Monday, December 17, 2012

My Response to Newtown, CT


I am writing what may or may not be the first of multiple posts in response to the massacre this past Friday in Connecticut.  I am praying about the things that I feel need to be said, yet as always say them with as much class possible, speaking the truth, and respecting anyone who reads it.  If I am honest here, I most often hold inside the things I really want to say because I know how I will be judged and possibly treated.  I feel many times that in my position I have to remain silent.  While it is for the best at times, just as many times if not more, I hurt because I am required to hold inside my true feelings.

I am deeply saddened by this tragedy.  I write every bit of this with a heavy heart.  I really cannot even express how sad I truly am about what has happened in Newtown, CT.  I have read stories and watched the news and each time feel an array of emotions.  It breaks my heart to see how these innocent children and adults’ lives ended so prematurely.  I cannot help but feel an incredible amount of remorse and empathy for the parents, classmates, teachers, children, friends, and co-workers who will never again see their precious child, classmate, teacher, parent, friend, and co-worker who they lost.

I believe that if we call ourselves Christ followers then it is only natural for us to empathize for those grieving.  Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  I do not only think that it natural, but I believe that we are supposed to.  Why?  Well if we are Christ followers then it means that we attempt to emulate the character of Jesus in all that we do by following Him.  Jesus is the perfect example of empathy.  He always showed His care for everyone He encountered.  When He was told of the death of Lazarus “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

I believe that respect also goes hand in hand with empathy.  It is one thing to feel remorse for the victims, but at the same time we must show them respect while they grieve.  I think there are many ways we should do this.  First of all, we should not expect them to heal on our time.  One of my favorite quotes that I have heard Pete Wilson say multiple times is that “time does not heal all wounds, God does.”  We need to respect them by allowing them to grieve in their own appropriate amount of time.  I personally am nowhere near those affected by this tragedy, but believe I can accomplish this by not growing tired of hearing about the situation and continuing to pray for them.  Another way we can show respect for them, or anyone who has lost a loved one for that matter, is by not saying “they are in a better place.”  It may be true, or may not according to where they stood in their relationship with Jesus.  Whatever the case, nobody grieving wants to hear that because they now have a void in their lives and in their heart. 

My final thought of how we can respect those grieving is the one mostly likely to be disagreed with and one I will possibly be condemned for.  I do not think the answer here is gun carry permits.  I do not even think that the answer is more gun control (though I am in favor of).  I believe that only true answer is Jesus.  He is the only One who can offer true healing and peace.  This final point that I want to make is that the victims of this situation do not need to hear any opinions on how we need to be carry guns for self defense.  My first question in response to that is “How would people having a carry permit have helped in an elementary school?”  It simply would not have helped at all.  Someone grieving does not want to hear that.  I am not a survivor of this type of situation, but I am a survivor of suicide by a family member who used a gun.  I am someone who relives my own families tragedy each and every time I hear a gun shot or hear talk of guns.  I can tell from our own experience, having more guns is not at all what we wanted to hear in our own grieving.  I have my own beliefs on this that go much deeper, but it is not my main point that I feel the need to make.  The point is that we need to be respectful and empathize with these people who have been affected by this horrific incident. 

I do not want to have an agenda to offend anyone who disagrees with me, because that is the least of what I would want to do.  It honestly breaks my heart to know that I have offended someone.  I mainly want to help others to see another side of things.  I do have many more thoughts on the subject of guns, but today is not the appropriate time for me to share.  It may be another day, and it may not.  It has been good to express my thoughts a bit, because honestly it feels extremely lonely holding in my convictions, only sharing them with my wife, journal, and Lord.

Again, I am deeply saddened and troubled by these events.  I cannot begin to imagine how broken I would be if I had been directly affected.  I believe that it is our responsibility as Christians to lift them up not only in the coming days, but weeks, months, and years.  I know that in a few weeks, most will return back to regular lives and many will not even think about what happened in Newtown.  However for those affected it will still be real everyday.  Life will go on, but it will not go on the same way.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Magi's Worship

As I have been continuing to study the Christmas story this month, I have spent a few days looking into the Magi or more commonly known the "wise men."  I do not want to spend some time speculating about how many there were and when they arrived on the scene but want to look at the three things that stood out to me while studying this that we can all apply.

Matthew 2:10-11 - When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

1)  They rejoiced greatly when they saw the star.  They were overcome with joy that they had found where the Messiah was.  It was not that they had found a treasure, but had found the One they had come so far to worship.  We should be this excited to worship Him always.  Not only on Sunday but also in our daily quiet times.

2)  They "fell" to the ground and worshipped Him.  I looked at several translations and they all say this.  I believe it is important to note that they did not simply kneel and bow, but they fell before Jesus.  It is with this reverence and respect we should always approach God in worship because He is worthy.

3)  They opened their "treasures" to give Him gifts.  This stood out to me because I believe it not only shows that the gifts were of great monetary value, but that they were also important and significant to the owners.  I believe that this shows us that they gave Him their best gifts.  We should always give our best gift to Him in worship, time, and monetary.

Forgive us Lord for when we do not become excited to worship You.  Forgive us for when we do not worship You with the respect and reverence that You deserve.  Forgive us for when we do not give you our best in our worship.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

They Came Running Christmas Concert 12/12/12

Last night for our Wednesday Night Worship we had one of our favorite bands They Came Running do a Christmas Concert and it was an incredible night.  They did a great job of playing some fun Christmas songs as well as talking about Jesus' birth and leading us in some worship.  If you do not own any of their music then I suggest getting it on iTunes.  Also you can get their latest single "Dry and Brittle" for free at theycamerunning.com.  Here are some pictures and videos of the night.












Friday, December 7, 2012

Light In The Darkness


I have challenged the students to read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke early and often this month as we are in the Christmas season.  I read Luke 1 this morning which is the preparation for the birth of Jesus and focuses mainly on Zacharias and Elizabeth and the birth of their son John the Baptist.  So many things stood out to me today but one thing particularly I wanted to share.  At the end of the chapter we see a pretty amazing thing happen.  After they give John his name, Zacharias is able to speak again and he praises God with some beautiful words.  Then in the end he addresses his little son John and prophesies about all that he will do in serving God and preparing the way for Jesus.  Verse 79 really jumped out to me here and he says that John will:  

"shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."  

As I read this over and over I am challenged that I too, and all Christ followers, are to be a light in this dark world.  We are to be the ones who point those living in darkness to the one true light.  I am also reminded of the Christmas worship song "Offering" by Paul Baloche that says "The sun cannot compare to the glory of Your love, there is no shadow in Your presence."  This is not only a beautiful bright light, but this Light, Jesus Christ, is the Light that gives us life.  He is the one that came to earth to die so that we could be reconciled to God.  Let's worship God for being the Light we are in desperate need of.  Let's also commit to shining His light and point those living in darkness to the life giving Light.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

WNW 12/5/12- Prayer Stations

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we spent the night worshiping mainly through prayer in prayer stations.  We began the night by singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "How Many Kings" (Downhere).  I then explained what we were doing and challenged the students to spend the night in conversation with only them and God.  Here are the stations and what they had on the prayer guide to focus on at each:

1)  Sack-Packs
Each week we put together these sack-packs to send home with families who possibly do not always have enough food to eat.  In the kitchen make a sack pack by taking a bag and placing 1 of every item in the bag.  Do not tie the bag yet (taking it to the 2nd station).  If you have enough food to eat on a daily basis then thank God for what you have.  When you are finished, quietly go on to the 9th and 10th grade room.

2)  Encouragement
We pack these meals each week and sometimes may not think much about the home that it is going to.  Take some time right now to write a word of encouragement or share your favorite Bible verse.  If you need some inspiration or help then look at the sample letter on the table.  Once you have written the letter, fold it and place it in the bag and tie the bag in a single knot.  Take a moment to pray over the bag and pray that God would use it to bless the family it is going home to.  Then place it in the box and quietly move on to another room.

3)  Christmas or Consumer
Take a look around (the walls were plastered with sale papers from Black Friday).  The bargains, sales, and purchasing the right gift can often overshadow the true reason of Christmas.  We know that we celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to earth to give His life for us.  Take some time and pray right now asking God if you are focusing too much on the consumer aspect of Christmas.  Pray that He would help you focus on the real meaning this year.  Also spend some time praying for those who are caught up in the consumer aspect of this time of the year that sadly overshadows Jesus too much.  When you are finished move on to another room.

4)  Don't Miss Jesus
Every year you probably read the Christmas story but we often read it on Christmas Day or around that time.  Take some time right now and read the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20.  Read it this time as if you have never read it before and let God speak to you through it.  When you are finished spend some time in prayer thanking God that He sent Jesus to earth and ask Him to help you not miss Him this Christmas season.

Afterward I read Matthew 1:23 that says Jesus is "God with us."  I said that for hundreds of years humanity had been waiting on a way to be reconciled to God and when Jesus born God was with us on earth living for His death where He completes the reconciliation in John 19:30 when He said "It is finished."  I told the students that we are here for them to pray with them at anytime if they are in need of prayer or need to know more about beginning a relationship with Jesus.  I have been praying for the students lately as I am broken for those who do not know Him or who are going through motions.  I am broken that they would come to know Jesus, experience Him, and follow Him like we were created for.  It was a great night and I enjoyed getting the opportunity to pray with a couple students throughout the night.  Great night of worship through prayer!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hearts on Fire 2012 Video

Finally getting around to posting this video I made after we went to the Hearts on Fire Conference.  Enjoy!