Ever feel pressed, as if in the vice press of God? Ever consider that the Scriptures are overflowing with accounts of personal loss, suffering, sorrow, and heartache? If your life is full of sorrows that strangely resemble those found in the Scriptures, then you my friend are in good company:
David was literally hunted for over a decade.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and then falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned.
Job lost his 10 children in a storm, lost all of his wealth to raiders, suffered tremendous physical affliction, had his distraught wife encourage him to simply curse God and die, and had his "good friends" become the mouth pieces of the devil himself as they repeatedly told Job that all this suffering must somehow be his fault.
John the baptist was imprisoned and killed.
Church history teaches that 10 of the 11 disciples that remained faithful to Jesus were martyred for their faith. The 11th was tortured and exiled.
Paul was repeatedly beaten, imprisoned, suffered a significant physical affliction, and was eventually killed for his faith.
Peter was tormented by a massive failure; denying Christ multiple times. He later died for his faith in Christ.
Thomas, the infamous doubter, was no doubt embarrassed and pained by his unbelief. He later gave his life for his faith in Christ.
Mary Magdalene was demonically oppressed and/or possessed.
My wife and I have been reading the book Jesus Freaks recently. This is an amazing book is entirely filled with the stories of people who suffered tremendously for their faith, both historical and modern.
There is no doubt that our God permits his people to suffer, and indeed has purposes in doing so. He is the one who knows the end from the beginning. He is good beyond the meaning of the word and He does not make mistakes.
Take comfort my suffering friends. For if you find yourself in pain and sorrow, then you are in good company indeed...
I remember seeing an edited version of the Hippocratic Oath on a sign posted at my family physician's office. I was struck by the phrase, "First do no harm." That phrase has become imbedded in my mind ever since I first read it in the doctor's office as a teenager. I still remember where the sign was placed on the wall near the check out desk. While thinking about this phrase recently I was reminded of how closely it fits with many of Jesus' words:
"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." - Matthew 10:16 "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." - Matthew 7:1-2 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." - John 13:34 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." - John 15:12
May it be that we, who bear the name of the greatest healer, would take to heart what he said, how he loved, and how he first did no harm.
I had the opportunity to be present when this message was delivered at a DG National Conference. It is one of the most memorable and most powerful messages I have ever heard. The entire message is available for free on audio and video.
If one is looking to ruffle feathers, one needs look no further than the subjects of politics or religion. If one is looking to get stones throne at them, one needs only combine the two.
I am stunned at the silence proceeding from many church leaders, denomination leaders, indeed many Christian leaders in our nation regarding some of the happenings of our day. I know that there are many bold leaders, who regularly preach the truth from pulpits that have a broad and in some cases national and international reach. Yet these leaders remain silent regarding a great many issues that are effecting our society today.
Don't get me wrong, some are starting to stand up and to speak up. But most are choosing the sidelines rather than the front lines. Bonhoeffer's words reach prophetically from his grave to our day, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
I admit that I do not know all of the details, however as I understand it, there are some rules that pertain to churches in order for them to maintain their tax exempt status. One of which is that political statements cannot be made from the pulpit. Again Metaxas' book on Bonhoeffer still rings in my ears with the sound of the nazi government of the 1930's which became very involved in what preachers could and could not say from the pulpits of Germany.
To America's preachers I make this plea: Speak up. Speak up now, while you still can. Engage your congregation in understanding the events of our time, how the Bible speaks to those events, and how that impacts us and our responsibility as followers of Christ.
Surely many people will cry "separation of church and state" when they encounter the combination of politics and religion. Yet as for me and my house, we will both cherish and use the freedoms that our country was founded on, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of religion (NOT freedom from religion).
I am a patriot, I love my country, I am proud to be an American, but I am first a follower of Christ. To the United States of America: You can keep you tax exempt status. I'm going to say what needs to be said.
Josef Tson, a Romanian follower of Christ, suffered intensely for his faith at the hands of the Romanian government. Josef shared this powerful testimony at Desiring God in 2000. He entitled this message Persecution and Christ-likeness. It is available to download for free from the Desiring God website.
This message is full of magnificent statements like, "If all of your enemies are God's instruments, why are you afraid?"
Let me encourage you not to deny yourself the tremendous blessing of listening to this excellent message.
My heart aches upon hearing the terrible news of the massacre at a Colorado movie theater. At least 12 people dead, maybe three times that many injured, and an entire country left terrorized.
A very sad fact is that this horrible incident is not an isolated one. With the bus bombing in Bulgaria recently, the school shootings that we are becoming all too familiar with, and the daily assaults of news paper headlines of shootings in our cities, it is almost as if we live in a war zone.
This dark and evil destructiveness stands in stark contrast to the words of the most famous teacher in history, "Love each other as I have loved you" and "Love your neighbor as yourself."
I sit here stunned as the news of these terrorist attacks swirl around in the media. Meanwhile the words of life hang in the atmosphere of my mind like a neon sign.
The amazing thing about the great teacher's words is that while he told us to love as he loves, he knew all the while that he would face a horrible death. He did not shy away from that terrible death specifically because of his great love for us and his powerful submission to the will of his Father. Love each other so much that you would lay your lives down for one another...
Another of his great quotes is this, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend." Not only did he teach this, he lived it, and then he died to show that it was not just words.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
- Jesus, John 13:34
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
- Paul, Galations 5:14
What would the world look like if these words were taught in our schools and our churches, displayed in our courtrooms, placed in prominent places in our cities, and adhered to by our citizens?
In stead our country, which has pushed very hard to remove God from our society, looks much more like this:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
- Jesus, John 3:19
It is rare that I agree with much of anything that a Catholic Priest has to say. However this is one of those very rare times. May there be many more who boldly speak the truth like this! God Bless America!
"it is astonishing how almost every culture has some myth of paradise lost. Now, that doesn't mean it's true, but it does mean that it's in the collective unconscious, and to say that there's no truth in it at all is to be a snob. This is my fundamental argument against atheism, by the way. If atheism is true, then the incredibly small minority of human beings - most of which are concentrated in our uprooted society - are the only ones who are wise, and everyone else is living their lives with a fundamental illusion at the center... It doesn't prove anything, but at least it ought to give you a bit of pause."
Today as our country celebrates it’s birthday this Independence Day I am considering the nature of independence. Our country prides itself in our independence both corporately and individually. While I'm grateful for our independence and freedom I cannot help but consider our absolute incapability of independence in relation to the eternal God. We are incapable to stand on our own merits before the devastatingly just Judge. Independence will not even be a thought that will pass through our minds on that great and final Day of Judgment. In fact it will be the absolute opposite of what we, who treasure Christ, will be clinging to.
Dependence Day! That will be the shout of hope echoing through the quaking halls of our hearts as we tremble in the presence of the One before whom all things are laid bare. Dependence Day will be the cry our hearts. Our only hope to stand before this great Judge is to be blameless and this we most certainly are not. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” On that dreadful day we will know beyond knowing how severely and how incredibly often we have fallen short. Though on that day we will indeed truly behold our sinfulness we, who are hidden in Christ, will also behold more clearly than ever the magnificent love of God in Christ. To see our wretchedness, as drastically displayed by His unapproachable light, will free us from every last hope in our own dependence.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name
The glory that we behold on that day will cause our hearts more to eternally love and treasure our great Savior. Oh the unspeakable love of God that will be seen in that hour as He clothes us with the very righteousness of His Son and counts not our sinfulness against us. When He clothes us with the King’s robe, though we deserve it not, we will adoringly behold and treasure His amazing mercy. As we see the scars of the Lamb of God, who was slain on our behalf, we will begin to consider for the first time the immensity of the wrath-atoning and death-shattering power of the love of God.
Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.
Independence will on that day grant severe and deserved punishment for the highly treasonous crime of exchanging the glory of God for things infinitely less valuable and eternally less glorious. Those who come to that Day of Judgment and have not the great high Priest to intercede on their behalf must face the immeasurable wrath of God in independence.
I am very grateful for our country's freedom and for those who have gone before us that paid a high price for America's independence. That said, I do not however, want to become enslaved to the God-less independence that so saturates our society.
We will celebrate today as Independence Day, but I will long for the magnificent revelations of the glory of God upon that infinitely greater Dependence Day.
The Solid Rock
My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.
Refrain: On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.
On a day not unlike today Did our court rule and say that the life of the unborn was not a life and could be torn away as if the child was a blob of flesh, though his heart did throb
Tears of pain and guilt rack the minds which were built upon the premise of choices known as self-love
The alter here is very high where the children often come to die Who will speak in their defense and who will pray to forgive the offense before our just and righteous God who gives these little ones, who now lay in sod
His is the heart that breaks each time a child is thought not to mirror the divine When eyes are formed and hearts do beat and fingers on hands with toes on feet when little people living in small wombs would lay uncovered in chilling rooms
Oh merciful and gracious Lord would you forgive, would you afford us this request before your throne for this sin too would your blood atone please forgive us Lord we plead may you grant us Lord the grace to heed your words of truth and life and save us from more sacrifice of unborn children Lord we pray would you deliver us from this tragic way
The sunrise was magnificent yesterday morning as I sat in my patrol car parked in the median. I took this photo while in the median of I-94 near the 12 mile marker. (I took a similar photo of a sunset several months ago, that photo recently was put on the cover of the Trooper magazine.) In case you're wondering, the item in the photo is the hood ornament on my patrol car.
It is good not to waste such moments. All creation displays the glory of God, as He has designed it to do so. While walking (and working) "in the valley of the shadow of death" it is nothing short of majestic to enjoy the varied displays of God's glory, which He makes of Himself in order that we may know Him more and enjoy Him more. That His light does so shine here is but a taste of the glories we will experience when we are eternally encompassed with His glory, as we live in His presence, enjoying Him and glorifying Him forever.
Again I am reminded of the famous catechism statement:
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Or as Piper put it:
The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.
Both of these statements have proved powerful in relaying truth to the inmates at the jail recently.
Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but you, and on earth there is nothing that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
How easy it is for our hearts to desire something other than the Lord. Calvin rightly said that our hearts are perpetual idol factories. When we begin to long for something more than God we are entering very dangerous territory. When the affections of our hearts long after another more than after God we have made an idol.
There remains a contrast to our idolatry prone hearts:
I believe the psalmist when he said, "on earth there is nothing that I desire besides you." I believe it is possible to have the affections of your heart laser focused upon God and Him alone. (I'm not saying that I'm doing this, but rather that I want to do this.)
When is the last time you evaluated your life and considered, "What is it that I desire that either competes with my desires for God or comes close to doing so?" (I'm asking myself this question too.)
There are an overabundance of siren songs luring us into deep danger. There are songs which are less subtle than others. There are also siren songs which are so entirely subtle that we can hardly even notice them. It seems to me that these are the ones which will claim the most victims.
These subtle songs lure their victim's into ineffectiveness, complacency, apathy, misguided contentment, and ultimately to a life lived in service of self. Siren songs such as these steal our time. They will convince you to lay down your cross because it is simply too heavy. All this in efforts to undo Jesus' instruction to take up your cross and follow Him. Almost in a perfect parallel to the deceit which took place in Eden, "Did He really say that? Is that really necessary?"
When your heart, or the sirens, are telling you something is to be desired more than He is, danger is near. This is a significant warning flag waving like crazy in the wind of your heart. Do not fall for these siren songs...
They are only illusions, only broken cisterns.
Rather combat these adulterous desires with the most powerful weapon against them: the most satisfying pleasure - God, whom the Scriptures refer to as the Fountain of Living Waters. Life is war and the battle is for the affections of your heart (and mine).
Yesterday during our family's trip to the zoo we encountered this rather large tiger.
My five year old daughter was quite nervous and would not stand next to the glass by herself. It occurred to me that although we were only a few feet from the massive animal, I was completely unconcerned for our safety. This was obviously because of the secure facility which housed the great beast.
I could not help but ponder the parallel; our lives are lived in close proximity to the treacherous enemy of our souls. 1Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Our God is our shield, our defender, and our fortress. Though daily we walk in the midst of predators we need not tremble for them. Romans 8:31b If God is for us, who can be against us?
Psalm 23:4-5 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Certainly this life affords us various experiences of suffering and trials. This is why the Psalmist uses the phrase, "the valley of the shadow of death." What a solid foundation we have in God's sovereignty over suffering. We can say with the Psalmist, "I will fear no evil, for you are with me." If He is with us, what have we to fear? There will be troubles, there will be trials, there will be dining in the presence of enemies... But He is with us. And our God is the One who can make ALL things, including suffering and tragedies, work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
I have some friends who thought they knew
The mind of God, and that their view
Of tenderness exhausted God's,
And that severity and rods
Could only be explained with blame,
To vindicate his holy name."
"So you think it was God who made
You sick?" "I think God never laid Aside the reins that lie against The neck of Satan, nor unfenced His pen to run at liberty, But only by the Lord's decree."
That he might kindly show to me
What I would be when only he
Remains in my calamity.
Unkindly he has kindly shown
That he was not my hope alone."
And finally, my servant, Job,
Can you draw down and then disrobe
Leviathan, the king of all
The sons of pride, and in his fall
Strip off his camouflage of strength,
And make him, over all the length
Of earth and heav'n, to serve the plan
Of humble righteousness? I can.
I make Leviathan my rod.
Belovèd Job, behold your God!"