Encouragement From The Word

We can ‘be’ change

The mass shooting in Las Vegas last weekend is a terrible tragedy.  Many lives were lost, many more people were injured, and emotionally, a lot of people are going to need help to resume some semblance of normality – not just the injured and the families of those who died, but also the bystanders and the people who work at the Mandalay Bay hotel where the shooting took place.  Long after the news stops talking about it (news channels always find something new and shiny on which to focus), people will still be struggling.

Of course, in this era of social media where everyone seeks to share an opinion, lots of folks are talking about the need for greater gun control, tighter immigration policies, or tougher screening to weed out terrorists.  But there is something else that can be done.

Parents can raise their children.

That might sound like an incongruous non sequitur, but think about it:  if parents raise their children – not just give birth to them, not just feed them, not just provide for their wants and needs, but raise them – we will have a generation of people who become adults who don’t have a hankering to kill people.  That sounds simplistic, but I know too many moms and dads who have engaged in the hard work of raising their kids whose children turn out to be kind, loving adults to believe it can’t be done.

To be sure, there are countless outside influences that work against what conscientious parents are doing, but that only raises the level of the challenge.

It seems like an insurmountable job, and it is.  Parents can’t do it on their own.

Parents need God’s help, and they need God’s agents to help them: the church.

When parents acknowledge that the job is too difficult for them to do alone, and they submit themselves to the Lord who knew their children before they were formed in the womb (Psalm 139.16), they give their children to God, recognizing that even parenthood is a form of stewardship; children are ours to raise on God’s behalf.

Then, the community of faith can partner with the parents to help kids grow up to be good, law-abiding citizens, yes, but also to love and serve the Lord.  When we introduce God into the lives of children, the Holy Spirit becomes an invisible player in the game of child-rearing – that unpredictable, love-engendering, tongues-of-fire-giving Spirit supports the work of diligent parents and churches.  And the result is a generation of adults who in turn raise their children the same way.

Will this work perfectly?  Undoubtedly not; because of sin, there will always be challenges to God’s plan for families.  But while we pray for those affected, while we work to bring change where change is needed in society, let’s start with our own families.  We can bring change; we can be change.

If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (Jesus, John 15.16, NLT).

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Encouragement From The Word

A lesson from (near) Las Vegas

Last week, I wrote about the constant noise that surrounds a trip to Las Vegas.  This week, I thought I’d share a bit about what happened when we were outside Las Vegas – a very different experience!

Thanks to the genius of Sir Sanford Fleming and his time zones, we knew that we’d wake up on our first morning in Vegas on Eastern Time, so we thought we’d take advantage of that fact by renting a car when we left the airport, and driving outside the city to see two incredible sights:  the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.

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It’s an ambitious drive all in one day, but we did it, and boy, was it worthwhile.  Being up by 5:00 a.m. local time on the day after our arrival, we were able to be up and out of the hotel to be at the Hoover Dam before 7, when almost no one was there.  We took our time, poked around, and saw this feat of human engineering in all its imposing glory.  The concrete is so thick on that dam, it’s still curing, more than 80 years later!

As remarkable as feats of human engineering can be, though, a few hours’ drive later, we were met face-to-face with an even greater feat, one of divine engineering.  The Grand Canyon must be seen in real life, for photography does it little justice.  It’s a mighty deep hole, and it goes on forever!  While we didn’t stay too long, or see the Canyon in its vastness, we both felt like we needed simply to stand there and take it in.

Of course, there have been countless years of weather and erosion and who-knows-what sort of geological activities that have made it what it is today, but the Grand Canyon is sort of the anti-mountain: instead of going up, it goes down – way down! – but it inspires an almost equal awe in me.  I can’t look at a phenomenon like the Grand Canyon and not believe in a benevolent Creator.  It’s part of “general revelation”, the sights of the world that draw one to understand the existence of God.

Mountains capture my heart, geologically speaking, but the Grand Canyon came a close second (well, maybe third, after walking the dusty paths of Galilee when on pilgrimage to the Holy Land).  I know that there are people who will say that this stuff just happened, but I think that takes as much faith as it takes to say that God made it.  And I’d rather side with him, given the choice.

It was a stark contrast to the bells and lights and concrete of the Las Vegas strip, and a welcome one.  And it made me ask myself, Do I make a habit of noticing God’s hand at work in creation?

How about you?  Do you make a habit of noticing God’s hand at work in creation?  Mountains, valleys, and flat places are all gifts from the Lord.  Rejoice in them.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship” (Psalm 19.1, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

A lesson from Vegas

Welcome back to Encouragement From the Word!  It’s good to be back in the saddle.  My time off was, in part, a study in contrasts.  To mark our 25th wedding anniversary (which is actually next Tuesday), my wife and I embarked on a four-night trip to Las Vegas.  Following that, I went on retreat at a monastery for a few days.

Yep, that’s quite a difference.

I learned a lot about life during our visit to Sin City.  One of the most profound takeaways for me was the need some people have constantly to be stimulated.  If you’re one of those people, Vegas is your place.  Without exaggeration, the only places where we could escape from some sort of aural or visual stimulation were our hotel room, and the hallway that led to it.  Every other place we went in Las Vegas had lights flashing, music playing, bells ringing – always something stimulating the senses.

It seems to me that it’s not healthy for us to experience constant stimulation.  Sometimes, we need the silence, we need the stillness – for our own sanity, frankly – but also if we have any hope of hearing from God.

There’s a comic frame that has made its way around social media over the last several years, picturing a sheep in a chaise lounge wearing sunglasses, with a computer on his lap, a TV in front of him, a radio blaring behind him, and an iPod connected to his headphones.  He’s reading one from a pile of magazines that are stacked on top of his Bible, and he asks, “I wonder why I don’t hear from the shepherd anymore?”

The answer is obvious, and the comic challenges us.  We need time away from the noise, so we can hear from God.

What allowance do you make for quiet time?  A few days praying with monks was good for me, but it wasn’t enough; I need time daily, away from the noise.  So do you.

The Lord Jesus, during his ministry in Palestine, often found crowds of people drawn to him.  And he was compassionate toward the people and brought healing and life to many.  But the Bible also says this about him:  “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5.16, NLT).  Even Jesus needed a quiet place and a quiet time.  So do you.  What will you do to make that happen in this season of trying new things?