil he despised. What freedom could he ever know with his soul imprisoned by this murderous hate? It made the whole world a concentration camp.

As Kornfeld began to retie the sutures properly, he found himself, almost unconsciously, repeating the words he had heard from his fellow prisoner. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Strange words in the mouth of a Jew. Yet he could not help praying them. Having seen his own evil heart, he had to pray for cleansing. And he had to pray to a God who had suffered, as he had: Jesus.

For some time, Boris Kornfeld simply continued praying the Lord’s Prayer while he carried out his backbreaking, hopeless tasks as a camp doctor. Backbreaking because there were always far too many patients. Hopeless because the camp was designed to kill men. He stood ineffectively against the tide of death gaining on each prisoner: disease, cold, overwork, beatings, malnutrition.

Doctors in the camp’s medical section were also asked to sign decrees for imprisonment in the punishment block. Any prisoner whom the authorities did not like or wanted out of the way was sent to this block—solitary confinement in a tiny, dark, cold, torture chamber of a cell. A doctor’s signature on the forms certified that a prisoner was strong and healthy enough to withstand the punishment. This was, of course, a lie. Few emerged alive.

Like all the other doctors, Kornfeld had signed his share of forms. What was the difference? The authorities did not need the signatures anyway; they had many other ways of “legalizing” punishment. And a doctor who did not cooperate would not last long, even though doctors were scarce. But shortly after he began to pray for forgiveness, Dr. Kornfeld stopped authorizing the punishment; he refused to sign the forms. Though he had signed hundreds of them, now he couldn’t. Whatever had happened inside him would not permit him to do it.

This rebellion was bad enough, but Kornfeld did not stop there. He turned in an orderly.

The orderlies were drawn from a group of prisoners who cooperated with the authorities. As a reward for their cooperation, they were given jobs within the camp which were less than a death sentence. They became the cooks, bakers, clerks, and hospital orderlies. The other prisoners hated them almost more than they hated the guards, for these prisoners were traitors; they could never be trusted. They stole food from the other prisoners and would gladly kill anyone who tried to report them or give them trouble. Besides, the guards turned a blind eye to their abuses of power. People died in the camps every day; the authorities needed these quislings to keep the system running smoothly.

While making his rounds one day, Kornfeld came to one of his many patients suffering from pellagra, an all-too-common disease in the camps. Malnutrition induced pellagra which, perversely, made digestion nearly impossible. Victims literally starved to death.

This man’s body showed the ravages of the disease. His face had become dark, one deep bruise. The skin was peeling off his hands; they had to be bandaged to staunch the incessant bleeding. Kornfeld had been giving the patient chalk, good white bread, and herring to stop the diarrhea and get nutrients into his blood, but the man was too far gone. When the doctor asked the dying patient his name, the man could not even remember it.

Just after leaving this patient, Kornfeld came upon a hulking orderly bent over the remains of a loaf of white bread meant for the pellagra patients. The man looked up shamelessly, his cheeks stuffed with food. Kornfeld had known about the stealing, had known it was one reason his patients did not recover, but his vivid memory of the dying man pierced him now. He could not shrug his shoulders and go on.

Of course he could not blame the deaths simply on the theft of food. There were countless other reasons why his patients did not recover. The hospital sttank of excrement and lacked proper facilities and supplies. He had to perform surgery under conditions so primitive that often operations were little more than mercy killings. It was preposterous to stand on principle in the situation, particularly when he knew what the orderly might do to him in return. But the doctor had to be obedient to what he now believed. Once again the change in his life was making a difference.

When Kornfeld reported the orderly to the commandant, the officer found his complaint very curious. There had been a recent rash of murders in the camp; each victim had been a “stoolie.” It was foolish—dangerously so at this time—to complain about anyone. But the commandant put the orderly in the punishment block for three days, taking the complaint with a perverse satisfaction. Kornfeld’s refusal to sign the punishment forms was becoming a nuisance; this would save the commandant some trouble. The doctor had arranged his own execution.

Boris Kornfeld was not an especially brave man. He knew his life would be in danger as soon as the orderly was released from the cell block. Sleeping in the barracks, controlled at night by the camp-chosen prisoners, would mean certain death. So the doctor began staying in the hospital, catching sleep when and where he could, living in a strange twilight world where any moment might be his last.

But, paradoxically, along with this anxiety came tremendous freedom. Having accepted the possibility of death, Boris Kornfeld was now free to live. He signed no more papers or documents sending men to their deaths. He no longer turned his eyes from cruelty or shrugged his shoulders when he saw injustice. He said what he wanted and did what he could. And soon he realized that the anger and hatred and violence in his own soul had vanished. He wondered whether there lived another man in Russia who knew such freedom!

Now Boris Kornfeld wanted to tell someone about his discovery, about this new life of obedience and freedom. The Christian who had talked to him about Jesus had been transferred to another camp, so the doctor waited for the right person and the right moment.

One gray afternoon he examined a patient who had just been operated on for cancer of the intestines. This young man with a melon-shaped head and a hurt, little-boy expression touched the soul of the doctor. The man’s eyes were sorrowful and suspicious and his face deeply etched by the years he had already spent in the camps, reflecting a depth of spiritual misery and emptiness Kornfeld had rarely seen.

So the doctor began to talk to the patient, describing what had happened to him. Once the tale began to spill out, Kornfeld could not stop.

The patient missed the first part of the story, for he was drifting in and out of the anesthesia’s influence, but the doctor’s ardor caught his concentration and held it, though he was shaking with fever. All through the afternoon and late into the night, the doctor talked, describing his conversion to Christ and his new-found freedom.

Very late, with the perimeter lights in the camp glazing the windowpanes, Kornfeld confessed to the patient: “On the whole, you know, I have become convinced that there is no punishment that comes to us in this life on earth which is undeserved. Superficially, it can have nothing to do with what we are guilty of in actual fact, but if you go over your life with a fine-tooth comb and ponder it deeply, you will always be able to hunt down that transgression of yours for which you have now received this blow.”

Imagine! The persecuted Jew who once believed himself totally innocent now saying that every man deserved his suffering, whatever it was.

The patient knew he was listening to an incredible confession. Though the pain from his operation was severe, his stomach a heavy, expansive agony of molten lead, he hung on the doctor’s words until he fell asleep.

The young patient awoke early the next morning to the sound of running feet and a commotion in the area of the operating room. His first thought was of the doctor, but his new friend did not come. Then the whispers of a fellow patient told him of Kornfeld’s fate.

During the night, while the doctor slept, someone had crept up beside him and dealt him eight blows on the head with a plasterer’s mallet. And though his fellow doctors worked valiantly to save him, in the morning the orderlies carried him out, a still, broken form.

But Kornfeld’s testimony did not die.

The patient pondered the doctor’s last, impassioned words. As a result, he, too, became a Christian. He survived that prison camp and went on to tell the world what he had learned there.

The patient’s name was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

An Exerpt from Chapter 2 on True Obedience:

“Boris Kornfield is the great paradox personified. a Jew who betrayed the faith of his fathers. a doctor whose years of training were senselessly wasted. A political idealist whose utopian vision led only to a barren siberian prison. in every one of these areas, Boris Kornfield was a failure – atleast in the world’s system of values. yet God took that failure of a man and through his singleminded obedience used him to lead to Christ another who would go on to become a prophetic voice and one of the world’s most influential writers for Kornield’s words did their convincing, convicting work, touching what Solzhenitsyn (Kornfield’s friend who turn to Jesus) referred to as “a sensitive chord.” That was [Solzhenitsyn’s] moment of spiritual awakening: ‘God of the universe, I believe You again! though i renounced you, you will be with me,’ he cried out. it was a spiritual transfusion – life taken from one man and pumped into another for God’s sovereign purpose. and in his conversion Solzhenitsyn saw clearly the kingdom paradox. for in the emptiness of that Russian gulag, he perceived what pleasure-seeking millions in the abundance of Western life cannot. He wrote later, ‘the meaning of earthly existence lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul.’ Kornfield’s brief Christian life was lived in circumscribed circumstances, almost in isolation. In many ways it would seem that his decision not to sign the medical forms (that would kill hundreds of citizens), his reporting of the corrupt prison guard, even his few hours of testimony to a perhaps terminally ill patient were futile, would gain him nothing but that which came in the end – a brutal death at the hands of his captors. yet Kornfield’s faith was strong, sure, and sincere. and somehow his fellow Christian (Solzhenitsyn) and the Holy Spirit had communicated one fact to him: what God demanded of him was obedience, no matter what. single minded obedience in faith. and that lesson of the russian doctor’s life was my lesson at delaware: what God wants from His people is obedience, no matter the circumstances, no matter how unknown the outcome. it has always been this way. God calling his people to obedience and giving them – at best- a glimpse of the outcome of their effort…we might think of this divine pattern as cruel, but i am convinced that there is a sovereign wisdom to it. knowing how susceptible we are to success’s siren call, God does not allow us to see, and therefore glory in, what is done through us. the very nature of the obedience He demands is that it be given without regard to circumstances or results… So obedience is the key to real faith – the unshakable kind of faith so powerfully illustrated by Job’s life. Job lost his home, his family (except for a nagging wife), his health, even his hope. the advice friends was no help. no matter where he turned, he could find no answers to his plight. eventually he stood alone. But though it appeared God had abandoned him, Job clung to the assurance that God is who he says he is.. Job confirmed his obedience with those classic words of faith: ‘though he slay me, yet will i trust in him’ This is real faith: believing and acting obediently regardless of circumstances or contrary evidence. after all, if faith depended on visible evidence, it wouldn’t be faith…. it is absurd to constantly seek new demonstrations of God’s power, to expect a miraculous answer to every need, from curing ingrown toenails to finding parking spaces; this only leads to faith in miracles rather that the Maker [of miracles]. true faith depends not upon mysterious signs, celestial fireworks, or grandiose dispensations from a God who is seen as a rich, benevolent uncle; true faith, as Job understood, rests on the assurance that God is who he says he is.

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The God of the Broken Hearted.


As “fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks,” so many of the fairest flowers of human life, grow upon the rough stalks of suffering.

I found myself this morning having a bit of a “pity party”.
It seems like the past year has been one health problem after another for me. I am the kind of person who has a tendency to put a “happy face” on all my problems and focus on anything else. I put off going to Doctor’s until it’s too late, I don’t ask for help unless it’s urgent and I eventually bottom out somewhere. It’s not a healthy pattern and God usually has to do something to get my attention.
I recently wrote a little bit about my testimony for another blog.  I have never written it down because it’s one of those situations where God made good out of a really bad thing and it’s hard to revisit without having to think about those hard times. Looking back over my life was bittersweet to me, and this morning driving to Church it all came crashing down. I spent most of my morning crying out to God in my office and then in my car. I know God can handle it, it perplexes me why I always wait to unload on Him when he promises to never leave or forsake me. I know there is a reason for everything we go through on our journey home to Heaven, and that God is using those very things to refine us for His glory, but sometimes I guess I need to just pour out my heart to Him and let Him carry the burdens of life for me.
 I included a wonderful article from Grace Gems my J.R. Miller. If for some reason today you are sad, or weary please remember that God has special grace for you today. Lean on Him, trust Him. He has this all under control, He cares for His children.
The God of the broken-hearted

(J. R. Miller, “The Beatitude for the Unsuccessful” 1892)

“The Lord is near the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18

The God of the Bible, is the God of the broken-hearted. The world cares little for the broken hearts. Indeed, people oftentimes break hearts by their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness–and then move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm! But God cares. Broken-heartedness attracts Him. The plaint of grief on earth–draws Him down from heaven.

Physicians in their rounds, do not stop at the homes of the well–but of the sick. So it is with God in His movements through this world. It is not to the whole and the well–but to the wounded and stricken, that He comes with sweetest tenderness! Jesus said of His mission: “He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted.” Isaiah 61:1

We look upon trouble as misfortune. We say that the life is being destroyed, which is passing through adversity. But the truth which we find in the Bible, does not so represent suffering. God is a repairer and restorer of the hurt and ruined life. He takes the bruised reed–and by His gentle skill makes it whole again, until it grows into fairest beauty. The love, pity, and grace of God, minister sweet blessing of comfort and healing–to restore the broken and wounded hearts of His people.

Much of the most beautiful life in this world, comes out of sorrow. As “fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks,” so many of the fairest flowers of human life, grow upon the rough stalks of suffering. We see that those who in heaven wear the whitest robes, and sing the loudest songs of victory–are those who have come out of great tribulation. Heaven’s highest places are filling, not from earth’s homes of glad festivity and tearless joy–but from its chambers of pain; its valleys of struggle where the battle is hard; and its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with tears, and where hearts are broken. The God of the Bible–is the God of the bowed down–whom He lifts up into His strength.

God is the God of those who fail. Not that He loves those who stumble and fall, better than those who walk erect without stumbling; but He helps them more. The weak believers get more of His grace–than those who are strong believers. There is a special divine promise, which says, “My divine power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are conscious of our own insufficiency, then we are ready to receive of the divine sufficiency. Thus our very weakness is an element of strength. Our weakness is an empty cup–which God fills with His own strength.

You may think that your weakness unfits you for noble, strong, beautiful living–or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You wish you could get clear of it. It seems to burden you–an ugly spiritual deformity. But really it is something which–if you give it to Christ–He can transform into a blessing, a source of His power. The friend by your side, whom you envy because he seems so much stronger than you are–does not get so much of Christ’s strength as you do. You are weaker than him–but your weakness draws to you divine power, and makes you strong.

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

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Glorify God in the fire


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(George Whitefield, “Glorify God in the Fire!”)

“Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit!” John 15:2

“I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!” Isaiah 48:10

Fire not only burns and purges, but it separates one thing from another.

God Almighty knows that we are often purged more in one hour by a good sound trial–than by a thousand manifestations of His love. It is a fine thing to come purified, to come pardoned out of the furnace of affliction. The furnace is intended to purge us to separate the precious from the vile, the chaff from the wheat. And God, in order to do this, is pleased to put us into one fire after another.

There are some roads which are finely paved and smooth–but the King’s road to Heaven is strewed with crosses and afflictions!

My brethren, we need to be purged! How apt are we to want to go to Heaven upon a featherbed. But many go lying upon beds of pain and languishing, which is the King’s highway there.

God will not put us into the fire–if there was not something to be purged away. The grand thing, is to learn to glorify God in the fire.

We glorify God in the fire, when we quietly endure it as a chastisement, and when we bear it patiently. It is a dreadful thing when we are saying with Cain, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” But the language of a soul that glorifies God in the fire is this, “Shall I, Lord, shall I a sinful man, complain for the punishment of my sins?”

We glorify God in the fire, when, though we feel pain and anguish, we at the same time say, “Lord, we deserve this and ten thousands times more!”

We glorify God in the fire also, when we are really and fully persuaded that God will put us in the furnace only for our good, and His own glory.

We glorify God in the fire when we say, “Lord don’t let the fire go out until it has purged away all my dross!”

We glorify God in the fire when the soul can say, “Here I am, my God, do with me as seems good in Your sight! I know that I shall not have one unnecessary stroke!”

We glorify God in the fire when we are not grumbling, but humbly submitting to His will. When that awful message was brought to Eli, what does he say? “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.” Let my children be killed, whatever is done, it is the Lord’s doing!

We glorify God in the fire when we rejoice in Him–when we can thank God for striking us–when we can thank Him for whipping us!

Happy are you who have got into Christ’s fire!

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For the child of God death is gain


And the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive – forever and ever – and I hold the keys of death and of Hades! (Rev 1:18)

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The death of a Christian is the fruition of his life’s hope. For the lost it’s the worst thing possible, it’s hopeless futility or a shaky belief based on stories of an afterlife dreamed up from bad literature, vain imaginings and cheesy television programs. The devil loves to pervert the idea of heaven and hell and sadly millions will find out the truth they ignored with no hope in the end of a better option. This is something I have been reading and thinking about lately and I have seen beautiful examples of courageous, God honoring death and sad stories with so much pain and loss it’s almost impossible to bear. The past few weeks Pastor Scott Bandy of Twin City Bible Church in Nitro, West Virginia has handled this subject in two sermons that I have linked to below. I also linked to the blog of Kara Tippets, a young Mom and Pastor’s wife who passed away recently from a difficult, but grace filled battle with cancer.

This is not an easy subject to talk about, but it’s an experience we are all guaranteed. There is so much hope and joy in the life of a Christian, and that life is eternal. Those promises are everlasting….every flower fades but the Rose of Sharon, Jesus Christ died so that His followers live on in peace forever. Those promises transcend, pain, death and suffering. If you are a believer be encouraged by the hope you have in heaven, and if you do not know the Lord please do as the Philippian jailer when he asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul and Silas responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Sermons by Pastor Scott Bandy:
Death for God’s glory
 
Flower! Easter lilies! Speak to me this morning the same dear old lesson of immortality which you have been speaking to so many sorrowing souls.
Wise old Book! let me read again in your pages of firm assurance that to die is gain.
Poets! recite to me your verses which repeat in every line the Gospel of eternal life.
Singers! break forth once more into songs of joy; let me hear again the well-known resurrection psalms.
Tree and blossom and bird and sea and sky and wind whisper it, sound it afresh, warble it, echo it, let it throb and pulsate through every atom and particle; let the air be filled with it.
Let it be told and retold and still retold until hope rises to conviction, and conviction to certitude of knowledge; until we, like Paul, even though going to our death, go with triumphant mien, with assured faith, and with serene and shining face.

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Yet I will trust Him


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Though he slay me, yet will I trust him (Job 13:15).

For I know whom I have believed (2 Tim. 1:12).

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
‘I trust in Thee.’

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
Which has refused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses.
I yet shall see through my severest losses
The greater gain.

I will not doubt. Well anchored is this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not quail
To breast the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body parts with spirit,
‘I do not doubt,’ so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.

“In fierce storms,” said an old seaman, “we must do one thing; there is only one way: we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there.” This, Christian, is what you must do.

Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you; and then you can do but one thing; there is only one way. Reason cannot help you; past experiences give you no light. Even prayer fetches no consolation. Only a single course is left. You must put your soul in one position and keep it there.

You must stay upon the Lord; and come what may–winds, waves, cross-seas, thunder, lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers–no matter what, you must lash yourself to the helm, and hold fast your confidence in God’s faithfulness, His covenant engagement, His everlasting love in Christ Jesus.
–Richard Fuller

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YESTERDAY’S GRIEF


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The rain that fell a-yesterday is ruby on the roses,
Silver on the poplar leaf, and gold on willow stem;
The grief that chanced a-yesterday is silence that incloses
Holy loves when time and change shall never trouble them.

The rain that fell a-yesterday makes all the hillsides glisten,
Coral on the laurel and beryl on the grass;
The grief that chanced a-yesterday has taught the soul to listen
For whispers of eternity in all the winds that pass.

O faint-of-heart, storm-beaten, this rain will gleam tomorrow,
Flame within the columbine and jewels on the thorn,
Heaven in the forget-me-not; though sorrow now be sorrow,
Yet sorrow shall be, beauty in the magic of the morn.
–Katherine Lee Bates

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“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Ps. 4:1)


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This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving that he has been set free from suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through suffering: “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” He declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of life’s enlargement.

And have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true? It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.” We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. He who sheds tears over a romance will not be most apt to help reality; real sorrow will be too unpoetic for him. We need the iron to enlarge our nature. The gold is but a vision; the iron is an experience. The chain which unites me to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal.

My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory. Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings — wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain.
–George Matheson

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God uses the broken pieces


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And the rest, some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:44).

The marvelous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, with its trials and triumphs, is a fine pattern of the lights and shades of the way of faith all through the story of human life. The remarkable feature of it is the hard and narrow places which we find intermingled with God’s most extraordinary interpositions and providences.

It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us quite out of the plane of difficulties. The actual fact, however, is that the real experience is quite contrary. The story of the Bible is one of alternate trial and triumph in the case of everyone of the cloud of witnesses from Abel down to the latest martyr.

Paul, more than anyone else, was an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being crushed or broken in spirit. On account of his testifying in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and obliged to fly for his life. but we behold no heavenly chariot transporting the holy apostle amid thunderbolts of flame from the reach of his foes, but “through a window in a basket,” was he let down over the walls of Damascus and so escaped their hands. In an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry, or groceries, the servant of Jesus Christ was dropped from the window and ignominiously fled from the hate of his foes.

Again we find him left for months in the lonely dungeons; we find him telling of his watchings, his fastings, and his desertion by friends, of his brutal and shameful beatings, and here even after God has promised to deliver him, we see him for days left to toss upon a stormy sea, obliged to stand guard over the treacherous seaman, and at last when the deliverance comes, there is no heavenly galley sailing from the skies to take off the noble prisoner; there is no angel form walking along the waters and stilling the raging breakers; there is no supernatural sign of the transcendent miracle that is being wrought; but one is compelled to seize a spar, another a floating plank, another to climb on a fragment of the wreck, another to strike out and swim for his life.

Here is God’s pattern for our own lives. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.

God’s promises and God’s providences do not lift us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love along the warp and woof of our every day experience.

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