“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9).

We describe an unusual event as “providential,” usually to express good fortune encountered, or disaster averted. Our town recently laid a hero to rest. In WWII, every man in his platoon died. He wasn’t with them due to appendicitis. Providential.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was minister of Westminster Chapel in London for 30 years. As a school boy during the early 20th C., he became a member of his parents’ church. During college he taught Sunday School. In his 20’s he realized something. “For many years I thought I was a Christian when in fact I was not. But I was a member of a church and attended services regularly.” At that time he was a medical student at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital under the famous Sir Thomas Horder.

What changed? His clinicals required him to interact with London’s poor. He observed disease directly related to ungodly lifestyles. The progressive thinking of the day was they suffered from lack of education and opportunity. Yet he also helped treat Horder’s wealthy and famous patients (prime ministers, intellectuals, writers). They too had health issues resulting from ungodliness, unprevented by their education and opportunity. The hand of Providence showed him that sin is common to the human condition, himself being no exception. “My trouble was not only that I did things that were wrong, but that I myself was wrong at the very centre of my being.” The happy result was, “The Hound of Heaven caught me and led me to the way that leads to life.” By grace he was saved through faith.

Lloyd-Jones’ medical studies offered more providential lessons. Horder included Lloyd-Jones in social events where accomplished people were given to jealousy and criticism. He began to doubt where his career ambitions were leading him. Once, another accomplished faculty chief asked Lloyd-Jones to sit with him by the fire. His close friend had died unexpectedly. For hours, the grieving man stared silently into the fireplace. In that quiet, hopeless moment, the professor’s greatness was meaningless. These events caused Lloyd-Jones to dramatically rethink his life. He decided to give up his medical practice and become a minister.

You never know what might happen to re-direct your thoughts or your life. You never know how you might enlighten another’s path. Despite these uncertainties, you can know Providence is not surprised, and is at work to direct your steps even if you plan otherwise. “You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. And in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psa. 139:3,16). He is not bound by time nor lack of knowledge. And He loves you.

The Pastor’s Pastor

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “There is properly no history; only biography.” I won’t pretend to understand the mind of that transcendentalist, but I agree if he means the present is informed by the past, and the past cannot be understood apart from people.

Today’s biography is that of Warren Wiersbe, who died on May 2, 2019 at age 89. He was a dedicated pastor, radio personality, and prolific author. Noted for his dedication to training ministers, some knew him as “The Pastor’s Pastor.” His grandson Dan Jacobson called him a bridge builder, connecting the Bible to today’s world.

Wiersbe once said, “The writing that men do lives after them.” Some of the more popular writing that outlived the man is his “Be” series, commentaries on the Bible. Some titles are, “Be Loyal” (Matthew), “Be Diligent” (Mark), “Be Compassionate” and “Be Courageous” (Luke), “Be Alive” and “Be Transformed” (John). These are now collected into a set, called “The Bible Exposition Commentary.” He published over 150 books.

You may have heard Moody Radio’s “Songs in the Night” program, featuring uplifting music and meaningful messages. It has earlier roots than 1944, but that’s when a young Youth for Christ preacher named Billy Graham became narrator. Wiersbe occupied that chair in the 1970’s before becoming the radio pastor on “Back to the Bible.”

Wiersbe had a far more significant connection to Graham. In response to Graham’s preaching at a Youth for Christ rally, Wiersbe placed his faith in Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life. He soon began attending seminary, and entered his first pastorate in 1951. He found that what he enjoyed the most, expounding Scripture, became his most effective ministry, a point worth noting. That does not mean it was without challenge. He wrote to his successor at Moody Church in Chicago, Erwin Lutzer, “It’s not an easy road, but if the Lord has called us and put us where we are, He will see to it that we will know His will and accomplish it no matter how impossible it might seem.”

Warren Wiersbe has finished his travels, leaving the land of the dying for the land of the living. He can say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

In that same essay, Emerson writes, “Every mind must know the whole lesson for itself,–must go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it does not live, it will not know.” Might I dare to differ? We need not live another’s life to know and rely on that life’s lesson. That is the premise of another Wiersbe book, “50 People Every Christian Should Know.” Add The Pastor’s Pastor to make it 51.

Knowing Liberty

Have you heard the term “jeremiad”? It’s an eponymous reference to the prophet Jeremiah, describing a complaint against the state of things and a prediction of imminent downfall.

We recently heard, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it? This is our world war two!” And, “This was an attempted overthrow of the United States government.” A pundit summarized, “The questions raised by the present state of our politics, which might fairly be described as an American civil war without arms, are these: How does a nation so divided stand united in the world? How long does it remain a great nation?” Mini-jeremiads, all.

In “Last Call for Liberty,” Os Guinness observes, “Political debate has degenerated into degrading and barbaric incivility, and wild talk of spying, leaking, impeachment, governability, the 25th Amendment, and even assassination and secession is in the air. American leaders are at each other’s throats.” Why the angst? He posits that behind America’s pitched battle is a fundamental difference over what liberty means and how we keep it.

The Founders recognized that the American experiment in liberty and self-government can only work if the citizens internalize a common moral code. They saw Christianity as the accessible means to that end. Even though they failed to address African slavery, Native American rights, and women’s suffrage, they created a “promissory note” per Martin Luther King, Jr. Then, as now, liberty is elusive but worth pursuing.

The paradox is that freedom is its own enemy. Guinness writes, “Freedom fails when it runs to excess and breeds permissiveness and license.” It also fails “when free societies become so caught up in the glory of freedom that they justify anything done in its name.” He concludes, “Faith and the fear of God have been vital for freedom, for without accountability freedom corrupts itself and degenerates into mere power.” When that happens, man becomes god and what a merciless god he is. Should unaccountable people intoxicated with power hold the keys?

Here is Jeremiah’s “jeremiad” for his nation: “They have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers. Therefore thus says the Lord, Behold I am bringing disaster on them” (Jer. 11:10-11). Not long after, Babylon sacked Jerusalem and ended their way of life.

A more perfect state of America’s union begins not with politics, but with the answer to Guinness’ defining question. “Does humanity have a better future under God or as god?” The conspicuous hand of Providence may yet provide that answer. “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord” (Jer. 24:7). Let’s pray that America be so liberated.