A Gentle Thunder: Hearing God Through the Stormby Max Lucado
How far do you want God to go in getting your attention?
Don't answer too quickly. Give it some thought.
What if God moved you to another land? As he did Abraham. What if he called you out of retirement? Remember Moses? How about the voice of an angel or the bowel of a fish? A la Gideon and Jonah. How about a promotion like Daniel's/i>/i>/i>/b>
How far do you want God to go in getting your attention?
Don't answer too quickly. Give it some thought.
What if God moved you to another land? As he did Abraham. What if he called you out of retirement? Remember Moses? How about the voice of an angel or the bowel of a fish? A la Gideon and Jonah. How about a promotion like Daniel's or a demotion like Samson's?
God does what it takes to get our attention.
It's the message of the Bible. It's the message of this book: the relentless pursuit of God. God on the hunt. God in the search. Peeking under the bed for hiding kids, stirring the bushes for lost sheep. Searching, wrestling, pulling us back to him, over and over again.
Kind, then stern. Tender and tough. Faithfully firm. Patiently urgent. Eagerly tolerant. Softly shouting. Gently thundering.
God is the pilot and we are the passengers. Though we may not understand his hand, we can always trust his heart. We can trust him to do what's right.
If you need a reminder of his love, an assurance of his strength, an example of his kindness, you're holding the right book.
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A Gentle ThunderHearing God Through the Storm
By MAX LUCADO
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 1995 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Author of Life
The God Who Dreamed
In the beginning there was the Word.... The Word became a human and lived among us. John 1:1, 14
Seated at the great desk, the Author opens the large book. It has no words. It has no words because no words exist. No words exist because no words are needed. There are no ears to hear them, no eyes to read them. The Author is alone.
And so he takes the great pen and begins to write. Like an artist gathers his colors and a woodcarver his tools, the Author assembles his words.
There are three. Three single words. Out of these three will pour a million thoughts. But on these three words, the story will suspend.
He takes his quill and spells the first. T-i-m-e.
Time did not exist until he wrote it. He, himself, is timeless, but his story would be encased in time. The story would have a first rising of the sun, a first shifting of the sand. A beginning ... and an end. A final chapter. He knows it before he writes it.
Time. A footspan on eternity's trail.
Slowly, tenderly, the Author writes the second word. A name. A-d-a-m.
As he writes, he sees him, the first Adam. Then he sees all the others. In a thousand eras in a thousand lands, the Author sees them. Each Adam. Each child. Instantly loved. Permanently loved. To each he assigns a time. To each he appoints a place. No accidents. No coincidences. Just design.
The Author makes a promise to these unborn: In my image, I will make you. You will be like me. You will laugh. You will create. You will never die. And you will write.
They must. For each life is a book, not to be read, but rather a story to be written. The Author starts each life story, but each life will write his or her own ending.
What a dangerous liberty. How much safer it would have been to finish the story for each Adam. To script every option. It would have been simpler. It would have been safer. But it would not have been love. Love is only love if chosen.
So the Author decides to give each child a pen. "Write carefully," he whispers.
Lovingly, deliberately, he writes the third word, already feeling the pain. E-m-m-a-n-u-e-l.
The greatest mind in the universe imagined time. The truest judge granted Adam a choice. But it was love that gave Emmanuel, God with us.
The Author would enter his own story.
The Word would become flesh. He, too, would be born. He, too, would be human. He, too, would have feet and hands. He, too, would have tears and trials.
And most importantly, he, too, would have a choice. Emmanuel would stand at the crossroads of life and death and make a choice.
The Author knows well the weight of that decision. He pauses as he writes the page of his own pain. He could stop. Even the Author has a choice. But how can a Creator not create? How can a Writer not write? And how can Love not love? So he chooses life, though it means death, with hope that his children will do the same.
And so the Author of Life completes the story. He drives the spike in the flesh and rolls the stone over the grave. Knowing the choice he will make, knowing the choice all Adams will make, he pens, "The End," then closes the book and proclaims the beginning.
"Let there be light!"
Chapter TwoThe Hound of Heaven
The God Who Pursues
I saw the Spirit come down from heaven in the form of a dove and rest on him. Until then I did not know who the Christ was. But the God who sent me to baptize with water told me, "You will see the Spirit come down and rest on a man; he is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." I have seen this happen, and I tell you the truth: This man is the Son of God. John 1:32-34
John the Baptist saw a dove and believed. James Whittaker saw a seagull and believed. Who's to say the one who sent the first didn't send the second?
James Whittaker was a member of the handpicked crew that flew the B-17 Flying Fortress captained by Eddie Rickenbacker. Anybody who remembers October 1942 remembers the day Rickenbacker and his crew were reported lost at sea.
Somewhere over the Pacific, out of radio range, the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. The nine men spent the next month floating in three rafts. They battled the heat, the storms, and the water. Sharks, some ten feet long, would ram their nine-foot boats. After only eight days their rations were eaten or destroyed by saltwater. It would take a miracle to survive.
One morning after their daily devotions, Rickenbacker leaned his head back against the raft and pulled his hat over his eyes. A bird landed on his head. He peered out from under his hat. Every eye was on him. He instinctively knew it was a seagull.
Rickenbacker caught it, and the crew ate it. The bird's intestines were used for bait to catch fish ... and the crew survived to tell the story. A story about a stranded crew with no hope or help in sight. A story about prayers offered and prayers answered. A story about a visitor from an unknown land traveling a great distance to give his life as a sacrifice.
A story of salvation.
A story much like our own. Weren't we, like the crew, stranded? Weren't we, like the crew, praying? And weren't we, like the crew, rescued by a visitor we've never seen through a sacrifice we'll never forget?
You may have heard the Rickenbacker story before. You may have even heard it from me. You may have read it in one of my books. Coreen Schwenk did. She was engaged to the only crew member who did not survive, young Sgt. Alex Kacymarcyck. As a result of a 1985 reunion of the crew, Mrs. Schwenk learned that the widow of James Whittaker lived only eighty miles from her house. The two women met and shared their stories.
After reading this story in my book In the Eye of the Storm, Mrs. Schwenk felt compelled to write to me. The real miracle, she informed me, was not a bird on the head of Eddie Rickenbacker but a change in the heart of James Whittaker. The greatest event of that day was not the rescue of a crew but the rescue of a soul.
James Whittaker was an unbeliever. The plane crash didn't change his unbelief. The days facing death didn't cause him to reconsider his destiny. In fact, Mrs. Whittaker said her husband grew irritated with John Bartak, a crew member who continually read his Bible privately and aloud.
But his protests didn't stop Bartak from reading. Nor did Whittaker's resistance stop the Word from penetrating his soul. Unknown to Whittaker, the soil of his heart was being plowed. For it was one morning after a Bible reading that the seagull landed on Captain Rickenbacker's head.
And at that moment Jim became a believer.
I chuckled when I read the letter. Not at the letter; I believe every word of it. Nor at James Whittaker. I have every reason to believe his conversion was real. But I had to chuckle at ... please excuse me ... I had to chuckle at God.
Isn't that just like him? Who would go to such extremes to save a soul? Such an effort to get a guy's attention. The rest of the world is occupied with Germany and Hitler. Every headline is reporting the actions of Roosevelt and Churchill. The globe is locked in a battle for freedom ... and the Father is in the Pacific sending a missionary pigeon to save a soul. Oh, the lengths to which God will go to get our attention and win our affection.
In 1893 Francis Thompson, a Roman Catholic poet, described God as the "Hound of Heaven":
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthian ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter,
Up vestaed hopes I sped
And shot precipitated
Adown Titanic glooms.
Thompson speaks of Jesus as "that tremendous lover, pursuing me with his love." Jesus follows with "unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy." And in the end Jesus speaks, reminding us, "Alas, thou knowest not how little worthy of any love thou art. Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, save me, save only me? For that which I took from thee I did but take, not for thy harm but that thou might seek it in my arms."
Do you have room for such a picture of God? Can you see God as the "tremendous lover, pursuing us with his love"? During the first week of Jesus' ministry he calls his first disciples. Why do they come? Who influences their choice? Note the verbs associated with Jesus in John 1.
Jesus turned ... v. 38 Jesus asked ... v. 38 Jesus answered ... v. 39 Jesus looked ... v. 42 Jesus decided ... v. 43 Jesus found ... v. 43
It's clear who does the work. If anyone is in Christ, it is because Christ has called him or her. Christ may use a sermon. He may inspire a conversation. He may speak through a song. But in every case Christ is the One who calls.
Consider these examples:
One evening, John Wesley entered a brief account in his journal. He wrote of going unwillingly to a meeting of a society in Aldersgate Street in London where one of the group was reading the preface to Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Did you get the picture? He went unwillingly, a stranger to a small group, listening to a two-hundred-year-old piece of literature. And yet he wrote, "About a quarter before nine I felt my heart strangely warmed."
In his classic work Confessions, Augustine tells of the turning point in his life. Torn between the temptation of a mistress and the quiet call of the Spirit of God, he was sitting on a bench under a fig tree, his Bible open, his eyesight fogged by tears. He heard a voice calling from a neighboring house, "Pick it up ... Pick it up ..."
The voice was not addressed to Augustine; no doubt children were calling to one another in a game. However, the voice stirred Augustine in his solitude, and he did what the voice commanded. He picked up his Bible and read it. The passage before him was Romans 13:13-14: "Let us live in a right way, like people who belong to the day. We should not have wild parties or get drunk. There should be no sexual sins of any kind, no fighting or jealousy. But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and forget about satisfying your sinful self."
He heard the voice of God, bade farewell to his mistress, and followed Christ.
Novelist Frederick Buechner was twenty-seven years old and living alone in New York City, trying to write a book when he, a nonchurchgoer, went to church. On impulse. The preacher spoke on the topic of crowning Christ in your heart. Jesus refused the crown of Satan in the wilderness but accepts the crown of his people when we confess him. The preacher went on for quite some time with words that sounded nice but didn't stick.
But then he said something that Buechner never forgot. I'll let him tell you:
And then with his head bobbing up and down so that his glasses tittered, he said in his odd sandy voice, the voice of an old nurse, that the coronation of Jesus took place among confession and tears and, as God is my witness, great laughter, he said. Jesus is crowned among confession and tears and great laughter, and at that phrase great laughter, for reasons I have never satisfactorily understood, the great wall of China crumbled and Atlantis rose up out of the sea, and on Madison Avenue, at 73rd Street, tears leapt from my eyes as though I had been struck in the face.
Too bizarre? Think for a moment about your world. Remember that voice, that face, that event? Wasn't there a time when the common bush of the wilderness was ablaze with a voice that left you stuttering? For Wesley it was a reading, for Augustine the voice of a child, and for Buechner a call to laughter.
And for you? The extended hand of a bag woman? The birth of your child? The tears of the widower? The explosion of a sunset? The impassioned sermon that moved all? The dull sermon that moved none—but you?
It isn't the circumstance that matters; it is God in the circumstance. It isn't the words; it is God speaking them. It wasn't the mud that healed the eyes of the blind man; it was the finger of God in the mud. The cradle and the cross were as common as grass. What made them holy was the One laid upon them. The dove and the gull weren't special. But the One who sent them was.
Amazing, the lengths to which God will go to get our attention.
Chapter ThreeCome and See
The God Who Came
Nathanael said to Philip, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Philip answered, "Come and see." John 1:46
The first answer given the first doubter is the only one necessary.
When Nathanael doubted that anything good could come out of Nazareth, Philip's response was simply, "Come and see." Nathanael's question remains: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Have two thousand years of Christianity changed this world? Is the life of the young Nazarene carpenter really worth considering?
The question still lingers.
And the answer of Philip still suffices. Come and see.
Come and see the rock that has withstood the winds of time. Hear his voice.
The truth undaunted, grace unspotted, loyalty undeterred.
Come and see the flame that tyrants and despots have not extinguished.
Come and see the passion that oppression has not squelched.
Come and see the hospitals and orphanages rising beside the crumbling ruins of humanism and atheism. Come and see what Christ has done.
Come and see the great drama threading through twenty centuries of history and art.
Handel weeping as he composes The Messiah. Da Vinci sighing as he portrays the Last Supper. Michelangelo stepping back from the rock-carved David and bidding the stone to speak.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see.
See Wilberforce fighting to free slaves in England—because he believed. See Washington at prayer in Valley Forge—because he believed. See Lincoln alone with a dog-eared Bible—because he believed.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see. Come and see the changed lives: the alcoholic now dry, the embittered now joyful, the shamed now forgiven.
Come and see the marriages rebuilt, the orphans embraced, the imprisoned inspired.
Journey into the jungles and hear the drums beating in praise.
Sneak into the corners of communism and find believers worshiping under threat of death.
Walk on death row and witness the prisoner condemned by man yet liberated by God.
Venture into the gulags and dungeons of the world and hear the songs of the saved refusing to be silent.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Come and see the pierced hand of God touch the most common heart, wipe the tear from the wrinkled face, and forgive the ugliest sin.
Come and see.
Come and see the tomb. The tomb once occupied, now vacant; the grave once sealed, now empty. Cynics have raised their theories, doubters have raised their questions. But their musings continue to melt in the bright light of Easter morning.
Come and see. He avoids no seeker. He ignores no probe. He fears no search. Come and see. Nathanael came. And Nathanael saw. And Nathanael discovered, "Teacher, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
Chapter FourMiracle at Midnight
The God of Perfect Timing
It was dark now, and Jesus had not yet come to them. John 6:17
Let me share with you the thoughts of a young missionary. What follows are phrases excerpted from his journal during his first month on the mission field.
On the flight to the field he writes: "The next time this plane touches down, I will be a missionary. For good! Yes, finally. To God be the glory."
The second day he reflects: "I keep reminding myself that the homesickness is temporary—it comes with the weariness and adjustments. That doesn't remove it, though. I must remember the reason I'm here. Not for my own joy or gain, but for the growth of God's kingdom."
By day number three his spirits are up: "God, it's a grand blessing to serve you. The people are so friendly ... the mountains are so pretty ... our friends are so gracious."
But on the fourth day his spirits sag: "It's difficult for us to think about home. We cried this morning."
On the fifth day he doesn't rebound: "Today is not so clear. The clouds have buried the mountains. The sky is gray."
By day six, the storm is coming in: "Yesterday was the toughest day thus far. The newness is gone. I'm tired of this language. We were blue all day. We could hardly think of our family and friends without weeping."
On the eighth day the waves have crested, and the winds are blowing: "This hotel room which has been our home is cold and impersonal. The tall ceiling, the strange walls ... the unfamiliar surroundings. I held my wife as she wept, and we both confessed the ugliness of the thought of spending the rest of our lives in this foreign country. It's hard. We're so far from home."
By the tenth day the gales are at full force: "Doggone it, I know God is guiding us, I know he has a plan for us, but it's so hard. When will we find a house? How will we learn this language? Lord, forgive my sorry attitude."
And just when you'd think it couldn't get any darker: "I wish I could say I'm thrilled to be here. I'm not. I'm only willing to be here. This last week was as tough as I've ever had anywhere. My commitment to be a missionary feels like a prison sentence."
Excerpted from A Gentle Thunder by MAX LUCADO Copyright © 1995 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
More than 120 million readers have found inspiration and encouragement in the writings of Max Lucado. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.
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