Lessons From Harvey

The floods in southeast Texas have really been on my mind the last few days. I am actually from Texas. While I was raised by grandparents in Nacogdoches Texas, 90% of my family lives in the Houston area. I also trained to become an evangelist in Beaumont Texas.

In addition to my family, millions of people in southeast Texas have been hit hard by the effects of Hurricane Harvey. My aunt (who works in Harris County) finally was able to make it back home Monday. She was stuck at work for two full days! Since her car is almost under water, she decided to take a chance and walk home yesterday morning. Thankfully, a nice couple picked her up and drove her as far as they could. Once they reached a severely flooded area, she hopped out of the car and walked the rest of the way.

Several people in Houston, Beaumont, and Port Arthur are trapped in their homes. They have been waiting for days to be rescued. Due to constant rain and flooding, so many have lost their homes, cars, businesses, and some cases, even their lives!

Storms have a way of teaching us several lessons in life. Here are some I have been reminded of over the past few days.

  • Material possessions are temporary. They can be here today and gone tomorrow! This time last month, many people in southeast Texas were living comfortably in their homes. They had their cars to take them where they wanted to go. They had a nice bed to sleep in and a stove to cook their food on. Now, they don’t. They have been forced from their homes; their cars are under water; and they are currently sleeping in a shelter somewhere. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19 still hold true 2,000 years later! This is why we must always store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20-21). Those treasures can never be destroyed.
  • There is only so much we can control. Storms have a way of reminding us of this. So often we think we have full control in our lives. That is faulty thinking! One thing we can never control is the weather. Sometimes in life, we are hit with catastrophes beyond our control. We can prepare for things the best we can, but the rest is in God’s hands.
  • There are still a lot of good people in the world. You wouldn’t know it if you had been watching the news prior to Harvey. Before Harvey, all we could hear on the news was people talking about racism and division. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that America was full of people who couldn’t stand one another! It took a storm, for people to stop talking about racism. Now the only thing that matters is human life. People of all races throughout southeast Texas are helping one another. Many are risking their lives and sacrificing their possessions to help others survive. That is the way people are supposed to be towards one another. We all need to love our neighbor and treat others like we want to be treated (Luke 10:30-37; Matthew 7:12).
  • Our problems must be put into perspective. So often, I act as though my problems are the worst in the world. If something small isn’t going my way, I complain and act as though it is the end of the world. This storm has reminded me of just how wrong I am. Now, I truly realize that my problems are minor compared to the problems of those in Texas at this time. I still have my home. I am not living in a shelter right now. I still have my car. My wife and children have soft beds to sleep in tonight. I am so blessed compared to so many suffering right now. In the big scheme of things, my problems are very small.
  • Prayer is important. Do you want to know what you can do right now for the people suffering from Hurricane Harvey? You can take a couple of minutes and pray for them right now. God always hears the prayers of His people and He is well able to help those in need (James 5:16b). The people in Texas being hurt by this storm need your prayers desperately.

Storms come and go in life. Soon this storm will be over, but God and His word will still remain (Hebrews 13:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25). When we always keep our minds focused on that, no matter what storms comes our way, we will be able to endure them and come out stronger than before.

– Shawn Jeffries

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A Bold Confession of Despair

New-York-Daily-News-front-page-Thursday-December-3-2015-san-bernardino-shootings

I felt, with many believers, frustration and righteous indignation at the recent New York Daily News cover story. “Prayer” is disdained as mere platitudes and God (along with those who look to Him for guidance, comfort, and protection from evil) is mocked. The headline suggests that God is absent or aloof when people are “lying in pools of blood.” Ironically, those with the courage to publicly affirm their faith in God and call for prayer are denounced as cowards. These are the times when Christians have a lot of praying to do – especially for their enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” What an ideology. What a message. If hurting families are robbed of the spiritual solace and support of their neighbor’s prayers, what is left? If the sovereign, holy God will not right all wrongs on His Day of Reckoning, what is left? If all our hope and future rests solely on the shoulders of mere men – elected officials – and their proper governance, what is left?

Despair.

This incendiary message amounts to a bold public confession of despair. The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Yet when we are overcome by evil, the result is despair.

  • If you begrudge prayers for victim’s families, you have despaired.
  • If you blame God for the evil actions of men, you have despaired. (This statement is in recognition that the God these politicians are invoking is not the same one that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook were serving with their assault rifles. The Muslim shooters were acting in accordance with the written decrees of their god and so he reasonably shares some culpability.)
  • If you conclude that the highest power in heaven and earth is mankind, well, how could you not despair? Evil has overcome you.

Evil will overcome us…

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with government. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” so the government better. The government can “end [the] gun scourge.” The government can fix everything, right? The government has omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, right? The government can save us, right? The Bible says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1; cf. Psalm 20:7). Ancient Israel made the mistake of looking to government (either their own or national allies) instead of God to deliver them from evil. The prophet encountered the-“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”-message in his day and made clear that impressive horses and chariots cannot overcome evil. Don’t put your trust there. Government cannot overcome evil. If this is the plan, then, “Hello, Despair.”
  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with another law. Obviously the answer to the murders in San Bernardino is another law restricting gun ownership. At least that’s where the New York Daily News seemed to be going with their piece. It’s just so logical: If law-abiding citizens can no longer purchase guns then law-breaking murderers will not possibly acquire them either.

My point here isn’t so much about gun control. A person can become a Christian, faithfully serve God, and go to Heaven whether their nation allows them the right to bear arms or not. My point is about law, in general. We are inviting despair if we think a stricter law or more laws will overcome evil – any laws. Law has never delivered people from evil. People break laws! Law would overcome evil only if it was kept perfectly (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11). Whether we are talking about the U.S. Constitution, the Law of Moses, or the Law of Christ, only Jesus Christ has ever kept a law perfectly, none of the rest of us. Jesus Christ can overcome evil but another law in our justice system cannot. Of course we need law and order and government has a role ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7). A law names and convicts evil. But if another law or a harsher law is our answer to overcome evil… “Hello, Despair.” Somebody will break the new law too, eventually.

  • Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil without God. In Romans 1 we read of a society that knew God but rejected Him. They chose willful ignorance of the true God. What does that look like? “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality…murder…deceit, evil-mindedness…haters of God, violent, proud…inventors of evil things…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1:28-31). It looks like San Bernardino and a myriad of other reports on the evening News.

What do you think? Are parents talking about God to their children, so that they might “retain God in their knowledge”? Do the halls of Academia “retain God in their knowledge” as they present either science or the humanities to educate our populace? Do public officials or religious leaders “retain God in their knowledge” when they preach to the masses that all gods and religions are basically the same and thus shape public opinion and policy?

Surely it can’t be both ways. If we ignore, forget, or despise God then we cannot decry “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” We are overcome with evil. “Hello, Despair.”

Yet evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21). Friend, there is no good without God (Matthew 19:16-17; James 1:16-17).

  • Evil is overcome with God by the gospel. Governments and laws won’t overcome evil but the gospel can. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel changes our state with God and justifies us by forgiving our sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11). A sinner dies to sin and gets a new life when they are baptized (immersed in water) and buried into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-14). Their heart is changed. Their mind is renewed. Their life is transformed from the world around them (Romans 12:1-2)… a world currently intent on forgetting God. Evil is overcome by God, not false religions, not governments, not laws, and not practical atheism. His plan to overcome evil by defeating Sin is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:27). Evil is overcome one soul at a time as they respond to the gospel.
  • Evil is overcome with God by prayer. I don’t know if I will vote for any of the men on the cover of this paper. I don’t know if any of them will even be on the ballot by the time elections roll around. But they got it right when they asked a nation to pray for neighbors and victims. Bible believers know to pray for the hurting, their leaders, pray for peace, pray for all the saints, pray for boldness, and pray for their enemies (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 4:29; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:44-45). They also know to keep praying during dark times (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Evil is overcome with God by love. God loves sinners and Jesus died to redeem them regardless of how they have sinned (John 3:16). You and I are no more sinless than Muslim terrorists or the editors at New York Daily News. We are all equally lost apart from God’s love and gracious salvation. Love is shown and known when it touches the despairing. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what people need to hear right now. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair. Let Christians hear it for what it is – an angry and rebellious child pushing away the only parent whose love can make things better. Aren’t our arms tired of pushing God away? Aren’t we ready to surrender our personal rebellions to God? We must come to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ who fixes us by His love and teaches us to love our neighbors also (Romans 13:8-10; Titus 2:11-14).

“Innocent Americans” are not “left lying in pools of blood” because there has been too much God in this society or too much prayer. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair, especially when the truth is so obvious – only God can fix this. Only the gospel changes people. The Bible – God’s Word – has the answers. Who will share it with others? Who will listen and respond?

By Andrew Roberts