Fire is engulfing Southern California. As I write people are losing their homes and their belongings to smoke and flame. I just read that mandatory evacuations have been issued for tens of thousands of people. I also just read that five souls refused to heed the warning and are now asking for rescue. They expect others to risk their lives to save them from a life threatening danger about which they were fully warned.
I don’t know about you, but I’m shaking my head. On the heels of Hurricane Katrina’s fourth anniversary I recall Kat’s stormy fury and its unbelievable aftermath. I recall the mass exodus out of New Orleans as well as the many that ignored the evacuation warnings, the many that chose home over safety. Images of roof topped people surrounded by water swim in my memory. Many died, may were stranded, many endured nightmares few of us can even imagine. They stand to teach us, their stories scream “Heed warnings!”
Yet there are those who refuse to see, who refuse to believe such a thing could happen to them. Yes, I think you’re with me as I shake my head and wonder how it could be.
But are we so different than they, I wonder? How many of us are warned of danger, yet deny its sting? How many of us refuse healthy living? How many of us shrug off parenthood, thinking all will be well? How many of us choose to abuse substances that pollute our minds and bodies? How many of us defile our being with immorality? How many of us opt out of God and sidle up to something or someone else?
Are we anything like those dear souls surrounded by flames? Have we ignored the warnings, the encroaching heat and smoke? Have others come and cared enough to say “please consider” yet we dismiss their cry and turn our eyes to where the sky is still blue?
We only get a bit of time to get it right, to turn it around, to run from hell. Jesus came and flashed neon warnings that eternal living death is real. We can dismiss it all, laugh it off, call it unenlightened. But someday we’ll know for sure if His Lips ever lie. Until then, we get to choose whether to heed His warning, whether to trust Him enough to follow Him out of harm’s way.
He came to save us from eternal flame, eternal death. He came to save us from that which pollutes our life, defiles our being, deforms our spirit. We get to choose, though…yes, we get to choose…
I leave you with a story Jesus told (Luke 16):
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus [which means “God helped”], covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses [the Ten Commandments guy] and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “