I had other plans for today, other than writing this article with a broken heart. The people in Las Vegas and beyond, that have been impacted by the worst mass shooting in American history, for whom my heart is breaking, had other plans, too. The people that were murdered had other plans. The people that are fighting for their lives and health had other plans. The people that have lost loved ones had other plans. The only person that planned and prepared for this shooting was the shooter. (Although, I doubt he was prepared for what happened one second after he shot himself.) Could anyone else have been prepared for this? Some say you can never be prepared for something like this. While we can never perfectly prepare in every way for every possible scenario, we can and must prepare in some ways, and I offer you some thoughts as to how - spiritual and practical thoughts, because God's will is always a blend of both.
Prepare to abruptly exit this life.
"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'" (James 4:14-15*)
Among the many people sadly killed last night, very likely there were some that were not prepared to die. They lived in the presumption of tomorrow - that after a late night of fun, they would sleep in tomorrow - who they would call tomorrow - where, what, and with whom they would eat tomorrow. And tragically tomorrow never came for them...not on this earth.
What did they leave undone, which they would have done had they known they would die last night? And were they prepared for eternity?
God is clear in His Word, we are not to live in the presumption of tomorrow. And unfortunately, we now live in a time when a mass shooting is an imminent threat anywhere at any time. However, whether we will die in a mass shooting, a car wreck, from a heart attack, or from natural causes in old age, we all are approaching that moment when we will abruptly exit this life, and we should always be prepared for it in the will of the Lord, realizing and submitting to His sovereign rule. Ultimately, our remaining time on this earth is in His hands.
"It is appointed for people to die once and after this comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27**)
I make no assumptions about the spiritual and eternal state of those killed last night. However, I ask you, are you right with God? If you die today, will you face Him in judgment for better or for worse? Will you die redeemed or condemned? Please make sure the following is true for you: "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." (Romans 8:1–2) "He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." (2 Corinthians 5:15) Turn to Him, from living for yourself to live for Him the eternal life you can have from Him.
If you are prepared to exit this life in that most important way, then consider the more practical ways. Make sure your life is in order to the best of your ability. Make sure you will not leave behind any undue burdens on your loved ones. Do what needs to be done. Say what needs to be said. Minimize any regretful lo0se ends you may leave for others.
Prepare to abstain from some entertainment in this life.
"It's just good, clean fun." Many entertaining activities are justified with that statement. Not enough thought is given to whether or not God considers certain activities good and clean. We Christians should not be involved in any activities that He does not consider good and clean, no matter how fun they seem.
Now, this is not to suggest that God is displeased with a particular activity just because something bad happens during that activity. This is not to suggest that last night's massacre was God's judgment on those attending that concert. Mass shootings have been done in churches where true Christians have been gathered in worship, so, a mass shooting or any other tragic event, in and of itself, is not an automatic indicator of how God sees the activity that the mass of people are engaged in.
The point here is to be more mindful of how God does see the activity you are considering engaging in. Ask Him and study His Word for solid truth to stand and act on. Some things can be debated among us of good conscience, while other things cannot. Think about what the Apostle Peter says here:
"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from/is finished with sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles [in other words, 'you spent enough time doing these things in your past life'], having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation/wild living, and they malign/slander you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1–6**)
In addition to the issue of morality, there is the issue of timing. If there is not a clear moral principal in God's Word leading you away from a proposed activity, then you must also ask Him if He wants you engaging in that particular activity at that particular time. Ask Him, in His wisdom for and protection of you, to make it clear to you if He does not want you to. Perhaps in His lovingkindness, He will impress on you to abstain in order to protect you from something terrible.
The bottom line is that fun and entertainment are not the guiding principals for Christian living. In God's morality and timing, there are forms of entertainment He wants us to abstain from. Therefore, we should always ask Him to lead us to the right places at the right times, while keeping us from the wrong places at the wrong times.
Prepare to intervene for another's life.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
If in God's providence, you ever face the prospect of such mass carnage as those faced in Las Vegas, prepare to lay your life down to save others. Prepare to be that one that dies so that others may live.
Much is said about shooters targeting "soft targets" - people in vulnerable settings, unable to fully defend themselves. Whenever we go into such a setting, we should make up our minds to do anything we can to "harden" that target. We need to arm ourselves, if possible, and if we cannot arm ourselves literally, we should at least arm ourselves with greater awareness of our surroundings - greater awareness of signs that someone may be about to do us harm. And we should be prepared to do whatever we can to stop as much harm as we can, whether stopping the shooter directly or getting someone else out of the shooter's line of fire. We men, in particular, must always think with a defender's mentality, never a victim's mentality. Our first instinct should be to shield others, not to be shielded by others - to stand in the gap, not to escape through the gap.
Prepare to intercede with the authorities of this life.
"[Governing authority] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." (Romans 13:4)
Pure evil - I read Oklahoma Senator James Lankford and heard President Trump refer to the Las Vegas shooter's mass murder as that, and they are right. And in their positions, they both believe they are to do everything they can to protect us from such pure evil, and they are right.
In God's plan for governing authorities, there is no place for pacifism. God has given them a sword to wield with power and precision. We should hold them accountable to do so. Too many times, we have heard of cases in which there were warning signs of someone planning to do harm, the authorities did not act on those warning signs, and tragic harm was done. As respectful, submissive law-abiding citizens, we should expect and equip our law enforcement to do their jobs at every level.
Prepare to do your part. Do not be passive in civil and political involvement. Stay informed and involved on the issues this society faces. With dignity and respect, make sure your voice is heard whenever and wherever necessary, calling on our authorities to do the wise and right thing, fulfilling their God-given responsibility to protect us from and punish evildoers.
These are the thoughts that immediately were pressing on my heart after I heard about Las Vegas on the morning news. I have personally witnessed too many people go through life unprepared for the unforeseen. With more and more frequency, we are being reminded that we do not have that luxury. May God bless and protect you and your family. May God pour out redeeming and comforting mercy on the people of Las Vegas.
*Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the NASB.