Thursday, February 22, 2018

Who Is Responsible for the Mass Shootings?

TRAGICALLY SEVENTEEN TEENS died in a Florida High School shooting last week. Mass shootings in High Schools are happening so consistently that the nation is approaching a state of panic. 

What is the solution? Gun control? Weaponizing teachers? The solution to any problem is usually dependent on a thorough analysis of the cause. So, if we can isolate the cause of the mass murders we can provide an appropriate solution. 

We know there is a cause because in the last two decades something has changed. Mass shootings were almost non-existent in the fifties and sixties, but in the late sixties they began to occur, and since then with increasing frequency. 

What changed during those decades was the family. It has increasingly broken down. The retreat of fatherhood is the seismic shift of greatest significance. About 35% of our youth now grow up away from their biological father. The causes of this change are multiple, but I want to focus on the two most prominent, the sexual revolution and the emergence of an aggressive, militant feminism. 

In 1960, before neither the sexual revolution or feminism existed, only 5% of live births were to unwed mothers, and since many of those mothers eventually married their child's father, fewer than 5% grew up apart from their dad. 

The sexual revolution changed all of this. It decoupled sex from marriage and family. Sex became just another "recreational activity." In his book, Cheap Sex, sociologist Mark Regnerus makes the point that women are the "gate keepers" of sex. They decide when, or if, a man can have sex. In previous generations, men had to give something up to gain access to this privelege. They had to make a life commitment. It inevitably followed that men were motivated to marry. Not today! Sex is easy and free. It requires no commitment. Therefore, men are reluctant to marry. As my father used to say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" 

In addition, because it prioritized career over marriage and family, feminism decreased the motive for female marriage. With the advent of the pill, women could now enjoy casual sex with no constraints on their career. Thus feminism also added fuel to the sexual revolution. 

In the mid-seventies, as these two movements were gathering steam, George Gilder predicted the decline in marriage that is now occurring. Why marry a woman who brings home the bacon, serves in the National Guard, and rules the household? What does a man have to offer? What is his function? He is just a useless appendage. The result is predictable. Men are fleeing marriage. 

Fifty years later the familial foundations have crumbled. In a recent Fox News article, Suzanne Venker pointed out that every mass killer in recent years, with one exception, grew up without the influence of his biological father. Here is the problem. Fathers are desperately needed. Fathers socialize boys. They tame and channel the testosterone-induced aggression that every young man feels at puberty. Fathers transform that God-given aggression into a socially productive force. 

But when fathers are absent the opposite happens. As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: "Nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.”[1]

Fatherlessness is the root of many of our other social problems. "70% of juvenile offenders came from single mother homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988). 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Center for Disease Control). 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools).”[1]

In light of these facts, is it unfair to blame the mass shootings on feminism and the sexual revolution? I don't think so. And, if these two movements are the cause, then the only solution is national repentance. If the problem is moral and spiritual, so is the solution. 

Of course, this analysis is problematic. Feminism and the Sexual Revolution are two holy grails of contemporary culture. We will never put the blame where it belongs. Without some unforeseen catastrophe, or a great outpouring of God's Spirit, feminism and the sexual revolution will not be repented of. 

As always your comments are greatly valued. 

[1] Adams, Steven (2013-12-05). Women First, Men Last: Feminism's War On Men and Its Devastating Effects (Kindle Locations 2592-2594). Steven Adams. Kindle Edition.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Why Two Funerals Precede Every Happy Marriage!

SINCE VALENTINE'S DAY is right around the corner, a few words about the secret to marital happiness are appropriate. 

God has hardwired each of us to pursue our happiness, and we will ruthlessly and single-mindedly pursue it in whatever we really believe will get us there. 

That is one of the fruits of New Birth. It convinces us that our ultimate happiness is in God and eternal things. To the degree that we really believe this we will push self, and even suffer, to acquire that happiness. 

That is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39, 16:25). Jesus practiced what he taught. “For the joy set before him [he] endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).

We can restate it in modern vernacular like this. Those willing to die to their selfish, self-centered pride will maximize their joy. That especially applies to marriage. 

These words are counter intuitive. Obeying them is not easy. Everything in our fallen nature screams the opposite. 

You gain your life by protecting it.

Happiness comes through self-promotion.

Happy people protect their reputations. They don’t lose them.

Happy people take care of number one. They don’t volunteer to be number two. 

Here is how these assumptions express themselves in marriage. 

“I’m not going to let you use me. I have my rights, you know.”

“I will do my part for this marriage if you do yours.” 

“After what you have done to me, you really expect me to forgive?”

“How could anyone ever thank God for a spouse like you? God knows I deserve better.”

These are the ruminations of death not life. So, here is the question. Do we believe Jesus? We say “yes” when we pursue our joy in the happiness of our spouse. Here is a simple, but profound, truth:  if a husband and wife truly understand, and apply the ethic of the cross to their marriage, they can’t help but become increasingly happy. As someone once said, two funerals precede every happy and successful marriage.

The ethic of the cross stands at the center of all truly fulfilling Christian marriages. The cross does three things. It teaches husband and wife how to love each other—first as spouses, and then as brothers and sisters. Second, it motivates that love. Third, because it lavishes us with buckets of grace when we fail, it encourages us to keep walking down the steady path of self-denial. 

This  blog is an except from Bill's upcoming book, Marriage In Paradise, How to have a Genesis two Marriage in a Genesis three world. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How Would God Handle A Rebellious Child?

WE WERE IN A MCDONALDS PLAY AREA for lunch after church. Next to me was a young mother with two sons, about age four and six. The four year-old was in trouble. "Sit on this chair," his mother said. "Your punishment is time-out for ten minutes." She put out her hand to restrain him, but her son cocked his fist and took a viscous swing at his mother's arm. Then he looked her in the eye and said with vehemence, "I hate you!"

What amazed me was not the child's sinful reaction, but his mother's. She did nothing. She did not get angry. She did not scold him. She just ignored him. She acted as if this was normal acceptable behavior, the kind of thing any mother would normally excuse, just childish immaturity.

She was the one with the problem, and her son reflected it. She did not see sin through God's eyes. She did not feel about it as does God. She tolerated rebellion and disrespect.

We can probably excuse her. Hopefully she was not a Christian. She didn't know better. But how about you? How about most professing evangelicals? Many in the church would react like this mother, but  in doing so they unintentionally scandalize the gospel. That's a strong statement, so let me explain.

Parents represent God to their children. "There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God" (Rom. 13:1).  This means that God has put every parent in their child's life to represent his authority to that child. Parents need to be firm where God is firm, gracious where God is gracious, and decisive where God is decisive.

God hates sin, especially disrespect for authority. We should hate it also because authority is the ultimate issue. On the Day of Final Judgment our children will give an accounting to God for their response to his authority. Did they embrace it, love it, and submit to it? Or, did they hate it, flaunt it, or rebel against it? How they related to God's authority will determine their eternal destiny, either eternal conscious torment, or joy "inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8).

The Old Testament shows us how God feels about authority. “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death" (Exodus 21:15). “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death" (Exodus 21:17).  “Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother" (Deuteronomy 27:16).  Proverbs 30:17 sums it up with graphic language. "The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey its mother will be plucked out by the Ravens of the Valley, and eaten by the vultures." God has designed these words to get our attention. Although capital punishment for these sins does not apply in the New Covenant, it shows us how God feels about child rebellion and the eternal consequences that could follow.

As we have seen, God gives parents to children to teach them what God is like, to help them internalize God's feelings about sin. God is slow to anger. He is patient with the weak. He shows grace to the undisciplined. But it is a colossal mistake to presume upon his goodness. God is never tolerant of evil. He hates it. The cross is the measure of that hatred. When Jesus died he took the capital punishment that each of us deserve for these sins against our parents. The cross shouts this message. "God hates rebellion. It deserves crucifixion, and God must justly punish it." Either your children will put their faith in Christ and he will absorb God's wrath for them, or they will receive it themselves through eternal damnation.

So, what should this mother have done? She should have reacted decisively. God is not patient with these sins, therefore, no parent should be either. She should have said something like this. "Do you have any idea how serious your sin is? In the Old Testament this rebellion would have provoked the death penalty. God is angry, and so am I. I am not going to discipline you in public. But when we get home I am going to spank you. I am going to do this because I love you. God disciplines the sons that he loves, and so do I."

How about you? Do you see it this clearly? This is how an understanding of the gospel affects parenting. It provokes us to act. And our action produces happy, contented, respectful adults that bring praise, honor, and glory to our Father in heaven. For more on age appropriate corporal punishment that does not hurt your child but connects pain to disobedience go to  Biblical Discipline That Makes Children Fun. 

Would love to hear your comments...

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Seven Reasons to Be Really Happy

UNHAPPY PEOPLE take their blessings for granted. They assume they deserve them. Happy people take nothing for granted. They understand that everything is God's gift. The decade of birth, place of birth, parents, IQ, talents, etc. are all God's gracious gifts. They "overflow with thanksgiving"for the things that most take for granted.  Here are seven facts that this kind of person celebrates daily. I start with the least important.

SEVENTH is technology. I can call or Skype my daughter in England for free. Just twenty years ago skyping did not exist, and calling was from a land line at $2-$5.00 per minute. When missionaries Adoniram and Anne Judson left New England in 1812, it took six months for a letter to travel home from India. What used to require a 400 volume encyclopedia in 1980 is now available instantly through Google. A 1971 computer the size of my two story house would not do what my smart phone does instantly with a Siri command today. Ninety nine percent of human beings have never enjoyed these technologies, let alone smart phones. Are you grateful?

SIXTH is indoor plumbing. My father-in-law was born in 1913. He used an outhouse until he was in his twenties. Imagine an outhouse in the middle of the night on the plains of North Dakota with the temperature at minus 10? Not  a pleasant thought. But outhouses, or worse, have been the norm for 99% of those who have lived. But we have indoor plumbing in heated homes. Do you ever thank God for this incredible blessing, or do you just take it for granted?

FIFTH is central heating and air conditioning. Up until the last hundred years the world's wealthiest people only enjoyed radiant heat from a fireplace situated in one corner of the room. Since most rooms lacked fireplaces, the ambient temperature in most winter dwellings was 40-50 degrees . Everyone dressed inside like we dress outside on a cold day. How about Summer? Humid heat with no relief. Since screens weren't invented until recently, bugs permeated everything, even the houses of kings and queens. Are you grateful?

FOURTH is amazing Medical Care. One of my grandchildren was born without an anus. One hundred years ago within 48 hours he would have died in great agony. Today in Africa or S. E. Asia that is still the case. But nine years ago several operations re-plumbed him, and he is now a healthy third grader. How about ibuprofen and acetaminophen? 99% of those who have lived have never experienced the gift of a pain killer. In 1960 C.S. Lewis suffered from an enlarged prostate. He wore a catheter and urinated into a bag. Once at a Cambridge faculty meeting the bag leaked urine. Lewis was profoundly embarrassed. Today, a simple operation would fix this. Are you grateful?

THIRD is political and religious freedom. Historically, both have been almost non-existent . Even today only 25% of the worlds population enjoys both. This means we Americans are spoiled. We can move anywhere, work anywhere, and go to church anywhere, without government permission. Why is it that so many millennials don't value these blessings? If history is any teacher, they won't continue. So, are  you grateful?

% Living on less than $1/Day
SECOND, all the food you can eat! Only in the West, and in the last fifty years, have people not had to worry about where their next meal would come from. So great is our abundance, that we don't complain about the quantity of food, but the variety. But most that have lived on this planet have eaten monotonously. Usually boiled grain three meals a day, i.e. wheat, rice, oats, etc. (when they could get it). By contrast, our national problems is obesity. We have such an abundance that most have trouble keeping the pounds off. Are you grateful, or do you take all of this for granted?

FIRST, the gospel has solved your biggest problem, the wrath of God. Sin separates us from God, our source of greatest good, and taking his rich gifts for granted is one of the sins that most provokes his anger.  Grumbling and complaining are the fruits. Our unwillingness to be thankful makes God angry. Wouldn't it you? But, here is the measure of God's infinite goodness. Our Father wanted reconciliation. He wanted his anger abated. So, he sent his Son to die on the cross. In our place, Jesus exhausted his Father's wrath for our grumbling, complaining, and lack of gratitude.

Look at all these blessings. You didn't earn them. God could have birthed you into a medieval serf's family. No heat, indoor plumbing, medical care, food, or political rights. These are all the result of God's AMAZING GRACE to us. Grace is unmerited favor. If God gives gifts that we could never merit, how is it possible to take them for granted? We should be jumping up and down, shouting "thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus!"

Guilt is not the proper response. Thanksgiving is. God wants us to overflow with heart-felt thanksgiving. You and I have it good. In this regard, the will of God is clear. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving" (Ps. 100:4). "Giving thanks always and in everything to God" (Eph. 5:20). "Walk in him, rooted and built up in him... overflowing with thanksgiving."