Son of God and Son of Man

© Wendy Clark, December 2021

Son of God

Hannah, my youngest, my late-in-life child, born after I had cancer and chemo, after we stepped out to adopt unsuccessfully twice, after many miscarriages, after I surrendered to God saying, “If I’m not going to have any more children, I’m okay with that, God,” that child–has always been beautiful, loved by pretty much everyone she spends time with, smart, funny, and unusually profound. Even when she was little, sometimes we would be sitting in a room full of adults, and Hannah would say something that would be so interesting, that the room would go silent, and everyone would turn in her direction.  Here’s one memory of that, related to Christmas.

Hannah must have been no older than about four, and our homeschool group was making manger scenes. Hannah made three baby Jesus figures for her manger scene.  I said, “Hannah, you know there was only one baby Jesus, right?”  She said, “Yes, Mom, I know that, but there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in one, and I didn’t know how else to show that.”

If you’ve missed that somewhere along the way, don’t miss it this Christmas, that Jesus is God made visible to us.  “Son of God” doesn’t describe an act of God the Father, birthing or creating Jesus, but the intimate relationship that God the Father shares with Jesus. Look at how the writer of Hebrews explains this:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Jesus is “the exact representation” of God the Father, the best way for us to see what God is like. God the Father, made the universe through Jesus the Son. Jesus was present at creation and participated in creation. The Apostle John explains this just before he begins to write the account of Jesus’ ministry. It is important to John, who lived and traveled with Jesus, that you understand who Jesus really is.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3, NIV). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV).

The “Word” in the Greek means “the expression, the utterance that flowed out of God’s mouth.” Jesus is God and pours out of God. Think about that for a few minutes. When God spoke the universe into existence, Jesus was that expression, the words that flowed out of his mouth.  The Holy Spirit is described as the very breath that God breathed, so that when God breathed life into Adam, that life was by the Spirit of God.

God and his Word and his Breath–three in one–perhaps beyond our ability to understand. 

Maybe it’s easier for us to comprehend the relationship of father to son and the spirit that moves between them, connecting them and making them one, and yet all three also separate and distinct in their identities and their roles. The Bible makes it clear that there are three separate persons–with a shared will, perspective, and purpose–separate and distinct from each other, and at the same time, completely unified.

Many have tried to explain this.  Maybe it’s like an egg that has a shell, a white part, and a yolk and is still all one egg.  Maybe it is like water than can be water and steam and ice and still be essentially the same thing.  These descriptions fall short of what the Bible teaches about God as three in one.

Jesus doesn’t explain how this works; he simply states that it is.  Every time Jesus says “I AM,” He uses the expression that God uses when he speaks to Moses and Moses asks for God’s name.

Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:13-14). 

What did God just say to Moses?  God’s name translates to something like this:  I am the one who has always existed and who will always exist.  I exist in myself, by myself.  There is no other like me.

Jesus uses this same expression of God’s name to describe himself, which is why the Jewish leaders become so enraged against him and also why it is impossible to view Jesus as simply a good man; good men don’t go around claiming to be God.

Here are seven of these statements just from the testimony of the Apostle John.  In each of these statements Jesus identifies himself as God, I AM GOD who is .  . .

“I AM the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)

“I AM the light of the world.” (John 8:12) 

“I AM the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7,9) 

“I AM the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) 

“I AM the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14) 

“I AM the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) 

“I AM the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5) 

Jesus also says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and those who oppose him pick up stones to try to stone him to death and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

If you have never heard that Jesus actually taught that he himself is God and the Son of God, not just a prophet of God or a good man sent by God . . .

If you were taught that Jesus was just a man . . .

If you’ve never really thought about Jesus much at all . . .

Consider this particular conversation that Jesus has with his disciples:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17, NIV)

Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man” and then commends Peter for recognizing that he is also the Messiah and the “Son of God.”

If you aren’t sure about all of this or even if you are sure but haven’t given it much thought lately, I encourage you to take some time before Christmas day and read through the Gospel of John, the Apostle John’s account of his encounter with the Son of Man/ Son of God.

As you read, ask and answer these questions:  What does Jesus say about himself?  What does he do?  What does he ask his followers to do?  If all of this is true, what implications does it have for my life? 

Next time . . . more about the Son of Man.

Moving Again

© Wendy Clark, 2021

Only our friends who live in this valley will fully understand this news, but the owner of the house we rent let us know yesterday that he needs to move back into the house in July, so we will be house-hunting and moving once again.  (I can hear the groans from this side of the screen.)

I’m happy that it isn’t about him wanting to sell the house while the market is hot or about wanting to rent it as a vacation home, but moving is well, not my favorite thing, and we will be moving to our 5th house since we came to the valley in 2014.  We lived on Pine Street in Hailey, then 1st Street, then 3rd, and then here in Bellevue. (Each of the other houses we had to move because they went on the market. If you want to understand what is going on here in the housing market, this information should help.)

We are truly thankful that we were able to live in this house for over two years, and it has been a really good place to live. We are truly not worried about where we will go (though I know that will sound crazy to some). I’m not looking forward to sorting and packing or to figuring out where we will live next, but there is a part of me that feels good about having some time to sort through things that have been stored and lighten the load and about the possibilities that moving brings.

If you are wondering why it is we are not worried in a time that we probably should be worried, it’s just that the faithfulness of God to take care of us has already been firmly established.  I will retell those stories as we move into this new season, but there have been so many times that we needed somewhere to go and that it looked like there was nowhere to go, including the time we moved into this current house, that worrying seems to be wasted energy.

But please do pray for us, and please let us know if you have any leads on a house in the valley, and please pass along that we are looking. And now’s the time to cue up the exciting, suspenseful music because here we go again. 

A Sad Warning

© Wendy Anne Clark, 2021

https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/board-statement

I am so broken hearted over the scandal surrounding Ravi Zacharias.  I can only imagine the great pain of his wife, his children, his close friends and those who served in ministry with him.  I believe them when they say that they are completely shocked–that this was a life that Ravi hid from them.  How damaging that is!  

We are in a spiritual battle, though the war itself will be ours in the end, we are called to fight, and our weapons are not the weapons of this world. We are to worship, pray, know the Word, live by the Word, and live as set apart for God’s purposes. We are to be in open and honest relationships with other Believers.  Ravi, one who stood up as a soldier in the fight, gaining territory and influence for the Kingdom over the years, has now lost a huge battle and surrendered some significant real-estate to the enemy forces.  This loss will be felt well into the future.

The ministry organization and training center that Ravi established will have to distance themselves from him and completely regroup.  Already speaking engagements of those who worked closely with Ravi have been canceled.  Many working in Ravi’s ministry have quit their jobs.  It has been reported that Ravi’s daughter has been running the ministry since her father stepped down.  What an incredible and painful mess to leave behind for her!

I greatly appreciate the courage it took for the ministry to go looking for the truth and then to publish what was found even though it was horrible and heart breaking for so many. One who worked with Ravi has spoken about how grieved he is that Ravi did not confess, repent, and deal with all of this sin while he was alive.  Why was he not driven to do so as he faced death? It would have been painful and damaging, but not nearly as painful nor as damaging as hiding his sin to be found after his death.  

The level of Ravi’s deception and of the inability of those who knew him best to see it, raises so many questions that we will not be able to answer.  Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats at the end of the age, and He alone knows who belongs to Him.  Many more will fall, and each time we will be caused to wonder, but the fall of those who appear rooted, grounded, and spiritually healthy should drive us to examine ourselves daily.  To daily ask the Spirit to reveal the truth about our hearts.  To daily confess, repent, and walk in the mercy that is new every morning.   It should also drive us to pray earnestly for all those representing the Body of Christ on the front lines of the spiritual battle. 

Being Changed

© Wendy Clark, 2021

I’ve been using Bob Goff’s book Live in Grace-Walk in Love:A 365-Day Journey as a supplement to my other Bible studies, Bible reading, and personal reflection. Though Bob Goff’s book follows a schedule of sorts, I don’t read in keeping with it.  (I’m somewhere in October’s reading right now.) But as often happens when I read daily readings according to my own schedule, the reading for today relates well to what I have been thinking about.

Here are a few of the things that Bob Goff writes that stand out to me:

“ . . . when I started to think of them [dreaded airport experiences] as opportunities to give away love,my attitude changed.”

“When I think someone ought to be more loving, it’s usually me.”

“The longer I follow Jesus, the more I’m trying to see through the eyes of other people.”

“We come into contact with people every day who need to encounter love.”

“Don’t leave it to someone else to do the loving for you.”

I agree with all of these statements, and I understand them to be true, both in what I know and by what I have experienced. But I would not have been able to agree in the same way many years ago.

In a Bible study discussion the other day one question centered around our awareness of sin, what causes our awareness of sin, and how we respond when we become aware of our own sin.

I thought back to when I was 19 or 20, and in studying the book of I John, I became very convicted by my own lack of love for others, especially difficult people or people who thought very differently from me.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  
I John 4:7-8, ESV

I had sung this passage many times (maybe you can sing the song and know where the claps belong), but suddenly the words leaped off the page right into my heart, and the entire book of I John took on new significance for me.  I felt an acute awareness of my inability to truly love other people, not an emotional, feeling, but the love that Paul describes in I Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV

I mourned over the incredible lack of true love in me, my intense selfishness, my general lack of concern about most other people, and my propensity to justify my own actions while criticizing the actions of others.

I came to the place where I recognized that in and of myself and my own will, I would never really love other people, especially difficult, challenging people. But that’s exactly what Jesus tells us to do.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” 
Matthew 5:43-47, ESV

I needed a Savior, a Deliverer, a Redeemer, and a Teacher,  I needed transformation by a Power other than my own.

And so . . . 

I confessed my sin of being selfish and unloving, and I took my sin where it belongs and laid it at the foot of the cross.  I surrendered.

I am convinced that if we really want to be changed, the cross is the place where we must start, confessing our sin to God, laying it down, along with all of the plans and schemes and methods that we have tried in our own strength, by our own understanding, and recognizing our total inability to do anything about our sin or our weakness. Then turning in the direction of Jesus, let Him take us to the next place in our journey.

Today when I read Bob Goff’s words about love, I agreed with them, knowing them to be true, both intellectually by the Word of God, and also by my personal experience, having lived them.  I am a much more loving person today than I was nearly 40 years ago when I felt hopeless in my ability to ever truly love.  I see the world completely differently than I did back then.  I see you differently.

How did I move from a place where loving people was never much on my radar to a place where loving people is front and center and where I actually look for opportunities to love other people?

I encountered the Word of God.
I believed it.
I submitted to it by putting it into practice.
I repeated these steps over and over and over again.

If you are struggling with sin, something in you that you know is counter to God’s Word, that you know needs to change, there is a simple practice that will take you to the next step:  Encounter the Word of God.  Believe it.  Surrender to it. 

Easy?  Often it is not. It tends to take a lot of practice.

Simple?  Yes, very simple.  Even a young child can learn this practice, step by step, and it’s something that we should teach our children, even as we model it for them.

So then, do I now love perfectly? No. I am still being transformed.  I am not who I once was, but I am not yet who I will be.  

To me, that is very good news because in this last strange and challenging year, I have both made some new mistakes, and I’ve also repeated some very old ones.  I have sometimes fallen into trying to persuade people who perhaps needed more to experience unconditional love. I have sometimes trod with heavy feet where I ought to have stopped lightly. 

I am aware of these sinful missteps because I have daily encountered the Word of God.  I believe that what God says is true and non-negotiable. I confess my sin daily (and trust me, I have daily sin to confess), and I seek to align myself with what God says is true and right and good.  I surrender.

Every day that I practice, practice, practice following Jesus, I am transformed by the Power of the Holy Spirit, little by little.

If we will seek to be transformed, minute by minute, day by day, over a lifetime, we will, in time, be greatly changed. Instead, often we look for huge change in a short amount of time and with little perseverance, and so find ourselves to be ever the same.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 
2 Corinthians 3:17-18, ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  
Romans 12:1-2, ESV

At the Proper Time

©  Wendy Anne Clark, 2020

So often have I heard Believers say that they do not read the Old Testament because it is “too troubling” or too confusing.  So often I have heard those who do not believe in the God of the Bible refer to God in the Old Testament as full of wrath and vengeance, seeking to annihilate sinners.

How they have misread and misunderstood God and what He reveals about Himself in the Old Testament! How they have missed the great mercy and grace of God revealed throughout the entire Scriptures!

For the past couple of years I have been studying the different books of the prophets.  Currently, I am working through the book of Ezekiel.  Here’s what I have been learning over the past couple of years:

God’s wrath is the pouring out of His perfect justice in response to sin. God’s wrath is the right and appropriate response of holiness to unholiness, and we all long for it.  We want God to pour out His wrath.  We want the world to be set right.  We want justice and truth and everything that is wrong and deceitful and manipulated and twisted to be dealt with and corrected.

One big problem we have, though, is that we are all sinners.  When God’s wrath is finally and fully poured out on all of mankind, in our natural state, we will all be destroyed.  So, for now, God is withholding His wrath. 

People get mad about that sometimes.  Why does God allow evil to exist and the wicked to prosper?  Why doesn’t He just wipe it all out right now?  If God were truly loving and truly powerful, surely He would do just that, wipe out evil and make things perfect, right now.

But if we would take the time to read the Old Testament and to look for what God teaches  about Himself, about humanity, about sin, about justice and judgment and wrath and mercy, we would have a better understanding of why an all-loving, perfectly wise, and all-powerful God, holds back His wrath, for now.

God’s perfect and divine wrath is balanced by His perfect and divine love, which results in His mercy and grace, perfectly poured out.  And all of God’s attributes are perfectly intertwined so that “at just the right time” everything that is supposed to happen, happens, just as it is meant to happen.

In the book of Ezekiel, God tells the prophet Ezekiel that He is going to release His wrath against the evil and sin of His own priests and prophets as well as their enemies. The right time has come.  This is something that absolutely will be; this is not something they will escape.  The sword is coming their way, and there will be widespread destruction and suffering.  And yet, in chapter 33, God says that if the people will appoint a watchman to be on the lookout for the coming sword of judgment, and that if the watchman will see and sound the trumpet of warning, and if the people heed the warning and turn from their iniquity, they will escape the judgment and be saved. 

If anyone fails to heed the warning, his own destruction will be on his own head.  But if the watchman fails to give the warning, all of the people will die in their iniquity, but the watchman will bear responsibility for their destruction. 

So much to think about here, but one point for today is that God, even though He has pronounced coming judgment and is getting ready to pour out His wrath, still invites people to turn and receive mercy and be saved.  

This indeed is the heart of God throughout all of Scripture.  God is longing to show mercy and is giving us every opportunity to turn to Him and receive it. 

When God sees Cain’s murderous heart, He points Cain in the direction of escape and deliverance.  Cain ignores the warning, and yet God still cares for Cain and shows concern for him.

When the world becomes completely evil, God chooses Noah to warn the people of the coming judgment and to build a place of protection that is offered as a way of escape and deliverance.  Noah and his family go into that place of protection and are saved.  No one else responds to the warning.  Everyone else perishes.

When God gets ready to pour out His wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah, He agrees to hold back His wrath on the account of even a few righteous people living there.  When none is found, God provides a warning and a way of escape for Lot and his family, but only those who heed the warning and are obedient are saved.

When the right time has come for God to respond to the great evil of Nineveh, He sends Jonah to warn the people of the coming judgment.  Jonah does not want to deliver this warning, and later we learn that he does not want the people to heed the warning and be saved.  He wants to be the watchman who doesn’t sound the trumpet.

Eventually, Jonah does as God commands, and he warns the people that they have forty days until God’s wrath will be poured out on their sin.  Here’s what happens next:

“The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

‘By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’

Did you catch that?  There was mass repentance in Nineveh.  The king even declared a time of fasting and repentance for all of the people and even the animals.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:5-10)

How can anyone reading this account think that God is longing to pour out His wrath and miss that God is actually longing to pour out His mercy? 

What this account reveals is that God’s wrath is the appropriate response to sin and that there comes a time when it must be poured out unless . . . unless the people will respond and repent–turn to the Lord and turn away from their sin.  And God sends a warning, a watchman to sound the trumpet and show the way of deliverance.  If the people heed the warning, they will be saved.

We discover that Jonah knew this about God, and like many of us, Jonah wanted judgment for his enemies but mercy for himself.

“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’” (Jonah 4:1-3)

When someone asks why God allows evil to exist in the world, why He doesn’t wipe the evil people out, destroy them on the spot, I want to look at that person and say, “Because He’s not ready to give up on you just yet.”  That is the truth that many are not willing to face. 

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

But what people fail to perceive is that we are living in a temporary situation, a time where God is waiting, holding back, actively NOT pouring out His wrath because of His great love for us.

God’s wrath poured out means that everyone who is not in the place of protection and provision that God has provided, will perish.  But because of God’s great love, He has mercifully provided a place of protection and provision, and He invites all people to come and be saved.

For Noah and his family and anyone who would have listened, it was to be sheltered in the ark. 

For Lot, it was a town nearby that God did not destroy, but allowed Lot and his family to flee to for safety.

For those living today it is the protection that is given to us by salvation provided through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.  All who are in Christ Jesus will be saved.  Those who are trying to make their own way or provide for their own salvation will be lost.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

There is a right and proper time that will come when God will pour out His wrath, God’s perfect justice will deal with all wickedness and evil, and sin and evil will no longer have a place in the world.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
(2 Peter 3:8–13)

In the meantime, we are to be the watchmen on the wall, warn people of what is coming, and point them in the direction of Jesus, that they might be saved. We are to live in such a way that when we warn people, they will take the warning seriously, not like Lot’s extended family, who heard Lot’s warning, but stayed where they were and were destroyed. We are to live as God’s people, dearly loved by God, basking in His great mercy and grace, and we are to love the people around us and invite them to come and experience God’s great and perfect mercy and grace.

Justice will come when the time is right. 

Encouragement from the Lives of Other Believers: Corrie Ten Boom

© Wendy Anne Clark, 2020

Hebrews 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Over the past couple of years I have been reading and re-reading the testimonies of Christians who experienced very difficult circumstances, yet in those times continued to walk closely with God and to live in peace and joy, ministering to the people around them.  These testimonies act as encouragement from the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us.

One book that I have read three times is the book The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.

This is an older book, so used copies are often available on  thriftbooks.com and Ebay.com.

I read this book for the first time back when I was in junior high school, then again when I was in my late 20s, and then again just recently. It was interesting to me to realize that what I most remembered about the book from reading it in the past was Corrie Ten Boom’s experience in prison and in a concentration camp, but quite a bit of the book takes place before she and her family are arrested. 

I found myself asking some of the same questions that I asked back when I first read the book, but also noticing things I don’t remember noticing before.  For example, Corrie believes it is okay to lie in a time of war to protect the innocent from evil people, but her sister Nollie does not agree and insists that she must tell the truth and allow God to be the protector that He is. 

Corrie is confused and frustrated by her sister’s perspective and approach, but also says that Nollie has more faith than she does and wonders how Nollie can be so sure about what God wants her to do.  When I read the book the first time, I took more of Corrie’s position on this question, but this time, I had a better understanding of Nollie’s side.  In this story there are many things to consider about what is okay to do in protecting people from evil.

In this reading of the book I was more attuned to the different personalities and giftings of each of the Ten Boom children and of their father.  I took more notice of how God worked differently and individually in their lives.  Though we encounter each of these people through Corrie’s eyes and perspective, we can tell something about who they are and how they are different from each other by what they do and say.

This isn’t a book full of what I call “Sunday school answers” (simple answers to complex questions).  Instead, Corrie Ten Boom is exploring how war and evil complicate what it means to believe and follow God.  Will we follow even when it is not easy?  Even when doing so results in harm to us and people we love?  What does following God look like when we are trying to protect people from evil?

One story that stands out to me involves a  Jewish woman and her baby.  How to hide a baby when there is no way to assure the baby will be quiet?  They are looking for a remote location, outside of the city, and when a pastor who lives on a large, rural property comes to see them, they think they might have found the perfect solution to their problem.  But he refuses to hide the woman and her baby, stating that doing so would be dangerous, is illegal, and that he must follow the law.

Well-known Psychologist, Jordan Peterson, encourages us as readers, when we read historic, heroic stories, to consider who we might be in the same situation and to try to identify with those who are weak or fearful and not just with those who are heroic.  In that vein, why does the pastor align himself with the law of the Nazi’s rather than as protecter of the innocent? Why do many of the Dutch people join the Germans and spy on their neighbors?  Why do some choose to profit from the German occupation at the expense of their own people? Why do many others simply ignore the evil that is going on around them?

This book is full of dilemmas and hardship and suffering and evil, but it is a very encouraging book because it is also full of people who are willing to risk their lives for others and with God working, moving, providing, rescuing and using even terrible situations for His purposes and His glory.  God is on the move, and He is building His Kingdom, and no evil can stop Him.  That’s very encouraging news. 

Encouragement from the Lives of Other Believers: Darlene Deibler Rose

© Wendy Anne Clark, 2020

Hebrews 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

Over the past couple of years I have been reading and re-reading the testimonies of Christians who experienced very difficult circumstances, yet in those times continued to walk closely with God and to live in peace and joy, ministering to the people around them.  These testimonies act as encouragement from the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us.

Darlene Deibler Rose a young missionary who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during WWII is a story well worth reading if you haven’t read it before or re-reading if you need some encouragement today. 

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II

There are many both challenging and encouraging stories in this book, but one that stands out to me involves Mr. Yamaji, who ran the Kampili POW camp where Darlene was held captive.  He was a particularly cruel and unreasonable man.  One of the things they were required to do was for each prisoner to catch 100 flies every day to help reduce the fly population in the camp. He would beat those who couldn’t produce 100 dead flies.

Darlene’s young husband dies in a separate camp, and Yamaji calls her into his office to deliver the news and to ask her to not lose the joyful influence that she has over others in the camp. Darlene assures him that her hope is not in this world and then shares the gospel with him:

“[Jesus] died for you, Mr. Yamaji, and He puts love in our hearts—even for those who are our enemies. That’s why I don’t hate you, Mr. Yamaji. Maybe God brought me to this place and this time to tell you He loves you.”

He leaves her sitting in the outer office where she must wait until she is formally dismissed, and he goes into his private office where Darlene can hear that he is weeping, for some time.  Whatever happened to him in that office that day, he begins to show evidence of a changed life. One striking piece of evidence that he is not the same cruel man he once was  involves bananas.

After Darlene had been moved from Yamaji’s camp to solitary confinement in a prison where she is likely to be eventually executed, she observes a woman outside her window in the courtyard being passed bananas over the fence.  She begins to long for a single banana and asks God to send her one but doesn’t really see how that might even be possible.

“I bowed my head again and prayed, ‘Lord, there’s no one here who could get a banana to me. There’s no way for You to do it. Please don’t think I’m not thankful for the rice porridge. It’s just that–well, those bananas looked so delicious!’”

The next day, Mr. Yamaji comes to visit her in solitary confinement and then delivers to her 92 bananas, which prompts her to kneel in confession before God:

“In all my spiritual experience, I’ve never known such shame before my Lord. I pushed the bananas into a corner and wept before Him. ‘Lord, forgive me; I’m so ashamed. I couldn’t trust You enough to get even one banana for me. Just look at them–there are almost a hundred.’”

God responds back to her:

“’That’s what I delight to do, the exceeding abundant above anything you ask or think.’ I knew in those moments that nothing is impossible to my God.”

Two encouraging words through this story.  God loves us personally and knows what we need.  He is faithful to care for us and to bless us, even when we can’t see how He will do it.

Second, we can minister to others and have influence even when that seems impossible.  

After the war Mr. Yamaji was set to be executed for his war crimes, but because of the number of people who testified on his behalf, prisoners who said his manner changed and he was a great help to them, Mr. Yamaji was spared and sentenced to life in prison.  Later however, because of his good behavior in prison, he was released  from prison and went on to own a business.  Though Darlene had not had confirmation of his salvation while in prison, Mr. Yamaji shared the Gospel on the radio in the 1980s, many years later.

We don’t always know the influence that we are having at the time, but if we stay close to God and remain faithful, God can use us, even when we can’t see how.

To Tell the Truth

Wendy Clark © 2020

A few days ago I stepped on my bathroom scale, and it betrayed me.  The number I saw was inexplicably low.  I stepped off and then stepped on again.  It showed me an even lower number.  I repeated the process, over and over again, and each time it showed me a lower number than before.  I thought to myself, “Oh, no, even my scale is lying to me!”

Lately it seems that lying has become very common, and people will lie about the most unimportant things.  Has this always been, or are people more willing to lie now than they once were?

Years ago my dad had a 16 mm reel of Candid Camera episodes, and in one of the episodes was the Candid Camera team pretending to film a detergent commercial.  The detergent was called “Wham” or “Zam” or something like that.  They set-up a table with two sets of “white” towels.  Both piles looked less than impressive.  Then they stopped people on the street and told them they were filming a commercial and asked if they would pick out the brightest, cleanest looking towels. 

A person would choose a pile, and the host would say something like, “I’m so sorry, but those are not the towels cleaned by our detergent.  Would you like to try again?”  Many people said, “Yes,” and then the crew filmed them selecting the “right” pile of towels.

One woman stood out as honest.  She took a look at both sets of towels and said, “None of these towels is clean.  They all look terrible!”  When the host said, “but this pile over here was cleaned by Wham” (or whatever name they used for the detergent), “If you want to, we can start over and try again.” The woman said, “I don’t care if it was Wham or Zam or whatever, they’re all filthy!”

It was funny to watch, but is it funny that people are willing to lie so that they can be seen in a commercial on TV?  This was filmed back in the 60s.  I don’t think much has changed unless maybe lying has become more common.

Current late-night TV show hosts enjoy going out on the street and questioning people about events that have never occurred.  Many people will talk with great confidence and in great detail about something when they are clearly lying.  On Social media sites people will post pictures that they have clearly manipulated and lie about how “genuine” they are.

Realizing that people will lie when it doesn’t even matter has made me doubly skeptical about how people might lie when they are desperate or frightened or feel out of control.  That’s why I am unlikely to be moved when someone posts the sworn testimony of a person I do not know who has this friend who had such and such happen to them.  It is not good evidence that you have a friend whose dad is an expert in his field who said whatever he said . . . I have no way to determine the honesty of your friend or of your friend’s dad.  It’s all “hearsay,” to use a legal term, even when it’s in a typed post.  Often it is simply Internet gossip that is passed around and around and around. 

One thing I have noticed in these kinds of references to “experts” is that often the “experts” are using the exact same turn of phrase, the soundbites that are used in the news.  This raises a red flag for me.  At the very least, the language they use often reveals a possible political bias that may be influencing the way they present the “facts,” but some people seem completely unaware of these soundbites, even as they use them themselves and reveal where they have been picking up their “news.” 

When my bathroom scale started lying to me, I knew it right away because there are other clear pieces of evidence to consider, like how I look in the mirror, how I feel, and how my clothes fit.  I picked up my scale and turned it over and dusted off the censors on the bottom.  I put it back on the floor and tried again.  This time it gave me a more reasonable number.  It went back to being honest.

But how do we reset a culture populated with people who lie so easily and with such confidence and very little noticeable remorse?  If only “liar, liar, pants on fire” was really a thing, but then perhaps we would have all been badly burned by now. 

One of the Scriptures that has most influenced me to reject lying and tell the truth is when Jesus says this, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44).  The enemy of my soul is the father of lies?  I don’t want to give him any foothold in my life!

A few years ago I spent a whole year studying honesty and what it means to be truly honest according to Scripture.  God is completely honest.  There is “no shadow of turning” in Him, not even a shade of manipulating or enhancing or downplaying or withholding or many other things that people are apt to do when they aren’t being completely honest. To be truly honest requires that we submit to the refining fire of the Holy Spirit, every minute of every day.  I am convinced that we can continue to grow in our understanding of honesty and our ability to be honest for as long as we live. In this life there will be no end to pulling at the threads of what we may not yet see as lying–to ourselves, to others, to God.  It is a continuous, ever- deepening process if we are willing to submit to it. 

Here are some of the other things that the Bible teaches about lying and honesty.

Proverbs 11:3
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

Proverbs 12:22
“The LORD detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy.”

Proverbs 13:5
“The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.”

Proverbs 19:1
“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.”

Colossians 3:9 (the Apostle Paul to Believers)
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”

Philippians 4:8-9 (the Apostle Paul to Believers)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

The One True King

Ezekiel 20:32-33
“What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.’

“As I live, declares the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will be king over you.”

God was well aware that His people wanted to be like the people of other nations and to worship like them.  But God was committed to His people, and He was not about to abandon them to the worship of false gods. 

God’s desire and will is to rule over His own people and all of Creation–everything that He has made.  Some people think that is a bad thing.  How arrogant.  How self involved must be such a God that He would demand allegiance to Himself alone.  

Those who think such thoughts do so only because they have never encountered the One True God.  His desire to rule over His creation flows out of His great love, compassion, and mercy.  He rules out of perfect wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and holiness.  How is it possible that I would encounter the One True God and desire that anyone else ever rule over me?  How is it possible that I would know my own lack of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding and yet desire to rule over myself in place of the One True God?

God knows that anyone or anything that we allow to rule over us in place of Him will in the end bring brokenness, chaos, sickness, perversion, death.  “Choose life,”  He says, “so that you may live.”  We are going to submit to some rule in our lives.  Why would we not choose God, who created us in love, sees us fully, knows us perfectly, still loves us, and knows exactly what is good and right and holy and perfect for our lives?

“As I live, declares the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will be king over you.” 

This is not a statement of arrogance or of selfishness, but the ultimate statement of love and compassion and righteousness.  The only response that makes any sense is this one:

“Yes, God, I will bow my will before Yours.  You will be king over me.”  

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (TPT)
“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep His commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in His ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

“But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.”

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”