Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Judges 16:20 [Sampson] awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

The story of Sampson and Delilah is a familiar one. Sampson had been plaguing the Philistines for a long time and they were trying to find a way to overpower him and take him prisoner. When Sampson fell in love with Delilah the Philistines thought they had a certain way to entrap him. They told Delilah to find out the secret of his strength so they could take him. Of course Sampson lied to Delilah the first three times. He told her that seven fresh thongs could hold him, that a new rope could hold him, and that if his hair was woven into a loom it could hold him. Delilah whined to Sampson that he was making a fool of her so Sampson told her the truth. If his hair was shaved off he would become just like a normal man. Delilah shaved his head while he slept and when she called out that the Philistines were upon him Sampson awoke and thought he could throw them off as before. But to his chagrin he discovered that the LORD had left him while he slept.

I think of the words of Jesus as he spoke to Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane. Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak (Mark 14:38). Sampson was willing to defeat the Philistines but his flesh was weak. Temptation came to him over and over again. He had so much confidence in his own strength that he lazily fell asleep and Delilah was able to rob him of his strength. His unwillingness to say “no” to the flesh and his arrogance led to his downfall.

We can be grateful for this truth: God will never leave us or forsake us. His Spirit will never leave us. We live under the new covenant and do not have to worry about having the Lord depart from us. However, we need to be alert and keep watch! Temptation does not just come once and then leave us. It comes over and over again. If we do not keep watch we will fall into temptation and our ensuing sin will hinder our walk with God. We need to be people of prayer. Prayer is an act of humility and faith. The arrogant do not pray. The faithless do not pray. The arrogant think they can overcome in their own strength and they don’t need to pray. Those who have no faith in God do not waste time saying words that will never be heard. Churches and Christians who fail to pray will be caught off guard by the Enemy. Their self-confidence will lead them to fail. The danger is that one day we will wake up and find that the power of the Lord has left us and that we have become weak.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Luke 23:13-43

Reading about the crucifixion of Jesus tonight. My thoughts are all over the place. I’ve been sitting trying to make sense out of all the things that are flying through my mind. Finally, I concluded that this text gives me a peek at just how evil the human heart can be. I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say that the crucifixion of Jesus was the most heinous crime in all of human history. And when I look at how it was finally accomplished it leaves me with a feeling of frightened discomfort.

Pilate really wants to release Jesus. Now that doesn’t make him a good man. It’s hard to tell why he was so committed to doing the right thing here. I’ve always wondered just how much his wife’s dream affected him. She told him to have nothing to do with “that innocent man” because her dream had caused her great suffering. Perhaps he didn’t want to give the Jews what they wanted. Whatever his reason was, Pilate found himself trying to do the right thing even if it was through bad motives.

He tells the Jews that their charges were groundless. He had examined Jesus in front of the rulers of the people and found that Jesus did not incite insurrection. Therefore he had done nothing against Roman law. Herod returned Jesus to Pilate because he wasn’t concerned that Jesus was going to wrest his kingdom from him. Pilate would punish Jesus and let him go.

But the leaders of the Jews incited the crowd. That is obvious because it says the people cried out “with one voice.” In other words, they had been coached or even threatened. They called for the release of Barabbas. Here is the beginning of the frightening phenomenon called a “mob.” Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate tried to reason with them but you can’t reason with a mob. A mob takes on a life of its own. Pilate tried one more time. “Why should I have him crucified? What crime has he committed? There are no grounds for execution!” No good. The mob continued to shout and threaten and Pilate stopped trying to do the right thing. By this time all he cared about was controlling the situation as best he could.

Pilate released Barabbas. Then he did something that sends shivers up my spine. Did you ever notice these words before? He “surrendered Jesus to their will!” The hatred of the Jews is awful; awful in the truest sense of the word. They abused their power and stirred up the people to cry for Jesus’ crucifixion. They pressured Pilate and bent him to do what they wanted. It was “their will” to kill Jesus! The will of men can be so horrifyingly evil!

Jesus was exchanged for Barabbas who was probably the real insurrectionist. He had blood on his hands and deserved to die for his crimes. In effect, Jesus substituted for Barabbas and died on his cross. In reality, Jesus substituted for me and died on my cross! My heart was no cleaner than the hearts of those who called for his death. I need to be careful to see myself in this event. He who had no sin became sin for us who deserve death. The words of the criminal crucified beside Jesus come to mind, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Jesus died in my place and suffered the justice for my sin so I could know grace and mercy. He gave me his righteousness so that God could be just when he welcomes me into his presence!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The Midianites were impoverishing Israel year after year when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon. The words of the Lord to Gideon make me smile, “The LORD is with you, Mighty Warrior (Judges 6:12). The reading of Gideon’s account gives us little to think he was a mighty warrior! Gideon’s response to these words remind me of my last post here on suffering, “If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13). Gideon equated the suffering of God’s people with abandonment by God.

The Lord gave Gideon the assignment to save Israel from Midian. Gideon’s response? “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15). How often in the scriptures do we see God choosing to use the lowly for his work? Moses, a shepherd in the back side of the desert who couldn’t speak. David, the youngest of his family and a shepherd. A bunch of fishermen and a tax collector. His strength is made perfect in our weakness!

What Gideon does in response to God’s call would really try my patience if I were the Lord. He wants a sign. So God gives him a sign. Gideon brings a sacrificial goat and lays it on a rock and the Lord touches it with his staff and consumes the sacrifice. OK! Gideon gets to work and tears down the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole and builds an altar to God (but he does it at night because he was still afraid of his family and his fellow townsmen.

The Spirit of the LORD comes upon Gideon and he blows the trumpet summoning his tribe to war. But he seems to have a few more misgivings. This is where the sign with the fleece is requested, just to make sure! In fact, he does it twice, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece…” (Judges 6:39).

This passage fills me with comfort. Behold the patience of God! God calls a lowly man to do a great thing. The lowly man has many doubts. He hesitates. He wavers. God gives him sign after sign, promise after promise. God will use this man! God will show patience! God will bring about a great victory in spite of the weakness of his servant!

I’m so glad! Aren’t you?

Friday, October 16, 2009


When I was in college a girl I loved went to study in Israel, found another guy, and broke my heart. I was going to propose to her when she came back for the fall quarter. For years I longed to go to the mission field but I was never accepted by any missions boards. After I was married for just over two years my wife developed a brain tumor that finally took her life twenty years later. I was turned down as a church planter when I graduated from seminary because the denomination in which I wanted to serve would not accept my eschatology. I was brought up on heresy charges by people in my church because they would not accept that my Calvinist convictions were orthodox. A close friend of mine stole a significant amount of money from my wife and me promising to put it in a safe investment; I never saw it again. I lost all my equity in the last two houses I’ve sold. I had cancer this year.

There are preachers out there who would say that all these things happened to me because I either had unconfessed sin in my life or because I lacked faith. There are many Christians who think life is supposed to run smoothly because they have committed their lives to Christ. Many believe that if we pray with enough faith God will give us the health and wealth we desire. They say that God wants his children to be happy and bad things aren’t supposed to happen. When they encounter difficult trials and tragedy they become derailed and wonder what went wrong with their Christianity. Satan must have done this because God would never do anything like this!

Our Lord threw himself on the ground in Gethsemane and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him . And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44)

Jesus asked God to set him free from the road to the cross. The Father refused his request and insisted that his will be done, not Jesus’. An angel visually appeared to Jesus and strengthened him but that did not relieve Jesus’ agony. He continued in anguish. The angel’s visit did not relieve his agony. Jesus was under such strain that his sweat ran as blood.

What would those TV preachers say about this? Jesus must have lacked faith or the Father would have answered his prayer. After all, God wants us to be happy. There must have been something seriously wrong with Jesus if an angel couldn’t relieve his pain. Must be a lack of faith. And true believers have so much faith that they don’t experience the kind of stress Jesus had. I know they would never admit to believing anything like this but their teaching contradicts their denials.

Christians suffer. God wills that Christians suffer. He does not intend for our lives to be carefree and problem free. He puts things in our lives that cause us grief and produce stress. Why? Because we have been called to walk in the footprints of Jesus.

What do you think?

(To those of you who have been looking for a new post here at ShilohGuy, I want to apologize. The last couple of weeks have been phenomenally busy. I was out of town to attend classis meetings for both the RCA and the CRC. And I have been sick in bed most of the current week. Sorry for my failure to write. I’m sure you understand. Thanks.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009




I just got off the phone with my dad about 10 minutes ago and the IREF compound in Repalle is quickly flooding. There are over 3,000 people from surrounding villages that have sought refuge at IREF. All the kids have moved to the 2nd floors of each building for safety. For live coverage of what's happening in and near Repalle, please checkout the following links:


After countless hours of anticipation of the flood waters, the town of Repalle was hit with 10ft of uncontrolled flooding. While the water came quickly yesterday, the flooding has now ceased, but large amounts of water still remain. Much of the damage will not be assessed until the water has receded and people are able to return to their homes. The government (including the local police and state army) has stepped in and raised its efforts to feed the entire community of Repalle and prevent more water from coming with iron beams and sandbags. Although the overall conditions of the flood in Repalle are bad, some good news is that the electricity has come back. With the power back on again, it is much easier to assess what immediate needs are to be met. The police department is now stationed at Repalle Evangelical Church (our church) in order to distribute food and regulate the relief efforts on their part. As it concerns IREF, the government has moved more than half of the 3,000 villagers that sought shelter at IREF to a different village where the land is dry. Yet, the compound with the Administrative office, the boys’ dormitory, and the schools received 4-5ft of water while the other compound housing the girls sustained minimal flooding. With 4-5ft of water, one of the biggest worries now is the presence of snakes. The IREF staff is tirelessly working to help wherever there are needs to be met including helping the local government. IREF students are doing well. The little ones want to play in the water, while the older students grow restless with nowhere to go and nothing to do. But we thank God for His grace and protection during this time. And we pray that God continues to meet the needs of all those (within IREF and the outside communities) affected by this powerful flood. Thank you for all your prayers and emails, we ask that you would continue to pray for dad and all those involved with IREF.



Flood Waters Rising;
IREF Providing Food and Shelter

Devastating floods have inundated Repalle and about 30 surrounding villages with floodwater. Emmanuel Rebba reports to us that the Repalle IREF compound is already flooding, and that all of the children have moved to the second floors of each building for safety. The college boys who live in the dorms, closest to the Repalle Church, have been brought in closer to the main compound and are staying on the second floor of the college for now.

In addition there are 3,000 people from surrounding villages who are now homeless that have sought refuge at IREF and are sleeping in the school. Villages are evacuating as the flood waters rise.

Indian newspapers are reporting that this flood has already killed more than 230 people in southern India, and has left close to 1.5 million others homeless. In the Guntur District alone,
where IREF is located, officials have evacuated 27,000 people.

In this rural area IREF is usually the first relief these people receive in a crisis. It is a blessing for recipients of this relief to see the love and provision of Jesus through the people who follow Him. Many homeless are now seeking refuge in the concrete tsunami housing and churches funded and built by IREF donors!

IREF has mobilized to provide rice, other groceries, cooking utensils and clothing to people devastated by leveled huts and loss of belongings.

October 7th Letter from Dee Rebba;

Dear IREF family,

The flood waters have now reached Repalle. Although it is just a low stream of water flowing
through town, it has thrown Repalle into a state of panic. This flood is the worst of any flood related disaster to date in this particular area. It is only matter of time before the water level increases to a potential height of 3-5ft. There is no transportation, no electricity, no clean water, and very scarce shelter. Emmanuel wants to send pictures to you all, but with the lack of power he can’t use the computer; nor can he make phone cell phone calls (although there is the landline that is working at the moment).

At IREF there are a total of 3,000 villagers apart from IREF staff and students staying at the High School. A crucial concern for everyone is the necessity of food. For the past two days the local government has supplied the town with food, but Emmanuel is unsure if that will continue as the water makes it way into Repalle. IREF staff has taken it upon themselves to cook on the roof top of the boys’ dormitory using gas stoves. One of the biggest questions is how to feed more than 3,000 people with limited cooking and food supplies, and how to transport food from one building to another.

The IREF kids are doing well; as stated before they are above ground-level. Their major concern rests with their families in various villages throughout the area. We thank you for believing in IREF and standing with us all these years especially in building these buildings to house children. It is because of your faith and trust that today these buildings are now the refuge for a time such as this.

One of our concerns is that we will not be able to be in contact with Emmanuel because of the
lack of electricity there (and the uncertain use of the landline). We ask that you pray that God
gives the IREF staff strength continue to serve the community in such difficult conditions. And, we ask that you pray for the protection and safety of Emmanuel, the IREF staff and students, and the community as a whole as they patiently wait for this flood to recede.

Sincerely, Dee Rebba

Please Help:
We earnestly ask that you join IREF in providing emergency relief for the families impacted by
the flooding. Please designate your giving as “FLOOD RELIEF.”

Visit us on the web:
Send us an e-mail:
Send us mail: India Rural Evangelical Fellowship P.O. Box 65 White Lake WI 54491-0065
Send a fax: 847/680-4270

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Joshua 24:1-10

We talk about being “missional.” When we really understand what it means to be missional we recognize that we need to be missional because God is missional. Did you ever wonder how God looks at his mission? We tend to be so man-centered and self-centered that we spend all our time thinking about what we’ve done. What is God’s perspective on his involvement in human history? As I read Joshua 24 today I was amazed at the words of God as he spoke to Israel through Joshua. His message was completely filled with first person singular verbs! Notice them with me…

“Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the river and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land…(vs. 2, 3)

"[I] led him throughout Canaan…(v. 3)

[I] gave him many descendants…(v.3)

I sent Moses and Aaron…(v.5)

I afflicted the Egyptians…(v.5)

I brought your fathers out of Egypt…(v.6)

I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you…(v.8)

I delivered you out of his hand….(v.10).”

Here’s how God sees salvation history: I led, I gave, I sent, I afflicted, I brought, I destroyed, I delivered.

I daresay that if we were to make a study of the entire Bible we would find the same thing all the way through. Salvation is something God does, not man. I know this is true in my life. God drew, God convicted, God revealed, God illuminated, God gave repentance, God gave faith, God gave new life. What did I do? I received like an infant.