In Case of A Storm

There have been more tropical storms/hurricanes in 2020 than in any other year since the weather service began recording them. I don’t know about you, but the political and social upheaval in the United States right now (the week of national elections) also feels like a major storm. Businesses in large cities boarded up their windows in anticipation of rioting following the election, just like they would for a physical storm.

Hurricane Harvey stalled out over the Texas Gulf Coast for five days in 2017, producing catastrophic flooding after winds so strong they broke the recording devices (reference). Thousands of people lost their homes, and as many as eighty-eight fatalities are attributed to the storm (reference). Harvey became a named storm on August 17th in the Gulf of Mexico and died out on August 30th along the coast of Florida. That’s 13 days.

Nor’easters along the east coast of the United States often cause gale-force winds, rough seas, snowstorms, and sometimes flooding (reference). They are as serious and scary as hurricanes, they just don’t get names. A Nor’easter was responsible for the Blizzard of ’93 which shut down most of the eastern United States. The United States nor’easter season has just begun, and considering how 2020 is going, I’m more than a little concerned!

The Mediterranean Sea gets Northeasters (just add the ‘th’ back in). When Paul was on his way to Rome as a prisoner, a Northeaster came across the sea and lasted more than fourteen days! That’s longer than Hurricane Harvey. While we can’t estimate overall losses of property or life, we know from Luke’s account in Acts 27-28 that Paul’s ship was destroyed but no one on the ship lost their life.

With a record-setting hurricane season here in the US, political vitriol, and social unrest of historic proportions, what can we do? Toward the end of Paul’s ordeal with the Northeaster, he spoke to the 275 people on the boat with him, and he modeled three things they should do in case of a storm. Their storm was physical/environmental, but the same principles apply when the storm is social, political, emotional, or relational.

3 Things to Do In A Storm

Acts 27:27-38.

1. Take care of yourself.

“For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive.”  –Acts 27:33-34a

It’s easy to get distracted, to let stress dictate our health decisions, but our bodies need food and water, oxygen, and rest. Especially in the midst of a figurative storm, we must take care of ourselves. Make time to prioritize healthy foods, some exercise, and a regular sleep schedule. Go drink a glass of water right now. Go ahead; I’ll wait. When you are physically healthy, you’re better prepared to face the storm brewing around you and to hear the Holy Spirit directing you through it.

2. Give thanks.

After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all.  –Acts 27:35

Need I remind you of this verse as well?

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  –1 Thessalonians 5:18

Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving. We can find something for which to give thanks today, regardless of our circumstances. We don’t have to thank God for the storm, but we can always thank Him for His provision (such as the bread Paul ate), His sustaining power, His previous blessings, or at least the knowledge that He already knows the outcome or already has a solution laid out for the present storm.

In Paul’s case, God sent an angel to promise everyone’s safety (Acts 17:23-24). We may not get the angel appearing in the night like that, but we have the promises of Scripture and the reassurances of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Thank Him for His provision, His promises, and His plan.

Why is giving thanks so important? Because it reminds us of God’s economy: that He’s in charge, that He supplies, and that He cares. Thankfulness puts us back in right thinking toward God. (You might even call it thinkfulness. Just an idea.)

3. Have confidence in God’s control.

“Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”  –Acts 27:34b

Granted, Paul had the aforementioned angel.

Granted, we may lose more than a few hairs…or gain a few more gray ones (like I have) during the storm. God doesn’t promise us freedom from baldness, but confidence in God’s sovereignty is ours to be had. Recall all the times He saved His people, such as the Red Sea (Exodus 14) or this very story! In the next chapter, Paul gets bitten by a venomous snake and still survives (Acts 28:3-6). Or recall a time He helped you through a different storm.

We have to think big-picture. You and I have eternal life. At the risk of sounding fatalistic, we will go to Heaven when God decides we go to Heaven. We will live under the political system God has already decided to put in place. God will meet our needs—or not (like Job)—in a way that brings Him glory.

We’ve made it through eight months of pandemic and almost as many months of social unrest. Even if election indecision lasts fourteen days (like Paul’s Northeaster), even if you’re looking at four years (or four more years) of the president you don’t want, we can do this!

So friends, follow Paul’s advice:

Take care of yourself. Give thanks. Stay confident in God’s control.

We’re living through a storm of epic proportions, and it’s called 2020. How can we deal with it? The same way Paul dealt with a Northeaster that could have killed everyone on his ship. My plans #incaseofastorm are #NotAboutMe.

What spiritual practice or Bible passage has helped you weather the storm that is 2020? Give us your best advice in the comments below. Thanks!

PS–I love it when the Holy Spirit ties all sorts of threads together. Check out one or all of these:

Also, if you haven’t really listened to the lyrics in this song recently, take three minutes to watch the lyrics video for Casting Crowns’ Praise You In This Storm

A Missions Mindset in Election Season

Missions mindset: that way of thinking which gears every aspect of life toward glorifying God and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ

Election season: that period of time (every four years) when Americans choose their next Commander-in-Chief, characterized in the modern era by mud-slinging, propaganda, and overspending

I’m a big fan of that constitutional pillar we call separation of church and state. My comments today do not address the church. I speak to individuals who call themselves “Christian,” although I prefer to call myself a Christ-Follower. We have a unique opportunity in these days—one that we must not overlook in the heat of our political passions.

I’m also not asking you to give up your political views. Healthy debate is good for our country, and everyone seems to have strong political opinions this year. If you don’t, you must have spent the year in an underground bunker. (Kimmy Schmidt, anyone?) By the way, I’m quite certain that well-intentioned, sincere Christ-followers will vote for Hillary Clinton, for Donald Trump, and for whoever else remains on the ballot in November. God isn’t a Republican.

Be a Christ-Follower before you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent

God’s agenda (John 3:16-18) trumps—yes I did that on purpose—any candidate’s or party’s. (click to tweet)

What if we choose to act like Jesus through this election season? What if we “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) when someone offends our political sensibilities? What if we buy someone’s lunch even though we just learned that person supports the other candidate? What if we give someone $20 when they ask for $5 (Luke 6:29)?

What if we engage in honest conversation with those who hold different views? Jesus never rejected the Pharisees. He never refused to talk to them. He never got in a shouting match with them. Consider Nicodemus (John 3). Jesus gave up his evening, his Netflix binge, his “me-time” to speak quietly with his opponent. Sure, Nicodemus came to Him, but the example still stands. How many times did He respond to Pharisees’ questions in and around the temple? He may have been enigmatic, but He was usually patient.

It’s about love.

However you are employed, whatever “platform” you stand on, you interact with other people—either constructively (building the Kingdom) or destructively (creating barriers around the Kingdom).

A person’s eternal peace
is more important than a
paycheck or a politicial opinion.

I was thinking this past weekend about the awesome mission opportunities a tow truck driver has. (If you follow North Carolina news, you probably know why I was thinking this.) If someone needs the services of a tow truck, she (or he) is in a vulnerable, maybe even desperate situation regardless of which candidate’s stickers spot her (or his) bumper. The tow truck driver has an opportunity to meet that physical need of moving the vehicle, but he also has a chance to minister to that person’s emotional and spiritual needs. He can ask questions, listen attentively, even share portions of Truth as he drives the individual back to the garage (or wherever). He can play Christian music on his radio. He might even have a Bible in his dashboard…a well-worn Bible that shows He loves the Word of God and spends time studying it daily. The drive might take, oh say, an hour—plenty of time to pour blessings on that person, plenty of time to overlook political differences in the interest of peace. That person’s eternal peace is more important than a paycheck or a political opinion or a feeling of self-righteousness.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. –Matthew 5:43-45a

I hope we don’t consider political opponents to be actual enemies, but at times we may feel as though they are. How can we love them?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. -1 Corinthians 13:4

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus told us a parable that we usually call The Good Samaritan. In it, someone is injured and desperate for medical attention. Two men, considering themselves holy and righteous, refuse to help. Jesus shames his listeners by assigning kindness and generosity to a social pariah, to one they wouldn’t even allow into the temple. The point is not that Samaritans are kinder than Jews or that they have more spare time. The point is that we tend to get so caught up in our faith, so enraptured by our own righteousness, that we think we are right to neglect someone outside our faith community. We don’t demonstrate love.

Represent!

We are all Americans. We all get to vote. (Very thankful for the 15th and 19th Amendments here!) Come November 9th, we’ll all still be here regardless of who the country…well, the electoral college…chooses for president.

What kind of Christian will you
be in this election season?

What kind of Christian will you be in this election season, which is really a season of special spiritual opportunity? Will you refuse to help those whose opinions differ from yours? Will you set yourself up against a certain community within the US (LGBT, 2nd Amendment supporters, climate change advocates, pro-choice people, Muslims, immigration defenders, liberals, conservatives, etc.)? Or will you demonstrate God’s love for all people through your kindness and generosity?

Jesus knew that being kind to those who oppose you would be hard. For that reason, He gave us special encouragement:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. –Matthew 5:11

This doesn’t mean we should provoke persecution. It means that, if we are persecuted despite our Christlikeness, He will bless us through it.

Not that our political opponents are “wicked,” but Jesus also said,

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. –Luke 6:35

Give people the chance to say,
“Hmm. That was the nicest Christian
I ever met.” (click to tweet)

Instead of leaving a bad taste in their mouths, give people the chance to say, “Hmm. That was the nicest Christian I ever met.” That’s where God gets the glory in this election season!

 

Interested in this concept of loving those who are different? Check out Hugh Halter’s book, Brimstone. Otherwise, let me know what you think about this in the comments…but let’s keep it apolitical!

Missional Women