Archive for May, 2011

Victor Frankl endured imprisonment at Auschwitz and three additional Nazi death camps from 1942-45. He had studied how humans act and behaved for years.  He continued doing this even while in the concentration camps as prisoner.  He learned that what really made the difference between those who survived and those who didn’t was not simply physical strength or wellness.  What marked the difference was HOPE!  Those who held on to hope, to something beyond the barbed wire. They kept looking forward to something, believing that they were going home and carrying on with life one day–somehow.

Frankl wrote of his experiences in  Man’s Search for Meaning:

He wrote about it in Man’s Search for Meaning:

The prisoner who had lost faith in the future—his future—was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate.… Usually it began with the prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving. If this crisis was brought about by an illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay or to do anything to help himself. He simply gave up. There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him any more

Without hope, people plunge from discouragement to depression to despair. With hope, with a belief, that there is something better in the future, men can hold on in the most de-humanizing of all circumstances.

As Christians we have hope–hope not only in this world that God is with us no matter what but also hope in an eternal reward.

That hope beams brightly in Isaiah 40:30-31.  Believe it today if you are in Christ.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. ” (Isaiah 40:30–31, ESV)

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Kevin relays a definition of good parenting and a picture of bad parenting here.

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Is heaven quiet?

Ray Ortlund:

In Revelation 14:2 the apostle John tries to describe the sound of heaven, as he heard it in his vision:

“And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder.  The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.”

Three times John uses “like” to describe the sound of heaven.  It was like, first, the roar of rushing waters.  Niagara Falls.  Sustained intensity.  It was like, secondly, a loud peal of thunder.  Kaboom!  Dramatic percussion.  It was like, thirdly, harpists playing their harps.  Tender loveliness.  And the sound of heaven was/is all three sounds mingled together as one.

We have never heard such a sound.  We do know what a waterfall sounds like, what a thunderclap sounds like, even what an orchestra of harpists might sound like.  So the similes work.  But we have never heard it all mixed together into one coherent, simultaneous whole.  Someday we will hear it.  Someday we will be a part of it, as we sing a new song before the throne (Revelation 14:3).

We will become capable of sustained intensity, dramatic percussion and tender loveliness, all at once, forever, as the celebration of God’s glory pours out of us.

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Here’s a post worth reading: a lesson from one of our military units that applies so well to our mission as Christians

The United States military has entire units devoted exclusively to saving lost soldiers downed in hostile territory. The USAF pararescue forces have one stated mission: rescue. As a believer and a missionary, I am inspired by their motto: “It is my duty to save life and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duty quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, that others may live.” Lt. Col. Dale Zelko lives today because of such rescue forces.

In 1999, when Serbian-Albanian tensions in Kosovo climaxed to a trigger point, madman Slobodan Milosevic and his military commenced a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide, creating the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Muslim Albanians from Kosovo flooded into Albania Proper at an astonishing rate. The Kosovars would tell us horrific accounts of rape, torture and mass murder–stories I would not have believed if the stories were not so abundant.
Above the city of Pejë, a Kosovar told me about his daughter’s psychosis after a Serbian paramilitary entered her village home, peered into a pot of stew, and asked the young mother why there was no meat in the pot. “We are too poor for meat,” she mumbled. So he cut off her newborn’s head and plunged it into the stew. “There, now your stew has meat,” he said to the screams of the mother.
Then he raped her and left.
Shortly after the conflict, a local journalist friend of mine interviewed a Serbian paramilitary for a British news outlet. He called me afterward and said, “Pray for me, I have just spent five hours with the devil himself.” He told me how the Serbs had supplied drugs to their henchmen to deaden consciences and foment cruelty. These were the realities pouring out of Kosovo as NATO and President Clinton began bombing Belgrade to halt this horror (and as many on the political right were accusing Clinton of merely trying to divert public attention from his personal scandals).
On Saturday, March 27, 1999, four days after the bombing began, many Americans were watching Duke beat Michigan State in the Final Four to advance to the Championship game against UConn. Breaking news cut in to report the first American casualty in Kosovo: an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter had gone down–the first one ever to be lost in combat (the Serbs would later taunt, “Sorry, we didn’t know it was supposed to be invisible”). The pilot’s condition and whereabouts were unknown. While many were partying for Duke, others were praying for the pilot.
The next morning we were greeted by the thrilling news that he had been rescued. Years later, the pilot, Lt. Col. Dale Zelko, described the ordeal. Seeing two missiles punch through a lower level of clouds he thought, “they’ve got me” and “this is really, really, really bad.” A missile slammed the aircraft “into an uncontrolled, left roll, negative G tuck.” Pressed to the top of his cockpit and fighting a violent force of over seven negative Gs, he stretched and strained to get his fingertips around the eject handle. Though he remembers every detail, he still cannot recall getting his hands around that handle and testifies, “there is no doubt in my mind that I had some help with that.”
After he successfully ejected, he radioed his whereabouts and began preparing for the eventualities of both rescue and capture. After several hours of drama, as eighty Serbian troops and police were closing in, he was hoisted to safety by special rescue forces.
“That others might live.” Christ died so that others may live and calls us to a life of sacrifice so that others may live. Our overarching purpose now and forevermore is to glorify God; but our specific mission on earth is to make disciples. Do we place our this mission “before personal desires and comforts”? Do we even care?

From “That Others May Live”

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First, a word of deep appreciation to all of those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice in dying for the freedom that we enjoy today in our country, the United States of America.  I also want to express my growing admiration, respect, and gratitude for those who have served or are serving in our military today.  Learning more about what those in the military go through to prepare and what they do every day of service humbles me.  I thank the Lord for all of you.

Today we especially honor those who have died while serving in our military.  Among other things it is a reminder that we are going to all die one day.  We will all have a funeral. . . unless the Lord returns first.

So here are some timely words for us all as we prepare for our funeral one day J.C. Ryle reflects on death and what makes you a true believer:

When we have carried you to your narrow bed, let us not have to hunt up stray words, and scraps of religion, in order to make out that you were a true believer. Let us not have to say in a hesitating way one to another, “I trust he is happy; he talked so nicely one day; and he seemed so please with a chapter in the Bible on anther occasion; and he liked such a person, who is a good man.” Let us be able to speak decidedly as to your condition. Let us have some solid proof of your repentance, your faith, and your holiness, so that none shall be able for a moment to question your state.

Depend on it, without this, those you leave behind can feel no solid comfort about your soul. We may use the form of religion at your burial, and express charitable hopes. We may meet you at the churchyard gate, and say, “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.” But this will not alter your condition! If you die without conversion to God, without repentance, and without faith–your funeral will only be the funeral of a lost soul; you had better never have been born. (Holiness, 228-229)

(HT for quote:  Kevin DeYoung)

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The book of Isaiah starts off with God indicting the nation of Israel for her sin.  Isaiah 1:2-9 is a lament that decries God’s people’s disregard for righteousness and brings conviction to their souls.  What is conviction of sin.  Appreciated this descriptive paragraph:

“Conviction of sin is the lance of the divine Surgeon piercing the infected soul, releasing the pressure, letting the infection pour out. Conviction of sin is a health-giving injury. Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit being kind to us by confronting us with the light we don’t want to see and the truth we’re afraid to admit and the guilt we prefer to ignore. Conviction of sin is the severe love of God overruling our compulsive dishonesty, our willful blindness, our favorite excuses. Conviction of sin is the violent sweetness of God opposing the sins lying comfortably undisturbed in our lives. Conviction of sin is the merciful God declaring war on the false peace we settle for. Conviction of sin is our escape from malaise to joy, from attending church to worship, from faking it to authenticity. Conviction of sin, with the forgiveness of Jesus pouring over our wounds, is life.”

–Ray Ortlund, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, p. 26

Where are you experiencing God’s conviction of sin in your life currently? Let conviction lead you to Christ and gospel truth!

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O God, to us show mercy and bless us in Thy grace;
Cause Thou to shine upon us the brightness of Thy face;
That so Thy way most holy on earth may soon be known,
And unto every people Thy saving grace be shown.

O God, let all men praise Thee, let all the nations sing;
In every land let praises and songs of gladness ring;
For Thou shalt judge the people in truth and righteousness,
And through the earth the nations shall Thy just rule confess.

O God, let people praise Thee, let all the nations sing,
For earth in rich abundance to us her fruit shall bring.
The Lord our God shall bless us, our God shall blessing send,
And all the earth shall fear him to its remotest end.

O God, To Us Show Mercy. The Psalter, 1912.

(HT: Mark Here I Blog)

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I am preaching today on the dramatic account of Jesus casting out a demon from a hopeless boy whose helpless father says, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”  Coming across this quote this week reinforces the truth from that story:

Through his heavenly reign, with the Spirit leading the ground war, Jesus Christ loots Satan’s kingdom and sets the prisoners free. — Michael Horton,The Christian Faith(Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2011), 532

I need to remember that I have nothing to complain about today.  How about you?

“As long as a man is alive & out of hell, he cannot have any cause to complain.” -Charles Spurgeon

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“. . . great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ” (Titus 2:13–14, ESV)

The New Testament scholar Everett F. Harrison wrote,

No word in the Christian vocabulary deserves to be held more precious than Redeemer, for even more than Savior it reminds the child of God that his salvation has been purchased at a great and personal cost, for the Lord has given himself for our sins in order to deliver us from them. (Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984), p. 919.

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A few weeks ago Carolyn McCulley met Karyn Heath at a conference. As she spoke to Karyn about her job caring for people with Alzheimer’s, Carolyn immediately asked her to write a guest post for her blog. This is necessary reading for all those who fear the future and those who are dealing with this disease right now. 

I really think you should read this whole post. Here’s one paragraph.

I believe that we fail to see the fullest scope of God’s plan when we do not actively encourage one another to think rightly about God’s sovereignty over the last days of our lives.  Perhaps, I exaggerate, but it seems that we envision that each godly Christian is entitled the perfect death scenario. We want be in our right minds, surrounded by loving family and friends in graceful dignity or otherwise slip away to heaven gently in our sleep. An extended illness we might face with fortitude, but certainly not one that might steal away our memories or personalities on its way.  Yet in the very loss of self that terrifies us when facing Alzheimer’s or similar diseases is there not an unparalleled opportunity for seeing the transforming power of the Gospel?

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