Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Praying For Las Vegas, But Then What?

  A few words about living in the aftermath of the Las Vegas Massacre.  I do not use that word without careful thought.  In its noun form, it massacre means the unnecessary indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings.  In its verb form, it means to kill unnecessarily and indiscriminately, especially a large number of persons.  Massacre perfectly describes the carnage that occurred in Las Vegas at the hands of Stephen Paddock.  Most of us continue to pray for those who are grieving, those who are recovering, those who are still fighting for their lives, and those who survived but have traumatized by what happened.

But in reality, many of us are questioning what's going on in our nation.  Politicians are quick to co-opt the event as a platform for their agendas.  Some religious folks will use it as a platform for Armageddon.  Most just worry about the world, the culture, and the mess we seem to be leaving our kids and grandkids.  I write these words not to indict or criticize, but simply to offer some biblically based encouragement in the face of growing evil.  So, here a few thoughts.  

        Where was God when this was happening??  He was where He was when Cain killed Abel.  He was where He was when Moses killed the Egyptian slave supervisor and when Herod murdered the baby boys in Bethlehem.  He was where He was during the agonizing torture and crucifixion of Jesus.  HE WAS THERE!!  God is sovereign and rules over all of creation and more.  But, part of being made in His Image and after His Likeness is the freedom to choose.  In a culture that grows more secular by the day, human beings exercise the power of choice and far too often, we make bad choices.  Some seem fairly benign, but others impact scores or hundreds, or even millions
        We don't know why, Stephen Paddock made a choice on Sunday night, a choice that left 59 families and countless friends grieving, 500+ others who will carry the physical scars of his depravity for the rest of their lives, thousands who will carry the emotional scars for years to come, and a fractured nation that longs for an end to violence, injustice, and inequity.  The problem is that most of the nation rejects, outright or hypocritically, the only One Who can bring an end to those things. 
        God was there Sunday night!!  He was there in the rapid, heroic response of law enforcement, fire/rescue, and other first responders.  He was there in the scores of unnamed heroes who covered the helpless, aided the wounded, and gave comfort to the dying.  He was there in every chaplain, every counselor, and every blood donor.   HE WAS THERE!

        Why does God allow this kind of thing to happen??  See above regarding freedom of choice.  We all make choices.  Some of our choices are motivated by selflessness, sacrifice, and love.  Other choices are motivated by selfishness, self-promotion, and even hatred.  It comes with the territory known as free will.  God-given free will comes with responsibility and when we choose badly, we bear the consequences.  God is not the cause of evil, but He most certainly is the Cure.  When some folks make these terrible choices that do harm to others, God chooses to reveal Himself in the form of those who counter that evil with love, aid, and selfless sacrifice.  

        Will we ever be safe again???  What kind of world will my kids and grandkids inherit??  Unfortunately, according to the apostle Paul, it's only going to get worse.   In 2 Timothy 3:12-13, he writes, ""Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  But evil people and impostors will flourish.  They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived."  (NLT, My highlight)    But then he tells us what we should be doing in verses 14-17:  'But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught.  You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you . . . All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."    So knowing how things will go, we must be faithful to the Lord Jesus, trust the word of God as absolute truth, let that word be the authority in our lives regarding faith and practical issues.  We must teach it to our kids, model it before our kids and be busy doing HIS work.  We must trust the future to the God Who is already there.  

        Some will say, "I'm afraid," but God doesn't want us to live in fear.  He doesn't want us to live angrily, with constant disappointment, or fear.  So what do we combat those things?

1)  When we're angry with God, that's OK as long as we don't put down roots there.  Vent your anger to Him.  When we voice our anger in prayer and then submit to His will, He will strengthen us for whatever we face.  Let you faith in Him be the victory that overcomes your anger.

2)  When we're disappointed with God, that's OK as long as we don't stay there.  In Exodus 5:22-23, Moses first encounter with Pharaoh turned out so badly that Moses actually blamed God.  God listened and then simply recommissioned because God had a plan that Moses knew nothing about.  AND it would be spectacular.  (check out Isaiah 55:8-9)    There is an old cliche that says, "If God brings you to it, He will certainly bring you through it."  Down through the ages, millions of people have realized that life or death, sickness or health, prosperity or poverty, whether embraced or rejected -- Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.  (I John 5:4b)  Let your faith be the victory that overcomes your disappointment!

3)  Some folks react to the storms of life with fear.  In Matthew 8, Jesus and his disciples got into a small boat and started across the Sea of Galilee.  Then, one of those unexpected violent storms blew down from the mountains and the boat began to take on water.  Jesus was sleeping soundly until He was awakened to the sounds of twelve grown men shouting, 'Lord, save us!  We're going to die!'  Jesus, in the midst of that storm, before He even got up, says to them, "Why are you afraid?? You have so little faith!!"  Then He spoke to the wind and the sea and the storm was calmed.  Whatever the storm, Jesus is there!  So let your faith be the victory that overcomes your fears!

Perhaps this could be our manifesto for the future:
        As a follower of Jesus, I will not live in fear nor will I be intimidated into retreating into a comfort zone.  I am a follower of Christ.  I will deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow Him.  (Luke 9:23)  I acknowledge that the Way to follow Him is narrow and difficult, but I will persevere.  (Matthew 7:13-14)  I will encourage my children to follow me as I follow Christ.  (I Corinthians 11:1)  I will nurture my children in faith and encourage them to know Jesus intimately, love Him dearly, and serve Him with a whole heart.  (Ephesians 5:4)  I will pray every day that the Holy Spirit will empower me to be the salt of my environment, creating a thirst among my family, friends, co-workers and others to know the Living Water (John 4) that flows from me.  I will pray that I will be a light (Matthew 5:16) that shines on the darkness of loneliness, isolation, hatred, racism, sexual abuse, immorality, false teaching, and injustice of every sort.  I will because the Great I AM has redeemed me equipped me, empowered me, and deployed me to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that (HE) has commanded us."  (Matthew 28:18-20).  And the greatest promise of all is this -- HE is with us ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE!

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