School Shootings, Tragedy, and The Gospel

school-blog-School shootings are horrific. But they are not beyond the realm of the Gospel. School shootings fit within the Gospel narrative.

When Adam and Eve turned from God and embraced sin, they truly knocked the lid off of Pandora’s Box, welcoming untold evil into the world. Their son Cain committed the first murder. Five generations later, Lamech boasted of senselessly killing those who offended him (Gen. 4:23). Pharaoh tossed new born, baby boys into the Nile. Herod murder thousands of infant whose only crime was living in the wrong city at the wrong time. And, the descendants of Adam and Eve flogged the perfect, loving, and holy Son of God, indented a crown of thrones into his head, and pounded nails into his flesh. The children of Adam and Even have carried out all kinds of unspeakable evil throughout the ages.  God declared that:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?

Thankful God does. And God knew about this school shooting would come. He knew that his once perfect creation would be overcome by evil. He knew that students would listen to bullets zip by their heads into the head of their beloved classmates. He knew that law enforcement agents would have to lovingly destroy a mother’s last irrational hope, by telling her that her child had died. He knew that the world would look on in despair as the News anchors swarmed the highs school. He knew the depths of human depravity.

And so, he took action because he loves us. He took action before the world began, ordaining his son to die on the cross (Rev. 13:8).  He sent his son to die for sinners. He sent his son to save us because we have all been overcome by evil even if only in the smallest of ways. “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. (Rm 10:10-11). By dying on the cross, Jesus paid for all of our evil acts. He took all of our eternal punishments and gave us his righteousness.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pt. 2:21).

Because Christ came and died, He can and does address the evil that transpired at Parkland.

He can deeply empathize with the parents who lost their children. He buried His only Son who was ruthlessly tortured to death. He knows the grief that is filling Parkland. And he is the perfect counselor and comforter.  And He teaches his people, the church to care for those who are suffering by mourning with them, praying for them, and serving them.

But God is more than a god of empathy, God is the victor. He has conquered evil. Though men killed Jesus, Jesus came back to life. He rose from the grave revealing that the evil actions of men and women are not the sum total of the story. Cruz does not get the final say. Jesus’s resurrection is the grantee that all will be made right. He will return. He will usher in a world where there is no gun violence, flu epidemics, or seasons of political corruption. Jesus will make all things right. The story does not end today. There will be a divine reckoning when the justice of God turns the world upside right again.God will restore justice and shows all how to implement justice in this world.

Though the events at Parkland stand seemingly outside the realm of human comprehension, they do not stand outside the flow of the Gospel. When we see the depths of depravity as we did today, the glory of the Gospel becomes ever clearer and ever more needed. The Gospel message is for today of all days!

May God bless and have mercy upon all those who have been murdered, hurt, and left behind to grieve.

Let Your Kids Be Your Guide?

forget Jiminy CricketOne of today’s new and up and coming parenting trends is to replace Jiminy Cricket with your kid’s voice. When it comes time to evaluate the value of same-sex marriage or time to choose which charity to support, increasing number of parent are asking their kids to be their guides. Since my little guy can only communicate through grunts and cries, I am not all that tempted to jump on this latest bandwagon. But this new development in the world of postmodern, American parenting poses a great question for us to think through: “Should our kids be allowed to speak into our lives?” The simple answer is both yes and …no. Let’s take a look. 

Negative Words

First, let’s get the negative out of the way. As Christians, we should not surrender our decision making to our kids. Once while working as a server, I witnessed a 5 year-old order for her parents. She asked for refills and dictated the pace of the table for the entire evening. In addition to being awkward, such a situation is not healthy. As Christian parents, we should not let our preschooler order us around for the following three reasons:

  1. Our authority is God. It makes sense for non-Christians to make kids their authority because they’ve rejected the Bible and the idea of real truth. For secular parents, it ultimately makes little difference whether they choose their middle schooler or Buddha to be source their source of wisdom. It’s all relative. But as Christian parents, we claim to have direct access to truth through the Bible. If we want to know which charity to support or decided whether or not divorce is bad, we should look towards Jesus. God has all truth and all power. Why would we turn to anyone else for spiritual and moral guidance? “For you are complete in him who is head over all principality and power” (Col. 2:10).
  2. God calls parents to guide their children. We even see this example in the Trinity as Jesus follows the will of God the father (Luke 22:42). Moreover, our perfect savior obeyed his human parents (Luke 2:51). If ever there was a kid who could legitimately tell his parents what to do, it was Jesus. And yet he still followed his Mary and Joseph’s wishes. What God models, we are to follow. All throughout the Old and New Testaments children are told to obey their parents. And parents are charged with instructing their kids. To be faithful parents, we have to guide our families (Col 3:20; Eph. 6:1-4; Ex. 20:12; Deut. 6)  
  3. Our kids will fail us. If we make any person our source of wisdom and happiness our lives will end in despair. Because all kids are touched by sin (if not control by it) and lack the day to day knowledge of life (like how to use a credit card), our kids will fail us. If anything, surrendering our adult responsibilities to our kids is cruel. We are asking them to make decisions they are not prepared to make. Perhaps they can order a meal that we like, but most cannot balance our budget or determine right from wrong on their own. When we place unreasonable expectations our children, our family life will be filled with frustration, chaos, and bitterness.

Positive Words

Now for the positive! Although we should not allow children to control our lives, we should invite them to speak into our lives for the following three reasons:

  1. Though my little man can’t say a word, God has used facial expressions, the words of my younger siblings, and the comments of other children to convict me of sin.Kids are super perceptive. They can often spot hypocrisy as quicker than free candy in the grocery store.  After all it was a little boy in the famous fable who first said, “The Emperor has no clothes on.” When our children do speak up, we need to be humbly receptive and repent. Accepting rebukes is one of the many listening earways by which we can encourage our children’s hearts (Eph. 6:4; Col 3:21).
  2. God uses children to proclaim truth. Think of the Naaman’s servant girl and or Samuel who all pointed people to God (2 Kings 5:2-3; 1 Sam 3:10-21). As parents we need to realize that God can and does deliver messages of hope, salvation, and comfort through children. My wife and I experienced this first hand as several children encouraged our hearts through signs, notes, and kind words as we mourned the death of our first son.
  3. And Lastly, we should want to hear from our children because we are not God. We all misunderstand people. We will think our kids love dance with in reality they would rather taking guitar lessons. If we always assume we know what our kids like without talking to them and discovering their god given interests, we cannot help but make them bitter. Let’s encourage their hearts and get to know our kids as they change and grow.

Although we should never appoint our kids to be our conscience’s guide, we also should never shut them out of our lives. God’s given us children in-part to help us grow in our faith. For this to happen and for us to by godly parents, we need to listen to our kids without surrendering to them.

What Do We Say?

Six years ago today amidst a swirl of both joyful and frightful confusion, our first born son – Peter Alexander Witkowski (Second Peter) – was born in the early morning hours. About six hours later, he abandoned his earthly body for the loving embrace of Jesus.  As the days between Second Peter’s birth and death continue to grow, the truths that comforted our hearts at his funeral continue to resound in our souls.  April and I still have jellybean size holes. But God’s goodness, love, and comfort far exceed the depths of our sorrow. Our savior dries our tears, holds our hearts when weary, and remembers our prayers, blessing us with our second son, Luke Alexander Witkowski and with two beautiful little girls. God is faithful! Today as we celebrate Second Peter’s life, we affirm with an ever increasing realization that, “To live is Christ!”   Below are the words I spoke at his funeral which remains our hope for today.  

What Do We Say:  

34. April and Peter holding 2nd Peter shorty after 100 pm.The fleeting dance of poetry, the smooth elegancy of prose, and the most insightful uses of language all seem inadequate, trite, trivial, and unworthy of expressing what has occurred. On Tuesday morning after a sleepless night, April and I welcomed our precious little baby boy with trembling souls; our souls broke into happy smiles as we heard Peter Alexander’s heart beat firmly and his lunges taste the softness of the air. And then as if heaven itself had fallen, we flew calmly back to Second Peter’s tiny plastic bed to love him with unending passion. After an eternity that had been shrunken into four vaporous hours, we softly and slowly kissed his cool little forehead one last time. And now we follow his body to this somber chamber. So what do you say to these things? What do you say when your son of promise is born at 9:08am and then dies in your arms at 2:49pm?

“To live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil. 1:21.)”

When Second Peter died, he gained. April and I pleaded for his life, and God saw fit to give him eternal life. Our First Born Son is glorified. He knows fully the joy of Christ. He bounces playful to heavenly music. He gets to play with David, Samson, April’s Papa, and my own dear Grandfather, whom I never meet. He is the coolest little child that I’ve ever known. To die is gain!2nd Peter Grave Side with Luke

For April and I, “To live is Christ.” We have and will continue to shed tears for Second Peter. And I know that both of our hearts will always have a jellybean size hole that will never be covered. Yet we will go on living, serving, and ministering because we have a savior who is a perfect high priest. Our hope lies in the life of another son who once lost his life alone on a cross to conquer death by rising again. For this we live, looking forward, as David did to going, to being with our precious son (2 Samuel 12:23). To live is Christ.