On Friday, December 14th, tragedy hit a small community in Newtown, CT. A lone gunman entered a small elementary school and took the lives of 20 little children and 6 adults.
What a heinous and incomprehensible act! You have to wonder how anyone could do such a thing, especially to little ones so defenseless. This question and more will be on everyone’s mind while we process the events of last Friday.
Some will be targeting the government, blaming parties and policies. Others will be targeting God and His authority and control, particularly those closest to the victims and their families.
What are we to do in the face of such evil?
The Bible tells us that, “He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world…” (1 John 4:4). We also know that Jesus, through his death on the cross has already won the battle over evil. Jesus is still the hope for our nation, and through Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
Through Him, we can change the world.
Not through politics. Not through government. Not even through large Christian denominations. But [only] through Jesus, as a body of believers that traverses all walks of life, political viewpoints, denominations, ethnicities and nationalities.
We can help bring about glimpses of His kingdom here on earth. Yes, there will be set backs. It may look at times that evil is winning. But it can’t, because the victory is already ours, and there’s no changing that.
I’m reading a book at the moment by Andy Stanley called “Deep & Wide”. In chapter 8, Andy describes one of their faith catalysts, “Pivotal Circumstances”. I believe an event like this is a pivotal circumstance for both unchurched and churched people alike. The book states, “the conclusions we draw about God in the midst of our pivotal circumstances drive us toward or away from him”.
Let’s pray that those affected by this will choose to draw closer to God. Pray that they turn to God for guidance, comfort and healing. I don’t believe the alternative will ever lead to real healing and release.
On Sunday we had planned to continue with our “Very Story Christmas” series, and use lessons from the Grinch movie, sing Christmas carols, have skits on stage with a life-sized Grinch, and so on.
However, when it came to Saturday evening, all this was weighing heavy on our hearts and I was completely struggling with my planned song choices. I felt some of the songs would be hard to sing, or even harder to lead people in. Jeremy was also having trouble getting what he wanted to say to link with the planned series theme.
We decided it was best to completely rearrange Sunday’s service to be more sensitive to how people may be feeling. We knew we had to respond in a better way to this pure manifestation of evil. We dropped the series and went back to the drawing board.
I started the service with Your Grace Is Enough by (Maher/Tomlin [A]), followed by God With Us (Mercy Me [A]). I think one of the original choices was “O Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant!“. I’m not sure if you can agree with me, but I did not feel right getting up and singing that with a big grin, so we dropped it.
If fact, we dropped Christmas carols altogether from the set. When I was finished updating the set, we had one song survive from the original plan. I am thankful that I work with such a gracious and understanding team of musicians and vocalists. They took the changes in their stride.
Jeremy’s message responded to what had happened, reminded us that evil will not win and encouraged us to action in order to help change the world around us.
The second song set started with the chorus of Whole World In His Hands (Tim Hughes [B]). I wanted to reaffirm that God is in control no matter how it might look at times. We followed up with Because Of Your Love (Phil Wickham [B]) while people came forward for communion.
Next we played the only surviving song from the original set, Came To My Rescue (Hillsong [B]). The song talks of surrender and also asking God to be more evident in our lives that others may see Him in us.
I ended the set with Blessed Be The Name (Redman [B]) which talks of pain, and still choosing to worship God in the midst of it. Probably the hardest lyric for me in that song is, “You give and take away, you give and take away…” (Job 1:21) and this weekend the lyric was even more poignant than normal.
Regardless of my (or your) belief on whether God does give and take away, I continue to hold on to one thing above all else – God is in control. I urge you to do the same, because as soon as we loose sight of that fact everything really does begin to fall apart.
Matt Redman talks about Blessed Be Your Name here.