|After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.
And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here”
Pastor, author and blogger Tim Challies leads an informal book group at his site. He reads a chapter a week of a classic book of the faith and invites anyone to do the same along with him. Once per week he posts his thoughts and invites others to do the same in the comment section. The series is called “Reading Classics Together.” This time it was John Flavel’s book “The Mysteries of Providence”.
They concluded the excellent post-script piece at the end of Flavel’s “theologically dense” tome. It is theologically dense. While the online informal ‘book club’ has concluded the book, I am still in chapter 3. But I am sticking with it because one of my favorite doctrines is the doctrine of Providence, how God ordains and orders all things in the universe and for each person on earth to accomplish His divine plan and purpose.
Apparently at the end of his wonderful treatment of the doctrine of God’s providence, Flavel wrote three simple rules for keeping a spiritual journal. Challies himself said he is a committed blogger but a sporadic journaler, but that these pieces of advice were enormously helpful. Flavel’s advice for keeping a journal was not to write a copious or emotional tell-all, but a streamlined journal for keeping in memory God’s answer to prayer and His grace in Providential care.
Challies wrote of Flavel’s exhortation,
First, understand that your memory is far too slippery to entrust with all of the amazing providences you have encountered in your life. It is true that we do not easily forget the things that greatly affect us, but still, new impressions have a way of overwriting existing ones. One wise man has said, “My memory never failed me because I never trusted it.” Writing down our important memories secures against forgetting them and has the added benefit of making them useful to others. Why would you carry all of this treasure to heaven with you? By writing down your memories you can leave them as a legacy to those who follow you. The loss of your money, your property, and your possessions counts for nothing next to losing the record of God’s faithfulness to you.
I am an incessant writer. Before the internet was invented I kept lists, notes, wrote stories, academic papers, was a journalist, and a pen pal. I even got a calendar each year with big enough squares to write down a sentence or two of what I did that day. I was always writing something. But I never kept a journal.
I don’t like journals, myself. I am a chronicler of external events, not an introspective explorer of personal emotions. But whenever I traveled I did keep a travel journal. In thinking of Flavel’s advice for spiritual journaling, I also was struck by advice #2,
Second, do not simply record these treasures in a book, but also ensure that you refer to them often. When you experience wants or needs or difficulties, or when temptations assault you, turn to the written record of God’s past graces. When when are in any kind of distress it will do your soul good to see how God has faithfully delivered you from similar situations in the past.
I still had all my travel journals. I remember a lot but not everything, as Flavel opined. What had I written those years ago? Curious, I dug out my first travel journal from 1978. I was part of a High School senior class group traveling to London. Living in Rhode Island, we took a bus to Boston- Logan Airport and departed for Europe from there.
I do clearly remember many of the events of my life. I even remember my ebullient joy at this first plane ride. It was exhilarating to be lifted off the ground and also wondrous to see the small specks below that are people on earth living their lives. But I had forgotten this all-important detail:
Plane, 10:55 pm. Just completed takeoff. It was the most fantastic experience I ever had in my whole life. At first the plane went slow, then we saw the runway and we started to go fast, and the next thing I knew was the lights of Boston. They were beautiful. Like spider webs in the morning. The next second we were over Provincetown, and the next second I saw Nantucket.
Plane, 2:00AM (U.S). Sunrise, beautiful I’m watching one side of the world wake up, while the other side is still sleeping. It is all pink and blue, and the clouds are like cotton. The stewardess just asked us to lower our shades because the sun will be up soon and some people would like to sleep.
No way! I’m not going to miss this for all the gold on earth. This is God’s handiwork. I’m not turning down an offering from God. I’ve decided that this is heaven. When I die I want to spend eternity here. Nothing but God could have made this. This is another world.
There are magnificent layers of God’s Providence here. I was 17 years old at that time, but not saved. Romans 1 tells us we all know that God created the world but we suppress this truth in unrighteousness and worship the creation instead. God in His grace did not let me suppress this. Instead, when He showed Himself to me at 37,000 feet, I celebrated Him. This is because God made it plain. (Romans 1:18-20). Since then He has worked throughout my life, providentially.
How providential that I’d been reading a book about Providence and Challies’ comment about journaling. What prompted me to go get my travel journal out of its tucked-away, dusty bin? It is a book I haven’t looked at in nearly 40 years. His Spirit. Providentially, I had recorded my first inklings and stirrings of God’s witness of Himself to my heart through His creation. Providentially a book on Providence spurred me to re-think recording His graces, and unbeknownst to me, I had already started, 37 years ago.
For a further 26 years from that moment on the plane I wandered the earth as a sinful and evil person, living a life at enmity with God. Yet in His appointed time, He caused me to pass through His gates with thanksgiving. Ten more years have passed since that day of justification. Now more than ever, I can say with conviction and certainty that I will spend eternity up there, with God. His merciful gift of salvation is worth more than all the gold on earth, because at the center of it is Jesus.
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19)