Goals for 2013

Dig deeper into theology

When I say “theology”, I mean “studying and knowing God”. I’m not talking about memorizing more facts or studying university books. I want to have the view of God that the Bible holds. Therefore, I want to study the Bible ruthlessly to know Him better and more rightly than I do now. There are a million different things I could focus on, but this year I have chosen three.

Here is what each one means:

  • Charismatic
    There are many who would strip the power and Spirit out of the Bible, explaining it away as something reserved for biblical times and not for the present age we live in. I wholeheartily reject that notion. The life of a believer is a supernatural one full of things that our minds can’t explain (although we ought to attempt to in a biblical way). Sadly, many of the great Bible teachers today are missing this piece. Their theology of God is sound and biblical, but when it comes to the Spirit’s empowerment, it becomes too much for their mind to rationalize. I yearn to find the balance.
  • Calvinistic
    While I am not a 5-point Calvinist neither am I an Arminian. As I have been studying and meditating on the Bible, I realized that a good part of the Calvinist viewpoint is highly credible and worth digging into.  I want to see God as sovereign over all things, good or bad. There are some hard questions to ask and harder answers to hear. There are tough arguments on both sides and neither are perfect in and of themselves. Again, I yearn to find the balance.
  • Complementarian
    I have realized this year that gender and their roles, whether in a sexual sense or a spiritual sense, is becoming a big issue and will continue to be a big issue in 2013. My focus on it though is for personal reasons. If I truly believe that men and women are equal but created different for different purposes then it is in my best interest to study these things to know how I ought to live and serve.

Read

I waste much time watching TV; time that could be used reading the Bible and other books. I have no excuse. I have realized this past year that I can’t have a desire for that much TV and reading. I have to choose. Currently, I have no passion to read. None. That needs to change. For the most part, TV gives me nothing substanially good for all the time I invest in it. Reading books though can. While I plan on reading multiple books this year, here are a few that I have at the top of my list.

Blog better

I don’t mean more. If I only write 3-5 posts in the next year, I will consider it a success if they are:

  • Well written
  • Incredibly biblical and Jesus-centric
  • Needed and well timed
  • Provoking
  • Passionate

For reasons I’ve already written about, blogging continues to help me master the art of communication through text.

Become a better leader

This upcoming year will be a big leadership training year for me, both in my work, church, and personal life. I give updates on what’s going on in my life periodically, so I’ll do that here.

  • Work
    This year I’ve been accepted into a leadership training program that my workplace holds every year. Only 9 to 11 people are picked each year and I was blessed to have been chosen. I highly look up to my workplace leaders and think they do an excellent job leading. I’m excited to learn the the foundational elements of leadership that they know.
  • Church
    This past year has been a drastic change in my church life. I started teaching a high school Sunday School class (which I love) and I help lead the worship ministry with a handful of close friends. While I’ve always helped and led in some capacity, now I am responsible for leaders and other volunteers. Gone are the days of serving however hard I wanted to at the time. Now there are people and projects that rely on my fellow leaders and me. We have a great church staff who is helping us and we are learning how to lead and direct like Jesus would. We have far to go but I’m happy to see how far we’ve already come.
  • Personal
    This past year has been crazy. We had our first child, Lily, and life hasn’t been the same. It’s been great, maddening, frustrating, joyful, tiring, memorable, faith-filled, and full of love. That said, we are welcoming our second baby girl, Anastasia, in a few months. We know that, while it’s going to be tough, it will be rewarding, so we are looking forward to her birth. I have always dreamed about having a wife and a few kids and building a family altar in our home complete with devotions and family prayer time. Alas, due to my own spiritual laziness, these things are not a part of our house. This must and will change this year. More than work and church, I must become a better leader of my home.
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The Smoking Gun Debate

Disclaimer: these are my personal thoughts about guns and gun control. Take it with a grain of salt. My goal is to lay out the argument as I see it, without the memorized rhetoric of any political party.

It’s been a difficult year. There have been several massacres across the US, from movie theaters to elementary schools. While the people and situations have changed, one thing has not: the weapon used. In each circumstance, a gun was used to kill and injure many people. Each time this happens, Americans are quick to voice their opinions about how we need more or less guns and more or less control of them. Sadly, these debates devolve into bitter verbal fights based on political party to the point that we can’t even have a reasonable, adult-like conversation about guns and gun control. Typically, sweeping generalizations are used and rational thought is put away. The point of this post is to lay out a few points about the whole issue so that hopefully some of us can have a reasoned and unbittered discussion about this issue.

Before I start, I want to add a couple of points to my disclaimer at the top.

  1. I grew up in a strong Republican family. I grew up (and still currently live) in Florida and was raised by godly parents who believed in guns. The kids always knew where dad kept his revolver and knew the purposes it was there for (note: it was far out of our reach). I do not come from a “left-side” or “liberal” family. They were/are very conservative.
  2. I am politically independent. Over the last 8 years, I have fully separated myself from any political party, primarily the Republicans (also Tea Party) and the Democrats. I find things that are both right and greatly wrong with both sides. I am not writing this to explain a certain party’s political beliefs. I am writing this as my own personal thoughts on the matter. Regardless of your party, you will find things to agree and disagree with in this post, but in the end, I’m writing it for me.
  3. I am a Christian. This is a huge point for me. How Jesus and the Bible feels about an issue matters to me. Everything else is secondary. Yet, I want my doctrine unblended by politics. If the Bible doesn’t take a position about something, then as a Christian, that has to matter to me. I can’t put words in Jesus’ mouth.
  4. I love guns. While I don’t hunt, I have fired guns for fun and love doing so. I would do so more if I chose to invest the time and money it requires. It’s quite exhilarating and I find much joy in firing guns. So I write this post not as a hoplophobic (afraid of firearms).

Now that I have made these disclaimers, let me try to lay out the rational argument as I see it.

Both sides are being thoughtful.

As I opened this article with, this discussion can turn ugly quick. It is important to remember that both sides of the argument (for guns vs for control) are caring and are passionate to resolve the issue of massacre-by-gun problems our country is facing. “Pro-gun” advocates strongly feel more guns (given to the right people) would fix the issue. They feel people would be able to better protect themselves if they had guns. “Pro-control” advocates strongly feel less guns would fix the issue. They feel people would be able to better protect themselves if guns were not part of the scenario.

The allowance (or control) of guns isn’t a biblical principal.

I stated earlier:

I am a Christian. This is a huge point for me. How Jesus and the Bible feels about an issue matters to me. Everything else is secondary. Yet, I want my doctrine unblended by politics. If the Bible doesn’t take a position about something, then as a Christian, that has to matter to me. I can’t put words in Jesus’ mouth.

This rings true for this issue. The truth is that our second amendment “right” isn’t a scriptural one. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, contain no verses that say “it is God’s will for you to own a firearm.” To look at this gun vs gun control issue rationally, the first thing we have to do is loudly state the obvious: this is not a biblically moral issue. The Bible doesn’t invoke or outlaw the use of guns or people owning them. We shouldn’t try to twist scripture to make it say something that it does not. In fact, the end of the Book of Revelation hints that it might be damnable to do so (Rev 22:18-19).

There will be no weapons in the millennial kingdom.

While the Bible doesn’t give a position over the current debate, there is something that is clear: once Jesus returns, all weapons will be destroyed.

Many people say eschatology isn’t practical, but this point proves them wrong. Let me summarize what happens at the end of the tribulation:

Jesus returns and those who believe in Him are forever changed to be like angels — asexual, forever sinless beings. He also completely destroys all those with the mark of the beast (antichrist). An angel locks the devil in a bottomless pit for 1,000 years. This is what we call the millennial reign of Christ, where Jesus rules and governs the earth, on the earth, for a 1,000 years. He makes all the rules. There will be no law that He doesn’t agree with. There will be no media influence that goes against His character.

After the 1,000 years, the devil is released to tempt the nations one last time to fight against Jesus. They amass themselves and are quickly destroyed. But who are these people that the devil is able to sway? They are people (or children/grandchildren/etc of those) who weren’t saved upon the return of Christ and who also did not take the mark of the beast. These are the people who will repopulate the earth (since the saved will have new asexual bodies) and who the devil will attempt to tempt.

(For more info and scriptures on this, read this, particulary point 3-C )

The implication couldn’t be clearer: even under the perfect rulership of Christ, people will still choose to rebel against Jesus and immerse themselves in their own sin/evil. We’ll come back to this point later and discuss that no law or ruler can keep people from choosing to do evil things.

In Isaiah 2, one of Isaiah’s many chapters about the millennial kingdom, this is what Isaiah says will happen:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4 ESV)

Many people love this scripture passage.  They use it as a text regarding nuclear disarmament  But that’s not what it is about. It’s about a total weapons disarmament. Jesus won’t just get rid of nukes. He will get rid of every weapon that’s made for war and death.

That tweet hints at my feelings about guns and gun control, but it’s not a perfect comparison. Why? Because in the millennial kingdom, alcohol will be allowed but guns still won’t be. Alcohol (wine) will be consumed correctly — for celebrating and not to fill a void on the inside — yet guns won’t be “redeemed”. The thinking “guns are for fun and recreational use” is not an eternal truth. It may be allowable now, but there is coming a day where it won’t be.

Again, let me reiterate. The Bible does not take a position on gun vs gun control in our present age. It only takes a position about it when Jesus comes back, and that position is in favor of gun control. I am not saying that we should take this future stance the Bible takes on gun control and apply it as a standard for today (although I believe we should allow it to be part of the debate). What this should show though is that the entire gun vs gun control debate is one based on personal opinions and preferences, not divine principals.

The Christian’s debate: guns for protection vs The Sermon on the Mount.

One of the biggest arguments I hear from “pro-gun” advocates is the need to protect themselves, either from the government, wild animals, or from a thief/murderer/rapist/etc. I cannot speak to a non-Christian about this matter, even though I think my conclusion at the end of this point can be applied to them as well, but I can speak to Christians about this.

In Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), He says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV)

This is the where I think Christians need to debate. Instead of debating gun vs gun control, we should be asking “if Christ didn’t defend Himself against being attacked, even to death, do we have the right to?” Remember, it is Jesus we are to follow and become like. What Moses, Elijah, David, etc did here is irrelevant. They weren’t perfect, but Jesus is. Many times we ask “what would Jesus do?” when we should be asking “what did Jesus do?”. I won’t give you my personal thoughts on this matter since it’s something I wrestle with, especially when thinking of my family being in danger. I’ll be honest and say that’s it’s a conflict inside me between taking protection in my hands and leaving protection in God’s hands. There are many nights where I hear the thoughts of the 1st century martyrs and feel their burden, the same as mine.

However, there is one other question to be answered: does Jesus allow defense of oneself (and family) unto death? It’s one thing to defend yourself and family. It’s another thing to do it in a way that kills the other person. I hear Jesus’ words to Peter when Peter tried to defend himself and Jesus:

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52 ESV)

This is the question I think all “pro-gun” advocates for protection purposes, Christian and not, can be asked:  what about mace or pepper spray? It is something that would completely stop the attacker and yet let them live. If the government does bring stricter gun control or even start banning guns, can’t you defend yourself by other non-lethal means? Pepper spray is far reaching and for the most part, your assailant won’t have a gun either. I personally feel that the “guns for protection purposes” argument is more based on preference and laziness of thought.

Sidenote: if you absolutely don’t care about the assailant’s lost of life, I encourage you to check your heart and your Bible.

Guns kill the people that people kill.

This is probably the point that frustrates me the most. Currently, this is the crux of the gun vs gun control debate: who/what actually kills — guns or people?

It frustrates me because the answer is simple: both.

I mentioned this before in a post about a different issue:

There was one phrase that kept coming up from Christians:
If you’re going to have an affair, you’re going to have an affair. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. The issue is the heart, not Facebook.

Every time I hear that phrase, “the issue is the heart, not {insert noun here}” there is always something that doesn’t settle right in my heart. I think it’s because that statement assumes that if you have the desire to do something, you eventually will. I don’t agree with that and I don’t find that statement supported in the Bible. I think the phrase should be: the issue is the heart and what we do with any temptations.

The problem with the phrase ”the issue is the heart, not {insert noun here}” is that it seems to ignore any device of temptation. The Bible takes time not just to speak concerning our evil desires, but also concerning the temptations that would seduce us into sin. In truth, there is a “opportunity cost” in sin. The Bible knows that if we remain in the place of temptation without fleeing it, we will succumb to our evil desires. The Bible pushes us to not only fight temptation, but to proactively flee from it. It commands us to flee “any appearance of evil”.

So there is more to the issue than just the person behind the actual evilness. There is also the method and thing that empowered the person to act evilly. In reality, most people believe that about certain issues. It’s why we have laws and content ratings on TV, even though lust and such are in the heart of the person watching. It’s why alcohol is sold to people 21 years old or older, even though youth who want to get drunk will find a way.

Let me argue out both sides of the question:

Will more gun control laws (or banning them altogether) help prevent murder?

  • NO
    No law will ever prevent the evilness and depravity of the human heart. Until Jesus comes, we will continue to see massive massacres committed by murderous people who are evil and demonic. And like I previous mentioned, even when Jesus returns, people will still choose to do horrible and evil things despite a (being) perfected world. No law or ban can ever stop someone who is committing premeditated and well planned murders.
  • YES
    While laws and bans can’t stop premeditated and well planned murders, it can (1) limit the death count of the massacre and (2) limit the number of local murders that happen every day. Let’s look at both of these statements.

    1. Typically when guns are not used in a massacre, the death count is lower. It takes more time to kill with a knife or other object than with a gun. Also, other weapons are more easily defended against. How many times in the last 10 years has there been a massacre by hand or knife that the death count has been more than 9? If we truly believe that “every person matters and is important”, then this point needs to be taken seriously.

    2. It is truly sad that the only time we hear the gun control argument is when there is a highly televised public shooting/massacre. If the national news networks don’t broadcast it, most people are numb to the murders that happen everyday. People are killed everyday by guns (as wells as other means). Will gun control/banning stop all these cases? No. Again, premeditated murder is rarely stopped, but not all murder is premeditated. Some are from quick fits of rage. Some are accidents, particularly times when kids find their parents’ gun. Some are committed by people who have a documented history of mental problems and issues who should have never been allowed to own a gun in the first place. I do believe that stricter gun control laws or bans could help limit these types of shootings.

Let’s review: we are called to deal with the heart of the person and the temptation that empowers them to do evil. While gun control laws or banning doesn’t deal with the heart, it would help with the temptation, at least a little. And isn’t any help better than doing nothing?

The answer is not more guns or less guns. The answer is Jesus.

Like I just said, laws cannot deal with the heart of a murderer. Only Jesus can do that. Sadly our nation has fully and completely rejected Him and we are left to our own evil. As a nation, every massacre is completely deserved. I mourn with the victims and families at the death and the pain incurred, but I cannot say that we don’t deserve these things. As a nation, we have chosen the side of the enemy whose primary purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. While we should mourn, we should not be surprised. We are reaping what we have sown. Even in the terribleness of these situations, the truth of the Bible is not shaken.

As a church, we need to pray that God would do whatever it takes to draw this nation back to Jesus. He’s the only One who can turn this nation back to Himself.

The conclusion

Now that I have laid out my personal thinking about the issue, let me lay out some of my final thoughts about it.

  • Since we don’t want Jesus as a nation, we are left with our own laws and rules. I think some laws/rules can be put in place to help limit murder-by-gun, at least on a local level.
  • As a Christian, “guns for protection to kill the assailant” isn’t permissible for me. So the only purpose that I can see that guns would serve is recreational, either for hunting or joyful target practice (which I currently enjoy). Recreation (aka entertainment) isn’t a good enough reason for me to oppose gun control, regardless of how much fun I find it. Since people are important, they should matter more.
  • If very strict gun control/bans are made, I think the law should allow for government-watched gun ranges and hunting parks where people can still enjoy guns but do it in a safe controlled environment. In fact, make it a private business initiative. If the only place that civilians were allowed to use guns were an authorized gun range/park, capitalism ensures that these places would have great guns and would be quite enjoyable.
  • If sudafed is under government watch because you could possibly make meth from it (something that affects the individual), why are we allowed to purchase and own guns (something that can affect others) without stringent government watching?
  • I understand that banning/limiting guns to help limit murder has the same consequence as limiting/banning alcohol to prevent drunk driving: the loss of pleasures for those who are using it responsibility. But (as a Christian) remember: many things are permissible but not all things are beneficial.
  • I should get some serious pepper spray for my house/family.