This week has been WOW Week at TMC. Two hundred and twenty new students arrived last Saturday and moved into their new college homes. I’m part of the Servant Leadership Staff (SLS), which consists of returning students who help run WOW. The week has been packed full of events designed to ward off any homesickness and at the same time prepare students for college life. Each morning Dr. Mark Tatlock has delivered a message on various Biblical concepts which drive The Master’s College in pursuit of Jesus Christ.
Chapel Media department has put together a series of podcasts chronicling WOW Week at TMC. I was asked to do the intro for the Monday. To see it, search iTunes podcasts for WOW@TMC or click here, then select “Monday.”
The joke “we’ve retreated so far, the war’s already lost” is true at TMC. Last week marked Resident Assistant (RA) Retreat, where we covered everything from counseling situations to CPR. This week was the larger Servant Leadership Staff retreat at the Hyatt Grand Champion Resort and Spa in Palm Springs. The topic was “Kingdom Living,” a series of messages done on authentic Christian community. Next week is Week of Welcome, during which all the new students arrive at TMC.
These last two weeks have impressed upon my mind how great a debtor I am to my Lord. This is a phrase overused to death, but I’ve been gaining a fuller understanding of exactly how great my debt is. Joe Keller spoke during RA Retreat about how we as Christians are simply receivers. We receive the stirring of the Holy Spirit, we receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, we receive sanctification, we receive glorification. None of these things are generated from within, and without the grace of God all would be undone instantly by my sin. Even the good works I do as a redeemed child of God requires God’s grace, as it is only Him which gives me the desire to do good works, and then gives me the ability to praise Him and not myself for such an attitude. This is why the Bible calls my works of righteousness “filthy rags.” They aren’t glorifying to God, except by His grace to make them glorifying to Himself.
The only reason my good deeds bring glory to God is because God poured forth grace into my heart specifically for that action, so that I could glorify Him in that specific action. I’m much more helpless than I realized. It may be comforting to think that I can praise God and in a way repay Him for what He has done, but it is not true. I thank God for my salvation because God gave me the ability and the desire to thank Him for my salvation. I run to the treasures of God because God has caused my eyes to see the sparkle of the treasure.
Sitting in the airport today I watched newscast after newscast about the I-8 bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed three days ago. Five people were crushed to death, and thirty more are missing. If they haven’t turned up by now, they are most likely dead. Everybody knows the stories—the twenty year old school counselor who heroically helped a schoolbus full of children to safety, the man in the wheelchair who rolled to safety out of his van, the unconscious woman who woke up underwater and managed to escape. And now there is intense scrutiny of bridges and their safety classifications. Congressional studies will be done, money will be spent, jobs will be created, and funerals will be officiated. I drive across bridges almost every day. Most Americans do. Within a month—probably less—the I-8 tragedy will be all but forgotten.
I wonder what the safety rating of the Tower at Siloam was. Luke 13:4-5 describes another tragedy which killed innocent people and shocked many more. Jesus is asked what the people had done to deserve being crushed to death by debris. He responds by saying “[D]o you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” This answer would have surprised the audience. There was a general cultural expectation that when evil befell someone, it was because of a specific sin that God was avenging. Before healing the paralytic in —– Jesus was asked who sinned, the man or his parents. It was an assumption of the culture that those who were untouched by tragedy were not the sinners to the degree of the suffering.
Engineers have conveyed their surprise at the sudden collapse of the bridge. “It wasn’t supposed to do that” they say. Neither was the Tower of Siloam. The Tower of Siloam fell as a reminder from God that all men are but dust, and all deserve to die. This was Jesus’ response to his inquisitors. Were they worse culprits than you? God’s message hasn’t changed in the last 2000 years. The message of the 1-8 Bridge is this: Repent and devote your life to the God who created you for His glory. Why did the bridge fall? Because God removed His hand from underneath it.
I’m sitting in a plane as I type this. Looking out the window makes me realize how fragile life is. But I’m as safe up here as I am on the ground. God governs all life and death. Not a sparrow will fall without His knowledge, and not a person will die without His will granting such an event. Time and again the question is asked “How could a good God allow…9/11, Hurricane Katrina, a tsunami which devastates Southeast Asia, or a bridge collapse which kills thirty-five people.” God allows such for the reason presented in verse five. “[U]nless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The message thirty-five people died to proclaim is this: Do you know the Savior? Are you passionately living for the glory of God? Or are you wasting your life on trivial things?