Where is the Hope?

SONY DSCRomans 5:5

When one becomes weary of evil acts that he or she can do nothing to stop… the next logical emotion for one to experience  is despair.    But as a believer in Jesus we need to remember that we have been given hope… a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)   The response of hope is a step away from a secular mindset during a time of crisis.  Moderns might be able to curb their anger and put it to constructive use.  They definitely have turned out with compassionate service.  But hope?  It is a commodity that is hard to come by in times like these.

In Romans Chapter 5 Paul writes of a hope that “…does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Hope in times of terror is not a natural thing… it is a supernatural thing!  And our hearts, infused by the Holy Spirit, are the ONLY means by which we can experience it.

But what is it we are hoping for?

1.  The end of evil forever.

There is lots of Scripture on this… but one will suffice.  2 Peter 3:7 -“…by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Several pastors from the Boston area posted blogs about the attack on their city.  One resonated with me.  Adam Mabry, the pastor of Alethea Church wrote an article called “A Pastor’s Perspective on the Attacks on My City.”  This is an excerpt:

“So what are we to make of it all? What are we to think when tragedy mingles with beauty? …When blood spills with    tears? [He then invites us to look to Jesus on the cross. And says:]  He, shining like the sun, brought grace and truth, kindness and undeserved mercy. And… He also experienced the deepest and darkest violence humanity has ever accomplished. … There, tragedy mingled with beauty, pain accompanied grace, and the blood of God himself spilt along with his tears. The gospel shows us that, in Christ, darkness, selfishness, terror, sin, and depravity can be and will be once and finally overcome. That’s the hope—the only hope—for the deepest why of pain.”

Evil will be overcome one day.  And I would not want to be one of the Boston bombers standing before God unrepentant on judgment day.   Believer, it is okay to desire to see justice, but don’t ring your hands if things move too slowly.  Don’t worry that there may be others involved that seem to get away Scott Free.  God has better surveillance than all of the Boston PD.  God sees.  God knows.  And He will judge.

2.  There is also hope for today.

Sometimes we despair because we think of those that lost loved ones and those that lost limbs.  We secretly think:  I’m glad it wasn’t me or my loved ones… and then we feel guilty for thinking that.  But we can’t escape it.  How would I cope if I had been standing there on Marathon day?

Here is where hope really should kick in.  We need to trust that God can use any tragedy to his glory.  No matter what evil men plot… God can turn it around.  God is still causing all things to work together for the good of those called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)  We either believe this or not!  Randy Alcorn voiced it this way:  “Evils, whether moral or natural, will not have the final say.  God will replace both with everlasting good.”

You might ask yourself:  “What can I offer to people today through these tragedies?”  Offer hope… real, lasting and living  hope.

One event that happened in the week following the marathon that did not get a lot of coverage (for obvious reasons) was the death of Sportscaster, Pat Summerall.  On the CBS evening news they ran a short piece on him and in it mentioned his faith.  That reminded me of an article in my files from Sports Spectrum magazine.

“For 45 years, Pat Summerall’s voice and face spelled football. He anchored CBS and FOX’s NFL telecasts (often alongside pat summerallJohn Madden) and broadcast 16 Super Bowls (and served as a CBS Radio analyst or pregame reporter for 10 more). This is the part of Pat Summerall’s story that most people know. In the Christian sports magazine Sports Spectrum, reporter Art Stricklin tells the rest of Pat’s story:

Pat was an only child whose parents divorced before he was born, leaving him feeling empty and alone. He became an alcoholic, living from drink to drink as his body broke down. During the 1994 Masters tournament—[Summerall also did voiceover work for high-profile golf tournaments]—he faced up: “I’d been getting sick a lot, throwing up blood—and I got sick again at 4 a.m. I looked in the mirror, saw what a terrible sight I was, and said to myself, This isn’t how I want to live.

Pat spent 33 days in the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California. This helped alleviate his alcohol problems but didn’t address his spiritual vacuum. Then he bumped into [Tom Landry, his old football coach from his days as a star kicker]. [Landry] explained about [Pat’s] spiritual need and connected him with Dallas Cowboy‘s chaplain John Weber. Pat’s life was transformed, and he was baptized at age 69.

Art Stricklin closes his article with a few words chaplain John Weber offered to sum up Summerall’s journey: “[Pat] was once the life of every party with a drink in his hand. Now he gets his power from another source.”

We hold on to the hope that can change the destiny of our neighbors, family and friends.  Don’t give in to the despair around you.  Offer hope.

Is It Okay to Be Angry?

A Christian Response to EvilEphesians 4:26-27 / Colossians 3:8

“Can I be angry?”  That is the #1 Question that has been asked of me as a pastor coming out of the Boston Marathon tragedy.  As I mentioned in last week’s blog (“A Christian’s Response to Evil”) even this pastor was not immune to “simmering” a bit in the aftermath.

lit match 2But is such anger okay?  In Ephesians (4:26) Paul says to “Be Angry and do not sin…” but Paul also writes in Colossians (3:8) to “…put them all aside:  anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

Which is it?  To be or not to be… angry?   There was a deacon in the first church I served in as a youth pastor who believed it was NEVER okay to be angry.  When I showed him Ephesians 4:26 (in my naive attempt to “set him straight”) he was still unconvinced (and slightly angry with me).

I have come to believe in these past few decades that though he still wasn’t right, he might be close to telling the truth.  Our human anger is seldom righteous and without sin.

And yet… I still firmly believe that there are times (such as the events in Boston last week) when it is wrong NOT to be angry.  As Henry Ward Beecher wrote:  “A man that does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good.  Now and then a man should be shaken to the core with indignation over things evil.”

Now this Scripture offers qualifications:  Don’t sin with your anger.  Don’t let it stay the night.  Don’t allow Satan to get a foot hold in your life through it.  Vengeful rage is not okay… but a Godly anger is.

Now what does Paul mean in Colossians?  The things Paul warns us about there are the steps we might potentially take beyond our initial emotion.  The word anger in Colossians 3:8 has as its root the Greek work, “oregomai.”  This word means to “stretch out one’s self in order to touch or grasp something or to reach after or desire something.”(Thayer)  The anger Paul is talking about here is one that we have “given ourselves over to.”  This is expressed in the next four things Paul tells the Colossians to be rid of…  1. wrath (a boiling up type of anger), 2. malice (a desire to injure the object of our wrath), 3. slander (to use our tongue to talk bad about them), and 4. abusive speech (foul and obscene speech toward that person, i.e. “cussing them out”).

Giving ourselves over to our anger seldom turns out well.  I read in a Daily Bread Devotional that “in the spring of 1894, the Baltimore Orioles came to Boston to play a boston ballpark 1894routine baseball game. But what happened that day was anything but routine. The Orioles’ John McGraw got into a fight with the Boston third baseman. Within minutes all the players from both teams had joined in the brawl. The warfare quickly spread to the grandstands. Among the fans the conflict went from bad to worse. Someone set fire to the stands and the entire ballpark burned to the ground. Not only that, but the fire spread to 107 other Boston buildings as well.”

That is a real life illustration of what happens when we give ourselves over to our anger… ourselves and those around us get burned.  Is it okay to be angry?  Yes… but we are not allow to nurse it, churn it over and over and then dispense it like a high pressure fire hose.

So what do I do with this anger I feel?  Many believe that Paul in Ephesians was quoting David in Psalm 4:  “In your anger do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4, NIV)  If that is the case, then we would do well to do what David suggests:  “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.  Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord.” (v.4b-5, NASB)

So in the wake of the Boston bombings or whatever other violent act that is sure to follow… be angry that someone would think so callously about human life.   But then… calm yourself down… meditate in your heart on the Word of God (perhaps on Colossians 3:8!), and then put your trust in a God of justice who has things well under control.