Headlines from First Thoughts

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Getting Connected to Blacksburg

As the hearts of a nation go out to the people of Blacksburg, I am reminded of Jeremiah’s words,“For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

When Jeremiah spoke these words, the plans had changed. Israelites were deported. Invaders slaughtered innocent lives. Families were torn apart.The lessons from centuries ago still apply today. In the midst of tragedy, I think we find what it means to live by faith as the people of God. By reflecting on Jeremiah’s great words we understand that the people of God today should do three things.

Expect God’s plan to be accomplished.Obviously, the exile wasn’t part of the Israelites plans; and neither were Cho Seung-Hui’s actions part of the plans for Blacksburg. But there is One whose plan transcends the deeds of gunmen, and that is the Living God. His plan is that we will have a hope and a future. God’s will was not that Cho Seung-Hui would carry out this heinous act, but neither did God step into human freedom and prevent the action. There are numerous examples in scripture to show paradoxically sovereignty and freedom work together. Even God did not stop Roman guards from crucifying his own Son. God does however work in the midst of the tragedy to secure a hope and future for everyone.

Live God’s grace redemptively.If we have been the people who are expecting God’s plan to be accomplished, then we will live God’s grace redemptively. The nation will respond to this act in some way. As believers, we serve an even higher calling. We will be people who live righteously, stand for justice, and at the same time, exercise God’s grace among people.Our tendency is to cocoon ourselves safely into our homes, neighborhoods, and universities, fearing the outsiders or the mentally unstable. But Jeremiah reminds us in 29:5, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” Get connected because God calls us to live among all the people. In so doing, we find a chance to share that grace with others. We show them what true salt and light do—we enliven the world around us. As people of grace, learn to live with people and show them the good news of the grace of Jesus Christ. 3.

Seek God individually.When we have expected God’s plan to work and lived out his grace, then we seek God individually. “Then you will call to me,” says Jeremiah, and “seek me and find me,” and the Lord promises, “I will be found by you.” Jeremiah tells us, in our times on the backside of Babylon, or a modern tragedy, we cry, weep, and mourn; but we also seek and pray to the God who has a plan. That plan is to come to us and bring us back. What God wants from us is a simple response—to seek God. The emphasis is not on figuring God out but obediently praying and seeking him wherever life takes you. “I will be found by you,” says the Lord in verse 14 because I have never left you. Notice that I have already come to you through believers on the scene and churches and communities of faith lovingly standing by the side of grieving loved ones.

In 1999, 9 people died as American flight 1420 crash landed at the Little Rock Airport. You may remember that on board that plane were 25 members of the Ouachita Baptist University faculty and choir. I had a friend who was supposed to be on that flight but had to change flights at the last minute. Somehow in the middle of the tragedy, God used the survivors to help rescue the wounded and many others who were trapped in the burning plan preventing further things from happening. Others such as James Harrison died while trying to save others. On “Good Morning America” the next day, Diane Sawyer interviewed music professor Charles Fuller, and she asked him about the experience. Fuller declared, “There are times in life where your faith has to mean something. It can’t be something that you just talk about. It has to be something that empowers you to live life.” (Trennis Henderson, Baptist Standard, 6/9/99)

Today, let your faith mean something. Your faith can be a part of God’s great plan.

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