Posts tagged ‘Fire’

The God Who Catches Us

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A week and a half ago, in an act of desperation, the mother of a three-year-old boy threw her son from her third-floor apartment balcony to Phillip Blanks, a former wide receiver and Marine veteran, who happened to be passing by in the parking lot below. She was trying to save her son because her apartment was engulfed in flames.

Mr. Blanks made the catch.

“There wasn’t much thinking,” he said, “I just reacted. I just did it.” He continued by crediting his time in football and in the Marine Corps:

I just did my best. His head landed perfectly on my elbow. I know how to catch. I’ve learned how to catch a football. So I’ll give some credit to football. I can definitely credit to the Marine Corps for instilling this good training in me to save a life. I don’t see myself as a hero. A person trained to do my job is trained to protect people.

The real hero, Mr. Blanks argued, is the boy’s mother:

She’s the real hero of the story because she made the ultimate sacrifice to save her children.

When the mother of this boy, Rachel, dropped her son from the balcony, she was on fire, but she ran back in to try to rescue her daughter, too. Her daughter survived when another passerby kicked in the door of the apartment to rescue the girl. Rachel lost her life.

When Jesus is in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, Satan says:

If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Matthew 4:6)

Jesus, however, is not interested in falling for Satan’s temptation. He responds:

It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:7)

Satan, in his temptation, quotes Psalm 91, but he misquotes it. The original quote reads:

He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11-12)

Satan leaves out a key phrase: “to guard you in all your ways.” This is not meant to be a promise that God will rescue us from our own foolish choices – like recklessly throwing ourselves off high places – but a promise that He will be with us no matter where the path of life may take us, even if that path takes us into a burning apartment.

Rachel faced a parent’s worst nightmare. She saw no other option for her son than to throw him down from a high place. But Psalm 91 was waiting in the parking lot below, in the form of Mr. Blanks, and her son was saved.

Even though Satan misquotes it, he is right to quote Psalm 91 to Jesus, for this psalm is ultimately about Jesus. In the very next verse, the Psalmist says:

You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. (Psalm 91:13)

A lion and a snake are images for Satan. There is coming a man, the Psalmist says, who will defeat the devil. And He does. He does in the wilderness when Satan tries to tempt Him. And He does on the cross when Satan thinks he has killed Him.

Though the lives of her two children were saved when their apartment caught fire, the life of a mother was lost. But make no mistake about it: Psalm 91 is waiting for her, too. For one day, on the Last Day, she will be lifted up from under her tombstone and brought into the presence of God – and a terrible tragedy will turn into a terrific triumph.

July 13, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The Rebuilding of Notre Dame and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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The world watched in horror as a medieval Gothic treasure was wrecked last Monday when flames ripped through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Parts of the building, the construction of which began in 1163, still stand.  But much of the roof, which was made out of timber and original to the structure, along with the cathedral’s grand spire, also made out of wood and iron and rebuilt in 1844, is no more.

Reports indicate that many of the cathedral’s priceless relics, including what is claimed to have been the crown of thorns Jesus wore during His crucifixion, were rescued from the blaze.  Other relics, like a supposed piece of Jesus’ cross, may not have been so fortunate.  Its status is still unknown.  Parisians, Catholics, Protestants, and countless others across the world are still coming to terms with how a landmark as staid and majestic as Notre Dame – which withstood everything from the French Revolution and its virulently anti-Theist cult of reason to Hitler’s invasion of Paris and his order, thankfully disobeyed by one of his generals, to trigger explosives placed inside the grand façade – could come crashing down due to an accidental fire, likely triggered by an electrical short circuit.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, vowed to rebuild the cathedral under an ambitious timeline. “We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years,” the president said in an address last Tuesday.  This is indeed a highly aggressive timeline and one of which many experts are skeptical, suspecting that the rebuilding may take decades instead of years.  When the structure was first built, it took 182 years to complete.

Jesus, as He began His public ministry, gazed upon the temple in Jerusalem, which would have been the ancient Jewish version of Notre Dame, and declared, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19).  Apparently, President Macron’s ambitious building timeline has nothing on Jesus.  The temple had already been rebuilt once after being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  Herod the Great had begun a restoration and expansion of the temple in 20 BC, which continued into Jesus’ day.  So, you can imagine the incredulity of those listening when Jesus declared that He could rebuild the temple from the ground up in three days.  This is why the people responded, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days” (John 2:20)?  But, of course, there’s a secret that the people listening to Jesus do not yet know or understand that John happily lets us in on: “The temple He had spoken about was His body” (John 2:21).

Yesterday, Christians all over the world celebrated the truth that Jesus’ building project was a stunning success.  He did at the end of His public ministry precisely what He said He would do at the beginning of His public ministry.  His body was crushed on a cross.  But in three days, He was not only rebuilt, He was resurrected.  Because of Him, even as the storied nave of Notre Dame sat sadly empty yesterday as a house of worship, hearts across the world were full of joy in celebration of the One who is to be worshiped.

When Notre Dame burned, the world lost a precious space.  But Christians did not lose their Christ.  And Christ did not lose His Church.  In the words of the old hymn:

Built on the Rock the Church doth stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land,
Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the soul distressed,
Longing for rest everlasting.

Work on Notre Dame began 856 years ago because of this promise.  May work begin again on this grand old lady for this same reason.

April 22, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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