|Over the next several weeks, critically acclaimed author Connie Neal will be contributing to CBN.com with an exclusive semi-weekly column devoted to the aftermath of and spiritual recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
dealing with disaster
Jesus on a Roof Top: Where Have You Built Your House?
By Connie Neal
In March of 1977 terrible storms crashed against the homes of the rich and famous, living in Malibu Colony in southern California. In September of 2005 violent hurricanes crashed against the homes of rich and poor Americans, living in the Gulf Coast covering southeast Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. New Orleans flooded; homes – some whole towns – were swept away as Katrina’s violent winds and storm surge hit the coast. In both cases, torrential rains and fast rising waves violently assaulted homes. The streams rose, fierce winds blew against those homes; and the homes came crashing down; at least, many of them did.
Back in 1977, my friends and I had been praying for a way to get into the Malibu Colony – a gated community, home to movie stars and moguls – so we could share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the residents. They were rich in the things of this world, but most would find themselves poverty stricken in God’s kingdom. One night late in March, in the wee hours of the morning, alarms sounded and an urgent message came blaring through the intercom system of our dorms at Pepperdine University.
“Malibu Colony is falling into the ocean! They need immediate help. All students who can help, please go immediately down to the Colony. You will be given instructions when you arrive.” Those of us who had been praying bolted from our beds, threw on clothes and outerwear to shield us from the fierce weather and raced down to help.
The tides had risen above all barriers, revealing that those multi-million dollar mansions were terribly vulnerable. All of them had been built on sand. We started out trying to save the homes; we ended up trying to save the souls of the people living in that precarious position. We settled at the home of Larry Hagman, now best known as J.R. Ewing from the TV series Dallas, back then he was vaguely remembered as Major Healy in I Dream of Jeanie. We worked feverishly, shoveling sand into sandbags, lugging them through the side yard, waiting for the tide to go out, then racing to fill the 30-foot void beneath the gorgeous home before the patio broke off and crashed into the sea. While the tide came in, threatening to come through the glass doors, we held up our hands against the violent waves, prayed for protection of this home, sang songs with choruses like: "Here Comes Jesus, See Him Walking on the Water?"
When the tide went out we raced again to try to fill in a foundation that had never been solid. After five exhausting days of this battle, both spiritual and physical, we walked out onto the sand of the beach which was now about thirty feet lower than the underside of the homes. We looked up – under the house and patio – and marveled at how it remained standing on rickety wooden poles. The house next door had lost most of its patio and the once-lovely “in-ground” swimming pool had floated out to sea on day three. Many of the former mansions were wrecked; everyone who lived in the Colony was severely shaken. And rightfully so.
Surely some of them had been to Sunday school and recalled the parable Jesus told about the foolishness of building one’s house on sand. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:21-27).
When I saw the humble bungalows in New Orleans ravaged by water, along with beachfront mansions blown away by Hurricane Katrina, I was caused to think of the homes of the rich and famous in Malibu crashing into the raging seas so long ago. The looks of consternation and fear on the faces of the people hit by the storms were almost identical. Regardless of any differences, there was a common sense of devastation when all they had accumulated in life – whether little or much – was taken out suddenly.
When the storms of life come crashing over the boundaries we expect to keep us safe, we’re all basically the same. People are not divided into rich and poor, black or white or any other color. Rather, the dividing line is drawn between those whose homes and lives are saved and those whose homes and lives are lost.
While we are doing our best to comfort and help those who have suffered through the recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, we can take to heart a warning from the LORD to all of us. We can also pass it on to those we love. God has a question for each of us: Where have you built your life? Spiritually and practically speaking, where have you built the house that represents your life? What are you trusting to uphold you when the worst hits?
The storms will come crashing in on us all in one way or another, at one time or another. According to Jesus, one thing will make the difference between whether our lives are destroyed or preserved: Did we hear and put into practice the words of Jesus, the Word of God?
In one way, God is being merciful by allowing us to see the devastation that others have suffered without going through it ourselves. This is a dramatic visual forewarning of what is in store for all those who do not live by God’s word. It is hard to watch the suffering of our fellow Americans. Surely God is calling us to give and help those who have literally seen their homes swept away. However, God is also calling all of us to check the spiritual foundation of our life. Are we PRACTICING obedience to God’s will revealed in His Word? Would our lives hold up under terrible pressure?
God is also calling those who have no pretense of being Christians to reconsider what their lives are relying on for security. Already the news media is focusing on the theme of “Are We Ready for the Next Big Disaster?” Most everyone guesses that the answer is a resounding NO! However, the greatest disaster of all is to have the final storm of God’s wrath hit our lives without being grounded securely on the rock of trust in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to inspect the way we have built our lives. It’s not too late to move to solid ground. If we are Christians who have slid a bit, no longer obeying God’s word as the primary guide for our choices and behavior; repent. Let us rebuild by identifying where we no longer practice obedience to God’s Word; ask for forgiveness, receive it, ask God to fill you afresh with the power of the Holy Spirit so that you can live in keeping with God’s word.
If you are not practicing obedience to Jesus – perhaps someone has sent this to you because they are worried for you – please take pause. One day you will be overwhelmed by the storms of life or death. The government won’t be able to reach you in time to save you; your neighbors or Christian relatives won’t be able to save you then. The choice you make today will determine whether your life remains intact or whether you lose everything. Your life may best be seen metaphorically as a mansion, with all the comforts and luxuries this life can afford. Or your life may best be represented by a shack, furnished with poor choices, mistakes in judgment, and regrets. Either way, you can rebuild your life today on the firm foundation of obedience to Jesus Christ. He is the Rock that will save all who build on him. If you are making a decision to “relocate” the foundation of your life today, call a prayer partner (1-800-759-0700) who can help you in that process.
Connie Neal is the author of dozens of Christian books and contributor to several Bible projects including the Kids’ Devotional Bible. Her book Dancing in the Arms of God includes the story of how her family lost almost everything over fifteen years ago and how the love of God demonstrated through caring individuals in the church helped miraculously turn their lives around. God has restored much more than was lost, and opened doors to see their God-given dreams come true.
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