Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Making Sense of Senseless Tragedy

No words can truly capture what people feel after watching 20 young children and 7 adults senselessly murdered in Newtown, CT, on Friday, December 14, 2012.  As a father of four boys ranging in age from 3 to 12 years-old, and one child in heaven, whom we lost through a miscarriage, I can’t fathom the loss that those parents and the community of Newtown are feeling right now.  My heart breaks for them.  I’m sure yours does too. 

So how does one make sense of something so tragic and senseless?  There are no easy answers.  Some will ask, “How could a loving God allow little children to be murdered?”  That view suggests that God acts as a puppet master in heaven with strings attached to everyone controlling their every move.  That’s not how God operates.  The reality is that God made people to have the ability to make choices.  Unfortunately, sinful people make sinful choices.

God is not to be blamed for evil in this world.  Satan and sin are to be blamed for the evil in this world.  It was Satan who caused our first two parents, Adam and Eve, to fall into sin (Genesis 3).  As a result, we’ve been dealing with tragedy ever since.  Imagine how Adam and Eve felt as they buried their son, Abel, who was murdered by their son, Cain (Genesis 4).  Because we live in a world that is fallen in sin, we live in a world filled with people who are fallen in sin…including you and me.

As investigators continue to look for the reason why the shooter took the lives of 27 people, we already know the ultimate reason – Satan and sin.  But Satan and sin will not have the last laugh.  Jesus put it this way to His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Notice that Jesus doesn’t deny the awfulness of trouble in this world.  But He offers peace and hope.  He offers the wonderful truth that trouble and tragedy will not win.

That’s because the next day Jesus suffered the awfulness of tragedy at the hands of evil men who crucified Him.  But He did not die in vain.  His death meant forgiveness for you and me.  Just like we demand justice when someone commits atrocities, so also God demanded justice for our sins.  Jesus had to die so that in God’s court room you and I are declared not guilty.  Jesus died to make sin’s tragedy die.  And three days later when He rose again from the dead, He lives to make the tragedy of death itself die.  Jesus wins.  Hope wins.  Life wins.

Actually, that’s what Christmas is all about.  The reason why we celebrate Christmas isn’t because it’s just a cute story of a little baby named Jesus who was born and placed in a manger.  We celebrate Christmas because that little baby named Jesus was for centuries prophesied to be the One who would go from cradle to cross.  We celebrate Christmas because that little baby was born to die that we might live.  He was born to give peace, comfort, hope and healing to people like those of Newtown, CT who are face to face with tragedy. 

That’s what makes our faith in Jesus so important.  He promises that by faith in Him tragedy never wins even though we will experience it this side of heaven.  Those who believe in Jesus will live even though they die (John 11). Because of Jesus, tragedy will never win.  Life does.

So as the people of Newtown, and others who have dealt with tragedies in their life, seek comfort and peace, let’s pray for them.  For those who believe in Jesus they will see their little children again in the endless joy of heaven, never again to be separated by tragedy.  Let’s pray for those families that they find comfort and peace in the only One who is the answer to life’s senseless tragedies, who makes life from death and who promises that one day all the wrong will be made right.

For those of you who are parents, you may be wondering how to talk about tragedy with your children.  That’s a good question.  Here is a link to an excellent resource for this.

-Pastor Chris Johnson, Outreach and Young Adult Pastor

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Train a Child

I was so angry. Furious, I screamed and I cried. I stomped on the floor. I ripped my sheets off the bed. I kicked a ball across my room. Then for a moment I stopped and heard a “click” down the hall. I ran to the door and found it locked. “You can’t do this! I’ll get out!” I pounded on the door and all I heard was one sentence, “You can come out when you’ve calmed down.” I gave the door a kick and sat down. I don’t even remember what I was upset about but to this day my moms words still stick to me, “I hope someday you have a child like you.” What if someday I have a child like me? Will I be level headed enough to train a child even in the middle of their tantrum?

Proverbs 13:24 tells us love carefully disciplines. “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” At first glance that may seem pretty harsh. No rod means you hate them – love means you discipline them. Keep in mind that it says love CAREFULLY disciplines! Discipline is fair, fitting, and upholds the child’s dignity. It is not unfair, extreme, and degrading. Discipline used in the correct way leads to respect for parents, teachers, pastors, and even God. Training and discipline go hand in hand and they need to be adjusted according to each child’s need. My children are a lot like me. There are times I get to model level headed patient discipline by removing them when they are flailing on the floor. There are also times I remember sins of my youth and sins as a dad and confess “daddy didn’t handle that correctly.” I think both are extremely important for my children to witness because both give me opportunities to talk about God’s relationship to us, and our sins and His forgiveness. Jesus didn’t come to save perfect people but he came for us.

I’m curious to hear what other parents are doing to “carefully discipline” and “patiently parent”. What do you do? Any good stories? What part of discipline is challenging for you?

-Pastor Eric Hansen, Discipleship Pastor