Tag Archives: God’s Care

Does God Care about Paris?

 Text: Exodus: 16: 2-15

 Theme: God Cares For us through human actions as well as God’s actions.

We are faced often with destructive events.   Some are man-made, such as terrorists attacks like the one in Paris this past Friday evening; mass shootings at schools and movie theatres and malls; shootings at the Baptist Church in Charleson, S.C. during a prayer meeting.   Some of the events are natural: such as tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis.   All are violent and lead to loss of life, pain and suffering for both the victims and those related to us.  

            The question that always emerges after any or all of these events occur is this one:   Does God Care?   They ask:   Why does God let such terrible things happen to his creation and to his creatures?   He is supposed to be a loving God, why does He let such things happen to people? Does God really care? (This question is often asked in an accusatory way that indicates—-“I don’t think so!”

            Human beings have been asking this question for a long time. In Old Testament times the man, Job, asked the same question of God. Job, who lost everything that he owned, and also his wife and children and Job laying in the dust, condemned by his fellow men as a great sinner, asked God the question in these words:   “I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me.   Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands?”  (Job 10:3-4)

Do you care for me God? Job asks.

The same question was addressed to Jesus by his disciples in the 4th chapter of the gospel of Mark.   Jesus was in a boat with his disciples and a great storm came and the disciples feared for their lives.  Mark writes that Jesus was asleep in the boat on some cushions in the rear of the boat, where the tiller is that steers.   The disciples, in great fear, woke up Jesus with the words:   “Do you not care that we perish?” Jesus rebuked the wind and waves and an immediate calm came about—and he said to his disciples “Why are you afraid? Do you still not have faith?”   In other words—-don’t you know I am always with you?   Don’t you know that I care?   Why then be fearful?

 Does God Care?   That is essentially the question the grumbling Israelites asked Moses in the Wilderness as we read the text today from Exodus.

            The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.   The Israelites said to them:   If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!

What they were saying was:   You claim that God cares for us and told you to deliver us from slavery in Egypt, but at least there we had enough to eat.   God doesn’t really care about us. We’d have been better off as slaves in Egypt, rather than starving in the wilderness. Where is your God now, Moses? Does God care for us?   Prove it!!

 In response, God told Moses that he was going to “rain bread from Heaven” upon the people and cause quail to land among them.   “At twilight you shall eat meat, says God, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”

God shows God’s care through his actions.   Through sending food to the Israelites God shows he cares—-with a resounding YES.

            But the Israelites missed the point—-as we read in Numbers—-they soon craved and preferred the “slave food” of Egypt over the “soul food” of the wilderness—the manna.   Listen to their complaint:

            We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at!”

Far from finding spiritual sustenance, they complained about gastronomic boredom!! They weren’t satisfied with God’s provision.   They wanted more variety.   They wanted to shop around a bit for a better menu.  

And that has been the history of God’s people for all time.  When it comes to what God gives us we say:   what else is on the menu—is that all?  

You see—God has provisioned us also.   He has let us know that He cares in many ways.   He has provided us with “manna of divine nourishment”—-we call it prayer, meditation, the Bible, worship services, communion, tithing, fellowship with our brothers and sisters—AND YET WE CONSIDER THESE PROVISIONS OF GOD WITH A “TAKE-IT-OR- LEAVE-IT-ATTITUDE’.   We say:   “Is that all?   I want something better. I want better music! I want a better preacher.  I want someone else to do the praying because I’m busy.  “I”!   “I!   “ME”!   “ME”!

In our market-driven culture, a market driven church has emerged, as Eugene Peterson put it in his book “The Jesus Way”:

            “The great American innovation in congregations is to turn them into a consumer enterprise….If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and most effective way to get people into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their fantasies, promise them the moon; and recast the gospel in consumer terms, i.e.:   Entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem solving, whatever….” (p.6)

What Peterson is saying is that people now want to be spiritual CONSUMERS instead of DISCIPLES.

They come to worship looking for something tasty and exciting and sensational.   And if they don’t get it, or the service is bad, they will reduce the tip or not tip at all.   And if the worship menu doesn’t get better, they’ll stop visiting this particular spiritual restaurant altogether and patronize another one where the food, the service, and the ambience are more to their liking!

            THE POINT I’M MAKING IS THAT GOD CARES—-IT IS THE PEOPLE WHO DON’T RESPOND TO GOD’S CARE!!!   We thumb our nose at God as the Israelites did, and say—-is this the best you can do for us God?   Just the same old manna and quail, day after day!!!   Just the same old scripture and worship services every Sunday?

 But we continue to ask the same question, Does God care?    We asked that question when the planes hit the Twin Trade Towers in 1001—-we asked the question when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast—-we asked the question when many were killed at a prayer meeting in Charleston, S.C.—-we asked the question when innocent children in a school were shot down like rabbits. We will hear the question asked again about the massacre in Paris last Friday. Does God care?   Why does God allow his people to suffer and die?    

            What we are saying is “if God cares God wouldn’t allow this to happen—but if we think rationally about that question, we know God doesn’t cause bad things to happen.   A loving God grieves with us, cries with us, and gives us strength to endure the bad things that happen—but never causes them.  

            God has created a world in which the laws of nature are so precise that we can fire a rocket and know that it will reach orbit and its destination at a specific time and place.   That’s how precise the so-called laws of nature are that God created.

            True, we know that God CAN intervene with nature.   Surely God has that power—the power of the Creator over his Creation. And yet, have you thought about what would happen if God granted each of our prayers and intervened with what we want in Creation? For example:Here is a farmer praying for rain so that his crop will grow, while two miles away another farmer is praying for dry weather to allow him to reap his crop.  Both, if they don’t get what they want question “Does God care about me and my problems?”

Perhaps the best answer to the question is that God allows evil to happen with its disastrous results just as God allows good to happen with its beautiful results. He does not control either. To do so would take away free will from his creation and we would be puppets pulled by God’s strings. God desires relationship with God’s creation and that can’t happen if God is pulling all the strings and we are just puppets jumping according  to his Will. God does not relate to us as puppets but as human beings he has created with free will in God’s image.    When human beings have free will, evil as well as good will result.  But God can take evil and use it for good, as the Bible points out in the story of Joseph.   God is in the world and with us at all times—-God is not some bearded and whitehaired being that is sitting on a throne in heaven, wherever that might be—-God is here—-with us.   Paul says:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose….If God is for us, who can be against us?….Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   (Note:   all of these the result of evil in the world) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

THAT’S THE ANSWER:   God Cares for us. God loves us.   God is always with us.   Nothing can se[arate us from God.   God will provide.   God will be with us in Joys and in sorrows ; in times of Hope and times of Despair.   God is with us. Nothing can separate us from God —even the worst evils that befall human beings.  

God will not protect us from pain and suffering and death and destruction.   We will endure  pain and suffering because human beings have been created with free will—to do good, or to do evil.    When evil occurs God does not protect us from it but sends love and sustenance and his presence in our lives to help us endure what happens to us and our loved ones because of that evil in the world.      

God provides us with many sources of strength and comfort as we face the dangers of life on this earth. Let me name a few of them.

First, there are the scriptures that we can read and that can become a part of us so that they are food for our souls when we are in distress. For example:   Psalm 23: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff hey comfort me.”

As a pastor I have seen this many times as I walked through the valley with a dying patient—-saying this Psalm and seeing the patient’s lips speaking the words as I say them—-comfort!   God is there.   He cares.   His Word gives comfort to the dying and peace and comfort to heal the broken hearts of a family as they are reminded through the scriptures that their loved ones are not gone forever—that death is not “goodbye” as I like to say, but more like “see you later”. As Jesus said:   “In my father’s house are many rooms.   I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, I will return again and take you to myself, that where I am you will be also.”

Yes God is with us through the Scriptures—-But we must read them and re-read them and make them a part of our lives.

Second. We find comfort and the care of God through the hymns that we sing each Sunday during worship services.   The old hymn “God Will Take Care of You” is an example—“be not dismayed, whate’er betide. God will take care of you.   Beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you”  “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”   “Under His Wings, I am safely abiding. Tho’ the night deepens and tempests are wild.   Still, I can trust Him; I know He will keep me; He has redeemed me, and I am His Child”…But to find comfort in these hymns we must sing them in worship and let them become a vital part of our lives.   .   Here again, OUR RESPONSE to God’s comfort provided is vital.

And finally, we find comfort and care of God from other Christians.  Here is where WE fit into God’s plans.   Many is the time when I have been present at the visitation of one who has departed this life, when I see someone who has recently lost a loved one and knows the sorrow and pain the bereaved person is feeling—go up to that person and without a word, put their arms around them and cry with them.   And the grieving person is receiving God’s care and comfort through that person who holds them and cries with them.

 

One of the books I have read is titled “The Conspiracy of Compassion.”   Conspiracy means from the Latin “to breathe with”.   And Christian brothers and sisters as they show compassion are showing how God cares.   In hospice we called that “being present”.

God cares—God shows that care in many ways, including the three ways named above.    IT IS UP TO EACH OF US TO BE A PART OF THAT CARING AND TO RESPOND TO GOD.   As Jesus loved us and gave himself for us, so must we love one another and show the love to others that Jesus showed us was God’s love and care.

The Apostle John says it best:    Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action!” (I John 3)

 YES—GOD CARES!!   HOW ARE WE RESPONDING TO HIS LOVE AND CARE?   God has shown his care as he did with the Israelites in the wilderness—by God’s actions!! THE MANNA WAS HIS MESSAGE THAT HE CARED!

      For us:   the Bible, Prayer, Meditation, Communion Worship, and the ministrations of other fellow Christians to us—that is his Manna Message to us today that He cares for us. We must be open to receive the care that he sends us.   Amen.   

 

 

God Never Gives Up on Us

Text:   Genesis 9:8-17

 I give up!!   I can’t take it anymore!   I’m out of here!!!.   These words, shouted in anger are a cause for many fears that arise in the minds of those who hear them.   It may be words shouted by a husband to a wife; or by a wife to her husband; or by parents to a child.   Whoever hears them will usually react with fear—-fear of abandonment.

            Fear of Abandonment is perhaps the greatest fear that stalks us from the time we are born until the time we die.    We see evidence of this fear in many different circumstances.   For example:

One of the fears that babies feel is probably that of being abandoned.   They are so helpless and so dependent upon parental figures to meet their needs.   Research has shown that babies who are abandoned in hospitals by their mothers and fathers, if not regularly held by nurses or other aides at the hospital may well die for no apparent physical reason.   Those who survive will be likely to have permanent psychotic problems the rest of their lives. All of us who have been parents recognize the cry of fear when a baby thinks its mother has left it. All who teach school or who are parents remember kindergarten or pre-school children who are going to be away from their mothers or fathers for the first time, clinging to the mothers and fathers-and crying—they are afraid that their parents won’t come back for them.   FEAR OF ABANDONMENT.

But fear is not confined to babies.   Adults have the same fears. Many men and women in our society will put up with both verbal and physical abuse and violence from their mates rather than face the fact that they might be abandoned.   It is a real fear that comes out when couples divorce—-what will I do without my spouse?   Why did he/she leave me?   I feel lost and rejected and ABANDONED!!!   I  have heard these words many times as a pastor.

Spouses who have lost loved ones by death often express the same fear —-why did he/she abandon me?   What will I do?  

One of the saddest experiences I’ve had is walking into a hospital room or nursing home room and seeing a patient in the midst of great suffering or actively dying-–AND THE PERSON WAS ALONE!!   For some reason no one was at the bedside.   At the same time it is always amazing to watch that person’s countenance change the minute myself or a loved one or a friend walks into the room.   Those who suffer are less anxious, and even have less pain when someone they love or care for deeply is willing to walk with them through the valley of the shadow.

As a hospice chaplain, I learned that one of the seven greatest fears that dying persons have is DYING ALONE!   Abandonment! They often feel abandoned by doctors who don’t see them as often; by friends who don’t know what to say so stay away; and even by family that doesn’t visit as much because they are uncomfortable and unable to handle the fact that their loved one is dying.   FEAR OF ABANDONMENT IS A REAL FEAR FOR MANY AT THE END F LIFE, AS WELL AS AT THE BEGINNING OF LIFE!!

One other fear we have is FEAR OF ABANDONMENT BY GOD.   In hospice we called this “SPIRITUAL PAIN” and it is the feeling that God has abandoned us because of our worthlessness or sinfulness.   Spiritual pain can result in great anger toward God, or great sorrow, and is difficult for the patient to overcome.   It can be a direct cause of death.  

NOW—-WHAT DOES ALL OF THE ABOVE HAVE TO DO WITH THE TEXT THAT WAS READ THIS MORNING ABOUT NOAH AND GOD’S COVENANT WITH HIM?

 According to the story of Noah,   God saw all the evil in humanity and his creation and threw up his hands and said—-O.K.   that’s it!   I’m out of here.   But he didn’t quite abandon all creation to destruction—-he found one righteous man—Noah—and saved him and his family and his creation through him.   The rest were destroyed by the Great Flood.  

 After the Great Flood that destroyed all creation but Noah and his family and the animals on the ark, , as the story goes, God saw what had happened and regretted it and changed his mind about his relationship with humankind and creation in the future.   So God made a covenant with Noah and with all future generations of his creation.  God vowed that never again would God be the destroyer.   From this time on God would be the forgiver, the sustainer of life.   Never again would God abandon his creation to chaos—symbolized by the Flood.  And to seal this decision with Noah he offered the covenant we read this morning.  

            God said:   This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you ad every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:   I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.   When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. (9:12-15)

            The Hebrew word here for “bow” is “keshet” and it may be used to refer both to a weapon or a natural phenomenon—-to a “bow” (as in bow and arrow)   or to a “bow” (as in rainbow).   Some scholars think that the context here tells us in this passage that God is placing his “unstrung bow” in the clouds as a reminder of the covenant that God has made, not just with Israel but with all creation. Never again will God’s power be used to destroy mankind—-no matter how terrible the aggravation we may give God.   God is saying that his weapon—thought to be thunderbolts and rain from the sky by the ancient Hebrews—is no hanging “on the wall, unstrung” so to speak and will remain there forever.

 THIS RAINBOW IS A REFLECTION THAT GOD IS DETERMINED NEVER TO GIVE UP ON US.   GOD WILL NEVER ABANDON US TO CHAOS AGAIN.   From this moment on, God promises to never give up on us, no matter what we do or do not do. AND THE KEY WORDS ARE:   “I WILL REMEMBER”.   This is the heart of the gospel that Jesus brought—-God forgives and God’s remembers.

 When we are down and feeling like our life has reached an all time low, we have God’s rainbow to remind us that God will never abandon us.

When we have blown it and have totally messed up, God’s rainbow reminds us that we are redeemable in the eyes of God and worth saving.  

IT IS THE SAME GOD THAT SET THE RAINB OW IN THE SKY THAT REMINDS US THAT NEVER AGAIN WOULD CREATION BE ABANDONED—-AND HE SENT JESUS THE CHRIST TO US TO MAKE SURE WE UNDERSTAND.  

IT IS JESUS THE CHRIST,, WHO TELLS US THAT WHEN HE ASCENDS TO God he will send the Holy Spirit to us so that we may never be alone.   Jesus’ gift to us who are his disciples of the Holy Spirit is the new “bow”, the new “sign from God” that we will never be abandoned.

 AND WHAT IS TRUE FOR EACH OF US INDIVIDALLY IS TRUE FOR THE CHURCH AS THE BODY OF CHRIST ON EARTH.

 LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF JESUS PROMISES THAT WE WILL NEVER BE ABANDONED:

John 17:6-15   “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.

John 16:32-33The hour is coming when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.   I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution.   But take courage; I have conquered the world.

Matthew 28:16-20    All authority has been given me in heaven and on earth.   Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.   AND REMEMBER I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS….”

To the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his glory:   “Today you shall be with me in Paradise”

And Paul, thinking of all he had suffered in his work for Christ, writes in Romans 8:   Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?….No, convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Some of you may have, in the past, attended a Marriage Encounter Weekend.   One of the phrases they drum into the minds of those who are ther that I still remember is “GOD ISN’T THROUGH WORKING WITH YOU YET.”   “GOD ISN’T FINISHED WITH YOU!!”

 God sees us individually as a “work in progress.”   And he has promised us His love and grace will always be there for us, even when we screw up seriously.  

I believe that what God promises up individually, God also promises his church—the body of Christ on earth.   God will not abandon his church.   But I also believe that God calls us to recapture the vision of service to Him. \  

After the flood Noah began a new life in a new world.   Jesus came to show us a vision of a new world—the Kingdom of God that he was proclaiming was breaking in on earth. .   I think that God calls us to recapture the vision of that new world, the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught and lived, and to work for that in our community, our church, and our world.   We’ll talk more about that vision in next Sunday’s sermon.

            We as Christians and the church are facing difficult times.   The church is experiencing difficult times—but regardless of what happens, God promises us that he will not give up on us.   God will always be there for us.   GOD ISN’T FINISHED WITH US YET.

            I’d like to close with this story.   Dr. Martin, an evangelist was holding meetings at a church in Boston.   Large crowds attended and many people came to a belief in Jesus Christ.   His wife fell ill with the flu and was very, very ill.   She was so ill that Dr. Martin decided that he would cancel his evening evangelistic meeting so as to be with her.   Their son, who was about six years old, spoke up at that time.   The son told his father and mother—-you don’t have to worry about Mommy, God will take care of her.

            On the basis of that Dr. Martin and his son left to attend the revival meeting.   While he was gone, his wife got to feeling much better—the crisis was past—-and she got up and was waiting for them when they returned, feeling much better.   Thinking of the words that their son had spoken, she sat down during their absence and wrote these words, which were later put to music by her husband, Dr. Martin.   We now may have sung it as the gospel hymn:   God Will Take Care of You.

 

Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you;

Beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

 

Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you;

When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.

 

All you may need, He will provide, God will take care of you.

Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you.

 

No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you.

Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.

 

God will take care of you, Through every day, O’er all the way;

He will take care of you.   God will take care of you!

 

Amen.

 

 

 

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