More than a million dead

Since the earthquake – more than one million have died worldwide.  150 000 per day.  Every day without fail a Haiti-sized disaster strikes.  This is not to play down the horror of this crisis.  It’s to awaken us to a daily horror that we accept all too readily.  56 million people – that’s almost the whole UK population – return to dust every year.  And I will be one of those statistics.  Sometime this century.  I live on a fault line every bit as treacherous as the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone.  No house could ever be structurally sound enough.  This world will be the death of me.

‘Not one stone will be left on another, every one will be thrown down’ said Jesus about the house of God (Mark 13:2).  This was just the start of a top-down judgement.  First the flesh and blood House of God was torn apart on the cross.  Then the brick and mortar house of God in AD70.  One day it will be God’s house – the whole cosmos – that comes crashing down.  The stars from the heavens, the sky torn in two, the moon turned to blood.  It’s scheduled for demolition.

Can you imagine how the disciples would have viewed the temple after Mark 13?  For the next 40 years they would visit the temple (e.g. Acts 2:46) but they would never again be taken in by its ‘massive stones’ and ‘magnificent buildings (Mark 13:1).  They knew it was about to be shaken to its foundations.

We know that earth and heaven will be shaken (Heb 12:27-28).  And in the meantime, we see portents.  Earthquakes (Mark 13:8).  This is the world that we know.  Tsunamis destroy, volcanoes erupt, plagues devour, cyclones flatten, wildfires rage and the very earth upon which we stand quakes.

But here’s a surprise.  Jesus doesn’t call these ‘death-throes’.  He calls them ‘birth-pains’. (Mark 13:8)  Because the demolition to which we are heading is, in fact, a palingenesia – the renewal of all things. (Matt 19:28)  This top-down judgement is for the sake of a top-down resurrection.

We’re heading towards ‘the end’ – the goal of all things (Mark 13:7,13); summer (v27); the cloud of His presence (v26); gathering (v27) and the power and glory of the Son of Man (v26).  We’re heading for a new heavens and new earth – a kingdom that ‘cannot be shaken’ (Heb 12:28).

May this earthquake awaken true compassion in us – (here are some places to give money).  May the Body of Christ speak boldly of the Redeemer from all evil (Genesis 48:16) and demonstrate His suffering love in the midst.

But may we also reconsider our own precarious position.  This ground is not solid.  Not right now anyway.  It will be shaken and it groans under the weight of sin and curse.  It will rise up to strike me down and swallow me whole.  Yet so often I marvel at the ‘massive stones’ and’ magnificent buildings’ of ‘this present evil age.’  I cosy up in the demolition site.

May we wake again to the reality of a whole world under judgement.  May seeing these deaths re-ignite our hatred of death.  Every day the tragedy of Haiti is repeated the world over.  But mostly we try to ignore that the last enemy is swallowing everything we love!  Let us wake up and snort with indignation at the grave the way Jesus did (John 11:33-38).

And then, through the lens of His resurrection may we look to the most audacious hope – a new Haiti, secure, prosperous, radiant, gathered under the wings of the Son of Man, every tear wiped away by the Father Himself.

The non-Christian can hope for nothing greater than ‘safer’ buildings on the same old fault line.  And as they labour admirably for this, many will ask why God does not seem to be cooperating with their desire to pretty up the demolition site.  They plan to build some lovely houses on this sand and they imagine God to be standing in the way of their saving purposes.  Of course it’s the other way around.  And of course it’s we who have a small view of redemption.

The Lord has a salvation so audacious He can call earthquakes ‘birth-pains’.  (As can Paul – Rom 8:22).  Certainly they are birth-pains.  But they are birth-pains.  Jesus has a redemption so all-embracing that it will include even these evils.  It won’t simply side-step Haiti, or make the best of a bad situation, it will (somehow!) lift Haiti through this calamity and birth something more glorious out of the pain.

We know this because Jesus began the cosmic shake-down with His own destruction.  And He was perfected through this suffering (Heb 2:10).  His death (Matt 27:54) and His resurrection (Matt 28:2) were attended by earthquakes – they were the original earth-shattering events.  And through this death and resurrection was birthed a new creation reality beyond death and decay (1 Cor 15:54-57).  Where the Head has gone, we will follow, and the whole creation with us.  And as Christ bears and exalts the wounds of His own suffering into eternity, somehow the evils of this last week will also be caught up into resurrection glory.

I don’t pretend to know how and I don’t pretend that this answers our grief or our questions.  It’s the answer of faith and not sight.  But, unlike the answer according to ‘sight’, this answer takes us deeper into the tragedy – we all face this fate (Luke 13:4-5!).  And it points us much higher to its redemption.

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My sermon on Mark 13 from last year

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Posted on by Glen in apologetics, culture, evil, gospel, sermons

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to More than a million dead

  1. Bobby Grow

    Glen,

    One of your best posts I’ve ever read! Excellent and a good balance. I’ve been thinking about the fragility of this life alot lately, and my thoughts have been running concurrent with what you’ve communicated here. We better be ready, this life is short, and if anyone can attest to this Jesus can — He died in the “prime of life” of course, amen, He rose again in the “prime of His life” too ;-) — thank goodness He hasn’t left us as orphans or w/o hope!

  2. Gav

    Thanks mate. Really appreciate the work you have done here!

  3. Glen

    Thanks Bobby and Gav. Great to have you as brothers and friends.

  4. Heather

    Thanks for giving perspective concerning the many horrible things that we see happening these days.

    “Birth pains” is an apt description of what we’re experiencing. In human birth, Mom’s body tends to do all the work automatically. The intensity and frequency goes from
    “Hey, this birth process isn’t so bad–I think I can manage!”
    to “Well, this isn’t as easy as I thought—but if I move just so–and remember to breathe…”
    to “Where’s the morphine???– I’m gonna die!!”.

    But then, right at the end, there’s the opportunity to participate with the contractions and push that baby out. Sometimes it takes minutes or even hours and can be exhausting. But there is relief in being ably to do something. (sorry guys if that’s too much info).

    What I’m saying is that Jesus said that right before “the end”, the Gospel will be preached “throughout the whole world” Matt. 24:14. And God’s people are to actively be part of this, YES?

    Does anyone else ever wonder who will be that final converted soul which prompts God to say “Alright! I’ve recovered all my sheep–”

    We frequently get requests to give to one or another organization to help with disaster, poverty, persecution etc. There are so many needs and my heart just breaks every time I sort through our mail. While it is important to share when God prompts, I have to be careful that the desire is really of God and not just the typical American thing of : ” I’ll just throw some money at the problem to ease my conscience that I’m still doing comparatively well.”
    I’m thankful for the ability to ask God for wisdom, because I’d be a mess, otherwise.

    Something that I believe has helped us choose where and how to best make use of our “talents” is to give gospel-centered groups top billing. There are several that have worldwide impact and I would much prefer a meal or blanket be shared along with knowledge of our only true hope. Just a thought.

  5. Glen

    That’s helpful Heather – do you have some recommendations regarding these gospel centred agencies?

  6. Dave K

    It’s echoing what’s already been said, but that is a great post. I’ve never really thought how paradoxical it is that Jesus calls disasters ‘birth-pains’. Powerful warning, and powerful hope offered. Thank you.

  7. Heather

    Glen,

    The list you linked to looks like a pretty good start. I expect DG ministry has spent time researching good organizations. Some of them I’ve not heard of before. Others (such as Compassion International) I’ve heard good things but not personally been involved.

    We’ve supported the work of Samaritan’s Purse (#6) fairly recently and World Vision (#4) in the past. Both groups go beyond disaster relief in helping communities long term.

    One caution about WV, though. We noticed that this group sends out a LOT of full color mailings asking for donations ( I wonder whether this is the most appropriate use of funds). About every two weeks we can expect to get one with a picture of a starving baby on the front. While I know there is very real need, the tactic seems intended more to create a sense of guilt than actually informing in order that the Spirit might prompt believers to give. The Gospel message doesn’t seem to be quite as prominent as that of physical need. That’s just my perception, though.

    Also, there are ministries specifically targeting persecuted believers in hostile areas. Voice of the Martyrs offers several excellent opportunities to share with hurting brothers and sisters in Christ http://www.persecution.com/public/homepage.aspx

    I would highly recommend partnering with VOM because it serves Christians in their native countries (which also tend to be the ones hit hardest by war, famine and natural disasters). It seems that often, these believers are the ones who can have the strongest spiritual impact on the unsaved in those areas. These Christians speak the language, understand the culture and are living examples of the power of salvation to those who are dying.

    Open Doors is another possible option. They focus mainly on getting Bibles and training to persecuted believers. http://www.opendoorsusa.org/content/category/3/24/152/

    One other group that offers disaster relief is BarnabasAid http://barnabasfund.org/US/Projects/Browse-Projects/BF-Project-Categories/

    We’ve not had personal dealings with this organization, but I did research them and they appear to be a reputable group.

    Recently, I became aware of Chosen People Ministries, which is dedicated to bringing the Gospel to Jewish people. http://www.chosenpeople.com/main/index.php/evangelism/393-a-messianic-center-in-the-heart-of-tel-aviv Those who do not believe in a literal Millennial reign of Christ may disagree somewhat with the doctrinal statement. But the group solidly declares that salvation is through Christ alone…regardless of whether one is of Jewish lineage. Still looking into this one myself, but thought I’d throw it out here for consideration.

    Bottom line: If you feel led to give, it is important to look at several options and prayerfully ask the Lord to give peace about what you ought to be doing. Running crazily around because of an emotional upset really isn’t much better than apathetically doing nothing, IMO.

    One tip: While looking at giving opportunities, consider which one(s) you would be interested in partnering with on a long term basis (as the Lord provides). As you mentioned in your post, Haiti is a big deal at the moment, but there are people all over the world who need Jesus every day.

    God bless.

  8. Heather

    “do you have some recommendations regarding these gospel centred agencies?”

    I tried. It got kind of long and had some links, so maybe your spam filter ate it?

    Perhaps it wasn’t what you were looking for after all, though.

  9. Glen

    Yes unfortunately you were in spam. But now I have freed you!

    Really helpful Heather, thanks.

  10. Inilah Kebenaran

    “Yet so often I marvel at the ‘massive stones’ and’ magnificent buildings’ of ‘this present evil age.’ I cosy up in the demolition site.” Great observation Glen! They might not be focused on building more buildings, but the environmental lobby, both pagan and Christian, seem to be single-mindedly intent on preserving for as long as possible this creation which God has intended in Christ to bring to the renewed creation!
    The Head is out of the womb with His Body to follow. Surely that’s what we long for! Instead, many seem to want to push the Head back in, not wanting the Body to arrive!

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