When I first heard the reports of the shooting yesterday at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Texas yesterday, as my wife will attest to…I became physically sick. A mixture of grief over my brothers and sisters suffering, anger, shock and maybe because of experiencing, in very personal manner, all that accompanies the news and ramifications of a shooting like this had me reeling.
I’ve learned over the past few years that when my emotions are high, information is only partial and my head isn’t level, it isn’t wise to express my thoughts publicly. In the immediate aftermath of tragedy, the most appropriate response is grief, silence and earnest prayer…not social/political commentary, answers as to why and “could have/should have” opining. Grandstanding in the wake of so much hurt is the epitome of shameful.
I spent the better part of yesterday evening and this morning praying, thinking and searching for solace. I found that where I always do, in Christ.
Now, with a level head (yet admittedly still without all the answers), as a Pastor who’s been given a measure of influence and a congregation I’ve been charged to care for and lead, I have a responsibility to speak to yet another tragic circumstance. This is a humble attempt to do so.
Our world is broken. Not just our Nation, our world. It is broken.
It’s been broken since Eden. Nothing works as it should. The tragic event that took place yesterday, in Vegas a few weeks ago, in Orlando a while back, in Townville last year, in Benghazi, in Niger, on and on we could go, are a direct result of the consequences of sin. Of man rebelliously shaking their fist at the very God who created them. Wars, rumors of wars, disease and disasters…both natural and man made are all the heinous effects of this world, broken by sin.
Some would say that it’s not always been this way, but since the first bite was taken from a fruit that was forbidden, it most certainly has. Evil has always lurked in the shadows. The difference is, it’s now out of those shadows, proudly parading down main street in mid day. “But wait, we rarely, if ever heard of things like terror attacks or mass shootings in the 50’s” many would reply. That’s true. The thought that our world seems to be seeing an increase in wickedness is warranted. In fact, it’s a Biblical reality. According to the Holy Scriptures, as the Day of our Lord approaches there will be an increase and even intensity of war, threats of war, natural disaster, pestilence & famine. Brother will turn against brother, persecution will grow more and more common, men will be lovers of self and haters of God, desiring to have their tormented souls soothed and entertained with slick talk and self-help devotions instead of convicted and corrected by the Word of God. Lawlessness and a disdain for God appointed authority will grow in a fever pitch, many will turn from the faith and love will grow cold, according to the Word. (Mathew 24)
These are just the birth pains. This is just the beginning. We are here. This is our reality.
In these troublesome, heart wrenching times, the question that begs an answer: What do we do?
Through Tears, We Watch And Wait For His Glorious Appearing
After Jesus had informed His disciples of the terrifying signs of the times, He said, “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” Matthew 24:30-31
He went on to explain that no one knows the date and time in which He will appear so His people should, “Therefore keep watch” (42).
Sure, there are scoffers. Without doubt, there are those who are even reading this very article and with prideful foolishness and disbelief. This too, is a sign that His coming is imminent. Jesus told us that “As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away.” (Matt 24:37-39). Friends, up until the very moment of His return, people will be “doing their thing”. They’ll continue in their foolish depravity. They will view the terrible circumstances that accompany the coming of the “end of this age” as reason to continue their turn from the Lord instead turning toward Him. Even with the signs of the times appearing, in real-time, before their very eyes, there will be those who live as though He doesn’t even exist, forsaking Him, His Word and even His church.
As for His people, we are to watch and wait for His coming. Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
In Obedience, We Seek To Exalt Him
“For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13)
In these perilous times, as children of the Most High God, it is both our duty and delight to live our lives under His Lordship. Is that difficult, given the current state of affairs? Yes. Especially when coupled with the flesh that we struggle with but its not an impossibility because He’s already given us everything we need for both life and Godliness (2nd Peter 1:3).
We have His infallible Word to instruct us as we strive to exalt Him with our lives. It’s not a collection of helpful fables and suggestions. It’s TRUTH and only truth has the power to free us.
As the Psalmist stated, “How blessed is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment,
and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous” (Psalm 1:1-5)
In an age where our world decrees the Bible to be outdated, irrelevant and hate filled, Christian, hold fast to the Word. Walk in its statutes. That’s our calling.
We have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Before the resurrected Christ ascended into Heaven to take His seat at Gods right hand, He made His people a promise: he would not leave us as orphans but would send a helper to empower us to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In our broken world, we have the power, given by the Spirit who has indwelled us, to live lives worthy of His calling.
We have the awesome power of prayer to help us. In the aftermath of yesterdays tragedy, few things were more telling and heart wrenching than the cries of certain journalist, celebrities and even “professing Christians” that asking people to pray for those affected was a spit in the face to those who were hurting. Prayer was cited by multiple people as giving “lip service” when what we really needed was legislation (which is another post for another day, but the notion that making more laws will somehow convince lawless people to adhere to legislation is as foolhardy as it gets). What they obviously cannot comprehend is that prayer is for us, the people of God, the most powerful tool in our disposal. We have not because we ask not. We KNOW that because of the finished work of Christ, we have access to the Holy of Holies. God hears the prayers of His people so “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Brothers and sisters, as we seek to exalt our Savior through our lives, do not cease to pray.
We also have the church to equip, encourage and exhort us to these good works. He loved the church enough to leave Heaven, put on skin, die, rise and come again for. He has made His church His ambassadors here in this broken world. In fact, He explained that this broken world would know that we belong to Him, not primarily through or titles but by the way we love one another (John 13:35). The church is a place where we walk alongside one another, assisting the body of Christ in their desire to exalt the Savior with their lives. The church isn’t perfect and but her Savior is. There is a reason that His Word commands (not suggest) that we not “neglect gathering together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). In these difficult days, in order to exalt the Savior with our lives…make no mistake, we NEED each other, we NEED the church. We’re blessed to have it.
Compelled By Love, We Share Him
In these tumultuous times, the body of Christ MUST be busy sharing the Gospel. It’s the only hope. We say here at Double Spring very often that “belief determines behavior”. The foolishness and evil that is so prevalent in our day has been erroneously labeled as a behavior problem.
No. It’s a issue of belief. What we believe will always determine how we behave.
There’s a commonly held belief that life is cheap and expendable and that convenience determines it’s worth so man has the authority to give and take it away. There’s a belief that there are no moral absolutes, that the wisdom of man or personal preference determines right and wrong. There’s a belief that ultimately, man just ceases to exist therefor there’s no one to answer to.
These beliefs produce abhorrent behavior.
The reality is: life is precious. All life. The world over. Cradle to grave. Red, yellow, black and white. The Lord is the author of life and is the sole authority regarding it. The reality is, truth is absolute. Before the God has established the standards of good and evil, right and wrong. Man has no authority to determine that. Not me, you, republicans, democrats, judges, presidents. His Word is established in the Heavens and cannot be changed on earth. The reality is – all men will stand before Him and give an account. We will all answer to Him. In Hebrews 9:27, the Bible says, “all men are appointed once to die and after this, the judgement“. There is quickly coming a day in which every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
Because of this and compelled by love, those who have called upon His name MUST be active and passionate in sharing the good news of the Gospel in this fallen world. Heaven is real and is beyond the scope of anything that our minds can imagine. Hell is too. One is unimaginable beauty. The other is unimaginable torment. Every person that we come in contact with will one day inhabit one of these two places. Which one is determined by only one thing: A question that Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?”
A fanatic? A historical figure? A good teacher? A crutch for the weak minded religious mans imagination to make him feel better about dying one day? All of these answers lead to weeping and gnashing of teeth.
My Savior. That’s the only reply that leads to eternal life.
In His great commission, we find exactly what we should be doing here in this fallen world, dear brothers and sisters: Not cowering in the safety of our homes or content within the walls of our churches but rather…”Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)
So, what should we do in the wake of tragedy? As we exist in this fallen world? We should passionately and patiently watch and wait for His appearing, live lives that exalt our Savior and share the good news of the Gospel, which is this worlds only hope.