How to Harness Our Struggles – Sermon Series Follow Up

Just over 8 weeks ago we began a journey through what the Bible teaches about not wasting our struggles. Another title for the series could have been “How to Harness Our Struggles.” If you missed the blog I wrote about my personal struggles and how I felt God was leading and preparing me to preach that series, you can find it here.

If you missed a message or live out of town or just want to go back over where we have been, you can connect to the podcast here. I’ve also found the following two versions of the same song personally encouraging in times of struggle (introduced to me by Jeff Koonce)

This upcoming Sunday we will start a new series, but I know many have shared with me how “Don’t Waste Your Struggles” affected them. For further growth in these areas I recommend these resources. Several copies of each will be available on the welcome table at church this Sunday.

A Bruised Reed – a classic on struggle from a Puritan writer that is very accessible

Kiss the Wave – written recently by a man who struggles with severe physical limitations and serves as a pastor in Dubai. Based on a quote by Spurgeon that in suffering we learn to “kiss the wave that crashes us against the Rock of Ages.”

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering – by Tim Keller…nuff said.

The Silent Man

[Written by Christine Cox]

As I set out our Nativity crèche, I recalled the time when my daughter as a toddler loved to play ‘house’ with our Nativity set. The figurines were so realistic, and, fragile. Only one guess what happened to one of the figurines – there he lay on the floor, shattered. The Nativity scene was so lost, looked so sad, without Joseph.

Joseph is the Silent Man, the stoic man; often under-rated, too often misunderstood, but the faithful guardian of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, protector of his family, and, like the rest of us, a sinner, in need of God’s grace for salvation.

Reflecting on a devotional reading originally from Rev. Gray Bean, PhD, we can learn and grow in virtues that Joseph, a man who spoke no words in Scripture, had exemplified.

Model of faith and compassion: In the angelic dream, Matthew 1, Joseph was troubled that his betrothed Mary was pregnant but being a ‘just man’ he desired to ‘send her away quietly’. However, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” As Joseph immediately follows the command, we see his faith in God’s word and his obedience. We also see how he exemplified gentleness and compassion to Mary, to someone he thought, at first, had betrayed him.

Model of silence and adoration: Matthew 2 relates the visit of the Magi. Though not mentioned here in Scripture, but visible in all our Nativity scenes, we can imagine that Joseph was there in the background, diligently watchful, with awe and wonderment. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) Joseph would need this time of quietness, for the trials that were to come.

Model of strength and courage: Continuing in Matthew 2, Joseph is commanded by an angel to flee into Egypt for Herod was “about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.” In obedience, Joseph courageously leaves everything behind – everything! – his home, his livelihood, his friends and other relationships to move his family to a foreign land in order to protect them from the diabolical threat. How willing are we to leave everything behind for our Lord? “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Model of fatherhood and daily work:  Though Scripture is somewhat silent on the life of Jesus as a child, we can glean from Scripture, that Joseph was indeed a godly family man with deep love for his Son.
As a godly man, he followed the Law of Moses bringing Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord at the time of His purification. As father and leader of his family, Joseph, provided for his family as a carpenter (Matthew 13, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” and taught his Son the trade of his livelihood. (Mark 6, “Isn’t this the carpenter?”).  His fatherhood and deep love is so visible when Joseph and Mary lost their Son in Jerusalem after the Feast of the Passover when in ‘great distress they went in search for Him.’ Through all this, Jesus, God and King, was submissive to His earthly parents (Luke 2). We too can find dignity in our work and daily tasks, to share our talents, to know and do His will in our lives – “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

And, yes, I still put out the old Nativity set – several of the animals are missing an ear, or a tail, one Magi clearly glued, but with a new and much bigger Joseph … a sweet reminder, a sweet memory.

 

Suburbia - Death By Suburb

Satisfying Our Souls In Suburbia

It was the middle of a winter night, perhaps 10 years ago. The dry air circulated by the furnace in our house left me parched. I rolled over in bed grabbing for my trusty bottled water on the night stand and clumsily removed the lid, taking a quick swallow. The immediate painful burning sensation in my mouth and throat made me choke and cough my way from grogginess, to fully awake. My first thought, “I’ve just poisoned myself!” While reaching for the lamp, I called out loudly to my bride.

There on the night stand was my bottle of water, and there in my hands was the similar shaped container of HYDROGEN PEROXIDE! Ah the burn! As a pastor, sometimes you take the call in the middle of the night, and sometimes you make the call in the middle of the night. My poor M.D. friends have received more than one. What a relief to find out, that although hydrogen peroxide will certainly clean you out, it won’t take you out.

Some things seem toxic, when in fact they are not.  Other things seem harmless and in fact can be toxic.

We recently launched a new Adult Sunday School semester with the same title as this blog post.  As I teach each week my plan is to draw from David Goetz’s book, “Death by Suburb.”  Whether someone lives in actual suburbia or is simply a member of lower-upper middle-class American society, the application points are powerful and relevant. Suburbia seems harmless but can be deadly for our souls, or at least highly detrimental to our spiritual growth.

It did not take us long in a class of 30 adults to come up with a list of things in our suburban society that doesn’t look all that bad on the surface, but in fact, threaten to strangle our pursuit of what Goetz calls the “thinker” spiritual life – a closer relationship with God.

Busyness, Comparison, Selfishness, Conformity, Materialism, and yes, even religious activity.

What is a person, sincerely wishing to know God and walk with God, to do? Head for the monastery? Find a quiet rural town? Sign up for the next Nasa launch to the moon? Goetz says, “No,” and I agree. He puts it this way, “Even in suburbia all moments are infused with the Sacred. God really is present where I live on Ranch Road. Reality is not flat, but thick, deep, full… You don’t have to hole up in a monastery to experience the fullness of God. Your cul-de-sac and subdivision are as good a place as any.”

The solution, he argues, is to partake of the spiritual antidotes which have stood the test of time and offer to offset the toxins we find unavoidable to imbibe.

If you can be with us for our series this semester, we will journey through the following, and if not, I highly recommend the book:

  • Feb 5 – Introduction to the “Thicker” life
  • Feb 12 – Toxin – I am in control – Antidote – Prayer
  • Feb 19 – Toxin – I am what I do or own – Antidote – Battle self
  • Feb 26 – Toxin – I want my neighbor’s life – Antidote – Friends with needy
  • Mar 5 – Toxin – I need to make a difference – Antidote – Actions, not results
  • Mar 12 – Toxin – My church is my problem – Antidote – Staying put
  • Mar 19 – Toxin – I need more time – Antidote – In love with a day

But I Live in Birmingham

[Written by Ben Halbrooks]

Missions Month at Cross Creek Church just came to a close this past Sunday – so now we can all finally stop living missionally and get back to our regular lives.

Just kidding.

Of course, there’s no separating God’s people from His mission, no matter what the time, no matter what the place, no matter who the person, no matter what the context. But you already knew that. And our theme verse for the month makes that message clear:

“Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:2-3)

But, you say – “Day to day?”… “Among the nations?”… “All the peoples?”…But I live in Birmingham, Alabama – the second most Bible-minded city in America! There are more churches here than Alexander Shunnarah billboards in the Southeast!

I hear you. I get it. I’ve thought the same. (And I’ve seen the billboards.)

But lest you think this pond’s been fished out, and our work here is done, or that maybe Jesus meant to say, “The harvest is few but the laborers are plentiful,”… let me show you something. In the last few weeks, I’ve been filming a series of street interviews a few blocks from Fixed Point Foundation’s downtown office just to get a sampling of answers to spiritual questions. I thought, It’s Birmingham. I know what I’m gonna get. Right?

Turns out I was dead wrong. Case in point: here’s ten random people answering the question, “What do you think happens after death?”

Wow. Such uncertainty! Why does it feel like many of these individuals have never deeply considered the question at all? And where is their hope? My heart aches for them. Friends, this is Birmingham, Alabama!

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’” (Matthew 9:36-37)

No, Jesus didn’t get it wrong. There’s a lost world, a hurting world, a broken world – a mission field – in our own backyard. And you, me, the church – we are the few. I’ll close with a passage of scripture Pastor Chris spoke of this week. It’s fitting:

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)

2017 Church-wide Daily Spiritual Growth Plan – “Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds”

As the story goes, a disgruntled man wrote an editorial, published in the local newspaper, about his plans to quit participating in church.  He pronounced, “I’ve been going to church about 50 Sundays each year for decades and I don’t know if I can recall what the message was last week let alone 2 years ago.  I don’t think it is having any impact on my spiritual health so I’m finished!”  A few days later another fella wrote into the same paper and shared, “I’ve been eating the meals my wife has prepared for 365 days each year for decades, and I don’t know if I can recall what the meal was last week, let alone 2 years ago.  But I know I’d be dead if I did not eat!”  A humorous reminder of the nature of spiritual growth.

Like organic growth, spiritual growth is sometimes not all that visible.  My four boys are age 13 down to 8.  We have fed them similar types of meals for years and for the youngest physical growth is so gradual we can hardly see it.  But all of the sudden, my oldest is eating more of those same meals, and growing at a much more rapid rate.  In the same way, you and I cannot know when and how the Lord might produce significant periods of spiritual growth and when He might have us in a place of more gradual development, but if the nutrients of the Gospel message are not there, we will likely lack the raw spiritual materials for gradual growth, and certainly for substantial growth.

As we enter 2017 this certainly applies to Sunday morning worship services, Sunday school, and small groups.  However, one of the areas we want to invite our congregation to “put ourselves in the way of God’s grace” this year (to have a meal to enjoy throughout the week) is through daily devotional material.  We are happy for folks to use whatever sound method of spiritual development works for them to get into Scripture.  But frequently one of the reasons we do not get on a pathway spiritually individually, as a couple, or as a household, is because we do not know how to cook our spiritual meals very well.

A few years ago we participated collectively as a church body (at least 30 bought the book) in spiritual growth on the home-front, using Starr Meade’s book, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.  In a similar manner, but for just 1 year duration, we are making her newer book, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds, available for purchase on Sunday mornings.  The format is very user-friendly, with one spiritual growth question (catechism is the church word for that) from a carefully written document, The Heidelberg Catechism, which believers have found Biblically sound and beneficial for centuries.

To help fuse the life of our church body during the week with our worship services on Sunday, we will include the focal question for the week in our service every Sunday, and then the book walks through short readings, including Scripture, each day.  In past years, when we utilized the previous book at the Peters household, we just kept it right by the dinner table.  Like a lot of families with busy activity schedules, we only end up sitting down all together 3-4 evenings of the week.  So if we missed Monday, we just moved on to Tuesday.  If we missed a whole week, we just started with the current week.

Maybe as an individual, couple or household, you will be able to be a bit more organized with it, or maybe you have another plan already.  But if not, or if you just want to join the journey of our collective church family, I hope you will pick up a book this Sunday and dive in.  We will even provide a card to guide you if you get lost on what week we are on!  My sincere wish as your pastor is that this will bless your family, and especially for those with little ones, these time-tested questions and answers about the Lord will give them really healthy spiritual meals that they can build Gospel health from an early age, for lifelong spiritual vibrancy.

If you like Kindle and want to save a penny or know you will be out for a few weeks and want to order it directly, here is the link.

And to read an article from Christianity Today about the impact of this approach for churches, go here.

Burnt Orange Pine Trees – Harnessing the Means of Grace in the New Year

A serious drought struck our region of the country, beginning back in August and extending until just a few weeks ago.  I imagine a lot of spiritual lessons could be drawn from observing and considering the impact of no rain for weeks and weeks on end.  It certainly gets everyone’s attention when we realize that something essential for all life, that is usually available in plenteous supply, might actually run out – a reminder that God’s presence and His saving grace are blessings He chooses to give as a gift.  And the picture of how hardened the earth becomes when it has not been watered drives one to think on the hardness of our souls without spiritual moisture in the forms of Word, Sacrament, and Prayer.

But what struck me lately, in this Christmas Season, was the mix of burnt orange dead pine trees on the hillsides, intermingled with the usual vibrant green ones.  Like other parts of the country, Alabama’s leafy trees (my “forestry” major sister would not be excited with that terminology!) get brown and lose their leaves in the fall, even when moisture is overflowing.  But the pine trees in our region rarely shift colors from their steadfast green.  Since pine trees sprout up here like dandelions do in other regions, it is hard to avoid the sight of the burnt orange blighted scenery.

As I think about my spiritual life this last year, and look to the upcoming year, I am convicted about the message these scorched “never-greens” send about growth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I cannot say that I have ever had a stellar year of spiritual vibrancy, and in some ways, this past year has probably been better than others.  Spiritual growth is not something we can put on a scale to weigh or time around a race track, so only God ultimately knows what is happening in each of our souls.  But this past year has certainly been a battle to maintain the means of grace:

  • to keep up with my good plan to read through the whole Bible for the first time in several years (my app tells me I’m at 38% and yes I started in January, not July! Ha)
  • to carve out regular focused time in prayer (I’m glad there is no app to tell how I’ve done with that!)
  • and to draw close to God in worship, including the sacraments God provides (as a pastor, my attendance record is usually pretty strong, but heart and body are not always in the same place).

What a joy, then, to realize that the security of my salvation is not dependent on my perfect follow-through on these, or any other good spiritual practices – that the tree of Jesus’ righteous life and sacrifice for me is the most remarkable green, and I have his vibrancy credited to me by faith.  And what a joy to realize that although sun-charred pine trees may not recover in the new year, God’s gracious empowering can renew me and anyone else who needs it.  And what a conviction, that God is always offering rain – word, prayer, sacraments – for His people, and we are foolish to extend our roots in the direction of the world’s dryness, when his streams of water abound.

“Still, Still, Still …”

[Written by Christine Cox]

Whenever I hear this Austrian Christmas carol, I see my mother leaning back in her armchair, listening to her favorite German Christmas carol record. A sweet stillness caressed over her, the sound of the music soothingly filling the room. As a child I ‘thought like a child’, (1 Corinthians 13:11-14), wondering what she was thinking and feeling, why the music was so soothing; now I know fully the spiritual depth of the music – that in this peaceful manger scene, as mother cradles the infant Jesus, she knows that He is the hope of salvation who now had been brought to mankind through The Incarnation.

Tradition, both written and pictorial, shows that in the stillness of prayer, Mary was greeted by the angel Gabriel. In the stillness of deep sleep, her earthly spouse, Joseph, was visited by an angel in a dream – twice. He should not fear to take Mary as his wife and then later warned him to take his family and flee to Egypt for Herod was about to destroy the Child. In the stillness of the night, our Savior was born. Still, yet the heavens were filled with angelic hosts, declaring the Glory of the Lord singing great Hosannas, Glory to the King!
In the stillness of the Upper Room, our Lord ushered in the New Covenant – a respite before they all would experience the greatest trial in history. After the Crucifixion, darkness and, I imagine, a still eeriness and a loneliness engulfed the whole land, until the Lord burst forth from the grave. It was a stillness preparing the way for His Resurrection. Saul – Paul had to be still before God was able to work through him. Peter, too, in the stillness of prayer saw the heavens open and the Lord calling him to minister to all peoples, showing no partiality that the Good News is for all nations!

In this Advent season, let us take this wonderful opportunity to break from the busyness of the season to embrace ‘stillness.’ Ponder upon His Word penetrating our souls, our interior life. And as we await with joyful expectation of this year’s Christmas celebrations, let it also be preparation as we await His second coming.

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

———————————————————————————————————————–
Audio  link,
Traditional Melody 1819
Lyrics and Translation by Tradition by Action and German Way

Still, still, still,
Weil’s Kindlein schlafen will.
Maria tut es niedersingen
Ihre keusche Brust darbringen,
Still, still, still,
Weil Kindlein schlafen will.
Still, still, still,
Let Baby sleep its fill.
Maria sings a lullaby sweet
And lays her true heart at Your feet
Still, still, still,
Let Baby sleep its fill.
Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein, schlaf.
Die Englein tun schön musizieren
Bei dem Kindlein jubilieren,
Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf,
Mein liebes Kindlein, schlaf.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious Baby sleep.
The Angels are all music making
By the Manger jubilating
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious Baby sleep.
Groß, groß, groß,
die Lieb’ ist übergroß!
Gott hat den Himmelsthron verlassen,
und muss reisen auf der Strassen.
Groß, groß, groß,
die Lieb’ ist übergroß.
Great, great, great,
the love is enormous!
God has left his heavenly throne
and must travel on the road.
Great, great, great,
the love is enormous!
Auf, auf, auf,
Ihr Adamskinder auf.
Fallet Jesum all zu Füssen,
Weil er für uns d’Sünd tut büssen.
Auf, auf, auf,
Ihr Adamskinder auf.
Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.
O, kneel at the feet of Jesus now,
Our sins to atone He did vow.
Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.
Wir, wir, wir,
Wir rufen all zu Dir:
Tu uns des Himmels Reich aufschliessen,
Wenn wir einmal sterben müssen.
Wir, wir, wir,
Wir rufen all zu Dir.

We, we, we,
We all implore Thee:
Open for us heaven’s gate
Let Your Kingdom be our fate.
We, we, we,
We all implore Thee.

Politics as “Un”-Usual – Breaking Down Platforms

Image result for ballot box

Our suburban community recently completed much-anticipated municipal elections.  Voters turned out in significantly higher numbers than 4 years ago and “regime change” proved to be the order of the day.  Neighborhood residents in the area are probably all happy to have the normally scenic wooded hillsides no longer blocked by the collage of signs with LARGE LAST NAMES and tiny slogans.  But for many, myself included, the intense local campaign season, actually provided a welcome distraction from a befuddling national political scenario.

Feel free to jump to the bottom of this post if you want to get right to some summaries, from one Christian perspective, of what the national parties generally stand for.  But, if you have a moment, perhaps you will want to join me as I try to frame things up…along these lines.

It seems maybe some lessons from the local might help with the national.  Certainly our municipal election was a reminder of the privileges and responsibilities of living in democratic republic like ours.  In fact, although our church is not a massive one, we have close association with two candidates who attend, or have family who attend.  With 12,000 votes cast by residents of our 90,000 population community, one of these candidates squeaked out a win by just 9 votes (still being confirmed in fact).  We get to vote, and our votes do make a difference.  A whole lot of people throughout history, and throughout the world today would not be able to say that.

“Acting locally, and thinking globally” also provides a fresh lens on the biblical teaching that God’s sovereignty always supersedes (could have used another verb starting with a “t” there) human will.  And at the same time there are primary and secondary causes working simultaneously, such that, it is perfectly sound to urge one another to conscientious action and at the same time to prayerful trust in God.

Keeping all that in mind, I do get asked from time to time about my political thoughts.  I am pretty sure the role of pastor is not to play party politics, while simultaneously proclaiming a message of the one King of Kings and Lord of Lords who reigns over all nations and peoples.  However, I also know that Christians are called to seek the good of their city, state, and nation, as well as their world.  That does not happen only through politics, but it can include political involvement.

With that goal in mind, I hope if you’ve read this far you will take some time to click on the following links, which as we approach November, may be helpful summaries for all those who name the name of Christ, and even those who are not sure about such things, to read before we cast a ballot.  My younger sister will probably not be happy that I did not include the Green Party, but beggars can’t be choosers and the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian were all I could find from this source.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-you-should-know-about-the-democratic-party-platform

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-you-should-know-about-the-republican-party-platform

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-you-should-know-about-the-libertarian-party-platform

Crossing the 2 Samuel Finish Line! 

As we finish up our sermon series in second Samuel this Sunday it is a great time to pause and reflect on all that I trust God has been teaching us these last few months. In a sense he has also been teaching us since last year when we journeyed through first Samuel.
Going through an entire book of the Bible as we have done in this series certainly takes focus and concentration. Growing through weekly sermons is like a lot of things in life – God must work,but we also get out of it what we put into it. So now is a good time to pause and think back on some of the central themes that we have seen particularly in the life of David.

The central question we have addressed is, who is king? And of course we have seen this somewhat rhetorical question answered each week in the recognition that God is king and the kingship of the Old Testament people of God is ultimately fulfilled only and perfectly in King Jesus.

As I share a final message from chapter 24 this Sunday we will hopefully get a chance to reflect on some more of the lessons learned over the last few months but I found the following article to be insightful both for our current national situation and for dealing with one of the most common struggles and sin patterns we all face of worry and anxiety and fear. I hope you will take a few moments to read through it. Oh and stay tuned for info coming soon on a topical outreach series I will preach through in aug and sep, “Knowing and Sharing Our Faith” starting Aug 7.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-king-david-can-teach-us-about-overcoming-political-anxiety

Man is Wolf Unto Man: A Reflection on Dallas, Nice, & Beyond

[Written by Ben Halbrooks]

Having taken 5 or so years of Spanish in school and remembering only the food-related vocab words, I certainly won’t pretend to know any Latin, with the exception of a few famous phrases. One is this: Homo homini lupus – “Man is wolf unto man.” It’s an ancient saying about human nature that’s difficult to deny after the violence and division our country has witnessed just in the last few weeks. Of course, American soil isn’t the only one with fresh stains – in Nice, France, the blood of its terror victims cries out from the ground for justice. In our own country, racism, hatred, and hostility threaten to further factionalize a nation increasingly dominated by a spirit of bitterness and accusation.

My heart aches at the brutal, senseless loss of lives. The families! How will they ever recover? As we mourn and earnestly pray for healing, the news of such horrors is a sobering reminder of an unpopular truth: people are not basically good. Evil is real. Scripture is crystal clear on the point. “The heart,” wrote the prophet Jeremiah, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (17:9)

We want to believe that deep down we’re all naturally decent people. That we can fix our situation, our world, through self-help and determination. This regimen. That policy. Trial and error, and we’ll eventually find the perfect ingredients… right? Believing it makes us feel better. But who are we convincing? We look outside ourselves for the problem and within ourselves for the solution. The Gospel shatters our illusions and tells us that’s backwards.

If we strip away all our excuses, we find the core of the problem is us. We are fallen. In and of ourselves, we have no power to overcome evil. Even our best efforts succumb to selfishness. We are all Lady Macbeth, scrubbing our dirty hands in vain. Guilty. The Apostle Paul’s characterization of humanity left to itself is far from flattering: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31) Man is wolf unto man.

But there was one man who became a lamb.

“Behold, the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist declared of Jesus, “who takes away the sin of the world.” There is no hope but His. “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) This is the hope of the Gospel. The hope that something outside of ourselves, Someone outside of ourselves, can bring us peace. “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) Salvation from sin and the brokenness and misery of a fallen world – salvation from Dallas and Nice and every other unspeakable tragedy – comes only through the blood of the Lamb. And His way is love.

So as I mourn, pray, and reflect on these events, my hope is not in the wolves, but in the Lamb. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb… For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14,17)

People of the Lamb, rest in this:

“‘For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress… The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 65:17-19,25)