Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are you ever bothered by the state of your life? I don't mean circumstance, because a lot of times what's happening around us has little to do with us making it happen, (ie. death of a friend or family member, someone visiting unexpectedly, catching a cold from someone at work, etc.).
I mean the state of affairs that you have clearly and undeniably caused in your own life. Whether good or bad, the "idea of making your own bed" (I will skip the "lying in it" part for now) is what I'm talking about. We can read books, watch movies, even hear stories from the lives of other people of either desperation in difficult moments brought on by self destruction or moments of greatest where people rise to an occasion, sometimes even repeatedly.
Perhaps it's even something that you can think back on your life and recognize having done something like that. My question this morning that I'm asking myself is this...what causes a person to do such a thing (put him/herself in a position, whether good or bad)?
Why do I make decisions that will hurt me in the end, even if I know what the result will be before I even do it?
Or why do I work hard at something and see the benefit?
I think the answer to the latter is pretty simple. We want to see good things happen in our lives, and that's not a bad thing. It's great to strive to greatness, so long as it's not at the cost of humility.
I think the answer to the former is also relatively simple though not easily accepted (I think that's really what I'm thinking on today). We do stupid things, I do stupid things, because I'm stupid. Too crass? Perhaps, but basically true I think. What I mean is, we make decisions that aren't the best for us in the end sometimes because we honestly think that the outcome will turn out well, but sometimes I think it's simply because we're stupid. We allow the sinister voice in our minds (call it what you will) to convince us to do wrong, even if we know the outcome will not serve us well in the end. That's sin, it's in our fallen nature. Obviously the Bible talks much about this portion of humanity that Jesus seemed to be able to fight much more holistically than we are able to without divine intervention.
So I revert back to the original you ever find yourself bothered by the state of your life? I do. Currently I am.
Unfortunately I think that part of why I am so bothered is because I fell culprit to the tendency of pride. Striving for greatness for greatness sake, to be lifted up as the great and awesome ME. It stings to realize something so harsh of oneself. Often we don't want to admit to being arrogant or full of pride (unhealthy pride, sinful pride), but at the same time it's all too oft the pride that causes us to blind ourselves from it.
I think I fell prey to the "sin of grandiosity" as one professor/friend of mine so eloquently worded it. Basically, I want to be great for my name's sake. To become the greatest of pastors because I want people to look to me. It's sickening when I think about it, that I could use such a privileged position (not earned by any means) to try to make something of myself.
Now, being that I'm still 25, and Jesus didn't even enter into full on ministry until he was 30ish, hopefully this is an immaturity thing that will shift as I grow older. It may very well be, but if I don't recognize it and learn to battle it, it can very easily become a monster that lurks beneath the surface of everything I do (similar to the theme of Andy Stanley's book "What Lies Beneath", incredible book if you ever get the chance to read it).
Those who know me well know that I have a tendency to be my worst critic, and I won't disagree. I can be a little harsh on myself sometimes. But in this particular instance, I don't see it as being harsh so much as honest. It's something that I'm not pleased with at all. I don't want to become the person who strives for great things in life simply because I want the enjoyment of them or because I want people to like me, or because I want to become a 'sage' of some sort to whom all people look for advice.
I think John Eldredge stated it well in his book "The Way of the Wild Heart" (also worth reading) when he mentioned that the position of "King" (essentially the noble leadership to which mostly more progressed people are assigned, ie. senior pastor) should not be desired, it should be something that a person is lead or pushed by God into. If it's something you desire, than you're not likely ready for it, if it's something you recognize you can't achieve by your own merit, then your heart is right for the job with the aid of the Father.
So why am I bothered by the state of my life right now? Mainly because I have allowed things to fester within me without dealing with them, without repenting of them, and without handing myself fully over to be healed and renewed by God for quite some time. I have coasted, I have not lived. I have become arrogant in some ways, allowing pride to dictate my actions.
It's hard to relinquish control, it's hard to lay it all out on the table.
I am challenged this morning by a sermon I heard last night on the commandment of God to have no other gods but Him.
Is it possible to deify yourself and place yourself before God? Yes, and I think that's the biggest problem that a lot of us have. Some are just more apt to battle it than others.
I'm pretty selfish, and I'm not a fan of that. It comes out in a lot of what I do, others may see it, or they may not, but I see it and God sees it, and that is why I'm bothered.
So what's the solution? Do something about it. Seek out the Father, turn myself over to Him, relinquish control (continually, which is a struggle) and walk in faith that what He says He'll do, He'll do.
And to prove that I really am as selfish as I say I am, this is all written for my sake, not for anyone else's. So that I can come back and read this again later and remember the situation again. Also so I can process at this moment all that is happening.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Can't Sleep

I occasionally find myself awake at night, my mind and body refusing to shut down for much needed rest, tonight is no exception.
I have also found some solace in the spewing of words and thoughts into this particular page, knowing that it's not just some secret place to hide everything, but just the potential even one person reading this means that it's no longer locked in my heart.
I don't know nor can I begin to understand the strangeness of releasing thoughts into oblivion and the comfort that it provides.
Of course, I'm quite confident that there are few who even stumble across this page anymore, but it's the action, not the audience, that counts in these instances.

Perhaps I'm just not tired, but I don't think that's the case. Perhaps I ate something strange and it's affecting my sleep pattern this evening, but again, I doubt it's relevance. Especially because of the pattern that I'm discovering arises on occasion for periods of time where I don't sleep well.
But I've also been dreaming, in the short instances that I do slip off into an unconscious realm. That may not seem strange, but I don't normally remember my dreams, nor do those that I do remember contain recurring themes or characters, and that's what's happening.

Anyway, regardless of reason, I can't sleep tonight, and I just need to write something, anything, hopefully to deter my thoughts from keeping me awake all night.
I have to admit, I have struggled with the changes that have come my way in the last while. Not with right or wrong choices or anything like that, but simply adjusting to circumstance.
I'm in a place that is full of people, a city of over a million people, and yet I still feel as isolated as the "survivorman" when he finds his way through the wilderness of some remote region of the earth.
This is to nobody's fault in particular, I think it's just a matter of adjusting well, which I have not been able to do.
I'm bothered by much these days, by things in my own character that are flawed and need work. About my current relationship with the Almighty. About my current views of the opposite (and finer) gender, and many other things that could probably fall in an "in between" category.
I suppose ultimately I see myself as inadequate in all of these situations. Somehow not quite reaching some unattainable standard that I've placed in my mind for everything in life.
I have a tendancy towards placing high expectations upon myself, too high. Not that one shouldn't strive for excellence in everything, but one most certainly shouldn't expect perfection, because that is simply not possible.
I feel inadequate, or even that I've missed something when it comes to regular intimacy with God. That somehow I have to have been sinless for a period of time, or that I need to put on some sort of persona just to say 'hello'. Of course in my mind I know that this is absurd to think because it's just simply not true and there are passages of Scripture to support it, not to mention personal experience to over rule my thought processes.
When it comes to other people, I feel that I must reach a certain quota of acts of kindness or service to merit friendship. Also absurd.
I think ultimately with these two areas, it's more a matter of acceptance that God loves unconditionally. And that people don't always expect something in return for kindness. That perhaps they even want me around.
This isn't me airing dirty laundry, just simply shortcomings that I'm wrestling with right now.
When it comes to fast approaching seminary classes, I'm terrified that I won't be able to keep up, or that I won't comprehend what is being thrown at me.
When it comes to relationships in general, I fear that I don't measure up.

I think really, behind all of the aformentioned issues in my mind is a strong desire to skip ahead in life. What I mean is, I don't want to climb the mountain, I just want to be at the top. I don't want to have to put in the work to get the result, the sinful nature within me just wants what I wants and I wants it now!
I don't want to have to go through stretching periods of growth where I have to realign myself with truth and Savior if I've found myself off track.
I don't want to have to push myself beyond the door of my house to get acquainted and reaquainted with people of like mind. I don't want to have to work at friendships, new and old.
I don't want to have to work at getting into the "groove" of school work.
I don't want to have to put myself on the line the mend broken friendships, or to do so to introduce the possibility of romance into my life...
With all of these things there is an annoying little voice in the back of my mind that constantly says "just give up, it's not worth it", and I recognize the need to ignore and destroy such a thought. But there is a much greater voice that tells me that it is only through danger and toil that one can really thrive.
These are all the dangers and toils of my life right now, they will change, they will intensify, and down the road I may even reminisce and wish for the days when my only fears were of failing a class of being rejected. But, as for now, I need to face the current situation with resolute passion to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if there may not seem to be one right now.

So now, I will retreat back to my pillow and pray that with sleep God will calm my soul tonight, and with love to wake me up with a fresh view of what's ahead.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brain Farting

I'm sitting in my office, that will only actually be my office for a few more days...10 to be exact. Since I have so little time left, there's not really much that I have to do. And those things that I can do aren't really doable during regular office hours cause students are in school and most people are at work.
With all that's happening these days, I find that I need to release thoughts out of my head so that I don't go nuts.
I picked up a new vehicle the other day from one Mike Schalin. I'm pretty excited about driving some new wheels, mostly because I've been looking at getting a new car for a while now and it's actually happened. It's newer and nicer than my former car, and actually probably than any other car I've ever had. Though I must admit that it wouldn't have been possible to reach that point in vehicular greatness were it not for the incredible anonymous gift from a church goer in Calgary whilst I was on internship of a free car. That car held much appreciation with it, unfortunately it got totaled in an accident a few years back, otherwise I'm sure I'd still be driving it today (the accident was of no fault of mine).
This new car, however, represents a lot more than just me styling and profiling in a hardcore station wagon. It represents a new beginning in a sense, with a move to another province, to a city that I once called home and will soon be doing so again.
After months of sleepless nights (not literally, though darn close) and a ton of asking other (God, friends, colleagues, that guy in the 7/11) what it is that I'm supposed to be doing and unbelievable internal struggle as to what my purpose in my current church and ministry and even in future ministries is and should be, it came to a very difficult conclusion to head back into the land of academia and seek out higher education.
This is such a bittersweet existence right now as I walk through a number of "lasts" here in North Battleford and look towards something that I'm really not sure how all will turn out. While I've always been open about my personal feelings towards this place as a choice to live it wouldn't be my number one, there is more than just location to be considered. Something I'm only learning now is how attached I have become to this place with all it entails. Of course it's always people that make a place endearing, I've learned to love people here.
I've really learned to love my students, and I can call them that, they're mine (you're mine!) ha. Not because of some strange obsession or anything like that, but simply because I have invested so much in them and they in me I feel a sense of attachment to them greater than just youth and youth leader. They are my friends, my students, in a very real sense those whom I've served.
As I sifted through all of the thank you notes and gifts received from the farewell that was held for me, of course being who I am, I shed a few tears and certainly laughed at some of the comments made. But more than anything I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of unworthiness. It's hitting me hard today, it's such a privilege to be given a position of spiritual leadership. I think I've known that in my head before but it's really sinking in today. It's incredible the responsibility that it is but it's by no means a right. I haven't earned it, it doesn't matter how much school I go through, how many years of experience, how much I got paid before, none of it matters, it's something that for whatever reason God has placed on my heart to do and has given me the chance to do it.
I think that's what should and does hold many pastors accountable to their task, not any rules or regulations (though many like to think such is the case), it's not other people (though important) it's the simple and immense gift of God that most certainly should keep us in place.
Sadly, even in my own experience, we don't always get it. Somehow a pastor can lose perspective and forget that his position is a privilege not a right. And that's when things begin to happen within that person that may very easily cause big problems. I've been caught in this before and I pray that it will not happen again.
As I inch closer and closer to moving back to Calgary there is sorrow in my heart because of leaving a place I've grown to appreciate and leaving people for whom I care deeply. At the same time there is a sense of wonder and excitement for what's to come in the near future. I think it's going to be much harder getting used to Calgary this time than it was the first time. I think there is going to be some struggle settling back in there, especially knowing that it's likely going to be very different than it was before, and many of the people I was close to while there in the past have either moved onto other places or I've drifted from them. There's apprehension and anticipation in this move.
I guess that's about all that's running through my mind right now, except for one last thing....
Anyone want to buy a house in North Battleford? I know of a good one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The truth will set you free

In recent conversation with a young man (same age as me) from the Baha'i "faith" and now in seeing Oprah's most recent "spiritual" endeavor, I need to air some thoughts because otherwise I will most certainly go insane.
Before any of this (for lack of a better term) 'new age' philosophy really started rolling through my mind I began to take part in "The Truth Project" with a small group from another church in town (for the purpose of checking it out to potentially use it in our church's small group ministry).
Normally I am slightly on guard when it comes to a mass production from Focus on the Family because of the tremendously conservative swing that they normally put on topics, which I don't necessarily agree with 100% with regards to culture and that sort of thing. But this Truth Project curriculum has really been catching my eye. Ultimately I respect organizations like Focus on the Family for their pursuit of holiness and their approach to family life in this messed up world. The Truth Project takes a look at the foundational truth of Scripture and essentially puts it under a microscope to test it against other philosophies and theologies that are out there. In the end it always comes down to Scripture being true, God being God, and all the other truths of Scripture.
So with all of this in the background of my mind recently, I received an e-mail after preaching a sermon on the beginning of relationships (Genesis 1-3) from a 25 year old guy who was in the service that morning, who is of the Baha'i tradition. It took a couple weeks for us to finally meet up, but we eventually did get the chance to sit down in a coffee shop and chat about religion. Essentially, it seems that he is some sort of Baha'i evangelist or something, not trying to "convince" me of anything, but rather trying to "reveal" the "real truth" to me.
If you don't know anything about the Baha'i faith, google it and read up on it, it's slightly interesting but incredibly inconsistent in fundamental beliefs, from what I have gathered (I'm certainly not an expert). This study has had me thinking on the cultural beliefs of this country/continent and of course then Oprah chimes in on the matter.
I received another e-mail of a youtube video of some weird thing that Oprah's book club has recently delved into. An online seminar or something like that from some dude's book about discovering how you're god or some crap like that.
This is not even close to being a new teaching, it's been heard over and over again for centuries. But what is it that draws 2 million people (likely only a small percentage in actually) towards viewing this kind of online seminar of becoming awakened or enlightened?
Why is it so easy to buy into something that leads one to the "all-knowing" power of self and so easy to reject beliefs that when actually understood (by a well known 'person' know as the Holy Spirit) not only make sense but provide answers to the seemingly unanswerable questions?
I suppose I'm coming at this from a biased perspective, it's admittedly difficult for me to come at this from any other perspective because I simply don't hold to them, and it simply doesn't make any sense to me.
Regardless of my perspective, what is it that draws a person to this belief that the ultimate realization that a person can reach is to discover the power of YOU.
Here's what I think, and it's almost anti-climactic if you ask me, but we like ourselves! I know you must be thinking "That was a real stroke of genius there chief." But ultimately I think that's why it's so easy for someone to buy into it, especially in a culture so saturated with greed. "If it means good for me, then I'm cool with that" is sort of the idea that surrounds us.

I can understand why something like that is attractive, it elevates the person to a level of divinity that nobody besides Jesus can ever meet. It's this ancient beast that rages within people to try to replace God with themselves. Ancient because it can be found in the very first moment of sin on this planet, no matter what your view of the Genesis creation account may be, the simple fact of sin is undeniable and the essence of sin is to push God aside and to put self in that place. Beast because it's a nasty side of fallen humanity that will go to the greatest lengths to see itself thrive, even to the point of removing God from the personal equation.

My problem with this whole philosophy of people being "god," is not only that people are desperately attempting to remove God, because that is most certainly the downfall of humanity, but that they are doing so with a ridiculous philosophy that doesn't do what they are hoping it will. It's a feel good thing....if I can try to legitimize my existence with anything, then I will feel good about myself, and that's what I need, to feel good.
Here's where I think this whole idea falls apart, no matter how you look at it, the attempt is deify humanity, but the result is a deplorable existence that accounts for no real answers to anything else in the world.
If humans are in fact "God", and God is merely a concept that has been created by humanity, then what of the problems all around the world? If humanity was some sort of greater power, why is the earth being rapidly destroyed by the plight of people?
If God is not actually a higher power, then there's not any greater cause to existence than merely existing, in fact you are limiting God by claiming divinity in humanity.
That's not a creative order that works very well at all.
Now, I have to admit, I don't know the whole story of the book in question, but it's not new philosophy, it's just reworded. And perhaps there's something in there that I'm missing on a deep level, but I doubt it.
People have so demoralized themselves that they don't see how destructive they are, it bothers me. It also causes me much heartache that others have no less than blamed the notion of "God" for all the problems in the world, shifting the blame from fallen humanity to the Creator of all Then to think on how many levels this happens in minute details of life, even for those who are Christians, being changed by the grace of God, that's what bothers me.

Then the question arises in my mind....who's out there to fight such "hollow and deceptive philosophy?" I think there are pastors and scholars who exist that will do so, which is great. What about 20 years from now when the same things arise again? Who will be around to combat such beliefs? I don't fear the downfall of Christianity because it's not going to happen, but I do fear the deception of many millions of minds because someone simply appeals to their desire for significance and leads them away from Truth.
Ultimately God doesn't need us, me, whatever. But He does use us, me, etc. He does choose to make the truth known through his people, so who will it be? Will it be me? My friends and colleagues now? Those who are younger than me?
You can very easily see from recent North American history that religion is being removed from society, but also that society as people are trying to make it, has a very dismal outlook and ideas that promote the deification of humanity simply contribute to this downward spiral.

So what do we need? Well, essentially we need relief, we need to see the return of Christ, but that's his timing and we have no control over that. Ultimately there's not much we do have control of. But I think we need people to take responsibility for their generations. I think people who are of my age/generation need to wake up and perhaps realize that there's an urgency in forever, it doesn't give us license to relax, it gives us responsibility to act.

perhaps this is all old news, stuff that people hear over and over again and I'm just way behind. Perhaps my own view of the situation is far from what really is the case, I don't know, I actually kinda hope that's the case, cause then many more people will realize that they need to step up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Curiousity has got a hold on me

I've had the opportunity to come across a couple different views and opinions of Christian leaders and organizations. I recognize that basically every person who represents Christ in a public way will come across some opposition, and some more than others. Honestly, reading different articles and comments makes curious as to why these types of things happen.
I do recognize that most of the time the most vocal and perhaps even merited opposition comes from Christian people who simply disagree. I don't question people's disagreement because everyone has slightly skewed beliefs, unfortunately we're not really able to be 100% correct on everything, nobody is. But what I do question is the motive behind the often harsh and poorly presented arguments.
Scripture does account for rebuking those who do not hold to sound doctrine and teach falsehood (Titus 1:9 and others) but were you to find every passage of scripture that refers to this sort of practice, they are surrounded by specific contexts (suprise) that must be considered. Such as the Titus verse to which I referred, Paul is addressing Titus on dealing with people in Crete and speaks of making sure elders hold to a standard so they are able to refute those who oppose sound doctrine. But elsewhere in Scripture you will find passages that speak directly to not judging people in such harsh ways unless you're ready to be judged in that same way (Matthew 7).
I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't be corrected, because they should, when in the wrong. I am, however, suggesting that people need to be careful how they go about trying to "correct, rebuke and encourage" (2 Tim. 4:2).
I suppose what bothers me most is when people do whatever they can to drag a person's name or reputation through the mud simply because they disagree on some point that was made, either because they didn't understand what was actually being said and heard something different or because they are in error themselves and honestly believe they are right.

That being said, I recognize that I'm not always 100% correct. People have called me on things that I've said and I've been shown to be in error, the opposite has happened as well where someone has expressed their distaste for what I've said and they've been in error.
I simply struggle with the idea of openly, outwardly, and even publicly (whether in person or on the internet or other forms of media) refuting a person's teaching without wrestling with it yourself, weighing it against a sound biblical standpoint and without attempting to discuss it with that person in some way.
I suppose what my real problem is that those who will go on record as refuting a Christian leader because they disagree don't seem to make room for their own theological misinterpretations.
Yes we most certainly need to put weigh any Christian teaching against Scripture to see that it is correct, but I also think that one should attempt to do so without an arrogance and perhaps even ignorance in thinking with the "I'm right, you're wrong" mentality. Some teachers are really out to lunch, completely inaccurate Biblically, and just plain nuts. But those who are well known for their style of teaching and leadership, respected by evangelical pastors by the thousands, I think that a person needs to include those things in their thinking as well to be able to recognize if perhaps they are the one who is wrong, instead of the one they are attacking.

Sound doctrine should be protected, no question. But is style of delivery necessarily a big issue?