Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Do You Want to Be a Cowboy?

Last Saturday was, for me, one of my first really relaxing Saturdays in a long time. One of our elders was teaching for me on Sunday and I got to simply show up and be blessed. I didn't have the teaching laying over me on Saturday and I found myself able to relax, just be present in the moment, and not be too worried about the time, etc. I hadn't realized how much the Sunday teaching affects me on the days prior to it until then.

One of the things I'd really been looking forward to was cutting up some wood in the morning while the girls rode on our lower property, going to a friend's function, then curling up in the afternoon and reading a good Western. You know—cowboys, six guns, wide open plains, and of course horses and cows. It has been a love of mine since fourth grade.

I was anticipating the afternoon time reading, dozing, and simply being in another place and time for awhile. Then . . . when we got back from the function, we thought our cows and sheep had gotten out. We looked everywhere with binoculars across the 40 acres and couldn't find them. The girls went out on one of our horses combing the draws and hidden depressions and couldn't find them. They did find, however, a spot where the fence was low on the back side and some matted grass leading up to it.
Looking across our property (at a greener time of year)
to the brush-covered hill we figured the cows and
sheep had escaped to.

And so . . . we could only imagine the cows got spooked earlier in the day when the girls were practicing moving them around from horseback, and that they probably went over the fence and up into the thick brush and hills on the others side of it, the sheep faithfully in tow. It was a daunting prospect to think of hiking those hills in the heat with flakes of alfalfa in our hands, watching for snakes, locating the roaming critters, trying to move them back to and through the fence, then having to repair the fence. I wanted to read my Western!

The girls on Baylie, our retired cutting horse they used
to move the cows around.
I was frustrated and disappointed, then I had thought pierce my self-pity like a spear thrown through it. It asked, "Do you want to read about cowboys, or be one?"

It was one of those moments of self-confronting. I had to ask, "Do you want to read about it, or be it?" and then, almost immediately, came the follow up question . . . "And what about your faith, do you want to read about it, or live it?"

I love to read about God. I love to curl up in my chair with a cup of good, strong coffee, and study Him. And so it was a strong reminder to me to be on guard against being more in love with the idea of something then the reality. It is not to say that Bible study, church, Men's Group, etc., are not important—they are tremendously important—but if I ever let the study of the Christian life replace living the Christian life I've missed what it is all about. If I ever let things about Jesus replace Jesus I've missed the mark it all aims at.

Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) It is Christ who lives in me, desiring to live through me. It is a life often tiring, inconvenient, and with, at times, great cost . . . but it is the real thing, what we are created for—a living relationship following Jesus, allowing Him to live in and through us, loving and serving.

May I never forget the question: "Do you want to read about cowboys, or be one?"

P.S. We found the cows and sheep, still on our property, in a clump of bushes along the fence line, hidden until you were about 20 feet away.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Never Forget . . .

I had the honor and privilege recently of having a long, tear-filled conversation with someone who has struggled with same-sex attraction. They have literally taken a bullet, and watched a friend die by the bullet, of someone who simply hated gays. They shared how, without a legal commitment of relationship, the family of someone they loved (and had loved for decades) could cut them off from even seeing that person in the hospital if that person was unconscious. They shared how they couldn't find the depth of love in someone of the opposite sex they found in someone of the same. They shared their deep longing to love and be loved and to not grow old alone.

We talked. We listened to one another. We honored one another with listening and trying to hear one another's hearts. It was an amazing experience.

I still believe the Bible is clear about God's stand on homosexuality. I still believe that we, as Christians, can't legitimatize by law something we believe God says is sin. But it was a powerful reminder to me—one I hope I never forget—that this whole battle (or any battle, for that matter, be it abortion, etc.) is not about "them." The "them" are (granted there are extremists on both sides who make a genuine discussion hard), but the "them" are people with feelings, people who love, people who often want to please God, people who are hurt. They are real people and if we ever forget that, and walk not in love (which doesn't mean compromise), then no matter how correct our theology is, we will not be representing God.

I talked extensively about this with our fellowship yesterday, and I felt God bring two questions to my mind. They are questions the church must grapple with if we want God to wash this nation with His Holy Spirit (and I believe that is the only answer for us, that the individuals in this nation choose to love and obey Him above all else). Those two questions were:

1. I, who am so passionate and patriotic about America, am I even more passionate and "patriotic" about the true nation I am a citizen of, the eternal nation, the holy nation, that is God's Kingdom, His body, and about the eternal effects of it expanding and reigning or not?

2. I, who am so indignant about our nation's laws and direction, am I even more indignant and passionate and vocal about God's laws in my own life and within the church?

I do not believe God will pour out the only true answer—His Holy Spirit that draws men unto Jesus—if the church is not passionate about Him, about eternity, about holiness and purity in our own lives and ranks first. Why would He?

Nothing  I am saying here is a call to compromise on what we believe is true and right before God, who does declare some things as true and right. But it is a call to never forget. To never, ever forget. That our enemy is not flesh and blood. That the "them" are real people whom God loves, with hurts and hopes and needs that are real and deep, with tears that flow like ours do, and hearts that hurt like ours do. May we live and love like Jesus. May we be humble and broken in our hearts toward our own sins and violations of God's laws, and living toward others as one saved only by the grace of God to another.

May we never forget the tears. God doesn't, and won't. Rather, it says, He will one day Himself wipe them from our eyes.

I am deeply concerned about this nation, and the nation I will hand my children and their children. I am deeply concerned it not longer puts God or His heart as the top of its list. I am concerned by it, and grieved by it, and I intend to continue to teach and live what I believe is truth. But as I do, in these days ahead, if I ever have to error, may it be on the side of love. May I love with a passion born of God's love for me and my love for Him. May I love in a way that the lost, the hurting, the confused find in me such a picture of His love that they run into His arms, and find their a Holy Spirit willing and ready and eager to lead and guide them down the road into His truth.

May I never forget the tears.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Make No Mistake . . .

This post is long, but I believe it will be of value to you, as a Christian, as you process the course of our nation and seek to understand things through a Biblical perspective. I believe it will help you clarify the true issue at work.   —Erick

As the nation awaits the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage we can not make the mistake of assuming that this is simply about marriage, or even the rights of homosexuals. It is a decision that will affect most Christian institutions, colleges, businesses, etc. It will be a decision that forever alters the fabric of our nation, and Christians in it who stand on Biblical principles and world view.

And, we can't make the mistake of seeing this as anything other than what it truly is—it is our nation's decision on what the very essence of its (our nation's) being will be. This is a decision that defines this nation at the core of what it is, and as such it carries a weight that is larger than we can fathom . . . and, unfortunately, is a battle it seems we've already lost.

As soon as this issue became defined as a civil rights issue it was lost to Christians who actually believe the Bible is God's inspired, written word to us, revealing Himself and His nature and heart. As a civil rights issue, as a fairness issue, I don't see people having a right to deny marriage to homosexuals—just as they wouldn't have a right to deny polygamy, or any other thing or type of marriage or lifestyle in the future that society may not embrace now but will embrace later as it gets more "tolerant" and more "progressive."

The thing is, this is not a civil rights issue, and as Christians we must understand this, as our resolve will fade eventually under the withering bombardment of being called small, hateful, intolerant, old-fashioned, fundamentalist, etc. This is not a civil rights issue, it is an issue at the very core of how we define right and wrong: Is there a God, above all, Who defines right and wrong, Who gives rights, and Whom we choose to submit to . . . or are right and wrong and rights something a majority or a legislative body or a court can decide and confer?

This question defines our nation. Our Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This sentence, taken in part, could be used to argue for the right of homosexuals to be happy and marry. But it is not written in part, but in whole. These rights come from a Creator, therefore the Creator must be considered in them . . . and the Creator, the God of the Bible, has very specific things to say about what is right and what is wrong, and homosexuality is absolutely wrong in His eyes, therefore giving it legal blessing in marriage is only further going against our Creator. (Note: He also calls adultery, lying, fornication—sex outside marriage, etc., wrong, and the church is, sadly, inconsistent and much less vocal about these things, even in our own ranks.)

How we stand on this issue—and other values issues the Bible has something to say about—will define us individually and as a nation. The moment we leave the argument that God is God, and God is real, and the Bible is His written revelation, and He says something about the issue, we have entered the moral quicksand of morality being defined by the masses or a despot or a court. We have given morality over to legal briefs and influential people, and we have walked away from God.

Over and over in the Bible it talks about something being evil or good in the sight of the Lord. No matter what man thinks, what matters is how God sees something. That is all that matters. And whether our nation embraces that as the foundational truth of itself, or whether it rejects it, we as Christians can not leave that moral high ground and try and argue morality on "practical" levels or we have left the only rock of truth we have to stand on. And if our nation does go that way (and it seems it already has), we, as Christians, must be firm in why we believe what we believe. And that is why, I believe, God calls the church which is the body of Christ and His bride, a holy nation, His own special people, citizens of Heaven. We live in America, but our citizenship is the Kingdom of God. We are His, and that identity transcends lines on a map. We were His when America embraced Him as their foundation, and we are His when it turns from Him. We are His, and that is eternal, and He knows who are His and who are not, and He holds eternity in His hands.

This issue will write into law the future of our nation. It, like Roe vs. Wade, will absolutely solidify and codify that we, as a nation, have no regard for what God says is right or wrong. It will say, "We, as a nation, have risen above God, knowing right and wrong, and conferring rights on people." Whatever the court decides, we as God's children must know, He loves the lost and desires to draw all men to Him . . . and He will never leave or forsake His children, whether America a few decades from now loves Him, or whether we are living a persecuted minority.

A Side Note—But Important Note—On Genesis and All of This
If you've known me, or read this blog, any length of time you know that defending the first ten chapters or so of Genesis as a literal record of Creation and a global flood is a passion of mine. In these decisions our nation is wrestling with we are seeing one of the strongest evidences for that importance play out before our eyes.

If we discount those chapters as allegory—submitting them to "science" instead of submitting science to the Bible, we have begun down a slippery slope we can't recover from. The church in the early 1800s found this out. They collapsed on the age of the earth (inventing Day Age Theory, or Gap Theory, to try and reconcile "science" and the Bible) and then along comes Darwin and they've already, as the church, climbed into bed with the major requirement of Darwinian evolution—vast periods of time. Suddenly the church is left holding a bag with a hole in it. They've already embraced the unBiblical vast periods of time. They've already said a key component of Genesis is allegory . . . and so they had no leg to stand on arguing the creation of man in God's image from the start was literal.

When we embrace those things, putting "science" (I say that loosely since many brilliant scientists whose voices aren't heard embrace a literal reading of Genesis) above the Bible, we are then hypocrites to defend a virgin birth, a resurrection, angels and demons, a parting of a sea, a feeding of thousands from a few loaves and fish, the turning of water to wine, etc. Each of these are areas "science" has no room for, and we are inconsistent and hypocritical to fight for them as true when we've already let "science" define the Bible for us.

And so, down the slippery slope, the Bible becomes untrustworthy, and subject to man's interpretation and molding to fit man's "wisdom." Does anyone else see a correlation between a nation professing to be Christian but embracing values that the Bible clearly speaks out against? When we start to see the Bible as a childish book, not able to stand against the progressive wisdom and mind of man, then we really shouldn't be surprised when we give it no authority on moral issues as well. It is truly the next logical stage of descent off the high mountain of the Bible (hence God's) authority. Why, oh why, church, are we so surprised. We who've watered down the very book God gave us?

And . . . should it be any surprise to us, and could it underline the argument I am making any better, then to see the very side defending traditional marriage argue before the Supreme Court use evolutionary terms, ". . . the marriage institution did not develop to deny dignity or to give second class status to anyone. It developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, arise from biology. Now, imagine a world today where we had no marriage at all. Men and women would still be getting together and creating children, but they wouldn’t be attached to each other in any social institution." (In fairness, he has made it clear the issue he was arguing is not about the definition of marriage, but if the people or the courts will decide it. Again . . . already lost . . . God is not even in that. He may be the reason the people—the states in court who are standing against homosexual marriage—voted against it, but whether or not their will stands is not about God, but about legality.)

Genesis does matter. Marriage hasn't "evolved," it is a God-ordained institution present in the first chapters of Genesis. It doesn't need to be defended on "practical" basis, it is what God has ordained and for us that is enough. And God has said certain lifestyles are wrong, and that should be enough for us as well. He is the only basis for the argument . . . and He is enough. For those who don't recognize that . . . those who may define much of our lives left here on earth . . . they will recognize it—on one side of the grave or the other.


Related Posts with Thumbnails