Church Shooting Reality Check

Sunday morning. Sutherland Springs, Texas. 26 people dead. Aged 5-72. One man with mental problems dead in a crashed SUV. Three days later, questions are answered. Other questions continue to linger. Why did he do this? Why at the church? How does his troubled military career play into all of this? Ironically, or perhaps, providentially, Sunday was a special day in the life of the church. Churches across the nation and around the celebrated the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This was a day where we learned about Christians in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa who face persecution for their faith daily. Many believers listen to the stories and appreciate the prayer time. And they feel thankful that it would never happen here.

Then it did. 1 Peter 4:14 says, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Now, these 26 never thought of themselves that way. They were simply attending church. The same thing they may have done for decades. They didn’t fit the mold that we think of a persecuted believer or martyr. They weren’t put on trial. They didn’t make a famous, “Here I stand” statement. They simply showed up for church. Yes, it happened because of a troubled man who never should have had firearms in the first place. But what small action did the 26 take? They showed for church. And Peter says that they are blessed for their small act of obedience. Peter says that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon them for their small act of obedience.

Coming out of this incident for believers, I believe have a few takeaways. First, be thankful for the safety and security we enjoy that those in persecuted areas of the world don’t. Second, remember that those who died for showing up for church died with the blessing of God upon them. Lastly, let us follow their example and their lead in obedience. The small act of obedience of encountering Christ and worshiping him this Sunday morning.

Ready?

Pastor Li Dexian was just starting his sermon as the doors opened. The Chinese Public Security Bureau had found them. Everyone was threatened, and everyone was arrested. When Li was grabbed, he made a polite, yet firm request. “Wait, please allow me to grab my bag.” he asked the officer.

“What’s in there?” came the reply. Grabbing the bag before Li had a chance to respond, they found a blanket and a change of clothes.

Li was expecting to be arrested. In China, it is legal to be a believer. However, churches must register with the state. This leads to regulation and problems. Thus, many believers attend underground churches in order to truly live out their faith. This is the kind of church Pastor Li led. He was ready when the day came for his arrest. He was expecting it to happen. Yet he faithfully ministered.

1 Peter 4:12 tells us, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Our trials can seem far different than what Pastor Li went through. Yet, they should not surprise us when they occur. Nor should we be caught unprepared for trials. Rather, we should be grounded in reliance upon God in all things. Looking to him in prayer as our protector. Readiness is a sign that there is deep commitment. Li has deeply committed to his faith. Because of this, he was ready when the test came his way. Are you prepared for your next test?

Friday Favorite – The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

This week’s Friday Favorite is a (very) short book that tells about the life and impact of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a man whose actions launched the Protestant Reformation when he supposedly nailed 95 thesis (or topics of discussion) for debate to the church door in Wittenberg. From this action, all of Europe, then all of the world had an awakening to the words of scripture and to God’s grace for his believers. Check it out!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BXIQYT4/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

All Worked Up

Have you ever had that day where your to-do list was completed by noon, so you spent the rest of the day getting ahead on tomorrow’s? Me neither. Work is never in short supply. There is always one more thing to get done. One more thing to plan, one more household project, one more bill to get paid, one more toy to buy. We say we don’t have time to attend an event. We say that we don’t have time to get something done. Let me ask you this. Would you have time for a heart procedure? Have you ever told your boss that you don’t have time for him? Have you ever told someone that you couldn’t get to harvesting until after the snow fell? Life is always about priorities.

In Luke 10, Jesus visits the house of Mary and Martha. Martha is busy with serving. Today, she would be checking the oven temperature and timer, getting the plates and silverware ready to go, and carefully measuring out the coffee and ice tea. She has million things to get done. People are waiting on here. Internally, she’s frustrated that for all of her busyness, she is getting no help. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, is sitting at the feet of Jesus. In these days, many teachers (called rabbis back then) would have objected to her sitting with the disciples. Yet Jesus continues teaching, women and all. Mary is listening to words of life while Martha is running around the kitchen getting everything ready.

In this picture, who are you? Are the hospitality guru with a million things to get done? Or, are you Mary, the one simply sitting at Jesus’ feet? Martha finally expresses her frustration to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you concern yourself with many things.” In the busyness of life, many of us can relegate Jesus to the backseat. We get a jump on the day by forgetting to pray or spend time in His Word. We get a jump on our week by skipping out on church, or by substituting church for a screen with a preacher on it. When Jesus is left in the back seat, when we concern ourselves with many things, we ignore the one that can bring clarity, peace, and order to our life in the first place. Bill Senyard likes to say that we are “overwhelmed, over-connected, and over-committed.” Do you ever feel that way? Try this. Sit down alone for a few minutes. Write down your priorities. If God isn’t your top priority, why isn’t he? Next question, does your life match up to the priorities you’ve listed?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!