The word rubble was used by the Old Testament prophets to describe what was left of towns that were being overtaken by the enemy. When Nehemiah and the Jews returned to Jerusalem and attempted to rebuild the city walls, they were harassed by Sanballat, an official of a surrounding nation who was angry at the progress they were making. His words were meant to ridicule and discourage them. He shouted, "What are those feeble Jews doing? Can they bring the stones back to life from these heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” (Nehemiah 4:2)
This story came to my mind when I read the news about the birth of a baby girl under the rubble of the earthquake in northern Syria. A 7.8-magnitude quake hit parts of Turkey and Syria on February 6. In the town of Jinderis, Syria, an entire family, except the pregnant mother, was killed when their five-story apartment building came down on top of them. Ten hours after the quake, search and rescue teams heard the sound of a baby crying and dug her out of the rubble. What they found was amazing! Apparently, the baby's mother, Abu Hadija, gave birth to her while conscious and still buried in the rubble. Abu died before rescuers found her. The child was discovered with the umbilical cord still connected to her mother. Destruction and rubble would not stop the birth of this baby.
She was taken to the hospital cold and barely breathing, with her body covered in bumps and bruises. However, she is recovering and has been aptly named Aya, meaning "a sign from God." Indeed, this is a sign from God that new life can come from the rubble around us, whether physical or spiritual. With death and destruction everywhere, God demonstrated His mercy and love in the birth of a child who will be part of the next generation to rebuild life.
Processing great losses such as have occurred in Turkey and Syria is not easy. However, we can be encouraged by the stories of loss and recovery in the Bible. Job is one such story. Job's faith and trust in God was strong throughout an extremely difficult season. He had a proper perspective on the sovereignty of the Lord though in one day, he lost his livestock, his children, and their home. Yet, Scripture says, "At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'" (Job 1:20-21) Job endured more losses and trials until God restored his prosperity and "gave him twice as much as he had before." (Job 42:10)
There is a multitude of people in Turkey and Syria who do not know the Lord. I am sure they are overwhelmed with shock and trauma from all of the death and loss that came with the earthquake. How can we help? Of course, there is a great financial need. There are Christian organizations on the ground in the region now who can use support. Most of us cannot physically travel to the Middle East to help, but we can pray. Our prayers for individuals to get the assistance that they need along with the love of Christ can change lives. Let us remember that God is the God of redemption and that He will use this situation to introduce Himself to those who are lost without Him. Perhaps He has already shown Himself to baby Aya and that one day she will be able to testify to the love of the One True God. Let's pray to that end.
After reading Patricia King's book, In The Zone, my entire perspective on our earthly struggles and battles changed. She explains that through Christ's finished work on the cross we can live in a zone that is filled with blessings. Pat calls it "The Blessing Zone." We were created for blessing. Here is an interesting truth that she illuminates: "The enemy of your soul will literally attempt to invade your Blessing Zone. It is only in the realm of time that you will ever encounter such warfare. When your life in this realm is finished and you step into your eternal home, you will never have anything resist your faith, peace, blessings, or love again. When you look at it with that perspective, it makes your struggles and wrestling here on earth special. You only have this one opportunity for the short time you are here to actually know what victory feels like. In heaven there is no resistance and nothing to win."
The Lord does promise us victory in all things. As it says in Isaiah 54:17, "'No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,' declares the Lord." We must remember that "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus in order that in the coming age he might sow the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7) Because of the place where we are seated, we battle from a position of victory. The victory of Jesus is our victory! His victory is one over hell, death, and the grave. John wrote about his encounter with the Lord in his vision. He was told, "I am the Living One; I was dead and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." (Revelation 1:18)
The book of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8 concerning mankind. "What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that You care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; You crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet." (Hebrews 2:6-8) The enemy is under our feet and the Lord has ordained victory for us.
Patricia gives us some insight into capturing victory. First, we must acknowledge that victory does not always happen in our timetable. Because of this, endurance or perseverance are qualities we must embrace. Hebrews 10:36 says, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised." Praise and worship of God change the atmosphere and sets the course for victory. The tribe of Judah experienced this under the leadership of Jehoshaphat when surrounded by three enemy armies. There is power in declarations of faith. They change the atmosphere like praise and chase away the enemy. They are both offensive and defensive weapons. Finally, living a righteous life opens the door to the Lord and closes the door to the enemy. On the other hand, sin does the opposite.
I hope you are encouraged as I am in knowing that victory is our portion and that the gift of receiving it brings us extraordinary joy and crowns to place at the feet of Jesus when we get to heaven.
On Tuesday, November 11, a bomb was remotely detonated near the entrance of the Jerusalem Bus Station killing two people and wounding 18 others, including a sixty-two-year-old man. Shrapnel penetrated several areas of the sixty-two-year old's body except for his heart. In his pocket he was carrying his Book of Psalms. (Tehillim in Hebrew)
The gentleman with the Book of Psalms was rushed to Shaare Zeder Medical Center which means Gates of Justice or Righteousness. He had to have a series of operations to remove shrapnel from his body. The Book of Psalms had been pierced by a shred of debris from the explosion. However, it stopped at Psalm 124 and pointed to verse 7. "Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped." (NKJV) Not only did the Book stop the shard, but it gave a life message to this man that I believe comes from God.
Psalm 124 (NKJV): "'If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,' Let Israel now say: 'If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us: Then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; Then the waters would have overwhelmed us. The stream would have gone over our soul; then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.' Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
Psalm 124 is a Song of Ascent written by King David, who is praising God for His rescue and deliverance. David was encouraging the children of Israel to be thankful to God. He wanted them to recognize that the Lord is actively working on their behalf. The Lord is Immanuel, God with us! Many times, David experienced "when men rose up against them.” Hordes of Philistines came at them multiple times. The disasters that could have overtaken Israel were stopped by Yeshua alone. He was their Savior. "Bless be the Lord," David says. This is an expression of thanks and praise to Him. Satan is like the fowlers who have many ways in which to trap small birds. He attempts to ensnare us into unhealthy lifestyles and thoughts. But God is our Deliverer!
We can have confidence, as David says, that the Lord is our help. The mighty God who created heaven and earth is our protector, sustainer, and provider. Throughout Scripture, Jesus, who is the Living Word (John 1:1) is called our shield: "Every word of God is flawless. He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." (Proverbs 30:5) "You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word." (Psalm 119:114) God gave us a living example of His protection through the 62-year-old man from Jerusalem. He never changes! We are recipients of His protection and guidance. We must trust that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1) Let us use the Word as our shield against "the fowler's snare" and praise the Lord for the victory that is ours.
Increasing darkness characterizes the season we are currently in as we see the light of the sun slipping away early in the evening. The ninth month on the Hebrew calendar, Kislev, began on Thanksgiving night. Though this is the month of increasing darkness, the meaning of the word Kislev confronts the darkness. It means to trust, rest, or have security. How can we do these things when the darkness expands? This increase not only has a physical manifestation, but also a spiritual one. The deeds of darkness are growing. We read and hear about them in the news. Were it not for the light of Christ, we would be hopeless. Two events crash into the darkness during this season. The center of the Hanukkah celebration is the lighting of the Menorah candles in remembrance of how the Maccabees, against all odds, restored the Temple. This year, Christmas eve occurs on the last day of Kislev. Yeshua, "The Light of the World," (John 8:12) came from heaven, full of glory.
You may be asking, "How can we have rest and security during a time when darkness seems to be overtaking us?" It appears that evil agendas plotted in the darkness are prevailing. We might join the prophet Habakkuk in asking the Lord questions that seem to have no answers and in declaring the circumstances we live in that look hopeless on the surface. He asked God, "Why do you make me look at injustice...The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Habakkuk 1:3,4) "...Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Habakkuk 1:13)
God is not unaware of evil deeds. He tells Habakkuk: "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!" (2:6) "Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain..." (2:9) "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!" (2:12) "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor..." (2:15) "Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' or to a lifeless stone, 'Wake up!'" (2:19)
Dark deeds will not prevail! How can I write this? Jesus, Yeshua, came as The Light of the World. In the book of John we read, "In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4-5) Jesus testified about who He is when speaking to the those who followed Him: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believers in me should stay in darkness." (John 12:46)
Here is the word of truth coming to us from the Son of God, sent to earth to bring light and truth. John 1:5 is a verse that we should stand on: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." Jesus told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Rest and security come in this season as we trust in the truth of God's word. We must receive and believe in this truth!
After complaining to God about the deeds of darkness that were occurring during his lifetime, Habakkuk comes to a conclusion that brings him peace. "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Adopting this philosophy for us can also bring us peace and rest.
"Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give, and don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.' And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, 'They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.' (Psalm 112:9) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer, and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous, and when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God." (2 Corinthians 9:6-11 - NLT)
The Lord rejoices in those who are generous! And generosity flows from the heart of one who loves the Lord and is thankful for all He has done. Psalm 112, in the Passion Translation is titled "The Triumph of Faith." Let us look at some of the verses in this Psalm that describe a person of faith who loves the Lord with his entire heart: "Shout in celebration of praise to the Lord! Everyone who loves the Lord and delights in Him will cherish His words and be blessed beyond expectation. Their descendants will be prosperous and influential. Every generation of His godly lovers will experience His favor." (Verses 1-2)
"Life is good for one who is generous and charitable, conducting affairs with honesty and truth. Their circumstances will never shake them, and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, every secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe until they go down in defeat. Never stingy and always generous to those in need, their lives of influence and honor will never be forgotten, for they are full of good deeds." (Verses 5-9)
Our country has set aside an entire day to be thankful. Our forefathers did not want a year to go by without a time for thankfulness to God for His generosity to us. When God began to pour out His riches upon the people of the United States it was because He trusted them to use these resources wisely to invest them for Him. The "seeds" He poured out were to be planted in fertile soil and cultivated to produce more seeds. The world was to be the seedbed for the Lord.
In 1 Chronicles 29 we read about the preparation for the building of the Temple. King David was going to task his son Solomon with overseeing the building of a “palatial structure" for the Lord. All of David's resources (seeds) were given to construct this "holy temple." 1 Chronicles 29:9 says, "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord." David asks a question and implores the Lord to help them: "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?" (Verse 14) "Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building You a temple for Your Holy Name comes from Your hand and all of it belongs to You...And now I have seen with joy how willing Your people who are here have given to You...Keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of Your people forever and keep their hearts loyal to You." (Verses 16-18)
King David wrote a prayer to honor the Lord and give Him thanks: "Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are ruler of all things. In Your hand are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name." (2 Chronicles 29:10-13) May we all use our resources to the glory of God and adopt David's prayer as our prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.
“Jesus said, 'Go,' but He never promised you would come back! Are you willing?" What a question! It stands as a testimony to the man who said it--Andy van der Bijl, better known as Brother Andrew. This giant of the faith was received into heaven on September 27, 2022, at the age of 94. My husband agrees that his life story is worth telling. He had the privilege of meeting Brother Andrew in the 1970s at Princeton University and has commented on his humility and kindness. Jac was so impressed to receive a personal letter from him after they had a one-on-one discussion at this meeting.
Brother Andrew is known for his willingness to place his own life at risk for the sake of the Gospel. He was fearless as he relentlessly brought Bibles into countries that persecuted Christians. What would compel a person to do such a thing? Let's look at his life story. He was born in the Netherlands in 1928 into a family that was quite poor. His parents' love of God seemed to have little influence on him as a child. When the Nazis came to his country, they attempted to capture boys his age to make them serve as Nazi soldiers. Andrew's intolerance for the war, starvation of his family and others, and oppression and lack of freedom made him join the Dutch Resistance Army at the age of 18. He took his mother's Bible with him and learned that she died while he was away. At age 20, he was shot in the ankle and almost had his leg amputated.
The nurses that cared for Andrew while he was in the hospital were Franciscan nuns. He was curious about the joy they carried with them. When questioned by Andrew about why they were so joyful, one of the nurses replied, "It's the love of Christ. Why it's right here in the book beside you." She was pointing to his mother's Bible. When he was released from the hospital, he started going to church and Bible studies which led him to give the rest of his life to Christ. He decided to attend the World Evangelist Crusade (WEC) in September,1953. His ankle was completely healed while he attended WEC Glasgow Bible College in Scotland.
Missionary training was quite challenging. Each student was sent out into Scotland with one pound. They were to rely on God for every need. The mission was a success as Andrew returned with more money than was given to him. After completing college, he decided to attend a youth rally in Warsaw, Poland. The devastating impact communism had on the Poles was on display for him and drew him even deeper into missions. As he helped the poor, Andrew received his calling from the Lord: To bring Bibles to the communists and Christ to where Christians were persecuted.
Going from country to country behind the Iron Curtain in his Volkswagen Beetle filled with Bibles, he put his life on the line. When he stopped at the border of a country he was about to enter, he would pray: "Lord, in my luggage I have Scriptures I want to take to Your children. When You were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see." This prayer was answered innumerable times. Andrew took on a partner named Hans. As the two men continued to take Bibles into non-Christian countries, others joined the mission until they named their group Open Doors. In 1967, Andrew's first book was published. It is reported that more than ten million copies of the book were sold. But Brother Andrew always kept his focus on the mission God gave to him. Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, Bibles were delivered into Albania, North Korea, China, and several Middle East countries.
Open Doors became an international mission organization located in more than 27 countries with an outreach to more than 60 persecuted nations. For Brother Andrew, no nation was considered impossible to visit. He had personal meetings with the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon and with Yasar Arafat and leaders of Hamas. He believed and taught others that no one is beyond the reach of God's love and that it is our responsibility to pray for them. God's hand of blessing seemed to be on everything that Brother Andrew did. One of the Psalms of David seems perfect to describe his life: "Surely, Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with favor as with a shield." (Psalm 5:12) Brother Andrew's life should be an inspiration to all of us!
Life's circumstances have completely changed how I am writing to you tonight. My intention was to bring the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) before you since it takes place on Wednesday. This holiest day on the Hebrew calendar is meant for reconciliation with God. In Biblical days, the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies to present God with an offering to cover the sins of the people. Today Yom Kippur is a day of remembering, fasting, and praying so that the new year (5783) starts properly. Of course, those who believe that Yeshua/Jesus is our Savior know that He took our sins upon His body once and for all. He is the Atonement!
What I want to focus on is what has happened in the southern part of the United States and Cuba. Unimaginable destruction and devastation took place when Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, barreled through the region with monumental winds and water and created surges that completely destroyed entire communities, bringing death and major loss of property. The infrastructures that supported communities are also gone. It is interesting to note that the hurricane is named Ian. What it did as it blew through our country is incongruent with its name. Ian is of Scottish Gaelic origin and is the Scottish version of John or Yohanan in Hebrew. The name means, "God is gracious" or "Gift from God." How do we put this together? It seems like the kingdom of darkness has throne us a curve ball.
I too was thrown a curve ball at the same time. While all this is going on, I was mourning the loss of a friend from church, Linda, who is one of our "Dear Ones." It was at her funeral that I began to feel sick and dizzy. The next day I found myself in ER. The medical staff discovered that I had a small stroke. Praise God there are no lasting effects, and I am home to write this letter. There are still many in hospitals, battling sickness and disease and many whose lives have been pulled apart by the overwhelming losses created by the forces of nature.
The human part of us wants to ask God the question, "Why?" Very rarely have I gotten the answer to any of my why questions. Here is what I do know: God breaks our hearts with the things that break His. We are His ambassadors on earth. We are on earth to glorify Him. He can use our smallest offering to help others, and He will multiply our efforts. God is not the author of pain and suffering, but He will use it to draw us closer to Him. He is with us as we rebuild our lives and will send others to help us.
Remember the Scripture in Zechariah 4:10? Zerubbabel's hands had just laid the foundation for the rebuilding of the temple, and God reminds Zechariah the importance of the first step. "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..." (NLT) In circumstances that look impossible, let us remember that God is the Lord of the impossible. We must take the first step. Join the Psalmist in declaring, "...I will hope in Your name, for Your name is good." (Psalm 52:9) Remember Psalm 54:4. "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." We must release the turmoil within us to the Lord: "Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge." (Psalm 62:8) The Lord stands by to help us with our greatest needs. He desires for us to rest in Him and to be assured that He is our rock and salvation. "He is my fortress. I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:2)
As a part of Israel's remembrance of the 9th of Av, the Israel Antiquities Authority made public their findings of a research project that investigated the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD. They report that one of the primary weapons used to destroy the temple was an instrument called a ballista. This is an ancient missile launcher with wooden frames and a central band of twisted ropes made into a sling. On 8/8/22 All Israel News reported the discovery of a stockpile of chiseled stones, what the Romans called "ballista stones." Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote about them being used to penetrate the northwest side of the wall in Jerusalem.
I find it fascinating that it was catapulted stones that destroyed the Temple. It also interesting that the prescribed way to punish many crimes in Israel during Biblical days was through execution by stoning. Here are the crimes that required stoning, as taken from the Old Testament: Idolatry (Leviticus 20:2-5), Sorcery (Leviticus 20:27), Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14-16), Picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:31-36), Inciting others to apostasy (Deuteronomy 13:6-10), Worship of false gods (Deuteronomy 17:2-7), Rebellion against parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), Sexual immorality by an unwed woman (Deuteronomy 22:20-21), Sexual relations with a betrothed woman (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). This method of execution required community participation and became a strong deterrent for the listed crimes.
Stones can be reminders of death and destruction as we see above, but also of the faithfulness of God. He opened a path through the Jordan River so that the Israelites could cross over into the Promised Land. "When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 'Choose 12 men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing; and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight...These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.'" (Joshua 4:1-3, 7) These stones would be called "stones of remembrance." When David was going to battle against the giant Philistine his weapon of choice was a sling shot and five smooth stones. 1 Samuel 17:50 tells us that "David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone..." and the Philistine army ran in fear.
For me, the most encouraging Scripture in the Bible about stones comes from 1 Peter 2:4-10. Jesus Christ is described as a living cornerstone of God's temple. Though He was rejected by many people, He is God's chosen Son. Those who follow Christ are called "living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple." Here is the assurance that we receive from God. "I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced." We are reminded that "The stone that the builder's rejected has now become the cornerstone." (V. 7 - NLT)
We, being living stones, have spirits that cannot be destroyed by stones. The promise of God is that we will spend eternity with Him when we embrace the Cornerstone of His Temple, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you ever thought of the verb "steward" in the context of pain, suffering, and sorrow? Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, taught me about this concept. In a recent sermon he preached after the death of his beloved wife, Beni, Bill spoke about the mystery of life and death and how it impacts our relationship with God. He made it clear that we cannot reevaluate what God is like because of loss.
Mark 10:15 quotes Jesus: "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Jesus affirmed child-like faith to His disciples. Bill explains living with mystery in relationship to childlikeness. "The inability to live with mystery is your resistance to childlikeness. It is childlikeness that gives us access to dimensions and realms of the Kingdom that you can't get any other way. Childlike faith trusts no matter what."
Pain and loss, Bill says, presents us with an opportunity. "We only have one opportunity to steward a moment of pain." This word steward really caught my attention. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the verb steward with the following words: manage, supervise, direct, handle, oversee, tend. I believe Bill is suggesting that we redeem our pain by directing it into a time of worship. He explains that the best way to mourn is through hope. Those of us who know Jesus understand that with Him there is always hope. He is the Redeemer! Let's look at Romans 5:2b-5. "And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirt, who has been given to us."
God gave us His first and best gift—His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice so that we could have everlasting life with Him. This poured out love is never ending. The best way for us to connect with His love is through worship. Worship expressed in difficulties and sorrow and during times of inexpressible pain is what puts us into His Presence. Bill says, "Answers don't fix the problem; Presence does." True worship presents the Lord with an offering that costs us something.
Didn't Jesus model this for us? His pain and suffering on the Cross were unimaginable! He experienced separation from God and yet He trusted Him. His last words were, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) Jesus knew that His Father is always good and would use the seed of His death for a great harvest. We must follow HIs example by stewarding our moments of pain when they present themselves to us. We must embrace childlike faith and trust the Lord to redeem our pain. Remember, in heaven we will not be able to worship in pain. Bill says this "privilege" only comes on earth. He continues: "Worship is expressing joy in loss and celebration in pain. I must honor Him as the Healer that I know He is even when I do not see it. He does not owe me an explanation. I must give Him an offering that costs me."
Job 13:15 begins, "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him..." We have a reason to embrace hope, as Bill explains. "Every loss and disappointment can become a seed that brings increase. God uses our crisis's to help us grow. Jesus takes our pain and loss and gives them to God. He will plant them and will be glorified by the blessing." Bill prayed a prayer for all of us: "May you be blessed with courage to lean into mystery and experience who He is as an unfailing, unchanging Father who is always good!" Amen!
Those who were in the twin towers on 9/11/2001 and lived through it were forever changed. Such is the case for Leslie Haskin, who put her experience into words in her book Between Heaven and Ground Zero. The horror she endured left her with PTSD. Making her way down 36 floors amidst collapsed walls and stairs, shell-shocked people, and dead bodies imprinted her mind with confusion, pain, and fear.
Here is some of what Leslie wrote about her life after 9/11: "I rode an elevator 36 floors and got off in the middle of a lunatic's delusion of justice. The terrorist attacks of September 11 shattered my life and left me with nothing to rebuild...I had flashbacks that caused me to react. They felt as real as being there all over again. I could smell the building. I could hear the bells. I was drawn to roadkill...I was anxious all the time and afraid of my own backyard, convinced that the Taliban was hiding inside my shed...My future was hopeless...I had panic attacks when left alone and anxiety attacks when too many people were around. Sleep was impossible without sleeping pills, which only worked for a few hours." (Pages 122 - 123)
Leslie felt the tug of God on her heart as she went through her healing journey. Psalm 13 became significant to her. It starts with questions: "How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? (Verse 1 - KJV) The Psalm ends with an acknowledgment of God's faithfulness. "But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord because He hath dealt bountifully with me." (Verses 5-6 - KJV) As she healed, the Lord began to speak to Leslie about forgiveness. On one of her morning walks she heard it. "This morning, through the open heart of a CD, there is an insistent yet gentle call. 'Forgiveness is absolute.'"
God's timing is perfect. He knows what we are capable of and when we can do what He desires. Leslie records what happened on her walk: "For the first time, I cried with my whole heart and soul—with abandon—like there was no one else in the world but me, and Islam. I fell to the ground and my knees scraped against gravel. Tears poured down my face. I was weak and divided and I remembered… Everything that I couldn't forget. I remembered what they did. I remembered all that they did—the massacre, the horror, and all the intent. Then...I let go. You see, I knew in my heart that there was no turning back. Because when it is time to leave a place, it is impossible to stay. I was moving on. Forgiveness is not conditional. 'And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.'" (Pages 142 - 144)
Leslie calls the chapter on forgiveness "Light of the World - Into the Heart of Islam." She begins by re-writing a note found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravens Bruck Concentration Camp. Here is what it said: "O Lord, Remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead, remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness."
This brings me to tears. I am sure that our Savior, Jesus Christ, must have a seat of honor for this person in Heaven. What maturity! What insight! What compassion! What love! Whoever this person is, they truly understood what the Lord did for them on the Cross. We should think in a similar way!
Joan E. Mathias