Beliefnet
Inspiration Report

 

1505969439When most of us hear the term “law,” our minds immediately conjure up vivid images of police, attorneys, Judge Judy, and hit television shows such as CSI or Law & Order. America is the most litigious society in the history of mankind. Our minds have been culturally conditioned to quickly identify opportunities to significantly profit from the wrongs we suffer. We are bombarded with marketing campaigns that target our pains and victimizations in life, and encourage us to file lawsuits to settle matters like divorce, car accidents, employment disputes, and medical malpractice.

A common theme in our cultural conversations is the violation of our Constitutional rights and privileges within civil law. By placing great emphasis on civil law, we’ve developed a one-dimensional perspective about law, and neglect to think about the vital necessity of other kinds, including spiritual and moral laws. From my study of God’s Word as a Bible teacher, I have discovered that the integration of spiritual law, moral law, and civil law (in that order) are essential to the overall health of any society. Most of America’s social challenges are the result of us focusing primarily on civil law while neglecting spiritual and moral law. A society without spiritual and moral law will always need more police, additional courts, and bigger prisons.

In simple terms, spiritual law is God governing humankind. Civil law is the State governing its citizens. But moral law refers to a person’s capacity to self-govern based upon divine, predetermined principles of righteousness and justice. Therefore, moral law cannot be legislated. Principles of righteousness and justice originate with God and are given to us by him. I believe this is why our nation’s founders desired for America to exist as “one nation under God.” As God’s influence within a nation decreases, immorality proportionately increases.

In the countless debates about gun legislation and gun violence, a discussion about moral law is indispensable. I believe our national failure to acknowledge the importance of moral law and its connection to gun violence is the reason we struggle to discover and implement viable solutions to the problem.

Think about this. If you give a righteous man with a strong sense of morality the launch codes to America’s nuclear arsenal, people will remain safe and have nothing to worry about. But an unrighteous man who lacks morality and has malicious intent is capable of killing people with a butter knife, a spoon, a paperclip, or even his bare hands. In both scenarios, the concern is not so much the weapon but the heart’s intent of the individual who handles the weapon.

I have wonderful childhood memories of our family taking trips to the farm my dad was raised on in Choctaw County, Alabama. Hunting for food and shooting for sport was a way of life. Loaded guns were all around, and so were children. Thankfully, my childhood memories do not include any tragic incidents of people being injured or killed by guns, despite us all having easy access to multiple, loaded firearms.

As children, we were taught moral law. We were taught to fear God. To obey and respect our elders. To love and care for the people around us—which included respecting the weapons that could harm them, because guns don’t kill people, but people do.

Considering the exponential increase in gun violence from my childhood until now, I have concluded that guns have not changed, but people have. People in general have become more immoral. It is not my intent to join or dismiss the political sparring about gun control and gun legislation, but rather, to help us understand that gun violence is ultimately an issue of moral law and a matter of the human heart.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus reveals the capacity of the human heart to function as the source of morality or immorality:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23 NKJV)

This passage of Scripture speaks to the great need for each of us to join others on Survivor Sunday and pray for everyone who has been affected by gun violence. We must pray that God would comfort the hearts of those who have lost loved ones, or who continue to live with physical, emotional, or psychological wounds from past tragedies. We must pray for God to remove malicious intent from the hearts of people, and to once again infuse our hearts with His moral law. It is my desire that our children will be safe and protected, just as we were on my dad’s family farm.

 

James Ward Jr. presently serves as senior pastor and founder of INSIGHT Church in the North Chicago suburb of Skokie. He is also the host of Cultural Conversations, a daily radio show on Salem Media AM 1160 in Chicago. Each day he equips tens of thousands of listeners with godly wisdom to meet everyday challenges with biblical solutions. He and his wife, Sharon, have been married for seventeen years and have two wonderful children, Hannah and Jonathan. To learn more about Ward, visit http://jamesewardjr.com/.

Survivor Sunday is an invitation for individuals and evangelical Christian churches across the nation to join together in prayer for those who have survived gun violence in America. These are the “other victims”—the loved ones of those killed by bullets. They may be spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends, companions, neighbors, co-workers or whole communities traumatized by the absence of someone they cared deeply for and valued highly—someone who was taken away in an ugly and agonizing way. This nationwide event will acknowledge the tragic loss of more than 30,000 lives to gun violence each year in the United States, and pray for the provision, comfort and protection of those who remain. Learn more and sign up at SurvivorSunday.org.

Lately, the news has become a major source of anger and sadness for many of us. With the shadow of war, ongoing political strife, destructive weather, and shocking violence making up the majority of what we read and watch on the news, it’s no wonder we’re overwhelmed by it all.

Maybe that’s why the internet went nuts when a decidedly cute, yet mysterious, message appeared on news outlet NPR’s Facebook feed, written by editor Christopher Dean Hopkins. Normally, NPR is a strong, steady outlet with responsible, thoughtful pieces on current events and cultural trends.

However, this particular post reads as follows.

“Ramona is given a new toy: Smiles, examines for 20 seconds, discards.

Ramona gets a hug: Acquiesces momentarily, squirms to be put down.

Ramona sees three cats 30 feet away: Immediately possessed by shrieking, spasmodic joy that continues after cats flee for their lives.”

About twelve minutes later, Mr. Hopkins posted a retraction, which read, “Edit: This post was intended for a personal account. We apologize for the error.”

But it was too late. The damage was done. People were happy, and they didn’t want an apology.

The cat was out of bag. They wanted more Ramona.

Over the next few days, the post received tens of thousands of likes—over 87,000, to be precise. To put this in perspective, NPR’s Facebook posts normally have likes that are limited to the hundreds.

Speculation ran rampant, with most assuming Ramona to be an adorable cat. But Hopkins quickly dispelled this. Ramona turned out to be not a cat, but the next best thing—his own squirmy, cat-loving baby daughter.

The enthusiasm continued on, unabated.

“This is so much better than the depressing news lately. Can Ramona update be a new NPR feature?” wrote one commenter. “This was a great mistake,” wrote another. Still more commenters wrote variations of “Where do we sign up for future Ramona updates?”

Even the Houston Zoo got in on the action, posting a picture of a couple of cheetah cubs above the question, “How’s Ramona this morning? Asking for a friend.”

As cute and funny as this fortunate accident was, it points to a major deficiency in our news coverage right now—we need happiness. We need the respite, laughter, and inspiration that can only come from the “shrieking spasmodic joy,” of sweet figures like Ramona.

Many of us have found ourselves glued to the screen or the page over the past months, and perhaps this is just the wake-up call we’ve needed—the ringing bell that announces that “Hey, there really is still some good in the world.

The power of cute, happy images and well-described stories is well-documented. One Japanese study, published in the journal, PLoS ONE, demonstrated that exposure to happy images, including cute puppies and kittens, has a huge effect on not only mood, but also on concentration and attention.

Over the course of 132 experiments, they found that participants’ performance improved on detail-oriented tasks after looking at these images. So, for those of you who need a more practical reason to smile, the physical and psychological effects are wonderful.

The effects of constant stress? Not so much—therein lies a host of health problems that far too many of us deal with.

Life is serious, but you don’t have to be. NPR’s Ramona post may have been a mistake, but you can intentionally continue to bring that kind of happiness into your life by seeking it out. There are, in fact, inspirational publications out there that fill the happy niche—places like the Good News Network, Happy News, and of course, Beliefnet.

We need happiness. Joy isn’t a distraction, or a weakness, or naiveté. It’s simply a necessity. The instant response of over 87,000 people clamoring for more Ramona speaks to this much better than words or statistics ever could.

So, serious news-watchers of the world: free yourself. Look up those cats. Watch that video of Shia LeBouf screaming at you that “you can do it.” Take a few moments each day to give up the constant influx of nightmares that the news has become, and give in to the happy.

For now, NPR’s post has been replaced by Hopkins’s apology, the original words that charmed so many, gone. But the question remains: will we be seeing more of Ramona?

“I suppose if people keep promising to pledge to NPR and it doesn’t distract from the very good work our NPR journalists do, we’ll see,” Hopkins wrote.

Seeing that at least one commenter, whose comment received over a thousand likes, wrote “I’m increasing my donation,” it’s safe to say that we may very well see some news of a happier sort on NPR in the near future.

 

What happens when a child of only 6 is discarded by his family and left to raise himself on the streets for 11 years in Kenya? One could only imagine this hair-raising prospect, but for Dr. Charles Mutua Mully this was a reality. “Through the suffering, the lack of food and the lack of shelter, it made me so scared about life.” But Mully continued to battle for his survival through his adolescent years, he begged for food, labored at a coffee bean plantation and walked 4 days to find work in Nairobi. He knocked on doors to find work, and finally, a family welcomed him in after he pleaded about how he was starving.

They then hired him to do housework like laundry, cultivating the gardens and to do the cooking. He was promoted to a farm assistant and life grew softer for the weary traveler. Later he would start his own taxi company after buying his first vehicle and founded the Mullyways Agencies in the 1970s, a transportation company to become a financial titan in his community. God had bigger dreams for the social entrepreneur. He was driving one day and pulled over to the side of the road as he felt God calling him to sell his business and to go back to where he grew up and minister to those in poverty, particularly the children. Mully grappled with this in his mind and in his heart. He sold all his assets, including properties and devoted all the resources to help street kids through by providing food, education, shelter, psychosocial support and giving them a future. Currently, there are Mully Children’s Family centers in Kitale, Ndalani, Kilifi, Lodwar, Yatta and Dar es Salaam. This story is remarkably documented in the film “Mully.”

Mully remains humble despite saving the lives of over 23,000 children over the years. ” I saw my face in their faces,” he said. “After that, I was compelled to give everything and to become a father to the fatherless. We have over 3,000 children at the moment.” To keep the ministry running Mully needed donations to keep the children fed and sometimes the donations didn’t come in. Mully developed a water harvesting/conservation plan for irrigation farming after the river dried up and decided that they would grow their own food to become self-sustaining.

But how? There was no water found on the land. Mully prayed and the Lord instructed him to walk to a certain place and to drill 22.5 feet and they found water. “Up to this day that well exists,” he said. “It’s called Jacobs well.”
“I have the spirit of entrepreneurship and we could not continue asking or begging every day because it is so hard to bother people. We now grow vegetables and send them to Europe (Germany and the Netherlands) to be sold to make money. We are able to sustain ourselves up to 30 to 50 percent.” Additionally, the organization has school feeding programs, job workshops and they have a future leaders program that “provides mentoring and coaching of youths with leadership and entrepreneurial skills through student internships, peer counselor training and a volunteer program.”

When God gives a person a purpose there is no stopping them. The children who he’s helping are doing just this. Through Mully, children have become doctors, lawmakers, engineers, social workers, teachers and advocates. “When you empower them, they are empowered to help other people’s welfare. Even if we help one child at a time it means a lot because that means we can transform and empower the young generation, especially the poor and the orphaned children.”

The Bible says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,'” Mully said. “Yes, this organization has seen great success, but it is not because of me – it is because of the Lord, who gives me strength. Through God, anything is possible for the benefit of mankind.” The bottom line is when God calls us, we need to listen to His voice. Imagine if Mully didn’t. That would mean those 23,000 children would’ve been left on the streets and they could’ve perished. Words can’t adequately describe the beauty and impact this story will have on movie-goers.

To learn more about the film, visit www.mullymovie.com.

The National Geographic series “The Story of Us” will reveal the common humanity that lies inside each one of us like love, compassion, justice, peace and freedom. Morgan Freeman travels the globe in search for this answer. “I’ve always been curious, some people call it nosy. That is the driving force of wanting to do and loving to do this type of material,” Freeman said. “It puts you face-to-face “with people way outside of your experience,” he told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer tour.

Each of the 6 hour-long episodes will explore a single fundamental force or topic: freedom, peace, love, social division, power. “The Story of Us” follows the success of “The Story of God,” which Freeman hosted as well.

Executive produce James Younger said the mission of the show is understanding the commonalities we share as humans. “What we’re looking for is how we are linked together. In the history of humanity is always the story of us and the story them. We live in a time where people think that the ‘them’ is getting bigger and the ‘us’ is getting smaller. We felt like this is time to focus on what brings us together and see if we can open people’s eyes to how we can incorporate more of ‘them’ into ‘us.’”

Freeman will talk with people like former inmate Albert Woodfox who was one of the inmates put in solitary confinement 1972 after the killing of a corrections officer. Woodfox was kept in solitary confinement for more than 43 years until he was released in 2016. Joshua Coombes is a hairstylist from London who began a social movement called #DoSomethingForNothing to encourage people to perform random acts of kindness. Paul Kagame is the president of Rwanda. He was able to make peace the horrific civil war. Megan Phelps-Roper was a member of the Westboro Baptist Church before leaving in 2012. “The show will share her journey as today she’s an advocate for people and ideas she was once taught to despise — especially the value of empathizing with people across ideological lines.”

The episodes will dig deeper into the heart of conflict and war. In the episode, “The Fight for Peace” Freeman will study the cycles of war and peace. From the ritualized combat of the sacred Tinku festival in Bolivia to Rwanda’s postgenocide reconciliation program, this episode deals with humanity’s enormous capacity for violence and the endless pursuit of harmony. “The March of Freedom” is an episode where Freeman travels around the world in search of a greater understanding of the concept of freedom. From solitary confinement and forced labor camps to social taboos and laws that hinder speech and expression, freedom seems to be a constant struggle.

“The Story of Us” with Morgan Freeman premieres Oct. 11 on National Geographic Channel.