Friday, September 14, 2018

The Teacher Fish

I recently read an article about the discovery of 3 new types of sea creatures that live in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  Evidently, they are previously unknown species of snailfish.  What is so unique about they are designed to live in a part of the ocean that few other creatures could survive in.  The article stated that they live in a trench in the bottom of the Ocean that is seven miles deep!  A submarine is able to only go about 2,000 feet deep.  They have very few predators because most other sea creatures are not capable of going that deep into the ocean.  The extreme pressure of the deep sea provides the environment for these unusual creatures to thrive in.  If they were to come to the surface, they would literally fall apart and melt.

Psalm 19 and Romans 1 tells us that the creation reveals to us something of the nature of God.  So what do these previously unknown creatures who live in the dark in an environment made for them tell us about God?  Maybe it is a reminder that each of us has our place and purpose in God's created order.  These unusual creatures have their unique place in the bottom of the ocean for whatever purpose they were created.  Maybe it is a reminder that we must live in the environment that God has created for us.  These creatures must remain in their environment, or they may be attacked by predators and fall apart from the lack of support of the deep sea pressure. If we do not remain in Christ, we will ultimately perish.  He provides protection, support, and life for us.  Maybe it is simply to remind us that God is infinite in his wisdom.  We never arrive.  There is always something more to discover and something more to learn.  Humility leaves us open to learning and enjoying new things. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Children of God

Someone once said that the most difficult teachings we sometimes relegate to kids stories.  This includes the stories of David and Goliath, Jonah, and the birth of Christ.  When you start to dig deeper into these stories, you find messages that are difficult to put into practice.  The theory is that relegating these to children's stories helps adults to avoid a heavy message.  I wonder if this is not also true with music? 

I think of Jesus Love Me as a children's song, but the message of the song is pertinent to all people.  Some people have trouble with believing that Jesus truly loves them.  I sometimes see adults sing this song less enthusiastically than other songs.  I have found myself looking around the room for children to sing this song toward them rather than toward other adults.  Is this only a kids song with a kid's message?  Then there is a line in the song, "I will henceforth live for thee," which in some song books has been toned down to "I will try to live for thee."  Is this children's song too demanding that some adult somewhere had to tone it down?  I sure would rather say to my wife, "I will love you all my days" rather than "I will try to love you all my days."  If I wouldn't say the latter to my wife, why would I say it to God?

I am also thinking of the song, Trust and Obey.  I remember singing this on the Joy Bus as a child, and in Sunday School.  I typically think of it as a children's song.  It is so simple with very simple and easy to sing music.  But why is this a children's song?  Perhaps it was an attempt to reinforce obedience in children?  But does the need to reinforce faithful obedience stop when a child becomes an adult?  Do adults not struggle with faith and obedience as well?  Do we not need to keep singing songs such as this as a simple reminder?  Why would we think this message too simple if we continue to struggle with faith and obedience?

Then there is Jesus Loves the Little Children.  This was a very popular song in children's church, on the bus, and Sunday School.  The simple reminder in this song is that Jesus loves everyone, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, age, or social status.  He "loves the little children of the world."  Is that not a message adults need to be continually reminded of?  How often to we adults need to relearn this message aimed at children? 

Maybe there's truth in the statement that some of the most difficult teachings of the Bible are relegated to children's messages.  That way, we feel as though we have moved past it and no longer have to deal with it.  But I wonder if it is more pride than anything else.  There are times when we need to be reminded of the simple basics.  The Bible calls us beloved "children" of God.  Therefore, his message is always pertinent to us.  We are never too old, big, or mature for his message. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The God of Glory Thunders

As I sit here and observe the heavy rain and the high winds, my heart began to race a little.  I sat inside the safety of this building, but if this were a tornado, not even this building may be safe.  I sat and listened in case the sirens went off, warning of an impending tornado.  I learned the following day that this storm had done it's share of damage to buildings, signs, and even knocked out the power in certain areas.

My mind went back to other Nebraska storms I had seen.  A couple of years ago, I saw a tornado dipping down from the sky to the land.  Fortunately, it was at least three or for miles away and was not headed in my direction.  At another time, I remember a tornado warning in my area.  I was at a friends house who lived right on the river.  I was not too worried because tornadoes do not typically hit the river.  But then a flash flood warning came over the radio.  I decided the odds were better facing a possible tornado than a flash flood, so I headed home.  I can remember the two feet of water rushing down the street in the middle of town.  Fortunately, our home was on higher ground and I made it safely.  The following day, I went out to see the aftermath.  That water had actually torn up the asphalt all over the lower parts of town. 

I remember the aftermath of tornadoes in the city when I was growing up.  I was in elementary school back then, but those scenes of houses lifted right off their foundations are still vivid in my mind.

Storms can make person feel small and insignificant.  I still remember storms that came of the gulf when I was stationed there.  The amount of rain and the high winds made me feel like I was irrelevant to everything happening around me.  Fortunately, none of those storms during my time there developed into hurricanes.  I have seen photos of the devastation that a storm that starts at sea can make when it hits land.

I am reminded of the 29th Psalm: 

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.

The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The LORD is over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful,
The voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

The LORD sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.
The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.

This passage poetically reminds us that Yahweh is the all powerful Lord of the storm.  The army of the Lord is the wind, rain, flood, and lightning.  He shakes the ground when he thunders.

Here is what I find encouraging.  He does not reach down to destroy us, but to give life.  His voice causes his creation to skip and dance with life.  His voice causes his creation to give birth.  His voice gives his people strength and peace. 

Oh what a curious mix of trembling, fear, hope, and joy!  Truly he, and he alone, is the one that brings down to the grave and makes alive.  In the midst of the storm, I am reminded that God sits as king above it all.  He displays his power, which is not against me, but for me.  As my heart beats faster when I hear the wind howling and the hail beating against the roof, I am reminded that I am always safe in the arms of Jesus.  When might bring fear actually brings a sense of peace and calm.

I am reminded of Jesus, who was fast asleep in the middle of the storm.  His disciples were with him and had not yet grasped the full significance of who they were with.  Jesus, who tramples down the waves of the sea, who commands the wind with a single word, who is Lord of the storm, is our master and Lord.

The storm comes in many forms does it not?  Cancer may come and attempt to blow away my courage.  Sicknesses of various kinds may come threaten to topple my confidence.  Missed expectations in my walk with God may send the whirlwind against the walls of my faith.  Suffering may throw hailstones on the roof of my bravery. 

But then God reminds me that I am in the boat with Jesus, and there is nothing to fear.  The boat may seem like a scary place to be, but Jesus is not worried at all because he is Lord of the storm.  Jesus will lead me safely to the other side.  Even if the storm topples my tent, the tent was temporary anyway.  I am looking for a permanent home with the Lord that will never be destroyed.  Jesus will lead me safely to his eternal home where there will be no more sorrow, death, sickness, or pain. 

I am now reminded that our Lord will not lead us safely around the storm, but will lead us safely through the storm.

Here are some passages that are a good reminder of the various ways our Lord thunders from the Heavens.

Nehemiah 1:2-8

A jealous and avenging God is the LORD;
The LORD is avenging and wrathful.
The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries,
And He reserves wrath for His enemies.

The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
In whirlwind and storm is His way,
And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.

He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
He dries up all the rivers.
Bashan and Carmel wither;
The blossoms of Lebanon wither.

Mountains quake because of Him
And the hills dissolve;
Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence,
The world and all the inhabitants in it.

Who can stand before His indignation?
Who can endure the burning of His anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire
And the rocks are broken up by Him.

The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble,
And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

But with an overflowing flood
He will make a complete end of its site,
And will pursue His enemies into darkness.

Job 37:2-13

Listen closely to the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that goes out from His mouth.

Under the whole heaven He lets it loose,
And His lightning to the ends of the earth.

After it, a voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.

God thunders with His voice wondrously,
Doing great things which we cannot comprehend.

For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
And to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong.’

He seals the hand of every man,
That all men may know His work.

Then the beast goes into its lair
And remains in its den.

Out of the south comes the storm,
And out of the north the cold.

From the breath of God ice is made,
And the expanse of the waters is frozen.

Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud;
He disperses the cloud of His lightning.

It changes direction, turning around by His guidance,
That it may do whatever He commands it
On the face of the inhabited earth.

Whether for correction, or for His world,
Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.

Psalm 107:23-32

Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters;

They have seen the works of the LORD,
And His wonders in the deep.

For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind,
Which lifted up the waves of the sea.

They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths;
Their soul melted away in their misery.

They reeled and staggered like a drunken man,
And were at their wits’ end.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distresses.

He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.

Then they were glad because they were quiet,
So He guided them to their desired haven.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!

Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people,
And praise Him at the seat of the elders.