Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kris' question

This blog is in response to a comment received on my Haiti trip blog. Here's the basic question:
Concerning the earthquake in Haiti how can God be both all powerful and just? If he's all-powerful why didn't He stop this unjust thing from happening and if he's just but couldn't stop this thing from happening; then he must not be all-powerful. Good question and I won't pretend that I can fully explain how God operates here (he's God and none of us knows his perspective, purpose, or greatness - it's like a gold fish trying to explain college level calculus). Anyway, here are some thoughts that may give a start to what might be happening with the Haiti earthquake.
1. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus, it is by faith that you trust God to be both just and all-powerful. You may never be able to explain it...but you believe it because you believe God (see Hebrews 11:1). Mostly non-believers have this question because they don't want to believe in God (usually some bad church experience or they want to live a life free of God's demands so it's just easier to write him off).
2. We're assuming that the Haiti earthquake is unjust because we view it from a worldly perspective. The worse thing from this perspective is death and next to that is suffering of innocents (children) - but that's not God's perspective. Let me be clear here - I'm deeply saddened by what I've seen and experienced (closer than I wanted to)! But consider these eternal perspectives: a. Out of the 200,000 (living in extreme poverty, homeless and eating mud pies to stave off their hunger) who died in the quake , let's say that 100,000 were Christ followers or children before the age of reasoning. According to the Word, one minute they were in the worst of conditions and the next they were in the presence of God in heaven. Is that not just? Is that why an all-powerful God didn't jump in and stop things miraculously because he couldn't stand to see them suffer any more and wanted to bring them into eternal peace? Something to consider. b. What about the hundreds of thousands who were injured, displaced, etc... Consider this, before the earthquake these people were literally starving to death and lived in complete squalor. Consider that right now there is ten times as much food in Haiti as before the quake. God has resourced all the world's riches (mainly through his body the church) to send immediate aid to Haiti. In other words, maybe he didn't intervene miraculously because he wanted the world to finally pay attention to Haiti and come to it's aid. You'll have to admit aside from many church organizations - no body cared about haiti until the quake! c. What about the hundreds of thousands who will now come to faith in Christ because of this tragedy? There are already stories of Haitians who have given their lives to Christ because of what they've been through. Maybe the all-powerful God didn't hold back the devastation of the earthquake because he wanted eternal justice (salvation for as many as possible) for those he knew would turn to him in crisis.

I could go on...those are just a few thoughts on how God might have viewed it - taking nothing from his all-powerful nature and his just nature.

One other thought. God created the world in perfect order (Genesis 1&2) and allowed man to have free choice. Man sinned (Genesis 3) and completely altered God's creation. It's flawed now because of sin...reaching even so far as natural disasaters. With man's choice to sin - Satan was given place here in the world as a tempter for a time. A day of final justice is coming when Jesus will return and Satan will go away forever and God will exert his power.

Until then, we view things as through a glass dimly and we don't understand it all...but there is one other "injustice" and "lack of power" that we bank our eternities on: Jesus died on a cross for our sins! Now that's not fair! And God forsook His power to stop men from killing His son. And yet somehow...that act...Jesus on a cross... showed God at his most fair and most powerful!

Monday, January 25, 2010

beautiful feet

Okay, before I catch a bunch of flack for those of you who may see a picture of my feet on some facebook page. I can explain. Last Wednesday night, our small group went together to get pedicures (guys and girls). I'll tell you...never had a pedicure, probably never will again...but we had a blast. Believe it or not, this activity was suggested by a guy in our group who is really a guys guy. So, we figured, if you can't do this with your small group family, who can you do it with?

Well, he also ordered pizza and when we showed up one of the "technicians" - don't know pedicure terms came up to me and said "hi", she was from our church...so there's no hiding my identity now. Anyway, 7 ladies from our group went first and the process looked pretty harmless. It really involved some trimming of the nails, some scrubbing off dead skin and a massage! Awesome. Here's where it gets crazy...you get free nail polish with the pedi.

So all the women were picking out their color. So, you know I'm a kid and I say, "what if I want my nails painted?" Well, the rest is history. I picked a loud purple-pinkish color (really it's obnoxious) and guess what three of my good brothers joined me. It was funny and we had a good time, but here's the spiritual part of this...

You know the bible says "how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" Well, the next morning when I woke up, I was startled in the shower when I saw my toe nails and this verse popped into my mind. This verse is of course about messengers who brought good news for the kingdom and is used in the new testament about telling others about Jesus. So now I really have beautiful feet and I pray every morning in the shower for God to help my feet to go where i get to share good news!

At least that's my justification for painting my toe nails! And, by the way, before I go to my annual sr. pastor's retreat where it will be warm and I'll be wearing sandals; I'll lose the paint.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Haiti Trip

First of all, let me say that the main reason I went down to Pillatre' Haiti is that Manno Laguerre (whom I have known from college in 1983) asked me to speak at his 25th anniversary working in this church. The story is amazing. From a stick church that his father started to a building that seats 1,000 + Haitians in 25 years - this is an incredible God story. The celebration was incredible - starting with a Saturday night banquet that honored all the people involved throughout the years. Great testimonies to Manno and Prisca. Then the Sunday worship service dedicating the new building to God's service was over the top. I was the preacher and I didn't get up until 3 1/2 hours after the service started. It was one of the top three preaching experiences in my life. The Spirit was moving and the translator was awesome. What an eternal thrill! I will never forget it. Of course, as you know by now our trip took a most interesting turn on Tuesday, January 12th when we were scheduled to return. Following are the events as I remember them...

We woke up at 5:00 a.m. to be at the airport at 6:00 to catch the first flight out (we knew we couldn't fit all of our team on one plane so we were hoping to get there on two planes to Port au Prince before our American Airlines flight left for Ft. Lauderdale). It had been pouring non-stop for days and the roads were flooding and the streets were bad (seriously - you've never seen a pot-hole - trust me). But we packed our stuff in pouring rain and headed to the airport. I was in the front car with Manno (he drives the most aggressive and was pushing to get to the airport). When we arrived (about 5 miles in 20 minutes - again the roads) there was a plane on the tarmac ready to take off. Manno ran in (past security - he owns this town) and got them to allow four passengers on (but they had to come right now). Since Sara was in the car following with the luggage in the truck behind; I sent the other four in my car (Jason Smith, Jim Probst, Tyler Hari, Jason Smith) onto the plane. There was literally five seconds to make a decision and our thought was we'll see you in an hour and a half. They flew off in the rain and the rest of the group went through security (again think Kindergarten registration instead of "security") and began waiting for the next flight. That flight never came. It was raining sideways - with low clouds and no visibility. We prayed and prayed for our plane to come and at least get us to Port au Prince. There was a 4:30 flight that we knew we could get on and at least get back to the U.S. Manno was to fly with us for a meeting in downtown Port (he is the president for Samaritan's Purse in Haiti). Please God, get us to Port au Prince (we prayed this until 2:00 when Manno, said "let's go back to the house, there are no flights today"). A little disheartened we returned to our host's house (we were ready to come home)

We all put on warm and dry clothes and I began to work on Sunday's sermon with the help of Manno's commentaries from his office. Sara and Shelly were trying to reschedule our flights (even though it was still pouring and we didn't know if a plane would be in Cap Haitian in the morning). About 5:30 I was lying in a bed reading a commentary on Luke and the floor began to rumble and I thought "wow that's weird", but it continued and I was actually bouncing off the bed and the bookshelves were shaking and I staggered to the door and then it was over. "Dude that we just had an earthquake!" We were all kind of humored with it all. There was no damage and it was just another part of the adventure. I casually texted my sons to let them know we just had an earthquake but we were o.k.

Meanwhile (this was related to me later) back at the church my mom (receptionist at church and everyone's grandma) received a call from someone asking where I was and that there was huge earthquake in Haiti. Also, meanwhile the four that we had separated from that morning were in Ft. Lauderdale and were told that there was a major quake in Haiti. Needless to say, everyone freaked! For our part, we were eating supper and enjoying each other's company and wondering how the next day of travel would go.

It was two full hours after the initial shock (and several other tremors) that I decided (and this is Holy Spirit stuff) to turn on the t.v. after five days of not turning it on. They have satellite and as I was searching for ESPN I happened on CNN and suddenly things got serious. I called everyone in to see Wolf Blitzer - and it didn't take long to know it was bad. Manno and Prisca immediately thought of family and friends in Port au Prince and they started making calls (they only got through to a few). We thought of those at home. I got my phone and began getting tons of texts and e-mails. As a grace from God I was able to text our chairman of the elders, my administrative assistant, and some others who I now forget that we were o.k. but didn't know how we were going to get home. Shortly after we lost all communication ability...nothing.

Then we prayed. We told God that if he wanted us to stay then we would (some have criticized us for leaving when people were in need - we asked Manno if we needed to stay and help, but we were no good as a matter of fact our presence was a pressure and strain on him ) and if he wanted us to get home to provide a way. We had no idea what would happen next.

The next morning we were up at 5:30 again. It was pouring harder (if that is even possible). Manno's truck wouldn't start (we tried to push it to start - all we got was wet). We crammed into the cab of another truck and were at the airport at 6:00. Closed! Not flying today. Option one, gone. We went to a bus station in Cap Haitian - closed. But we waited for an hour and a half. They had a line heading to Santiago in the Dominican Republic and providentially there were enough seats for us all to get on board. Manno was relieved and so were we. Why was I happy to be heading to the DR?
1. My Spanish is better than my Creole. I have travelled alone in spanish speaking countries before and I can get a cab, find a bathroom, a hotel and food. I knew I could get our group to the airport.
2. Communication with home would be possible. As our church family was worried about us, we were worried that they were worried. (this is now Wednesday and the press had contacted Tyler and Mark early that morning - on three hours sleep they were back at the church office working on communication through the drama. They did radio, t.v. and newspaper interviews and coordinated communications via our web site for our church family - the phone was ringing off the hook. I was working on my sermon and still not sure how this would all turn out. About 10 miles before the border I realized I had service on my blackberry - communication was open and we began letting everyone know where we were and what we were trying to do. The news was still that the border was closed. We got through with no problem.

I texted Brook Brotzman who is the head of GO ministries and asked if he could help us. Within minutes he texted that Tim would meet us at the bus station, take us to Gabriel's house, feed us and get us to the airport the next day. It was beautiful! We settled in, took a deep breath and thanked God. Within hours we were sitting on a porch on a cool Dominican evening eating Domino's Pizza (apparently dominos delivers everywhere!). We were scheduled to fly out of Santiago at 9:45 the next morning and get home to B/N by 6:14 p.m. There is more to tell, but I will skip to our arrival. Tyler had prepared us that news media would be there for our arrival, but I was still overcome with emotion when I saw so many from our church there to greet us, my mom and my son. It was awesome. And then life was back to normal...literally. I had a quad grande americano at Starbucks Friday morning. It was beautiful.

We had a prayer time on Sunday night for Haiti and as of this writing our church has donated over $44,000 for haiti relief. the story continues...

Haiti experience

Just to let you know I'm catching my breath in between meetings right now...I may have a chance to tell the story from last week about our trip to Haiti in between meetings, but probably not...will definitely do it tonight at home if not before...so many cool things to share.

Friday, January 15, 2010

back home

Well, as most of you know, me and Sara and the rest of the Haiti team got back to B/N last evening. Cool to have so many well-wishers and feel such love. Gave some interviews to the local t.v. stations and lots of hugs to people I love. We are blessed to be with the Eastview family. I'm tired and need to get a bunch of stuff in order before preaching Sunday. Looking forward to it. I'll blog about this whole thing extensively this Monday.
love you all

Monday, January 4, 2010

weather or not to go to church

Well, the past two weekends here have given us some good 'ol central illinois winter weather. I love both the cold and the snow, but I don't like what it sometimes does to our attendance on Sundays. The past two weeks saw about 6 inches of snow one Saturday and 30 degree below zero windchills the next. So as a public service I submit a list of questions to help you decide whether or not to go to church when the weather outside is frightful:

1. Did the couple in their 70's that live in an outlying town, on a country highway, down a mile long lane make it to church? If yes, you should probably not say something lame like, "The roads were bad". Go to church (by the way, it's never the elderly or handicapped who miss church on these Sundays...they are all almost always there!).
2. Did you open your door and find the Pantagraph there? If yes, go to church. Surely you are more dedicated to Jesus than the paper deliverer is to you getting you your news.
3. Do you own one or all of the following: four wheel drive, a shovel, snow boots, a cell phone? If yes, go to church - the odds of you getting stranded and dying in a snowdrift are pretty slim.
4. If this were a Monday would your kids be going to school? If yes, go to church. Note: if it's snowing a lot, you may want to take your kids to church on Sunday because they will be home all day on Monday.
5. If this were a Monday would you be going to work? Nuff said.
6. When you go to Starbucks at 6:30 a.m. in 30 degree below zero windchills, is there a guy washing the windows of said Starbucks? If yes, you should go to church and pray for forgiveness for being a wimp and pray for the guy who has that job! Yes this happened to me on Sunday - a guy was washing windows at Starbucks Sunday at 6:30 a.m. I guess they were really dirty and had to be done right then!
7. If it snowed in Jersusalem on the day Jesus was crucified would he have carried the cross up the hill in the snow for you? O.K. that was cheap...but it still makes a point!
8. Do you someday want to tell stories to your kids and grandkids about walking to church with snow up to your knees, uphill, both ways? If yes, then go to church. It's just a much better story when it's true!
9. Is your neighbor (who also happens to go to church with you) pulling out of their drive way going to church. If yes, then go to church. Your "snowed in" story just isn't going to fly with them.
10. Is the local senior citizens bingo only delayed by one hour? If yes, go to church.
11. Is church just an afterthought, something you do when it's convenient, not really a worshipful act to you, or not that important? If yes to this sentiment, then by all means stay home. Also look for other excuses like "kids are sick", "I've got a busy week", "we just got back from the bahamas", "we were there on Christmas Eve", "It's not my week to teach", etc...

Note: these ten questions are intentionally laced with sarcasm and are meant as a parody. Please do not be offended and/or feel guilty... Unless of course the Holy Spirit is making you feel that way! (was that last line still parody?)