God And His Mysterious Ways


Some people try to define God’s work, and therefore to define God—sort of like trying to photograph a double rainbow that stretches across the sky. If you could just snap the picture, then you’d have the rainbow for always.

God doesn’t operate in such a way that we can ever capture Him. Yet—and here’s is one of the most mysterious of His Ways—He voluntarily, willfully declares my heart His home.

I think of Joseph resisting the sexual temptations Potiphar’s wife threw at him day after day, only to end up in prison. Well, not “end up” because he moved from the outhouse to the penthouse in a mere thirteen years. Thirteen years that undoubtedly had Joseph thinking nothing would ever change, that his life was going to continue on and on and on in the dungeon. But it didn’t. God had big things in store for Joseph.

I think of the little slave girl, an Israelite captive torn from her home, probably from her family, refusing to be bitter or to seek revenge but reaching out to bless the man she worked for by telling him of the prophet of God who could cure him of his leprosy. As a result, the mighty Aramean officer ended up declaring, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (2 Kings 5:20).

Then there is Samson. What an amazing thing that God used that philanderer. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have chosen him. He was supposed to be a Nazarene from birth, but he broke the parameters more than once that defined that special relationship with God. He seemed self-absorbed and more inclined to use God than serve Him. But God was pleased to include him as a judge of Israel, pleased to make him a means to free His people from the oppressive rule of the Philistines.

Or how about the beauty pageant that ended up sparing the lives of hundreds of Jews? I remember when I first heard about Esther, I was horrified that Mordecai didn’t try to sequester her away or make a run for the hills. Instead, he truly seemed to be encouraging her, and she seemed to want to win the role as queen. Except, unlike the fairy tales, this was no monogamous happy-together-ever-after story. No! Esther got to be part of the kings harem (think of all the women he slept with before he slept with her and finally decided she was queen material). And yet, God used her in that place to save hundreds, maybe thousands.

What about in contemporary times? God used the death of five young husbands, some also fathers, to save a group of people who had never heard of Jesus, at the same time turning the hearts of countless believers to become involved in missions.

Corrie ten Boom

He used a spinster lady in the latter end of middle-aged through to her “golden years” to teach a generation what forgiveness really means, to spread the gospel of God’s incredible power over death and destruction and hatred and evil.

He is using the humble submission of an athletic teenage girl who suffered a catastrophic, debilitating accident, who has lived life for forty-five years as a quadriplegic and continues to tell of her love for her Lord.

I would have done things differently, I’m sure. Look how talented Joni Eareckson Tada is—as an artist, a writer, a speaker. How much more could she do if she weren’t in a wheelchair? What a silly person I am. Who would have heard of Joni if she hadn’t been the girl who drew holding her pen in her mouth? And what would she be talking about now or who would listen? Isn’t it her willing submission in the face of her adversity that makes her life so winsome?

God knows these things. He knows what it takes. But to us, because we don’t know what it takes, His ways will always appear mysterious.

God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
and works his sovereign will.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
and he will make it plain.
– by William Cowper

– – – – –

This article is a reprint of one originally posted May 2011.

The Loss Of A Dissenting Opinion


Berkeley_glade_afternoonPolitically correct speech crept up on society, but it’s starting to take over. I don’t know how or when it gained such a stranglehold on Western culture, but its grip is tightening.

I knew the climate on many universities has been opposed to open discourse for a long time. And of course laws have been passed about hate speech. Who could disagree that saying hateful things is wrong? But who defines “hateful things”?

Apparently it’s “hateful” to disagree with the prevailing attitude of society. The odd thing is, the First Amendment specifically guarantees that a person has the right to voice a dissenting view, even when that view is contrary to public policy.

Today no one seems concerned about upholding the First Amendment. It’s become much more important to stop people from speaking against prevailing attitudes.

For example, though Donald Sterling was illegally taped in a private conversation, his remarks, deemed racist, earned him a lifetime ban by the NBA.

When “the first openly gay football player” was drafted in the NFL and kissed his male partner with the cameras rolling, another athlete tweeted his negative reaction. The next day, after the media, soundly criticized him for his “insensitive” comments, he was made to apologize.

When the tape of Ray Rice hitting his girlfriend became public, another well-known person expressed his view on Twitter about how he’d respond to someone, even a woman, hitting him. The next day, after being lambasted by the media, he also apologized.

Of course these dissenting opinions involve things society, or the media which voices “accepted societal practice,” has determined to be right or wrong: gay relationships, racism, domestic violence. Hence, no dissenting opinion is allowed.

I find this troubling! Even if a person is wrong, as they have been many times—see, for example, the burning of the American flag during the Vietnam era—the Constitution and the Supreme Court have supported their right to say what they believed (or to act out their view).

Now it seems one publicly-funded school has decided that “sectarian” material, particularly books written by Christians or published by Christian publishers or about Christian subject matter, does not belong in their library. Most notably they have removed The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom about her experiences during World War II, including her involvement in hiding Jews from Nazis in the Netherlands, being betrayed, and ending up in a concentration camp.

Yes, Corrie ten Boom was motivated by her Christianity, and she was comforted and counseled by the Bible in the concentration camp, so apparently those facts earned The Hiding Place the label of “sectarian.” Should this story prove to be true (so far, every article I’ve found derives its information from the press release of a single organization), it’s an appalling event, but completely consistent with the others which point to a decline of free expression of ideas—religious ones as well as controversial private ones or public ones that a powerful organization deems to be “offensive.”

When, I wonder, will all Christian ideas be “offensive”?

Of course there’s also the story about the Christian college campus ministry, InterVarsity, which was de-recognized by the California State University school system. Or how about the Florida college that ruled the same Christian organization couldn’t require Christians to lead the group.

In all these instances, the common thread seems to be an unwillingness to allow groups or books or individuals to have a dissenting voice. We are no longer a society that encourages thought and reasoned discourse. Instead we slander those with whom we disagree.

For instance, one site, AnnoyedLibrarian, in reporting the removal of The Hiding Place from the charter school’s library shelves had this to say:

I was unfamiliar with Corrie ten Boom or her book The Hiding Place, but if the Wikipedia entries are accurate, it does seem like the book is pretty Christian. Supposedly, the entire time she and her sister were in a German concentration camp, they “used a hidden Bible to teach their fellow prisoners about Jesus,” because not enough people had told the Jewish prisoners that they were wrong to be Jewish.

And later, this:

If The Hiding Place were actually removed from the library collection, it’s likely because the book wasn’t used at all. Unused books get cleared away to make room for something else.

If you want to teach kids about the Holocaust, using the testimony of a Christian evangelist doesn’t make a lot of sense, so only teachers who wanted to evangelize their students would have used it, and most of them probably don’t teach in California charter schools.

After all, there must be some other book that might help students learn about hiding Jews from Nazis during the war, maybe one whose main audience is broader than that of evangelical Christians, perhaps a book written by an actual Jewish person who was in fact hidden from the Nazis, and maybe she could be roughly the same age as the students who are learning about her, helping the students to identify with her more.

There must be a book like that out there somewhere.

The reference, I’m assuming, is to The Diary of Anne Frank, as if that one book is all that’s allowed to tell the story of Jews and their plight during World War II. As if the story of Christians motivated by their faith to do what is right at the risk of their lives is somehow less important or trivial or insignificant in light of the startling revelations of a coming of age teen.Alexander_Yakushev,_February_2012_reading_Pravda

No, we are fast becoming a society which only wants uni-think. It reminds me of the old quip: “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts.” We don’t want debate because we have no intention of changing our minds. And we don’t want anyone else telling us we should change our minds.

If debate dies, we might as well simply ask Pravda, uh, the Associated Press what it is we should think.

The Problem Of Evil And God’s Goodness


sunrise-over-the-field-1377784-mSome atheists dismiss the existence of God in large part because of the existence of evil. One line of thinking is that if God existed He is either not good, not powerful, or not caring. He could not, they believe, be good, caring, and powerful and co-exist with evil.

What irony that these skeptics don’t turn around and scrutinize goodness. From where do acts of kindness from strangers originate, or the encouragement from a verse of Scripture or the ethereal beauty of fog wisps floating in and out of trees or pier pilings?

Who can explain the transformation of the Huaorani people in Ecuador after Jim Elliot’s death? Or the message of forgiveness Corrie ten Boom preached after losing her father and sister under Nazis cruelty? Who can explain Job’s restoration of wealth after losing all or Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt after being sold into slavery?

In other words, who can explain Romans 2:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

How could a God who was not good work all things together for good? And Christians see time and again God’s hand working tragedy into triumph, suffering into sanctification, sacrifice into salvation.

Only God’s goodness can be credited with such miracles as Ruth experienced. The widowed immigrant at the edge of poverty becomes the great-grandmother to Israel’s greatest king, in the direct line of the Messiah.

Who could write such a story? People today would think it too … good, too sappy, too sweet. But that’s God, isn’t it. He goes beyond what we think could possibly happen. He gives more, loves more, sacrifices more.

He takes brokenness and makes a vessel fit for a king, takes a wayward woman and makes her His bride, takes discarded branches and grafts them into His vine.

He hunts down the lost, comforts the grieving, answers the cry of the needy.

Above all, He gives Himself. He sent His prophets to teach the rest of us what we need to know about Him. More, He Himself came in the form of Man, then gave us His Spirit and His written Word.

God’s goodness is imprinted on the world. We have the starry sky, the harvest moon, billowing clouds, flashing lightening, crystalline icicles, yellow-red leaves, falling snow, crashing waves, the rocky grandeur of mountains, and on and on. How can we look at this world and not see God’s goodness?

How can we think that the good things we enjoy are accidents of nature or results of human endeavor? Nature is morally indifferent and Mankind is marred. God alone is good, without wavering, without exception.

May He be praised now and forevermore.

Originally posted in 2010 under the title “God’s Goodness.”

Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Comments Off on The Problem Of Evil And God’s Goodness  
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So Who’s Right?


Which is right?As I was editing yesterday’s post about “The Lady or the Tiger?” I realized the story posed an ethical question. It’s a test of values really, challenging us to ask what we would do if we were faced with the dilemma the young princess in the story faced.

No matter what she chose, she was not going to be with her young man. But did she love him enough to let him go, enabling him to find happiness even if she could not? In other words, did she love him enough that she would sacrifice for him or would she demand that he sacrificed for her?

Is there a right answer? Clearly, yes. Someone who loves, gives sacrificially.

The Bible actually sets up a two-tier standard of right. Tier one–love God with all our being. Tier two–love other people in the same way we love ourselves.

Jesus said that’s the whole law in a nutshell.

But what happens when there’s a collision of values, when loving God and loving people seem to be mutually exclusive? I think, for example, of the story Corrie ten Boom told about one of her sisters during a Nazi raid of their home.

They were hiding a handful of young men in a space accessed through a trapdoor under their table so that they wouldn’t be conscripted into the Nazi military. When the soldiers stormed into the room, they asked, Where are the young men? Corrie’s sister had a firm conviction about not lying. Put on the spot like this, she nervously laughed, and said, “They’re under the table.” When the soldiers looked under the table and saw no one, they thought she was making fun of them and stormed off rather than searching the house.

Interestingly, others in the house didn’t think she’d done the right thing. They felt she’d put the men in jeopardy by telling the truth.

In a similar circumstance, with two Israelite spies hiding on her roof, Rahab lied to the men looking for them. Nowhere in Scripture is she reprimanded for the lie. In fact, in the book of James she’s commended for hiding the spies and sending them out another way.

The midwives in Egypt similarly lied, it would seem, when they explained to Pharaoh why they weren’t killing the Israelite baby boys.

Jonathan lied to his dad in order to help David escape Saul by saying that David wasn’t eating at the king’s table because he’d asked permission to go visit his family.

These three examples from Scripture seem to suggest that the higher law of protecting life supersedes that of telling the truth. This would be consistent with what Jesus said to the Pharisees about His healing people on the Sabbath. Quoting Scripture, He made a case that it was right to do good even if it meant breaking the Sabbath.

The most shocking example of all is when Jesus cites David’s lie to the priests about needing food because he was on an urgent errand for the king. The truth was, he was running for his life away from the king. The priest gave him the bread set out as part of their worship ceremony–bread only the priests were to eat according to Levitical Law established during the exodus–in other words, the law God gave them.

Jesus acknowledged the law but that David’s need trumped it. The shocking part is that as a result of his lie, the priest helped him. Saul then used that fact to accuse all the priests of siding with David in rebellion against him, and had them killed.

We’re talking seventy men. Killed because of David’s lie. And Jesus said the priests were right to help him, to give him what was not lawful to give.

You can see the dilemmas. In some instances, the lie seemed to save people. In the Ten Boom sister’s case, the truth saved people. And in David’s case the lie cost people their lives, though he and his men were saved.

What’s the right thing to do? Lie to save lives? Trust God as Corrie’s sister did and tell the truth? Is there a moral right? Or is there only a moral “it depends”?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s a moral right. The problem is in the execution. We are to love God, then love people. When the two seem to be in contradiction, we are to do good.

But what does “good” mean? Sometimes “good” is discipline, as in the case of a naughty child who sneaks into the kitchen and steals cookies right before dinner. Good requires that the child learns, though undoubtedly she thinks good means letting her have cookies any time of the day or night, whenever she wants them.

All this philosophical pondering actually has an impact on how we view our government and our part in it. If there is a moral right, then we should be advocates for it in our democracy.

No system of government will establish God’s rule on earth. Only Jesus returning as King to take His throne will establish God’s governmental rule on earth.

Nevertheless, if “we the people” are behind the government, then it seems to me we, the people of God, should be making our choices as citizens based on moral right. We may be outvoted, but that doesn’t change our responsibility to advocate for moral right and to choose it whenever we can.

Published in: on July 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm  Comments Off on So Who’s Right?  
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It’s Not IF . . . It’s To Whom


airplane_flyingSome years ago I read Not I, But Christ, a devotion book by Corrie ten Boom. Chapter six is entitled “Surrender.” Something there stands out in sharp contrast to a comment by the late atheist Christopher Hitchens in his debate with William Lane at Biola University. He referred to God’s rule as “celestial dictatorship.”

Corrie ten Boom, who lived under the Nazi dictatorship first in Holland, then in prison, and finally in a German concentration camp, understood what living under a dictatorship really meant. She contrasted the experience with surrender to God:

When I was a prisoner of Adolf Hitler and his followers, I had to surrender my will completely. During the time I was a prisoner, I could not decide anything myself. I just had to obey …

But we have to surrender to Someone else, to God, who is love. He is not a dictator; He is a loving Father. There is no limit to what He will do for us, no end to His blessings, if we surrender to Him. Surrender is trusting God.

Trust is the defining difference between surrendering to a dictator and surrendering to a Father. A dictator imposes his will for his own purposes. A Father requires surrender for the good of His child. A person may acquiesce to a dictator, even surrender, from all outward appearances, but trust brings true surrender, complete submission.

In the same way that a person drowning must surrender to the swimmer who wants to rescue him, we must trust that God isn’t grabbing hold of us in order to impose His control to our detriment.

A passenger in a jet plane trusts the pilot and his ability to take off, fly, and land. Rarely does an untrained traveler believe he could do a better job than those certified to control the aircraft.

A year-old baby trusts his mother and father to hold him, possibly even to toss him in the air and catch him. He often clamors to be picked up by a parent, though he undoubtedly shies away from adults he doesn’t know. He trusts Mom and Dad because he has experienced their love, care, and protection.

This is the child-like faith the Bible refers to (“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all” – Mark 10:15).

Teenagers come to a developmental state in which they assert their independence in order to mature. But spiritually, maturity comes from reaching a place of trust that keeps us wrapped in the sheltering arms of our Savior.

Ultimately, I am surrendering to something–my self-will, the tyranny of Satan, society’s mold. Or to God.

Essentially “surrender” to God is acknowledging that He knows what’s right, that His plans are sound, that His ways are safe.

Originally posted as “Trust” in December 2009.

Published in: on May 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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But Even If He Doesn’t …


Joseph016I find myself drawn to heroes who faced impossible circumstances with unwavering trust. Some of them, whether people we know from Scripture or from extra-Biblical sources, died, some of them lived to recount for the world to hear God’s miraculous provision. The point is, going into their circumstances, none of these people knew what awaited them. The faith of both was equally strong.

Abraham was that kind of person–more than once. Initially God told him to go to a land He would show the then young Abram, so he went, not knowing where he was going. Later, as an older man with the son he’d waited his whole life for, he went again, knowing where this time but faced with the task of giving up the son he loved so much. We know this side that God provided a ram to substitute for Abraham’s son and that He gave him the Promised Land to be the home of his people. But Abraham was on that side and didn’t see what we see. He made his choices based on his faith and trust in God.

That’s appealing to me.

Joseph spent thirteen years as a slave and kept his faith in God–not knowing he would end up the second in command to Pharaoh. Daniel’s three friends had no way of knowing they’d walk out of a furnace heated so hot it killed the guards that put them inside, but they believed God was capable of rescuing them. Daniel prayed even though he knew he’d end up with the lions, and didn’t know he’d survive the night.

On the other hand, Stephen died because he preached Jesus Christ as Messiah. Jim Elliott died taking the gospel to an indigenous people group in South America, Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsy died in the German concentration camp despite her faithful witness and unselfish life. Yet these people who don’t appear victorious are just as compelling to me. They faced death and they didn’t waver, they didn’t back down or give into the temptation to call in question God’s character.

I think the thing is, I realize that each of those people–the ones who came through the trial happily, even miraculously, and the ones who died shared the same faith. They knew that God was trustworthy. They didn’t measure His goodness or love or mercy or provision or faithfulness based on the stuff of this world, not even their life breath.

Habakkuk said it best, I think:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The point is, God is worthy of our exultation whether we have the stuff of this world or not. He is the God of our salvation. He has transferred us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. What else do we need as proof of His love and care?

Published in: on May 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on But Even If He Doesn’t …  
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People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 4


After leaving the Nazi concentration camp, Corrie spent over thirty years speaking and writing about God’s love and forgiveness.

The conclusion.

What an extraordinary woman, we’re tempted to say. What made her faith so strong that she could endure such cruelty, grief, illness and isolation and still trust God as well as forgive her enemies?

Corrie said clearly that her faith accomplished nothing. It was too weak, too unstable, and sometimes she had a hard time believing when all around people were suffering hateful treatment and dying. She recognized instead that Jesus who promised to be with her always, carried her through those horrific circumstances.

From the age of five when Corrie prayed with her mother and yielded her life to Christ, she looked to Jesus. Her godly parents taught her by example and instruction to trust Him. Their love for God’s Word and commitment to prayer became infectious.

Besides the influence of Corrie’s parents, her sister Betsie proved to be a spiritual mentor, living her life in obedience to God and His Word and challenging Corrie to do the same. Before their arrest, Betsie prayed for the invading German pilots whenever she saw their planes. During her imprisonment she prayed for the German guards who mistreated them. In the months before she died, as she and Corrie prayed, God spoke to her about life after the war. She told Corrie of her vision to tell the German people of God’s love and forgiveness and to open homes for the hurting. Betsie understood that everything in life up to that point had been preparation for the ministry to come.

As God led in miraculous ways, Corrie embraced Betsie’s vision. But she also knew the truth about forgiveness first hand. Life in a concentration camp bred selfishness and a lack of love. Taking the warmest spot for roll call meant someone else would be cold, hoarding vitamins meant someone else would go without. Then there was the temptation to think that the power to help and to heal others’ hearts came from within her rather than from God. When the joy went out of her worship, Corrie faced her sin, confessed it and received God’s forgiveness and renewed fellowship. Later God would teach her to rely on the power of His love in order to forgive, even as she had been forgiven.

In the Beje Corrie had developed the life-time habit of beginning and ending each day with Bible reading and prayer. In prison she inhaled Scripture like one starving. During her concentration camp experiences the Bible was her light and hope. “The blacker the night around us grew,” she wrote in The Hiding Place, “the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God” (p. 177).

Was Corrie’s “secret,” then? Her upbringing? The godly influences in her life? Her prayer life? Her willingness to listen to and obey God’s Word? Corrie insisted the “secret” was not hers.

To illustrate the point, she wrote in Not I, But Christ about a trip in New Zealand she and a few others took by car. Along the way, they came to a primitive bridge. A man in their group got out to inspect the structure to see if it was strong enough for them to cross.

This man did not inspect our faith in the bridge, he inspected the bridge. So often we are inclined to look at our faith … but we must inspect the Bridge. We must not look at ourselves, but at Jesus. And when we look at Him we know He is strong. (p.53)

When people would approach Corrie and remark about the strength of her faith she similarly answered that Jesus sustained her:

It was His everlasting arms underneath me that carried me through. He was my security.

If I say it was my faith, then you, whenever you have to pass through hardships, can say, ‘I have not Corrie’s faith.’ But when I tell you it was Jesus, then you can trust the same One who has carried me through, will do the same for you (Corrie: The Lives She Touched, p. 153).

Corrie’s world turned especially dark during the Nazi era because the depravity of Man seemed to win out, but the truth is, we all live in a fallen world with sinful people who inevitably sin against us. Some of us may think we haven’t suffered to the same degree as Corrie and thus dismiss the idea that we too need to look to God to give us the ability to forgive. We think, perhaps, we should be capable of handling the “small stuff” or, worse, that we only have to forgive the “big stuff.”

Others of us may have suffered greater trauma than Corrie. Instead of the loving foundation and support of a godly family, we were hurt by those very people God designed to care for us. Perhaps the sin against us was violent or re-occurring over a long period of time.

Do the differing circumstances relegate Corrie’s life message as inapplicable for people in the twenty-first century? Hardly. Corrie did not direct her audiences to look at her or to learn x-number of steps in order to achieve forgiveness—such information might become outdated or irrelevant. Rather, Corrie ten Boom, before the traumatic events of World War II, during its blackness and the ensuing ministry to tell others what she knew to be true about God, and after as she experienced the approach of death, did what any person in any circumstance can do—she looked to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of her faith. She trusted in the One she knew to be the Victor and obeyed.

# # #

Bibliography

Brown, Joan Winmill. Corrie: The Lives She’s Touched. Minneapolis: Special Edition, World Wide Pictures, Fleming H. Revell, 1979.

Rosewell, Pamela. The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom. Zondervan, 1986.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Chosen Books, 1984.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and Jamie Burkingham. Tramp for the Lord. Christian Literature Crusade, Fleming H. Revell, 1974.

Ten Boom, Corrie. Not I, But Christ. Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ten Boom, Corrie. Prison Letters. Fleming H. Revell, 1975.

To read the entire article see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Published in: on May 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm  Comments (1)  
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People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 3


Continued from Part 1 and Part 2. Corrie and her sister Betsie have been sent to the German concentration camp, Ravensbruck.

– – – – –

Miraculously Corrie was able to take her Bible (Betsie had given hers away, a book at a time) into Ravensbruck, though the prisoners were stripped and required to leave all their belongings behind in the processing center. In the darkness of that sin-sick place, God’s light—His Word, His miraculous answers to prayer, the worship offered Him by those living on the edge of death—shone brightest. Whenever possible, Corrie told her fellow prisoners that Jesus died on the cross for them, and by way of encouragement she reminded them that Jesus was Victor.

The sisters were assigned to the knitting crew and this group soon became the praying heart of the camp, making petition for their guards, the healing of Germany, Europe, the world—just as their mother had once prayed from the prison of her crippled body, just as Corrie would one day pray from her own personal confinement.

They held their services in the evening, and the highlight of their worship was reading Scripture. Because the prisoners in Ravensbruck came from all over Europe, only a few could understand the Dutch rendition Corrie read, but a translation chain developed and the life-giving words were passed from one language to another.

Even as their spirits grew stronger, however, their bodies grew weaker. In late November Betsie became gravely ill, and in December she died. Three days later Corrie received word that she was to be released—a miracle since all the women her age and older were scheduled for execution soon after. However, she failed the required physical and spent two weeks in the medical facility. Finally her clearance came through, and by New Year’s Day she was on her way back to Holland.

After a period of recovery, Corrie tried to return to her previous activities, working in the watch shop and re-establishing her ministry to the mentally disabled, but she was restless. At last she realized she needed to fulfill the work that Betsie had envisioned for them during those months in Ravensbruck: telling people what they had learned—that even in a concentration camp, Jesus was Victor because no pit was so deep that God wasn’t deeper still. That very week, Corrie began her speaking career.

After the war, by God’s providential provision, she was able to open a home for concentration-camp survivors in a fifty-six-room mansion in Haarlem. Because God had taught Corrie forgiveness through His Word and Christ’s example on the cross, she also turned the Beje into a home where the hated Dutch collaborators could find restoration.

A year later, she saw the fulfillment of another of Betsie’s visions—an old concentration camp in Germany converted into a facility to minister to those displaced by the war.

Meanwhile Corrie continued to speak, in part to raise money for these rehabilitation efforts but also because those who survived the war had a hunger for the message of forgiveness.

Over the years her evangelistic speaking ministry expanded until she became a “tramp for the Lord” (the title of one of her later books), traveling during the next thirty-three years to more than sixty countries. She spoke in prisons and churches, to large groups and small, always telling about God’s love and forgiveness, most clearly lived out by Betsie in Ravensbruck as she expressed compassion for her enemies and prayed for those who mistreated her.

Eventually Corrie added writing to her speaking engagements. Her autobiography, The Hiding Place, co-authored by John and Elizabeth Sherrill, was published in 1971. Four years later eighty-three-year-old Corrie saw her story become a movie distributed by World Wide Pictures.

The next year she shifted her focus from personal speaking engagements to writing and film production. To facilitate the latter she decided to settle in Southern California. She found a home she called Shalom House and much like her father before her, opened her doors to those in need of prayer and counseling. Including those she talked to on the telephone, Corrie ministered in this way to hundreds of people. Correspondence flooded her from across the globe.

Eighteen months after Corrie moved into Shalom House, her longest imprisonment and most remarkable ministry began. In August 1978 she suffered the first of a series of strokes that left her progressively disabled. First she experienced temporary paralysis and loss of speech. While she regained some mobility, she lost the ability to communicate in sentences. Though Corrie worked hard at therapy, a subsequent stroke robbed her of all speech, and she lost much of her independent functions.

Despite her limitations, God continued to use her. Nurses, visitors, the gardener, a cleaning lady—any number of people saw the love and joy of the Lord shining through her eyes. Some came to Christ as a result. Many commented on the peace of God that pervaded her home. And Corrie continued to pray. Eventually she became bed-ridden. Five years after her first stroke, on her ninety-first birthday, she passed into God’s presence. But even in death the message of her life continued—inscribed on her grave marker were the words “Jesus is Victor.”

“She had served Jesus Christ in her strength; she served Him in weakness,” wrote her companion and care-giver Pamela Rosewell Moore in the forward to Corrie’s devotional Not I, But Christ. “She served Him in her life; she served Him in death. How precious her life and testimony were to Him, even when she was removed from the public eye. She followed and obeyed Him then as constantly as she ever had” (p. 12).

To be continued.

See “People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 4.”

People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 2


At the end of Part 1: Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father are living in Holland in an oddly constructed house called the Beje, during World War II. As the persecution of Jews intensifies, they look for opportunities to help those in need.

– – – – –

A year and a half after the occupation began, a need presented itself to them. The police raided the furrier shop across the street from the Beje, evicting the Jewish owner. Mr. Weil, whose wife was away visiting friends, stood alone in the street, unable to return to his home over his shop. The Ten Booms befriended him and slipped him out of town to Willem.

Six months later a Jewish woman was similarly evicted from her clothing store. Afraid to return to her apartment, she went to the Ten Booms, saying she heard they had helped someone like her before.

Two nights later an elderly couple in similar circumstances arrived. Corrie traveled to Hilversum, again seeking Willem’s help. He told her she would have to develop her own network—operatives and resources for things like food ration cards and identification papers.

As Jews in need continued to turn up at the Beje, Corrie found the connections she needed by God’s direction. Eventually Willem’s son Kik introduced her to the “professional” underground, and her number of contacts grew. One such person, a Mr. Smit (the name used by all those in their organization to protect their identity), volunteered to build a secret room in the Beje. In the event of a raid, any people passing through their station would have a place to hide.

He chose a room at the top of the three-tiered oddly constructed building—Corrie’s room—and there he and his workers surreptitiously built a two-and-a-half-foot-wide room accessed by a crawl space near her bed.

The underground activity continued throughout the next year and spread from helping Jews to hiding military-age boys to keep them from conscription. The network of workers grew to eighty elderly women and middle-aged men, with the Beje at the center of the web. Eventually, however, finding safe homes outside the city for the numbers of people moving through their underground station became harder and harder, particularly for those with distinct Semitic features. Thus four men and soon after, three women became borders in the Beje.

On February 28, 1944, because of information provided by a collaborator posing as someone in need, the dreaded raid occurred. While the guests boarding at the Beje were able to hide in the secret room, the family members and a number of others present for a Bible study were arrested. In addition, some underground workers came to the watch shop to warn of the impending raid, and they too were taken into custody.

In all, thirty-five of Corrie’s family and friends were transported and imprisoned in the federal penitentiary in Scheveningen outside The Hague. Within ten days, Corrie’s eighty-four-year-old father Casper ten Boom died, though she wouldn’t learn of his passing until April.

Two weeks into her imprisonment, Corrie was taken to solitary confinement. While the ensuing four months of isolation felt like punishment because she was not allowed to speak to anyone, including the prisoners who delivered her meals, she later learned she was separated from the other inmates because of her illness. Two days before the raid, she had started running a fever, and in prison her condition worsened to “severe pleurisy.”

Two months into her prison stay, she began receiving periodic letters and packages, in particular from her sister Nollie who, along with the other family members except Betsie and her father, had been released.

When Corrie recovered from her illness, she was summoned to appear before a German officer to determine her sentence. Led by God she seized the opportunity to ask this lieutenant if there was darkness in his life. When he admitted there was no light at all, she told him about Jesus, the Light of the world. This man, who years later Corrie led to Christ, arranged for the Ten Boom family to gather in his office for the reading of their father’s will. Nollie used the occasion to give both Corrie and Betsie small Bibles placed in pouches they could wear around their necks.

Early in June the inmates were moved to Vught, a concentration camp for political prisoners located in southern Holland. At last, Corrie’s isolation was over. By God’s providence she located Betsie as the guards herded the prisoners onto a train. The sisters stayed together for the next six months.

While in Vught, they continued to receive occasional encouragement and supplies from home, though these “privileges” were often revoked by the guards as punishment wielded against an entire barracks. Corrie and Betsie spent long days on work details and regularly battled hunger and illness.

Sundays altered the camp routine. Without assignment demands, the Ten Boom sisters took walks and sat outside in the sun, but most important, they began conducting worship services with other prisoners. By August they had a group of sixty in attendance.

In September, however, the Nazis committed mass executions on the men’s side of the camp and once again loaded the women on a train—this time packing them in freight cars for the journey to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp in Germany.

Life there, in such close proximity to a crematorium, was bleak and the conditions inhumane. Besides the humiliation of having to parade naked in front of the male guards for health inspections, the women were packed into lice and flea infested barracks.

Prompted by the Scripture the two sisters read that morning, Betsie insisted they thank God for their new environment. They thanked Him they were together, that they had His Word. They thanked Him for the overcrowding because many more people could hear God’s life-giving message of salvation. And Betsie said they should thank Him for the fleas.

Though Corrie could see no reason to thank God for an infestation that added to their misery, she joined Betsie out of obedience and trust in what God said in His Word. Later when the two conducted daily services in their barracks without interference from the Germans, they learned they enjoyed this freedom because the guards did not want to go where there were fleas.

To be continued.

See “People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 3.”

People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 1


One of my non-fiction ideas is a book profiling twenty Christian women of faith. I’ve decided to post, in four parts, the chapter about Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch woman known for hiding Jews during World War II. Following a year of incarceration, during which her father and sister died, she began a speaking and writing ministry to proclaim God’s forgiveness and love. Late in life she moved to Southern California where she lived until her death at age 91.

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom sat gazing out the window, alone with her thoughts, unable to verbalize her needs or even her love for those most dear. Solitary confinement was not a new experience for this eighty-seven-year-old woman, but this imprisonment during the last years of her life was far different from the one she endured thirty-five years earlier in a Dutch prison cell. In both instances, however, and during horrifying experiences in two Nazi concentration camps, Corrie put her faith in Jesus who she knew to be the Victor. In the face of inhuman conditions, mistreatment, sickness and death, she lived that faith day by day.

Corrie spent her first fifty-two years caring for her family and working in their watch shop in the Beje—the patch-work Dutch home of her birth, where the words “Jesus is Victor” were transcribed on the kitchen hearthstones.

Although she never married, her life was anything but solitary. She was one of four children in a close family, headed by godly parents. When she was a child, her mother’s three sisters moved in with the Ten Booms, adding to the activity swirling about the house.

As each of Corrie’s aunts declined over the years, she took on the necessary caregiving responsibilities until one by one they passed away. Eventually she nursed her own mother when a stroke partially paralyzed her and robbed her of the ability to speak more than three words—yes, no, and Corrie. Three years later, Mrs. Ten Boom died, leaving Corrie and her oldest sister Betsie to manage the house for their father and to work with him in the watch repair business.

Corrie’s next two decades in the family home were fulfilling. Through a providential sequence of events, she and Betsie switched roles which put Corrie next to her father in their watch shop keeping the accounts and waiting on customers, rather than in the kitchen tending to domestic duties. When Corrie was ready to move to more challenging responsibilities, her father patiently taught her the particulars of watch repair. Eventually she went to school to specialize in work with wristwatches and became Holland’s first licensed woman watchmaker.

Besides her involvement in the shop and with her family—including a happy assortment of nieces and nephews—Corrie developed a ministry with the mentally disabled and founded a Christian girls scout movement known as the Triangle Club. She and her family also welcomed into their home a succession of foster children over a period of ten years. Still they found time for a steam of visitors, whether policemen or derelicts coming for a bowl of Betsie’s soup or a cup of her coffee, or laborers and business professionals asking their father for counsel and prayer.

As far as Corrie knew, her life would continue as peacefully to its end as it had progressed to this point, but God had something considerably bigger in store for her.

When she was forty-eight, Adolf Hitler and an ever-broadening war disrupted Europe. Eventually German troops marched into Holland and after a five-day campaign, the Nazi war machine added another conquered nation to the list succumbing to its blitzkrieg.

During the first year of Nazi occupation, persecution targeting Jews began to creep into Holland, and Corrie’s town of Haarlem was no exception. Minor sporadic attacks occurred—a broken window in a business owned by Jews, offensive words graffitied on a synagogue wall. Gradually the symptoms worsened. Signs appeared in shop windows denying Jews service. Others forbade admittance to public parks, restaurants, theaters, the concert hall. A synagogue was burned down, but the fire trucks that answered the alarm worked only to keep the flames from spreading to other buildings.

Then an edict came singling Jews out by requiring them to wear bright yellow Stars of David sewn onto their coats and jackets with the word Jood (Dutch for “Jew”) prominently placed in the center. Disappearances began. No one knew for sure if the missing people had gone into hiding or were secretly arrested by the Gestapo. At any rate, public arrests became more frequent.

Eventually the Ten Booms discussed what they should do to help these persecuted people. Willem, the only boy of the family, had already successfully found hiding places for a number of Dutch Jews living in the nursing home he ran in nearby Hilversum. Should an opportunity arise, Corrie, Betsie and their father wanted to be ready to help as well.

To be continued.

See “People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 2.”

Published in: on May 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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