Two Ways for Christians to Respond to the Orlando Shooting

4045383465_f22759e77d_z As we woke up to the news of massacre and carnage in Orlando, the event shocked the consciences of the American people. The news of another mass shooting in our country has become all to familiar in recent years. Yet, the catastrophe yesterday marks the largest shooting in American history—a record that no one wanted to see broken. As our eyes glued themselves to the news outlets for the latest updates, our inquisitive hearts long for answers. As the law enforcement officials report more information in the days to come, what can we as Christians do in response to this havoc?

Already, the opportunists have jumped to political solutions, using the Orlando slaughter as a chance to propel an agenda. We want to do something to stop the shootings that recur so frequently, so such reactions are understandable. So calls for the regulation of gun control and the ban of radical Islamists have already overtaken the tragedy. Though we should explore political solutions to this persistent problem in our country, I would suggest the church should take a different approach. Before we jump to the politicization of the event, may we first mourn with the hurting and proclaim the hope of Christ.

Mourn with the Hurting

Many are hurting—The friends and family of the victims, the LGBT community, peaceful muslims, the city of Orlando, and more. Before we rush to judgement or vocalize our disagreements with any of those communities, the church must weep with those who weep. We mourn with those who mourn. We must identify ourselves with the brokenhearted, sharing tears with all.

Though our ears still ring with the shell shock of this news, we must offer our compassion and tears for those affected by this abominable attack. God birthed the church out of the afflictions of our savior. In his prophecy, Isaiah called the messiah the suffering servant. Jesus identified with us in his incarnation, becoming human just as we are. The messiah shared in our sufferings and experienced the horrors of sin and evil unleashed upon the world. As Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, God experienced the terror of bloody murder. God became a victim and aligns himself with the oppressed and marginalized, all for the forgiveness of human sin.

Just as Jesus shared in our sufferings, so too should we share in the sufferings of those around us. We must display compassion, love, and hope for those families of the victims, coming alongside them and sharing in their grief.

Proclaim the Hope of Christ

Not only must we mourn with the hurting, we must also proclaim the hope of Christ. Jesus identifies with the weeping, but he also came to stop all the weeping. The rampage in Orlando unsettles us, serving as a poignant reminder that the world is not as it should be. The evil and hate that can fill the heart of a man to open fire in a crowded room reminds us of that. Something is seriously wrong with the world. The fault line of this world cannot be filled by shuffling political dirt. The tectonic plates of sin continue to quake the earth with unspeakable acts of evil. The restraining grace of God provides the only explanation for why the world is as stable as it is. Human remedies cannot solve the virus that is human sin.

Yet, the cross of Christ not only displays Jesus’ identification with our suffering, but proclaims victory over our suffering. God sent his son to save sinners like us, but also to restore the broken world to its original and perfect design. The Gospel involves individual restoration, but the good news expands to the entire cosmos. Yes, Christ shares in our weeping, but he also stops the weeping. This is the tension we live in as Christians between the times. The kingdom of God is here now, arriving with Christ himself two thousand years ago. Yet, the kingdom has not yet been fully realized, and won’t be until Christ comes again. Jesus’ arrival marks the inauguration of his kingdom, but that kingdom has yet to be fully consummated. As Jesus endures the sufferings of the cross, his resurrection breaks the back of our enemies sin and death, but there final defeat has yet to come. Though the kingdom of darkness continues to squirm, we must proclaim the hope that Christ has won the day on that resurrection morning and that he is coming soon. The day will soon come when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)

As our nation processes the carnage from Sunday, may we mourn with the hurting and proclaim the hope of Christ. Though blood stains the floors of Pulse in Orlando, Jesus is alive and he is coming soon. As we mourn with the brokenhearted, may we proclaim the hope of Christ and in our sorrow may our longing for his return grow evermore in our hearts.

The Impossibility of Worldview No Man's Land

Today's public square permeates with verbal violence. Each side gathers a group of like minded people and lob ad hominem arguments to the enemy. Whether the issues are political, philosophical, or theological, every one talks past one another. As a result, the public square reverberates with the war cries of sectarian factions as the verbal arrows of attack fly across the public square. The goal of civil conversation quickly declines into barbarian assault. Is there any hope for renewal and civility in our public dialogue with one another, or are we doomed to watch talking heads argue with tweet-able one-liners for the foreseeable future? Is there any hope for the recovery of rhetoric and courtesy on the issues of utmost importance?

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All is not lost, but if we hope to make the war-ravaged public square a place of lively, substantive conversation, we must identify and recognize the differing worldviews that make up our pluralistic culture. We must not demonize, but empathize with those whom we disagree with the most. Rather than creating straw men or defacing a caricature of our opponents, we must seek a mutual understanding no matter how wide the gap of our differences. This requires both patience and love: patience, because these conversations take time and cannot happen over 140-character-tweets or the few minutes between commercial breaks, and love, because we must care enough about our neighbor to truly understand his or her own position, motivations, and desires.

If we seek to truly understand one another and engage in a substantive way, we must understand the worldview of our conversation companions. Yet, many are blind to their own worldview let alone aware of the worldview of the person to which they speak. If we fail to recognize the differing worldview presuppositions, our conversations will fail to take off, and only sputter in futility.

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Worldview no mans land does not exist. Everybody has one. No one can argue from a place of neutrality as we stand on our own presuppositions no matter how firm or mushy they may be. The man who thinks he can argue from neutrality will never contribute reasonably to any philosophical or theological debate as he lives in a idealistic, self-centered world of fiction. To discuss important issues meaningfully requires that we possess the courage to confess our own biases. Only then will we have a conversation that is both substantial and above all charitable.

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Worldviews are inextricably theological. Every person has their own answers to the big questions of life. Why does the world exist and how does it exist? Is there a God, if so who is he (or she)? What is the fundamental problem of human beings? For what purpose is the universe moving towards? How a person answers those questions determines the worldview. Christians answer those questions a very particular way. We believe that God exists in Trinity as the creator who redeems fallen humanity through the incarnate and resurrected Christ, the true King who will restore and renew this broken world to the praise of his glory. Knowing the gospel lens of the Christian worldview, will help us identify the similarities and differences of alternate worldview, whether Islamic, pantheistic, or atheistic.

So, may we lend our ear to our opponents and study the presuppositional ground on which they stand. May we understand their own fish bowl so we can perceive the worldview environment in which their ideas come forth. Christians above all must love our neighbors well by observing the shelter of ideas our opponents have constructed around themselves. To use the words of Francis Schaeffer, our goal then as Christians in the public square is to remove the unstable roof of their worldview, exposing the inconsistencies and holes in their thinking in hopes of showing the reasonableness of the Christian worldview. Perhaps Schaeffer's apologetic method outlined in his book The God Who Is There would best be saved as a post for another day, but before we as Christians can hope to engage in the public square we must understand the differing worldview of those around us, listening both with patience and love, then may we see less verbal arrows and more civil conversation.

Sanctity of Human Life: How the Gospel Compels Us to Take Action

On Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we pause to remember the intrinsic value of every person and call the church to action to take up the cause of life. We must take action because the gospel compels us to action. The gospel is the good news of Jesus which speaks of the kingdom of God, the rule of Christ over the cosmos, and the restoration of this broken world. The gospel ushers in a new resurrection-reality that brings redemption, forgiveness, and love to sinners. The good news fuels our motivation to care for the fatherless, particularly the unborn. Foetus-435110

The scriptures tell us that we are orphans. The Scriptures speak of God’s love as a loving father who adopts us and brings us into his family. Spiritually, everyone of us is an orphan, abandoned to our sins, exposed in eternal suffering, and hungry for love and family. As the lamenter Jeremiah said, “We have become orphans, fatherless” (Lam 5:3).

Though we are poor orphans, God cares for the marginalized. He sees us in our lowly estate; he sees our suffering; he sees our hunger, and he chooses to adopt us as his children. He sent Jesus, his own son, to purchase us and bring us into his family. Our salvation tells one beautiful story of adoption. The story of the Bible describes a loving Father who sacrificed everything to love his children. He spared no expense, even if it meant the sacrifice of his only-begotten son.

Yet, even though Jesus has been raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father, God did not abandon us like orphans. Rather, now we have the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18, ESV). He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit until Christ returns for us.

These glorious Gospel truths amazes us. If you are a Christian, you’ve received the adopting love of God. How amazing it is that God’s love would descend to choose broken, unwanted orphans like us. Though you may feel unwanted, good for nothing, and worthless, God the Father declares: “I love you. I want you. Become my child, and let me become your father. Come enjoy the warmth of my embrace and enjoy your inheritance as my son or daughter.” You want that kind of love. I want that kind of love. If you want to become a son or daughter of God, he invites you into his family today. He calls you to turn from your sin and trust in his son Jesus Christ for your salvation. Come to the Father through the son, and enjoy the privileges of being a child of God.

So when we become a child of God, we are called to action. We spread the kingdom of God and share in our Father’s care for the orphan. As Paul would write in Ephesians, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV). James write, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, ESV). James tells us that one of the ways we prove to be a part of the family of God, is that we obey God. Disobedience to the command of God indicates spiritual deception. Our obedience proves our son-ship.

As we think about the sacredness of human life, how does the Gospel compels us to do something? What motivates us to action? Let me suggest five ways.

First, we are compelled by gratitude. As we think about all that God has done for us, we cannot help but be grateful, and that gratefulness leads us to obedience.

Second, we are compelled by love. We want to imitate God, be like him in his care for the least of these. As God has loved us, we love others. Children are like their fathers, and the church should by like God. We share in the care of God for the least of these. Indeed, we are an extension of the love of God.

Third, we are compelled by God’s Kingdom. The kingdom of God speaks to our individual salvation on a micro level, but on a macro level it speaks to the restoration of the cosmos. God will renew all things and restore all things before sins corroding influence on the world. As citizens of God’s kingdom and members of his family, we are compelled to see his kingdom advance.

Fourth, we are compelled by the Great Commission. We do justice and serve the least of these as a part of our Great Commission work to make disciples. Social justice goes awry, when we forget that people need Jesus. Out of love and compassion, let us care for the marginalized, but let us also take the Gospel message with us, inviting all people to trust Christ as the savior and king.

Fifth, we are compelled by God’s glory. At the end of the day, this is the ultimate motivation for all we do. We want to make God’s name famous through all the earth. We want his rule to spread, his kingdom to come. We want the nations to be glad and sing for joy, as all of the cosmos sings in climatic praise to God!

Millenial Angst: Adele, Getting Older, and Discontentment

Adele captures the consciousness of the millennial generation better than any other musical artist. Her latest album 25 reflects on themes of growing up, as her twenties fade and a new decade begins. As I've been listening to Adele's latest album, perhaps my favorite song is When We Were Young. She sings,

Let me photograph you in this light In case it is the last time That we might be exactly like we were Before we realized We were sad of getting old It made us restless I'm so mad I'm getting old It makes me reckless

As more millennials enter into their late twenties and early thirties they are bombarded by restlessness. We're getting older. Our twenties dawned with roaring optimism, filled with idealistic dreams of love and success, yet as the years wane that bitter reality has turned that roaring optimism into a reckless restlessness. Life did not end up the way we thought it would or rolled out the way that we planned. The last few years left us only with broken hearts and crushed dreams.

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Back during our freshmen year of college, we were brimming with hope. The world was our oyster, filled with endless possibilities. The idea of independence, freedom, and adulthood seemed like a dream too good to be true. We longed to grow up, but as we entered into adulthood we’ve discovered it rather mundane. Our lives have become rather monotonous: we wake up, go to work, parent toddlers, watch Netflix, and go to bed early. Rinse and repeat. The exhaustion of this never-ending routine leaves many longing for something more. The millennial angst and disillusionment leaves us scratching our heads and picking up our hearts, wondering if there might be anything to provide meaning and purpose to our daily lives.

It is in this angst, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ enters into our restlessness and balms our burning hearts with his grace. Only Christ gives meaning to the mundane,  joy to the broken hearted, and hope for those in a quarter-life-crises. Though our lives may not have panned out as we hoped, Jesus gives purpose to our disappointments. Perhaps we have not advanced to where we want to be in our career or have yet to find our perfect spouse. Even still, Jesus gives something that we millennials desperately need: contentment.

It is no secret that millennials are not a very religious bunch. Yet, I believe that as more and more millennials enter into their child-rearing years, our discontentment will grow for something more. I pray that the disillusionment that so many feel will morph into a spiritual brokenness. The puritan Jeremiah Burroughs highlights this truth in his work The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,

God has broken your estate; Oh seek to him for the breaking of your heart likewise. Indeed, a broken estate and a whole heart, a hard heart, will not join together; there will be no contentment. But a broken estate and a broken heart will so suite one another, as that there will be more contentment than there was before.

So brokenness is the first step to true contentment. Millennial angst could very well give way to a spiritual revival among this generation. When we finally realize that the promises of advertisers are just a sham and that living for yourself only brings disappointment, then and only then can we find refreshment in the fount of Christ. He is the only source of lasting contentment.

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Burroughs goes on to say in the same book,

It is not by having his own desires satisfied, but by melting his way and desires into God's will. So that, in one sense, he comes to have his desires satisfied though he does not obtain the thing that he desired before; still he comes to be satisfied with this, because he makes his will to be at one with God's will.

As the idealistic plans of so many millennials melt away, I pray they will surrender their wills to God. As our wistful dreams crack and decay into the reality in which we live, may we freely give up our life and find true life, true contentment in Jesus himself. As Jesus said,“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25).

Your Presidential Candidate Isn't the Messiah

Did you know it was election season? I jest, after all, how could you not? Every time you flip on the news you hear some talking head babbling about some presidential candidate. You scroll through Facebook and find one "friend" after another spewing their adoration for their favorite candidate. The buzz of election year creates hope within the heart of every American; the glamorous pageant of democracy sparkles with messianic colors. 21-2016ers1

Every presidential election cycle dominates the cultural conversation, particularly our current cycle. After all, so much of our nations future depends on the man or woman who sits in the oval office. The president of the United States wields incredible authority and influence. In many ways, politics has become the new American religion. David Gelertner recently wrote in an article entitled What Explains the Vicious Left? that "For most conservatives, politics is just politics. For most liberals, politics is their faith, in default of any other; it is the basis of their moral life." He describes how for many on the left, committed to secularism, politics has replaced the basis of their faith. Therefore, they defend their political position with religious zeal. I think he is on to something, but I would suggest that politics has become a religion not only for liberals, but for conservatives as well—including evangelicals.

As you listen to political commentators on both sides and as you watch the cut-throat political commentary on social media, people tend to think of their candidate with Messianic implications. Whether its Cruz or Trump, Bernie or Hillary, the fiery zeal of their supporters promote these politicians with Messianic expectations. Each side hopes that their candidate will usher in a new era of our country, accomplishing their idealistic vision for the country. As secularism increases, politics has filled the spiritual vacuum. If we are not careful, Christians can get swept away with the political enthusiasm and find ourselves inadvertently looking to the wrong Messiah.

No matter where you land on the political spectrum, every presidential candidate will disappoint, whether you are a Regan conservative or a democratic socialist. Both the conservative and liberal ideologue will find themselves disappointed, even if there candidate wins. There is only one messiah and his name is Jesus. Only the preminant creator, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation can reconcile all things, making peace by the blood of the cross (See Col 1:15-19). Our hope rests on the arrival of the coming of the kingdom of God, not in the prosperity of the kingdom of America. Let us not confuse the two.

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So should Christians just avoid politics, stick our heads in the sand, and ignore the incredible issues that plague our nation? No, not at all. As sojourners in Babylon we should "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile" (Jer 29:7). We should work in the realm of politics, debate in civility concerning the future of our great nation, and cast our votes for presidential candidates. Yet, as we do, we must make very clear to the lost and dying work that our messiah is not a presidential candidate, but a Jewish man from Nazareth—the Lord Jesus Christ.