Maybe A Tweet Won’t Solve Mass Shootings

As everyone else in our country, I have been heartbroken and burdened over the latest school shooting in Florida that has left 17 dead. One of the most heartbreaking things in regards to this shooting was the lack of shock I felt. There have been so many mass shootings in the last few years that it has made me somewhat numb, almost expecting another one to happen.

To match heartbreak with frustration, enter social media. In a matter of minutes there is no lack of political pundits and celebrities chiming in with simple solutions to a complex problem. The answer to ending mass school shootings is gun control, they say.   With emotional pleas from broken hearted parents who have just lost their children they say if you just ban “assault rifles” then all of this will stop.

I wish it were that easy. I wish congress could just pass a law that bans a certain type of firearm and then all the killings would end.   However, if you grew up in the country, like me, then you know a semiautomatic weapon is what the media is referring to as an assault rifle. Pretty much every hunting rifle could fall under the category of assault rifle. The AR-15’s that the media likes to show pictures of just look more menacing because of the tactical shell in which they are cased.   Wood hunting rifles that look less ominous can carry the same magazines and shoot just as many bullets in just as fast a time. To ban ‘assault rifles’ would mean that you ban pretty much every gun but a single shot, and I don’t see that happening.   But if it would end children getting killed in our schools then I would be for it.   If that were the simple solution…but it’s not.

The problem is much more complex and the answer to solving it much deeper than a law.

Young deranged white men do most mass shootings. I am sure all of these young men have some level of mental illness, but mental illness, like a cancer to the body, can be fed and fostered in a number of ways.

I think the problem goes deeper than just these young white deranged men.   I think it flows broader into frustrated and angry young men in general. The man crisis in our culture is hitting critical mass and the fall out is not pretty.

We are reaping the harvest of a fatherless generation and I am afraid we are not yet at the tipping point.

As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.”

It’s not just these young white men who are struggling, they just find a way to show their angst against the world in a very public way by hurting as many innocent people as possible.

The effects of fatherlessness are epidemic in most communities in the United States.

I found this interesting, “Two of the strongest correlations with gun homicides are growing up in a fatherless household and dropping out of school, which itself is directly related to lack of an active or present father. There’s a direct correlation between fatherless children and teen violence. It’s no coincidence that, much like the number of fatherless children, the number of mass shootings has exploded since the 1960s. Throughout the entire 1960s, six mass shootings took place. That number doubled in 1970. Heck, 2012 alone saw more mass shootings than the sixties did.”

Without a father young men have no direction. When young men have no direction and purpose they move to extremes. They cut ties with what is traditional masculinity. They embrace a homosexual lifestyle or become transgender. There is a clear correlation with the rise of both of these lifestyles to the rise of fatherlessness.   They grasp for their need to fit in and they don’t know how. The other extreme is to become violent, join a gang, become a criminal, or in extreme cases become a mass shooter. When men grow up with no father for an example they fill in the gaps on their own.

Everything in culture tells these men that they no longer have a place.   In fact, for young white men the message is clear, you are the enemy. They are told that they are the problem. They are told they are part of the white patriarchy that oppresses everyone else. For fragile unguided minds that are already inclined to mental illness, they start to believe it, then they learn to hate the world, hate themselves, and hate being. They are full of anger and rage and instead of just ending their own lives they want to hurt others in the process. They want to be remembered as they feel they have been marginalized all of their lives.   So they hurt others. They hurt as many as they can.

Fatherlessness is not the only factor involved. There are a number of other factors that I think we would be foolish to overlook:

Games – Most young teenage boys (especially white ones) spend countless hours shooting people virtually in very realistic games. It becomes second nature to them to pull the virtual trigger.

Movies and Shows – Have you heard of this little thing called Netflix?   Countless hours of watching shows that have become increasingly more sickening, brutal and graphic.   Young men are drawn to these shows about death and murder. There are tons of programs out there that actually show how real crimes were committed.   Again these are fertilizers to a sick mind.

Social Media – Tells young men they do not measure up and allow them to connect with extremist groups that will fan the flame of their sickness. The rise of ‘alt’ left and ‘alt’ right groups has only increased the evil and hatred in the world.

Atheism – Atheism says you are the source for your morality. The Bible teaches that every person is born as a sinner. At our core we are not good, but evil. The cure to evil is repentance and faith in Jesus. As Christians we live in pursuit of a holy life as defined by the life of Jesus. He is our model and example. For the Atheist he is only accountable to his on set of morals, whatever he chooses.   These morals are shaped by whatever he is putting into his mind (I.E. Games, movies, shows, social media) and deems as moral. We took God out of schools and have warned teachers not to mention faith.   I imagine there are so many kids who could have found a better way, if only schools were allowed to offer it.

The devaluing of human life – We live in a culture that legally kills almost 400,000 babies a year.   This permeates a society that says the highest value is whatever I desire, even if it means taking the life of others.   If a mother can take her own child’s life then why should anyone else be limited?

Radical Feminism – This ideology teaches men that just for being born they are to be hated and despised.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. I am sure there are a number of other factors that contribute to each mass shooting. I am sure each case has many individual nuances.

In my opinion the one big smoking gun is not the gun, it is the absence of a loving and guiding father in the home.

How do we stop mass shootings?

The answer is pretty simple, cross cultural, and long term.

This is a simple Bible answer: Don’t have sex until you’re married (this ends the need for abortion). When you are married, love your spouse.   Stay married even when it’s hard.   Raise your children to love God first and love their neighbors as themselves. Don’t leave when things get hard!

The answer may just be the family!

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 5.21.29 AM.pngI can remember maybe 15 years ago hearing Dr. James Dobson saying something to the effect of, “when you destroy the family, you will destroy society as we know it.” The prophesy is unveiling before our eyes.

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Why Change?

I’ve been fortunate to experience many cultures in the world. Most of the places I’ve been were on mission trips. It’s a humbling and frightening experience to go to a place a long way from your home and meet people you’ve never met before that think very unlike you.

I think the most dissimilar place I’ve been is India. The smell is the first thing you notice when you get off the plane. There is always the smell of smoke in the air (this is also true of Haiti). All the food is very spicy with tons of curry powder.   The people of India have a head bobble that is not up and down but kind of all around and it can mean a number of different things.   The people are so humble that few of them look you in the eye. Most of the people I met lived in extreme poverty. Many of the people had actual physical idols that they worshipped in their homes.   There are millions of gods that are worshipped in India. The roads are chaotic, filled with cars, bikes, people, cows and anything else you can imagine.   It’s hot, really hot.

In all of the diversity of this place the thing that stood out to me so clearly is all the things I had in common with the people if India. Finding common ground was not hard and when I met the people face to face I felt a great love for them. In order to tell them the message of Jesus I had to contextualize it.

I had to figure out a way to explain the Gospel message in a way that they could understand.

When I was preaching I couldn’t use the same American jokes. Those jokes didn’t make sense to them. They have a certain way to dress that is not like how I would normally dress. Our team prepared for months in advance learning little things about the culture so that we would not offend our hosts when we were there. At first it was uncomfortable to me because I had to change my preferences in order to connect with these wonderful people. I never really liked the food in India, but I ate it because our hosts, who had little to eat, gave it sacrificially. In the end, the value of the relationships I gained and the souls that were saved far outweighed the light and temporary afflictions I faced as a result of changing things that were preferential and normal to me.

This is really just what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9: 19 “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

When we think of change in the context of being a missionary then it seems obvious that a change in our behavior and approach is needed. When we think of change in the context of the culture in which we live we cling to our preferences.

Why?

I can think of a couple of reasons:

First, we know that when we go on a mission trip it is usually short term so we endure change for a small season knowing we will go back to what is normal. 

Second, and maybe more telling, we don’t see where we live as a mission field.We stop contextualizing and we just live. We stop reaching out to our culture and we start cursing the culture for being lost.   We want them to be like us. We see our American Christian subculture crumbling before us. This frightens most long time Christians who’ve grown up in the south.   Because of this we see our changing culture and the people in it as the enemy instead of the reason for the church.

I don’t like change unless it’s change I like. That may sound a little funny but here is what I mean.   There are some changes I like but all the changes I like are the changes I dictate in my life. I usually don’t like change when I feel like I am losing something that is out of my control.

I have heard it said that people don’t fear change they fear loss.

I work at a church and I see this pretty often. Our church has been in a season of change and some people don’t like the changes. These are good people, many of who I look up to. These are Godly people but they like what they like and sometimes changes are just hard.

It is hard to like something and have it taken away. (certain traditions, musical style, buildings, programs, musical instruments, lighting, even names, etc…)

It is hard when the church is the central hub of your spiritual and social life and it changes on you.

It is hard when your preference is no longer the church’s emphasis.

These are all hard things, so…

Why Change?

The answer is pretty simple. We change in order to attempt to better reach people for Jesus.

Changing to chase a fad is a reckless.
Changing to copy someone else is shallow.
Changing out of personal preference is superficial.
Changing to water down the message is sinful.  
Changing to upset people is wrong.

When it all gets down to the simplest level we change in order to honor God and reach people. As a Christian when we come to Christ we enter a season of change called sanctification. It’s the process of us becoming like Christ.

Less of me, more of Him.
Less of my wants, more obedience.
Less of my plans, more of His.

This whole process is very uncomfortable. Like the caterpillar struggling to free itself from its cocoon, we struggle to be more like Christ.

We change in order to reach people but where is the line?   When is the change too much? When do we need to be afraid that the church is just becoming like the culture instead of reaching the culture? These are very important questions that church going Christian people should be asking.

I believe there are at least two simple lines.

The first is the scripture. Churches must never compromise or violate the scripture in order to reach people. The message never changes. If the church begins to water down the gospel then the church is in trouble.

The second is sin. Churches must not engage in sinful activities in order to reach sinners.Jesus modeled this perfectly.   He was constantly around sinners yet without sin. Jesus preached to all who would listen, but only those who repented in faith became children of God.  The church must open wide the doors for the message to be heard, but only those who repent and believe become part of the church.

The Apostle Paul was a man that knew about changing. He went from a Jew of Jews to a man called to reach the Gentile (Pagan) world.   I am sure he had to do things that he never thought he would have to do. His life was constantly changing as he went from one area to another.

He was willing to do whatever it took to reach people for Christ. I know he was often criticized. Paul himself said, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”

It is hard for all of us to accept change but we must be willing to ask the question of ourselves, “Am I struggling with the change because it is a deviation from scripture or leading our church to sin or am I struggling with change because I am losing my preference?”

It is ok to be upset that you lose something of the past that was precious to you, but remember that to live in the past prevents a better future.Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 6.16.21 AM

Let’s struggle together as we see God’s church reach more people with the Gospel.

 

The Theology of Emotion

I feel like…

I don’t think it’s fair that…

I don’t feel like God would make someone unhappy…

Christians are saturated by thousands of blogs, articles, and thoughts about what is ok and not ok to do and be in our day.   One of the more dangerous false teachings I see creeping into the American Christian world is what I want to call the Theology of Emotion.

Theology simply means the study of God.   Our culture is increasingly a generation of Christians that are basing their beliefs about God more heavily on how they feel than what God has revealed about Himself through the Bible.

If you need examples of this just go talk to most young Christians and ask them if they think living together before marriage is wrong.   Or ask them if they think homosexuality is wrong. It seems that many who claim Christianity today are more concerned with how they feel about something than what God has said in the Bible about it.

Don’t get me wrong emotions are a great and powerful driver.   Emotions are the great catalyst to actions. I love so many passionate movements going on in the Christian community such as the “End It” movement to end sex trafficking.   I love the pregnancy care centers that are all over our nation that provide options to mothers who feel like they have no options. I love the push for Christian families to be involved in foster care and adoption. These are great pictures of how God uses our emotional heartstrings to rally us around causes that are close to His heart.

If we do not feel then we do not care and we are never moved to action.

Emotions are great motivators but bad decision makers.

When we allow how we feel about any certain issue to supersede what God has revealed we become our own god and no longer trust Jesus as the authority.

One recent example I read was in an interview with popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker.   I know many women in my church that love her books. Most of what she writes is helpful and beneficial. But when I read her recent comments on the homosexual community I was taken back.

Here is what she said, “From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

I find her statements very disturbing.   The Christian community has the biblical mandate and responsibility to love and minister to every person, red, yellow, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, confused or other. But what she says takes this to another level.   She is taking people who embrace a life and identity that God clearly defined in scripture as a direct rebellion against Him, and associates those who embrace that lifestyle as a fellow believer in Christ.

This is anti-biblical to the core.   Jesus is so clear that when we become His followers we sign away all of our personal rights. We become willful slaves of Christ.   Here are the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Those selfish acts of rebellion no longer characterize our life.   We willingly choose to deny what may seem pleasurable and best to us in order to follow what Jesus says is best.

The Apostle Peter said it this way,

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)

Dietrich Bonheoffer said so clearly, “the call to follow Christ is a call to die.”

My goal is not to throw stones at Jen Hatmaker or even those who identify as LGBT. The goal is to expose a larger problem that is a bitter root in the tree of American Theology.   It is the idea that we can change our theology to match the spirit and feeling of the day. The beauty of the scripture is that it is unchanging. No matter how we feel about an issue we yield to Christ.   We do not seek to make the scripture fit our feelings. This applies to all of us!   This is no indictment on any particular sin.   It is prerequisite for all of us.   I make my kids take off their shoes before they come in the house.   We must shed ourselves of all of our sins when we come to Christ.

When we come to Christ we do not have the option of holding on to any sin.   Our identity is no longer found in our activity but in our Savior.   The sex addict can come to Christ, but he must repent and turn away from his sex addiction.   The thief can come to Christ but he is no longer a thief, he now seeks to look like his Savior. He goes from taker to giver. The idol worshipper can come to Christ but he cannot bring his idol with him. He must destroy it. The homosexual can come to Christ but he no longer identifies as a homosexual. My point is not to say that Jesus followers will no longer struggle with their sin but that they will STRUGGLE. They will embrace the internal battle that is going on inside of them. They will not give themselves over to the sins of their past. The Holy Spirit inside of them will no longer allow them to be happy in their sin.

Adrian Rogers once said, “Our feelings are the most shallow part of us. God does not do His deepest work in our most shallow part.”

If you are a follower of Christ I would challenge you to read your bible more than you read the latest Christian book.   Remember that if something has been true for 2000 years of the Christian faith then God is not going to suddenly change His mind because the culture now embraces some particular sin.   The call of the Christian life is a call of self sacrifice. It is a call to lay our sins down and lay our lives down for others.

Let’s not make a golden image of god in the likeness of the American culture of our day. The world says that we should be happy and we find happiness when we do what makes us feel good.   The word of God teaches us that we should seek holiness.   When we seek to be holy, only then do we find happiness. Happiness in the Christian life is not the goal but the by-product. It’s not found in sin but often found in service.   Happiness can be briefly experienced in the passing pleasures of sin, but that kind of happiness will quickly leave you empty again. Real happiness can only last in the conscious surrender of ourselves to Christ and His calling on our lives. Get your theology from the Bible and not from your heart.

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Did Jesus look like Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, or Billy Crystal?

What did Jesus Look Like?

As I was walking through the hallways of the church I pastor I noticed a number of portraits of Jesus.  Most of them are paintings from the time of the Renaissance and many of them picture Jesus with wonderful blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes and fat white children who also have blonde hair and blue eyes surround Him.   Did Jesus really look like this?  I have been in a number of black churches and have seen Jesus depicted as a black man with black disciples.   Was Jesus a black man?  I have also seen many movies depicting Jesus, in most he has brown hair with a well-kept beard and flowing brown hair that is longer than the hair of the other men in the movie.  He is very pleasant on the eyes.  The latest big screen movie production of Jesus (The Son of God) portrays Him as a very pretty man with flowing brown hair.  My wife made the comment that it would be odd for her to watch the movie because Jesus was a bit too attractive.  So what did Jesus look like?

Did he look like this Renaissance Blonde Hair Jesus?

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Or this Black Jesus?

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Or this Blue Eyed Emaciated Jesus?

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Or this handsome Vidal Sassoon Jesus?

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Or was He more like this?

Jesus Profile - Jewish recreation

I think the Bible is pretty clear that Jesus most likely looked more like the last guy.   Scripture is clear about a few things in regard to the appearance of Jesus.  Jesus was Jewish.  Jewish men in his day had dark hair and beards.   Long hair was not customary for men. (1 Corinthians 11:14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him).  Jesus spent most of His time outside.   He would not have been a black (African) man but he would have had dark skin from His frequent exposure to the sun.   I think the most important thing the Bible tells us about the appearance of Jesus is that He was not physically desirable.   God seems to go to great extremes to make sure there were no external factors that would draw men to Christ.  He would be born to a very poor family.  He would come from a very small town.   He would have access to very limited education.  He would not be physically handsome.  Jesus did not come to be worshipped for what He looked like.   Jesus came to save our souls.

The power of the Holy Spirit using His words to convict the hearts of people would have been the irresistible attraction of Jesus.  The hope He would offer as the bread of life, the Living water, and the Way to Heaven would be what captivated the hearts of man.

In a prophesy of Jesus it’s made so clear that the images we use today to picture Jesus in our mind are simply wrong.  They are perhaps even idolatrous.  Isaiah 53:2 “…he had no form or majesty the we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

When you think about Jesus think about who He was and what He said…NOT what He looked like.  Be very careful that you do not make God’s Son into the image that you want Him to be.