Jeff Bartell

A "bottom line" kind of guy

Are we really safe?

The recent school shooting tragedy in Connecticut has everyone reeling.  I sat and quietly pondered the situation finding almost nothing intelligent to say in comment.  Sometimes emotions are too great for words.  I am no expert in dealing with anything like this.  I am a pastor of real people.  I love.  I hurt.  I care.  What words could I offer to anyone searching for help in dealing with this situation?  Whether directly involved or, like most of us, simply grieving from afar, we all feel the weight of the evil that was thrust on that community.  Many others more eloquent than I have adequately reminded us to hug our kids a little tighter each day and thank our teachers and first responders more frequently.  I couldn’t agree more.  Some other thoughts are rolling around in my head and I thought that they might be of use to someone out there so here goes…

First of all, let me say that my experience from living in Albania from 1992-2006, experiencing 2 civil wars, raising 2 young girls through those circumstances and seeing real human suffering first-hand does not “qualify” me to offer advice, it simply gives insight into my background – a background that helped form who I am and therefore, the way I think and what I say.  Please, if you choose to read on, do so with grace.  Thanks.

Today many public institutions around the country will be taking a closer look at their security measures, especially where it affects our children.  Certainly our church is among those taking this closer look.  We see crazy acts of demonstrated evil in real life and we immediately (rightly) react by circling the wagons and planning protection strategies.  The questions that I keep wrestling with are:  “Are we really safe?”  “How can we be sure?”

Regardless of the circumstances, the possibility for random acts of evil will continue to exist.  We certainly should take all possible precautions, but still no one can know what a day may bring.  As I think of these things, I am reminded that there is only one place that any of us can truly be safe.  That place is described in the Bible as “in Christ.”

2Cor 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Our physical lives are on a timeline.  We don’t know when, but we know that there is a limit to our days on this earth.  Our physical lives are like a flower or grass that eventually withers and dies.

1Peter 1:22-25  Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:  Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.  For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:  But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Since we are aware of this inevitable end, God loves us enough to make us aware of the only reasonable solution to that problem:  eternal life through Jesus Christ.  It is the gospel that presents the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again the 3rd day according to the scriptures.  If we confess our sins to Him and personally receive Him as our Lord and Savior, he will give us the free gift of eternal life.

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you are reading this and are not sure what lies ahead for you after physical life, God’s good news is that Jesus died for you and that you can receive Him today!

If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ, maybe you will be motivated, as I am, to make sure that all the people you love get to hear the gospel while there is still time.  Whether they receive it or reject it, our job is to give them that option.  As I think about all the lives tragically cut short, I want to do all I can to get the gospel to as many people as I can before it’s too late.

In thinking about “security” and working to provide the “safest possible place” for ourselves and our loved ones, can I offer to you that for a believer in Jesus Christ there is no safer place than in His will?

Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

I served as a foreign missionary for 14 years of my adult life in a very perilous time and place.  God greatly blessed me with good health and safety throughout the duration.  I am still here to talk about it!  Not everyone is provided that luxury.  I understand.  Some people think that it was very brave of me to live in those conditions.  The recent events in CT remind me that evil, dangerous things can happen anywhere.  Newtown, CT is reported to be a very pleasant, quiet community.  It sounds like a place where we would all enjoy living.  Do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that it is safer to be in any particular physical location than any other.  Nor am I saying that the victims in CT were out of God’s will.  God forbid!  I am simply saying that we should not allow ourselves to live in fear of what might happen.  I am saying that as a believer in Jesus Christ, nothing happens in our life that God doesn’t allow.  (That is a hard statement, I realize, but the scriptures clearly teach it.  See 1Cor. 10:13)  I am simply advocating that Christian people live their lives in full surrender to Jesus Christ, and rest calmly knowing that it is the safest place they can be!

Lastly, I would like for you to consider that it is better to live our Christian lives on the offensive rather than the defensive.  In other words, rather than waiting and being reactive to what the devil would throw at us, let’s be proactive and go forward sharing the gospel with others.  Jesus said:  …and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)  The last time I checked, “gates” are a defensive measure.  The church of Jesus Christ is to be on the offensive for people’s souls before it’s too late, before they die without Christ and spend eternity in hell.

The Bible calls this place we live in a “present evil world.” (Gal 1:4)  Let’s mourn with those that mourn and pray for them.  Let’s love others as Jesus loves us.  Let’s continue to do what He has called us to do:  be salt and light to a generation that walks in darkness.

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