Sunday, March 31, 2013

Comfort in the Storm

Am I the only one that sometimes takes comfort in storms?  I'm not talking about comfort in spite of the storm; but rather comfort because of the storm.

I know that comfort's not typically what we associate with storms.  In fact, I've lived all my life in "tornado alley", and although I've never witnessed/experienced such a powerful storm as that, I do know that storms can do much damage to property and harm to people, even to the point of claiming lives.

And yet...the storms still remind me of the power and greatness of God. 

In the Old Testament, at a time when the man Job has been facing some personal storms in his own life, he begins to question God's goodness and justice, and he demands an audience with God.  Amazingly, God shows up.  It's also interesting to note that God speaks to Job out of the storm.  His response to Job includes the following statements:

"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?  What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?  Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?  Does the rain have a father?...Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?  Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?  Do they report to you, 'Here we are'?...Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?  Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and  the clods of earth stick together?"

Part of the answer to Job's questions about God's justice included the rain and the hail, thunderstorms and lightning, as evidence of God's power and authority over all the earth. 

That's why when it was storming here late last night, and the noise was loud enough to awaken me, and the thunder sounded as if it were literally shaking the walls, I simply thanked the Lord for the storm, rolled back over, and went back to sleep. 

That's why as I went to worship this morning, although I didn't enjoy driving through the torrential rain to get there, I had an extra sense of peace in the fact that the storm was blowing outside.  As we sang songs, and as I listened to one of my most respected brothers lead our thoughts in communion, and then as I listened to his kid read scripture and lead us in prayer, I enjoyed getting to hear the gentle rumbling of the thunder, as evidence that God is still alive and active in our world. 

He is with us.

"...For God is present in the company of the righteous."--Psalm 14:5

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Shepherd's Voice: Jehovah-Jireh

"It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

This verse has been one of my favorites for a long time, but just a few years ago, it came to hold even more significance for me.  The above statement of Jesus is found in Matthew 4:4, and it's one that my home church used back in 2010, when coming up with a title for our year-long trek through the entirety of scripture; we called our journey "Project 4:4".  (Incidentally, that quote of Jesus is also in Luke 4:4!)

This quote of Jesus is found as His response to Satan's temptation.  Jesus has been in the desert, fasting 40 days, when Satan tells Him, "If you're the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."  But rather than give in to temptation, Jesus responds with a quote from the Old Testament, one which emphasizes that as humans, our real sustenance comes from God alone.

Jesus' quote here from Deut. 8 is Moses' instructions to the Israelites after they have wandered forty years in the desert.  Before they would enter the promised land, he instructs them, "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years."

Ever since God has been calling man and challenging him to journey with and toward Him, He has also been fully providing and equipping each person with everything needed to make that journey.  It was true for Moses & the Israelites.  It was true for Noah...Abraham...Gideon...Samuel...Jeremiah...Jonah...Peter...John...Paul...and everyone in between.  Show me someone God has called into relationship with Himself, and I will show you someone for whom God has provided. 

Yet sometimes this can still be such a difficult lesson to remember.  Since Jesus seemed to be so well aware of this while fasting, it's something that I also try to remember through prayer and fasting.  So that as I present my requests to Him--and they are many--the hunger reminds me that I should desire nothing as much as I desire a relationship with Him.  It serves as a reminder that He alone is the one that can satisfy all the other needs; and He alone knows best how to satisfy all the other needs.  For He is the God Who Provides.  He is Jehovah-Jireh.