It's official. I'm OLD!!!
Our COG pastor, Lane Fusilier
recently completed a 3-wek message series on creation vs. evolution. Lane posted a huge number of links and articles on his blog (click on his name to get to them) which show the depth to which he is fascinated by this. Apparently, based on the comments, so are a number of COG attenders. As he points out in one post, many of the high-school and university students attending COG struggle with creation and its fit to post-modernism.
I am not someone who struggles with this.
By way of contrast, Al
put up two excellent posts, one courtesy of Darryl Dash
and one from the Hamilton Spec that resonated a lot more with me. The questions of church attendance/relevance and poverty/need seem to hit me a lot harder than evolutionary/creationist discourse. Perhaps that has to do with the fact I am geting older and busier and, with less free time on my hands, I find myself wanting to invest more in relationships that matter and less in high theological issues that have little to no bearing on living day-to-day.
We haven't been going to church very much lately. In fact, I think we have been at Sunday service maybe 5 times all year. There just isn't much that hits us lately. It's hard to get motivated enough to not only get myself out the door when I feel ambivalent about where I'm going, but that motivation is tougher when there's two kids in the mix. I am really worried that my home church and I are growing apart. It's a difficult issue to place in God's hands, but as He reminds me during prayer times, these are EXACTLY the issues He wants us to turn over to Him, so that's where it is now.
I guess the subject matter being discussed lately doesn't much feel like "Kingdom" business, although the question of "how did we get here?" is one that is fundamental to Christianity. I guess I just take it on faith that I was created by God, and that's good enough for me. No insult intended, but the last three weeks of lessons felt a bit elitist to me. I consider myself a pretty intelligent guy and everything I read and heard sailed right on over me.
I am really deep into the book of Romans right now and, reading it, I am learning so much about God's grace and how to live a strong Christian life. I intend to start blogging about my readings and learnings soon. I would love it if others who read this blog would share their thoughts on the chapters as I post. The Bible is an interpretative text, read through the lens of the individual heart and, I believe, each person will get different, yet relevant, value out of the reading.
I put together a ministry proposal involving practical applications to reach out to our community and establish deeper connections within the church, which I shared with a number of people. Everybody thinks it's great, which is encouraging, but I have not had time to develop it further. The reason for this is because of work and family commitments, which is tough enough, but also because the people I shared it with haven't challenged me or encouraged me to go forward with it, because they're too busy too. Come June, when my current work project ends, I am going to aggressively pursue this plan and see where it goes.
2007 has NOT gotten off to a good start. Lots of work issues, problems at home (fridge died, furnace crapped out), dissatisfied with lots of things......
Whine, whine, whine....
It's funny how life gets in the way of living sometimes. I'm sitting in a meeting room at work right now, babysitting a series of system tests that will carry into the wee hours of morning. My poor wife had to dig out the remnants of today's snow and is now nursing a sore back and dealing with two kids on her own. Who knows what's happening in the lives of those I care about (outside my wife and boys)? I mean, it's not like I'm the type to go and seek out others just to chat. More often than not, life tires me out to the point that, when I get a free minute, I just want to sit in the recliner and catch up this week's TV episodes.
Some community, eh?
So it's time to do something about it, right? I'm happy to say that I renewed an old friendship this week and, during our hour together, we recommitted to spending some real time together, talking about important things (our marriages, our walk with God), praying together, and holding each other accountable for growing in our faith.
I've been restless for a long time. It's time to shake free of the routine, move in new directions pointed by God. Directions that will strengthen my family, create stronger friendships rooted in more than "let's get together sometime soon", create opportunities to serve God in powerful ways. Directions that can only be interpreted through God's roadmap.
Anything else will soud trite or cliche, so let's leave it there. Hope to see you down the road.
The Whole Relationship Thing
I've been quite amused by the amount of "relationship discourse" in the news lately. Lively debate around the age of consent, gay marriage, divorce law and others combined with a great new series on Family and Relationships at church
have really gotten me thinking about one point:
God has an answer for all of this.
I cannot believe that there are people actually arguing AGAINST raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. Heck, make it 18, sez I. I cannot imagine ANYONE under 18 wanting to get married and there are so many Biblical references describing sex as something that God intended to be limited to married couples. Proverbs 5:18-20 reads as follows:
"May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a gaceful deer-
may her breasts satisfy you always
may you ever be captivated by her love.
Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?"
1 Corinthians 6 and 7 is all about sexual sin and 1 Cor.7 verses 3-5 state specifically that the mariage relationship is the only place God intends sexual relation to occur. Now, I am not going to claim I am puritanical. I struggled and lost prior to marriage many times, but I'm darn sure going to try to teach my kids not only God's plan for sex, but also the risks and dangers of sex outside marriage. If I have laws of the land to help support me, so much the better.
As far as gay marriage goes, I see it the same as common-law marriage. Marriage is a Biblical institution and involves one man and one wife united under God until death do they part. THAT'S marriage. Anything else is, at most, a civil union. See, here's the problem I have with gay marriage: it is called "detestable" (Leviticus 18:22) and "perversion" (Romans 1:27). That's the New AND the Old Testaments bringing it under fire. To marry someone of the same sex implies a lifetime commitment to that person. That is a public announcement that you are rejecting God's instruction not just for today, but for the duration of your life on Earth. Therefore, you are willingly (and publicly) choosing a lifetime of sin.
Common-law marriage is, at its heart, a marriage without God, so I don't see it any better.
Now, divorce IS allowable, but I think the fact that the Christian community has a divorce rate similar to the non-Christian community is just shameful. Nobody said this would be easy. By simply getting married, we are opening ourselves up to another person in ways we would never open up to most anyone else. Having said that, if God is in the relationship, then He had a hand in putting that person in your life and, by being accountable to your husband or wife, so are you being accountable to God. Sure, there will be cases of poor judgement, but in a Christian community, we would show forgiveness to our spouse and work through God to heal the relationship. I would even say that the only way for a marriage focused on God to fall apart is if either the husband or the wife chose to renounce God through seeking a relationship or lifestyle change that was entirely sin-based (e.g. an adulterous affair, a life of crime, etc.). The trinity relationship is then shattered and the bonds broken beyond repair. Then, divorce is an option, so the spouse whose path has not strayed can preserve and protect his or her relationship with God.
All of this is laid out in the Bible and, while it has been through numerous translations by imperfect human hands, I think the basic foundations of how to live, create and grow relationships and develop real community are right on. I see no reason to doubt this. I know that this is going to come down on the wrong side of the scale for some, but I have spent a great deal of time worrying these matters in my heart, because my spirituality is more relational and less doctrinal. God has provided us with a relationship roadmap in the Bible that, if we follow it, will allow us to have deep relationships with others that will allow us to encounter real, authentic community within a body of believers. We can have strong marriages, relationally healthy families, true and loyal friends and neighbors. We can call each other "brother" and "sister" and appreciate what it really means to use such words. Underage sex, sex outside of marriage, gay/common-law relationships, divorce, even such things as lies, "false faces", gossip and behind-the-back talk all work to undermine these things and, in God's eyes, are sins as egregious as murder.
Pretty heavy stuff, I know. This is why I don't post much anymore. I have tons of this stuff rolling around in my heart and mind. Thank you God, for challenging me.
So much stress
I really want to post more often, but I'm under so much pressure lately there's barely time to do the little bit I do. Pray for me, please.
Greatest Lyric Ever
Sittin' here with my kids and my wife
Everything I hold dear in my life
We say Grace and thank the Lord
Got so much to be thankful for
Then it's up the stairs and off to bed
And my little (boy) says:
"I haven't had my story yet"
And everything weighing on my mind
Disappears just like that
(He) lifts (his) head off (his) pillow and (he) says
"I love you Dad"
And I don't know why they say grown men don't cry
"Grown Men Don't Cry" - Tim McGraw (I changed the pronouns from girl to boy because it resonates more with me).
I first heard this song Monday. I wept openly during that verse. Still do.
Thank you God, for my beautiful, amazing wife and my wonderful boys. No greater earthly gift have I (nor will I) received from you.
Wandering around the blogosphere
I have a link to Erin Wilson's
blog on the right hand side of this page. I found my way to her blog through the comments she posted on Pernell Goodyear's old blog. I have found my way to numerous other blogs with interesting posts by following the link lists on other folks' blogs (Dave Hamilton
, who I found through Al Baker
, has one of the most interesting blogs). What I have found on many of these blogs is a real openness about their lives. In a number of cases, I haven't met these folks, but I know if I ever meet them, I'll go in knowing a fair bit about them.
This is something I am not good at. The transparency presented by some of these folks (Erin in general and, of late, Pernell and Margie Goodyear) impresses me. I know there are some who would think of it as a cry for attention (oh, look at me, I've had problems!!), or maybe they're making some stuff up to get attention, but I like to think of myself as being not QUITE that cynical. However, I am really not that good at sharing things with others, and here's the reason why....not many bad things have ever happened to me. Most of the pain (and there isn't much) has usually been inflicted by me on others.
I am not easy to live with. Short-tempered, hyperactive, opinionated. Always focused on getting what I want, regardless of how my wants affect others. God has done a LOT of work on me to get me where I am today.
More later (maybe).
A question of faith
A month or so ago, I read this post
on Tim Bailey's blog
. It really got my mind moving and I have spent a lot of thought time chewing on it.
A long time ago, I heard a speaker (I want to attribute it to Steve Baldry, my first Pastor at Philpott) talk about the dangers of blind faith. When things happen that make us question our faith, we should be unafraid to go to God and ask why. Why does AIDS exist, why do tsunamis and earthquakes happen, why was so-and-so's child stillborn? For that matter, why did my children spend a combined 17 weeks in NICU wards when others, who have no love for/belief in/hatred of God have healthy children, strong marriages, great friendships, all the trappings of a good life?
Each Christian has to find the answers to this in their own way, so I thought I'd share my position.
I once heard that it was easy to praise God when things are going well, but it's difficult to entirely trust things to Him when the struggles happen. I find it's the opposite with me. I get really complacent when things are going well. In fact, it's those times, I find, where I rely more on myself and my abilities rather than trusting God. This is where it all falls down and God gives me a stark reminder (whether deeply personal or something happening elsewhere that affects me) that I need to go to Him EVERY DAY for solace and sufficiency.
I do believe that God is loving and benevolent. He HAS to be. He created me. He blessed me with a beautiful wife, awesome children, great friends and family and a good job that allows us to live comfortably. This doesn't even take into account the other amazing, simpler things He has provided in His Creation (a sunset, a rainbow, all of nature, the stars in the sky, clouds). However, He has also proven, time and again, that He is a jealous God (read the First Commandment) whose disappointment over our failures as humans is so great He allows none to approach Him except through His Son, whose sacrifice pays for our failings (sin).
I liken it to when, as a child, something bad happens to a friend. We don't understand what happened, but we instinctively know that we can go to our parents (or some other trusted person) to both discuss things with them and be comforted by them. Same thing here. We don't understand why God allows bad things to happen to people who, we think, have done nothing to deserve the fate visited upon them. But we can go to God in prayer and through the Bible and cry out that we don't understand. But God will reveal His will and reasons for what happened (in His own time, of course) and will give us immediate comfort.
You see, God, I believe, wants to be my sufficiency, the first place I go to every day. He wants to be first in every decision I make, everything I say and do. When I begin to rely on myself, trust to my own thinking, my own ideas, my own interpretation of right and wrong, God eventually does something to shake me up.
Perhaps, when God sees His children getting further and further astray, maybe not being sensitive to His call in specific lives, He allows something massive to happen, the enormity of which is sometimes beyond us. This could be God's way of telling us "You're drifting away from Me. Come back to Me and I will give you comfort". Or, maybe, God's intent in impacting individual(s) through specific events is to help clarify how He is calling them to serve Him in this world.
It should be no secret to anyone that evil exists here and will, until Christ's return. I believe that God is using the evil to remind us to keep Him first, stay by His side, keep serving Him while we are here running the race of Life and keep our eyes on the finish line, where He waits to take us to a place where there are no disasters, no illnesses, no stress and no temptations.
Conversation is welcome and encouraged. I love to read/discuss other's points of views.