Christians, Please Stop Saying That

Last week another hurricane hit Florida. But it wasn’t just another hurricane. Irma is the most powerful storm to ever come out of the Atlantic. So large, it covered the whole state, coast to coast.

The. Whole. State.

We endured Category 1 winds on the east coast. Dangerous and damaging, but not the Category 4 and 5 originally expected. We boarded up and hunkered down, and escaped with relatively minor damage compared to the Keys, Miami, and the west coast of Florida. Still, Irma did leave problems in her wake. No power, no phones, some flooding. But all in all, most of us emerged fairly intact.

Christian conversations

In a recent conversation, another Christian and I were sharing our respective post-Irma experiences. Both of us were immensely grateful we came through with minimal damage. Both of us have neighbors affected more severely than us.

And then he said it. The phrase that motivated this blog post: “We were spared because God hears the cries of His children.”

I cringed.

Not a Magic Formula

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, God hears the cries of His children. And of course, I had prayed for protection as the hurricane bore down on us. And I am ever so grateful for the protection the Lord provided.

But, as Christians, perhaps it’s time to reconsider saying “we were spared because God hears the cries of His children,” as if it’s a magic formula for protection. Because, while God always hears His children’s cries, He sovereignly answers according to His perfect will and His perfect timing. And how He answers is not always in line with our immediate desires.

Consider the Christians on Islamorada devastated by this storm of storms. Or the Christians in the Caribbean who lost their homes. What about the Christians on Florida’s east and west coasts who experienced flooding and injury? Of course, let’s not forget the Christians in Houston, still reeling from Harvey’s destruction.

Didn’t they all cry out to their heavenly Father for protection? Didn’t He hear the cries of those children?

In a recent post, “Hurricanes, Trust, and the Sovereignty of God,” I noted that the natural consequences of living in a broken world include storms: physical, emotional, and yes, hurricanes. And whether God physically protects us in every storm or not, our relationship with Him remains the same. We are still His children.

Bottom line, He sees the big picture and we do not. He knows the intimacy we will experience with Him in our suffering. He knows the blessing we will be to others in the midst of the worst trials.

Enter Faith

We don’t need faith when life is pleasant and God fulfills all our requests. Faith is the muscle we exercise when our circumstances lure us to despair. Will we say with Job, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15 NAS)? Or will we grumble at God for not responding to our requests for protection, as if He’s a genie in a bottle obligated to meet our demands?

Even worse, to those who don’t share our beliefs we sound like children taunting each other on a playground: “Nyeh, nyeh, God protected us because we’re His children and you’re not.” Yet the Bible tells us, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:45 NAS).

God is SovereignSo, as children of God, by all means pray for protection. Let’s thank Him when we receive it, and continue trusting Him if we don’t.

Share the joy and the intimacy that results from a relationship with the Creator of the universe who tells us to call Him Abba (Papa). Be as salt to increase the thirst of others for that same relationship. Do it when God protects us as we asked and when He allows circumstances we pleaded for Him to prevent.

He may be using those painful circumstances for something better. Drawing us to Him in deeper intimacy. Molding us to be more like Jesus. Making us a bright light in a world that is becoming darker with each passing day.

Still, if He allows those situations, He promises to be with us in them. Will we choose to be content in these undesired circumstances, resting in the assurance that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)?

And for those not in a restored relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, please don’t hesitate another moment to begin this relationship. Believe Christ died for your sins to restore you to your heavenly Father. Not because He will protect you from every difficult situation. But because this relationship grants a protected eternal future, regardless of what happens in this temporary life.

For now please remember, Christians: God does, indeed, hear the cries of His children. In His sovereignty, He may choose to spare us from some of the consequences of this broken world…or not. But if He doesn’t, it’s because He is fulfilling His best plan for our ultimate good and for His eternal glory.

Have I touched a nerve with this post?
What are your thoughts?

A New Way to Express Kindness

kindnessKindness is a virtue most of us appreciate and many of us aspire to.

You may have heard about the practice of random acts of kindness. It supposedly began in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now there’s a new way to express kindness. Zachary Gibson started the Tiny Mailbox Project earlier this year. Gibson set a goal of 100 tiny mailboxes around Los Angeles earlier this year. But his idea has spread far beyond the city limits of LA.

The Tiny Mailbox Project provides the opportunity to be kind, one person at a time, without ever necessarily meeting the recipient of your kindness.

The concept is simple. Each mailbox contains an encouraging note along with several blank cards. The recipient takes the note, and leaves one for someone else.

In a recent interview, Gibson shared his belief that “trying to restore a little faith in humanity is a good thing.”

I confess, I don’t have much faith in humanity any more. The Bible tells us no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). Even if I didn’t believe what the Bible says, all I have to do is observe humanity in action.

Yet, just when it appears kindness has died out, it shows itself once again–this time in the midst of disaster. Hurricane Harvey is the worst weather event to hit Houston in 50 years. Still, it provided the backdrop for a massive, ongoing act of kindness on the part of furniture store owner, Jim McIngvale.

McIngvale has opened up his 2 showrooms for evacuees, without regard for his immediate profits. His daily losses are estimated at a minimum of $30,000 per day.

So what can professing Christians learn from Zachary Gibson and Jim McIngvale?

We know the Bible tells us kindness is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). This means that the more we surrender to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives, the more kindness will mark our relationships.

Yet kindness has not marked our conversations and behavior very much in the area of politics or morality. Christians are known more for what we are against than what we are for. Many of us have lost the ability to stand firm for biblical values without trying to destroy those who disagree with us at the same time.

And along comes tiny mailboxes and a furniture store owner to remind us what kindness could look like if we stopped being belligerently self-righteous.

What would happen if Christians spoke the truth…in love (Ephesians 4:15)?

Or if we were so surrendered to the Holy Spirit that our “fruit” attracted those who are hungry for food that feeds the soul?

What would happen if being kind wasn’t just something we practiced with other Christians, but something we practiced regardless of the recipient?

Perhaps it’s time to find out. What do you think?

Hurricanes, Trust, and the Sovereignty of God

hurricanesHurricane Irma is coming. The most powerful storm ever in the Atlantic basin is aiming for Florida and tracking to travel up the east coast.

Where. I. Live.

Granted, by the time it reaches our area, it’s predicted to downgrade from a Category 5 to a Category 4. Not much comfort when you consider the winds of a Cat 4 hurricane move at 130 – 150 miles per hour.

So we prepare. And we pray. And we trust God.

Can He send Irma away, back out to the ocean where it won’t harm anyone? Of course.

Will He? I don’t know. But at the moment, it doesn’t appear that He will.

hurricanesHe didn’t with Hurricane Harvey. Or Hurricane Sandy. Or Katrina or Andrew, or the many other storms that have taken lives and left turmoil in their wakes.

But don’t blame God for our broken world. For a world spiraling out of control physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For hurricanes and terrorists. For corruption and despair.

They’re all the natural consequences of thousands of years of humanity—us—wanting to do life apart from our Creator.

Still, God didn’t abandon us to our choices. He sent His Son, Jesus, to restore that broken relationship. And while each of us can decide to trust Him individually for that restoration, we still live in a damaged world that awaits full redemption. A world “groaning” as it waits for the culmination of God’s restoration (Romans 8:21-22).

So what do we do now?

We watch. We pray. We pray for mercy before the storm hits. For mercy in the midst of the storm. And, if necessary, mercy in the aftermath.

And as we pray and receive His mercy, let’s remember one thing when this is over:

Don’t put God back in the closet until the next hurricane.

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