We live in a world under a curse (Genesis 3:14-19).
And that is an easy thing to forget.
I remember my first trip out of the country. I had the privilege to serve on a short-term missions team that would bring encouragement to some people in northern Cameroon, as well as teach the book of Hebrews in a seminary located in the city of Ndu. Our team was made up of three Americans, and one native Cameroonian. And before the teaching, because of our Cameroonian team member, we had the opportunity to visit some very small, remote villages. It was a shocking experience, as I had never come into close contact with truly difficult living conditions.
A short time later, we were all staying in a hotel in the town of Bamenda. While resting in our room together (because it had air conditioning!), I remember reflecting with my new Cameroonian friend my amazement at the people of Cameroon. Namely, despite the incredibly hard life they were faced with on a daily basis, they had so much joy. They expressed so much generosity of spirit. They were a constant encouragement. And I struggled to understand how that was possible.
His answer was profound.
“Matthew, in America, you wake up every day with the expectation that things are going to go well for you, that things will be great, everything will go well and smoothly. So that when it doesn’t go according to plan, you are easily upset, frustrated, and unhappy. In Africa, we wake up every day with the expectation that things will not go well, and life will be hard. So that when there is some little bright spot, it is easy to be joyful, thankful, and happy.”
In other words, they woke up every day understanding that the world is under a curse. All creation is fundamentally handicapped, hamstrung, and hampered. That is an easy thing for Americans to forget. And that forgetfulness which leads to unrealistic expectations makes handling the bad circumstances — especially really bad circumstances — that we find ourselves in all the more difficult.
For, how can a good God allow, or even plan, really bad things to happen to ‘good’ people? How can a sovereign God stand by and do nothing? Doesn’t he care? Why does he tolerate such circumstances? Why does he, at times, seem absent?
These are the kinds of questions that all of us, at one time or another, have asked.
So, what do we do when faced with such situations and our questions? How do we live?
In the book of Habakkuk, we find a shining example of what it looks like to faithfully wrestle with God when life is hard. We see and hear a man who is bold, clear, honest, and open with very raw emotions and sometimes shocking language. But we also see a man who never, ever, never gives up on God as part of the solution; he never walks away from God. That’s not even an option on the table.
The book of Habakkuk has a very clear message to deliver when it comes to making it through those bad parts of our lives, and, actually, the good parts as well. An answer for how to truly live.
If you’d like to learn more about that, I encourage you to listen to my sermon on the book of Habakkuk. And for further study on this frank conversation between Habakkuk and his God, head over to our friends at The Bible Project. There you will find videos, milestones, study resources, and recommendations for further reading and study on this book, as well as all the books found in The Whole Story of God (which we call the Bible).
Finally, just a reminder that this coming Sunday we will turn our attention to Zephaniah. Be sure to read it a few times this week (since it is only three chapters long) so that you may come with a ready and expectant heart as we gather together Sunday morning at 10:30am at Calvary.
Living by Faith Alongside You,
Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?
This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple.
The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words.
In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.