Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Snapshots of the Psalm 28 God

Psalm 28 - click here to read the passage.

v.1 - my Rock
v.7 - my Strength & my Shield
v.8 - my Saving refuge
v.9 - my Shepherd

Rock. Solid. Immovable. Unchanging. That's my God. Totally reliable when life goes upside down. I cling to Him. The Rock.

Strength. Power. Ability. And it's transferable. To me. Totally available when I finally understand that I can't do this on my own.

Shield. Defense. Covered. Protection. Life gets offensive at times. God allows me to be hidden in Him.

Saving Refuge. Safety. Security. Eternal. No more condemnation. None. Satan can point his wagging finger elsewhere.

Shepherd. Caregiver. Watchman. Overseer. My favorite. God holds me securely in His arms forever... what a picture. What a God.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Book Review: Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

The subtitle to this book is: The eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost heroes of SEAL team 10

I read. A lot. Rarely does a book grip me emotionally. This one did. I knew the story and had already read bits and pieces online about the account. I had listened to Marcus Luttrell's interviews. Nothing prepared me for how I was moved when I read the sacrifice of our military as they bravely fought the Taliban in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.

From his early days of training to enter the military, his choice to become a Navy SEAL straight through Hell Week and on to the Middle East deployments - you'll be able to get inside the head of Marcus Luttrell. What you will also be exposed to is his heart. It remains as big as the state of Texas from which he comes.

As I read of the battle in which he would lose the three members of his SEAL team on the mountain, my guts just churned. His tale of escaping and eluding the enemy until his final rescue by US Army special forces is absolutely riveting. I cannot but highly recommend this book. I could not put it down.

In a day when the mass media tends to color patriotism a deplorable shade, it was a relief and an inspiration to be reminded once again of those men and women who volunteer... who choose... to sacrifice on my behalf. This is a must read.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Night at the Ballpark

I am so proud of my kids! They entered a reading 'contest' at the local public library and 4 of the 5 (the youngest doesn't read yet) received free tickets to a minor league baseball game for their efforts. We went last night to watch the Fort Wayne Wizards take on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The final score was Ft.Wayne - 9; Wisconsin - 8. However, we didn't last the entire game. Last night was an incredibly hot and humid evening. Heat indexes were in the 100's. We did make it through 4.5 innings before my 2 year old just melted down. Trying to maintain control in the middle of the bleachers was way too much for us! We ended up leaving around 8:30p and took a leisurely ride home - stopping at McDonalds for fries and then later for gas & a break. We rolled into the driveway around 9:45p and dropped everyone into bed for a well-deserved rest. Below are pictures from the game:

Friday, August 03, 2007

Philippians 1:29 (nasb) "...For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake..."

I have been meditating on this verse for the last three days. I am encouraged to see that through the sovereignty of my God He has allowed me to believe in Him. At the same time I am also excited to see that through His sovereignty He allows me to suffer...on His behalf, or for His sake.

Doesn't this change the whole face of suffering for the Christian? It seems to me that since God is sovereignly in control of everything (salvation and suffering) that even when my life my seem out of control... it isn't. That means that God is only allowing me to experience what I can handle (totally dependent on Him, of course) and not a bit more. Another observation is that I am 'joining with Christ' as I suffer for doing what is right.

As I continue to face what I term "suffering", I face it now expectantly and joyfully.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed

(Author: John Piper) Original Article

At about 6 PM tonight [Wednesday, Aug.1, 2007] the bridge of Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. I am writing this about three hours after the bridge fell. The bridge is located within sight of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Most of us who minister at the church cross this bridge several times a week. At this point I don't know if any staff was on the bridge. Desiring God offices are about a mile from the bridge.

There are no firm facts at this point about the total number of injuries and fatalities. When we crossed the bridge Tuesday on our way out of town, there was extensive repair work happening on the surface of the bridge with single lane traffic. One speculates about the unusual stresses on the bridge with jackhammers and other surface replacement equipment. This was the fortieth anniversary of the bridge.

Tonight for our family devotions our appointed reading was Luke 13:1-9. It was not my choice. This is surely no coincidence. O that all of the Twin Cities, in shock at this major calamity, would hear what Jesus has to say about it from Luke 13:1-5. People came to Jesus with heart-wrenching news about the slaughter of worshipers by Pilate. Here is what he said.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Jesus implies that those who brought him this news thought he would say that those who died, deserved to die, and that those who didn't die did not deserve to die. That is not what he said. He said, everyone deserves to die. And if you and I don't repent, we too will perish. This is a stunning response. It only makes sense from a view of reality that is radically oriented on God.
All of us have sinned against God, not just against man. This is an outrage ten thousand times worse than the collapse of the 35W bridge. That any human is breathing at this minute on this planet is sheer mercy from God. God makes the sun rise and the rain fall on those who do not treasure him above all else. He causes the heart to beat and the lungs to work for millions of people who deserve his wrath. This a view of reality that desperately needs to be taught in our churches, so that we are prepared for the calamities of the world.

The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind's attention and my heart's affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my only hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God's message in the collapse of this bridge. That is his most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which he is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.

We prayed during our family devotions. Talitha (11 years old) and Noel and I prayed earnestly for the families affected by the calamity and for the others in our city. Talitha prayed “Please don't let anyone blame God for this but give thanks that they were saved.” When I sat on her bed and tucked her in and blessed her and sang over her a few minutes ago, I said, “You know, Talitha, that was a good prayer, because when people ‘blame' God for something, they are angry with him, and they are saying that he has done something wrong. That's what “blame” means: accuse somebody of wrongdoing. But you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand.” Talitha said, “With his pinky.” “Yes,” I said, “with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills.”

Talitha said, “Maybe he let it fall because he wanted all the people of Minneapolis to fear him.” “Yes, Talitha,” I said, “I am sure that is one of the reasons God let the bridge fall.”
I sang to her the song I always sing,

Come rest your head and nestle gently
And do not fear the dark of night.
Almighty God keeps watch intently,
And guards your life with all his might.
Doubt not his love, nor power to keep,
He never fails, nor does he sleep.

I said, “You know, Talitha, that is true whether you die in a bridge collapse, or in a car accident, or from cancer, or terrorism, or old age. God always keeps you, even when you die. So you don't need to be afraid, do you.” “No,” she shook her head. I leaned down and kissed her. “Good night. I love you.”

Tonight across the Twin Cities families are wondering if they will ever kiss a loved one good night again. Some will not. I am praying that they will find Jesus Christ to be their Rock and Refuge in these agonizing hours of uncertainty and even loss.

The word “bridge” does not occur in the Bible. There may be two reasons. One is that God doesn't build bridges, he divides seas. The other is that usually his people must pass through the deadly currents of suffering and death, not simply ride over them. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2). They may drown you. But I will be with you in life and death.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Killed all day long. But not separated from Christ. We go through the river. Not over it. He went before us, crucified. He came out on the other side. He knows the way through. With him we will make it. That is the message we have for the precious sinners in the Twin Cities. He died for your sins. He rose again. He saves all who trust him. We die, but because of him, we do not die.
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Talitha is sleeping now. But one day she will die. I teach her this. I will not always be there to bless her. But Jesus is alive and is the same yesterday today and forever. He will be with her because she trusts him. And she will make it through the river.

Weeping with those who weep, and those who should,

Pastor John

Psalm 71:20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Christian and Suffering...

I recently read an article by Michelle Malkin on a news story that hardly draws any attention in the United States. It was entitled, The Martyrs No One Cares About:

The blood of innocent Christian missionaries spills on Afghan sands. The world watches and yawns. The United Nations offers nothing more than a formal expression of "concern." Where is the global uproar over the human rights abuses unfolding before our eyes?

For two weeks, a group of South Korean Christians has been held hostage by Taliban thugs in Afghanistan. This is the largest group of foreign hostages taken in Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. What was their offense? Were they smuggling arms into the country? No. Inciting violence? No. They were peaceful believers in Christ on short-term medical and humanitarian missions. Seventeen of the 23 hostages are females. Most of them are nurses who provide social services and relief.
(full article here...)

I have decided to begin a word study of "suffering" in the New Testament. I hope to post findings as I continue in this study.

but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation... 1 Peter 4:13 nasb