The board of trustees met this evening and one of the topics discussed was the security of the church in light of recent events both in town and in the country as a whole. If you are concerned, please know that the issue is being discussed and will be addressed. Please also heed the words of the angels, a message God is so urgently trying to convey to us: “Be not afraid.” God loves us, God’s providence provides and cares for us every day of our lives, and no matter what happens, God is with us and for us. Do not let fear undermine your ability to live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
Godliness is more easily feigned in words than in actions. — Jonathan Edwards 
 Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections.
The Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us. — C. S. Lewis 
 C. S. Lewis, “The Practical Conclusion,” in Mere Christianity (1952).
Yesterday, eleven members of the Ring Praise Youth Bell Choir treated both worship services to their rendition of Come, Christians, Join to Sing. It was spectacular. And it reminded me of how horribly wrong I had been when Lisa Divel approached Jenny and me about starting a youth bell choir. I liked the idea of a youth bell choir and I encouraged Lisa in her efforts, but I didn’t think it would work. In fact, I was sure it was going to fail and I just didn’t have the heart to break it to her. My reasoning was that because kids today are busy with countless extra-curricular activities, Lisa wasn’t going to find anyone interested in taking the time to be in a bell choir. Well, I forgot about the Holy Spirit and I underestimated Lisa and the youth of this church. Clearly, it can be done and it can be done well. The eleven members are soon to be twelve. I’ve rarely been so happy to have been wrong.
I’ve had two people ask me if the church has a contingency plan for an attempted mass shooting. We do not. I do not think there is any real chance that a mass shooting will happen at our particular church. And I’ll admit I’m skeptical as to what can be done given the power of automatic weapons and the fact that we all gather together in one place for worship on Sunday morning. Nonetheless, here are my recommendations for dealing with fires, tornadoes, and attempted mass shootings while at the church.
Fire: Exit the building and call 911.
Tornado: Go to Wright Fellowship Hall, the Wright Fellowship Hall Kitchen (even better the “dungeon” off of the kitchen), or the old nursery room (Room B-9). Use the phone or Wi-Fi in the basement to let someone outside the area know that you are safe and where you have taken cover.
Attempted Mass Shooting: run, hide, take cover, create a distraction, or swarm depending on the circumstances. When you can do so safely, call 911. I would suggest you take a look at the guide provided by The Washington Post in consultation with several security specialists.
In all these circumstances I would suggest you pray (although I’m pretty sure this will come automatically). I would encourage you to take heart in the fact that Jesus Christ went through death and out the other side into eternal life that we might do likewise. This sure and certain hope is an excellent reason to join the gathered congregation on Sunday morning.
A now for the political part you may want to skip: I have avoided talking about gun-control because it is a highly-charged political issue and given the diverse nature of our congregation I try to avoid engaging in too many of those. Nonetheless, I cannot bring myself to write a post about how to respond to an attempted mass shooting without encouraging you to contact your elected representatives and urge them to pass common sense gun control legislation. (An example would be the universal background checks supported by roughly 90% of Americans.)
This morning I (John) preached on Jeremiah 32:1-15. My sermon notes are pretty complete, so instead of making up a transcript, I’m just going to share the notes with you. Little things are missing, but everything essential is there.
Update: Fixed the Links
Ed Stetzer who holds the “Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism” at Wheaton College has written a response to those defending Roy Moore by citing scripture. I’m sharing this particular article (as opposed to others) because Stetzer’s evangelical credentials are beyond reproach, he is fully aware that nothing has yet been proven, and the points he makes are irrefutable. We must not let scripture be used to justify child abuse.
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. — Nelson Mandela 
Mandela specifically names the color of skin, background, and religion, but the words above apply to all the divisions that face us. God made us for love and not for hate.
 Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Boston: Back Bay Books, 1995), 622.
Hopefully, I won’t come to regret sharing this, but I’m really looking forward to this Sunday’s sermon. I plan to preach on Jeremiah 32:1-15. I believe this is one of the greatest passages on divine and human faithfulness found in the Old Testament, but it takes a little unpacking before one can understand the full scope of what is going on.
I sometimes pray not for self-knowledge in general but for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as I can bear and use at the moment; the little daily dose. — C. S. Lewis 
 C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017), chap. 6.
Good News! I’ve been informed that the UMW Bazaar will be offering Lasagna dinners on both a dine-in and carry-out basis. The cost is $7.50 for those 13 and up, $5.00 for those aged 6-12, and free for those 5 and under. The meal will be served from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, November 7, 2017).
I suspect that this will not be a popular post, but some things have to be said.
Like many of you, I’m tired of responding to shootings with “thoughts and prayers,” but that’s the best option I have available, especially if it prompts us to put pressure on our elected representatives.
I’ve heard some talk of we need more people going to church armed, but I don’t think that’s the solution. Given that this Church was in Texas, I’m fairly sure that at least one person in attendance was armed, and it didn’t do any good. Furthermore, even if someone was armed and managed to respond, that would just mean more shots being fired and more innocent bystanders coming to harm. Just because someone has a concealed carry permit doesn’t mean they have the training to respond to a shooter. And then when the police arrive they have no way of knowing the difference between the “good guy with a gun” and the “bad guy with a gun.” And in addition to that, we have the example of Jesus’s own rebuke of the sword drawn in his defense.
I think instead it might be beneficial to recover the model of the Christian martyr. Christ called us to take up our cross and follow him. Our faith is worth dying for and dying in the act of worship certainly counts as dying for the faith. Some early Christians were so taken by the idea of martyrdom that the early church had to declare that martyrdom was not to be actively sought. I agree with that, but there are far worse ways to go than being shot in the act of worship. Those who died in the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church died for their faith and for that I honor them. That will be of little solace to their families and close friends, but it is all I have to offer.
Note: I’ve never had an issue with law enforcement officers coming to church armed (especially when they are on duty).