Gunshots, Death, Schools, and God…

I have intentionally held off this afternoon and evening commenting formally on the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. One reason is that I needed to have time to pray about it and to give authorities time to make sure things were clear and victims being taken care of. Also, to give others plenty of time to speak up and respond. Further, my desire was and is to not overly politicize this tragedy. Many already are trying to use this shooting as yet another foundation to push their own misguided political agenda.

I was pleased to read President Trump’s quick and measured Tweet:

 But was further saddened to see the immediate responses by many who’s ugly and vile response to the President’s message betrayed the core of why I believe we are seeing these horrible acts of violence.

Let me begin by saying – we are seeing ugliness in this nation – acts of violence including mass shootings, we are seeing increases in all sorts of crimes, and at the same time we are watching an entire generation appear to collectively lose their minds (demonstrated by such acts as the recreational “eating” of Tide Pods!). We see cities like Philadelphia celebrate their professional football team’s Super Bowl victory by taking to the streets and systematically causing as much destruction as they can, while simultaneously looting businesses of their merchandise and other property.  You see – these are all symptoms (and some may say – “signs”) of both the times we live in and the absolute corruption spreading in the hearts of mankind in our nation.

The horrible and deranged acts of madmen shooting up concerns venues, night clubs, movie theaters, schools, and more, are all the product, not of WHO the President of the United States is, it isn’t the result of the “NRA” and any undue influence or money they seem to exercise towards politicians.  These acts that so shock us are not the product of a vast Right Wing Conspiracy, or of racism.  They are not the product of “white privilege” or the desperation of the poor in the “inner city”.  Every one of these acts are the direct result of unregenerate hearts.

Mankind has been carrying out violent acts and murder against man since soon after the creation of the world.  Cain killed Abel because of self-pride and a corrupt heart. Joseph’s brothers beat him, cast him into a hole, then sold him into slavery out fo pride and a real hatred for their own brother.

Jesus Christ, the very Son of God was murdered – put to death, though innocent of any sin or violation of the law Himself – because of jealousy and sinful pride of the religious leaders of His day and the willing, unregenerate population of Jerusalem.

Even in “church” history – the sad reality is – many have killed in the name of Jesus – but out of their own hate and pride or who was “right”.

Violence has been a part of this creation since the fall of man in the Garden. It is one fo the many symptoms of the who don’t know the Lord our God, and instead “turn each one their own way” doing “what was right in his own eye”.

Within minutes of today’s shooting, and on the heels (and in reply to the President’s prayerful Tweet posted above), very real hate, vitriol, and total heart corruption was put on display.  Hearts that are every bit as corrupt before a totally righteous God spewed fowl language at the President, mocked not only the President but all Christians for their “useless” prayers. Posts and Tweets across social media mocking God in particular –

And I say this – every one of them serve as a vivid reminder of just WHY God ALLOWS these horrific events to happen.  The answer is quite obvious to anyone who has ever spent any effort to read the Bible.  Just take a look at what has happened to every nation that rejects God – that turns from God (in the case of Israel/Judah). When a people functionally kick God out – turning to their own idols and pride – God has regularly allowed judgement to come in the form of unholy leaders, oppression, violence, suffering and much more.

While the context is not the modern USA (in context, God was speaking to nation Israel in a specific time and set of circumstances), the message still rings loudly –

My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ~2 Chronicles 7:14

Or the words God spoke to Isaiah:

“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”  ~Isaiah 1:15

You see – all we really need to do to face the horrible things we see unfold before us and begin finding solutions, is to see that we – a nation that at one time really was known as a “Christian nation”, has blood on its collective hands.  We have sat idle by (either literally, or functionally) and watched as 60 million babies have been murdered, depriving them of the most basic and fundamental right of man – the right to LIFE.

We have, as a nation, systematically torn down the institutions that God instituted from Creation – redefining those institutions to suit our own fancy, instead of honoring the God-ordained order.

We have decided that gender is an artificial construct and not set by any standard by your own “feelings”. Need mind that even at our very biological core – the DNA specifically identifies our gender.

We have not only thumbed our noses at God’s ordained patterns and systems, we have also collectively told God to “take a hike” – shoving all mentions of the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit from the public square. We have wedged in definitions of the founding Father’s choice of guaranteeing the freedom of religion to be free FROM all religion that includes the biblical God (but amazingly have tolerated or even promoted the false “god” of Islam and other pagan religions, ultimately setting up a national religion (specifically prohibited by the Constitution) of Secular Humanism.

No – it isn’t “the guns” that are responsible for these killings (in fact, I have never seen a gun load and fire itself at anyone). It isn’t because some people actually understand the Constitution and the reasons for the Amendments wisely included.  It is the corrupt hearts of man – that will continue to kill and hurt others until Jesus Christ returns and sets things straight.

NO amount of finger-pointing at Presidents or politicians, organizations, or inanimate objects is going to fix the corrupt hearts of men.

Might I suggest we begin by humbling ourselves before God, repenting of our hard hearts – confessing that we have failed to speak up, failed to witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ (in words OR in our actions). Might I suggest inviting God back in to this nation as a welcome King? Might I urge the reader to not just let this latest horrible event just add to your hate and anger – but instead to turn your eyes upon Jesus…

Are there major problems in our society? Of course.  And yes, we have a responsibility to act responsibly – but we must begin in the strongest position of all in this world – on our knees before a Holy and Righteous God –

“The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”

“The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. . . All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

Noah Webster, (author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary)

 

 

The Blame Game, Agendas, and Reality

After a troubled night of sleep, much prayer, and time in God’s Word, I am still struggling with the events yesterday Sutherland Springs, Texas. I’m struggling with what could drive a person to commit such a horrific act. I struggle with my own family and their safety – especially after the news that the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (who was out of town) lost his daughter in this mass murder.

And then I turned on the news this morning. Sadly, after recent programming change in our service, the only news network we have right now is CNN – so that definitely slants the reports coming out. And not surprisingly, the talking heads are already speculating and laying blame in every direction except on the real root issue in this case.  Indeed, it doesn’t take a degree in psychology, law enforcement, or in criminal investigation to know the real cause, but I will address that later in this post.

Of course, the first blame is being “aimed” at guns. Those evil guns, along with the wild and clueless rush to identify specific kinds of guns.  CNN’s anchor used the identification “AR556” – later to discover it was apparently the Ruger version of the popular AR-15 sporting rifle. Later reports say that he had a Glock handgun and some other .22 caliber handgun in the vehicle he was in.

Within hours of the shooting, the former President tweeted a mostly good tweet, but had to insert his own political agenda into the atmosphereobamatweet.png

I’m all about reducing violence, but not by capitalizing on the grieving hearts of people who have lost entire families. But the very last part is rather ironic in this snappy attempt to use this tragedy for political gain is the bit about wisdom to reduce “weaponry in our midst”.   Why do I call this ironic? It now appears that this shooting was stopped by the neighbor who lives across the street from this church – who pulled his own AR-15 firearm to engage the church shooter. It was the very kind of firearm so hated by the political Left that was used to STOP this attack.

Guns are not the problem.  Research, documentation, and statistics all verify that. Indeed, additional laws do nothing but take away firearms from the very kind of guy who stopped this mass murderer.  And I’m going to really stir the pot: no-one has ever been killed BY a gun of any kind!  Many people over the history of firearms have been killed WITH a firearm. Guns are tools – tools for sporting purposes, tools for recreation, tools for hunting, and tools for self-defense (as well as defense of our nation from tyranny – as our Founding Fathers indicated – the primary background to the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution).  Mankind has always had the proclivity to kill, using whatever tool or method is available. It is a problem that has existed nearly as long as mankind has walked the earth (see Cain slaying his brother Abel). But again – this is a hint to the real cause…

Gun laws? The shooter in Texas purchased several firearms, despite a military criminal history and apparent dishonorable discharge that SHOULD have prevented him purchasing said firearms. The Pentagon/Air Force apparently hasn’t or doesn’t reported military crimes and convictions to the NCIS system. Laws not followed don’t help.

But some of the laws being proposed – would have disarmed the guy who is now being hailed as a hero for confronting the shooter with his own weapon.

Do we blame beer for drunk drivers? There were drunk drivers when the USA had prohibition. Indeed, it is speculated that alcohol abuse actually increased under prohibition! No – drunk drivers kill – because they made a series of bad decisions that included the alcohol.

There are many now pointing to mental health failures and the possibility of anti-psychotic drugs that have become so prevalent, though there are no indications of a diagnosed mental disorder in this case. Indeed, even if there was a diagnosis for the shooter, contrary to popular opinion, mental disorders still do not address the actual cause.  Mental disorders don’t kill people, people kill people. Anti-psychotic drugs do indeed play “Russian Roulette” with brain chemistry – and are also probably over-used. Has anyone really taken an honest look at the INCREASE in violent crime, including these mass casualty attacks and the vast expansion of the use of these drugs to “treat” the perpetrators? A quick scan of previous cases show a terrifying number of shooters who used or had used these chemicals. But again – drugs don’t kill, but they might open the channels for what is inside to emerge and carry out what one might not normally do.

No – laws, and rules will not make us safer. Additional restrictions to Constitutional rights for law-abiding citizens is counter-productive. All the pontificating on mental health seems to only lead to more excuses for tragic behavior. We must address the core issue at hand.  These acts are carried out by people who have a heart of sin. A heart that is evil. A heart that is not filled by the Holy Spirit. Humanity stands condemned because we all are sinners. But when one still has their heart of stone that comes with the natural man, you tend to do what the natural, unregenerate do – and that is sin, including beating your wife and child (as the shooter in this case was convicted of while in the Air Force). An unregenerate heart  leaves open the door to seeking out others to commit harm to other people.  A sin-filled, evil heart, refuses to see the value in human lives. A broken, twisted, unregenerate heart isn’t changed by anti-depressants or anti-psychotic drugs.  The only cure for the kind of heart that we all begin life with – is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will not deny that there are cases where some people have chemical disorders in the brain that CAN be aided by some medications – but without the Gospel, they still have the sin-filled, violence-prone heart.  Why is it that the most successful drug treatment programs and criminal rehabilitation efforts all are founded on faith-based, Christ-centered efforts that begin with the Gospel, then deal with the other issues.

And the ultimate “fix” for all the evil that is so pervasive in our world is the same: Jesus.  The Gospel is God’s answer. I pray daily for a great spiritual awakening to seep our nation – beginning with hearts being regenerated and drawn to Christ. But if that isn’t to be, then I pray for the return of Christ as was promised. when Jesus comes, guns, drugs, and other things will no longer even figure in to the situation. All things will be made new –

But as a side-note.  I have heard several things that have been encouraging in this otherwise horrific and dark event. First is the neighbor of the church who picked up his AR-15 and engaged the shooter at the church, apparently wounding him and causing him to drop his rifle and flee. Add to that, another driver picked up this neighbor to give chase and keep law enforcement eyes until they could arrive.

I was also encouraged by the family members of victims in the church who spoke boldly of faith, of turning it all over to Christ -and the need to cling to Jesus in all of this.

 

Glorious Day, Yet Grieving…

Today will go down in history, at least in my own little world, as a radical rollercoaster. We had an incredible day at First Baptist Church, Cave Springs today, including the addition of a new church member and a discussion with another couple who expressed their intent to join next week.

We had a fabulous lunch fellowship and then the crowning time of the day – the ordination of my brother in Christ, friend, and servant-minded man Roger Meredith to the deacon ministry (my first such service to lead). It all was quite wonderful!  Yet while all of this was unfolding in our little neck of the woods, in Sutherland Springs, Texas – a young man, Devin Kelley carried out a horrific and apparently planned attack on the First Baptist Church in that small community.  A church with just over 100 members, and an average Sunday attendance around 50…  Reports so far are that at least 27 are dead and possibly 20 others wounded/injured.  The victims at this point range as young as 5 years old.  And particularly heartbreaking for me – the pastor’s daughter, Annabelle, only 14 years old, was among those murdered. In fact, this particular detail is the one that kicked me in the stomach the hardest – bringing this story FAR too close to home…

At the same time – while I grieve for Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife as they have to struggle to come to grips with the loss of their youngest daughter – maybe this extremely ugly, evil, and sad event serves as a bit of an illustration. You see – this morning, preached a message from Luke 9:57-62 titled “No Excuse Faith” (should be posted on the church Facebook page in the next 24 hours or so). The basic message in a nutshell – Jesus wants followers who have a a No Excuse Faith – who step up and follow Him TODAY- because we really don’t know what tomorrow may hold – or even if we will HAVE a tomorrow.  It shadows Paul’s statement to the Corinthians that “TODAY is the day of salvation!”

How many who were gathered together for worship with FBC Sutherland Springs had a clue that today would be their last? How many put off decisions the Lord had been leading them towards? How many went to their grave having shrugged off the conviction of the Spirit?  How many had a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ – that they carried to the grave because they thought they would deal with reconciliation “tomorrow”?

How many of the young victims among them didn’t hear their mom or day tell them they loved them this morning? How many forgot to tell their spouses how much they loved them? Who among them possibly put off turning to Jesus until a “tomorrow” that, for them, won’t come?

The reality is – today is the day to take a step of faith to follow Christ with everything you have in you – to trust in Him, because you may never find  another opportunity.

The same goes for our loved ones – have you hugged your wife/husband’s neck and simply told them “I love you”? Do you sometimes skip telling your kids the same? Take the opportunity you have right now to tell those you love just how much you do!

Stop making excuses – make the most of today, because we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. It’s a shame we sometimes have to be reminded by such shocking events.

Make a difference today!