Monday, February 24, 2014

In the Storm


[Photo of the Painting of the sinking of PT-109]

 “In 1943, John F. Kennedy was the 26-year old skipper of
PT-109. As the PT-109 was prowling the waters late at night a Japanese destroyer suddenly emerged and in an instant, cut Kennedy’s craft in half. Two of his 12 member crew were killed
instantly and two others badly injured.

“The survivors clung to the drifting bow for hours. At daybreak, they embarked on a 3.5 miles (6 kilometers) swim to the tiny deserted Plum Pudding Island. They placed their lantern, and non-swimmers on one of the timbers used as a gun mount and began kicking together to propel it. Braving the danger of sharks and crocodiles they reached their destination in five hours.

“After two days on the small island without food and water, Kennedy realized they needed to swim to a larger island, Olasana, if they were to survive. Kennedy and his men were found and rescued by scouts after surviving six days on coconuts.”

Adrift in a storm—imagine! Not a soul for miles around on whom to call. While most of us have not been through the kind of real-life shipwreck that John F. Kennedy survived, nevertheless, we may go through troubles in life that seem as life-threatening and very frightening.

We automatically look for help from others when our life falls apart. Whether it’s the Coast Guard, or the paramedics and doctors, friends with “connections,” or a counselor, we want assistance quickly.

When we pray, we expect God to answer at least using the latest medical procedures, or the best expertise in whatever area in which we suffer. And, usually God does work using the ordinary means of our world.

But, as the Puritan writer, Thomas Lye wrote in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689:

“An Almighty God can work without means. God often brings his people into such a condition that they do not know what to do. He does this that they might know what he can do. God is with his people at all times, but he is most sweetly with them in the worst of times.”

In your desperate prayers for your own shipwrecks, and those shipwrecks of people you love, never disparage God’s ability to work in your behalf through His own powerful means. And to Him be the glory!


1 from “10 Incredible Real Life Castaway Tales” on, October 6, 2008



Monday, February 17, 2014



[Photo of a small child covered in spaghetti]

 “But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
 —Psalm 131:2

Tantrums, hot tears, and screams—all the things babies know instinctively that will annoy and exasperate their mothers. These behaviors come as demands for one’s own way, for selfish, even narcissistic challenges to a parent’s authority.

I suppose God has pretty good reason to use the picture of a baby for new believers. Through the Scripture writer, he says to immature Christians in Hebrews 5:12:

“…though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”

This writer wisely exhorts these Christians to move on to maturity.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul urges the Philippians to learn, like he has, to be content in all circumstances. He writes in Philippians 4:12:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Babies “learn” to put off the gratification for milk. They learn to eat other foods, some that likely taste very peculiar to them, but nonetheless fill them with nutrients they need. Sometimes these trials come with spitting and tears, and show the difficulty such a process involves. We do much the same in our own spiritual lives.

At first, Christ allows us the wonder and constant joy of the new life in Him. Later, however, when the tasty milk of our first days gets replaced with waiting for answered prayer, we cry out. When trials we didn’t expect God would allow to affect His “little dear” try our patience and bring more questions than answers, we spit and throw things, and generally show our immaturity in the faith.

Sometimes, we need to take inventory. The verse at the beginning of this blog post from Psalm 131 calls us to examine our growth in Christ.

Do we still throw tantrums, pout and refuse to obey when God brings us through a “weaning process”? Or, have we “learned” to be content, to enjoy knowing that our Heavenly Parent has tasty new ways for us to grow?

God needs us to calm ourselves in His presence and accept His love for us like the grownups we should be!



Monday, February 10, 2014



[Photo of a guardian angel]

 “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent
to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
 —Hebrews 1:14

Unidentified Flying Objects? Angels! Maybe, to be more precise, we should call them IFOs—Invisible Flying Objects. More than “objects,” God created them a little higher than human beings to live and do the will of our God.

So often, we see people with angel pins on their lapels, or “Guardian Angels” hanging from their rear view mirrors or in some other place of honor. Some people “collect” angels. Some people who sport these representations of angels believe that by displaying these images these “angels” somehow magically will protect them. Because of this false belief, many Christians like me have shied away from considering the truth about these magnificent heavenly beings.

When I started looking, I found many more references to angels in Scripture than I would have ever guessed. For a deeper study of the subject, I would recommend Billy Graham’s book, Angels: God’s Secret Agents.

The Bible speaks of angels who deliver messages from God, like those who proclaimed the message to the Christmas shepherds. It also speaks of those who have come to strengthen weak servants of God, like Elisha. And, Hebrews 13:2 speaks of those angels who shed their invisibility to come in human form when we are unaware of them.

These reports of heavenly beings certainly can comfort us when we need to feel the presence of God in a difficult or desperate situation.

“Ministering spirits” defines the purpose for which God uses angels in the lives of His people. They protect and defend, stir and excite us to duty, and they comfort and encourage.

However, the image I love most comes from Psalm 34:7:

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

He “pitches his tent” and determines to stay awhile with us! He “occupies” the territory in which we dwell against the enemy. These mighty beings will stay throughout the duration of the battle and see us through it.

God has decreed to send us this kind of personal ministration when we most need it. No, God doesn’t instruct us to pray to angels, or direct them to do our bidding. God does that for us, commanding His own “heavenly hosts”—thousands and thousands of angels to minister to and keep vigilance over His people, as recorded in Revelation 5.

I hope you feel encouraged by knowing these heavenly beings exist. God has them at His own right hand and will dispatch them quickly, powerfully, and lovingly when we need them. Praise Him for His loving and wise care!



Monday, February 3, 2014

Fix Your Eyes


[Photo of roaring lions]

 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the
author and perfecter of our faith.”
 —Hebrews 12:2
 “…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’”
 —Hebrews 13:6

The word “fear” occurs more than 300 times in the Bible. That tells me that this human emotion presents itself to us, even Christians, with some frequency. But how do we live with such a domineering character who seemingly vies to crush our joy and ship-wreck our daily walk with God?

Some of us quite naturally have more trouble with fear than others. The Enemy of our souls will constantly throw us into terror and even rule us through his use of this emotion.

In Hannah Hurnard’s classic allegory Hinds’ Feet on High Places, the main character has the name, “Much-Afraid,” and comes from a family of Fearing relatives, including a cousin who constantly dogged her steps, “Craven Fear.”

This theme also appears in another allegory, the journey of Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Pilgrim sets out on his pilgrimage from the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City.” Soon it becomes dark and he is led to the “Hill of Difficulty” on which sits a “Porter’s Lodge” for the purpose of refreshing pilgrims on their way.

However, as Pilgrim trudges upward, he sees two lions in the way. Struck with fear, he stops. As the Porter from the Lodge watches him, it appears Pilgrim—now a Christian—will turn and retreat.

The Porter calls out to him, “Is thy strength so small? Fear not the Lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none. Keep in the midst of the Path, and no hurt shall come unto thee.” 1

The comfort of hearing the Porter’s voice, and the assurance of safety, gives Christian the focus he needs to keep on the path and to overcome his fear.

In like manner, when we find ourselves in the midst of trouble, when we see nothing but danger all around, we need the comfort of hearing our Savior’s voice telling us to not be afraid.

God, our God, remains Sovereign over all things, and has vowed to care for us and watch us all our journey through. How can we stay on the path without fainting? By remembering His words to us from the Scriptures.

If you are going through a terrifying time in your life, or just have constantly recurring fears, learn to keep the Word of God close by. Memorize scripture verses that give you courage and confidence. And, keep your eyes focused on Jesus. He watches you as the friendly Porter and will guide you to a place of safety and security with Him.

Keep on the path. The lions are chained!


1 from The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, in The Harvard Classics, pg.49.