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Warning: This is a “deep” article, which was extremely difficult to write. It is not for the faint of heart so read at your own risk! I don’t need to detail the recent plethora of man-made and natural disasters. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another even after I send this off to the printer. The result has been no small number of people wondering if this is the end of the world or if it is God’s judgment on a sinful planet. One of the Bible passages that may help clear up some of the confusion is Luke 13:1-5. Jesus uses a recent example of deaths caused by a "madman" as well as a natural disaster to emphatically conclude that neither was the result of the people's sins or God's punishment. It is the principle found in Matthew 5:25 that it rains on the just and the unjust. Being a follower of Christ does not exempt us from rain, or hurricanes, or madmen shooting in a church. In fact it was the norm that Christ’s closest followers in the NT were put to death for their faith.

This passage is a clear example from Jesus that catastrophes do NOT happen as a punishment from God, yet He does hasten to use it as a teaching point to encourage people to repent. Similarly, in Matthew 24 He tells us the “signs of the times” and how to know if the end is near. But He quickly clarifies that NO ONE knows the exact day or hour therefore we all need to be ready! (Of course, this is not a loophole meaning you can know the month, as some have foolishly said!) The emphasis is on living out our faith today rather than figuring out the future.

I remember once telling a friend I was looking forward to Jesus coming back. He replied that he wasn’t because he was not ready. Will we be ready?

Chapter 2 – Addictions: I watched an intriguing late night talk show conversation featuring the rather wild Russell Brand. He had recently written a book about overcoming our addictions and he candidly shared about his plentiful addictions to sex, drugs, and alcohol (evidently he had no rock ‘n’ roll addictions). He mentioned that we can have freedom from our addictions but we need to realize our addiction often results from our “drive to know truth or to know God, yet we are unable to successfully medicate because the culture tells us there is no meaning …”

Surprisingly the host Steven Colbert replied,

Thomas Merton said that we clothe ourselves in the bandages of other people’s perceptions of us OR in our appetites and pleasures and we say those bandages are who we are without ever looking at what’s underneath the bandage, which is a hole in our heart the size of God.”

This is similar to what Eccles. 3:11 says related to God putting eternity in our hearts. That “eternal” space in our hearts can only be filled by God or eternity related activities. Unfortunately we get sucked into trying to fill it with the things of this world.

Now for another piece to this puzzle (as in puzzling article) that will help us see the entire picture towards the end. Please be patient.

Chapter 3 – Eye Poking: I love to comment that there is a reason the Old Testament (OT) is called OLD! Let’s use the synonym “covenant” instead of “testament” and remember that the human race was in a covenant with God (actually a few of them) in the OT (Old Covenant). This is a binding agreement between 2 sides, namely God & humans. For instance, the Sabbath observance was specifically made between God and the Israelite nation (see Ex. 31:13-17) and is not a valid covenant for us in the NT (NEW Covenant). The Sabbath principle of rest and worship is still important today but is not a legally binding agreement between God and the NT church like it was in the Old Covenant (OC) with the nation of Israel.

In the OC, God protected and punished depending on obedience to that covenant. God does not deal with mankind the same way in the NC, as He does not promise to protect us but rather that He will be with us through the storms of life.

Now we see the fullest and most perfect revelation of God’s nature in Jesus (Heb.1:1-3). In the OC we see “an eye for an eye” and God is exacting judgment immediately on nations and individuals. Now in the NC Jesus says things like, “You have heard it used to be an eye for an eye (revenge), but now you are to love your enemy and do good to them rather than poke out their eye. Whoever lives by the sword dies by the sword.” (Mat. 5:38-39; 26:52).

He is speaking to individuals, not governments. Ultimately, Jesus’ disciples chose to die for their faith rather than using their right to physically defend themselves. They realized the enemy was not going to be defeated with weapons but chose to radically follow Jesus’ teaching to love their enemies and turn the other cheek.

Chapter 3 – Guns: So how does this all relate to man-made disasters mentioned at the beginning? Kristen told me I might get into trouble if I write about guns. “You’re going to end up shooting yourself in the foot!” First off, let me say that I do not believe guns are the biggest problem … it’s those blasted flying bullets that cause the most pain! We just need to get rid of all the bullets! Although, it is interesting that the bullets would bounce off of Superman in the old TV shows but when the bad guys would run out of bullets, they would throw the gun at Superman … and he would duck! So we learn from Superman that guns seemed to be more dangerous than bullets! :-)

I grew up in KY so you may have guessed that I shot a variety of guns when I was young, not to mention my trusty Bow and Arrow. One of my mom’s cousins was actually named Daniel Boone!

After I had already written most of this article, I saw the shocking news about the horrific shooting inside the church in Texas. I do not want to come at this from a republican or democratic or liberal or conservative perspective but rather a Biblical perspective. I love what Billy Graham once said when asked about his favoring the “right” or the “left” regarding some political question. He wisely replied, “I know a bird has a right wing and a left wing. I just care about the bird.”

Did any of you know Cathy Kennedy? She was shot in the head as she drove home after attending a Bible study in Escondido about 12 miles north of where we live. She died at the hospital a short time later. The bullet was not intended for her. A couple of my friends have suffered tragic results due to having a gun in the house. Dan decided to follow Jesus at a revival meeting I preached. We became friends as he kept in touch because of his desire to grow and mature as a follower of Christ. Tragically, he is no longer on this earth because of a gunshot. Until you know someone who has died like this, it is just a number.

Speaking of numbers I am going to intersperse a few stats backed up by a plethora of credible sources like the CDC agency of the US as reported in the San Diego Union newspaper just 12 days ago.

More than 33,000 people die in firearm-related deaths in the US every year. 2,647 kids will die from a gunshot.

After Britain’s deadliest mass shooting in history in 1996, reasonable gun control laws were passed resulting in only 147 killed each year by guns in the entire UK.

Chapter 4 – Drunk on Root Beer: We feel compelled to stand up for our “rights” as a citizen of America or as Christians. Paul discusses a powerful principle about not exercising our rights if it will cause someone to stumble (I Cor. 8 & Romans 14). There is a difference between Christianity and Americanism. Just because we can legally do something, does not mean we should. Being drunk is a good example. Though we legally could if we are of age, the Bible says we should not (Eph. 5:18) because there is a better, less harmful way to experience joy and God’s fullness. This goes back to self-medicating or trying to fill that hole in our lives mentioned earlier in the Merton quote from Steven Colbert.

I have often joked that I am addicted to Root Beer. However, it would seem crazy to me to sit down and drink a 6 pack of Root Beer (like some people do with Beer that has no Root). In fact, I really only have 3 or 4 a week … it’s just that I don’t hardly like any other soft drinks. But if I knew my drinking Root Beer (or any other hobby) was potentially killing people, I could easily stop drinking it. It makes me wonder if some people are addicted to guns … or if there is some other blinding spiritual force behind the scenes? Not that there is a physical withdrawal from not shooting or owning a gun, but almost a blinding of rational ability to see clearly the heartache and pain guns can cause. Some people are outraged at the simple thought of reducing the number of weapons available to mass murder others or take human life.

Something may be perfectly legitimate but if it hurts someone, it is wrong! Guns can cause others to not only stumble, but to lose life. If something has the ability to cause someone harm, we need to be willing to reconsider our “rights.” Sadly, we can make seeking our rights a higher priority than seeking God’s will. We need to be willing to say that LIFE is more important than the right to own a gun.

If guns cause someone to stumble … or die, then maybe we need to pray for God’s grace to vote against or give up something that is destructive for our society and human life. It is a matter of LIFE and death!

People with firearms in the home are 2 to 3 times more likely to be killed by a firearm.

Australia’s government responded to 1996’s Port Arthur massacre (in which 35 people were killed) by enacting sweeping measures aimed at preventing a repeat of that national nightmare. In the 18 years before Port Arthur, Australia witnessed 13 mass shootings. In the 21 years since, there have been none! By contrast, the United States has suffered hundreds of mass shootings over that same time period.

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