We are facing some storms here in my neck of the woods!
We’ve been warned of high gusts that will bring down trees and rain that will bring floods, the remnants of a Pacific Typhoon. We are used to fall/winter storms that last for days, but this is earlier than normal. Gutters cleaned? Loose items buttoned down? Extra supplies in the cupboard? There are still a few hours before the storm to get ready!
Since we live in the country surrounded by trees with shallow roots, it is easy for those nearest the power lines to cause concern. Many people carry chain saws with them so they can remove these fallen obstacles as they commute. And, we have a generator fueled and ready if we lose power, otherwise we can draw no water from the well!
In the early 80’s, my in-laws visited us in Alaska and I arranged a Halibut fishing trip through my job. My father-in-law and I drove to Homer, spent the night, and boarded the ship early morning. A storm had blown through several days previously and we were warned there would be huge (to us) swells in the bay. Some never made it to the deck, they were instantly sick. Few fish were caught that day, but we sure fed the fish!!
I learned something about storms. I enjoy them. Bad weather events can be fun! It’s not that I enjoy the destruction, but there is something to be said about watching the weather kick the pants off a normal day!
Storms in the south are different than storms in the north. Hurricanes were fairly common, or at least the tropical remnants. With each storm, a new landscape was revealed. In the north we often have storms that revolve around cold fronts and this means a ton of snow and ice. Our last major storm in Alaska (2003) was a 24 hour spate of snow that dumped 38 inches and shut down the city for several days! Excellent!!
As kids we were allowed to climb the trees at the end of the drive when blue northers would blow in, riding the tree branches as if we were on a bucking bronc, only coming down when we heard or saw the crackling of lightening.
But we also know storms can produce great tragedy. Witness hurricane Matthew of earlier this month. Winds that devastate islands not recovered from prior storms, flooding that drives out the masses from their once comfortable existence, over a million structures blown down or flooded over and a recovery time that is years in the making.
When you face a storm, where do you go? A ship sailed into a hurricane in 2015 (Read here) and if their planning was poor, don’t you think they would have been looking for a safe port to escape possible destruction?
In bible study last night, our associate pastor (Jack Peters) taught about the ministry of reconciliation. This is what the church is all about, reconciling the world and all their baggage to a saving Christ. This is our job, in effect, to lead to the port in the storm of life. Some face tragedy and look for salvation, others are drifting along, rudderless and alone. Here’s a foundation scripture for the church to comprehend our purpose.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NKJV)
The problem we often have when talking biblical things is the understanding of biblical themes and language. I mean, how do we define words and themes like Grace, Faith, Hope, Mercy, Salvation? If the “ministry” and “word” of reconciliation is committed to us to give to the world, what then does reconciliation mean. As he was teaching I looked up the word to see how we translate it today and I found an interesting insight. Let me share.
Reconciliation – the restoration of friendly relations, or the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.
In the Old Testament, reconciliation was connected to a blood sacrifice as defined by God to Moses. The blood from a bull was poured upon the altar to consecrate and to atone for the sins of the priests (Leviticus 8:13-15). This was necessary before they could minister to the nation. Now, before we confuse the issue, we can all understand consecration as something made sacred or holy. Hence, the altar was a sacred place. It was made sacred by the sacrifice and the blood used to represent the death of sin. Okay…. What is sin? Essentially, an immoral act that is a transgression against divine law. According to God, that simple act of sacrifice made an atonement, an amends (reparation, propitiation) for the sins of the priest. Again, this was necessary before they could minister to the nation.
This process was replicated by every family. Every person needed to approach a sacred altar, and a sacrifice was produced and it’s blood was shed for the reparation of their sins.
We understand that Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). This was God’s ultimate plan to redeem his lost creation from the sin of Adam and Eve. Through Christ only do we find it possible to be redeemed. And this is the ministry and word that was given to us, the church, to propagate to those we meet in daily life.
This is the purpose of the church.
Giving hope to the hopeless, via the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ. He gave us peace. Not the peace of the world, but the peace of his love (John 14:27) toward men (Luke 2:14). Now, we receive his peace in the face of a world gone mad, but we must also prepare ourselves to exhibit peace to the world. This is what Paul teaches us as we prepare to live in this world… Daily and every moment.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— (Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV)
The Gospel we live before the world is a life of Peace and Safety that comes from our trust in a savior that will deliver us in the end, and keeps us from the worldly taint every moment of every day. We are in the world, but not of the world (John 15:19). Yes, we will have tribulations and storms (John 16:33), but there is an internal peace and safety that we have as a result of Christ in us, the hope of Glory! (Colossians 1:27)
Can you not believe that what we experience, this perfect peace of God, is something the world wants? Then, we must live it before others…and I have a closing scripture for you. Think about it. This world needs to see you living before them a life of hope, peace, and joy.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NKJV)
This is the storm of life we live in, and there is a port of safety in the storm… Our ministry of reconciliation is to get others to find the port.