With the latest tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas come many questions, some our own and some from our friends. I ran across this helpful article by pastor and author Lee Strobel that may be of help to you or to those you are engaging who are trying to make sense out of such great sorrow in our world alongside the presence of a good God.
Be steadfast. We are right to trust in the greater goodness of God even when the world seems to have gone mad all around us.
I still remember where I was and what I was doing on that morning 16 years ago today. As my co-workers and I gathered around a television to see what was going on, we watched with a mix of confusion and horror as the second tower of the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground. The moments after that were a fog of bewilderment as we tried to make sense of what we were seeing. May we not forget that there are many today still trying to make sense of the events surrounding 9/11.
No matter the tragedy, trying to make sense of tragedy is elusive. Even though difficult, we are called to love God and love neighbor everyday, even on tragic days.
Here are a four thoughts on dealing with tragedy from a missiological perspective:
We live in a broken world ruled by the enemy. It is easy to forget this fact, but our hope is not in this world, but in one to come. One day there will be no more tears, natural disasters, wars, or loss. King Jesus is coming again to restore the heavens and the earth. Until that day, we need to be aware and live accordingly. We have a responsibility and opportunity to minister compassionately to those around us as they deal with the implications and impact from tragedy in our broken world. Let us #neverforget tragedies like 9/11, but let us also #neverforget that the way we respond in the face of tragedy tells us where our hope lies.
While the people involved in perpetrating evils like 9/11 deserve to be brought to justice, they also deserve our prayers and compassion. Justice and prayer can and should go together. One of the most difficult things to do is to forgive someone who has wronged you. Now, multiply that a hundredfold in times of national tragedy. However, as Jesus followers, we are called to seek justice and love mercy. When faced with tragedy, we have an opportunity to face it with a global mindset and pray for those who wrong you, your neighbors, or your nation.
People perpetuate evil, not entire peoples or cultures. It is hard to call tragedy a mix of good and evil. Psychologists term this an underdeveloped “good-bad” split. In other words, when something bad happens, the tendency is to deny any good. And, when something good happens, the tendency is to deny any bad. Oftentimes, the response to an underdeveloped good-bad split is to attack and judge the other person or thing. The world might seem simpler if everything is either all good or bad, but it’s a bland and cynical world.
In 9/11 we saw a face of terror and Islam that was repulsive and evil. We shouldn’t be surprised by lost people doing evil things because the Bible describes lost people as blinded (2 Cor 4:4), enslaved (Titus 3:3), and dead (Eph 2:1). However, this does not mean that all Muslims or Middle Eastern peoples are terrorists and evil. They, like all peoples and cultures, are a mix of good and bad.
Let’s not take today for granted or assume tomorrow. James 4 reminds us that our lives are but vapors. Not an encouraging thought, but a true statement. Therefore, we need to live our lives with the mindset of Martin Luther, “There are two days in my calendar, this day and that Day.” Live today in light of eternity. Love your family well, take opportunities to share the gospel, and remember that life is more than tragedy because tragedy does not have the final word.
We have just witnessed what might become the worst natural disaster in American history in Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of parts of Texas and surrounding states. Rescue efforts continue as flooding has destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and displaced the families that live in them. We live in an era where we can learn so much about the far away disaster and yet feel so helpless to offer relief. Here are a few ways to support those who are hurting and those who are helping.
Southern Baptist relief was on its way before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has sent supplies to the hardest hit areas. To add financial support to NAMB’s work visit:
At the state level, North Carolina Baptists on Mission (NCBM) has mobilized their mobile kitchens, shower units, laundry units, bunk units, generators and will be providing 30,000 meals a day to feed those affected by Harvey. If you’d like to support the NCBM work you can make a contribution. Please make your checks payable to …
- N.C. Baptist Men/Baptists On Mission
- Designated for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief
Mail to …
You can also give online towards this work at …
Volunteers will be needed to help. If you’re interested in going to Texas to help with the relief work, you can visit www.baptistsonmission.org/hurricaneharvey to learn more about the needs and sign up to volunteer.
This is not the last option, but rather an important, necessary option. Take some time to pray for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by this storm. Pray for all those who have volunteered to go and serve. Pray for their safety as they minister and witness in these hard hit areas. Pray for the witness of ALL the churches in those affected areas; pray that in this darkest hour of human pain, that God’s love would shine forth to all those who are hurting. Your prayers matter. As you pray, ask the Lord to show you how you might respond. I’m sure that He will show you and prompt you for how you might help.
If you have other ideas for how the Church might respond and help with the relief effort, please email or call me at email@example.com or 919-556-1546 (ext. 506).
For the Lord,
I L-O-V-E summer. Even though I am not in school anymore, summer still smells like freedom to me! Summer meant replacing my school books with the pool, the ocean, the rivers, and the woods of South Georgia! (We didn’t have any of that “year round school” stuff back in the day!) My birthday is right in the middle of summer. (Watermelon and homemade ice cream anyone?!) During college, summers meant that my long-distance lady-friend (now wife) and I lived in the same town for a few weeks. Years later, we were married in summer… and our first child was born just last summer.
And yet, none of these are my sweetest summer memories. During the long sunsets of summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I learned to meet with God. That summer, my whole life changed. I stayed up late crying out to God in distress and confusion. I learned to be honest with Him. I learned to sit with a Bible and listen to the ancient words that God spoke to His ancient people…and to me.
This summer, could you make memories with God? Could you use the long days and late mornings (if you are out of school) to deepen your most important friendship?
Wondering how to do that?
Well, if you want to do a devotion together in person this summer, let me know and I’ll be happy to show you how I do devotions! Alternatively, keep reading this post, and I’ll invite you back into my summer days, onto my porch and into my prayer closet, and give you a picture of how I learned to spend time with Jesus.
- Attention: Commit to a particular time and (un-distracting) place. (Psalm 119:37) If spending time with God is a priority, you will have to…well, prioritize it. Choose a time when you’re generally free: morning, evening, afternoon, whatever… and make a regular appointment with God. If people ask you to do something during that time, tell them you already have an appointment! (It’s not lying.) Find a place where you can give your attention to God and His Word. Psychologist William James defined attention as “withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others.” In other words, you can’t meaningfully connect with God’s word and text your friends and check your Snapchat and browse Instagram and play with your sister and do your chores and sleep and binge-watch Netflix all at once. Sorry. Can’t be done. You will have to withdraw from some things in order to give your attention to other things. My advice is to leave the phone behind and take a paper Bible. (Or stone tablet or lambskin scroll or something that has no ability to digi-magically distract you. Embrace the digital withdrawal.)
- Prayer: Start by being brutally honest with God. (Psalm 62:8) If you don’t feel like spending time with God, just tell Him upfront. If you are upset or struggling with something, go ahead and get it out on the table. If some issue or situation is on your mind and you keep thinking about it, talk to God about it. God wants to meet with the real you, not the cleaned-up, churchified version of you. (Pick almost any Psalm and you’ll find prayers from guys who were brutally honest with God… they’ll almost make you blush and wonder if it’s ok to say that to God!) It’s ok to confess sin, or give thanks, or worship, or weep, or just feel “normal”. Start where you are. (It’s even alright if your mind wanders at this point, just talk with God about your mental wanderings!)
- *John Piper’s “I.O.U.S” is a good prayer to help start devotion times. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/one-way-to-avoid-vain-repetition
- Word: Humbly listen to a passage of Scripture. (Isaiah 66:2) Reading through a specific book of the Bible has always been the best way for me to understand the Bible. Since our church is focusing on the theme of “Jesus is Greater”, maybe read one of the gospels and see Jesus in action? Maybe read and re-read the book of Hebrews as our church studies it together?
Reading the Bible is NOT like reading an instruction manual for Ikea furniture assembly. Reading the Bible is seeing God for who He is… and this should melt our hearts in love for Him as we see His winsomeness, His strength, His wisdom, His justice, His passion, His death-embracing love.
How do you read and understand what God is saying in a passage? Don’t over complicate it. Read a chapter or even just a paragraph each day. Ask for God’s help in comprehending the point of the passage. Two questions that can always be asked of any passage is “what does this passage teach me about the nature and character of God” and “how should this passage change me?” Asking these questions leads to the fourth and last step of your time with God.
4. Journal: React and act upon what you’ve read. (James 1:22-23) After you’ve poured your heart out to God and then filled it up with His Word, (steps 1-3) prepare to let God “work on you” for the rest of the day. I do this by just writing a bit in a journal. (I’ve kept short journal entries ever since that summer before my junior year, and I now have over 10 years of my conversations with God, so I can look back and see God’s faithfulness to stubborn old me!) Writing something based on the passage that I just read helps me to focus. Sometimes I just re-write a verse or two that was particularly meaningful. Sometimes I write out my emotional reaction to the passage, even if it involves simple questions or admissions of failure or cries for help. Sometimes I write out an action step that I need to take in response to the passage. (What should I stop doing? What should I start doing?) Basically I’m just talking to God in response to what He just told me through the Bible. Writing it down keeps me focused. Talking/praying out loud can help too!
What does this summer hold in store for you? I hope you’ll discover what I did as a teenager… a God who can be known, because He’s revealed Himself to us in His Word. And I hope that you’ll fall in love this summer. Not with a boy or girl or even summer itself, but with the Lord who created summers and watermelons and waves. Every ounce of joy and fun you experience this summer is but a drop from His finger.
Help us…help me believe Psalm 16:11…that in Your presence there is fullness of joy.
Help us seek you and find you!
Dear North Wakers,
Over the last several months, I have been praying about whether or not to stay active as an elder at NW. After a season of prayer, I feel led that the time to go inactive for a season is now.
Please understand that I fully and wholeheartedly support the NW leadership and truly care for and love all of the elders and all of you. Serving as Elder at NW has been a significant highlight of my life and I am honored to serve in this role with such God-loving men. I have learned a great deal in how to love better, care better, and serve better. It is time, however, for me to take this time for my physical, mental, and spiritual health.
I certainly plan to remain an active and involved member of NW and continue to serve as God leads. I do plan to continue to lead a NW small group. I am excited about what God is doing in our small group and I am anticipating a deeper walk with God as we go forward. I covet your prayers as I continue in this role.
It is challenging for me to pen this note as I love the fellowship of the elders and will truly miss that but also know it is time for me to follow through on this decision.
I do want to take this opportunity to thank the NW body for the ongoing love and support you give the elders. As an elder, I am amazed at the number of challenging issues that confront us. It has been a joy, however, to see how carefully and prayerfully the elders seek to provide comfort and instruction as they pursue God’s best in every situation. The elders shepherd the body tirelessly and need restoration from time to time. Your willingness to set aside time for the staff elders to take sabbaticals is wonderfully generous and very much needed. They need this time for physical and mental restoration and solitude with God. Please, please commit to praying for the elders. Pray for wisdom, effectual counsel, and for individual protection for all these men as they seek to shepherd well.
I appreciate your understanding and covet your prayers as I make this change.
Anchored in Christ,