Sunday, June 12, 2011

Merciful God, not Dispassionate Nature

In a recent posting (see below) I suggested that God is trying to get our attention. The calamities and natural disasters that have been occurring so frequently and intensely should cause us to fall on our knees and cry out to God for mercy and turn to Him in repentance and faith. In the late 1800s there was a major earthquake that hit Charleston, SC. People in the Longs community 120 miles away from Charleston were unfamiliar with earthquakes and many of them rushed to my great-grandfather’s home to find out what was happening. They responded by reaching out to God in prayer. Over the following decades they gathered every year at the little country Methodist church on the anniversary of the earthquake and thanked God for His protection and mercy. They acknowledged God and turned their hearts toward Him in that hour, and continued to do so for years afterward.

When I listen to the news and hear of the intense natural disasters, severe earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, fires, floods, hurricanes, in addition to all the economic disasters that appear to be coming, I prefer to believe in a personal God calling us to repentance than to think that the earth is on its own and going crazy and out of control with “no one at the wheel.” If these things are simply nature, then we are in big trouble with no real solution. Man has no power over nature gone awry, but He can call upon a merciful Heavenly Father who is able to save us. Divine judgment, even though fearful, at least implies a living and personal God. Otherwise, we are at the “mercy” of cold, impersonal, and dispassionate nature.

God is real and involved in history and in the affairs of earth. I cannot believe that He is sitting idly by and indifferent to all that is transpiring. The Bible says that He administrates times and seasons, each to its fullness, with a view toward eventually summing up all things in Christ. This means He is involved in the affairs of mankind. He determines the boundaries and times of nations, and not one sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge. Since God loves the world so much that He sent Christ to die for our sins, we must know that He is involved in the affairs and management of earth itself, and His involvement implies and necessitates action on our part.

Gather yourselves together, yes, gather yourselves together...before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth… Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.   Zephaniah 2: 1-3

Now learn of the parable of the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—even at the doors! …But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Matthew 24: 32-39

And is shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:25


Michael said...

My wife and I were having a similar conversation today about all of the weird weather events. I have sensed that God is trying to get our attention. In our attempt at trying to feel like we are in control there are still several levers the Father can pull to get our attention.

I also have wondered if some of the earliest movements of revival would not take place in the areas most impacted by these disasters.
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

A very good post, my friend, and so timely. I fear that I am beginning to sound to many people, Christians among them, like some fanatic standing down on the sidewalk with a sandwich board proclaiming, “Repent! The End is Near!” And who knows, maybe I am off on some crazy tangent. But it distresses me that I do not hear more people in the Church of Jesus Christ sounding the alarm. Don’t we get it that the very things Jesus spoke of prophetically are happening before our eyes? At this very moment, among Libya, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iran, Yemen and Lebanon, chaos is running amok and the situation cries out for a strong figure to assert hegemony over the region and bring an era of false peace. I am not sure of the prophetic significance, but the Asian world is in a similar shambles: India and Pakistan are sworn enemies, both with nuclear power; China is raising up as the world’s next superpower while America and western Europe are in a state of precipitous decline. And, of course, you mentioned the natural calamities. Our “culture” (I hesitate to even call it that) is deluded into thinking that our salvation will be in technology while character and wisdom are mocked as outdated concepts.

I made comments similar to these to a colleague at work the other day, a fellow who professes to be a devout Christian.
His reply to me, and I quote, was: “I have one word for you: DECAF!”
Lowell P.

Lonnie Shields said...

Hey Billy,
Not sure I agree with your premise on this one. I don't think our only two choices are either God controls all the weather events or we're at the mercy of dispassionate nature. If God controls it all, and bad weather is His judgment, then He must be really mad at the folks in Bangladesh and parts of India, because they get hammered regularly. Did God send Euroclydon? I believe God is sovereign, but that means that ultimately, His will will be accomplished, not that He controls everything - we would have no choices if He controlled everything!
Scripture says "the kindness of God leads men to repentance" - not the judgment of God! When the wrath of God is claimed to be behind bad weather, the only response I have seen from folks is bitterness against God for killing their children. If this is His strategy, it doesn't seem to be working!
In Scripture, when His judgment came on Egypt, the Israelites were exempt - your interpretation has his judgment falling on the righteous and the wicked. Doesn't seem like the Jesus I know...


Michael said...

Please define, "kindness of God".
One of the things that always scares me, is that God would become indifferent to what I am doing. I would rather have his kindness (even if it looks or feels like judgement) than his becoming indifferent toward me.

Billy Long said...

I have re-read my recent posts dealing with God’s judgment, and I am comfortable with what I what I presented, given the context in which it is given.
The first motivating thought in my post is that there is a God, as opposed to the Atheist who thinks God does not exist and that He is irrelevant to earth’s events, and as opposed to the deist who thinks God simply walked off and left us to ourselves. There is a God who manages the affairs of earth, and we must acknowledge and call upon Him.
When I say “nothing is out of His control” I am saying that nothing is “out of control,” that is, God is not helplessly standing by watching.
I would not make a blanket statement saying bad weather is God’s judgment. The weather is like everything else in life, some of it is good, some of it is bad, some of it is a blessing from God, some of it is an attack from the devil, some of it is Divine judgment, and some of it is simply mystery. I do not say that people who are experiencing bad things are being judged (See my “Icy Hot” post), although sometimes bad things do indicate reaping and judgment. But I would also add that sometimes bad things happen to innocent people like Job. But we should not be afraid to face the fact that God does at some point send judgment on iniquity.
Life is too complex to blame everything on God or on the devil. Discernment and compassion are necessary before we start making presumptions and judgments about other people. But I do feel that our nation is headed into judgment unless there is a national repentance or a sufficient amount of intercessors (Gen 18:16-33).
The kindness of God leads us to repentance. That is God’s first approach, and He is patient and longsuffering with His kindness. But when we do not respond to His kindness, there does come a time when He disciplines His children to help them along (See “Goodness and Severity of God” post). There also comes a time when the judgment of God does fall on a nation or people when iniquity reaches its fullness.
My opinion is that we would be a bit arrogant to think that our nation does not deserve judgment. It is this awareness of potentially impending judgment that awakens and stirs the intercessors to arise, pray, and stand in the gap. If we see no potential for judgment, then we see no urgent need to “sigh and cry because of the abominations” as Ezekiel said in chapter 9.
I believe in the “Goshen principal” in which God hides and protects His people. I pray that my household and God’s people will live in “Goshen” in the days ahead. But I think also that there are times that the righteous may suffer to some degree along with the rest when judgments fall on a nation. Daniel and Ezekiel both were taken into captivity with Israel; and there must have been some righteous people in Israel who went into captivity with the others. If an economic crisis hits our nations, we will all feel it, including the church. Although, I think the church should ask for and believe for the “Goshen” experience.
I do see pestilence, sword, famine, etc as instruments of God’s judgment in scripture, and that He used them on Israel and other nations.
I think a “plague” can be a judgment on a nation in a general sense, but not necessarily on the individuals. For instance, an epidemic of AIDS might be judgment on a nation in general as a result of its rampant promiscuity, but not necessarily a judgment on every individual with AIDs since many innocent people have contracted the disease..
The “Euroclydon” post speaks to the same audience in our nation that Amos or Joel spoke to in their books. So I do believe God sends judgments, and I do believe sin will bring judgments. But I don’t believe everything bad is a judgment of God. I do think the topic is too complex to cover all the bases in a short post.

Michael said...

Forgive me for adding another comment. But I do also think that repentance is a much deeper work in our lives than we realize. When the Father is moving toward us in His kindness, the repentance He is working in us is a change of mind, focus, and direction. For me forgiveness is asked for and received often, the deeper work of repentance takes longer and has a deeper more fundamental impact in my life
My sense is that real repentance might only happen a handfull of times in the life of a follower of Christ and it is God's kindness (read patience with me) that will lead me to this change.

Lowell Peterson said...

I will respond uncharacteristically briefly to Billy and Lonnie. I agree with you both! (How's that for being a lawyer?) I didn't read Billy's initial post to say that all the calamities going on are direct actions of God in judgment of the evil in the earth. As Lonnie points out, that would make God a cruel and heartless tyrant, not a loving Father. But,given what we know of the "progression" (can't think of a better word) of human history toward a cataclysmic end, I don't think it would be very far amiss to suggest that what we see going on in the world is "indirectly" a manifestation of God's judgment. By that I mean, God created a perfect universe and populated it with people who He meant to live and thrive in it according to His own purposes and plan. When, however, humanity (categorically, not every individual person) turns hell-bent on a self-directed collision course with reality, then the world does not live and thrive. It languishes, deteriorates and dies. The weather and other disasters could certainly be a manifestation of grave dysfunction in the cosmos. (By the way, my previous comment was from Anonymous. I don't know whether Lonnie will remember Lee Peterson from ORU days or not. I was very good friends with Bill Steere.)

Billy Long said...

Thanks for the comments, Lonnie, Michael, and Lowell.
I do appreciate them.

Lonnie Shields said...

Good stuff - helpful to understand more clearly what you are saying...