Friday, May 18, 2018

Another School shooting, a hotel shooting, and spying scandals.

Greetings friends.  As I write this blog today there are three headlines that caught my eye.

The first is that today there is another school shooting in Santa Fe Texas.  As of this writing the public has been told that there are eight people who have been killed and the shooter is in custody.

Also at this writing a Florida man opened fire in a Trump hotel and was shot in the legs by police officers.

Also at this writing there are two counter-narratives in the political news.  The one states that one or more FBI agents were planted in the Trump campaign in 2016 as a counter-intelligence matter because some in the campaign were acting mischievously with a foreign government and they needed to gather information on this; the other narrative is that the former administration was spying on a political rival thereby criminally using government agencies to spy on political enemies.

What do all these events have in common?  Just hear me out.

I was reading the book of Philippians the other day and something I read jumped off the page.  I have read that small book countless times; yet these words hit me directly in my head and heart - and they have remained there for over a week.  The reading comes from Philippians 3:18-19

"For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things."

How does this Scripture relate to the three events described above?  Because in all three instances people are focused on the things of this world.  Why kill people in a school?  Why shoot guns in a hotel?  Why either spy on opponents or illegally conspire with foreign agents?  The answer is actually quite simple - your mind is on earthly things.  You may kill because you have lost hope.  Why have you lost hope?  Because your hopes lie here.  You spy illegally because your hope lies here.  You collude because your hopes lie here.   Bottom line is this - sin, grievous sin, occurs because people's hopes and dreams lie in a dying world.  And that is sad; very sad.

Only a person who truly has not grasped eternity would be willing to sell their soul to gain the world.  Only a person who truly has not grasped eternity would be willing to kill their neighbor without thought to the next world.

The longer I live in this world the more I see how crooked and perverse this place truly is.  Yet, this fact does not depress me.  It saddens me.  It moves me to action.  But it does not depress me.  It does not depress me because I know one immutable truth - this place is not my home.  This place does not hold my hope.  This place does not hold my future.  This place is a dead world that will eventually be completely destroyed.  The Apostle Paul says it in Philippians 3:20-21

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

My home, and the home of every believer in Jesus, is heavenly glory.  We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth - that is our home of righteousness.  So beloved, you and I do not need to get caught up in the hate, fear, cruelty, or dissension of this world.  This world is dying.  We knew that yesterday.  We know it today.  It will be further into its death spiral tomorrow.  Hear me if you have never heard me before - if you believe in Jesus Christ this world is not your home.  We are only passing through.

And those who do not believe?  What, in tears, does the Apostle say?

Their end is destruction.  Their god is their belly.  They glory in their shame.

Let us take the third sentence first.  They honor what is shameful.  Is Jesus not a punchline for this atheistic world?  Is blasphemy not regular?  Is that which is dishonorable uplifted by this culture and that which is good mocked and scorned?  The answer is yes.

What does the Apostle mean when he says, "their god is their belly?"  Are they worshiping their stomachs?  No.  Whether people in this world like to admit it or not, everyone has a god.  More often than not in America our god is the self.  We worship the self.  And the Apostle admits that at his time this was often the case as well.  He says, "their god is their belly."  What he means is that their varied appetites are what they live their lives to please.  Jesus taught the Kingdom of God; this world teaches the Kingdom of desire.  Back in the 60's the world taught, "if it feels good, do it."  Today the world teaches, "if it feels good, it is right.  And if anyone tells you that the way you feel is not right, they are horrible bigots and judgmental jerks."  Our god has become our feelings; and my goodness if our feelings do not constantly change.  When we make our desires our god my goodness it is such a difficult idol to please.  Our desires are constantly shifting, our feelings constantly changing, therefore our actions to please those desires shifting as well.

And finally the Apostle says, "their end is destruction."  Whether we like it or not the Bible is very clear on those who do not believe in the Lord.  The words of Jesus in John 5:28-29, "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."  It is Jesus Himself that says hell is, "eternal punishment." [Matthew 25:46]

So what should be our attitude as Christians as we face a world filled with pain, death, lies, and corruption?  Well it ought not be that we cloister ourselves away.  It ought not be fear.  It ought not be to throw our lot in with the world.  What should we do?

Beloved, tell of the love of Jesus to this dying world.  He is the one true hope.  Imagine if that person who shot eight dead knew there was a person who defeated death who truly loves Him?  Imagine if that person in Florida knew that their hopes were not dashed by one man?  Imagine if, whichever narrative is true, those involved in corruption at the highest level knew that there are no such things as secrets - that they themselves will know and the Lord will know whatever they do?  And then imagine if they simply said to themselves, "I will focus on the two things eternal - God and others."  This can only happen if they know the Lord Jesus Christ, and I quote the Apostle Paul again in Romans 10:14, "How can they know if no one preaches to them?"

So beloved, as you hear all the bad news coming through the news today, remember this - Jesus has already died; and Jesus has already risen again. He rose again and secured everlasting life to all who trust in Him.  Therefore be free of the fear of this world and let us spend our time spreading the hope of Christ to a dying world.  We ought never be satisfied, as much as we can help it, that there are people we know whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetites, and their glory is in shame.  Instead let us share the true God - so their end will be heaven, their God will be the true God, and their glory will be in their salvation in Christ.

Amen.

Your friend,

Chris



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The school shooting today and our fears...

Greetings.

So, I wanted to take a moment as a Christian, a friend, and a parent of a child in a local middle school to talk about how we might process this local school shooting and those like it.

First and foremost, I have personally prayed - and I ask any reader of this to do the same - for the victims, the families, and all those involved in the shooting today at Great Mills in St. Mary's County.  I believe our God is mighty and hears the prayers of His people.  He can bring comfort where there is only fear and anxiety. 

Next, I want us to take a step back.  I want us to seriously ask a question - seriously now - what kind of world do you believe that we inhabit?  What I mean by this is do you believe we inhabit a good world or a wicked one?  Because this is what I believe - I believe we live in a world that was created perfect, but then was changed by humanity's disobedience into something evil.  I believe that we human beings are sinful now in our very nature.  I believe that this world is so evil that God is going to completely destroy this place and build anew.  I am not alone in this - Christians have believed and confessed this for millenia.  Yet, while we confess it is true, sadly, we rarely apply this truth to our personal lives.

So if you have not before, apply this truth.  Come to this reality beloved - we live, work, play, and do all of our socialization in a sinful world.  Jesus Himself calls Satan the, "prince of this world." [John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11] We live in a world where death, disease, sickness, murder, greed, etc...are prevalent.  When I write that we live in a, "sinful" world, too many Christians think this to be a vague, ethereal statement.  It is not meant in such a fashion.  We live in a world where murders occur, where rape occurs, where violence, death, disease, hate, and anger all are real and have real-world consequences.  This was true yesterday as much as it is true today.  Yet, for many in my area today that world has hit home - as there was a local student who turned a gun on their classmate(s).

Because of the reality hitting home today, I wanted to discuss this reality; and then discuss how we ought not react to this.  We ought not react in fear.  Death is a reality for each and every one of us.  We will all die.  We know not how, we know not when, but we did know that we will.  

I understand that at first this is not comforting; but rightly understood beloved it is.  We spend so much time trying to prevent and protect from that which is going to happen. If you and I are Christians, let me say this clearly - living in fear is not only wrong, it is a part of the problem of this world.  You and me, above all people, need to be people of hope.  If we are not people of hope, we become reclusive, ineffective, and unloving.  You and I cannot react to this world in fear - no matter how bad this place gets.   When we act in fear we stop reaching out and we reach only in.  When we act in fear we almost universally pull away from our society instead of engaging in our society. And that my friends is precisely what the devil wants - Christians to disengage.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors; and he wrote something back in the mid 20th century about living in an atomic age that I find very refreshing.  He writes:

"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: "Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents."

"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors - anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

"This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."


This is amazingly refreshing.  It faces reality head on and understands the world in which we live.  If you are a Christian you believe in a Jesus that rose from the dead.  Death is not the end of the story.  We have eternal life right now and we will rise again as well.  This is not to say that we take unhealthy risks; but it is to say that we live life - and live it to the fullest.  If the threat of death and the threat of pain stifles you from doing what God would have you do - then repent.  Yes, hug your children.  Yes, as parents protect your children.  But for goodness sake, do not be deluded into believing you can protect your children from death.  That is a lie.  They will die.  We know not when.  We know not how.  But it will happen.  So beloved - teach, pray, work, love, give compassion and aid, read, listen to music, go to the cinema, and live life.  Do not cower in fear.  We have a Jesus that rose from the grave - and tragic events like today make me want to live for Him more - not less.  

Your friend,

Chris

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Social Media Bullies and what to do with them...

Just this past week a good friend of mine posted something she was excited about.  It was not controversial in my book; she was excited about what she was doing and posted to her friends.  Her post went much further than she ever dreamed, and many people read her post.  While the great majority of responses were positive, a few loud, harsh, critics on-line were cruel to her.  It caused her great distress and even caused her sleepless nights.

Just a little while later, someone publicly maligned the church I pastor on-line.  I do not even know the person who did it, I had never met them and, as far as I know, they never entered the church building.  Yet, they had strong opinions about the church.  And those opinions were not so nice...

In addition, the past two months of Youth Nights at our congregation have focused on how to live life as a faithful christian on social media. 

Putting all of these events together, I thought it fitting to write a short blog about how we behave on-line. 

Social Media allows us to do things that we never had the ability to do in the past.  We can share our experiences and share our opinions with a wide array of people that we do not know.  We can network with people with like interests and argue with people with whom we disagree.  Often however I think we forget that when we post opinions there are actual living, breathing, human beings that read what we write.  We type on a computer and forget that the person on the other end reading what we type is also a person. 

Jesus taught a very simple rule; it was reiterated by the Apostle Paul and we are told the entire Law and the Prophets are summed up in one little phrase, "love your neighbor as yourself."  Ah, if we could only live the rule...

So here are a few basic rules that I believe appropriate:

If you have a problem with a person, the first step is to take up that issue with the person personally and without involving a large swath of the public.  This is basic and follows the prescription of the commandment, "do not bear false witness."  We are to speak well of our neighbor and build him/her up, not tear him/her down.  Would you like it if someone who disagreed with you approached you privately?  Me too.  So...do that. 

Also, if you have something negative to say to someone, and you know them personally, almost never put the negative comment in a text or e-mail.  Approach them.  If possible, deal with them face to face.  At the very least, make a phone call.  Being able to hear tone of voice, see facial expressions, and the added reality of seeing another human being will often change the interaction.  9 times out of 10 you will not want to confront them with your issue.  If you do not want to confront them in, "live time" then it is not worth confronting on-line. 

Please remember that your Christianity does not end on-line; it is heightened.  Many eyes see what you write, what you post, what you are interested in, etc...  Please remember that.

Now, a few basic rules for those that post publicly:

If you post something publicly, you must expect people to respond.  Some people will respond negatively.  Some people will be mean.  We must remember that some people do not possess the Holy Spirit and as such we cannot expect people that are void of the Spirit of God to behave as if they had Him.  Therefore, if you post something, I believe that ought to come with an expectation that people respond.  And, some of the people that respond will be jerks.  Jerks exist.  We've all been one before.  They are out there. 

As Christians we know this world is full of evil people who do evil things.  We were once stuck in sin and indeed we still find ourselves being sinful.  Remember that.  We need to be people who give grace when we are treated poorly; for we worship a Savior that uttered the words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 

Paul's advice in Romans 12 is appropriate in person and online, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yoursleves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."  To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." 

It is that last line that always gets me personally, "do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." 

The temptation when attacked is to attack or to run.  Both of these responses are poor ones.  When attacked, bless.  When cursed, pray.  When cruelly spoken of, give a blessing.  If you actually do these things let me tell you what happens - inevitably peace ensues; because you have given that person over to God.

In addition, if what you write on-line you believe is holy, good, and true then no amount of criticism should shake us. [I know it often does, but when it does ask for forgiveness for your weakness and keep it moving.] We need to remember that we exist ultimately to please but three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

My advice to anyone who is attacked on-line is this: respond with blessing.  They may continue to curse you but here is the blessing in that - when you are publicly maligned and you publicly respond with blessing, that too is seen.  Everyone sees what that person is doing - and everyone sees how we respond. 

We are in love with Jesus because in the face of the great evil of humanity, He showed love.  If we trust in Him, we are of Him; and if we are of Him, we ought to behave like Him. 

Brothers and sisters, love.  That is all. 

Your friend,

Chris Ogne