Treasures of Darkness

It’s 3am and blinding pain from one of my killer headaches wakes me from sleep. I stagger to the kitchen as quietly as possible and pour water into the Keurig to make a quick 20 oz of coffee. The only thing that helps.

The house is silent. Tom and Emily are  deep in sleep. I sit with the coffee, trying not to burn myself on the hot liquid–medicine for me that I can’t get down fast enough. I rock back and forth, back and forth in my rocker,  waiting for the moment when my head will ease.

The worst of the pain lets up, and I can think again. My mind drifts to each of my children and where they are in their lives.  The relief from the pain is growing, and every time, it brings tears to my eyes that I am feeling better. It’s some kind of response to the dissipation of pain and it happens every time. I pray for answers and help in our lives for a few minutes. Then I feel the need for a human voice. I pick up my phone next to me on the lamp table and find Alexander Scourby’s reading of the Psalms. The beauty and authority of his reading of Scripture is always a great comfort. I put my head back on the chair and listen to him begin.

 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Somewhere in the Psalms that continue in Scourby’s lovely voice , I drift off to the familiar cadences of those beautiful, ancient words.  Relief, peace, the sense that God is near.

I recently saw a painting that depicted Jesus sitting on a bench with a young man. It was supposed to represent heaven, and the young man appeared to be asking questions. It made me wonder if we will be able to ask the Lord questions about this life and why things were the way they were. All the seemingly pointless suffering, meaningless pain and hurt.  Then it occurred to me that if we were going to remember the bad in this life, it wouldn’t be much of a heaven. Every tear, Scripture tells us, will be wiped away in that place where there is no need of the sun, because the light of the Lamb will be enough.  No more darkness. No more night.

I can’t pretend to understand what all our pain means in this life, only that in the darkness, in the night watches there are unexpected shafts of light, reminders of God, the God beloved of the Psalmist who played his harp beneath the starry skies on the hills, who wrote the words we still know today. Maybe in the bright light of day we are too quick to forget God, and it’s only when He allows us to awaken with pain that we are reminded of His presence. When we’re always strong, and able, and go from strength to strength in our own might, we tend to forget Him.  In our great need, we are driven to remember our frailty, that we are dust, and that all we have comes from our Creator’s kindly hand.

In the night watches of our lives, help us to find the treasures of darkness, Heavenly Father. Because they are there, waiting for us.

And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. ~ Isaiah 45:3







The Story – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

GreatisthyfaithfulnessThe greatest testimonies of God’s faithfulness that are written in song have come from those in difficult circumstances. How would we know of God’s faithfulness if not pressed far beyond our own strength and resources?

I posted a video today on another site of a hymn arrangement I want my son, Will, the resident organist, to play for me. My friend, Bethany Lewis, responded with a link which shares the beautiful story of how the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, came to be.

How many millions has this hymn blessed down through the years? The suffering man who penned it could still look to the goodness of God and His loving care in the middle of trouble. If you are suffering today, worried about how to pay bills, struggling with untold and seemingly intolerable burdens, look to the One who has not forgotten you. He is faithful, a loving Father who has engraved you on the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:16.)

Here is the link to the hymn story. (Thank you Bethany!) And below is the beautiful hymn played by the young man who is the senior organist at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The text of the hymn is below the video.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Finding Peace in Surrender and Faith

I was reading an old book this morning, published in 1950. My friend Sherry mailed it to me several years ago along with several other Old Path books of spiritual richness. I want to share these paragraphs with you today.

“In my early life I entered into a partnership with a friend in the wholesale ice businessAs time passed on we met with disappointments. For two seasons in succession our ice was swept away by winter freshets. Things had come to a serious pass. It seemed very necessary that we should have ice in the winter of which I now speak. The weather became very cold. The ice formed and grew thicker and thicker, until it was fit to gather. I remember the joy that came into our hearts one afternoon when there came an order for thousands of tons of ice which would lift us entirely out from our financial stress. Not long before God had let me see the truth of committal. He showed me that it was His will that I should commit my business to Him and trust Him with it absolutely. As best I knew how I had done so. I never dreamed what testing was coming.

And so I lay down that Saturday night in quietness. But, at midnight there came an ominous sound – that of rain. By morning it was pouring in torrents. I looked out upon the river from my home upon the village hillside. Yellow streaks of water were creeping over the ice. I knew what that meant. The water was at flood stage. That condition had swept away our ice twice before. By noon the storm was raging in all its violence. By afternoon I had come into a great spiritual crisis in my life.

That might seem strange – to come into a spiritual crisis over a seemingly trivial matter. But I have learned this: a matter may be seemingly trivial, but the crisis that turns upon a small matter may be a profound and far-reaching one in our lives. And so it was with me. For by mid-afternoon that day I had come face to face with the tremendous fact that down deep in my heart was a spirit of rebellion against God. And that rebelliousness seemed to develop in a suggestion to my heart like this:

“You gave all to God. You say you are going to trust God with your business. This the way He requites you. Your business will be swept away, and tomorrow you will come into a place of desperate financial stress.” And I found my heart growing bitter at the thought that God should take away my business when I wanted it only for legitimate purposes.

Then another voice seemed to speak: “My child, did you mean it when you said you would trust Me? Can you not trust Me in the dark as well as in the light? Would I do anything, or suffer anything to come into your life which will not work out good for you?” And then came that other voice: “But it is hard. Why should not God spare your ice? Why should He take your business when it is clean and honest and you want to use it aright?” It was a very plausible sort of voice, and for the moment I did not detect the serpent hiss that was in it – in that word, “Why.”

Still back and forth with ever-increasing intensity, waged one of the greatest spiritual battles of my life. At the end of two hours, by the grace of God, I was able to cry out, “Take the business; take the ice; take everything; only give me the supreme blessing of an absolutely submitted will to Thee.” And then came peace.

The storm was still beating upon the earth and upon my ice. But it did not seem to make any difference whether it rained or ceased. Then and there I discovered that the secret of anxious care is not in surroundings, but in the failure of allowing life and will to be wholly given up to Him amid all circumstances and surroundings.

That night I lay down to rest in perfect peace, but with the rain pouring torrents upon my field of ice, and with every prospect that my business would lie in wreck the next morning. But it did not. By midnight there came another sound that of wind. By morning the bitterest blizzard of the year was upon us. By evening the mercury had fallen to the zero point. And in a few days we were harvesting the finest ice we ever had. God did not want my ice. But He did want my yielded will, and my absolute trust in Him, and when that was settled, He gave back the ice; He blessed the business; and He led me on and out, until He guided me from it entirely, into the place He had for me from the beginning – that of a teacher of His Word.”

~ James McConkey, as quoted in Crowded to Christ, by L.E. Maxwell

Thought for Today: Stand still and see God’s Salvation

Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.” Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part; it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.” Precipitancy cries, “Do something; stir yourself; to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.” Presumption boasts, “If the sea be before you, march into it, and expect a miracle.” But Faith listens neither to Presumption nor to Despair nor to Cowardice nor to Precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand still,” and immovable as a rock it stands.

~ C.H. Spurgeon

If you have a chance to buy a used copy of Crowded to Christ, take it. I only saw two available on Amazon used, but they were not cheap. The book is real gold, especially for those going through very difficult, trying and bewildering times. When we are “crowded to Christ”,  real faith is the only choice.

Seeing Through Rain

rainSeveral years ago on my original personal blog called Front Porch Chats, I wrote about a certain intersection in the South Carolina city where I lived. If you looked to the left at the stoplight at East North and Haywood Road, you got a view that went all the way to North Carolina. We lived in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, and on a clear day, the view from that intersection was breathtaking. The kids would laugh because I would always start singing Psalm 121. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…” My alternate song was, “Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame, from everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same!”

On a cloudy or rainy day, the view was obscured. The gray mist completely obliterated the mountains, and you would never have known that they loomed in the distance. It’s so much like life. There are times when we seem to see the Lord in our lives and His plan so clearly, and joyful songs come easily. Then there are the times when the mists of confusion and personal pain descend and there doesn’t seem to be a song for it. God seems obscured by a heavy veil, and the things in our lives seem to make no sense at all.

This seems to be reflected again and again in the Psalms and in David’s experiences. There are Psalms that are joyful bursts of praise and hope, and then there are the Psalms that are urgent pleas for help and even cries of near despair. “Hear my cry, O Lord, give ear unto my prayer…” Psalm 17:1

We don’t understand sometimes why the enemy seems to be given so much ground in this life. As believers, we know we are in a spiritual battle, and we know that the enemy has many devices, but somehow when you come face to face with his handiwork and attempts to destroy your faith and confidence, it still dismays. Evil people seem to be given almost unmlimited scope at times to harass and trouble you. The enemy loves to hurl accusations at you. He is, after all, the accuser of the brethren. Sometimes the past that you seek to leave behind, as Scripture tells us to, rises up out of nowhere to mock and haunt you. Physical pain can also work this way. There seems to be absolutely no redemptive element at times in physical suffering. You just want help and to have the pain alleviated. These times can leave us puzzled and confused.

I’ve thought of those mountains many times. They never left, I just couldn’t see them. In our lives, that’s where faith comes in. God hasn’t left us, He just sometimes seems veiled to us. I once read an illustration in a sermon where a child out walking with his mother was continually stopping and getting distracted and running off. The mother briefly stepped out of view into a doorway. It took a few moments for the errant child to realize his mother was missing. Suddenly, the distractions ceased to attract him and his one passion was to find his mother’s face. The child learned his lesson and kept his hand in his mother’s for the rest of the way.

Maybe that’s why God sometimes obscures himself for a time in our lives. Maybe He also wants our single-minded attention and seeking of Himself. Frances Ridley Havergal wrote once of putting a little child to bed. Until the light was put out, the child was playing in the crib, oblivious to her in the room. When the light went out, the little one immediately stood up and gripped the edge of the crib, anxious to know that someone familiar was there. Frances wrote of how sweet the baby’s arms were, tightly placed around her neck. The baby had needed security and found it in her caregiver. She didn’t have the need until the lights around her were out.

Sometimes the light in our lives goes out. Plans we have made, hopes and dreams we have had are totally rearranged by the Lord. Things seem murky and senseless. Those are the times when we need to reach out for the Lord and grasp tightly to Him. As His children, we are so easily distracted and so quickly removed from that kind of love and security in His presence.

If you’re trying to see through rain today and the mists have descended, just remember, the mountains are still there. God’s eternal presence never leaves us. We sometimes try to leave Him, but He doesn’t leave us. Life is always going to have its heartaches and struggles. As I said once before, every Eden in this life has its serpent. But reach out in the dark for the hand of the One who doesn’t fail. He will lead us on to clearer times of understanding. The sun will shine again, and your songs will return again, all the more joyful because God brought you through.

“God Knows My Size”

size1.jpgI was sent a book a few days ago. I couldn’t stop reading one evening until it was finished. It is the story of Silvia Tarniceriu, a Romanian woman who grew up under the communist dictator, Nikolai Ceaucescu. Friends, we don’t even have a clue what suffering for Jesus is like in our country. Silvia’s story sings of God’s mercies and grace. The title, God Knows My Size refers to a prayer she prayed as a child when her poverty stricken family could not provide her needs. She decided to see if God existed as her parents claimed by praying for a pair of shoes that she desperately needed, a sweater and a warm coat. Let’s just say God provided all three in one package, and God knew her size! That was the beginning of her walk with God. I am working to get Silvia on Crosstalk to share her amazing story of courage and faith in the face of terrible persecution and suffering under communism. Let’s put it this way: Ceaucescu is dead. Jesus is alive! All praise be to our risen Lord who is on the throne and will be for all eternity. If you are interested in reading this thrilling book, here is a link to Reformation Heritage Books.