Richard Exley Ministries

Posted on December 24, 2007

In the truest sense, Christmas is not just a holiday, it's a happening.  It's something that happens to you, something you haven't earned and definitely don't deserve.  It's something God does, a gift of grace, a sacramental moment.

 That's what it was for the shepherds that first Christmas so long ago.  After a hard day of tending sheep, they were sitting around the fire swapping stories -- telling lies most likely, as men are wont to do when they talk about themselves. Suddenly, the night was ablaze and they found themselves immersed in the glory of the Lord.  And out of the glory an angel appeared with a startling announcement:  "'I bring you good news of great joy...Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'"

 It's important, I think, to note that there is nothing at all in this account to suggest that anything religious was going on around that campfire.  Nor is there anything in the scriptures to lead us to believe that the shepherds did anything to precipitate that angelic announcement.  In truth, there is not a shred of evidence to indicate that they were in any way special; nothing to suggest that there was anything in their spirit, or nature, or life style that predisposed them to receive this angelic announcement. 

Category: Hope

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America's Covenant with Death
Posted on December 19, 2007

Christmas is less than a week away and I want to write something warm and fuzzy but I can’t.  I’m haunted by the gruesome images of the senseless killings that have become increasingly familiar. In February, Bosnian immigrant Sulejmen Talovic, 18, walked into a shopping mall in Salt Lake City and shot and killed five people. In April a shy 23-year-old Korean student named Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many more on the Virginia Tech University campus in Blacksburg Va., before he shot himself. Earlier this month, Robert Hawkins, 19, entered a department store in Omaha, Neb., and killed eight people before turning his SKS assault rifle on himself. Then on Sunday, December 9th, Matthew Murray, 24, armed with an assault rifle, a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun and a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, opened fire in the parking lot of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing two teen-age girls as a service was letting out. The girls' father and two other people were wounded. Twelve hours earlier and about 65 miles away Murray killed two staff members of the Youth With a Mission missionary training center in Arvada and wounded two others.

Murder is nothing new.  It’s been around since Cain killed Able and the human race has a long history of committing atrocities. In fact that first Christmas so long ago was a bloody one as King Herod’s paranoia turned into homicidal madness when he ordered the slaughter of every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Still there seems to be something different, something more sinister about the random killings being perpetrated by these troubled young men. Their killing sprees are not prompted by religious fanaticism or political ideology or even personal revenge (excepting perhaps Murray’s assault on Christians). Their victims were strangers for the most part and seemed to be chosen at random.  

What’s going on? Why is this happening?

There are no easy explanations, no pat answers. The conditions conspiring to produce these troubled young men are varied and complex. The entertainment industry continues to produce video games, music and movies that glorify violence. Liberal politicians, jurists and even educators insist that there are no moral absolutes, creating a society where every person is a law unto themselves. Corruption in high places, within business, within government and within the church, has produced a jaded cynicism in both young and old alike. Finally there is rampant divorce and the resulting dissolution of the traditional family creating a generation of lost souls.  

While all of these are contributing factors I believe the root cause is more spiritual than sociological or even psychological. America made a covenant with death and we are now reaping the consequences. That covenant was sealed on Monday, January 22, 1973, when the United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2, in the now infamous Roe v. Wade decision, giving the United States the dubious distinction of having the most permissive abortion laws of any nation in the western hemisphere. Since that fateful day nearly 50 million babies have been put to death before birth and, not co-incidentally, we have seen an unparalleled increase in domestic violence and child abuse. The random killing sprees on school campuses, in shopping malls, and now in churches, are just the inevitable consequence of devaluing life.  When the highest court in the land rules that killing is an acceptable way of dealing with your unplanned pregnancy we shouldn’t be surprised when children reared in such a culture turn to killing when life becomes overwhelming for them. 

If the root cause is spiritual, and I believe it is, then it demands a spiritual response. The church’s response must be three-pronged. 

1) Intercession – Jesus said that before we can spoil the strong man’s house we must first bind him (Mt. 12:29). Since we do not contend with physical foes but spiritual ones our weapons must not be the weapons of the world (2 Cor. 10:3-5). In prayer we must bind the spiritual forces that are operating behind the scenes and only then can we see men and women set free.  

2) Evangelism – those who do not know Christ, even those whose desperation have made them killers, are not our enemy but our mission. We are called to love them into the Kingdom.
3) Reformation (Spirit directed social action) – as evangelism redeems the individual so Spirit directed social action redeems the institutions of society restoring them to their God given purpose.

Remember, we are not holy warriors doing battle with those whose values and lifestyles are different from ours but holy lovers who turn the other cheek, who go the second mile, who do unto others as we would have them do unto us. No matter how strident those who hate the cause of Christ become let us always live lives that echo the Christmas angel’s holy refrain, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). 

This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

Category: Morality

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Anger and Despair -- A Deadly Combination
Posted on December 06, 2007

Following yesterday’s killing spree at an Omaha, Neb., shopping mall, in which nineteen-year-old Robert Hawkins shot and killed at least eight people before turning his gun on himself, I found myself wrestling with two questions. The questions were not new. They were the same two questions I have struggled with following each killing spree, whether it happened at Columbine High School in Colorado or on the Virginia Tech campus or at the Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The first question is a “why” question.  Why did he do it? What could make a person kill people at random? Did he have no feelings for their families, no concept of the kind of pain and suffering he was inflicting?

No one can know for sure why Robert Hawkins did what he did but the information coming from the news media gives us a portrait of a deeply disturbed young man, an outsider in many ways and estranged from his family. When I consider that information two words come to mind:  anger and despair.

Category: Morality

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