Denison Forum – Hurricane Michael: Finding hope in disaster

Last weekend, Michael was a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean. It was barely a hurricane Tuesday morning, with winds of ninety miles per hour. As the Associated Press reports, “a little over a day later, it had transformed into a monster.” Its wind speed increased 72 percent in less than thirty-three hours.

“Storms are known to do this, but normally we see this happening when it’s away from land,” according to a University of Florida climatologist. “What’s unusual is that it’s happening so close to land.”

The Atlantic now ranks it as “among the most ferocious land-falling hurricanes in American history.” The Washington Post agreed, describing Michael as “one of the most intense hurricanes to ever hit the United States.” It moved toward Georgia and Alabama by evening, becoming the first Category 3 storm to hit Georgia since 1898.

We have developed the most advanced meteorological technology known to humanity. Hurricane experts use satellites, buoys, and aircraft flown into the developing storm. They combine data from various predictive models.

But our best scientific instruments are no match for nature. This week’s devastation is another reminder that our world is more unpredictable and ungovernable than we wish to admit.

It is human nature to believe in the permanence of the present and to assume an even better future. But there’s only one way to face tomorrow with guaranteed hope.

Why did the religious authorities reject Jesus?

Have you ever wondered how the religious authorities could reject the teachings of the Son of God? Or how such astute theological minds could miss the truth of his revelation, while Galilean fishermen and common crowds heard him with grateful appreciation?

The answer is that we cannot fully understand God’s word until we choose to obey it.

Psalm 112:1 assures us: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!” “Greatly delights” translates Hebrew words that can be literally rendered, “takes the highest degree of pleasure.”

Hebrew parallelism uses the first line to explain the second. Thus, the person who fears and reverences God is the person who “greatly delights” in his will and word. Such a person is “blessed” by our Lord.

Obedience to God is the necessary precondition to understanding the ways of God. Oswald Chambers: “All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes.”

Obedience does not earn God’s revelation–it positions us to receive it. That’s because faith in God, like any relationship, requires a commitment that transcends the evidence and becomes self-validating.

It is illogical to insist on proof for that which can only be experienced. You cannot prove you should attend a particular college or take a particular job until you do. You cannot prove you should get married until you get married. Some categories of truth are relational by definition. They cannot be understood until they are experienced.

If we view Scripture as advice we can accept or reject rather than divine commands we must follow, we will never comprehend its depths. But if we decide to obey God’s word, we will then understand his word.

Do you expect to meet God today?

Consider another factor: Perhaps the religious leaders failed to hear new revelation from God because they did not expect new revelation from God. It had been so long since they’d heard a true prophet that they limited God’s truth to what they already knew.

We can make the same mistake.

If we read the Bible but our lives are no different, we have not truly heard from God. If we pray and remain the same, we have not truly prayed. We cannot encounter the living Lord of the universe and be unchanged.

A young pastor once complained to Charles Spurgeon that few people were responding to his sermons.

The “Prince of Preachers” asked him, “You don’t expect people to respond every time you preach, do you?”

The young man assured him that he did not.

“That’s why they don’t,” Spurgeon replied.

Do you expect to meet God today in his word and worship? Do you expect him to answer your prayers and to move in power? Do you expect him to do in our world what he did in the biblical world?

“The three most terrible truths of our existence”

Hurricane Michael shows us that we need more of God than most of us have experienced. To experience all of God there is, we must understand his ways and know his provision.

Here’s the good news: To the degree that we obey his word, we can fully understand his ways. To the degree that we expect him to provide, we can truly know his provision.

Last week, we had no idea the hurricane would be so devastating. What don’t we know about next week?

Anne Lamott: “If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”

When we face circumstances beyond our control, we have three options: We can continue to fight as though we are in control, give up and accept what comes, or work alongside the One who is in control. Only one brings true peace.

Choose wisely.

 

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