Compelled by Love

By on August 4, 2019

Scripture reading from Psalm 91

One Comment to “Compelled by Love”

  1. Donald McMahon
    August 5, 2019

    “Compelled by Love” (Psalm 91)(8.4.19)
    Psalm 91 (NIV84)
    1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
    2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
    3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
    4 He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
    5 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
    6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
    7 A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
    8 You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.
    9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
    even the Lord, who is my refuge—
    10 then no harm will befall you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
    11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
    12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
    13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
    14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
    15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
    16 With long life will I satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: Compelled by Love
    Forty-five years ago today, a Sunday, a 17 year old young man raised his right hand and took an oath. It was at Coast Guard Station Newburypoint, which lays claim to being the birthplace of the US Coast Guard. A Rear Admiral performed the “swearing-in ceremony” for a dozen young men before the whole station’s crew. So, bear with me, as I will use a couple of Coast Guard illustrations because they are part of what brings me to this pulpit today.
    The Coast Guard was at one time called The Life Saving Service. For 28.5 years, serving from Boston to Miami, New Orleans, and Northern California, I was in the business of saving lives. Now, I am in the business of saving souls. But, to be clear, it is God Almighty that saves souls. I am merely a vessel steered and used by God for the kingdom. And yet, every individual is still responsible for their own eternal life and every decision relative to their salvation.
    Henri Nouwen is a famous, pastor, author, and theologian. As you listen to his words of wisdom, remember God’s declaration in verse 14: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;”
    Henri Nouwen says, “From the beginning of my life, two interior voices have been speaking to me: one saying, Henri, be sure you make it on your own. Be sure you become an independent person. Be sure I can be proud of you; and another voice saying, Henri, whatever you are going to do, even if you don’t do anything very interesting in the eyes of the world, be sure you stay close to the heart of Jesus, be sure you stay close to the love of God….You are here for just a short time, for twenty, forty, sixty, or eighty years—to discover and believe that you are a beloved child of God. Life is just a short opportunity for you during a few years to say to God: ‘I love you, too.’”
    At our Communion Service last Tuesday, we read Hosea 11 and then studied it during Bible Study. The lonely heart of God is revealed in the first four verses: Hosea 11:1–4 (NIV84)
    11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
    2 But the more I called Israel,
    the further they went from me.
    They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images.
    3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
    but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.
    4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with ties of love;
    I lifted the yoke from their neck
    and bent down to feed them.
    Of course, most of you have memorized John 3:16 (NIV84) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
    Before Jesus ascended to the Father, he was sharing a simple meal on the seashore with Peter. Three times Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved him. Three times Peter proclaimed his love. In this proclamation, Peter is restored into a right relationship with his Savior.
    Make no mistake, God’s love is the life force in creation. L. J. Ogilvie shares his insight:
    “Finally, when life’s problems and pressures pile up, we feel a homesickness for God. It is really a reverberation of the loneliness of God for us. We often hear about God’s grandeur and glory, His majesty and might. Don’t miss His loneliness. It is one of His greatest attributes. True love is inseparably linked to vulnerability. When God created us to receive His love and to love Him, He became vulnerable to our rejection.
    It is awesome to contemplate. Almighty God, lonely. Lonely for the rapture of our reconciliation with Him. The intimacy for which we were created—His heart and our heart made one again. He is lonely for those who pretend He does not exist, those who deny their family likeness with independence and pride, and those who say they belong to Him but resist trusting Him completely. You and I.”
    If you have ever doubted God’s love, you only have to look at the covenantal promises of Psalm 91. God himself says, Because we love him, the Lord will rescue us. The English Standard Version says, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him.” The King James Version says, “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.” Our love is not supposed to be passive or inert. It is an active and purposeful love.
    And our love, is in fact, a blessing from the Almighty, the source and fountain of love.
    1 John 4:10 (NIV84) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
    1 John 4:19 (NIV84) We love because he first loved us.
    2 Corinthians 5:14 (NIV84) For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
    Our love of God leads us into an intimate relationship. This is knowing God. Knowing our Lord leads to acknowledging Him. Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV84)
    5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
    6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
    Over and over again, the Bible tells us, Jesus tells us, that there is a direct correlation between loving God and obeying God. When we are in that type of intimate relationship with our Creator, we instinctively call on the name of the Lord when we are in distress. AND, God will answer us. God will answer by rescuing; by protecting; by His presence in our trouble; by delivering; it includes honoring; long and satisfying life; and, experiencing salvation.
    I feel that I must address this promise of long life. It would be easy to explain it away as referring to eternal life. While true, that is not completely faithful to the text. There certainly is a correlation in the Old Testament between blessing and long life. Even in the commandment to honor our father and mother there is a promise of long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
    Maybe the answer is the connection to a satisfying life. By our understanding of long life, Jesus’ life was short. At the same time, from a divine perspective, there could not have been a more fulfilled or complete life than His. Jesus came to do the work of the Father and it was finished.
    This brings to mind the Jim Elliot quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” And, Elliot was killed, at age 28, by the very people to whom he wished to bring the gospel in Ecuador.
    One of my favorite old time preachers, Alexander Maclaren explains that it is not simply the number of days in our life. He ties it to the concept “full of years.” Yes, Job and David had long lives, but they were also filled lives.
    Psalm 139:16 (NIV84)
    your eyes [Lord] saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
    If our days are ordained, if they are satisfying, if we have lived out our purpose, our lives are long enough, no matter the actual number of years. Because this verse is one sentence that ends with “and show him my salvation,” we can argue that eternal life is intrinsic to the promise. Biblical salvation also includes, health, healing, provision, and overlaps with the rescue and deliverance theme.
    Recently, Craig reminded me about the movie, The Guardian. And this week, while channel surfing I happened upon it. The Guardian is about a graying Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer, played by Kevin Costner. In the movie, there is a scene where a miraculous rescue is remembered. The helicopter hoist failed and the rescue swimmer and the victim were hanging perilously below the helicopter as it returned to shore. Although the guardian’s shoulder was pulled out of joint and all the tendons in his hand were damaged, he promised to never let go of the man literally holding on for dear life.
    Here is a real life story from Peggy Joyce Ruth’s Psalm 91 book. I have edited it down because of its length. You can read the full version when you buy the book.
    Captain Del Hicks was a boat captain who often sailed along the Florida coast. His wife Pat bought a special Red Letter Bible. Not only were Jesus’ words in red, but all of God the Father’s words were in red. She was especially impressed with Psalm 91 and verses 14-16. After showing this to her pastor, he spent six weeks preaching from this psalm of promise. Del & Pat started praying Psalm 91 on a daily basis.
    Captain Del was returning from a Caribbean port on a Piper Seneca plane. There were four passengers and a pilot. An attorney and his wife had chartered the plane and brought along their large cocker spaniel who often traveled with them. Usually, the dog was excited about traveling; but this time, he had to be carried to the car and carried to the plane. Dan Tuckerfield was also on the plane.
    When they were between the island of Bimini and the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Chaco the Cocker Spaniel’s reason for reluctance was realized. First one engine quit, then the other one quit. They found themselves in the water on a chilly 55 degree day. The plane only stayed afloat for five minutes. The Emergency Locator Transmitter failed to activate and the pilot never got off a May Day call.
    The attorney’s wife could not swim. The dog went berserk in the water and was soon fatigued. But, Dan Tuckerfield was an expert swimmer. For the first time ever, he had brought his swimming gear with him on a plane: a wet suit, goggles, and his fins. He dove down to the bottom where the plane was and retrieved his equipment. He also brought up a canvas tarp and life vests.
    Captain Del dissuaded them from swimming for land because he knew how strong the currents were. Dan had tied everyone to the tarp, which was tied to the plane, to keep everyone together in one spot. After four hours and no sign of search planes or boats, they decided to swim towards a light. Supporting the woman and dog, fighting the cold water and two foot waves, they did not make any progress.
    Del and his wife Pat had been quoting Psalm 91 for months and now he knew why. He began to proclaim those promises. By now, authorities were notified of the missed flight plan and surely his wife, Pat, was praying for him.
    The Coast Guard’s biggest search in Florida’s history had begun. At the airport, Pat prayed as she searched the sky. She proclaimed her faith in God’s promises. Their pastors, friends, family, and church members were all praying. All through the night, Pat prayed.
    During the night, the attorney swallowed a lot of sea water. He would panic and soon became completely fatigued. At daybreak, he gave up hope and allowed himself to slip to his death. Hoping to give him a Christian burial, the men tried to keep his body with them. But, when a large tiger shark was attracted, they let go of the body.
    Del had never been so tired or cold in his life. The sound of a helicopter alerted them all; but, the pilot did not see their waving and passed by them. This caused the wife to become completely disheartened and she died. Del felt compelled to start speaking out praises to God.
    The Devil tried to discourage Pat in her prayers. Neighbors thought she should face reality. Pat responded by proclaiming Psalm 91 and then started playing a teaching tape on the Psalm over and over. Reporters asked her how she could remain so calm and she explained that it was the Peace of God.
    Not knowing what else to do, Dan Tuckerfield told Del and the pilot to stay together and he would swim for land. Not long after he left, the other two were too weak to stick together and drifted apart. Del drifted into unconsciousness and let go of the dog who perished.
    They spent another night bobbing in the water. Some of the church members spent that night praying for protection from sharks. When Pat woke up that morning, she had an inexplicable confidence that everything was fine. She wanted to worship God. When she called the parsonage, the pastor’s wife thought Pat had lost her mind. When they arrived at her home, her joy was so contagious that those gathered had a worship service.
    When they called the Coast Guard for an update, the watchstander was too busy to talk. Someone had been found and they were launching a rescue helicopter. They had seen unconscious and frozen Del floating in a yellow life vest. Dan Tuckerfield had made it to land that morning about the time that Pat had woken up. The Coast Guard had been notified of the other two survivor’s position.
    Coast Guard policy is to pick up survivors first and then the dead. As they saw Del in a distance, the pilot prayed, “Lord, if he is alive, let him move something.” Even though Del was unconscious, it was at that moment that he lifted his arm. Because Del was so cold, the rescue swimmer could not bend his legs to get him into the rescue basket.
    Though he had been unconscious and helpless, there were no sharks near him. When the plane pilot was rescued, the helicopter crew saw that there was a circle of sharks closing in on him.
    Del was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital with a body temperature of only 83 degrees. He was placed on a machine to keep his heart and lungs going while they circulated his blood through a warmer. All day and night Pat stood over his bed waiting for him to wake up, but finally, the God of the Ninety-first Psalm kept His promise, and Del awoke to rejoice and give God the glory.
    In the movie The Guardian, in the next to last scene, there is another rescue. The rescued victim claims that there was someone in the water with him. This person was holding him up and encouraging him, promising that help was on the way. I could not help thinking of God’s angels commanded to watch over us in all our ways. The novice young Rescue Swimmer knew it must be The Guardian.
    From Oswald Chamber’s devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, August 2nd:
    “An average view of the Christian life is that it means deliverance from trouble. [INSTEAD] It is deliverance in trouble, which is very different. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High … there shall no evil befall thee”—no plague can come nigh the place where you are at one with God.
    If you are a child of God, there certainly will be troubles to meet, but Jesus says do not be surprised when they come. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world, there is nothing for you to fear.” Men who before they were saved would scorn to talk about troubles, often become ‘spiritually dull’ after being born again because they have a wrong idea of a saint.
    God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately [when] you face the strain, you will get the strength.”
    Ephesians 3:17–19 (NIV84) …And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
    “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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