Sunday, June 23, 2013

Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Within a matter of hours I watched a creek turn into a river and cause millions of dollars of damage to homes and infrastructure.  Even worse is the suffering of the displaced families.  People I know, business owners I patronized, families we've fellowshipped with, my own brother, sister-in-law and neices; locked down, unable to leave their own neighborhood.  My children's school friends are living in a shelter the last couple of days.  This is only one town affected by the Alberta flood of 2013.

I write this post from a time of crisis.  Currently the city I live in for the last two months is under water.  Almost 100,000 people have been displaced.  The town I left to move here is completely under water with major damage to infrastructure.  I'm very blessed because for some reason the home I reside in in the city is high, dry and life is as normal.  The property we own in the flooded mountain town is also high, dry and unaffected.  The feeling of blessed assurance however, is clashing with the feeling of frustration as I am personally unable to rush to anyone's aid, unable to give tangible help with my own two hands.  I pray.  I will give.  I will help somehow.

It would be easy to assume a patronizing air and begin to tell everyone that God is at work in people's hearts through suffering.  I mean, this is the time right?  Right smack in the middle of someone watching their $800,000 house flow down a creek with their wife and kids likely homeless, now's the time I tell them that God uses suffering to speak to people.  I could get myself to the middle of the most affected and damaged areas and declare at the top of my lungs that God is using this for his glory.

I think I will refrain.

This morning in church we sang a hymn.  "Great is Thy Faithfulness" seemed so appropriate.  One verse in particular struck a chord in my heart, and one part of it in particular:

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.....

This is what I want to leave with people. 

Do I believe that God allows and uses suffering?  I do (Read Ravi Zacharias' "Jesus Among Other Gods" for a great explanation of suffering).  Do I believe it can and is redemptive?  Most certainly.  But is this the message for right here, right now?  I'm not sure.  I think it's supposed to be 'strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow'.  Why?  Because this is what people need, right here and right now.

In the coming days we will see people coming to grips with their losses.  Those that have lost loved ones will be left asking 'why'.  Those that have lost all of their earthly possesions will be trying to figure out where to go from here.  In the middle of all of this there will be people, just like them, giving and offering the only thing  And from this come the seeds that will grow into strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

The very last words of the hymn 'Great is Thy Faithfulness' are found when the chorus is sung.  It's not a song about God using suffering to teach us a lesson.  It's a song about the reminder of the fact that no matter what happens, God is faithful to bring us through.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How You Should Speak to a King

What is the expectation that Jesus has of his followers when it comes to a person's response to undesireable political circumstances and leaders?  Rebellion? Sarcasm? Hatred?  Love? Tollerance?  How are we to speak of and to political leaders?  We should all know how to speak to a king.

By reading Facebook feeds or watching national news, it is evident that not everyone is in agreement as to what is acceptable.  The Bible instructs us to 'Let no corrupt communication come from our mouths.'  What is corrupt communication?  It's not merely profanity nor simply coarse speech.  It goes to what comes from the heart.  From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Perhaps you've heard or read Facebook quotes concerning a certain prominent U.S. politician.  If your experience has been like mine, you may have noticed something.  I noticed that the hateful, malicious words of Christians sound just like some of the hateful, malicious words of unbelievers.  Where is the difference?  Where is the divine life of Christ displayed?  Can Christians oppose values and differing political ideologies and remain Christ-like while doing so?  The answer should be 'yes'.  But sometimes I wonder.

We cannot model unkindness. We cannot be consumed with disgust and hatred toward a person we don't agree with. We cannot separate our political rhetoric from our Christian conversation.

What is the biblical basis?  The Old Testament has great examples of how people spoke to kings.  Read Daniel 6 and listen to Daniel's response to Darius whom, after being deceived, had Daniel thrown into the lions den to face certain death.  When Darius checked to see the fate of Daniel, he was greeted with "Oh King live forever!"  The result was Darius decreeing the power and grace of the Hebrews God to his kingdom.

Earlier in Daniel's account we learn of the three Hebrew 'children'.  As the story goes, they refuse to worship Nebuchadnezzar at the appointed time and they now face the fiery furnace.  When brought before the king and questioned, their response wasn't to denigrate the political establishment.  They said, ' we don't need to defend ourselves before you in this matter...even if God doesn't deliver us, we refuse to worship (you).'  Of course the refuse, God delivers them and Nebuchadnezzar declared the majesty of their God throughout his kingdom and even promoted the three young men.

The account of Esther has the Jews oppressed under Xerxes.  Esther, taking her life into her own hands attempts to save the Jews, her countrymen, by seeking an audience with the king.  As she opens her dialogue with the man that, while deceived, authorized the destruction of the Jews, she begins with, "If it pleases the king..."

In the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested, a disciple takes a sword and goes for the head of one of the guards, missing and taking his ear off.  Jesus' response was to chastise the assailing disciple and heal the man's ear.

John the Baptist was opposed to King Herod for his immorality.  He preached the good news and rebuked evil.  In doing so he never stooped to name-calling and insults.  he stuck to the gospel and represented Christ.  John the Baptist was put to death.  He was not delivered like our previous examples.

So while living under undesirable political circumstances, facing and dealing with political entities with unacceptable policies, how is a Christian to respond if and when they have to?  Look at Daniel.  Remember the three Hebrew young men and above all remember Jesus.  To them the political opponent wasn't the enemy.  To them it was always about their God to love, and when the goal is to love and please God in everything, the biblical testimony is that God gets far more accomplished for his purposes.