A Very Humbling Contrast

We were studying Micah last Wednesday night in Bible class, and a sister emailed me afterward with this note:

After reading Micah 7 it is interesting how in Hebrews 10 the word says if we keep willfully sinning we trample Christ under our feet. Then back in Micah 7 it says that God treads our sins underfoot and throws them to the depths of the sea. Such a neat and very humbling contrast. The great terribleness of our deeds to the great awesomeness of the mercy and grace extended from God

Here are the two passages she referenced:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26,29)

It is truly a humbling contrast for us to ponder today. God has trampled our sins under his feet because He has delighted in steadfast love. God is compassionate and has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. What then is my attitude and response to that grace, forgiveness and the blood of Christ?

Let us hold up that sacrifice as a sacred treasure by the way we think, the choices we make, the words we say, the places we go, etc. God has trampled on our sins, and it frees us to walk on a holy pathway of righteousness with the blood of Jesus covering our lives.

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:21-25)

Being a Shechaniah

We were very blessed over the weekend to have Andy Harrison with us. He led our men’s study on Saturday about the power of having a very close intimate brother in Christ. A brother to whom and with whom we can be accountable and vulnerable. Someone who can help us grow to new heights in our walk with God.

Andy used as one of his key examples the man named Shechaniah in the book of Ezra. I encourage you to read Ezra 9-10 and meditate upon it.

The people of Israel returned from captivity, and over time returned to the same sins that sent them away into captivity in the first place. Jewish men who were to be loyal in heart to God were marrying pagan idolatrous women and they were going down the same old road to destruction. When Ezra heard about this he was so sad. Ezra was overwhelmed to the point of being despondent.

Andy pointed out that if you listen to the words and emotions of Ezra in his prayer of chapter 9, one thing you will not see is hope. Ezra is pretty low at this point, and understandably so.

While Ezra was weeping and praying, a great assembly of people gathered around, and one man stood up and spoke up. Look at the progression of what happens; listen to what is said. Take note that Ezra at the beginning is weeping and praying, and at the end he is weeping and acting. It took a Shechaniah to stand up and support Ezra. Shechaniah showed leadership by being a phenomenal example of follower-ship.

Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.” Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity. And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem, and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.
(Ezra 10:1-8)

What can you see in the words of Shechaniah that would have meant so much to Ezra in his leadership?

  1. Personal accountability. Shechaniah admitted the wrong, and took responsibility for it. He also made himself accountable to being fully supportive as they worked through solving this problem.
  2. Yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Even the greatest leaders can sometimes get hopeless and despair in situations. Paul did (2 Corinthians 1) and so did Elijah (1 Kings 19). Ezra needed hope, he needed Shechaniah to show him that all is not lost. There’s still hope! Don’t we all need that sometimes?
  3. He was willing to help Ezra lead the people in this solution. “Let us make a covenant with our God.” Shechaniah stood up for God and Ezra by being the first to stand up, confess, and show true humility.
  4. Ezra’s advice was valued and promoted. Shechaniah said, we’re going to do this based upon your advice, Ezra. Think of the power that gave the leader when his leadership and his advice were valued.
  5. Shechaniah reminded Ezra of Ezra’s responsibility. As a leader, he needed the reminder that this is his gig and no one can do it for it. “Arise, for this matter is YOUR responsibility.”
  6. Shechaniah gave further encouragement and support that “we are with you!” Ezra couldn’t lead if no one followed, and he had the verbal commitment and encouragement he needed now to stand up and do the hard things. How much power is given to you to perform the hard things when you know that there are brothers in Christ who are “with you”? I mean truly with you. You can run through a brick wall if you have the right support and encouragement. Shechaniah was that person for Ezra.
  7. Ezra rose up (vs. 6,7) because Shechaniah spoke up (vs. 2). Please contemplate this today, men. You need to be that Shechaniah for somebody. There is an Ezra out there who may be giving up hope and you can stand with them to support them in carrying out the mission God has given them. Give somebody hope, support and encouragement today. It may be a church leader. It might be a parent or a spouse. It may be a caregiver. It might be your boss. But be that Shechaniah today.

I Am He

Are you familiar with the old hymn, “Abide with Me”?

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see
O Thou who changest not, abide with me

In this song there is a crying out for the presence of God. When other helpers fail, and I feel helpless, abide with me. As the darkness deepens, abide with me. Change and decay in all around I see, but you, O God, do you change.

Please abide with me.

Today’s encouragement is to think about the unchangeable, abiding nature of the great I Am, Jesus Christ.

Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
(John 8:57-59)

In the book of John, Jesus made a clear and unmistakable claim to be the great I Am. The Jews knew what he was saying, and they tried to stone him for saying it. But I want to focus in on the statement of Jesus that, “Before Abraham was, I Am.”

Jesus has always been, Jesus will always be, so that means Jesus IS right now. When other helpers fail, Jesus is here. As the darkness deepens, Jesus’ presence is in the life of the Christian. When change and decay go wildly all around us and within us, Jesus is there.

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
(Isaiah 46:3-4)

“You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior.
(Isaiah 43:10-11)

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.
(Isaiah 43:25)

There is no other savior. Jesus is it. Even to our gray hairs, he will carry us. He made us, and he sustains us. Jesus cares for us. He never changes. His love never fades.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.” So we may boldly say: “THE LORD IS MY HELPER; I WILL NOT FEAR. WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?” … Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
(Hebrews 13:5-6,8)

 

For The Place Where You Are Standing Is Holy

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:13-15).

As the people of Israel were preparing to conquer the Promised Land of Canaan, God met with Joshua. Just like Moses, Joshua was told to remove his sandals from his feet because where he stood was holy ground. Before Joshua could effectively lead the people of Israel, he had to be reminded of and impressed by the holiness of Almighty God.

Here are three simple observations about Joshua standing on holy ground:

  1. God is Holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

#1 – God is Holy

Whenever mankind was put in the presence of God and shown His glory, they immediately were brought to their knees and they trembled. But why? Because of the holiness of God. Isaiah, for example, the moment he saw the vision of the Lord, he knew right away that he was a sinful man with a dirty mouth (Isaiah 6).

Here is a passage about Jesus that I believe helps to explain holiness:

Hebrews 7:26 – For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

Innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted. This is why as man we tremble in the presence of the glory of God, because He is sinless and completely pure. Adam and Eve, before sin, did not fear and tremble before the presence of God. Sin brought fear and separation. Through the blood of Jesus, we can be reconciled and made pure so that we can dwell in the presence of God without fear and boldly come to His throne.

#2 – Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.

Was there something special about the dirt by the Jordan River? No. It was holy because God was there. Another example is in 2 Peter 1:18 when Peter was reflecting upon his experience during Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Peter called that mountain a “holy mountain.” It was no different than any other mountain, but what made it holy was the presence of God.

Think for a moment on just a few places the Bible says He dwells. God dwells in the heart and spirit of the Christian, we are His temple and dwelling place (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). He also dwells within the body of Christ, the church; collectively we are His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Marriage is to be regarded as holy and undefiled, because God’s presence is there as well (Hebrews 13:4; Malachi 2:14-16). Where the holy God dwells is to be counted by us as holy.

#3 – Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Remove your sandals, in other words, take off the defilement of this world before you meet with God. When people were going to meet with God, there were preparations that had to be made. They had to purify themselves, wash themselves, change their clothing, and put away the wickedness/idolatry of the world (Genesis 35:1-5; Exodus 19:9-15; Isaiah 1:10-20). We can’t be unholy and meet in fellowship with a holy God. Just like Moses and Joshua had to remove their sandals, we have to take off the filthiness of the world, wash ourselves in the blood of the Lamb, and put on a new man (Ephesians 4:20-24; Revelation 7:13-14; 22:14).

2 Corinthians 7:1 – “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

This week, we are going to focus on this passage, and use the concepts from today to apply to our various relationships in life.

Jesus Became

In a Bible study the other night, a sister shared with us the concept that “Jesus became.” She pointed out several passages of Scripture that speak of Jesus becoming some quality or character trait.

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40).

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:7-9).

Jesus became strong. Yes, He was all God in the flesh, but as a young man he grew up and became strong in body and in spirit. He lived in heaven, yet, He “became” poor so that we could become rich. Jesus became obedient, Philippians 2 says, and the Hebrew writer added that Jesus “learned” obedience through what He suffered. Again, yes, He was God and knew all things, but He experienced suffering and as a man learned obedience to the Father in the midst of that suffering. Because of all of these above things, Jesus became the source (author) of our eternal salvation.

Praise God through Jesus for what He became for us.

But also contemplate on this today, men. What can you “become” if you walk with Jesus? If Jesus became strong, you can become strong through Him. If Jesus became obedient through suffering, so can you if you draw ever closer to Him.

The GOD of the Towel

By the time you get to reading this, the week will be already started and the pressures of time and responsibility will have started to push against you.  Thank you for taking time to consider these thoughts as we work in “Drawing Closer to God”.  To do so, I am thinking back to a sermon I have heard Brother Cicero deliver both to the general assembly and as part of a the first men’s leadership study I ever attended.  The sermon and lesson is titled “The GOD of the Towel” and provides great thoughts for us to consider as we reflect on our God, on ourselves and how we need to and can draw closer to Him through His Son Jesus.  The word to keep in mind as we do so and throughout our discussions this week is “humility”.  We are called to be servant leaders in our spiritual lives, in our homes, in the Body, at work, and as we interact with those in the world.  There is no greater example of a servant leader than that of Jesus and we read about it very clearly in John 13: 1-17.  I encourage you to take some time and look over these verses and I will reference them as I go.

In this passage of scripture, we have Jesus humbling Himself and washing the feet of the apostles as they are gathered together in the upper room, leaning around a U-shaped table and preparing for the feast.  What is an interesting amplification of the significance of what Jesus is about to do is what is on the minds of the 12.  Jesus, God in the Flesh, is about to wash their feet and the 12 are thinking about who will get to sit in the chief seats…further one of them, Judas, is thinking of betrayal.  Take a minute and apply that to your life.  As God works mightily in your life…do you find yourself self-centered or faced with the strong luring of a specific sin?  We all struggle and are not much different than the apostles in this situation from time to time…and it is no secret to God.  With the apostles (as with us)…Jesus knows all this, but still He proceeds and in what He accomplishes is the beginnings of the much need explanation of the bigger picture…of who Jesus IS and why Jesus is HERE.

So take time today and read these verses over and meditate on them with this thought in mind…Our God is a servant and He is working and preparing our hearts for service.  Reflect on your life and consider how He is accomplishing this.  Conider whether or not you are opening your heart to this transformation.  If you aren’t or are struggling, what is getting in the way?  Finally, consider how you might be a servant leader in all aspects of your life, with the responsibilities God has given you and the talents/abilities He has blessed you with.  Think on these things and let’s use this lens tomorrow and consider the women in our lives.  Lead on brother…and serve!

 John 13:1-17; NKJV

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”  10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”  12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

A Rotten Egg

Well, it happened for the first time to me last week, I cracked one of our eggs and it was rotten. We have chickens and ducks, and lots of eggs. I love to make eggs in the morning, so just like any morning I took an egg and cracked it on the side of the pan, but this time out came green goo. Wow, what a smell! I just took the pan, went straight out the door and wiped the nasty stuff off in the grass. I had to open windows, light matches, turn on fans, etc.

Oh, and Anna loved it, she was just having a high time laughing about it.

I don’t have much to say as far as application, except this. Sometimes you don’t know the contents until the outer shell is cracked. When we are under pressure, trials and adversity, our “contents” are revealed, and sometimes they are not pretty!

What is revealed within you when you are under pressure and “crack”? What contents come out?

When we have those times that reveal the heart, it helps us to see that we need to work on the interior; we need to cleanse our hearts and strengthen our faith.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:6-7)

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.
(Proverbs 17:3)

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
(James 3:7-18)

Let us also keep in step with the Spirit

But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
(Galatians 2:14, ESV)

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:24-25, ESV)

The two above passages from Galatians talk about keeping in step. Some of you were in the military or in a marching band, and you can right away understand this concept. You can spot it right away when someone is not “keeping in step” with the others.

Galatians 2:14 is referring to when Paul rebuked Peter to the face for conduct “not in step with the truth of the gospel.” Peter’s hypocrisy led even Barnabas astray. Barnabas and others were walking in step with Peter, but not in step with the truth of the gospel.

The next passage from Galatians 5 is in the context of the war between the flesh and the Spirit. In order to keep in step with the Spirit, we need to “crucify” our flesh with its passions and desires. When we are following our lusts and passions for the things of this world, we are keeping in step with Satan, not the Spirit.

Just like that person in a marching band who is not keeping in step with the others, we should be able to spot when we are not keeping in step with the Spirit. It all comes down to what fruit we are bearing and manifesting in our lives?

Is your life’s fruit showing that you are keeping in step with the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21)?

Or is your life revealing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?

With whom are you keeping in step today, men?

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
(Galatians 6:7-9)

When God says “No”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10, ESV)

Were Paul’s prayers for his thorn in the flesh prayed in faith? Yes.

Did those prayers come from a heart that was pure before God? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers for this physical agony fervent, genuine and persistent? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers specific? Yes.

Was Paul’s motive for this prayer selfish and self-centered? No. Just because it was about himself doesn’t make it selfish. Jesus did the same, right?

But with all of this, God still said “No” to Paul’s request. That is just hard to swallow. When God says “No” to our prayers, it can be a great challenge to our faith. Why pray at all? What does it matter? Is prayer just an exercise in futility?

If you are challenged by me even bringing this up, then that’s good. Read the Psalms. Look at those who are looking up into heaven and asking “Where are you God?”, or “How long will it be before You hear us?”

Remember the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
(Psalm 22:1-2, ESV)

These feelings are real. Sometimes when fellow Christians bring up these feelings and questions they get dismissed or invalidated by others who give their default “churchy” answers without thinking. If Jesus Himself wondered why God had forsaken Him and whether God wasn’t listening at all, is it okay for me to wonder that once in awhile, too?

Yes, yes it is.

Here are some thoughts I see from Scripture that help me when I go through that process of wondering where God is.

God IS listening. The Lord responded to Paul’s prayers. The prayer was heard, and the prayer was answered. “From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached His ears” (Psalm 18:6, ESV).

God answered the prayers of many people in Scripture and gave them their requests. Gideon, Joshua, Moses, Samuel, Abraham, Hannah, Esther, Mordecai, Elijah, Hezekiah are just a few of the faithful to whom God granted their petitions. Prayer is not an exercise in futility. It most certainly works.

God’s grace is sufficient. When God says “No,” or “Wait awhile,” or “Yes, but in a different way,” then you can be assured that He has a very good reason. It may be very difficult at times to accept that, but His grace is sufficient.

God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. God’s “No” answers will work for His glory so that His strength, not ours, is exalted.

I will glory and boast in my infirmities. We may want the “testimony” and “witness” to others that we prayed for something and God gave a definite and mighty “Yes” to our requests. But the testimony we may give is like that of Paul, in that we glorify God in the weaknesses, trials and setbacks of life. Paul’s “testimony” was that he was “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
(Luke 18:1, ESV)

Thoughts from the Storm

I live in Magnolia, Texas which is about 35 to 40 miles north of Houston.  I’ll be very clear, my family and I are safe and dry and comfortable.  We are thankful to God for His protection.  Our area has experienced around 20 inches of rain so far and the forecast anticipates an additional 15 to 25 inches of rain in the next few days.

We could talk about the ridiculous numbers; they always seem to fascinate people.

  • In total the experts expect this area of Texas to receive in excess of 50 inches of rain by the time the storm has passed.
  • Harris County, just one of the many, many counties impacted, will receive over 600 BILLION gallons of water because of Harvey.
  • There is not a single major roadway in Houston that is not flooded at multiple locations.
  • There have been over 20 confirmed tornados from this storm.
  • As Harvey hit land, 110 to 130 mph winds were sustained for over 5 hours in the city of Rockport. For my Midwest friends, that’s equivalent to a category 2 tornado but for 5 consecutive hours.

By the time this experience is over there will be many more numbers thrown at us but numbers have a way of depersonalizing this entire situation.  The reality is that the only reason any of the numbers matter is because they impact individual people.  Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends are having their lives turned upside down.

For today’s article, I’d like to share a few of the individuals that have gotten my attention during this experience.

I saw a man and his wife wading through waste deep water with their three kids who appeared to be between the ages of 6 to 13.  The father was carrying a trash bag that had all that remained of their worldly possessions in it.

A man named Jeremiah and his young son were lowered in a basket from a helicopter, they had been rescued from their roof.  Jeremiah said that they got home last night, were notified of a flash flood warning and within 45 minutes had to climb on the roof to escape the water.  The reporter asked him what he was thinking to which he responded, “We are alive.  God is good!”

One family of six had water starting to come into their home about 10:30 Saturday night.  It quickly got up to about two feet so they decided they needed to leave.  In the dark, they made their way through yards and streets and over fences until they came to a higher overpass.  They spent the entire night clustered together under the overpass with the few items they could quickly grab from their home.

One reporter was riding in the boat of what I affectionately call a “good ole’ boy”.  Early Sunday morning he was heading into a flooded neighborhood to retrieve his mother in-law.  After getting her to safety, he went back time and time again to get more and more people.  He, and many, many others, spent the entire day doing what they could to rescue people they didn’t know.

Sunday morning the owner of Hilton Furniture had gone down to his store to make sure everything was secured.  On his way home he saw police officers helping people out of flooded areas onto an overpass.  Mr. Hilton stopped to find out what the plan was to get the people to a shelter…there was none.  He called up his drivers and had them bring the empty delivery trucks and they proceeded to load people in the back of the trucks and take them to shelters.  He continued this effort all day.

The owner of Gallery Furniture, a Texas owned company, made a decision and an open invitation.  He opened two of his “safe” stores up as shelters.  He invited anyone who needed a place to stay to come to his stores. They would be able to sleep on the display beds and couches and he would provide food and water.

I could go on and on and on with stories of those impacted by this event and those seeking opportunity to serve.  For every tragic victim there seems to be a humble hero.  It is amazing how the most severe situations seem to bring out the best in mankind.

As I sit here, listening to rain pound against my house, wondering if the water will stay outside, I don’t really know what to make of all this.  Maybe I’m still trying to process the reality of the situation.  Maybe I’m just not insightful enough to draw deep meaningful conclusions, but I keep coming back to a few simple thoughts.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31 

My God is in control and deeply cares for every single one of us.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

It is in the darkness that light shines the brightest.  Brothers, we have an opportunity to put our faith into action and bring glory to our God.

 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21

 I believe this.  Pray that God will cause this storm to stop, to move out, to loose it’s power and allow us to start recovering.

May God bless all you.