A School Shooting Prayer From 100 Years Before There Were School Shootings

From Charles Spurgeon, English pastor (1834-1892):

And now that we have Your ear, we pray for this poor world in which we live. We are often horrified by it. Lord, for our own comfort, we wish that we did not know anything about it. We have said, ‘Oh, for a cabin in some wilderness.’ We hear of oppression, robbery, and murder, and men seem to be let loose against each other. Lord, have mercy on this great and wicked world. What is to be done with these billions? What can we do? At least help every child of Yours to do his utmost. May none of us contribute to the evil directly or indirectly, but may we contribute to the good that is in it.

From his book The Golden Key of Prayer.

What is to be done with this great and wicked world?

Us. We are to be done to it.

We are His body.

Help us to do our utmost. Help us to contribute to the good. Help us to pray and to work and to live and to love rightly.

Help us.

Amen and amen.

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60 Seconds On Evil and God’s Judgment


One of the things the reality of the day of final judgment can do is give you comfort when you are confronted with violent, vicious evil.  God is a Judge, and He is returning.  So every finally unrepentant rapist or murderer or child abuser (or liar or gossip) will give an account and receive God’s fair, just wrath.  

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.

Romans 12:19

The Christian can know that His God, His Father and Friend and King, will account for every wrong and every wrongdoer.  None will slip by him.  Each and every sin will be dealt with in one of two places:  The Cross of Christ or Hell.  He can be comforted by the knowledge that every wicked evildoer who refuses to mourn his sin and believe in Christ will have his sin reckoned to him on the last day.  And for every day after that.  All of them.  Unto eternity.  

There are times when you’re confronted with pure, undistilled evil.  Toxic, nasty, virulent wickedness.  The Bible gives us many such cases, and the children of God often (in Psalms, Lamentations, and the Prophets, for instance) call out to God for justice in the face of them.  “Lord, they have ripped open pregnant women and murdered mother and child.  The have burned the homes of families for sport and spite.  They have maimed and scarred and slaughtered our people.  Please account for this.  Please judge them!”  These are adult feelings for an adult world.  In this groaning creation there are many times where humans do unspeakably evil things and then laugh at the pain they’ve caused and move on, with no true remorse and no second thoughts about doing more of the same evil as long as they can get away with it.  When the Christian sees these evils and is stunned by them, he can apply the truth of God’s final judgment to the grief and confusion in his heart.  

God is returning.  And all will give an account to Him.  

They do not escape His notice, these scoffers.  They do not escape His offer of pardon and re-creation, either.  

“Come, and be made new.  I saved a rotten thief who was right next to me on the day of my innocent execution.  I can save you.  But your sin must be dealt with.  It must be paid for.  Either here or in Hell.”

We can rest in the God of Judgment, Christian.  We worship a wise, loving, and just Judge.  All sins will be accounted for.  

Thankfully, even our own.  

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:12

To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

2 Kinds of Abolition

  
From an abolitionist of 2 kinds, posted in our digital town square, here, for public interest and consumption:

“God defines ‘human.’  Not you, not me, and not any stakeholders in this awful enterprise.  God Is the Author of these persons we call human beings.  

“He is the one who tells us, in His Word, how they are divinely knit together in the womb.  He is the one who told His servant Noah that whoever sheds their blood will have his own blood shed, for men are made in His image.  He is the one who sent His Son to the womb of His servant Mary, to be born and live as a man and save men from their sins.  It is God who is the maker of men, the judge of men, the savior of men, and the Son of Man.  They came from His dust by His doing.  

“We do not define human.  He does.  

There is no ‘spectrum’ of humanity.  Those who say that the victims of this industry do not have the rights of the rest of us since they are not as ‘human’ as we are are both wrong and proud.  They are wrong on what a human is and proud because they think they get a vote on it.  A human is a son or daughter of Adam and Eve, a life knit together by God in His image.  He is the molder, we are the clay.  Let no clay pot call his brother a lesser earthware and cast him aside or smash him to bits.  

He is the Author, not us.  He is the Definer, not us.  Let’s end this awful institution, and pray to God for forgiveness on our nation for all of the human misery, often unheard misery, that it’s unleashed on creation.”

I hope I would’ve had the courage to speak that in 1860, as a moral argument against American slavery.  

I speak it now in 2017 as a moral argument against abortion.

I hope I would’ve been an abolitionist then, but I don’t honestly know, because it’s always easier to fight a dead evil than a live one.  It’s always easier to have moral clarity and courage years and years after the smoke has cleared and the bullets are all rusty souvenirs, buried on a ceremonial battlefield for middle schoolers to unearth on a field trip.  

I hope I would’ve had the courage to fight that evil violation against my human brothers and sisters.  

But I have at least one live struggle I can suit up for now.  

When You See Something Terrible

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I wrote the following* to my wife after seeing a movie with some realistic, hard-to-stomach bad deeds in it (if you’re curious, this is a post explaining why I try to steer clear of outright horror movies anymore).

There are sick and twisted things in the world. And we know they are bad and sick and monstrous because we know, in our souls, what good and beauty are. We know what twisted is because we know what straight is. And the more you know what straight is the more you are saddened and distraught by what is twisted.

But the Man who knew best what good is was not only the most distraught by evil, He was the most victorious over it. And someday when He returns to make all the lies obvious and all the manipulative whispers shouted from rooftops and all the violences thrown into a lake of fire, He’ll also bring all the good men and all the good women to life eternal. All the sinners He’s made saints by His blood and righteousness will be raised to life unending. And what was harmed will be healed, and what was twisted will be eternally straightened.

Evil gets the second word. But God gets the first and the last. And the last one never ends.

*It has been added to slightly for clarity.

When the One Who is Offended is Wrong

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The words “offended” and “offensive” carry a lot of weight, a lot of cultural currency, in our day and place. For most 21st century Americans, if someone tells you what you just said was “offensive,” the conversation stops, your heart speeds up, your palms get a little sweaty. You just did something terrible, and you’re about to be the office/family/neighborhood pariah. If you don’t apologize or walk it back quickly and rightly, you will be culturally radioactive. Contaminated. An untouchable numbskull. A brute, a dolt.

We’re told in John 3 about Jesus’ coming in to the world that “this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

People often hate good things. We are often offended by the light because we don’t want our sinful deeds and loves exposed.

So the fact that something is offensive does not mean it is wrong. The problem, the malfunction, can lie within the one being offended.

How can you know if this is the case?

1) When what is offending him or her is good, beautiful, and true.

If it offends me that Jesus Christ is the rightful King of the Universe, and that I am morally obligated to bend my knees before Him and be joyful about it, then the problem is with me. If it offends me that there is only one God and that He deserves and is worthy of all the worship in the universe, the problem is with me. If it offends me that the new Heaven and new Earth will be filled with forgiven, faithful saints of all races and all languages, there is something wrong in me.

There are times where I am offended by forgiveness. The fact that I am told by Christ to repeatedly forgive those who wrong me, and that if I refuse I might be displaying that I never knew Him or that at the very least I am not resting in His forgiveness, is at times an offense to my bitterness. The problem isn’t with forgiveness, or with God for commanding it.

Antibiotics are offensive to bacteria; good and healthy things are often offensive to bad, damaged, or mutated ones. Mercy is offensive to my grudge-holding, forgiveness offensive to my desire to gossip, worship offensive to my desire to idolize people or things because I still have sin lurking in my heart.

God has told us that many things are good which, at one time or another, in one place or another, have offended people:
-That the Gospel is for Gentiles, too.
-That divorce (apart from extreme circumstances) is sinful and against the will of God.
-That He will resurrect the all the bodies of believers in Jesus who have died.
-That wives should submit to their husbands and not teach or have authority over men in churches.
-That men should sacrifice for and lead their wives in love and holiness.
-That it is sinful and harmful for men to pursue sex and romance with other men, and for women to do so with other women.
-That it is good and beautiful for a man to pursue sex and romance with one woman in faithfulness and marriage.
-That Christ-followers have a responsibility to live like Christ-followers, and to not commit sexual sins, be drunkards, be given to much anger, etc.

Each of the things in this tiny, impossibly limited list are offensive to some people. But spoken and lived the way God commands and teaches them in His Son and His Word, they are wonderful, life-giving, God-honoring truths. If a good thing is offensive, the problem is, in some form or fashion, with the one being offended. Christians can and should address such people and situations with mercy, but also should understand that altering the Word is not an option. God’s Word is wonderfully true. It is beautiful, accurate, and the most reliable source of knowledge and goodness there is.

2) When the person has a long or regular history of being offended.

This one is different from the above one in that it is not universally true. Number 1 is always true: if a good thing offends someone, something is definitely wrong in his or her heart, soul, or body. But this second marker is not necessarily true, not always the case. Someone could be regularly offended in a legitimate way by something truly wicked, nasty, or evil. That said, in a workplace or a family there are often people who feel slighted, wronged, or become outraged at virtually anything. Being told by such a person that what you have said is offensive is still a bit scary, but it usually becomes more and more difficult to take the person seriously. If they really are unreasonably thin-skinned, then I think that’s actually okay.

Again, address such a person mercifully, and remember that those of us who know Christ are commanded not repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17) and are to turn the other cheek when slapped (Matthew 5:38, and being told you have just said something offensive in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner can feel like a slap). But if he is unable to give family or co-workers or friends the benefit of the doubt, if he is unable to forgive words he perceives as wrong or careless (whether they truly are or not), then there is a wrinkle in his own heart that needs to be ironed out.

3) If the person is only ever offended by things that (relatively speaking) impact him or her.

Have you ever met someone who was greatly offended by the idea that the Bible says men should honor their wives as the weaker vessel? I have. And the person I’m thinking of was a man. Admittedly there’s some overlap with number one, here, but allow me a bit of space to explain the nature of this sort of offense.

It wasn’t that wives should submit to their husbands that bothered this man, it was that I told him (lovingly, I think) that he shouldn’t say mean-spirited things about his ex-wife. That the way a man treated women, the way a man spoke about the mother of his children and the wife of his youth, mattered to God. That same man was offended when I told him at a different point that the Gospel was for all races, and that one of the first Gentiles who believed and was baptized in the book of Acts was an Ethiopian.

He was offended because what I was telling him would hinder his bitterness toward his ex-wife and his anger towards African Americans.

This man, a man whom I befriended and care about and tried to share Christ with on numerous occasions, was offended, but not by violence, poverty, oppression, or wickedness that harmed other people. It was almost exclusively hurtful things done or spoken against him that he was offended by.

This third barometer can work even with actual sins committed against us, not just the Word of God being pressed against our twisted hearts. If I am only ever offended by slander when it’s done against me, then even though slander is a sin against God I am revealing that there is something wrong within me. If I am only ever bothered by deceit when I’m the one being lied to, I am not healthily hoping for righteousness and a good world.

If my heart is in line with the God of Scripture, the God of Jesus Christ, I should be offended by:
-The murder of infants in their mothers’ wombs
-Famine and poverty all over the world
-Abuse of the weak, fatherless, widow, or foreigner
-Idolatry in my own heart
-Rampant sin among people claiming to know Jesus Christ

Again, that’s a very limited list, there, but it demonstrates concerns that should be on the hearts of those who love what God loves and hate what God hates.

What we are offended by reveals a great deal about ourselves. It is an open, indisputable display of what we value. What thing, person, relationship, or idea we treasure, prize, and find our identity in. Do I prize my reputation? I’ll be offended when it is tarnished. Do I treasure my political views and political identity? I’ll be frustrated when they are assaulted. Do I value my children? I’ll feel an irritation when something comes against them. Whether it’s a good thing or sin, a beautiful thing we should love (though we perhaps might love too much) or an evil thing we shouldn’t love at all, our hearts’ treasures are very often revealed by what offends us.

I’ll close with an anecdote. I was sitting with a genuinely Jesus-loving, Jesus-following young man a few weeks ago. He was talking about a manger scene here in the Cincinnati area that had received quite a bit of notoriety this past Christmas. The owner of a home in one of our eastern city suburbs, I would imagine for shock value or (less likely) out of a misguided sense of harmless fun decided to put up a mock manger scene in which the “characters” were horrific zombies. The young man was telling me about this, and I was just listening to him, not particularly moved in one direction or the other. Towards the end of his description I was probably getting my aresenal of opinions ready, backed up by the first applicable Scripture I could think of, ready to pounce with a position and defend it with rhetoric. But then he did something that was, quite honestly, beautifully refreshing to a flawed and often false man like me.

As he finished telling about the crib in this mocking manger scene, the place where normally a little statue or a doll representing the baby Jesus Christ would be, but had in this man’s creation been replaced by a gory zombie replica, his face stiffened. His eyes flickered that serious combination of sadness and anger you get when you’re genuinely mad at some nasty violation of goodness in the world. When something awful and wrong has been done, and you want it to stop. Then he said, plainly and with no pretense, “That’s my God.

He wasn’t debating whether such a thing should be legal or restricted. He wasn’t arguing the moral decay of a country that might be the cause of such behavior. Such debates and dialogues have places, but they weren’t the sort of thing that was spilling from his heart and prompting the authentic, visceral anguish in him as he sat across the table from me. They weren’t what I find so refreshing in this memory.

He simply treasured the King, Jesus Christ, and so it offended him to see Him mocked.

I love that imperfect, still-being-sanctified young man’s heart. I love it. I want to emulate it.

His offense revealed what He loved. And in this case the problem was not with him, because he loved, he adored, the thing most worthy of that affection in the entire universe.

His offense was noble because his treasure was true.

Real Social Justice

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A little exercise: I went through the book Amos and wrote the letters “RSJ” next to every time God described real social justice or rebuked real social injustice.

I figured God was a more reliable source of information on justice than Huffington Post or PBS or a Rolling Stone article.

Here are a few insights from God’s book:

*Note: I chose Amos because that particular prophet was especially used by God to condemn large scale oppression and social harms and to proclaim interpersonal righteousness. It isn’t that the rest of the Bible doesn’t speak to social justice. Just that there is a particular emphasis on it in Amos.

Here goes:

“The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing Edom for three crimes, even four, because he pursued his brother with the sword. He stifled his compassion, his anger tore at them continually, and he harbored his rage incessantly.” 1:11

Helpful reminder #1: Real justice involves punishment when there is an injustice. And every injustice will be punished perfectly either in Hell or on the Cross.

“The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing Tyre for three crimes, even four, because they handed over a whole community of exiles to Edom
and broke a treaty of brotherhood.”
1:9

Helpful reminder #2: Real interpersonal, social justice involves keeping promises and covenants we’ve made that are Godly.

“The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing the Ammonites for three crimes, even four, because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to enlarge their territory.” 1:13

Helpful reminder #3: Real social justice is opposed to ripping open pregnant women for greed. And yes, I am unashamedly looking at you, Planned Parenthood.

“The Lord says: I will not relent from punishing Israel for three crimes, even four, because they sell a righteous person for silver and a needy person for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and block the path of the needy. A man and his father have sexual relations with the same girl, profaning My holy Name.” 2:6-7

Helpful reminder #4: Real social justice knows what “righteous” is.

Helpful reminder #5: It cares for the poor and does not abuse them.

Helpful reminder #6: Real justice between human beings involves them being sexually pure before God and to one another.

“The people are incapable of doing right—this is the Lord’s declaration—those who store up violence and destruction in their citadels.” 3:10

Helpful reminder #7: To be truly socially just is to be free of greedy violence.

“They drink wine by the bowlful and anoint themselves with the finest oils but do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore, they will now go into exile as the first of the captives, and the feasting of those who sprawl out will come to an end.” 6:5-7

Helpful reminder #8: Truly socially just people mourn over sin.

Helpful reminder #9: They are not personally materially greedy. It’s always easy to be generous with someone else’s money. If you want to know whether someone is dominated by love of money or possessions, look at where their money goes. Not what tax plan they support.

Okay, there’s a few insights into real justice. Nothing new, but then again good and true things are very old.