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About a month ago I found a book titled, “Amazing Love: True Stories of the Power of Forgiveness,” originally published in 1953 (this latest edition was published in 2011) by one of the most inspiring Christian women I have ever have the privilege of knowing through her writings. I wrote about her eleven months ago in another blog post (click here to go to that post). Her name is Corrie ten Boom.
Corrie was a Dutch Christian who lived through the horrors of Nazi Germany during WWII having been held prisoner–along with her sister, Betsie–in Ravensbrück death camp. Corrie survived (due to a clerical error); however, Betsie did not. Their amazing story and the story of how the entire ten Boom family hid Jews in their house at the time of the Nazi invasion in the Netherlands is told in her book, “The Hiding Place,” first published in 1971 (and still in print). The following information was gleaned from Wikipedia:
On February 28, 1944, a Dutch informant told the Nazis of the work the ten Booms were doing, and the Nazis arrested the entire ten Boom family at around 12:30 p.m. The family was sent first to Scheveningen prison, where their elderly father died ten days after his arrest. While there, ten Boom’s sister Nollie, brother Willem, and nephew Peter were all released. Later, ten Boom and sister Betsie were sent to the Vught political concentration camp, and finally to the Ravensbrück death camp in Germany. Betsie died there on December 16, 1944. Before she died, she told ten Boom, “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.”
Corrie ten Boom was released on December 28, 1944. Later she learned that her release had been due to a clerical error. After the war, ten Boom returned to The Netherlands to set up a rehabilitation center. The refuge houses consisted of concentration camp survivors and sheltered the jobless Dutch who previously collaborated with Germans during the occupation. She returned to Germany in 1946, and traveled the world as a public speaker, appearing in over sixty countries, during which time she wrote many books.
Corrie’s second book, “Tramp for the Lord,” was published in 1974 (still in print) and takes up where “The Hiding Place” left off. Beginning in 1946, Corrie traveled the world telling people about Jesus Christ and visited over 60 countries until she moved to California in 1977 at the age of 85. “In 1978, she suffered two strokes, the first rendering her unable to speak, and the second resulting in paralysis. She did not regain function for the remaining five years of her life, dying on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983, following a third stroke” (quote source here). On the back cover of “Tramp for the Lord” is this statement:
This is Corrie ten Boom’s story: beginning where her profoundly moving bestseller [The Hiding Place] ended, taking us on a uniquely thrilling tour to the nearest and farthest corners of the earth. She is a modest and simple woman who has seen and known a world few others could imagine; a survivor of Hitler’s worst concentration camps and one of the most remarkable evangelists of our time.
Miracles do happen; Corrie ten Boom’s life is living proof. From her near-destitute days in postwar New York to heart-stopping adventures in Africa, let her be your once-in-a-lifetime guide on a worldwide trip that could only have been planned by God.
Corrie totally depended on the Lord for all of her needs including all of her financial needs throughout her many trips around the world. “Tramp for the Lord” is a testament to God’s faithfulness in Corrie’s life as to how He provided for her over and over and over again when circumstances and finances seemed impossible. If you’re in need of inspiration–and who isn’t–I can’t think of a more inspiring book to recommend than this one.
In this latest book that I picked up, “Amazing Love: True Stories of the Power of Forgiveness,” originally published in 1953, Corrie shares in 27 short chapters from some of her “amazing encounters with people in camps and jails, with students and actresses, and with the sophisticated and illiterate. We meet on these pages not Corrie, but Corrie’s Christ” (quote from the back cover) that took place during the first few years of her “wanderings” (as she called them). I’d like to quote a few short paragraphs from Chapter 1 titled, “Plans” (pp. 10-11):
Human hearts are amazingly alike. As I talk with people in America, England, Switzerland, Germany and Holland, I frequently find the same need, the same ignorance of what we can be in Jesus Christ if only we accept the Bible in a simple, childlike way as the Word of God, the Word that teaches us the foolishness of God that is wiser than the wisdom of men, the love of God that passes all understanding.
When we read the Bible, we should never use as our guide the wisdom of men or the standards of our own reason.
I was once a passenger aboard a ship that was being guided by radar. The fog was so dense we couldn’t see even the water about us. But the radar screen showed a streak of light, indicating the presence of another ship far ahead. The radar penetrated the fog and picked up its image. So also is faith the radar that sees reality through the clouds.
The reality of the victory of Christ can be seen only be faith, which is our radar. Our faith perceives what is actual and real; our senses perceive only that which is limited to three dimensions and comprehended by our intellect. Faith sees more.
I am not a scholar, but much of the little I do know, I learned as I faced death in front of the crematorium in Ravensbruck. That is why God sometimes uses me to help people who know far more than I.
Of the many very inspiring short stories in this book, one in particular stood out because it spoke so clearly to me of a circumstance in my own life and I used those same words as she used in the title of the story regarding a place that has devastated my own life (and caused these past four and a half years of unemployment with all of the challenges involved). For me, that place is Houston. For Corrie, it was Germany. Since it is one of the shorter stories in the book, I’d like to share it with you (found on pp. 35-37):
Never Again to Germany
When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He Himself
will give us the love with which to do it. We are
neither factories nor reservoirs of His love
only channels. When we understand that,
all excuse for pride is eliminated.
Returning to Holland after my release from the German concentration camp at Ravensbruck, I said, “One think I hope is that I’ll never have to go to Germany again. I am willing to go wherever God may want me to go, but I hope He’ll never send me to Germany.”
If we want to experience the guidance of God in our lives, we must accept one condition: obedience to Him.
On my trips to the United States, I often spoke on the conditions in Europe during the post-war years, and when I talked of the chaos in Germany, people sometimes asked me, “Why don’t you go to Germany, since you know the language?”
But I didn’t want to go.
Then darkness came into my fellowship with God; when I asked for His guidance, there was no answer.
Now God does not want us ever to be in doubt as to what His guidance is and so I knew that something had come between God and me; and I prayed, “Lord, is there some disobedience in my life?”
The answer was very distinct: “Germany.”
Before me I could see again the land I had left in 1944. In my mind I could hear the harsh voices, “Schneller, aber schneller” (faster, faster); and my answer to God was long in coming.
“Yes, Lord, I’ll go to Germany too. I’ll follow wherever You lead.”
Then when I returned to Holland from the United States. I learned that it was not yet possible for Hollanders to obtain a visa for visiting Germany.
And I was glad.
I received an invitation to attend an international conference in Switzerland, and God told me that I would meet some Germans there who would help me obtain a visa. Arriving at the conference, I found representatives from many countries but not one single German.
And I was glad.
But on the last day of the conference, there were two new arrivals. The instant they appeared, I could see they were Germans. I asked them if they could help me with my papers, and one of the latecomers turned out to be a director of the “Evangelisches Hilfswerk,” the church organization for the assistance of refugees.
“If I send you an invitation to come to Germany, you will be able to get your visa,” said he.
And so I went back to Germany.
Was it difficult? At times it was; at times it was not.
There is a sanctified Germany and a poisoned Germany. There is a Germany that has lost everything, where the hearts of people are a vacuum. Who is going to fill them? It is wonderful to be able to speak there about Him who renews hearts, and fills them with His joy.
Years ago I told the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes to a class of feebleminded boys. Carl had become so absorbed in the story that he jumped to his feet and shouted, “There is enough, there is enough–take as much as you want, there is enough!”
Dear little Carl, I wish more people were as much on fire about it as you.
Here we have the great riches of the Bible, and people misuse their time quibbling about its interpretations.
Is this a time for controversy?
Just imagine that your house was on fire, and the firemen were wrangling about their uniforms.
I heard that General MacArthur asked for a thousand missionaries to preach the gospel in Japan. There is a hunger for the gospel in that country. The harvest is plenteous; the laborers are few.
Not only there.
Also in Germany.
While the details of my situation in Houston are different from Corrie’s in Germany, these past four and a half years of unemployment (a type of prison in and of itself) are directly related to my seven months of employment in Houston that ended in a very unpleasant manner. I do, however, have some very pleasant memories of folks I worked around during my time there and some of them are still working there. So for me, Houston remains a conundrum of sorts, but after a brief return trip to Houston in late August 2012 with dismal results, I decided it was not meant to be for me to return there to live.
Still, it feels like I have unfinished business in Houston. I have no quarrel with anyone, not even the fellow or the HR Director who fired me (the latter person is no longer employed there anyway). In fact, one of the fellows I was most fond of there and regretted that I couldn’t say goodbye to him when I was fired (because of the manner in which I was fired and he did not work in my department) recently joined LinkedIn.com (a professional networking site) and I was able to make a connection with him on it. Every time I think of him it brings a smile to my face as he is genuinely a very nice guy (he’s married and my interest is not romantic) and I wrote to him to say that if he had been my boss, I mostly like would still be there.
By connecting with him I found myself thinking about making a return visit to Houston and visiting my former place of employment (it is located in a different building now) in order to bring some kind of closure to what happened to me there so long ago that has so detrimentally affected my life to this very day. Call it a sort of peace offering more to benefit me as I’m sure they (the employer, I mean) don’t really care. And I’d love to see him and some of the others still working there that I couldn’t say goodbye to when I was terminated. And who knows, maybe I could find employment in Houston again while I’m there.
I have to admit, however, that it is with a fair amount of trepidation as I consider returning again. After my last visit there in late August/early September 2012, I said I’d never return to Houston again. I was still angry at what had happened to me there, and it’s taken a long time for that anger to subside (mostly because I can’t find employment after all this time). Now I just want peace. And employment would be nice, too . . . .
While Corrie’s situation was far, far worst then my situation in Houston, when I read her story about “Never again to Germany,” and what happened after she finally did return, it helped to see that her response in returning would most likely be the same as mine if I were able to return back to Houston and visit my former employer. What she stated about Germany is this—“Was it difficult? At times it was; at times it was not.”
While I recently repeated that statement that I would never return to Houston again, God has not let it leave my mind. I can’t imagine why I would need to go back there except for what I have stated above (and also the fact that I can’t find employment here). Yet God has His reasons. In my last blog post, “The Cost of Discipleship,” I quoted Rick Warren, and at one point in the quote he states, “To say ‘No, Lord’ is to speak a contradiction.”
Corrie’s answer to God was long in coming, but she finally said, “Yes, Lord, I’ll go to Germany, too. I’ll follow wherever You lead.” A few days ago when I realized God was calling me to go back to Houston, I swallowed hard. I remember thinking, “What is the point in doing that again? There is nothing there for me.” And what I got was silence, just as Corrie described.
And so I finally made my decision this morning, and it is this . . .
“Yes, Lord, I’ll go back to Houston . . .
“I’ll follow wherever You lead . . . .”
YouTube Video: “Put On Your Dancing Shoes” by Steve Winwood:
If you’re 40 or younger, chances are you haven’t heard of Corrie ten Boom. It’s been almost 30 years since her death on her 91st birthday on April 15, 1983, but her legacy lives on.
Corrie “was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison. A sister, brother and nephew were released, but Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where Betsie died. Corrie wrote many books and spoke frequently in the post-war years about her experiences. She also aided Holocaust survivors in the Netherlands. Her autobiography, The Hiding Place (1971) was later adapted as a film of the same name in 1975″ (quote source Wikipedia.com).
In an interview with Pat Robertson in 1974 (available on YouTube), Corrie mentioned that she was confined by the Nazis a total of eleven months with the first month spent in solitary confinement before ending up in a concentration camp with her sister, Betsie. From a letter Corrie wrote in 1974, she stated that “Seven hundred of us from Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred” (quote source here). **Stop for a minute an imagine being one of 700 people herded into a room built for 200 and left there.** While Betsie died in the midst of that horror, Corrie was released on December 28, 1944, due to a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release (source Wikipedia.com).
Due to Corrie’s own experience at the hands of the Nazis combined with what happened to Chinese Christians in 1949 as Mao Tse Tung brought China into communism (forming “People’s Republic of China”) led her to speak out about the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” doctrine that is widely taught in American churches today. In a letter she wrote in 1974 entitled “Prepared for the Coming Tribulation” she wrote:
“There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution . . . .
“In America, the churches sing, ‘Let the congregation escape tribulation,’ but in China and Africa the tribulation has already arrived. This last year alone more than two hundred thousand Christians were martyred in Africa. Now things like that never get into the newspapers because they cause bad political relations. But I know. I have been there. We need to think about that when we sit down in our nice houses with our nice clothes to eat our steak dinners. Many, many members of the Body of Christ are being tortured to death at this very moment, yet we continue right on as though we are all going to escape the tribulation” (quote source here).
Many Christians in America today have been taught by pastors who espouse a “pre-tribulation” rapture of the Church that they will be “raptured” right before the final seven years of the “tribution” period that unfold here on earth (see Revelation–the last book in the Bible–for details) and, thus, will not have to endure the horror of those final seven years. There are also two other “rapture” views known as “mid-tribulation” rapture and “post-tribulation” rapture and all three views are espoused by well known pastors and theologians (a few names of those espousing each of these views can be found here). I don’t believe that all pastors who teach the “pre-tribulation” rapture are false teachers as is stated in Ms. ten Boom’s statement above, but the whole idea of a “pre-tribulation” rapture is a modern day theory that was “developed in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible” (quote source: Wikipedia.com).
I was raised under pastors who espoused a “pre-tribulation” view of the rapture; however, as I’ve gotten older, I began to question it. Why should Americans be immune from persecution when Christians in more than 40 nations around the world today are being persecuted for their faith (source here)? In America, our Christianity is a soft, easy Christianity ripe for teachings that endorses a “pre-tribution” view of the rapture, but here’s what Corrie had to say in her 1974 letter regarding what happened to the Christians in China who were taught the same type of teaching back before the Communist revolution in 1949:
“In China, the Christians were told, ‘Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.’ Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,
‘We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution, rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes–to stand and not faint.’
“I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it. We are next” (source here).
These are the words of Corrie ten Boom written back in 1974 who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. You can read the entire contents of her letter here. She traveled the world telling others about her experiences and how faith in Jesus Christ regardless of circumstances sustained her as it does many, many other persecuted Christians around the world even in the very face of death. Christians living in America are no different from Christians living around the rest of the world. Jesus clearly tells us what to expect in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
While I questioned the teaching of a “pre-tribulation” rapture for years, these past three and a half years of unemployment have allowed me the opportunity to open up my world in a way it never would have opened up if “life as I knew it” hadn’t come to an abrupt end when I lost my job in Houston. Granted, I expected to find a job within the first six months but that didn’t happen, and while I continued to look for work (right up through today) a whole new world opened up before me–a world out there that shouted, “there’s more to life than the ‘American way’ . . . a whole lot more. Pay attention.”
We’ve been sold on a soft, easy Christianity (compared to those millions who are severely persecuted around the world) that not only doesn’t require much from us but also promises that we’ll be “raptured” before the really awful stuff starts. Sounds like what the Chinese Christians heard before Communism took over in 1949 and the widespread torture and murder of Christians proliferated. Even today living as a Christian in China is daunting (read here for up-to-date reports).
I believe Corrie ten Boom was right, and, indeed, it is coming to our shores. In fact, it is my belief that it’s already here and growing. If you doubt that, here’s an article to get you thinking about it titled, “Persecution of Christians Growing in the United States” and it was written back in 2001. And it hasn’t gotten any better since then. Also, there’s an article at RenewAmerica.com written in 2008 that you might want to read titled, “Preaching a Pre-tribulation Rapture Weakens the Church.”
I Peter 5:8-11 (MSG) states, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”
If a “pre-tribulation” rapture theory has you coasting in neutral thinking you’ll escape the hard stuff before it comes, wake-up! Sound an alarm, and be alert. We don’t want to be totally caught off guard like the Chinese Christians were in 1949, do we? They didn’t escape and we won’t either. But it’s not about “escaping” before the bad stuff happens anyway, read that passage in I Peter 5 again–“You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”
Did you get that? God, through Jesus Christ, has great plans for us, but they are eternal and glorious plans not earthly and temporal plans. Eternal. So let’s start living with eternity in mind, instead of always seeking what we can get here on this planet, which is at best temporary; or escaping hardships, which are also temporary.
Bob Dylan wrote a song years ago titled, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (YouTube Video of the song sung by Phil Collins is below). While times were certainly changing back in 1964, they are certainly changing at an unbelievable pace today. Here’s the words to the last verse in that song:
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
Indeed, the times they are a-changin’ . . . so don’t let them catch you off guard!
Take heed . . . .
YouTube Video: “The Time They Are A-Changin'” sung by Phil Collins (composed by Bob Dylan, 1964):
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