Finding a Church Home

Source: Finding a Church Home

Book Cover

Every Christian needs to be involved in a local church. Perhaps you have struggled to find the right local church for yourself and your family after you have moved to a different area. You were discouraged by a bad experience with a church in the past, or you just simply dropped out of church. Now you have made the decision that you want to find a church to attend. Possibly, you have become concerned that the church you attend falls short or doesn’t meet your needs or the needs of your family, or even that the church you attend has drifted from a proper foundation. A new pastor has come who is taking the church in a direction you do not want to go. Often what passes for “church” in twenty-first century America isn’t what the New Testament presents to us. In most American communities, there are several churches. How does one find the “right” congregation? What makes for a healthy church? The author attempts to help you answer these questions.


Gun Control

Sensible people recoil at the reports of multiple-victim shooting incidents when they occur as well as the all-too-common, almost daily reports of murders we see in the media.  We all want it to end.  We want the number of deaths attributable to guns to be zero.  But thoughtful people must ask, “What is the desired ultimate end result of gun control legislation?”  What happens when the gun-control push is carried to its logical conclusion?

I am neither a hunter nor a recreational shooter.  I don’t belong to the NRA – mainly because I don’t need more solicitations for funds.  But against the backdrop of social decline, I have given at least passing thought to acquiring a handgun for self-defense and protection of family and home, and I believe I have every right to do so.

The number of firearms in civilian possession in the United States exceeds the number of people, and gun violence kills thousands of people annually in the United States, more than ten thousand of these deaths homicides, and perhaps twice that number suicides.  Especially with highly-publicized incidents involving multiple victims, there is an ongoing effort to attempt to address the issue by legislation.  Gun control is a constant ongoing political topic.

With the results of the 2018 election increasing the number of left-leaning gun control advocates in legislative positions, there will be increased efforts to pass gun control legislation.  In a November 20, 2018 Denver Post editorial page article, titled “How many more victims will it take?,” a former Colorado state senator wrote, “None of us should be willing to wait for that catastrophe to force our elected officials to take action on common sense gun safety like banning high-capacity magazines, requiring universal background checks, banning bump stocks and enacting red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who are dangerous.”  Given Democrat control of the Colorado legislature and governorship, such gun control legislation would appear to be a certainty.  This likely will be the case in other states as well as at the federal level.

As such legislation is passed, it will have at best only minimal effect on the number of murders in either single-victim handgun incidents or multiple-victim shootings.  And so, in time, calls for more legislation will be heard.  Eventually, new sales of firearms and ammunition will likely be tightly controlled, and then banned.  In a country where there are more than three hundred million civilian-owned guns, those intent on getting a gun or guns will continue to be able to do so with relative ease.  At best, removing guns from a home will prevent a shooting by an angry, depressed, or disturbed person in that home.  Calls for firearms to be turned over to governmental authority will increasingly be heard.  Perhaps hunters will be asked to entrust their guns to the government, checking them out during hunting season.  A minority of law-abiding gun owners will come singing “Kumbaya” as they turn in their weapons for destruction; the remainder of otherwise law-abiding gun owners will choose to retain their weapons regardless of new laws.  Those likely to commit crime, of course, will retain their weapons.

Meanwhile, gun violence will continue.  A black market will inevitably develop for both weapons and ammunition, along with increasing theft of guns.  The country cannot stop the flow of drugs or illegal immigrants into the country and won’t be able to stop the flow of weapons either.  Attempts to confiscate weapons will result in casualties.  Bans and confiscations are the logical end result of continuing gun control legislation, but will not only fail to end gun violence but may actually exacerbate it.

Pessimistic, yes, but there simply is no legislative or societal solution that will end gun violence.  Further, society seems intent on making it worse.  Drunk drivers kill thousands each year, but alcohol consumption enjoys almost complete acceptance, unlike firearms.  Alcohol consumption does not make one a better driver, a better neighbor or citizen, a better employee, a better spouse, a better parent, a more stable and responsible person, and certainly not a better gun owner.  Alcohol, and increasingly marijuana, are widely accepted and celebrated, even as when used in excess they exacerbate the kind of personal problems that create crazed gunmen.  Use of violent and destructive media is almost universal among teens and young men, predisposing some to a mentality leading to gun violence.  Broken homes and single-parent homes create a fertile atmosphere for the kind of problems that might motivate a multiple-victim shooter.  In urban areas, young men, born to unmarried teen mothers who were born to unmarried teen mothers, are at great risk of becoming involved in gang violence.  Yet society refuses to recognize the value of upholding marriage to promote stable homes that are more likely to produce stable, successful individuals.

American government and society perhaps cannot and certainly will not begin to address the real issues behind gun violence.  Biblical Christianity, however, does offer real hope.  The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; all things have become new.”  When an individual comes to Christ in simple repentant faith and is regenerated by the Spirit, when an individual is saved, the Bible tells us that our tendencies and desires are changed.  The motivations that cause a person to shoot another person without cause are transformed.  It is true that even a truly born-again person will sin, but the likelihood of that born-again person becoming a murderer is certainly diminished.  Further, transformed believers are more likely to be better parents, better spouses, better neighbors, better citizens, and are less likely to not only become murderers but are less likely to parent children who become murderers.

Our hope for a less violent society is not in the government.  It is not in gun control legislation, even when carried to its logical conclusion.  Our hope is in the transformation of human nature that comes with the gospel.

Today’s Most Cherished Freedom

Freedom to do whatever with whomever whenever must be protected at all costs. 

In his January 1941 address to Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt argued for four fundamental freedoms that all people should enjoy – freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  He added the last two very expansive concepts to the first two that were included in the The United States Constitution and the associated Bill of Rights.  The Constitution guarantees several basic rights Americans enjoy, including freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly, the right to possess arms, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and legal protections such as due process, freedom from self-incrimination, and freedom from double jeopardy.  Today, these rights guaranteed by the Constitution are taken for granted, as well as all sorts of economic and social concepts derived from them that are considered entitlements.

The driving thought of our postmodern society today, however, including the rejection of all objective ethics and morality, seems to be more consumed with another cherished freedom.  That freedom is the Freedom to Fornicate.

Dedication to protecting this freedom is often in the news.  The recent battle over the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice illustrates this.  The right to abortion in the United States has been codified into law not by legislation so much as by judicial decisions.  And the absolute freedom to fornicate requires legal abortion.  Regardless of who was to be seated on the Court and their views on abortion, everybody knew that in the end abortion would remain legal, widely practiced and widely available, and  relatively safe for the woman (deadly, of course, for the unborn child).  But there must be no hint of legal restriction, no hint of disapproval of the procedure.  It must be celebrated as a fundamental entitlement, paid for by taxpayer dollars when necessary.  Without expansive abortion rights, the cherished freedom that often results in the conception of a child as an unintended consequence might be infringed upon.  And so a man who may not believe in this absolute right cannot be considered for a seat on the Court.  (Thoughtful people acknowledge that often abortion is very difficult for a woman, regardless of the circumstances leading to the pregnancy, and not always the result of personal irresponsibility.)

And dedication to this freedom goes beyond the abortion issue, and beyond ideas concerning more “traditional” sexual expression.  Today’s society reflects postmodern thought in rejecting any objective values.  Right and wrong, good and evil, are rejected; one person’s values are as good as another’s, and everything is relative.  Thus, there can be no hint of restriction or judgement of moral ideas.  Freedom to do whatever with whomever whenever must be protected at all costs.  There can be no restriction on individualism, no bias, no restriction of government funding, no speech that might express values that might make someone uncomfortable.

An October 24, 2018 story in the Denver Post was titled “Boulder police said three more women have come forward with reports they may have been drugged at a party or parties on University Hill.”  The article notes that a police spokeswoman “said all of the women went to multiple parties that night…”  The Post had first reported on the story a few days earlier, and other similar accounts have been reported in local media.  Of course, and all reasonable people would agree, no one should ever be drugged by another person, no one should ever be assaulted.  The guilty parties should be arrested and punished.  But one wonders if the young women involved might consider restricting their activities in order to further their own safety?  Probably not.  There must be freedom to party whenever with whomever.   As the late celebrity Anthony Bourdain purportedly noted, “Your body is not a temple.  It’s an amusement park.  Enjoy the ride.”

The Post front-page headline for October 23 was “Fury over reported fed plan.”  The article noted that “LGBT leaders across the U.S. reacted with fury Monday to a report that the Trump administration is considering adoption of a new definition of gender that would effectively deny federal recognition and civil rights protections to transgender Americans.”  A New York Times report was cited indicating that the Department of Health and Human Services was circulating a memo proposing that gender be defined as an immutable biological condition determined by a person’s sex organs at birth.  The memo that would reverse the Obama administration’s action and return the legal definition of “sex” under Title IX civil rights law to what its authors meant: sex rooted in unchanging biological reality. The article concludes, “According to an estimate by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, there are about 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States.”  This proposed policy change is simply an acknowledgement of reality.  Sex is an immutable biological reality, while the idea of gender identity is an invented social construct that can change over time. The two terms are not interchangeable. The authors of Title IX meant biological sex, not gender identity. But to the current way of thinking, there must be no restriction, no judgement on transgender persons.  (We must acknowledge that often, these are deeply disturbed individuals.  Many, perhaps most, have been abused as children.  They need help.)

The October 24 Post featured an article titled,  “Thornton middle school apologizes for not warning about drag queen.”  Apparently, some parents were actually upset by a drag queen being invited to a middle school career fair at a school in the city and school district in which I reside and pay taxes.  The article noted that the person didn’t perform at Rocky Top Middle School in Thornton, but, in costume, merely read a chapter from “Horrible Harry” to show the damage bullying can do.

Increasingly, attitudes about this new freedom are infecting the evangelical church.  Reportedly, Brandan Robertson, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and an LGBT activist “pastor” at Missiongathering Christian Church in San Diego, recently told his congregation that there is moral equivalence between man/woman monogamous marriage and a group orgy.  The annual “Revoice” conference is billed as “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other gender and sexual minority Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”  Homosexual, even transgender, clergy are increasingly to be found in the broad church community.

For the Christian believer, however, Scripture calls us to a vastly different perspective on the issues of personal autonomy and moral freedom.  In 1 Corinthians chapter 5, for instance, any sort of immorality is forbidden to be tolerated in the church.  The first chapter of Romans reminds of the moral corruption of human society apart from God and pronounces God’s wrath and judgement against such sin.  Words and phrases are used such as “God gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” in verse 24.  Verse 26 speaks of “vile passions” and practices that are “against nature;” verse 27 uses the words “burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful” in connection with forbidden immoral activity.  Clearly, the Scriptures maintain a high, objective moral standard – sexual practice confined to monogamous heterosexual marriage and complete faithfulness to that marriage.  Clearly, the New Testament teaches that believers are not autonomous, not free to develop their own standard of ethics and morality in any matter.  Clearly, the New Testament teaches that Christians are servants – slaves – of Jesus Christ.  And, clearly the Scriptures teach us that it is only in Christ that we can attain true freedom.

The late American pastor and author James Montgomery Boice, in his book “The Sovereign God,” wrote that in Eden, temptation to replace God in the matter of his sovereignty, as Satan had himself tried to do earlier, did not bring freedom.  He wrote that “It is true that the man and woman did learn the difference between evil and good, in a perverted way.  They learned by doing evil.  But they didn’t gain the freedom they wished.  Instead they gained bondage to sin, from which only the Lord Jesus Christ through obedience to the Father was able to deliver both them and us.”  Further, “When individuals rebel against God, they don’t achieve freedom.  They fall into bondage, because rebellion is sin, and sin is a tyrant.  On the other hand, when men and women submit to God, becoming his slaves, they become truly free.”   And, “The basic reason why women and men do not like the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is that they do not want a sovereign God.  They wish to be autonomous.”

American pastor Tim Keller recently noted on social media, “Because a fish absorbs oxygen from water, not air, it is free only if it is restricted to water. If a fish is ‘freed’ from the river and put out on the grass to explore, its freedom to move and soon live is destroyed…Real freedom is finding the right [restrictions].”  People will only know true freedom when they live in harmony with their Creator, and submit to His wise, loving authority.

Humankind celebrating individual autonomy in any and all realms leads to disaster. Celebration of aberrant sexual practices and abortion will not ultimately bring freedom; it will bring servitude to regret, guilt, pain, disease.  Only relationship to the Creator and submission to Him will bring true freedom.

First Peter 2:11 tells us, “Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Reflecting on this passage, the old Puritan Richard Baxter wrote, “To avoid sinful flesh-pleasing, seek the joys above.  Remember that God would give you more pleasure, not less, and that temporal delights are subordinate to temporal delights!”