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Month: December 2015

Could Sex End Gun Violence?

Could Sex End Gun Violence?

There’s been a lot of anticipation surrounding the newest Star Wars film, which came out this past weekend. There is little doubt that the hype has overshadowed some other recent releases. One film in particular that caught my attention was Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” which is an adaptation of the Greek myth, Lysistrata. If you’re not familiar with Lysistrata it’s about a woman who persuades other women to withhold sex from men in order to put an end to the Peloponnesian War. In his movie, Lee posits the same strategy when it comes to gun violence in America.

Full disclosure, I hchi-raqaven’t seen the film, and judging from the preview it doesn’t look like wholesome family entertainment, but the plot does present a provoking thought. Sex is one of the strongest forces in human nature. God created people with strong desires for sex, in large part to encourage procreation (Genesis 1:28). The engine of sexual desire is so powerful that it often runs people off the tracks. Men (and, yes, often males) have found plenty of ways to distort true sexual happiness into twisted forms like: pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and others. Everyday, tons of people make horrible choices regarding sex which they end up regretting, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Even the strongest Christians falter and fail when it comes to sexual sins. The temptations of these sins are so powerful that the Lord’s simple advice is just to run away from the very thoughts (2 Timothy 2:22).

If ever there was a time in history when sexual desires ruled, it would be today. An improper use of sex is at the core of our nation’s greatest ailments. A few examples: The majority of abortions happen as a result of people who want the pleasure of sex without the commitment, responsibility, and maturity that it requires. The spread of AIDS is largely due to casual sex. Divorces often happen because of sexual problems leading to subsequent brokenness in families. A broken family can lead to a whole host of others hardships.

The sexual desires behind these problems are so strong that most people have given up trying to curb them. Kids are now encouraged to use condoms, not to wait for marriage. Just about every popular television show or movie romanticizes a sinful use of sex. We literally could end the spread of the AIDS virus, but people just can’t, or won’t, say no. Instead, they want a medical cure so that they can continue having loose sex without physical consequences. According to a CDC study from 2014, 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases are reported each year in America, and that’s only the ones actually reported. STDs also contribute to $16 billion annually in medical expenses.

On-demand abortion has been legal since 1973, accounting for the greatest loss of American life – 57 million and counting each day. To give you some perspective, that’s roughly 56 million more than the combined combat deaths of American soldiers since 1776. Think of that next time you see the rows upon rows of tombstones at a military cemetery. To salve their consciences, abortion supporters have twisted logic around to say they’re really fighting for women’s health. Please tell me when greater death ever led to better health, wellness, life, or whatever you want to call it? Others have chosen to call the baby a “fetus” in order to distance themselves from its humanity, even though modern technology shows that life exists from conception.

How do people believe such outrageous lies? Answer: the power of sex. Wherever strong desires exist people will find ways to weasel around the truth. Now there’s nothing wrong with supporting AIDS medical research, providing healthcare for those who suffer from STDS, or speaking out against gun violence. But it’s hypocritical, and ultimately self-defeating, to do so while leaving loopholes for the sinful actions and lifestyles that are perpetuating the issues. Whatever semblance of morality exists under such a platform is quickly found to be hollow when the core problem of sin is continually ignored or excused.

So, could Lee’s premise work? If women refused to have sex with men, could it change society for the better? Could it end, or at least seriously deter, gun violence? I doubt we’ll ever find out, but even if it could it would only be a temporary patch on a very small wound. It’s ironic what happens when humans put their own spin on God’s original plan. Oftentimes, human morality is similar to God’s will, and sometimes it shares many of the same characteristics. But human morality is never willing to give up the big things; things like sexual sins. God has designed a moral way to have sex. It’s called marriage – one man, one woman, for life. It’s really not complicated at all. If we would but follow that single principle, so many of our problems would go away.

minds_8344cpIt’s not as easy as it sounds, though, is it? Because of sin, the strong desire for sex now works against us daily. That doesn’t mean all sex is wrong. It also doesn’t mean we should get a self-righteous attitude against those who are caught in these sins, because no one is completely innocent. The solution is not to defiantly preach the Word of God while shunning those suffering from sexual sins. But at the same time no one ever cleaned his dirty laundry by trying cover it up, pretending that it didn’t exist, or even withholding something until others did it for him. That’s true literally and figuratively. The more we cover up the bitter truth of sin, and the great devastation it causes in our lives, the further we drift from God. In Christ, we have hope to be more than than our desires, our lusts, and our sins; because we are forgiven.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When it comes to positive changes in our culture, the influence of sex cannot be ignored. But if we’re serious about change, we have to do more than tweak our own version of morality for a time and then return to the status quo. When it comes to the temptations, especially those of a sexual nature, it’s nothing short of spiritual arrogance if we think we can control them on our own, and even use them to our advantage. God alone has power over sin, and He’s proven it by defeating it on the cross. Any control we can exercise over sin is solely a product of His grace as it comes in to us in His Word.

That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Spike Lee is right about one thing, just as his movie poster states. We are living in a world that makes us feel like there’s “no peace.” The lack of peace can be blatant, like gun violence. But it’s also subtle, like the war of temptations in the heart. However, there is peace but it’s is not acquired by withholding sex, as the poster so eloquently implies by the subsequent word-play, “no piece.” True peace comes through a much deeper yet also much simpler way. It’s a peace that first exists in a heart that doesn’t hide or make excuses for wicked behaviors, but rather believes that Jesus Christ can freely take them away.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).”

Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and Prayers

A pastor nkneel_8737cever quite knows what his day is going to be like. You plan and schedule things, but you need to be flexible because changes spring up out of nowhere. On Wednesday, as I was preparing for our Advent service I received a phone call from a woman who was brought to tears. Her brother recently committed suicide and her mother had passed away from cancer a few months before. She also has suffered from: drug use, bi-polar disorder, diabetes, and depression. We talked for a while about things in her life; what she’s currently going through and what she needs to fix. And obviously, we also talked about God.

Whenever the topic of God came up the conversation always  reverted back to one thing for this woman – prayer. She talked about how often she prayed, how concerned she was that God wasn’t listening, how close she was to giving up, and so on. She was ready to call it quits with God because He apparently hadn’t answered her prayers. As a Christian, I’d have a hard time encouraging anyone not to pray. But, the more I see and hear about how people view prayer, the more discouraged I get. There’s obviously nothing bad or wrong about prayer, God implores us to use it in our lives and it is a most precious and vital resource. But we need to take care of how we use that gift and how we understand it.

For this woman, her individual prayers composed the foundation of her relationship with God. This conversation made me think about several of the recent tragedies in America and across the world, and how after all of them you hear the same response: “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.” I would never withhold thoughts and prayers from someone, especially those suffering, but are they all I can give? Are thoughts and prayers even the best thing? When people are led to believe that prayer is the most important part of their faith, they will eventually despair. The truth is, there’s much more to Jesus and my faith than the communication I offer to God. Chief of all should be that Christ loves me enough that He freely paid the penalty of my sins. Without that message, prayer doesn’t mean anything.

The problem is this, if we focus too much on our prayers, we lose sight of God’s communication back. His words to us are not sent by prayer, they’re present in His Word. And often, the one who ignores or doesn’t know that Word, prays only for what they want or what they think they need. Make no mistake, we should ask God for blessings, but it shouldn’t be the only way we communicate with Him. Would you be friends with someone who only talked with you when they wanted something?

“Thoughts and prayers” are nice, but in our culture they have become a cliche, and often one that people repeat without thinking much. And it seems that the “thoughts and prayers” are becoming more important than the faith itself. Jesus once told His disciples, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).” When it comes to prayer, we might paraphrase it this way, “One’s life with God does not consist in the abundance of the things he prays about.”

Thoughts and prayers are not the end all, be all of the Christian life. Sadly, this woman thought so, and she was ready to give up because of it. Much more important than what we say to God is what He says to us. Take it from Ecclesiastes 5:1-3: Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.

The next time you’re in need or you see someone in need, give them more than just “thoughts and prayers,” give them the gracious gospel of Jesus Christ!