Sep 11 2011

Psalm 46 and 9/11

This morning in our worship service we read Psalm 46.  I chose this particular passage because I remember it was the one I turned to and shared with others on September 11 ten years ago.  For those who may not be familiar with this psalm it begins: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”  A few verses later the psalmist declares, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Psalm 46 is special to me because it is a reminder that God is always there for us no matter what happens.  Whether we experience natural disasters or manmade ones we know that we are never alone.  The Lord Almighty is with us and is, indeed, “our refuge and strength.”  This assurance brought me peace and comfort on that fateful September 11 in 2001.  This assurance brings me peace and comfort on this September 11 ten years later.  I have a number of heavy burdens I am dealing with right now and just before I preached today I learned that a dear elderly friend passed away this morning.  There is a good bit of hurt, confusion and uncertainty in my life right now so I needed to hear Psalm 46 once again this morning.  I needed to be reminded that whatever happens to any of us “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Interestingly, there are actually quite a few references to nature in Psalm 46.  Other than the reference to “a river whose streams make glad the city of God” found in verse 4, the allusions to Creation found here remind us of nature’s destructive powers.  We read of the earth giving way and mountains falling into the sea.  The writer speaks of earth’s waters roaring, foaming and surging to the extent that the mountains quake.  As much as I love this world God has made I do realize that there are forces in nature that can and do threaten us.  We have had countless reminders of this in recent weeks and months.

Perhaps there is a subtle caution found in Psalm 46 for us not to put our faith in nature.  Yes, as Christians we should love Creation because God loves it and He is the one who made it all.  And, yes, we should all work hard to care for and preserve Creation for that has been our calling ever since the Garden of Eden.  But we must likewise remember the dangers inherent in Creation and its temporary status.  Creation cannot save us.  The Creator can.

In verse 10 of Psalm 46 God speaks to us through the psalmist and says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Oh how we need to hear these words today!  Being still is not our strength.  It’s hard for us to be quiet and still.  We live such hurried and hectic lives.  It’s here that I do believe that nature can be of assistance to us.  If we will deliberately take time to go outdoors and just be still, we will soon find ourselves ushered into God’s presence.  One doesn’t have to go outside to experience this, of course, but Creation has been a faithful aid to countless people over the ages in helping them connect to God.  On this 9/11 I find myself in just as much need to be still and know that God is God as I did ten years ago.  I also find myself just as thankful that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”   It is my hope and prayer that you, too, can find some comfort and encouragement in these ancient words.

–Chuck

(I took the top image of a volcano from a helicopter in Hawaii.  The middle picture was taken on the Pacific coast at Redwood N.P.   The bottom image was photographed at Humboldt Redwood State Park in California.  All three images were taken this past spring.)


Mar 13 2011

The Power of God

RL 660The power of nature has certainly been on display in recent days.  The scale of the earthquake in Japan this weekend was of historic proportions and actually moved the country eight feet to the east.  The tsunami that followed caused waves so big and powerful that they traveled six miles inland.  Less than a week ago a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii erupted shooting lava eighty feet into the air.  In the past week tornadoes have also ripped through a number of communities in the United States and late winter storms have caused some cities to come to a standstill.  Other areas of the country have experienced devastating floods following intense rainfall.  Yes, in a short period of time the incredible power of nature has been made manifest to all.

The power of nature is very humbling to humanity.  In the face of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, volcanoes and floods we cannot help but feel small.  If we are wise we will stand in awe of the power and forces of nature.  We will be even wiser if we remember that there is a greater power yet.

RL 674Throughout the Scriptures the powers of nature are acknowledged as being great but there is the consistent affirmation that the power of God, the Maker of heaven and earth, transcends nature’s power.  In Job 38 God reminds Job that it was He who “laid the earth’s foundation” and “marked off its dimensions.”  God goes on to inform Job that it was He who “shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb” and that it is He who “cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm.”

The Psalmist was wise enough to acknowledge God’s power and how nature is subservient.  In Psalm 148 he calls on the sun, moon and stars “to praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.”  He goes on to call on the “hail, snow, clouds and stormy winds” to also give praise to God for “his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”  In the New Testament the apostle Paul summed things up for us: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” (Romans 1:20)

RL 692I certainly lament all the loss of life and devastation caused by nature’s power in recent days but as I have watched the images on television of the incredible power found in natural forces I have, likewise, been reminded that God—the Source who brought these powers into existence—is a force even greater.  Remembering this has been a source of comfort to me.  It is good to know that the greatest power that exists is the God of Creation and the same God who has assured us through His Son that He is for us and not against us.  And to quote the apostle Paul once again, “if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

In Psalm 46 the Psalmist says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore I will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”   Today I give thanks and offer praise to the Almighty God, “our refuge and strength” and encourage you to do the same.

–Chuck

(I took the images above at Reelfoot Lake in western Tennessee.  This lake was formed in 1811-1812 as the result of a tremendous earthquake.  The force of the quake was so great that the Mississippi River actually flowed backwards temporarily.)