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.”

 

 

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)

The Infinite Ocean of Christ’s Love!

I know this is a little long for a blog post but I strongly encourage you to take the few extra minutes to read it. I promise you it will be worth it for it speaks of the “love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).

Octavius Winslow’s – “The Emotion of Love in Christ.”

The mind has often been sensible of a feeling 
of awe as we have stood upon the shore, and 
gazed upon the vast expanse of the ocean. 
With a similar, yet far transcending emotion, 
we approach the infinite ocean of Christ’s love! 

Like the eternity of God, we cannot fathom 
where His love begins, or where it terminates. 

There is no other solution to the marvellous 
mysteries of His Incarnation and Sacrificial 
Death but this: Christ has loved us. 

Love originated all, explains all, illustrates all. 

Love is the interpreter of every Divine mystery. 

There is not a circumstance of our Lord’s history 
which is not another form or manifestation of love. 
His incarnation is love stooping. 
His sympathy is love weeping. 
His compassion is love supporting. 
His grace is love acting. 
His teaching is the voice of love. 
His silence is the repose of love. 
His patience is the restraint of love. 
His obedience is the labor of love. 
His suffering is the travail of love. 
His cross is the altar of love. 
His death is the burnt offering of love. 
His resurrection is the triumph of love. 
His ascension into heaven is the enthronement of love. 
His sitting down at the right hand of God is the intercession of love. 

Such is the deep, the vast, the boundless ocean 
of Christ’s love! The soul muses in silent awe as 
it gazes upon this fathomless, limitless sea! 

Nothing short of a divine love could or would have 
borne our sins, and the punishment of our sins. 
The weight of the one, and the terribleness of the 
other, would have crushed and annihilated a mere 
‘created’ affection. There existed no love but the 
love of Jesus equal to the work of salvation. 

Who was willing, who was able, to bear that heavy 
load, to endure that overwhelming curse, but Jesus? 

Oh, think, beloved reader, what the love 
of Christ has done and suffered for you…. 
the burden it bore, 
the sorrow it felt, 
the humiliation it underwent, 
the insults, 
the ignominy, 
the privation through which it traveled; 
its groans, 
its sighs, 
its tears, 
its darkness, 
how inconceivably it agonized, 
how freely it bled, 
how voluntarily it died, 
the sins it has pardoned, 
the guilt it has cleansed, 
the declensions it has restored, 
the backslidings it has healed, 
the sorrows it has soothed, 
the patience it has exercised, 
the gentleness it has exhibited, 
and then ask, could any other but the love of 
Jesus have done all this, and endured all this? 

Such is the love of Christ! 

To have saved us upon such terms… 
a stoop so low, 
a humiliation so profound, 
a labor so immense, 
mental anguish so acute, 
bodily suffering so agonizing, 
a death so ignominious… 
Was ever love like this? 

Was it ever equaled? Where shall we find its parallel? 

Love less divine, less strong, less gentle, could 
never have won your heart, uprooted your enmity, 
tore you from your idols; enthroning Christ, all of 
Christ, Christ only, Christ supremely, Christ forever! 

The love of Christ will be the wonder, the study, and 
the song of all pure, holy intelligences through eternity! 

Beloved, nothing shall take the love of Christ from you, 
or separate you from it. It does not ebb with the ebbing 
of your feelings; it does not chill with the chill of your 
affections; it does not change with the changing scenes 
and circumstances of your life. 

The love of Christ has depths we cannot sound, 
heights we cannot explore, an infinite fulness and 
freeness tiding over all the sins, infirmities, and 
sorrows of its blessed and favored objects. 

Seek to know this love of Christ, though it is so vast 
that it ‘passes knowledge.’ Infinite though it is, you 
may experience its reality, taste its sweetness, and be 
influenced by its all commanding, all constraining power. 

Do not limit your heart experience of Christ’s love, for 
it is infinite in its nature, and boundless in its extent. 

As yet, how many of us stand but upon the shore 
of this ocean! How little do we know, experimentally, 
of the love of Christ in our souls! 

Bring your heart with…. 
its profoundest emptiness, 
its most startling discovery of sin, 
its lowest frame, 
its deepest sorrow, and 
sink it into the depths of the Savior’s love! 

That infinite sea will flow over all, erase all, 
absorb all, and your soul shall swim and sport 
amid its gentle waves, exclaiming in your joy 
and transport, "Oh, the depths!" 

The Lord direct your heart into the love of God! 
Just as it is… 
hard, 
cold, 
fickle, 
sinful, 
sad and 
sorrowful. 

Christ’s love touching your hard heart, will dissolve it! 

Christ’s love touching your cold heart, will warm it! 

Christ’s love touching your sinful heart, will purify it! 

Christ’s love touching your sorrowful heart, will soothe it! 

Christ’s love touching your wandering heart, will draw it back to Himself. 

Only bring your heart to Christ’s love! 

Believe that He loves you, and just as love begets 
love, so the simple belief in the love of Jesus will 
inspire you with a reflected, responsive affection; 
and your soul, like the flower, will burst from its 
captivity, and bloom, and, soaring in life, liberty, 
and beauty, will float in the sunbeams of Gods full, 
free, and eternal love; and, in a little while, will 
find itself in heaven, where all is love! 

"Blessed Jesus! Your love, like Your agonies, is an 
unknown and unfathomable depth! It passes knowledge. 
Let it rise and expand before me, until it fills the entire 
scope of my soul’s vision; occupies every niche of my heart; 
and bears me onward by its all commanding, all constraining 
influence, in the path of a holy loving obedience and surrender." 

"May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so 
great you will never fully understand it." Ephes. 3:19

 

How a Liberal Democrat and Former Atheist Came to Know Jesus Christ as Her Savior

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” – John 6:37

Her name is Kirsten Powers:

“I started dating someone who went to Tim Keller’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Out of curiosity, I went with him. But I told him upfront that I would never become a Christian; that it’s never going to happen. After about six or seven months, I began to think that the weight of history is more on the side of what [I was hearing at this church] than not. Tim Keller had made such a strong case, that I began to think it’s not even smart to reject this. It just doesn’t seem like a good intellectual decision.

“Really, it was like God sort of invaded my life. It was very unwelcome. I didn’t like it. Obviously, I started having a lot of different experiences where I felt God was doing a lot of things in my life. It’s kind of hard to describe, but I did have this moment where the scales just fell off of my eyes, where I was saying, ‘this is just totally true, I don’t even have any doubt.’ …I don’t really feel like I had any courage when I became a Christian, I just gave in. I wasn’t courageous; I didn’t have any choice. I kept trying to not believe but I just couldn’t avoid [accepting Christ]. If I could have avoided it, I would have. There is nothing convenient about it in my life or in the world I live in. It’s not like living in the South where everybody is a Christian. I live in a world where nobody is a believer. But God pursued me.”

Read the rest here.

Preach the Word

My most recent sermon preached at First Baptist Church of Newberry, Michigan:

July 7, 2013:

Romans 4:23-25 – “But Also For Us”

The Big Idea: What was true of Abraham is true of every person who has ever been or ever will be reconciled to God.

Outline:

1) Written For Us – Romans 4:23-24

2) Delivered For Us – Romans 4:25a

3) Raised For Us – Romans 4:25b

What does it mean to “Accept Jesus”?

Great thought here from Ray Ortlund:

“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9

You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons.  Our hearts are multi-divided.  There is a board room in every heart.  Big table.  Leather chairs.   Coffee.  Bottled water.  Whiteboard.  A committee sits around the table.  There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others.  The committee is arguing and debating and voting.  Constantly agitated and upset.  Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision.  We tell ourselves we’re this way because we’re so busy with so many responsibilities.  The truth is, we’re just divided, unfocused, hesitant, unfree.

That kind of person can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways.   One way is to invite him onto the committee.  Give him a vote too.  But then he becomes just one more complication.  The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to him, “My life isn’t working.  Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them.  I hand myself over to you.  Please run my whole life for me.”   That is not complication; that is salvation.

“Accepting Jesus” is not just adding Jesus.   It is also subtracting the idols.

A Summary of the Gospel

Yesterday I posted a small article from Ligonier Ministries called “What is the Gospel.” Today, in keeping with that same theme, I am posting a new article from Ligonier titled, “A Summary of the Gospel.” Please read these articles slowly and allow your heart, mind, and soul to be deeply touched by God’s rich provision of salvation to us through Jesus Christ.

The gospel of Christ is the good tidings that God has revealed concerning Christ. As all mankind was lost in Adam and became the children of wrath, put under the sentence of death, God, though He left His fallen angels and has reserved them in the chains of eternal darkness, yet He has thought upon the children of men and has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again.

The second Person in the Trinity takes man’s nature upon Himself, and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with sin. He answers for it by suffering what the law and divine justice required, and by making satisfaction for keeping the law perfectly. This satisfaction and righteousness He tenders up to the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls that are given to Him.

And now this mediation of Christ is, by the appointment of the Father, preached to the children of men, of whatever nation or rank, freely offering this atonement unto sinners for atonement, requiring them to believe in Him and, upon believing, promising not only a discharge of all their former sins, but that they shall not enter into condemnation, that none of their sins or unworthiness shall ever hinder the peace of God with them, but that they shall through Him be received into the number of those who shall have the image of God again to be renewed unto them, and that they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

That these souls and bodies shall be raised to that height of glory that such creatures are capable of, that they shall live forever enjoying the presence of God and Christ, in the fullness of all good, is the gospel of Christ. This is the sum of the gospel that is preached unto sinners.

From Gospel Conversation (1657) and reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria.