Thursday, March 05, 2009
What in the world is going on? (Terrorism, natural disasters etc)
For Australians this Summer has been a terrifying one. We have faced the worst bushfires indeed natural disaster this nation has ever known. Three hundred people perished in these fires. Whole towns were wiped out. These communities are still trying to process this tragedy and are still living in a state of emergency. The fire danger however is now over. People will begin to try to return to a normal life. Much of urban society will now return to a normal life.
At a community level people are really hurting. Recently in King Lake a Christian service held in a tent saw 400 people turn out. For a population of 1400, many of them dislocated to other parts, this was a huge turn out. I have no doubt that the need and hunger for God has greatly grown in Kinglake and in Marysville too. It is my particular prayer for both these communities, that as they rebuild Jesus would be at their centre, and I have every confident hope that this will actually happen.
But at a national level we have completely rejected God. Have a read of this in my previous article Australia, I call on you to turn to your God. I fully believe that God is loving and compassionate and that he calls out to Australia. As St Peter writes: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. God waits for the day that Australia will turn to Him, and that he will be glorified. I think there are arguments that the gospel has never permeated Australia. (See my article: The gospel in my heart language.
There is a lot more going on than bushfires in Australia though. There is a world economic crisis that has everyone spooked, and there are now genuine fears that the world is heading for an economic depression. If this follows the trends of the 1930s, then I think that animosities between nations will rise to the surface, and the differences will be pronounced. Former economic partners will become military enemies. This is the breeding ground for war. As yet, people have not turned to God as a result of economic concerns. During world war 2 in Australia, churches were packed as people became concerned about what the future held. In times of serious hardship people called out to God. I wonder how bad things have to get before people will turn to God this time.
Earlier this week the bushfire crisis in Victoria came to an end. There had been significant shame on the part of the government that they felt they had not done enough to warn Victorians about Black Saturday. I do remember the warnings though, and no blame is necessary for these fires. They are a natural tragedy of the world we live in. This week however, high winds were predicted for Monday evening, Tuesday and Wednesday. I had been following the progress of the fires, so as to know how to keep my family safe if they should move toward where we are living. On Monday morning, amidst all the media hype on the bushfires I went down to the CFA control centre in person, to seek further advice on conditions the following day. I learnt that they were hopeful of containing the fires very soon, and that although they had concerns about the wind, the media were blowing things out of proportion and causing people to unnecessarily panic. They were annoyed about this. I took a different perspective on the fires from that point onwards. I knew their location about 30 kms away, and would still keep an eye on things, but I was a lot more calm.
The media were not calm though. They were hysterical. I wonder if the Victorian Premier was overcome with fear also. He is a man who refuses to call on God for help. On Monday evening the Victoria Police sent out an SMS to 5 million Victorians warning them about the bushfire dangers. In my mind this was mass hysteria. People were afraid. I turned on the radio, that was supposed to be broadcasting the cricket, to hear the emergency broadcast instead. Their job was to report on potential dangers, but there wasn't enough to report, because things were more calm than they would admit. I was annoyed that I could not listen to the cricket. Then I heard talkback callers calling in about their fears of job losses. A large Australian clothing company is moving their operation to China, and laying off 1800 workers. Hold on a minute, this was supposed to be an emergency broadcast but instead they were talking about job losses. It was at this point I realised that people needed a way to express their fears, but still not calling on God.
Government had been boasting at the memorial service about how well we pull together, but did not call on God for help at all. Essentially as a nation and a state we were saying "we don't need your help God, we can go it alone." This of course saddens God. But I believe his response was "Oh really, you think you don't need my help, well I will show you that you really do." Then God sent high winds, but they calmed down. People were afraid and in his grace he has now sent us three days of rain, and the fires are all but extinguished. It was God's way of saying "see, you do need my help, you can't do this alone." It has only been since the rain has come that the fires are ending. God is waiting for us to come back to him.
Two days ago a huge tragedy struck international cricket. International cricket teams have stayed away from Pakistan for over a year now for fear of terrorist attacks. They were justified in doing so. Two days ago terrorists directly attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team as they were on their way to a stadium in Lahore Pakistan. This shows an escalation on the part of the Taliban in their boldness to destabilise Pakistan. The Taliban control around 75% of Afghanistan, and the mountainous region of Pakistan. They are determined to control both countries and to get their hands on nuclear weapons that the Pakistan government how hold. On one level this is highly alarming, as the Taliban begin to be gaining the upper hand. But on a spiritual level something else is occurring I believe.
When God's kingdom advances the spiritual enemy gets scared. Demonic forces believe that they control a piece of ground and all people who live there. They have done so for millenia. These same demons know that their punishment is coming at the end of this world, and that they will suffer eternally in hell. So long as they can delay that time, they can delay their punishment. How can they delay this time? By preventing the nations from worshipping Jesus. For as Jesus promised, that when all nations come to know him, the end will come and he will return.
There are changes happening in the Muslim world, but they are beneath the surface. More and more come to believe in Jesus as their Saviour, but they have to be careful for their lives. There have been many stories of people having visions of Jesus and coming to faith. God is drawing the Muslim world to himself. I once heard the story of a husband and wife in Afghanistan. They were both Christians, but neither knew of the other's faith. One day they both turned up to the same underground meeting and discovered they both believed. They were joyously able to share their faith with one another, even if they have to be very careful in public.
I liken the Muslim world to a mountain. Inside the mountain there are many little ants eating away at it. Each time a new person in the Muslim world becomes a Christian, an ant digs another tunnel in the mountain. Each time two believers discover each other another tunnel is joined up. The veneer is still Muslim and people still have to be very careful. One day though, there will be more Christians than not. The mountain will be riddled with tunnels and it will eventually collapse. The veneer will be gone and people will have the freedom to believe. The same will happen in China, but I do not know which will happen first. But I actually think that there are some exciting things happening in the Muslim world, and that it could happen sooner than we think. Have a look at this exciting set of stories from Afghanistan.
When God's kingdom advances, the enemy gets afraid. The spiritual enemy reacts the only way they know how, they lash out in physical violence. These are the kinds of actions we see happening from the Taliban and Al Qaeda in terrorists attacks around the world, whether that be in New York, London, Mumbai or Lahore. This violence is terrible, but it is also a manifestation of a spiritual battle that is even hotter. One day the regime of violence will end and God's kingdom will come.
God is calling to the Muslim world, and I believe that people are responding. God is calling people in Australia too, people in King Lake are beginning to respond. When will the nation? When will other western nations respond? I don't know, but much of what is happening today in the world is one of two things: (1) God calling to people to turn to him (economic disaster) or (2) a violent manifestation of the spiritual battle (terrorism).