Hi Aspen Ridge family,

I heard this passage from Howard Baker of Denver Seminary. It comes from the Introduction to Joel in the Conversations Bible by Eugene Peterson.

When disaster strikes, understanding of God is at risk. Unexpected illness or death, national catastrophe, social disruption, personal loss, plague or epidemic, devastation by flood or drought, turn men and women who haven’t given God a thought in years into instant theologians. Rumors fly…..

It is the task of the prophet to stand up at such moments of catastrophe and clarify who God is and how he acts. If the prophet is good- that is, accurate and true- the disaster becomes a lever for prying people’s lives loose from their sins and setting them free for God. Joel is one of the good ones: He used a current event in Israel as a text to call his people to an immediate awareness that there wasn’t a day that went by that they weren’t dealing with God. We are always dealing with God.

The event that Joel used as a text was a terrible locust plague that was devastating the crops of Israel. But any catastrophe would have served him as well. He projected it onto a big screen and used it to focus the reality of God in the lives of his people. Then he expanded the focus to include everything and everyone everywhere- the whole world crowded into Decision Valley for God’s verdict. This powerful picture has kept God’s people alert to eternal consequences of their decisions for many centuries.

There is a sense in which catastrophe doesn’t introduce anything new into our lives. It simply exposes the moral or spiritual reality that already exists but was hidden beneath an overlay of routine, self-preoccupation, and business as usual. Then suddenly, there it is before us: a moral universe in which our accumulated decisions- on what we say and do, on how we treat others, on whether or not we will obey God’s commands- are set in the stark light of God’s judgment.

In our everyday experience, right and wrong and the decisions we make about them seldom come to us neatly packaged and precisely defined. Joel’s prophetic words continue to reverberate down through the generations, making the ultimate connection between anything, small or large, that disrupts our daily routine, and God, giving us fresh opportunity to reorient our lives in faithful obedience. Joel gives us opportunity for “deathbed repentance” before we die, while there is still time and space for a lot of good living to the glory of God.

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