“An Act of Pure Evil” – Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

Image result for las vegas

 

Hi TD,

With heavy heart over what’s transpired, I urge you to read Dr. Al Mohler’s response to the massacre in Las Vegas.  The truth of the matter is this, if God does not exist, then there’s nothing truly wrong with what happened in Las Vegas.  We cannot, as a nation, straddle both sides of the fence, wanting our cake and eating it too.  And we cannot as Christians either … and too many of us are.  Let us pray and then let us live hard the life God wants us to live, being who God wants us to be, doing what God wants us to do; and put the world be on notice that there is a real God who will provide real salvation, and grant real victory. – Arthur

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

“An Act of Pure Evil” — Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

by R. Albert Mohler

Evil points to a necessary moral judgment made by a moral authority greater than we are — a transcendent and supernatural moral authority: God.

Today, most Americans awoke to news from Las Vegas that is nothing less than horrific. For so many in Las Vegas, Sunday night must have seemed like the night that would never end.

In the face of such overwhelming news, we naturally seek after facts. We want to know what happened, and when. We want to know who did it. By mid-morning the facts were staggering. More than fifty people are dead and hundreds wounded after a lone gunman opened fire on a music festival from a perch in a hotel room 32 floors above. The attack was deadly, diabolical, and premeditated.

The shooting is already described as the worst in American history. The gunman, believed to be Stephen Paddock, killed himself as police prepared to storm his hotel room, from which he had aimed his deadly gunfire. The facts emerged slowly, and are still emerging. Paddock had no notable criminal record. He had worked for a defense contractor, owned two private aircraft, and was known to own guns. He was reported to like Las Vegas for its gambling and entertainment. No one seems to have considered him a threat. His brother, contacted after the massacre, said that the family was beyond shock, as if “crushed by an asteroid.”

In Las Vegas and beyond, hundreds of families are crushed by grief and concern. More than fifty human beings, very much alive just hours ago, are now dead, seemingly murdered by random order.

The facts will continue to come as investigations continue. We need facts in order to steady our minds and grapple with understanding. We must have facts, and yet we can be easily overwhelmed by them. Some “facts” will not be facts at all. National Public Radio helpfully and honestly ended its news coverage of the massacre with these words: “This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities. We will update as the situation develops.” I count that as both helpful and honest.

But the facts of who and what and where and how, still unfolding, point to the even more difficult question — why?

Why would anyone kill a fellow human being? Why launch an ambush massacre upon concertgoers listening to country music? Why premeditate a mass killing?

Was he driven by some obsession, fueled by some grievance? Was he sending a signal or political message as an act of terrorism? Is the answer psychiatric or pharmacological? Our minds crave an answer.

Why do we ask why?

We cannot help but ask why because, made in God’s image, we are moral creatures who cannot grasp or understand the world around us without moral categories. We are moral creatures inhabiting a moral universe and our moral sense of meaning is the faculty most perplexed when overwhelmed by horror and grief.

The terror group known as ISIS or the Islamic State claimed that Stephen Paddock was a “lone wolf” attacker who had recently converted to Islam. Law enforcement authorities said there is no evidence of anything related to ISIS or Islam.

Clark County (NV) Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters that he was not sure if the massacre was sending a message as a terror attack: “We have to establish what his motivation is first. And there’s motivating factors associated with terrorism other than a distraught person just intending to cause mass casualties.”

So far as we now know, Paddock left no note and communicated no clear message. The gunfire tells some story, but we do not yet know what the story is. We may never know.

That troubles us, and so it should. Knowing the story and determining the motivation would add rationality to our understanding, but we will never really understand.

A massacre by a lone gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Another killed 27, mostly children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Yet another killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. We really do not fully understand any of these attacks, nor countless other outbreaks of evil around the world.

One of the main theological insights about evil is that it is so often absurd. It is ultimately inexplicable, unfathomable, and cannot be resolved by human means.

President Trump has demonstrated little interest in academic disputes over moral philosophy so he probably did not intend to wade into deep theoretical waters when he called the massacre “an act of pure evil.” But he called it right, and he expanded on his judgment. “In times such as these I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness.” He went on to say: “The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light, and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.”

That is exactly how a president should speak, and underlining the “act of pure evil” as evil is exactly how a morally sane person should think. The judgment of evil here, real evil, should be beyond dispute.

Evil is a fact, too. And evil is a theological category. The secular worldview cannot use the word with coherence or sense. The acknowledgement of evil requires the affirmation of a moral judgment and a moral reality above human judgment. If we are just accidental beings in an accidental universe, nothing can really be evil. Evil points to a necessary moral judgment made by a moral authority greater than we are — a transcendent and supernatural moral authority: God.

College professors tell us that moral relativism has produced a generation of Americans who resist calling anything evil, and even deny the existence of moral facts. Justin P. McBrayer, who teaches at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, wrote in The New York Times that “many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts.”

That’s truly frightening, but McBrayer argues that by the time students arrive at college, they have already been told over and over again that there are no moral facts — that nothing is objectively right or wrong.

Only the Christian worldview, based in the Bible, can explain why moral facts exist, and how we can know them. Only the biblical worldview explains why sinful humanity commits such horrible moral wrongs. The Christian worldview also promises that God will bring about a final act of moral judgment that will be the final word on right and wrong — as facts, not merely speculation. The Gospel of Christ points us to the only way of rescue from the fact of our own evil and guilt.

Our hearts break for the families and communities now grieving, and we pray for them and for those even now fighting for life.

It is both telling and reassuring that secular people, faced with moral horror as we see now in Las Vegas, can still speak of evil as a moral fact — even if they continue to deny moral facts in the classrooms and courtrooms. No one can deny that the horror in Las Vegas came about by an act that was evil, pure evil, and evil as a fact.

I think of the Prophet Isaiah’s words: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light, and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” [Isaiah 5:20, ESV]

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Vlog #3/Video/Pics – TD’ers Bringing Hope to the Orphaned Overseas

Hey TD!

After quite an amazing first week of summer camp for orphaned children in the Big Country with special needs, three of our TD’ers have returned to us – Josh, Melody T., and Elissa – impacted and changed. They also got to visit one of Show Hope’s care centers (one of the ones we raised money for with V4V!).  Here are a couple of pics from the care center:

972f2fccebb8d644314c3cc157c8ff1d (1) 7f8ec1860e6b1b23816d9dbd8c991027 (1)

Megan, Calvin, and Brianna still remain there, serving a second week; this time with more “typical” (no or less special needs) orphaned children.  It’s still been pretty challenging (as you can hear from the vlog), but also very rewarding:

Things have still been really good. The kids are having a really good time. Honestly, I’ve been encouraged by the kids this week. I didn’t have to take a caretaker’s role this week, but instead one of a friend. We’ve done so many things together: Basketball, football, soccer, ultimate frisbee, joking, a skit, cards, Chinese chess. They’re honestly like younger brothers. I’ve gotten to talk about faith with them a little and am hoping to encourage them in their walks with Him. They are probably believers along with most people in their orphanage. They actually did a prayer night two days ago and some shared testimonies. Anyways, apart from that, I’ve just been humbled more …” Calvin

Please keep them in your prayers as they finish off their weeks and return soon!

Let’s Stop the “Christianese”!

christianese

Hey TD!

As I was reading Joshua 13 last week, my heart was gripped, my eyes riveted to the sentence, and my soul stunned when I reached the last verse.  This chapter is in the middle of God leading Israel’s conquering of lands, which He wants to give to them as an inheritance.  Here, He instructs Joshua, “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

The passage then proceeds to list in detail all the areas that God had given the other half of the tribe of Manasseh – “This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Gad … The territory of Jazer, all the towns of Gilead and half the Ammonite country as far as Aroer, near Rabbah; and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir …. etc. (you get the point).  It keeps going on and on about which tribes got which lands.

And then the chapter ends with this, “But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.  They got no inheritance.  God was their inheritance.  Wow.

I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.

As a worship leader at MBCLA since the ’80’s, I have poured through and sung decades’ worth of worship songs (formerly known as praise songs).  I have experienced their textual, musical, and stylistic evolution.  At any given time in a day, Sandra or I (sometimes Sandra AND I) will spontaneously break out some chorus of some song from the 5 decades of Christian worship music we’re familiar with.

One thing that I always wrestle with is this: Is this true?  In my life and in the lives of those I’m leading to sing these songs, is this true?  God warns us to let our yes be yes and our no be no, and that every word that proceeds from our mouths will be judged.  In dealing with the upstanding good church goers in His day, Jesus commented, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship Me in vain …” (Matt. 15) O, Lord, is this me?

So, when I sing certain lyrics, I begin to tighten up inside and cringe, struggling with whether I can actually and honestly sing these words:

“Rich or poor, God I want You more

Than anything that glitters in this world

Be my all, all consuming fire

You can have all my hands can hold

My heart, mind, strength and soul

Be my all, all consuming fire

 

We have all we need in You

And all we need is You

All we need is You”

 

Or,

“You are my strength when I am weak

You are the treasure that I seek

You are my All in all.”

 

Or,

“All of You is more than enough for

All of me, for every thirst and every need

You satisfy me with your love

And all I have in You is more than enough

 

More than all I want, more than all I need

You are more than enough for me”

 

If I’m going to sing these words, then I MUST honor them and live them out.  They MUST become reality in my heart, “for from the heart flow the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)  They MUST for you too.  May it NOT be said of us, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are (actually) far from me.”

Unfortunately, what all too often emerges, when we’ve gone to church for a long time without really letting God do the hard heart work in our lives, is that we end up developing a church culture of our own that we feel comfortable in – with church friends, doing “clean” things, etc.  We go to church together, go to fellowship and SS together, give the right answers, confess our struggles, share “honestly” and “vulnerably,” pray with one another, study Scripture together, and … sing worship songs together … songs that challenge, declare, and promise things to the Lord that most of us have never declared and promised in our regular speech; because we can’t.  We’d be lying.

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises that we not only break immediately, but that we plan to break in a few hours.  And because our “good Christian friends” also do it, we rationalize that it’s ok, that we’re ok.  Or … we know it’s not ok, but we continue on anyway.  That’s what I call “churchianity.”  It’s playing church, speaking churchy language that I call “Christianese” – a language that has all the correct form, correct doctrine, and even correct biblical language … but is missing the creative, active, thoughtful, action-invoking life, timing, work,  integrity, and spirit of God.

Are You Ready to Take Action?

Are you fluent in speaking “Christianese”?  What do you think God hears from you when you sing

Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me

Everything I need is in You, Everything I need

 

I have decided to follow Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back”?

Is it a declaration that you will do everything in your power to bring your life in alignment with?  Or is it “Christianese”?  Will you surrender your dreams, desires, plans, and future to Him and give Him a chance to actually fulfill His dreams for you?  The reasons for which He made you?  Will you let your yes be yes?  Will you pledge to work with the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes for Him to be your All in all? To begin the business of transferring full control over your life and future to Him?  And to take the necessary steps (as tough as they may be) to make that a reality?

Can you dare to dream with me?  What would your life look like if the Holy Spirit was in control of it?  How would it look different?  What if honoring Him was your actual desire and passion each moment of each day?  How would things change daily for you?

I encourage you to carve out some time to soberly and honestly weigh these questions out before God.  Everything depends on it.  Then take action and begin making the necessary adjustments in each area of your life to be consistent with the Truth.  I recommend asking a trusted mentor-type to come walk along side you in support and accountability.

“But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  Amen and amen. You are everything, Lord.

– Arthur

 

What Will You Give Jesus? Day 12

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me … A CHILD BORN TO SET THE WORLD FREE!!  On this twelfth and final day of our gift giving to Jesus, we have a poetic extravaganza to give to Jesus – four original poems crafted for Jesus’ heart and our blessing!  Thanks Eunice, Josh, Sam, and Abigail!  Enjoy and Merry Christmas, TD! – Arthur

Christmas Prose

by Eunice Im

Christmas is a season full of longing and expectation. For instance, the Christmas lights and other pleasant decorations induce a romantic feeling in air, which put us in ‘the mood.’ We look forward to time off from school and work, for Christmas morning when we get to open presents, and for that one time during the year when the radio plays Christmas music all day long (okay, some of us enjoy the music). With all the child-like anticipation building up, this season can turn the grumpiest of Scrooges into kind and generous men; it can also remind us of deeper hungers yet to be fulfilled. Gift exchanges may promote kindness and appreciation, but also stir within us a desire for this kindness to last throughout the year. The extra family gatherings warm our hearts, but also remind us of lost loved ones and relationships that need mending. Isn’t it funny how heightened expectations can and often does lead to a deeper sense of expectation? That’s probably the reason why this season is painful for so many – it’s a reminder of all the things yet to be fulfilled. Before we prematurely call Christmas a hoax, a fake, a huge trick, let’s remember Christmas in its true essence. On that historic night, many years ago, God met with us, not in a deceitful way (like the many advertisements that promise slimmer bodies and happier times but do not deliver on their promises), but He truly, humbly, genuinely met with us. He promised from ages past through prophets like Isaiah, and He came through. This Christmas, let’s celebrate how He began the process of fulfilling all those deeper longings for reconciliation, true kindness and eternal life. Let’s celebrate…and wait for He is not done yet.

 

Christmas Poem

by Joshua Hsu

The splendor and the grandeur that must have been there when the Son was born.

Well actually, I don’t remember that in the Bible mentioned on that Christmas morn.

He was born in a stable,

Humble to the lowest state.

He was the King of Kings

And yet he didn’t even grow up on an Emperor’s rich estate.

He came to die for sins that He never made

God loved us so, that He was sacrificed for condemned man that shouldn’t be saved

He bridged the gap, which was impossible for us to cross

As he hung there bleeding for us on the Cross

Amazing Grace, that’s what the Christmas story is.

In history, it’s His story of salvation and the love He gives

Don’t get me wrong, its not about us, Its all about Him

He is a jealous God, pointing us constantly to Him

He is the answer, but yet we don’t have the power to see

And maybe thats why it is so hard for us to believe

A revelation

I get it

Now I finally see

The Christmas story is the story of the loved sinners now redeemed.

On Christmas Day

 by Samantha Chen

On Christmas the sun shines bright

A single glint shines on a little girl’s eyes

She quickly awakens to the light,

Because Christmas day has finally come

She rushes fast down as if in flight

To find all the presents under the tree

But one particularly caught her sight

A single box wrapped in a bow

She quickly opens the box as if in rage,

Only to find a leather book inside

A single book with thousands of pages

Was what she least expect on Christmas day

Running up to her parent’s bed

She shows them her leather book

“It’s a gift for you,” They said

“And in it a greater gift lies”

“This book tells of a God who created,

Protected, and loved us a lot.

But because of the sin we committed

We were doom to a road to death”

“However because God love us so

He planned a gift that would given be to us

A gift we did not deserve but now we can hold

Was born on Christmas night”

“He was God’s only son named Jesus

And He lived a perfect sinless life

He performed miracles and healed weaknesses

And showed His Father’s love to many others”

“But that’s not only why God sent Him

He sent Him to us so that we may live

He sent Him to die for our sins,

Even though He lived a sinless life”

“This is the greatest gift given to us,

By a Great and Loving God”

With this they leave to clean up her paper mess

As the girl looks and wonders about the book

She eyes the book in a different way

As if it is a treasure to uphold

Because on this special day

She saw what Christmas was really about

The Twelve Days of Christmas

 by Abigail Suen

On the first day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the second day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the third day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the fourth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the fifth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the sixth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the seventh day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the eighth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the ninth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the tenth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Ten Nativity plays,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Eleven church services,

Ten Nativity plays,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Twelve pious prayers,

Eleven church services,

Ten Nativity plays,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.