The purpose of this session is for a quick look at Disasters – both natural, and in our lives and the lives of people around us. The question is why do these happen and what can we learn from them.
From The Simpsons Bible Stories. (From Series 10, Episode 18)
The clip starts near the beginning of the episode, with Reverend Lovejoy preaching in the church on a hot Easter Sunday. The clip then moves into a dream from Marj, who dreams about Adam and Eve. The clip ends after they’ve been kicked out of the Garden of Eden by God (played by Ned Flanders) and Marj says, ‘How long can God hold a grudge..?’ The scene cuts back to the church service with Rev Lovejoy saying, ‘Forever, and ever..’
This clip illustrates that, as we know from The Bible, this world was going to be prone to disasters from the minute mankind rejected God and sin entered the world.
Warning – in this clip there is one part when Homer gets Marj back into the Garden, where he talks about loving the ‘porno tree’. I edited this out when we showed the clip. Warning should also include the point that this isn’t exactly a Scriptural accurate portrayal of Genesis!
Alternative – Simpsons Movie
The Simpsons Movie. Chapter 20. 01:01:19 – 01:03:14 (Millhouse putting a waste basket on his head). You need to cut here, as Bart then says ‘a$$’ in the following dialogue.
Alternative Movie Clip- Day After Tomorrow
DVD Clip Day After Tomorrow – Chapter 31 (Time 1:46:09 to 1:50:50)
This clip is the last scene of the movie. The world is waking up to a new ‘ice age’. There have been survivors found, people have hope of a new world and future and the earth itself seems more ‘purified’ than before, as seen from space.
This clip illustrates the fact that although disaster is bad, it can also bring hope, it can bring positive change, it can force people to work together, to learn new lessons and to purify things.
Throughout the Session
Have some music playing in the background that’s themed to the session or the theme of disaster. I used a varied assortment of ‘Christian’ hip-hop tracks, just to have something different from the usual contemporary worship mix. But think creatively and use whatever you feel is right.
- Discuss with neighbour major disasters that there have been. Then shout out the major disaster that your neighbour mentioned.
- Now name all the recent major disasters that have been averted.. Likely this is much harder to do. Why is this?
We never hear about disasters that have been avoided. Many people ask, ‘where was God’ when bad things happen. But have you ever heard them say, ‘thank God that was prevented’ ? No, because people don’t think like that. So what kind of impact can we have in bringing the message of Jesus to people?
I’ve included a PowerPoint presentation to help with this. The first pages are to do with disasters that have happened. The others are to do with disasters that haven’t happened, or have been avoided, or good hope stories.
God is closer than we think
Truth is that God is not a distant God who doesn’t care about suffering. Apart from anything, we know that Jesus experienced suffering and pain. We also know that he can relate to us in our experiences.
Buy a few newspapers. Check them over and remove dodgy content, if necessary (such as in Saturday or Sunday papers). Keep the news parts of the papers. Then take them along and get people to cut out the stories on one of the following ways:
1. Inevitable or Avoidable Disasters
2. National or International Disasters
3. Natural or Human caused Disasters
4. Disasters that are Religious or Not
Once the stories have been found, you could pin them up on a wall – or paste them onto the floor. If you pin them on a wall, or stick them on a white board, you could then get them to divide the disaster stories in more than one way. Note there are many ways you decide how they could divide up the disaster stories.
How Do We Respond to Disasters
One of our young people said that every disaster demands our response. But how do we do this? Shout out, write up on whiteboard, or write on a long roll of paper across the centre of the floor, how we can respond.
Disaster and God’s Word saving lives
Read Luke 21.20-23.
When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people.
History records that in AD70, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem. Suddenly they stopped and withdrew, for no know reason. During this time, those Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside who knew of Luke 21, escaped from the city to a place called Pella. Then, the Romans went back on the rampage into Jerusalem and destroyed the place. Truly a time where obedience to the Word of God saved people’s lives.
a. Disaster was inevitable once mankind had sinned – Genesis 3, Gen 2.18. See also Deut 30.15.
b. Disaster is often God’s way of allowing / bringing judgement – Gospel was spread through persecution in the early church, and even today. Read Acts 8.1-4, to see that this happened in the early church. We find Paul causing trouble and all except the apostles were scattered. In Acts 8.4 we read, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” And so we see persecution actually extending God’s kingdom. Sometimes God lets stuff happen to re-focus on him.
c. Disaster can also be God’s way of inspiring to action – John 12.24 says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” We see this kind of principle when grasslands are deliberately burned in a controlled way. By doing this, it actually re-generates and increases the life, although some things have to die first. I’ve seen this kind of thing on Dartmoor. But it is true in the spiritual sense too. When my brother was killed in Africa, it led to me becoming a Christian. Who knows what influence God has been able to have through my life, from this seed (my brother) falling to the ground and dying. This has no doubt happened in many ways throughout Christian history.
d. Disaster is also guaranteed for the future – See for example: Matthew 24, Luke 21, Revelation 8 – and other places throughout the Bible where disaster is prophesied.
e. Finally, be encouraged. There is no disaster outside of God’s hand and nothing can come against us for eternity, if we stay in God’s will. More incredibly, we know that we have riches stored up in heaven because of our good works here on earth. We do good works as a sign of obedience and love to Jesus. If you’re a Christian and close to God, it will be hard for you not to do good and Godly things!
We find a real encouragement in the story of Job. Read Job 1.1-3 and compare it to Job 42.12-13. You’ll see the following facts:
|7000 sheep||14000 sheep|
|3000 camels||6000 camels|
|500 oxen||1000 oxen|
|500 donkeys||1000 donkeys|
|7 sons, 3 daughters||7 sons, 3 daughters|
You should notice that Job got back everything in double except his kids. Why do you think this was? The Bible scholar Derek Prince was in no doubt.. In his excellent book, ‘Promised Land: The future of Israel revealed in prophecy’ we read the following statement on page 64:
“When it came to Job’s children, however, God gave him back only as many as he had originally. Why? Because Job’s first children were not lost; God had merely taken them to Himself. They had gone on ahead of Job. What a precious revelation!”
Amazing! And we should be encouraged because of this, especially when we lose Christian brothers and sisters. God sees, God knows, God understands, God has a plan, God is in control. And one day, we will be with him.