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Violent times

Last Wednesday night at prayer meeting, we were reading Romans 1:29-30. It speaks of those who suppress the truth and dishonor God, and perfectly describes the week our teenageres have experienced in Yucca Valley. The Apostle Paul says many are "filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents..." Two unfortunate events in the last week illustrate these verses.

Last Sunday night, several teenagers broke into a local residence, causing the home owner to defend himself and his property by shooting and killing one of the teens. Now, the surviving teens are being charged with murder because the death occured while they were trespassing. In a separate incident, on Tuesday at our high school, a teacher spotted a threatening note, which led many faculty, students, and parents into a panic. The writer of the note was arrested in his home later in the week, with evidence that supported some of the threats he made in the note. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

These are violent times. But what is the cause of such violence? And how do we prevent this from happening again? Was it lack of self-esteem, inadequate education, violent music and video games, or poor parenting that caused these teenagers to committ such crimes? Jesus gets to the root of violence in Matthew 15:19-20 when He says, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man..." In other words, it's not what goes into these teens, but what comes out of their hearts that really causes the violence.

Parenting is critical. Education is important. Music and video game guidelines are appropriate. Self-respect has its place. But the greatest need of our teenagers is Jesus Christ. He is the only One capable of transforming us from the inside out. He begins His work by cleansing our hearts, washing away our sins, and giving us new life through His death on the cross. This will lead to good, wholesome, loving, constructive deeds rather than evil, violent, destructive deeds. This is the power of the Gospel, and this is what the teenagers of Yucca Valley so desperately need.

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