Archives for posts with tag: Habakkuk

Get Real with God Blog
Finding a modern-day Job… The task is a lot easier than we think as this world, living under a cloud of corruption, abounds with examples of tragic events and lives that no longer want to be. Never mind for now where we get the notion that life OUGHT to be fair. That discussion will have to wait.

Now we must listen to one such story of a man by the name of Douglas. You can find a more detailed account of this man’s life in Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God.  First, Douglas’ wife discovers a lump in her breast. The breast had to be removed. Then, the cancer spread to her lungs. One day, in the midst of the crisis, Douglas was driving his wife and twelve year old daughter when a drunk driver crossed the median and hit their car in a head-on collision. Douglas was severely hit on his head and sustained injuries that caused not only constant headaches but also the loss of vision in one eye. His life would never be the same again.

When Philip Yancey, the author, had a chance to meet with Douglas over breakfast, a surprising thing happened. He asked him, “Could you tell me about your own disappointment with God?” After some silent, came what a call a moment of brilliance, “To tell you the truth, Philip.” Douglas said, “I didn’t feel any disappointment with God.” Philip couldn’t believe what he had just heard. Was this another “Turn your scar into stars!” television moment? He wanted to know more.

Douglas explained: “The reason is this. I learned, first through my wife’s illness and then especially through the accident, not to confuse God with life. I’m no stoic. I am as upset about what happened to me as anyone could be. I feel free to curse the unfairness of life and to vent all my grief and anger. But I believe God feels the same way about that accident – grieved and angry. I don’t blame him for what happened.”

I believe that this story reminds us that those who have suffered the most have the most to tell us about suffering. As we look at the closing part of Habakkuk’s declaration of trust in God through turmoil, we will that this caution of separating God from the events surrounding us will be huge in helping us move past the pain and into the rejoicing that Habakkuk, James, Paul, Peter, and Jesus Himself talked about.

And the way we will find peace in the midst of our agonies is by learning to trust the character of God – that He is good and just and will intervene in His time. The pattern of the three days of Easter week – tragedy, darkness and triumph – representing Jesus’ death, the time He was “hidden” in the tomb, and His ultimate resurrection from the dead. This pattern will one day be enacted in a cosmic scale when God will bring His justice to prevail upon the whole universe.

Until then, we toil and suffer, just like the rest, and if we are blessed, we learn to rejoice, like Habakkuk did at the end of his book:

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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Get Real with God Blog
So Habakkuk had a complaint. Big deal. We all have complaints. Mine is why I can’t grow enough hair at the top of my head even after I treated it with some expensive “remedy” for over a year now! Just kidding… But isn’t it true that our complaints are often trivial compared to the things that really matter in this world?

So here is a short list, to help you avoid “wasting” your complaints:

1. There are at least 180 little Christian girls in the hands of some really bad guys who follow this ultra- militant Muslim group in Nigeria called Boko Haram. Recently, the entire world was mobilized to find a plane that disappeared on a flight to China. Millions and millions of dollars, expensive aircrafts, specialized boats, sophisticated radars, unparalleled cooperation by big time rivals. Why can’t we come together and mobilize to find these little girls and maybe in the process wipe out from the face of the earth all those hateful monsters who think the way to obey their God is to kidnap pre-adolescent girls and after abusing them sell them as slaves?

2. Recently, the Chinese government demolished a Christian church, a landmark in the Zhejiang province, accusing the Christians of not complying with some building regulation. This is just the latest example of the official Chinese government’s attempts to quash the spread of Christianity. Such “unregulated” church growth threatens the stability of the Chinese government, so they say. So, suppose a mosque was destroyed somewhere in China, would journalists write more about it? Would government officials protest more vociferously?

3. The U.N. came out last week warning the world that 3.7 million people are in danger of starvation in South Sudan, the vast majority of which being children. How has the world reacted? Where is the Reverend Al Sharpton when we need him?

I could go on and on. You get the idea. There are enough grown-up type complaints to last multiple lifetimes. Our world is in a world of trouble and with each passing day those who intend to harm and do evil seem to be multiplying like the rabbits in my backyard. How do we even begin to make sense of all of this?

Habakkuk started with a loud and well articulated concern. When he got the initial response, he was even more shocked – God was going to use a nation more evil than Israel to punish God’s own people! “That can’t be!” he said. Then he sat down and waited in silence for a response.

In the next scene, God is the one who grabs the mike with a vengeance. He reminds Habakkuk of the ultimate end of those who chose the path of unrighteousness. The text is so pointed, you could say that a mocking God makes an appearance. And He is even mimicking His enemies’ taunts and turning their sword against them. The scorn of God, who would have thunk? So in chapter two of this little book, God warns everyone about four pathways to life that will not succeed. The text is organized in four neat sections, which I will develop more on Sunday in a sermon I’m calling “God takes us to school!”:

Lesson 1: Ruthless get-rich schemes will not prosper (Habakkuk 2:6-11).

Lesson 2: Random power-grabbing will not prosper (Habakkuk 2:12-14).

Lesson 3: Reckless indulging will not prosper (Habakkuk 2: 15-17).

Lesson 4: Renegade religion will not prosper (Habakkuk 2:18-20).

And the amazing thing is that everyone of these lessons materialized in history as the Babylonians, having experienced a spectacular rise to power, quickly met a crushingly humiliating defeat, under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, which we clearly see by reading the book of Daniel.

In the end, then, Habakkuk’s complaint was not wasted. In time, God answered him, but He did it His own way. And there is the challenge for us – letting God do it His own way, whether in our lives or in the world.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Get Real with God Blog

I once heard the story of a venerated Buddhist monk from South Korea who was brought to a prestigious American university to dispense his wisdom to a couple of thousands of students and faculty who had packed an auditorium to hear him. They brought the old sage to the stage and all they could hear was… silence. For forty five minutes he sat there in stone silence and finally, upon the insistence of some of his handlers, and as the crowd grew restless, he managed to say barely in a whisper, “Teach me. I know nothing.”

The book of Habakkuk starts with a bang. The prophet displays his verbosity and displeasure at God for not taking care of business. He complains that God sees the evil that is being committed in the land and instead of acting to swiftly punish the bad guys and vindicate the good ones, God just sits there, either unwilling to act, or worse yet, impotent.

But as chapter two starts, to our utter surprise, we find the prophet, like the old sage from South Korea, suddenly making a vow of silence and waiting quietly until he hears from God.

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” (Habakkuk 2:1). And so he does. Instead of strong words, intent listening; instead of questions, pause; instead of strife, rest. Take notice: In the midst of his most agonizing wrestling with God, the prophet takes time to rest so he can hear from God.

What a foreign concept to us who live in the age of immediacy; the times of fast delivery and quick sound bites. The prophet is teaching us that after a stormy confrontation, nothing like focused attention to hear God speak to us. You’ve laid out your case, you’ve bared your soul, now shut up and listen in silence. That seems to be the message of this brief introduction.

My, oh my… How much more sound would living be if we followed this advice. The Sons of Korah, who wrote songs to be used for worship at the temple, said, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10).

We are familiar with the first part of this verse, but we often forget the second part: We can be still because we know that God will eventually establish His perfect will upon the earth. That is the missionary God coming across in an ancient song.

As we listen to Habakkuk in chapter two, we learn that yes the enemy is fierce and seemingly unbeatable. We learn that it may be a while until the sunshine will usher in the time of perfect harmony and perfect justice in the universe. But we also learn that while the wheels crank, we might as well not be the squeaky joint in the contraption.

The prophet says that though the night seems long, we must keep our watch ever so diligently. And protect our integrity. That is how I take the little phrase, “The righteous shall live by his faithfulness,” one of the most-often quoted phrases quoted in the New Testament. In other words: Act I: Protest. Act II: Be quiet and wait; Act III: Keep the faith.

“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:4-5).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Get Real with God Blog

We live in a world of pain today. Everywhere we look we see misdeeds and misfits. Some of us have cried tears to last several lifetimes and yet there seems to be no end in sight. Evil is rampant and the devil seems to be dancing with the stars.

For some of us the pain is abject poverty. Some of us see the wasting away of children affected by diseases that could be cured with a cheap pill and we weep. Many of us protest against the horrors of human trafficking and others are angry at rampant corruption in a world driven by money. The moral landscape of America also anguishes many of us. Our children seem to be out of control. Kids are perishing from the lack of a true north and everywhere the palpitating heart of broken relationships rages.

Some colleges and universities across the country are finally sounding the alarm. For example, the president of Dartmouth College, a very prestigious Ivy League school, recently came out against the self-destructive culture dictating the behavior of many students on his campus. He cited the alarming number of sexual assaults where excessive drinking plays a part and spoke of “a general disregard for human dignity as exemplified by hazing, parties with racist and sexist undertones, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults hurled on the Internet.”

None of these things, except the Internet, were foreign concepts to Habakkuk, the Biblical prophet who lived around 600 B.C. and also struggled to make sense out of the ideological swamp he found around him, and especially in light of the fact that it appeared as if God didn’t care. Habakkuk grew up in a time when he saw devotion to God descend into the bottomless pit. The faithful reforms of King Josiah (2 Kings 22, 23) were only a memory and the land had now turned into a vast wasteland where everything and anything was permissible. As a highly materialistic society, they had not only learned to tolerate evil, they redefined the moral compass by calling evil good and good evil.

In the time preceding the reforms, there was even a hill outside of Jerusalem appropriately called “Hill of Corruption,” where every possible pagan deity had a shrine and some unspeakable acts of debauchery and debasing of human behavior were on display. Josiah’s reforms only lasted twenty years and soon the people reverted to their sinful ways. Now the godly in the nation were asking why God was choosing to be silent.

Habakkuk was not the only one who had a little trouble with God. Jeremiah also lived during the same time and he was not exactly quiet either. But Habakkuk was unique in that while the other prophets spoke about God to the people, Habakkuk spoke about the people to God. He was a pious man who couldn’t understand why a holy God could tolerate so much evil in the world. And like others who feared God, he also felt that it was unfair for him to have to swim in the swamp with the rest of the people.

Yes, the age old question… Sorry to disappoint you, Dr. Dawkins, but you didn’t invent the question about how a good God can permit evil in the world. Neither did Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens (bless his soul) for that matter. You are just some of the most vitriolic questioners in recent memory. That is all.

Anyway, Habakkuk opens up a dialogue with God which is refreshing. He proves that God does not mind when we are brutally honest with Him. He proves that there is a proper context in which it is perfectly fine to go tête-a-tête with God and not feel ashamed. God does not appreciate when we shove our hard questions under the rug and pretend everything is okay. He invites a robust dialogue as long as we allow Him to continue to be God.

And these are some of the thoughts we will be exploring in the new series we are starting this Sunday – “Get Real With God – finding God through pain.” Hope you can join us in the discussion.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade