Sep 202017
 

As Christians, we carry a wonderful blessing and a frightful concernment in that we represent God to the world.  Most specifically in the extent that the name of Christ is contained within the very name we take – that of Christian.  It is both a magnificent gift and a harrowing reality that we portray the Maker and Ruler of the universe and Savior of our souls to rest of living humanity.  Sometimes God’s presence and representation of His attributes shine brightly through us.  Other times we royally screw up and it is embarrassing to even remotely connect God to the things we have said and done.

Throughout the history of this blog, plenty of Christians, especially pastors and leaders, have been called out for bad behavior.  Behavior that is sometimes committed in secret and other times boldly in front of an audience, but in the end is a disgraceful representation of Christ by those who are more visible and have a higher level of responsibility due to their position.  Sometimes I’m glad that I’m a nobody and so my dirty laundry has a lesser reach in besmirching the name of Christ.

Beyond our behavior, however, we also portray God by the words and descriptions we use to tell others about who He is and what He does.  When speaking of or about God, I want to portray Him as accurately and faithfully as I can.  Although I am sure I often fail in giving a fully correct depiction of God, my desire is to do my best in any given circumstance to properly represent God.  Since I am not a trained theologian I at times will be circumspect in what I say for fear of misrepresenting God due to my own dearth of knowledge.  Others are better equipped to speak in meticulous detail.

Additionally, I am usually pretty cautious in making statements like “God told me this” or “God is doing this”.  I fully believe that God speaks to us in ways that aren’t necessarily audible or documentable, but in varying intimate ways He communicates to our hearts and minds and souls.  I also fully believe that we are fallible beings and sometimes our own biases and desires may dupe us into thinking something is coming from God when it is just our own creation.  And for that reason, I am often leery of those who regularly say things like “God told me this” or “God is doing this” on items that are beyond what is already plainly communicated in Scripture.

This whole topic was brought to mind in the advent of the recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma and they way I saw one well-known Christian speaking about them.  In short, he basically said that God was showing His power through the storms and He was doing it to cause us to respond in humility and repentance.  And I thought, here we go again, another famous Christian speaking authoritatively as if they’ve been given some special revelation as to what God is doing with another earthly tragedy.  Now, this wasn’t as egregious as some have spoken before, saying such things as God is bringing judgment through specific catastrophes for America’s acceptance of homosexuality or their lack of support for Israel, but it is still a similar scenario, just more generalized.

As for myself, if I’m ever going to say that some disaster is God’s doing and give the reason for why He’s doing it, then I darn well better have gotten a direct revelation from God, Himself, telling me this, or else I’m keeping my mouth shut.  Do I believe that God could cause or allow some great adversity to occur for a specific reason?  Sure.  But again, unless God has directly and clearly disclosed the details to me, I’m not telling the world what God is doing with definitive certainty.  (And I’m not looking at this moment to go down the theological rabbit hole of God causing something versus Him allowing something.  That can be a discussion for another day.)

So when I see a fellow brother or sister in Christ saying that God sent a particular tragedy to humble us and cause us to repent, it saddens and frustrates me because I believe God is not being represented fairly or properly.  All the more so when it is done by someone with a large audience and the misrepresentation is far more reaching and impactful.

On the other side of the coin, I have seen other Christians react to this specific incident or similar incidents in the past by declaring that God would never do such thing.  That He has never done anything like it and is incapable of anything like it because God is love.  Therefore, God never has and never would have anything to do with any tragic or traumatic happening except to be there to love the people going through it.  He may not even have any control over it.  And He would never be involved in the sending of any tribulation or exhibiting any type of judgment.

And I agree that God is love.  But what about His justice, and holiness, and omnipotence, and sovereignty, and righteousness, and so on and so on?  Does not God teach us such things and many more about Himself through His Word?  Yes, God is love, but He’s also much more than just love.  And what of all the times in Scripture we are told of God manifesting his judgment?  What of the Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah or the final judgment at the end of the age?  To what point can it continue to be claimed that our understanding continually evolves to a higher level where we can see what parts of Scripture are actually God’s Word and true and determine the other parts to be inaccurate and untrue and unauthoritative, etc., etc.?  Or to essentially redefine what those terms even mean?  There are tons of technical particulars and nuance when it comes to Scriptural interpretation, far more than I know or am even aware of.  But beyond all the art and science of biblical interpretation there would also seem to be a pitfall where we can rely more on our own fallen and biased reasoning and desires to make God out to be who we want Him to be rather than trusting that He has communicated accurately and truthfully through His Word.

So on this other side of the coin I am just as saddened and concerned by what I also see as a misrepresentation of God.  And just as much as these Christians have an audience, they can give an, at least partially, false picture of who God is.

One side claims to know God so well that whenever something tragic happens in this world they can assign God as the cause and for what specific reason He caused it.  The other side claims to know God so well that they know He never has been involved in any such calamity or hardship and never has or would execute his judgment upon man.

I am not espousing that we never say anything about God for fear that we get something wrong.  We are called to live out and speak of our faith.  God uses us as instruments to spread his message of salvation and tell people about who He is.  It is a great privilege that we get to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is also a frightening proposition knowing that by our words and actions we are representing the great and holy King over everything.  And that our words and actions often fall woefully short of giving an honorable representation.

We need to find a manner where we can enthusiastically share about God but also do it in a responsible, honorable, and accurate fashion.  Some of us are filled with a great passion to share about the things of God but sometimes lack good understanding or discernment.  Others of us may be quite diligent in gaining a healthy understanding of God but are light in the enthusiasm department or lack the needed care and thoughfulness when sharing.

Whatever our strengths or struggles may be, may God help us to represent Him honorably and with devotion, and may we find refuge in His grace when we fail to do so.                

  58 Responses to “Kevin’s Conversations: God of the Storms”

  1. Great article Kevin! God is all powerful. God is all loving. Yet, how can there be tragedy in the world? This is simply not revealed to us. God’s ways are above our ways. I’m suspicious of any leaders claiming they know God’s reason for certain tragedies.

  2. Kevin,

    “In short, he basically said that God was showing His power through the storms and He was doing it to cause us to respond in humility and repentance.”

    I don’t think we have the knowledge of “why” God sent a particular storm in a particular place at a particular time, or of the purpose. To speak for God where He has not spoken is a 2nd Commandment issue.

    However, we can speak of our response to such storms. I think a salutary point here is that death came into the world through sin and death spread to all men, because all men sin. When we see the power of God in nature, or in any calamity, in which life is lost, it provides an opportunity to us for repentance unto faith. We are reminded that we are sinners, that we have no rights of our own before God, that our lives are like a breath, and and wages of sin is death.

    If we turn to Christ and His Gospel in these times, then our suffering has purpose, which is faith in Christ.

  3. Kevin

    One major mistake in this article – “Since I am not a trained theologian…”
    Theo – God, Logos – discourse

    Today you did a very fine and accurate discourse about God… A theologian, indeed! Nice work…

  4. Thanks, Steve & Duane.

    Duane: Okay, so maybe I played the role of theologian, but certainly still an amateur one. 🙂

  5. When we say “God sent a storm / hurricane” doesn’t that make him sound much like Zeus or some of the other gods tossing lightening bolts from heaven?

    Are hurricanes actually tragedies in themselves (I realize them do cause tragedies) or has mankind built civilizations in the path of hurricanes? Hurricanes serve a much needed ecological purpose and most hurricanes do not make landfall.

    I for one do not think God ‘sends’ hurricanes.

  6. MLD,

    Do you say the same thing about earthquakes? Do they serve a much needed ecological purpose? I was thinking about the tragedy in Mexico city yesterday.

  7. Jean,

    I certainly believe that God is in control over all things, including the weather. So yes, we can see the power of God in the storms knowing that He can create them or still them at His own command. And that should lead us to repentance unto faith as you state when we recognize the power and superiority of God compared to our own sinful and pitiful states.

    But what I don’t do myself or like seeing others do is picking a particular storm or tragic incident and saying God is sending a specific tragedy and then assigning a reason as to why He’s doing it. I don’t know the mind of God and I don’t know to what degree He may be “sending” a specific something or to what degree it may just be more of a function of a fallen world. And I’m certainly not going to give a specific reason for why He is doing it.

  8. Steve,
    I am sure that earthquakes serve some function of relieving pressure on the fault lines – perhaps keeping the earth from exploding like a pressure cooker. (it is a fallen world)

    Is it your position that God sent the earthquake?

  9. MLD,

    I don’t know if you have valid science to support your idea that the reason for the earth quake it to prevent the earth from exploding. In a way, this is like knowing the mind of God as well. I applaud your creativity but the fact remains, we don’t know the reason why God at a minimum allowed the Earthquake/(or storm) or at the other extreme sent or caused the Earthquake /(or storm). I don’t have a position either way.

  10. “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?”

    Did God collapse the tower on these people or was it poor engineering?

    But since we live in a fallen world where things go wrong, we too had best repent as we may also end up in such an unfortunate situation.

  11. MLD,

    What is your take on Job 37:10-13?

  12. Not sure why the hyperlink didn’t seem to activate on my last reference, so here is the copied text:

    By the breath of God ice is given,
    and the broad waters are frozen fast.
    He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
    the clouds scatter his lightning.
    They turn around and around by his guidance,
    to accomplish all that he commands them
    on the face of the habitable world.
    Whether for correction or for his land
    or for love, he causes it to happen.

    Job 37:10-13

  13. The fact of the matter is, that earthquake in Mexico happened because I gossiped about a certain person last week.

    (It needs to be sorted out, I know.)

  14. #13 Xenia

    Can you give us advanced warning next time? Or just let us know when you gossip…

  15. According to one co-worker of mine, God will send disasters to those who abuse Israel. She even stated last week with certainty that Hurricane Jose (now Tropical storm Jose) was going to hit New York yesterday because of the UN meeting and their probable statements against Israel.

    Of course she ended up wrong.

    According to her, God is busy watching and listening to everyone to see if anyone says anything against Israel.

    ’nuff said.

  16. According to her, God is busy watching and listening to everyone to see if anyone says anything against Israel…<<<

    According to a former Calvary Chapel pastor who (now pastors a small non-denom) not holding this view of Israel is The Great Apostasy. So according to him, all non Dispensationalists have fallen into the Great Apostasy. Now THAT is whackadoodle. To this guy, it's all about Israel, ethnic Israel, that is, not the group that God calls Israel, which is the Church. (He tied it in with voting for Trump, but that's for another day.)

    I don't think most Dispensationalists believe this, at least, I hope they don't.

  17. Xenia…bingo…whackadoodle. My co-worker is a believer, but, and BUT, she is frankly out to lunch on this issue. Like this pastor you mentioned, she is all about Israel. Even down to the Seder she holds. I think she’s also a reader of Johnathan Cahn’s books.

  18. Hmmm, I thought the new attitude being expressed by our Anglican brethren was that all theologies although not equal should be received equally with respect.
    I am offended that some would describe some poor lady’s long held end times theological view as ‘whackadoodle’.

    And we wonder why our God tosses lightening bolts at us from heaven.

  19. I’m going to write this once.
    The personal shots come to an end or peoples posting abilities do.
    I’m done and I’m mad as hell.

    Every time this place gets on solid footing this has to happen.

    There will be no discussion on this matter.

  20. I’ve been working on a Jonah interpretation, and struck by Chapter 3 verse 4:

    And the Lord threw great wind toward the sea and a great storm came in the sea and the ship was thought to break.

  21. There are a number of passages that say God is sovereign over the weather…and everything else.
    How that works out in reality is one of those mysteries best left alone, in my opinion.

  22. Okay, I asked MLD a question back in #11 & #12 but haven’t gotten a reply, so I’ll open it up to the floor for anyone who wants to share their thoughts.

  23. Me too, Michael. It just struck me because I had spent so much time with it. Not that we could discern a reason that God sent a storm, etc.

  24. As I was writing my last comment, looks like Michael gave his related thoughts on it.

  25. Several years back, I worked for a well known mission organization doing assessments following disasters both domestic and international. While in Indonesia following the Tsunami in ’04, we were told that the Tsunami came because the Muslims wouldn’t allow the Christians to celebrate Christmas. According to many (even CC’ers), the Muslims told the Christians that they could only worship this day on the mountain. Apparently, God was angry and punished the Muslims with the earthquake and Tsunami and many Christians were not affected by it because God protected them on the mountain.

    The following year while assessing Katrina, we were told that apparently God was angry again because in downtown New Orleans, there was a LGBTQ parade and rally scheduled celebrating the Day of Decadence when the hurricane hit.

    I think our time would be better spent praying for the victims before we try to determine who God is mad at and who He is punishing. It’s a fallen world we live in and stuff happens.

  26. And then Josh gave his. 🙂

    Any other thoughts by anyone on the Job passage or the subject in general?

  27. “I think our time would be better spent praying for the victims before we try to determine who God is mad at and who He is punishing.”

    Absolutely.

  28. I have long been a believer in God’s particular providence and His sovereignty in all things.
    It’s a great doctrine until you have to explain hurricanes and cancer.

  29. The historical Martin Luther thought, from Scripture, that God is not only sovereign but wills or permits everything that happens, including the evil that Satan performs. Which, if one is a Christian, is very comforting, because God is for the Christian.

  30. #16 Xenia

    It has always struck me as ironic that believers who hold Israel in such great standing, seem to care little about the Christians who are in Israel and the occupied territories, many of whom are EO or Marionites. It’s especially puzzling as many of the professional guides who are Palestinians come from these traditions and they always speak with deep respect of, “Our Lord” when doing their work. Meanwhile, their population is diminishing almost by the month… it’s very sad and troubling that we give them so little time or regard in our pondering.

  31. Kevin – some of us, even at my ancient age have to work – so replies may be delayed.
    Do you know how long I have to work to pay off lost bets in the past 2 days where the Phillies have beaten the Dodgers – lots of money needed.

    I think that the Job passage speaks more to the majesty of God than it does a meteorologist report.

    Even in Jonah, the weather was brought out to serve God – not to punish the passengers in the boat. The same with Jesus calming the sea. They were all directed by God for his purpose – not to punish the people of Puerto Rico.

  32. MLD,

    So what were the odds that Kershaw was going to give up his first ever grand slam in that game to the Phillies? 🙂

    Beyond the Job passage, we see other passages in Scripture where it says that God is sending/causing/controlling the storms or other aspects of the earth that could be related to natural disasters. Of course there is Sodom and Gomorrah that I referenced in my article where we are told God sent fire and sulfur, in whatever natural or supernatural manner He made that happen.

    I’m pretty much with what some of the others have stated here where it may be best to leave it to mystery as to how it plays out with God having control over the weather and other potentially catastrophic items. But I do leave the possibility that God could send a hurricane, possibly even to judge or punish, but I’m not going to try to figure it out or explain it.

  33. This is why I asked earlier – did God cause the tower to collapse on the 18 people?

    Without denying the sovereignty of God over all things, it seems to me that if God is going to destroy Puerto Rico with a hurricane, he would say why – otherwise my nature is just to think “bad luck”. Is anyone here going to say that any of these storms are just giving these people what they deserve? That wouldn’t preach very well in my church.

    As usual, I am sure that I hold a minority opinion.

  34. MLD,

    I am more inclined to think on these natural disasters and other tragedies that they are primarily driven by a fallen world and not God specifically sending them. I just don’t rule out the possibility that God could be doing something specific that He does not reveal directly to us.

    It could even be possible that God caused Kershaw to give up that grand slam (or at least to throw that flat slider). 🙂

  35. We know that God has sent storms (Jonah 1:4) at least in one place to put a straying prophet on course with the fish that was going to swallow him. But did God send the storm that Jesus rebukes in Luke 8:24? If so, Jesus is undermining His Father.

    Romans 8:22 says that the whole earth is crying out for redemption. Until then, IMO, weather patterns are going to do what weather patterns do. They bring blessings and abundance as well as famine and drought. Teutonic plates are going to do what teutonic plates do.

    Thoughts?

  36. The grand slam was God’s direct punishment on me.

  37. My apologies Michael and all.

  38. Dan,

    it’s all good…I was addressing another dispute in progress.

  39. BryonM,

    I think your reference to Romans is where I land on this…

  40. Thanks Micheal. I still am sorry I attacked my co-worker like that.

    My take on this issue is similar to Kevin’s in that I believe God can use/direct a natural disaster, but the prophet who proclaims such better be darn well sure and trustworthy.

    I also believe that, as a believer AND a scientist that God set in motion laws of physics and such. However, I also believe that sin has impacted the natural world as well as the human experience.

  41. After 32 years as a believer in Jesus I have concluded that when we think we know God we will be proved wrong. Better to postulate than prophesy. I suggest that the recent weather could be the creators reminder of our mandate to be good stewards of his property. All this fuels my leaning toward open theology as well.

  42. I’m seeing a lot of prophecy wonks shouting out that all these natural disasters are a sign of the impending Rapture.

    The problem with this is I don’t recall Jesus saying that He would collapse a grade school on the students before He came, or indiscriminately drown those in island villages as a pre Rapture warm up.

    The next time someone posts that these things are Gods judgment for taking God out of our schools I may lose my salvation…

  43. Science, physics, meteorology, architecture, common sense.
    Here we find the sane, reasonable answers to why bad things happen to innocent people.

    Human evil, greed, inequality, sexism, class-ism, tribalism.
    Here we find the sources of the unfinished work in progress for each of us to focus on, make a difference where we can, and inspire others when we are limited.

    The prayer God always answers is, “Lord, how can I help my neighbor!?”

    L’Shanah Tovah to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah! <3

  44. @Michael #42:
    word

  45. I am not making any predictions but the earthquake app on my phone is going crazy lately.

    Just sayin’.

  46. BryonM is the person with the story that always makes me cry, first tears of sadness then of happiness.

  47. It’s always amusing to see narcissistic, dispy-type Christians (yes, there are others, too) assume that all end-times “realities” revolve around the future of middle-class America.

  48. yes, BryonM’s post is a reminder of the God of grace and power, indeed – his family has much to teach… glad i was here when their saga was shared

    i think that the passage that tells us that the whole earth groans hints of what began when we left the garden and may also hint at why the earth has cataclysmic quakes and winds from time to time … dunno … the earth did react at the crucifixion or so the Word seems to indicate…
    Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

  49. As my geology prof once put it, “if you build a town in a floodplain, it’s going to get flooded. May not happen for another 10 or 50 years, but it happened in the past and will likely happen again. That’s why they call it a flood plain.” Earthquakes are the releases of stress at fault lines. When I took geology in 1991, we were told that the particular section of the San Andreas which slipped in 1906 had built up more stress than was relieved in that quake. 27 years later, we’re still waiting. Yikes!

  50. #49… amen to the floodplain observation… usually, however, it is some developer who gets a pass somehow, gets those permits, puts in a development and then takes the money and runs… or so it seems to me…
    when my husband & i bought our first home we lived in So. Calif and i seem to recall that it was required (by the State?) that the buyer get a full geology report on the area… at least we got one and knew that our new house was on a fault, but we were young and optimistic (and we were out of there long before the big San Fernando quake hit)…

    it is hard to have a balanced view on the admonition that our lives here are just a vapor…

    ESV: Jas 4:13-15
    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—
    yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
    Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” … it’s in the Book, but i feel a little sanctimonious making the declaration… guess we should say it anyway, tho … dunno 🙂

  51. I guess this is my struggle on whether or not to get earthquake insurance. What is right to properly manage what I have been given? If it were just me I wouldn’t care so much, but given I’ve been given two little kids to shepherd… still, it’s not something that keeps me up at night. Sufficient is the evil of the day thereof. I have more immediate concerns.

  52. Good and bad stuff happens to the good, the bad, and the ugly alike.
    Ain’t no rhyme, ain’t no reason, and deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it…

  53. Kevin

    I just read the first paragraph

    I always enjoy your entries. They always ring true with me somehow!

    On to read more…

  54. Thanks, Descended.

  55. Agreed Muff. Life is a mystery. God is a mystery. There are no easy answers. So I watch squirrels chase each other around the back yard.

  56. Kevin,

    Good words. For my two cents, I tend to lean towards the “stuff just happens” belief. I believe God can (and will) do what He chooses, but often we humans are not privy to the “why”.

    I’m going to go sideways a little here , from where the conversation has been going with God’s control of weather….

    “Sometimes I’m glad that I’m a nobody and so my dirty laundry has a lesser reach in besmirching the name of Christ”.

    Those of us with children know very well how easy it is to say or do the wrong thing, and then watch in horror as our mini-me(s) copy what they’ve just learned. And then you start thinking you’ve just impacted the next generation.
    You’re only a nobody if nobody is looking at your every move…..and it seems that, unfortunately, as Christians we’re being watched more than most.

  57. Owen makes a good point… some watch us with hatred, just hoping for an opportunity to point their finger and cry “evil religious bigot” and some watch us with hope – period…

    makes me think and question whether we are balanced as Believers… do we expect too little simply because we’re all sinners and we don’t want to be legalistic? grace should eventually build us up, not simply excuse and mindlessly look the other way… thinking…

  58. “do we expect too little simply because we’re all sinners and we don’t want to be legalistic? grace should eventually build us up, not simply excuse and mindlessly look the other way”

    Expect too little in what way? Could you expound upon your thoughts a little?

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