Disaster

A prayer by John Piper, occasioned by the earthquake in Japan – 11th March 2011

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

Does God Hate Haiti?

Albert Mohler’s comments are worth quoting at length:

Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment.

God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now.

A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening.

God’s rule over creation involves both direct and indirect acts, but his rule is constant. The universe, even after the consequences of the Fall, still demonstrates the character of God in all its dimensions, objects, and occurrences. And yet, we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment.

The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger. We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake — at least not so directly. Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course. Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense — in the present? No, we are not given that knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption. [see Luke 13:1-5]

Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young?

Does God hate Haiti? God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. But that means that every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. God does hate sin, but if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts — there would be no hope.

The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe. The entire cosmos awaits the revelation of the glory of the coming Lord. Creation cries out for the hope of the New Creation.

In other words, the earthquake reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real message of hope. The cross of Christ declares that Jesus loves Haiti — and the Haitian people are the objects of his love. Christ would have us show the Haitian nation his love, and share his Gospel. In the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, Christ would have us rush to aid the suffering people of Haiti, and rush to tell the Haitian people of his love, his cross, and salvation in his name alone.

Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ’s people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded, and comfort the grieving. If Christ’s people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti?

If you have any doubts about this, take your Bible and turn to John 3:16.For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. That is God’s message to Haiti.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Reasons Believers in Christ Need Not Be Afraid

Adrian Warnock pointed me in the direction of this encouraging piece from John Piper:

1. We will not die apart from God’s gracious decree for his children.

James 4:14-15

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Matthew 10:29-30

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Deuteronomy 32:39

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (See Job 1:21;1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7)

2. Curses and divination do not hold sway against God’s people.

Numbers 23:23

“There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel.”

3. The plans of terrorists and hostile nations do not succeed apart from our gracious God.

Psalm 33:10

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.”

Isaiah 8:9-10

“Take counsel together [you peoples], but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (See 2 Samuel 7:14; Nehemiah 4:15)

4. Man cannot harm us beyond God’s gracious will for us.

Psalm 118:6

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 56:11

“In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

5. God promises to protect his own from all that is not finally good for them.

Psalm 91:14

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

6. God promises to give us all we need to obey, enjoy, and honor him forever.

Matthew 6:31

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

7. God is never taken off guard.

Psalm 121:4

“Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

8. God will be with us, help us, and uphold us in trouble.

Isaiah 41:10

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:13

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”

9. Terrors will come, some of us will die, but not a hair of our heads will perish.

Luke 21:10-11, 18

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘. . . there will be terrors (!) and great signs from heaven. . . . and some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish.’”

10. Nothing befalls God’s own but in its appointed hour.

John 7:30

“So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (See John 8:20; 10:18)

11. When God Almighty is your helper, none can harm you beyond what he decrees.

Hebrews 13:6

“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

Romans 8:31

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

12. God’s faithfulness is based on the firm value of his name, not the fickle measure of our obedience.

1 Samuel 12:20-22

“And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. . . . For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake.’”

13. The Lord, our protector, is great and awesome.

Nehemiah 4:14

“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.”

Trusting firm promises with you in fragile times,

Pastor John

9:11

“…God will use this tragedy to shake up the world.”

Repent or Perish

Luke 13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; 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 offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

6 Ways to React to the Cyclone

By John Piper.

As the carnage from Cyclone Nargis moves toward 50,000 dead and beyond, there is a way to pray and act:

1. Be softened to the pain nearby.

The Good Samaritan knew nothing of the calamities in first century Burma, but was commended by the Lord for mercies at hand (Luke 10:25-37).

2. Pray for the followers of Christ in Myanmar:

  • That they would be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10; 100:3).
  • That they would be awakened from the illusion that this life is long or sure or the main point of eternal existence (James 4:14).
  • That they would be given a new vision of the supreme value of Christ who promises his followers that famine, nakedness, and death will not separate them from his love (Romans 8:35).
  • That God would meet their needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus, so that they might have to give to those in need (Philippians 4:19; Ephesians 4:28).

3. Pray for the millions of unbelievers near the calamity and far from it:

  • That they would see the helplessness of man before the Power that rules the world and fly to Christ who alone delivers from the final cyclone of God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
  • That they would not respond like the people in Revelation (9:20; 16:9, 11) who did not repent at the devastation but cursed God.
  • That they would hear the best news in all the world—not the news of health, wealth, and prosperity in this world, but the news that Christ became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) so that in him we can be more than conquerors in every calamity of life (Romans 8:37).

4. Pray for those of us who live in the seeming security and prosperity of America:

  • That we would see what is about to break over us in due time—either collectively as God removes the hand of his providential restraint, or individually as one by one we are whisked to the hospital, then wheeled to the nursing home, and then carried to the funeral home (Hebrews 9:27).
  • That millions would be made to see this and repent from the adultery of treasuring anything more than Christ (James 4:4).

5. Give money to replenish the coffers of compassion “since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

6. Muster a team from your church, and when the doors are open, be ready to go.

This kind of going always has the promise of a special, “I will be with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).