Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

The Hiding Place
Corrie Ten Boom
Published 1971
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This has been on my to-do list for two weeks. Today we are stuck at home awaiting Hurricane Ian, and everything has been shut down for at least two days;  I suppose this is a good time to write.

The Hiding Place is a gem. This is a memoir, a history, and a faithful testimony to God's grace, mercy, and power combined into a fast-paced Holocaust narrative. Corrie Ten Boom lived in Holland during the occupation of the Nazis and participated in smuggling and hiding Jews in, out, and around Holland. She lived with her elderly father and older sister, Betsie, running a very successful watch and repair business on the ground floor of their three-story home. They were Christians, and they consistently and daily practiced their deep faith of loving their neighbors. Hence it was no surprise that during the occupation, Corrie, Betsie, and her father, as well as the extended family quickly became involved in the "underground," doing all they could to protect Jews from the Nazis. 

But the story is not about the underground operation. It is about what happened after the operation was exposed and they were all arrested. After three months in solitary confinement, only Corrie and Betsie were sent to a political concentration camp and later Ravensbrük. It was then that Corrie began to understand and learn more about the Hand of God, particularly through the faith of Betsie. Keep in mind, Corrie grew up in a faithful household and very well knew the Lord; however, it is through trials that faith grows and matures, and that is the lesson of The Hiding Place.

LESSONS AND THEMES

Normally, I like to do a narrative of the books I read, including spoilers, but I am not in a position to do that right now, given all that is going on about me. But I want to stress how important this story is to people, even today. This is truly what loving one's neighbor looks like. Even the world likes to use the phrase; and I ask you, "Is this what their version of 'love your neighbor' looks like?" I doubt this is what they mean. 

Love your neighbor is so difficult and impossible without God. Loving your neighbor means sacrificing your comfort, safety, and well-being in exchange for the comfort, safety, and well-being of others. Loving your neighbor means forgiving your enemies. How many of us can do that? Betsie demonstrated to Corrie how to pray for the ones who beat them, cursed them, and hated them. Betsie showed Corrie how to love their enemies. Forgiveness is a major theme of the story, and with forgiveness is love, as well as God's power.

Of the examples about forgiveness, love, and God's power, Corrie said: 
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness and more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on HIS. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. 
Other exceptional truths from this story include how perfect God's timing is; how He uses people and events for His purpose; how He rewards obedience, especially for telling the truth; and how we cannot do anything difficult apart from Him. Naturally, we do not want to do anything hard; but if we first obey, God gives the power to do so, and later our hearts will follow. (This is why follow your heart is bad advice.)

Taken from the preface of my copy, there are other lessons to learn from The Hiding Place, such as 
  • handling separation
  • getting along with less
  • security in the midst of insecurity
  • how God can use weakness
  • facing death
  • dealing with difficult people
  • what to do when evil wins.
On that last point, Corrie asked within the story this pertinent question: "How should a Christian act when evil [is] in power?" If that is not a relevant question today, I am not sure I know what is. 

I will share this: the title The Hiding Place has two-fold meaning. The first is that the Ten Booms used their home to hide Jews, yes. However, the most beautiful meaning is another major theme, and it is that God is our hiding place. 
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path . . . Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word . . .
WHO SHOULD READ THIS?

The Hiding Place is essential reading for Christians to be encouraged about how to live in an evil world; however it is good for non-Christians to read, too, because so many complain that they know Christians who live as hypocrites. Many do. And it may be because they are not truly Christian. If you want to know what a true Christian looks like, learn from the Ten Booms. Don't get the wrong idea from a hypocrite. 

Finally, I will leave you with a statement Corrie made about recalling the past. She said:
But this is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see. 

(Don't listen to those who shun history - or the past. History is absolutely necessary to the present! Learn it!) 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Creation to Babel by Ken Ham

Creation to Babel: 
A Commentary for Families
Ken Ham
Published 2021
⭐⭐⭐⭐

All of the explanations and reasons for our world's wickedness, chaos, and death can be found in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, wrote this easy to read and study text to help families or individuals understand the foundation for human corruption and sin. I know: sounds awful. 

Actually, it is liberating because for every explanation of the curse there is God's promise of a Savior, Jesus Christ. It is essential for Christians to know both the curse and the promise, to explain why we live in such a sinful, broken world; but also it is imperative that we know God's promise to redeem us, which is the hope that is within us. 

I think Ham did a masterful job laying out the truth, broken up into easy to follow and chronological topics. He used Scripture from Genesis 1-11, to explain  Creation Week, the origin of sin, Cain's murder of Abel, the genealogies of Adam's descendants to Noah, the worldwide Flood and its effects on the earth and climate, God's covenant with Noah, the descendants of Noah's sons, and finally the Tower of Babel, the dispersion of people groups, and the beginning of the diversity of language, cultures,  and people. And each event points us back to the need for a Savior. 

In addition, there is a tribute to godly parents who lay a foundation for belief, shaping a biblical worldview in their children. There are also several appendices for supporting historical and scientific claims and evidences. Ham answered numerous common questions, confusing arguments, and misconceptions throughout the text about Creation and foundation of our world.

It is truly an interesting book of study, easy enough to read aloud to older children. Ham called this a "commentary" on "apologetics," a lesson in "how to think foundationally to know what we believe as Christians and why, and how to develop a truly Christian worldview." Furthermore, Ham said "there is also a devotional aspect throughout as we gain understanding of who God is, what He has done for us, and thus why we should thank and praise Him."


The following video is over an hour, but if you are interested in the foundations of a Biblical worldview, Creation, Fall of man, sin's effects on the world, and the truths of Genesis 1-11, then this is a perfect hour spent. After I saw this presentation earlier this year, I thought, "That would be so cool if I could find a book on Genesis 1-11." And lo and behold! I found Creation to Babel by the speaker himself. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

William Wordsworth: Selected Poems

Selected Poems
William Wordsworth
(1770-1850)
⭐⭐⭐⭐

For the sake of time, I only read Susan Wise Bauer's suggested reading selections from William Wordsworth's poetry. According to Bauer, Wordsworth's poetry [partially marks] the beginning of the Romantic period, which explains why I am so fond of many that I have read. Wordsworth was "suspicious of reality," and he believed that "a divine force (the Sublime) exists in humans....as a gentle enlightening presence that infuses both man and nature." 

I do not believe in any of that, but I find his poetry very inviting and pleasant and alluring. Maybe it is also because his poems demonstrate a love of the natural world and individuals, but a discomfort with society as a whole. Like one of my favorite authors, Thomas Hardy, Wordsworth also presented the tragic side of nature. 

A couple of my favorite poems from the selections were "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," because my kids and I had read Wordsworth many years ago, and this one was sweet and true; and also "Ode: Intimations of Immortality." As I read the lines:

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind...,

I knew it instantly! Splendor in the Grass (1961) is a film starring Natalie Wood and a very young Warren Beatty, and the title was taken from the line in "Intimations of Immortality." 

 

It's always fun to make connections to literature.

Having read about Wordsworth's philosophy about man and God, I find it difficult to accept wrong ideas that man is a god, man is equal to God, or man has to find himself, and that all life's answers are within himself. These ideas have led us to the messy world we find ourselves today, and they also contradict with what I know to be truth. 

Having said that, I would return to Wordsworth's works because I found a kin in his style and I would like to read more. I have to find a way to appreciate poetry for its literary beauty that I may philosophically and occasionally disagree with, if that makes sense. I have to accept that what I read may have been written by a poetic genius who was also human with a wrong understanding of Truth. Somewhat how I feel about Thomas Hardy. 

Following are the poems I read, and I am also getting ready to read a close friend of Wordsworth - the next poet on TWEM list. 

Selections Read:

"Composed upon Westminster Bridge"
"The Idiot Boy"
"It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free"
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
"Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey"
"Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree"
"Lines Written in Early Spring"
"London, 1802"
"Lucy Gray"
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality"
"She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways"
"Simon Lee"
"The World Is Too Much With Us"

The next poet on TWEM poetry list:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle

Eve in Exile
And the Restoration of Femininity
Rebekah Merkle
Published 2016
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

WHAT EVER DID GOD MAKE WOMEN FOR? 

This is one of the multitude of questions Rebekah Merkle answers in Eve in Exile. She contends that modern day feminists have led women to a "boring dead end," and even feminists no longer understand what they are demanding. However, Christian women are not doing any better by "escaping" and "romanticising" the past, as a way to combat current feminism. Holding nothing back, Merkle offers an encouraging, victorious argument for (Christian) women by presenting our biblical calling and feminine attributes. It's time to "bring Eve back from exile."

God has called women to change the world through the gospel. Men cannot do this job alone if women are distracted. We have come to believe the lie that being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) is a trap compared to the working/career woman, who experiences absolute fulfillment.

Scripture is clear that those who focus on saving their own lives will lose it; whereas, those who lay down their lives for others will find fulfillment. And yet, the world tells us that women who pursue their own dreams are the winners. Furthermore, it is not men telling women what to do. We have liberty, and we do this to ourselves.

Merkle includes a short overview of the history of feminism: overall, the message was to divorce women from the responsibility of fertility. Men were free from accountability of children, and it wasn't fair for a woman to remain celibate if she had to avoid pregnancy; hence birth control and abortion, which provided "the emancipation from restrictive biology."

After WWII, housewives became discontent. America had a technological growth spurt and modern day conveniences made work efficient and simple. Work became demeaning and women complained, bored of the technological blessings. While women of the 50s were not oppressed, the ideals for women became superficial. 

Betty Friedan taught that women would be happier to leave hubby, kids, and home and pursue education or their own career. This idea was embraced wholeheartedly; but was Friedan right? Did it cure discontentment? 

There is more evidence to support that women are less happy than ever. I am leaving out the details that Merkle includes, including how many women take antidepressants today (not to mention the divorce rates, counseling, stress and anxiety, etc.). Merkle states that what women truly needed was not a sexual revolution or careers, but God's grace. 

The idealistic, superficial shallow view of homemaking of the 50s needed to be chucked. It was a lie. 

To be fair, feminism sought to address essential issues:  

  • education of women
  • end of slavery
  • drunk husbands and fathers as social ills
  • voting and citizen rights
  • end back-alley abortions 
  • superficial ideal of housewife in the 50s as wrong
  • pornography and prostitution are both social ills.

However, today's third wave feminism - no one really knows what it stands for - is just a lot of angry women, lacking cohesive objectives. All of feminism's intentions have already been accomplished; all that is left is to erase femininity completely.  Today's feminists embrace, approve, and celebrate many of the destructive practices that first and second wave feminism brought to light. This is absolutely backwards and confusing, especially the part where they are now advocating for transgenderism, men using women's restrooms, and men ruining sports for women indefinitely! But I digress. 

SO WHAT ARE WOMEN DESIGNED FOR?

Work is GOOD. "God did not create Eve so Adam could have someone pretty to look at." Eve was made to help Adam subdue AND fill the earth. God designed women to be interesting. We were not created to be unable to think or speak for ourselves.

Women were designed to sacrifice for others, as we are natural caregivers. That is why replacing the work of caring for home and family with a career cannot make women happy. Also, the corporate world is the wrong setting. This is where women feel cooped up and forced to compete with men. 

Women were designed for motherhood, but feminism separates women from their natural creation purpose. We were designed for a specific role with fixed limits on our feminine nature, and we must live within these boundaries while honoring God's intention. 

We need to return to our abandoned stations and guard them by manning and securing our own homes, families, and lives, disciplining ourselves through faithfulness, obedience, and sacrifice. "Mothers are raising the next generation of souls forever." 

Merkle points out that just because there is an obvious difference between two things does not imply that one is better than the other. Feminists hate that women and men are different with complementary roles. 

The author examines 1 Corinthians 2 and explains how this verse is not about inferiority or superiority, but rather that men and women are equal in the Lord. She shows how submission out of love and servitude gloriously resembles Christ. "Submitting to one's OWN husband is the most powerful, magnificent, intoxicating, concentrated picture of glory. When a woman submits to her husband, then glory grows. When a woman rejects submission, glory fades." 

The fruit of feminism is rotten to its core and barren; its beauty diminished. Women presenting themselves as sex objects or celebrating their sexual "liberty,' which is not the way the woman was created to share herself with her husband, is ugly. Sexual slavery is the standard in our culture today, and women falsely believe they are finally in control of their lives because they bypassed the submission part. 

Running away from the scriptural requirement to submit to one man, as an equal, within the protection of marriage, has resulted in women living in submission to numerous men, with no protection at all, and with her bearing the entire weight of responsibility for the outcome. The fruit of this lifestyle must either be killed or she must raise the child alone. 

The Titus Two Woman: Women WITH households (tend to be married and with children) are called to RUN THEIR OWN HOUSEHOLDS. "Women managing their own households are cities on a hill," raising up the next generation, passing down their wisdom to younger women, and impacting the rest of the world. 

Feminism is just rebelliousness against God's creation, design, and command to women to help fill the earth, preferring sexual freedom from accountability and presenting birth control and abortion as basic human rights. 

WHAT ARE WOMEN TO DO? 

Christian women need to recover a sense of importance of the home, and being wives and mothers. Recognize that feminism focuses on the group - womankind - and its first duty is to thyself. A married woman's priority is to her home, husband, and family. If her work extends beyond the home and family, it should return in blessings to her husband and children, not take away from them. 

A woman chasing her own dreams, beauty, and pleasure suffers loss of fulfillment. SAHM need to change their perspective about their work, challenge themselves to think creatively, and go beyond doing the bare minimum. "But to whom much is given, much is required." Consider how materially blessed we are. 

We have been given talents, and we need to turn a profit; invest what God has given to us. Pursue excellence. Improve, create, and build. Glorify God with your attitude. Be an influencer instead of being influenced. Ask God to show you how to turn a profit with what He has given you. 

The home is essential work and God wants women to tend to it.The home is power: it nurtures, feeds, provides rest, safety, and a pleasant atmosphere, gives shelter, and fosters loyalty. Don't bury your talents. "Working outside the home is not prohibited so long as it makes the home more potent, glorious, compelling."

"When Christian women trust God and obey Him, He will never trick us." Women influence the world by making it attractive, pleasant, and good. How many have been lured by the lies of false beauty? Our job is to make holiness beautiful. We draw people to the truth by showing beauty in Christ. 

This is difficult, I know, but the author says: If you "lay [your] dreams down, He gives [you] fulfillment. Bury [your] own ambition, and He returns it with interest." 

Imitate God in [y]our fruitfulness. It will look like what God shows [you] is beauty, not [y]our ridged expectations. Be the glory of your husband. Build your house. Work hard. Be ambitious and productive. Learn more, run harder. Use the gifts God has given you, the desires he has given you, the constraints he has given to you, and figure out how to weave those into something glorious, unique, compelling, special, beautiful that cannot be contained and beckons a broken world to come and see that that Lord is good.

* * *

This book targets women, particularly Christian women, and obviously wives and mothers, although there is a message for singles. It is a difficult topic and requires a change in thinking. This is about obedience, and we do not have the right to ignore God's commands or adopt the world's ways. All of us will be held to account for our  disobedience in this area. The author makes clear that every woman has different talents and is in unique circumstances, and her work will look completely different than everyone else's. It is your challenge to find out how to tend to your garden by obeying God and glorifying Him in the role He has given you. By trusting and obeying Him, we not only find fulfillment, but the return will be multiplied.

I understand many women, including Christians, will disagree with Merkle. However, I believe she is correct because she uses Scripture to support her arguments; and we can't change God's intentions and commands. 

I also did not go into my own marriage and motherhood knowing any of this. I chose to stay home with my kids out of a natural desire to be with them. It was not easy living on one income, and we had some difficult financial years. But I would never exchange being home for a "rewarding career or job or even my own business." Managing a home, raising five kids, homeschooling, and being married to a low maintenance husband is enough for me. Even still, Merkle convicted me because I realize I am not always putting in 100% of myself. I can be lazy and selfish, too. I still have a lot of work to do. So for me, this was definitely an excellent read. I hope other women will find it encouraging as well. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Tortured for His Faith by Haralan Popov

Tortured for His Faith
Haralan Popov
Published 1970
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The more I read about communism, the more I believe it to be the religion of Satan. Why? Because communists hate Christianity. While these regimes cannot compete with any religion because they aim to be the only religion of the state, there is plenty of first hand evidence to support that communists particularly seek to eliminate or control Christian churches, the Bible, Christian history, and Christians in general. 

In Tortured for His Faith, Pastor Harlan Popov noted that the communists preferred to change the mind of Christians rather than have them die martyrs. It was a victory to force Christians to leave the faith and "conform to...the new society [communists] were building." Satan rather win one over to his side, especially a Christian. Popov described communism as the "cleverness and evil of Satan himself."

Yet, the obstacle that communists did not understand was that once a man gave his life to Christ, he was His forever, and no one could snatch him out of His hands. 

PRISONER FOR CHRIST

Popov was an important Christian pastor in Bulgaria at the time of the Russian take over of Eastern European nations in 1944, also known as the Iron Curtain. Popov anticipated persecution, though there were three years of religious freedom. Then in 1948, he was arrested (or kidnapped, he says) and taken in for a "little questioning." 

A little questioning turned into thirteen years of mental, emotional, and physical torture, hard labor, beatings, starvation, and imprisonment. He survived only by the grace of God.  He knew he was in that position for Jesus, and he called it the Great Persecution for Christ. 

Popov learned suffering for Christ was "more precious than gold," and he embraced it; however, he also knew he faced death, which brought peace because he knew he would instantly be with the Lord. Whatever God's will was for him, he accepted it. 

COMMUNIST METHODS
Communist parties out of power purposely seem reasonable and kind, but let them come to power and their true nature will be revealed.

Starvation was used to "break the will" as opposed to brainwashing. Breaking the will "require[d] only brutal, unrelenting beatings, starvation and torture building up to a rising peak and crescendo of horror where a person no longer ha[d] a will of his own." Breaking the will was temporary, but brainwashing was permanent, convincing people that communism was good. Popov said they could never brainwash him. To them, he was worse than a triple murderer. 

This was their tactic: "they began it with a fury and  brutality." In addition, he suffered sleeplessness and standing for weeks on end. This should have transformed any rational human being into an animal. 

And yet, in the end, it was the guard/interrogator who became animalistic. 

When the Secret Police gave him instruction to write down information about himself, his connections, and work, he decided to use the opportunity to share his testimony and the Word of God. All of this was in preparation for his unjust trial that was stacked against him, regardless of the truth.  

COMMUNIST MOTTO

Popov described communist teaching as "the end justifying the means." They justify using lies, deception, murder, and every measure to reach their goal. Their objective was to make a case against pastors -- to destroy the evangelical churches. The goal was to remove faithful pastors and replace them with puppet pastors who were easily programed for state propaganda. In truth, Christ and His Word were on trial. This was how Satan used false witnesses and accusations to erase Christ. But:

A lie is always a lie. Neither Marxists nor Leninists will ever succeed in building an earthly paradise upon a lie. 

During the thirteen years, Popov saw his wife and two young children one time. This was the most difficult aspect and worst torture: not knowing the whereabouts, safety, or well being of one's family. 

COMMUNIST CONTRADICTION

Propov shared a quote by Maxim Gorki, a communist writer, that was posted at the labor camp. It was translated: 

'Man is something to be proud of,' 

and yet, here thousands of men were treated like animals. Propov reasoned within himself: "God's Word teaches that man is the crown of creation. There is nothing on the face of the earth greater than man. It is strange that men who refuse to receive the Creator and who don't consider a human being to be of any value had written those words on the wall." 

Furthermore, a second Gorki quote: 

'If the enemy doesn't surrender, he must be annihilated.' 

Again, Propov "thought about the contradiction in the two phrases, reflecting the division in the mind of the writer. By this, one can understand the chasm between communism in theory and communism in practice. The first quotation showed communist theory in its effort to create an earthly paradise. The second phrase showed the harsh reality. On the one hand, man is something to be proud of; on the other, he is an enemy who must be annihilated!" 

In essence, the prisoners were enemies of the state because they would not permit the ideals of communism to triumph over their minds and hearts. Communism demanded total compliance and submissiveness. And yet, these prisoners had rejected the forces of the vilest enemy. 

GOD USED IT FOR GOOD

Propov said this experience taught him 

how low man can sink without God.

A man in prison is at the end of himself, and it is a good place for him to think about God. In prison, Propov built a prison ministry. Having secret access to a Bible, he was able to memorize 47 chapters. Once the Bible was confiscated, they could not take away what was already hidden away in his heart. He developed a way to share the gospel by doing a kind of morse code with prisoners in other cells. 

Another way he shared the truth was by pretending to teach English to prisoners. He spoke the gospel in English, while the guards did not understand it. 

For thirteen years, in every prison, cell, and work camp, Propov shared the gospel and left behind communities of Bible studies. He believed his years of torture, beatings, starvation, suffering, and separation were worth it. He kept his dignity because he never compromised his beliefs nor gave in to the scheme for early release, to spy on other pastors and help destroy Christianity in Bulgaria. 

When he was officially released from prison, in 1961, his faith was "intact and stronger than ever." 

CHRISTIANITY IS ONLY STRENGTHENED IN PERSECUTION

But his greatest work was about to begin. The churches behind the Iron Curtain were struggling, and believers were being tortured in silence. Pastor Propov learned from the Early Churches of Rome and helped to set up secret underground churches. There was a desperate need to get Bibles into Bulgaria immediately. For a time, people made their own copies of God's Word. As expected, persecution proved to be a positive work for the Church. 

Through God's Hand, Propov obtained a passport to go outside the Iron Curtain and tell the free nations about the persecuted churches and their need for Bibles. 

Finally, Propov left this message:

Christianity - true Bible-centered, evangelical Christianity - can never coexist with communism. 

(Look at the evidence!)

Then pray. Then Come. Join us in this mighty work God has raised up in answer to the Macedonian call and to the cry from the Suffering Church.  

Pastor Harlan Popov 1907 - 1988