Monday, August 31, 2009

Rise Up

Habakkuk 3: 17
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
13 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

Can you pray this prayer? This is the question Preach closed the message with today. For me, the answer is yes - I can, I have, I do. It doesn’t sound as good, but the idea is the same. It took me a long time to get here, but I know God is powerful enough to rescue – I understand that sometimes he doesn’t – I’m going to rejoice and take joy in Him either way.

This is not something that’s easy, and feel weird saying I can do it (I almost never get to answer rhetorical preacher questions in the affirmative). So, I’m going to try and explain why I’m confident in my answer this time. The reason most people have difficulty with questions like this is that the language is all wrong. The question is not, Can I? The question is Will He? People say God won’t allow you to face anything too big for you to handle - those people are mistaken. It’s almost inevitable He will.

God causes, or by inaction allows, things to happen in our lives that we are in no way equipped to handle. He does this so we have nowhere else to turn but to Him. If you try to take on these things without him you will be devoured by them. You can’t handle much of anything on your own. Can I? No. If you choose to turn these situations over to God, you change the question. Will He?

God’s power is terrifying and his motives often unclear, but He is good. Of that I am sure. Preach made a powerful statement today, I don’t remember it exactly, but basically it was that God only moves in love and always toward salvation. His motivation is love – His goal salvation. When these truths are difficult there are two passages in scripture I carry near my heart to lean on:

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

Romans 5:20
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more

Grace is always bigger than sin – God is in control. He is good and so is what he has for me. If you never receive another blessing from God - If you lose everything you have. If in that you never see God’s hand or hear His voice, He will still be there. He will still be good. He will still be God. You may not see Him, but He will be there. God will rise up to meet the storm and absorb the flood because it’s the only way you survive. All things come from Him. There is no faith, no hope, no life apart from God. You can’t. He will.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Don't Make Us Sing

Psalm 137.

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.

2 There on the poplarswe hung our harps,

3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

4How can we sings songs of the Lord whilein a foreign land?

Habakkuk 1:

2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!"
but you do not save?

3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.

4 Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

I'm alone tonight, have been pretty much all week. The wife and daughter were at the beach all week and tonight the wife is at a wedding. They were both here yesterday and I had the kido to myself for a couple hours tonight, we had fun, but she's in bed now and (except for the giant dog parked on my lap) I'm alone again. I don't like myself when I'm alone. I'm never sure what to do, tonight I decided on some surfing. I came across the blog I linked to above and now I'm here trying to express to you what I felt watching it. It may be that I've been on the verge of emotional for the last few days anyway, but when they kept the camera on that kid towards the end of the video, something broke in me. I think its because I've felt most of the things written on his face. There was such sadness and confusion and fear and, somewhere just below the surface, anger. When I take the church mask off I often find that to be the face I wear.

If you're going to understand where I'm coming from it's important to realize, and I think both of you do, that for me there a two very distinct spiritual times in my life. When my father was alive and since. A lot of the questions posed by events such as Katrina I dealt with in a personal way with the passing of my father, I thought I understood how that works. I thought that until Katrina, as a watched footage of that tragedy I couldn't help but feel like Habakkuk. How could God cause, or by inaction allow, that kind of devastation? I understood, again, how that could leave gaping holes in some people's theology. I think the easy answer is that the existence of such feelings points to a being created in the image of a God who is just. Without God where do we get ideas like justice and equality and fair play. These are certainly not things we see in nature. Nature is about power and ability, the strong get to evolve and the weak are devoured. Surely we did not learn compassion from such a place, the natural world teaches nothing of justice or fair play. If you crave those things I think you are forced to concede that you must be created in the image of a God who embodies those things. So we are forced to conclude there is a God and that he sometimes does things that don't seem right to us. The question becomes, how do we respond?

Some people call what happened in New Orleans justice? I couldn't disagree more. About a year after Katrina we went on a cruise that left out of New Orleans, and I got to see the devastation with my own eyes. That was not justice. The innocent died there side by side with the guilty - the guilty survived with the innocent.

I can't remember where I was going with all that. We live in a fallen world, the sin we choose takes lives every day. Sometimes it looks like justice - more often its just tragedy and despair. The world is dark, but the dawn is coming. I think it goes back to the question Ker Gire asks that I use on the top of this page, "How will we wait"? What will we do as we advance towards dawn?
You can see the answer in videos of Katrina's aftermath - in footage of 9/11 and the war on terror. You see it in hospital rooms and nursing homes and restaurants - in neighborhoods, stadiums, and churches. We do all that we can. We rescue. We are heroes. We fight. We show compassion. We live. We build. We give. We love. We sing.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


    The little blue engine looked up at the hill.
    His light was weak, his whistle was shrill.
    He was tired and small, and the hill was tall,
    And his face blushed red as he softly said,
    “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

    So he started up with a chug and a strain,
    And he puffed and pulled with might and main.
    And slowly he climbed, a foot at a time,
    And his engine coughed as he whispered soft,
    “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

    With a squeak and a creak and a toot and a sigh,
    With an extra hope and an extra try,
    He would not stop — now he neared the top —
    And strong and proud he cried out loud,
    “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!”
    -Shel Silverstein

    I read this poem for the first time, again, yesterday. I read this as a child, Where the Sidewalk Ends, was one of my favorite books growing up. This is a pretty classic tale. We're all familiar with the Little Engine that could, and the Little Blue Engine here seems on the verge of the same sort of triumph. We all love this story, we love it for the same reason we love Rocky and Hoosiers. We want to see the little guy triumph, we want to believe its possible to defy the odds. We love these stories because at times we all feel like the underdog. The deck just seems to be stacked against us. I feel that way now. These last few months I've felt like Rocky in the first 14 rounds against the Russian. I love the progression in The Little Blue Engine. In the first parts of the poem he He blushes and coughs and whispers soft, "I think I can." Eventually he starts to see the top of the hill, he begins to believe he may be able to do the impossible, strong and proud he cries out loud, "I think I can."

    I think I may be starting to see some light at the end of my own tunnel. At times the unthinkable seems almost possible. Sometimes.

    He was almost there, when — CRASH! SMASH! BASH!
    He slid down and mashed into engine hash
    On the rocks below... which goes to show
    If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
    THINKING you can just ain’t enough!

    I've had a few of these moments this week to. It seems silly to think that just because I finish flight school things are going to get better. I know how the industry works, I know what the economy is like. Thinking and hoping just aren't going to be enough. I'm not afraid I won't be good enough, I can fly. In ways I don't understand God's been preparing me to do it my whole life. Flying feels a lot like standing at the alter with my wife, or holding my daughter in the hospital. I know its right, and I know I can do it. The question becomes; how do I go from thinking it may be possible to making it happen for myself? This is question I've been wrestling with.

    Its funny how God meets you in places you'd never thought you'd be at times you least expect. I got to go to church today for the first time in a long time. I was tired and worried and discouraged, I was hoping for peace and rest. I found both. I'm thankful for a church that seeks truth in everything it does, from what the pastor says to what the band plays:

    You're the God of this City
    You're the King of these people
    You're the Lord of this nation

    You're the Light in this darkness
    You're the Hope to the hopeless
    You're the Peace to the restless

    For greater things have yet to come
    And greater things are still to be done in this City
    -Chris Tomlin

    Am I still worried about finding a job? You bet. The track is tough and the hill is rough. The last thing I want to be is engine hash on the rocks below, and I've seen enough of the way God works to know that, for him, that might not be the worst thing to have happen. Believing in and serving a God that is completely sovereign is a terrifying thing. Coming to a place where you can choose his glory of your own prosperity is maybe the most difficult of man's duties. I'm not there, but I've had flashes. I've seen enough to know that I don't want to be in this alone. With things as dark and difficult as they are there is only one source of light and hope and peace powerful enough to drive out the doubt I often carry. He is King of this city, and I'm confident that if we stay around long enough we just may see some great things.