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When Towers Fall- The Christian’s Response to Calamity

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The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these things. ” – Isaiah 45:7

2011 has been the “Annus Horribilis”. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, wildfires and tornadoes and so many appended with “worst on record”. I was particularly struck by the news footage of the March 11th tsunami in Japan. Entire towns razed. Parents calling out to irretrievable children.

 Dazed and shivering souls huddled in blankets. And yes, all of creation groans – a dog keeping vigil over his stricken canine comrade.

 Like Jeremiah of old, “my heart was overturned within” and I was sobered once again as to the brevity of life, the high stakes of eternity and that I am left here to herald heaven and warn of hell, more by my life than my words. In I Peter 4:7 we read, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. ” And I pray twofold.

First, that I am an effective witness for Jesus Christ. I hear a great deal of banter from Christians in the public arena about “judgment” after cataclysmic events – so easy to wield against others and so hard to pronounce on ourselves. We heard it after the flood in New Orleans, the earthquake in Haiti and the misplaced rhetoric continues sounding much like self-righteous Jonah who sat “under the shade, till he should see what would become of [wicked Nineveh]” anticipating God’s sure sentence of doom.

But sinners whose spirits are “untenanted and dark chambers” don’t need our collective gavels falling. They need light. And if professing Christians consistently exhibited the love and joy of the Lord “letting our lights shine” the gospel would make clear the way to a Savior, Who for the repentant man or woman is ready to indwell and illumine. (I speak primarily of the general state of the church in America. The lamp stand still shines brightly in many.) So, “judgment” starts with me. “For it is time for judgment (purging and purifying) to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” – I Peter 4:17

It is most undemanding that I be an arbiter over a worldly culture (or a worldly person for that matter), but demanding indeed to judge my own heart, which when eclipsed by an enamoring world or the impediment of pride cannot reflect the light of the Son to those wandering in humanistic darkness. Where do I shroud His glory? Where do I need to repent? Am I self-protective or prodigal in loving others? Am I jealous or zealous when I see others promoted? Do I use things and love people, or do I love things and use people? Am I forgiving the inexcusable in others because God has forgiven the inexcusable in me? (Lewis)  David reflects the same in Psalm 51: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. ” 

In Luke 13,we read of an exchange between Jesus and His disciples about a tower falling on 18 people and the added assumption that those killed were being judged for particularly grievous sins. Our Lord’s answer, “Do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were {worse} culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. ”

The implication being that God’s purpose in suddenly taking life is not necessarily to show a people’s greater sinfulness. Rather, it is a divine beckoning for self-examination and a reminder that we’ve been given a certain number of days with which to make our lives count for eternity.  Perhaps that is why Solomon would say,  “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living take it to heart. ”  John Piper put it this way, after witnessing the Minneapolis bridge collapse:

The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God’s message in the collapse of this bridge. That is the most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which God is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.

Secondly, I pray for the afflicted and storm-tossed. God moved the island of Japan(I am told 8 miles) to move the people of Japan to repentance, shifting them from a possible trajectory toward everlasting perdition to eternal Pardon. God “the First Cause”(there are no “second causes”), the “Prime Mover” lets slip tectonic plates, “directs the path of the lightening bolt” and “tells the ocean waves just how far they can advance” – all to awaken a people to their need of Him. God raised the storm in the lives of pagan sailors so they would cry out to Jonah, “Call on YOUR God” after having recognized theirs were powerless to save. So that’s what I do. I call on my God, powerful to save.

Judgment will come. Hebrews 9:27 declares it. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. ”  For the believer it will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ not unto sin but service. The unbeliever will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment not unto service but sin, whereby they will be sent away eternally from the presence of the Lord, which is hell. Until then “we must do the works of God while it is still called ‘day’” and in so doing manifest Christ, His love and His light to rescue the perishing before their interminable night falls. 

Posted on January 3, 2014