There are many things that the church is very vocal about like the value of unborn life and freedom of expression of our faith in public. However, our silence on gun violence is abhorrent. We will march and protest for some things, but when people are killed by the blight of guns in our society, we sit on our hands or label those who call for action idiots.
Let me provide some background for my belief that we must do something about America’s gun addiction. As a toddler, my parents had a hand gun in the home until they found me playing with it in the middle of their bed. After high school, I joined the Army and learned to handle multiple weapons. I also accepted the Lord while serving and lost all desire to take a life using those same weapons.
After leaving military service, I went to Bible school in Dallas, Texas. At that time, a lone gunman drove his truck into a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas shooting fifty people and killing twenty-three. One of the survivors was our pastor. He became an advocate for gun ownership and still preaches with a firearm on his hip.
Five years ago, another gunman opened fire on a music festival from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada killing sixty and injuring hundreds. I walked by this location multiple times while attending conferences over the years in Las Vegas. Had I been attending a conference during that fateful night, I might have been a victim as well.
There are more guns in the United States than there are people. More guns is not the answer. Texans have more licensed weapons than any other state yet have five of the worst mass shootings since 1991.
Unless you are an ambidextrous marksman, owning multiple firearms and more than a dozen rounds is excessive. If you say it’s for hunting, recent numbers show about 15 million hunting licenses issued which makes up less than 5% of the United States population.
I ask these questions of all Americans and especially the church. How many weapons are enough? How much ammunition is enough? Why do gun manufacturers continue to profit from tragedies as gun sales spike? How many innocent lives must be lost to gun violence before the church says something?
I said that to my father as he lay paralyzed on his left side from a stroke in a hospital bed in Lakeland, FL on the morning of 9/11. It was a day of loss and selfless sacrifice by 1st responders rushing into danger to try and save lives.
As we honor their sacrifices and remember the many who are departed, I wonder how many more times I would have repeated that phrase standing next to my pops as we observed events of the recent years. We have seen a callous and uncaring police officer kneel on a man’s neck until he expired. We have seen over a half-million of our countrymen pass from sickness. We saw the sitting president whip a crowd into a frenzy to prevent the certification of his successor.
The many selfless acts from that day 20 years ago have been replaced by so many selfish acts of today. The death of a man of color unjustly does not prompt outrage by all and some are more outraged by the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The mandating of a life saving vaccine causes people to object to their individual rights being trampled instead of seeking to stop a pandemic. A large portion of the electorate believes the election was rigged because their guy lost despite no evidence to support their allegations. My way over others is most important.
John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Matthew 7:12 says “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” MSG
I bit the bullet and opted to reactivate my FB account. However, in doing so I chose also to reduce the number of “friends” as well. Having been unfriended myself without notice, I am certain their will be unintended hurt feelings. It is an odd thing how we allow people we have shared a common experience with at some point to have continued access to your life. Does being a classmate, coworker, sharing a common interest or bloodline mean I grant you continuous unending visibility of the details of my life?
If anyone is upset about no longer being a “friend” on social media, my apologies as that wasn’t my intention. I just realized I had allowed far too many people a window into my life. I spent a year away and during that time, only a handful made contact. Some on social media were only in my life for a short period and have not been a continued presence since our paths separated. I am still available should they decide they need to talk, but most didn’t miss me while in my exile.
If my life touched theirs in some significant way on our journey to eternity, it gives us so something to talk about at journey’s end. I am not pursuing large numbers of followers or friends and hope those that remain are there to contribute to my life and not just stand by and obseve.
On November 7th, the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States was called by all major news outlets after it became clear he would secure the electoral votes necessary to be declared President-Elect. This signaled an end to the term of one of the biggest bullies to ever hold the office. This person denigrated so many people and mocked those that opposed him. He attacked anyone who dare to question his lack of leadership and even used the military to gas peaceful protesters to stage a photo op where he awkwardly held a Bible in front of a church he did not attend to pander to people of faith.
I have never liked bullies and have taken a stand against them many times in my life. I took on the biggest kid in my elementary school when he knocked my friend’s mouth into a water fountain. I cornered a kid who had been stealing my younger brother’s lunch money and ensured that stopped. Later as a teacher, I called out students who caused a boy with a learning disability to break into tears when they placed a lock on his locker. I also walked my son to the house of a neighborhood kid that threatened him with a knife to confront him in front of his parents.
The Bible is clear on how we are to treat others. The golden rule in Matthew 7:12 says “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) The defeat of someone who in no way exhibited concern and kindness toward others has been a reason to rejoice for many. Sadly, there are many in the church that are mourning it. The character of our nation’s leader matters as many said during the term of his predecessor who committed infidelity while in office.
I have been a Republican since I began voting yet I have not voted for their candidate in several elections. That doesn’t mean I have voted for the Democrat candidate either. My faith informs who I vote for or who I don’t vote for. We are in the world, but not of the world. Christ said as much before Pilate after his arrest. People of faith should participate in elections, but never compromise on the standards heaven calls us to hold.
I hope and pray the incoming President will restore civility and kindness to the highest office that have been sorely lacking the last four years. I may not agree with every policy he implements, but I will welcome a change in tone and a departure from bullying.
I am a walking oxymoron. I don’t fit into others’ preconceived idea of what it means to be a Christian in the United States of America. Allow me to provide some background before addressing the crux of this post.
I came to faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour while serving in the US Army at Fort Greely, Alaska. After leaving the service and marrying my Army-brat bride, we attended a multi-denominational Charismatic Bible school in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. We graduated with a Diploma of Practical Theology which later converted to an Associates degree. As a couple, we served as youth pastors in a non-Denominational church in a small white community outside of Ft. Worth, Texas. That church was highly involved in local and state politics.
Departing there with some GI bill money expiring soon, I returned to school at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a private Charismatic school with a great degree of cultural and racial diversity compared to the small town we had just left. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts. My major was Church Ministries: Pastoral and minors in Church History & Systematic Theology.
I decided to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was a Methodist school that aligned itself with the conservative wing of that denomination. While attending, we joined a church plant out of World Harvest Church. We began helping in Children’s church at Bethel Harvest Church in Lexington, Kentucky. I dropped out of seminary after a family illness and the financial stress seminary placed on my family. Eventually, we would lead two kid’s church services as well as my being the TV/Radio editor for the church.
We relocated back to my home state of California eventually attending the local Assembly of God congregation. While my wife worked in the nursery, I began teaching the Adult Sunday School class and taught an occasional Sunday or Wednesday night service. My wife would eventually become the Children’s church director and supervisor of the food pantry outreach on Fridays.
All of this is shared, not to inflate myself over others, but rather to demonstrate our participation in the body of Christ. We have been in the trenches and have taught believers from the cradle to the grave. I have gone to school for theology and have done practical ministry as well.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I see many believers in America ascribing allegiance to things of this world over the precepts of Christ. Some of the things which have contaminated the Christian faith in America and are cultural residue are guns, Republican devotion, personal rights over community concerns, and neglect of those suffering injustices.
The arming of Christians and their vapid defense of having firearms is in direct contradiction to the gospel. Jesus came to give hope and admonished Peter for taking up a sword at his arrest. A painting of our savior brandishing a firearm or assault weapon has no place in our places of worship yet many do bring firearms to worship regularly. We are to reflect His image to a hurting world, but what do we show them when we carry weapons of execution instead of extending arms open for embrace?
Devotion to the Republican party has weakened Christian impact on those around them. I am Pro-Life, but I am also Pro-Love, and Pro-Character. The current leadership of the Republican party lacks the compassion/character of our Savior and denigrates people regularly. They mock and instill fear as a way of securing votes. The current resident of the White House smiled while awkwardly holding a Bible after gassing protesters calling for an end to racial inequality.
The pandemic of Covid 19 has brought out a level of selfishness among Christians in America that is also astonishing. The Golden rule given by our Savior states “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Wearing a mask has become too much to ask for many believers. We want it our way instead of being selfless and sacrificing for the well being of others.
Finally, the continued disregard for the ongoing, neverending suffering of injustices by those whose skin color is not white is not a cause of concern for far too many American Christians. They get upset when someone says “Black Lives Matter” and respond with “All Lives Matter.” Jesus told of the shepherd who left the 99, to go and save the one. Nobody says all don’t matter, but people of color are hurting and affirming they matter should not offend. He gave all for all. Their pain is His pain and thereby, my pain too.
Lord, break the church in America free from the cultural bondage it has so willingly embraced. Help it to be a place of love, acceptance and caring for a hurting and needy world. May we once again be a beacon in the darkness. Amen.
I have a co-worker that can be counted on to complain about almost anything and everything. Almost everyday, they arrive with curses and complaints about someone cutting them off or some “idiot” that did something to them. I kid them and welcome them with “Hello sunshine.” It really is our decision what we do with what happens to us. We can choose to accentuate the positive or dwell on the negative. I hear the doom and gloom spilling out of the tv and remember I have a loving wife and a job. I have good health. My son may play his music loud in his room, but he is home and not a runaway. I may have bills, but fortunately I don’t have bill collectors banging on my door. I may not live in a mansion, but I have a roof over my head and utilities that work. I am not homeless and have food to eat. I remember doing mission work in the mountains of Mexico and seeing how grateful the people of the village were. They had dirt floors and drafty dwellings. Their church was made up of rocks and the pews were nothing more than 2 x 4s, but they were happy. Philippians 4:11 says ” I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” For the majority of our 19 years togehter, we were vagabonds for Jesus. One year in Kempner, TX after we got married. Two years in Dallas, TX for bible school school. Four years in Aledo, TX as youth pastors. Three years in Tulsa, OK for college at ORU. Four years in Wilmore, KY for seminary and then work. We now have a place we aren’t renting and though it isn’t our dream home, it’s ours. We may have a teenager that can be moody or rude at times, but he is also principled and willing to go against the crowd when he thinks they are wrong. I am grateful to the Lord for the life he has given me and the wonderful things in my life.
As we journey through this life, I find it interesting how some people are constants in our lives and others are there only for a season and then are gone. I have one friend that has remained a constant in my life since high school while others have drifted away. I have been in churches from Texas to Oklahoma to Kentucky and had some very dear friends I made along the way. As time and distance have separated us, some I could call and pick up right where we left off while others I will probably never hear from again. I am grateful for those that are, have been or will be among those I call friend. Thanks for sharing a laugh or cry. It is good to know that others are on the journey and we can help shoulder one another in times of joy and despair. Friends are friends forever.
Yesterday, I saw my beloved Chargers once again fall short of winning it all. It’s nothing new as they have never ended the post-season winning. My friend Marilyn, at whose house we watched the game, is a longtime Steelers fan. She turned to me afterward and said, “I know how you feel.” I had to correct her and say, “No, you don’t, because your team has won the Super Bowl.” Unless you are a Titans, Panthers, Falcons, or Seahawks fan you don’t know how I feel. Each of these teams have made one appearance in the Super Bowl and lost. On the other hand, I have no idea how fans of the Bills, Vikings, Bengals, or Eagles feel as they have been multiple times without winning it all. Then there are the fans of the Browns, Jaguars, Texans, Lions, Saints, and Cardinals that have never even been to the Super Bowl. Besides being a Steelers fan, she also roots for the 49ers which hardly seems fair since they have 10 Super Bowls wins between them. Every team in the AFC West has won a Super Bowl and a couple have won it twice while my Chargers have yet to win the big one. I appreciate the sympathy, but to be a fan of the Chargers is to know what it means to never win it all. I remember in the 90s hoping I would live long enough to see them make it there. They did and were smashed by the 49ers. Now I hope that before I draw my last, I will see the Lombardi trophy hoisted by my team since the days of Dan Fouts and Air Coryell, the San Diego Chargers.
A new year is always a great time to look forward and think on years past. In 1969, I was the baby of the family until October when my younger brother came on the scene. In 1979, I was in middle school and trying my best to be cool. In 1989, I was in the last year in the Army and engaged to Renee. In 1999, I had just finished with my degree at Oral Roberts and working at Walmart doing overnight stocking while working part-time as a web designer. That brings us to 2009 and it is amazing how I am back working in Barstow, a town I desperately wanted to escape as a teenager. I have been married to Renee 19 years next month. Twenty years after leaving the Army, I work as a contractor overseeing environmental websites for them. I don’t know what the next 10 years will bring, but I know in whom I trust. Thanks Lord for an amazing adventure filled with friends, family, a variety of locations, and your everlasting, unconditional love.
This time of year you can always here me yelling at the TV for one reason or another. This weekend, I was yelling at the referee’s call in the San Diego-Denver game that gave what was clearly a fumble back to Denver helping decide the outcome of the game. I really enjoy watching the Chargers play, but I hate watching them lose. At least the Angels are giving me plenty to cheer for right now.