A Christian Response To Tragedy

As virtually the entire world knows by now, Newtown, CT, a previously quiet little town in western Connecticut experienced an unimaginable tragedy this past Friday morning. What is the ‘proper’ Christian response to the sudden and unprovoked slaughter of 26 people ~ most of whom were only 6 or 7 years old?

I’m not so sure there is a simple answer to this question ~ or even just one ‘correct’ answer. However, I have been moved by the gracious and loving response of the New Testament patterned gathering of believers in Newtown, CT. Through their website the assembly offers to the community their love and concern.

Below is a screenshot of their open letter to the residents of Newtown. As you think about this recent tragedy please remember to include the Newtown Christian Fellowship in your prayers as they navigate through this difficult time and shine the light of hope that only the Lord Jesus Christ can give.

 

Newtown Christian Fellowship Letter to Newtown offering sympathy and support after the tragedy

 

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Jottings – Peace in the Darkest Storm

Jottings

Prayer is the healthy and spontaneous response of the heart that knows God to His revelation of an open heaven: a believer has learned that the love of God is so great that He does not want His children to be anxious about anything (Philippians 4). The Lord gives peace in the darkest storm and confidence in Himself in the most perplexing problems.

Hamilton, G. Fred. (1985). Why? New Testament Principles Today? New Jersey: Christian Missions in Many Lands, Inc. p. 26.

 

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Have You Taken It To The Lord?

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord… 2 Kings 19:14-15a

 

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

Sennacherib King of Assyria, the world’s loan superpower at the time, wrote a threatening letter to Hezekiah King of Judah. See 2 Kings 19:8-13. The letter was fairly simple and read something like this “Assyria has wiped many nations off the map. You’re next! You’re God is a lier and will not save you.”

Hezekiah’s reaction to the letter was amazing– He literally took it to the Lord in prayer. We are told in 2 Kings 19:14-15 that after reading the letter Hezekiah went to the house of the Lord and “spread it before the Lord.” Amazing. Then, over the letter he prayed an impassioned prayer to the God of Israel. See 2 Kings 19:15-19.

The words that Hezekiah speaks to God are a wonderful example of a deeply spiritual man seeking the Lord’s help. He begins in worship v15, then he describes his difficult situation vv16-18 and asks God for deliverance from the enemy v19a. He closes his prayer with an explanation of why God should save him and the nation of Judah from Sennacherib: “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”

How true are the words of the hymn writer: “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

 

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Hymn quotations from What A Friend We Have in Jesus written by Joseph M. Scriven. 1855.

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NT Tuesday: ‘One Another’ Verses in the New Testament

Large Crowd of PeopleI must admit, I had writer’s block, which is odd, since I am not a writer!

The only topic that came to my heart and mind was writing on the “one another” passages in the New Testament. But, I said to myself, “self, that isn’t a New Testament principle.” Ah ha! Little did I know that I would sit through a message on Nehemiah and be told that the “one another” passages in Scripture are in fact a New Testament principle. Therefore, this week’s blog post is on the “one another” passages found in the New Testament.

Let me explain why I agree with the Bible teacher who declared that as New Testament principle practicing saints, we ought to pay heed to the “one another” passages.

Principles should change our practice – it’s that simple. If we are going to adhere to New Testament principles, than our lives (not just our meetings, but our individual lives) ought to look much, much different than the world.

Let’s consider some of these passages…

 


Confess our sins to one another



 

“Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16.

In this verse, we are instructed to participate in two different activities as part of our relationship with each other in the body of Christ. The first is to confess our sins to one another. Interestingly enough, it does not say to confess our sins to a robed clergy, to a recognized elder, to a Bible teacher, to a deacon, etc. It says to confess our sins to one another.

While Jesus Christ’s work on the cross has made it possible for us to confess our sins directly to God, there are some benefits to confessing our sins to each other in an appropriate manner.

Certainly, if we have wronged a person, we ought to confess our sins to that person and ask for forgiveness. Likewise, if we have sinned publicly (or been caught in a sin and it becomes public), there is a necessity to confess our sins to the local church and others who may have been offended by the sin.

If we need support or accountability, confessing our sins to one another has a benefit. I have sat with more than one young man who has confessed his addiction to pornography. Even as they were confessing them, there was a burden that was being released and now shared by another brother. Accountability, love, grace, and forgiveness are often needed during these times.

 


Pray for one another



 

Notice how closely, confessing our sins, praying and healing are connected. It would do us well to take note of this relationship. I would suggest that our prayers are hampered when we fail to confess our sins and likewise, holding in unconfessed sins is certainly not healthy.

Prayer is powerful!

Prayer benefits the one praying and the one who is the subject of the prayer.

Prayer aligns our thoughts with God’s perspective on things.

Prayer forms a bond between brothers and sisters that is not easily broken.

We need to pray because it expresses our dependence on God.

We need to pray for others, because it expresses our love for them.

We need others to pray for us, because it allows them to show their love for us. Let us be prayer warriors during our time here.

 

More on the “one another” passages next week – unless the Lord Jesus comes back – oh, what a thought… until then, fulfill your ministry.

 

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Photo credit: Public Domain

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NT Tuesday: The Importance of Corporate Prayer

Ocean Waves

In our continuing series on New Testament Principles, I’d like to take a look at the importance of prayer for the believer who wishes to be guided by New Testament principles. Specifically, I would like to consider the importance of the individual believer participating in corporate prayer.

In Acts, the church is said to have been continually devoting themselves to four functions. One of these functions is prayer. Again, I would like to point out the phrase “continually devoting themselves”. That’s a lofty characterization – does it describe our prayer life? Our assembly’s prayer life?

When we think of New Testament principles, many of us do NOT automatically think of prayer and yet, it was mentioned early on as an important activity of the church – an activity that was modeled after watching the Head of the Church, The Lord Jesus Christ, while He walked on the earth He had previously created.

Prayer is prevalent in the disciples of Jesus Christ (both pre-and post Pentecost). In Acts 1:16, the disciples are seen “in one accord… devoting themselves to prayer.” Those that were going to dedicate themselves to feeding the flock and teaching the Word, also were mindful of the importance of devoting themselves to prayer. So much so, that they chose Stephen and other men to serve at the tables so that they had more time to engage in this vital activity.

When Peter was imprisoned, the church devoted itself to making “earnest prayer” for him. Acts 12:5. Their earnest prayer was heard by a prayer-hearing God who answered their prayers and freed Peter! Peter showed up at the prayer meeting, much to their surprise. (How much better would it have been if they were standing at the front door waiting for him as a sign of faith that God would answer their prayer?!) Alas, their surprise at God’s answer to prayer seems to be a New Testament principle, as well. But it ought not to be! We pray to a prayer hearing, prayer answering, all powerful God. His power toward us!!!

When it was time to appoint elders, they did so “with prayer and fasting” (Acts 14:23). Paul also saw the necessity and the vitality of prayer. While travelling to and in Macedonia, Paul went to “the place of prayer” on the Sabbath Day.

In Paul’s epistle to Timothy, an epistle with the stated purpose of teaching Timothy how he ought to conduct himself in the household of God, Paul mentions prayer several times. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul says “First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all the people.” Note that it says “first of all.” As a means of emphasizing the importance of prayer – before he gets to anything else, Paul wants Timothy to know the importance of prayer. Paul also, in vs. 8 of that chapter, indicates that he desires that men everywhere would engage in praying!

Paul’s epistles are filled with prayers. The Lord Jesus’s life, while here on earth, was filled with prayer. Our lives – individually, but equally important – corporately – should be filled with prayer! It’s a New Testament principle!

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce Reuse RecycleA few weeks ago, I was driving a van full of high school kids from Pennsylvania to Alabama for a leadership conference. During the drive, we listened to a bunch of different music. Some I recognized and some I didn’t. Being the driver, though, has its privileges and I got to choose most of the musical selections!

Not only was I shocked that high school kids knew the words to many of the songs which I chose (not all of the songs were faith-based), but I was shocked by how many songs I could sing word for word. I was very impressed with them, and with myself! Then it hit me. I knew more lyrics to secular songs than I do verses from the Bible! I spent more time singing songs in my head than reading, or even meditating, on God’s Word!

I had thought about this dilemma for the few hours of driving. I wondered about the time I had spent watching TV or listening to the radio, rather than being in God’s Word. I had been taking in a large amount of the secular forms of entertainment instead of taking in Truth and it reflects in my behavior and my perception. The old adage goes, “Garbage in, garbage out”; I had been taking in garbage, and even worse yet, exposing others to the stench!

Remaining in God’s Word and prayer daily provides me with a way to recycle the garbage which I’m exposed to and, through a change of perception, turn that garbage into something which is good and useful to others, something which I can use to build up others; exhort and encourage. In a way, I become a waste recycling plant, through a Biblical worldview, instead of a waste dump (a secular worldview).

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Click here for other posts by Long Vo

Photo credit creativefreedom

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Being Godly Pilgrims On The Information Superhighway [4]

Integrated Circuit 2The Exciting Prospect of Being Pilgrims in the Digital Age:

 


1. Greater opportunities for communication enable believers spread out over the globe to connect



 

Believers may correspond, pray for one another, and share digital resources via the world wide web. This facilitates greater cooperation as Christians move from country to country in this era of globalization. Introductions can be made before a believer visits a far away place on vacation or a business trip. Some of my friends and I regularly conduct home Bible studies using Skype to teach others in various far flung places.

 


2. The internet is a needy mission field



 

Chat rooms abound with lonely, desperate people. Social media sites like Facebook and Google+ can be used for posting gospel verses, explaining Christianity, advertizing gospel meetings, etc. The proliferation of evil on the internet is well-known; yet this generation has a unique opportunity to publicize God’s love in Christ.

 


3. Disseminating God’s Word in audio, video, and written format in a multitude of languages



 

As a sort of mini-digital Pentecost, the internet is now a place for finding the Bible in almost any widespread language. Many sites play the Word in audio format; thus benefitting the visually impaired and those with long commutes to work (an mp3 player is a worthy investment for listening to Scripture, Christian podcasts, books, and audio sermons.)

 


4. Making available more Christian literature and study tools than have ever been available in the history of the world



 

Downloadable free software such as E-sword, The Word, and Bible Explorer 4 put hundreds of Bibles, commentaries, and language tools at the willing student’s disposal. Other online Bible sites – such as blueletterbible.org and biblos.com – place many tools on the web for easy access wherever there is an internet connection. Many helpful Bible apps (e.g. You Version) turn one’s smartphone into a mobile library. What is more, book.google.com and archive.org have the contents of millions of public domain works (i.e. books with expired copyrights) posted for online reading or for download in epub, kindle, and pdf. formats. Other sites like stempublishing.com and biblecentre.org are rich treasuries of the commentaries, articles, hymns, and other writings on the Scriptures by old writers like Darby, Kelly, and Mackintosh.

 


5. Intelligently praying for global missions and keeping in touch with specific missionaries



 

In former generations, missionary reports were conducted when a missionary came home on furlough. Now they may be conducted on the web by the means of services like Skype or Facetime. Instead of waiting months for the missionaries to receive news from home, or for praying Christians to receive news from them, emails may keep all parties in touch on a regular basis.

 


6. Penetrating closed countries with the gospel and edifying believers in those places



 

Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and other countries are closed to open missionary work. The internet makes it possible to reach Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Communists and many others through gospel websites in the languages of those respective countries. Christians ought to pray for these efforts, as well as financially support those who are spreading the Word to closed countries through the world wide web.

 


7. Bringing the teaching and the preaching of saints who are now with the Lord to a new generation who may be unfamiliar with such ministry



 

In my teens and twenties, I was privileged to spend time with and sit under the ministries of several godly brothers who are now in glory. Many of their sermons are available at sites like voicesforchrist.net; thereby bringing the teaching of departed Christians of former days before the students of today.

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This series of four posts are based on Keith Keyser’s final keynote address at the recent Why We Web Conference. This is the final post in the series.

Jump back to the first post in this series

Photo flickr/Hinkelstone

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Which Church? New Testament Churches Met For Collective Prayer

Which Church?

Collective prayer was an important function of the early churches, Acts 2:42, Acts 4:23-24, Acts 12:5, and the prayer meeting should still be a priority for every assembly. On some occasions in the Acts, these were impromptu gatherings in emergency conditions, but it is clear that meetings for prayer were a regular feature of the early churches.

The doctrinal part of the Word that regulates the conduct of prayer meetings is 1 Timothy chapter 2. The first two verses show how we should pray, blending supplications, intercessions and thanksgivings. They show for whom we should pray, and why, and really, the command to pray for ‘all men’ provides wide scope for our public prayers. As has been observed already, verse 8 indicates who should do the public praying, the men.

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Jump to the next post in this series.

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Jottings – Pray in the Spirit

Jottings

God has never promised to guide any one into the truth who neglects the Word of truth. Therefore he who would pray in the Spirit must walk in the truth, for the Spirit and the Word agree.

H. A. Ironside, The Mission Of And Praying In The Holy Spirit (Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., Neptune, NJ) p. 6.

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Jotting – Praying in the Holy Spirit

Jottings

How great the need then for a spiritual house-cleaning if we would pray aright; for only as the Divine Person living in the believer is ungrieved can we pray in the Holy Spirit.

H. A. Ironside, The Mission Of And Praying In The Holy Spirit (Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., Neptune, NJ) p. 5.

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