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Tornadoes, Tsunamis, And The Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty by Sam Storms

21 May

tornado 1

I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to the tragedy that struck our community today is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly?

I’m not certain I have the answer to that question, and I write the following with considerable hesitation. I can only pray that what I say is grounded in God’s Word and is received in the spirit in which it is intended.

I first put my thoughts together on this subject when the tsunami hit Japan a couple of years ago. Now, in the aftermath of the tornado that struck Moore and other areas surrounding Oklahoma City, I pray that those same truths will prove helpful to some. Allow me to make seven observations.

(1) It will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature. He can himself send devastation. Or he may permit Satan to wreak havoc in the earth. Yes he can, if he chooses, intervene and prevent a tornado, a tsunami, and all other natural disasters. In the end, we do not know why he makes one choice and not another. In the end, we must, like Job, join the apostle Paul and say: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

(2) God is sovereign, not Satan. Whether or to what extent Satan may have had a hand in what occurred we can never know. What we can know and must proclaim is that he can do nothing apart from God’s sovereign permission. Satan is not ultimately sovereign. God alone is.

(3) Great natural disasters such as this tell us nothing about the comparative sinfulness of those who are its victims. Please do not conclude that the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, are more sinful than any other city that has not as yet experienced such devastation. Please do not conclude that we are more righteous than they because God has thus far spared us from such events. The Bible simply won’t let us draw either conclusion. What the Bible does say is that we all continue to live and flourish not because we deserve it but solely because of the mercy and longsuffering of God. Life is on loan from God. He does not owe us existence and what he has mercifully given he can take back at any time and in any way he sees fit.

(4) Events such as this should remind us that no place on earth is safe and that we will all one day die (unless Jesus returns first). Whether by a peaceful natural death at the age of 90, or by a sudden heart attack at 50, or in a car accident at 15, or by a slow battle with cancer at virtually any age, we will all likewise die. We are not immortal. The only ultimately and eternally safe place to be is in the arms of our heavenly Father from which no tornado or earthquake or tsunami or cancer or car wreck can ever snatch us or wrench us free.

(5) We should not look upon such events and conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are at hand, but neither should we conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are not at hand. What we should do is humble ourselves before the Lord and prepare our hearts for the day of his return, whenever that may be, whether in our lifetime or some distant date centuries from now.

(6) We must learn to weep with those who weep. We must pray for them, serve them, help them, give to them, and do all within our power to alleviate their suffering (even if their suffering is caused by God). We do not have to agree with them religiously or politically to shower them with the love of Christ. Jesus calls upon us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it. The fact is, none of us deserves it. That’s why the Bible calls it mercy: it is undeserved kindness. Remember Luke 6:27 where Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

(7) Pray that God will use such an event to open the hearts and eyes of a city and a state immersed in unbelief and idolatry (and I have in mind not merely Oklahoma, but also America as a whole), to see the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn in faith to him, lest something infinitely worse than a tornado befall them: Eternal condemnation. Eternal suffering.

Article from: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/tornadoes–tsunamis–and-the-mystery-of-suffering-and-sovereignty – May 20, 2013

Who is Sam Storms?

Sam Storms

Sam was born February 6, 1951, in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Both of his parents, as well as his sister, Betty Jane, were Christians. Sam was raised in a Southern Baptist context and came to saving faith in Christ at the age of nine. When he turned ten, his family moved to Midland, Texas, where they lived for the next four years. In 1965, as Sam was entering his freshman year in high school, the Storms family moved to Duncan, Oklahoma, where Sam’s father became president of a local bank. Sam graduated from Duncan Senior High School in 1969, hoping for a career as a professional golfer. He attended the University of Oklahoma where he soon abandoned his plans to play golf (due to the combined factors of incompetence and a notoriously bad temper!).

Near the beginning of his sophomore year at OU, Sam met Ann Elizabeth Mount, to whom he proposed marriage on their first date! Sam and Ann were married on May 26th, 1972. They have two daughters, Melanie (born December 23, 1978) and Joanna (born October 3, 1984), as well as four grandchildren.

After graduation from OU in 1973, Sam entered Dallas Theological Seminary to study in preparation for the ministry. He graduated in 1977 with a Th.M. in Historical Theology. While at Dallas, Sam served as interim pastor of Dallas Independent Presbyterian Church (1974-1977). Upon graduation in 1977, he joined the pastoral staff at Believers Chapel in Dallas, a non-denominational bible church. Sam began his work on a Ph.D. in Intellectual History in 1978 and received his degree from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1984, having written his dissertation on the topic of “Jonathan Edwards and John Taylor on Human Nature: A Study of the Encounter between New England Puritanism and the Enlightenment.”

In August of 1985 Sam accepted a call to serve as Senior Pastor of Christ Community in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he ministered for eight years. In 1993 he resigned his position in order to become President of Grace Training Center, the full-time bible school at Metro Christian Fellowship in Kansas City, Missouri, where Sam also served as Associate Pastor.

Although he never thought he would leave Kansas City, God had other plans, and in August of 2000 Sam accepted the offer to become an associate professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. After four years on the faculty at Wheaton, Sam made the decision to resign in order that he might establish Enjoying God Ministries.

In 2008 Sam became Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sam serves on the Board of Desiring God, Bethlehem College & Seminary, and the Acts 29 Network.

Below is a more formal listing of Sam’s educational background, ministerial experience, and publications (both books and journal articles).

Educational Degrees:

  • B.A. in History, University of Oklahoma (1973).
  • Th.M. in Historical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary (1977)

Thesis topic: “An Analysis of Jonathan Edwards on the Freedom of the Will”

  • Ph.D. in Intellectual History (minor in Aesthetics), University of Texas at Dallas (1984)

Dissertation topic: “Jonathan Edwards and John Taylor on Human Nature: A Study of the Encounter between New England Puritanism and the Enlightenment”

Honors and Awards:

  • Phi Eta Sigma – Freshman Men’s Honorary Society; University of Oklahoma (1969)
  • W. H. Griffith Thomas Scholarship Award – Dallas Seminary (1977; awarded to the student who maintained the highest academic record during the four year program)
  • Charles A. Nash Award in Historical Theology – Dallas Seminary (1977; awarded to the student who did the best work in historical theology for the year)
  • Rollin Thomas Chafer Award in Apologetics – Dallas Seminary (1977; awarded to the student who submitted the best paper in defense of the Christian faith)
  • Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities (1977).

Teaching and Pastoral Background

2008 – present / Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, OK

2004 – present / President of Enjoying God Ministries

2000 – 2004 / Visiting Associate Professor of Theology, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL (Systematic Theology, Historical Theology)

1993 – 2000 / President and Instructor in Theological and Biblical Studies, Grace Training Center (Systematic Theology, Historical Theology [with a focus on history of doctrine, ancient, medieval, and especially Reformation history] NT [both survey and exegetical courses], OT [survey], Ethics, Spiritual Formation).

1993 – 2000 / Associate Pastor, Metro Christian Fellowship, Kansas City, MO.

1985-1993 / Senior Pastor, Christ Community Church, Ardmore, OK.

1977-1985 / Associate Pastor, Believers Chapel, Dallas, TX, and Instructor in Theological and Biblical Studies, Advanced Studies Center.

1974-1977 / Interim Pastor, Dallas Independent Presbyterian Church, Dallas, TX.

Published Writings

  • The Singing God (new edition from Passio, 2013)
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (new and expanded edition from Regal, 2013)
  • Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (forthcoming from Christian Focus in May, 2013)
  • Tough Topics (Crossway, March, 2013)
  • For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (edited, together with Justin Taylor, Crossway, 2010).
  • A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians in 2 volumes(Crossway Publishers, 2010)
  • More Precious than Gold: 50 Daily Meditations on the Psalms (Crossway Publishers, 2009)
  • To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3(Crossway Publishers, 2008)
  • The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians (Crossway Publishers, 2008)
  • Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Religious Affections’ (Crossway Publishers, 2007)
  • Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election (Crossway Publishers, February 2007).
  • Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Enjoying God Ministries, 2005).
  • One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God (Christian Focus Publications, 2004)
  • Pleasures Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God (NavPress, 2000).
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Regal Books, 2002).
  • “Women in Ministry in the Vineyard, U.S.A.”, in The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, Volume 12, Issue 2, Fall 2007, 20-25.
  • “Open Theism in the Hands of an Angry Puritan: Jonathan Edwards on Divine Foreknowledge,” in The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, edited by D. G. Hart, Sean Michael Lucas, Stephen Nichols (Baker Book House, 2003).
  • “Is Imputation Unjust? Jonathan Edwards on the Problem of Original Sin” in Journal of Reformation & Revival, Volume 12, Number 3, Fall 2003.
  • “Prayer and the Power of Contrary Choice,” in Journal of Reformation & Revival, Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 2003, 53-67.
  • “Fettered but Free: Jonathan Edwards on Freedom of the Will,” in A God-Entranced Vision, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway Books, 2004).
  • The Singing God: Discover the Joy of Being Enjoyed by God (Creation House, 1998)
  • “A Third Wave View” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views; ed. by Wayne Grudem (Zondervan, 1996).
  • To Love Mercy: Becoming a Person of Compassion, Acceptance, & Forgiveness (NavPress, 1991).
  • Healing and Holiness: A Biblical Response to the Faith-Healing Phenomenon (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1990).
  • Reaching God’s Ear (Tyndale House, 1988).
  • Chosen for Life: An Introductory Guide to the Doctrine of Divine Election (Baker Book House, 1987).
  • Tragedy in Eden: Original Sin in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (University Press of America, 1985).
  • The Grandeur of God: A Theological and Devotional Study of the Divine Attributes (Baker Book House, 1984).
  • “Prayer and Evangelism under God’s Sovereignty,” in The Grace of God, The Bondage of the Will: Biblical and Practical Perspectives on Calvinism, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995), pp. 215-31 (recently reprinted in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace [Baker, 2000]).
  • “Defining the Elect: A Review Article,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27 (June 1984): 205-18.
  • “Jonathan Edwards on the Freedom of the Will,” Trinity Journal 3 (Fall 1982): 131-69.
  • Review of The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism and Salvation, by Alan P. F. Sell (Baker), in Trinity Journal 4 (Spring 1983).
  • Review of The Worship of God, by Ralph P. Martin, in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (December 1983): 458-59.
  • Review of Offense to Reason: A Theology of Sin, by Bernard Ramm, in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30 (December 1987): 495-97.
  • “A Tribute to S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.” in Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, ed. by John Feinberg (Crossway Books, 1988), pp. 321-23.
  • Brief articles in Decision Magazine, Discipleship Journal.
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