responding to tragedy in El Paso and Dayton

Like most of you, I went to bed on Saturday night knowing of and grieving over that day’s tragic events in El Paso. Like most of you, I woke up on Sunday morning to learn of the previous night’s tragic events in Dayton. Like most of you, I’ve spent the last few days trying to discern how I should think, pray, and feel about this…I’ve been trying to discern what I should do.

The issues before us are not simple, nor will their solutions be. The debate over gun control in our country illustrates a deeper conflict between competing worldviews that now defines life in our public square. The prevalence of hatred in our rhetoric, and the real problem of hate-inspired violence, leaves observers feeling more hopeless than hopeful. Finally, the politicization of everything means that these issues are debated in a place and with a posture that seems more focused on scoring political points than actually solving anything.

We need real wisdom from God to know how best to pray and respond to events like these, and to the broader cultural moment we find ourselves in. Yet there are key truths, revealed in Scripture, that we can and should come back to on weeks like this one. These truths, apart from the actions they can inspire and fuel, don’t change everything. But if we are to change anything, we must remember them and live in light of them:


the truthfulness of God’s Word

On Sunday at Capitol City, we unpacked the narrative of 1 Samuel 22:6-23. For the sake of time, I didn’t make these comments – though they are pertinent to the text and, in the end, precious to the Christian faith.

In 1 Samuel 22, King Saul – clearly descending into a narcissistic madness that will soon end his life – takes a giant leap down his path of self-destruction. Enraged at the fact that Ahimelech, a priest, offered David aid in a moment of need (see 1 Sam 21:1-9), he orders the brutal murder of Ahimelech, Ahimelech’s entire family, and every resident of Ahimelech’s city. It’s an unholy war, pitting God’s rejected king against God’s holy priests. Every priest in Israel, save one – Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son (see 1 Sam 22:20-23) – perishes as a result.

Saul’s evil attack against these helpless and innocent priests is just that – evil. But it reveals something profoundly encouraging and hopeful for Christians today: even God’s enemies prove the truthfulness of God’s Word.


yet not I, but through Christ in me

In Colossians 1, Paul tells the church in Colossae that his aim in ministry is to present them mature and complete in Christ. He punctuates that statement with one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, claiming that he toils and labors to that end in his strength and through Christ’s strength in him: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col 1:29).

I toil, with all his energy, Paul says.

One of the beautiful realities of the Christian life is that we are never alone. Though we are called to strive and contend for faithfulness and endurance, we never do so apart from Christ’s power working in us. Ephesians 1 reminds us that Christ’s power working in us is the same power by which he was raised from the dead! If you are in Christ, his resurrection power is then in you, working as you endure in the faith.

Recently a friend introduced me to City Alight, and their modern hymn Yet Not I, but Through Christ in Me. I think it beautifully and simply captures these ideas so well.


his mercy is more

For the last few weeks, and continuing this weekend at our Good Friday and Easter services, we’ve been singing this modern hymn in our worship gatherings at Capitol City. The song was inspired by this excerpt from a sermon by John Newton:

Are not you amazed sometimes that you should have so much as a hope, that, poor and needy as you are, the Lord thinketh of you? But let not all you feel discourage you. For if our Physician is almighty, our disease cannot be desperate and if He casts none out that come to Him, why should you fear? Our sins are many, but His mercies are more: our sins are great, but His righteousness is greater: we are weak, but He is power.

John Newton

I pray that these words will stir your affection for Jesus this Holy Week.


planning to see unplanned

I often joke that Kristen and I only see about one movie per year (in a theater), whether we need to or not. That sentiment says more about our stage of life than it does our interest in movies. We love movies, but the cost and time commitment a trip to the theater requires make those trips a rarity.

We will, however, make a trip to see the movie Unplanned. I hope you will, too.


the irony of God’s character

Last Thursday, for what felt like the umpteenth time this winter, the city of Lincoln experienced a winter “snow event.” My wife and I awoke on Thursday morning to the sounds of our local school district canceling all classes for the day. Outside, a fresh blanket of white powder covered the already-existing layers of snow and ice. Soon, the sounds of snow blowers and shovels rang through the air in my neighborhood, while my wife scrambled to adjust her agenda knowing that she now had four children to supervise all day.

I was frustrated.