Unbroken: A World War II Story About God’s Sovereign and Unrelenting Grace

Last night I finished reading Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. I picked up the paperback edition several years ago on a whim, but only got around to reading it just now.

zamp 2

I wish I had read it earlier.

It is a deeply moving, extraordinary testament to God’s amazing grace in the life of Olympic runner and war-survivor Louie Zamperini.

Some would have you believe it is otherwise. Some would have you think it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, another testimony in a long line of witnesses proclaiming the indomitable power of will and determination.

Don’t believe them.

It is instead evidence of the stubborn, insuperable, tenacious, and sovereign grace of God that sustains a man through horrific suffering and overcomes a man filled with anger, bitterness, and revenge.

On a May afternoon in 1943, while on a search and rescue mission, Louie’s plane, the Green Hornet, suddenly crashed into the Pacific. For 47 days in a life raft, he was attacked by sharks, strafed by enemy aircraft, and battered by storms. He drifted 2,000 miles west only to be captured by the Japanese Navy near the Marshall Islands. For the next two years, he endured physical and mental suffering at the hands of Japanese POW camps that were difficult to read about. I cannot even begin to comprehend the horror of experiencing it. He endured disease, starvation, and excessively brutal beatings from guards. On three occasions, Louie was injected and used as a guinea pig for medical experiments. One Japanese named Mutsuhiro Watanabe took particular joy in hurting him. He would hunt Louie down, accuse him of imaginary infractions, and wildly attack him. Louie would try and hide in groups of men but it did no good. Watanabe, also known as “The Bird” would find him and beat him. On another occasion the Bird had Zamperini, along with a few other men, stand before the group of POW’s and punch them in the face as hard as they could. There were two hundred and twenty punches. The beating went on for two hours. Louie’s face was so swollen that for several days he could barely open his mouth.

Needless to say, when rescued and back home, Zamperini suffered greatly from nightmares. Every night he would see the Bird in his dreams. He seethed with anger and longed for vengeance. He began drinking heavily to try to deal with all of it.

One night, because of the prompting of his wife, he attended a crusade led by evangelist Billy Graham. Angered by the message, he reached the aisle but then stopped. He suddenly remembered being on the raft again and a promise that he had uttered to God, “If you will save me, I will serve you forever.” With that, he turned toward Graham and received Jesus Christ as his Savior from sin.

By his own testimony, since that night he has not once had a nightmare about the Bird. He gave up drinking. Instead of seething with anger, he was filled with peace and compassion and incorrigible joy. In the Fall of 1950, he returned to Japan, not for zamperin 1vengeance, but to tell his Japanese captors about God’s forgiveness. At SugamoPrison he compassionately addressed 850 Japanese war criminals with the message of Jesus Christ. Laura Hillenbrand writes, “Louie was seized by childlike, giddy exuberance. Before he realized what he was doing, he was bounding down the aisle. In bewilderment, the men who had abused him watched him come to them, his hands extended, a radiant smile on his face” (Unbroken, 387).

Summing up the life of Louie post-conversion Hillenbrand writes, “He remained infectiously, incorrigibly cheerful. He once told a friend that the last time he could remember being angry was some forty years before. His conviction that everything happened for a reason, and would come to good, gave him a laughing equanimity even in hard times” (Broken, 392).

Did you catch that?

Why is Zamperini cheerful and free from anger?

What has become his conviction?

“…that everything happened for a reason, and would come to good…”

In an interview with pastor Greg Laurie he says, “If it hadn’t been for the war or Watanabe and the post-traumatic stress, that’s what drove me to Christ. I mean, when I got on my knees and accepted Christ, what a relief to know that I had passed from one life to another.”

Wow! Wow! Wow!

This is not a story about the triumph of the human will.

Thzamperiniis is a story of the triumph of God’s amazing grace that sustains us through our darkest days and overcomes our deepest sins. This is a story about God’s relentless, driving, grace. I think I feel a Charles Spurgeon quote coming on, ““I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

 

 

The Three Wonders of Heaven

C.H. Spurgeon:

You remember the story of the three wonders in heaven. The first wonder was, that we should see so many there we did not expect to see there; the second was, that we should miss so many we did expect to see there; but the third wonder would be the greatest wonder of all,—to see ourselves there.

 

Read More! 

Election and Evangelism

“People often argue that this doctrine of divine election and choice leaves no place for evangelism, for preaching the gospel, for urging people to repent and to believe, and for the use of arguments and persuasions in doing so. But there is no contradiction here any more than there is in saying that since it is God that gives us the crops of corn in the autumn, therefore the farmer need not plough and harrow and sow; the answer to which is that God has ordained both. God has chosen to call out His people by means of evangelism and the preaching of the Word. He ordains the means as well as the end.”

~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Ephesians – God’s Ultimate Purpose)

A Few Words About Grace

In preparing for Sunday I came across this gem at the end of Newell’s commentary on Romans 6:

1. Grace is God acting freely, according to His own nature as Love; with no promises or obligations to fulfill; and acting of course, righteously—in view of the cross.

2. Grace, therefore, is uncaused in the recipient: its cause lies wholly in the GIVER, in GOD.

3. Grace, also is sovereign. Not having debts to pay, or fulfilled conditions on man’s part to wait for, it can act toward whom, and how, it pleases. It can, and does, often, place the worst deservers in the highest favors.

4. Grace cannot act where there is either desert or ability: Grace does not help—it is absolute, it does all.

5. There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His Grace.

6. The discovery by the creature that he is truly the object of Divine grace, works the utmost humility: for the receiver of grace is brought to know his own absolute unworthiness, and his complete inability to attain worthiness: yet he finds himself blessed,—on another principle, outside of himself!

7. Therefore, flesh has no place in the plan of Grace. This is the great reason why Grace is hated by the proud natural mind of man. But for this very reason, the true believer rejoices! For he knows that “in him, that is, in his flesh, is no good thing”; and yet he finds God glad to bless him, just as he is!

Weekend Roundup: Seven Articles for Your Musings

How Far You Can Travel From New York City in a Day: This is a fascinating article with a really neat info-graphic. Here is opening paragraph – “Before directions provided by Google Maps, the interstate highway system, cars, the transcontinental railroad, and the Erie Canal, a traveler in New York City could expect to spend a whole day and night traveling over what a suburban commuter now does in an hour.”

Six Ways to Look Godly While not Growing your Faith in 2014: I found the 3rd one very convicting. The 6th one also as I have a growing bookshelf of unread books!

Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books: As Solomon warned, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12). There is no way to read everything, and not everything deserves to be read. I say that in order to confront the notion that anyone, anywhere, can master all that could be read with profit. Also includes six initial suggestions.

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate at the Creation Museum: Believe me, if you live anywhere near this you don’t want to miss it! The agreed upon topic is “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s scientific era?” Ken Ham says “I hope to show My. Nye and our debate audience that observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution.”

The Four P’s of Faithful Bible Reading: Bible reading is crucial to one’s spiritual health and growth yet the discipline of Bible reading does not come easily. Also, sometimes we fall into our bible reading as a checklist. These four p’s are quite helpful.

Grace Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far: Did you know that Newton’s most famous hymn “Amazing Grace” was first unveiled in his church on New Year’s day (1773), and it’s a reflection on the new year: a look back on his past deliverances, a look around on his present deliverances, and a look forward to his future deliverances in Christ.

Interpret the Bible: Want to understand the Bible better? Here are some superb articles from this month’s edition of Tabletalk to help you. 

A New Year Prayer

O Lord,

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me grace that precedes,

     follows,

     guides,

     sustains,

     sanctifies,

     aids every hour,

          that I may not be one moment apart from thee, but may rely on thy Spirit

               to supply every thought,

               speak in every word,

               direct every step,

               prosper every work,

               build up every mote of faith, and give me a desire

                    to show forth thy praise;

                    testify thy love,

                    advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,

     with thee, O Father, as my harbour,

     thee, O Son, at my helm,

     thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,

     my lamp burning,

     my ear open to thy calls,

     my heart full of love,

     my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,

     thy comforts to cheer,

     thy wisdom to teach,

     thy right hand to guide,

     thy counsel to instruct,

     thy law to judge,

     thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe, thy triumphs my joy.

– The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Weekend Roundup: Seven Articles for your Musings

Megyn Kelly, Santa, St. Nicolas, and Jesus: Jesus was not white and neither was the real St. Nicolas!

Grace for Our Weakness and Need: I have been thinking a lot about grace lately because I have been preaching through Romans 5 and 6. The opening paragraph begins with “God’s grace is not only sufficient for our salvation, but for every step on our road of sanctification and growth in holiness.” The article then provides a list of ways we may need God’s grace. “What about you? What weaknesses and needs are you aware of in your life for which you need God’s grace? When we humble ourselves before the Lord, and others, “the God of all grace” gives to us a “greater grace” (1 Peter 5:6-10).”

The Resume of the People of God: The Church as a Community of Grace Sharers: Just two weeks ago I laid a similar case before my own church body in seeking to cast a vision for all Christians to be disciple-making wherever, whenever, and to whomever. There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom. We’re all in it together. We are all engaged in the same conflict and struggle. Each person is a gift from Christ, possesses spiritual gifts, and needs training not merely to maintain current programs but to open up new areas of ministry.

Dealing with Holiday Loneliness: We all that Thanksgiving and Christmas are for some of us the loneliest times of the year. In this article Shannon Kay McCoy tells us, “Loneliness is not an experience to shun or despise. It is a very real emotion that God uses for good in our lives. The purpose of loneliness is to draw us to God and to others in a godly way.”

Rethinking Santa: Should parents allow their children to believe Santa Claus is bringing them gifts on Christmas? Click the link to read or hear how pastor John Piper answers this question. I loved it!

A humorous rebuke from Rhett and Link: For some humor with an important point watch this 3 minute video called “Get Off the Phone.”

Evernote Owns Me: Never heard of Evernote? I first did about a year ago and immediately fell in love. It is an incredible tool for indexing any kind of information and the best thing about it is it is accessible from anywhere!