Monday, August 28, 2017

Flood



Douglas Frank Photograph

Flooded

Is you mind flooded with fog or overflowing with thoughts? Sometimes my mind gets stuck in thought of things I just can’t figure out. I think that this is common to man. What do you do or where do you go for help when your mind and life gets overloaded perhaps like in the Photo above?  In James 1:2-8 we read of trials or temptations of many kinds that we all face. I recognize that the current Texas disaster is overwhelming for many. Yet James admonition is that trials can develop perseverance in us, making us more mature and complete. We are admonished to even receive these troubles with “joy.”  Now there is a key to dealing with them that makes no sense from a worldly basis. The writer is not talking happiness here, but an inner assurance that God is in it with us. Of course if you don’t have God in you, this will be a much harder trial or temptation.

Another verse in 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that trials and temptations come to all of us and that God won’t give you more than you can handle in His faithfulness. This means that with God’s advice or power it won’t be more than you can handle, but without it, you are on your own. Then I think your mind will look like the foggy and flooded scene above. There are lots of obstructions, rocks and submerged logs to trip on, not to mention falling into the stream that seems to be increasing in flow downstream.

So, are you getting perturbed or anxious yet? I am. So where do I go? Well, James 1:5-8 says, If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” Another translation calls this person wavering and unsettled. The Message calls you “adrift,” like a lifeboat in the sea tossed by the winds. Have you ever experienced this kind of situation? Of course you have, we all do, and South Texas is in it big time now. The key is where we go with it.

Wind-whipped worry only worsens the wreck, like the Apostle Paul in the graphic Acts 27 shipwreck. A violent storm arose with a wind of hurricane force like “Harvey” has hit Texas. Crewmembers are floating on boards or swimming for their lives to get to shore. But none were lost because Paul had sought the Lord:  And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’  Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (Acts 27:22-25).

Do you seek God before and in the trial? His wisdom is the response we need above the Red Cross.
I responded to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans 12 years ago, but cannot this time. Our Presbyterian Disaster Relief Team stayed in our local church in Slidell. All the trees were down and with it the electricity. Homes were flooded. By the time we arrived most had been searched with telltale orange spray paint symbols on front doors identifying if there were dead or missing. It was very eerie to see numbers in the 9th Ward and St. Barnard District where high loss of life occurred. We were there to help provide supplies, hope and to begin the demolition phase.  There were people just walking the streets without shelter food or water. The floods had taken away homes and livelihoods.  Some however, were full of praise for having survived. Their resilience was empowering to our own team members.  Focusing on God’s goodness and provision in the storm is a mindset that is not easy to achieve in disaster. I am praying for the Harvey survivors and for the storm to relent.

So what is your disaster today? Are you just wallowing in pity? Are you just floating around in a flood? Are you seeking help from the Lord to help respond effectively? I don’t know your situation, but God does and He cares.


Friday, August 25, 2017

I Read Today


I read in the obituaries today about a man I cared for in the hospital a couple of months ago. He was there on a drug overdose. We talked at length and I was amazed at the guy’s love of God and his knowledge of Scripture. He was remorseful of his decision and was ready for another run at life. The guy was a computer expert with a great job. He asked if I would be his mentor. I said yes, but never heard from him, wondering what happened.

So I was surprised to read that he was dead. I imagined at age 28 that it was not old age illnesses that had taken his life. Perhaps he had overdosed again. Or perhaps he had been in an accident. I don’t know, but God does. You see we are all made in God’s image and likeness the Bible tells us in Genesis. That means that we have immeasurable worth through Him who made us. We have gifts and talents to give back to the world that others may come to know the One who made us. You see “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20). Again in Ecclesiastes the writer says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12).

All men know that God created each person. We just may not acknowledge it for whatever reason. Some want to keep control and not bow to anyone or thing. Some are afraid of a God who knows all and is in all.  Some say that they are atheists; which is a religion about self. Don’t fool yourself.  It is pretty sorry to think that this life is all there is. You just die and that’s it. Well friend, to God a day is 1000 years. This life is a nanosecond.  The Bible says “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). God knew us before creation began. You can choose to believe that or not. The consequence of not believing it is death in agony in hell eternally.

I am saddened that a man would take his own life. Yet with depression, the darkness can be so great that there does not seem to be an alternative. I know because I have been there. But by the grace of God I could not go through with it. “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God has put before us life or death, choose life! Grab something or someone today that has meaning for you. If you can’t figure it out, ask a friend to name something for you.  Open God’s Word, the Bible and turn to the Gospel of John or 1 John and read. There are some 7,500 promises of God to us in the Bible and they and God are good. Believe it and live. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Winds


Winds

Winds blow where they want; I have no control. This is a mystery. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

This morning I rode my bike on the river road. It is different every morning as I enjoy the beautiful flowers, flowing river and green meadows. Yet, this morning the usual stillness was broken by strong northwest winds causing everything to have a new look and feel. It wasn’t cold mind you on this mid-August dawn it was just refreshing. Winds are not always refreshing. In fact this same wind on my late December morning bike rides is cold and almost foreboding. This contrast seems a lot like the contrast I am experiencing in the world today. The love that the Apostle Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 13, the one that is kind and gentle, not rude seems to have left the building. I recall President George HW Bush taking about a “kinder and gentler nation.” Wow, this concept with the 1,000 points of light may still exist, but it is sublimated by loud rancor and hatred. Paul speaks about this in saying, “put to death therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…but now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these; anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator…therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And be thankful” (Colossians 3:8-15 selected verses).

Our country was founded upon certain inalienable rights, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
 These are rights “given by God.” God is in control of all things, not us humans.  The apostles were in a boat with Jesus rowing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a furious wind came up lifting high the waves. They were “afraid of drowning,” crying out to Jesus, who was asleep in the stern.  He awakened and rebuked the wind-“Quiet! Be still!” bringing an instant calm as He asked them why they were so afraid.  They were “terrified” and asked each other who is this? “Even the winds and the waves obey Him” (Mark 4:41). Indeed, it is true; all created things obey the Lord God Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). It is sometimes harder to remember this when the world seems, as He predicted, to be falling apart.

The Winds of War is a novel by Herman Wouk bringing much wisdom: “Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind.”  He was not necessarily speaking of the state of mind and heart that is in Christ Jesus. Yet that is the only way to peace. He is telling us that even in the storms of life that He is in control and sovereign over all. He will let us destroy or devour one another in our God given free will. In our natural state, without God as our rudder and center we are capable of the most heinous acts. So, as I began this essay, it is only by being filled with God’s Holy Spirit that we can walk in righteousness and not envy and pride thinking ourselves better. The truth is that failing new birth we cannot understand or walk in God’s ways. “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). As the Apostle John said of this, “Apart from Him I can do (or am) nothing.”  James would say of these trials and temptations we experience that we must consider them “pure joy,” asking God for wisdom. If we doubt, we will be “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6) and “the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4).