Tag Archives: Indonesia

4 Lessons Natural Disasters Teach

It’s Tuesday/Newsday again, where I take a news item or items and give my thoughts about them.  This weeks I take on natural disasters.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard and watched scenes from people facing hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons.  Hundreds of videos and photos have been taken around the world.  The latest technology has inundated us with the most horrific sights imaginable. It is easy to wonder why? What is the point to all this destruction? I quickly want to give four lessons natural disasters teach, but these are not new and fresh lessons; they are more of review lessons that we each need to remember. And these lessons are not only from natural disasters but from life in general.

  1. We live in a fallen and broken world. When you read the book of Revelation, you will see that around God’s throne is a sea of glass, like crystal.  The point of this description is not that it is valuable to us (like streets of gold), but that it was calm. It is not that it was simply crystal clear, but that it wasn’t choppy or wavy or stirred up in a frenzy. It was calm and pure.  We may get glimpses of these moments, but typically winds and tides and earthquakes create waves both great and small.  Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, creation has been getting worse.

    For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now, (Romans 8:19-22, ESV).

  2. God has a purpose behind the destruction and the destructive forces.  During these moments, self-proclaimed prophets often come out and decide that God has told them that these natural disasters are his judgments. That could be true, but it could be false. One needs to be careful about what one says dogmatically.  We know that biblically speaking, natural disasters have been used by God for judgment, but they have also been used as a trial in a person/peoples’ lives.  One need only think of Job and the winds that collapsed the roof of his children’s home on them.  It also could be that God is not judging, but sending a wake-up call.  One needs only to think of Jonah who boarded a ship to Tarshish when a huge storm came upon the sea and lasted until Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. The storm was not judgment as much as it was a “Wake-up (Jonah was asleep in the ship) Jonah, you cannot run from me.” Jesus spoke of the building that fell killing 18.  The lesson was one of a wake-up call, “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” (Luke 13:3-4, ESV).
  3. It rains upon the just and the unjust. This saying was used by Jesus to indicate God’s general grace upon all; which, as believers, we should then imitate:  “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matthew 5:45, ESV).  But it also indicates that in this world what happens to the good will also happen to the bad.  What happens to the bad will inevitably happen to the good.  Very rarely and for specific reasons do we see a people not effected by destructive forces in the Bible.  I can only think of one off the top of my head: the Hebrews while in Egypt, and even then it wasn’t every plague, but only a few (Read Exodus, chapters 4-14, for full context).  Combining the first lesson with the last (see below), this fallen world is fallen for all and upon all.  Though Jesus was able to walk on water through the storm, he still walked through the storm.
  4. Technology cannot save us from natural disasters. Technology can help us to detect some natural disasters, but at this moment, all the tech in the world is defenseless against the destruction.  There is a reason that the Coast Guard and Navy and other specialists wait until the destruction is over to enter. They may go in with all their gear and get as many people out as they can, but when it gets too dangerous, they run for safety until its over. Our technology is no match against the fallen world. We cannot stop hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, or typhoons.  We cannot stop tornadoes or cyclones or monsoons. We have a hard enough time stopping wildfires, taking months to put them out.  Technology is not our savior. Our ultimate salvation is in Christ.  That isn’t to say that Christians will never go through natural disasters; clearly they do (see lesson 3).  It is to say that Christians (true believers in Jesus Christ) will one day enter, because of him, that place with the sea of glass, like crystal.

What other lessons are to be learned from natural disasters? I’d love to hear from you. Please give a comment below.

Church Bombings in Surabaya, Indonesia

Last Sunday, in Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya, three churches were bombed by one family.  At one location a father, Dita Oepriarto, detonated a car bomb.  At another church, his two sons drove a motorcycle into the church courtyard and detonated their explosives.  And at a third location, the mother and two daughters (ages 9 and 12), detonated their suicide vests.  Besides these six souls–deceived by the wiles of Satan–perishing, another twelve souls entered into eternity.

According to reports, this family was just like any other family.  They lived an upper-middle class lifestyle, visited their Christian neighbors, and did nothing that would cause anyone to suspect they were planning on killing as many Christians as they could. One of their neighbors said, “There was nothing strange about the family, they were like other devout Muslim families,” (AP).  Another man who lived close by said, “We really didn’t see it coming,” (AP).

Eighteen people walking around on Saturday, are now either in a place of glorious bliss in the presence of God whom they loved in Christ or they are in eternal torment–still in the presence of the God whom they despised.  Twelve of them never saw it coming.  They had no clue that the day of death and judgment was at hand.

James wrote that life is a mist; it is a vapor that is here for but a moment.  This is your time, but it isn’t a long time if we think about it.  In light of eternity, it’s not even a blip on the radar.  You and I are mists; we’re vapors; we’re smoke.  We’re here one minute and gone the next if we are speaking in an eternal perspective.  Charles Spurgeon said, “Unless we purposely live with a view to the next world, we cannot make much out of our present existence,” (Spurgeon Study Bible).  That’s the perspective we need.  We need an eternal perspective.

Over forty other people are injured due to the attacks at the churches.  I can just about guarantee that none of them expected to be lying in the hospitals in pain or maimed or have their life suddenly and undeniably changed because of a suicide bombing.  Their life-long plans did not include paralysis or disfigurement or chronic pain.  Many will be angry.  Many scared.  Many confused.  My prayer is that these who were hurt will respond in faith, and not just some flimsy faith, but a steadfast faith.

It is easy to say we have faith.  It is altogether different to have to use that faith.  Think of your faith as a bridge.  You are on your way from point A to point B: say earth to heaven.  That’s a long journey for most of us; it typically takes years.  You make a profession of faith, and so the road is laid down.  The problem is that there is nothing to undergird the road.  There are no piers, no bearings, no beams.  You can walk on it for a while, but soon you can go nowhere.  Until beams and bearings and piers are built to hold the bridge steadfast you’re stuck.  That’s what steadfast means.  It means to remain under, to hold you up so you can go forward.  Trials are the builders of faith’s piers, bearings, and beams.

It is so easy to ask why we must face these trials.  We may never know.  But the question is not why, but what.  What is God doing in the midst of these trials and pains and heartaches?  Trials come, and what we tend to see as our enemy actually is what is making us stronger.  It strengthens our faith.  It strengthens our resolve.  But we have to let it do what God has designed it to do.  If we quit—if we walk away—we won’t become whole.  That’s what trials are.  Trials are that bitter medicine that God uses to make us whole.

So in the midst of these trials, I pray that these people will run to Jesus.  In the midst of your trials, I pray that you too will run to Jesus, who is our great example, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God,” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV).  “So,” I pray, “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90:12, ESV).