Who would have thought we would ever hear this phrase spoken on a radio news report in America:"Today, about 25,000 refugees were moved from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston."
Jesus criticized the leaders of his day for focusing on the weather and ignoring the signals: "You find it easy enough to forecast the weather — why can’t you read the signs of the times?"Matthew 16:2-3 (MSG).
What are we to learn from all of this? Is God sending us a message?I think so. And, I think we’d be wise to pay attention. There are some spiritual lessons that I think God would want us to learn through this tragedy. The first lesson we see is…
I. THE NATURE OF POSSESSIONS: TEMPORARY
As you’ve listened to evacuees and survivors, have you noticed their words? No one laments a lost plasma television or submerged SUV.No one runs through the streets yelling, "My cordless drill is missing" or "My golf clubs have washed away." If they mourn, it is for people (or pets) lost. If they rejoice, it is for those found.
Could Jesus be reminding us that people matter more than possessions? In a land where we have more malls than high schools, more debt than credit, more clothes to wear than we can wear, could Christ be saying: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15)?
We see an entire riverboat casino washed up three blocksand placed on top of a house in a neighborhood. You see demolished $40,000 cars that will never be driven again, hidden in debris. And in the background of our minds we hear the quiet echoes of Jesus saying, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
Raging hurricanes and broken levees have a way of prying our fingers off the stuff we love. What was once most precious now means little; what we once ignored is now of eternal significance.
A friend and I attended a worship service at Antioch Baptist Church last Sunday night. Several African American Church leaders had organized an assembly to pray for the evacuees that have ended up in San Antonio.Many of them sat on the front rows…dressed in all the clothing they owned: t-shirts, jeans. Their faces were weary from the week. But when the music started and the worship began, they came to their feet and sang with tears in their eyes.
They were rich. Are you that rich? Were all your possession washed away, could you still worship? Would you still worship?If not, you are holding things too tightly:
Through Katrina, Christ tells us: stuff doesn’t matter; people do. Understand the nature of possessions.
II. THE NATURE OF PEOPLE: SINNERS AND SAINTS
We see the most incredible servants and stories of selflessness and sacrifice. We see people of the projects rescuing their neighbors, we see civil servants risking their lives for people they’ve never seen.
We are people of both dignity and depravity. The hurricane blew back more than roofs; it blew the mask off the nature of mankind.The main problem in the world is not Mother Nature, but human nature. Strip away the police barricades, blow down the fences, and the real self is revealed. We are barbaric to the core.
We were born with a me-first mentality. You don’t have to teach your kids to argue. They don’t have to be trained to demand their way. You don’t have to show them how to stomp their feet and pout, it is their nature ….indeed it is all of our nature to do so."All of us have strayed like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own" (Isaiah 53:6).
God’s chosen word for our fallen condition has three letters: s-I-n.Sin celebrates the letter in the middle. "I". Left to our own devices, we lead a godless, out of control life of "…doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it" (Ephesians 2:3 MSG).
You don’t have to go to New Orleans to see the chaos. Because of sin, the husband ignores his wife, grown menseduce the young. The young proposition the old.
When you do what you want and I do what I want, humanity and civility implodes. And when the Katrina’s of life blow in, our true nature is revealed and our deepest need is unveiled: a need deeper than food, more permanent than firm levees. We need, not a new system, but a new nature.
III. THE NATURE OF GOD’S GRACE: INSIDE OUT(Grace: the freely given <unmerited> favor and love of God to mankind)
Much discussion revolves around the future of New Orleans.Will the city be restored? Repaired? How long will it take? Who will pay for it? One thing is for certain: someone has to clean her up. No one is suggesting otherwise. Everyone knows, someone has to go in and clean up the mess. That is what God offers to do with us. He comes into sin-flooded lives and washes away the old. Paul reflected on his conversion and he wrote: "He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Our sins stand no chance against the fire hoses of God’s grace. But he does more than cleanse us; he rebuilds us. In the form of his Holy Spirit, God moves in and starts a complete renovation project.
The most disturbing stories from the last weeks are of thosewho refused to be rescued. Those who spent their final hours trapped in attics and rooms regretting the choice they’d made. They could have been saved. They could have gotten out… but they chose to stay. Many paid a permanent price.
You don’t have to pay that price. What rescuers did for peopleon the Gulf Coast, God will do for you. He has entered your world. He has dropped a rope into your sin-swamped life. He will rescue, you simply need to do what that little girl did, let him lift you out.
I mentioned my visit to Antioch Baptist Church last Sunday night. A local minister, Pastor L. A. Williams gave a message on this one verse: "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord…" (Gen. 6:8).
The minister helped us see all the things Noah could not findbecause of the flood. He could not find his neighborhood. He could not find his house. He could not find the comforts of home or the people down the street–there was much he could not find. But what he could find made all the difference. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah found grace in the eyes of God. If you have everything and no grace, you have nothing. If you have nothing but grace, you have everything.
Have you found grace? If not, I urge you to do what that little girltold us she did. When the rescuer appeared on her porch, she grabbed him, closed her eyes, and held on. That’s all you need to do. And if you never have, and would like to, I urge you to reach for the hand of your rescuer, Jesus Christ.
Your Redeemer lives, too.This hurricane was his tool to get your attention. Trust in Him while you still can.
Max Lucado, (c) 2005