We’re Kidding Ourselves

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This past week a friend of mine forwarded to me a video recording of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s response to a question regarding a comment he made about school violence. Essentially, he says the multiple shootings at schools, churches, and other public places is a cultural problem and that we are kidding ourselves if we think it can be solved by a single law or regulation.

Gov. Bevin talks about the cultural shift in America in recent decades, mostly the reality that we’re “… desensitized to the value and dignity of human life.” He identifies rampant pornography, abortion, and disrespect for women as causal factors. He also mentions violent video games, where you get points for kill counts and you slaughter people.”

“We’re desensitizing people to the value of life. We see it through the lyrics of music, television shows, and movies, through the fact that the mores of this country have changed, and the fact that we increasingly want to remove any sense of moral authority from everything.”

“In a nation where over the last 40 years we’ve aborted 50+ million children and where we have multiple states with medically assisted suicide being provided by doctors, at both ends of the life spectrum we’re losing the value for life that we once historically had.”

“Young people are increasingly becoming more suicidal and depressed because of the use of social media. All this is part of the cultural issue, why homes are broken. We need people in positions of influence to step up and call people to a higher moral authority.”

“Shame on us if we don’t sound the alarm! … You want to change the mores of a nation, remove any sense of higher responsibility, and assume the government and a piece of regulation or a rule is a solution. And then we’re shocked when these things (school shootings) happen! We’re kidding ourselves!”

His response is nearly eight minutes in length but well worth watching and hearing.

Here’s the YouTube link: http://www.kentuckynewera.com/multimedia/video/news/youtube_c2674705-960f-52ed-b8d8-9d2c34d514e4.html. You can also access this video at: Governor of Kentucky.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I believe sensible gun control and increased security in schools is sorely needed. I also agree with Gov. Bevin that unless we address the core problem of what we in the church call sin, these problems will continue. If we think only laws, regulations, and restrictions will solve our nation’s problems, we’re only kidding ourselves!

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Parkland, Florida

Observances of last week’s Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday were overshadowed by news of the latest in the ongoing series of school shootings. This one occurred Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Broward County, near Fort Lauderdale.

Seventeen students and staff lost their lives. Imagine the horrendous grief of parents and family of those who died that day and the thankful relief of those who were spared that trauma.

Anger is being directed toward the FBI, whose agents apparently received information about a comment the shooter made on YouTube: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI said they investigated but were unable to identify the person who made the comment.

The  AR-15 rifle used in the attack was purchased legally one year ago, according to a federal law enforcement official, who said: “No laws were violated in the procurement of this weapon.”

Renewed demands for gun control legislation have arisen, mostly pointed at outlawing rapid fire weapons and prohibiting people with documented mental illness from purchasing them.

Sadly, such legislation would not totally solve the problem. Unless assault weapons could be totally confiscated, people who want to use them will be able to get them, legally or illegally.

Yet what harm could come from legislative restriction that still protects the second amendment right to bear and keep arms? What need exists for American citizens to own an AR-15 or any similar weapon other than the unlikely need for self-defense against an aggressor armed with that same weapon? The exceptions are officers of the law and members of our military forces.

In 1994, U.S. Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan co-signed a letter urging the U.S. House of Representatives to support a ban on the domestic manufacture of “assault weapons” such as semi-automatic AK-47s (used in a 1989 shooting in Stockton, Cal.).

The letter said, in part: While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.

Respecting the right of any who disagree, I concur. I also believe more serious consideration should be given to training and arming carefully selected school faculty and staff.

As long as “… the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour …” (1 Pet. 5:8), deranged individuals he controls will place more people in the horrible position of mourning the loss of their victimized loved ones. Yet we have the responsibility to keep from making the mass shootings our country is experiencing way too easy for those so possessed.

Grief is love with no place to go

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Yesterday would have been my mother and father’s 79th wedding anniversary. They married Feb. 7, 1939, at Zion Lutheran Church in Alamo, Texas.

Dad went to heaven way too soon to suit Mom and the rest of our family. He was only 66 when he passed away New Year’s Day 1983. He’s been gone over 35 years.

Mother Elda, who might yet see her 102nd birthday April 10, prays every day that she would be blessed by God to join Father Martin. But her desired answer has not yet been granted.

Elda misses Martin every day and longs to be reunited with him in heaven. The rest of our family, even those who were not yet born when he passed away but have only heard lots of stories about him, miss him also. Although it would be selfish for us not to affirm Mother’s prayer that one day soon she’ll wake up in heaven, we’ll also truly miss her when she’s gone.

In a very real sense, people who lose a loved one grieve that loss. It never really goes away.

The other day I read this definition of grief: Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

Over the years our family has mostly learned to live with our grief. As the Apostles’ Creed states, we believe “in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.”

That hope in our hearts keeps us from expressing grief by curling into a fetal position or doing a catatonic rock. We simply miss the man we called “Dad.” He was a good man. Not perfect. But a dedicated Christian, hard-working provider, faithful husband, loving father and grandfather.

Most people I know can tell a similar story about grief for a loved one they’ve lost. That’s likely true in your life as well. For me, some of the most consoling words in the Bible are 1 Thess. 4:13-14, 17-18: Brothers, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who are without hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him… And so we will always be with the Lord… Therefore encourage one another with these words. 

Humanly speaking, grief is just love with no place to go. But we can do as the hymnist suggests:

I lay my griefs on Jesus, my burdens and my cares; He from them all releases; He all my sorrows shares. (Lutheran Service Book 606)

And Then It Is Winter

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For this final article in the Year of our Lord 2017, I’m sharing with you a story I’ve had in my files for some time, author unknown, slightly revised by yours truly:

Time has a way of moving quickly and catching us unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, newly married, and embarking on my new life with my new spouse.  Yet here it is, the winter of my life. How did I get here so fast? Where did all those years go?

Through the years I remember seeing older people and thinking they were years away from me. The winter of my life was so far off I could not fathom it or imagine what it would be like.

But here it is. My friends are retired and getting gray. They move slowly. Some are in better shape than I’m in. Others are in worse shape than I’m in. But like me, their age is beginning to show. I am now those older folks I used to see but never thought I’d actually be.

Taking a nap is not a treat anymore, it’s mandatory! If I don’t take one on my own, I just fall asleep where I sit!

So now I enter this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and loss of strength and ability to go and do things I wish I had done but never did!

At least I know that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last, when it’s over on this earth, it’s NOT over. A new adventure will begin! The Bible calls it heaven!

If you’re not in your winter yet, let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, do it quickly! Don’t put it off too long!

We have no promise that we will see all the seasons of our life. So live for today. Say all the things you want your loved ones to remember about your love for them, about God’s love for them, and about all the things you have done with them in all the years past!

Thus ends the story. Although I’m in the winter of my life chronologically, I feel like it’s actually still the fall. Good health is a gift of God that is often taken for granted until it’s gone.

Life is God’s gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to him and to those who come after you. It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. Today is the oldest you have ever been, yet the youngest you will ever be. So enjoy this day God has given you.

In whatever season of your life you happen to be living at this moment, Terry and I extend to you the assurance of our prayers for a blessed, healthy, and happy New Year!

 

 

Onward, Christian Soldiers

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One of my favorite ancient childhood memories is a privilege that was afforded each child in Sunday school at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Houston. All children and teachers gathered in the auditorium for a joint opening with hymn and prayer before going to our individual classes.

During that brief time the week before a child’s birthday he or she was invited to pick the hymn for that day. My favorite was Onward, Christian Soldiers. I picked it every year.

That hymn, #662 in Lutheran Service Book, is not sung very often these days. In fact, until last Wednesday’s memorial service at Faith Lutheran Church in Georgetown for John Draheim, a longtime friend of mine and Terry’s, it had been quite a while since those words had left my lips.

Verse two goes like this: “Like a mighty army moves the Church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

As I sang that verse last week, my mind wandered to the question of whether the Church of God was or was not more united in hope, in doctrine, and in charity than it is today. We know from history that the Church has often had struggles and divisions and most likely always will have.

That’s evident in the organic division among national Christian denominations and internal disharmony within denominations, including my own church body. The basic points of doctrinal agreement are accompanied by areas of disagreement. That’s simply a fact.

What gives me hope are the words of verse three: “Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the Church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that Church prevail; we have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

That’s still one of my favorite hymns!

Why?

Why?

Lots of things in life make me wonder why they happen. Some are fairly frivolous, like these:

  • Why cars worth tens of thousands of dollars are in the driveway and useless junk is in the garage.
  • Why banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counter.
  • Why the man or woman who invests all our money is called a broker.
  • Why people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.
  • Why the time of day with the slowest traffic is called rush hour.
  • Why you never see the headline Psychic Wins Lottery.
  • Why doctors and attorneys call what they do practice.
  • Why the needle for lethal injections is sterilized.
  • Why Noah didn’t swat those two mosquitoes.
  • Why there is no mouse-flavored cat food.
  • Why abbreviated is such a long word.
  • Why sheep don’t shrink when it rains.

Much more significantly, I wonder about exponentially more important matters:

  • Why a man cheats on his wife.
  • Why a woman cheats on her husband.
  • Why so many children in the world go to bed hungry.
  • Why young people, especially infants and children, die prematurely.
  • Why little children get cancer or any other debilitating or deadly disease.
  • Why deranged people kill innocent bystanders by shooting or suicidal bombing.
  • Why miscarriages occur in the life of a woman who wants deeply to become a mother.
  • Why hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes occur, causing destruction, death, and devastation.
  • Why God doesn’t intervene in our lives and intercept all suffering, disease, and natural disasters.

My Sunday school teacher taught me the answer to these questions. It’s simple. All the bad stuff that happens is the result of sin. I learned that at the seminary as well.

I get it that a specific person dies because of his or her sin. But does sin cause natural disasters? Is that the way God chooses to punish mankind for sin? I don’t like that answer. And why does one person’s sin have to take the life of another person or of many people who really are innocent bystanders? I know the answer in my head. It’s just hard for my heart to make sense of it.

When I think of the people affected by Harvey, Irma, Maria, the Mexico City earthquake, and a deranged sniper’s bullets from an automatic machine gun in Las Vegas, not to mention countless other previous manifestations of the result of sin, I simply shake my head, dry my tears, and say, “Satan, be gone! Leave us alone! Get out of here!”

My prayer is that the Lord will have mercy. And my trust is in the promise of God never to leave us or forsake us. (Deut. 31:6)

Why Do People Rebuild after a Disaster?

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This past Monday we were reminded of the traumatic events of an unforgettable day – Sept. 11, 2001. We saw images of destruction but we also saw photos of a new tower and a strikingly powerful memorial in New York City. After that disaster, rebuilding occurred.

Earlier this week I read an article by Rev. Bob Tasler (www.bobtasler.com), retired LCMS pastor living in Colorado. Much of his article is shared here with his permission.

In a Denver Post article Greg Hobbs asked: “Why do people rebuild after a disaster?” Hurricanes destroy homes, wildfires burn businesses, and floods ruin communities. But when you ask disaster survivors what they plan to do, nearly all will say, “We will rebuild again.” 

Why? Knowing another hurricane or wildfire or flood might come again, why do people continue to build in places that are prone to such disasters?

Dobbs asked a man who had lost homes in three hurricanes why he planned to rebuild again.

Instead of giving him reasons, the man asked, “Where are you from?” “Originally San Francisco,” Dobbs said. “Don’t they have earthquakes there?” “Yes, but I live in Colorado now,” Dobbs said. “Don’t y’all have wild fires in Colorado?” said the man. Yes, Dobbs told him, in 2012 and 2013 Colorado lost over a thousand homes to forest fires, and most of them rebuilt their homes again.

Communities along the Mississippi are destroyed by floods, but they rebuild again. People from Oklahoma and Kansas see homes and towns torn apart by tornadoes, but they, too, rebuild. Colorado has had enormous hailstorms destroy homes, autos and buildings, but people still rebuild. Dobbs concluded his article, “If one doesn’t get you, another might.”

Why do we rebuild in those places again? My Dad once told me, “Everyone has to be somewhere.” So simple, yet so true. With seven billion people on our planet, everyone has to be somewhere, and there is no place without some danger.

I’ve got some bad news: Humans are responsible for all these disasters. Yup, it’s all our fault, but not for the reasons climate alarmists would have us believe.

The original perfection of our world has been messed up by sin. Genesis 3 tells us God cursed the ground because of mankind’s rebellion. Because of our sin, individually and corporately, we people have pain and suffering, no matter where we live. Thorns and thistles, work and sweat, pain of childbirth and families, all will be the lot of mankind until we return to the dust from which we were taken. That’s the reason for the disasters, not plastic or coal or carbon dioxide.

But there is good news. God has promised us not only forgiveness, but also a new heaven and a new earth in the future, where “God’s dwelling place is among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Meanwhile, we live and rebuild and do our best to find joy in the life God has given us. The new heavens and new earth will come because of God’s goodness in Jesus Christ. He will one day give His followers a more perfect existence. I look forward to that day with great hope!

May God protect and defend all who face disaster, and bring them new life and hope!