Monday, September 01, 2008

Gustav and the Glory of God

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8).

As I write this, all eyes are to the south. South and West, Gustav is churning through the Gulf of Mexico. Within hours this massive hurricane will hit the coast of Louisiana – almost exactly three years after Katrina.

South and East, Hannah seems to be gaining strength, possibly threatening Florida or the Southeast, but it’s too early to tell right now.

In Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ John Piper writes, “The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God. We were made for this . . . To see it, to savor it, and to show it – that is why we exist.” Later in the book Piper tells the story of being in Pensacola Florida in July 1995 when Hurricane Erin hit the Florida Panhandle. After briefly recounting that experience Piper adds, “beneath the wreckage of such wind you have two choices: worship or curse” (Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, 50).

I’m not exactly cursing. After all, I don’t live in Louisiana. But I’m not worshiping either. What almost everyone sees approaching the Gulf Coast is destruction. And in anticipation of the destruction we lament the plight of those who live in the path of nature’s fury. And if you happen to be one of those living in that path, it’s highly likely that you feel some fury of your own. Prayer and cursing get mingled.

We are slow to see the glory of God in hurricanes, especially the ones that bring harm right to our door. And yet, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

At Jesus’ command Peter sailed his vessel back to the same waters he had been fishing all night long without catching anything. At Jesus’ command Peter lowered his nets – and the catch was enormous; the nets were ripping and boat sat low in the water from the weight of the catch. And Peter worshiped. He fell at Jesus’ knees because he saw that Jesus was not simply good, he was powerful.

I can understand worship as a fitting response to great blessing and abundance. It’s not too hard to worship when your nets are ripping and your boat is sinking because God has been so good.

But when the storm’s projected path is coming straight for your house, worship is hard. When the heavens and skies seem only to announce loss and pain, worship won’t come easy.

Either way, the Glory of God surrounds you today. It is out in the Gulf and in your home and in the faces of people you’ll talk to today. God’s glory is everywhere. We need to learn to see it. Pray today for people who are being impacted by Gustav. And worship the one who “sends lightning with the rain, and brings out the wind from his storehouses” (Psalm 135:7).

Almighty God, teach us to see your glory – and to see it in all things, not simply those things that please us or bring us pleasure and comfort. Where people are in need of help, display your glory through your Church. Move your people to acts of service and compassion. Let my life today point to your goodness, that others may see your glory and be drawn to the one who commands wind and waves. Amen.

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