“Traveling Mercies”

We’re taking a trip, and (as always) praying for traveling mercies.

Fishing rods, half-dozen suitcases, pillows, water bottles, iPods, books, games, snacks and supplies for the big road trip to Wisconsin were all loaded into the Kia minivan this morning as we departed upstate New York. Thankfully, I was only packing for 5 this trip — only the youngest 3 are with Laurel and I — as we go to visit Grandma, Grandpa and other Bissett’s in the Badger State. And with all such trips, we begin our drive with a word of prayer.

With this long trip in mind, at the mid-week prayer meeting last night I led a brief study on “traveling mercies.” Tonight as I sit to write this blog post (from our Toledo, Ohio, hotel room), I find I left all those study notes at home!

What do we have in mind as we pray for “traveling mercies” for ourselves or for others? I think a few Bible passages shed some light on that.

(1) God’s mercies to His people are new every day, wherever we are. In the book of Lamentations, the weeping prophet joyfully declares, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (3:22-23, esv). So wherever we are traveling, or whether we are not traveling at all, God’s loving-kindness / tender mercies (Hebrew, hesed) are fresh and timely for His people every day.

(2) God is always with His people, leading and guiding them. The story of the Exodus from Egypt into the wilderness — where He led them by a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). This lasted for all 40 years of their wilderness wanderings (EX 40:38), right to the day they entered the promised land. One passage even specifies where the people of Israel were to stop circling and turn to the north! The Lord our God is always with us — even as Jesus promised in the New Testament, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

(3) …Well, I can’t recall my third point of the Bible study at the moment, but will add it later…

(4) Companions are a very good idea when traveling. The Bible even says so, as in Ecclesiastes 4.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (esv)

One of our prayer meeting members said, “That just good common sense.” Indeed, but it’s also a truth from God’s Word! Another pointed out that Jesus sent out His disciples “two by two” on their training missions. We do well to prepare for our travels and to make provisions for the company of others (or at least the ability to summon help as it is needed).

(5) And, do not forget that God often does great things when one is “on the road.” I took our prayer meeting folks to the book of Acts, first to chapter 8. There an Ethiopian official was traveling home from Jerusalem, and on the dessert road he is met by a Christian and brought to faith in Christ. He even asks to be baptized right on the spot, alongside the road! We also read in Acts 9, about the dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. it wasn’t on his agenda (or “trip-tic”) for that day, but it was the gracious plan of the Lord to redirect Saul’s/Paul’s life from that day forward. Do not underestimate the many “opportunities” that traveling presents for the Lord to act in our lives — in simple or in profound ways.

Today was a long, but safe — and generally happy — day of travel for the Bissett’s. In fact, I marvel that while most of New York was covered by strong thunderstorms, our crossing of the whole state from east to west only brought us under a few sprinkles! Amazing, huh? Especially after all these preparatory thoughts.

Well, I hope to blog a bit more on this trip, as time allows. You’re welcome to follow along. Oh, and do pray for us, and for traveling mercies to be ours — in abundance.

~ pdb

Unfailing comfort

Oh, you who want unfailing comfort, I commend you to Christ! In Him alone there is no failure. Rich men are disappointed in their treasures. Learned men are disappointed in their books. Husbands are disappointed in their wives. Wives are disappointed in their husbands. Parents are disappointed in their children. Statesmen are disappointed when, after many a struggle, they attain place and power. They find out, to their cost, that it is more pain than pleasure, – that it is disappointment, annoyance, incessant trouble, worry, vanity, and frustration of spirit.
But no man was ever disappointed in Christ.

~ J.C. Ryle

*I’m back from a whirlwind vacation week: Last Monday I flew through Atlanta to Florida, then drove the family minivan from there to northwest Georgia (experienced night of tornadoes there), to Nashville (2 days); then on through Ohio to Grove City, PA and Syracuse, NY. Home late last night. This week I hope to post comments on the rest of the T.G.C. conference, as well as the vacation week. God has been teaching me much, and sprinkling blessings at every turn.

Touring Milwaukee, Wisconsin

After an unforgettable Fathers’ Day in Janesville, the family and I enjoyed a wonderful day here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We arrived last night at the grand old hotel we used for our wedding (the Marc Plaza is now a Hilton Hotel!), and saw the fancy Monarch Ballroom which we used for our wedding reception. Laurel’s parents gave us a much treasured memory there!

Today started for me at 5:00 AM, when I got up to send Andrew off to the airport (he flew to California to visit with a friend). Mid-morning, the rest of us toured several places where I grew-up, learned to ride a bike, walked/rode a city bus to grade school, the beautiful Milwaukee lakefront, and, the church where Laurel and I were married 26 years ago this week! Lots of stories for the kids to hear….

We spent the afternoon at a the Milwaukee County Zoo — a world-class zoo, which we almost had all to our selves! Great animals and good weather. And, we saw a little of the Miller Park (home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team) after that. Lots of fun — and tired feet!

I am very thankful to a gracious God for the past, and for the present.

On Wisconsin!

Hopefully you know the famous fight song, “On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin!” If not, I’ll be happy to teach it to you when we meet… or you can start online here as played by the mighty Wisconsin Badgers marching band! (Woo, go Badgers!)

The family is enjoying a wonderful, slow-paced vacation here in southern Wisconsin visiting my parents and siblings. (I say “slow-paced” for a few reasons – we are on a leisurely schedule, and everyone out here walks and drives very slowly!). It rained while we drove in on Monday/Tuesday, but we’ve had perfect summer days of sunshine so far. My parents are in good health, and the grandkids are drinking up lots of stories — and love. I am so thankful we are able to make this trip and reconnect. These things do not happen unless we plan and act.

I wish you were here — here’s a postcard for you from a site of a guy who is collecting such cards from all 50 states (click through for his link). You can spot Janesville at the bottom-center of the state. I’ve lived in a lot of towns (Beloit, Mosinee, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Middleton, Eau Claire, Watertown), so this definitely feels like home!

I am not able to get online much (so far) so very few blog or Facebook updates, but can update on Twitter (as ‘dbissett’) from my cellphone.

My reading progress has really slowed, but I am being greatly helped reading excerpts from Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor, now published by the Banner of Truth as a mini-book. One good example is this, which particularly struck me as vacation means living in such “close proximity” with the kids (the boys and I all share a hotel room together!)….

“One proud, surly, lordly word, one needless contention, one covetous action, may cut the throat of many a sermon. Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine.”

Yes, life is where the rubber hits the road — with real (even eternal) consequences.

Thanks for your prayers as we travel.

Simple thoughts on a spectacular thing

4896_103270385068_637930068_2531260_4855171_sMarriage is a spectacular thing! Having just marked my 25th Wedding Anniversary only reinforces this! And it spectacular far beyond my abilities to describe in writing (especially in a short blog post! But I do have a couple simple thoughts, that might encourage or edify others…

GOSPEL MYSTERY. When our Pastor, Dr Dick Sisson preached from Ephesians 5 at our wedding, he began by stating his wonder: how can a boy from Wisconsin win the heart of a girl from Boston? How do those “so different”(!) come together to enjoy the covenant relationship of marriage?? This mystery is a picture for us of the gospel itself — a picture of how men come to be in a relationship with God through Christ Jesus! In Ephesians 5 we read this (emphasis added)…

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Profound indeed! But by the common grace of God men and women do get married — and, by saving grace, men and women can be redeemed by Christ and enter into a covenant relationship with God! I am so thankful for BOTH graces at work in me and in my marriage.

pdb at Castle Hill Lighthouse, Newport, RI

pdb at Castle Hill Lighthouse, Newport, RI

STRENGTH TO CLEAVE. 25 years is a long time. Where does one find the inner strength to maintain a marriage? When I stood with my bride on our wedding day, and repeated my vows to her before God, I added a verse of Scripture (Psalm 73:26, my life’s verse) that has since proven true time and time again:

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

My strength to be a husband comes from God. He is faithful to those who call upon Him, trust Him and serve Him.

I thank God for all that I have learned while being married to Laurel — about the joys of marriage, the real nature of love, and, the significance of grace. God is very good.

yours (and Laurel’s) by divine mercy,

Ligonier concluded

Yup, it ended — and it was so rich I could hardly do it justice in a simple blog entry! But I’ll try!

FRIDAY AM — The conference theme (holiness) was taken up in reference to the Trinity this morning: Sinclair Ferguson, Holiness of the Father; Steve Lawson, Holiness of Jesus; and Alistair Begg, The Holy Spirit.

FRIDAY PM — After lunch there was a spirited Q&A time led by RC Sproul himself, then a very well organized session by Thabiti Anyabwile on Sin & the Holiness of God, from Numbers 25. He outlined the chapter and his address as follows:

Horrible Context (vv 1-6)
Height of Conflict (vv 7-9)
Honorable Commendation (vv 10-13)
Harrowing Condemnation (14-18)

pastor-t-website1After he gets underway (some joking around) this is perhaps one of the best sessions to watch or hear (see below). He is full of numbered observations and pointed applications. [I will share most of this on Sunday night at CPCC.]

Friday night featured the renowned Dr. D. A. Carson speaking on “A Holy Nation.” He brought a great depth of exegesis and theology to bear — connecting OT and NT so wonderfully — and also pressed us with clear and challenging application questions.

SATURDAY — Some of the best was saved for the last day… as Dr Robert Godfrey and Dr. Derek Thomas spoke on Holiness and the Cross (from Isaiah), and, The Necessity of Sanctification (from 1st Peter 1) respectively.

“The moral imperatives of the Bible stand upon gospel indicatives.” (DT)

The closing address was from RC Sproul on Holiness, Wrath & Justice (from 1st Chronicles 13).

“Our culture is thoroughly familiar with the tune ‘Amazing Grace’ but it does not believe grace is ‘amazing’ anymore.” (RCS)

YOU CAN SEE & HEAR THESE GUYS TOO… The video for all of the sessions is currently available for free from the LIGONIER SITE (here). Rich, soul food!


Thursday at the Ligonier Conference

A quick commute from the suburbs south of the city brought me to the huge campus of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, the site of the 2009 Ligonier Conference. Most of today was a pre-conference program celebrating the legacy of John Calvin (born 500 years ago this July).

First up was the scholarly Dr Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, speaking on Calvin as a Preacher and Teacher. An excellent blog posting (here) by Tim Challies will give you a fine summary of the address.

Second up, was Dr Ligon Duncan (“Al Mohler’s Presbyterian twin brother”). Although perhaps not as “famous” as some of the other speakers, Ligon Duncan has become one of the better preacher/teachers I seek to sit under. he is clear and compelling with his topics — and this morning’s message (“Calvin & the Christian Life”) was a particular blessing for me, nearly bringing me to tears. The main component here is the call to piety, including self-denial and a view of cross-bearing as part of the normal Christian life (not the exception). Ligon also gave this word of encouragement: “The Christian life is not characterized by perfection, but by spiritual growth.” What timely words in this address for this preacher!

Third: My esteemed friend from Michigan, Dr Joel Beeke, was asked to lead a breakout session during the lunch hour on “Lessons from Calvin on Prayer.” This was superb, and most useful!

chick-fil-aDid I mention that this conference has arranged for a “Chick-fil-A” supplier to offer food on campus this year? Great sandwiches without the wasted time of driving around a strange town looking for a meal! One for Lunch and another for dinner; I’m set!

Thursday afternoon: back-to-back we had Dr Sinclair Ferguson on “The Doctrines of Grace” and Pastor Steve Lawson on “The Legacy of John Calvin.” Ferguson was good, and Lawson was good (and loud — the sound system’s fault, I think). I would dare say that Lawson’s summary of the legacy of this great man (“man of the millennium” by many accounts) is most excellent; I hope it gets published. He even quoted the TIME top ten item that I highlighted earlier in the month…. [see March 14th below]

The afternoon and the Calvin mini-conference ended with a Q&A session. HERE is a summary/transcript of most of the questions compiled by Tim Challies…. including this opening question:

Ferguson – because he was really the first great biblical exegete. Other theologians made a mark here and there, but none so great as Calvin. He had a genius for being to capture what the text was saying and what its implications were.
Lawson – Location, location, location. He finds himself in an important historical context in the greatest forward movement of Christianity since the second century. It was a perfect time for Calvin’s ideas to explode in a way that could influence successive generations unlike those that had come before. There was a kind of domino effect from Calvin on down through history.
Mohler – Calvin really was the combination of the systematician and the preacher. As great as Luther may have been, he did not leave behind a systematic theology. In Calvin’s day, to consider what was at stake, the crucial question surrounded what was the true church. We still talk about Calvin today because we face many of the same challenges today that he faced in his day. No one answered these questions with the quintessential clarity of Calvin.
Duncan – Calvin taught the people who in turn taught the successive generation so that people who were influenced by Calvin may not have even know his name. He was training the best of the current generation to train the next generation. It was only centuries later that we began to understand the magnitude of what he had done.

The main conference formally began this evening with two addresses: first, Dr R.C. Sproul on “The Holiness of God” focusing on Isaiah 45:1-8, “I am the LORD and there is no other God.” This was a fine weaving of exposition and theology. How do we define the holiness of God? Three classical methods (and examples) were shared, which also led to much adoration and praise of our great God. Second address tonight, was R. C Sproul Jr. on “Family Worship of the Holy God” — a topic he has covered here before. Tonight he opened Exodus 3 (Moses before God at the burning bush).

God has poured out timely and rich blessings from His Word today, and has refreshed many. Truely: “morning by morning new mercies I see.” [paraphrase of Lamentations 3]


Arrived in Florida

The verdict is in: Monday night there was snoring to be heard! And yet we all seemed to survive the night, and got on the road in good fashion Tuesday for the drive through the rest of the Carolina’s, across a sliver of Georgia, in to northern Florida.

1501_11_58-palm-tree_web1Palm trees are really a change of scenery! Laurel’s folks live in Palm Coast, and Tuesday afternoon they warmly welcomed our weary band of pilgrims from the north.

Today we had a leisurely pace as we visited the ocean, and then the heated pool at the club! We’ve seen small green critters, painted buntings, and even an alligator. Heather gets to cling to her Papa, and delight us all with her swimming.

Tonight I am in Orlando for the start of the Ligonier Conference in the morning. On the way into town I stopped at St Andrew’s Chapel — where R.C. Sproul is the preaching pastor and enjoyed a quick walk around the place (did not bump into RC there).

But just now my growing enthusiasm for the conference has been tempered by the reality of some church troubles at home (I had to check my emails!). Yet the Lord can still instruct a heavy heart, and He knows what is best for me. I am not really here for myself, but actually for my congregation — that they might profit from my spiritual growth and further training under the Word of God. It’s sobering and humbling. I’m off to read Psalm 121.


PS – I’m also thankful for the timely ESV “verse of the day” from Jeremiah 29:11 (in the right margin of my blog). Amen.

Vacation is underway…

Well it is good to have a change of pace — and this vacation is off to a quick one! We left New York after church on Sunday morning (and after lunch and loading the big van). After several hours drive down I-95, dodging NJ drivers weaving about us, we arrived safely in Maryland, at the home of old friends Dwight & Kim Chamberlain. What a warm welcome — even from the family dog, Chloe (is that how you spell it?), who seemed to like our Heather most of all!

Family vacations are also a good time for “character formation” (or so it would seem, from reading my daughter Kathryn’s blog, BLOOM AND GROW.)

i95After some great conversation it was off to bed. In the morning, we eat a leisurely breakfast while waiting for “rush hour” to pass, then it was off on the byways and highways to Virginia and beyond. Many parts of the drive were most interesting (long tunnels, and high bridges).

Tonight, after an hour long delay on the road (arrggg!), we have landed in Florence, South Carolina. We seem to have a brand new Holiday Inn Express all to our selves!

And everyone has since turned in to bed, while I do some work online (emails and this entry). My hope is that the boys, sharing the room with dad, will all fall deeply asleep before the old man starts “sawing logs” as they used to say! (stay tuned for results).


Bat Slayer!

Here’s one of the more interesting accounts, from my week with the Scouts at Camp Wakpominee.

Early one morning, while the troops assembled awaiting the morning flag raising, I walked over to the dining hall for my first mug of coffee. One of the staff was sending all the table-setters, etc, out of the hall, and refusing admittance to everyone. “What’s up?” I asked, hoping to still get to my coffee. There were some BATS in the dining hall, which meant no scouts could enter. “Let me in,” I said. “I know how to deal with bats.” So they let me in.

Kitchen staffers were running aorund the hall with brooms in the air, swinging wildly at 3-4 large brown bats. Quickly I explained how, back in college, I used to deal with bats in the dorms, and the weapon of choice was not a broom but a tennis racquet! A minute later they put one in my hands, and I was after the bats myself. The guys with the brooms tried to direct the bats out one of the doors or windows — or to me.

Eventually, one flew out a door, one bat was pinned against a window screen, and the last one made the mistake of flying within reach of my racquet. With a large arc, as if hitting a serve, I knocked the bat from above my head towards the fireplace, 20 yards away. He landed there unconscious. The sound of the bat hitting the sweet-spot of the racquet was followed by a cheer; the last bat was gone, and breakfast could be served.

The rest of the week at camp, while dealing with the buckets of rain, I campaigned for the nickname “bat slayer” but it didn’t seem to stick.

…more tales to follow….