Mentoring Minutes

Where is God When Tragedy Strikes?

On Sunday, January 26, 2020, our day was interrupted with the tragic news of the untimely and sudden death of NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant as 41 years of age.  As if it couldn’t get any worse we learned that his 13-year old daughter, Gianna or Gigi, and 7 others died in the fatal helicopter crash on their way to Gigi’s basketball game with several teammates. 

How do we process this?  How do we reconcile an all-loving Sovereign God allowing something like this to happen and still trust in Him as “all Good?” 

Perspective – Earthly or Eternal?

While we must deal with the tragedy and our thoughts in the here and now, God’s Word gives us a great perspective on these things.

Allow me to share some thoughts and Scripture that come to my mind every time this kind of tragedy is brought front and center in our minds and lives.  I’ve learned to lean on these Truths in the most difficult of situations and I hope you’ll be able to do the same…

  1. Instead of judging and trying to determine the eternal destiny of those who passed, let’s leave that in the hands of the Only One who knows.  We can trust them to His perfect mercy, justice and love! Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the lord is the death of his saints.”
  2. Let’s be sure to always live in the light of Eternity…it’s the only thing that really matters!  In all things we look to Him and His Kingdom as Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
  3. Trust in God’s forgiveness – Receive what we hear and see regarding Kobe’s life in particular from the perspective of God’s Word…where he has fallen, as we all have, let’s forgive and move on and trust He took that to The Lord – Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Paul encourages us to,Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32
  4. The “Mamba Mentality” of “give it your all” and always find a way, for which Kobe will always be remembered is noble as long as we don’t make an idol of it in the wrong way and areas of our life.  Apply the great dedication, drive and discipline to your walk with The Lord and let that lead and influence every other area of your life.  Where he was getting it right with his marriage, family and parenting, let’s be encouraged to be the best person, spouse and parent we can be according to God’s Word and for His Kingdom and Glory!  Colossians 3 we read… Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (v. 17)Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as for the Lord rather than for men.”  (v. 24)

I had the privilege of playing college ball and some professional basketball.  I was driven, dedicated and disciplined in every way much like Kobe.  However, I was not as gifted.  I had to learn to surrender to The Lord’s will and allow Him to work through these things rather than continue to drive myself for what I wanted.  When I surrendered fully to Him, He began to shape and mold my dedication, drive and discipline for His Kingdom and that made all the difference.

Each of you can do that if you are willing to make Christ first in your life, marriage, family and work or ministry!

One final thought regarding the young teenage girls whose lives were ended all to soon and in answer to the question that so many ask at this time, “Why would a loving God take these young lives or any of these lives?”  My simple answer when that has happened to those that I’ve been close to is, “I don’t know.”  But I’ve also learned to say this as well, “But I can also still completely trust You.  I can’t see the reason but Your love and faithfulness in everything else that I have seen lead me to trust in You.” 

The alternative of not trusting in Him leaves me in a much worse place trusting in this world or myself and my mixed up emotions for the answers and that’s never satisfied me in any way.  So I’ll keep looking to Him and I would encourage you to do the same, even when we don’t understand.”  Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

I hope this helps you bring some focus and perspective to this tragedy, especially regarding the young lives that were snuffed out what seems to us to be far too quickly.  We can entrust them to His loving, gracious, merciful judgment.  The Cross is proof that He loves us that much! 

For those who remain we continue to pray that they look to and know Him! Let’s be sure, as Paul reminded us, that we’re focused on Eternity and how we’re living in the here and now for that purpose and help others do the same! 

Remember this as we focus on a perspective in line with God’s Truth…James, the half-brother of Jesus said this, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 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. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”  James 4:13-15

And Peter put it this way…“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”   1 Peter 4:7-11

As I was finishing up writing this article, one of my favorite songs came on my computer.  It is so powerful and it deals directly with this issue and what we’re discussing in this article, video and podcast.  Take a few minutes to listen to Casting Crowns song, Even If, and let is point you to The Only One Who can strengthen and support you in these situations.

Here’s God’s assuring and reassuring words in all words in all things and at all times… for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say (just as King David did when he was facing one of the worst situations in his life), “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:5-6 (parentheses mine and added). 

I’ll close with Christ’s final words that apply to us at all times no matter what we’re facing as we can count on Him, surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

My final prayer whenever I hear of anyone I know passing is simply this…

I pray that they are in your hands and I know I can trust You, Lord.  For those who remain and struggle with the questions, the grief and loss, may they come to know you for the first time as Savior and Lord or, even in the pain and heartache, to know you more fully as their Lord!

Choose, even as we contemplate this tragedy and the painful realities of this life, to make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – So often in the middle of pain and trials and loss, we allow our feelings to dictate and guide how we will respond.  While they are very real, they are also very much tied to our natural inclinations and desires and easily lead us astray.  God’s Word and Spirit are much better choices as we work through the emotional pain.  You can trust in Him no matter what.

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Have you ever stopped to think about your reactions and what they stem from when you face heartache and loss?  Begin even now to look at the Scriptures in this article and other related as you study His Word and ask Him in prayer to show you how you can focus on Him and the eternal perspective while still living and dealing with this temporary life.


A few years ago a much-respected pastor walked into my office to discuss a conference hosted at his church several years before. We entered into a wonderful conversation about marriage, family and church that led him to share that two of the elders in his church had moved away and he was having trouble filling those positions. He shared that there were two elders still in the church but they really needed at least four to best serve the needs of his church.

He had heard my message a few times before, so I proceeded to ask him one question. It was this question and his response that formed the outline for this article.

I simply asked him, “If you were a fly on the wall in the homes of these two current elders in your church would you feel comfortable as to what you would see and hear regarding their love and servant-leadership of their marriage and families?” 

After an awkward 5-10 seconds of silence he responded, “No” and then proceeded with this comment, “Man, Greg, you’re talking about messy, nasty stuff when you get into relationships.”

His answer was very telling and I would add, based on conversations with many pastors and church leaders, common in our churches today.  My comment to him as it’s been to many others as we find ways to compromise God’s Word to make our systems work, “Which part of the messy, nasty relationships changes God’s Truth?”

What do you think of when you hear the word “relationship?”  Does it conjure up pleasant memories and feelings of friendships, acquaintances, family members, even marriage, spouse and children?  Or does it bring poignant reminders of hurt feelings, lost love, rejection, bitterness, unforgiveness and broken hearts and lives?  Maybe a bit of both?

Our culture has convinced us, for the most part, that relationships occur naturally, take little work and lead to wonderful outcomes and partnerships…if we will just follow our feelings! If they don’t then they just weren’t meant to be, so follow your feelings into the next one.  One look at our culture reveals that this way of doing relationships is a disaster.

While our nature is to relate and connect, we must remember that we are broken, sinful and selfish.  Because of this, relationships, including marriage and family don’t come naturally.  They take work in order to make them healthy and fulfilling. 

God knew this and encourages and instructs us accordingly.  It wasn’t the way He designed and planned for relationships to work but because of our free will and desire to have what we want, He knew we would need guidelines, boundaries, even commands.  These “disciplines” are given to help us navigate the “messy, nasty stuff” of relationships.

God’s Commands for Healthy Relationships (and Our Good)

So, what are God’s commands (disciplines) for healthy, fulfilling relationships?

It’s always interesting that most marriage conferences or events begin with “wives, submit to your husband” (Ephesians 5:22) and then followed up with “husbands, love your wife sacrificially as Christ did His Bride, The Church” (Ephesians 5:25).  These are definitely found in God’s Word but require much more in order to understand how we are to apply them in marriage and beyond.

One of the interesting insights that I think Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs shares in his book, Love and Respect, is his statement when asked by someone, why God would ask wives to respect and husbands to love (as though it would be natural and we’d be doing it anyway)?  After praying and seeking, he said he received this thought (not an audible answer but clear direction) from The Lord, “Why would I command you to do something I created you naturally to do?” 

Men tend more naturally toward respect and women tend toward love with regard to issues, conversation, praise and response.  This carries over into relationships.  It doesn’t mean that women don’t understand and share respect or that men don’t understand and share love.  It simply means that that the areas commanded don’t come as naturally to each gender, respectively. 

This can (and certainly has) led to many problems throughout history when it comes to relationships, marriage, family and community.  However, God has a wonderful solution if we are willing to submit to Him. 

Discipleship in Relationships

As I began studying this years ago I found it both interesting and perplexing that God has made it clear that we need encouragement, instruction, help and even guidance (commands) to build good relationships, including marriage!  I thought they just happened, like the culture had led me to believe, naturally through mutual attraction, feelings, “give and take.” 

Not only is this not true but we need help and we also need to understand that in order to develop healthy relationships we need the discipline to work at them.

Why is it that nearly every couple that I’ve worked with has experienced these “Truths” regarding the commands to love and respect?  Maybe it’s because we’ve fallen for the faulty definitions and lies of the culture that keep us from understanding and being willing to work at it for the sake of our friendships, families, children and even our marriage and spouse. 

God knew what He was doing…even after we messed it up.  He knew we would need to learn to die to ourselves, sacrifice our own selfish desires and pleasures before we could truly love Him, ourselves and others.  So he prefaces “love and respect” for our spouse (Ephesians 5:22-27) with reverence for and submitting first to Him (Ephesians 5:21)

Marriage, Family and Servant-leadership in Christ’s Church

I’ve shared on the topic and importance of finding true leaders in our churches (and ultimately in Christ’s Church) in previous posts and will go into greater detail in the future.  Suffice it to say that in God’s design He not only established marriage and family as the beginning for loving relationships but to teach us to develop, recognize and appropriate real relational servant-leadership in His Church and Kingdom and to impact our world.  

In other words, according to God’s Word, if we are to love like Jesus, it begins in the home…marriage and family… and the same is true if we are to lead like Jesus!  1 Timothy 3:4-5 clearly states that authority and leadership is to be shaped, pruned and matured in the marriage and parenting relationships in our families or it is not to be called and extended into Christ’s Church.

In God’s Word and Kingdom, love and relational servant-leadership go hand in hand.  How are we going to show the world and culture what His love looks like if we are attempting to love and lead in His Church apart from and/or ignoring the Covenant love and relational servant-leadership in our marriages and families?

Relationships are messy, nasty things in this fallen world but not one single “mess” or “nastiness” produced in our fallenness and broken relationships changes God’s Truth.  So how do you think we’re doing when it comes to living out Christ’s Lordship as His disciples and doing so in loving relationships and servant-leadership?  Our answers and obedience have everything to do with how impactful our lives will be on our children and future generational spouses, parent and leaders and how influential our churches will be in our culture.

Let’s commit to do life, love, relationships and servant-leadership according to God’s Word and let Him be responsible for the consequences of doing it His way!  I believe it will change how we do marriage, family and church and have a much greater and deeper impact on how we make disciples that will impact our culture and world.

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – As Christ’s disciple are you practicing His love and relational servant-leadership in your marriage and family?  To whom I may apply, are you trying to love and lead in Christ’s Church without first having done so in line with His sacrificial love and servant-leadership in your home?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Ask The Lord to show you if you’re loving and leading in your marriage and family in line with His teaching and example found in The Bible.  Ask your spouse if your love and leadership reflect Christ’s teaching and examples.  Ask your children.  Humbly respond according to their answers.


As we begin the New Year of 2020, let’s do so with a 20/20 vision and begin where God did…no, not in the Garden of Eden but in the first and highest of relationships… one man and one woman in the covenant of Marriage.

Love begins in the heart, then in God’s design, flourishes in marriage and in the home/family.  It then comes together in the Church as we mature in the integrity and authority of Christ’s Love and Lordship in our lives and relationships and we carry it into a hurting and lost world!

To often in our world/culture we “get people saved” and then send them out to serve and evangelize others…skipping right over our own growth and maturity in The Lord; loving Him with all we are and; maturing as His disciples to prepare us to serve and make disciples of others as we serve and they invite us to have influence in their lives and relationships.

Jesus’ design and order are simple if we’ll just follow His Word in the power of His Spirit and let Him bring the fruit! 

We kick off this New Year’s/New Decade’s teaching with 2 rhetorical questions… What if God really means it when He says in His Word that the relationship and unity of marriage is a reflection of His image and of His relationship with His people (Christ with His Church)?  What if the unity Christ prayed for in John 17 for His Church is rooted in His design and plan for man and woman in covenant marriage?

“In the beginning…”  Don’t you think that’s always a great place to start?  It just makes sense and God, being a God of Order, certainly makes sense.  Are we willing to follow His order as sensible people?

Let’s see what He has to say about relationships from “the beginning.” 

In His Image

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27

  1. We can reason…God reveals right up front that we as human beings were and are made in His image.  Most scholars understand and teach that this means that we are not only different than all the other animals…we are actually set apart and created with a soul and the ability to reason in line with God’s design and wisdom.  This doesn’t mean that we fully understand Him or His infinite and perfect knowledge but we are able to process it in our minds because we bear His image.  Amazingly, in His Sovereignty, He also gave us free will so that we could understand and choose or reject Love. 
  2. We are made differently to complement each other – We are either male or female and there is great significance in all He has designed and how He created us to complement each other to reflect Who He Is.  He is not a God of confusion but of order, reflected in how our differences shape and strengthen us as well as reveal our own weaknesses and opportunities to mature.  (For a more in-depth look at sex and gender check out Glenn Stanton’s excellent article, Why Sex and Gender Are Not Two Different Things)

His Image – Loving Relationship, Unity and Community

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.  Genesis 2:24

  • We are created for intimate relationship – the greatest expression of our being created in the image of His Love is that of intimate relationships.

In the Old Testament, the love of God that He created us to reflect in His image through our lives and relationships was called “hesed” (Hebrew) which means “faithful lovingkindness and mercy.”  In the New Testament, the closest the Greek language could come to this was, “agape” which was known as “Godly or selfless, sacrificial love.”  Whether “hesed” or “agape” His love always sacrifices for the other and never fails!

Jesus quoted the Genesis passage and in our day and time there are few words more important than “For this reason…” as Jesus went on to repeat that very reason and take it one step further, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:5-6)

Marriage – The Highest of Human Relationships

  • The highest and most sacred of human relationships is Marriage – one man/one woman in covenant relationship for a lifetime.  Yes, the “cleaving” or joining together to become one is a sexual reference and highly regarded and protected as such in covenant marriage throughout all of Scripture.  God has a tremendous purpose in relationships and Marriage for individuals, families and all of society.

If we are to live and love in His image we must understand what it requires of us so that we reflect and represent Him as best as we can.  Relationship, unity and community are key elements of His image and what we are created for.  With that said, as we desire to show others Who He Is, we need to begin where He did…in marriage and family…and honor it accordingly in all our relationships!

Marriage, from the beginning (and this never changes), was and is the highest expression of “hesed/agape” (Godly love) because it was the love that most closely reflects His image and from which humanity and human love is to proceed. 

God not only used it to reveal His image as male and female in marriage but in describing His relationship with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-32) and Christ’s relationship with His Bride, The Church (Ephesians 5:32-33)!  While the intimacy expressed in the sexual union points to the unity of His Church and loving relationships (John 17), all other relationships reveal this intimacy and unity apart from the sexual expression.  God has reserved the sexual union only for Marriage.  Is it any wonder why He places such value on true intimacy in His image and warns us in His Word of the consequences of sexual and relational sin?

Marriage – Points to Christ, His Gospel and His Church

When we attempt to build loving relationships and community apart from marriage and family we are usurping His plan and stepping outside His design…creating us in His image.  This does not mean that everyone has to get married but it does mean that marriage is the highest ideal of intimacy expressing His image…sacrificial love for the sake of the other…and the family that is borne out of the marital relationship speaks to the love to be lived out in His Church and in all other relationships.   The Church is crippled at best when it does not uphold, encourage and promote not only Biblical marriage but healthy marriages as well!

When the church, government or any organization or system ignores, tries to manipulate or “create” loving relationships outside of God’s plan we all lose.  We are all (not just those who choose to marry) called to honor (highly esteem, respect) Marriage.  The writer of Hebrews, near the end of this great theological book gives what seems to be an odd command to believers…“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”  (Hebrews 13:4)

The wording here is powerful as “all” in Greek means, you got it, EVERY ONE!  This is not just for those who are married, plan to get married, are thinking of marriage some day or have been married before…it literally means all and it goes on to state the outcome of those who dishonor marriage in sexual immorality of any kind, within or outside of marriage.  Why?  Because all sexual immorality…before, during or after marriage…dishonors God’s design, plan and purpose for us to understand His image and His Love and destroys relationship!

Our goal in loving relationships should be to reflect His image.  To do this we must reflect His: 1) Reason/Wisdom; 2) Holiness; 3) Truth in Love; 4) Unity. 

When we honor His creative design and plan, we are blessed in our relationships, beginning in our homes and families and that benefits and helps build His Family, The Church, and allows us to more fully express His love to a lost and hurting world! 

Next week we’ll continue with the importance and connection of discipleship and loving relationships.  As we desire to reflect His image and Love in relationships and community then let’s do so according to His Word and start where He did…“In the beginning…for this reason…male and female…two become one flesh…Marriage should be honored by all.”

This kind of love, relationship, unity and community is what it means to be created in, and reflect the image of, God and points to what He desires in all relationships so the world can see His kind of Love.   

So I close with a similar rhetorical question…What if unity in God’s image, as designed for one man and woman in covenant marriage, is not just for marriage but also points to and prepares us for unity in Christ’s Bride and Family, The Church? 

How is His image and love being displayed to a lost culture through our marriages and in His Church?  Check out what it might look like if we take Him at His Word…

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – How much do your relationships reflect God’s agape…intimate, selfless, sacrificial love?  How much does/has “marriage” and “family” (healthy or unhealthy) impact(ed) your concept and application of loving relationships?  What needs to change in your life in order for you to build relationships that reflect His love?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Based on your responses in “Food for Thought” above, write down and determine at least one relationship (begin with marriage if you are married) and one issue that you will pray about and begin to respond with agape in line with God’s Truth rather than selfishness.  Repeat daily and begin to work through all relationships and issues.