The Reality of Fear, the Power of Faith

With foresight known only fully to God, the editors of this month’s Tabletalk magazine chose as its theme “Fear.” Yes, fear – with article titles such as “The Reality of Fear,” Fear of a Changing World,” Fear of Financial Loss,” “Fear of Being Alone,” “Fear of Disease and Disability,” and “Fear of Dying” – all fitting especially now.

So, on this last night of March, we pull some words of comfort and peace from two articles in this issue. At the same time, I encourage you to look up and read any of these other articles too. They are all profitable, especially in these days and times.

First, we hear Ed Welch as he speaks of “The Reality of Fear,” but also ends with what God says to us in our fears.

When the Spirit takes you into passages about fear and anxiety, you will hear three persistent refrains. First, God speaks beautiful and attractive words to His fearful people. Don’t be quick to expect rebuke, though there is room for confession and repentance in all of life. Instead, expect compassion. Expect comfort.

Second, the Lord promises that He is with us, and He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). This is the promise that includes all others. Jesus Christ died for sins “that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Fearful people are the ones who are in a position to cherish the gospel.

Third, since the Lord is present and He is the God who is sovereign over tomorrow, we can give our full attention to our God-given mission today (Matt. 6:33–34). Today we have all the grace we need. Today we have the Spirit of power who gives us courage for small steps of obedience even when tomorrow seems quite bleak. When tomorrow comes, the Spirit will again give us the power and courage that we need. Grace is new every morning.

Fears and anxieties are everywhere in life and in Scripture. Since they are such constants, these three refrains are not merely a way to stand against our fears, but they summarize the pattern of Christian growth.

The second article we choose to reference is that of pastor Eric Watkins, “Fear Not, for I Am With You.”

What God expected of His people was faith in His promise and presence. The opposite of being “frightened and dismayed” is to be “strong and courageous.” There was only one problem: the people were sinfully afraid. Their courage waned more than it waxed, and eventually God would have to do even more for His covenant people. And He did. Many years and episodes later, against the backdrop of an even gloomier stage, God raised up another deliverer—the Prophet more faithful than Moses and the Captain more successful than Joshua. Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world to transform this stage of foreboding darkness into one of radiant hope. He came to do battle with all that threatens us, and He overcame our greatest fear—death itself—by His own life, death, and resurrection.

Is it any surprise that in the resurrection narrative in Matthew 28, God’s people were told not to fear? First, the angels told the women at the tomb not to be afraid (v. 5); next, Jesus, having risen from the dead, told the women to say the same thing to the disciples (v. 10); and finally, Jesus gave us the Great Commission with the singular promise that banishes our fear: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v. 20).

Israel’s tendency was to be “frightened and dismayed.” So is ours. At times, fear grips the heart and boggles the mind, causing us to do the wrong thing at times and hindering us from doing what we ought to do. But we must remember that we are accompanied by One who is far stronger than anything that threatens us—and He is not afraid. There are still many giants in the land. But the One who is with us is greater. He has already defeated His and our enemies. He is victoriously subduing hearts just as He promised. He is working faith in us just as He promised. And the greatest comfort any of us can have—no matter how frightening or dismaying this world may be—is that Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, is with us always, even to the end of the age.

Source: The Reality of Fear | Tabletalk

“…when things seem tough and against all reason, what God has ordained means more to us than anything our brain can apprehend.” ~ J. Calvin

crucifiedandrisencover-JCalvin-2020What we learn here is that God’s will should stop us in our tracks and hold us in check, so that when things seem tough and against all reason, what God has ordained means more to us than anything our brain can apprehend. Our whims and fancies must thus be trodden underfoot once we know that God has other plans. It is part of the obedience of faith to think of God as wise and as having authority to do everything as he wishes. And if we have contrary views, we should know that they are mere smoke and emptiness. God knows all things: nothing is hidden from him and his will is the measure of all wisdom and righteousness.

The fact that we reason to the contrary reflects our ignorance, for as we know, God’s wisdom is infinite, while we have scarcely three drops of common sense in us. Men should not be surprised if God does not behave the way they like. Why not? Because we are poor fools. As long as our mind and reason have the upper hand, we are quite senseless. Therefore since we cannot fathom the bottomless depths of God’s judgment, let us learn to worship what is hidden from us – worship it, I say, humbly and reverently, confessing that all that God does is entirely right and just, even though we do not understand how it is so. That is one point. [pp.42-43]

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…Let us therefore learn that, whenever the story of the passion is told to us, we should sigh and groan, since the Son of God endured so much suffering for us. Yet at the same time let us also tremble before his majesty until it should be revealed to us, and let us resolve that, when he comes, it will be to make us taste the actual fruit which he obtained for us by his death and passion.

Let us fear also lest we are among those whom he threatened when he said ‘Hereafter you will see [the Son of man seated at the right hand of God’s power.’] For the wicked and reprobate will discover how terrible is God’s seat, and how great is his power when he rises up to destroy them. When Paul sets out to describe the condemnation of the wicked and those cursed by God, he says that they will tremble before his infinite majesty and will be terrified by his sight (2 Thess.1:8,9).

Since this is so, we should humble ourselves before the Lord Jesus, and not wait until we visibly see the majesty he will display at his last coming. Let us by faith contemplate him today as our king, the head of the angels and of every creature, and let us welcome him as our sovereign ruler. Let us ascribe to him the honour due to him, knowing that because he is given to us by God his Father for wisdom, redemption, righteousness and holiness (1 Cor.1:30), we must ascribe to him all praise, and must draw from him fullness that will truly satisfy. Let us be sure we pay this honour to our Lord Jesus Christ, even though we do not yet see his judgment seat.

May we contemplate him with the eyes of faith, praying that God may enlighten us by his Holy Spirit and so strengthen us that we may call upon him in time of need. And may we be so lifted up above this world, above all thought and understanding, that we may exalt Jesus Christ today as he deserves. That, in brief, is what we must remember. [51-52]

Both parts are taken from the third sermon of John Calvin, “Arrest and Prosecution” (Matt.26:51-66), in the newly published collection of his sermons on Matthew 26-28 titled Crucified and Risen (Banner of Truth, 2020) “newly translated from the French of 1558 by Robert White.”

Both of these quotes struck me as timely and relevant as I read this sermon today. The first one in the light of the great crisis facing the nations and man’s attempt to trust his own reason, plans, and power to get him through it. And the second quote in the time of reflecting on Christ’s suffering and death, and this being the Lord’s Day, another celebration of His sovereign Lordship and victory. Truly, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev.5:12).

Stay-at-Home Activities, Like Reading, Etc.!

During this time of CV-19 lock-downs and stay-at-home orders (such as here in Michigan), many websites and blogs are offering practical help regarding activities for families and individuals involving all ages. Let me add my own suggestions, while relying on some of these other ideas.

Of course, you will expect me to say that READING should be at the top of your list! By all means let this be a time when we as grandparents, parents, and children spend “extra” time diving into books and renewing our love for the soothing activity of reading. March is, after all, National Reading Month (Make sure to read some Dr. Seuss to your children – it’s in honor of his birthday)!

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Many physical bookstores that had been open are now closed, but they are open online and offering curbside service and free shipping, including Baker Books, Barnes and Noble (in the Rivertown Mall, Woodland Mall and Holland), and Schuler Books here in Grand Rapids. While the Reformed Book Outlet is closed, their website is also available for orders. The RFPA is also taking online orders. Don’t forget Monergism’s website too for great book ideas and many free ebooks.

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If you are looking for other books ideas online, especially for children, let me recommend Really Good Reads and Redeemed Reader.

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There are a number of great Kindle deals right now, including many classics and free ebooks. One I purchased this week is a wonderful devotional on prayers in the Bible from the pen of pastor Gordon Keddie (his commentaries are ALL worth while!): Prayers of the Bible is available free through today.

I’ve been hearing that puzzles are making a comeback and puzzle makers are doing a booming business. Wonderful – a great personal or family activity! My own wife has her card table set up in front of our large living room window and is currently busy with a 1000-piece one.

Speaking of puzzles – word puzzles, that is – Another fun activity our grandchildren enjoy is the “Scrambled Scriptures” Bible word search from Creation Moments (other good things on their website too!). You can subscribe to receive the weekly edition, or print off any available at the link provided. Give it a try and see what the kids think.

Watching videos and documentaries also has its place. And there are many valuable educational and inspirational things out there.

Ligonier Ministries is offering all their teaching videos free during this time. This is a great way to feed your soul and expand your mind right now – Bible studies, church history, Christian doctrine are all open to you.

Christian History Institute is offering their “RedeemTV” beta version free right now. This includes videos on church history and documentaries on world history.

Other activities online may be found at the National Archives website (a wealth of history, etc. there!) and your local state history website. The Michigan Historical Society website has all kinds of ideas for children.

WrigleyField

Of course, for those of us missing March madness basketball and the start of the MLB baseball season (Cubs!), there are plenty of classic games being broadcast right now. Yes, sports has its place – just keep it in its place (Indeed, I need that reminder too.).

Better yet, get outside and play your own games, take bike rides, and walk. Some of us West Michigan pickleball players got our first 2020 outdoor game in this week. It was only 50 degrees and breezy, but it sure felt great to be out playing! 🙂

Feel free to pass along your own suggestions in the comments section!

*Update: I forgot to share this bookplate I came across in some books I was sorting through this past week.

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Comfort Greater Than a Pandemic

As our lives have changed drastically in the last few weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now in our own state of Michigan a “stay-at-home” order was issued Monday by our governor with further restrictions on our activities and work, the fears and worries mount. Flooded daily with information about the spread of the deadly virus, we feel overwhelmed by the news. We try to stay occupied and keep our own minds as well as those of our children and grandchildren off the threat lurking all around.

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But as children of God, we must know we also have an abundance of special peace and hope coming our way in these days. We have a comfort greater than any and all pandemics! Because we have a comfort that comes from the triune God, rooted in the love of our heavenly Father, accomplished by the saving work of the Son,  Jesus Christ, and applied by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit. Now, there’s an anchor for our souls!

And in these times, we are also being flooded with the gospel of this divine comfort. I think of all the wonderful sermons being produced by our pastors, just for these times. A couple of examples are Rev. C. Haak’s at Georgetown PRC this past week, “Souls Redeemed from Fear,” based on Isaiah 43:1. and Rev. C. Griess’ at First PRC, “Coronavirus and the King,” based on Rev.4-5.

Then there are the precious pastoral meditations pastors, elders, and members are writing and sending out to the congregations. One of our elders at Faith PRC, Tom Cammenga, has written a couple, including this one this week, which reads in part as follows:

To whom or to what are you looking right now for peace and security?  Is it yourself, or your neighbor? Is it the government? Is it the stock of food and goods you have amassed?  Is it the money that you have in the bank or in a retirement account? All these things are fleeting and can be lost in an instant.  

Let us instead, with David, seek the Lord.  It is only in Him that we have deliverance. It is in Him alone that we have our boast.  It is in Him alone that we put our trust. Let it be our prayer together as a congregation for ourselves and for one another that the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts that enables us to say with David in Psalm 34:1-2: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad”.

What then is the result of our seeking after and trusting in God?  First, He hears us. Think of that for a moment and be amazed and humbled.  The Almighty God of heaven and earth hears US! We who are less than the dust and are worthy of nothing less than eternal damnation!  He, as it were, bends His ear to us in His Fatherly love and tender mercy, and HEARS us. What a wonder!  Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry”.

Secondly, He answers us.  Our God is not the god of wood or stone that is unable to answer those who seek deliverance from them.  Jehovah is the LIVING God and answers our requests. Psalm 145:18: “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth”. 

Finally, He delivers us, and that deliverance is total and complete.  Yes, He certainly delivers us from evils and difficulties here in this life.  And when, as it is at times, not His will to deliver us from them, He works them out for our eternal good and advantage.  Ultimately and most importantly of course, He delivers us from our sin and the misery that is ours because of it. Even now, though we still battle with our old human nature, in Christ, we have been made righteous, and in Christ we have and enjoy that beautiful Covenant relationship of friendship with God.  Even when we are afflicted, alone, or, as now, when we are unable to come together as a congregation, we are never left desolate and without hope. Psalm 34:22: “The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate”.   

Our own pastor, Rev. C. Spronk has produced some special YouTube videos with a comforting message from God’s Word. You will find one such here:

Besides, we have God’s Word of comfort through radio messages, such as on the Reformed Witness Hour. The Facebook page of the RWH featured one today, ‘Trusting and Not Fearing,” which was also posted on the  PRC website.

And then there is the powerful message of music. On the Voices of Victory Facebook page today the song “Don’t Be Afraid” was featured. It’s a beautiful song of comfort for these days. Read and listen to these lyrics based on Mark 4:35-41:

1. The disciples were tossed on a cold, raging sea
But Jesus was sleeping so peacefully
They cried, “Master, don’t you care that we die?”
But He spoke spoke three small words, “peace be still,”
It was the storm that had to die

(Chorus)
So don’t be afraid when the darkness is closing
The Master is near, His voice calms every storm
So when the world says it’s over, the Master says, “No, I’ve just begun”
In your darkest of times, whether rain or in sunshine, don’t be afraid

2. I know how it feels to be tossed by the storms
And I know how it feels to be battered and worn
But then I know how it feels to be carried on through
Called by the strength of the One who is faithful and true

Repeat Chorus

And, of course, the Psalms speak to us in times like this too, because they speak for us, as God’s children speak (sing and pray) out of the experience of their own personal doubts, worries, and fears. You are encouraged to make use of our Psalter online, including the lyrics, piano accompaniment, and special videos by the PR Psalm Choir.

Here’s a few lines from Psalter 34, based on Psalm 18:

1. I love the Lord, His strength is mine;
He is my God, I trust His grace.
My fortress high, my shield divine,
My Saviour and my hiding place.

2. My prayer to God shall still be raised
When troubles thick around me close;
The Lord, most worthy to be praised,
Will rescue me from all my foes.

3. When, floods of evil raging near,
Down nigh to death my soul was brought,
I cried to God in all my fear;
He heard and great deliverance wrought.

May we avail ourselves of all these means in the days ahead. God has comfort for us, the only comfort there is in this present world, comfort greater than the pandemic.

“We cannot doubt that through him we may now surmount all worry, fear and dread….” ~ J. Calvin

crucifiedandrisencover-JCalvin-2020Moreover, since we have to struggle with such dread [of death, which is “as it were the pit of hell, expressive of God’s wrath.”], we need to know that our Lord Jesus Christ made provision for all our fears, and that even in the midst of death we can still come before God with our heads held high.

…If, then, we have no hope of life when we come before the heavenly Judge, we are sure to be rejected by him. He will not acknowledge us but will disown us, even though we make profession of the Christian faith. We can only await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ if we are persuaded and convinced that he so battled with the terrors of death as to free us from them and to win for us the victory. And although we will always struggle to be conscious of our weaknesses, to turn to God for help and to be continually made to confess our sins so that God alone is seen to be righteous, we can nevertheless be sure that Jesus Christ has fought for us and gained the victory, not for himself but for us. We cannot doubt that through him we may now surmount all worry, fear and dread, and call upon God, certain that he will always receive us with outstretched arm.

It is important that we remember this. We should be clear that there is nothing speculative about the message that our Lord Jesus suffered the awful terrors of death, and that he deliberately stood surety for us before our Judge, so that, because of the battle he fought, we today may triumph over all our infirmities and may persistently call upon God’s name, never doubting that he will answer us and will always be ready in his goodness to receive us to himself. Thus we will pass through life and death, through fire and water, knowing that our Lord Jesus did not fight in vain but gives the victory to all who come to him in faith. That, in sum, is what we need to bear in mind.

Taken from the first sermon of John Calvin, “No Sorrow Like His Sorrow,” in the newly published collection of his sermons on Matthew 26-28 titled Crucified and Risen (Banner of Truth, 2020) “newly translated from the French of 1558 by Robert White.”

This particular quote shows just how relevant the gospel of Christ crucified is, no matter the place or time or circumstance. Faith in this Christ of the cross and empty tomb frees us from fear of death and gives us hope in the life to come.

One also cannot fail to note how pastoral Calvin was in his preaching. He truly ministered the Word to God’s people, convicting them of God’s truth and comforting them with the good news in Christ Jesus.

This will be a collection of sermons you will want to obtain. It makes for fine reading in this time of year.

Sovereign Ruler of the Skies – John Ryland

I came across part of this comforting hymn today in a “Grace Gems” devotional, and had to look it up. The first result of my search gave the fullest version of “Sovereign Ruler of the Skies,” though it is also found on hymnary.org. I found this nice summary of the hymn on the Founders website:

“Sovereign Ruler of the Skies” [was written] by the English Baptist pastor and hymn writer John Ryland (1753–1825). The hymn was written in 1777 and included in Rippon’s Selection (1787) #545. It originally had nine verses. Unfortunately, as with many hymns, it is often shortened to four or five verses when included in hymnals.

…The longer composition is worth singing. It reveals Ryland’s intentions in thought and structure. The hymn begins with doctrine that overflows into devotion. As in a well-crafted sermon, he takes time to proclaim truth and then apply truth. In the first six verses he declares what is true about God and about himself. Then in verses 7–9 he responds to that truth. His response is a model for us in how we should respond:

He prays, entrusting himself to God: “In Thy hands my life I trust.”

He examines his heart and motives, wanting nothing to surpass God in his life, asking himself: “Have I somewhat dearer still?”

He commits himself to God’s will, acknowledging that all he has and is belongs to God.

He praises God, desiring to bless Him “at all times”

And he closes the hymn by preaching to his own soul. God is sovereign over all. If I have Him, I have all I need. He will never leave me or forsake me. So how could I ever be orphaned or abandoned?

Take time to read Ryland’s hymn—all nine verses. He has much to teach us about savoring truth and crafting praise.

Here, then, are all nine verses of the original hymn of Rylands:

1.   Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
Ever gracious, ever wise!
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.

2.   His decree, who formed the earth,
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place and time,
All appointed were by Him.

3.   He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb;
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by His wise decree.

4.   Times of sickness, times of health,
Times of penury and wealth;
Times of trial and of grief,
Time of triumph and relief.

5.   Times the tempter’s power to prove,
Times to taste a Savior’s love:
All must come, and last and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend.

6.   Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till He bids I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love thinks fit.

7.   O Thou Gracious, Wise and Just,
In Thy hands my life I trust:
Have I somewhat dearer still?
I resign it to Thy will.

8.   May I always own Thy hand
Still to the surrender stand;
Know that Thou art God alone,
I and mine are all Thine own.

9.   Thee, at all times, will I bless;
Having Thee, I all possess;
How can I bereaved be,
Since I cannot part with Thee?

Notice especially that 6th verse in our present calamity:

6.   Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till He bids I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love thinks fit.

Source: Hymns from History | Sovereign Ruler of the Skies

“Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague” by Martin Luther

mluther.jpegThese pearls of wisdom from the pen of Martin Luther shed marvelous light on our own response to the situation with COVID-19 in our world at present. Biblical principles pervade Luther’s counsel to people facing the Black Plague in his day, including the two chief ones: love for God and love for the neighbor.
May his words give us guidance in these dark and difficult days.

Tolle Lege

“Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are.

They say that it is God’s punishment; if He wants to protect them He can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting Him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the…

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All Things from His Fatherly Hand: Help and Hope in This World’s Chaos

In the midst of all the uncertainty and fear surrounding the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, including in our own country (now under a “state of emergency”) and in our little corner of the world and United States here in Michigan (also under a “state of emergency”), pastor/professor Kevin DeYoung’s post today is a welcome word of peace and comfort: “All Things from His Fatherly Hand.”

His perspective? The providence of our almighty God and Father. His source and basis? The Word of God, of course, but as summed and explained by a 456-year-old confession – the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 10, Q&A 27,28. Here are those statements:

Q. 27.  What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
A.  The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.

Q. 28.  What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence doth still uphold all things?
A.  That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.

DeYoung’s entire post is worth reading (linked below, so do so), but I quote from the second part of his comments. It certainly gives us as Christians a helpful and hopeful lens through which to see our chaotic world at present.

May we trust and not be afraid. Our Father is Lord, and that Lord is our Father. In perfect wisdom, mercy, and grace He cares for us, and will care for us. As children of this heavenly Father, let us hold onto His hand, for He will never let go of ours.

It’s worth noting that Lord’s Day 10 is explaining what the Apostles’ Creed means when it says, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” If God is the creator of all things and truly almighty, then he must continue to be almighty over all that he has created. And if God is a Father, then surely he exercises his authority over his creation and creatures for the good of his beloved children. Providence is nothing more than a belief in “God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” brought to bear on our present blessings and troubles and buoying our hope into the future.

You can look at providence through the lens of human autonomy and our idolatrous notions of freedom and see a mean God moving tornadoes and influenza like chess pieces in some kind of perverse divine play-time. Or you can look at providence through the lens of Scripture and see a loving God counting the hairs on our heads and directing the sparrows in the sky so that we might live life unafraid.

“What else can we wish for ourselves,” Calvin wrote, “if not even one hair can fall from our head without his will?” There are no accidents in your life. Nothing has been left to chance. Every economic downturn, every novel virus, every oncology report has been sent to us from the God who sees all things, plans all things, and loves us more than we know.

As children of our heavenly Father, divine providence is always for us and never against us. Joseph’s imprisonment seemed pointless, but it makes sense now. Slavery in Egypt makes sense now. Killing the Messiah makes sense now. At some point in the future—whether near or far—the coronavirus will make sense. Whatever difficulty or unknown we may be facing today, it will make sense someday—if not in this life, then certainly in the next.

We all have moments where we fear the unknown. The fact of the matter is our worries may come true, but God will never be untrue to us. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. God will always lead us, always listen to us, and always love us in Christ.

God moves in mysterious ways; we may not always understand why life is what it is. But we can face the future unafraid because we know that nothing moves, however mysterious, except by the hand of that great Unmoved Mover who moves all and is moved by none, and that this Mover is not an impersonal force but the God who is our Father in heaven.

Source: All Things from His Fatherly Hand

Exciting Ice Fishing (But not on Sunday!)

Mom and Dad, though, insisted that Sunday was always for church. I grumbled somewhat but went along with them and Laverne to Central Methodist Church on South Cass Street [in Traverse City]. From the top of the steps it was possible to see the bay [Grand Traverse] though, and one Sunday as we came out I noticed the ice out there doing strange things. I convinced Dad that we should walk over to check on our shanty.

While the bay was still frozen, an extremely strong north wind was blowing toward Traverse City. Far up the bay, the ice had broken up and waves were actually rolling under the remaining ice coating. Oddly, it had not yet broken up at the south end but was bending and groaning under the unusual stresses being exerted against it.

It was obvious the bay was about to break up. As we stood there glumly watching, a lad came by. ‘I’ll go out and get your shanty for a dollar,’ he offered. Dad declined, saying he wouldn’t risk anyone’s life like that for any price.

Sadly, we watched as one after another of the cluster of shanties tipped and fell into open water that soon appeared as the ice gradually gave way. Not wanting to see our beloved casket box [his dad worked as a wooden casket maker] meet a similar fate, we turned and walked on home.

Next day, I just had to get back there to see if anything could be seen of our little fishing structure. I was shocked and delighted to find it still sitting jauntily on the ice that was, once again, firmly joined together by an unusually low temperature during the night.

When Dad got home from work, the two of us walked out to get our shanty. We found we had, unknowingly, put it on one of the thickest pieces of drift ice in the bay and that is what saved it.

Dad, however, had other ideas to explain the salvation of our beloved fish shanty. ‘See what happens when you go to church on Sundays’? he commented.

boy-bike-buster-charles-1995Taken from a new book I found (at a thrift store) and am reading about a boy growing up in Traverse City, Michigan in the 1930s. That lad is Gordon Charles, longtime outdoor editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle and winner of over twenty writing awards. The book is titled A Boy, a Bike, and Buster: (his dog) Fishing and Hunting in Michigan’s Good Old Days and was published in 1995 by Traverse Outdoor Press. It’s a nice, easy read with lost of fishing and hinting tales – a good end-of-the-day read. I found this section of chapter 2 interesting, also reflecting the age in which he lived, when Sunday keeping was the norm, no matter what one’s church affiliation was.

Published in: on March 6, 2020 at 10:09 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Beautiful (Gracious!) Work of the Divine Chiseler

If only people would see everything in our spiritual life in terms of God!

What do people work on longer and more persistently than on a piece of ordinary crystal or a very precious diamond?

When the Lord God polishes your soul with his sharp tools and once again files on your heart as long as he does someone else’s, is that really so bad? Is it so bad if he expends double the effort on you and polishes you personally with three times as much divine intensity? Does the diamond have reason to complain if it’s worked on longer and harder than the ruby? Or the ruby because it’s held tighter and ground down farther than polished crystal? And if it pleases the Lord God to grip your soul so much tighter and to work so much longer and to pay the price of expending his divine majesty on you, is that reason for you to complain? If he applies much more pressure is polishing you in order to bring out more sheen, tell me, why lament so glumly? And if you endure and suffer all this effort, should that ever be reason for claiming glory? May the diamond ever claim glory because it let itself be chiseled and cut and polished with the sharpest of instruments?

Now apply all of this to the soul of the person who wrestles with their lost in life. Take that hard diamond that was polished so intensely. Who thinks about what happened during the polishing? Who doesn’t simply admire the outcome? Who doesn’t simply appreciate the pure light produced by that polishing? And if the work is to be praised, who would praise anyone other than the one who did the polishing?

Would you have it be any different?

If you soul is that kind of hard, precious stone, and if the Lord God can’t have it produce gleaming light in any other way than by intense pressure to chisel, cut, and polish it, to whom else should the glory and honor be given? Shouldn’t it be given to the One who lovingly worked on you without letup until you radiated pure light?

All of this tremendous effort is not something that you expended, so that God is now indebted to you. Rather, it reflects the intense love that he has for your soul. For that fact you owe the faithful and merciful God all the more thanks, quiet devotion, and intense love. …This is what Scripture requires and what our forefathers emphasized. If you calculate in terms of what God owes you, your suffering becomes a real trial. It’s a struggle to be overcome. Then you distort your suffering and proudly exalt in it. But that blunts how you receive grace.

But if you start with God and view yourself as he sees you, all of your afflictions and chastisements from God are the price paid for greater grace. The result is that you should live quietly and submissively under the crafting of his saving love. Give him thanks instead of giving glory to yourself. Such thanksgiving is enriched with grace upon grace.

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.329-30.

This particular meditation (#98 of Volume 1) is titled “They Thought They Would Receive More,” and is based on Jesus’ parable of the hired servants (Matt.20:10)