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Jun 6 2021 Reflections from the Ocean

Good Morning! As you may be aware, we were on vacation the last couple Sundays – They told me it was okay for me to miss, but now I have to pull double duty this week! 😊 Just kidding. I want to thank Dick Cooper, Scott Horstman, and Lisa Vanderkaay for helping to lead worship while I was gone. I also want to thank Marianne for all her work with the Yard Sale yesterday – I heard it was a great success.

I thought it was kind of interesting… I noticed some Christmas decorations going up next door – now, in June. I was talking to my neighbor and he told me his two daughters were coming home after a year in Thailand. Due to COVID, they were not able to come home for Christmas, so yesterday, they gave them all the presents that they had stored up for them – just waiting for them to arrive home.

I know God has some Great Things He’d like to share with us this morning, so let’s stand and sing, Great Things!

Song - Great Things

Our plan is to incorporate some lessons we learned at the beach into our worship this morning. First – I want to acknowledge that not everyone is in a position to be able to go to the beach – and we feel very blessed to have had this opportunity.

Melissa is going to start by sharing some lessons she learned about the relentless love of God:

Slide 2 Hesed

Psalm 42:8 But each day the Lord pours His unfailing love upon me

Melissa:

Jeff – As we sing the next song, I’d like to focus some more on the word “Hesed”

It is usually translated lovingkindness, love, unfailing love, faithfulness, mercy, mercies – or covenant faithfulness – it is really the concept of grace. Some call it an undefinable word – so we may as well try to put a definition to it, right? Michael Card calls hesed - – “When the Person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything. It’s the only thing that makes covenant work. We keep breaking it and He keeps keeping it. Finally Jesus comes and keeps it fully.” So when you see the words ‘mercies, or lovingkindness, or faithfulness’ – think of Hesed

Song - His Mercy is More

Jeff: Psalm 59 starts with a bunch of bad things/bad people happening in the psalmist’s life… then we get to verse 16 – where I have boldfaced the word HESED:

Psalm 59:16-17 But as for me, I will sing of Your strength;

Yes, I will joyfully sing of Your faithfulness in the morning,

For You have been my refuge

And a place of refuge on the day of my distress.

My strength, I will sing praises to You;

For God is my refuge, the God who shows me favor.

Song: Yet Not I, but through Christ in Me

This is one of the funny lessons we learned at the beach – and it is demonstrated through my 3-year-old grandson. I think sometimes God wants to do something for us that He knows we will like – He wants to bless us in His unfailing love – His hesed – and yet, we don’t yet know that we want it! So, sometimes, it takes some convincing for us to allow God to bless us…

Some other humorous lessons we learned:

• Wear Sunscreen

• Reapply sunscreen often

• Wear sunscreen on your feet!

• Even if you’re under an umbrella, and in the shade, wear sunscreen!

• Don’t leave a Chex Mix bag open when seagulls are around

Offering: Tithe.ly – app stores

Let’s pray:

Song: Heal Our Land

One thing I was reminded of at the beach – the importance of rest to recharge and reset. God created the world in six days – and then He rested… And He calls us to rest…

I listen to more books than I read – since I tend to multi-task (I’ll listen to books while I’m running or driving) – so, it was a real treat to be able to read an entire book throughout the week while sitting on the beach. A book with pages, as my kids tease me.

In order to share some of the things I learned from the book – I’d like to give you the briefest of synopses -

The book I chose from the shelves of our Airbnb was “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” – the story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini – who, as a youngster, was about one of the most terrifying children you could imagine – He started smoking at 5, drinking at 8, and before he reached high school he was notorious for stealing anything that wasn’t bolted down! He knew what bakeries cooled their goods near the door, and when a back was turned, he would reach in and make off with whatever he could get. He would sell copper pipe to the scrap dealer – the same copper pipe he had stolen from the same scrap dealer the night before!

When he was just two – his family was on a train – and little “Louie bolted, ran the length of the train, and leapt from the caboose. Standing with his frantic mother as the train rolled backward in search of the lost boy, Louie’s older brother, Pete, spotted Louie strolling up the track in perfect serenity. Swept up in his mother’s arms, Louie smiled. ‘I knew you’d come back,’ he said.”

Louie’s older brother Pete recognized that Louie needed some guidance, and that Louie had grown to be an incredibly fast runner (probably from running away from bakery owners and the police!) – so he helped Louie get on the right track – like – a track and field track – where, as a high school student, he was one of the fastest runners in the world – eventually getting to go to the 1936 Olympics.

Then WWII came, and Louie enlisted in the Army Air Corps – but he didn’t really like flying – so he quit, and then was drafted back to the Army Air Corps as a bombardier.

From this point on – each time you think things couldn’t get worse for Louie, things continued to get worse for Louie. Their plane at one point arrived back to base with 594 bullet holes. Then they went on a search and rescue mission and THEIR plane crashed into the Pacific – when it did, Louie was underwater, being plunged to the ocean depths in a tangle of wires. He passed out due to the depth, and woke up to find himself rising to the surface, amazed that somehow, he had escaped the tangle of wires. Only Louie and two others survived – They drifted at sea in a lifeboat for a record 47 days – fighting off sharks and figuring out ways to collect rainwater and food. At one point they thought they were rescued, but the plane that saw them was an enemy plane and shot at them instead. Eventually, Louie and another man were rescued and taken to POW camps, where his status as an Olympian singled him out for extra torture by one man in particular, whom they called The Bird. It was just horrific what he had to live through. Eventually the war ended, and they were freed, only days before they thought they were all going to be executed.

His family had never given up hope that Louie was still alive. In fact, when Louie came home, they had 3 years’ worth of Christmas and birthday presents wrapped and saved – just like my neighbors celebrated Christmas with their girls coming home from Thailand yesterday.

For me, the message here is – never give up hope that a loved-one of yours will come home to Jesus. They may seem far from God and it might seem impossible that He could save them, but allow yourself to trust Him that He can bring them home.

I had heard that the movie was a great example of Christian faith – and, up to this point, I had not heard much about his faith – except when he was stranded on the raft he made an “If you get me out of this…” kind of promise to God.

Louie came home, met a young woman, and married quickly – but he became an alcoholic, and had terrible flashbacks, and he had the desire to hunt down and kill The Bird - the man who had made his life so miserable in the POW camp. He also had several business ventures go awry – and his young wife Cynthia had had enough – she was leaving him, planning to divorce. Then Billy Graham came to their town.

“Under the tent that night, Graham spoke of how the world was in an age of war, an age defined by persecution and suffering. Why, Graham asked, is God silent while good men suffer? He began his answer by asking his audience to consider the evening sky. “If you look into the heavens tonight, on this beautiful night, I see the stars and can see the footprints of God,” he said. “… I think to myself, my father, my heavenly father… runs the whole universe, and he’s not too busy running the whole universe to count the hairs on my head and see a sparrow when it falls, because God is interested in me … God spoke in creation.” * Louie was winding tight. He remembered the day when he was stranded on the raft – And the beauty of the ocean struck him - Above, the sky had been a swirl of light; below, the stilled ocean had mirrored the sky (a reflection from the ocean!), its clarity broken only by a leaping fish. Awed to silence, forgetting his thirst and his hunger, forgetting that he was dying, Louie had known only gratitude. That day, he had believed that what lay around them was the work of infinitely broad, benevolent hands, a gift of compassion. In the years since, that thought had been lost.

Graham went on. He spoke of God reaching into the world through miracles and the intangible blessings that give men the strength to out-last their sorrows. “God works miracles one after another,” he said. “… God says, ‘If you suffer, I’ll give you the grace to go forward.’ ” Louie found himself thinking of the moment at which he had woken in the sinking hull of (the crashed plane), the wires that had trapped him a moment earlier now, inexplicably, gone. And he remembered the Japanese bomber swooping over the rafts, riddling them with bullets, and yet not a single bullet had struck them. He had fallen into unbearably cruel worlds, and yet he had borne them. When he turned these memories in his mind, the only explanation he could find was one in which the impossible was possible. What God asks of men, said Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith. To know who sees him, God makes himself unseen…

As he reached the aisle, he stopped. (Everything) disappeared. A memory long beaten back… was upon him. Louie was on the raft. There was … endless ocean stretching away in every direction, the sun lying over them, the cunning bodies of the sharks, waiting, circling. He was a body on a raft, dying of thirst. He felt words whisper from his swollen lips. It was a promise thrown at heaven, a promise he had not kept, a promise he had allowed himself to forget until just this instant: If you will save me, I will serve you forever. And then, standing under a circus tent on a clear night in downtown Los Angeles, Louie felt rain falling. It was the last flashback he would ever have. Louie let go of Cynthia and turned toward Graham. He felt supremely alive. He began walking. “This is it,” said Graham. “God has spoken to you. You come on.”

Louie’s life was transformed, and he no longer had flashbacks or visions of killing “The Bird” – instead, he forgave him and wanted to share with him the transforming power of the gospel. He went on to discuss his conversion to Christianity on nationwide speaking tours and started a wilderness camp for troubled youths.

I find it interesting that God used a combination of miracles (all that Louie had survived), creation (the ocean) and the gospel to bring Louie to Himself. This is a real-life demonstration of Hesed – God’s grace – God’s Faithfulness, God’s mercy, God’s unfailing love, God’s pursuing love.

When I was in college, we met a blind man named Ed – he was older – and he actually lived right around the block from the church here (this was before we were meeting here) – and he, too, had seen the horrors of war. He shamefully admitted that he had probably broken all Ten Commandments. But as he heard the gospel – God’s grace/Lovingkindness/faithfulness – Hesed – his heart was softened and he, too, came to a saving faith in Christ.

You may not have broken all Ten Commandments, but the sin of each of us has separated us from God and we need to accept his grace/lovingkindness/faithfulness – Hesed.

Have you learned to recognize God’s unfailing love in your life?

Since we have a little extra time, I want to share a couple quick, final principles I’ve been learning.

I read another book on the beach - A running friend of mine gave me a book to read called Chi Running – the general concept is the importance of a strong core – and while I haven’t finished the book yet, I relate having a strong core to having a strong foundation in Christ.

There is a third book we listened to on the way there and back – Several books I’ve been reading lately have challenged my thinking – I really appreciate Mike and his message of recognizing that for every secondary issue in the Bible, there are people who love Jesus on both sides. While the Bible in its original text is inerrant, that doesn’t mean that MY interpretation of it is inerrant! Anyway – this book we listened to on the way home helped me to realize that sometimes when we hold strong views on secondary issues, we often wound those who don’t hold those views – so my advice is to make room for those with differing views, as Pastor Mike has already been challenging us to do.

Last song: Rescuer


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