“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
It's true, Herman Cain attended a Trump rally in Tulsa and then got Covid-19 and passed away. TMZ is making sure everyone knows it with their headline, "Herman Cain Dead at 74 from Covid...Attended Trump Tulsa Rally." Now many others are jumping on the proverbial bandwagon to blame Trump in some way for Cain's death. It is clearly, according to some, Trump's fault for having the rally. Some argue that real leadership would have not had the rally in order to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19. I am not here to defend Trump, but rather to expose this kind of faulty thinking.
Never mind the fact that Cain traveled a lot the week before being diagnosed, including a trip to Arizona where there was a spike in Covid cases. The question remains, did Trump kill Cain? That is what is being implied isn't it? Real leadership wouldn't have put this man at risk; that's the argument isn't it? Well, let's assume for a minute that Cain did get Covid at the rally even though they took everyone's temperatures as they entered the rally to make sure people were not showing symptoms AND that they were handing out masks to everyone.
Whose fault is it that Cain, a well educated man who led very large organizations rather successfully and made decisions that impacted large businesses and individual people's livelihoods on a regular basis, died? Never mind that part of making those kinds of decisions is heavily dependent on risk/reward kinds of analysis. Are we to now think that the government makes decisions for people as competent and capable as Herman Cain because people (all people) are incapable of deciding whether the risk of attending a rally and not wearing a mask is worth the reward of participating in a rally and supporting a candidate they believe in? If Biden had rallies, would the same standard be applied? I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but a lot of people are getting Covid even if they pretty much stayed home. Maybe we should be taking another approach.
What would Patrick Henry one of the famous founding fathers of our nation say? Patrick Henry was an excellent orator who spoke without notes and is known for one famous phrase, but there is more to his story. Henry was always concerned about the power of the federal government. He thought more power should remain with the states, in fact he was so concerned that the rights of the people would be trampled on that he was instrumental in forming the Bill of Rights which includes many of the freedoms that cannot (theoretically) be infringed upon. In his famous speech he lays out the difference between tyranny and liberty. Of course the threat at the time was much more violent and the enemy was much easier to identify. The enemy today is much more difficult to identify. Certainly Covid-19 is one enemy, but is there another enemy? Is it possible that the the very government that was founded to escape one form of tyranny is now beginning to show signs of tyranny itself? I can't help but think that Patrick Henry would think that is, indeed, the case. Instead of the chains of slavery (as Henry described it) of Britain's tyrannical approach we face the tyranny of a shutdown that was supposed to last two weeks and we are now almost 5 months into it. We are told to cover our faces with masks, stay home, don't go to church, don't sing at church, etc. Recently my own county has mandated masks not just indoors, but outdoors as well. As Patrick Henry said, "There is no retreat but in slavery" not to Britain, but to our own government. Henry further said, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" I wish all of us could have heard that speech in person.
Herman Cain was a great man! Instead of recognizing his success and accomplishments we are now arguing about whether Trump killed Cain. Herman Cain was not a child or someone incapable of making a risk/reward assessment. He made his choice, as we all should. Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, that we are willing to give up basic fundamental liberties so that our "leaders" can make every decision for us? Are we now to cower in the face of a virus for which 99.6% of the people who contract it will recover? Are we going to politicize the death of a great man in an effort to blame someone we don't like because of his tweets or past indiscretions? I am no Trump apologist, but blaming Trump for Cain getting a virus is ridiculous and insane. There are plenty of reasons to attack and critique Trump if you want to, you don't need this. What is troublesome is not that Trump is getting blamed, but the underlying premise that people are incapable of making their own decisions regarding basic risks they are willing or unwilling to take. God forbid! I don't know what others may choose, but I will choose liberty until death comes knocking.
I echo the words of Patrick Henry. I don't expect everyone else to be willing to live with the same level of risk I am willing to live with. Nor am I going to presume that every one else's situations are the same as mine. That's why we need liberty to be able to evaluate our own situations and decide the level of risk we are willing to take for the kinds of liberties we want to enjoy. I would rather live free and die young than die old without freedom.
Perspective matters! Yes, I am very aware of the blight slavery has left on our country and the scars that remain. Like everything else, context matters. As I write this, I am on my way to MN to celebrate the 4th of July with some family and friends. Many black Americans don't see this celebration as a celebration of freedom since many of them continued to be enslaved for another 80 years. Last night I watched a young black man being interviewed and he said he would celebrate Juneteenth, but not the 4th of July. I understand why he might feel that way, but I would like to invite him to celebrate both.
Yes, it's true slaver was around at our founding and continued to be around and legal for another 100 years. As I am sure you know, many of our founders owned slaves. But contrary to Senator Tim Kaine's claim that America invented slavery, it was around for thousands of years before July 4, 1776. Africans enslaved other Africans, Native Americans enslaved other Native Americans, Arabs enslaved all kinds of people, etc. Of course, that justifies no one! It does give some important historical context.
The Declaration of Independence is the document that declared our independence and laid out some important foundation truths based on a Judeo-Christian ethic. Specifically, it says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Our nation was unable to keep what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as "a promise," in its founding, but the promise was made nonetheless. Abraham Lincoln would make a down payment with the Emancipation Proclamation. Fredrick Douglas said Independence Day didn't bring freedom, but stripes to his back. This holiday was not his and not the black man's celebration of freedom that it was and is for the rest of us. Yet, Booker T. Washington, a former slave, was picked to lead a new school that was being started by former slave and former slave owner Lewis Adams and George Washington Campbell. Booker arrived at the school named Tuskegee near the end of June in 1881, 16 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. On July 4th Booker officially opened that school. This landmark moment, in some sense reclaimed this celebration of freedom for the black person.
Nevertheless, America had, as King put it, "defaulted on her promise." Slaves had been freed, but inequity still prevailed. In his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech King called to collect on the promise made in the Declaration of Independence. While racism and hatred will never disappear completely from the human heart (short of God's eternal kingdom), America is making good on its promise, however tardy and imperfectly. This holiday of liberty and freedom is for all Americans regardless of color. Some of have suggested that Juneteenth should be a celebration of freedom of black people. Indeed, it should be and I believe will be as soon as next year. I will join in the celebration of the day that those in Texas heard the news, some 2 1/2 years after the fact, that slaves were free. There remained work to be done to be sure, but that was a momentous day. Likewise, I would invite people of all ethnicities and shades of color to celebrate the 4th of July as the day freedom was promised and in so doing claim that promise as their own. That freedom and liberty spoken of in the Declaration of Independence was not given or granted by America's founding fathers, it was granted by God. It had been infringed upon in many ways, including slavery, for centuries and millennia. America's founders in their imperfect and fallen state caught a glimpse, however brief, of the heart of God. As the apostle Paul said, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
The 4th of July 1776 established a foundation of freedom upon which a nation of liberty could be built. When we celebrate independence, we do so realizing that freedom and liberty with all its responsibilities and duties is an ideal we strive for and have made progress towards.
It is all the rage to say we should defund the police which, some say, doesn't actually mean defund the police, but reform how policing is done. I could potentially be in favor of reforming some aspects of policing, but frankly, if you think it is a good idea to teach police to shoot people in the leg instead of center mass, you are disqualified from having an informed opinion. If you want to know why, let me take you shooting sometime and I'll show you. But, this isn't about shooting people in the leg, it's about choke holds being banned. The reason I am qualified, in part, to comment on choke holds is because I practice Jiu Jitsu. I am a purple belt and an instructor. I have competed at a high level (for old guys) and have been choked out a handful of times in training myself. I have also choked others out. By that I mean the person being choked took a short nap (it literally feels like a nap). I continue to practice and teach Jiu Jitsu 5-6 days a week. Jiu Jitsu practitioners use submission holds including choke holds to either make their opponent submit or go unconscious.
There are different kinds of chokes, there are air chokes and blood chokes. Air chokes are used, but blood chokes are more common. Blood chokes block the flow of blood to the brain by pinching the carotid artery on each side of the neck. Within seconds (if applied correctly) a person will literally fall asleep or loose consciousness. Once the choke is released a person will regain consciousness in a matter of seconds with ZERO negative side effects if the person is remotely healthy.
Now to the matter at hand. I watched the incident where two officers struggled with Rayshard Brooks before he took a stun gun, fled, fired the stun gun at one of the police officers, and ended up getting shot by one of the police officers. What I saw was multiple opportunities (at least two) for one of the police officers to apply a choke hold during the struggle prior to Mr. Brooks fleeing with the taser and getting shot. I have no idea what the rules of engagement are for police officers in Atlanta, so this not a critique on those officers. I don't know whether choke holds were allowed or taught as part of their training. What I do know, is that if they were allowed and if the officers had been appropriately trained, they might have been able to save that man's life using a choke hold. It is worth mentioning that the knee on the back of the neck of George Floyd was not really a choke hold and that is not the kind of thing I am addressing here. Yes, I am aware that it led to his death and the tactic was used in a horrible way, but it wasn't really a choke hold. A choke hold (properly applied) doesn't take almost 9 minutes to be effective. The best example and most likely to be useful for law enforcement is what is commonly called the "rear naked choke" (seen above). This choke can be applied standing as well as on the ground.
If we take away these kinds of holds as a tool from law enforcement officers, what options are they left with once an encounter turns violent? They can beat a person into submission (that sounds horrible), they can tase people (they might still need to resort to other forms of violence and tasers aren't always a good option), they might be able to use pepper spray (that might end up harming them as much as the people they are arresting), or they could shoot them. Am I missing another option? I think those are the main ones. Frankly, choke holds are a lot less violent than many of the other options. I recognize that there have been a few (very few) times that these choke holds have led to death, but we ought to also ask how many times a choke hold has saved or could have saved someone's life if it was used properly.
The answer isn't to defund the police or take away the tools they have. The answer is two-fold. First, understand that regardless of how well trained they are there will be times where violence is required, authority is abused, and the outcome is tragic. However, this seems to be uncommon (contrary to popular belief). Second, make sure that law enforcement is trained really well to use the tools they have to save lives rather than take away tools and limit their options costing more lives and damage. There are other things that can be discussed regarding reform, but taking away choke holds is a feel good move that will result in making policing more dangerous for the police and the community!
Before you read the rest of the post, please keep in mind that most of this was written before the death of Rayshard Brooks (or at least before I became aware of it) and in no way is a comment about his death. Nor is it a reaction to the killing of George Floyd. It is a response to the many Christians and Christian leaders who have demanded that we must not only use the words "Black Lives Matter," but support the movement and if we don't we are living contrary to the teachings of Scripture.
Black lives do, indeed, matter. If only it was as simple as that one statement. Unfortunately, it isn't about that one phrase. Let me explain why I can't support the Black Lives Matter Movement. This isn't going to be the classical "All Lives Matter" retort. That is a platitude which will only create continued division and lacks any real power to move the conversation forward. It is worth saying again, this has nothing to do with whether or not black lives matter; they certainly do matter. Unfortunately, people often use the same words, but they are not using the same dictionary.
Black Lives Matter is an organization as much as it is a slogan. It is also a brilliant marketing strategy that has been very successful in shaping the national conversation and had a huge impact within the church. However, like virtually everything else in this world we live in, the language is loaded. When you say, "black lives matter" you might be saying a lot more than you intend to say. Let's take a look at what the Black Lives Matter (BLM) web site says about their own movement.
Some might be tempted to think that the phrase doesn't have to carry all of that extra freight, but we may not have that choice. I don't have another option for a pithy phrase that will communicate that the lives of black people matter without all that other stuff tagging along for the ride. For now, I'll have to use more words, more nuance, and hopefully build more bridges. No matter what you think about recent events, the racial divide in our culture is real. As a Christian, I want to build bridges that bring all ethnicities together, shoulder to shoulder as we kneel before Jesus who is the King of kings and Lord of lords. That includes saying the right things that promote goodness, truth, and unity, not just placating one another by using a phrase that creates some kind of false unity or false solidarity. Real unity and togetherness requires much more. I'm still figuring a lot of it out myself, I don't have all the answers, but I am quite certain hearts and minds need to be redeemed, so that's where I will start.
The truth is, I miss my church! I go there, that is to the building, multiple times a week including to record our worship services which stream online here and here. But that isn't the church as many have pointed out. It isn't a building, that seems blatantly obvious as the early church met wherever it could in all kinds of buildings like homes and synagogues and today churches meet in schools, movie theaters, and other places. However, these statements while true are often misguided. Much of the time when someone says, "the church isn't a building" they are not questioning what kind of building should be used for gathering, but whether the church needs to gather at all. In light of the recent lock downs due to Covid-19 many have begun to suggest that the church doesn't really need to gather physically, especially since we have technological options for delivering music and sermons, but is that all that is really necessary? Scripture doesn't support such an approach.
We should first recognize that before the church God's chosen people, the nation of Israel, was a gathering people. They gathered regularly for festivals, sabbaths, and worship. Gathering isn't something that showed up in the New Testament, but instead we find it throughout the Old Testament as well. As a nation, Israel would mourn when they were exiled. Gathering isn't a New Testament thing or a church thing.
The gathering we find in the Old Testament carries forward to the New Testament. We certainly see this in the gospels as Jesus taught in the synagogue, celebrated passover, and so on. But even at the very conception of the church we see a massive gathering in Acts 2 where the disciples spoke in tongues and saw thousands respond to the gospel message. After that they continued to gather and were devoted to, among other things, fellowship. In fact in verse 46 it says, "Every day they continued to meet in the temple courts." If anything, we gather too little. They weren't gathering in their own building, but that isn't the issue, they were gathering. Presumably these were pretty sizable groups since thousands had responded to the gospel and they weren't only meeting in homes, but the temple courts. Of course, we have gathering modeled throughout Acts.
In the epistles gathering is assumed in a variety of ways. From 1 Corinthians 11 all the wayward through chapter 14 we have instructions about how to conduct ourselves in such gatherings. What those instructions are isn't important for the purposes of this post, only that the gathering of the church is assumed and instructions are given.
We also find the gathering of the saints for the purpose of worship in Revelation with the four living creatures and the 24 elders not to mention the nations. Gathering is consistent throughout redemptive history from beginning to never ending. The christian faith is a gathering faith and cannot rightly be practiced without gathering. Not to mention the laying on of hands, baptism, and the Lord's supper all require some sort of gathering. It may be possible to do this virtually in some less significant manner, but those things are meant for the gathering. The Lord's Supper has its beginning in a gathering for the purpose of celebrating passover.
In recent days some have said the church should not abdicate to the state authority regarding such gatherings. Indeed, I agree! However, it is not abdicating authority to cooperate for a short time. In contrast many have begun to question whether we need to ever gather. That must be rejected as well, the Christian faith is a gathering faith and the church is a gathering people. The church must gather, the question is when? There isn't a magic date, but I will offer some thoughts:
For me and my church, none of these things are true at the moment. Although I have had frustration recently with a lack of communication regarding church gatherings from my governor, finally some guidance, even if limited, has been given. The church isn't being singled out at this time. There does seem to be an end in sight, at least for the moment.
"The music is always too loud when we go to church!" said Beverly. She first noticed how loud the music was when she came back from getting grape juice out of the refrigerator to prepare communion. She later explained, "I didn't want to miss anything so I asked Jeffery, my husband, to turn it up while I was in the kitchen. When I came back into the living room I thought I was going to go deaf it was so loud. Someone needed to tell the pastor, so I texted him right away!"
We reached out to the pastor to get his comments and he simply replied, "The volume never changed and seemed a little quiet where I was standing. I couldn't respond to the 5 texts I received all saying basically the same thing because I was about to get up and preach."
The pastor did promise to talk to the sound technicians and make sure they were staying within the decibel range required by the worship policies that were written by the worship committee in 1983. He also suggested they check the volume on their computer.
(This is satire, based on true stories. Not from my church)
Yes, I am a pro-lifer. I adamantly defend the life of the unborn (the born as well) and I will not cast a vote for a pro-choice candidate, but that doesn't make me a single issue voter. The reality is, there might be some circumstance in which the previous statement would not be true, but it is hard to believe those circumstances would come to fruition in the current political climate. I suppose the next question is this, if I will not cast a vote for a pro-choice candidate, how am I not a single issue voter? Let me explain.
It is true that life is the most foundational right that a person has and that without life, no other right really matters. Our founding fathers recognized this and that is why the right to life is the first right mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. It is difficult to over state the importance of the previous statement. Without life, your health care doesn't matter, your freedom doesn't matter, your happiness doesn't matter, your religion doesn't matter. But, the life issue isn't a single issue, it is a signpost that declares a person's general understanding of the world. That is to say that you can generally infer several other things about a person based on their view on the life issue.
What about other human rights or social justice issues like health care, immigration, racism, LGBTQ+, and so forth? Everyone of those issues is important! Of the pro-life people I know, none of them would say these other issues are not important or that they are setting aside these issues for the sake of the life issue. Instead, they would tell you, as I am, that the political candidates who are pro-life are generally in agreement on these other issues. That doesn't mean they are in lock step, it is also true that there is less unity on how to approach these other issues than there is on the life issue, but there is still more agreement than disagreement.
Let's take the immigration issue as an example. Children are regularly separated from their parents at the border and pictures of this are thrown in the face of pro-lifers as if to say that pro-lifers are inconsistent and support the breaking up of families as some sort of sport. Nothing could be further from the truth. I should however point out that no one is suggesting that we kill those people (abortion actually kills a human being). The separation of children from their parents is sometimes tragic and sometimes necessary. Taking a child away from abusive parents is a good that must be done; it seems to me that we can all agree with that statement. Is that what is happening at the border? At least some of the time it is. There may be other circumstances as well and some of them may not be justified to be sure. Is there injustice in our immigration policy? I would say that there is injustice in almost every policy. The practices of our government regarding immigration can and should be evaluated and made as just as possible. The answer isn't open borders and there are many changes pro-lifers can get behind. Pro-lifers vary on their approach to this issue, but in general they take a more conservative approach. This isn't an inconsistency, it is a recognition that there are other circumstances to consider and the solution is less clear. My goal here isn't to defend the current policies at the border, but simply to say (whether you agree or not) that pro-lifers think about immigration issues and care deeply about the people at the border. Here is one example of how one pro-lifer thinks about these issues.
Whether it is racism, poverty, healthcare, LGBTQ+, or other issues, there is a general consistency to how these issues should be approached if a person is pro-life. Pro-lifers care about all of these issues and in general take them into consideration in the voting booth. They are not simplistic, single issue voters, that has been made up so pro-choicers can claim hypocrisy. Now, I know some people will even say, "yes, I am a single issue voter, I vote pro-life." But even those people, if you were to ask, would likely agree with pro-life political candidates on a variety of issues. Having a hierarchy of issues doesn't make a person a single issue voter. I think it would be safe to say that there is virtually no one who doesn't have some kind of hierarchy when it comes to the issues they consider in the voting booth, whether they are liberal, conservative, democratic, or republican. The single issue accusation simply has no real foundation in reality.
Yes, I turned it off and I was embarrassed that I didn't do so sooner. Almost as soon as the half-time show started during the Super bowl yesterday, the conversation turned from football to the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" from the half time show by Janet Jackson many years ago; the jokes began to fly about wardrobe inspectors and so on. Soon the jokes stopped and the room grew silent as the half time show by Shakira and J Lo became more and more provocative, sensual, and overtly sexual. It was when my wife began to ask for the channel to be changed that I responded and did indeed turn the channel. I kept wanting to think it couldn't get any worse, but it did until I could no long wait.
Since then I have been involved in some conversation online about the half time show. Many claim it was cultural and that being a white cisgender male limits my understanding. Perhaps so, but it doesn't mean I don't understand anything or that I have no valid take on what I saw and what my wife asked me to turn off. Even many Christians with whom I interacted defended the indefensible half-time show. Those conversations and comments require a more thoughtful response which I will offer here.
First, the fact that something is cultural does not mean it cannot be critiqued. Let's just say for a moment that every aspect of the half-time show that I thought was inappropriate had its roots in Latino culture. That doesn't mean that aspect of that culture is good and positive simply because it is "cultural." For instance, have you ever heard the term "rape culture?" If you haven't, you haven't been paying attention. The term suggests that there is an aspect to our culture where rape seems to be acceptable, but the term is never used in an endearing manner or to defend rape, it is used to condemn a culture that seems to accept rape as something that on some level is acceptable. We can and should condemn some aspects of every culture. "It's cultural" is not a defense, at best it is an excuse!
Second, just because you have it doesn't mean you should flaunt it. You've hear the phrase, no doubt, "if you have it flaunt it." This is not a good and positive statement. Flaunting it is, by definition, asking for people to notice. When women "flaunt it" they are inviting sexual thought and intentionally seeking that kind of attention. No, that doesn't excuse assault or excuse men who might have inappropriate thoughts. BUT, that is not an argument (at least not a good one) for intentionally dressing in a way that intentionally provokes such thought and is by its very nature the intentional manipulation of natural desires. Men are responsible for controlling those natural desires, but women are responsible to not provoke and manipulate those desires as well. We are all responsible for uplifting one another and encouraging one another towards human flourishing. That is not what happened at half-time yesterday.
Third, we should behave in a way that values women, not in a way that objectifies them. Women rightly complain when they are objectified and yet, in the broader culture many of those same women insist on behaving in a way that encourages that very objectification. It isn't only up to men to stop objectifying women, it is also up to women to stop behaving in a way that encourages that objectification. Of course many will find this offensive, by I frankly don't care. My mom taught me that if I wanted to be respected I needed to behave respectably. If women behave in a way that does not encourage men to objectify them and men do it anyway, then the man is 100% responsible. If the woman encourages objectification, then she no longer has the right to complain about it. Much more could be said, here (and probably should be said); this is a culture wide epidemic.
The half-time show objectified women and stirred the desires of men and I suppose some women in inappropriate ways. Not only was I offended, but my wife was offended and so were many people who were at my house watching the game. The argument that "it was cultural" isn't the same as saying "it was virtuous." Those are very different things.
A man entered a church in Texas over the weekend and killed two people only to be shot and killed himself by an armed congregant. What is the lesson? Of course all the 2nd amendment supporters have come out of the woodwork with headlines like "Good Guy With A Gun Shoots Alleged Texas Church Shooter." I can certainly sympathize with the sentiment expressed in the headline. No one wants to see churches, schools, and movie theaters shot up by anyone. No one wants additional deaths and stopping the shooter by whatever means necessary is the right response in that moment, but what about now? How should we respond now?
The headline hurts my soul. The shooting was recorded as the service itself was being live streamed or recorded. I took the time to go and watch the video. Watching a video like that is horrifying as you see people get shot and immediately fall to the ground. One might be tempted to praise the heroism of the security who took down the shooter in a high pressure situation from about 15 yards (my guess) with a single shot. That may be appropriate, but we should think deeper about this. Church shootings are not new and as I sit and write this I don't know what this man's motive was. We can argue about whether guns should be available (all hand guns in this case) to the general public, whether conceal carry is a good idea, or the need for universal background checks. All that is fine as far as it goes, but not matter what policies we think are right, we must come to another conclusion. There is real evil in this world and no matter what policies we employ it isn't going away!
What motivates someone to go into a church and start shooting up the place? it could be so many things! Mental illness always seems to be somewhere in the mix. It could be political, ideological, or even relational. Whatever it is, it's evil. We don't like to talk about evil because it is a strong word and we live in a relativistic world. There is no real evil, just personal preference...or is there. Politicians will spin this to promote whatever gun policies they want to see passed, but even that misses the point. Real evil exists and everybody intuitively recognizes it. Real evil cannot be legislated out of existence, it exists in the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). So what do we do?
Pray for God's grace. The world likes to mock those who pray during times of tragedy. They say, "what good are your prayers? Do something!" Often this is said to promote some kind of legislation they believe will rid the world of this darkness, but there is only one light of the world and his name is Jesus! It is to him we must turn. The heart of humanity is fallen and evil apart from the grace of God. Pray for God's grace, not the kind of grace that leads to salvation, but what theologians call prevenient grace. The kind that is given to all of humanity because without it there would be no good at all in this world. Violence is not contingent on the ability of any person to acquire guns.
Mourn with those who mourn. Tragedy is real and it isn't going away. We look forward to a new year and we often do so with great hopes. We should, but we ought also to know that it will come with great tragedy. When it does, mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Jesus reminds us that those who mourn will find comfort and it is a part of how people are good, how the flourish as humans (Matthew 5:4).
Don't ask why, pray for redemption. Answering the why question is easy and I am always baffled that people don't know the answer. Perhaps the answer seems too simple when it is boiled down to its root cause. People want to think there is an answer that can be addressed with policies, politicians, and procedures; when it turns out those things wont fix the problem I suppose people have a hard time accepting the answer. The answer is the sin nature and the reality of evil in the human heart. Now that you have the answer, pray for redemption of the human heart. Pray that God would turn hearts of stone to living hearts (Ezekiel 36:26).
Share the gospel of Jesus. Redemption comes only through Jesus. It isn't enough to pray for redemption if we are not willing to share the gospel and communicate the means of redemption to a world in desperate need of hope for that kind of redemption. It is the responsibility of the church to speak of the hope of the gospel at all times, but it offers the most contrast to the darkness of the world at the greatest times of darkness.
We can certainly do more than these things, but we ought not to do less. Evil, tragedy, and violence will continue to be part of this world until the prayer, "...your kingdom come your will be done" is brought to fruition in all its fullness when Jesus returns and the new heavens and the new earth are brought into existence.
Are you thinking about New Years Resolutions? You should, it can be a good time to make some changes. Just because most people will give up doesn't mean you will, if you make the right kind of changes. Last year I decided to read through the Old Testament. I almost did, but I did much more. I read through a significant portion of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament. I'm going to finish, I basically have the minor prophets left. Which means, I didn't reach my goal...or did I?
What is the point of a goal? Some people set weight loss goals only to return to eating poorly and not exercising as soon as the goal is reached. Then they put the weight back on and need another goal. The same goes with reading or some financial goal. What if you approached this a little differently?
Don't set a goal, change a pattern. If you think reading and learning is important, change your pattern. When can you MAKE time in your day to read? Is it right away when you get up, your first 10 minutes in the office (show up early), before you go to bed, when is it? Start with something fairly easy to read and read 10 minutes every day. don't take any days off for he first three months. Be disciplined and strict, nothing gets in the way of reading for ten minutes. This isn't so you can read a certain number of books, it is so you can fill your life with good habits that will replace the bad habits you already have.
Some times good habits and patterns need refreshing. One reason people lose weight and then put it back on is because the pattern they have embraced became stale. Change it up, don't get rid of it. Maybe you have been working on a lot of cardio in your work out, but you are tired of it. Go from running to riding a bike or focus on gaining strength and muscle mass for a while and back off (don't quit) the cardio. Sometimes good patterns need revision to keep us interested. This last year I was reading through the Old Testament. This coming year I am going to pick a book of the Bible and read the same book along with a commentary every month. It will either be Isaiah or Revelation.
Goals aren't any good if they don't develop good patterns in our lives. If the goal isn't reached, but the pattern is changed, that is success. So, make a new years resolution. You can even set a goal, but remember success is not defined by whether or not you reach the goal, but by whether or not the pattern is changed.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.