What I Learned From the Sandy Hook Massacre

The more often these kind of tragedies happen, the more I realize just how vulnerable and exposed we all are to such atrocities. The first time something tragic happened that hit me was when a 10 or 11-year-old girl comes home from school and begins taking orders for a school fund-raiser in a town of 4-500 people; small town America. The last time she was seen was on the corner of one of the streets until about two weeks later when her body was found in a ditch a couple of miles from the town, molested, raped and murdered.

The US government is trying to determine what to do to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook happening again. I fear there is going to be too much of a knee-jerk reaction that does not address the heart of the issue which is the heart and soul of the people who carry out these tragedies.

After some contemplation, I have learned these truths and realities.

Morality is not relative. The thinking of a lot of people is that whatever we think is right at the time is what is right and what I think is right for me is right me, but what is right for you is not necessarily right for me. Everyone is appalled by what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary and calling for justice and measures for the future prevention of such events. Therefore there must be a standard somewhere and somehow that we measure this by.

If you are reading this, you will already know what I am going write. Moral values, right and wrong come from one standard that never changes throughout time and history and the basis for the standard is in God Almighty and the standard which comes from his unchanging character is found in the Bible, God’s Word.

Sin is real and it is violent. Not all sinful acts are acts of violence but the character and nature of sin leads to it. God through the Apostle Paul related to us in the book of Romans that all people have sinned. Sin is a part of every person’s life. Some of the rest of the book of Romans especially chapters 4-10 give us information about how to overcome sin. But sinfulness will sooner or later, if given enough time lead to violence. In the Bible, the account of the flood which Noah and his family were saved from was on account of man’s violent nature (Genesis 6:11 ,13). Meaning since humans were made in God’s image, the violent acts against mankind were acts against the image of God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was as a result of violence (Genesis 18:20, 21; 19:9). Violence is found throughout the history of the world. Sin is the culprit behind all of this.

Sin corrupts completely, the longer it is not dealt with. In some people corruption spreads faster than in others. It may take more than a life-time for someone to become completely corrupt, but the fact remains that people like Nero, Hitler, and others became corrupt at young enough ages to carry out crimes against humanity (as we call it). The tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook and others illustrate this corruption and the despair in the lives of the perpetrators.

Government, political, public & social programs are not fixing the problem (and never have). Only redemption can change the situation. Only the spiritual change of being “born again” in Christ can make the change. I am not saying that public programs might not help, but true transformation comes from a transformation of the heart and soul and that only comes from surrender to and forgiveness given by Jesus Christ (Romans 12). Programs change external conditions not internal issues.

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Distressed

A few years ago, I transported a pre-school child to Macon (Missouri) and back for school. She had mental and learning disabilities and needed special teaching, but was a very, very sweet girl. She was curious about everything, asking a lot of questions all the time. She thrived on all the attention she received. I believe her smile could melt any heart.

She had difficulty pronouncing my name correctly. One day on the way to school, she asked, “Jeff Jord you goin’ pick up me?” She was really concerned that someone other than myself would be picking her up that day.

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwellings-for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself. That where I am, there you may be also” John 14:1-3. Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room when he spoke these words to them. He had washed their feet (John 13:1-20). He identified who would betray him, which baffled them (John 13:21-30). Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed (John 13:31-38). He even gave them the Lord’s Supper which represents his death (Matthew 26:26-29). Before all this happened, Jesus predicted his own terrible death (John 12:27-50).

All of this troubled and confused the apostles. Jesus’ words had dashed all of their kingdom hopes. He was going away and was going to die. They didn’t like what he said as well as not understanding what he was telling them either. In their troubled hearts they were in essence asking the same thing little Julia asked that one day. “Are you goin’ a pick up me?”

Jesus reassured them that in fact, he was coming back for them. They were even going to stay with him in his Father’s place. How like children we are with questions and doubts, seeking reassurance from Jesus that he didn’t just leave us but will for those become children of the Father through faith in Jesus.

This first appeared the August 10th, 2002 LaPlata Home Press

(Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version of the Bible)

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Figuring Out What Romans 8:28 Means

A lot of people go through life with the philosophy, “keep a good thought.” If you have positive thinking and look for the good in everything, then you can handle anything.

Romans 8:28 is often perceived in about the same way as if it is the spiritual version of” keep a good thought.”

A simple examination of the immediate passage that these verses are a part of should correct a lot of the misconceptions people have about these Biblical statements.

So we come back to Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A lot of people think this means that since I love God he will fix everything just fine.

Like a football player, a little undersized and short on experience going up against a player who even has muscles in his ear lobes going into the game saying to himself, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Or the person who has been asked to do a job they have no clue about doing, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

Most people apply this thought and the common interpretation when relationships break, jobs are lost, the house goes into foreclosure, and so many more situations. But is that what this passage means? Not really. There are problems with this particular interpretation.

The problems are:

  1. This is pretty naïve. The good thought – God will work it all together for my benefit. The rest of scripture doesn’t bear this out. That would mean that everything has a good and positive result in the end when it doesn’t. The Bible actually teaches us that we will have problems and many will come from our own decisions, some will come because we stand by our faith in Christ.
  2. Also, the context doesn’t imply it either. The section of verses Romans 8:28 is a part of is going to give us a different view of what God does. It is for our benefit but not exactly how a lot of people take it to mean.
  3. What do you do with it when God doesn’t work it together for your benefit, for your good? Because it doesn’t always happen this way.

Listen to Tim Geddert’s testimony about his misinterpretation of this verse:

“That is how I once memorized Romans 8:28 many years ago. It has often been a word of hope for me, assuring me that all things, even “bad” things, “work out” for people who love God. In fact there was a time when I interpreted this verse to mean that there really are no “bad things” that happen to believers. If things seem bad, but really serve to fulfill God’s good purposes, then even these things are ultimately good. I guess at the time it did not seem unjust to me that only those who love God are promised the benefit of “everything working out.” Nor was I troubled by the fact that I often did not see the “bad things” magically transformed into “good things.  I once thought Romans 8:28 was about “all things working out”. . . ”

Actually many have found the sweeping assertion, “all things work together for good,” difficult to believe. Faced with sufferings and catastrophic experiences of life, many believers and even Christian leaders have found it difficult to accept this assertion. In relation to the current War America is involved in, a prominent preacher designated Romans 8:28 as “the hardest verse to believe.” While willing to admit that the countless ravages that have occurred to the human race are the logical consequences of mankind’s sin and rebellion against God, many a devout believer, when some shattering experience has befallen him, has cried out in confusion, “Why does God allow this to happen to me?” How can this kind of experience be reconciled with Roman 8:28?

What is the book of Romans about? The core aspects of Romans is about your salvation, the grace of God in your life, and whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, God has provided salvation to both because all people have sinned and need salvation.  Paul explains:

  • Justification by faith, just like Abraham
  • Peace with God through justification
  • Death came through Adam and life came through Jesus
  • We are dead to sin and alive to Christ
  • That we have and live life in the Spirit

Romans 8:18 – 39

Let me ask you, what is in store for the believer? The answers are all related.

  • Heaven
  • Our glorification in Christ
  • Eternity with God

Our eternal glory that we like to read about in Revelation 21. God and his people together and every tear wiped away. Your back won’t hurt any more.  Your illnesses will never affect you longer. You won’t have another broken relationship again. Heaven where we love God in person, where his glory is experienced first-hand.

We are here, on this earth where sin has taken hold and brought about separation from God and even affected the existence we have here. Not only did sin introduce spiritual pain and death, it introduced problems to the physical universe; to our bodies, to our planet, and probably to the whole universe and maybe every universe.

Yet in this suffering, God plans to redeem not just the lost, he also intends to redeem the world and Paul notes how our world is “groaning” under the effects of sin, and the suffering we endure here is nothing in comparison to what will be revealed in us.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-56 tells about our resurrection bodies. Verse 49 states, “just as we have borne the like of the earthly man so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
  • And John says in 1 John 3:2, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.”

I get that when we get to heaven and receive the glorification God will give us, we shall be like Jesus.  Whatever Jesus is like, what he looks like we will too!  Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of this on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured.

You get to glow! That’s pretty cool in my book.

While we struggle through life now, we have the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation.  But he does more than just seal the deal in each believer’s life he helps us in our weakness. He intercedes on our behalf to God. He does it according to God’s will but he brings our cares before God and pleads with him on our behalf in ways we can’t. He expresses what we cannot.  He displays our needs, our words, and emotions with words and feeling we can’t even hint at.

This is all while we wait for glory, for Jesus’ loving return to bring us our reward in our faith.

Because we know that God is getting the whole of what we are pleading with him about because the Spirit who knows our heart and minds and the heart and mind of God is presenting our plights to God, we can then know that God is working for our good.

  • What good?
  • How is God working?
  • What’s this really about?

What is the good that God wants to do in the world? He wants to save the world, to bring them into the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ.

“God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some count slowness, but patient toward you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9. God wants to save people and we know that salvation is through faith in Jesus.

Look at 2 Corinthians 3:18-19.

Paul is revealing how much greater the glory is in the new covenant than was in the old covenant.  And that those who still live by the old covenant have veiled themselves to the glory God intends in the new covenant for them. And then he says that we are “being transformed into the likeness of Christ.”

This new covenant in Christ’s blood, the covenant of grace, the covenant which saves us is about our becoming like Christ, even now, while we live this life.

So, God is working together in our lives to bring about this transformation.

Romans 8:28-30

Long before God created the world, he fully intended that those who are in Christ, those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior will become like his son. He is the heir, but God makes the believer an heir, we become “children of God.” We get the inheritance we already talked about; we are glorified, we get to go to heaven, we get to spend the time with God in person.

Conforming to the image of Christ is the good that God is working together with us, in us, bringing it about.

As long as we hold strong to Christ, we remain in him, we continue to grow into and conform to his likeness we will continue to have our eternal hope.

That’s why Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” in verse 30. That is why he says that we are More than conquerors through him (Christ) who loved us” in verse 37. That is why life and death, angels and demons, the present and the future, powers, even height and depth “nor anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” in verses 38 and 39.

All of this is true when we are in Christ.

I am finding a promise here in Romans 8:28 that tells me what God is doing together with my soul, making me Christ-like. I am involved. I know that God works in circumstances and even guides us through those difficult and troubling circumstances, but he didn’t promise to make them good, not in the physical-material sense.

  • He didn’t say I’ll turn your job loss into a better job yet to come.
  • He didn’t say I’ll make your body whole so you won’t have to suffer sickness or injury.
  • He didn’t say I’ll heal your broken heart by bringing someone new to love that is better than you’ve known before.
  • He didn’t promise anything like that.  Though he could do stuff like.

What God has promised is according to what salvation is about. He intends to bring us into Christ’s likeness.

Verse 32 has become a very happy verse for me.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Is your identity in Christ? If so, God is working in you to make you into the likeness of Christ and specifically heirs, subjects of eternal life.

I’m longing for heaven.

At the same time, your trust in God and his word are the tools to help you spiritually, emotionally, and practically through whatever struggle you have. Though Romans 8:28 isn’t the cure-all scripture many take it to be, faith does rely upon God to strengthen and support in good and bad times, when hope is blinded and when life is good. Always trust God, rely on his Spirit, and seek guidance from the Bible, God will see you through it though things may not turn how you wish them too.

God is good and faithful and through your faith in Christ he is your life.

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Gettin’ Wet in God’s Grace (Romans Pt. 8)

Ephesians 2:4-9 relates to our discussion

All the way through this discussion in Romans on grace, I’ve stated that grace sits easily where sin once occupied. Sin’s place in our life has become to familiar. We’re conformed with sin, brought down by sin, immersed in sin and it only takes a single sin to break our relationship with God and that can happen before we even know about God and the relationship he wishes to share with us.

Since we are lost in sin and nothing we do on our part can get us out of it, God has made a way. We can’t pay our way out of sin, God doesn’t accept cash. We can’t work our way out. We’re never good enough for that to take place. We can’t be good enough or do enough good deeds for God to think well of us. We’re sunk, except for God’s grace that he will give you if you have faith in his Son who died on the cross for you.

Faith in Christ takes a new meaning when we realize that faith is more than just “I believe this about Jesus.” Faith is belief in the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). But faith is trust. Trust in the fact of Jesus’ being God’s son and raising from the dead and trust in God and Christ for everything it means to be a follower of Christ. Faith is also obeying. It makes very little sense to say we have faith but not follow the things of God. It’s illogical. God has given us the ways of Christ through his life and the teaching of the New Testament in order that we might follow in obedient faith.

But, I still have to receive this grace. When someone hands me a present for my birthday or Christmas or for some special occasion, I have to open it for the gift benefit me. I can set the present on my coffee table and talk about how great a gift it is and nice the wrapping is. When someone asks me what it is, the only response I can give is, “It’s a gift. Isn’t it nice?” If I haven’t opened it, the only thing it does for me is make me aware that the person who gave it to me thought enough of me to give me a gift.

If I hear that God wants to give me grace, but do nothing to receive it, I have received nothing. “God loves me. Isn’t that great.” just like an unopened gift, knowing about grace and not doing what is necessary to receive it is like an unopened gift.

Jesus died for you and me. Our sin sent Jesus to the cross. His death paid for my sins, but to receive God’s grace I have to experience Christ’s death and resurrection.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:1-14, NIV

Baptism puts us in contact with Jesus’ death and resurrection. God applies grace and salvation to us in baptism. Sin is removed, washed away during baptism. God’s grace is applied to my life and sin is no longer a part of me since I have been baptized. As Paul wrote, we are dead to sin.

When someone dies, we bury them. When someone dies they don’t have anything to do with the material world any longer. When we die to sin, we no longer have anything to do with sin, so why would we go on sinning. Grace is our way of life. It has replaced sin. It takes it’s place. In fact, it shoved sin out of the seat it occupied in our lives and sits easily in the same spot because grace makes Jesus the King of our life and he sits in that seat, the throne of our life.

I got wet on January 1st, 1967 because I wanted to be saved from my sins. I submitted myself to baptism (the word means immersion) to accept Jesus and let God put grace in my life. And now sin does not rule me, Christ leads me.

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Not Disappointed (Romans Pt 7)

Ok, you’ve been forgiven of sin, freed from guilt and feeling guilty. No one can accuse you of sin and wrong and be able to convict you. What’s that mean?

I like it when stress is pretty much nil, when I don’t have anything to hassle with. Since sin is so bad it is much more than just a hassle, it is a major problem. A problem so huge that I can’t get over it. Everything I’ve done, lied, stolen, lusted, hated, been insensitive to others, well, they all weigh on my heart and soul. I may not remember each specific individual incident, but I know that I’ve done those and other things.

I am guilty. I feel it. And the one that I have to answer too will hold me accountable to what I’ve done . . .  unless, I can have all this sin removed from me. If that happens, I have nothing to hassle with because no one has a case against me, they cannot accuse me of the wrong.

By the blood of Jesus applied to my life through my faith in Jesus I have been forgiven by God. Meaning, I am no longer guilty. God doesn’t hold it against me. So I get peace.

Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1.

If God doesn’t hold it against me anymore, than God and I are at peace with each other and I have nothing to feel guilty about anymore. I am free. I have been saved from God’s wrath (5:9). The penalty for sin is death (6:23). That word death is describing what is known as spiritual death which is eternal separation from God.

This opens up a whole new world for me. I have been cleansed from my sin by Christ’s blood. I have been given the gift of grace by God through Jesus’s death. I have been justified and declared not guilty. I am no longer judged by the written law, but by the law of faith. My faith in Jesus saves me and I am not disappointed because I am free.

I work in a juvenile detention facility, a temporary jail for teens who have broken the law. When they are locked up, they have lost their civil rights because they have violated the law that protects society to from wrong-doers. They are confined to a limited area, they are restricted in their interaction with others. They have more rules to follow or they receive more restrictions than before, in fact, they will be removed from the general population and restricted to their individual cell.

When they are released, they are free to interact in our society as long as they keep the rules. Breaking the rules takes away their freedom.

When we sin, our souls are in bondage to sin and removed from God’s presence. We are bound away from interaction with God, until we come to him in repentance through belief in his Son Jesus Christ who died to pay for our sins (5:9-20). When God gives us this gift of grace, we are free to live without sin. We are free to live in relation to Him. What a great gift!

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Dreaming That I’m Free (Romans Pt 6)

We all have dreams where our imagination takes us beyond reality. There’s a couple I’ve had since high school. One is being able to jump up on stage with the Doobie Brothers and play China Grove, Long Train Running, and Listen to the Music with them. Another is winning gold medals in the Olympics in the distance events. Neither is very likely to happen, especially now at my age and in my condition.

Have you ever imagined you were guilt free, as if you had never done anything wrong? No one can hold anything against you. You are guilt free, you have no record of wrong (anymore).

It’s a hard thing to imagine because we have sinned, we are guilty. We have offended God’s righteousness and holiness. He is pure light, in him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John+1:5&version=NIV ). Yahweh, God just has nothing to do with sin except eradicate it. It is so offensive he will not have a relationship with those who have sin. That’s why he kicked Lucifer (his name as an angel) out of heaven and now his name is the devil and Satan. God punishes sin. Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death….”

But, what if we could be free of sin, if we could be pronounced “Not Guilty?” What if we didn’t have to feel our guilt and actually have it removed? What if it  was as if we had never sinned, never done wrong? That’s what we want and it’s what God wants. He wants to have a relationship with you, but your sin prevents it, but he wants to wipe sin out of your life so that you don’t have to suffer the punishment for sin.

In the movie Angels in the Outfield, the kid J.P. who is friends with the main character Roger who sees the angels in the outfield, whenever something that might happen is pretty much impossible, J.P. would respond, “It could happen!” It not only can happen, it does and it will if.

The way it happens is through your faith in Christ. Not simple faith that only says “I believe,” but trust and faith that does what God wants for his forgiveness to happen in your life, to wipe your sin and guilt away. When that faith happens then God justifies you. A common way to think about the word justified is, ” just as if I’d” never sinned, and that’s the essence of it.

Abraham was given credit by God as being righteous. It was through his faith (read Romans 4, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%204&version=NIV ). But look at the last verses of the chapter:

“Therefore it was credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it credited to him but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him (that is God) who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:22-25, NASB).

Look at that, “for our benefit too.” If Abraham was declared righteous, we can be too. Abraham believed God, Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins and since he has raised from the dead, if you and I believe in Jesus then we can be justified to.

It’s not a dream, or a wish, it’s a fact. You can be free from sin. Those who have already been freed are filled with gratefulness. And we continue to live for Jesus.

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