The Answer to Our National Heartache

Public debate always deepens after horrific events like the one that happened in Florida on February 14. After a shooter tragically took the lives of 17 individuals inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, much of the debate has revolved around gun control. Well-intended people on both sides of the debate argue over the means and methods necessary to save future lives and I fervently believe it is a debate that we must have in our country. Our children’s live are very much at stake and I believe we should explore every possibility to save them. However, it is not the gun debate that I woke up thinking about this morning.

This morning, as our country tries to understand and make sense out of events such as Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, Florida, God is often at the center of discussion. The memes and comments I see most often on social media flow as follows:

“God, how could you let this happen in my school?”

“Child, I am not allowed in schools.”

The point is easily derived. In a country where God has been outlawed in our schools, we should expect horrific events to occur. Right? I fear, however, that the culture shift we have seen in the United States goes even deeper.

Consider, if you will, the very notion of outlawing God? How can we outlaw the Divine  Supreme being? The Almighty God is omnipresent. He exists in every time and every space at once. God can be manifest to every person and every situation as He sees fit (Isaiah 57:15, Psalm 33:13-14). We cannot control where and when God decides to make Himself known. He is God and we aren’t. In the early sixties, the Supreme Court made decisions that removed forced prayer and Bible readings from our school systems across the country. Prior to that time, communal prayers and Bible readings were common place in our schools. However, removing those prayers and those studies did not remove God. Why? Because the Supreme Court has no power over the Supreme Father. You cannot simply remove Him with the pounding of a gavel. Our God doesn’t change (James 1:17) and He has not changed since the sixties.

However, something has changed dramatically in the short 50+ years since the Supreme Court first ruled on prayer in schools. We have changed. Prior to the sixties, students in the public schools grew up watching their teachers and school leaders pay reverence to God. Even if they weren’t believers, they were exposed to people who were. Students were exposed to Scripture and were allowed to consider the truth of God’s Word without facing ridicule or derision. Such lessons left a mark on their personas and when they faced heartache, angst, and confusion they knew where to turn for answers. That influence has been removed from our school systems and what we now see is a troubled generation at a loss for what to do and where to turn. In two short generations we have begun to reap what we’ve sown.

The answer to our national heartache is not more or less guns. The solution is more Christ. Undoubtedly, some will read my words and call me a zealot or a “Bible thumper.” I’m okay with that. But mark my words, if we don’t figure out a way to bridge the divide between the secular and the sacred in our school systems we will continue to suffer heartache after heartache.

Know that I am not advocating “forced” prayer or “forced” Bible studies. I am convinced by God’s Word that He values the freedom of choice. However, we need to create environments where our young people are able to consider the Truth of God’s Word free from ridicule and mockery. These environments need to be fostered primarily in our homes and in our churches, but also in our schools.

Christians, please join me in praying for our young people. Pray for our school leaders. Pray for our political leaders. Pray for the brave men and women in law enforcement who have accepted the call to protect our children. Know that what happened in Florida can happen in any school district in any town in America. I believe we need to tighten our security wherever able and protect our kids as much as possible, however, we also need to arm our youth with something far more powerful than any weapon. We need to arm them with the truth of God’s Word.

“7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” Galatians 6:7 (NASB). 

 

 

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Our Culture Has Taken a Plunge

Our Culture Has Taken a Plunge

keep-calm-and-don-t-cross-the-lineI’m a big fan of social media. I think Facebook and Twitter are wonderful tools to use in God’s Kingdom. I use Twitter to follow Christian leaders and pastors and truly enjoy the way it brings God’s people together. Because of social media, I can sit under the tutelage of people like Charles Stanley, Johnny Hunt, and Mark Batterson. There is something truly wonderful about connecting with the leadership of my denomination through Twitter. It also gives me the opportunity to share what I’m studying and learning with others. On Facebook, I created a group for my Sunday morning Bible Study class. It’s a tool we use to share prayer requests and questions. It is also a wonderful means to keep the class “connected” between Sundays.

However, as much as I love social media, I have noticed a phenomenon recently that has me disturbed. What has me bothered is the lowering of standards in regards to our language. Please understand, I’ve worked in a prison for twenty years and have heard (and unfortunately used at times) language that I am not proud of. Because of my career in corrections, my language was an area of my life that God had to deal with. But I must be honest … when I hired into the prison system twenty years ago, there was a certain brand of foul language that was unique to the prison where I worked. As I peruse social media today, however, that same language has now become common place – even amongst the youth! Today, people are willing to type and memorialize forever on their Facebook pages words that were once reserved for the darkest corners of our world. And this phenomenon has become so normal that none of us react to it!

The same is true of the porn culture in our world. Behaviors that were once considered taboo have become normalized. Sex is everywhere. Popular TV shows, music, movies, and even commercials all contain sexual content. And yet we wonder why there are teens everyday texting naked pictures of themselves to members of the opposite sex. We live in a culture where our conduct, bodies, and very lives are no longer valued as they once were.

We have fallen asleep at the wheel and allowed what was once considered taboo to become normalized in our culture! 

Yet even as I point this out there are some who will claim I’m overreacting to the situation. They will say certain behaviors have always been present in our culture and that things are no worse now than they’ve ever been. I’m sorry, but I have witnessed the decline of our moral standards first hand. We live in a world that is drastically different than one I grew up in.

Francis Schaeffer wrote of what he called the “The Line of Despair.” In short, there was a time in our culture before we crossed this line where nearly everyone (Christian or not) saw Christian values as something worthwhile and believed in an absolute moral truth. Having crossed that line, however, our culture no longer sees truth as absolute and views morals as relative to each individual. Heck, in todays culture, those who hold onto a Biblical standard of ethics and morality are often accused of hatred and bigotry. There has been a shift in how our culture views morality. It is no coincidence that this shift coincides with the degradation of moral standards and behavior in our culture.

I suppose the question is, “What should (or can) Christians do about it?” As the Church, we need to stay strong and keep offering the one thing that stands in stark contrast to the depravity we see in the world – Jesus Christ. The Church culture should stand in polar opposite of popular culture. We must conduct ourselves in a manner that sets us apart from the world. We need to preach Christ-crucified to a culture that is in desperate need of the Gospel message!

Christians … our language, behavior, Twitter feeds, and Facebook walls should set us apart from nonbelievers in a manner that points others to Christ! The Word says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16 NASB). We need to understand that the degradation of moral standards we see in our culture is a mere symptom of a much bigger problem.

Our world needs Jesus Christ as much now (if not more) than at any time in history. We must stay faithful to the Gospel and continue to proclaim it to the world.

Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NASB).

I think D.C. Talk said it much better than I …

 

 

 

Why My Fellow Christians Frustrate Me On Twitter

I love Twitter. I find it much more enjoyable than other forms of social media. It’s short and it’s sweet. Plus, no one ever sends me tweets trying to get me to play Farmville. However, my fellow Christians, I’ve had enough with your lack of Twitter etiquette. Here’s a list of the things you do that are frustrating me:

Endless Self-Promotion: You wrote a book, that’s awesome. It’s also pretty cool that you have a blog. But you don’t have to tweet about it five times every hour. Put the link to your website on your profile. Tweet when you write a new blog post. That’s cool, but I want to see you promote Jesus more and you less. Okay?

Flaming: Twitter is a wonderful place to share opinions and exchange ideas, thoughts, and etc. But we all need to watch our tone at times, especially when criticizing other Christians publicly. Remember that Twitter may not be the best forum to “speak the truth in love.” At 14o characters, we are often left with blunt truth and no love. I recently watched in dismay as a fairly intelligent pastor accidentally offended T.D. Jakes via a tweet. From where I was sitting it was pretty obviously a product of Twitter’s limited content. From where T.D. Jakes was sitting it was simply hurtful.

You Follow Me Just to Drop Me: This actually infuriates me. It happens all the time. I get followed by a Christian with a book, website, blog, radio show, or ministry and I follow back only to be dropped a week later by the person that initiated the whole thing. I must be honest, if you’re following me just to add to your numbers or to get me to buy your book or for any reason other than you find what I say interesting – don’t bother. It’s rude.

Automated Direct Messages: You’re not fooling anyone. When I follow you and immediately get an automated “thanks for following” direct message, I know you didn’t write it for me. It’s the equivalent of getting a form letter. It will never appear to be personal and I will almost always resent it. I’m trying to think of a single automated message that I thought was well done … nope, can’t do it.

My brother (@brewologist) tweets about beer. He writes a weekly beer-column for the newspaper that has become fairly popular. The last time I checked he had well over a thousand followers. Here’s what I’ve noticed about his beer crowd. They’re not trying to sell anybody anything. They follow one another because they share a particular interest in all things beer. They review different brands and share tips and brewing techniques. They seem fairly polite even when they disagree with one another. They encourage one another all the time by saying things like, “Hey thanks for the tip!” or “Nice review last week!” Basically, they are enthusiasts gathered around a particular interest. It’s fun to watch. It makes me want to know more about beer.

Shouldn’t the Christian community on Twitter resemble the beer-drinking crowd? Should we be enthusiasts gathered around our particular interest in Jesus Christ? We should be more encouraging to one another. We shouldn’t view one another as just a market to peddle our brand, but rather as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ. Our tweets should ring with the celebration of our salvation. When we disagree, we should enter into debate cautious of twitter’s limitations and an awareness that others are watching us. Our tweets should make non-Christians want to know more about Christ and the Bible.

Shouldn’t they?