Lions and Earthquakes and Heat…

First, check out this mind-blowing video of a 150 pound mountain lion running through a densely populated part of urban Chicago.

I’ll comment below.

Today, the temperature topped out at a sunny 108 degrees. Not counting wind chill. Ha! (An old Chicago thing of mine.) I saw a puddle of purple stuff in the back of my Blazer, and investigated: a liquified crayon. Our electric bill was so outrageous last summer, we a) went on the PG&E budget plan, and b) turned the a/c waaaay down… up, I mean, to a toasty internal temp of 84. Think about that, men. We’re cooling our house all the way down to 84. As I see it, if global warming is a problem, air conditioning is the solution, right?*

By now, my Chicago friends are thinking, “Are you crazy for moving to a place that hits 108 in May?” To which, I reply,

1. “I live in California, but which state just had an earthquake?” That’s right. That old New Madrid fault that runs through Illinois, gave you guys a 5.4 on the Richter Scale, on April 18, 2008. The headlines held wonderful irony for me.

2. “I live on the wild frontier of literally millions of acres of wilderness under control of the U.S. Bureau of Land management, but who just shot a mountain lion in the middle of town?” On April 15, the Chicago police shot and killed a 150 pound cougar in the middle of residential Chicago, not even 10 minutes from Wrigley Field. Here’s the full story. As I boasted to my California friends, Chicago cops know how to kill a mountain lion.

What are the odds that I would move to northern California and that my friends in Chicago would have an earthquake and a mountain lion first?

There’s a Bible story in which bad King Ahab goes to war. He fears that his kingly attire would make him stand out like a Baptist in a mosh pit**, so he goes incognito. Ahab, commanded his troops in the attire of an enlisted man. Here’s how the story ends:

“Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” The battle increased that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Syrians until evening; and about the time of sunset he died.” 2Ch 18:33,34.

A certain mountain lion ventured from South Dakota to Wrigley field, at random. A certain fault line in Illinois shifted, at random. Call it a 5.4 magnitude.

Providence: the Heidelberg Catechism defines providence as “the almighty and ever-present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand” (Question 27).

I like that.

(*I will delete comments from anybody who takes that seriously).

(**Credits to my friend Dave Meurer for that line).


9 thoughts on “Lions and Earthquakes and Heat…

  1. Bill,

    You talk about Providence.

    The Book of Esther neither mentions God nor prayer anywhere in its text (only fasting is mentioned). But Providence appears to be the “thesis” of that text: i.e., King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) could not sleep one night, and decided to read the archives of his kingdom (in the hopes of falling back to sleep)… and the rest was Providence (i.e., Jews saved from horrible persecution).

    There is one mention in the Scripture of “luck,” and that is found in Second Kings 13:18-19… “Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them. Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.'”

    The point here is that our “luck” is related to making decisions to exploit the grace of God afforded to us (see 1 Cor 9:25-27 where Paul talks about the Inner Mess and the power of the grace of God for effect on the Inner Mess). Paul then adds (1 Cor 15:10), “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

    In other words, it seems that “Providence” and the Grace of God are two sides of the same coin.


  2. It seems to me that definition used by Bill would support omnipotence and predestination more than grace, although grace could be a part of it. The creatures of the earth, the rain, the grass, the wind, etc… are all directed by God towards an end. Whether or not an individual accepts God’s grace he will still uphold heaven and earth while ruling not by chance but by his fatherly hand. Doesn’t grace usually involve acceptance by the individual? Wasn’t Esther obedient and purposeful in her choices? If the outcome was already determined by providence what is the point of the story?

    Wouldn’t the wrong choices or refusal of grace be what might lead to sickness, poverty, or unfruitful years? The definition seems to leave both outcomes open as possibilities.

  3. J.P.,

    John Wesley’s “prevenient grace” is the concept that God provides providential sustenance (grace) to anyone and everyone at all times. The best example (as you indicate) is the rain that falls on the good and the evil — that is one example of God’s sustaining, prevenient grace. Matthew 5:45 says, “… for He [Father in Heaven] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” In other words, Jesus “holds creation together” (for believer and unbeliever) by the word of his mouth (Heb 1:3). Everyone benefits from this grace — good and evil. Even Satan is free to roam around despite his eternal sentence to the Lake of Fire.

    So you are right.

    When unbelievers flout this prevenient grace — “Providence” — Paul indicates to us that God then may not continue to provide the prevenient grace to restrain their Inner Mess… Romans 1:21-25 “… although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts… Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts…” Giving them over means that God ceases to restrain their consciences (by his grace).

    What is the point here? God is not bound to show grace to anyone at anytime (thus God is not liable for the Fall of Man), but in due time, Christ did indeed die for the unrighteous (Romans 5:6-8). As indicated in my post, above, we are indeed quite fortunate to have access to expolit God’s grace in our lives and ministries… We will EVEN receive rewards for doing so (as if the grace was not enough incentive in and of itself to motivate us). Yet so many of us fall short of accepting God’s grace in our lives (Heb 12:15).

    While the Wesleyan concept of prevenient grace usually appears in discussions of evangelism (i.e., the spiritually dead unbeliever understands the gospel because of prevenient grace), the scope of prevenient grace includes what we are discussing, viz., “Providence,” which includes the unsaved world, i.e., the rain, restraint on Inner Mess, etc.

    Several months ago when I was in Tel Aviv, I came across a fascinating article about the most eminent scholar alive on the Jewish Talmud (see ). Professor David Weiss Halivni commented that the Jewish Holocaust of WWII was a result of the absence — or withdrawal of God’s presence [read: grace] — from among men. He is not a Christian, but he articluates the concept of prevenient grace quite well.

    If you are a dispensationalist, and you embrace the concept of the “rapture” (1 Thess 4:17) as I do, then you can explain that God will withdraw his prevenient grace from the earth (with the removal of the church, or Body of Christ). That is, 2 Thess 2:7 indicates that it was always the Holy Spirit in the world (within the church) that was the source of the prevenient grace and thus restraint of evil within the world. This is why the tribulation is so devastating: God will withdraw his prevenient grace as a result of removing the church from the world in the rapture… Thus the Antichrist will be able to deceive, which is part of God’s judgment of the world…

    One last mention. The first four chapters of Revelation are intended to be a wake-up call to us as Christians — wake up! God’s grace is now available — accept forgiveness for yourself (Christ died for you); then accept forgiveness toward others. That is the starting point.


  4. BG:

    Love the irony. My family and I just moved from Chicago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota a month before the earth quake and cougar excitement.

    Been enjoying your blog. Still can’t find good pizza here.


  5. I know I’m late on this one, but…

    The cougar? That was in my neighborhood! Ridiculously close to Wayne’s house. In his alley, actually. There are stories floating around about how it was just walking down the street and stuff… it was following this one guy who had an iPod on and he couldn’t hear people shouting that there was a cougar behind him! And now, even weeks later, people pass by on their cell phones and you can hear people saying, “This is where that cougar was…” It’s too funny. Who knew there could be soooo many cougar jokes? And yet, I think my friends and I have used them all. 🙂

    I slept like a baby through the earthquake though. And great minds think alike… after the cougar/earthquake combo, I kept joking that if I wanted to deal with this kind of thing, I’d move to California.

    Anyway, that’s my hood. That killz the cougar.

  6. Just want to make it clear that I usually don’t end kills with a z. Never, actually. Sorry everyone. It used to say yo and make more sense, now I kind of regret it. 🙂

  7. Joe wrote and I just want to comment

    “What is the point here? God is not bound to show grace to anyone at anytime (thus God is not liable for the Fall of Man), but in due time, Christ did indeed die for the unrighteous (Romans 5:6-8). As indicated in my post, above, we are indeed quite fortunate to have access to expolit God’s grace in our lives and ministries… We will EVEN receive rewards for doing so (as if the grace was not enough incentive in and of itself to motivate us). Yet so many of us fall short of accepting God’s grace in our lives (Heb 12:15).”

    God is not bound to show Grace to anyone thus not responsible for the fall of man. WOW, When I read that I had a a-ha lightbulb moment go off in my brain. I have always had a hard time wrapping my brain around the fall of man. Your post was very good and I just wanted to say it helped me understand better something that always was like a tooth needing to get looked at but then I would forget. I have always been like WHY? WHY all the suffering all the years and years of this for one fall. It was a very real buzz kill for my walk with Jesus I have to admit. I am one of those people though who always constantly over thinks about the samllest thing and questions.

    We are like greedy kids at Christmas time aren’t we? All the good gifts God bestows on us and we fail to realize the the one thing and the only thing we should be focused on is his Grace. That’s it. He created us. Does the piece of art ask for more paint? Anything else is the gravy in life. I am so trying to focus on that right now with all thats going on in the world right now. I get so worried by the headlines and economy and globalization and conspiracy theories…etc that I miss the message sometimes and forget about the ending to the story and what it means. Thank you for your post.

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