Monday, July 23, 2012

In The Face of Evil

It was supposed to be a fun evening. Costumes and film marathons.  For one town, it ended up anything but fun.

This past week, we couldn't believe what we were hearing.  A crazed man in Aurora, Colorado had opened fire in a crowded movie theater, killing and wounding many people.  He apparently had plans to do more, setting up explosives and booby traps in his car and apartment.  How scary.  What is this world coming to?  It's enough to make a person afraid to go anyplace.

It seems like every time we turn around there is another psychotic person that is hurting or killing innocent victims.  We can  easily get depressed and cynical about life.

And yet...this is what life, here on earth, includes.  Pain.  Suffering.  Senseless death.  We wonder "Why?"  There is no answer.  We don't know...and we may never know, this side of heaven.  We do know that in the midst of the suffering there is also something else.  Hope.  Hope that can take away all of our fears.

Over two thousand years ago the same things were going on.  There were insane and barbaric men in those days also.  They got some maniacal thought in their head and acted upon it.

One man was so jealous of a completely innocent person, that he couldn't stand it.  The more that he thought about another person taking away his power, he became more and more obsessed with keeping what he had.  He would stop at nothing to make sure that he didn't lose what was rightfully his.

This man was a king.  He had heard that a baby was born that was also a King.  He stewed and thought about it...for about two years...and finally snapped.  He ordered all young male babies two years of age and younger to be killed.  Soldiers obeyed.  They went from town to town, slaughtering innocent little boys.  How horrible.  Can you imagine their poor families?  I'm sure they were thinking, "What is this world coming to?  It's enough to make a person afraid to go any place."

Yet, unbeknownst to King Herod...and those poor families....there was Someone waiting, A tiny Boy that would hold the answer to those questions in His outstretched Arms.  He was safe and protected in Egypt, waiting for the time when He would come and save His people.  Save them by dying on the cross to take their place.

So when we look at television news, or read the newspaper and see the tragedies that are out there, we can know.  Perhaps the tragedies are in our own families.  Maybe we are living in the aftermath of a death, or sickness.  Yet, we can know.  We can know that Jesus is waiting for the time when He will come again and bring us all to Him.  At that point, we will have no more more pain to endure, for He will have all of the answers to all of our questions. And you know what?  The questions probably won't even matter anymore.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reflections In The Storm

Please watch this video and be blessed.

Isn't she PRECIOUS??  Her name is Mary Margaret, and she is six years old.  What a great teacher she is!!

Although this story is not word for word from the book of Jonah, in the Bible, it covers all of the main points and is a great rendition.  Here are my thoughts on the story.

Jonah thought of himself as a true man of God.  But as soon as God gave him a command, what did he do?  He began to overthink things.  He thought about them so much that it affected his sleep.  In his thinking, he began to shift the focus on God's request.  Instead of thinking of the Ninevites, he began to  think about himself....  "They'll laugh at me." ?It's so far!" "They'll hurt me!"  Instead of it being about God and His became about Jonah.

The more he thought about it, the more frightened he became.  He became so scared that the only way "out" he could think of, was to run away.  He was willing to give all that he had to get on that ship.
Once in the ship, Jonah thought he was off scott free!  Now I can have a new life for myself...I can do what I want!!  I don't have to do anything I don't want to do!  After a time, the ship was far from shore.  Then the wind began to blow.  God sent a storm to shake Jonah up.  At first, Jonah slept through the storm.  He was unaware of the chaos that he was in.  When he finally realized what was going on...he recognized the Hand of God.  He saw how his decision had not only affected affected those around him.  The sailors had lost precious cargo, because of him.  They were in danger of losing their lives.

He knew he had a decision to make.  He admitted out loud to the sailors that the catastrophe was his fault.  He told them to throw him overboard in order to save themselves.  It wasn't them that God was angry was him.  So they did as he asked.  Immediately, the sea became quiet.

Down, down, down he far down as he had ever been.  Then, just when he thought he couldn't get much lower, a sudden whoosh took him up and he found himself in a quiet, dark place. It stank like the inside of a...big fish!! Jonah hadn't quite learned yet.  Still focused on himself, he began to think, "It's so dark in here!" "What will become of me?" "Maybe God will still hear me!"  He began to slowly look away from himself and look..up.

He turned to the LORD.

He thanked God for saving him.  He began with an attitude of gratitude. He repented of his sin. And then what happened?  Nothing.  Jonah prayed and did not see any difference in his situation.  Jonah kept praying. For three days he prayed.  Finally God saw that Jonah had changed, and He had the big fish spit Jonah out on dry land.  Right away, without a glance at himself, Jonah thanked God and obeyed Him when He was told to go to Nineveh.

Jonah was bold as he told the Ninivites to repent and turn to the LORD.  Can you imagine the reaction of the Ninevites?  Here was this smelly and dirty stranger telling THEM how to live their lives!  He definitely got their attention.  Maybe what he said was right. They looked at their lives and knew they were doing wrong.  They repented, and God was pleased.

Back to ole' Jonah.  He had climbed on a hill and waited.  While he sat there, he probably began thinking of his visit to Ninivah.  Wow!  How bold he had been!  He wasn't scared at all!  He had put his life on the line!  He sure was a brave guy!  Whoo Hoo!  God was gonna give it to those Ninivites!  He was going to punish those horrible, sinning people!  He waited...and waited...and waited.  And then what happened?  Nothing. God didn't punish them at all!  By this time, Jonah was all focused on himself once more and began to complain. "I feel like a fool!" "All MY work was wasted!" "God isn't going to destroy Nineveh!

Then God reminded Jonah.  "Jonah, will you never learn My Love?  My Love is great.  It is greater than My anger..and it is for all My creatures.  God is a god of second chances, and infinitum.  God tells Jonah to love as He Loves.  Then he will be a true man of God.

How we are like Jonah!  How often do we think we are good Christians.  Our relationship with God is "fine"!  Sure, we aren't perfect, but God doesn't care...He knows that!  Has He put something on our heart that we should do? Maybe we don't want to do it.  When the feeling won't go away, perhaps we take off in the opposite direction, trying to ignore that persistent "nagging" Voice.  Maybe we can drown it out with other things.  Maybe if we party enough we can make it go away.  Maybe if we find the right person, they can silence the knocking on our heart's door.

We may find ourselves in a low place.  Lower than we have ever been.  Our actions have caused us pain..and perhaps others, too.

We turn to God, thinking maybe He will still hear us.  And then what happens?  Perhaps nothing.  Is God listening?  Yes He is.  He is always listening.  He is waiting.  Maybe He is waiting for us to quit looking at ourselves and look Him.  The more we focus on ourselves, the more frightened we become...the worse our imaginations can make situations become.

Our brokenness can be a great witness.  Sure, we might have scars and look like we've spend 3 days in the belly of a big fish, but we can get people's attention!  We can show them by the change in us, that God is the god of second chances..and inifinitum....

We have to be careful not to change our focus back on ourselves and get upset at God for not punishing others.  Just because we think they ought to suffer the wraith of God, doesn't mean He thinks it should be done.  Will we ever learn His Love?  His Love is greater than His Anger.  We must obey the LORD and love as He Loves.  Leave the outcome to Him...and be grateful for His second chances.

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