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My God, My God, WhyÖ?

Part 6 - Acts of God

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(8/22) Introduction - I havenít been able to sleep well of late and on Tuesday morning I awoke and got up at around 5 A.M. I turned the local news on to see that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of acres and homes are being destroyed or adversely affected by forest fires in the Northern California, Oregon, and Washington State areas. Some time back, someone sent me a video of a U.S. politician explaining that these fires were an act of terrorism, set by Muslim extremists to disrupt our lives and create chaos in our country. I donít know if that is true, but what my mind seems to be aware of is the fact that the frequency of Natural Disasters in the last 20 years seems to be a lot more than I remember hearing of when I was a child. See how familiar these names sound; all in the last 30 years and not an exhaustive lists: Katrina, Rita, Sandy, Ike, Andrew, Wilma, Ivan, Charlie, Irene, Hugo, Frances, Agnes (72), Betsey, Allison, Camille, Floyd , Jeanne, Opal, Isabel, Fran, and Gustav

Consider as well the number of people killed by earthquakes in the last 25 years is about 500,000, and an additional 280,000 killed by the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004. Compound the multiple billions of dollars in damage and repairs; the 20,000 or more Americans who died in those hurricanes. Think also of the tornado victims who in a momentís time lost all their possessions and many that lost their lives.

Consider the pictures of the floods in Houston, Kentucky, and Colorado, and other places from torrential rains, and the homes that were lost because of it. And many people want to know where God is, and why He has allowed these to happen.

In our series, My God, Why? This is a tough question. Some try to answer it by saying that God cursed the earth and then sat back and let it run its course. There are tectonic plates that shift, or fault lines that fault, or weather patterns that cross or form and Mother Earth is just running her course. This past week I heard a lot of talk about a Godzilla El Nino that is happening now. The strongest El Nino season ever, that will mess with our weather this winter. Does this just happen or does God specifically make it happen and if so why? Why floods, or why droughts? BTW, what does your insurance company call these Natural Disasters? Acts of God! Isnít it interesting that you never hear, "It was a beautiful day in the mid-seventies, sunset was gorgeous, it was an Act of God. Or, the farmers received just the right amount of needed rain last night, it was an Act of God.

Yet many do not want to see God in the natural disasters because they cannot imagine a Good, and Loving God being responsible for the destruction and loss that comes with these disasters. Author Randy Alcorn, in his book, If God is Good (Page 84), quotes two articles written in response to the Indonesian Tsunami. A Commentator in Scotlandís Herald (Glasgow) wrote:

"God, if there is a God, should be ashamed of Himself. The sheer enormity of the Asian tsunami disaster, the death, the destruction, and havoc it wreaked, the scale of misery it has caused, must surely test the faith of even the firmest believerÖ.I hope I am right that there is no God. For if there were, then he would have to shoulder the blame. In my book he would be as guilty as sin and Iíd want nothing to do with him."

Barbara Ehrenreich in the Progressive article titled, "God Owes Us An Apology" says: "The Christian style "God of Loveí should be particularly vulnerable to post-tsunami doubts. What kind of "love" inspired Him to wrest babies from their parents arms, the better to drown them in a hurry. If He so loves us that he gave His only Son, etc., why couldnít he have held those tectonic plates in place at least until the kids were off the beach?...

If we are responsible for actions as most religions insist, the God should be, too, and I would propose, post tsunami, an immediate withdrawal of prayer and other forms of flattery directed at a supposedly moral deity-at least until an apology is issuedÖ.

If God cares about our puny species, then disasters prove that he is not all powerful; and if he is all powerful, then he clearly doesnít give a damn."

So, is God responsible for Natural Disasters? Or, are they just the natural consequences of a cursed planet running on its own; the laws of nature at work? What do you think? I believe with all my heart that God is completely sovereign and that nothing happens without His approval. Open your Bibles to Job 37. Here is a young and very wise theologian named Elihu. While he does not exonerate Job, he speaks a lot of truth. Look at the first 13 verses. "At this also my heart trembles, And leaps from its place. 2 Hear attentively the thunder of His voice, And the rumbling that comes from His mouth. 3 He sends it forth under the whole heaven, His lightning to the ends of the earth. 4 After it a voice roars;

He thunders with His majestic voice, And He does not restrain them when His voice is heard. 5 God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend. 6 For He says to the snow, ĎFall on the earthí; Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength. 7 He seals the hand of every man, That all men may know His work. 8 The beasts go into dens, And remain in their lairs. 9 From the chamber of the south comes the whirlwind, And cold from the scattering winds of the north. 10 By the breath of God ice is given, And the broad waters are frozen. 11 Also with moisture He saturates the thick clouds; He scatters His bright clouds. 12 And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance, That they may do whatever He commands them On the face of the whole earth. 13 He causes it to come, Whether for correction, Or for His land, Or for mercy.

Elihuís conclusion, I believe is accurate. These Acts of God are for one of two purposes. First, they are acts of His loving kindness, and mercy. Our Lord Jesus said, He makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust," (Matt. 5:45). When we have a good sun and rain summer, and the crops grow bountifully, we know we have received the goodness and grace of God. The Lord has been good to us. Paul says this goodness of God should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Do you remember the story of when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt? God promised them in Lev. 26 and Deut. 28, that if they kept their covenant vowels with Him and obeyed Him, he would make sure that the weather would always be conducive to having abundant crops. Can you imagine? Just obey God and the weather would always be perfect. Even in our early history as a nation we recognized the grace of God and said so in our songs (God Bless America; America, America, God shed His grace on thee).

A Contemporary of John Newton was William Cowper, who wrote in 1774:

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill

He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will.

Second, they are acts of correction to get our attention. C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains," he said; "it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." I believe God uses Natural Disasters as His megaphone to rouse the attention of a lost world.

Three more things to remember,

First, that, the Earth is Cursed as a result of Manís Sin ĖThe fault lines, the tectonic plates, the weather patterns, the volcanoes, and more came to be either the moment Adam and Eve sinned or when God changed the earth when He brought the world wide flood. In the beginning we find a perfect man and a perfect woman in a perfect world walking with a Holy God. But with man choosing to believe the serpent over God, not only were he and his wife and all their descendants, (us), brought under sinís curse, but the earth was as well. A cursed man must now live off a cursed ground. Paul tells us that the earth is also anxious for the time when Jesus shall return and remove the curse and make it new (Romans 8:19-22). 9 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Ladies, do you remember the pains of labor when you gave birth? Well, Paul says that is exactly what the earth is feeling. I know that the earth is impersonal, but it is moving as if it is in pain and will continue to until Jesus returns and makes it all new. (My gastro-intestine-itus)

Second. Satan doesnít control the weather. Now as in the case of Job in Job 1, God does allow him to use the weather, but ultimately as we noticed last week, every time God says, "Yes," to Satan, it is to accomplish the plan and will of God. I know that is still hard to understand, but it is the truth. I once heard a prosperity preacher say that storms were from the devil because it frustrated his plans to build a new parking lot and therefore it could not have been from God. There are plenty of times when the rain or snow has personally been inconvenient for me but I donít think it was Satan trying to frustrate me, Life doesnít evolve around me.

Third, God takes full responsibility for disasters. Amos 3:6, "If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?

Isa. 45:7; "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.í

II. I believe there are 8 purposes for Natural Disasters. I hope to give you adequate scripture to support each point.

A. They remind me that I am totally dependent on God. My daily bread comes from Him. It is so easy for us to forget where our blessings come from and think they are the results of our own abilities. Thatís why Jesus told us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matt. 6:11). Likewise, they remind me of His promise that if I call on Him in the day of trouble He will answer me. Psalm 50:15, Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." Remember the story of Joseph? God brought blessings and a terrible drought and famine to save Israelís family and show them His greatness and provision. Look at Psalm 105:16-24, Moreover He called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread. 17 He sent a man before themó Josephówho was sold as a slave. 18 They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons. 19 Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the Lord tested him. 20 The king sent and released him,

The ruler of the people let him go free. 21 He made him lord of his house,

And ruler of all his possessions, 22 To bind his princes at his pleasure,

And teach his elders wisdom. Israel also came into Egypt, And Jacob dwelt in the land of Ham. 24 He increased His people greatly, And made them stronger than their enemies.

B. They are a Reminder of the Curse of Sin that will be present until Jesus returns and makes a New Heaven and a New Earth, "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13) There will be no real paradise on this planet until Jesus returns.

C. They remind us of our own mortality (Ps. 103:14-16) Life is short and can be ended at any time. We need to be prepared. Those that died in that Tsunami had no idea that before the day was over they would be in eternity. The same is true of tornado victims in the mid-west, earthquake victims in Nepal, India or wherever. The Bible reminds us that life is like a vapor, a puff of smoke. Every person is always just one heart beat or one breath from eternity. Moses said that the average life span is 70-80 years. That is still generally true. I am sure you all heard C.S. Lewisí statement that wars do not increase the death rate, well neither do natural storms, the ratio remains constant, one out of every one person in the world will die. We just donít know when. The key is to be ready to die, so that no matter what happens or when, it is okay.

D. They remind us what is really important. Like David in Paw Paw, who had cancer, "This world is not my home." Our Lord told us to lay up treasure in heaven where it will last forever. He says, if it is on earth, moths and rust will eat at it, (as will taxes), and thieves will want to steal it (Matt. 6:18-24; Phil. 3). How many victims of tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes have you heard say on the news, that they had their life and health, or their family is what is really important? You can rebuild houses and replace things, but you can take nothing with you when you are dead.

Listen carefully,

E. They are a call from God to stop and exam ourselves and repent as Elihu implies in Job 37:13. Look at 2 Chronicles 6:26-31. Solomon has dedicated the temple to God and in his dedication prayer he remembers Godís words warnings (Lev. 26; Deut. 28) concerning what will happen when His people forget His commandments and their covenant agreement. 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 says, "Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Notice that our Lord says, "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain or commandÖ." The point is God uses natural disasters as a megaphone to get people to stop and look-up, do some introspection and repent.

* Listen to Amos 4:6-12 as he speaks to Israel prior to the Assyrian invasion

-It was an earthquake that caused the Philippian jailer to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 17:30)

-It was a drought and famine that sent King Ahab searching everywhere for the prophet Elijah. (1 Kings 18:10)

The manifestation of divine judgement through calamities is intended to summon people to repent. The Prophet Joel, for example describes a disastrous drought and fire which would destroy the harvest, the pasture, and the trees and dried up the water brooks. In the context of this calamity, the prophet calls for the people to repent: Joel 1:5, 14, "Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! All the grapes are ruined, and all your new wine is gone!...14Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people into the Temple of the LORD your God, and cry out to him there."

I cannot say, thus says the Lord, but I believe with all my heart that the disasters that have been hitting America these last 20 years have been our Lord telling us to wake-up and repent of our sins. We are a nation that began as a nation devoted to following the laws and precepts of God and we have backed the nation of Israel. But these last years we have turned our back to God as a nation. We have embraced the lies of Satan, we have killed over 45 million children. We have said it is illegal to pray in our schools, and we have spurned His design for marriage and said, that what He has said is evil is what we call good. Now you may disagree with my assessment but I am convinced that God is screaming to us as a nation to repent and we are ignoring Him as did Israel in Amos 4:6-12.

F. Some of These Natural Disasters are Direct Judgements of God. We are all fully aware of the world wide flood of Noahís day (Gen 6-9). We know of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19). We know of the plagues on Egypt that God brought against the gods of the Egyptians, the three years of drought summoned by Elijahís prayer (1 Kings 17), the noonday darkness and earthquake on crucifixion day that split the veil of the temple, and the resurrection earthquake. In Nahum 1:3-5, the prophet illustrates Godís command over the events of nature, "The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea, and makes it dry, and dries up all the rivers. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence."

The Baptist Press (January 4th, 2005) quoted by Ken Walker;

The author of the bestselling "Experiencing God" study thinks divine retribution was at work in the tsunami that struck southern Asia in late December.

Henry Blackaby, speaking at a Kentucky pastorsí conference here in mid-January, said he didnít fully appreciate the significance of the widespread destruction until he saw a map published by the Voice of the Martyrs depicting the most intense regions of Christian martyrdom worldwide.

Blackaby said he noticed that the tsunami hit many of those same regions.

He told a workshop audience that most Christians donít realize that 400,000 to 450,000 believers are killed annually for their faith, and that many regions of persecution shown on the map "match to the T" the tsunamiís swath of destruction

"(But) if you read the Old Testament, especially, God is very concerned how the nations treat His covenant people," Blackaby added. "The nations that persecuted, offended and killed His people, God came down and destroyed them. And Heís the same God today. Heís just as concerned about His people."

Blackaby acknowledged the secular world is likely to "jump all over" such statements, either condemning them or saying that they wouldnít want to serve a God who would bring that kind of devastation. He said his response to critics would be, "You ought to see what hell is like. Itís going to be an eternal judgment of God on all people. The final judgment will be more severe than this."

However, such warnings arenít restricted to Asia, Blackaby said. He noted that the news media had summarized 2004 as an unprecedented year for natural disasters in this nation. Each time God sends hurricanes, floods or other calamities He is speaking to His people, Blackaby said. While not expecting unbelievers to connect anything with God because they donít think He exists, Blackaby said he expects Godís people to be paying attention, and for the most part they arenít. "Many of the pastors never connected 9-11 with Godís warning to people in America -- that Heís beginning to remove the hedge of protection from America because of the sin of Godís people," Blackaby said. "But Godís people never make the connection with their sin."

"I look at people in government, education and you name it who are ... members of churches (and) weíre not holding them accountable for what they do," Blackaby said. "I think weíve lost the fear of God.

"And when you lose the fear of God, you lose the fear of sin. When you lose the fear of sin, you lose any sense of accountability. We just donít believe God will hold us accountable."

Blackaby said the average church is full of sin, from gossip to broken relationships -- among all denominations, not just Southern Baptists.

The situation has gotten so bad that many leaders are crying out to ask what they can do to stop sin among Godís people, he said.

As the first step, Blackaby suggested pastors return to a vital relationship with God. "The average pastor would not be able to tell you the last time (he) heard from God," Blackaby said. "How many pastors boast that they get their sermons off the Internet, or books of sermon outlines? But theyíre not bringing a word from God. Öthe Great Commission is not just about soul-winning and discipleship, it includes teaching Christís followers to do everything that He commanded, Blackaby said.

"If youíre not teaching your people to practice everything Christ commanded, youíre leaving off the most important part of the Great Commission," Blackaby said. "God depends on people practicing everything Christ commanded to be the ones He sent out to the rest of the world." (end of article)

Now, here is a warning. We recognize that natural disasters donít just target unbelievers, but believers in the vicinity are also affected. We also know that Natural disasters are to get the attention of the world and lead us to search our souls and repent. But we must be careful to announce that it was for judgement of a specific sin. Listen to the words of our Lord Jesus in Luke 13:1-5, "There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

G. Natural Disasters are a reminder of a Harsher Judgement to come

They also announce Godís final judgment, called the day of the Lord in the OT. They are to remind us that the Day of the Lord is nearing. A time described in the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Joel 1:15). Half to ĺ of the earthís population is going to die in those 7 least years and many of them will be by natural disaster.

Listen to Revelation 16:8-11, then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. 9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. 11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds." Vv17-21, " Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" 18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.

They are to remind us that the Judge of all mankind is standing at the door (James 5:9). The end of that judgment will be the eternal Lake of Fire. Natural Disasters is God warning us of a worse judgment to come. Isaiah 13:13-"Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of His burning anger."

H. Natural Disasters are a time for the church to shine like bright stars on a dark night. World Vision, Samaritanís Purse, The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams, or Churches sending people, providing chaplains, food, water, shelter, builders, and money. Whether it is in Haiti, Nepal, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi or New Jersey. The Church is the body of our Lord, His hands and feet, and ears and mouth to communicate His love and grace. Because Jesus left Heaven to come to a disastrous world to save us, He expects us to leave our comfort and help those who are hit by disasters. To demonstrate love, grace, and mercy in Jesus name, and to tell people that there is a God who loves them and has provided forgiveness and eternal life where no disaster will ever touch them again. The Church needs to be the Calvary that comes to rescue the perishing.

Natural disasters are a humbling reminder that there is a GOD. This is His world, and He will hold us accountable. Whether He is seeking His church to repent, or judging people for turning against Him, they remind us of a horrible judgment awaiting this world, and should motivate us to want to tell people of the salvation and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Letís pray about it. "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman