Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening?

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Posted on Monday, January 12th, 2015 by Dorcas KingsfordReadings

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Mark 1: 14-20

Jesus Announces the Good News
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus Calls His First Disciples
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Did you know that:

  • A thunderclap can be as loud as 130 decibels?
  • The temperature of a typical lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the Sun?
  • That most lightning strikes average 2 to 3 miles long and carry a current of 10,000 Amps at 100 million Volts
  • That cedar trees can grow up to 40m (130 ft) high and 10m (32 ft)wide. That they are a very strong, disease resistant trees and their wood is used to build boats and was used to build the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem?

Well, if you didn’t now you do and just bare them in mind as we go on.

In the beginning God walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and talked with them, but their sin stopped that. And then in Exodus God was offering the Israelites a chance to hear him again, but in reality it terrified them. What should have been the most wonderful day was actually a rather sad day.

Here are a few extras from Exodus 19 & 20.

Exactly two months after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. After breaking camp at Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and set up camp there at the base of Mount Sinai.
God spoke to Moses one day saying, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagle’s’wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me”.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, Moses, so the people themselves can hear me when I speak with you. Then they will always trust you.”

The Israelites spent 3 days consecrating themselves before they could go to the bottom of the mountain to hear God.

On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire.

When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”

How sad that the Israelites were so terrified that their sin would lead to their death when entering God’s presence that they refused to have that intimate relationship with Him and got Moses to be their go-between.

Perhaps because of this, God doesn’t use his “outdoor” voice much – just occasionally and to a few people, but most of the time it’s His quiet voice – his “indoor” voice He uses – His simple phrases and requests that we can all understand. His ‘Jesus’ voice as I like to think of it.

When Jesus arrived in Galilee to first preach the good news he knew he needed help and support so he gathered his disciples. We meet Simon and Andrew first then James and John, fishermen going about their everyday business – we are led to understand that Andrew might well already have been a follower of John the Baptist and have been with him when he saw Jesus and said “There is the lamb of God” and then Andrew told his brother, Simon (soon to become Peter), about Jesus. BUT, it was only when Jesus met them at the water‘s edge and said his famous words, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”, that they followed – as did James and John. Jesus didn’t yell at them. He didn’t send thunderbolts and lightning to show them how powerful he was, He just called out to them gently and with a simple request.

A lot of you will have heard that quiet, simple voice, whether you chose to listen to it and follow its instructions is up to you. Although sometimes the request is extremely hard to ignore:-

I always remember Steve coming to Church with me one Sunday morning before he was a Christian. Eric, our vicar at the time, did a ‘call up’ at the end of the service and Steve asked me if I’d go up with him. Later he told me that it wasn’t an option not to respond – that it was like a magnet pulling him towards the front.

That small voice will initially have asked you to follow Him – to become a Christian – but since then it might have asked you to feed the homeless; bake a cake for your neighbour; lobby your MP; talk to your grumpy work colleague or go to Bible College. The inside voice that speaks clearly and simply – “follow me and I will show you how to fish for men”. OK, Jesus didn’t go into the nitty gritty, He didn’t tell them how; what they would have to give up; that despite the fact they were common fishermen they would end up preaching God’s word and performing great miracles. Jesus just said “follow me” – nice, simple and concise.

And that’s the way God will often choose to speak to us today. He will ask us to do something, put a cause on our hearts, but not go into great detail – not tell us how it will all work out, not straight away at least.

So if God uses his quiet voice how can it have the same impact as his powerful, majestic voice?

Let’s take a look at those first 4 disciples:

  • Simon (who became Peter the Rock):
    At Pentecost people from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate, and even though they all spoke different languages they could all understand what he was saying. On that day 3,000 people became Christians!
    And then, while still in Jerusalem a lame beggar asked Peter for money. Peter told him he didn’t have money but he did have something to share and he grabbed the man by his right hand and brought him to his feet completely healed of his lameness. This miracle of healing gave Peter another opportunity to preach the Gospel as a crowd gathered when they saw the lame man walking, jumping and praising God. And as a result 2,000 more men believed.

    “The voice of the Lord is powerful”

  • Andrew:
    Going out, in obedience to the command of Christ, taught in many countries, Georgia, Cyprus, Romania and Kiev as well as places nearer to his home.
  • James:
    preached in Jerusalem and Judea and some say Spain.
  • John:
    He preached in Jerusalem, Ephesus, western Turkey, and the Greek islands.

    “The Lord thunders over the mighty waters.’

OK you might say, that was a long, long time ago and the disciples had met Jesus, the living embodiment of God, face-to-face. Well let’s look at a few slightly more recent ones:

  • William Wilberforce:
    As a young politician, his aim was to achieve personal success. He confessed to a friend “…my own distinction was my darling object”. Then, in 1784 Wilberforce’s on a trip to Europe he spent time with one of his former school teachers; a Christian. Wilberforce read William Law’s book ‘A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life’. The book touched him profoundly and made him doubt his unbelief.
    He found himself moving closer towards Christianity and this led him to ask himself “Can one serve God and one’s nation in parliament?” He wondered whether the two goals might be mutually exclusive. He discussed the problem with John Newton, the hymn writer (who wrote ‘Amazing Grace’) and a former slave ship captain. He told Wilberforce
    “God has raised you up for the good of the church and the good of the nation, maintain your friendship with Pitt, continue in Parliament, who knows that but for such a time as this God has brought you into public life and has a purpose for you.”
    As you will probably know, William Wilberforce fought long and hard for the abolition of slavery in this country. He changed the way people thought about blacks and slavery and his fight led to thousands of lives being changed for the better.

    “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars”?

  • Mother Teresa:
    As a teenager she felt the call to follow Christ and she had a real heart for those living in poverty and this led her to work with the poor and dying in Calcutta. Mother Teresa and a small band of fellow nuns survived on minimal income and food, often having to beg for funds. But, slowly her efforts with the poorest were noted and appreciated by the local community and Indian politicians.
    In 1952, she opened her first home for the dying, which allowed people to die with dignity. Over time the work grew. Missions were started overseas, and by 2013, there were 700 missions operating in over 130 countries.

    “The voice of the Lord is over the waters”.

  • Billy Graham:
    At the age of 16, Billy Graham attended a series of revival meetings run by evangelist Mordecai Ham. Ham’s sermons on sin spoke to the young Billy Graham and he went on to Bible College. By the time he retired he had preached the Christian gospel to as many as 215 million people in live audiences over 185 countries. Graham has been credited with preaching to more individuals than anyone else in history, not counting the additional millions he has addressed through radio, television and the written word.

    “The voice of the Lord is majestic”.

  • David Wilkerson:
    Perhaps best known for his early days of ministry to young drug addicts and gang members in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, New York. His story is told in ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ and has been read by over 15 million people in some thirty languages since 1962. In 1970, a Hollywood motion picture of the same title was released and has been viewed by over 50 million people in thirty languages in fifteen countries.
    Moved with compassion when he saw a photograph in Life magazine of several New York City teenagers charged with murder he was drawn to the city in February 1958. It was then that he began his street ministry to what one writer called “desperate, bewildered, addicted, often violent youth”.
    He founded Teen Challenge ministries in Brooklyn, New York, which has reached youth and adults with life-controlling problems worldwide through over 1,000 centres in 82 countries. The ministry’s biblically based recovery program for drug addicts has been recognized as one of the most effective efforts of its kind.
    In 1986, while walking down 42nd Street in New York City at midnight Reverend Wilkerson’s heart broke yet again for God to raise up a ministry in Times Square. He cried out to God to do something, and at one o’clock that morning he sensed the Lord speaking to his heart, “You do something. You start a church. You know the city and you love it”. Times Square Church opened its doors in October 1987, and today nearly 8,000 people representing over 100 nationalities worship together under one roof.

    “He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox”.

  • Katie Davis:
    In December of 2006, 18-year-old Katie Davis from Brentwood, Tennessee, travelled to Uganda for the first time. She was immediately captivated with the people and the culture.
    God laid it on Katie’s heart to start an Education Sponsorship Outreach matching orphaned and vulnerable children who are unable to afford schooling with sponsors anywhere in the world. Originally intending to have only a handful of children in the sponsorship program, Katie had 150 signed up by the end of 2008. Today the program sponsors over 700 children.
    Later in 2008, Katie established a non-profit organization called Amazima Ministries International and shortly after that she started a feeding outreach, which provides meals to 1,200 children Monday through Friday.

    Katie then initiated vocational training to empower the Masese women to generate needed income by making unique Ugandan bead necklaces. These necklaces are purchased weekly by Amazima and then sold in the United States. The money the women receive for their beads allows them to support their family and send their children to school.
    Now the mother of 13 daughters, Katie says, “People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me ‘good job’. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people”.

    “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning”.

I don’t know about you, but I would say that the simple call of Jesus and the quiet voice of God has led to many, many amazing things happening – the equivalent of the lightning strikes of the Lord’s majestic voice.

So when you hear that quiet “indoor” voice of God, maybe with the first simple line of “follow me” remember that He could, if He wanted, speak with thunder and lightning that can split cedar trees, shake deserts and twist Oak trees. But most of the time he chooses not to as He knows that when you listen to His quiet voice and follow it, the results can be powerful, majestic, mighty and thunderous.

He gives strength to his people and blesses his people with peace.

Remember, you may never know what your words or actions will lead to. Your kind actions or words might bring about the next Billy Graham or Mother Teresa.

A prayer:
Lord we thank you that you talk to us, we thank you that you listen to us too.
Lord we ask that you open our ears and our hearts so that we can hear your quiet voice.
We pray that we will use discernment to understand your call and walk bravely in your path, even without knowing the full story.
We know that you meet us where we are, just as you did with the first disciples by the Sea of Galilee and we also know that not all of us are called to be world famous Christians, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t answer your quiet voice.
Bless us, help us and speak to us we pray in your son, Jesus’, mighty name.
Amen.

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