Life according to…

Do you compare, compete or both? Do you look upwards or downwards? Do you look upwards from yourself toward people better than yourself, wishing that you had more, could achieve more, were more? Or maybe you look downwards toward those less fortunate than yourself thinking that your better than others. Your thought might be ‘at least I’m not like them’.

At the end of the day we all do it. We all compare and compete. Without over emphasising gender roles, men typically compete, and women typically compare. Men might compete in who is stronger, faster, wealthier. And women might compare physical looks, clothes, families. Of course, gender roles are never absolute… men will compare and likewise women  will compete.

And while gauging where we’re at in life isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, when we base our identity on these competitions and comparisons that we can become unstuck. We can fall into the trap of trying to progress through life by comparing and competing. You need a promotion at work in order to maintain your social status. Or upgrading your boyfriend for a more advanced model will help you improve your own popularity. What about getting a bigger house, or another investment property in order that your social status will increase with your friends. It’s almost like a role playing game where you have to grind and farm enough points to get to the next level. And if you don’t have the best level and stats then you might as well not even play. #shoutout to all the WoW and GW2 gamers. At the end of the day if your doing better than those around you, than life is good. However, if you’re falling behind and everyone else is kicking the goals, then life is bad. We can become slaves to this way of thinking. In fact, chances are you already are, or at least have been in the past.

The real danger for those of us who are Christians, is to start measuring our faith against those around us. When we start to compare our blessings with those around us it becomes a pretty shaky roller coaster ride that isn’t going to end well. ‘God answers his prayers, he must be a better Christian that I am.’ Or. ‘His children are always perfectly behaved, he must be a more godly parent’. Or ‘His church has more newcomers than mine does’. etc.

The Apostle Paul talks about two ways the people generally identify with the world. He uses two weird words. Flesh & Spirit. People are either living according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:5

The first, flesh, is all about people who chase things of this world. They go to all lengths to keep up with the Jones’s. Wear the best clothes, drive the best cars, have the best houses with the best swimming pools. They go to church to keep up appearances, they work hard to have more and more money, and they do all of these things to earn a better status. They indulge in food and drink. They chase whatever makes them feel good, incessantly pursuing self-glorification. At the end of the day, these people, choose to please themselves despite the cost.

The second way to live is according to the Spirit. These people chose to forgo fleshy indulgences and live a life that is selfless and aims to be altruistic (impossible be that it may). To live according to the Spirit means that the Spirit of God dwells within the person and directs them in a right way of living. These people are giving and caring and set their minds on the things that God considers important.

When all is stripped away, those who live according to the flesh are comparing and competing for the next ladder rung on the climb to glory. But those who live according to the Spirit find themselves ‘in Christ’ (Romans 8:1). And when one is in Christ they partake in His glory. Comparing and competing for glory becomes a nonsensical activity because when compared to the glory that comes with being in God the Son, all our own achievements pale in comparison.

Romans 8 is an outstanding scripture to reflect on in the light of comparing and competing as the world does opposed to living in step with the Spirit. Stop, and think about what the Apostle Paul might mean by the phrase ‘The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.’ (Romans 8:7)

You’ve probably heard the popular song, In Christ Alone, but maybe take a moment to listen to is again, and think about what it means to be In Christ Alone. What will it look like in your life to forsake the temptation to compare and compete in the flesh, so that you can truly be In Christ Alone.

The White Western Perspective on Masculinity

I was at a men’s forum this week, and was thoroughly challenged to think about the white, western perspective on masculinity and the extended period of adolescence into adult years. My thoughts are clearly rudimentary and I’d love to hear yours. Comment below.

In our current culture there are three imperative stages of life in manhood. Being born. Reaching puberty. And death. (You could argue that menopause is a fourth for women). The result, is a large group of adolescence aged ~30-70. An example given was Australian personality and sporting star: Sam Newman.

It was suggested that our culture is missing Rites of Passage into manhood. Well not entirely… the closest thing we have in Australia is ‘Schoolies Week’, but alcohol, drugs, sex and violence aren’t really challenging boys to be men. Thus, so far as maturity is concerned we are left in a constant state of neither being a child, nor an adult.

You might agree that we see this daily in our communities. Adults incapable of accepting responsibility. Parents burying themselves in financial debt because they want everything, and they want it now. Father’s who express sadness and futility by abusing against their families in temper-tantrum-like behaviour. Road users who use their vehicles as weapons and their hands as abusive communication devices because they feel that they are obviously more important than their neighbours. The list is endless, we could go on with any number of examples of where adults have failed to grow up.

In generations past, education was focused on learning about your parents’ life experience and replicating it, hopefully at some point extending it. Yet with the industrial revolution and the working class moving into factories, the father-son unit was split, and something had to be done with boys too young to work. Boys were sent to school to learn how to work in and manage factories. They were expected to graduate as men, but the system had failed. Academia does not equate to maturity. The point being, that adulthood was being delayed.

And now, according to our culture, it’s viewed that we can’t get an honourable job until we’ve completed 12 years of schooling, and 3 to 4 years of post-school training, either technical or academic. The point being, that adulthood is further being delayed.

It is a generalisation, but there are now several generations of Australian men who have avoided maturity. Now, for my Christian brothers and sisters, please don’t here me in the light of our good friend Mark Driscoll. I’m not calling for more machoism. I’m certainly not asking for more testosterone. I’m suggesting that what we need is to go back to the root what masculinity is. We need to embrace maturity and rediscover what it means for men in today’s culture.

At the forum this week it was discussed that youthful men typically take pride in their ‘maleness’. But as they become older, they tend to soften becoming more even tempered. They develop a caring nurturing side to their maleness. They find increased value in family and their experiences tend to be filtered with the lens of subjectivity rather than objectivity. Thus, as far as a cultural definition, (albeit misguided), males tend to start off more masculine and grow increasingly feminine with time. Unfortunately our culture doesn’t have a positive process for this to happen, and these changes take place in the midst of various forms of trauma. War. Abuse. Neglect. Depression. Physical and Mental Trauma.

(It might be seen that the opposite is true with women, they often are conditioned by society to be more ‘girly’ as children, playing with dolls and being pre-occupied with cooking, make-up and clothes, but as they grow older becoming parents and grandparents, they develop masculine traits such as stoicism and resilience).

As males culture places us on a spectrum of genderness, and our culture defines what is acceptable depending on our stage of life.

With all respect. I think this is ludicrous.

As a Christian I believe that God has created everyone unique. Neither individuals, nor the human collective, is at the centre of the universe. (Sorry to burst the bubbles). Every being in heaven and on Earth was created to worship God as the centre.

In God’s grand design he chose to make ‘male’ and ‘female’. We have discovered that He chose to take a combination of both a father’s and a mother’s genetic code and transfer that to a conceived child. Thus, each individual is going to express both masculine and feminine qualities. There are many influences on this in the pre-natal, early developing, and adolescent stages of life.

It’s time Australia stopped trying to cookie cut males into testosterone fuelled men. It’s time Australia starting embracing men for who they are and helping them to become who they were created to be. For the Christian community it’s time to share the love of Jesus which has never been dependent on sexual disposition. The current white, western perspective on masculinity stifles our culture and stops us moving into a new era of manhood.

On an aside, but an important one. I advocate the accuracy of the Bible. I affirm innerancy and divine inspiration. The scriptures are clear that corruption has infiltrated all generations of humanity. Sexuality, especially manhood, has been warped by sin. The result is: Confusion. Loneliness. Depression. Hate. Anger. Violence. Abuse. Neglect. Rape. Even same-sex attraction.

I believe God is deeply troubled by sin. In fact, he was so concerned for those he loved, that he demanded that his Son, Jesus, receive their death sentence. A demand that He willingly obeyed.

But, I believe that scripture is less concerned about the individual sin, and more concerned about the broken relationship that it causes with God. No matter how much damage you’ve caused with the weapon of masculinity, God is more concerned about your relationship with Him.

Men, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of masculinity, and no matter how you express yourself, the gospel is still true. And it’s still calling you to action. God has the power to restore hurting and broken people into a new and beautiful reflection of His glory.

Sex & Money | Paul Tripp

Reflecting on his book Sex & Money Paul Tripp shares this quick overview.

If accountability and budget were all we needed in [the areas of abusing sex and money] there’d be a whole lot more pure people, and a whole lot less people in debt.

If Jesus has made it clear that abusing sex and money are problems of the heart, why are we still trying to address them as behavioural problems? People need more than accountability groups and budgeting tools. They need grace.

Is the Bible anti-gay? So what now?

On Sunday (24 February 2013) we asked the question “Is the Bible anti-gay?” as part of our “Got Questions?” series.  We opened up the Bible to let it speak for itself. 

A young woman (who we won’t identify) from our church community asked if she could share her story, with the hope of encouraging others.  A big ‘Thank You’ to this young woman – thank you for sharing your story. 

Here it is.  We hope you find it encouraging. 

http://www.ridgeviewcc.org/?i=14040&mid=1000&id=396096

“I first came to Creek Road through a friend who was coming here at the time. I was a bit wary of going back to church. I had already had a bad experience at a previous church, which had been very judgemental of me.

You see, at that time, I was in a homosexual relationship with another woman, and had been for three years.

My previous church had told me that I was not welcome there unless I changed. However, Creek Road seemed different, and over the next few months I started going more and more. Often I would sit by myself on one side of the church, and a group of girls noticed. They would come and speak to me, and over time, we became friends. These girls are now my best friends.

Creek Road was different because their approach was one of being welcoming and loving towards me. There was not a sense that I needed to be ‘fixed’ before I could come to church. They accepted me, and encouraged me to seek out God and find his will for me.

As I joined a growth group, and became part of Young Adults here at Creek Road, I slowly began to open up about my past. I felt more comfortable talking about my life with people I knew would not reject me.

I went to several Growth Groups before settling into an Adult Growth Group last year. Just recently, I shared my story with my Growth Group in the hope that it would encourage them to continue to treat people with love.

I am a Christian. I am no longer in the relationship with the girl, and she has visited church at Creek Road on several occasions. It is my hope and prayer that she will become a Christian. 
 It is thanks to God’s redemptive power that my life has changed so radically.

Last Sunday’s bible talk was immensely encouraging for me to hear. Steve spoke about the sexual brokenness experienced by everyone, and he didn’t single out gay people as being the worst offenders. Instead, he made it clear that none of us are in a position to judge others.

I wanted to share my story today to encourage others who may be struggling with this issue to reach out to people they trust – maybe your growth group. 
 I want to encourage people that this is not something you need to struggle with alone.

Recently I returned to my previous church where I had been rejected. They were happy to see that there had been some big changes in my life. I’m glad that my relationship with that church has now been restored.

The love and support of God’s people here at Creek Road has played a huge part in these changes occurring in my life. God has given me the strength to talk about this difficult subject in the hope that it might change other people’s lives, too.

I know I can safely say that if I had been treated with judgment and rejection at Creek Road, I would never have come back to church again.”

Praise God for how He has worked in this young woman’s life. 

Please pray for her that she would grow in her understanding of God’s love for her. 

Please pray for others who struggle with sexual brokenness. 

Please pray for us as a church, that we would always be a community of love, grace and acceptance – introducing people to Jesus.

Question 10: Who, What & Where are God & Jesus?

We’ve made it, the final installation in our Got Questions? series. In this short interview we meet Jackie. A young women who has found Jesus. Tell me what you think of her incredible story.

 

Click here for a 20 minute bible talk that answers the question… “Who, What & Where are God & Jesus?”

Question 6: Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?

G’day, meet Geoff. A quantum physicist. Whatever that is. Clearly, someone much smarter than myself. Geoff believes in science… and Jesus. More, Geoff reckons they can be held hand in hand. Watch the video to see what he thinks.

 

If you wanna see a 20 minute bible talk on science and religion you can check out Creek Roads Vimeo page. In this talk you can expect a clever, witty and winsome approach to answering the question: Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?

Question 5: Can there really be just one true religion?

Hey there, this video is an interview with Keryn who has had a long journey to find Jesus. Keryn is from New Zealand and grew up with family who were Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Keryn asks the tough question: “How is the God of the Bible the one and only true God?”

 

If Keryn’s story of coming to know freedom in Jesus in the midst of other religions interests you, a 20 minute bible talk on the same topic can be found by clicking here!