Thursday, September 29, 2005


That's "queer" as in strange, not the other kind.

Anyway, if you have a question that you want my opinion on, I will try to respond, to be intellegent in the response and, if not actually biblical, then I will at least quote a couple Bible verses.

It's kinda like the Bible Answer Man, except I don't have any kind of reputation. Actually, considering the BAM's rep, maybe that's not such a bad thing. And if I don't know, I'll just say "I don't know". Hopefully I'll leave it at that. It's good for my humilty. So if you ask me a question about particle physics, then I will gleefully say "I don't know" and refer it to Jeff Culp.

(BTW, if William Higgins asks a question, I might just have to ignore it. He's such trouble.)

Just hit "reply" and write your question in.


Anawim Christian Community

Anawim is a Hebrew term that means, “The poor who cry out to the Lord for deliverance.” Some of the passages that use the term anawim or it’s Greek equivalents, (ptoxoi—“poor” or praeis—“meek”) are Psalm 37, the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-24) and James 2:1-6. The “poor” of the Lord are those who are rejected or persecuted by society, but they pursue the Lord, do righteousness, and continually pray to the Lord for deliverance from their experience of oppression or rejection.

Anawim Christian Community is a church made up of the poor for the sake of the poor. Our goals are twofold: a. to create a community in which the anawim are welcome and built up in the Lord and b. to draw in others who are poor or rejected, yet not in the Lord, and to encourage them to be of the anawim in Jesus. Those who have been drawn to Anawim Christian Community (ACC) are the homeless, those who are struggling with substance abuse, and those who are mentally ill. Although there are other socio-economic groups that could be classified “poor” in the idea of anawim, (such as Christians who are elderly, developmentally disabled or immigrants), these three groups are our focus.

ACC began as an effort of Steve and Diane Kimes who welcomed the homeless into their apartment in Southeast Portland for dinner and then listened to their concerns and needs. The effort drew in more people when it moved to Peace Mennonite Church for a weekly, then bi-weekly meal. As the community seeking food grew, and the Kimes’ saw a need for a worship service among the homeless, Anawim separated from Peace Mennonite, and began meeting in downtown Gresham. Anawim’s worship services began with just six people, and Steve leading the services. Over time they moved to five different locations throughout Gresham, and then to two different locations in downtown Portland—meeting every Saturday and Sunday.

As time went on, more participants were coming from the Oregon State Hospital in Portland and from group homes in Portland and Gresham. In the meetings downtown, more participants were being contacted through Cascadia Mental Health. At the same time, intensive discipleship was required, which began with accountability meetings, and then some of those who were dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues in their discipleship were welcomed to live with the Kimes’.

In order to accommodate the specific discipleship/evangelism needs of the social groups ACC is made up of, the church is set up in an alternative manner. There are worship services held every Saturday and Sunday, as well as Bible Studies on Wednesdays and Fridays. The meetings are frequent in order to keep the groups small so that the issues of some would be less likely to interfere with other’s issues, and to reach out to four separate physical communities in Portland/Gresham. Every meeting is only an hour long, and participation by those attending is not discouraged—even commenting on the sermon while it is going on. Fancy dress is discouraged, however, in order that everyone may be welcome. And everyone is welcome—even if they are drunk or high—as long as they don’t disturb other’s worship of God.

Every service has a pattern of singing, Bible reading, teaching and prayer that does not vary from week to week, in order to provide security for those whose lives are insecure. Food is provided at each meeting so that participants would have their physical needs met. Showers and clothes are also available at our meeting in Gresham, and available on request at our Portland house. Literature concerning discipleship issues, mental health issues and homelessness are written and produced by ACC.

A few of those who are able to minister under discipleship accountability live with Steve, Diane and their family in a house in North Portland. Those in the house, as well some others in the church are the base ministry team that keeps ACC functioning week-to-week. Many also visit the house throughout the week to talk to those who live there or call Steve on his cell phone for counseling and prayer.

Those who come to ACC will note the difference right away—people eating and talking in casual, sometimes filthy clothes. But as the meetings begin and continue, it will be seen that those who come truly love the Lord, are trying to understand his word and are sincerely praying for God’s deliverance. It is an extreme departure for those used to a middle class service, but it is a real and vibrant form of honoring God in community.

First presented to the Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference, June 2004

Mommy, What's An Anawim?

We invent words all the time. Every sub-culture has its own vocabulary that no one else understands. Some sub-culture words enter into the mainstream, such as “dis” or “dysfunctional” or “anti-disestablishmentarianism”, but most words remain obscure but to a small segment of the population. In English our language has the capacity of a million words, but we will typically only use 5,000-20,000. Why so many words? We do this because we have concepts that we use frequently, and so we invent new words (or import words from other languages) that communicate succinctly what we want to say. After all, why say “the study of the end times” every time that subject comes up, when you could just say “eschatology”?

In Hebrew there was an idea that was frequently used in Scripture, and supposedly in everyday life, so that a new vocabulary word had to be invented. The idea went something like this—“You see, there are these people, but they’re poor—or, well, most of them are economically poor, but not all of them. Well, actually, they are rejected by modern society, outcasts… well, not always outcast, but they aren’t in the mainstream, and they are looked down on. And sometimes they’re just sick. Or attacked. Anyway, it seems like nobody likes them. But they are righteous—um, well, righteous in a way, anyway. As a group they seem to sin a lot—but they repent! Of their sin, that is. I mean, they really regret it and they do what they can to stop the sin. But they pray a lot. Not to be holy, because these people aren’t holier-than-thou—uh uh, no way. No, they pray because they need to ask God some pretty big requests. Like for their basic survival. And to be delivered from their enemies. And for justice. And instead of scrambling around working on every plan to get them out of their troubles—like that would help, anyway—they depend on God. Yeah, that’s who they are.” Thanks, Sadie.

You see why we need to be succinct? So who are these folks, exactly? They are the poor or outcast who depend on God for their deliverance. “Deliverance” doesn’t mean some spiritual transformation, but it means that you’re in trouble and you need to get out of it. So the Hebrews had this idea, and because they didn’t like the option of “outcast who depend on the Lord for deliverance” every time they used the concept, they shortened it. The word is anawim. (This word will no longer be italicized for convenience’s sake. My convenience, that is.)

"Blessed are the anawim, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 5:3
"Yet a little while and the wicked will be no more, but the anawim, they will inherit the land" Psalme 37:10-11

Community Living

This is an email a friend of mine received and asked me to reply to it.

Hey Gordone. It's been a while. I understand what your heart is about
community. If you look at the enviornment that the Christians were living
in, back in the Bible days, they had to stick together with all the persecution
that was going on. I think it was easier for them to form community. It
was the only way to survive. Lyn's group has really been discussing that lately.
What is true community, what does it look like, andhow do we want our group to
proceed with it. It's hard because we aren't in desperate times. It's easy to
have your own life, to be self-sufficient. Counter culture to be living in a
community. Sometimes you can become too codependant on people, and
that's not healthy either. That's my shpeel on it.

This is my reply:

Note that the passages at the end of Acts 2 and Acts 4 don't describe a church in desperation, but a church in a great period of growth. You don't get any sense of difficulty until possibly Acts 6, but certainly not until later. Community is described not as a response to circumstances, but a response to Jesus' command. Remember that Acts is the second volume of a single book. Jesus said in Luke 12:33-- "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." He said in Luke 14:33-- "No one can follow me unless they have renounced all of their possessions." The communities in Acts 2 and 4 are simply obeying Jesus' teaching.

Also note what "community" is in Acts 2 and 4. It is not a bunch of people living in the same community. Nor is it strictly a communist-like economy, where all material possessions are being directed by a central group. Rather it is a different idea. People living on the land they have been appointed by God. But their blessings, any and all of their excess, being given to the apostles-- the church leadership-- to be given to the poor in an appropriate way. Churches weren't in separate buildings, but in each other's homes, and the larger homes held larger groups.

Communities don't have to live together to be communities-- there is a group here in Portland where each family who joined the community agrees to live within a five minutes walk from each other. Communities don't have to have a "common pot" to be a community. But communities need to agree to "live together"-- to share each other's lives and to meet on a frequent basis so they can share with each other. Scriptural communities do meet the needs of the poor-- that is in following Jesus' command. Scriptural communities have meals together to celebrate their unity in God's kingdom. Scriptural communities worship together.

All other bets are off. In other words, I don't believe that there can be any other standard that says what a Christian community "must" look like. There are many different kinds of communities, each one meeting the unique needs of the people who join them. Apart from these basic standards, I think that each community will be different, according to how God's Spirit leads each one.

How do we know the Spirit is speaking?

I have been involved in Pentecostal and Charismatic and in mainstream churches, and while I love them all dearly, I have noted that they all have the tendancy to take personal experience and call it the move of the "Spirit". Sometimes, I will admit, it seems that the Spirit really was moving-- when I saw a heroin junkie turn to Jesus and have no withdrawal symptoms; and when I saw a clearly schizophrenic cease with the voices and multiple personalities at the command of Jesus' name-- okay, we've got some proof there. But when a person says that they are called to ministy, well I can't deny the Spirit is working, unless I've got good reason to doubt it, but there's nothing there that absolutely suggests that the Spirit is speaking to that person as well. It's all pretty vague. And when my friend told me that the Spirit told him that he was going to be president of the U.S. in a year's time, I certainly had my doubts. And those doubts were proven right.

Even so, I have difficulty when people "know" that the Spirit is speaking because their church is pretty much agreed upon it. The creeds, for example. Just because we have a creed which affirms the deutero-canonical books, that doesn't mean that we all have to accept them as such. The creed does not necessarily speak for the Spirit, and the church, of course, has no consensus about them. And yes, I know people who have been spoken to by God through the deutero-canonical Scriptures, but that says nothing as to thier status as canon, or deutero-canon. Pretty much the same with the rest of the creeds.

So what is my point? Just because a bunch of Christians say it, don't necessarily make it the Spirit. Just because somebody has a mystical experience, don't necessarily make it the Spirit.
So what is the standard by which we can determine when the Spirit is speaking? I think there are three standards, all three of which are used in Acts 15, when determining whether the Spirit was speaking to the church then.

First of all, is the message consistant with the whole message of Jesus? Jesus said the Spirit would "remind you of what I said". Thus, if it is in agreement with one part, but in disagreement with another, then it is not in agreement with Jesus.

Second, is it constant with the love that Jesus showed? The fruit of the Spirit is love, and so a spirit of hate or favoritism would not be consistant with Jesus' love.

Third, is the fruit of that message accompanied with miraculous events, such as healings or visions? In some circles this seems passe, but it is still consistant with Jesus' requirements.

If we are going to take the point of view that if the "church as a whole" agrees with something then it must be of the Spirit, then, of course, we would have significant problems. Since there is still a significant argument over the deity of Christ, and three point of view remain prevelant, perhaps we should say that it hasn't been determined yet? And if we are looking at majority as the model of the Spirit-- although I shudder at a "democratic" Holy Spirit-- then we would have to say that the Spirit supports war. At least "just" wars. (there I am, shuddering again...)

-First posted on

Testimony Time!

You know how you might go into an old-fashioned evangelical or pentecostal church and they would have “testimony night”? You’d listen to a bunch of people stand up and tell how they “received the Lord” and after you’ve listened to about three of them you discover that the story is pretty much the same, and you still have ten more to listen to before the night is through, along with a number of loud “praise the Lords” and clap offerings. You know the story: “I was lost in (place heinous sin here), and I was suffering with (place terrible consequence of sin here), and then I met (place saintly Christian here) who led me to the Lord and then I was SAVED and after that I have been (place positive effect of being a Christian here).” Punctuate this story with tears and amens and you’ve pretty much got it.

How I became a Christian was pretty much like that.

Except that I didn’t know I was lost until I had made my first step toward Jesus. I didn’t really have anything to be lost from. Frankly, I was pretty ignorant about anything that resembled spirituality until I was twelve. I remember two of my ten year old friends—Mark and Danny—were walking home from the store with me when the subject turned to deep theological matters. Mark was a part of a strong Catholic family who held a weekly Bible study in their house. Danny often joined them. As we were walking, they were discussing the differences between Catholics and Protestants. Then they turned to me and asked, “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” I didn’t have a clue what those terms even meant, and I certainly didn’t know why I should care. I responded honestly, “I don’t know.” “Oh,” said Danny, the Arbiter of Ultimate Judgment, “then you must be a Protestant. If you were a Catholic, you’d know.”

As ignorant as they were about comparative religions, I was even more ignorant. As far back as I could remember, my Sunday morning worship consisted of watching cartoons on television, especially Popeye, the best moral teaching of which consisted of a warning to not try this at home, kids. I do remember vaguely going to a Methodist church once, being forced to wear uncomfortable clothing and sitting so close to my grandmother that I couldn’t escape that almost musty smell grandmothers used to have. I remember the stained glass windows and someone just droning on and on about something I didn’t really get.

I was pretty familiar with the word “Jesus” and “God”. Grown men were often chanting their names every time they were the slightest bit irritated. Of course they were some kind of spiritual beings. But they didn’t have anything to do with real life. They didn’t have anything to do with the school, or my siblings, or convincing my parents that I needed a copy of Destroyer by Kiss.

My earliest hearing of the gospel (that I understood) was the recording of the rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” My mother took me to a neighbor’s house and had me listen to it. This was long before Tim Rice was bought out by Disney and Andrew Lloyd Webber was permanently scarred by Phantom of the Opera. It was haunting, direct and, in parts, frightening. The crucifixion scene sounded like birds and spaceships in a symphony of blood and murder. It had Judas as a twentieth century doubter and Annas and Ciaphas as murderous schemers, but much of the rest of the gospel story they had right. The cluelessness of the disciples, the almost self-martyrdom of Jesus, and God as the ever-present background figure, moving all the pawns to establish Christianity. And Jesus’ death was the climax of it all—the end of Jesus as human, and the beginning of Jesus as exalted superhuman—it was both sad and exhilarating at the same time. As soon as I received my own record player on my birthday* (*ouch—showing my age, aren’t I?), it was the first album I stole from my parents and I played it so often as to deepen the grooves of the record and I could soon sing the falsetto with the actor playing Jesus* (*no mean feat! I don’t think I could do it now like I could in my 20s).

So I guess I was a little prepared when I discovered the Jack Chick tract in the doctor’s office. Don’t you know Jack Chick? He wrote the comic-book style conservative Protestant diatribes in a 2” x 3” book format. Some of his titles are, “Somebody Loves Me”, “This is Your Life” and “How to Placate God By Supporting Zionism and Hating Catholics” (not really). His popularity, especially on the West Coast, led to many to directly attack his pro-evangelical, pro-Israel, anti-Catholic stance. The tract I came across was one of his pro-Israel ones, offering his argument that the United States had better be nice to Israel, or God would zap them. Fascinating reading for a twelve year old, actually. And the comic-style illustrations made the text all that more interesting (maybe I should have some for this book?). Although the argument wasn’t all that clear to me, it did impress me with two things—the Bible is important as a source of Truth and Jesus will Save us. So, in accordance with the booklet, I prayed the prayer to receive Jesus, and then I was convinced I was Saved. At least that’s what the book said the Bible said.

I tried to read the Bible, made it through Genesis (the first book out of sixty-six) and part of Exodus and gave up. What a tough book! Why couldn’t those guys write in a way people could understand? You know, like Dr. Seuss or J.D. Rollings? Well, they lived two to four thousand years ago, so I guess they have an excuse, but it seems to me that with all the versions out there, someone could really update this book, give it more characterizations, more psychology, highlight the drama. It sure doesn’t need any more sex or violence, except perhaps the New Testament. Sure, you’ve got a crucifixion and some stonings, but it’s just not packed with over the top melodrama like the Old Testament. Anyway, I gave it up after a couple months of trying. And prayer? I just didn’t get it. Besides, it’s boring. Who wants to talk to someone who never talks back? I can’t even tell if he’s listening.

Thus began the most miserable year of my life. In my ignorance, I was fine. I would insult my comrades, get into fights, avoid shame, have trouble with grades sometimes, but all was well. No guilt, no remorse, and, frankly, little memory of what did happen. After I entered eighth grade, all that changed.

One thing that changed is a foreign student from Iran that moved into our house. While the drama of our house probably should have revolved around the fact that it was 1978-9, revolution was in full force in Iran and the student was a relative (albeit distant) of the Shah, that didn’t matter to a twelve or thirteen year old. That’s the kind of stuff you’d see on TV news, which was one of the few programs I wouldn’t watch. Bijan’s importance to me rested more in his stack of pornography and disco albums*. Visual and audio sex filled my life, suddenly, and it was a force that flooded my mind like a tsunami over a small island. Not that Bijan’s influence began my thinking about sex—hormones took care of that, like it or not. But the fleeting thoughts were chiseled into my brain as if it were granite. (For those deeply concerned, I repented of disco music by the time I was out of high school.)

At the same time, in school, I was having my first real taste of oppression. Joe at school was in my English class and he seemed to have no end of pleasure and creativity in tormenting me. It wasn’t anything serious—hitting me behind a wall, mocking when the teacher wasn’t looking. But it was physical and shaming and persistent. When I wasn’t thinking about sex, I spent time thinking about how I could finally get even with Joe. But I didn’t see any real results without a direct confrontation. I did, at one point, ask him why he was tormenting me, and he gave me some nonsensical mocking answer. Looking back, I guess he considered me nerdish. Typical eighth grader stuff. But he wouldn’t stop, although I asked. And I hated him. I didn’t want to kill him. But if I could ship him to Siberia in the nude, that would be great.

On my thirteenth birthday, Bijan thought it right and proper to give me a gift. There was no ceremony behind it, he just called me into his room and handed it to me. It was a pocketknife. It only had two blades, but one was perhaps four inches. To my thinking at the time, that was huge. It could barely fit it into my pocket. And it was sharp. I discovered this by closing the blade on my thumb and it bled so much it was difficult to hide it from my mom. I immediately realized that this was the solution to my problem with Joe. Once he realized that I was a Threat, he’d back off, and I’d never be bothered again.

As soon as my nerve was built up, I took the knife to school, and I constantly fingered it in my pocket anytime I stood. It was there, it was sharp and hidden, I was a danger to others, I was safe, no one would bother me again. As English came near, I became more nervous, as the reality of actually using the blade came nigh. How would I show it to him? What if Joe attacked me? Would I actually have to use it? What if I stabbed him? What if an ambulance came to the school and everyone would know that I had attacked him? Well, I figured, then people would know how serious I was. I didn’t want to be bullied anymore. I wasn’t going to take it.

I shivered a bit entering the English room. Maybe he just won’t bug me today. That would be best. He didn’t actually torment me every day. Perhaps he’ll take a day off. This would be a good day. No such luck, of course. He met me in the back of the room and whispered the tortures he had imagined against me that day, that he intended to subject me to after school. Anger flushed my face. This was it. No more. I thrust my hand in my pocket and took out the knife. I slowly unsheathed it (attempting to be threatening, like in the movies, but I suspect it just highlighted my inexperience with knives) and pointed it at him. “I… I don’t want you to talk to me again. Just don’t bother me.” Joe really was intelligent. Yes, I had him in a corner, no where to go, with a knife pointed at him and a frightened, desperate enemy holding to it with dear life. His solution to the danger to his life and limb was simple, but brilliant. At least I hadn’t thought of it, in all the planning I had made of this moment. “Mrs. Holly!” he cried. “Mrs. Holly! Steve’s pulled a knife on me!” Yes, there are drawbacks to making seriously threatening actions in a supervised classroom. Not exactly a school shooting.

I broke down and cried. What I thought would be the solution to my shame, only poured greater shame on me than I had experienced before. Now I am Steve—knife-puller and cry-baby, and so I would be known for the rest of my life. If I could face the world without a paper bag, I would be lucky. Of course, my parents were called. Of course, I was given a “serious talking to”. But my direct remorse and the story I poured out afterwards garnered me a bit of sympathy. School shootings were not yet common, so I was not suspended. Joe and I were kept from each other in the classroom, and we avoided each other out of the classroom.

Eventually Chronos blessed me with having that miserable year end. Summer was upon us, and a swimming pool was being dug in our backyard. The excitement of my brothers and I were unbounded. I have two younger brothers, and when I was thirteen, I would be running around with them and with other friends, wrestling and joking and playing. Of course they would get hurt. Sometimes. By me. What could be done of that? We were playing.

A neighbor lady came by early that summer and asked our mom if we—my brothers and I— would be interested in going to something called “Vacation Bible School.” Ha, I almost exclaimed. Who would want to go to “school” in the summer? There were too many things to do—tadpoles to find and bring home, football to play, bulldozers to get in front of, my brothers to abuse.… I was shocked when I found that my mother had volunteered us to go, on bended knee, tears in her eyes. How could she? This was our time, our freedom. She had no right.

By the next morning I found that she did have the right to be rid of us and could enforce that right, if necessary. And our lives truly were changed. Sure, it was fun, we played games, we ran around like wild banchees* (*Does anyone know what a banchee looks like? If you do, please write me and let me know). But more than this, I discovered that there was more to this Jesus thing than a half-baked prayer. There was knowledge and lifestyle and commitment that I had never dreamed of! There was grace and power through the Spirit! I could pray and be heard! I could read the Bible and have it be a part of my life! I could enjoy church just because of learning about Jesus! I fully committed myself to the Lord that week.

At one point that week, I prayed to God and Jesus (I wasn’t sure which one I should pray to at that time). I asked for His control over my life because I had certainly messed things up. I asked for him to help me. Then I waited for the Great Revelation. Some Voice to speak. Or lightning perhaps. Something Impressive. Nothing like that happened (at that time). But one thing did change. I was able to release myself to God. Boredom, distraction or my own moral weaknesses were no issue. For God had made me His, and it was His power that allowed me to focus on Him. Until that time, I had no idea what God in my life could be like. I had no idea.

Evidently, neither did my mother. We came back home daily during that week and a half, talking about everything we learned. Her response? Great, I’m glad you’re excited, now leave me to my fried chicken. After more than a week of this, though, some of our enthusiasm rubbed off. And, strangely, there were changes she noticed. My youngest brother was oddly happy, singing “Jesus loves me” of all things. The middle brother, the pyro, was no longer lighting fires. And I? Well, she says that I spent my time evangelizing her. I want you to know that I have no memory of this. But it could be true. I do clearly remember telling my parents that I was going to church every Sunday now and that they were driving me. I also remember giving my mother a commentary on the book of Revelation (which caused me nightmares, but I never spoke about that).

Next thing you know, she also received the Lord, and we’re going to church together, along with my father and two brothers. Years later, we all ended up doing ministry in the church one way or the other.

So I return to school the next year and I’m completely transformed. I am not the nerdy Steve, now I am the religious fanatic Steve. They called me “Jesus Freak” and I laughed. I argued against evolution with my biology teacher in school. And, eventually, I saw Joe again. I ran up to him, saying, “Hey, I need to say something.” “Yeah?” he replied. “What are you going to do? Pull a knife on me again?” “No, I just want to let you know that this last year I committed myself to Jesus. I really apologize for doing that.” There was silence for a moment. He looked at me with wide eyes, “Yeah, whatever.” He never spoke to me again. The fear of a weapon is as nothing compared to fear of religious fanaticism. I have never turned back.

The ways of God were truly revealed to me. Sure, I could pray a prayer and do the religious deed, but God wasn’t in it. Why? Because I didn’t really need Him. God, I have found, is immensely practical. For a God of infinite grace, He is almost Amish in his reserve of resources. He only provides grace to those who need it, and ask for it in desperation. God reserves his salvation to those who actually need salvation. Others need not apply. When I got on my knees and prayed the “sinner’s prayer” at twelve, I didn’t need God. Jesus was great, but he was just going to be a portion of my life, an unsought section of a shelf in the library of my life. I could have been a Christian at that point, but it would have meant nothing. And so I gained nothing.

But at thirteen, after a year of misery, shame, and struggling (and failing) with sin, I knew what I was missing. And I was ready to receive it. I did not become a Jesus Freak because it “fit” in my life or society. I became a Jesus Freak because if I didn’t have Jesus, I would continue in my misery, shame and sin. And that second option wasn’t acceptable. Which is exactly where God wanted me.

God isn’t tugging at the heart of every single one of the billions of the world, pleading, desperately hoping that we would take his salvation. Yes, God wants every person to be delivered from their suffering. But if people look at their suffering and call it joy, then he's willing to let them live with that delusion. He can let them experience that “joy” for years, deceiving themselves that they are living life at it’s fullest, when actually they are slowly but surely destroying themselves. And when they realize the destruction and suffering they are really experiencing, they might, at that point, turn to God. And that’s where God wants us. Miserable. Crying out to him for help. God wants us, not because we have our lives together. Just the opposite. He wants us because we’re helpless.

Responding to Human Disasters

Some friends of mine just moved to China. These are their reflections and mine follow:

If you have been keeping up with our posts you have probably heard about our
experience with the chicken. This was a sad experience for the Culp Family.
After watching Josie I keep coming back to a greater question.Josie loves
animals. She seems to be capable of deep emotional attachment with critters of
all types. Through this love Josie has become painfully aware of the cycle of
death and life that is so prominent in nature. Josie relates all of this to God.
She feels like God has given her a gift of love for his creatures. At the end of
the first day with our new chick Josie said: “God had a plan. He had a plan for
my dog to go live at a new home so that I could come to China and get this
chicken.” I thought “How sweet. A child’s faith is so precious.”

course the next day the chick was injured in a freak accident and it was clear
to us that Butter was not going to make it. I was so concerned for Josie. I
thought how is she going to reconcile this with her understanding of God and
life and what not? I was not sure how I was going to console her wounded spirit
and offer her encouragement. I caught myself thinking for a moment, how could
God let this happen?Then I thought about New Orleans. How could God let this
happen? Why did God let Katrina happen? I visited New Orleans once when I was

Well, Josie cried about Butter as I scooped up the limp chick’s
remains and got rid of the cage that Josie had made for her. Why did God let
this happen? I was a little shocked to find that after Josie’s cry she went
happily on to other adventures. She wrote about her experience and is now back
to being the rough and tumble lover of life that you all know her to be. Her
belief in God, justice, and life does not seem to be shattered. But what about
us? How do we respond to tragedies like Katrina? How are you responding to it? I
would love to hear your thoughts.
-Jeff Culp

As usual, you guys ask the important questions from daily events-- events that most people ignore or refuse to question.
As usual, I have my half-baked answer, which more relates to New Orleans than to Josie's chick, but perhaps I can talk to that as well.
Whenever we ask "why did God let this happen" we have to remember that while God is ultimately in charge, He has given that authority to others. In the case of the earth, God has given authority of it to humans (Genesis 1, Psalm 8). Unfortunately, most humans have done a terrible job of ruling the earth. In fact, humans, especially human governments, have handed the authority they have over to Satan by following Satan's ways and by giving in to sin. God said in Gen 2 that the day the human (Adam) rebelled against God, "on that day you would die". Of course, they didn't die on that day-- but they were handed over to the authority of Death. And Death is under the power of Satan (Heb 2:14). Thus, humanity, through their sin, handed the authority granted by God over to Satan.So what does this mean for us? That when a terrible, cataclysmic event occurs, it is judgment-- but it is judgment through the warped "justice" of Satan. This is what occured in the tsunami last year. All those people died, the innocent and the guilty together. And Satan can do this because humans have given him the authority to do this. Most of the time when we complain about God "allowing" something to happen, it is actually the sin of the human race granting authority to Satan that is "allowing" it to happen. Just because God gave us authority, we have to take the responsibility for abusing that authority.

There is one other case of judgment. It is judgment for sin that has been clearly stated by God's people. In other words, you can have a community that superficially follows God, but is in open rebellion against Him. They will talk good about God, but live lives that are rejecting him daily. When this occurs, God will send a prophet/messenger to the community and inform them of coming judgment. This is God's mercy. He doesn't have to do this, he could just send Satan to destroy them. But the fact is, we shouldn't give God "credit" for any disaster unless he has said that he would do it. Satan has the authority to act on his own. But sometimes he acts under God's command.

Interestingly enough, this is the case with New Orleans. The disaster happened, but it was years after a prophet that I know of had gone to New Orleans and predicted that the city would be destroyed unless they changed their ways. Their sin is shown especially in the Mardi Gras celebration-- which is a Satanic warping of the Lent celebration of the cross. This is one of the major things New Orleans is famous for, and it was a blight on the face of God. They were warned-- and I hope and pray that the surviors are now fasting and praying in repentance and for the restoration of their city.

This doesn't mean I don't have compassion for them. I do. Tremendously. I have been praying for them repeatedly. And I am planning on sending some Anawim folk to assist in the relief effort. But God will keep his promises. And at least far fewer died than could have. I just hope the people repent as a result of this.

So what about Josie's chick? Well, because Death is the authority humanity has given power to, then our lives will be filled with death, even if we are innocent, even if we are righteous. But Jesus says that this death we experience will ultimately give us life, if we trust in God through it. If we experience suffering and death and just question God, then perhaps we have a problem-- like Job. But if we experience suffering and death and acknowledge God's mercy and justice, trusting in him more and relying on Him more because we know that He cares for us, then we have true faith and we will gain more life than we know what to do with.