Thoughts on another massacre

I’m frustrated and angry. My heart is broken.

As I read and watch stories about the people lost in the Douglas HS shootings, in Parkland, Florida, I can only imagine the horror of those moments. I feel the pain of families grieving their loved ones. So much sorrow and loss.

I see the pictures and hear the story of the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, and I wonder what happened to him. What kind of torment and pain drove him to this insanity? 

And then, of course, I hear the mindless drivel from pundits and commentators who callously point fingers and debate over the weapon used or whether more laws, that we don’t enforce, would prevent this kind of thing. 

I’m frustrated and angry.

When will we realize that what we should be talking about is why do people want to massacre other people? Whether they use a gun, knife, bomb, car, plane, or truck load of fertilizer is secondary. What hopelessness or blind hatred drives people to this kind of violence?

My frustration stems from the fact that I believe that there could have been help for Nikolas Cruz. I’m not just talking about mental heath intervention, although that seems obvious. No, at a much deeper level, I believe that the love of Jesus shared through authentic Christian community could have saved him...and all those he murdered. I have personally seen the transformative power of Christ’s love, shared in Christian community, countless times. I’ve seen very dark people brought back into the light by the love of Jesus and I wonder what could have been for Nikolas Cruz...and those he murdered.

Stop and look around. Kids are mandated, by law, to spend the majority of their day in schools, where they are told, God is not welcome. They are told God is not relevant, and they are not allowed to explore, or even acknowledge, the spiritual dimensions of truth, or right and wrong. Then we wonder why an increasing number of children, raised in this ambiguous, moral vacuum, get lost...and why some end up in a darkness that we never thought possible. 

But, of course, we can’t talk about this. 

That’s why I’m frustrated...but I’m also motivated. This is not a matter of politics or opinions; it’s a matter of life and death. Those of us who follow Jesus must be open and bold with the message of His love and grace. There is power in Christ-centered community and we need to share it with more fervor than ever. The world can fight and debate over types of weapons, and more laws, which we won’t enforce. I want to share the love and the light of Jesus with as many people as possible! Who knows who we may pull out of a deep darkness and what lives may be saved?

For the one hope.

A Work of Art

This is the view from our back patio this morning. A thin cloud layer is settling like steam over Canyon Lake, as the sun rises over the hills. It’s truly breathtaking! And what’s even more amazing is how the view is totally different than it was yesterday...or the day before.

That’s one of the things I love most about where we live. The view is beautiful...

...and it’s never the same.

Each morning is like a new work of art.

God’s infinite creativity is on full display, every day.

Of course, that’s not just true of the view. Every morning, we have an opportunity to offer a new day to the Lord, like a blank canvas. New encounters, opportunities, challenges, and possibilities provide the colors for a divine work of art.

The question is, will we give them to the Master and let Him work?

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. - Lamentations 3:22-23

Beauty and the Boycott

I just read a blog from a Christian leader declaring that Jesus wouldn’t boycott Disney.

 

Well that’s kind of a no-brainer…He wouldn’t have to! How much time do you think Jesus would really spend in theaters or watching TV? He had 3 years to start a movement that changed the whole world and was finally martyred because of how offensive that movement was to the mainstream.  I’m not sure he would have had time to be a movie critic. If we really are interested in what Jesus would do, maybe we should start by asking whether he would spend hours of every day watching other people interact on a screen rather than interacting with real people Himself.

 

But since you bring it up… (see what I did there?)

 

Disney has promoted, teased, and tantalized that its new rendering of Beauty and the Beast will have an openly gay character. I haven’t heard anything about a boycott, but I’m sure it must be there because all the usual characters are rushing to condemn it and point out the hypocrisy of “Evangelical Christians.” Of course, much of the bashing is from “enlightened” fellow Christians, who sometimes seem to be more interested in currying favor from the anti-Christian, pop-culture crowd, than with what Jesus actually said about loving one another.

 

Let me state clearly, I have no interest in boycotts, but I am bothered by the thought of a popular Children’s story being adapted to help normalize and gain acceptance for something that God, through the scriptures, calls sin. Sin separates us from God and others, sin kills, sin condemns people to life, and eternity, separated from God. God takes sin so seriously that He sent Christ to die for our sins so that we could be set free and “die TO our sins!” (For more, read Romans 6 carefully) Christ didn’t die simply to free us from the consequences of sin, but from slavery to sin.

 

It is true, we believe that we should “hate the sin and love the sinner.” But what does that look like lived out? Jesus is often quoted from John 8 where he lovingly tells a woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you.” It is a powerful, compassionate moment that truly displays the heart of Jesus! However, that is just a half quote. Jesus, just as lovingly, continues, “Go and sin no more.” The sin was destroying her life…he called her to leave it behind and live a different life, in Him! It is not loving to leave someone in bondage to something that is hurting them. I can truly love and accept someone while praying for them and calling them to leave behind the sin that is killing them. (If you don’t believe me, just think of any alcoholic that you really love!)

 

Herein lies the problem with homosexuality. We believe that, like all our sin, it hurts those involved, and as with all our other sins, we can be set free in Christ! However, with this sin, we have been told to stop calling it sin and declare it a healthy, God ordained, orientation. Our critics ask, “Why is this sin such a big deal? What about other sins?” Well it’s no different from our other sin, but I haven’t heard anyone asking us to accept adultery, violence, lust, gossip, self-righteousness, or other Biblical sins as morally acceptable behavior. But in this case, we are being asked to throw aside the scripture’s teaching as hate speech and accept same sex attraction as a normal genetic trait, like race or skin color, and if we don’t, we are called hateful bigots. Of course, sexual attractions and behaviors have been documented to change, unlike race or skin color, but those facts don’t seem to matter.

 

So when we’re told that a character is being portrayed as gay to encourage acceptance and normalization, Bible believing Christians should have a problem. Please understand, I’m not suggesting that any art involving sinful behavior is harmful… so long as it depicts that behavior as harmful. If a movie honestly depicts the heartbreak and human carnage of adultery, I think it has merit. However, if it dishonestly shows adultery as a harmless diversion without serious consequence, I consider that dishonest, damaging, and not worthy of my time and money. In the same way, if a movie depicts same sex attraction and behavior as something less than God designed and harmful to those involved, I think it has merit. If, on the other hand, it presents it as right and healthy, then I consider that a harmful influence.

 

This is a very difficult issue for serious followers of Christ; one where devout believers can differ on how they live out “speaking the truth in love.”  So, before we bash our fellow brothers and sisters who are understandably bothered by a children’s story being morphed into a pro-LGBTQ statement, we should remember how seriously God takes sin and ask ourselves if acceptance is always the most loving and life-giving approach.