School Shootings: What is at the Heart?

Posted on February 16, 2018 by
Filed Under Current Events | 1 Comment |

I have been reading, with great interest, the coverage and responses to the recent school shooting in Florida. I am appalled that a person could be so calloused as to enter a place like that to kill and maim fellow students and faculty. One thing that I believe everyone agrees with: we need to do something to stop these violent actions!  Unfortunately, the agreement usually stops right there. That is one of the main reasons nothing ever changes. We cannot agree on what needs to be changed!  Some declare that writing more gun laws will magically stop the violence. Others declare that placing armed guards in the schools will magically stop the violence. The truth is, both types of responses are only knee jerk reactions to the problem, a mere band-aid on the symptoms that afflict our society. There may be some perceptible improvements with properly implemented strategies, but then the locations or methodologies would just change, and the violence would remain the same.

We really need to get down to the heart of the problem. The real problem is not guns. The amount of lawfully held guns used in crime is negligible at best. That means that many “common sense gun laws” have already been broken before a criminal every shoots his first victim. That tells us that adding more “common sense laws” is really not the answer. Video games are not the problem. Some people want to cast all of the woes of these violent acts at the feet of the video game manufacturers, and more recently even at the feet of the social media developers. However, these venues are not the problem, but a symptom of the problems that have been responsible for destroying our society as a whole. They didn’t come first, they came riding the wave of the other, more significant problems!

The root of these violent attacks is far more significant, and severe than kids figuring out how to get their hands on guns, or other implements that can be unlawfully used for destruction. The root is at the very heart of what we have done to and with our children for nearly 5 generations. I recently read an article that the stated that the problem had to do with self-image. This article declared that we haven’t focused enough on every child’s own self-perception. In other words, we haven’t made them feel important enough, and so they go on a rampage and take the lives of other children whom they perceive to be “more important” than themselves. Quite frankly, I disagree in the most vehement terms. Please allow me express what I think to be the problem in our society that leads to so much violence.

We have devalued human life. For many years, through our education system and governmental policies, we have worked to devalue life. Not only do we devalue life, but we make sure to drill it into the young impressionable minds of our students that life has no intrinsic value. From a young age, we teach our children that they are nothing more than the fortunate ape that won the genetic lottery. They have no real purpose. If they had taken a left turn instead of a right at that last evolutionary branch, they would quite literally be sitting in a tree. I know that is a gross oversimplification of evolution, but the point still comes through. You come from nowhere, you are going nowhere, and death is the end. There are no consequences to your actions once you die! Having established this point, we then move on to pushing our “social” agendas that reflect the same view of life itself. We idolize abortion, and euthanasia. After all, if there are no eternal consequences to actions after death, then choosing to end life on either end of the spectrum becomes more about convenience than conviction. I just read a statistic that claimed that about 1.5 million people have died by gun incident since 1963 in the US. The stat outrages us. But over 58 million children have been aborted, and that is actually applauded in many circles. Worldwide, estimates are that there are between 40 and 50 million abortions per year. The argument that we must do something about guns because of the number of children it could save loses its luster when we’ve lost 58 million children to abortion. I am not arguing that nothing needs to be done. I am arguing that until we begin to teach our children that there is intrinsic value to human life, nothing is going to change. It does not matter how many laws we write!

We have made children self-centered.  Amazingly, at the same time that we have taught on the grander level that humans have no intrinsic value, we have taught our individual children that they are center of the universe, and the best there is!   For a couple generations at least, the parenting style has been implemented that makes children the most important role in the family. How is this achieved?  Everything revolves around them, and what they desire. Focus is placed on every activity that they want to participate in, and they are never restrained from their desires. We joke about the toddler in the grocery store who cries until he gets what he wants from his mother. But that is only the beginning of teaching children that they are the center of everything. Children are constantly told that they are the best and the brightest children ever, even when that is clearly not the case. This has gone far beyond “proud parent” status. Children are actually convinced that they are smarter than anyone else around them. I have seen children that have been fed this idea from the time they were very young be so pompous that they have no ability to interact with other people. They constantly look down on everyone else and treat them as inferior. The problem is, nearly every child has been told the same thing by their parents!  Many of these children are never given any real responsibility in their lives, because their “value” has to be protected. I have seen many of these children never have to do any work, even chores (for the most part) around the house. Everything THEY are is most important, not what they contribute to family or society. Education, and extracurricular events become the center of their world, and nothing (like real life responsibilities) can interfere with that!  If you doubt this, ask yourself how we end up with a whole generation of college students who cannot function in their classes because they didn’t like the outcome of an election?

We have emphasized for some time now that every single person is “special” and deserves to be treated better than everyone else. In fact, the media in particular has spent hours over the last few years indoctrinating us with the idea that every single person can be as wicked and hedonistic as they want, and still be treated better than others around them. Add to that the praising of those who resort to violence to achieve their desired end, and we have created a perfect storm for violent school shootings. Kids see, on the news, ranting and raving, looting and violence by groups such as Black Lives Matter, who make many unfounded accusations declaring that they are mistreated. They haven’t gotten their way, so turn to violence! They get attention. They get very little negative press (that is, most of the media report their actions in a favorable way.) So, when a kid doesn’t get his way, or get the attention that he thinks he deserves, he turns to similar tactics, in a way that will draw him the attention he craves. You see, in both instances, it is “all about me!”  Our problem is not that we have not shown enough attention to our youth as a whole, but rather that we have made them so self-centered that they cannot function when they discover they are not the center of everything!

We have removed all moral compass. This point contributes to the previous one. As a part of educating our children, and making them self-centered, we have removed any moral standard. We cannot say that any moral perversion is “wrong” because we have no standard to appeal to. We certainly cannot turn to scripture!  So, we have not only removed the moral compass, but we have bashed it against a stone. Homosexuality cannot be spoken against. In fact, it is actively pushed in our education system, in our media, and increasingly even in our religious institutions. Rampant divorce and remarriage is celebrated. Pre-marital relations are encouraged. Even pedophilia is being encouraged in some circles. It will gain ground; just as other sexual perversions have. We live in a society that celebrates each and every one of these perversions and encourages children to experiment with them. Why? Because we live in a hedonistic society, which emphasizes, “Me first!” This is at the very heart of being self-centered! Whatever is good for me is all that matters! “But,” some would say, “what about what is good for society?”  Without a moral standard, there is absolutely no way to answer that question! I get to make up my mind for myself what I think is good for me and/or society! I contend that these kids don’t take up a weapon and attack their fellow students because they are mad that the kids are better than them in some way, but rather because they’ve realized they, themselves, are not what they have been led to believe. They aren’t the center of the universe. They aren’t the best. They aren’t the most popular. They have been deceived! So, they act out on all that they have been taught. They respond with violence, as there are no real consequences to their actions. They are unable to process a world where they are accountable for their own decisions.

So, what is the solution?  Certainly there are no easy answers. More gun control laws?  No, that won’t work. Criminals are already breaking the laws that are on the books. More security?  That may work in a limited sense. That would just move the violence to some place other than schools, most likely.

The real solution is changing hearts and minds. We need to teach our children that there is indeed intrinsic value in human life. To achieve that, we have to teach them that this life is not all that there is. There is something more…much more! There is eternity. If we want to make a difference, then we need to be more diligent in teaching the gospel message. When our kids really know who they are, and what their purpose is, they will reject the propaganda they are bombarded with on a daily basis!

Next, parents have to return to a biblical order for the family. Children need to learn that they are a part of something greater. They are a part of a family. They are a part of a society. They have a role, and it is not the head of the world!  Parents need to be the parents. Certainly, we do not want our kids to have low self-esteem. But, we need to be realistic. Show them what they do well, and show them what they don’t do well. Show them how others do things differently, and better. Help them understand where they can improve. Show them what is really important. Teach them real responsibility. Give them chores. Let them work. Let them fail. And let them succeed. Help them to develop a realistic view of themselves, and their abilities.

Most of all, teach them about God, and their responsibility to Him. If they never discover their eternal purpose, they will flounder. I think about those poor kids that are victims of this senseless violence, and I weep. I think about those kids that perpetrate senseless violence and I also weep. I weep because I know how lost they must have felt. And I realize that we have failed them as a society…and far more deeply than just keeping guns out of their hands. They were failed at such a deep level, because of the basest corruption of our societal principles, that they had little chance of success. I hope we as Christian parents can see these corruptions and do all that we can to protect our children from them!

Eschewing Sin

Posted on May 2, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 1 Comment |

Repentance seems to be an evil word (or at least an evil concept) in today’s religious world. One cannot talk about what practices need to be removed from the life of another without being accused of judging…and we all know that Jesus said that you should not judge! While a further discussion of Matthew 7:1-2 (the source most use to claim that Jesus said that we should not judge) would certainly be beneficial, it is beyond the scope of this particular study. However, there is much in the epistles of Paul that convey the importance of repentance. We will be considering, at least briefly, Ephesians 5:1-21.

Be imitators of God…

Paul encouraged the Ephesian brethren to imitate God, as a child would imitate his father (Ephesians 5:1). Lest the reader be left in the dark about what such a teaching could mean, Paul spent several verses addressing the specific actions that one would adopt, or that one would reject, if he were to be an imitator of God, our Father.

Paul’s instructions were not merely a suggestion for the first century Christians. These instructions were delivered so that Christians could know what God expected of them. That point was made abundantly clear by Paul in the following verses!   Read more

Every Spiritual Blessing

Posted on March 22, 2017 by
Filed Under Exhortation, From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 2 Comments |

Paul, as he began the epistle to the Ephesians (chapter 1), wrote of how they had available to them “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” This begins a powerful section of scripture in which Paul enumerates several (but not all) of these blessings. The importance of this statement is far reaching!

If every spiritual blessing is “in Christ” then that leaves no room for any other source of blessing! This is the same idea that Peter and John conveyed to the Sanhedrin concerning Jesus:

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

All spiritual blessing, including that of eternal salvation, is found only in Christ!

Paul, when writing to the Galatian brethren made it clear that there was one way to be in Christ:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

Only when one is baptized into Christ has he put on Christ. One is not “in Christ” if he has not yet been baptized into Christ!

Paul was, therefore, writing to those in Ephesus who had already been baptized into Christ, and reminding them of the blessings that were available to them in Christ. We can briefly consider the blessings that Paul enumerated for these brethren, and understand that the same blessings are available to those who are baptized into Christ today as well!   Read more

Trusting the Source of the Gospel

Posted on February 23, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | Leave a Comment |

In our last article, we examined Paul’s warning to the Galatian brethren that they not follow after a “different gospel,” which he declared to be a perversion or distortion of the one true gospel message.

After issuing this warning, Paul gave several reasons why the Galatian brethren could trust that the message he delivered to them was in fact the one true gospel message, and not a perversion or distortion.

It was not man’s gospel.  The first test of the true gospel was its source. Paul declared that he had not received the message of the gospel he taught from other men (Galatians 1:12), but that he had instead received it directly from the Lord.

After his conversion, Paul did not go directly to the other apostles or anyone else to learn the whole of the message that was to be declared throughout the  world. Instead, he went to Arabia      (Galatians 1:17). Where had the message of the Judaizing teachers originated? It was clear that it had not come from Jerusalem (see Acts 15), which means it was not from the apostles. They had not received a new revelation that confirmed their proclamations (that was the point of Paul’s initial warning in Galatians 1:6-10). Therefore, the source of their message was not divine in nature, but, rather, was from man.

There are really only two possibilities when it comes to the source of information. Jesus faced the same issue and confronted those who sought to challenge Him:

But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”  (Matthew 21:24–25)

Every teaching is either from man, or from God. That which comes from God is what He expects His people to follow and obey. That which comes from man is at best a perversion of His message! Why would anyone want to follow that which is a perversion of God’s will?   Read more

The Threat of Another Gospel…

Posted on February 23, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 1 Comment |

Paul, as he wrote to the Galatian brethren, warned them that there would be some who would come to them and teach something other than the pure, uncorrupted gospel message (Galatians 1:6-10). From the earliest of times, the danger of mankind corrupting the true gospel was real, and it was dangerous!

While Paul was dealing with the specific problem of Judaizing teachers insisting that Gentiles follow the law of Moses before becoming Christians, the principle Paul was teaching continues on today. There are those who make changes to the gospel message, either by adding to or taking away from that which was revealed in the first century. The consequence of these changes is the same as it was when Paul gave his warning to the Galatians!

Paul made it clear that there was only one gospel message. There were some who were trying to teach “another gospel,” but Paul emphasized the point that this “other gospel” was really not another gospel at all!

…which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:7)

To really understand the full import of Paul’s statement, we must understand what the gospel is. Essentially, gospel means: good tidings. The true gospel message was indeed a message of good tidings to those who heard it, and especially to those who obeyed. However, a corrupted message, while it may have made those proclaiming it, or those receiving it, feel good about themselves, would not provide true good tidings. The true gospel was a message of salvation, but the corrupted gospel led to destruction. Because of this, Paul declared that those who taught such a corrupted gospel were to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). This indicates just how seriously God takes the one true gospel message. Those who teach something that is different, something that corrupts the true gospel message, are accursed. Their message does not bring the true good tidings of salvation, but rather a message that leads to condemnation; for themselves and all those who follow after them! Read more

Wisdom Devotional: Day 11

Posted on February 2, 2017 by
Filed Under 365 Days of Wisdom, Wisdom Literature | Leave a Comment |

Here is day 11 of 365 Days of Wisdom.  Remember to click on the page below to see the full size page!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 10

Posted on January 2, 2017 by
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Here is Day 10 of the wisdom devotional, 365 Days of Wisdom.  Today, we think about the problem of pride…something that most (if not everyone) struggles with…at least from time to time!

Remember to click on the thumbnail below to see the full size page!

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A Word About the Election…

Posted on November 4, 2016 by
Filed Under Current Events | 1 Comment |

Here we are, just 4 days out from Election Day in the United States. If you are anything like me, you are at the point of complete aggravation at the political ads that are constantly broadcast on television and radio. Regardless of who you might be choosing to vote for, you are probably ready for all the noise to stop!

The point of this article is not to, in any way, address the decision you might make concerning who to vote for. Instead, I want us to think about something much more important from a Christian standpoint.

This presidential election has shown just how divided the country has become. Certainly, it has been divided for a long time, but this election cycle has seen the candidates intentionally seize on that division as a part of their campaigning strategy. It shouldn’t be surprising to see such division in the population as a whole. However, there has also been a great division among those who identify themselves as “Christians.” And that division has become extremely tumultuous.  Those who should be brethren are treating one another like enemies. There have been attacks ranging from mocking or ridicule to a blatant questioning of one’s relationship with God, based not only on a disagreement on candidates, but also a disagreement on whether one would choose to vote or not! This simply should not be!

I want to consider a few points that hopefully will cause us to consider the importance of not allowing things of this world, such as politics, to cause issues between brethren.

Involvement in politics is not required to be a “good Christian.”  Contrary to what I have seen in multiple online discussions, Christians have no “obligation” to participate in politics. While I do believe that Christians can participate in the election process here in the United States, if they so choose, it is a right that they have, not a responsibility. The difference is that a right is something that can be exercised, or can be set aside. A person does not have to exercise a right! There is certainly no biblical passage, or even principle, that would suggest that a Christian has a responsibility (something that can’t be set aside, but must be done) to participate in the election process.

Your candidate is probably not more moral than another.  Those who choose to vote often find themselves in the unenviable position of having to choose, in their judgment, the “lesser of two evils” to vote for. They find that they are not particularly happy with any candidate, but based on their own criteria (based as best they can upon biblical principles, perhaps) they try to choose the best candidate possible. In the end, the sad truth is that (at least at the national level) good men and women don’t make it into positions of power. There are differing types of immorality, and yet it is immorality all the same. Because of this, there is no “high moral ground” when it comes to picking a candidate. This is why both sides attack the morality of the other side. They both have plenty of ammunition to throw around. Those who try to declare that they are voting for the more moral candidate are truly deceiving themselves, or ignoring the immorality of that candidate. Causing division by accusing brethren of voting for “immorality” is disingenuous at best!

Voting for a particular candidate will not save or destroy the republic.  The divisive rhetoric that has invaded the worldly campaigning has found its way into the vernacular of Christians. They have begun fighting among themselves, declaring that if their brethren don’t side with them then they will be responsible for the downfall of the nation. The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores the fact that God is indeed in control of nations (Daniel 4:32, 5:21)! While we have the right to cast a vote for the person we believe to be the best option, when God makes a decision concerning our nation, He will implement His plan regardless of what we think is best. It is safe to say that the Jews would never have “voted” for Nebuchadnezzar, yet God used him to achieve His purposes.

Voting is a purely individual choice. Perhaps more than any previous election, I have seen Christians make accusations against their brethren concerning their choice for whom to vote. “If you vote for Candidate C, you are really just voting for Candidate A!” “If you choose not to vote, you are really voting for Candidate A!” Not only is this argumentation completely illogical, it is being used as a methodology of attacking brethren! I have seen Christians’ spirituality called into question because they have suggested they may vote for a 3rd party candidate, or choose not to vote at all! I have seen accusations that Christians support ungodly acts (most notably abortion) if they choose to either not vote, or vote for a candidate other than the one the accuser has chosen. Trying to shame, bully or force someone to choose the same candidate that we have chosen is not how we should be acting! Politics can be interesting, and there is certainly room for rational discussion and even trying to sway others to the candidate we might choose. However, that should be done with truthful and accurate information, not with scare tactics and accusations.

Your vote is not going to correct moral deficiency. Those who vote should most certainly examine party platforms and try to support a platform that they can at least mostly agree with. However, there is a challenge that Christians should consider seriously. Morality cannot be legislated. Don’t misunderstand my point here. I will, given every opportunity, vote for morality. I will vote to defend marriage. I will vote to end abortion. I would vote for any ballot initiative that prioritizes morality over immorality. However, even when casting such a vote, we need to realize that morality cannot be forced by law. No matter how many laws are passed against immoral activity, people will still be immoral. Two examples can be given. The first comes from scripture. In Josiah’s day, he did all he could to eradicate idolatry and return the people to following the Lord. However, their “morality” was not a conviction of heart. As soon as Josiah was gone, the people reverted to their previous  state. They could not be forced to do God’s will by legislation; they needed their hearts converted to His ways. The second example comes from our own history. Alcohol was outlawed. While we might applaud the sentiment, the results were disastrous. Rather than doing away with an immorality, trying to legislate it away led to more immorality. Voting, while providing us a public voice, does not fix moral problems. Christians who put their trust in the voting process, thinking it will bring a nation closer to God, have the wrong perspective on living in this world. We do not enact change by forcing morality through legislative means, but rather by working in our God given responsibility of spreading the gospel message. The only type of change that will be effective (and permanent) is the changing of a person’s heart. If some would spend as much time preaching the gospel as they do campaigning for political candidates, real change might be more evident!

There are certainly many more points that could be addressed. There are, perhaps, innumerable areas where Christians are dividing in this political environment. But the question becomes, “What’s next?”

Unfortunately, with all of the brashness and incivility surrounding this election, there are bad feelings that exist between brethren. I know that those who are being very vocal concerning their choice in candidates think they are doing a good thing. They believe they are correct, and that they are doing what is best for the country. These actions, however, are not what is best for the Lord’s church and relationships between brethren.

When the election is over, one person will be the new president. We will continue to live in this nation. More importantly, we will still have the same responsibilities that exist today. We have the responsibility to treat brethren with love and respect. We have the responsibility of edifying brethren. We have the responsibility of teaching the gospel to those who are around us dying spiritually in sin. We need to conduct ourselves in this present hostile environment with the kind of demeanor that ensures that we can continue with our more important work! We do not want to instill bitterness in those with whom we should have a Christian relationship. We do not want to harm our own reputation among those with whom we hope to share the gospel. We certainly do not want to put political beliefs and activism above the truth of scripture and spiritual relationships. Yet, there are many who will side with the ungodly to bash their own brethren because of a disagreement over political candidates. This ought not be!

So, as these difficult times continue moving forward, remember that being a Christian is far more important than being an American. Your spirituality should trump your patriotism. Perhaps the best way to close the ideas I have tried to convey here is to simply quote the apostle Paul, as he wrote to the brethren at Philippi:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1–4)

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17–21)

Let us conduct ourselves as Christians all the time. Let us remember that our citizenship is in heaven, and that is far more important than any election cycle or candidate. Let us treat one another with the love and respect that is befitting those who are true servants of God.

Wisdom Devotional: Day 9

Posted on October 12, 2016 by
Filed Under 365 Days of Wisdom | Leave a Comment |

Here is the 9th installment of the 365 days of wisdom. This one hits home…as sometimes I am too quick to “like” or “share” information on social media that is just not accurate. It is easy to jump on board with some meme or post that reflects what we already believe, or want to believe, without verifying the actual truth of the statements.  I fell for one such thing just yesterday, and so I was in need of the reminder of the post below!

Remember, you can click on the page below to see the full size PDF. Share this with your friends, if you find it useful!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 8

Posted on October 7, 2016 by
Filed Under 365 Days of Wisdom | 1 Comment |

Here is the 8th installment of the posts of Wisdom Devotionals.  You can click on the page below to see the full sized PDF version.  Use the buttons to the left to share with your friends!

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