mountain

Emily Danielle Photography

Last Thursday I was listening to the news on the radio on my way to work. These were the stories that I heard: ebola devastating West Africa; the beheading of journalist James Foley; the return of violence between Israel and Hamas after ceasefire and peace talks fell apart; Israeli airstrikes on a house in Gaza, killing three high-ranking leaders; the continuing saga from Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by a police officer—protests, tear gas, gunshots, school closings; the death of a 21 year old football player from Kent State University; Russia sends 227 trucks into Ukraine, drawing the suspicion of an invasion.

A typical Thursday morning in our world feels like the world of Psalm 18, though I really want to talk to you about Psalm 19. But to understand the context of Psalm 19, we need to get a feel for the content of Psalm 18. Psalm 18 portrays a life and a world in conflict. There are enemies (18:3); distress (6); calamity (18); torrents of destruction (4); snares of death (4); shaking foundations (7); cries for help (6); thick darkness (9); battles (39); and prayers for deliverance (48).

We live in the world of Psalm 18. And that’s why we need Psalm 19.

You look at everything that’s going on in this world, just on your average Thursday, and you think, “God, where are you?”

“God, why are you so seemingly hidden in all of this?”

“God, what are you doing about it?”

“God, why are you silent?”

It often feels like all hell is breaking loose here: rioting, bombing, protests, disease, invasions…

And I haven’t even included personal struggles, private addictions, family strongholds, MRI’s, cancer, finances, relocation, job loss, loneliness, surgeries…

Does God have anything to say to us?

Now we’re ready for Psalm 19.

In all of the chaos and violence of this world, there is an unrelenting voice that’s fighting back. Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God. And the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The Psalm goes on to describe how nature speaks to us about God. The apostle Paul wrote the same thing in Romans, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made, so they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20).

We will have many days in our lives when it feels like all hell is breaking loose. But every single day of our lives, all heaven is breaking loose.

I’m suggesting that God’s creation is one of the weapons we have to fight against despair. It’s not the only weapon, but it’s one of the most consistent and available.

In Psalm 19:5, the sun is portrayed as a strong man: “Like a strong man runs its course with joy.” This paints the picture of a military situation. Imagine two armies lining up for battle, when suddenly, one brave soldier breaks ranks and rushes toward the enemy. He is the strong man, running bravely out into battle. Every eye is on him. His courage takes your breath away. He is on a mission and he doesn’t hold anything back. He’s the first out to fight against the opposing force.

Creation is the strong man. Every day, it runs out bravely to the frontline of this battle against evil and suffering. Creation is the first warrior out to fight against despair.

Our lives will be filled with many Thursday mornings. But every day of the week, creation holds a protest. “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

Nature lets us know every moment that there is a King who cares for us. I urge you to take to heart the message about God that his creation is sending to you.

He is not silent.

Sam Kee is a husband, father, pastor, and author.

Sam Kee is a husband, father, pastor, and author.

classroom

What do you need most as the school year begins?  A new outfit?  Some school supplies?  A brush up on Spanish?  How about a prayer?  Here’s a simple prayer, from a student and for students as the new school year begins.

by Hannah Firestone

Dear God,

There’s a saying at my school. They say, “Everyone wants friends, good grades, and sleep. You can pick two.” And it’s true, I’ve tried to have all three, but it’s next to impossible. This year, I’ll try to have all three again. So will my peers. But we need help.

Help us with friends. Help us navigate the twisting drama of junior high and high school and college. Help us pick relationships that support us. Help us be there for our friends. Help us make long lasting bonds. Help us have fun together.

Help us with grades. Help us do our best in late night hours and early morning hours. Help us concentrate on tests. Help us ignore the pressure that society places on us. Help us be resilient when we fail. Help us succeed.

Help us with sleep. Help us rejuvenate our bodies. Help us make wise decisions about how late we stay out with friends. Help us know when to stop doing homework in favor of rest. Help us avoid nightmares. Help us wake up with the alarm clock.

Help us with everything else. Help us balance friends, grades, and sleep with all our other responsibilities. Help us with our families, broken and whole. Help us with our jobs. Help us with our activities. Help us with college applications. Help us with our religious commitments. Help us balance everything.

Help us hang on ‘til next summer.

Amen.

Emily Danielle Photography

Hannah Firestone | Emily Danielle Photography

Does God Judge Us?

Hope Stands —  August 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

sam radioblog

It’s hard for us today to accept that God could judge us.  We believe in a God of love, but not judgment.  But cultures have not always thought like ours.  In today’s radioblog, Sam helps us to answer the question, “Does God judge us?”

This was first heard on the Moody Radio Network.  Click the player below to listen.

O Captain! My Captain!

Hope Stands —  August 11, 2014 — 2 Comments

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-32089778-2798-2798O Captain! My Captain!  This line from a poem by Walt Whitman was made famous in our day by Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poet’s Society.  I admit, it’s one of my favorite movies.  And Williams was my favorite actor.  As you may have heard, he died today.  The latest reports spoke of suicide.

Another great verse of poetry goes like this, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  The word that stands out to the reader is “time.”  That word began chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, when it says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  Then the writer goes on to describe all of the seasons of life, repeating the word “time” 28 times.

“A time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”

And on it goes.  Back and forth, a time for this and a time for that.  I think of this as the “paddles of providence.”  We often feel like a ping pong ball, hit back and forth, back and forth, by the seasons of life.  It’s dizzying, it’s out of our control, and we can’t change it.  We’re a part of the match, but Someone else has His hands on the paddles.

Even if you don’t believe in God, you can resonate with this back and forth reality of life.  Sometimes it gets so bad that we want to give up.

And some take this reality as a justification that God does not exist.  We like the laughing and dancing parts, but let’s face it, we could do without the weeping and mourning parts.

But the writer of Ecclesiastes says something very bold and penetrating.  Picking up on this word “time,” he says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.”  These are audacious, in-your-face words.

He looks at the back and forth motions of life, he looks at the seasons of trial and triumph, he looks at the planting and the plucking, and he sees beauty.

This back and forth reality of life is not a reason to disbelieve God, but a way to find him, for God has made all of these seasons.  The seasons of our life are the straightest route to hope.

This turns our thinking on its head.  It puts us in the dock and forces us to come up with a reason that God doesn’t exist.  The Bible views the seasons of our lives, both good and bad, as proof that God does exist.  That he made them.  That he has his hands on the paddles.  Were it not for the seasons of our lives, then we would have less of a chance of discovering God.

Look at the seasons of life.  Look at their beauty, as they carefully take turns, come together, and unfold God’s mysterious plans.  Life is not stagnant, it’s not just a perfect, airbrushed snapshot.  It’s more like a movie, with kaleidoscopic beauty, both dynamic and daring and raw.  The seasons of life that God has made are beautiful and they point to the existence of the One who is in control of them.

“But how can this be?  This season looks pretty dark right now!”  I can definitely resonate with this.

Look at the whole verse, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  The phrase “in its time” qualifies it.  There are parameters.  We see the seasons of our lives from a limited vantage point, that of “time.”  But if only we could step back!

Imagine if you took away my glasses and brought me to the Sistine Chapel, to see Michelangelo’s great work of art.  The painting on the ceiling alone is 133’ by 46.’  Since I am nearsighted, I would have to put my face no more than five inches away from the painting in order to see it.  I could not step back and see the whole thing.  I could never take it all in without my glasses.  I would just have to slowly creep my eyes down the surface, inch by inch, trying to make sense of what I was looking at, in light of what I had already seen.  I would long to step back and see the whole thing, but I couldn’t, because I’m limited.

So some days my eyes see dark splotches of paint, some days bright patches.  Some days I see clouds and some days I see scary faces.  Some days I see angels and apostles, other days I see devils and the wicked.  One day I see Judas, and another day I see Jesus.  But I know, if I could only step back and see it, that it’s all beautiful.

God has made everything beautiful in its time.  We can only see one season at a time.  Though we long to step back and take it all in, we can’t.  We’re spiritually nearsighted.  But, if we could only step back and see them all together, we’d cry, “Glory!”

I’m not sure if Robin Williams took his life or not.  I’m not sure what season of his life he was in, but I assume that he was in one of the darks spots.

I long for you to know that the seasons of your life contribute to the beauty of the eternal story that God is composing.  If only we could step back, we could see it.

Don’t trust your nearsightedness, but trust what God has said, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”