Hearing News Of Tragedy – Reflecting On What We Learn

Grace For The Journey

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29Jan  Shock and disbelief!  That’s what I felt when I saw the news that Kobe Bryant just died in a helicopter crash on Sunday Morning.  As I began to comb through various online news and social media outlets after church, I slowly came to the realization that it wasn’t just Kobe who died, but also his beautiful daughter and seven other precious souls.

While thinking about the massive blow that this tragedy would have been for Kobe’s wife, surviving children, and entire family, two other things dominated my racing thoughts.

First, I considered why this news is so shocking to us.

Over 150,000 people die every 24 hours.  We all clearly know that life can end for any of us in the blink of an eye.  Of course, it always hits closer to home when it’s someone we personally know or who is universally known.  But, I think the reason we find ourselves struck with disbelief in these devastating instances is that many of us have what some call “The Invincibility Complex.” Despite the fact that we know how fragile and fleeting life is, a kind of subconscious mental block is always hovering right below the surface of our minds, deceiving us into thinking that this can never happen – especially to us, to someone we know, or to the seemingly immortal superstars who appear to be immune to the cruel sting of death.

This deceptive outlook is extremely dangerous, because . . .

An understanding of our mortality

Is the strongest safeguard

Against a wasted life

And a regretful eternity.

As the Bible instructs us in Psalm 90:12, when we number our days, we gain a heart of wisdom.  This thinking begins with “the fear of the Lord.”  The Bible tells us in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Once our hearts have been enlightened by wisdom’s sobering touch, we begin to understand the reality of the undeniable truth of what the Bible says in James 4:14, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

Ultimately . . .

Wisdom should lead us

To examine the state of our soul,

And to make sure that we have

Run to Christ for redemption

And reconciliation with God.

 And as the Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts that that we belong to Him, we find ourselves motivated to conduct our lives in righteousness, and to live in time for eternity – making every moment count for the glory of God.  We will live from the gospel and will be provoked to lovingly proclaim it to the lost around us. We will be compelled to keep our accounts short with the Lord, and to run to Him in repentance whenever we stumble, knowing that His love for us is inexhaustible, and that He sympathizes with our every weakness.

Secondly, this tragedy reminds me of the brevity and uncertainty of life.

Three months after 9/11, Kobe Bryant wrote a column for Newsweek reflecting on what he had learned from the tragedy.

He stated: “I’ve learned also that you can’t take things for granted. You know how we always say ‘See you later?’  One thing I’ve realized from September 11 is that you can’t ever say that for sure.  Things change in the blink of an eye.  People go to work and don’t come back.  One minute they’re living and the next minute they’re not.  And, it doesn’t matter who you are, there is nothing you can do about it.”  He concluded his article with these words: “We never know when our time here will be over, so we all need to make the most of every minute we have.”

Just as Kobe Bryant sought meaning in the aftermath of 9/11, many been searching for meaning in his shocking death. The unpredictability of life he highlighted in his Newsweek article is one obvious fact.  Another is his observation that, with regard to mortality, “it doesn’t matter who you are.”

All of us have an inevitable appointment with death.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “And it is appointed unto to man to die once, but after this the judgment.”  This is because we are all sinners.  The Bible say in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And as a result of that the Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We all need to be ready for death when it comes and the way to do that is to acknowledge that we are a sinner, admit that we cannot save ourselves, accept what Jesus did upon the cross and through the empty grave in obtaining our salvation, and ask Him into our lives to be our Savior and Lord.

Thirdly, this tragedy reminds me that all people are important.

Our culture focuses on celebrity.  For example, seven other people died in the helicopter crash along with Bryant and his daughter Gianna, but their stories have not been the focus of media attention.  One of them was John Altobelli, a baseball coach who helped hundreds of players earn scholarships to Division I programs over the years.  He and his wife Keri were on board the helicopter with their daughter Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Gianna Bryant.  Another victim was Christina Mauser, the top assistant on the girls’ basketball team.  Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, a teammate of Gianna Bryant’s, also died in the crash, as did the helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan.

Those we don’t know

Are just as important

To their family and friends

As those we do know.

Other stories have occurred in the last few days that highlight this need to be aware of the importance of all people.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has been front and center in the impeachment process.  Few know the name of his wife, Joyce Miller, or the fact that she has undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer.  This news came to light only when Nadler announced Sunday that he would miss a day of the impeachment trial to be with her “to meet with doctors, determine a path forward, and begin her treatment.”

Unless you live in Turkey, you may not be following closely the search for survivors after an eqrthquake struck Friday night, collapsing buildings and killing at least forty-one people.  Unless you live in Newburgh County, New York (sixty miles north of New York City), you may not know that a home invasion Sunday morning took the lives of three people, one of whom was a ten-year-old boy.

If you’re like most of us, your concern about the escalating China conoravirus crisis is related to the degree you perceive it to be a personal threat.  It also may not surprise you to learn that, according to Nielsen, twice as many people watched The Young and The Resless soap opera as watched the impeachment trial last week.  Many Americans apparently don’t see the relevance of the trial to their personal lives.

Celebrities obviously make the news because they are celebrities. But . . .

A central tenet of the Christian faith

Is that every person matters

Just as much as every other person,

Whether the world knows their story or not.

Paul’s assertion in Galatians 3:28 that, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” was radical for his culture.  The biblical claim that “whoever” believes in Christ receives eternal life (John 3:16) broke down the racial and cultural barriers of Jesus’ day and ours.

The fact that the intrinsic value of every person seems so commonplace to you illustrates the impact of Christianity on your worldview.  If you were living in Communist China or North Korea, where individuals are seen as subordinate to the state, it might not be as obvious.

Nor should we is the belief in the sanctity of every human life is accepted by everyone in our culture.  It has been noted that, with respect to our abortion laws and the statue of the unborn, “moving a few inches transforms property into a person.”  Many abortion advocates moved beyond the argument to have abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” advocating for the ending of unborn life more adamantly than ever before, even to the time of birth.

The systemic prevalence of racism and rising popularity of euthanasia show that for many Americans, the equal status and sanctity of every person is more fiction than fact.

The best way to help our culture

Value every person

From conception to natural death

Is to value every person we know

. . . Today.

None of us knew on Sunday morning that Kobe Bryant would not be alive on Monday morning.  None of us knew on September 10, 2001 that September 11, 2001 would change our world.

Mordecai’s admonition to Esther is God’s word to us: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

It is by God’s providence

That we are alive

Not just where we are

But when we are.

And that we will meet

Those who need to know the Lord

And know the Bible truth

About facing their immorality

Every day that we live.

Pastor and author Mark Dever has noted: “Today is what the Lord has prepared you for.”  For whom has he prepared you this day?

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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