Some Bullet Point Thoughts about the School Shooting in Parkland, Florida

• Don’t just share the hashtag #PrayForParklandFlorida., or type “prayers sent”, etc. Actually, stop and pray for the families involved, the school staff, and the churches in the area as they help one another.

• Are we so self-absorbed (in the best possible usage of the term) that we really don’t care enough to begin praying bold heartfelt prayers, having meaningful conversations, and making a difference where we live?

• Don’t make this a conversation about needing more laws or more gun control. Laws do not change a heart. Laws do not fix mental illness or evil. Regardless of where you stand politically, this is not a gun issue.

• For me, the conversation is about how do we handle mental illness and the ever-increasing spiritual darkness in our nation. Like, if Jesus was here in the flesh right now, would he call that mental illness or would He cast out a demon? If we see a homeless guy running around a cemetery naked and wild (Luke 8:26-39), we would call that mental illness, but Jesus called it demonic. I’m not saying we should blame everything on a demon, and I don’t think a prayer fixes all mental illness issues, but I do believe it is both are issues, not one or the other.

• It bothers me that this type of tragedy has become common enough that we seem to have developed a numbness to it. It is “just had another school shooting”. We get more outraged over common things that happen like someone cutting us off in traffic, or our “fries being cold again” when we go through the drive-through. We get more brokenhearted over what happened on “This is Us” or when a favorite musician dies of a drug overdose.

• It bothers me that we get more vocal and passionate about the political conversations surrounding a tragedy rather than the spiritual conversations that need to be happening.

• At the end of the day, we need Jesus. Evil will always be present and active, but the spiritual apathy of supposed Christ-followers and our churches, only allows the darkness to spread. We are called to be light in the darkness. Light and darkness cannot co-exist. As light increases, darkness decreases.

“All it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing”. Apathy is killing us. Fear of offending someone is killing us. The “It’s not my problem” attitude is killing us.

 

 

Tragedy. Evil. Love Trumps Hate.

A few days ago, singer Christina Grimmie, of Voice-fame, was gunned down as she signed autographs after a concert. Then, today, Sunday, June 12th, a gunman, shouting “Allah Akbar”, murdered at least 50 people, and injured another 53 people in a packed Orlando Florida nightclub during a nearly four-hour siege from 2:00-6:00am Sunday morning, before the SWAT teams stormed the building and killed him. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack calling the gunman an “Islamic State fighter”.

One event is a senseless murder, and the other is another, equally senseless, radical Islamic terrorist attack. It was the worst terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11. Whether it’s a national-level tragedy like today, or the personal, more private tragedies that happen every single day, evil knows no boundaries. We live in a broken, dark, depraved world.

I cannot imagine the level of evil required to walk into a packed nightclub, or to a signature line, or a school, or an office party, etc and just start shooting. But I do know evil obviously exist and is intent on destruction.  I have lived in a small town (Carlinville, IL) for the past 16 years.  In that time, even our small, safe, friendly town has seen tremendous tragedy.  Beyond the young people who have died WAY to young due to car accidents, suicide,  drugs, drunk driving, or disease, we have had shootings and murder here even.  Sheer evil exist in every corner of the world, even in small hometowns where “nothing ever happens here”.

In Revelation 12:10-12 the story is told of a war in heaven, and Satan being thrown out.  It says Satan was “hurled to earth, and angels with him”.  God’s commentary was, “The accuser (Satan) has been hurled down. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

Evil will not end.  More laws, including gun control ones, do not change the human heart. Only Christ can change the human heart.  Hope is found in Christ, and in Christ alone.  Everything else will always come up short.

The best response you can make to rampant evil expressing its ugly reality is to start chasing after the heart of God full speed!  Some of you who are reading this post feel the Spirit of God stirring you right now.  You know you need to make a decision about living your life a little more intentionally.  You know God is turning your heart toward Him.  He feel him right now.  Turn tragedy into triumph!

Bring your anger, fear, and broken hearts to Him.  He is broken-hearted by what happened today too. In the midst of tragedy and absolute darkness, there is ALWAYS hope in Christ.  That doesn’t mean evil stops or goes away.  It means that the light of Christ is greater than the deepest darkness evil can create.  It doesn’t mean that the pain goes away.  It means that   Love wins!… Hope wins!… Peace wins!… because Jesus has already won!

The best way to overcome evil is to give everything to Christ.  Total, and absolute surrender.  How that passage in Rev 12 says it is “They triumphed over him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

Take something Satan mean for destruction and let God use it to transform you!

 

Condemnation NEVER Comes from God

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”  (Romans 8:1). “When he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin…” (John 16:8). “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). The topic of this article is the difference between conviction, condemnation, and repentance.

Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. Conviction always comes from God. Conviction is always specific (you lied, you made a wrong choice, your attitude is wrong, your motives are impure, etc). With conviction there is always a solution (repent, take responsibility, make restitution, etc). And conviction always produces hope and restoration (God is making a difference in you so He can make a difference through you).

God uses conviction to get our attention, to remind us of areas of our lives in need of His transformational touch, to lovingly discipline us, to restore us, to draw us closer to Himself, and ultimately to make us more like Jesus in our behaviors, attitudes, motives, and intentions. God wants to use conviction to give you life to the fullest (John 10:10) by setting you free to be all He has purposed you to be.

Condemnation, on the other hand, never comes from God. Condemnation is usually very general (you are a failure, you can’t be forgiven, you will never get out of this mess, etc). Condemnation never has a solution (you can never change, you deserve this pain, you will never be free, etc). And condemnation always intends to produce despair, depression, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.

The enemy uses condemnation to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Satan wants to destroy your hope because he knows that without hope you will not even make the effort. The enemy wants to use condemnation to keep you beat up, discouraged, afraid, and imprisoned by his lies and deceitful ways.

Repentance is the turning away from one’s sin. Repentance should be our response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is goes far beyond mere agreement with God that you have sinned. Repentance implies change. The best way I know to define repentance is as a change of mind, a change of direction, and a change of purpose. Repentance means to change one’s mind, disposition, and behavior toward God by acknowledging personal error and turning toward God’s universal, objective, constant, absolute truth as found in Scripture.

God uses repentance to help us maintain proper relationship with Him, to help us walk out the practical side of forgiveness and to follow-through with the spiritual development and life-change process, as well as to give us spiritual renewal, restoration, and refreshing.

Bottom line:  If Jesus is your Savior, you no longer have to cope with condemnation.  Jesus died on a cross to set you free from condemnation.  Every week I remind people that ALL of their sin, shame, and guilt was nailed to the cross.  When the Holy Spirit convicts you…reject condemnation….choose repentance…. and God will restore you and give you renew your hope!

Surviving the Storms of Life

Life is full of figurative storms. Some of the storms we face are financial, some are relational, and some storms regard our health, and so on. We each realize that we have either just weathered a storm, are currently in a storm, or are about to endure a storm. Storms are simply a normal part of our reality. In light of that allow me to make nine observations about the storms of life using the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water found in Matt. 14:22-33.

  1. Storms may come into the lives of Christians even though they are obeying Jesus (v.22). Life happens! God always wants to “give you life to the fullest”, and the enemy always “wants to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). Everything life and the enemy want to use to destroy you, God will use to make you exactly who He wants you to be; the testing of our faith develops perseverance. And “perseverance must finish its work so that we become mature and complete and lack nothing” (James 1:2-4).
  1. Sometimes what starts to be a routine journey can become a real battle (v.24). Have I mentioned that life happens yet?! No matter how perfect our planning process may be, we really have no idea what a day may have in store for us. Sometimes we see the storm coming…sometimes it catches us unaware and unprepared. The good news is that God is never caught off guard. He is already in your tomorrow.
  1. Times of crisis are merely opportunities for God’s intervention (v.27). God specializes in things once thought impossible! Miracles only happen in a place I call Miracle Territory. Peter could walk on the water until he got out of the boat. Get out of the boat of your comfort zone… God’s got everything under control.
  1. Sometimes God calms the storm, other times God chooses to calm the person (v.29-30). Trust Him! He knows you better than you know yourself. Good day or tough day… God always has a plan.
  1. Fear and doubt will cause a Christ-follower to sink into their circumstances (v.30). As true Christ-followers develop spiritually they learn to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Fear and doubt always paralyzes God’s redemptive potential in and through you!
  1. Jesus will respond immediately when a believer calls (v.31). When you can’t see God’s hand working on your behalf, you can always trust His heart. God will never leave you or forsake you. In your darkest moment He is there.
  1. How we respond to life’s lessons showcases our spiritual maturity (v.31). When you squeeze a lemon you get lemon juice because that is what is inside the lemon. We can present ourselves to be sweet on the good days but when we are squeezed by the storms of life what comes out is what is really inside of us.
  1. When the lesson is over, Jesus will calm the storm (v.32). What a truth!!! By the way, the lesson is over when the lesson has been learned.
  1. The level of trust you have in Jesus depends greatly on whether you see his deeds or you know His ways (v.33). God is always faith and true! His grace will always be sufficient and His power will always be immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine! You can trust Him!