Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mass Shootings: Digging to the Root of the Problem

On May 23rd the latest of what has been increasingly more common, mass shooting took place in Southern California. At least seven people were killed and many more were injured. There was apparently a video posted by the killer vowing to take out retribution on the women at college for not ever wanting to date him or have sex with him. This video is disturbing as he continually vows to take revenge on these women but of course this is not nearly as disturbing as his attempt to follow through with that vow.

Every time one of these mass shootings happens a debate is sparked with the inevitable question at the center: Why? Most answers that people give center around two things; gun control and mental health treatment. It always seems to come out that the shooter had some sort of mental illness and then the question comes how did he get a gun? I believe that the reason we are not seeing a change is because these two issues are simply the superficial layer of the problem. It is true that if we could somehow keep a gun out every potential killer's hands it would help reduce the casualties if they do become homicidal. It is also true that if we were able to give every person that is diagnosed with mental illness the help that they need we could reduce how many people act out in homicide or suicide due to that illness. The problem with these approaches is two fold: first it is impossible to do perfectly and second it is still not addressing the root of the problem.

I still remember the first school shooting back in 1999. I remember waking up the next morning for school and reading it in the newspaper and all I could do was fall to my knees and pray with tears streaming down my face. Now it is happening so often we seem to have been desensitized to it. That is a problem. Instead of invoking intense grief it now only seems to invoke intense debate. We need a change to sweep through our entire society. It seems like an impossible task for a blog that may get 30 page views per post, but if I can inspire one of my readers to inspire one more person and have that go through we can bring a much needed change.

I believe there are too many aspects to this problem to address in one post. For that reason I will be writing a series of posts addressing each issue that I believe to be involved. This means I will be addressing some very controversial issues and I will be doing this knowing full well that I am not an expert on this. However I feel that if we can discuss the entire picture it will help us explore the root of the problem. Following are a few of the issues on my mind to address:

Mental illness
Gun control
Violence in Media
Societal ideals

I appreciate every one of you as my readers. Please feel free to leave comments and continue the discussion. I am not afraid of disagreement or debate, in fact I welcome it. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

For the Husband is Head of the Wife...

Is the husband head of his wife? There is constant debate and controversy over this thought. People tend to try and explain it away, argue it, remind you that the Bible says husband and wife should submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21) but when it all comes down to it this verse is still there. Paul writes it quite clearly: "...the husband is head of the wife...". He even compares the relationship of husband and wife to Christ and the church. So why is this argued against so much if it is written so clear?

I believe that this idea is argued against simply because it is misunderstood. People think that the husband being head of the wife means that there is an inequality between the husband and wife role. They think that it means that the husband has a right to order his wife around anytime he wants to and can make decisions against his wife's wishes. This is not what it means at all. In order to better understand the role that Paul is describing for husbands let's take a look at the example he mentions, Christ as head of the church. 

"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." - Matthew 20:28

Here we see Christ's purpose of coming on this earth. He didn't come to be a master that demanded service. In fact if you read through the Gospels Christ never demanded service from anyone. There were times when he accepted service but he never demanded it. On the other hand Christ was constantly serving others. He played and prayed with people's kids, healed people, sat down with people and ate, taught life principles, provided food for the multitudes, and set people free from demonic oppression. In fact there was one instance where someone was serving him and he implied that she should stop and just spend time with him instead (Luke 10:38-42). 

So when Paul says that the husband is the head of the household it does not mean that the husband should come home and demand the house to be clean and the dinner to be made and the kids to be quiet, it actually means quite the opposite. When Paul says that husbands should be head of the wife like Christ it means husbands should be playing with the kids, praying with his family, teaching his family, praying for healing, spending time and eating meals with the family, and providing food for his family and guests. Then when the husband takes his rightful role the wife submits to his prayer, teaching, and service and together they train their kids in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Does Jesus Disapprove of Modern Christianity?

If Jesus suddenly came back to earth today, would he approve or disapprove of modern Christianity?

This is an interesting, and I think in some ways important, question for us to think about an ponder. However I think it doesn't really become useful until we personalize it. Does Jesus approve of how I am living out my Christianity? Even then, though, it can be dangerous. Thinking this way can get us into a works based attitude, causing us to feel judgmental about ourselves and about those around us. 

I saw this question presented on a website called isidewith.com by Dr. Rena Aslan. The website apparently allows people to present a question with multiple choice answers and poll how many answer each choice. In this case there were three answers: 'Approve' which got 4%, 'Disapprove' which got 87%, and 'Depends on the denomination' which got 4%. 87% of people, a total of 34,978, voted that Jesus would disapprove of modern Christianity! That is quite a majority! 

This got me thinking, does Jesus really disapprove of modern Christianity? A lot of Christian writers will write as though he does and same with preachers. Even I have written things that make it sound like we are doing things wrong and need to 'return to "true" Christianity'. But I think too say that Jesus disapproves of modern Christianity is going a bit too far. 

Are there aspects of Christianity that He disapproves of? Probably. Are there things that Christians do that He doesn't approve of? Of course there are. However to say that He disapproves of Christianity as a whole is a bold statement that I believe goes against Biblical teaching. 

First of all, look at all the wonderful things that the church has done and started. The majority of non-profits set up to feed the hungry have a Christian background, overseas aid is mostly done by Christians, and even most public hospitals and health care is provided by Christian organizations. It is true that there are a lot of Christians that are not focused on spreading Jesus's love in the world, however Christianity as a whole has been doing a lot to further His mission. 

With that being said, there is a much bigger reason why I don't think Jesus disapproves of modern Christianity as a whole. Jesus isn't focused on what we are doing or how we are doing it. He is not looking at our results and seeing if we are meeting our 'quota'. Jesus is calling us to relationship. True Christianity consists of a relationship with Jesus Christ. If we have entered into that relationship, and if we are striving to build that relationship then Jesus approves, regardless of what we do or don't do. If you are not in relationship with Him then He is simply calling you to come to Him. he is reaching out to you and asking you to answer His call. There are surely things that you do that He would rather you not do just like there are things that I do that He would rather me not do, but what He truly cares about is the relationship. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Who's the real hero?

I found the following article on a blog called Husband Revolution:

It made me rethink a popular character for all generations in the last 70 years, Batman. The article is specifically talking about the movie "Batman Begins" and is discussing a lesson of leadership given to us through the movie. It discusses how Batman is successful not so much because of his tremendous fighting skills, or his numerous gadgets, but because of the people he surrounds himself with. The author specifically mentions James Gordon, Lucius Fox, and Alfred Pennyworth. Of course Alfred is the prime example as the one person who knows his secret from the beginning and assists him in everything from cooking and cleaning to preparing the bat cave and protecting his secret. Alfred does everything that he can to protect Bruce Wayne and support Batman.

Growing up almost all little boys, and some girls as well, want to be Batman at some point. Sure some prefer Spider-Man or Superman but the premise is the same, they want to be the hero. They want to be the guy with the cool suit that stops the bad guys. I personally was always a fan of Wolverine from the X-men but trust me I would've loved to be Batman too. This is an idea that is passed on from generation to generation to the point that I currently see my nephews dress up like Batman whenever they get a chance. But how many kids have we seen dressed up like Alfred?

In the story of Batman it can pretty safely be said that there would not be a Batman without an Alfred. Without Alfred, Bruce Wayne would have never had the strength to focus his anger to the point of creating Batman and even if he had he probably would've have died fairly early on without Alfred looking out for him and taking care of his wounds. Then when Bruce gets frustrated and wants to throw it all away, or wants to do something stupid out of anger, it is Alfred that snaps him out of it and brings him back to focus. Without Alfred Bruce Wayne would be simply a depressed, angry, orphaned, misguided, billionaire. When you really think about it Alfred is the true hero.... But everyone wants to be Batman.

In life there are too many people wanting to be Batman and not enough people wanting to be Alfred. Everyone wants to be the one in the front lines, the one with the cool costume that everyone knows. The one who is called out personally when the job is too big for everyone else and we do need those kind of people at times but those people, need Alfred. They need someone who's willing to stay behind the scenes, who's willing to do all the little things, and who's willing to tell them straight when it's needed. 

This is especially true with Christian ministry. When people contemplate going into the ministry they generally think of things like preaching, singing, or performing. Or they may think about writing a book that is read by thousands. We think about people like Billy Graham, Kenneth Hagin, or even out local pastor. But how many big time preachers, Batmans, have we seen fall due to a lack of Alfreds surrounding them? How many times have we seen a big name preacher get exposed in sin because they never had someone to keep them accountable, to speak the truth in love? How many times have we seen preachers or pastors get burnt out because they are trying to do everything on their own, they don't have anyone to share the load? 

Are you willing to be someone's Alfred?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An Acceptable Sacrifice

- I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. - Romans 12:1

Jesus gave us the ultimate example of sacrifice. The Bible says that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In other words, when we were still against God, before we had ever made a decision to follow Him, He gave His life for us. This is an amazing example of friendship and love. Paul also points out that we, as humans, might choose to die for a righteous person but never for a wicked person. Think about it, who would you put your life on the line for? Who would you be willing to die for? Your kids? Spouse? Your brothers, sisters, parents, or friends? What about the person who bullied you in high school? Or the boss who just fired you? Let's take it a step further and consider whether you would put your life on the line for the serial killer on death row. Would you be willing to take his place? What about Osama Bin Laden when he was still alive? Christ died for each one of these people and He died for us while we were still His enemy! This is why Paul states that it is only reasonable for us to present our own lives as a sacrifice to Him. This is not even above and beyond, it's the least we can do in response to what He did for us. He gave His whole life for us and all we can offer in return is our own life.

So what does it mean to present our bodies as living sacrifices? A lot of times we discuss this verse when referring to sacrificing our carnal nature. We think that Paul is referring to our sinful desires (i.e lust, greed, dishonesty, gossip, etc.) when he talks about presenting our bodies as a sacrifice, but that is not what Paul is referring to. Our sinful desires and our carnal natures were crucified with Christ when He went to the cross. Christ’s blood has already washed us and freed us from these things. Obviously we should be stopping our sinful actions, Paul even shows us in Galatians 4:9 how foolish it is to continue sinning after being set free,

“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” 

Why would you want to stay bound to those sinful desires after Christ paid the price for you to be set free? When it comes down to it, giving up sin is not even a true sacrifice. Why would we call it a sacrifice to give up our bondage and accept the freedom that has been offered us? That's like saying a prisoner is sacrificing when he is set free and decides to reenter society. True there are at times difficulties at that point but it isn't a sacrifice. But even if you did consider it a sacrifice to give up our sinful desires, this could never be the sacrifice that Paul is referring to here. Paul is referring to a sacrifice that is "holy, acceptable to God", sin can never be considered holy.

So if Paul is not talking about us sacrificing our carnal nature then what is he referring to? Again, Paul states that the sacrifice should be “holy, acceptable to God” and a quick look in Leviticus makes it clear what the parameters were for an ‘acceptable’ sacrifice. There were many types of sacrifices in Old Testament times but one thing that was always common to the sacrifices is that they were to be without blemish, perfect in every way (Lev. 1:3; 22:19). Understanding that, we can understand why our sinful nature would never be a sacrifice that would be acceptable to God. In fact in Leviticus God commands that the unacceptable parts of the sacrifice should be separated and burned outside of the camp, then the rest was presented to God. Translating that into our own lives, we should be separating the sinful nature and allowing it to be consumed by God’s holy fire, then we should present the rest of us as a sacrifice to Him. We should be presenting everything that is good about us to Him. Every talent, skill, personality trait, anything that people may compliment us on should be what we present to Him as our holy sacrifice. We should be putting these things on the Lord’s altar and saying “use them as you will.”

Often we think that we need to lay our problems and our weaknesses at His feet, but really what we should presenting to His throne is our strengths. God has asked for our best parts, our areas of strength and our talents. He’s the one who gave us those things so it is only fitting that they should be used for His glory. Not only that but He will lead us into how to use those things most effectively. Since He is our creator He knows the best way to utilize our strengths and talents. He has the best plan for our lives. So present your whole self, made righteous through Christ’s sacrifice, to God. This is a sacrifice that God will see as holy and acceptable, and this is your reasonable service.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Do Not Withhold Good, No Excuses!

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so." - Proverbs 3:27

This scripture stood out to me when I was reading this chapter. It made me think if there are any times that I withhold good when I have the power to give it. Sometimes we think that as long as we don't do anything to hurt someone or don't do anything bad then we are okay. Here in Proverbs it's not only about not doing something bad towards people but it's also wrong to withhold good.

I specifically started thinking about the people begging on the side of the road. How often do we drive by them and turn our heads when we have some extra change sitting in our car? I know all of the excuses:

They're going to spend it on booze, they're just cons trying to get money out of me, I don't have the time to stop. etc.

But we don't read "Do not withhold good from those it is due unless you can think of a good excuse against it". It simply tells us to not withhold good from those it is due. So the one thing that could be asked is: "who is it due?" You might be thinking, if they spend it on booze doesn't that mean it's not due to them? But let me turn the question around.

Who did Jesus decide good was due to?

Did Jesus pick anybody out and say, "Well you are not going to use my grace for what it's intended so I'm not going to give it to you"? If He didn't, then what gives us that right? Jesus actually knew exactly who would use His grace correctly and who would abuse it and He offered it to all regardless. We think we know how someone is going to use our money and we decide we have the right to withhold it. To me there is something wrong with that picture. As Christians we are to strive to be Christ-like. If Christ didn't make excuses in His generosity then I don't feel we Christians should either.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

To Ban or Not to Ban


One of my former English teachers posted the above link regarding a student in Idaho who organized the distribution of a book that parents had succeeded in getting the school to ban. Before I go on I will admit that I have not read this book and I really have no idea what the book is about. All I know is what the article states regarding the situation. However I had some thoughts that I wanted to share.

First of all this story seems to be one that repeats itself across generations. Whenever a new book is written directed towards youth the Christian community tends to decide that something is wrong with and organize a protest against it. Harry Potter was too magical, Twilight had vampires, and now this book, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, apparently has too much sexual information in it. This type of attitude doesn't just stick to literature. Christian parents are known for protesting against sexual education classes, evolution in science classes, and several other things throughout the school system.

To be clear, I do believe that protesting has it's place and there are things that it might be better to shelter our kids from, however I would like to present an alternate idea. In this particular incident these Christian parents gathered together and protested enough to get the school to ban this book from their curriculum. Most, if not all, of the parents probably have not read this book themselves. They probably just heard from another parent, who probably hadn't read the book, about what was in it. So instead of taking the time to find out what their kids were interested in and jumping in on a perfect teaching moment, they went past their kids and got the school to ban it.

In my opinion this type of attitude is not helping raise our kids with moral judgement. While we may be able to successfully shelter our teens up until the day they move out, sooner or later they will move outside of that shelter. Sooner or later they will be confronted with those very issues. In this case, there were apparently sexual issues brought up in this book. These issues are not going to go away because you get the book banned. Our kids need us as parents to be willing to approach these difficult issues with them and discuss them.

My suggestion to the parents in Idaho: Read the book! Then discuss it with your child. If you disagree with something discuss why you disagree, ask your child their opinion, get the issue out in the open. This will provide them with an opportunity to learn how to process information with a moral compass rather then leave them defenseless when you are not around.