Blackaby: Natural disasters can point to God’s judgment
LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)--Was divine retribution at work in the tsunami that struck southern Asia in late December? The man whose “Experiencing God” study became an international bestseller thinks so -– a view he says is shared by some Muslim imams.
Henry Blackaby, speaking at a Kentucky pastors’ conference here in mid-January, said he didn’t fully appreciate the significance of the widespread destruction until he saw a map published by the Voice of the Martyrs depicting the most intense regions of Christian martyrdom worldwide.
Blackaby said he noticed that the tsunami hit many of those same regions.
He told a workshop audience that most Christians don’t realize that 400,000 to 450,000 believers are killed annually for their faith, and that many regions of persecution shown the map “match to the T” the tsunami’s swath of destruction.
In an interview after the session, the former director of prayer and spiritual awakening for three Southern Baptist entities noted that even imams are saying the tsunami may be Allah’s judgment on Muslims for failing to act morally and ethically.
“One imam said it’s God’s judgment on [them] because [they} let the infidel tourists come to [their] countries,” Blackaby said. “So all kinds of religious leaders are feeling they have to give an answer.
“[But] if you read the Old Testament, especially, God is very concerned how the nations treat His covenant people,” Blackaby added. “The nations that persecuted, offended and killed His people, God came down and destroyed them. And He’s the same God today. He’s just as concerned about His people.”
Blackaby acknowledged the secular world is likely to “jump all over” such statements, either condemning them or saying that they wouldn’t want to serve a God who would bring that kind of devastation.
He said his response to critics would be, “You ought to see what hell is like. It’s going to be an eternal judgment of God on all people. The final judgment will be more severe than this.”
However, such warnings aren’t restricted to Asia, Blackaby said. He noted that the news media had summarized 2004 as an unprecedented year for natural disasters in this nation.
Each time God sends hurricanes, floods or other calamities He is speaking to His people, Blackaby said.
While not expecting unbelievers to connect anything with God because they don’t think He exists, Blackaby said he expects God’s people to be paying attention, and for the most part they aren’t.
“Many of the pastors never connected 9-11 with God’s warning to people in America -– that He’s beginning to remove the hedge of protection from America because of the sin of God’s people,” Blackaby said. “But God’s people never make the connection with their sin.”
As examples of this wrongdoing, he listed:
Malachi 2 says God hates divorce; what God hates we ought to hate, Blackaby said.
Instead, there are as many or more divorces inside the church than outside: “Divorce in Oklahoma way outdoes any other state in the union. And I’d say, ‘But that’s where we have some of our strongest work.’ Is God indifferent to divorce?”
-- Division among God’s people.
Churches are splitting right and left, but nothing is done about it, Blackaby said. Nor do God’s people deal with the anger and bitterness in their hearts, he added.
--Poor use of finances.
God’s people have more resources to accomplish His work than at any other time in history yet are increasingly selfish, Blackaby said.
“So we build our buildings and let the world go to hell. That’s a sin against God.”
-- Lack of love.
While people generally don’t think of lack of love as a sin, when David repented of adultery he confessed that he had sinned against God alone, Blackaby noted.
Recently, Blackaby said, the director of a statewide network of abuse centers in Texas told him the majority of people coming for help are the wives and families of religious leaders.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” Blackaby said. “And he said, ‘No.’”
Adultery, embezzlement and stealing occur among Christians outside church environments, too, he said.
“I look at people in government, education and you name it who are ... members of churches (and) we’re not holding them accountable for what they do,” Blackaby said. “I think we’ve lost the fear of God.
“And when you lose the fear of God, you lose the fear of sin. When you lose the fear of sin, you lose any sense of accountability. We just don’t believe God will hold us accountable.”
Blackaby said the average church is full of sin, from gossip to broken relationships –- among all denominations, not just Southern Baptists.
The situation has gotten so bad that many leaders are crying out to ask what they can do to stop sin among God’s people, he said.
As the first step, Blackaby suggested pastors return to a vital relationship with God.
“The average pastor would not be able to tell you the last time [he] heard from God,” Blackaby said. “How many pastors boast that they get their sermons off the Internet, or books of sermon outlines? But they’re not bringing a word from God.”
Pastors also need to do a better job of demonstrating unity within their families and teaching their children about the honor of serving God, Blackaby said.
Blackaby said he is astonished at the large numbers of pastors’ children who don’t want to have anything to do with church or any kind of ministry.
In addition, he lamented that many who feel called to missions don’t go through the SBC but a variety of other denominations.
“I would say we’re failing to teach them,” Blackaby said. “I think the pastors, number one, need to teach and they’re not teaching.”
For example, he has heard many pastors say that everything they do in their church must focus on evangelism.
But the Great Commission is not just about soul-winning and discipleship, it includes teaching Christ’s followers to do everything that He commanded, Blackaby said.
“If you’re not teaching your people to practice everything Christ commanded, you’re leaving off the most important part of the Great Commission,” Blackaby said. “God depends on people practicing everything Christ commanded to be the ones He sent out to the rest of the world.”