EIGHTEEN HERE AND EIGHTEEN THERE…

(written in March, 1994 after the Palm Sunday disaster in Alabama)

Palm Sunday in Alabama started out like most Sunday mornings. The regular worshippers at one Methodist Church got up and dressed for the routine that characterized their lives. This morning was expected to be no different from any other Sunday morning. I’m sure that as the congregation greeted one another at the door of their church, they felt good about being there; they felt safer for their devotion and service to this church, and without exception they all agreed that this was the best church to attend. This Sunday morning, the children were all lined up at the front of the church to give their Easter performances. I’m sure that the congregation was pleased and content with the knowledge that their children were being brought up in the Faith.

It came as quite a shock when the tornado struck! Walls came down and crushed men, women and children to death. The victims listed 18 dead. Many of these were among those children. It all happened so suddenly, and the destruction was complete. In the dazed aftermath, the survivors were all asking the same questions: What happened? And, How come this happened to us? How could such a tragedy happen to folks who, one and all, believed that one of the safest places on earth to be, is in church on Sunday morning?

Do you suppose that these folks will immediately hit their knees to seek from God why this tragedy struck? Or will they all run for cover behind the notion that these things just happen? Tornadoes, after all, are just the product of chance, aren’t they? Isn’t it just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I’m reminded of another 18 people that suffered tragedy in Jesus’ day.

Luke 13:4-5 Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

It matters not where in the scriptures you look, tragedies are never spoken of as chance occurrences. Even the dispensation of rain and snow are dictated by the God of heaven and earth; even a roll of the dice, we are told in Proverbs, is determined at His will. In this statement by Jesus we are explicitly told that tragedies are sent as a judgement upon the unrepentant and that the threat of disaster still exists, except ye repent!

In Abraham’s day, God sent judgment upon Sodom and Gommorha but Abraham pleaded with God to spare these cities if there were even five righteous men found there. Jehovah answered yes to this prayer, but when it came down to the moment of judgement, there weren’t even five. God sent His angel to rescue righteous Lot from that place, and then destroyed the cities with fire from heaven.

I wonder if there was anyone whom the Holy Spirit constrained from going to this church in Alabama on this Sunday morning. Even the Pastor’s daughter was among those who died in this judgment. We who are witnesses to this event ought to pay heed to Jesus’ warning and realize that there is no safety in the approval of our religious peer group and there is no safety in being less of a sinner in comparing ourselves to others. I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will bring to repentance those he left alive in this event, but I can’t help but remember Revelations 9:21:

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk; neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

Such language as this is foreign to us, these days. Apart from those “devil worshippers” of the TV genre, it is hard to understand the Scriptures describing the kind of people we know in terms like these. How many people do you know who worship golden idols? Either this scripture is meaningless, or it describes exactly, how the religious devotion of most men appears to that heavenly judge.

The men of Apostate Christendom build magnificent cathedrals so that they can gather to worship the imaginary Jesus of their own creation. The Jesus of their worship is not the historical Jesus, the incarnation of the true and living God who inspired it to be written that He is not a God who dwells in temples made with hands. Their worship is idolatrous because it denies the explicit revelation given through Jesus Christ our Lord. They deny the validity and pertinence of His Words and the Words of His Apostles. Therefore they are worshipping a nonexistent Jesus, ANOTHER JESUS, an imposter, a DEVIL.

Were the members of this church in Alabama greater sinners than all the others of Christendom? Did the fact that they had a woman Pastor make them greater transgressors than all the rest of the churches? Or are they typical of most other churches of Apostate Christendom where the teachings of Jesus and His holy Apostles are disregarded whenever they are contradicted by Science or Democratic consensus?

The warning of Jesus Christ Our Lord, that unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish, answers the question, “Why?!” He denies that tragedies are a matter of chance; He denies that tragedy is unavoidable; He warns us to know that unless we repent that we are in harm’s way.

The only thing that compels us to consider tragedies to be a matter of chance is the fact that so many seemingly “good Christian people” suffer horrendous disasters in their lives: people that we can hardly conceive of deserving such terrible destruction. We are tempted to ask if they were worst sinners than others, that they should be destroyed, but again, Jesus answers the question by saying, unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. The answer is, No, they were not conspicuously worse sinners than anyone else: they were just common, ordinary sinners.

The most common type of ordinary sinner in our day is the person who likes to say, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace, ” but who also excuses himself from the need to repent by that very same statement, who also is quick to explain away the teachings, commands, and warnings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that they finally have nothing to do with him.

If you don’t think that there is any difference between you and the “good Christian people” who are suffering tragedies all around you, there probably isn’t any difference, and unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.

Without the genuine prospect of Divine intervention and protection, religion is no more than philosophy. The Bible says:

Ps.91:5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Therefore, the onus is upon each and every one of us. Either the Bible misrepresents the Truth of God, or Jesus Christ and the Bible faithfully represents to us that WE CAN AVOID TRAGEDY. It is the Bible that we all profess to believe that explains to us in many ways and in many places, that sin, sickness, and tragedies can be avoided, even down to something as minor as stubbing your toe (read the rest of Ps. 91).

There is a difference between suffering for Christ’s sake, and having the airplane fall on YOUR house. There is a difference between suffering for righteousness’ sake and having one of YOUR children drown in YOUR pool while you are in the house, watching television.

Do you want a way out from under the threats of chance and circumstance? You can begin by repenting from believing the LIE that, “things just happen,” and believe the truth that if you repent, you shall NOT likewise perish.

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