Choose Life

Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice. —Deuteronomy 30:19-20

What is God’s will for my life? The question haunted me when I was growing up. What if I couldn’t find it? What if I didn’t recognize it? God’s will seemed like a needle in a haystack. Hidden. Obscured by lookalikes. Outnumbered by counterfeits.

But my view of God’s will was wrong because my view of God was wrong. God takes no pleasure in seeing us lost, wandering, searching. He wants us to know His will. He makes it clear, and He makes it simple. He doesn’t even make it multiple-choice. He gives just two choices: “life and good” or “death and evil” (Deut. 30:15). In case the best choice isn’t obvious, He even says which one to choose: “Choose life” (v.19). To choose life is to choose God Himself and obey His Word.

When Moses addressed the Israelites for the last time, he pleaded with them to make the right choice by observing “all the words of this law. . . . Because it is your life” (32:46-47). God’s will for us is life. His Word is life. And Jesus is the Word. God may not give a prescription for every decision, but He gave us a perfect example to follow—Jesus. The right choice may not be easy, but when the Word is our guide and worship is our goal, God will grant us the wisdom to make life-affirming choices. by Julie Ackerman Link

Lord Jesus, we know that true wisdom comes
from leaning on You. Help us to trust in
You and to seek Your face and Your will
that we find in Your life-giving Word.

The evidence of God’s guidance can be seen more clearly by looking back than by looking forward.

A Love Without End

three nails
We say ‘God is love,’ but do we really understand how powerful those three little words are?

“Love’s as warm as tears,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “love is tears.” And so begins one of the most important poems I’ve ever read. I love it, not because it’s well known or because Lewis is such a popular figure in contemporary Christian thought, but because it reminds me of my wedding. Lewis is much more to me than an author, professor, novelist, and Christian apologist: he’s a matchmaker.

Ten years ago (roughly 40 years after his death), C. S. Lewis brought my husband Mart and me together. We both came to know his work long before we knew each other. Mere Christianity helped bring Mart back to the faith after years of wandering, and The Chronicles of Narnia enthralled me from the first time I read it. So when we crossed paths at a C. S. Lewis conference several months after we first met, we had a great deal to talk about. That weekend, we spent almost all our time together, telling stories, laughing, and discovering miles of common ground. We scheduled our first date for the following weekend, and exactly a year later, we married.

As we planned our wedding, it seemed only fitting that Lewis be involved. Though a brilliant writer and thinker, Lewis is not known for his poetry, but “Love’s As Warm As Tears” struck a chord with us. So, during the ceremony, while a dear friend of ours read the poem, I sat next to my groom and thought about the path that had led me to this day. Each stanza reminded me of some aspect of the love Mart and I shared and, even more so, God’s love for us.

Our wedding was in mid-March, with Easter in sight. Although the temperatures were still chilly, pink camellias at the house we would share had already bloomed, and forsythia offered blazing yellow blossoms against the tired grays and browns of winter. Similarly, this love of ours was bright and beauty-filled. It was, as Lewis would say, “fresh as spring.” I could see a lovely new life unfolding for us. And I wondered at the goodness of God—the everlasting kindness that was giving Mart and me a love to last a lifetime.

As I listened to the scriptures we’d selected being read aloud, I thought of the tears I had wept when my first marriage ended. In desperation, I’d clung to the Lord, and He never let me go. As He healed me, I felt nothing but gratitude for His grace and redemptive work in my life. He had given me so much, including a little girl who was my delight, and a family who loved and supported me. But the greatest gift in those years—or ever—was the Lord Himself, His presence with me.

Because God loves us, He allows trials in our lives to teach and grow us. Scripture and Lewis’s poem speak of the refiner’s fire and its resulting purity. Some trials are of our own making, but regardless, He uses them to mold us into the likeness of His Son. When I was at my lowest, God did not stand back or turn away in disgust. Rather, He walked through it with me. His Word says over and over that He will never leave us nor forsake us. The same God who stood in the furnace with three young Israelites stands in the furnace with us (Daniel 3).

When Jesus walked among us, He didn’t spare Himself the pain of this life. He immersed Himself in it. Early on, He taught from Isaiah 61, a passage that has brought me comfort and hope during hard times: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (v. 1 NIV). He was sent to bind up the brokenhearted, release the captives, and comfort all who mourn—to give them a garment of praise. Because He is our hope, He can turn our weeping into dancing.

On our wedding day, I was clothed in joy, my gown a garment of praise.

I celebrated the Father’s gift of love between this godly man and me. I couldn’t help nodding when our friend read 1 John 4:19: “We love, because He first loved us.” After all, God set the standard in 1 Corinthians 13, a passage often read at weddings (including ours), used in premarital counseling, and memorized by many. It’s a love we Christians speak of in a casual way, as though words could contain it, as though we understand it. But do we?

That’s why the final stanza in Lewis’s poem still stuns me. It begins, “Love’s as hard as nails, love is nails.” Mart and I chose the poem for that line, and it keeps drawing me back. God’s love compelled Him to allow human hands to drive nails into His Son’s flesh. In those moments when I see myself as I truly am, I wonder why He would do that for me. Moments like these: When I realize yet again I’m worrying about health issues, or my loved ones, or the future instead of trusting the Lord. When my hasty words nick Mart or hurt our daughter. When a stranger needs something I can provide, but I don’t have the time, or energy, or heart to give it. How many opportunities have I missed to share some of the hard-as-nails love that God has showered on me?

The Easter season urges me to examine my life and explore that love. How has it changed me? What has it made possible in my life, in my relationship with Mart, our daughter, and others? In what ways do I need to allow it to refine me? Easter encourages me—and perhaps you too—to discover how wide and long and high and deep (Eph. 3:17-18) is the love of Christ, a love like no other, a love without end.

by LeAnne Martin

Love’s As Warm As Tears

Love’s as warm as tears,

Love is tears:

Pressure within the brain,

Tension at the throat,

Deluge, weeks of rain,

Haystacks afloat,

Featureless seas between

Hedges, where once was green.

Love’s as fierce as fire,

Love is fire:

All sorts—infernal heat

Clinkered with greed and pride,

Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,

Laughing, even when denied,

And that empyreal flame

Whence all loves came.

Love’s as fresh as spring,

Love is spring:

Bird-song hung in the air,

Cool smells in a wood,

Whispering ‘Dare! Dare!’

To sap, to blood,

Telling ‘Ease, safety, rest,

Are good; not best.’

Love’s as hard as nails,

Love is nails:

Blunt, thick, hammered through

The medial nerves of One

Who, having made us, knew

The thing He had done,

Seeing (with all that is)

Our cross, and His.

— C.S. Lewis

The Song of Creation

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding . . . When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7)

It is significant that there was singing at the very time of creation. The “morning stars” of this verse are, by Hebrew poetic parallelism, the same as the “sons of God” who were present when God “laid the foundations of the earth.” Similarly, “sang together” is parallel with “shouted for joy.”

It is thus beautifully appropriate to sing of the glories of God’s creation, for angels were doing this even before Adam and Eve were created! The first actual human song mentioned in the Bible, however, was the thanksgiving song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-21), composed and sung by Moses and the children of Israel after their deliverance from Pharaoh and the waters of the sea.

Finally, it is significant that the last song mentioned in the Bible is “the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3), sung in heaven by “them that had gotten the victory over the beast” (v. 2). This presumably refers back to the original song of Moses, since the deliverance from Pharaoh was, spiritually, a type of their triumph over the beast, the great world ruler in the end times. However, it must now be combined with the song of the Lamb, probably the “new song” of the saints at the Lamb’s throne in Revelation 5:8-10, praising the Lord for their redemption through His blood, shed in substitution for their sins.

These should surely be the three major themes of Christian music, for these are the main themes of the Bible’s songs. It is fitting that they should refer to the past, present, and future works of Christ—His mighty work of creation in the beginning, His gracious work of sustenance in the present, and His glorious work of full redemption in the future. HMM

We know not what we should pray for

We know not what we should pray for, as we ought.—Romans 8:26.
O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do.— Daniel 9:19.

GRANT us not the ill
We blindly ask; in very love refuse
Whatever Thou know’st our weakness would abuse.
JOHN KEBLE.

WE know not precisely what is best for us. We know not what will make us truly happy, We know not what will help us best in our struggle against temptations. And if we were to try to make a distinction between our mere passing wishes and that which our souls really needed, we should utterly fail. But we need not try. Let us take all our wishes, all our longings, all the promptings of our consciences, to the feet of our Father. He will hear and He will do. He will hear all we say. He will know what parts of our prayer are best for us to have, and what are not. And He will give us what His fatherly love will choose. And therefore to all our prayers we will add, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” FREDERICK TEMPLE.

They that know thy name will put their trust in thee

They that know thy name will put their trust in thee. Psalm 9:10

This is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. — I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.

His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor. — O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

The mighty God, The everlasting Father. — I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

The Prince of Peace. — He is our peace. — Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. —Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help. — As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.

Jeremiah 23:6. Psalm 71:16. Isaiah 9:6. Jeremiah 10:23. Isaiah 9:6. 2 Timothy 1:12. Isaiah 9:6. Ephesians 2:14. Romans 5:1. Proverbs 18:10. Isaiah 31:1. Isaiah 31:5.

He ever liveth to make intercession

He ever liveth to make intercession. Hebrews 7:25

Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died … who also maketh intercession for us. — Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. — There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Seeing … that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. — Through him we … have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Romans 8:34. Hebrews 9:24. 1 John 2:1. 1 Timothy 2:5. Hebrews 4:14-16. Ephesians 2:18.