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God in the Whirlwind

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     One winter day my family and I were homeward bound on the interstate when we were suddenly assaulted by what they call a “snow squall.” Pavement that had only moments earlier been clear and dry was suddenly snow covered and slippery. The road crews were obviously just as surprised as we were by the suddenness and severity of the storm, because the roads had not been salted at all. I slowed down to a crawl, and “felt” my way along the highway, insecure about the grip of my tires and the exact location of the edges of the road.

     This would be a more interesting and exciting story if I could go on to describe a spectacular accident (or near-accident), but I’m thankful to report that the Lord protected us and brought us through the storm with no incidents. But I live a very sheltered life, and this was one of those rare times that I’ve felt such a fear and lack of control over my situation.

     I was reminded of that snow squall a few days later as I read the great encounter between our sovereign God and Job the suffering saint in chapters 38 through 42 of the book of Job. Job had lost his possessions, his family, and his health, and, after some strong affirmations of faith, he begins to question God’s justice and goodness because of his prolonged suffering.

     After extended silence, finally God appears to Job – from the midst of a “whirlwind!”  The Hebrew word means, literally, “storm,” “tempest,” or “hurricane.” I must have read that passage hundreds of times, but I was struck for the first time by the significance of God appearing to Job in the midst of a tornado. It tells us that God is always present in the midst of the “storms” that we face in His wise providence.

     Like Job, we want to know the reasons and purposes for the storms that we face – we demand explanations. But God didn’t answer any of Job’s questions or challenges from the whirlwind. He simply reminded Job that He is the one, true, sovereign God who created all things and who rules over all things at all times. We are sinners and we are in no position to demand justice, good health, peace, or prosperity from God.

     But what we couldn’t demand the Lord has made available to us as a gift, through the cross of Jesus Christ. When Jesus’ disciples were about to be drowned by the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus stood with them in the midst of the storm and said, “Peace! Be still!” He is our peace in the midst of the storm, and one day He will come again to end all the chaos and suffering.

     So, until then, we face the storms of life by faith, content to know that God is in the midst of the whirlwind, and that He has a purpose for our circumstances, even though our perspective is far too small to comprehend His reasons. As Psalm 46 reminds us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… ‘Be still and know that I am God’…The Lord of Hosts is with us…”

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

Self-reliance and Giving

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     A comedian once said, “I have enough money to last me the rest of my life…unless I buy something.” That probably about sums up the level of financial security that most of us have. I have a friend who is a leader in an independent Christian ministry that seems to perpetually struggle to raise enough funds to operate. It seems that every time we discuss the struggles of that organization he ends up saying, “I just believe that it is God’s will that we always have to fight for every penny in order to survive in this ministry. I believe that this is God’s way of keeping us on our knees in dependence upon Him.” When he makes statements like that I’m always left a bit speechless. What he’s saying may very well be a true interpretation of God’s will, but it is always possible that the ministry is struggling due to unwise decisions, wrong priorities, or “sin in the camp”. I would never say that every church, family, or individual that is living in poverty is more spiritual than those who live in prosperity. I know of many individuals and Christian groups that live in both physical and spiritual prosperity. But I never argue with this brother, because he is more likely to be right than he is to be wrong.

      The key issue is dependence. Because of our sinful, self-reliant natures we are so quick to jump off of Christ as our Rock and Foundation onto the shifting sands of bank accounts, stock portfolios, material possessions, and career plans. From the Lord’s eternal perspective we look so foolish, and yet we do it over and over again. Every time the Lord puts some kind of blessing in our lap we grasp onto it for security instead of continuing to trust in the Giver. So, as an act of fatherly discipline, the Lord slows His flow of blessings to a trickle so that we will remain dependent upon Him.

      The sad part of all this is that our selfishness prevents the Lord from putting more resources in our hands for the good of His kingdom. 2 Corinthians 8:6-11 tells us that the Lord is looking for mature believers who will be open conduits for His blessings to reach others: “…God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” When we grasp onto the Lord’s resources for our own pleasure and security we clog the system of blessing distribution, to the detriment of both ourselves and the Kingdom of God.

     This world is a very insecure place. May we be a light to the world by the way in which we stand confidently upon the Rock and Cornerstone, Jesus Christ in this time of fear and uncertainty, and by the way that we generously give of the Lord’s resources.