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Hope in the midst of STEM school shooting

As I sit at my desk typing these words, the sky’s are gray, a muffled thumping can be heard on the roof as rain falls steadily from above. It’s a scene that fits the mood of our community today. Just 12 hours ago 2 armed students, one an 18 year old male, the other a 17 year old female found their way deep into a local charter school and opened fire. By the time first responders arrived, just 2 minutes after the first shots were fired, 8 students lay wounded and one brave young man who ran towards the gunmen to protect others, lay motionless on the ground, losing his life because of his brave act, stepping in front of his fellow students.


What happened yesterday in Highlands Ranch Colorado, 2 miles from Tracy’s and my home cannot be explained. There is no way to make sense of it. It is a senseless act of violence…

…but one that is being told far too often, leaving some numb to tragic events like yesterday.


One parent, who’s child made it out of the school safely said to a news reporter that “it’s happening so frequently in our community that it’s becoming too easy to be desensitized to this kind of evil.”


Can you imagine that? Within an hour of the first gun shot, area hospitals had wounded students arriving for treatment, 2 gunmen were in custody and more than 70 emergency vehicles surrounded the school, which was now a crime scene. And one parent was afraid that for many, the day would go bye with little or no emotional response to the tragic events of the day.


So how do we, as followers of Jesus, respond to such pain and loss? Do the Scriptures give us any comfort and direction in times like this?


A friend and a leader I respect greatly, Al Engler, shared a couple of Bible passages at a staff meeting last year that I’d like to pass on to you. I believe they are helpful in times like this.


The first is from the book of Ecclesiastes. They are words that reflect how we can easily feel about the world around us if we aren’t looking through the lens of God’s Kingdom.


“Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun. Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them. So I admired the dead, who have already died, more than the living, who are still alive. But better than either of them is the one who has not yet existed, who has not seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 HCSB


This is a passage that is almost hard to read isn’t it? It drips of hopelessness. The writer’s solution to a world with great challenge and suffering is that we’d be better off dead, or, better yet, never having been born!


I’ve counseled many young couples over the years who were engaged to be married, and a fair number of them expressed uncertainty when we talked about their future plans regarding children. “I’m not sure I want to bring children into this world…can you imagine how hard their life will be if ours is already this difficult,” one young man said.

So is that the best we can do, tuck our heads, hold on tight, and just survive life the best we can?


Jesus looked out at the very same world, broken and struggling, that Solomon, the writer of the passage above was looking at, yet He offered a very different solution. Let His words soak deeply into your heart as you read them.


“When Jesus saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.””

Matthew 9:36-38 HCSB


Jesus lived in a world not unlike ours! The Jewish people lived as slaves with limited freedoms. They paid taxes to a foreign government that placed a very heavy economic burden on them. If they were unable to pay the full amount when it was demanded, the solders would take their land, donkeys, or even their daughters as sex slaves to pay the tax bill. Men were taken away from their homeland to serve the Roman government, leaving the family back home in a desperate situation. Life was hard, and getting harder by the year!


It is easy at times to feel like a problem is too big, so nothing can be done! When Tracy and I moved to the Denver area 27 years ago we felt a spiritual darkness like we’d never felt before. In the nearly 3 decades since we’ve lived here, it hasn’t gone away, but has even increased! As I’m typing these words there are sirens screaming from all directions, something else is going on that hasn’t yet made the news, and I’m praying it isn’t yesterday being repeated.


Yesterday at the very same time the shooting was happening, men and women were gathered at our capital building voting on whether or not to legalize hallucinogen mushrooms, making them available for purchase and production in the commercial sector of our city. Colorado has experienced more school shootings and mass killings like the Aurora theater shooting than any other state, and yet we keep voting in policies that complicate the moral character of our state even more:/.


So what can be done about this growing darkness, which leads to such tragic events like yesterday’s shooting?


The thing about dark places…is that it doesn’t take much light to illuminate the whole room.


Jesus saw a broken suffering community, but He knew what the people needed wasn’t freedom from the Roman oppression, but a relationship with the living God who would bring light into a dark world.


Jesus saw the same things that Solomon saw in his day, but His solution was to send everyday people into the world, armed with a message of hope about a King and His Kingdom!


The apostle Paul, in his letter to his friend Timothy, gives us a format that each one of us can follow to bring God’s light into our own broken contexts.


He says,

“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2


Paul gave his life to loving and following Jesus. He committed to learning the message that Jesus taught, and the life He taught us to live, and Paul was very intentional about passing it on to others. Here in this simple verse he instructs Timothy to do the same.

What if each of us who already knows Jesus, committed even more to walking with Him, learning His live-giving message so well that we could then pass it on to one person, who in turn would pass it on to another, who in turn would pass it on to another, and so on…

…this may not seem like a very effective use of time when the world is rapidly falling apart around us, but keep in mind that a relationship with the Living God brings life and light into each person’s world!


Your time with one person may not change the world, but it will change their world!


And when their world is changed, the people they know can have their worlds changed too!


One of the young men I meet with each week is sensing God challenging him in one particular area of his life. As we wrestled through this area together, he mentioned 16 people whose lives will be directly impacted by what God is doing in his own heart. Spending time teaching even one person to walk with Jesus multiplies God’s Kingdom rapidly…and can, and will change the world!


Every person who is touched by the light of Christ is carrying God’s goodness into one more school, one more neighborhood, one more work place...it means that one more family or one more friend circle is experiencing Gods amazing goodness and hope!

If you are a person who was directly or indirectly touched by a tragic event like the one which happened yesterday in Highlands Ranch, let me leave you with some encouraging words from the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth.


“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Events like yesterday at the Highlands Ranch STEM school make no sense and cannot be explained, but God can use us, His followers, to bring light into a dark situation like this. Would you join Tracy and me as we pray for those impacted by yesterday’s events and for our community as a whole as we seek God’s direction in moving our community forward?


Thanks so much,

David Dyrud

Students, teachers & parents huddled in prayer...credit Denver Post

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