Archive for category Bible

‘Til the Storm Passes

radar-image-94161Some may have slept through parts of it, but many probably heard every crack of thunder in Pinellas County on Thursday morning. The rain poured down, the wind howled and the lightning flashed across the sky for a few hours. In Clearwater, a tornado touched down and caused damage to a few homes and power lines.

While all of that was happening outside, I pulled up an app that showed a radar image of the storm and its movement relative to my precise location. With just a little estimation, I could determine where the storm was headed and how long it would last for me. I had more information on my phone than Roy Leep had back in the day!

In contrast, can you imagine the uncertainty of a fierce storm in ancient days? The clouds and pouring rain darkened the sky and decreased visibility. People would scramble for cover not knowing how long it would last or even what was in store for them. Farmers would fear for the loss of their crops. Sailors knew that the wind could drive them off course quickly. If bad enough, any storm could quickly grow from mere confusion to destruction and death.

Jesus and His disciples faced that type of storm while on the Sea of Galilee.

Mark 4:37–41  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

The great Creator stood in their midst and controlled the winds and waves with His mere words. What confidence and comfort.

Years ago, when I was in a quartet of preachers we would sing an old Mosie Lister song in concerts. I seemed to hear it drifting through my mind again this morning as the rain fell. The words are a powerful reminder that God not only cares about the storms that we face in this life, but He also is powerful enough to carry us safely through them.

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try,
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies.

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Perhaps you are facing a storm…or anticipating one around the corner. Whether you can see how strong it is or how long it will last, be very sure that God is still stronger than the wind and rain. He loves His children and delights in walking us safely through the storm.

It’s an Awfully Loud World

Sitting silently in the public library recently, I continued to hear the same voice loudly interrupt my study.  She seemed to talk to anyone who would listen.  “How’s your wife?  How’s your day?  What’s new?”

Doesn’t that lady know this is a library?  Where people like me can sit quietly and read!

She continued just as loud and more frequently:  “What are you looking for?  Can I help you find something?  Stop running in the library!”

Wait…what?  It was a librarian who was using her “outside voice.”

It was a reminder that we live in an increasingly noisy world.  As I write this in my favorite Panera, Vivaldi is playing on the intercom.  A group of retirees at the table next to me are not afraid to let everyone know their views as they solve the world’s problems.  A woman across the room is speaking on her cell phone to her friend (who has apparently experienced a significant degree of hearing loss).

In July Real Simple magazine published these observations about the abundance of noise (and the accompanying lack of silence) in our society:

  • Between 1975 and 2010 the average number of TV sets per household rose by 87% (from 1.57 sets per household to 2.93).
  • Out of approximately 111.8 million households recorded in the 2009 Housing Survey by the US Census Bureau, about 25.4 million (almost 25%) report being bothered by street noise or heavy traffic.
  • In a 2006 Pew Research Center poll, 82% of those who responded said they had encountered annoying cell phone chatter in public.  (Not surprisingly, only 8% felt that their cell phone habits were irritating to others.)
  • The article includes a quote from George Prochnik, who wrote In Search of Silence.  He asserted, “I think we’re seeing noise tied to a host of problems of the age – problems of attention, aggression, insomnia, and general stress.  Noise is now the default position as a society.  But I believe we have to make an effort to build a passionate case for silence.”

    Our world leaves us precious little time or space for contemplation.  Science declares that the human mind requires a suitable environment to consider options and solve problems.  Experience tells us that we need somewhere to unwind from the busyness of life.  However, there is also an obvious spiritual connection.  Do we have time to be still and know God?

    In The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard writes of the resistance he met when first teaching about the need for solitude and silence.  The critics cried, “Too ascetic!  Overly monastic!”  Even today conservative critics warn that such practices sound too mystical.  However, the psalmist surely appreciated his quiet time with the Lord.

    When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Psalm 63:6

    Now our “night watches” are filled with sit-coms, talk shows, or our favorite playlists streaming through earbuds.  Another example of our problem can be found in the increasing numbers who spend devotional time on a handy electronic device.  Nothing wrong with that, especially if the convenience increases frequency and faithfulness.  However, have you ever been tempted to click over to check for email or status updates in the middle of your study?   Multitasking can provide an efficient work process, but it’s abysmal for spiritual growth.

    Do we believe it requires too much effort to get away from the clamor around us?  Is it simply the nature of a society that revolves around entertainment and consumerism?  Is it a fear of being alone that draws us to noise and crowds?

    Regardless of the cause, the solution is to designate a portion of each day to meditate on the things of God.  Quietly contemplating what we read in Scripture and waiting on God before we move on to the next of today’s demands.

    Remember Jehovah’s instruction to Joshua and its accompanying promise: 

    This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Joshua 1:8

    Way back in 1988 Randy Stonehill sang:

    It’s an awfully loud world in an awfully small room,

    And it gets so much you can’t hear nothing else, and not a soul is immune,

    It’s an awfully loud world screaming louder each day,

    We’re crying, “Cut it out, shut it down, someone make it please go away.”

    The mute button is in our hands.  Perhaps it’s time we use it more frequently.

    What about you?  Do you have a special time or place where you get away and meditate on the things of God that you’d like to share?


    The Fine Print

    The beaming faces spoke about great successes.  “$1000 in one month.”  “$700 my first day!”  “$4000 and I only worked part-time.”  The infomercial featured a book and program that promised to provide make big money from the comfort of your home by advertising online.  However, below those big smiles was the fine print.
    “In a poll of those who bought the book, the majority of people did not read the book or apply it.  Most did not make any money.”
    Surprisingly truthful. 
    As I read the disclaimer, I wondered if that also could be said about believers in Christ.  We have the book that offers eternal life.  God’s Word outlines how to gain victory over temptation and sin.  The Proverbs of Solomon overflow with practical advice for every area of life.  The New Testament epistles are rich with theological instruction.  Yet, even the Bible is of little value to someone who lets it rest undisturbed on the shelf. 
    The test of our Christian walk is obedience to God’s Word.  This requires us first to become students of the book.  More than just breezing through a chapter, we should give thoughtful consideration to what we read.  The Psalmist even encourages us to meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2).  Even better is to memorize Scripture so that we can draw on it’s power at any time.  Finally, our study of the Bible should always produce practical application.  
    But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. James 1:22  

    It’s not enough simply to own a Bible.  We must live a life that accurately reflects it.  Our goal should be to maintain a testimony that doesn’t need any disclaimers.

    Still small voice

    Thursday’s newspaper headline declared, “Three natural disasters rattle a hemisphere.” While a powerful typhoon was bearing down on Southeast Asia this week, two underwater earthquakes struck thousands of miles away. One quake spawned colossal waves that rushed toward the Samoas, leaving massive flooding in their wake. The other flattened buildings in Indonesia leaving more than 1,000 dead, thousands more missing, and countless families without a home.

    As the death toll continues to rise in the wake of such tragedy, the public discussion generates some inevitable questions and responses. Even secular pundits weigh in when tragedy strikes on such a grand scale. “Could this be divine justice? Should we consider it a wakeup call?” Soon a religious leader will likely seize the public platform to make a definitive interpretation as if he serves as God’s sole spokesman.

    During Elijah’s self-imposed exile (1 Kings 19) he witnessed some incredible events: a strong wind crumbled the mountains and crushed the great rocks. An earthquake and fire soon followed. “But the Lord was not in the fire” (vs. 12). Remember that God spoke to Elijah with that “still small voice.”

    We often look for meaning in events such as those that struck this week (especially when they are closer to our own home). In frustration we lament, “If only we knew what God was trying to tell us.” While I would not discourage someone from examining life’s occurrences through the lens of providence, I believe we have a greater responsibility.

    Certainly, God is powerful enough to shake the earth or control the winds and waves. Likewise, He is still active in the course of human history. However, should we be looking for a message in these natural events when we so often overlook the clear one on our own bookshelf? Bound between leather covers we possess the complete divine revelation – the very Word of God in our own language. What a blessing and privilege – one which we easily take for granted.

    The will of God is not inscrutable on its pages. Otherwise, we could not be expected to do it, as the New Testament authors instruct us (Eph. 6:6). Certain aspects of the Lord’s will are clearly expressed in the Bible. His will is that sinful men will repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). He expects believers to obey the civil authorities and the laws of the land (1 Peter 2:15). He desires His children to be thankful (1 Thess. 5:18). His will is that Christians will maintain personal purity, living holy lives that are examples to the world (1 Thess. 4:3). If only we inspected the message of God’s written Word with the same diligence that some do the tempests and tremors.

    Our responsibility? Handle the Word of God properly. Value it – evidenced by the time we spend with it. Respect it – manifested by the authority we give it. Honor it – demonstrated by our obedient response to it.

    We will once again gather on Sunday and look into the sacred book that we hold in our hands. On its pages we find the message of God preserved for us. May we be faithful children of our heavenly Father, remembering the great worth of His Word that reveals His will for us.