Storms and Rainbows

storms and rainbows

Rainbows in the sky seem almost magical. Even though science can explain the presence of rainbows, God is the one who created the science and the elements that make up a rainbow. So rainbows still inspire awe and wonder and delight.

The first time we see a rainbow in Scripture is in Genesis 9, just after the great flood has dissipated and Noah and his family come out of the ark to live again on dry land.

God shares with Noah the details of His covenant with him in Genesis 9:1-17. God says the sign of His covenant is the rainbow, which will be a reminder that “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (verse 15).

I never thought about it before, but I imagine after such a harrowing experience as the flood, perhaps Noah and his family wondered if it could happen again. They might be nervous about coming out of the ark and starting over. Before the flood, the land had been watered by a mist. Afterward, Noah’s family might have been terrified the next time they felt raindrops. But God reassures them and millions of subsequent readers that God will never again cause a worldwide flood.

This doesn’t mean that God won’t judge sin any more. He will. But not in that way.

God has to judge sin, for a number of reasons. But He prefers that people turn from their sin rather than face judgment. He told Ezekiel to tell Israel, “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).

The rainbow reminds us of God’s mercy, of the new start He offers.

The next time we see a rainbow in the Bible is in Ezekiel 1, where Ezekiel records “a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal” (verse 4). Out of the storm cloud came fantastic creatures like those never seen on earth before or since. He sees them darting around amidst the lightning.

Then Ezekiel sees something he doesn’t quite have the words to describe. Eight times Ezekiel uses the word “appearance.” He keeps saying “like” and “likeness.” “It was something like this”: “The likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him” (verses 26-27). Ezekiel says a few verses later this was “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

And above this bright creature on a throne Ezekiel sees “the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain” (verse 28).

Noah saw a rainbow after the worst storm of his life. Ezekiel saw a rainbow during a storm, after which God gave him a commission to warn His erring children to turn from their ways and come back to Him.

It’s amazing that a rainbow is around God’s throne as well as in the sky after rain. It’s like God put a little piece of His throne in the heavens to remind us of His beauty, majesty, and glory.

But the rainbow also reminds us of God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness.

We see the rainbow a third time in Revelation 4, when John sees a vision of God’s throne. Like Ezekiel, John speaks in terms of appearances and likenesses. “Behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” “ From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder” (verses 3-5). A storm is brewing. Just a couple of chapters later, the seals of God’s judgment open up upon the earth.

In Be Worshipful (Psalms 1-89): Glorifying God for Who He Is, Warren W. Wiersbe says at the end of Psalm 29:

After the thunder, lightning, wind, and rain comes the calm after the storm when “the LORD blesses his people with peace” (v. 11 NIV; and see 107: 29). Noah saw the rainbow of the covenant after the storm (Gen. 9: 8–17), the apostle John saw it before the storm (Rev. 4: 3), and Ezekiel saw the rainbow in the midst of the storm (Ezek. 1: 26–28). We always have God’s promise to encourage us (p. 116, emphasis mine).

Before the storm, in the midst of the storm, after the storm—in every situation we have the reminder that God’s heart is for restoration, that He blesses His people with peace.

Rainbows are a sign of God's covenant

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

(Thanks to Dr. Wiersbe for setting in motion the thoughts for this post.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the latest good reads discovered this week:

God Is Eager to Forgive You. “God promises to show favor at the faintest whisper of a cry. He promises to answer ‘as soon as He hears.’ No probation. Just the ear of God, listening to the cry of a penitent sinner’s heart. He doesn’t see you as ‘damaged goods,’ a ‘second-class citizen,’ or a blight on His church. The sinner who has turned to Christ in forgiveness has the righteousness of the Savior credited to his account. It’s this righteousness, not the black mark of sin, that the forgiving Father sees.”

Emphasizing What The Bible Emphasizes. “When our issue of the moment begins to dominate our thoughts and conversations—to the exclusion of other healthy, worthy topics—what is missing is balance and proportion.”

Are You Casual with the Holiness of God? HT to Challies. “Imagine that, after suffering a loss on the battlefield, an American army general decided to galvanize his troops by taking the Declaration of Independence into battle. Sounds a little farfetched, I know. What kind of general would play so fast and loose with one of the most precious artifacts in the nation’s history? Though it may not seem likely to happen with American soldiers, this scenario actually did play out in Israel as the era of judges came to a close.”

To Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice, HT to the Story Warren. “As we pondered what we’d both seen, we concluded that often the people of God are better at mourning than rejoicing. Leaning into support, lifting up in prayer, and bringing a meal are actually easier than being a champion for, celebrating, and truly finding joy in someone else’s experience of blessing.”

The Ministry of the Pew: Sunday Morning for Normal Christians. “May I introduce you to what others have called the ministry of the pew? Ministry that you — normal Christian — perform every Lord’s day. Such is the ministry of the Not-Up-Fronts, the army sitting facing the pulpit.”

Anything Worth Doing, Is Worth Doing Badly, HT to Challies. “As Christians we should be those who work most excellently, because we are serving a better, more worthy, Master. And yet, I’m afraid this ideal of excellence often causes well meaning Christians to stop ‘doing’ altogether. They turn the adage into, ‘If it can’t be done well, don’t do it at all.’ And that is unbiblical.”

Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh: The Real Meaning of Matthew 26:41, HT to Knowable Word. “If willingness alone can’t overcome the weakness of our flesh, what will?”

Tagless, HT to Challies. A modern day parable with a good lesson.

When It’s Good to Be Dependent

As parents, we ultimately work ourselves out of a job. As much as we love our children and miss them when they leave home, we want them to be able to stand on their own two feet as responsible adults. We’ll always listen, support, and help them when they need it, if we’re able. But there is every likelihood we’ll be gone before they are, so they need to function independently.

Spiritually, though, we never outgrow our dependence on God. In fact, we mature more spiritually the more we realize our need for dependence on God.

In Psalm 30, David said, “As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed” (verses 6-7). Warren Wiersbe says “prosperity” here means “careless ease, a carefree self-assurance because things are going well” (Be Worshipful [Psalms 1-89]: Glorifying God for Who He Is, p. 116).

That happens all too easily, doesn’t it? When things are going well, we forget God is the One who made them go well. We get comfortable, and we forget our need for God . . . until a crisis comes up. The Bible is replete with examples of individuals and nations who went through that pattern.

My friend J. D. Wininger is a rancher who wrote recently about depending on God through unpredictable weather. His area faced eighteen months of drought last year. Now they’ve had so much rain, he can’t harvest some crops or plant others. I’ve often thought that the life of a farmer or rancher is one of felt dependence on God through all the things that can happen to influence the outcome of crops and herds.

But people in other occupations are just as dependent, even if they don’t know it. Employees think everything is going fine, until they receive notice that their particular job has been phased out, or their company is closing or has been bought by someone else. A new technology can put a whole industry out of business.

As the recent pandemic showed us, one part of society affects another. Suddenly we couldn’t count on finding basic supplies at the grocery store or even a bed in the hospital when needed.

And it’s not just in the area of physical provision that the rug can be pulled out from under us. We can be on top of the world socially. Then a poorly-worded tweet gets us “canceled.” Or a rumor or misunderstanding turns friends against us. David wrote, “All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me . . . Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:7, 9). Job lamented, “My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me. . . All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me” (Job 19:14, 19).

Many of us have had the experience of being in perfect health one day only to be hit with a debilitating illness out of the blue. Or a loved one who seemed fine is found to have cancer that has been growing for months.

Does God shake things up for us sometimes as a thump on the head to remind us that we need Him? I don’t think so. He’s a loving father, not a capricious one.

We live in a fallen world and have an active enemy. God allows suffering for many reasons.

But I think He does teach us through His Word and through life experiences to remember to depend on Him for everything. He reminds us that He is our creator, provider, protector, friend. He promises to meet all our needs. He promises to be with us in any trial.

When we forget any of those things and become self-reliant, we usually get ourselves into trouble. I did a study once on what happens when we want our own way. It’s not pleasant.

Recently I was praying over a recurrent physical issue. As pondering and prayer intermingled, my thoughts ran something like this; “You know, most people don’t even think about this, much less pray about it. Am I going to have to pray about this every day? Can’t I just ask You to take care of it now and forever?”

The “Lord’s prayer” came to mind, where Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our daily bread. Not enough for the week, or a lifetime. But just what we need for today.

One day King Asa of Judah faced a much larger army from Ethiopia that had come against Judah (2 Chronicles 14). “And Asa cried to the Lord his God, ‘O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you’” (verse 11).

I looked up the Hebrew word translated “rely” and read some of those occurrences here. The word can also be translated, lean, stay, and rest.


Isn’t that what happens when we rely on God? We don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen. We can trust and obey.

Jean Sophia Pigott caught this idea of resting in the Lord in her marvelous hymn, “Jesus, I am Resting, Resting.”

Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold thee as thou art,
And thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its ev’ry need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed.

As God’s child, I never outgrow my need for Him. I never become independent from Him. The farther I go in life, the more I realize I need Him for everything, great and small.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

There’s so much good writing on the Internet each week. Here’s some I found:

Opposition is Bad, but Hell is Worse, HT to Challies. “In the early centuries of Christianity, the Church understood that a false understanding of salvation was more dangerous than persecution. Persecution can only kill the body, but a false gospel can kill the soul. Today, many live as if political evils are worse than hell.”

How Do You Forgive the Unpardonable? Debbie covers several good aspects of this question.

Store Up Today for Tomorrow’s Crisis, HT to Challies. “The real application of Jesus’s saying lies further back. To take his words to heart, our focus should be not so much on what we should say as what we should store. To apply Jesus’s insight, if we want to be the kind of person who speaks words of wisdom and grace, then we have to begin by storing up wisdom and grace.”

The Funny Thing About Hope, HT to Challies. “Hope is a crazy thing. Without hope, life becomes very hard and difficult. With hope, people manage stress, pressures, and tough circumstances better. Yet, when in tough circumstances, one of the easiest things to lose is hope. When hope is lost, the circumstances only grow in magnitude. At this point, the tendency is downward. Light easily turns to darkness. Joy turns to sorrow. Stability turns to anxiety. Confidence turns to fear.”

A Response to an Employer’s Request for Pronouns, HT to Challies.

An Open Letter to My High School Self, HT to the Story Warren. I did something similar several years ago: Dear Me in 1973.

Healing from Past Hurts

Before Jonathan Goforth became a widely-used missionary to China, he was a farm boy eager to go to Knox College in Toronto in the 1880s. Jonathan originally wanted to go into politics, but God saved him and called him to the ministry.

His mother, noted among the neighbours for her fine needlecraft, worked far into the night putting her best effort on the finishing touches to shirt or collar for the dear boy who was to be the scholar of the family (Rosalind Goforth, Goforth of China, p. 29).

Jonathan’s heart thrilled as he thought how soon he was to live and work with other young men who, like himself, had given themselves to the most sacred, holy calling of winning men to Christ. He had visions on reaching Knox of prayer-meetings and Bible study-groups where, in company with kindred spirits, he could dig deeper into his beloved Bible. So his joyous, optimistic spirit had reached fever heat when he arrived in Toronto and entered Knox College (p. 30).

However, instead of finding kindred spirits, Jonathan became the object of ridicule. “He was unconventional to a degree, and utterly unacquainted with city habits and ways” (p. 31). He realized his lovingly homemade clothes “would not pass muster.” He didn’t have much money, but he bought some cloth to take to a seamstress for a more appropriate outfit. But some of his fellow students found out.

Late that night a number of them came into his room, secured their victim, then, cutting a hole at one end of the material . . . they put his head through and forcing him out into the corridor, made him run the full length up and down through a barrage of hilarious students (p. 31).

Later, Jonathan became involved in a ministry to reach people in the slums. His “enthusiastic innocence” annoyed and amused his fellow students.

He became a subject for an ‘Initiation Ceremony’; hailed at midnight before his judges, students of Knox College, he was subjected, I learned, to indignities, and warned against further breaches of good form by his tales of his ‘experiences with sinners’ (p. 33).

Goforth was deeply hurt, not so much for himself, but that such a thing should happen in a Christian college (p. 33).

Jonathan reported the latter incident to the principal, who soothed his feelings but took no action against what he deemed “a silly prank of foolish boys.”

Many of us have experienced hurt from the past. Sometimes it’s been in the form of passive neglect. We have easily made friends in other schools or neighborhoods, but for some reason, in a new place, we can’t seem to make headway socially. People aren’t actively rude or mean, but we always remain at the bottom of the social pecking order, never really a part of the group.

Other times, like Jonathan, people experience active hazing, ridicule, meanness. Sometimes one person becomes the one everyone likes to pick on or make fun of.

Though I am thinking of incidents from school days, some of these things happen in later life as well.

And some incidents continue to hurt for decades.

What can we do to heal from them?

Draw close to God. After the first incident mentioned above, Jonathan

. . .knelt with his Bible before him and struggled through the greatest humiliation and the first great disappointment of his life. The dreams he had been indulging in but a few days before had vanished, and before him, for a time at least, lay a lone road (p. 32).

We see something similar in Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50. His own brothers stripped him of the special coat their father had made for him, threw him into a pit, ignored his distress and cries (Genesis 42:21), and sold him into slavery. Then at his first place of service, he was lied about and imprisoned.

Just a few chapters later, we see Joseph taken out of prison and made Pharaoh’s right hand man. So, everything worked out for him in the end. But those chapters represent years of being alone. We see just a glimpse of Joseph’s suffering in the name he chose for his children: “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.The name of the second he called Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction'” (Genesis 41:51-52).

Though God made us to live in community, He seems to sometimes call His people to walk alone with Him for a time. David “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6) when his followers turned against him, desiring to stone him. Joseph had to have done the same thing for him to later be able to face his brothers with grace and forgiveness and faith. Two life-changing encounters God had with Jacob happened while Jacob was alone. Paul spent a few years alone before becoming accepted by the other apostles and starting his ministry.

Though all others forsake us, Jesus never will. We can pour out our souls to Him.

Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.

I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!

(Psalm 142: 4-6)

Trust God’s providence. When Joseph finally met up with his brothers years later, he was able to say that God had sent him ahead of them to provide for them in famine (Genesis 45:4-8). Rosalind Goforth said of Jonathan’s “lone road” that “It is not hard to see God’s hand in this, forcing him out as it did into an independence of action which so characterized his whole after life” (p. 32). This doesn’t mean Goforth became a “lone ranger.” But he pioneered missions in many areas and had to stand against the tide of modernism when it crept in.

Wrongdoers aren’t off the hook just because God brings good out of their bad. But God has promised “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The example of passive neglect I mentioned earlier was my experience when we moved to a new area just before I went into 8th grade. I was so miserable, my mom had to almost literally push me from the car when she took me to school. Finally I found one other friend and then other acquaintances.

But I found out later God had a reason for keeping me from the popular group. Things were going on among them that would not have been good for me to be a part of. Plus, it would be just three years later before we moved to Houston and my life changed when I came to know the Lord. As hard as it was to move, it would have been even harder if I were more firmly entrenched with the group there. Plus, If I had gotten involved with them, my heart might not have been receptive to God later.

Some have used past wrongs to be more sensitive to others facing the same thing or to actively advocate for them.

Don’t get back at them. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).

Forgive and do them good. We might never again run into people who have hurt us. But they can keep hurting us if we hold onto bitterness. Jesus said, “Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28, NLT).

And Jesus provided an example Himself. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

Separate truth from the flawed vessel that contains it. Some who felt neglected or hurt at church have walked away from Christian community entirely. But that would be a mistake. As we get to know God and His Word better, we can discern His truth from the false actions of others who profess His name. I’ve always loved what Jackie Hill Perry once tweeted (though she is no longer on Twitter): “Do you know who God used to heal me of my church hurt? The church.” If we’ve come from a bad church situation, we can pray for His leading to the place He would have us.

Disconnect if necessary. Some hurts from school days are the result of the immaturity of fellow students. But some people keep their penchant for hurting people, either with ridicule or hurtful remarks or worse. Romans 12:18 tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” While we need to obey this admonition, it frankly admits that there are some people that we can’t live peaceably with.

Let it go. Sometimes, long after such hurtful incidents are over, our thoughts can wander back to them. It can take a while to process and heal. But we can get stuck replaying such incidents over and over, especially if we’re feeling down for other reasons. We can remind ourselves, “That’s over. God loves me and cares for me. He’s brought better friends into my life (if not, we can pray for them). He’s given me His grace and work to do.”

I am not a counselor, and my advice is only from experience and Scripture. There are some issues that are deeper than the kinds of things I’ve talked about. Some may experience post-traumatic stress. In these cases, it would be helpful to talk with a pastor, counselor, or trusted mature friend. Abuse needs to be dealt with.

Before Jonathan Goforth graduated, “every student who had taken part in what had hurt and humiliated him . . . had, before he left the college, come to him expressing their regret” (Goforth of China, p. 34).

Further, though his fellow students originally “set him down as a crank” for his “missionary enthusiasm,” “this did not cool his ardor, and his enthusiasm proved contagious. Gradually there developed among the student body a remarkable interest in the cause of foreign missions” (p. 53). When Jonathan’s home church could not afford to send him to the mission field, fellow students raised funds to send him.

Not everyone who experiences hurt and humiliation sees such a turnaround. But it can happen. Until it does, keep walking with God, resting in His love and grace, doing His will.

Updated to add: Donna has a beauitful post this week titled Wounded Healers which takes these thoughts a step further. Go often uses our wounds to develop a sensitivity to others and a place of ministry to them of the same comfort we’ve received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Links of interest to Christians

Here’s my latest list if laudable links to good, thought-provoking, beneficial reading.

Staying on Your Feet is Really All About Grace. “God is not asking you to single-handedly plan a VBS, execute elaborate parties for your children, or maintain a spotless house.  He is not impressed by heroic efforts or long days or endless lists. He wants you to bend your knees.  He wants you to relax into the rhythm of his keeping.”

A Few Thoughts about Daily Devotions. “Taking time every day to draw near to God through His Word and prayer might be one of the most life-changing disciplines we can cultivate. Below are a few thoughts that I pray will help you develop the discipline of daily devotions.”

Read the Bible in Bigger Chunks, Too, HT to Challies. “Reading the Bible exclusively, or primarily, in small chunks is like that. When we do this, we’re spending our time focusing on the trees. And not only the trees, but the branches, and individual leaves of the trees. And we’re right to do this, of course. Those ‘small’ details matter. But when that’s all we focus on, if we don’t zoom out once in a while, we can miss the forest.”

7 Biblical Truths Countering the False Gospel of “Emotional Health and Wealth,” HT to Challies. We hear a lot about what’s wrong with the “prosperity gospel,” the false idea that God blesses those who obey Him with health and wealth. But sometimes we falsely believe that if we do everything “right,” God will take away any emotional distress as well.

Ten Diagnostic Questions for the Potential Ideologue, HT to Challies. “While boiling political positions and strategies down to binary choices may make for effective political campaigns, biblical faithfulness may not be so easily reduced.” Though this is mainly about handling differing political viewpoints with fairness and grace, the principles hold true for differences of opinion in any category.

When Your Kids Make Poor Parenting Choices, Do You Feel Like a Failure? “We forget that fulfillment for our kids and grandkids will be found only in obedience to God and not elsewhere. This may require that we get out of God’s way and trust his perfect parenting of our adult children.”

Seven Words You Never Want to Hear

The Seven Words You Never Want to Hear that Denise Wilson writes about are from Jesus: “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matthew 7:23). Those are frightening words indeed. I struggled with them when I was unsure of my salvation. Thankfully, as Denise’s subtitle indicates, she doesn’t stop there: she tell How to Be Sure You Won’t hear those words.

Those words of Jesus occurred in what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. The full paragraph is as follows:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (7:21-23).

It’s possible to “do many mighty works in your name” and yet still miss salvation, miss knowing Jesus personally.

Denise discusses several ways that could happen. One is praying “the sinner’s prayer” without faith or repentance. Another is growing up in a Christian atmosphere without ever believing on Christ personally. Or one could be deceived by the prosperity gospel or a works-based religion. Perhaps we haven’t counted the cost of discipleship and only wanted passage to heaven rather than a life of denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him.

People might need to examine their hearts if they say they have been saved yet their life has not changed. We won’t be perfect after salvation. We’re forgiven and cleansed, but we still have an old nature and still need to grow. We’ll still battle with sin—yet if we’re not battling it, but letting it have full sway on our lives, something is amiss.

Denise points out that Jesus did not use a cookie-cutter approach in dealing with people. Years ago I attended classes where we were trained in how to lead someone to the Lord using the “Romans Road,” a series of verses in Romans that explain salvation. That approach is fine as far as it goes. But leading someone to the Lord is not just a matter of getting them to allow you to read them a handful of verses and then you getting them to pray. We need to be open to the Lord’s leading as we speak to people. Only He knows what obstacles to salvation are in their hearts.

Denise includes several testimonies from the Bible, from history, and from modern times. Some of them, she points out, don’t look like what we think salvation looks like. Take the thief on the cross next to Jesus. He knew he was guilty and Jesus was innocent. He asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:39-42). Was anyone else ever saved using those words? I don’t know. But one thing I learned in my own struggle was that becoming a Christian was not a matter of saying the “right” words, like a magic formula or an initiation rite. It’s a matter of repentance and faith in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” Denise provides helps to do that in this book.

Resurrection Hope Beyond Easter

We think of Easter as the joyful end of a long period of sadness. Even if we don’t formally practice Lent, we spend the time leading up to Easter contemplating the last week of Jesus’s life, His trial, and His crucifixion. We mourn over our sinfulness, which required such a price for atonement.

But then we burst forth into joy and praise on Easter Day. Christ is risen! He overcame death and the grave!

And then Monday we go back to our normal routine. We don’t think much about the resurrection again until next Easter or until someone dies. Then we’re encouraged that we’ll see our missing loved ones again.

But the resurrection changed everything. It touches our lives much more than one day a year.

Here are some ways resurrection hope affects our lives:

Testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).

Dismantles our fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

In Isobel Kuhn’s books, she cites that many Lisu people came to faith in Christ due to the resurrection. Their previous beliefs held no hope after the grave. They thought death was the end of the body, soul, and spirit. Some mourned inconsolably at a loved one’s grave or cowered in abject terror at the thought of their own end. Learning who Jesus was, the salvation He accomplished for their forgiveness, and the hope of eternal life transformed them.

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25).

Allows Christ to live in us. Paul said part of the ministry given to him was to preach “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We not only have His fellowship, comfort, and so much more, we have His power to live. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Assures justice will be done. When the King comes to reign, everything will be as it should be.

Removes death’s sting. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death breaks the power of sin in our lives. We still have to fight the old nature and resist the devil, but they have no more authority over us.

Gives meaning to our labor. 1 Corinthians 15 is the great “resurrection chapter.” After 57 verses about the resurrection, Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers“—because of all he had said about the resurrection up til now—“be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” We can be steady in our labor for God, even if we don’t see any results. Galatians 6:9 puts it another way: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Gives comfort and hope in our sorrow. Our grief when a loved one dies is tempered by the fact that we’ll see them again.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

We still grieve and miss them sorely, but we have great joy to look forward to.

Gives perspective to our sufferings. When we’re suffering, our pain can take over our minds and emotions. Suffering seems endless. It outweighs everything else. But as heavy as suffering is, in heaven, our time of suffering will seem “light” and “momentary.” “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Romans 8:18 puts it this way: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Provides a new address. Philippians 3:20 tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary on Philippians, Be Joyful, “We look at earth from heaven’s point of view” (p. 95). Our time here is relatively brief, and eternity is long.

Promises reward for our service. The Bible speaks of crowns that will be rewarded to various believers. Jesus said that when we have a feast, we should not only invite friends and loved ones. We should gather in those who can’t repay us, “and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).

Shows forth God’s power. One of the things Paul prays that the Ephesians might know is “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19-20). Paul’s burning desire was “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Gives focus for our daily walk. 1 Corinthians 4:18 says, “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Paul says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Because of the resurrection, we know this life is not all there is. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). One of our former pastors used to frequently quote from a little chorus by Al Smith, “May I do each day’s work for Jesus, With eternity’s values in view.”

I love this stanza in “I’ve Found a Friend” by James G. Small:

I’ve found a friend, O such a friend!
All power to Him is given,
To guard me on my onward course,
And bring me safe to Heaven.
The eternal glories gleam afar,
To nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war,
And then to rest forever.

May the “eternal glories” that “gleam afar” nerve our own “faint endeavors.” May we carry resurrection hope in our hearts every day.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

I don’t observe Lent in a formal way. But I do like to spend some time in the weeks leading up to Easter by reading either the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection or a book on the subject.

I had just read the gospel of John recently, so I didn’t want to go through it again so soon.

A couple of my favorite books for this time of year are The Women of Easter by Liz Curtis Higgs and Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross compiled by Nancy Guthrie. But I wasn’t inclined to pick up one of those again, and I didn’t have any new material I wanted to read. I’m in a number of books already and didn’t want to start something lengthy.

Then I saw that Revive Our Hearts recently posted about the seven last sayings of Christ on the cross. That series just fit my needs this year. If you have some time today and tomorrow, you might want to look at a few of them to prepare your heart for Easter:

Here are some of the other good reads I found this week:

You Know What’s Crazy? HT to Challies. “I had 13 hours to sit and think about the drama we’d just been involved in. I thought, ‘It’s crazy that this guy still thought he was all right to fly.  He was totally irrational. Any normal person could see that he was in a bad way. But he couldn’t see it. He thought he was fine.’ The thought occurred to me that this is a lot like the irrationality of sin and sinners.”

Intentional Gardening–and an Intentional Life–in Partnership with God. “Standing or stooping in my garden, I portray the work that’s required for spiritual cultivation, for I believe God is pleased when I come to spiritual disciplines with the same fervor I bring to the elimination of ragweed between my tomato plants.”

The Shadow Is a Small and Passing Thing, HT to Challies. “One evening, while Frodo slept and Sam watched, Sam looked up at a single star in the sky above Mordor. Thinking on that star, Tolkien wrote, ‘the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.'”

The Unexpected Beauty of Babel, HT to Challies. “It seems as if, as he so often does, God has chosen to bring beauty through judgment, a greater grace and glory than would have existed had the judgment never taken place. After all, this is the logic of the cross and salvation history. Yes, judgment falls. Yet amazingly God’s grace shines even brighter for it. Should we be surprised that God delights to also do this with the arc of language history?”

Overcome Your Enemies by Dying. “What do you do when people turn against you? When those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ come after you for daring to follow him? When nitpicking and backstabbing are the standard operating procedure in the workplace? When family members use guilt and pressure to manipulate you into doing what they want?”

Protect Teens from Sextortion, HT to Challies. “Last month, international law enforcement agencies released a warning: ‘In 2022, the FBI received thousands of reports related to the financial sextortion of minors, primarily boys, representing an exponential increase from previous years. Unfortunately, the FBI is also aware of more than a dozen suicides following these incidents.”

Surprised by Joy

I’ve read a few biographies of C. S. Lewis and recently watched The Most Reluctant Convert, based on his journey from atheism to theism to Christianity. It occurred to me while watching the latter that I had never read Lewis’ testimony in his own words, Surprised by Joy. So I got the audiobook version of his book.

I thought that, since these other sources all quoted heavily from this book, I’d be familiar with most of it. Much was familiar, but there was a lot I didn’t know. There were also some incidents missing that I thought came from this book.

Lewis writes that this book is not an autobiography of his whole life til that point. He focuses mainly on everything that led to his conversion. That story encompasses much of his early life and what went into his becoming the personality and type of thinker he was. As he goes on, the focus narrows to just his spiritual movement.

One fact that I don’t remember reading before was that both Lewis and his brother had only one workable joint in their thumbs. Trying to make models of things or cut cardboard with scissors ended in frustration and tears. Games at school were the bane of his existence because he could never play them well. He could write and draw, though, and he liked solitude, which factors led to his creating stories about “dressed animals” in what he called “Animal Land.” His brother drew and wrote stories about India and trains and ships. Eventually they combined their imaginary worlds into what they called Boxen.

It was quite interesting to follow all that made Lewis into the man he became, from being unable to reason with his father, to (mostly negative) experiences at school, to his time with a private tutor (the “Great Knock”) who demanded that he be able to defend every opinion he expressed. Then the books he read and people he came across and conversations he had with them at various junctions all led step-by-step to his becoming a Christian. His journey was driven by philosophy more than emotion.

Surprised by Joy was written after the majority of Lewis’ other books were published. He said he wrote the book partly to answer questions he regularly received and partly to correct some misconceptions. Some of his detractors assumed he came from a Puritanical background, but Lewis assures them that the family he grew up in was not religious at all. Then when he came to make his own choice about religion, he turned against it though he did not tell his father. It was only many years and much reading later, after he began his career, that he came to believe. He likened it to a chess game where God knocked down his objections and false beliefs one by one by one.

The joy in Lewis’ title was what he described as a feeling of longing. It first came upon him when his brother brought in a toy garden he had made in the lid of a tin. It was something beautiful but ineffable, a small glimpse into something greater. “Joy is distinct not only from pleasure in general but even from aesthetic pleasure. It must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing” (p. 86, Kindle version). At times through his life, he sought to recreate that feeling. After he became a Christian, he realized that what he thought of as joy was not an end in itself, but a signpost to point him to God.

A few quotes from the book that stood out to me:

The greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects we destroy his standards, perhaps for life” (p. 137).

[Of his tutor, Kirk] Here was talk that was really about something. Here was a man who thought not about you but about what you said. No doubt I snorted and bridled a little at some of my tossings; but, taking it all in all, I loved the treatment. After being knocked down sufficiently often I began to know a few guards and blows, and to put on intellectual muscle. In the end, unless I flatter myself, I became a not contemptible sparring partner (p. 167).

I knew very well by now that there was hardly any position in the world save that of a don in which I was fitted to earn a living, and that I was staking everything on a game in which few won and hundreds lost. As Kirk had said of me in a letter to my father (I did not, of course, see it till many years later), ‘You may make a writer or a scholar of him, but you’ll not make anything else. You may make up your mind to that.’ And I knew this myself; sometimes it terrified me (p. 224).

I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. (p. 288).

There’s a verse of “Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott that is not as well known as the rest of the hymn, but seems to sum up Lewis’ journey of faith:

Just as I am, Thy love unknownHas broken every barrier downNow to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

I’m grateful God pursued Lewis and “broke every barrier down,” both for Lewis’ sake and our own. What a gift Lewis has been to us, even so many years after he lived. But his example gives me hope that God will do the same for dear ones I pray for.