Join us for 9:00 a.m. outdoor Sabbath service! While we will not be meeting for indoor services for the foreseeable future, we have begun an outdoor service that includes Sabbath school discussion, song-service, and a homily. We chose the 9:00 start time to try to beat the summer heat. We encourage people to bring their own chair, source of shade, and water/beverage to drink.
“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7
My heart continues to be wrenched as I see daily the worsening news reports of fires here in our western states. Apparently the areas of ground burned now total more than the states of Connecticut and Delaware combined. Dozens have died, many more are missing, and thousands of families are now homeless. Fire, though so useful when under control, continues to be a danger that can destroy so quickly when conditions are dry and/or windy, and it gets out of hand.
You have likely heard my theology on disasters before: while I don’t believe God has caused this calamity (see John 9:3 and Matthew 13:28)*, I believe God can use it to bring about a sense of urgency that leads people to not live for merely immediate, temporal things, but rather to turn their thoughts to what they should really be living for and repent. (see Luke 13:1-5).
The truth is, as our quote from 2 Peter above states, none of what we have or see on earth will endure permanently, it all will burn. Given that truth, how ought we to live? Praise the Lord, Peter asks and discusses this question onward in that ch. 3 (the passage is a bit long here to paste in, but I highly recommend you read it). The crux of the matter is: we ought to live soberly and righteously, “without spot or blemish” (v. 14). We look to God to bring us through this and future crises.
The Bible gives us a reminder regarding fire which is uphedl as both a pre-judgment of God and a warning to us: “Sodom and Gomorrah… are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude 1:7. The Bible asks us to take a lesson from the past and turn it into a motivator for repentance and avoidance. We can do the same from the fires we are currently seeing.
Let us take that warning from the Bible’s account of Sodom & Gomorrah, and let us see the devastation with our eyes which the news shows us daily, and let us resolve that we will not let ourselves nor our loved ones meet such a fate in the long-term. Let’s turn to God, who in His mercy gives us warnings. Nobody will have excuse on the day of judgment that they haven’t been warned (See Romans 1:20 & Revelation 14:6-12).
While we would of course rather not live through these crises, nor see the suffering involved, the Lord has seen fit to permit them for the purposes of warning the world and strengthening our characters throughout (see Matthew 24:8 and Romans 5:3-5).
I leave you with two words of comfort from this same passage of 2 Peter 3: “The Lord is… longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (v. 9), and “Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (v. 15).
May God bless you and your families as you endure this time. And as I mentioned last week: please prayerfully consider making a donation to relief efforts through Adventist Community Services (www.communityservices.org), or the Red Cross (www.redcross.org).
Pr. Mark Tatum
(* Clearly though, nothing on earth happens unless permitted by God. It can be a fine line between causing and permitting (see Job 1:9-12 & 2:3-6), which some may say has no relevance in God’s ethics. I believe, however, this distinction is very important. The causer has the blame, while the permitter can justly permit if he has a redemptive purpose for doing so. That purpose is the basis for this whole devotional thought.)