Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fire and Brimstone

by Dan Jones

Almost 40 years ago or so, I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room when the WCCO TV News played the song, “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” as part of a news story. Yes, this is when Dave Moore and Bud Kraehling did the evening news and weather.

My dear, saintly grandmother (God rest her soul) wondered aloud why God had tarried so long in sending fiery wrath and judgement upon this errant nation of ours.

I guess the answer is that God is merciful and kind, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

By the way, that phrase occurs in Exodus 34:6, Psalm 103:8, Numbers 14:18, Joel 2:13, Psalm 86:15, Nehemiah 9:17, Jonah 4:2, and Psalm 145:8. The Bible doesn’t repeat stuff because the prophets sometimes run out of material.

And surely, that whole Sodom and Gomorrah rain of fire and brimstone thing ended when Jesus died on the cross and God’s wrath was satisfied once and for all, right?

But still, as the evening news grows worse and worse each passing day, don’t we need something to turn us around? Don’t we need God to do something dramatic and drastic and earth-shattering to get people’s attention and bring them back to faith and righteous living?

We are obsessed with sin of all kinds.

We are lustful and prideful. We brag and we kill and destroy. We neglect what is important and chase after silly things that won’t last past tomorrow. We focus our lives on me, me, me and we crush and put down anyone who would stand between us and our “happiness.”

As if we knew what would make us truly happy.

You can sit in front of your TV on any given night and press the button as the channels alternate between various combinations and permutations of murder and sex and greed.  Take your pick. They’re all pretty much variations on the same theme.

But, here and there, God’s people still exist.

There are still moms and dads who teach their children right from wrong. There are still people who love justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly with their God.

They just don’t end up on the evening news.

Well, actually, they do.

The evening news does occasionally run a “human interest” story where someone is doing something good and kind and righteous.

And it’s considered “newsworthy” because it’s portrayed as unusual.

But when they interview the man or the woman who is feeding the hungry or clothing the poor or who pulled the helpless baby out of the sinking car, they invariably say it’s “no big deal” or “I’m just doing what needs to be done” because self-denial does not seek self-glorification.

Love does not envy. Love is not boastful or proud.

Yes, that’s in the Bible. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

The thing is, it’s not unusual. Love and goodness are not abnormal in America.

They just don’t have press agents.

All around you, there are people doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing. There are people who love God and honor Him with their lives.

I know some of them.  Some of them are my co-workers. Some of them are pastors. Some of them are ordinary people doing ordinary jobs. Some of them work at a radio station. Some of them are "retired."

They’re not flashy and people with cameras don’t follow them around, but they are out there—and they are not giving up.

They see the same things you see, and they mourn for those who are lost and have gone astray. They continue to love them even when they don’t deserve it.

Because none of us deserve it.

They continue to pray for those whose lives are mired in the muck of sin and self-loathing.

Because we’ve all been in that muck at some point.

And sometimes, they despair too because it seems they are so outnumbered it seems like they are having no effect.

But they also know a lie when they hear it. And, they know who is called the father of lies.

They know who the real enemy is.

And they know that the love and mercy of the Lord is so vast that He agreed to spare the overwhelmingly evil population of Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous people could be found.

So, even if it seems like evil vastly outnumbers righteousness, the Lord’s promise that there is great power in the prayers of the righteous is true.

And even a small amount of salt can preserve much from destruction and decay.

And so, while we all have our peaks and our valleys, we know that we can walk through the valley of the shadow and fear no evil.

Because even a very, very small light cannot be extinguished by the even the deepest shadows of darkness—especially when that light comes from the One True Light.

Today’s Praise
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 NIV




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