Category Archives: Suffering

A Glimpse at the Wrath of God

I wince every time I see images of Hurricane Irma barreling toward the Florida mainland. All of this while the Pacific Northwest fights massive forest fires, Mexico reels from an 8.2 earthquake, and Texas cleans up unprecedented flood damage. As I watch these disasters unfold and pray for my friends who are affected, I cannot help but think Romans 1:18-19, which our church studied just a couple weeks ago.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

When I read these verses and preached on this passage on August 27, I commented how natural disasters are a preview of the wrath of God that point us to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s a transcript of my words Sunday morning two weeks ago. Little did I know just how dramatic God would put his wrath on display in the days ahead…

“Do you understand that when you see human suffering — when you see viruses, and influenza; when you see bacteria; when you see wars and natural disasters — you are seeing in a sense the wrath of God revealed against ungodliness and unrighteousness?

Those things didn’t exist in the pre-fall era. When God looked at his creation after six days, he said, “It is very good” (Genesis 1:31). There was no suffering. There were not wars, there was no sin, there were no diseases. Everything was perfect. But God gave a curse upon this world, and now we all groan under the weight of God’s punishment against sin.

The worst is yet to come for unbelievers. But all of these forms of suffering, and trials, and disasters, are but a foretaste of a future and eternal suffering that awaits the wicked. Oh yes, God’s wrath is already manifested and revealed from against ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

But ultimately, the greatest demonstration we have seen thus far of the wrath of God took place at Golgotha 2,000 years ago. When God sent his one and only son into this world, and Jesus hung upon that cross, and the sky went pitch black, and God crushed his son and wounded him so we could be forgiven of our sins. People saw the wrath of God being poured out. Even the Roman centurion – a pagan up to that point – said ‘Truly, this was the Son of God.’ …

The wrath of God has been revealed many times throughout history. Why? Because there’s so much ungodliness and unrighteousness. And perhaps the greatest demonstration of that unrighteousness is the willful and deliberate suppression of the truth.”

Our world is hurting. The suffering is overwhelming. My question is this: What is it going to take for God to get our attention?

Oh that God would use these disasters to shake us out of our spiritual stupor, and bring us to repentance, before an infinitely greater wrath arrives.

From Sadness to Gladness

Last Sunday, we had the joy of observing both Christian ordinances – baptism and the Lord’s supper. It was an extra special day for me because I got to baptize Heidi and watch her share her testimony before the congregation.

I don’t always preach topically on a holiday, but since it was Mother’s Day and we are in-between sermon series right now, I chose to preach on Psalm 119:9, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!”

This passage captures the heartache of barrenness, but also the redemptive love of God, and the power of answered prayer. I was struck how a childless mother illustrates the theme of “great reversal” woven throughout scripture.

It is a painful topic, yet it reminds us God will one day wipe away our tears and correct every injustice. The same God who is “high above all nations” (verse 4) also “raises the poor from the dust” (verse 7).

I loved this note in The ESV Study Bible: “God’s majesty never implies his remoteness from those who look to him; it implies instead his exhaustive attention to detail, and his inexhaustible ability to care for his faithful.” Praise God that he is both transcendent and immanent!

Sunday’s sermon “From Sadness to Gladness” is now available for free download from our church podcast.

Are You Prepared for the Next Earthquake?

Are you prepared for the next earthquake, or other natural disaster?

Yesterday morning, I attended an emergency preparedness workshop at our local Community Center. About forty leaders from local churches and non profits came together to learn how we can partner in time of disaster.

Whether an earthquake, flood, fire, or terrorist attack, there’s a good chance we’ll face at least one major disaster in our lifetime. God doesn’t want us to panic, but he does want us to prepare. (Remember how Joseph prepared Egypt for a devastating 7-year famine).

A few of our church members were around back in 1992 for the Landers earthquake, a magnitude 7.3. To this day, you can see where the earth shifted along Reche Rd. If an event of this scale (or larger) ever struck in a more urban area of Southern California in the middle of the day, it could result in thousands of lost lives; downed power, gas, and water lines; crippled freeways and railways; lost communication; and billions of dollars in damage. The high desert could be isolated for days, or even weeks.

Yesterday, Cheryl Nagy from the San Bernardino County Fire/Office of Emergency Services visited Yucca Valley and gave an excellent presentation. It was just an introduction, but she conveyed the importance of emergency preparedness, and the benefits of creating a local network here in the Morongo Basin. We learned about the four phases of an Emergency: Prepare, Respond, Recover, and Mitigate. It was the first of what we hope will become a basin-wide movement to prepare for disaster.

What can you do? Well, as the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” If you don’t have one already, please create a 72 hour Emergency Kit for your family. Start stocking basic supplies over the next couple months, and keep a small kit in your car. Here is a sample list and downloadable checklist from FEMA. Lord willing, you’ll never need it. But better to be prepared, than to suddenly realize it’s too late.

You should also consider adding earthquake coverage to your Homeowner’s Insurance policy. My family had been without earthquake insurance for years. But after taking Dave Ramsey’s course and evaluating our insurance needs, we did some research and discovered a policy with Geico would only set us back about 50 bucks a month.  That’s a small price to pay compared to the risk of bankruptcy in one minute of disaster.

Wow, how’s that for an encouraging post? If I could leave you with one positive thought, it is that God is control — even over natural disasters. Psalm 135:7 says, “He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightning for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” God is still personally involved in his creation. No wonder they used to call natural disasters “acts of God.”

Pray for God’s protection, take preventative measures, then live every day as a gift from God, free of worry, knowing God is on his throne!

Photo credit: Brian Lopez