November 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“An honest examination of conscience reveals much vanity, arrogance and self-esteem; and in the past also a certain amount of dishonesty. That was brought home to me when they called me a liar while I was being beaten up. They accused me of lying when they found I mentioned no name except those I knew they knew already. I prayed hard, asking God why he permitted me to be so brutally handled and then I saw that there was in my nature a tendency to pretend and deceive.
On this altar much has been consumed by fire and much has been melted and become pliable. It has been one of God’s blessings, and one of the signs of his indwelling grace, that I have been so wonderfully helped in keeping my vows. He will, I am confident, extend his blessing to my outward existence as soon as I am ready for the next task with which he wishes to entrust me. From this outward activity and intensified inner light new passion will be born to give witness for the living God, for I have truly learned to know him in these days of trial and to feel his healing presence. God alone suffices is literally and absolutely true…”
-Alfred Delp. December 31, 1944
Alfred Delp (1907-45) was hanged for treason by Nazi Germany for his involvement in the Kreisau circle. After Count von Stauffenberg’s failed attempt on Hitler’s life the Kreisau circle’s involvement came to light and its members and associates were tortured and executed.
-from Kidder, Annemarie. Ed., Ultimate Price: Testimonies of Christians Who Resisted the Third Reich, p. 76
November 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“People want to observe Christians who have taken a stand in the contemporary world, Christians who live amid all of the darkness with clarity, insight, and conviction, Christians who live with the purest peace of mind, courage, and dedication amid the absence of peace and joy, amidst the self-seeking and the hatred. People are looking for Christians who are not like a wavering reed that is pushed back and forth by every light breeze, for Christians who ask primarily about the teaching of Christ and our faith, Christians who do not watch to see how their associates will respond to this or that point. If signposts are set in the ground so loosely that they can be turned by every wind and as a result, point in this direction and then in that direction, is someone for whom the way is unfamiliar able to find the right path?
-Franz Jägerstätter, Notebook 3, p. 211
Franz Jägerstätter (1907-43) was executed by the Nazi Regime on August 9, 1943 for refusing to take the oath of combat and fight for the Third Reich. He refused to “compromise his Christian faith by serving what he considered [to be] an evil leader, Hitler, and a warring state that was pillaging, ravaging, and destroying human lives.”
-Kidder, Annemarie. Ed., Ultimate Price: Testimonies of Christians Who Resisted the Third Reich, pp. 34; 46
November 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By Tim Challies
“Over the past couple of months, I have been writing a series of reflections on Jerry Bridges’ book The Discipline of Grace. This is such an important book—a true contemporary classic—that teaches the centrality of the gospel in the life of the Christian. Bridges was writing about gospel-centeredness long before gospel-centeredness was all the rage.
All throughout the book Bridges has shared a series of disciplines the Christian must develop as he pursues holiness. “We have seen that we must behold Christ in the gospel, we must learn the proper relationship of dependence and personal discipline, we must make a commitment to holiness, and we must develop Bible-based convictions. In the everyday application of Scripture we must learn to make the right choices, to mortify sin, and to watch against temptation.” These are all things we must do if we are to make progress in the pursuit of holiness. Though we maintain dependence upon the Holy Spirit to grow in holiness, still we must act and still we must discipline ourselves.
But there is one discipline that we do not undertake ourselves. Instead, the Lord imposes it upon us as a means of spiritual growth. This is the discipline of adversity. In the final chapter Bridges looks to Hebrews 12:4-13, a classic passage on how the Lord disciplines us for our good. It is noteworthy that a passage on the Lord’s discipline begins with an encouragement. The author of the letter to the Hebrews encourages the recipients of the letter by telling them that the Lord disciplines the ones he loves, just as a father lovingly disciplines his own children. Says Bridges, “We should realize that God’s discipline, which comes to us in the form of adversity or hardship, is an indication of His loving care, not a token of His disfavor.”
When we find ourselves under the Lord’s discipline, there are two ways that we may react wrongly—we may make light of it (or, to say it another way, we may despise it), such as when we count it as little value and something that is to be endured rather than something that is for our benefit. Alternatively, we may also lose heart under it, believing that the Lord is disciplining us out of anger rather than out of love. Bridges offers this warning:
In times of adversity Satan will seek to plant the thought in our minds that God is angry with us and is disciplining us out of wrath. Here is another instance when we need to preach the gospel to ourselves. It is the gospel that will reassure us that the penalty for our sins has been paid, that God’s justice has been fully satisfied. It is the gospel that supplies a good part of the armor of God with which we are able to stand against the accusing attacks of the Devil (see Ephesians 6:13-17).
All of this raises a question: How do we know when the Lord is disciplining us? Bridges looks to Hebrews 12:7-8 and says, “The writer instructed us to ‘endure hardship as discipline.’ There is no qualifying adjective. He did not say, ‘Endureall hardship’; neither did he say, ‘Endure some hardship as discipline.’ In the absence of a qualifying adjective, we must understand him to have meant all hardship. That is, all hardship of whatever kind has a disciplinary purpose for us. There is no such thing as pain without a purpose in the life of a believer.”
It is important to realize that this does not mean that every instance of hardship is necessarily related to a particular instance of sin. However, it does mean that all hardship is meant to bring us to greater conformity to Christ. “It is true that we often cannot see the connection between the adversity and God’s purpose. It should be enough for us, however, to know that He sees the connection and the end result He intends.” Are we ever able to tell if there is a connection between our adversity and a specific sin? He says, “It is my own belief that the Holy Spirit will bring such a connection to our attention if we need to know in order to deal with a particular sin.”
What, then, is the goal of all of this discipline? Hebrews 12:10 tells us that “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” The highest good to which the believer can aspire is just this: to be conformed to the likeness of Christ and to share in God’s holiness. “This is the design of God in all of the adversity and heartache we experience in this life. There is no such thing as random or chance events in our lives. All pain we experience is intended to move us closer to the goal of being holy as He is holy.”
Thus discipline, difficult though it may be, is a means the Lord graciously uses as he calls us to grow in holiness. Sometimes Christians try to explain away 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which says to give thanks in all circumstances. But we see that we truly can rejoice in all circumstances when we know that the Lord is using them for our good and his glory.”
June 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By Timothy Raymond
While every pastoral counseling situation is unique, it’s also true that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13; ESV). I’m certainly not a professional counselor, but I have done enough biblical counseling to notice some patterns in thinking and interpreting problems. If you do (or hope to do) any amount of pastoral counseling, the following are 20 statements you’ll probably hear at least once or twice (or more) in your ministry. I’d encourage you to think through how you’d respond, and more importantly, what specific passages of Scripture you might connect to each situation. God’s word provides us with “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3; ESV), but we pastors need to know how to bring the Bible to the issues that beset us.
1. “Why can’t I stop myself from doing _____________?”
2. “Why [this suffering]?”
3. “I’ve neglected my wife for 30 years and now she hates me. Can you give us any hope?”
4. “If you were married to her, you would have done the exact same thing.”
5. “But doesn’t God want me to be happy?”
6. “Where did my infant go when he/she died?”
7. “What’s up with this predestination thing?”
8. “I don’t care if nobody sees any fruit of the Spirit in my life. I prayed the prayer when I was 5 and that settles it.”
9. “I don’t think I’m saved but I really want to be saved because I believe Jesus is the only Savior and I’m sure I’ll go to hell without Him.” [Try untangling that one.]
10. “I’m really trying but I just can’t forgive him/her.”
11. “Do I need to forgive him/her if he/she doesn’t ask for forgiveness?”
12. “Constant guilt haunts me because of something evil I did 30 years ago.”
13. “Dude, my sexual desires are just a lot stronger than most guys.” [I think most guys think this.]
14. “Here’s my rebellious teenager. I’ve brought him/her to you because I know that one good talking-to from you, Pastor, will straighten him/her out.”
15. “With all respect, Pastor, when you’re my age you’ll see things differently.”
16. “I just think you’re taking the Bible/Christianity too seriously.”
17. “I know I should read the Bible, but I’m just not much of a reader.”
18. “I know I should pray more/attend church regularly, but I’m just too busy with work/school/sports/hobbies/etc.”
19. “I can see why you’d say that, but I heard the exact opposite from Dr. Oz/Dr. Phil/Oprah/The View/etc.”
20. “I’ve prayed about _____________ dozens of times but nothing ever changes.”
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Tim grew up outside Syracuse, NY and previously served at Berean Baptist Church, Nicholson, PA (member and teacher during college and seminary) and Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio (seminary internship location). Tim met his wife Bethany at college, and they were married in May 2001. Tim enjoys reading, weight-lifting, wrestling with his three sons, and attempting to sleep.
April 26, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“I suppose I should see some irony in some of the more vindictive journalistic pieces slinking out since the death of Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson. It’s not that I mind these articles focusing on Colson’s Watergate crimes and his rather nasty political persona prior to conversion; Colson emphasized that too. More problematic is the smug undercurrent that somehow Colson’s life in ministry to criminals was somehow just some sort of “cover-up” for who he “really” was: a dirty trickster for whom everything was politics. Even as they bury the hatchet-man, some journalists just can’t bury the hatchet. And, as they center everything on Watergate, they demonstrate that Nixon wasn’t the only one with an Enemies List.
I found myself reflecting this morning on my own hypocrisy in my irritation with these cynical secular editorials and news pieces. After all, I’m the one who rolls my eyes at an evangelical victim mentality that cries “media bias” whenever we aren’t represented fairly. In my anger at these writings, I evidenced a spirit closer to Watergate-era Richard Nixon than to the post-Watergate Chuck Colson. Nixon’s downfall, after all, was at least partly due to his consuming desire to be accepted by the media and culture mavens of American society. President Nixon’s rage was because he really cared what the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about him.
It’s just bad journalism to portray Chuck Colson as some sort of born-again Machiavelli of the Religious Right. After his conversion, Colson was discipled in the Christian faith by a progressive Republican (Sen. Mark Hatfield ofOregon) and a liberal Democrat (Sen. Harold Hughes ofIowa). Colson did engage political issues, but he consistently warned against the entanglements of evangelical Christianity with the Republican Party, recalling how he and the Nixon team had used some Christian leaders for their own purposes. And Colson clearly wasn’t some sort of activist, transferring his political ambitions from the West Wing to the sawdust trail. If he were to do that, he wouldn’t have chosen issues clearly outside the Religious Right playlist: prison reform, prison rape, injustice in application of the death penalty, and so on.
Still, we shouldn’t be angered by journalists who don’t get the full measure of the man. We should instead hear in some of this cynicism the cry of every human heart, a disbelief that there can be any such thing as final and total forgiveness of sin. There’s a reason, after all, why President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon prompted such initial outrage. It seemed that Nixon escaped justice. He wasn’t held accountable for what everyone knew to be evil: lying, conspiracy, obstruction of justice. For some, Colson’s transformation from disgraced hatchet-man to beloved religious statesman was from the same cloth.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, isn’t a Gerald Ford-like pardon. It doesn’t simply promise freedom from consequences. The gospel deals honestly and soberly with what the conscience knows to be true: human guilt. Colson understood this kind of tactic while in the Nixon White House. If you can find some “dirt” on an opponent, you can silence them. You can hurt George McGovern by planting his campaign materials in the home of George Wallace’s would-be assassin Arthur Bremer. You can compromise the “Pentagon Papers” by releasing the psychiatric records of their author. You can win against the Democrats if, by phone taps, you can prove they’re getting Cuban money. And so on.
These tactics weren’t pioneered by the Nixon White House, or by the Johnson machine before it. These tactics of accusation are as old as the human race; in fact, older. The satanic powers hold humanity in captivity, the Bible teaches, through accusation and fear of death (Heb. 2:15; Rev. 12:10). The gospel doesn’t just “pardon.” The gospel gets at the root of the accusation, and brings about justice by uniting the sinner to an arrested, indicted, and executed Humanity, in the cross of Jesus, and by uniting that sinner to a righteous, sinless, and vindicated Humanity, in the resurrected Christ. That’s why Colson didn’t hide in an apartment somewhere, but spoke so openly of his sin, and identified himself with broken men and women with guilty consciences and criminal records.
Colson had every reason to be ashamed. Virtually every word he spoke in the Nixon White House was recorded and transcribed, and laid open for everyone from the House Judiciary Committee to his next-door neighbors to see. His own words proved him to be ruthless, manipulative, and, at times, craven. But all of our words are transcribed, the Bible tells us. They are embedded in a conscience that points us toward a Judgment Day in which every idle word and thought is revealed, and all is laid bare (Rom. 2:15-16). Like Nixon and his cronies, we want to obstruct that justice. If only we could erase the “tapes,” and sear over our consciences, we reason, everything will be okay. In trying to win the campaign of our own attempts at self-justification, we’ve rebelled against a higher authority than the United States Constitution. We’ve broken into temples more sacred than the Watergate Hotel.
A generation ago, the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang back to a culture basking in the glory of a repudiated and humiliated Nixon White House. They sang, “Now Watergate does not bother me; Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth.” That’s still the question.
When you read those who smirk and dismiss the Chuck Colson conversion, the Chuck Colson life, don’t get angry and don’t be outraged. Read a subtext that belongs to all of us: the fear that the criminal conspiracy we’ve all been a part of will be exposed, and just can’t be forgiven. Read the undercurrent of those who find it hard to believe that one can be not just pardoned, but “born again.” That’s indeed hard to believe. An empty grave inJerusalemis all we have on which to base that claim, a claim that speaks louder than our own accusing hearts.
I have to believe that when Chuck Colson opened his eyes in the moments after death that he didn’t hear anything about break-ins or dirty tricks or guilty consciences.
I have to believe Mr. Colson heard a Galilean voice saying, “I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36).
I have to believe that he stood before his Creator with a new record, a new life transcript, one that belonged not to himself but to a Judean day-laborer who is now the ruler of the cosmos. And in that Lamb’s Book of Life there are no eighteen minute gaps.
That’s good news for guilty consciences, good news for recovering hatchet men and women like us.“
April 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“…we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles —content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph. Such is the nature of his rule, that he shares with us all that he has received from the Father. Now he arms and equips us with his power, adorns us with his beauty and magnificence, enriches us with his wealth.
These benefits, then, give us the most fruitful occasion to glory, and also provide us with confidence to struggle fearlessly against the devil, sin, and death. Finally clothed with his righteousness, we can valiantly rise above all the world’s reproaches; and just as he himself freely lavishes his gifts upon us, so may we, in return bring forth fruit to his glory.”
-John Calvin, Institutes, 2.15.4
April 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” (Mark 14:32)
Sometimes we picture Jesus far too serene. We imagine him in the garden praying rather stoically, “Not my will, but yours be done.” But the mood at Gethsemane was anything but tranquil. Mark 14:33says Jesus began to be greatly distressed and troubled. Verse 34 says his soul was sorrowful unto death. And in verse 35 Jesus fell flat on the ground. Here is a man with the weight of the world, and heaven and hell, on his shoulders.
Never has a man prayed facing more temptation than Jesus faced in the garden. Never has a man prayed awaiting so much suffering. Never has a man prayed with such emotion and anguish. Luke records that “being in agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat become like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). It’s called hematidrosis: under intense pressure or fear, the blood vessels around the sweat glands contract and then dilate violently, causing them to rupture. Blood then enters the glands and is secreted through the pores of the skin. The endocrine system knew what was coming.
It is impossible to exaggerate the depth of Jesus’ anguish in the garden. Imagine knowing your child would die later today or that the planes were going to crash into the Twin Towers or that you’ll have a terrible car accident next Friday. That’s what Jesus knew was coming, only terribly and eternally worse. Jesus was facing more than death or sadness. He was facing God-forsakeness.
Jesus stared at the worst drink a man could drink–the cup of God’s wrath. He gazed into its bitter poison. He thought of draining it down to the dregs. And hoped for another way.
But there was no other way. Upon making his request three times–”Remove this cup from me”–Jesus was not set free from the suffering before him. Just the opposite. After praying in the garden, his closest friends disappoint him (Mark 14:36-41), one of his disciples betray him (14:42-49), and all his companions desert him (14:50). Even the anonymous young man in the background would rather run stark naked through the woods in the middle of the night than be caught next to Jesus.
This is dark Gethsemane where Jesus Christ–the perfectly obedient, perfectly faithful Son of God in perfect relationship with his Father–did not get his request granted. At least not his first one. The cup was not taken from him. The wrath would not be assuaged another way. Jesus could not avoid his infinitely grievous dark weekend of the soul. God’s will would be done. Not the way Jesus had hoped. But the way he was willing for it to be.
For us. For joy. For glory.
March 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Recently a Texas judge upheld a law that requires a woman to be shown an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion. His decision was discussed on The View and Joyce Behar and Barbara Walters made the following stunning statements:
Joyce Behar: “It’s very totalitarian in my opinion. I mean, it smacks of forcing somebody to confront something that they have already decided they don’t want to deal with.”
So if a person doesn’t want to deal with something (in this case, someone), you just avoid it? Can you imagine applying this principle to other situations in your life? “I don’t want to deal with the fact that my daughter has been molested, so I’ll just ignore it.” “I don’t want to deal with my child being bullied at school, so I’ll just ignore it.” Countless people suffer tremendously because they don’t deal with the truth but disregard it. Ignorance is not bliss. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” It is very disrespectful to women to withhold truth from them. They need to know facts and see their unborn baby before they make a decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Women need support, not abortion.
Barbara Walters: “I think that in order to even think about having an abortion, to give up a child that is obviously unwanted, that’s why you’re doing it, it is such a tremendous decision, it’s involved with so much fear of what you’re doing, and guilt.
Then to have to go and be forced to hear, to see the fetus, to hear the heartbeat, to put more guilt on you, I think is heartbreaking.”
So it’s all about how the woman feels, not about bringing harm to someone else? Notice her reference to “a child.” That’s no longer in question like it used to be. Now people admit it’s a child. They have to because it’s so clearly proven by the in utero technology we now have. But that doesn’t seem to matter. The message given on The View is that what really matters is what the woman wants. What selfishness! As a woman, I take great offense at these statements because they imply that what’s most important to a woman is how she feels, not what is true. “She shouldn’t be given all the facts, because that might make her feel guilty. After all, we must avoid guilt at all cost!” This undermines the strength of a woman and her ability to deal with what is true and to make wise choices in light of that truth.
And why is this such a “tremendous decision”? Why does it involve fear and guilt? Because this isn’t just another medical procedure like having your gall bladder removed. It involves another human being, a life that God ordained from the beginning of time. “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13).
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). It is always in the best interest of the woman to give life and to love another human being. That love might be expressed in the form of relinquishing her baby for adoption into a loving home or choosing to parent. But it will never be expressed by taking the life of her unborn child.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Prov. 3:7).-Kathy Norquist, Executive Assistant to Randy Alcorn http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/28/women-need-support-and-truth-not-abortion
March 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m just going to say it: I love me.
Go ahead and say it to yourself a few times. I love me. I don’t know how it will make you feel, but I can guarantee that it won’t make you a liar. Look in the mirror. Not bad, huh? No? Well, whether you love or hate what you see, chances are you’ll keep on looking.
None of us has a problem with low self-esteem.
Scripture tells us we were born with the opposite issue. We all think of ourselves as a little more pretty, a little more talented, a little more worthy, and a little more deserving of just about everything in this life. Far from having naturally broken hearts, our hearts are naturally bloated with the calories of self-consumption and filled with obscene levels of self-obsession.
We’ve been taught that there’s nothing more valuable than how much we value ourselves. Sometimes we like to doll it up with introspective words like self-realization or self-fulfillment, but it’s all the same thing: egos the size of Kanye West performing with Jay Z on top of the Empire State Building. Yes, our esteem is that extreme.
Depths of Our Souls
The frightening thing about self esteem is the staggering lengths God goes to completely eradicate it from the depths of our souls, in order to produce depth in our souls.
If the Lord loves a humble and contrite heart, it means that he equally abhors a prideful and defiant one.
One of the prevailing themes of the Bible is how God makes nothing out of men by flipping the object of their esteem from themselves back to him. These stories play out like dark, epic, cinematic tragedies. We all hope our story doesn’t.
In Moses we see a rich, short-tempered prep school kid who got embroiled in a racial murder scandal. Fleeing the scene into exile and obscurity, he gets a blue-collar gig tending sheep for 40 years. God eventually steps back into the picture and assigns him the CEO position of the world’s largest relocation project. What he doesn’t tell him is that the relocation’s going to take another 40-plus years and that he’s going to die right before the final move-in date. God spent a lot of years breaking down Moses. His whole life, actually.
Then there’s Joseph, a spoiled, insensitive trust-fund baby, coddled by his Daddy until his brothers have finally had enough of his insufferable bragging and throw him in a hole while they discuss how to do away with him. They end up selling him into slavery instead, because you could do that back then. He lands a manager position for good behavior until he gets framed on rape charges. Dude ends up back in jail until a VP gig for the nation ofEgyptopens up, and through some heartbreaking circumstances, he lands the job.
God broke Joseph down during the prime years of his young adult life.
You see where I’m going here.
God takes sometimes horrific, drastic measures to destroy our self-esteem.
We’re not told much about the personal pain Moses and Joseph experienced. We’re not told of the sleepless nights spent in isolation, gripped by emotional despondency while grasping hopelessly in the dark, trying to fathom why God was doing this and whether he was even there. In hindsight, we tend to view these figures as emboldened, courageous, pillars of the faith, but it’s foolishness to think that their responses were any less weak and human than ours would be.
But we see a God that uses very human experiences to change the hearts of human vessels. And it hurts.
Call to Brokenness
The call to brokenness is a call to openness. It’s an altered vision. It doesn’t mean that our lives enter into a continuous state of disrepair so that God can use what “working” functions we have left for his glory. Brokenness is the gentrification of our hearts. It means that the heart we had was condemned and the only way for God to make it fit for use was to demolish it and rebuild it from the ground up. Same body, new heart.
The reason it hurts so bad is that we all love our old hearts. We love the familiar pulse and well-worn rhythm that our old hearts provided for us. They filled us with adrenaline, pumping the blood of self-indulgence through our veins . . . until we remember that they didn’t at all. We remember that they shut us into the cells of our own self-belief, closing us off from the liberation of godly self-denial.
The beauty of low self-esteem is that we finally have the hearts to highly esteem God.
It’s not that we all turn into Debbie Downers and drench ourselves in self-loathing and self-pity. No, there’s no time for that when our eyes are fixed firmly on our Lord.
“You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek’ (Psalm 27:8).
Help us, O Lord, to see only you.
-Ronnie Martin is a writer, speaker, recording artist, and worship leader at Ashland (OH) GraceBrethrenChurch. He also co-hosts The Reformatory, a radio talk show with Ted Kluck. You can visit his blog and follow him on Twitter.
March 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
John Piper gives a hard, but scriptural response to the devastating tornadoes which afflicted our nation. We grieve suffering because we see the pain it brings. But suffering is a result of the Fall and our sin, and thus we cannot blame God. His divine purposes are perfect and aren’t we thankful that He sent His Son to rescue us from the consequences of the Curse!
Posted at Desiring God: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fierce-tornadoes-and-the-fingers-of-god
“Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?
If God has a quarrel with America, wouldn’t Washington,D.C., or Las Vegas, or Minneapolis, or Hollywood be a more likely place to show his displeasure?
We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil.
God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.
•“The wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and it shall strip Ephraim’s treasury of every precious thing” (Hosea 13:15).
• “The Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea” (Exodus 10:19).
• “God appointed a scorching east wind” (Jonah 4:8).
• “God commanded and raised the stormy wind” (Psalm 107:25).
• “Even winds and sea obey Jesus” (Matthew 8:27).
But why Marysville and not Minneapolis? Why Henryville and not Hollywood?
God has spoken about these things. Consider three ways he addresses — all of us.
1. Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job’s ten children died because “a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people” (Job 1:19).
Job cries out to God, “Why have you made me your mark? . . . Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? . . . Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Job 7:20; 13:24; 21:7).
In other words, Why Henryville, and notHollywood?
God’s answer to Job is not that he was a worse sinner than the “wicked” — or that Maryville had some dark secret.
His answer was, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Romans 11:33–34; Job 15:8; 36:22f).
Job’s loss was not a measure of his immorality. “Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1).
In fact, perhaps God chose Job for that deadly wind because only the likes of Job would respond: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
2. Luke 13:4–5, “Unless you repent.”
A Tower fell and killed 18 people in Jesus’ day. Jesus spoke into that situation: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).
This is a word to those of us who sit safely in Minneapolis or Hollywood and survey the desolation of Marysville and Henryville. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.
3. 1 Peter 4:17, “God’s own people are not excluded.”
We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity. God is always doing a thousand things when he does anything. And we see but a fraction.
But stir into your mental framework this truth: When a time for judgment comes, it usually includes, and begins with, God’s own people. That’s what the apostle Peter says.
“It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17; Jeremiah 25:29; Ezekiel 9:6; Amos 3:2).
Therefore, God’s will for Americaunder his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.
But before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says, to America— to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient. Come to me, and I will give you hope and help now, and in the resurrection, more than you have ever lost.
You can show your partnership in suffering, and help lift the load, at Samaritan’s Purse.”
-John Piper, 03-05-2012