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What the Fort Hood shooting teaches us

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Sgt. First Class Erick Rodriguez stands guard before a news conference by Lt. Gen. Mark Milley at the entrance to Fort Hood Army Post in Texas April 2, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Erich Schlegel)

Fort Hood made global headlines in 2009 when Nidal Hasan killed 13 soldiers and wounded 31.  Now it’s back in the news for the same tragic reason.  An Iraq war veteran named Ivan Lopez opened fire on his fellow soldiers Wednesday around 4 P.M.  Three were killed and 16 wounded; when he was confronted, he killed himself.

While the Ft. Hood shooting captured headlines, other stories illustrate the same theme of innocent suffering.  According to police, someone duct taped razor blades to playground equipment at a park outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  A week ago, authorities in western Illinois found a dozen razor blades glued to playground equipment in a city park.

If soldiers aren’t safe on their own base and children aren’t safe on a playground, who in this world is truly secure?

“Third-hand smoke” (cigarette smoke that soaks into surfaces) is now considered as deadly as cigarette smoking.  The brakes on a Delta jet failed Wednesday night.  So far this year, 37 people in America have been killed by falling trees and 21 by lightning.

Yet our society plans for tomorrow as if it were guaranteed.  We make five-year strategies as though the future were predictable.  Christians are not exempt from this need to control time.  First thing every Monday morning, I write out my goals and tasks for the week, then mark them off as they are completed.  But one day, my life will end before my list is done.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'” (James 4:13).  Does that sound like us?  Here’s the truth: “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (v. 14).  Since the future is so unpredictable, what should we do?  “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'” (v. 15).  Have you sought and submitted to God’s will before making your goals and plans today?

Where should you begin?  God’s will is not a floodlight that eliminates the dark, but a flashlight that shows your next step.  His will is about present-tense obedience before it is about future-tense strategy.  You may not know what to do with tomorrow, but God will always show you what to do with today.  Then, “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (v. 17).

The Ft. Hood shooting reminds us that we are all one day closer to eternity.  If today were your day, would you be ready?