Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Word and Prayer

The Christian life demands that we live in the Word of God as a fish lives in the sea. By this I do not mean that we study the Bible merely or that we take a course in Bible doctrine. I mean that we should meditate day and night in the sacred Word, that we should love it and feast upon it, digesting it every hour of the day and night. But we find the Bible difficult because we try to read it like we would read any other book, and it is not the same as any other book.

Concerning prayer, we must retire from the world each day to some private spot, even if it be only a bedroom. (For a while, I slipped away into the furnace room of my house for lack of a better place.) Then stay in the secret place until the surrounding noise begins to fade out of your heart and a sense of God's presence envelops you. Deliberately tune out the unpleasant sounds and come out of your closet determined not to hear them.

Listen for the inward Voice of the Spirit until you learn to recognize it. Stop trying to compete with others. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think. Reduce your interests to a few. Don't try to know what will be of no service to you. Avoid the digest type of mind-- shorts bits of unrelated facts, cute stories, and bright sayings. Learn to pray inwardly continually. After a while, you will do this even while you work. Practice candor and childlike honest humility. Pray for a single eye. Read less, but read more of what is important to your inner growth. Never let your mind remain scattered for very long. Call home your roving thoughts and gaze on Christ with the eye of your soul, practicing spiritual concentration.

Then fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed.

- A. W. Tozer

Friday, August 24, 2007

God's There!

In an Associated Press release today, Friday, August 24, 2007, astronomers are reporting the discovery of what is being called a “massive blank spot in the universe.” What’s got them scratching their heads is “what’s just not there. The cosmic blank spot has no stray stars, no galaxies, no sucking black holes, not even mysterious dark matter.”

We’re not talking here about a small patch of sky, but 1 billion light years across of “nothing”. According to the article, “that’s an expanse of nearly 6 billion trillion miles of emptiness.” “It looks like something to be taken seriously,” said Brent Tully, a University of Hawaii astronomer. Tully said “astronomers may eventually find a few cosmic structures in the void, but it would still be nearly empty.”

Tully goes on to explain that “holes in the universe probably occur when the gravity from areas with bigger mass pull matter from less dense areas.” Retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran said of the discovery: “This is incredibly important for something where there is nothing to it.”

Well, I’ve got some even greater and more exhilarating news for these astronomers and scientists. They’re wrong! God’s there! This “place in space” may lack for stars and black holes and galaxies and all other forms of matter but the only thing that ultimately matters is wholly and powerfully and personally present in all his glory: God! He not only fills the universe he made, but transcends it. He is everywhere in it, through it, and beyond it. The most sophisticated scientific tools may not detect his presence, but he’s there. Simply put: all space is full of God!

“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:24).

I’m no astronomer, but I’d like to bring a word of correction to these learned men. There’s no such thing as a “void” or “blank spot” or an “empty” place in space. Our great and glorious Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, fills the universe. Though bereft of meteors and moons and matter, our majestic and all-powerful God is there, and everywhere!

“How terrible should the thoughts of this attribute be to sinners,” wrote Stephen Charnock. “How foolish is it to imagine any hiding-place from the incomprehensible God, who fills and contains all things, and is present in every point of the world. When men have shut the door, and made all darkness within, to meditate or commit a crime, they cannot in the most intricate recesses be sheltered from the presence of God. If they could separate themselves from their own shadows, they could not avoid his company, or be obscured from his sight. . . . Hypocrites cannot disguise their sentiments from him; he is in the most secret nook of their hearts. No thought is hid, no lust is secret, but the eye of God beholds this, and that, and the other. He is present with our heart when we imagine, with our hands when we act. We may exclude the sun from peeping into our solitudes, but not the eyes of God from beholding our actions."

Charles Spurgeon also reminds us that “this (truth) makes it dreadful work to sin; for we offend the Almighty to His face, and commit acts of treason at the very foot of His throne. Go from Him, or flee from Him we cannot; neither by patient travel nor by hasty flight can we withdraw from the all-surrounding Deity. His mind is in our mind; Himself within ourselves. His spirit is over our spirit; our presence is ever in His presence."

Astronomers of the world, by all means scratch your heads in bewilderment and marvel at the greatness of your discovery. Applaud the achievements of science and write your scholarly accounts. But before, while, and after you do, fall prostrate before the God who fills the universe and worship, for “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).

- Sam Storms

Sunday, August 19, 2007

All God Did Was For Each of Us

What a difference it makes when we cease being general and become pointed and personal in our approach to God. Then we shall not fear the personal pronoun, but shall with the friends of God relate it to the One who gave it and claim each one for himself the Person and work of the Triune God. Then we shall see that all that God did was for each of us and then we can sing:

For me Thou didst cover Thyself with light as with a garment and stretch out the heavens like a curtain and lay the foundations of the earth. For me Thou didst appoint the moon for seasons and the sun knows his going down. For me Thou didst make every beast of the earth after its kind and every herb bearing seed and every tree in which is the fruit of the tree. For me prophets wrote and the psalmists sang. For me holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. And for me Christ died-- and the redemptive benefits of that death are by the miracle of His present life perpetuated forever, as efficacious now as on the day He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. And when He arose the third day, it was for me; and when He poured out upon the disciples the promised Holy Spirit, it was that He might continue in me the work He has been doing for me since the morning fo the creation.

Christ loved me and gave Himself for me. - The Apostle Paul

Is every word- in every line- in all the Holy Scriptures- meant for me, even me? It is to the glory of God and the honor of Christ for my heart and voice to answer, "Yes! Yes! It is all for me; He is for me- all the Father predestined is for me; all the Son accomplished and said is for me; all the blessed Spirit applies and has promised is for me!" Faith believes this and thus honors who God is and what He has done in His Son. Anything less is unbelief and dishonors the blessed triune God.

- Mack T.

O'Thou are very great
To set Thyself so far above!
But we partake of Thine estate,
Established in Thy strength and in Thy love;
That love hath made eternal room for me
In the sweet vastness of its own eternity.-- Frederick W. Faber

- A. W. Tozer

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When Christians Misunderstand Christians

2 Cor. 1.12-2.4
No one enjoys being misunderstood or having their motives called into question. We can get fairly feisty when others question our integrity in this way, especially if we know in the depths of our heart that we intended only good.

We are all by nature defensive, but there are different ways of going about vindicating our reputation or explaining our aim. All too often we react, rather than respond, and do so in anger and bitterness at those who’ve dared to express doubts about our sincerity. No one modeled godly “self-defense” more clearly and consistently than the apostle Paul, and nowhere is it seen more explicitly than in this paragraph that closes the first chapter of 2 Corinthians.

Paul had numerous enemies in Corinth, men who were determined to criticize his every move and undermine the confidence of the church in his apostolic credentials. Here in this paragraph we detect at least three accusations brought against him: (1) against his conduct in v. 12; (2) against his correspondence in vv. 13-14; and (3) against his course of travel in 1:15-2:4.

I want to skip the first two of these and focus on the third. After doing so I’ll return to this paragraph in subsequent meditations to address other matters raised by Paul that are profitable for us today.

It’s important to understand the actual sequence of events as a framework for making sense of Paul’s response to his critics.

Contrary to the accusations of his opponents, Paul's change of itinerary was not because he was fickle or unstable, far less because he cared little for the Corinthians but only for himself; indeed, he changed his plans for their sake.

Paul had hoped to visit the Corinthians twice: first, on his way to Macedonia, and second, on his way back from Macedonia (see vv. 15-16). This changed, however, when Timothy arrived in Corinth bearing the letter we know as First Corinthians and discovered how bad things were. Upon hearing of this, Paul immediately made an urgent visit to Corinth, a visit that was confrontational, as well as humiliating and bitter for him (cf. 2:1). Paul quickly returned to Ephesus and determined not to make another painful visit to Corinth. Therefore, he called off the double stop he had earlier planned. It was this alteration in his plans that opened him up to the charge of being fickle and unstable.

Paul's apparently arbitrary change of plans, they insisted, was motivated by self-interest and a lack of concern for the Corinthians themselves. He is charged with making plans like a worldly man, according to the mood of the moment (see vv. 17-18).

James Denney explains what Paul must have been feeling:

“Am I . . . in my character and conduct, like a shifty, unprincipled politician – a man who has no convictions, or no conscience about his convictions – a man who is guided, not by any higher spirit dwelling in him, but solely by considerations of selfish interest? Do I say things out of mere compliment, not meaning them? When I make promises, or announce intentions, is it always with the tacit reservation that they may be canceled if they turn out inconvenient? Do you suppose that I purposely represent myself . . . as a man who affirms and denies, makes promises and breaks them, has ‘Yes, yes, and No, no,’ dwelling side by side in his soul? You know me far better than to suppose any such thing. All my communications with you have been inconsistent with such a view of my character. As God is faithful, our word to you is not Yes and No. It is not incoherent. . . . It is entirely self-consistent” (37-38).

Here I only take note of Paul’s vigorous denial that he is a man given to vacillation and insensitive disregard for the people entrusted to his care. He’s not the sort who says “Yes” one moment, only to reverse himself on some inexplicable, self-serving whim and then declare “No”.

Paul is a man of his word, as is the God whom he loves and serves (v. 18a). The Father doesn’t assure us of some great blessing, only to withdraw it, without justification, to serve his own interests. When God makes a promise to his people, he fulfills it in Christ. This, says Paul, is the pattern and principle on which I’ve based my ministry to you Corinthians. One can almost hear him say, no doubt with great energy and passion: “How could I possibly preach to you the good news of a God who always acts with your best interests at heart and never fails to fulfill his promises, and then turn around and treat you with utter disregard by behaving in a double-minded and self-serving way?”

Of course, in the final analysis Paul cares little what they think of him so long as they put their trust wholly in Christ. It may even be that Paul is telling them here, “If you refuse to believe me, at least remember the truth and consistency of my message concerning God’s gracious work in you through his Son. You may consider me untrustworthy, but you can hardly question the veracity and fidelity of God as revealed in Jesus. And ultimately it is only with the latter that I’m concerned.”

In any case, Paul will again insist in the remainder of this paragraph (1:23-2:4) that he made his decision based on his undying love for the Corinthians, his concern for their spiritual welfare, and, above all, for the sake of their joy in Jesus (see esp. v. 24).

As I said earlier, we’ll return to these verses in a subsequent meditation, but here I want to identify several important lessons for us in the way Paul dealt with this church.

First, don't be quick to "read between the lines." Unless past indiscretions or the preponderance of evidence indicate otherwise, trust your Christian friends. Give them the benefit of the doubt when they say they are sincere (vv. 13-14).

Second, don't always look for some ulterior and sinister motive in what others do simply because things did not turn out the way you wanted them to (vv. 15-16).

Third, if someone has proven himself faithful and devoted in the past, don't be quick to believe accusations brought against him by an outsider. Be patient and give him an opportunity to explain himself. In other words, don't jump to conclusions, for it just may be the case that you are the one at fault (vv. 17,23).

Fourth, don't become frustrated or withdraw yourself from other Christians if they should prove fickle or unfaithful. Ultimately, your trust and dependence are not in them anyway, but in Christ who never fails (vv. 19-22).

Fifth, and finally, even if it means suffering unjustly and being slandered, avoid unnecessary confrontations. Don't be too quick to vindicate yourself. Be willing to endure what you don't deserve for the sake of peace in the body of Christ. The opportunity to clear your name will eventually come (v. 23).

- Sam Storms

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prayer: Dealing with our Doubts

2 Cor. 1:11

If you’ve ever had doubts about the importance and power of prayer, and yes, all of us have, this passage is for you.

Paul has just confidently declared that the God who already delivered him from a life-threatening affliction would do so yet again (v. 10). God’s purpose in Paul’s suffering had worked: he no longer looked to himself but now trusted wholly in the “God who raises the dead” (v. 9).

I can just hear some conclude from this: “Well, what then is the point of prayer? If Paul is so confident that God ‘will deliver’ (v. 10) him, it matters little, if at all, whether or not the Corinthians pray. God’s going to do what God’s going to do irrespective of their prayers for Paul or, conversely, their indifference toward him. Whatever will be, will be.”

That may well be your conclusion but I assure you it wasn’t Paul’s! No sooner has he spoken with assurance of God’s gracious intentions toward him than he enlists the intercessory prayers of the Corinthians on his behalf. What is it that Paul asks them to ask God? Undoubtedly he encourages them to ask God to do what God has declared is his desire and character to do! Does that sound odd? Perhaps, but there it is in black and white.

God will deliver us, says Paul (v. 10a). We have put our hope in him “that he will deliver us again” (v. 10b). Therefore, based on this assurance, flowing out of this confidence, we beseech you Corinthians to “help us” (v. 11a) by praying for our welfare. Verse 11 reads as follows:

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks [to God] on our behalf for the blessing granted us [by God] through the prayers of many” (v. 11).

It has been argued that the opening line of v. 11 should be rendered with a conditional force: "If you help us by your prayers," or as Murray Harris has translated, “provided you, for your part, join in helping us by your prayers for us” (160). If we follow this suggestion, and I think we should, it would serve to reinforce the emphasis Paul consistently places on prayer as a contributing factor to the success of his ministry (see below on Philemon 22; Phil. 1:19; Rom. 15:30-32).

His desire was that news of his rescue from death be the impetus for the saints in Corinth to join together in prayer on his behalf, in response to which he hoped God would deliver him yet again should similar perilous circumstances arise. If a “blessing” (ESV) or “favor” (NAS) was to be granted Paul, if his ministry was to continue with success, these believers must intercede on his behalf. And not only would he prosper as a result, God also would be glorified by the many thanksgivings that were uttered for the blessings he bestowed on Paul through prayer.

Do you see how prayer is always a win for all concerned? Look at the dynamics of intercession, how it works for the benefit of everyone involved:

The ones who pray (in this case, the Corinthians) experience the joy of being an instrument in the fulfillment of God’s purposes and delight in beholding how God works in response to their intercessory pleas (cf. Romans 10:14-15).

The one who is prayed for (in this case, the apostle Paul) experiences the joy of being delivered from peril or sustained in trial or being made the recipient of some otherwise unattainable blessing.

The one to whom prayer is offered (in every case, God) experiences the joy of being thanked, and thus glorified, for having intervened in a way that only God can in order to bless or deliver or save his people.

Thus what we read here in 2 Corinthians 1:11 is similar to the emphasis found elsewhere in Paul’s writings. On two occasions he indicated that whether or not he was released from prison may well be dependent on prayer. Although the power to set him free appeared to rest with the civil authorities, they were but instruments used of God to accomplish his purpose in Paul’s life (cf. Prov. 21:1), a purpose God had determined to fulfill by means of prayer offered on Paul’s behalf by the saints.

In his letter to Philemon, Paul wrote, “at the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you” (v. 22). The word here translated “given” means “to graciously grant a favor”. Combined with the fact that it is passive in voice indicates that Paul envisioned his physical welfare and eventual whereabouts to be ultimately in the hands of God. And it is God, Paul hoped, who had determined to act in response to the petitions of his people, specifically Philemon and his household, to secure his release.

Paul was uncertain of the outcome. He hoped to be set free, but knew that it rested with God. The civil authorities in this case were mere intermediaries who could be moved to do God’s bidding in response to the petitions of God’s people. Is it too much to say that without their prayers, Paul had no hope? Is it too much to say that had Philemon and his family not prayed that Paul may well have remained in that prison? Perhaps God had purposed to secure Paul’s release through another means should the saints have faltered in their prayers for him. Perhaps. But not to pray on that assumption would have been presumptuous and sinful on the part of Philemon and his household.

We find a similar scenario described in Philippians 1. Paul is again confident of his impending release from prison and ultimate vindication. Yet he also says, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Phil. 1:19). Paul evidently believed that God had purposed to effect his deliverance through the prayers of the Christians at Philippi and the gracious provision of the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s appeal to the Roman Christians is especially poignant:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company” (Romans 15:30-32).

The apostle was convinced that God had suspended the success of his journeys and mission on the prayers of his people. Without those prayers, Paul was at a loss. His anxiety about a threat from the unbelieving Jews in Judea was well-founded (cf. Acts 20-21). Therefore, “his request for continued prayers was not merely a tactical maneuver to engage their sympathy, but a call for help in what he knew to be a matter of life and death” (Wiles, Paul’s Intercessory Prayers, 269).

His plan to come to Rome and enjoy the fellowship of these saints was also dependent on prayer (cf. 1 Thess. 3:10-13). Important here is Paul’s statement in Romans 15:32 where he suspends his impending journey on “God’s will”. He refused to presume on God’s determinate purpose, never suggesting that he will make it to Rome whether or not they choose to pray for him. He eventually made it to Rome, although his arrival there was not in the manner he expected (see Acts 21:17-28:16). In any case, the important thing to note is that he believed in the power and importance of prayer as a means employed by God in the effectual fulfillment of his will.

Simply put, we must never presume that God will grant us apart from prayer what he has ordained to grant us only by means of prayer. We may not have the theological wisdom to fully decipher how prayer functions in relation to God’s will, but we must never cast it aside on the arrogant and unbiblical assumption that it is ultimately irrelevant to God’s purpose for us and others.

Here’s the bottom line: If we don’t ask, God doesn’t give. If God doesn’t give, people don’t receive. If people don’t receive, God won’t be thanked. Think about it. Better still, pray about it.

- Sam Storms

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Psalm 119

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalms 117; two psalms later, we find the longest in the Bible-- 119; Psalm 117 is two verses; Psalm 119 is 176 verses.

While Psalm 17 is calling the nations and all peoples to exalt God for his steadfast love and faithfulness, Psalm 119 is an extended, full-blown extravagant praise to God for one thing-- the holy Scriptures.

Commentators differ on how many of the verses directly make reference to the Scriptures; some say that the adjectives 'faithful' and 'true' are terms in the Hebrew language which directly are synonyms referring to Scripture. If that is the case, then probably 173 of the 176 verses directly speak of Scripture. For certain, 171 of the 176 verses refer to Scripture.

There are eight different words in Ps. 119 which the Psalmist uses to refer to the sacred book. These are as follows:

'law' - used 25 times 'word' - 24 times'rules' or 'ordinances' - 23'testimonies' - 23'commandments' - 22'statutes' - 21'precepts' - 21'promises' - 19

So the Psalmist has numerous ways of describing holy Scripture to celebrate his love and passion for the Word.

A. W. Tozer reveals that God himself is mentioned in various ways 287 times in the psalm, the Word itself is mentioned 174 times, and the personal pronouns 'I, me, my, and mine' are mentioned 281 times. So, as James M. Boice says, "Here we see God & David & the Word walking together in this Psalm 119."

Some interesting history on this amazing Psalm.

In his Treasury of David, C. H. Spurgeon devotes 349 pages to this one psalm.

In his marvelous devotionally rich commentary on this psalm, Charles Bridges gives 481 pages.

And the Puritan Thomas Manton has 3 volumes on the 119th alone, each 500-600 pages, 1677 pages total.

David Livingstone, pioneer explorer and missionary in Africa, was awarded a Bible by his Sunday school teacher for quoting this psalm. He was 9 years old.

William Wilberforce, the British statesman who was used to help abolish slavery in Britain, wrote in his diary in 1819: "Walked today from Hyde Park Corner, repeating the 119th Psalm with great comfort."

Henry Martyn, pioneer missionary to India, in the midst of great stresses and work load, as an adult, memorized this psalm, in the midst of translating the Bible into an Indian dialect.

The fullness of Psalm 119 reminds one of the greater fullness and richness of the entire body of Scripture. Consider these thoughts:

- The Bible is an inexhaustible fountain of all truth. The existence of the Bible is the greatest blessing which humanity ever received. Imanuel Kant

- The Bible transcends all our catagories and increasingly supplies our finite minds from its infinite store of treasures."D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

- I have made a covenant with God that He send me neither dreams, visions, or even angels, for I am well satisfied with the gift of Holy Scripture, which gives me all I need for both this life and that which is to come. Martin Luther

- The Word is an ocean without bottom or banks. Thomas Manton

- In Scripture, every little daisy is a meadow. Martin Luther

- One gem from this ocean is worth all the pebbles from earthly streams. Robert M. M'Cheyne

- In the divine Scriptures, there are shallows where the lamb may swim and depths were the elephant can swim. John Owen

- There's a fullness in all Scripture far beyond our highest conception. J. C. Ryle

- No one ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years. C. H. Spurgeon

- All the knowledge you want or need is in one book- the Bible. John Wesley

- If when I get to heaven, the Lord says, 'Spurgeon, I want you to preach for all eternity', I will reply, 'Lord, give me a Bible; that is all I need.'

- There are no experts on the Bible, only disciples and learners. Mack Tomlinson

This all expresses how I feel about Psalm 119; he who would memorize it, master it, know it, pray it, experience it, would know grace he or she has never known. If one lived in Psalm 119 for a while, it would yield rich dividends. Psalm 119- exceeding riches

- Mack T.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Thy Will be Done

My times are in Thy hand,Lord, I would have it so;Though I may wavering stand,And hesitate to goAlong the path that ThouHast surely marked for me;Not knowing how or whyThis way is best for me.

"My ways are not your ways,"Thy people Thou hast taught;Thy Word most clearly says:"My thoughts are not your thoughts."Nor can Thy plans be readBy minds which are finite.

Thou knowest best the need,With Thee alone is light.The clouds that gather doBut veil Thy purpose right;The mists which hide from view,And wrap us round as nightCan never separateThy people from their God;His love He'll never takeFrom those He bought with blood.

So in the darkest hourHe comes yet nearer still,To show His wondrous power,With peace the heart to fill.Our trembling hand to takeAnd lead us on our wayAlong the path to makeNew light from day to day.

O Lord, increase our faith,Shall be our daily prayer;To trust in Him who saith,'I will your burdens bear';To walk with Him belowTill He shall bid us come,Him then more fully know,And hear Him say, "Well Done."

- Vida Elsey, 1933

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed

At about 6 PM tonight 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 gentlyAnd 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,

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

- John Piper

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A Prayer of John Wesley's

A Prayer of John Wesley's that was posted in his bedroom in London during his life and is still written there today

I am not my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
Rank me with whom you will,
Put me to doing -- put me to suffering,
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,
Let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.


Dare we pray this way? Perhaps this is part of the reason why the early Methodists were used of God the way they were-- sold out, surrendered, all out, counting all things loss, caring not for this world's goods or possessions, and withholding nothing from the Master. May God give us grace to follow in their path.

- Mack T.