Tag Archive | tragedy

Sleepy In Seattle

seattle-skyline

On April 13, baggage handler Willa Junior dozed off in the cargo hold of a Boeing 737 while working his job at a Seattle airport. Junior was awakened abruptly when a piece of baggage hit him in the head, and he was faced with darkness, engine noise, and the feeling that the plane was ascending.

He tried to call his company, but they thought it was a prank call.

He tried to call 911, but his call was cut off.

He then began banging on the ceiling of the cargo hold, which was heard by the plane’s passengers directly above him.

The plane was forced to return to the Seattle airport to release its sleep-deprived captive from the cargo hold — alive, and probably quite embarrassed.

On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling approximately 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sea. At the time, this was the worst oil spill in United States history (eclipsed in 2010 by the Deepwater Horizon spill). Allegedly, the Valdez spill was caused by the ship’s third-mate falling asleep at the helm, causing the tanker to leave the shipping lanes, and run aground on Bligh Reef.

In the Bible, we find the story of Jonah. In his attempt to run from God, he boarded a ship. While asleep in the hold, God sent a mighty storm to stop the fleeing prophet. Being awakened, and realizing the storm was on his account, Jonah instructed the crew to throw him into the sea (see the book of Jonah).

We find the disciples asleep in Jesus’ hour of need, at the very time He needed them to watch and pray (see Matthew 26:36-46).

SleeperSleep deprivation can have horrific results. These stories are just a miniscule sampling of the thousands of instances of someone falling “asleep at the wheel”, and being met with tragedy. Countless car accidents, plane crashes, and other disasters have been caused because someone dozed off at their post, with tragic results.

In our nation and our world, the Church is suffering from spiritual sleep deprivation…

We have forsaken the diligent study of God’s Word for entertainment and lullaby religion.

We have allowed our prayer-times to devolve into blessings at dinner time, and fox-hole, final exam, and health-crisis pleadings.

We have fallen asleep in the Watchtower of Righteous-Indignation, and allowed the voices of immorality, narcissism, self-indulgence, and anti-Christianity to storm the walls and drown out the sound of the Good News of Jesus.

We who are alive in Christ must engage this culture if we are going to change it. The liberal agenda in our nation is making no bones about changing the fabric this country was built on, making room for no dissenting opinions, and taking no prisoners. As those who have come out of darkness and into the light of God’s love, it is up to us to make our voices heard, in the churchhouse, the schoolhouse, and the statehouse. We must put feet to faith, reach the ears of our detractors with truth, and reach their hearts with love-based action. As the late Keith Green pointed out, “God bless you, be at peace…’ just doesn’t cut it with a world that is starving for truth, looking for love, and dying from self-inflicted misery.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.” 

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. ~ Ephesians 5:8-16

So how do we do this? How do we stand against the waves opposition and persecution we are seeing today?

  • Come together. There is an old adage that there is strength in numbers. It’s time for the church to pull together, cross denominational and cultural barriers within the Body, and stand on the truth of God’s Word. It’s time we stop “forsaking the assembling of ourselves”, and stand side-by-side against the tide of public perception and political correctness.
  • Speak the truth in love. Anyone can be a shrill voice of dissention. It takes well-grounded, Spirit-filled minds and hearts to thoughtfully, intelligently, and truthfully vocalize Biblical opposition to the deception overtaking our nation and give an answer for the hope we have.
  • Live it. Talk is cheap, and costs nothing. It is in living out our convictions, particularly when it is uncomfortable or costs us something, that our critics take notice, our adversaries are silenced, and we make a difference in the world. It’s not enough to simply talk about Jesus’ love if we are not going to put feet to faith, and make our presence known in a very real, very tangible way in our neighborhoods, communities, counties, and world.

So get involved! Find a way to make a difference. Open your eyes to those around you, and touch the life of someone who has no way to repay you. Let that be a start… the seed to greater things for the Kingdom of God.

Every great oak began as an acorn.

Every great idea began in the mind of someone brave enough to dream, and bold enough to think they could succeed…

And with the God of the universe in your corner, you can too!

The Tear-Stained Pathway Into His Presence

The phone rang as I stepped out of the shower. As I picked up the receiver, I heard the voice on the other end say, “Mr. Phillips, your wife, Paulette, has been in a little fender bender.” I dressed quickly and jumped in the car.

As I crested a hill on the main highway, I was unprepared for what I saw. Through the rain, I spotted my wife’s little convertible, now a twisted mass of metal. An ambulance stood waiting, and workers were trying to free Paulette from the wreckage. The smell of gasoline was heavy in the air. I tried to get close to the car but was held back by emergency workers. I was frustrated and felt helpless knowing she must be desperately hurt and I was unable to offer comfort. However, God had provided someone at the scene to do that for me. A fireman, at the risk of his own life because of the potential for an explosion, removed a window from the car and climbed in next to Paulette. He covered her with an asbestos blanket, held on to her, and spoke life into her. It was his job to watch her carefully and keep her talking to be sure she wasn’t falling into deep shock.

Twenty-five agonizing minutes passed before the firemen and the Jaws of Life freed her from the car. And we didn’t know it then, but it would be six months before her crumpled body would allow her to return to a normal life. As I ran to Paulette’s side while they hurried her stretcher toward the ambulance, I remembered clearly hearing her say, “Thank You, Lord!” I know that in the midst of that tragedy, God was there, and He provided a wonderful young Christian fireman whose presence comforted my wife in that dark hour. His heroic presence was the touch of God. She felt carried in the Father’s arms.

Paulette returned home from the hospital after two weeks, but life at home was difficult. We had to rely on our extended family, our amazing church family, and heavily on the Lord to carry us through each day.

When tragedy strikes, we find ourselves in need of the assurance of God’s presence more than ever before. To that point in my life, I never needed the Lord more than I did in those first hours and days following her wreck. It is no coincidence that our ascent into the most secret place with God can occur during times of great heartache and tragedy. Tears have a way of driving us from ourselves and into His arms. Who hasn’t cried out in the dark night of the soul for comfort that can only come from Jesus? Expect to find the pathway to His presence stained with the tears of thousands of heartbroken saints before you.

Isaiah, the court prophet, cousin and confidant to King Uzziah, thought he had it all. His cousin king, although a leper, had given the nation peace and hope. Isaiah’s own ministry was one that sternly laid down the law to God’s wayward people. He had angered them, calling them stubborn, ungrateful children, and even went as far as to compare them to “rotten, stinking grapes”! (See Isaiah 5:4.) Surely God was pleased with Isaiah’s obedience in ministry. He surely had the ear and heart of his cousin, King Uzziah. Isaiah is like many of us. When you read the first five chapters of Isaiah, though inspired, you feel that something is missing in his life. There is a lack of hope and only a vague hint of what God is actually up to. Isaiah 6 gives us the turning point—an amazing “alone” experience with God that is vivid and clear.

After Isaiah’s dear cousin died suddenly, Isaiah felt his life collapsing. The hope that had sustained him and the promise of ministry in a peaceful Jerusalem that kept his eyes looking ahead seemed to evaporate. Tragedy is like that. Normally, it will either drive us to God or cause us to run away from Him. But Isaiah made the boldest decision any prophet ever made. He decided to charge into God’s presence! Isaiah turned purposefully toward the temple of Solomon, the three-room structure that housed God’s presence. Beyond the outer court, beyond the candlelit holy place, Isaiah knew there hung a thick veil. Beyond that veil, God promised to be present. However, the rules were clear—only the high priest could step behind the veil; anyone else would be struck down by God! Even the high priest could only enter the holy of holies once a year!

Isaiah came to the place of absolute self-abandonment, just as each of us must approach God. Death no longer mattered to Isaiah. He pushed his way past quiet worshippers and astounded priests to get to God. Isaiah needed help and hope, and had come to the end of his own resources. He was now a candidate for a miracle. He pressed past the veil into the holy of holies. The fearful protesters behind Isaiah no doubt backed away in fear, certain that this crazed man was walking straight into death.

There in the holy of holies, lit by only the Shekinah glory of God, Isaiah did die, in a sense. He died to himself and all of his own ambitions! In this bold step, I believe Isaiah gave up on Isaiah! He met Yahweh, and nothing else mattered. God was in that place, high and lifted up, with His unmatched glory trailing behind Him like the train of royal robes billowing behind a sovereign. Angelic worshippers surrounded the throne crying, “Holy!” The place shook with the voice of the angels. Isaiah 6:1–4 paints a vivid picture of the scene that Isaiah saw when he stepped inside the holy of holies:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

At that moment, Isaiah had no choice but to die to his flesh and ambitions. “Woe is me…” he cried, in an expression that could be also translated, “I am doomed!” He understood that even his own mouth, the mouth of a man of God, was unclean. Angels brought cleansing fire to touch his preaching lips, and his life was transformed. Soon he heard the voice of God crying for volunteers to carry His message. “Here am I, send me” (Isa. 6:5–8) cried the transformed Isaiah.

No man can see the Lord and continue living like nothing ever happened! No, the old life will be burned away and a new life will begin. Isaiah stormed into God’s presence in the middle of his pain because he needed answers, comfort, and help. The New Testament puts it this way:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:20

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~ Galatians 5:24

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ~ Galatians 6:14

In the secret place of God, we come to the end of ourselves. We come as a bride to take on Jesus’s name and nature. When we are willing to die daily, Jesus says to us:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” ~ Luke 9:23–24

 

~ from the book, The Power of Agreement
by Ron Phillips and Ronnie Phillips, Jr.
© 2014 Charisma House Book Group

Reality: Stranger Than Fiction

Through the Looking GlassGerman poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said that…

“Few people have the imagination for reality.”

It’s said that the truth is often stranger than fiction. Admittedly, reality is pretty strange for most of us right now.

We experience the problems in our economy…

We see the turmoil in the Middle East…

We feel for the people experiencing devastation and loss through tragedy and natural disasters…

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard viewed it this way:

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

And although it may seem like a little TOO MUCH experience for some, all of this should come as no surprise. After all, Jesus tells us that…

“In the world, you WILL have trouble.”

But then comes the catch:

“TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world!”

While the world gives us trouble, Jesus promises us peace. And THAT is the reality we can all experience… just by asking.

Whys, Lies, & The Mysteries of God

Why?

It is the single word ground into the bloody soil of every battlefield in the world.

It is buried in the rubble of every civilization, state, and neighborhood that has been devastated by a natural disaster.

It lies in the ashes of the burned-up dreams of a family that just lost everything.

It can be heard in quiet, night-time sobbing of a little girl whose mother just succumbed to cancer.

It resonates in the screams of a father as he buries his son.

It is the shortest, most-asked, and

least-answered question in the English language.

Why?

You’ve heard it asked thousands of times, and while there are sometimes physical reasons that events happen in our lives, reasons – even good reasons – don’t answer why.

Or, to be more specific…

Why did God allow this to happen?

Whether you are just wondering, have gone through something that you have come to terms with, or are in the heat of that emotional torture right now, I don’t presume to have an easy answer for you, or have anything to say that is going to make the pain magically disappear. In reality, I believe we have a very skewed, 21st Century perspective of life, pain, and suffering (and I’m as guilty as the next person). We don’t want to believe that “bad things happen to good people”. We cannot conceive a loving God who allows tragedies and atrocities to occur. We stand on the words of Thomas Jefferson and claim “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, while forgetting the words of Jesus that promised, “…In this world, you will have trouble…”.

Quite honestly, it is a mystery… pure and not-so-simple.

Mystery… one word that encapsulates the very nature of God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. ~ Isaiah 55:8

The Bible is filled with references pertaining to the mysteries of God. The word mystery, by its very definition, means something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. There is not the time, knowledge, or vocabulary to begin to explain either the mysteries of God or the mystery that is God. However, there is truth that, while it may not give us answers, can give us hope.

All of us are going to see difficult times. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent curse that altered the course of human history from a state of perfection to what we find today, we will all face problems, suffer hardship, and experience death. It all goes back to the verse I mentioned earlier…

… In this world you will have trouble…

But the hope lies in the rest of the verse:

But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

While suffering in every conceivable way is part of the deal our ancestors signed in the Garden of Eden, Jesus assures us that He has it all in hand because He has overcome the world.

Whatever we are going through, HE has already been there. Bad things do happen to good people. If you don’t believe me, just think of Jesus. While being the sinless Son of God, He was falsely accused, suffered at the hands of sinners, and was killed in a horrific way by sinners.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

The mystery of this verse lies in the first 4 words: For He made Him… When Jesus went through all of the agony of being our sacrifice on the cross, God didn’t just watch it happen, or even allow it to happen… He MADE it happen. He wrote the law that provided our way of escape as a result of the fall, and then executed the plan even though it would cost Him His only Son. He did that for you.

When you are in your darkest night, there will be no shortage of people making inappropriate (and even stupid) comments. Some people truly want to help, but don’t know what to say, so they say the wrong thing. Some people just want to be judgmental, give you your why in the form of condemnation and criticism, and throw gasoline on your emotional fire. If either of these describe what you have gone through, you are in good company… consider Job. Everything that happened to Job was simply because Satan wanted to prove a point, and God took the challenge – at Job’s expense. When the bottom fell out in Job’s life (along with losing his possessions and health, he tragically lost his ten children), his “friends” showed up, and immediately started telling him everything he may have done wrong. His wife even chimed in, telling him to “curse God and die”. However, after all of the criticism, nay-saying, and unsubstantiated accusations from his friends, Job was vindicated. Not only was Job restored and blessed (even more than previously), but the very people who criticized him had to go through Job in order to be forgiven by God (see Job 42:7-10).

Whatever life sends your way, none of it gets by Him.

The fact of the matter is that God has a pretty profound list of whys as well. Why did God have to allow Jesus to go through all of the frustration, humiliation, sorrow, pain, and death? Why did He decide to offer a faithless, ungrateful, and fallen race a second chance with Him? Why did He decide that we were worth loving when He knew we would fail Him over and over again?

It’s a mystery I don’t understand.

But… I’m sure glad He did.