Christian Leaders Respond to the Tragedy in Connecticut

newtown mourningAny time our nation faces a tragedy like we did yesterday, it is important for us to process our grief. How a nation collectively grieves is as unique as the individuals that make up our great land, and the situations over which that grief has been borne.

As I watched our President grieve at the White House briefing yesterday, I also shed tears. In the past 24 hours I have seen some beautiful pieces written by Christian leaders.

Max Lucado posted this beautiful prayer here:

Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,
Your Children

David Platt’s excllent post, The Gospel and Newtown, seeks to help readers wrestle with the age-old question of the goodness of an all-powerful God in the midst of such evil. This should be must reading for all people of faith.

Chris Surber, a pastor in Suffolk, Virginia wrote a beautiful piece entitled, I Want Christmas Toofor the Suffolk News-Herald.

Nicole Unice writes from the perspective of a mother and a theologian in her post Kneel and Pray for Newtown. Her writing helps us understand how to give your children framework for understanding good and evil.

John Piper writes about Jesus and Newtown in two posts entitled, How Does Jesus Come to Newtown? and A Lesson for All from Newtown.

Rachel Held Evans writes about the impact of social media on mourning, and our need to grieve together in her post Grieving Together.

Ed Stetzer writes about Three Ways Christians Should Respond to the Horror of a Broken World, encouraging us to pray, not be afraid to say that the world is horribly broken, and to do something.

Ann Voskamp reminds us of where God is in the dark of this weekend, here. ‘

Mark Becker, a pastor in St. Paul, MN writes about his anger, hurt and fear here.

Al Mohler wrote a healing piece at his blog entitled Rachel Weeping for Her Children – The Massacre in Connecticut, where he challenges us to affirm the sinfulness of sin and the full reality of human evil, to affirm the cross of Christ as the only adequate remedy for evil, to acknowledge the necessity of justice, knowing that Perfect Justice awaits the day of the Lord, and to grieve with those who grieve.

Finally, here are some of the tweets that have appeared in the past 24 hours by Christian leaders.

Anderson Driscoll Feinberg giglio Moore Osborne Smith Smith2 Stetzer Stier swindoll Warren

Good Things Come in Small Packages

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A Radical Idea: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God (10-Pack)
A Radical Idea: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God – Kindle Edition

 There is an old axiom that states, Good things come in small packages. I haven’t always believed it. I certainly haven’t believed it when it comes to booklets. When I received a package that contained ten review copies of David Platt’s booklet A Radical Idea I was initially disappointed. I’m not sure that I have ever read a tiny booklet and been overly impressed. So, to say that I was surprised to find myself delighted, challenged and convicted in just 52 short pages is a bit of an understatement.
As he has done in his books Radical and Radical Together, Platt challenges readers to move beyond the complacency and consumerism of the American church and into true discipleship. In his opening pages Platt writes, “God-exalting men and women do not have the time to waste their lives pursuing a Christian spin on the American dream.” He then begins to unpack his vision of what the church could look like if together we pursued radical obedience to Christ’s mission to make disciples; which he repeatedly calls “impacting the world with the Spirit of God for the glory of God.”Platt, who pastors a mega-church in a multi-million dollar facility, challenges American Christians to rethink church. Increasingly uncomfortable with the massive amounts of dollars that western churches throw into buildings and ministry, Platt challenges us to think about how we are unleashing people for ministry that happens apart from the building. Platt has asked his church leaders to ask themselves how they would do church if they didn’t have the luxury of a building. It is clear that much of Platt’s thinking on church has been developed by his trips to parts of the world where being a follower of Jesus is illegal.He writes on page eleven that, “the goal of the church is never for one person to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ. The goal is always for all God’s people to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ.” He then discusses how Jesus used eleven men, who would have been considered the “wrong people” by many in the modern church, to transform the world for Christ.I like to keep a journal when I read books. One of the phrases that I wrote down while reading this book is, “Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people” (page 12).Modern churches in other parts of the world and certainly the early church have not been built around great communicators, fantastic programs, state of the art facilities and worship. These churches have grown because of a desire for the people of God to gather together no matter the cost, for the glory of God. Platt asks his readers to consider, “What if the church itself – the people of God gathered in one place – is intended to be the attraction, regardless of who is teaching or singing that day? This is enough for our brothers and sisters around the world. But is it enough for us?” (page 18).Platt spends the remainder of the book detailing the need for churches to “make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples, and together multiply the Gospel to all peoples” (see page 47).In the church that I pastor we’ve encouraged each of our members to follow the example of Jesus when it comes to discipleship. Jesus had a core group of three men that He discipled in a greater way than anyone else. He spend three years building into the twelve disciples. He had a group of 70 that he poured into at a lesser level. And, He had the multitudes who he poured into at an even lesser level. Platt’s book challenges us to do a similar thing. He encourages each member of the church to be involved in a discipleship journey with those whom God has brought into their life.

I will be giving A Radical Idea to all of the small group leaders, church staff and elders at our church. It’s nice to have a booklet that can easily be read in 30 minutes or less to give to the core leaders of our congregation. A Radical Idea is a great companion to a discipleship program that seeks to “unleash the people of God for the purpose of God.” (Platt’s terminology, not mine — but I sure like it!) I highly recommend this resource.

To read an excerpt of A Radical Idea, follow this link and click the excerpt tab.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Make Much of Jesus

radical
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
When I accepted the call to serve at my first church, my Grandfather, who had been a pastor for many years looked at me and said, “Brian, make much of Jesus. In your ministry of the Word, in your life, in your home, in your church . . . make much of Jesus!”I loved my Grandpa, and to this day, his advice was the best that I have ever been given as it relates to the life of a Christian. David Platt, in his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream writes, “While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.”Beginning this Sunday, Woodbury Community Church will take a journey to the heart of what it means to live as citizens in the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7 is the most famous sermon that Jesus ever preached. Thousands of people gathered to hear the Rabbi teach about a new way of living. Jesus taught like no one else ever had. His sermon would shake the contemporary understanding of what it meant to live as a child of God. If you pay serious attention to Jesus’ message, it will shake us to the core as well. I wrestled with how I would begin the 2011 sermon year. There were about ten themes that I kept studying, but I couldn’t escape Jesus’ sermon. The words of Jesus are as revolutionary today as they were when he preached them two thousand years ago. We are going in depth, spending 33 weeks to unpack Jesus’ words in Matthew 5-7. Take some time between now and Sunday to read through Jesus’ sermon, and come ready to learn how we can best live as citizens in the Kingdom of God. If you would like some additional resources to study while we go through Jesus’ sermon, check out these three books, which will be my primary study tools outside of the Bible.


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The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word)

1)    Kent Hughes book, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, is part of the Preaching the Word Commentary set published by Crossway Books. The Preaching the Word Commentaries are among my favorite, because they are simply the sermons that the authors’ preached in the churches that they serve. This book is from a series of sermons that Hughes taught at The College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. I used this book as a template for the way that I would divide up the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. 

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The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Bible Speaks Today)

2)    John Stott’s book, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, is a classic exposition of Jesus’ teaching. Stott is a brilliant Bible teacher and gives so many unique insights into Jesus’ words. 

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Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

3)    D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, was mentioned in almost every commentary on The Sermon on the Mount that I read. It is a spiritual classic, written by the longtime minister of Westminster Chapel in London. All three of these books make much of Jesus, and I hope that our series will as well! Looking forward to God doing some great things in the weeks ahead!