“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” Hebrews 2:1, NIV. There’s so much being said out there today, so much being preached. How do we know what to “pay more careful attention” to?
Hebrews 2:4, speaking of God’s salvation, says, “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.” So, there’s an answer. Let’s pay more careful attention to the things which God Personally testified to. Please consider the following as evidence that God still testifies to His message today, mercifully giving us direction as to what to pay more careful attention to:
It was two or three days after Hurricane Katrina struck America. I was deployed by The Salvation Army with a couple of volunteers and a food truck just east of where the eye of the storm had hit to provide disaster relief – in the way of food, beverages, and overall comfort by whatever means available. I was told to expect to serve 250 people that day.
By one o’clock in the afternoon we had fed 400 people and exhausted the supply of bread that we had been making sandwiches with. There were about 100 people in line yet to be served. They were tired, hungry and, some of them, desperate. They had all been through a lot. At that point, not one Bible had moved; the people just weren’t interested in spiritual matters. They wanted comfort they could touch. It seemed as hot as the blazing sun out, in the August, southern, weather that day. There was no breeze or anything; the air was dead and just plain hot – it was oppressive.
I recall standing in the food truck and looking out of the service window. I could see the countenance of the crowd changing as the news spread down the line, “They’re out of bread. They’re out of bread,” each person turning to the next with growing discontentment.
Some Salvation Army volunteers looked to me and said, “You’re going to have to go out there and talk to the people or there’s going to be a riot!” I was not too excited about such a notion, but they were right.
I exited the food truck to address the crowd. In retrospect, I see that my back was against the wall that day. Not a literal wall, but, I mean, what would you do?! I was being forced to take a stand. I stood abeam the crowd, about 20 to 30 yards away and began speaking from my heart – even shouting, “People, we, in America, can’t complain!”
I had posted, that day, a paraphrase of Psalm 50:23 on a chalk board which was displayed in the food truck window. I continued, “We can’t complain, but we have to observe the Word of God instead.” I pointed to the chalk board and quoted what I had written, “Praise and thanksgiving prepares the way for the LORD, that you can see His salvation.”
I continued a heartfelt message about the reality of God in our everyday lives. I shared with them that I had seen, in a dream, the damage which the Superdome had incurred from the storm, even before the storm hit. I went on to share many other parts of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, verbally asserting my certainty of the things about which I spoke. I spoke of the passionate love God has for us all and how I had come to personally know this love. And even how, at times, it took His loving discipline to keep me on track.
I described to them the difference between praise and thanksgiving, “Praise is acknowledging who God is, and acknowledging His attributes, ‘You put each star in the night sky God – and only You know each one by name. You control times and seasons however it pleases You, and work everything out according to Your very own counsel.’”
I told them that another form of praise is acknowledging God’s sovereignty in all things, “The Bible says that a sparrow doesn’t fall from the sky apart from the will of God. How much more do you think He’s in control of this great storm?!” I exclaimed, “The air is dead and we hear NO birds!”
For the first time in my life I had an idea of what it must be like after a nuclear bomb goes off. Truly, that day, there was an eerie, grievousness, in the air. Nevertheless, I continued, “Thanksgiving would be expressing to God that we are grateful to still be alive today; that we can still seek Him and experience His goodness.”
I intentionally shared my personal relationship with God and my understanding of praise and thanksgiving so that I could get to the passage which so powerfully impressed me earlier that day. It was Luke 13:4-5.
I quoted Luke 13:4 and compared it to Hurricane Katrina, “…those eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? What about those people who died in the storm – do you think they were more wicked than the rest of us in America?” And, at the time, we didn’t know if the number of casualties was ten, twenty, or thirty thousand people. The levies had just broken, there was machine gun fire in the streets and New Orleans was lawless; it was total chaos.
I spoke about abortion, “The Bible says that the blood of Abel cried out for justice. How much more is the blood of 4,000 aborted babies a day crying out to God for justice in our country?!” And adultery, and greed, and drugs; I went on and on with the things that we stand for in America, as if they’re no big deal, “We say that we stand for freedom; but, we stand for greed and prostitution! This storm is an act of mercy to get our attention, and through it, God, in His sovereignty, is saying, ‘Wake up America!’”
I went on, “I tell you, they were no more guilty than the rest of us! And unless we all repent, we too will all perish!” I recall such emphasis from the Lord on the word “all” that day.
You might imagine I was winning no popularity contest. Still, I spoke from my heart and, somewhere along the way, abruptly stopped the heartfelt plea for repentance and exclaimed, “Now we are going to pray!”
I looked heavenward and lifted both of my hands toward the sky. I offered heartfelt praise and thanksgiving to God. It was a brief prayer, maybe a minute or two. I continued by loudly praying, “Father, we have all of this meat [for sandwiches] and all of these hungry people; but, we don’t have any bread. We’re asking for bread now Father, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
At that, I lowered my head and my hands, and turned from the crowd. Just then a man pulled up in a cargo van, hopped out and said, “Hey, I got a van load of gourmet bread. Do you want it?!”
When the man uttered those words, one hundred percent of the crowd broke down in tears and rushed the stack of Bibles that had previously been untouched. We were out of Bibles within two minutes – they got bread from heaven! The people were crying and confessing their sins. God had testified to the validity of the message of repentance and, by His Spirit, they were doing it. They were crying out to Jesus, for Him to forgive their sins and help them. Some of them were committing their lives to God; others were recommitting, everyone was calling on the Name of the Lord!
Well, before we got that van load of gourmet bread moved into the food truck to make more sandwiches, a Salvation Army supply truck arrived with even more bread. We had so much bread that we were giving away a gourmet loaf with every meal.
It’s a touching story, and it’s true. The thing is, it’s been three years and our country has not repented. That entire region has been rebuilt by, and for, the quick buck. Our country continues on the same path. That passage in Luke 13 goes on to tell of a vineyard owner who, after three years of looking, found no fruit and judged the vineyard worthless; he gave instructions to tear it down.
I believe that our God is searching for the fruit of repentance from each of us. I believe that our country is in great danger and that we should “pay more careful attention” to the message which was proclaimed that day. I had just described God as in control of all things, small and great alike. He still confirms His word by signs that follow.
If we will each pay more careful attention to produce fruit of repentance in our lives, our country will be a better place. This is not just a feel good message about God moving on a small group of people after Hurricane Katrina. This is about our country’s security. We are each accountable for America’s well-being, and our day to day actions before God encourage or hinder that well-being – even the nation's security.
Luke 13:8, NIV, “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”