Sermon "Skill in Your Hand & God in Your Heart"

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Don't Be Like the One Who Missed the Last Boat from Galveston

I remember growing up and hearing my parents talk about Hurricane Hazel that hit in the 50's. That seemed to have been their high water mark for bad hurricanes to live through. For many people in Edgecombe County where I work and now live, theirs is Hurricane Floyd that hit in 1999. Just in the County, 8 people died, hundreds of homes were destroyed, and the whole Town of Princeville was flooded for days. Maybe yet for others it's Hurricane Katrina. Not only were New Orleans and surrounding areas decimated, and over 1800 people killed, but we had the awful opportunity to watch it all play out on national tv.
Though these and others may be the first we think of when we think of horrible hurricanes, none of these were the worst. That deadly distinction goes to the hurricane that hit Galveston Texas in 1900.
At that time, Galveston was the busiest port city in all of Texas. Located on the eastern Texas shore on the Gulf of Mexico, it was and still is the gateway of sea-faring trade from the gulf into Galveston Bay and connecting to major cities in Texas and westward. As important as it was, it was actually built on little more than a sandbar. And as the city experienced major growth in the mid to late 1800's, sand dunes, which provide a natural, protective barrier, were cut down to fill low areas for more development.
The city had been hit by hurricanes before, but nothing major and they always bounced back. I suppose need and greed were great motivators in pushing their citizens to keep rebuilding in such a precarious place. Of course there was constant talk about developing better hurricane protection. Some were even exploring plans for building a sea wall. But officials from the Galveston Weather Bureau said that it was not necessary because it was "impossible for a hurricane of significant strength to hit Galveston". Boy were they wrong.
On September 4, 1900 a tropical storm formed off the northern coast of Cuba. Weather officials in Galveston got word about it, and even talked about it in their weather reports. But they didn't like to use words like hurricane or tornado because they didn't want to panic the people. Most of them were expecting the storm to turn northeast and run along the east coast. But it didn't. By September 5th, the storm was crossing the Gulf and warnings were issued all along the coast. People in Galveston mostly ignored them because when they looked up they only saw partly cloudy skies.So, very few people left.
By early morning on September 8th the last boat had left Galveston. By that afternoon, a nameless hurricane (they didn't name them then) made landfall at what would now be classified as a Category 4. It brought 145 MPH winds and storm surge of over 15 feet (the highest point in Galveston was 8.7 ft above sea level). Over 3,600 structures were destroyed and between 6,000 and 12,000 people were killed making it not only the deadliest hurricane, but also the deadliest natural disaster in US history. So many people died they didn't have enough land area to bury them all. They tried burying them out at sea, but some started washing up on shore. So they piled them and burned them.
Horrible isn't it? I know! And on this side of that disaster, many of us are wondering "Why didn't they just leave when warned?!". It's just so painfully obvious that most if not all of those people could have been saved if they had just erred on the side of caution and left. I mean, unlike a tornado, hurricanes give you that time to pack some stuff and get out of Dodge (or Galveston). Now we have even more advance weather predicting technology, and people can know much further in advance of storms, and yet some still choose not to leave. Why? Do some feel like there is always more time to get out? Do some not believe the warnings or their source? Or do some hear, and think there may be some truth to it, but their rebellious, "I can ride this one out" spirit takes over?
Well I don't come to this post with the right answers, but I do come with a much more important question. Why do people die everyday without heeding the warning of what an eternity without Christ will be like? Ever since the gathering of believers and the founding of the Church, Christians from Peter and Paul all the way to me and some of you have been warning others of the devastation to come. That it will be a disaster that won't just destroy a city, it will destroy the world. But there is a boat that's big enough to carry as many as who will believe, and His name is Jesus. Romans 10:13 says "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Yet without a doubt, many, though warned, will remain to drown in the destruction to come. Why? Do some feel like there is always time to get out? I suppose so. Do some not believe the warnings or their source? I suppose so. Do some hear, and think there may be some truth to it, but their rebellious, "I can ride this one out" spirit takes over?...I suppose so.
Look, I know I can't warn the whole world. But I can at least warn the people I meet and the people who read my posts. And with the love of Christ I say to you, a storm is brewing! It's one that we can't weather. It won't just destroy your house and your possessions. It can destroy your very soul. I know when you look around in your life, it looks like there is only partly cloudy skies if not complete sunshine. It might seem like the world as it is will last forever, and you're wondering what's up with all the fuss. Let me tell you...It WILL all end. But you don't have to go out like that. You can be saved. Just read the bible. See what it says about Jesus. If you are moved in your heart to believe what is says about Him, then tell someone that you do. I mean come on, what have you got to lose if you do and I'm wrong? It's certainly a lot less than if you don't and I'm right. I beg of you, don't be like the ones who missed the last boat from Galveston.

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