Tragedy at Newtown by Ravi Zacharias

Tragedy at Newtown

Posted on December 18, 2012 by Ravi Zacharias

The tragedy that shook Newtown, Connecticut, and indeed the entire nation, defies analysis. What must have gone on in the mind of this young man for him to walk into a school of little children and wreak such devastating carnage numbs the soul. At the same time this was happening, I was under the surgeon’s blade for minor surgery. When I left the recovery room and returned home, among the first pieces of news on my phone was the news of this mass killing. Something within me hoped that I was still not clear-headed, but I knew deep inside that I was reading an unfolding story of horror and tragedy. What does one say? What is even appropriate without violating somebody’s sacred space and their right to scream?

I am a father and a grandfather. I simply cannot fathom the unbearable weight within a parent’s or grandparent’s heart at such a personal loss. It has often been said that the loss of a child is the heaviest loss to bear. I have no doubt that those parents and grandparents must wonder if this is real or simply a terrifying nightmare. My heart and my prayers are for them and, indeed, for the family of the assassin. How his father will navigate through this will be a lifelong journey.

When a mass-killer like this ends by taking his own life, there is an even deeper sense of loss. Everyone wants to know, “Why?” Not that the answer would soften the blow but it would at least give some clue, some release to speak, to hear, to try to work through. But all we are left with is twenty-eight funerals and lifelong grief. To all of those who have suffered such loss, may the Lord carry you in His strength and bear you in your grief. You will be in our thoughts and prayers.

My own attempt at saying something here is feeble but carries a hope that somebody listening will make this world a better place. My heart goes back to Angola Prison in Baton Rouge where I met such people whose savagery took them to that destination. It was interesting to see a Bible in every cell and to hear many talk of how it had become their only means of life and hope. Someone with me said, “If we had more Bibles in our schools maybe we would need less of them here.” To the skeptic and the despiser of belief in God, I know what they will respond. I am quite convinced that the one who argues against this ends up playing God and is ultimately unable to defend any absolutes. Hate is the opposite of love and while one breathes death, the other breathes life. That is what we need to be addressing here. The seeds of hate sooner or later bear fruit in murder and destruction. Killers are not born in a moment. Deep beneath brews thinking and the animus that in a moment is uncorked. We are living in a society that nurtures hate on many sides with the result that lawlessness triumphs.

Even in ideal settings, killing can take place. Murder began in the first family when a brother could not stand the success of his sibling. The entire history of the Middle East–five millennia–is a tale of two brothers. Centuries of killing has not settled the score. Maybe in Adam Lanza’s case we will find a deep psychological reason behind what he did. But that does not diminish the reality that there lurks many a killer whose moment will come and the nation will be brought to tears again. We can almost be certain of that. Yes, we can discuss all the symptomatic issues—security, gun control, early detection signs, and so on. These are all worthy of discussion. But it’s always easier to deal with the symptoms rather than with the cause.

I wish to share what I think we must address or we head down the slope to a precipitous edge of brutality. The fiscal cliff is tame by comparison to the moral devastation ahead if we do not recognize the malady for what it is. Hate is the precursor to murder. Jesus made that very clear. Playing God is the dangerous second step where we feel we are the ultimate judge of all things and that we have the right to level the score.

Here, I would like to address our political leaders and media elite: You may personally have the moral strength to restrict your ideas to mere words but many who listen to you do not. To take the most sacred privilege of democracy and transform it into the language of aggression plays right into the hands of hate-mongers. This is not the language of a civil society or of wise leadership. It is not the ethos of a culture of co-existence. It is not the verbal coinage with which we can spend our way into the future. Our political rhetoric is fraught with division, hate, blame, and verbal murder. Our young are listening. Remember that what you win them with is what you win them to.

As for the entertainment world, what does one even say at a time like this? Calling for gun control and then entertaining the masses with bloodshed is only shifting the locus from law to entertainment. Do our entertainers ever pause to ask what debased values emerge from their stories? The death of decency is audible and visible in what passes as movie entertainment and political speech. This is the same culture that wishes to take away Nativity scenes and Christmas carols from our children. God is evicted from our culture and then He is blamed for our carnages. America is lost on the high seas of time, without chart or compass. The storms that await us will sink this nation beyond recognition if we do not awaken to the rapid repudiation of the values that shaped this nation. The handwriting is on the wall. Freedom is not just destroyed by its retraction. It is destroyed even more painfully by its abuse.

There is one more thing. It is so obvious but is seldom ever addressed. All these recent mass murders have been done by men. Many of them young men, yes, even mere boys. Jonesboro, Columbine, Virginia Tech, now Newtown. Is there something within our culture that doesn’t know how to raise strength with dignity and respect? Is this how boys are meant to be? From bloodletting in hockey games while thousands cheer to savagery in school shootings while thousands weep, we must ask ourselves what has gone wrong with us men? Where are the role models in the home? Is knocking somebody down the only test left for strength? Is there no demonstration now of kindness, gentleness, courtesy, and respect for our fellow human beings? One young man on death row in Angola Prison told me that he started his carnage as a teenager. Now in his thirties with the end of the road in sight, he reached his hand out to me and asked me to pray with him. Life was lost at the altar of power and strength.

The Bible only speaks of one remedy for this: the transformation of the heart by making Christ the center. Those who mock the simplicity of the remedy have made evil more complex and unexplainable. Every heart has the potential for murder. Every heart needs a redeemer. That is the message of Christmas. The world took that child and crucified Him. But by his triumph over death He brings life to our dead souls and begins the transformation within. Unto us a child is born and He shall save us from our sins.

Before the first murder was committed, the Lord said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” To gain mastery over sin there is only one way. Just as Victoria Soto put herself in the way so that the children in her class might live, Jesus Christ put himself in the way that we all might live. That is the beginning of the cure for us as individuals and as a nation. All the laws in the world will never change the heart. Only God is big enough for that

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Christmas and Child Killers by Stephen Altrogge

Christmas and Child Killers

by Stephen Altrogge on December 15, 2012

Yesterday was awful. Appalling. Sickening. A masked man walks into a school and guns down twenty elementary age children. It makes you want to put your fist through a wall and hug your kids at the same time.

How do we think through such a tragedy? How do we process such an awful, appalling, gut-wrenching, heart-ripping act?

We can know that God is grieved. He is not an emotionally distant, somewhere off in heaven, kind of God. God sees, and he grieves. In Genesis 6:5-6, God looked upon the wickedness of the earth and was grieved.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

God is grieved over what happened yesterday. He is angry. His fury burns toward wickedness, and his heart breaks for those who lost loves ones. He is not a stoic, unemotional God. He grieves for the children that were killed, and for the parents who lost their children. And be assured, he will bring full justice upon the killer. He will repay Adam Lanza for every life he took. There will be no injustice, no getting off on a technicality, no hung jury. Our God is just, and he will bring justice to the man who took so many lives.

We can also find comfort in the fact that a day is coming when there will be no more school shootings. A day is coming when the wicked Serpent King, who inspires men to kill young children, will have his head crushed by the King of Kings. What happened yesterday was Satanic. But Satan will not have the final say in this world! Wickedness will not endure forever. Why? Because the Son of God became a small, vulnerable child.

In the midst of this hellish tragedy, Christmas gives me hope. Christmas is proof that God will not let evil win. He sent his son to make war on evil! Christmas is the story of light bursting into darkness. Of good triumphing over evil. Of a holy warrior coming to rescue his people from bondage. He sent his son so that child killers, and rapists, and pornographers, and Satan will not carry the day. A day is coming soon when Jesus will return, cast Satan into the lake of fire, and eradicate evil from the earth. The Prince of Peace will destroy the Prince of Darkness.

I’m looking to that day. I’m hoping in that day. Christmas is a reminder that good will ultimately triumph over evil. It will not always be winter and never Christmas. Spring is coming. The King is coming.

So let’s weep with those who weep. Let’s grieve, just as God grieves. Let’s pray that the men and women and children affected by this tragedy would come to know the true king. And let’s rejoice that a baby was born who would ultimately bring an end to school shootings

The Advent Promise-Paul David Tripp

Advent – The Promise

This e-mail has been shortened from the original resource. To download the full-color PDF with additional Scripture references and discussion questions, visit http://www.paultripp.com/advent. You can also request my four-part Advent sermon series with a year-end donation of any amount.

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In this week’s devotional, I want to lay out two principles about hope found in Isaiah 59. Here’s the first – the doorway to hope is hopelessness. It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But the only way you will ever find true hope is to give up on all those places where you’ve put your hope before. Our default is to find hope horizontally, in the situations, locations, and relationships of everyday life. How many times have you thought, “If only I had ______”? Or, “If only I lived _____”? That’s finding your hope horizontally.

You’re not going to meet a person who will give you life. No one can give you the peace and security you’re seeking. You’re not going to get a job that will make life worth living. You’re not going to own a possession that will give you the happiness that you seek. You’re not going to have an experience that will fulfill you. It’s all horizontal hope, and before you can find true, life-giving hope, you need to reach a point of hopelessness.

Here’s the second principle – to be reliable, hope needs to fix what is broken. Hope must address the biggest, deepest, and darkest dilemma of our life. Isaiah 59:2 tells us what is broken. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Just as horizontal hope will fail us, a horizontal diagnosis will miss what is truly broken. I like to think that my biggest problem in life exists outside me, not inside me. I want to say my problems are situational, locational, or relational. But they’re not. My biggest problem is vertical and personal.

There is something that lurks inside me that is dark and dangerous – sin. It kidnaps my thoughts, diverts my desires, and distorts my words. Only Christ can fix this problem. No horizontal hope can ever fix a vertical problem. So God promises to send His son as the vertical and ultimate solution. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression (59:2).”

That’s the Christmas story. The Christmas story is about hope coming. That’s why the angels sing the glorious song that we’ll focus on next week. That’s why the wise men came to worship. That’s why the shepherds were blown away. Hope had invaded the earth in the person of the Lord Jesus. Hope had come.

This Advent season, celebrate the true, life-giving source of Hope. And remember, hope is never a situation. Hope is never a location. Hope is never an ideology. Hope is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ.
•Name some situations, locations, and relationships that our culture defines as sources of hope.
•Reflect on times when you searched for hope in the wrong places. What was the outcome?
•Reflect on times when you relied on Christ as your only source of hope. What was the outcome?
•Who in your life is in need of Hope? How can you use the Advent season to share Hope with others?

God bless

Paul David Tripp

Consider Skipping ‘Christmas Season’ This Year by Daniel Montgomery and Bobby Gilles

Advent means “coming.” It’s a time for us to celebrate the first coming of Christ, but also to anticipate his return. When we sing, “O come, o come, Emmanuel; To ransom captive Israel” we’re not just taking a sentimental journey back in time. We’re reminding each other of God’s faithfulness in the past, and we’re expressing our own longing for Jesus to come back and put an end to injustice, hatred, sin, and fear.

Jesus repeatedly told his followers to watch and pray for his return. The season of Advent is an opportunity for us to reorient our thinking and to corporately express our fervent hope in the Second Coming of Christ. Our Lord wants us to be an expectant people.

But what if we’re not? What if we live as if this present world order will go on forever? What if we ignore the lessons of Advent? What can we expect when we’re no longer expecting God to reconcile all things to himself and create a new heaven and a new earth, wherein all righteousness dwells?

1. No Passion for Evangelism or Mission

Regardless of what our church statement of faith says, if we practically live as if this present world will roll on forever, why work for the kingdom?

Do you not say, “There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?” Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. (John 4:35-36)

2. ‘Your Best Life Now’ Heresies

Many nominal Christians reduce Christianity to a set of healthy, rational principles for feeling good about yourself, staying in shape, balancing your checkbook and doing good deeds.

Why not? If this life is all there is, we may as well make ourselves comfortable.

What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

3. Dangerous Church Leadership

When churches finally become hardened enough to the truth of Christ’s return, they lay the groundwork for wolves to enter, dressed as sheep.

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming,” and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. (Luke 12:42-46)

Our Proposal: Skip ‘Christmas Season’

Or better yet, celebrate the birth of Christ when our church fathers intended, during the 12 days between Christmas Day and Epiphany. But first, let Advent be Advent. In doing so, your Christmas celebration will be even more joyous.

Advent season begins each year on the fourth Sunday before December 25 (December 2, 2012). While “Christmas season” is often marked by greed, gluttony, and (if you’re lucky) a few warm fuzzy feelings as you stand under the mistletoe or drink hot cocoa by the fire, Advent stirs our hearts for the return of the king.

We acknowledge the already/not yet tension that Christ has come, and that Christ will come again—that he is the one “who is and who was and who is to come” spoken of in Revelation 1:8. We re-enact the yearning of those Old Testament saints who longed to see Messiah. And in doing so, we let the Spirit of God stir our hearts in anticipation of our own deliverance, and Christ’s promise (Revelation 21:5) to make all things new