tragedy

In response to the Sutherland Springs, Texas mass shooting.

In today's post, I'm tackling a very difficult and painful topic. I'm responding to the mass shooting that happened at a Sunday morning church service in Texas this past weekend in which 26 people were killed - ages 17 months to 77 years.

This is one of the lengthiest posts I've ever written - but it is necessary, in order to address this in the fullest possible manner.

- Frank


Oh my goodness, ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING! And this time it was a church! WHY? That is the haunting question – why is this happening?

Immediately upon the voice leaving the lips with that haunting question, there are those who will herald loudly that it is God’s discipline or judgment on America! They cry out that God has removed His protective hand from a nation that has turned its back on Him. Oh, my friends, why does God always get the blame when something bad happens?

The Scriptures are full of declarations of how good and loving God is, in both the Old and the New Testaments, so why the rush to pin all the bad things on a good, good God?

On the other side of the equation are those who are so quick to defend the reputation of God that they herald just as loudly that God had nothing to do with it, it is just the result of living in a fallen world that is replete with evil and sinful men. We need to remember that God has in his great love, not created robots. He created men with a free choice, and given men the right to exercise that choice, and some men, under the influence of the enemy and their own sinful natures, make very bad choices to hurt other people.

Let’s add some more to this supposition. Could we not also add that this rise in crime and evil is the fruit of a society and culture that abandoned God in the 1960’s? In that decade of “liberation” – we not only removed prayer from schools, we also removed the teaching of Christian ethics and even the concept of the existence of God. Evolution became the standard teaching, wherein man has simply evolved to become the supreme animal, and so he is simply doing today as he has been taught. He is nothing more than a primal animal that has evolved to the top of the food chain, but without a moral compass he is free to do whatever his sinful heart desires to do, and he is choosing to be very, very wicked.

My friends, we need to be biblically honest when confronted with these horrible realities of life. God is good, yes He is. He is so absolutely good, that there is no evil that dwells in Him at all, so says the book of James and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

So let’s get this straight from the beginning, He did NOT cause these recent mass shootings! These horrors were the fruit of the choice of sinful men with evil as their source. On the other hand, let’s remember that God is also omnipotent, so powerful that nothing is impossible with God! This confronts us with a harsh reality:

Though God had NOTHING to do with causing these wicked men from exercising their evil choices, He could certainly have intervened and stopped them in an instant, should He have chosen to do so.

We need to remember this biblical fact and stop trying to defend the reputation of God in these matters, because the truth is God does not even defend His own reputation. Have you ever read Exodus 4:4? There God tells us that He makes the deaf and the dumb, and does not even clarify why He would do such thing! How can that be?

As a parent of two children with special needs, I have repeatedly asked "How can a good God do such a thing and even admit that He does it?" 

Please note my friend, that even in the context of heralding that reality, God offers no explanation at all as to why He would say and do that! And how about Job, poor old Job. Remember all the calamities that God allowed into His life? And in the book of Job, it is made clear that God did indeed allow all those things to happen from the hand of the enemy unleashed on Job.

Yet, when Job finally questioned God, all God did was ask His own questions of Job… “Were you there when I hung the stars in the sky and named them? Were you there when I hung the earth in a balance?” Job, overcome by the sheer greatness of God as revealed in these questions, repented of his questioning of God. He can only muster up what really is the only answer we really have to such questions as to why such evil things happen…. Job says, “I used to say I knew you, but now my eyes really see!” I believe Job is saying, “God, I knew you were big before, but now I am beginning to see how really BIG you are!”

And therein lies our answer to why these horrible, horrible realities of life are occurring. We know that it is men exercising their free will to choose to do evil, and we also know that God is allowing such men to exercise their free will.

So why is He allowing this to occur? WE DO NOT KNOW! God is sooooooooooo VERY BIG AND WISE AND GOOD that we in our puny minds are unable to harmonize all that we see with our eyes, with all that we know about God as revealed in the Bible and in the cross of Jesus.

This is where faith comes in. Faith is defined in Hebrews as the “substance of things not yet seen.” We believe, but we do not see. Hmmmmmm….. and what is it that we believe? We believe as we have been told in the Scriptures that God is good, and God is loving, and God is all powerful. We also believe that God has a plan of summing up all things in Jesus (Eph. 1:8-10) and in doing so one day He will restore all the years that the locusts have eaten, and one day He will wipe away all the tears, and one day He will bring beauty out of the ashes, and turn our mourning into joy, and in that day there will be no more pain, and in that day there will be no more tears…

… and in that day there will only be the experience of peace, rest, joy, love, and we will bask in the glory of God. II Cor 4 tells us that His glory is so going to “oppress us” that it is going to be an eternal weight placed upon us that will be so incredible that the sufferings of this world are not even going to be worthy to be compared to the glory that is revealed – and here is the amazing thing – that glory will be revealed IN US! We are going to radiate in our own lives, in our own person, the glory of the Person of God Himself!The God who refuses to allow anyone or anything to compete with His glory, is going to freely share His glory with His kids.

So why is this happening? I don’t know, I am too small to understand how such tragedy can be used by God to accomplish such good. I do know that God and only God could ever pull that off.

So I, bewildered, and perplexed, place my hand in His and
trust Him Who is so much bigger and better than I am.

Please, please, however, do not hear me being “theological” here, or flippant in any way.

Little kids have died and parents now have empty arms.
Parents have died, and little kids have been robbed of their mommies and daddies.
Some have been robbed of their kind and gentle-hearted grandparents!

Wickedness has devastated so many lives; pain reigns and tears flow! So where is God in all this? That is the question I heard on the morning news as a news commentator asked a pastor that very question, “Where is God?” I won’t go into the pastor’s answer. He did well, but in my own heart of hearts, I would have answered differently.

If someone had asked me, “So where is God when things like this happen?” I would have answered very simply, “He is in the same place He was when His own Son got slaughtered by wicked men exercising their free choice to do evil, and His Father's heart was grieving then just like it is grieving right now. Wicked men have exercised their free choice to do evil once again, and His heart is weeping just like our heart is weeping, for we as believers share His same heart!

Well then, why doesn’t He just send the Lord Jesus back right now and put an end to this madness. Oh please hear my heart, I pray that virtually every day, just as the early church prayed. Maranatha, come quickly Lord Jesus! But do you realize, if he came today and did put an end to this world as we know it, so many, so very many people of unbelief would die in their sins and spend an eternity separated from God.

One morning, not long ago, I was praying that Jesus would return soon, and the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Son, that is a very selfish prayer.” If you know me at all, you will not be surprised by my answer, as I asked the Lord, “Sir, and your point is?” I heard nothing more that morning, I surmise that our Father shook His head as if to say, “What am I going to do with that one?”

I have always been, and I suppose I always will be a “why child” and not settle for overly simplistic Christian jargon or trite cliché. I hope you won’t either.

This is not the time for Christian cliché and jargon.
It is not even a time for contemplation.
 It is a time for action. It is a time, not for “why” but for WHAT!

What are we to do in light of what and who we know about Who God is and longs to be to us! And what are we to do with the horror and degradation and loss that our eyes see on the evening news? II Cor. 1 is the passage that issues forth our marching orders for times such as this! It tells us that we who have been comforted with the comfort with which only God can comfort, are to comfort others!

Oh dear beloved ones of God, do you hear it??

Ours is not to try and figure out what cannot be discerned, ours is to march into the battlefront and unleash the love and care of God into the destruction that the enemy has wrought upon humanity.

Ours is to hold on tight and hug those who mourn, ours is to weep with those who weep, ours is to not try and fix people but just extend the look in the eye and express very little words on our lips.

We cannot fix people who endure such tragedy, so why do we try with such trite stupid phrases like, “It will get better!” or “They are in a better place!”

Don’t you realize that in that moment a mom or dad does not want their child in a better place, they want them in their arms? How insensitive can we be? No, ours is to be quiet, to be available, to love, and if we must speak, if we simply must speak – let it be simple and powerful. “I love you, and I am praying for you!” That is all, and that is enough! In the moment of great anguish, people do not need theology, they need love and comfort and we can be the ones to do that. We can be the ones who offer God the Comforter with skin on…. As we unleash the Spirit of God Who dwells within us unto others to simply love and comfort.

In these very dark days, the world desperately needs to see the light of God, and we are as Jesus said, the light of the world because He, the true light, lives within us to be expressed by us.

As Jesus said, let our good works so shine before men, that the world will have to admit that God is alive because they can see Him in us.

As the Apostle Paul put it in II Cor. 4, “As  the death comes upon us daily from the outside in, the resurrection life can be unleashed by us from the inside out, to overcome the death so that world seeing the death and resurrection lived out in the present tense, will be forced to join the heavenly choir and admit that there is a God!” (My paraphrase). Therefore, we do not quit (II Cor 4:16)

I leave you with the words of Francis of Assissi, “Preach Christ always, and sometimes use words.”

The world has heard our words, it is so dark now they need to see the light of our works – and specifically the works of love and comfort!

 

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Deep Roots

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No matter how hard we try to isolate and insulate ourselves from people and from the fallen world we live in, it is impossible to avoid the “storms of life” that frequently come our way. Jesus said, “The rain falls on the just and on the unjust.” So does all the trauma and loss and grief and sorrow and unmet expectations and disappointments and frustrations and…

So how are we to make it through what the Psalmist calls “the valley of the shadow of death.” Keep in mind, this is NOT talking about making it through the experience of our physical death, but from making it through the experience of death in a fallen world as we live. Well, Hurricane Katrina provides a very powerful statement of how. The people of Grace Life Fellowship did a lot of relief work in the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and also the Mississippi Gulf Coast which was hit extremely hard by that massive hurricane.

It was an eye opening experience to venture to the Gulf, and view the land stripped bare on the shore. Homes were gone! Cars were gone! Even the concrete foundations for many of those homes were gone! It was like someone swept a mighty hand across the shoreline, such as one would use their hand to sweep everything off a table. 

Curiously, one thing remained… the Live Oak trees, with their large and deep root structure, had withstood the storm. Therein lies our answer. Remember what Paul said? We are to be deeply rooted in Christ… that is what will enable us to withstand the storms that seek to strip our lives bare and tear us down. Jesus can give us the power of His own life, to enable us to stand in the midst of those mighty storms of life in a fallen world. I can't help but think of the old hymn writer who cried out, "Hallelujah, What a Savior!"

Reflections on a tough week for our city and our nation

We have gone through some pretty tough circumstances this week in our city of Baton Rouge and in the rest of our country, especially in Dallas. These circumstances have been going on for the last several years and have been getting progressively worse.

I do not believe this platform from which I speak (church) should ever be used politically, however there is an overwhelming amount of biblical evidence that throughout history the prophets of God spoke truth into the circumstances of their society. So with them as my mentors, I would like to take a few minutes to do likewise.

We have encountered tragedy this week. Anytime there is a loss of life in our communities, any life, that loss is a tragedy. The ENEMY, who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy has once again accomplished his evil end. Now there is a lot being said in response to these circumstances, and let’s be honest. A lot of what is being said has the potential to frustrate and anger us because so much of it is nothing more than the thoughts and wisdom of man, who really knows very little concerning how to fix the dilemma that he finds himself in.

I want to address one particular gentleman that I observed on television, who offered a very heartfelt appeal. He said, “THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!” Of course, all of us would agree with that statement. He went on to say though, that we are all God’s children. That is where the Bible would say otherwise. Sadly, no, we are not all God’s children, and that is where the problem lies

Please understand that the United States of America is not a Christian nation. It never has been, and it never will be. There is no such thing biblically as a Christian nation. There are nations and there is the church, the individual Christians who live in those various nations, among and with those who are not the children of God

This is however, a unique nation. Our founding fathers sought to bring God into the governing of this nation in a way that no nation had ever done so in the history of man. This was tremendous. It is such a great privilege for us to be able to live in a nation that put God in such a high place for its culture. This God centered culture of our nation, provided at the very least, an opportunity for there to be a large number of people to become the children of God because there was such a consciousness of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ within the framework of this nation. Further this recognition of God provided a framework for our society that offered a moral restraint, through the establishing of a national ethic of doing what is right versus not doing what is wrong, because it was proclaimed that we all lived in the sight of an Almighty, and Holy God.

This great nation however, has gone awry. 50 years ago, the powers that be, removed God, prayer, and the instruction of a Christian moral ethic out of our school systems, minimizing the previously stated moral ethic our culture had previously enjoyed. 

Having removed God from our culture, man is now being taught in our school systems, that he, man, is the supreme animal in a world of animals. This has had its natural consequence of encouraging man to live in a spirit of self-orientation, self-exaltation, and self-satisfaction. This has fostered a spirit in man that neglects others in the pursuit and conquest of his own agenda. What is worse is that he will pursue his selfish agenda even to the extent that he will abuse others in his selfish pursuit. This is turn, has the potential to usher in a spirit of rebelliousness, for after all, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” This type of rebellious man who is the center of his own existence will live in total disregard for authority and the rule of law that normally governs a society.

Biblically, this is where the rule of government is supposed to provide a semblance of safety for man. It is very clear in Father’s Word, that the government exists to wield the sword, yes, a sword, an instrument of death to punish evil doers in order to protect the innocent. When a government abdicates this responsibility, as ours has, then the spirit of rebelliousness, disregard for authority, and selfish agenda of man will be pursued in ever greater fashion because for man living in such a culture, there will be no fear of consequence for his behavior, as God Himself has mandated there should be such consequence in a moral society. The result, put simply, will be that bad men will abuse other men. This in turn, will inspire fear within the culture, and create a ripe environment for chaos and anarchy.

When this fear occurs, there will ultimately be a response against this evil, to if possible suppress that evil, so that society can continue to exist in peace. Very often, again because of fear, that response may very likely escalate into a reaction instead of a response, which in turn brings its own damage to society. And so we have our recent events, to which there has been so much discussion, and all such discussion is in fact premature.

Investigations must occur, facts must be gathered, before anyone seeks to speak with any authority concerning what has happened in our culture. This includes our government officials who pine for votes and popularity, playing to public emotion and appeal in an effort to maintain their job security. This especially includes our “story hungry media” that fails to report all the facts in an effort to sensationalize these events in order to boost their ratings.

Though the specifics of these events await this judgement that can only come from detailed examination, the culture which prompted these events can and should be addressed NOW, and know for certain that it is occurring as we speak. On television stations, and in government halls, church buildings, barber shops and street corners people are offering their opinions on these matters.

Almost immediately we have had civic and community leaders call for more unification and cooperation to build a community of peace. . Government officials have already begun to demand more laws, even though the laws currently on the books are not being enforced. There are those who will proclaim racism, countered by those who claim statistical evidence independent of racism, and there are those who will call for revenge on both sides of the equation. This is in fact, already occurring on the social media sites and it is ugly. Still others will call for unification and ecumenicalism… love, forgiveness, and tolerance so that hopefully we will be able to live in peace.

That pathway to peace however, will sadly remain just a hope with no potential for reality until the nation decides to return to the roots upon which it was founded… a nation under God! The very minimum we should seek for our country is to return to a God consciousness that would bring all men under a God established morality that would be enforced by a government that functions the way that it was intended to function, punishing the evil and protecting the good.

Of course, as a pastor, my heart would long for more than the just the restoration of a moral consciousness. My heart longs for a loud and sincere proclamation of Jesus and the hearts of men surrendering to Jesus because that is the only way we will truly have peace among men.

I share with you the words of Jesus from Luke 19; 

“If you, even you, had only known on this day 

what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden

from your eyes”

The truth is that men can seek peace with all their hearts, but there can and will be no peace apart from Jesus. The Bible is very clear that there is no righteousness in the heart of man without Jesus, and only Jesus can change a heart. Man needs to get a life… “THE LIFE” that is available only from God and that is what Jesus is all about. The Bible says that it is the one who has the Son, who alone will have “THE LIFE”. This is indeed what Jesus came to offer to all who would place their faith in Him. He said in John 10, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”

The truth is that only Jesus can heal the races. He does that by offering to all men a new and true identity as a child of God. It is this identity that will establish a common ground of oneness among men that will overrule any of our differences. This same identity as a new creation provides us the wonder of having God Himself take up residency within us, and gives man a new heart that will transform a man from the inside out as man experiences the very life of God living in and through Him by faith.

Our culture desperately needs to change. The truth is, however, that is not our job as the church to try and change our culture. In fact, for us to do that would be nothing short of spinning our wheels and wasting our time. Only God can change a heart, and that is why our job as the church is to proclaim the message of Jesus. Our hope is that one by one, men will receive Him, have their hearts changed, and then in turn reach other men who will have their hearts changed, until ultimately there will be so many changed hearts that those changed hearts will change their culture.

It is time for the church to stop being involved in social agendas, cultural reform, and positive thinking. It is time for the church to do what it was commissioned to do so long ago, and that is herald the truth of Jesus so that He can set men free from the bondage of lies and sin that enslaves them. We are not cultural reformers, no we have a much greater responsibility. In cooperation with the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Gospel we are transformers. That is what our country needs more than anything else. Not legislation from without (though the establishment and enforcement of such would help restrain evil), but transformation from within.

There is an old hymn that said it well:

"Rise up oh men of God,

have done with lesser things..."