As we dry out from the storm over the weekend, we’re starting to hear amazing stories of God’s mercy and faithfulness to his people. We’re planning a night of worship on Tuesday, October 13 at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC, with music, praise, prayer, and stories of the storm. If you have a “storm story” you’d like to share, please contact Gray Morgan to be added to the list. Bring finger foods to share for our fellowship hour at 6 pm; then we’ll hear stories and worship our great and mighty God at 7. Children are welcome at this event, though there will be no formal childcare offered.
Tragedies happen every single day, both in our own country and around the world. Yet most of the time when we hear about them, we think to ourselves, “That is so sad!”… and then move on. A couple of weeks ago, however, tragedy came to our city and to a setting we could all relate to personally, and now we may have a harder time moving on. We find it more difficult to push away the pain when it is so much closer to us! So how do we deal with the emotional pain we all feel and the inevitable questions that arise in our minds in the wake of the Charleston shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church, or for that matter, any traumatically negative event?
Fortunately for Christians, we have both our faith and theology and our Comforter and Counselor–the Holy Spirit! As we seek to make sense of the senseless, we may rest assured that God will fulfill His promise to guard both our hearts and minds with His peace (Phil. 4:6-7). But in order for this to happen, we need to seek Him and remind ourselves just who this God is that we claim to worship. We do so by calling to mind what He has revealed of Himself in Scripture. There are many attributes of God that we could name, but I want to focus on just three. Think with me for a moment about how our knowledge of God as a sovereign God, a loving God, and a just God can help us through such trying circumstances.
When we first learn about a traumatic event (e.g. the unexpected horror of our AME brothers and sisters being gunned down by a stranger they welcomed into their Bible Study), our first reaction is shock. We are psychologically knocked off-balance as our illusion of personal safety and control is shattered. Fear results when we realize just how vulnerable we actually are! We are not in control of our lives and that can be a very scary thought. It puts a dent in our God-complex. (Yes, even Christians forget who’s really in charge!)
Next, fear turns to anger, a more powerful-feeling and less psychologically-threatening emotion. We want justice and we want it NOW!! The fight-or-flight response kicks in, motivating us to action. We skip church the next Sunday, thinking maybe it’s not a safe place. After all, we have young children to protect! Or we go on a rampage about racists and the place of guns and flags in our society, because after all, we have to do something! But God says something entirely different to us. He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps.46:10) So what is it we know about this God?
- Our God is a sovereign God. Nothing happens in this life apart from His sovereign will, including disaster in a city (Amos 3:6b), good and bad things (Lam. 3:38), or well-being and calamity (Is. 45:7). Yet, while never compromising His holy character, He uses the evil deeds of men and Satan in this fallen world to accomplish His good purposes (Gen. 50:20a; Prov. 16:4).
- Our God is a loving God. We know this because of the extreme lengths He went to in order to restore our broken relationship with Himself (John 3:16; II Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8). In addition, God is not only our sovereign Creator, He is also our loving Father. We are not cosmic orphans left alone to wander the universe, but we are deeply loved children of our Heavenly Father. As a Father, He tenderly comforts us when we are afraid. In fact, it would surprise you to know that His most often repeated command throughout Scripture (>300 times) is “Don’t be afraid!” (p. 59 of Running Scared by Ed Welch). Furthermore, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit that He would send to be with us after His ascension, the Counselor or Comforter (KJV).
- Our God is a just God. He tells us to leave vengeance to Him (Rom. 12:19-21). Our part is to forgive, His to render justice! We are promised that one day all will be made right and the guilty will pay (II Cor. 5:10) and pain and mourning will be a thing of the past (Rev. 21: 1-4). Praise God for that!
King David does a good job of putting these three attributes of God together in Ps. 62:11-12:
Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.
Repetition serves to emphasize the veracity of what David is saying here, as he highlights the same three characteristics of God: His power and sovereignty, His steadfast love, and His justice. The background of this Psalm appears to be David’s enemies’ desire to topple him from his throne through lies and treachery, yet David is able to entrust his soul and his fate to God, because he knows his God!
Peace only comes in the storms of life when we acknowledge God’s sovereign rule over all that happens–both the good and the bad; trust in His great and enduring love for us (I say trust because it takes faith to look past circumstances that may lead us to think otherwise); and hope in God’s final accounting of all human behavior. Meditation on the first two attributes can help to alleviate our fear. Meditation on the third can help assuage our anger. In addition, we need to remember that apart from Christ’s atoning life, death, and resurrection for us, we, too, would stand just as condemned as those we condemn! Humbly recognizing our own sin and the forgiveness we’ve been granted enables us with the Holy Spirit’s aid to forgive and extend mercy, leaving vengeance to God…where it belongs!
So I encourage us all, in the words of King David in Ps. 62:8
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.
May we all imitate the fearlessness and forgiveness modeled so graciously by the families of the AME 9. And may we, like David, call on God alone as our rock, our salvation, our glory, and our refuge! (Ps. 62) Amen!
Just around the corner from Redeemer, Trinity United Methodist Church will host a hymn-singing service to lift up Emmanuel AME Church tonight, June 23 at 7. Trinity UMC (273 Meeting St.) sits at the corner of Meeting and Society streets, so feel free to park in two of our Redeemer parking lots–both the bank lot and the Wentworth Streeet lot–and walk on over for the service.
As we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’ve set up an easy way for us to donate money to the victims’ families. Use our usual link for online contributions and choose Emmanuel AME Aid. As a reminder, 100% of all money collected will be given to help the families of the victims.
Please gather with the elders of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC, tonight, June 18 at 7 in the church sanctuary at 43 Wentworth St. to “lift our eyes” to the only source of our hope and help and healing. We will have a time of guided prayer, small group prayer, and silent prayer as we seek the Lord in the midst of the tragedy our city is experiencing.
We at Redeemer also want to help in tangible ways. Although many avenues to help are still being developed, we want to provide an opportunity for you to give. One hundred percent of any money collected at Redeemer will be given to help the families of the victims of the shootings. In the days ahead, we will find the best channel through which to distribute any money collected.
In the Bible, God has frequently reminded us that prayer is a primary vehicle in dealing with the issues of life. This truth is especially important in times such as ours in which our country seems to be deluged in a tidal wave of social ills. As we face racism, personal poverty, spiraling national debt, increasing immorality, and a climate of lawlessness, just to name a few, we may be tempted to feel hopeless to solve the problems; or worse yet, we may think the solution lies in human wisdom. It is in times such as these of social crisis that historically God has worked wonders when Christians have gathered to pray, relying on the sovereign grace and power of God to change hearts and consequently society.
On Saturday, June 13 we have been called to come together with others at the North Charleston Coliseum for united prayer, seeking our Lord Jesus Christ for a spiritual awakening that will turn people to Christ and thus to the One who is able to unite people and bring change both to individual lives and to society as a whole. Our nation has experienced several great awakenings in its history when God intervened and brought societal change that glorifies God. In each case, these movements of God followed the gathering of Christians in united prayer, acknowledging that God alone can bring about a return to righteousness.
This event is free of charge. However, seating is limited, so it is important that those who wish to participate register here. Several Redeemer folks are planning to attend, and we hope you will join us in crying out to the Lord. Prayer is far more effective than silently complaining about our nation’s situation.
Coming to theaters this week, Focus on the Family presents the powerful documentary about a brave pastor in South Korea. Showing March 3-5 only, The Drop Box shows the true story of rescue and redemption for hundreds of abandoned babies and the documentary filmmaker whose life is forever changed.
See this film in the Charleston, SC, area at the Regal cinema locations of Charlestowne Square 18 in North Charleston and Azalea Square 16 in Summerville. Buy tickets here!
Our adult Christian-Education class at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC, began this past Sunday, February 22 our discussion of the church’s engagement with the LGBTQ community. Read the questions and handout used in Sunday’s discussion.
To help suss out our thoughts and current views on engagement, Kurt created the following “news” story:
Jericho-Area Doctor Refuses to Care for Beaten Man
February 19, 32AD http://jerusalemlocal.com/levite-refuses-beaten-man
JERICHO–Can a doctor refuse to help a wounded man because he was in the care of a Samaritan? That situation played out near the Jerusalem highway this week.
Moisch Tevia, of suburban Samaria, brought to the doctor’s office a traveling man who had been beaten by robbers and left for dead. But after waiting with the wounded man to receive treatment, Dr. Simon refused to see them. Another doctor told Moisch that Dr. Simon decided he couldn’t treat the beaten man because Moisch is from Samaria.
“Under current Jewish law, a doctor has an absolute right to refuse medical treatment on the basis of political and historical differences,” said Levite Legal Analyst Aaron Aaronheim.
The situation happened last October, but Jesus of Nazareth highlighted the story in public this week at a levitical lawyer’s symposium on the topic of “Moral Quandaries and National Honor.”
“I think people should know that this is happening to real people who are in need. This is really happening,” 30-year-old Moisch Tevia told the Jerusalem Local.
The 49-year-old doctor has since written Moisch and the wounded man a letter of apology, saying that after “much prayer” following the initial triage, he didn’t believe that he could develop a personal patient doctor relationship with the two of them.
“I never meant to hurt either of you,” he wrote. “Please know that I believe that God requires me to stand up for my morals in my practice and I’m not one to judge, but you are a Samaritan after all. Again, I am very sorry for the hurt and angry feelings that were created by this. I hope your wounded friend is okay.”
Still, Moisch says nothing will change the humiliation he felt that day. He had spent all day taking care of the robbed and beaten man only to be turned away by Dr. Simon because of who he is–and it’s completely legal.
“It was embarrassing. It was humiliating … It’s just wrong,” said Moisch. After he left Dr. Simon’s office, Moisch decided to treat the man himself. He bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
After reading Kurt’s reinterpretation of the Good Samaritan story, we read an actual news story that happened in the Detriot area last week. With many of the same quotations, both of these stories pushed us to look at how we’re engaging with our culture, particularly the LGBTQ community, and how we perhaps should be engaging.
Join us for part two of our discussion this Sunday, March 1 during the Christian-Education hour.
Redeemer’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), split from the large Presbyterian Church back in 1973 “in opposition to the long-developing theological liberalism which denied the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.”
Recently, that remaining contingent–Presbyterian Church (USA)–has been in the news for decisions made at their General Assembly in June. Distancing themselves further theologically from our own PCA denomination, the PCUSA (pending confirmation votes by the presbyteries) decided to:
- Authorize its clergy to perform same sex unions by changing the definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two people.”
- Reaffirm support of abortion rights, including supporting taking no action to save babies born alive after abortion.
- Divest from three companies who were deemed to have done business with, and in support of, the state of Israel (divestment of pension funds, for example).
Since we share the name Presbyterian, we wanted to keep you informed of these recent developments in case your friends and neighbors ask you about what they’ve heard in the news.