Sunday, preaching in Biloxi, Mississippi, I asked the congregation, “How many of you were living here in 1969 when Hurricane Camille changed this coastline forever?” A lot of hands went up.
Then, “How many of you lived here in 2005 when Katrina destroyed so much of the area?” Many more hands.
I said, “So when you think of neighbors dealing with hurricanes, such as Harvey and Irma, you know. You’ve been there. You can pray for them with a genuine compassion and a deeper understanding.”
Before they left the building, those people made generous contributions to their neighbors impacted by the hurricanes.
Each hurricane is different. Each takes its own path and blows at its own speed. And each one is similar. They destroy and uproot and flood. Those who experience even one such storm forever identifies with the victims and veterans of all those which follow.
With that in mind, it might be in order for those of us with scars from past hurricanes (for my family, it was Betsy in 1965 and Katrina 40 years later) to offer a word or two of encouragement to friends caught in the path of the latest of these monster storms.
Ten words, actually…
(We will try not to insult you with platitudes such as “work hard” or “try not to cry.” You will work hard and you will cry, and God bless you as you do.)
While a battle is raging one can see his enemy mowed down by the thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure; but after the battle, these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally disposed to do as much to alleviate the suffering of an enemy as a friend. –Ulysses S. Grant, “Personal Memoirs”
“One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” –Joseph Stalin
“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.” –Lucy, in “Peanuts”
Pastors, young ones in particular, have to conquer this challenge or forever pay a huge price. It’s one thing to love a crowd, but another entirely to love that quarrelsome family, the cranky old curmudgeon, the gossip in the congregation, the unwashed homeless guy who wandered into your service, and the deacon who is dead-set on making you unemployed.
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…. That would say to us that His love was not an abstractiont, not theoretical, and not just so much rhetoric. Our Heavenly Father expressed His love by the supreme act of self-giving.
The radio preacher said into the night air waves, “Beloved, I love you.” Everything inside me rebelled at such a claim. How can he love someone he doesn’t even know? Someone he will never see or have any dealings with? He loves the concept of people, if he even does that.
Love is so easy to toss around, but so hard to live out.
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying, ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love….'” (Jeremiah 31:3)
What part of ‘everlasting’ do we not get?
Lately, we are learning through science what unending and infinite look like. Space seems to be continuous, going on and on. The lineup of galaxies across the heavens staggers our imaginations, considering their size, makeup, and number.
The Psalmist who said, “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord” had no clue just how much they say about the majesty and might of our Creator. That’s not to imply we do, only that we have far more information on the complexities and delights of the universe which the Father has wrought with His own hands than biblical writers.
“From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” (Psalm 90:2)
From everlasting in the past to everlasting in the future, God is God. There never was a time when God did not exist; there will never be a time when God does not reign.
“Nevertheless, I have something against you–that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Everyone in a loving relationship knows how ephemeral those feelings of love can be.
No one should expect the emotional highs to remain at fever level. We could not live that way for long. But may we not expect the love itself to remain strong and good and vital?
Every husband and wife deals with this. And so does God.
So, how do we awaken the dormant love that is surely there, deep within us, but has been smothered out by the daily activities of life?
Here is God’s recipe:
a) Remember what you had before.
b) Repent over losing it, and letting it slip away.
c) Repeat the things you were doing at first.
What we must not do is sit around waiting and waiting and waiting…for the emotion to return, for the inner motivation to kick in, for the want-to to be there.
Get up and start doing loving things.