Marshall County High: When Logic Fails

marshall-logo

marshall-logo

It happened again today in Western Kentucky. Once again we have been shaken to our core by just how fallen this fallen world is. No matter how many times we are confronted by an up close and personal outworking of evil, we are jarred by it. I pray to God that we never get used to it.

Western Kentucky is home to me. I wasn’t born there, but I raised a family there. I spent 23 years there, longer than I ever lived anywhere in my life. I love the place and its people. My son graduated from Marshall County High, he loved his time there. The people are good, the families love deeply, I would describe the region as one of the most beautiful I have ever lived in and I have lived lots of places.

So it’s impossible to put into words why this wonderful place must suffer these atrocities. Tragically, it isn’t only shootings this community and the region has endured. They’ve experienced other tragedies that are equally breathtaking, but it seems disrespectful of the victims and their families to list them here. Those who live there know what I’m talking about.

As a Christian I feel a sense of responsibility. I feel as if I must come up with some theological explanation or words of comfort that are big enough and deep enough to offset the hurt. But at 54 I’ve finally learned that there are no such words. Not now. Not this soon after.

There is an overarching truth however, and I cling to that. No, its more than that. I base the entirety of my life upon it.  Namely, that Christ is on his throne, and he will come again someday and set everything to right.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelations 21:3-5

Love wins. No matter how many times these horrid things happen, that’s not just an abstraction or some pie in the sky hippie phrase or wishful thinking. It is as Schaffer called it, True truth. Love does win. In the coming days it will win in Marshall County and in the coming age it will win all.

I dare not compare anything in my experience to the pain these families are feeling tonight, but I’ve seen it. I was a small boy when I saw the face of evil, up close, personal. I experienced it again a few years later and I still have the scars to prove it. But it was only a few weeks after that, at a Christian concert that Jesus Christ rode into my life on a white horse. He drove the hurt and pain away and he’s never left me nor forsaken me since that time. Everything’s not been perfect but I’ve never been alone in the valley. Love wins. Over time and applied liberally enough, it will win in Marshall County and in time it will win the world.

Beyond that, there is no logical explanation. We needn’t look for one. Evil is illogical. It is senseless. I look forward with great anticipation to its defeat.

Never, ever, ever, ever, surrender

I did a short post the other day that I would not longer be doing political commentary. Don’t take that to mean that I have ANY intention of backing down from the fight for our nation, our culture, and the hearts and minds of our citizens and community. I will never surrender. I am just going to use different tactics outside federal politics. The keyword there is federal. And I shouldn’t say I will NEVER write about the federal government or political candidates again. If a viable third party arises I might or if Ted Cruz or a Conservative like him (Ben Sasse) makes a presidential run, I would.

But Presidential politics and its cabal with the media is just too broken for me to waste my energy on any further. Trump’s nomination will be proof of that. If this nation nominates him in the midst of all these crises we are facing, then the electorate is worse off and more easily manipulated than I thought.

On Refugees, Christian Duty, and Moral High Horses

I don’t have time to write my own thoughts about the Syrian Refugee crisis. Other duties demand my attention for the next couple of weeks. But my friend Richard Nelson, who I have previously co-authored with, does an excellent job of summarizing my stand here. The uncharitable behavior I have seen on Facebook in recent days aimed by Christians at other Christians is disappointing to say the least. Funny how those who advocate for compassion towards refugees, seem a bit short on that compassion for their fellow American Christian brethren who may hold a different opinion on the efficacy of the screening process and of the magnitude of the security risk. Also, since when is bringing the refugees to America the only option available to us? There is much more we can do to provide aid and relief to these people who we all agree have great needs other than that.

What I Witnessed on the Banks of the Jordan

digital rendering of a lighthouse

Last week my family and my church experienced tragedy that we could barely conceive when we lost our youth pastor Michael Cruce, his wife Monica, and their two teen sons Joshua and Caleb. The pain was nothing short of breathtaking. I made the trek down to the banks of the Jordan where the living can’t cross, and now, two weeks later, I am still moved by what I witnessed there.

I witnessed a little girl in foster care that the Cruce family had taken into their home over a year ago and who they had loved so dearly and sweetly, not traveling with them. The foster care service had to place her with another family during the Cruce’s vacation time. The center unknowingly placed her with close friends of Michael and Monica, friends the little girl had known and loved. She is with them still.

Having been asked to serve as media spokesman, I witnessed miracles when individuals in the media, most of whom cover tragedy daily, were so touched that they cried as we spoke. There was the eye contact with a deputy who led the funeral procession in which he projected great compassion and sympathy. Dozens of adults, who had once rebelled against what Michael and Monica taught, came to the funeral and spoke eloquently of the positive impact the couple had on their lives. And then there were emails and texts, thousands and thousands of them, from around the world.

People die every day in this sometimes cruel world, so why did these four humble people, who never sought celebrity or limelight, touch so many on such a deep level in both life and death?

One might guess that it was because they were “nice” and that they did good deeds or they genuinely cared about people. All of that is true, but it seems an inadequate explanation. Perhaps a connection was made because they were innocent victims. But tens of thousands of innocents die daily in wars and conquests, yet this loss of life doesn’t seem to connect strangers across space and time.

The loss of this family did.

This leads to another question. How could the pain of this horrible tragedy be constantly interrupted by the beauty of love that this family gave or received?

Suppose for a moment that what Michael, Monica, and the boys believed were true. Suppose that the primary ethic that they dedicated every waking hour to wasn’t just their opinion, or their way of making sense of it all, or their selection from a cornucopia of hundreds of supposedly equivalent belief systems? Instead what if what they believed was really, really, real? What if, rather than having simply chosen a path, the Cruces had instead reached a point where they grasped the ultimate reality of the universe as it exists?

What if there really was a benevolent creator God instead of an angry deity, ready to rain down punishment that some belief systems speak of? This God doesn’t cause car wrecks that kill, or diseases that ravage, instead, he created a paradise for humans, his creatures, to thrive in. But something went horribly wrong and a contagion called sin entered the heart of created man. What if, as Natalie Grant brilliantly wrote in her lyrics, the sacred had been torn away from us because of sin yet we had all survived. Only now the Creator who is holy and the Paradise which is perfect and does not contain sin, is separated from us by a vast chasm. Chesterton likened our time here on earth to Robinson Crusoe. We are forced to make do as best we can with the good things that were left behind from the ship, from the paradise.

But God doesn’t just leave us here to fend for ourselves. In addition to the good things in life, the provisions, God gave us a more important provision that can breach the chasm and connect us with him. If we accept this provision, his son Jesus Christ, we can relate to him from here in the foreign land where we are shipwrecked.

If all that were true, wouldn’t it explain an inherent connection between us, the creatures? If we are all created by this same God and we all became stranded in this foreign land in the same manner, then that would explain eighteen thousand social media messages from around the world. That would explain how, as I stood on the bank of the Jordan, along with others who were seemingly strangers, we felt a deep connection. All of us were connected because we were stranded there, unable to cross, shipwrecked as it were. Therefore the compassion from a deputy, the kinship with a reporter as tears streamed down our faces, the massive relief that a little foster girl would be loved, are much more than mere empathy. Instead they are deep connections that we the created, share. This passing reminded us of our mortality but more than that it reminded us of a common past and a potential future. At the same time the beauty of these connections, and the balm they provided in the midst of great pain, were gifts that allowed us to have a peek back across that river, toward home and the love that we can know there.

C.S. Lewis wrote of these moments. I conclude with his words:

 

In speaking of this desire for our own faroff

country, which we find in ourselves

even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am

almost committing an indecency. I am

trying to rip open the inconsolable secret

in each one of you—the secret which hurts

so much that you take your revenge on it

by calling it names like Nostalgia …

The secret also which pierces with such sweetness that

when, in very intimate conversation, the

mention of it becomes imminent, we grow

awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves;

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty

and behave as if that had settled the matter.

 

The moments of compassion in which we

thought the beauty was located will betray us if

we trust to them. The beauty was not in them it only

came through them. And what came through them was longing.

longing for the scent of a flower we have not yet found

for the echo of a tune we have not yet heard

longing for a country that we have not yet visited.

Little Chapel, Harrisburg

I had a wonderful experience at Little Chapel in Harrisburg Illinois this past Sunday night. I don’t know what it is about this community but they have always been so gracious to me and supportive. This was my 4th trip to speak there in the past few years and my first at Little Chapel. I have also met with the book club there which is always very enjoyable.

Don’t let the name fool you, Little Chapel is not little. It was a large modern church with an excellent praise band and a great facility. Pastor Ed Neoneon was a wonderful host and mentor. I have enjoyed getting to know him through some phone conversations and emails. He came up and prayed for me both before and after my talk. I find that so uplifiting when a pastor does that. I know all prayers are powerful but there is something special about being prayed for by a body of believers who are in agreement with the prayer. Special mention to my friend and former co-worker David Martin. David introduced his pastors to me and what I am trying to do and I am most grateful.

Regarding current events, I shared a quote with the congregation, here is part of that quote. The writer is speaking about the Christians living in ancient Rome and how Paul exhorted them:

Thus the apostle wrote to Chritians living in Rome, living in a culture every bit as decadent and depraved as our own, our television having become like their games, spectacles of eroticism and violence….

This latest killing by the movie producers son makes me think of that quote. How many of these monsters must we create before the culture at large sees the error of our current trajectory? How many have we already created that have not yet acted on their evil intentions.

Recognize something. This is not sickness, though the boy apparently had a condition. It is not a result of the gun or in this case the knife he used as a weapon. This is what evil looks like when it is given an open invitation to be a constant companion in a life.

The culture bombards these kids with filth and violence and this is the result. It’s not that Satan has a foothold in a young life, it is that he has established permanent residence with no let up. Like you, I ask, where are the parents? But this is so pervasive now…all you can do is arm the child with the sword, shield and helmet that Paul wrote about and pray with fervor that they hold fast to those when they are out of your sight.

And make no mistake. None of us are immune. Not now. Not in this culture. The escape for the Christian male television viewer used to be sports. But try watching a game now. Try and avoid the borderline pornography in a hamburger commercial for Pete’s sake!  As for violence, any detective show or crime scene show now has as much profanity and violence as the worst R movie of ten years ago. Beloved this DOES have an affect on you. It does on me.

In my writing, it is so tempting to fall into the trap. “make this scene a little steamy” the voice says, “You will sell more books that way.” Or “Make this scene a little more bloody, it seems too mild the way it is now.”

That’s because we have all become so desensitized.

I’ve been listening to Dr. Ben Carson lately on his book tour. He has done a lot of radio interviews. His Mom took control of her two boys when he was young and only allowed two television programs a week. The rest of the time they had to read books. I am thinking Mrs. Carson may have been on to something. I’ve set a summer goal of reading one non-fiction and one fiction book a month this summer. Hard to do while writing another book myself. But so far I have read three in the month of May.

I’ll close with a reminder from Pilgrim’s Progress. The words belong to Hope and he is describing when he first had to confront his sin. It applies to all of us and what we let into our eternal souls through the window of our eyes:

“I endeavored, when my mind first began to be shaken by the Word, to shut mine eyes against the light thereof.”

If You Want to Enjoy A Wonderful Easter

Please join us this Sunday for a very special Easter Worship Service this Sunday at Rosebower Baptist Church in Reidland. We have just celebrated the one year anniversary of our new Pastor Justin Mason and are so excited about the ways that we see God moving in our midst.

I anticipate a great service on this the most special of all holidays. The day Christ conquered death!! Please join us. Services are 9:45 Sunday School and 10:45 Worship. I would love to have you visit the SS class I teach. Co-Ed’s for Christ. We are on the second floor. Anyone can point you in the right direction.

Review: God’s Not Dead

God Is Not Dead

God Is Not Dead

 

My wife and I just got back from watching the movie “God Is Not Dead”. I won’t spoil the story for you by telling you much about the plot itself. I will say I went in with some fears and some preconceived notions. I am happy to report that my fears were not realized and my preconceptions were wrong.

One of the things I work hard to avoid in all my writing is producing pabulum (that’s a bland cereal baby food for you younger generation folk). Let’s face it, the squeaky clean, everybody gets saved by the end of the story, stereotype has plagued Christian entertainment more often than not. I was afraid God Is Not Dead would fall into that trap. Likewise, sometimes the quality of production of Christian movies is much lower than the average Hollywood fare.

This movie avoided the stereotypes and I thought the acting was a cut above many Christian movies I have seen. (Don’t get me wrong, I liked all those movies too for what they were.)

This was one of the better Christian movies I’ve seen and the producers made the absolute most of their 120 minutes. I speak most often on Christian apologetics myself. And I applaud the screen writers for touching at least a bit on each of the primary arguments in favor of a creator God and against atheism. They even had the courage to strongly contrast the loving God of Christianity with the Allah of Islam. I am actually amazed that this movie even made it into theaters. But I am glad it did.

There were some things that we could pick apart that I didn’t care for in the screenplay but these were not theological in nature, more story teller issues and they were minor and not worth mentioning here.

I highly recommend this movie.