Sunday, March 13, 2011

When Bad Things Happen...Japan

Why do bad things happen to good people? It's an aged-old asked question.

Habakkuk asked the question to God, in relation to Judah's suffering, "How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, 'Violence!', but you do not save?" (Habakkuk 1:2)

The disciples asked Jesus about a man born blind, "Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?"

We are seeing pictures of horrible devastation in northern Japan due to one of the century's strongest earthquake and resulting tsunami. As we watch the visuals streaming over our television sets, it moves us to the depths of our souls and we also might be crying out, "Why, Lord? Why do these bad things happen?"

And the answer is not easy. In Habakkuk, the prophet really did not get an answer to his "why"? He simply got the response, "Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." (Hab 1:5) Meaning that you and I might not even be able to handle the real answer and so it is withheld.

In regards to the man born blind, Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life..." (John 9:3). Maybe this "bad" thing happened so that God could make his name known and glorify himself through the event.

One thing is for sure. We are all a part of a lost and fallen world where bad things happen to both the good and bad people and nations. Being involved in international relief and development, I have seen my share of bad things happening and have found no comfort in asking "why"? What I have found comfort in is asking "what", as in "what I am I going to do about this, on a personal level and a corporate level?"

Here is what I encourage you to do over the next few days as the tragedy of what has happened in Japan continues to unfold...

1. Pray. Pray for those suffering physically. There is a basic need for water, food and shelter. It is still cold season there.

2. Pray. Pray for those suffering emotionally. Many lost loved ones. Aftershocks continue and fear rules with each new tremor. Emotional shock leads to physical manifestations that can be fatal themselves. Pray for healing.

3. Pray. Pray for the responders as they go. Pray for the Japanese government and international organizations as they try and come up with some type of a unified response plan. Pray that all work together to speedily reach those in need.

4. Give. Find a good, trusted partner to give through. We have a great vehicle to give through: Baptist Global Response (BGR). Our website is: Please go there for updates and options for giving. One hundred percent of your donation with go to provide appropriate relief. If you have other channels of giving, give that way. Right now, monetary gifts that can be used locally in Japan to purchase water, food and shelter are much more effective than gifts in kind.

5. Consider going and helping. Especially if you have certain skills that are needed. Again, you need to find a trusted partner to do that through. Again, BGR would be happy to help you if God is leading you.

Why do bad things happen to good people? I'm not sure I can answer that.

What am I going to do about those bad things like what has happened in Japan? I'm afraid that I'm the only one that can answer that.

God bless...Pray for Japan!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Shepherd's Secret

Psalm 78 says that God..."chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance."

So God chose, God appointed and God set David in place to shepherd His people. We know from the story of God sending Samuel to anoint a new king, David, man looks at the outward appearance when selecting leaders while God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16). One by one, the sons of Jesse passed before Samuel the prophet and Samuel thought at each choice, "Surely the Lord's anointed stands here..."

But the Lord spoke to Samuel in Kingly wisdom saying, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." One by one, the sons of Jesse were rejected leading Samuel to proclaim, "The Lord has not chosen these."

Finally, the youngest son, David, was called from tending his father's sheep. When Samuel saw him, God said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one."

What was it that God saw in the heart and life of David? More importantly, when He looks at us, does He see the same things?

Psalm 78:72 gives us a hint in saying, "And David shepherded them (Israel) with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. How did David shepherd his people? With integrity of heart and with skillful hands.

Developing and exercising the skills God gives us is one key part to being faithful in His Kingdom. However, equally and perhaps more important is having a heart of integrity.

Skills applied for God's glory plus God's heart yields fruitful ministry.

May we have both.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Psalm 23

King David starts out his now famous 23rd Psalm with the simple statement, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want..."

As an agriculturist, I am always intrigued by the agriculture allegories in the Bible. But this one has a significant fascination for me. I have helped raise sheep and believe me, there is not much of a more ignoble animal than a sheep. However, what I have learned is that the focus is not on the sheep in this Psalm but rather the shepherd.

The Bible has much to say about shepherds. When David as a young man was asked by King Saul as to his qualifications to be a warrior and to face the giant Goliath, he simply replied, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep."

Now what in the world would make a shepherd qualified to fight a giant? For one, he passionately protects his flock. David was literally offended that anything (not less anyone - including a giant) could mock or stand up to the people (read flock) chosen by God. Secondly, he had experience in fighting the monsters, the bear and lion, that attacked the flock. He literally recalled that he chased the beasts, snatched the unfortunate lamb from the mouth of the offender and then, grabbed the beast by the hair and slay it. So, what's the big deal about a giant when you've taken care of lions and bears?

Later in the New Testament, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. He talks about how a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (like David going after the bear and lion). Moreover, the Good Shepherd is so familiar with his flock and his flock with him that they hear and respond to his voice. They even reject the voice of the imposter.

Here is the Kingdom lesson I get from this. From Psalm 23 and from John 10 (the Good Shepherd), the key to abundant life if found simply in the sheep (you and me) hearing and following the voice of the Good Shepherd. Abundance, in a Kingdom perspective, is not measured in things, titles, or even accomplishments. It is measured simply in hearing and obeying. What a radical thought.

The Lord is my shepherd...when I hear and follow Him, I will have no want...