Posts tagged ‘Storm’

Hurricane Florence Batters the Carolinas

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Credit: NASA Johnson

The remains of Hurricane Florence continue to pummel the East Coast.  The devastation already done by the monster storm is startling.  The death toll seems to rise nearly by the hour.  Nearly one million are without power.  And by midday Saturday, North Carolina received over 30 inches of rain from the storm, shattering the previous rainfall record of 24.06 inches, set during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

As the storm sluggishly dissipates and the recovery begins, we are once again left grappling with the chaos that is endemic to a creation disordered by sin.  The pictures pouring in of wind-battered beaches, tree-split homes, flood-ravaged communities, and terrified-looking residents speak for themselves.  The cleanup and rebuilding process will most certainly be long and arduous.  This summer, I vacationed in Port Aransas, Texas with my family, the spot where Hurricane Harvey came ashore last summer.  The condo complex at which I stayed still had whole buildings that were missing their roofs.  The amount of work yet to be done in that family-friendly beach town is simply more than contractors can complete in a timely manner.  I have a feeling the coastal towns of the Carolinas will be enduring much the same experience.

When Jesus’ disciples find themselves in the throes of a massive storm of the Sea of Galilee, they come face-to-face with the chaos – and the danger – of a disordered creation.  As they are battered by the wind and the waves, they cry out to Jesus, who is in the storm with them, “Lord, save us” (Matthew 8:25)!  And He does.  He “rebukes the winds and the waves, and it is completely calm” (Matthew 8:26).

The disciples’ simple and desperate prayer is still a plea worth making, even as Florence passes.  The Lord can still help, even after the wind and the waves have been stilled and the floods have receded.  He can give us empathy for the injured and a resolve to rebuild.  And so, we pray that God would provide us with all that we need during a time that is fraught with exhaustion and heartbreak.

J.I. Packer, in his book on prayer, quipped that we should ask God “what we ourselves might need to do to implement answers to our prayers.”  As the Carolinas begin the process of rebuilding, this is certainly a question worth asking.  We can make donations to the victims.  We can help our loved ones – and, perhaps, even strangers – rebuild.  And we can refuse to forget that, long after the headlines of the hurricane fade, the need will continue to be real.

For all the damage that Florence has done, we must never forget that Jesus was in the storm, lovingly caring for all those who suffered – and continue to suffer – from the storm.  Jesus does not always stop storms, but neither does He shirk them.  He stands in them with us.  And He’s a good guy to have when you’re in the wind and the waves.

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September 17, 2018 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Hurricane Harvey and Human Selflessness

The news in the wake of Hurricane Harvey just seems to get worse.  18 counties in Texas have been declared federal disaster areas.  Meteorologists are calling the flooding in Houston a 500-year event, though they admit that, by the time all is said and done, the effects of this storm may be closer to a 1,000-year event, or perhaps even bigger. In Beaumont, a toddler was found was shivering in the water, clinging to her drowned mother.  Scenes and stories like this are simply heartbreaking.

Of course, for every heartbreaking story, there are hundreds of heartwarming stories.  The picture below shows Cathy Pham, holding her sleeping baby, being carried to safety by a member of the Houston SWAT Team.

Then there was Spiderman who took some time to visit some of the children who were sheltering at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Images like these have made many people wonder out loud: Why can’t we always act this compassionately toward each other?  Why can’t we put the differences that normally divide us aside and come together like the Coastal Bend, Houston, and the Golden Triangle have?

On the one hand, it’s important to remember that the selflessness we see demonstrated in tragedies like these is not quite as universal as it can first appear.  Disasters bring out the best in many.  But they also bring out the worst in some.  From looters looking to pillage the possessions of displaced homeowners and damaged businesses to storm chasers who run from disaster zone to disaster zone trying to turn a quick profit off of beleaguered survivors by overcharging for a service and performing it poorly, or, sometimes, even not at all, there are still plenty of slick characters who will gladly trade the virtue of altruism for a windfall from opportunism.

In an article for Slate that has been widely criticized, Katy Waldman offers a somewhat cynical take on the staying power of human goodness, writing:

Humans may possess inherent goodness, but that goodness needs to be activated. Some signal has to disperse the cloud of moral Novocain around us. Some person, or fire, or flood, has got to say: now.

Ms. Waldman has serious doubts whether the goodness we see now in Texas can last beyond the storm.  The selflessness we’ve seen, she says, has only been activated by the terrible trials people have had to endure.  Once the trials pass, selflessness will ebb.  Sadly, she might be right.  But she doesn’t have to be.

One of the most compelling stories in the Bible is that of Job.  Job was a man who had it all, and then lost it all – his house, his cattle, his children, and even his health.  Job’s story recounts his struggle to come to terms with God’s faithfulness and providence in the midst of his suffering.  Throughout his terrible ordeal, Job maintains that he has done nothing to deserve the calamities that have befallen him, even boldly demanding to speak with God to protest his circumstances: “I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God” (Job 13:3). Throughout Jobs’ protestations, however, God remains silent – until He doesn’t.

At the end of the book, God speaks:

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures My plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell Me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7)

God’s basic point to Job is that even when life feels unfair and God seems either absent or incompetent, He is neither.  God really does know what He’s doing.  He really does have a plan.  And He really is quite competent at running the universe, for He put the universe together in the first place.

What is especially important for our purposes, however, is not only what God says to Job, but where God says it: “Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm” (Job 38:1).  Job’s stringent sufferings have constituted a personal storm of epic proportions.  But God has been there with him in the storm the whole time.  Out of the storm, God speaks.

What was true of Job’s storm is true of Hurricane Harvey.  With so much human suffering on display in the headlines and on our television screens, it can be tempting to think God is either absent or incompetent.  But He is neither.  God is in the storm.  This is why, for all the suffering we see, we see even more selflessness.  God is in the storm, leading people to help each other through the storm.

This is also why Ms. Waldman’s contention that when a storm subsides, selflessness wanes doesn’t have to ring true.  Human selflessness in the midst of extraordinary suffering is not a result of suffering, but a gift from God.  Suffering may be a vehicle through which God reveals human selflessness, but suffering itself is not the source of human selflessness.  God in the storm – and not the storm itself – is the true source of our selflessness.  And though God is in the storm, He is also beyond the storm.  He will be there when the floods of Harvey have dried and the recovery and reconstruction projects have reached completion.  Which means that the kind of selflessness that has been so beautifully on display in this storm can last long beyond this storm.

Hurricane Harvey has put on display the divine gift of human selflessness.  And we have liked what we’ve seen.  So let’s make sure this precious gift doesn’t go back into hiding once Harvey fades from our headlines.  After all, if places like Houston can be wonderful because of people even when things are terrible because of weather, imagine what things could look like on a sunny day.

I’d love to see.

September 4, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Faith and Fear

My wife and I have very different sleep habits.  I can fall asleep in five minutes or less with the lights on, the television blaring, the cats meowing, and my phone ringing.  My wife, however, has to have complete darkness, total silence, and at least thirty minutes to get to sleep.

From conversations I have had with my married friends, it seems as though, many times, men have a much easier time falling asleep than do women.  But, then again, I have always slept easier and better with light and noise than I have in darkness and silence.  I can remember, even as a little child, finding complete darkness and total silence to be far too creepy and frightening for me to sleep soundly.  And so, I would turn on my nightlight and my radio and settle down for a good night’s rest.

Though my fears of darkness and silence have long since passed away, I still prefer light and noise to silence and darkness, partly because, when our bedroom is completely dark, I have been known to crash into and fall over more than a few things!  But as a child, darkness and silence petrified me.

Everyone fears something.  It could be an unknown future, or a bank account that never seems to have enough money, or even a person – a bully or a parent – whose approval you can never seem to earn.  Fear is a reflexive response programmed into every human being.

In one sense, then, I suppose that it was only natural for the disciples to be scared out of their wits at the situation they were facing in Matthew 8:23-27.  A sudden storm had just descended on the Sea of Galilee.  The winds were raging.  The sea was rolling.  Lightning was striking.  Their boat was sinking.  And Jesus, who was along for the ride on this trip, was…sleeping?  Yes, sleeping!  Upon being awoken by His disciples, Jesus gently chastises them for their fear in the face of this furious squall:  “You of little faith,” Jesus says, “Why are you so afraid” (verse 26)?  Shouldn’t the answer to Jesus’ question be obvious?!  The disciples are afraid because their lives are in danger!  The disciples are afraid because the storm surge is sure to spell their imminent doom!  Wouldn’t anyone be scared in this situation?

Yes, it is only natural for the disciples to be afraid.  But the disciples’ natural reaction in the face of this storm is not appropriate with a supernatural Savior on board the boat.  Matthew explains:  “Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (verse 26).  There was no need to fear because Jesus was here.

In his commentary on this episode, the great English theologian Matthew Henry remarks, “Jesus does not chide the disciples for disturbing Him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears.”  In other words, Henry asserts that it was perfectly acceptable for the disciples to cry out to their Savior to stop the storm.  It was not appropriate, however, for the disciples to cripple their faith with their fears.  They should have trusted in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and His character as their loving Lord to take care of the storm.  Their fear betrayed a lack of faith.  And a lack of faith is always a problem.

Fear often is a symptom that we are trusting in ourselves and our own ability – or our own inability, as the case may be – to handle a situation or face a challenge.  What are you scared of?  Rather than letting anxiousness and fear take root in your heart, cry out to Jesus and ask him to quell your fears and meet your challenges.  For the one who can conquer the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee can also conquer the fears of your heart.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

July 19, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – A Storm Before The Calm

A few weeks back, San Antonio was struck by a bout of severe weather.  Lightning, strong winds, torrential rain, and even some hail all contributed to one of the most damaging storm systems this city has seen in a while.  When the storm rolled into the area, I was on Concordia’s campus with our youth, leading our Fusion service.  I can remember strolling onto campus early in the evening, enjoying the warm and balmy air, and feeling the hot sun beat down on me with nary a cloud in sky.  But when I left an hour and a half later, it was a completely different story.  The sky was full of clouds tinted by sinister shades of green, the smell of rain hung in the air, and everything was dead calm.  But I knew this dead calm wouldn’t last for long. “It’s the calm before the storm,” I thought to myself.  So I hopped in my truck and put the pedal the metal to try to beat the storm back to my house.  I arrived at my front door just as the rain was beginning to fall.

It is not unusual, shortly before a storm, to experience an eerie calm.  But in our reading for this weekend from Hebrews 4, we find the opposite to be true.  The preacher of Hebrews says that when it comes to our lives in this world, there is not a calm before the storm, but a storm before the calm.  As the chapter opens, we read a promise of our coming calming rest.  “The promise of entering God’s rest still stands,” the preacher muses (verse 1).  But right now, we are in the midst of a storm.  For in this world, there is trouble, torrent, tribulation, and trial.  Indeed, the apostle Paul says that we are engaged in a struggle:

Against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

We are engaged in a storm before the calm.  How are we to engage with this storm of sinfulness and fight this battle of banality?  Paul answers: “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).  Or, as the preacher of Hebrews declares, “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (verse 12).  God’s Word is our weapon of choice to fight against the storms of this life and world.

For those who refuse to trust the sword of God’s Spirit, the preacher of Hebrews has a stark warning, drawn from the disobedience of the ancient Israelites: “For we have had the gospel preached to us, just as the Israelites did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (verse 2).  Without faith in God’s Word, God’s promise of a coming calm is of no value, for it must be believed to be received.

In this world, we fight many battles and endure many storms.  There are battles over our finances, our relationships, our politics, our nation’s security, and our cultural winds.  But none of these battles are nearly as fierce as the battle which rages for our souls.  Make no mistake about it, Satan desires to drag us away from God and dissuade and prevent us from entering God’s eternal rest.  But we cannot win this battle against Satan by the strength of our bodies, or the whit of our intellects, or the resolve of our wills.  No, Satan can only be beaten by wielding the Word of God.  And so, take up sword of Scripture so that “you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).  For Satan cannot stand against God’s Word.  As Luther reminds us:

Nothing is so powerfully effective against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy one’s self with God’s Word, to speak about it and meditate upon it…Without doubt, you will offer up no more powerful incense or savor against the devil than to occupy yourself with God’s commandments and words and to speak, sing, or think about them…For the devil cannot bear to hear God’s Word. (LC 10-11)

Trust God’s Word!  For after this world’s brief storm of sin, you will enjoy God’s eternal calm of salvation.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Nordlie’s
message or John Kammrath’s ABC!

July 5, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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