One Major Solution…

After violence like happened here in Kalamazoo last weekend, we look for answers and consider ‘What must be done’ to change things so that this stops happening. You can read my earlier Blogs about this through the links at the end of this one, but yesterday I talked about the ‘Human’ solution–relationships. Real, deep, genuine and growing relationships. We must invest ourselves in each other if we’re going to change that.

I do think there’s even more, however. An exclusively ‘human’ solution is not all we need.

We need a Spiritual solution, and that is found, I believe, in Jesus Christ.

Some of your are tempted to ‘click’ out of this right now, but I want to ask you to read on….

I’ve already dealt a bit with the theological reason that we need Jesus–because of our sinful nature and our need for Him to change it–earlier this week.

Today, I want to talk about the Church–His ‘body’ in this world.

Note: I am not talking about the Church, as it is. Rather, I’m talking about the Church as it is meant to be.

In the book of Acts, ch. 2 we get a bit of an idea of what this is supposed to be…

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[i]), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[j] 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

The Church–those who believe in Jesus Christ and worship Him as Lord. Those with a personal ‘relationship’ with Him–prioritized being together. They prioritized prayer, fellowship, the Word and meals together. They saw God do amazing things in their fellowship, and as a result, their impact on the world around them continued to grow.

When people who are Christians really ‘get’ this, and realize how revolutionary this form of loving community could be, it changes their lives. They re-prioritize their lives to make ‘fellowship’ and ‘worship’ a driving force.

You’ll note that they met in the ‘Temple’ (like attending church) and in their houses (like ‘Life Groups’ and regular friendships). They enjoyed and prioritized being together.

Let me ask those of you who are Christians: WHY do you think they prioritized this so much?

I think there are 2 main answers:

  1. Because they had experienced the life-changing grace of God, they were learning what ‘life in the Spirit’ meant, and they could not wait to experience and learn more together.
  2. Because they were living within an increasingly hostile culture which did not want them to grow–in fact, it wanted to stop the Church.

These Christians needed each other–for fellowship, for growth, for community, and for survival!

Increasingly, the Church at this point in history is facing the same thing. Especially in America, where opposition to the Biblical Church–the REAL Church–is growing, we need each other. Yet, we are still too ‘comfortable’ to know it yet. We are like a person who is just starting to wake up and is feeling groggy…We Need an ALARM clock to wake us up.

What will it be?

More violence even closer to home?

More laws that target things we believe?

Cultural or Government hostility toward the teachings of the Word of God?

Alarm bells have been ringing…will we finally Wake Up?

Even in the church I pastor–where ‘Community’ is literally our Middle Name–we don’t prioritize it well. People are too busy with their lives, going from here to there, to make more time for real, Biblical fellowship. Even we at Kalamazoo Community Church need to Wake Up!

Here’s the thing: Even in that culture, where opposition to them was much stronger and more deadly than anything we in America have faced to date, what was the solution?

It was The Church simply beingThe Church.

They “continually” met together, learned together, prayed together, and saw God move together. They reveled in what God was doing, and did not hide it. Everywhere they went, they shared the Good News about Jesus…and God “added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47)

We don’t need politicians to ‘save’ us. We don’t need laws to ‘protect’ us, and we don’t need celebrities to ‘endorse’ us. (Those things are nice, but not ‘necessary’.) What we need is the Holy Spirit of God to ignite a fire within us again so that He shows Himself through us!

That is really what much of our culture is looking for! (Although they don’t know this yet, and they’d never admit it!)

The Church needs to BE The Church…and our culture will benefit because of it.

…and we won’t be shaken!

 

 

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What Can We DO?!

After violence such as that which happened here in Kalamazoo this past weekend, we tend to grapple with 1) How do we process it (part 1 of this series), and 2) WHY did it happen (part 2), but then, quite naturally, we get to this question: What can we DO, darn it, to make sure this kind of thing stops happening?

After all, Kalamazoo is not an isolated incident. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora…all of these and many more have become places that many of us had never heard of in the past, but now can name not only the states they’re in, but what happened there.

Sure, Kalamazoo has always had an interesting name, but now people all over the world know it simply as the latest place where ‘senseless’ killings have taken place.

I’m sure I join everyone in saying that we don’t want this kind of violence to continue!

So, let me ask again…What can we DO?

Some will go right to Gun Control. After all, if we made guns less available, then it would not happen, right?

Well…no, in fact.

Some places in our country and our world in which guns are the most restricted have been visited by this kind of violence…and I think there’s some truth to the ‘bumper sticker slogan’ that “If you outlaw all guns, only outlaws will have guns”. After all, criminals, by definition, don’t respect laws. If we suddenly have ‘gun registration drives’, or ‘gun buyback programs’, or even if we have a heavy-handed government which abolishes the 2nd Amendment and requires all guns to be turned in, No one seriously thinks that criminals will comply. Rather, they’ll keep their guns and use them whenever they want with no threat that their victims can fight back.

Having said that, it needs to be admitted that, if the perpetrator of Kalamazoo’s violence had a knife, instead of a gun, it would be much more likely that he would have been stopped earlier. Guns do enable carnage on a much larger scale than other weapons.

However, I think that this ‘legislative’ approach misses the mark. As one meme I saw recently reminded us: “Cain killed Abel with a rock; It’s a HEART problem!”

So, again…what can we DO?

Others go to Mental Health treatment.

Perhaps the shooter in Kalamazoo had unaddressed ‘Mental Health’ issues. Surely this must be a factor. After all, you don’t go from a family man, and good worker who wants to be a Police Officer to a mass murderer without some kind of ‘breakdown’. Surely something was missed. And certainly, a person who can shoot people, drive for Uber, then shoot more people and drive for Uber again in a detached manor has had some sort of break with reality.

Yet, we have to acknowledge that many of the perpetrators of these violent offenses have been under ‘mental health’ care, and have had medication, and case management services in place. Others have actually been under the eyes of Law Enforcement, but still…no one could foresee this type of behavior.

So, again….What can we DO?

I think the answer is more ‘organic’ than Legislation and Mental Health (although I think both deserve more treatment).

I think the answer is more A) Human and B) Spiritual.

Today, let me speak to The Human solution. Tomorrow I’ll speak to The Spiritual Solution.

From a ‘Human’ perspective, there are some ways in which we are more connected than ever. I currently have 1100 ‘Friends’ on Facebook, and I’m also connected to Linked-In, Instagram, and of course, this Blog. I have been in contact with old friends that I had not heard from in decades–all due to Social Media.

And I’m 53–certainly not one of the ‘most connected’. I’m an ‘old’ guy (old-er, anyway). There are many who have many more ‘friends’ than I do.

Yet, for all the ‘connections’ we have, we have fewer real ‘Connections’ than ever. We know a lot about people, but we don’t really know people. We are in ‘Facebook relationships’, but not in any Real relationships.

In spite of our ‘connected-ness’ via technology, we don’t know how to work through conflict, we have less ability to form deep relationships, (and even less motivation to do so). Our relationships are ‘a mile wide but only an inch deep’. We simply don’t have (or make) time to prioritize ‘Community’.

‘Belonging’ is something we all long for, but fewer and fewer of us experience it. We are more ‘connected’ and more ‘isolated’ at the same time.

We are on the fast track, going from one activity and one connection to the next, we no real time to simply ‘be’ in relationship with one another.

 

The truth is that we all make time for that which is important to us, and UNLESS we start prioritizing RELATIONSHIPS–real, deep, complex, growing and loving Relationships over Pseudo-Community, we may have entered a ‘downward spiral’ in our society with little chance of pulling out of it.

I pray that the Lord wakes us up before it’s too late…and that’s what I’ll talk about tomorrow.