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R. David Reynolds
Perhaps you are familiar with the greeting or call to worship whereby the pastor or liturgist declares, “God Is Good,” and the people, respond, “All the Time.” The pastor affirms, “All the time,” and the congregation declares, “God is Good.” Many United Methodists use it frequently as a liturgical response of praise. Maxie Dunnam has served as world editor of THE UPPER ROOM, a founding father of the Walk to Emmaus, senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, President and currently Chancellor of my Alma Mater Asbury Theological Seminary. Many people give him credit for this powerful liturgical act of praise, but it actually originated in Nigeria. His wife had a jail ministry in the 1980s in Memphis, and Maxie preached for her on a regular basis. The inmates there introduced them to this African praise greeting from Nigeria [--Personal e-mail RSVP from Maxie Dunnam, Chancellor of Asbury Theological Seminary].
Perhaps the place God has used it most powerfully is in another African Nation Liberia. To the Liberian Christian Community this greeting comes out of times of real distress and turmoil. For over fifteen years Liberia was ravaged with Civil War. They are a people who have experienced violence, hatred, and disconnection first hand. Yet it was through these devastating times that the greeting, “God is good; all the time; all the time; God is God” became real in the life of every Liberian. The United Methodist Church in Liberia is thriving, vibrant, and basking in the glory of Holy Spirit led Revival. To these triumphant disciples of Jesus, this is not some trite platitude. It explodes from the heart of a people who know what it is like to have their family members tortured and killed and their homes and property destroyed; from men, women, and children who many times could not find food to eat; from Christians who slept in the bush and stayed in displaced centers and refugee camps for months and years without knowing where their relatives, friends, and loved ones were or even if they were still alive; from a people who often became deathly sick without the availability of any medication; yet from a people who by the grace of God got well. “To the Liberian Church this greeting is their way of telling the story of what God has done and continues to do for the people of Liberia” [--e-mail testimony to The Rev. R. David Reynolds from Awah Cole, Administrative Assistant to Bishop John G. Innis of Liberia, Friday, September 02, 2005 3:32 AM].
Surely if Liberian Christians who have suffered so much brutality, malice, hate, and disconnection live in the assurance that “God is good, all the time,” we American Christians can as well. But again it is just our nature to often question, “If God is always good, how can He let such disasters as Hurricane Katrina which is the greatest American disaster since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, happen? How can He allow terrorism to get such a hold on our world? How can I be certain that He indeed is always good?
People WANT to work. People are telling me they’d LOVE to go down to New Orleans to help the people in misery there. People woul dgladly enter the smell and danger to do back-breaking work to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed or seriously damaged more than 1,000 churches. Rita’s toll is still unknown. (Foster Letter 10/10/05)
Over the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to have conversations with a young man, in his early 20’s, who’s really struggling with the question of “Is God real?” Matt is a self-proclaimed atheist, a sweet young guy, really. But he picks up the newspapers, and he switches on the TV, and he reads reports of children being abused, and he sees clips about suicide bombers in Iraq. He hears about shootings in the schools where innocent lives are lost. He points to 911 and the devastation Hurricane Katrina wreaked on New Orleans, and the wildfires in California, and the earthquakes in Peru and Japan, and the economic recession, and the rash of home foreclosures, and the plight of the homeless , and the plight of orphans in Africa and Honduras – on and on, and this young man asks, “Where is your God? Where is God in all this?” And he comes to the false conclusion that there must not be a God.
And I want to tell him that he’s looking in the wrong places. God is not in the calamity, He’s in the remedy. He’s in the thousands of people who gathered supplies and offered time and muscle to rebuild the flood-ravaged homes in New Orleans. He’s in the firefighters who risked their lives to go into the Twin Towers that day to lead survivors out. He’s in the mission-minded believers who collect money and resources for the orphans.
I want to tell him that while humanity was in the darkness of sin, a darkness darker than any cave could ever be, God provided a remedy in sending His son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10 says,
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiat...
Hurricane Katrina has swept away more than New Orleans buildings: According to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll 39% of New Orleans residents assisted by the Red Cross say they definitely or probably won’t move back. That is an astounding migration of an estimated 50,000 households that could change the face of the city they’re leaving behind — and the places where they relocate. (USA Today 10/14/05)
13 million Americans made donations online after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 7 million set up their own hurricane relief efforts using the Internet. (Foster Letter 12/10/05)
Listen to what Ann Graham Lotz says in her book, “I saw the Lord.” She writes:
“Hurricane Katrina was a resounding wake-up call, not just to New Orleans and the Gulf coast, but to this entire nation. Wake up, America! Disaster can strike at any moment! Your unprecedented prosperity, your advanced technology, your shock-and-awe military do not guarantee you immunity from death, disease, despair, and sudden devastation. God’s past blessings do not mean that He will keep you safe at the present or in the future. Your hope is not in the local or state or federal government. Your hope is in the Lord alone. With all your know-how and your go-to-it innovative, creative ideas, you cannot predict the future or secure your future. God holds your future, and you need to get right with Him.”
LIVING WITHOUT POWER
The story is told of an elderly woman named Norena, who lived in southern Florida. When a hurricane hit that area, her home was one of many that was severely damaged. Norena received an insurance settlement, and the repair work began. However, when the money ran out, so did the contractor, leaving an unfinished home with no electricity. Norena lived in her dark, unfinished home - without power - for fifteen (15) years.
You see, my brothers and sisters, the astonishing part of this story is that the hurricane was not Katrina but Andrew - a hurricane which struck in 1992. She had no heat in her home when the winter chills settled over southern Florida. She had no air conditioning when the mercury climbed into the 90’s and the humidity clung to 100 percent. She did not have one hot shower. Without money to finish the repairs, Norena just got by with a small lamp and a single burner.
Her neighbors did not seem to notice the absence of power in her home. Acting on a tip, one day, the mayor of the Miami-Dade area got involved. It only took a few hours of work by electrical contractor, Kent Crook, to return power to Norena’s house. CBS News reported that Norena planned to let the water get really hot, and then take her first "bubble bath" in a decade and a half. "It’s hard to describe having [the electricity]...to switch on," Norena told reporters, "It’s overwhelming."
Tell me, "How many Christian true beli...
Have you heard the statement, “Conscience gets a lot of credit that belongs to cold feet”? Think through the implications of that. There are many evil things that many people would do if they didn’t fear getting caught. Another expression of that says we are only one light bulb away from savagery. The anarchy that occurred in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was caused by thugs, lowlifes and criminals seizing the opportunity to rob, loot, rape their fellow citizens, murder, and burn. Some have thought there is more immorality in the cities than in small towns and rural areas. That was probably true 50 years ago. There was community pressure in villages, but the anonymity of the city encouraged people to violate their consciences and sin against God, themselves and others.
I followed the New Orleans Saints football team after Hurricane Katrina. Initially they played their games in other cities. Their first season back in the dome, following Katrina, the city rallied around them. I listened to one radio talk show that explained people’s willingness to sacrifice in order to buy season tickets. Supporting the “Saints” was a priority for those people. The radio announcer said he knew of homeless people who bought tickets in order to support the “Saints”. We support what we value.