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His Eye Is on the Sparrow

With some slight changes this was originally posted in 2010. I though it worth repeating in light of what’s happening in the Gulf Coast region.

In the midst of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath we have heard (and will hear) so many words–sorrow, anger, courage, hero, fear, weary, shock, miracle, unbelievable.  We have heard explanations, promises, assurances, warnings.  Some of them have been wise, some foolish, some sinful and evil.  In these words there have the words from God, but also from fallible humans, and some straight out of the mouth of Satan himself.  Sometimes it is hard to know which are which.

The Bible helps us put things in perspective.

First, we are reminded that we cannot rid the world of suffering.  Someone has said, “This is a world where robins die, and sparrows, and people: the ones we love, the ones Jesus loves.”  The Peanuts characters put it this way:

Charlie Brown: “I have a new philosophy…’Life is like a golf course.’
Snoopy: “And ‘a sand trap runs through it.'”

The Biblical view says that God’s original creation has been damaged.  It is defaced, messed up. Hurricanes and floods happen.  We can endlessly debate the philosophical and theological issues here, but the reality is clear.  This is a world where people, innocent people, get hurt.

However, in the midst of this, God is paying attention.  God listens, God sees, but most importantly God cares.  In the Old Testament God promises Soloman and the people just that–My eyes and my heart will always be here. (II Chron 7:16b-NLT)  Jesus says that even the fate of sparrows is not lost on God (Matt. 10:29).  And in the defining text of the Bible He says, For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only son. (John 3:16)

God is not just an observer, but, in fact, is in the midst of all this—in the Salvation Army relief worker, World Vision, UMCOR and scores of other Christian groups and individuals.  But, also in secular groups—the Red Cross, Chinese disaster teams, American military units—any one there with the will to help is doing God’s work whether they know it or not.

Finally, hope is intrinsic to the Christian message.  Along with faith and love, hope makes up the triangle of the Christian’s attitude.  A pastor dying of cancer took a leave from his church.  He was able to return and in a sermon he said, “We want to worship God in this church, and for our worship to be real, it doesn’t have to be fun, and it doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden.  But it does have to be honest, and it does have to hope in God.”

Hope is the future tense of faith.  Though we cannot deny what God has done and is doing, we must keep our perspective.  In our lives and those around us, much of  the Gospel is promise of what is yet to be.  But God is here, God is at work and is preparing a better place for us.  It is called heaven and without it, disasters/tragedies cannot be reconciled with a loving God.

Sisters, brothers keep the faith.

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Where We Are

You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. –II Peter 3:3

I was recently looking at the results of a national study on the “Beliefs, Preferences and Practices” of the American people.  It is the first of its kind study in fifteen years.  Several things in particular caused me to “sit up and take notice.”  The first was that over four in ten Americans  (42.3%) believe “God is the full realization of human potential.”  More than one in four  (27.9%) agree with the statement: “Everyone and everything is god.”  When asked about religious preferences almost one in four (22.6%) answered “none.”

Another study by the Barna group and examined in a book by David Kinnaman, “You Lost Me,” deals with the mass exodus of young Christians from church.

These and other data paint a sobering picture of the state of Christianity and the church along with prospects for the future.  In light of that what is a Christian to do?  For some it becomes an exercise in spiritual “hand-wringing.”  For others, the response is “We know the outcome.”  Jesus said “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  So, let’s go merrily on our way to heaven and “to hell (literally) with the rest of the world.”

However, Jesus warned this would happen.  And in that context, he gave us our orders: “Go and make disciples, followers of Jesus.”  How can we do that in a world like ours?  There is no easy answer.  However, there is one thing we must do.  Make sure our/my life models Jesus.   Nothing so disarms the enemy, so attracts others to him.  We see too many Christians (I use the word loosely) who disprove the good news.  We have too many churches where it is not taken seriously and who settle for a thin religious veneer rather than transformed lives.

A former professor of mine, Dr. James Robertson, used to say (in his rich Scottish brogue) we need to “adorn the gospel.”  He was saying we need to live so our living is good advertisement for God’s way.  Everything else depends on God’s people being like Jesus.

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father…. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  –Matthew10:29,31

For those of us living in the NE corridor of the United States and the path of Hurricane Sandy, today we are either breathing a sigh of relief because we were spared or we are assessing the damage and trying to make sense of it all.  And in the midst of a disaster like this we need perspective.  As I have been thinking about it I just want to share what I wrote after the Haitian earthquake of 2010. Read it.

News: Vacation Bible School

Messiah’s VBS was the week of July 26th.  Director Chasity Johnson expressed her satisfaction with a good week.  Eighty children were involved along with 33 adults.  In addition to lessons, games, music, etc. the children raised over $137 for King’s Kettle food bank.

During our regular worship  (Aug 2) we heard and saw examples of what the children had done and experienced during the week.

A special thank you to Chasity and all those who made this ministry happen.