A Stunning Truth

Honor your father and your mother…  Exodus 20:12a

Recently, my youngest son told me that the older he gets (he is 24 now) the more he realizes all that his father and I have done for him. He went on to apologize for not always appreciating me and for theDSC_0092 times he was ungrateful or dishonoring.

As a parent, that is always a blessing to hear. Part of my response to him was that maturity often brings a better appreciation for our parents and that it was true of me with my mom and dad as well. As I considered his words and thought about my own life, I realized afresh the profundity of my sins against my own parents. It grieves me to think about the myriad ways I broke the fifth commandment, especially during my years as a young adult.

It strikes me that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. There is a wider sense to this truth, but it also applies more narrowly to my failure to honor my parents. Jesus fulfilled every nuance of what it means to honor and obey His earthly parents and His Heavenly Father. Because of Christ’s perfect obedience, God credits Christ’s righteousness to me through faith. (See Romans 4.)

The Gospel in a nutshell: For our sake, He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

Although Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life, God credited my sin to Christ and punished Him for it. Jesus didn’t deserve the cross, I did. But the beauty of the Gospel shines even brighter here, for not only does God impute my sin to Jesus, He also imputes Jesus’ perfect obedience to me.

This is Good News! Earth-shaking, momentous, joyous and freeing Good News!

Read John Bunyan, writer of Pilgrim’s Progress:

“One day as I was passing into the field . . . this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before [in front of] him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, “The same yesterday, today and, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.” (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners)

Because of Christ, there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any more, and there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any less. The righteousness of Christ is mine. Stunning, indeed!

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Unchanging Grace

When darkness hides His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging Grace…

Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. My younger brother, Camie, was born when I was almost eleven years old. To my little girl self, it was as if my mother had gifted me with a real, live, breathing baby-doll. I think this is part of the reason why I cherish my relationship with him so much.

My brother is now, of course, a grown man. He is the kind of man people are drawn to. Everybody loves Camie. He remembers people’s names. Grocery clerks, bank tellers, his kids’ friends and their parents. To my brother, there are no strangers. He is easy-going. He makes people feel comfortable and at ease. And he makes people laugh. Oh how he makes people laugh! He is fiercely protective over his children and loyal to his wife. My brother loves Jesus. My brother is a good man.

In November of 2014, Camie was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus or esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is rare and in Camie’s case, was a risk factor because of another disorder he had coped with for many years, achalasia of the esophagus (inability to move food down the esophagus). We are thankful that my brother’s cancer was treatable. But, the treatment for his cancer has been so very difficult.

Chemo devastated him. Radiation not only burned away the cancer, it cooked his esophagus and rendered it useless leaving him unable to swallow even his own saliva. He has not been able to take anything to eat or drink by mouth since late December of 2014. There have been multiple hospital stays. Several 911 calls and ambulance rides. Too-numerous-to-count blood transfusions. Bouts with neutropenia, dehydration and nausea. Weight loss. Extreme fatigue. Delays in treatment. Financial concerns.  And there was a frightening incident when a bleeding ulcer had to be cauterized.

After all that came the actual surgery. It was a twelve-hour operation involving three surgeons. They removed his esophagus and used the small bowel to fashion him a new one. Three weeks in the hospital and then home. The surgery was successful (thank God the cancer is gone!), but the recovery has been agonizingly slow and incredibly hard. And, it is ongoing.

There have been dark moments during this whole ordeal for all of us, not least of all for my brother. As for me, I have cried out to God and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. There have been tears and sleepless nights and times when I wanted to smash my fist through a wall.

But, looking back, there is an important truth that has sustained me. The Grace of God that was so obvious in the many mercies, answered prayers and kindnesses shown to us by family, friends and medical personnel is the same Grace that rescued us when humanly speaking, we had come to the end of what others or even we ourselves could handle. When there was nothing anybody could do, there was Grace.

This is no cowardly, weak-kneed Grace. It is Grace with a steel-spine. Grace that refuses to bend under pressure. There were times when my faith faltered and my hope sank. But even in the midst of despair, God’s stubborn Grace dug in deeper and gripped me tighter. The anchor held.

In spite of my failure to trust God completely in this trial, I have found that God’s Grace is enough. It has been enough looking back, and so I believe it is enough for whatever lies ahead. It is enough for me, and it is enough for my beloved little brother.

And so I have found the truth of these words to be a soothing balm to my embattled soul:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Unsettled Ramblings On

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Sometimes I attempt to achieve a settledness in my life, but reality interrupts my plans.

I look around and try to figure a way to make this happen. I fall into a weird pattern. Ironically, I need rest so I work toward that goal. But. the harder I work the further my goal slips away. There is always something more to do. Always something out of alignment. Something always breaks. Someone always disappoints.

The Lord has given me a certain kind of life. In most places of the world, my circumstances would be considered ridiculously rich and comfortable. Yet, I still expend an obscene amount of energy in a fruitless endeavor to avoid every little bump and level all the rough spots.

What an insult to God that His boundless, expansive and pervasive Grace is not enough. What an affront to the Gospel of Christ when I refuse to rest in Him.

All of this exposes me for what I am–an idolator worshiping at the altar of Life-Easy.

My striving after a rest found in something other than the Sovereign Lord (who has ordained my circumstances) is like chasing after the wind. But, it only gets worse. In my anxiousness to secure smooth sailing for myself, I often fail to notice the sinking ships all around me. I am, after all, spoiled and immature.

Forgive me, Lord!

Create in me a grateful heart, first of all. Then, help me to rest even in the struggles and difficulties of life. Allow me to see that You are my only joy and true peace. Let me settle in You, and You alone.

Grant me a holy self-forgetfulness and the ability to look beyond myself with an eye toward offering the hope and help of the Gospel to people around me who labor and struggle alone.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.  Psalm 62:5

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


For Father’s Day

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I have a Heavenly Father who is perfect in every way. For that, I am grateful.

I also have an earthly father for whom I am profoundly thankful. This week I’ve been thinking about some of the ways my dad reflects the Father Heart of God toward me.

My dad is strong.
Although when I was a girl I may have believed otherwise, my dad isn’t omnipotent like God is. However, Dad is big and strong, even at age 82. When I was little he would hug me so hard that it would almost hurt. I knew those powerful arms and hands could keep me safe. Dad worked construction all his working life and I think it kept him physically solid to this day. I still feel very protected around my dad.

He wants what’s best for me.
This isn’t always a given for some children. Many parents selfishly want what’s best for themselves and their kids come second. This has never been true of my dad. During my teenage years especially, I stupidly thought Dad was too strict or too old-fashioned or wanted to stifle my fun. But, eventually I realized that I was wrong and Dad was right. He just wanted my best.

He helps me.
I can’t remember a time when Dad wasn’t there to help me when I needed it. In fact, my dad is a big helper of people in general. If I were to list all the ways Dad has made himself available to my siblings and me, it would make a long blog post, indeed!

He is generous.
Dad would rather give to his kids then keep things for himself. He is generous with his time, his money, his energy and his love. Together with Mom, Dad has helped us purchase Christmas presents, Christmas trees, airline tickets, furniture, home appliances, car repairs, cars, school clothes for our kids, and more. He bought each of the grand-kids savings bonds every Christmas and birthday until they turned 18 and paid to put braces on their teeth. He has said many times that he is generous with us in hopes that we would be generous with our kids and grand-kids. What an example of generosity he is!

He is trustworthy.
Dad says a man is only as good as his word. Yes, he is that kind of guy. When Dad makes a promise, you can count on him to keep it.

My Dad loves me.
This is the blessing that trumps all the others. Looking back over my life, I have never doubted this one constant. This I know, my dad loves me no matter what.

As I was thinking about my dad this week, I remembered something that I haven’t thought about for a long time. When I was 8 or 9 years old, Dad and I drove to the drug store to pick up a prescription for me. I don’t remember exactly why he didn’t just leave me at home with Mom, but the thing that stands out in my memory is this:

I was lying sick and feverish in the back seat of the car. I didn’t feel well at all. When we arrived, Dad scooped me up and carried me into the store and held me the whole time while we waited for my medicine. It was his gentle strength I remember that day most of all. It is his gentle strength I appreciate now more than ever.

I am thankful for the many ways my Dad mirrors the Father Heart of God.

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

I love you, Dad, more than you will ever know.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Open Letter to My Daughter-In-Law

My son and his wife are expecting their first baby the first week of August. This is a letter I read to my daughter-in-law at her recent baby shower.

Dear Sarah,

I’m so excited for you to experience the overwhelming feelings of love and joy that come the first time you cradle your newborn baby in your arms. Mommy love is a powerful thing, all-consuming really, and you will be surprised at the strength of your new-found Mama Bear emotions.

I have no doubt that you will be able to look baby Hunter straight in the eye and avow in all truthfulness, “I will do anything for you.” And you will mean it. Take the bullet? Step in front of a speeding car? Move mountains? No problem. You will stand ready to fight to the death anyone or anything that could bring him harm. But in reality, it is unlikely that you will ever be called to act upon such grand declarations of maternal love. Instead, what you will be asked to do for him is infinitely more difficult.

Your calling will be to love your baby boy like Jesus loves him. And that will entail a million little self-sacrifices, dying again and again to yourself over the course of the rest of your life.

1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives us a picture of what this kind of love looks like.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy or boast.
It is not arrogant.
It is not rude.
It does not insist on its own way.
It is not irritable or resentful…
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Sarah, you are soon to embark on a grand adventure. You will discover that you are stronger than you ever dared think, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You will develop amazing biceps, acquire lightning-fast reflexes, and hone your ability to do fifty things at once. You will learn to swallow your words, bite your lip, and smile when all you really want to do is lie down and take a nap. You will cultivate the aptitude to laugh at spit-up on your new outfit, wipe runny noses with the inside of your shirt, and become quite adept at changing your baby’s diaper in the cramped back seat of a car. You will also grow in trusting the Lord for the wisdom and help you need to raise your little charge. But just as certain, dear Sarah, motherhood will expose in you weaknesses that you would never have believed possible.

There will come a day when you will respond to your beloved baby with impatience. Believe it or not, you have the capacity to be unkind to him. You will be tempted to envy that other mother who always seems to have it all together (she doesn’t) and on your good days make the prideful assumption that you have it all together. You may rudely interrupt your boy in the middle of a sentence to answer a text or sneak a peek at the book you are trying to read, and you will insist on your own way, not because it is best for him, but more convenient for you.

As the years pass, your sweet boy will find creative ways to irritate you. There will even be times you resent the time and energy it takes to train up a child. There will be moments when the weight of your responsibilities will seem unbearable and any hope of relief, dim. You will question your abilities as a mother and wonder if motherhood is beyond your capacity to endure. And even if you are able to keep all of these wrong responses in check outwardly, your heart will give you away. You will know and the Lord will know. So in light of the magnitude of the task set before us, what are we as mothers to do?

I hope you can see the truth and necessity of what I am about to say:

Sarah, you need Jesus!

Look to the One whose love is perfect in its effect and infinite in scope and run to Him as fast as you can and as often as you can. Run to Him with a grateful heart when things go well and run to Him with a humble heart when things go sideways. And most importantly, run to Him when you fall and be assured that your brokenness is where the Gospel of Christ will prove itself in your life over and over again. It is in the midst of your failures that God’s Grace is most precious and His love most clearly seen.

Jesus is the flawless and most excellent representation of what true love is as described in 1 Corinthians. Jesus will be patient with you. Jesus will be kind. You are His precious daughter and He awaits you with open arms, never with hostility or irritation. Go to Him to receive forgiveness and love and you will see your love for Hunter become a reflection and overflowing of Christ’s love for you.

It’s true that little Hunter will get the best and worst of you and you will get the best and worst of him. Motherhood will bring your richest and most treasured moments and a few you would rather forget. You will laugh and you will cry and work harder than you ever thought possible. But somehow, our good God will take your feeble attempts at motherhood and graciously and patiently teach you what it means to love your child.

Look around you, Sarah. All of these ladies, many of them mothers themselves, love you and are willing to help and pray for you. But remember one thing, God chose you to be Hunter’s mommy and for him to be your son. And, he’s given you the blessing of a strong husband who loves you and is your partner in all of this. This paradigm of family is where you and Josh (and soon little Hunter) will grow in your understanding of how utterly and profoundly you need God’s mercy, wisdom and strength. And believe it, God is faithful who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

You will be a wonderful mother, Sarah! I can’t tell you how thrilled Opa and I are to see all that the Lord has planned for you and your growing family. My prayer is that you will experience no greater joy in life than to hear that your children are walking in the truth.

With much love,

Terrie
(aka Hunter’s Oma)

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Rest Here

Sun Rays Through The Clouds

Image via Wikipedia

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!   Psalm 4:6

Surely, this prayer is answered for those of us who believe! The Lord’s turning toward His own is an eternal turning, a never rescinded invitation sealed in Christ’s own blood.

We live our lives abundantly beneath His watchful eye, encompassed by His love, safeguarded by His protection and encouraged daily by His help. The light of His face upon us offers forgiveness for sins, growth in our sanctification and a promise of our future and final glorification.

His love is never divided between His children, but exponentially multiplied, grace upon grace.

His attention is a benefit unlike any other offered by mere mortals even though they be men of power and renown. His is an attention to the most minute detail our souls can require with an eye towards our good end. And, He not only has our good in mind, but the absolute power to bring it to pass!

We imagine that friendship with the rich and famous may afford luxuries and opportunities that will give rest to our souls, but the truth is that relationships like these take a lot of work. One must be able to keep up, wear the right clothes, exhibit the appropriate level of intelligence and match resource for resource in an ever evolving appreciation for the finer things in life. And, should we be unable to reciprocate, our worldly alliances wither and die. Amity based on our ability to perform is absolutely exhausting.

How much better to be a friend of Christ!

Because of the Gospel blessings we have in Jesus, the relationship we have with God is not based on our performance but upon the performance of His Son. He took on human flesh. He was tempted and yet did not sin. He humbled Himself unto death on the cross. He took the punishment we deserved. He paid the death penalty that we owed. He rose again and conquered even the grave on our behalf.

It is finished. We need not work. We need not fear. When we fail, our Father does not fold His arms in anger nor sigh and turn away but calls us back with open arms, accepting us in the beloved for Jesus’ sake. And so we pray along with the psalmist, “Look here, Lord! Shine the light of your face upon us!”

This is the saving reality of the Gospel. Rest here.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


A Little Bit of Heaven

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My fourteen-month-old grandson will learn that there are times when play must be set aside for duty. In fact, my ordinary adult concerns usually trump his childish inclination to toss a ball again and again and yet once again or sit outside on the curb to practice our meow sounds and pet the neighbor’s cat.

But, playtime is not a waste of my time nor his. No, these welcome respites from the business of everyday responsibilities are (at least part of) the building blocks of our future relationship. I can tell my grandson that I love him and that I am interested in him, but in the mind of a toddler, actions do speak louder than mere words.

Recently, during one of our playtimes together, I was overcome by the most extraordinary sensation. I felt as if time stood still or was suspended somehow. Of course as soon as I realized what was happening, the moment slipped away. Perhaps my attention was so focused on what we were doing that I became unaware, even if just for a few seconds, of the passage of time.

Thinking about it later, it came to me that my grandson isn’t quite aware yet of how tangled up we are in the constraints of time. He isn’t worried about what comes next or how many minutes have ticked by. He has nothing planned and no to-do list. It’s as if he has all the time in the world…

I long for Heaven where I am positive we won’t experience time in the same way we do here on earth. After all, we will have all of eternity!  If we are freed from the necessity of the clock, imagine the joy of spending an infinitude of moments in the company of fellow saints. Think of the timelessness of our happily-ever-after in the glorious presence of Christ our Lord! What an amazing Inheritance we have in the Gospel!

Could it be that playtime with my grandson is a foretaste of what’s to come? A glimpse of eternity where the urgency of our busy schedules is no more? At the very least, these moments are a gracious gift to this grandmother–a little bit of Heaven on earth.

Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Isaiah 60:19

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


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