Tag Archives: Gospel

Confessions of a Kingdom Builder

closed_kristin_castle_236080

I am a kingdom builder. My kingdom is self.

I build my kingdom according to my will. When circumstances or people fail to meet my expectations, I respond in impatience, disbelief, and anger. Sometimes I am willing to compromise a bit, but my reasons for doing so are selfish. I give a little to get a little for my kingdom.

The problem is that my idea of what the Commonwealth of Terrie should look like is in direct opposition to the Lord’s. Not only that, but I try to build my kingdom at the same time God is tearing it down. This is futile, frustrating, and absolutely exhausting.

Sometimes, a wrecking ball is called for. Sometimes the Lord uses more subtle means. But either way, my kingdom must fall. The foundation is pride, and it must be destroyed.

But this I know and believe: His Kingdom is best, His realm, the most beautiful. His authority is trustworthy and true.

My kingdom will end. It is mere vapor, all smoke and mirrors. His Scepter reigns forever.

My kingdom is constructed on a lie, His on the Truth.

I build my kingdom on shifting sand. His Kingdom is founded on the Rock that is Christ.

This morning, first thing, circumstances thwarted my kingdom yet again. I had plans. But a dead battery in my car put an end to what I had intended for my little empire today. I did not respond well.

But, there is good news.

If I should try to build my personal domain ten thousand times a day, God’s mercy and grace demolish each beggarly attempt. It is for love’s sake that my Heavenly Father will not allow my kingdom to stand. And, it is for the Gospel’s sake that my prideful response to its dismantling is crushed by the cross. He meets me there, and I am magnificently ruined and gloriously wrecked.

Jesus died for kingdom builders like me.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  Psalm 45:6

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Learning My Lessons

I am a life-long learner.

But, sometimes I look around and think that everyone else is more accomplished than me. Everyone else has it all together, right? Although that’s how it may seem, the reality is far different. You are a life-long learner, too.

English: School room.

English: School room. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With that in mind, and in the spirit of encouraging one another, here is a short list of things I am learning and in some cases, re-learning!

1. Don’t worry. Trust God.
Worrying about things that I have no control over is just crazy. But this is what I do. If only I could finally and fully learn that I can trust God. This is one lesson I fear will need to be repeated again and again until my life on earth is done. What a relief it will be someday to finally rest from worry. I am beginning to seriously question my personal sovereignty, but I guess that could be a good thing.

Those who know your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:10)

2. Life may not be perfect, but there is still much to be thankful for.
I yearn for my life to be in order. I like all my ducks in a row and everything on my list to be checked off. For me, busy-ness begets the blues. I love to be around people, but I also need time alone to think and to process. And, I detest conflict.

But, my life is not in order. My ducks are not only out of line but chaotically quacking like crazy. It takes a Herculean effort to check even one thing off my list, and “Busy” is my middle name. Moments alone are few and far between. Conflict is a given.

Yet, in all of this the Lord is faithful to remind my harried heart that there is still much to be thankful for. My life is filled with blessings, and even the difficulties I face are being used by Him for my good and His glory. Always.

Even if all else should give way around me, let me be found “joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” (Col. 1:12)

3. God is sovereignly working.
There is no graph, no algorithm, no equation that indicates exactly when or how our Heavenly Father accomplishes His will. But, He is working and always in a million different ways.

Life is not a math problem, but a grand story with eternal scope and perspective. God writes life stories that are rife with plot twists, filled with quirky characters, and include conflict (both resolved and unresolved with real-time cliff-hangers). We turn each page not quite knowing what the next chapter may bring, but we do know the ending and it’s a happy one.

He is working in me. And, although I don’t always see it, I can trust He is working in my loved ones, too.

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Isaiah 46:10)

What about you? What life lessons are you learning?

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Leaning In

big flower

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  1 Corinthians 15:19

I love looking at pictures of my mother before she got sick. In those photographs she is how I remember her, happy and surrounded by family. If I had known how much I would miss that part of her life, perhaps I would have paid more attention, taken less for granted. Somehow, these images on paper console me. Bittersweet, yes, but a comfort nonetheless, and some days I need the comfort.

My siblings and I were privileged to be with Mom the last few hours of her life. In waiting, we experienced the most unlikely pairing of impatience and dread. It was hard to watch her suffer, hence the impatience. It was tough knowing she would soon leave this world, hence the dread. This would be the moment we most feared and the moment we’d been waiting for, the moment we would always remember and the moment we would long to forget. A perplexing contradiction of emotions where reality bit hard and we bled pure helplessness.

In a romanticized version of death, the dying patient appears at rest. In her final moments she is able to utter her last words and squeeze her loved one’s hand. In that account, people weep softly and say that dying is just a natural part of life, that one must accept it as such. But I found death to be painful and heart-rending and devastatingly unnatural. Death has claws and fangs and knows no finesse. The scars will not soon heal. Watching your mother die hurts.

I have questions. Mom could not articulate, but she was able to cry out. What was she trying to say? Was she thirsty? In pain? Did she know we were there? (I do think she did know, by the way.) Some questions, I don’t dare ask others because I know they don’t have the answers either. Why burden them with that? Some mysteries are best left for God to unravel, or not, as He sees fit.

There are also certain memories of those last hours that will remain unspoken. It’s as if to do so would somehow cheapen the recollection, devalue the treasure. I will keep them to myself, take them out now and then and examine the facets, scrutinize the details, and relive the most distressing and beautiful hours of my life.

To an outsider, there was nothing about Mom that would have been attractive that night. But we were not outsiders. We had years of history with her. We were her babies. She had labored with us and loved us and kept us safe. She was our mother, our teacher, our confidant and friend. She had agonized with us in our struggles and celebrated with us in our joys. Our being there was inextricably tethered to a specific context and saturated through and through with what our time on this earth together had allowed, a lifetime of memories bound up in the unbreakable bands of maternal love. No, we were not repulsed.

We leaned in.

We drew close to her because we loved her. We tried the best we could to give comfort. (Oh, how she had so often comforted us!) But, One leaned in closer than all the rest. One leaned in because He loved her more and better than all the rest. Jesus was with us that night, as real and as sure as the room we were standing in. Jesus leaned in with a blood-secured love for one of His own and first-hand experience in what it meant for Mom to suffer. His wounds spoke to her wounds, and He leaned in with the power and urgency of a Savior able to save. In dying, Mom let loose of my hand and was plucked away from death to life by sacred Hands that will never let her go.

Death is ugly and raw, but faith implores me to plant my feet and stand. I know that my Redeemer lives. Someday, all sickness and death will be banished forever. The misery and suffering we face on this side of Heaven are temporary, momentary and light compared to what awaits us in Glory. Part of that lightening is that Mom will be there waiting for us.

“And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan…
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with a shout,
And come running through the shallow waters reaching for your hand!” *

I miss you terribly, Mom. But, someday I will lean in to where you are and join you in singing praises to our King.

…He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21:4

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

* Far Side Banks of Jordan, by Terry Smith


Some Thoughts on the Gospel

“God is both just and loving. Therefore, his love is willing to meet the demands of his justice.” -John Piper

I have barely scratched the surface of the implications of the Gospel of Christ.

Christ Carrying the Cross

Christ Carrying the Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Compared to what there is to know–I know next to nothing. The more I learn about the Gospel, the more I realize how much more there is to learn.

The Gospel lays bare my greatest need and then supplies that need. The Gospel asks my greatest questions, and then answers them.

At Calvary, I experience the crushing weight of my sin against God, and at the same time, the weight is lifted; I am set free.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut. 6:5)

I have loved others more than God. I have loved things more than God. I have loved myself more than God. Like Peter, I have denied Him. Like His disciples, I have slept while He prayed. Like His tormentors, I have played my part in the murder of God.

Apart from the Gospel, my sin looms, my failures abound and the chasm separating me from God is impassable. I am left to face the Sovereign Judge of the universe alone. The soul that sins shall surely die, the Bible says. The wages of sin is death.

But who can fulfill God’s demands? No human being but one has ever done so.

Jesus.

The God-Man lived it out perfectly. He lived the life that I should have. He died the death that I should have. Jesus both bore the brunt of God’s wrath and exemplified the profundity of God’s mercy. The Gospel neither denies God’s right to justice nor stifles His boundless love. It is the perfect mixture of law and grace. Neither is compromised. Both are vindicated.

…so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:26b)

How amazing is this Gospel? How deep and wide is it? Eternity may begin to plumb its depths.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Remembering Mom

My mother left this world to be with Jesus on March 18, 2013. With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I find myself thinking of her and missing her more than I can express. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m posting some excerpts from a piece I read at Mom’s memorial service in March. This post is much longer than most, please bear with me on that.

Grandma

It’s when I lie down at night that the memories come in like a flood. The earliest memories of Christmas mornings when Mom was more excited to watch us open our gifts than we were. “Don’t open your presents until you wake us up first!” she’d say. She didn’t want to miss the delight on our faces. There are memories of playing hooky from school with Mom’s full approval. We would “make a day of it,” shopping at Kresgees and afterwards eating lunch at the local burger joint. Or, letting us stay home some Tuesdays to spend time with our grandparents when they came to visit. She called it a bad case of Nana and Pampa-itis. Mom, always there, always loving, always sticking up for us, helping with school projects (more than likely last-minute and due the very next day), walking us to our girl scout meetings, wiping away our tears and making us laugh with her goofy sense of humor.

I think the most important thing mom taught me growing up was to be kind to others. She’d tell me, “Just think how you would feel if someone treated you that way.” She had a way of tenderizing our hearts and eliciting compassion for the plight of those less fortunate. Mom was our biggest fan and most loyal cheerleader. She encouraged us to do our best, to be thankful, to respect people and to love our family. I cannot think of one single moment in my life when I doubted Mom’s love for me. She loved me when I was most unlovable, and even at the height of my knuckleheadedness, Mom’s love was unconditional.

As an adult I continued to learn from Mom and came into a fuller realization of the sacrifices she made for her loved ones. She was an example in homemaking, in loving her husband and in putting others first. Mom somehow mastered the art of influencing us without being overbearing, the balance of sharing her life-experience without actually giving advice, and the feat of being involved in our lives without intruding. She welcomed our spouses into her heart fully and without wavering–no in-laws here! And, she was the quintessential grandma to her grandchildren. She told me once, “Terrie, you won’t believe it now, but you will love your grandchildren as much as you do your own kids.” (She was right, by the way.)

Graciously, God gave us many wonderful years with our Mother. Over the months before she died, Mom fought the fight of her life. She was so courageous, and true to who she was, I suspect that her bravado was more for her husband and family’s sake than for her own. But, I think it’s important to note that cancer had no victory over my mother. Her name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. She is absent from her body, but present with her Lord. Although her battle with disease was more than formidable, I am certain she see’s it now as a momentary and light affliction, nothing in comparison to the eternal weight of glory she is experiencing in heaven.

You see, Mom was loved by her husband, her kids, her grandkids, her family and her friends. But most importantly, she was beloved of God for the sake of His Son. My siblings and I had the privilege and honor of escorting our Mother into the waiting arms of Jesus. She left this world knowing she was loved and passed from death into life eternal.

It comforts me to know this is true. She is done fighting, done worrying, finished with carrying the pain and struggle of sickness. But how can this be? My mom is in Heaven at this very moment, enjoying what will be the grandest adventure above and beyond anything she could ever ask or imagine, not because she earned it, but because she was a sinner who needed a Savior (just like we all do) and cried out to Jesus for forgiveness of her sins. God graciously answered her prayer because whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. For it is by grace through faith Mom was granted so great a salvation, this was not her own doing nor by her own merit, but a gift from God. What good news this is! So think right now of the brightest and best enjoyment or the purest and lightest joy you can experience here on earth. Now, multiply that by an infinity of numbers and enlarge it by untold universes and you may get an idea of what Mom is basking in at this very moment and for an eternity of moments!

It’s been said that the degree to which you love someone is proportionate to the depth of grief you will experience when they are gone. And so we grieve. But not as those who are without hope! Very often I find myself speaking of Mom in the present tense, as if she were still alive. But, I do not correct myself because Mom is presently living in the glorious truth of God’s promises–all yes and amen in Christ Jesus! And she is with us here in a million different memories and a host of lasting joys; these a balm for our grief and a good and perfect gift coming down from the Father of Lights. It’s just like Mom to pass on to Glory before me. It will make it easier when my time comes because I know she’ll be waiting on the other side.

Where, oh death is your victory, and where, oh death is your sting?

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Peace! Be Still!

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee (Photo credit: Seetheholyland.net)

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40

Jesus and His disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee when a windstorm arises. The waves break over the side of the boat, threatening to capsize it. His disciples begin to panic and fear for their lives. But Jesus, undoubtedly exhausted after a long day of teaching, sleeps soundly in the stern. The disciples cry out to Him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we are perishing?”

My storms are not literal wind and waves but nonetheless real. Just like the disciples, I become anxious and distressed. I fear the storm will overcome me and that I will perish.

The fragility of His humanness on display, Jesus is tired. And even in the midst of the storm, He sleeps. But here, I relate more to the human response of the disciples. As they responded to their storm, I respond to mine. Waves of despair engulf me and the storms of life fill my boat. I cry out to Jesus, “Don’t you care, Lord?”

Jesus hears and asks a question in return: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Like the disciples, I have seen the Lord do many mighty and wondrous works in my life and in the lives of others. But on this day, during this storm, I am too weak to give an answer. I plead for mercy and grace.

I’m asking the Lord to still the storm.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Prayer for My Grandson

On December 24, 2012, our daughter gave birth to a 6 pound 15 inch, healthy baby boy. She named him Kash. I am beyond thrilled to be a grandmother, or as I want to be called, “Oma.” I am awed by the love I already have for this little life. I thought  my days of loving and caring for babies were gone forever, but no, God has blessed me with another opportunity to do so. I am so looking forward to being a part of my grandson’s life as he grows. I’m so excited about teaching him about Jesus! What an amazing grace this is!

Praying Hands (Dürer)

Praying Hands (Dürer) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those who come.  Psalm 71:18

Heavenly Father,
You already know everything about this new baby boy who is now a part of our lives. You knew the precise moment he would make his appearance and the exact number of days he will live on this earth. His personality will not come as a surprise to you. You know what his strengths and weaknesses will be, whether he will prefer carrots or peas, Oreos or chocolate chip cookies. This precious boy has been in your mind and heart for all of eternity. You have formed him and knit him together!

If we could count your thoughts toward him, they would number more than every grain of sand on every shore and in every ocean. Every hair on his head is numbered. This little baby is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Father, my prayer above all is that Kash would come to know You at a young age. Please give  him an awareness of your amazing love that stops at nothing for us, a love vast enough to include the sacrifice of Your only Son, that whoever would call upon His name would be saved.

Lavish your grace on my grandson, Lord! Equip him to be a mighty man of faith, loving and serving You for Jesus’ sake all the days of his life. Make evident to Kash the certainty of your care for him in this very uncertain world. Lord, bless Kash with understanding and wisdom beyond his years and with an early appreciation for the truth of Scripture. Let him see beyond temporary pleasures to the everlasting treasure of an inheritance that will never fade away. Let him taste the freedom that comes through a life lived in obedience to your Word. Grant Kash the adventure of walking by faith and not by sight, trusting in Jesus for everything he needs.

Father, it is a misplaced hope that Kash will live out his days free of heartache and difficulties; we know real life is not that way. So, I place my hope for Kash squarely on you. In humble expectation, I trust that whatever trials he may face; he will never face them alone. Thank you for your promise to work all things together for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose.

I pray that in times of joy or times of trouble, Kash would be found grateful and trusting in his Heavenly Father who loves him more than I could ever imagine and who is able to do far more abundantly than I could even ask or think.

Thank you Father for hearing my prayer.
In Jesus Name, Amen!


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