God and the storm
Hurricanes are scary! I don’t think anyone would deny that. And no matter how many you may have lived through, I don’t think you ever feel at ease when you hear one is headed your way. I’ve lived through four hurricanes. At lease I’ve had to prepare for four. My husband and I, our four children, and our dog lived in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, in 1982 when Category 1 hurricane Iwa passed by our island, producing sixteen foot waves and wind gusts up to 120 miles per hour. I remember our family huddled together through the night in our family room and listening to the wind howling through the trees. The next morning all was calm, but downed trees and debris littered the streets and every yard.
In September 2005, I was alone with my two dogs in Houston, Texas. My husband had gone to be with the Lord and my children were grown, with families of their own. Hurricane Rita, the strongest storm ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico, was bearing down on East Texas. She made landfall on September 24 as a Category 3 hurricane. That night I huddled with two furry bodies and watched the rain on the window and shadows on the wall as trees blew and bent precariously in the wind. I guess I should have been glad to see those shadows because it meant the street lights were still on - we hadn’t lost power. But in the morning the streets were blocked with toppled trees, making it impossible to leave the neighborhood. There was nowhere to go anyway. Everything was closed. Store shelves were bare, gas stations were out of gas, banks were closed, and the freeways were still jammed with cars that had been trying to evacuate the day before - the worst traffic jam in Houston history.
Recently, back in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, I prepared for hurricanes Lane and Olivia. It was scary. Our house is perched on a hillside above Waikiki. It’s an old house, single-wall construction, built in the 1950’s, and it can get pretty windy up here even when there is no storm. Hurricane Lane, forecast to head straight for Oahu, dumped over fifty inches of rain on the Big Island of Hawaii, but then fizzled to a tropical storm and turned west as she came close to our island. An answer to prayer! Then, this past week, hurricane Olivia, moving north of us and forecast to turn west toward our island, ended up centering her fury on Maui and Molokai. Again Oahu escaped with mostly inconsequential winds and rains.
But as Olivia passed through our islands, a monster storm was brewing in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Florence, which grew to be a massive Category 5 storm, 400 miles in diameter, was forecast to make landfall on the coast on North Carolina. There are over fifty Disciplers Bible Studies classes in the state of North Carolina, and many of those class leaders I know and love through corresponding over the years by email and phone calls. My heart has been heavy as I have prayed for them all, beseeching God to hush the storm and protect the people so helpless against the forecast violent winds, storm surge, and torrents of rain. Our Disciplers prayer team has been faithfully praying too, along with those in the North Carolina classes.
Florence made landfall on Friday as a Category 1 storm. You’ve probably read about it or seen it on the news. I’ve been watching for updates, watching for God’s answers to prayer. One meteorologist was explaining how hurricanes work - what drives them - and he said the winds control the hurricane. That made sense to me because the winds are so strong, but the meteorologist didn’t say anything about what controls the winds. Well, I know the One who controls the winds and I hope you know Him too. The scientists with all their degrees, the smartest and most experienced meteorologists, the most popular newscasters - none of them can do a single thing to control the wind of a hurricane. They can predict the path, report the intensity, deliver the news of the destruction, but they can do nothing to control a single thing about the hurricane.
But the One who created the heavens and the earth and upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), can rebuke the wind, and tell the sea to “Hush, be still” (Mark 4:39) and they obey! The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;…hews out flames of fire….shakes the wilderness…..and makes the deer to calve. And in His temple everything says “Glory!" (Psalm 29).
If you’re living through a storm and your heart is fearful, take time to read Job 38-41 where God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind (38:1) and out of the storm (40:46) giving Job a lesson on His mighty power: God tells Job that He “laid the foundation of the earth and set the boundary for the seas. He knows all the deep things of the earth and the very source of light and darkness. He brings the rain and makes the grass grow. He is the source of all wisdom and understanding. He made the animals, each one unique: some swift, some strong and powerful, some stupid, and some majestic and brave. Some He made too powerful for man to tame. But God cares for them all, knows when they give birth, and provides them with food. God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend (Job 37:5). He disperses the cloud of His lightning. It changes direction, turning around by His guidance, that it may do whatever He commands on the face of the inhabited earth (Job 37:11-12). And as believers in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, He is the One we turn to in the storm - with our fears, our uncertainties, our needs, and our desires.
We at Disciplers have been praying, along with those who are being affected by hurricane Florence, since last week when she was a Category 5 hurricane out in the Atlantic. We have prayed that God would speak “Hush” to the storm and calm her winds, calm the seas, calm hearts, and keep people safe.
I have received notes from two sisters in Christ who have been faithfully praying, and I would like to share with you what they say. Both are in Raleigh, NC., experiencing Florence right now as I write. The first is a leader in the Saltshakers class at Christ Baptist Church. She also leads a small Disciplers group in the hills of Virginia. Here’s what she said on Friday after Florence made landfall and was moving inland toward Raleigh. “Our God is hearing all our prayers!!!!!! Florence is now down to 90mph! Category 1! (They have been saying it would land at a cat 4, then cat 3 then 2 now it’s already down to 1! God’s answer. His miracle!!!) Praying He says it again, “Peace, Be still!!!”
The second is from a leader of Shepherd’s Heart Prison Ministry in Raleigh. “Thank you for encouraging and praying for us. You and your prayer team are part of the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (from Psalm 27). And now, it is amazing that what you prayed for us has actually taken place. There appears to be a shield around Raleigh! Although we are receiving rain and wind, so far, it looks as though it is so much less than expected. We are hunkered down and still have electricity.”
We continue to pray for and with those who are in this storm, especially for those who have been gravely affected and are grieving the loss of their homes, property, and even loss of loved ones. We are praying for those who have experienced some of the worst of the storm in Wilmington, New Bern, and Myrtle Beach - especially for those who chose to stay home. We are praying for those who remain in harms way - for their safety and that they would turn to our all-powerful God for peace and protection. Only He can control the storm. Our part is to humble ourselves and ask, for He is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble!
May He bless you with peace and safety,
Faith is the victory
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30)
Forty years after the Israelites marched out of Egypt and escaped to freedom through God’s parting of the Red Sea, they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. But every person who had been twenty years old or more at the time of the Exodus had died on the journey -- except for two men. Moses did not enter the Promised Land either. At the end of his life, Moses was led by God to the top of Mount Nebo where he looked out and saw the Promised Land spread before him. Then, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, he died. Only two men remained from the Exodus generation, Joshua and Caleb, and they lived to make the journey because of their faithfulness. (You can read about this in Numbers 13 -14.)
Joshua led the new generation across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. The river was the first obstacle he faced as the new leader of the Israelite people. By faith he carried out his task, and would now face his second obstacle: the imposing walled city of Jericho. God gave Joshua clear instructions for taking the city, but this was to be a strange sort of battle. “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead” (Joshua 6:2-5).
Joshua faithfully relayed God’s instructions to the priests and the people and then gave the order, “Go forward and march around the city…” (Joshua 6:7). By faith, every person obeyed Joshua. The people marched silently around the city of Jericho once a day for six days. You can imagine the heckling, insults, and ridicule they endured from the people of Jericho who felt safe and secure looking out over the imposing walls of their city. But the people of Israel marched on, in silence, by faith.
All those who marched had been teenagers or younger when they left Egypt. Some had not been born yet, but they knew how God had brought their families out of slavery and they had experienced His miracles while marching through the wilderness. They had miraculously crossed through the Jordan River into the land God had promised to their Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and now they faced their first challenge in taking the land as their own. Perhaps it was not quite what they expected. Marching silently around the city walls was definitely unconventional and probably felt a little weird and uncomfortable, maybe even an impractical gesture to some. But they obeyed God - they obeyed Joshua’s command. And on the seventh day they got up early in the morning and marched in silence around the walls of Jericho, not just once but seven times. On the seventh time, the priests blew the trumpets and every person shouted as loud as they could. And the walls of Jericho fell down flat (Joshua 6:20).
Joshua and the people marched by faith for seven days and then watched God accomplish the impossible. They showed their faith through obedience to God and His word, and victory was theirs. The Scripture gives us many verses that cite the importance of obedience to God.* It is through obedience that we give feet to our faith and march ahead each day of our Christian lives, even when it's hard work, even though we may be tired, and even though there may be some who ridicule us and put us down and victory seems impossible. It is through obedient faith that victory comes. And victory will not come without it.
As we get up out of bed each morning and put our feet on the ground, let’s remember to use our feet to follow God in obedience wherever and however He calls us. Let’s pray for ourselves and for each other to have faith as courageous and committed as Joshua and the people of Israel. For
“faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God;
We tread the road the saints above
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath,
Swept on o’er every field;
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield” (John H. Yates, 1891).
with love in Christ
*Here are a few of my favorite verses about obedience.
Exodus 19:5 - Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.
Deuteronomy 11:1 - You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments.
Luke 11:28 - ….Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.
John 14:15 - "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.
Revelation 14:12 - Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.