Priorities

There are many topics that I am passionate about, and there are many of those topics that I have lots of thoughts/experience with. These topics will come to my head from time to time, but generally they pass after a day or so, but recently I have not been able to shake this particular subject: priorities. Generally this word does not conjure up many great emotions. Often times people use phrases like “Get your priorities straight” or “I am going to try to figure out where my priorities lie.” When the word ‘priorities’ is used, it is most often in the context of a sharp rebuttal, or a deep reflection on one’s values. Both of these can be painful times. Certainly these have been painful for me, but nonetheless I have been thinking about the word, and have come to a realization that is clear and obvious, and yet offensive at the same time. The realization is that the way we live our lives is a direct indication of our priorities. This does not sound offensive, does it? It sounds pretty straight forward, until we examine where we spend our time, or worse, someone else examines where we spend our time and tells us about it. Still not convinced? Let us follow a few examples.

This first example is fairly ridiculous (although I do have friends who play this game, and so to those of you, I am sorry, I do appreciate you,) but it gets a point across well. How many of us have attended a Dungeons and Dragons convention within the last year? How about within the last decade? How many readers have any desire at all to attend one? My guess is that most of my readers have none at all. Why? There is not interest in it among the general population (sorry fans of Dungeons and Dragons.) This example is pretty obvious, and most of us do not relate to it, but what about church? There is likely to be more people who will relate to this. Out of my readers, there will be two groups: those who identify themselves as Christians and those who do not. If you find yourself in the latter group, then go ahead and move on to the next paragraph. Church is an odd subject among Christians in North America, especially Christians from my generation. It is by far one of the easiest of commitments to blow off. So much so that I do not think it is much of a priority at all to us. This is one of the priorities in my life that got me thinking about the subject in the first place. My attendance of church in the past year has been spotty to say the least. Why? I do not enjoy it like I used to. I find all sorts of excuses not to go, thankfully in the last few months I have come to enjoy church again, but before this I would not have given a second thought to attending bed-side baptist. There are others in my life that unashamedly tell me that they do not go to church because they work on Sundays. I understand that work is hard to reschedule, but if we have classes on a certain day, or even different activities that we really enjoy at a particular time then most of us find a way to make sure we are not working then. Why? Because school is a priority. Extra-curricular activities are a priority. Church, for so many of us, is not a priority, and I know, there are exceptions to this rule, but so many churches offer evening or Saturday services for people like police officers, doctors, nurses and people who need to fill a position on Sundays. For most people however, we work jobs that can be worked another time, and we live in North America, if we go to our employers saying that we need a certain day off because of our religion, then we will most likely get that day off. Again, so many of us do not go to church because it is not high on our priority list, it is hard to get around this.

What about something that applies to more of us? How many of us return the question of “How are you doing?” when we are asked in passing a colleague, friend or acquaintance? Some of us do, some do not. For those who do not, there can be a few reasons. Either we are in a hurry to get somewhere, we are shy and awkward, or we really do not care and do not want to know about how that person is doing. In all of these cases, the person who is inquiring about our life is not seen as a priority, or at least not a big one. The reality is that if we prioritized that person we would stop for a moment and ask how they are doing, returning the kind gesture that he/she extended to us. Do our lives have to be so full that we cannot stop to talk to the people placed in our lives? Are we so concerned about our insecurities that we cannot consider trying to push beyond them and ask how someone else is doing?

What about simple things like doing the dishes after meals? Calling up friends that do not live near us? Calling our parents from time to time? The reality is that for most of us, our priorities lie in things like Facebook, Instagram, TV shows or movies, sports, clothes, schoolwork or even our significant other (although there is also the far too common opposite case of seeing our significant other as super low on our list of priorities, or they are not a priority at all.) So what are your priorities? Some of them will be very obvious, and others may be hidden to us and will require those who are close to us to point them out. A simple rule to determining what my priorities are is observing how I spend my time and what I spend time thinking about. Time and how we use it is the ultimate test for priorities. I can tell you right now that watching movies is NOT a large priority in my life because I rarely watch them and I rarely think about watching them. I can also tell you that Facebook IS a major priority in my life. Facebook was such a priority that I would check it at least once an hour, I would keep my phone by my bed so that I could hear when I would get notifications and quickly check them, I would spend hours scrolling through my news feed while my homework sat to the side. The sad reality is that I am far from alone in regards to this priority.

So what is the point of all this? Should we feel guilty? Maybe. Should we change priorities? Probably. Are there good priorities in our lives? Yes. The point of all that I have written is to point us towards self-reflection. It is my desire that we would reflect on the things we spend out time on and ask ourselves if they are priorities worth having. So many of our priorities are self-seeking, even a majority of them are without us even realizing it. So what if we were really honest with ourselves and ask some tough questions? I did. A few days ago I asked if Facebook was truly a good use of my time. For some it is, because they are able to manage their time well on Facebook, but for me, it had become an addiction. As a result I was zoned out for so much of my day, people would try to talk to me and I would not realize that they were even there, assignments would be done late, and time would be wasted. So I decided to cut Facebook out of my life until I can manage to break free from the addiction, and use the time I now have to reflect on my priorities and what I really want to ultimately prioritize.

I am certainly not asking that we all go to the extreme that I went to. Some of us may need to remind ourselves to make a certain someone a stronger priority by simply asking them about their day after work and giving them a hug, and some of us may need to set our alarms a half an hour early so that we make sure the priority of being on time for work is recognized. Whatever the case may be, we all have areas in our lives that need changing, and it is my prayer that as we all continue on into 2016 we would examine our priorities and adjust accordingly.

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What Are Clothes Anyway?

Modesty. As soon as you read that word I am sure that most of you shuddered. Whether you are Christian or not. Evangelical or Catholic. Muslim or Hindu. It seems as though this topic has been brought up a lot lately, and for many people, they would say it is something they would like to avoid altogether. In 2013 most of us watched the video made by a young fashion designer who decided to produce a line of “modest swimwear” for women. This video garnered a lot of attention, reviews came in positive and negative. Many more articles were written as a result on the subject, and many brought up good points. It seems as though this topic has for the most part moved on in popular culture and conversation, but it has been on my mind recently, and I really do think that we all have some things to think about on the subject.

The first thing that I have realized is that we as a North American society are really quite confused about what is appropriate to wear and what is not. For example, I find it very interesting that many girls, actually most girls find it completely appropriate to wear a bikini top and bottom to the swimming pool. Most of you at this point are probably thinking that I am condemning this, but this is not my intent. What I find interesting is that these girls are wearing what lots of the world would call underwear… What I find more interesting is that if I were to unintentionally see most of these girls in their underwear, they would yell out “Look Away! I am in my underwear!”. So what exactly is the difference here? We are seeing this type of dress moving outside of the pool area, it has become appropriate in other places to dress in this way. So where does North America stand on dress? I often hear younger men and women say that a certain girl’s clothing is “trampy”, yet that girl who said this was wearing even less when she wore her bikini at the swimming pool the previous day. So does it become okay to wear this amount of clothing at a pool, but not elsewhere? Again, I am not saying that bikinis are right or wrong here, but asking why we do not treat this type of clothing equally where ever we go?

Second thing that I have been thinking about is our constant attention on the need for women to “cover up”. There are so many articles written on this, videos produced, and youth group lessons devoted to this. It has almost come to a point where girls have become insecure of their bodies. Again, I am not trying to bring condemnation here, and I am not against “dressing modestly”, whatever that even means, but I want to bring something to our attention that really needs to be addressed. Two things actually. The first is that women should never be blamed for guy’s lust simply because of what she wears. The guy is ALWAYS responsible for his actions and thoughts. Every time. We would not let a rapist off because the woman that he raped was wearing little clothing and apparently “asking for it”. We would still hold the guy responsible. Now, if you claim to be a believer in Christ, is it wise, loving, and even respectful to at least consider your brother in the faith’s struggles with lust, and include that realization in how you dress? Yes. Are you ever responsible for a man’s lust? No. The second thing that should be addressed is how guys dress. It seems that girls are always being attacked on how they dress. Have guys ever considered that maybe girls struggle with this as well? Did you know that 33 percent of internet porn users are women? So we have this huge push for women to dress modestly so that men will not lust, but what about the men dressing modestly? Girls get negative attention for wanting to show off their body that they have worked hard for in the gym, but as soon as a guy wants to show off his six pack, there is no issue raised. So what do we do about this? Do we all go around wearing parkas? Well what if someone has the hots for eyebrows! No, I honestly have no answer for this, but I have three basic things that we should think about. The first is that we should be consistent. If we find bikinis to be okay, then we should not criticize the girl who wears extra short shorts to the shopping mall. The second thing we should think about is that we all have control over our mind and actions, it is never someone else’s fault for our lust. The third idea that should be looked at is are we being equal. Equal between the genders. If we push for women to be modest, then are we also pushing for men to be modest as well?

This is all I have to say on the subject. I honestly do not have the answers on this, and really do not know where I stand on how much clothing should be covering our bodies, because quite honestly I do not wear a shirt when I go swimming, or when it is warm outside. However since thinking about all this, I ask myself, would it be so bad if I did wear one?

Half Hearted Outreach

Dear faithful readers and curious lookers,

It appears as though I am actually working on my blog post on the day that I had promised it! Friday! What a great Friday it has been too, full of good conversation, relationship building and blessings. This week has gone by quickly and I look forward to a weekend full of homework, fellowship and good laughter. One thing that I am sure will be in my thoughts and come up in conversation this weekend is the topic of Christian ministry. This week I have been thinking more and more about this topic, and keep asking myself if I myself am really doing my part in the great commission. The Great Commission is a command given to those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, to go to all the nations of the world and proclaim this gospel, this way of life, this way to be saved from ourselves. I get this somewhat simple idea of sharing, promoting, even advertising this good news, but do I really get how important this is? If I do get how important this is, am I going about this the right way? This week I have been exploring different ways in which we as North Americans spread the good news and how we can improve upon this. Two main ways that I came up with were through words, and through our actions in hope that others will notice something different in our lives.

It is interesting, many Christians do not even take spreading the gospel seriously at all. They believe that spreading the gospel is for some Christians, but not for them. I am sure that this breaks God’s heart, because I believe our first priority in life should be worshiping God, and our second priority should be loving others. If we love others we will tell them of the hope we have in Christ. It is sad however to see many Christians that do not appear to know God, or love God based on their desire to spread the love of Christ. If we know Christ then we will have a desire to proclaim his name! It is as simple as that.

Many Christians I know use the famous “Christianese” phrase of “Proclaim the gospel, and when necessary use words”. Some of those who cling to this are sincere and really pray to reach others, but I think most of us who use this phrase, including myself a lot of the time use it to get out of awkward conversations, and intentional interactions. I know those who coined the phrase used it in response to Christians who would “shove” the gospel down people’s throats. Christians were getting a reputation of being pushy, rude, and not loving. So what do I think of the phrase? Honestly, even though I am a fairly liberal thinker, and like new ideas, I just can not accept this one. I dismiss it as ministry. Many would be surprised about this, or even slightly offended if this is the view that you hold, and completely dismiss me. Do I believe in standing in a street corner with a microphone yelling the gospel to those who walk by? On its own, I do not, but is there a place for this? Absolutely. Let me explain.

I believe in Spirit led ministry. I do not believe in anything else. So what does this mean. Spirit led ministry means being in constant communication with God, and acting according to his prompting on our heart. If the Holy Spirit is leading us to simply be present in our jobs, our neighborhoods, our sports teams, then we ought to do this and love those whom we come in contact with. However if the Holy Spirit is prompting us to speak verbal truth into our neighbor’s lives, then we have to do this. If we do not then we are sinning. I honestly believe that too many of us use the phrase “Proclaim the gospel with actions” as a way to get out of active ministry, to coast through life, and to ease our consciences. The truth is we need to be in constant communication with the Holy Spirit, so that we may know how to proclaim the truth, whether that be through word or deed.

People who are gutsy and like to use their mouths to proclaim the gospel are not off the hook either though. If you fall under this category you could be relying on your own strength to proclaim the gospel and not on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps words should not be used all the time, perhaps the person you are speaking to is not ready to hear the good news, and Christ is still working on their heart, or you need to gain their trust through friendship and observation of your life.

What I am trying to say here is that we need to get back to spirit led outreach. Any other way of proclaiming the gospel is selfish, because it puts ourselves above the Holy Spirit, and either tells God that we are more capable, or that he is not worth listening to. Wake up church! Will listening to the spirit be hard? Yes. Will we have to do things that will push us, and possibly strain relationships, or make us uncomfortable? Yes. Will we be in control? No. I think that is something that scares us. We want to be in control even when it comes to proclaiming the hope we have in Jesus, instead of giving all the weight to him who died for us.

So to those of you who do not take the gospel seriously and our role as ambassadors, I am praying that God will get a hold of your heart, and that you will be consumed with thoughts of Christ and all of what he has done for you. To those who desperately want to spread the gospel but are doing it outside of the spirit, which I am finding is myself lots of the time, I will be praying that God will humble you and speak clearly on how he wants to use you. Desiring to spread the love of Christ is a great thing, and as Christians we need to do this, but we must also remember how we are to do this, and why we do this.

I leave you all with this verse. Romans 10:15. “And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!””

Have an awesome week and be led by the spirit!

 

The Loss Of Community and Worship of Self

Sorry again to all who read this blog, I had said that I would write every Friday, but I had forgotten and for that I apologize. This last week was the beginning week of the Fall semester, specifically the beginning of term 1. This term I am taking Pauline Epistles and Cultural Anthropology. Prairie Bible Institute has 4 terms a year, 2 in a semester so I do have a full course load. On Wednesday evenings I am taking a class called Freedom Session. So far the classes have gone well and I really enjoy my professor’s teachings. I hope to add classes in later terms so that I can get ahead in both of my degrees. I have also been busy with my job as a High School RA, and building relationships with the guys that I look after. This week has been awesome for connecting with this great, diverse group of guys. I have been able to have deep conversations about religion, purpose, school, life and their own beliefs. At Prairie Christian Academy the guys are asked to spend 15 minutes a night doing devotions starting at 10:30 PM every night during the week. This Thursday night I asked the guys if they would like to do devotions in my room, and many said yes. I was able to show them the video “Evolution vs. God”, and while I do not agree with all parts of the video it still created great conversation and the guys liked the video so much that they wanted to keep watching even after devotion time was over.

To say the least, God has been active and present in my life this week, and with his presence comes growth and thought. This week I have been thinking about church. More specifically I have been thinking about my generation and the church. In most places in North America you will find young adults leaving the church at a startling rate. There are a few reasons for this, but I have narrowed the reasons down to two. The first reason that people are leaving is the idea that church life, absolute morality and the concept of God are ideas of the past and that we have come to realize our lack of need for organized religion. The second reason I have realized is that those who still believe in the existence of God have become hurt, upset and down right angry with the people of the church. As a reader you will likely fall into one of four categories, you either have never been involved in church and so you can not leave it because you have never been a part, you are one of few who still attend and involve yourself in church, you no longer believe in God and therefore do not attend church, or believe in God but do not find church something worthwhile investing in. Today I will be addressing the last group, and encouraging the faithful churchgoers. My idea is that lukewarm Christians can find themselves in church regularly, but committed, faithful and worshipers of Jesus Christ can not find themselves outside of church.

In my time out of High School, I have been surprised with the amount of friends and acquaintances who claim to be Christian but do not attend church, or attend very little. I hear many excuses such as; “I work on Sundays, and my boss is not a Christian so I can not book it off”, “I have no one to go with and do not know anyone at church”, “I have no way to get to church”, or even the too common excuse of “Church is way too early for me, Sunday mornings is for me to sleep in”. Then I hear reasons from people of why they do not attend church. Some of these are nonacceptance, false teaching, legalism, abuse, hate, and the list continues. To those of you who do not attend church because of the things listed above, I am so sorry. I pray for all of you who have been hurt by the church and I know that this is not how church is intended to be. One thing we need to get clear however is that you can not give up on God’s church. To those who give excuses instead of reasons, I believe that you either have a reason behind your excuse of not going, or you really have no desire to go. It is interesting how we as humans make things happen when we want them to happen. If we wanted to go to church we would simply make it happen despite circumstances. So why do we as Christians NEED to go to church, and why do we need to be involved regularly?

One of the really important reasons we need this is because God created to be connected. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we all need connection and we all at some level desire connection. In pursuit of establishing ourselves, focusing on ourselves, and lifting ourselves up we forget that we have a family, and we are on a team. Not attending and participating in a local church as a Christian is SELFISH. We may say things like “I am working on my relationship with God and so I am taking a break from church”, but this is all about self, and rarely about God. As Christians we are called to build each other up, and so depriving the church of our gifts and talents is worship of ourselves and dangerous.

The second reason is Church needs to be a huge accountability in our life. Without the instruction and growth within a church, we as Christians can develop twisted theology, see little growth and have no one to be accountable to. We are accountable first to God but also to our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. The church should be a major part in our growth in Christ.

The last reason is that church is not about us! Christ made the church, he loves the church, and not participating in this is actually idolatry of ourselves. We may be hurt by the church, or dislike the music, or be uncomfortable with people who attend, but we must realize that going to church is not for the sole purpose of building ourselves up, but is actually first about Jesus, and then about serving others, and lastly about building ourselves up in Christ. Too many Christians hold a view that church is about us, and our spiritual experience but church was never to be intended to be that way! I think it is healthy that we are seeing people leave the church, because people are realizing that church is not about them, and in an individualistic society such as ours, church becomes very unappealing.

So to those who are faithful in following Christ I encourage you to stay strong, be involved in your church and cling to the cross. To those who are giving excuses about attending church, I pray that God would lay it on your heart to go to church again. There are many churches that offer evening services, Saturday services, and I am sure if you asked someone in the congregation for a ride they would be happy to give you one and what a great way to get to know people you normally would not. To those with a reason for not going, I ask that you read Hebrews 10:24-25. A hand separated from its body is useful for nothing, and as a Christian you are a part of the body, start acting like one.

I pray that all of you have an awesome week, God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exciting Opportunity

A couple days ago I had told you that I would be posting every Friday on this blog, and now I realize that I never got to that. There is good reason for this however. These past few weeks have been full of opportunity, blessing, and learning. Two weeks ago I finished up my internship at Fort George Baptist Church, and began my journey to Prairie Bible Institute where I am working on my degree. This was both a sad moment but also an exciting one. I was leaving my friends and family in Prince George, the church I had been serving, and my home, but I was moving on to one amazing adventure and opportunity. This fall I have been given the privilege to be a missionary. A missionary for Christ in the form of a Boarding School RA. Prairie Bible Institute shares its campus with Prairie Christian Academy, which has a dorm for out of town students. My job is to be a presence of authority to these boys but more importantly I am to disciple these kids and hopefully lead them to a personal relationship with Christ.  Coming into this job, I was very excited to see how it would all pan out, I was slightly concerned with my ability to build relationships with this group of diverse guys. My mind has been blown. I have only been doing this job for one week and already have built solid relationships with most of the guys and have had many deep, spiritual conversations with them. God has provided for me every step of the way, finances included. I was able to pay for tuition and have money left over, I have received bursaries that I was not expecting, and have been given money by a very generous, and God fearing lady. This past summer has been amazing, as I follow Jesus, I continue to be given new responsibility, adventure, opportunity and am being provided for. The past summer was difficult, I found it hard to connect with old friends, and I had to learn a lot this summer, but I am so grateful for all that I experienced and for the life I have. I did not make much money, and I do not think I ever will in my life time, but I do not think I would trade the life I have for anything this world has to offer. While many people will be able to live comfortable lives, with nice trucks, houses and toys, I get to live a life of purpose and community with other people. I am not saying that having those things are wrong, or a bad thing, but I know I am giving up those things so that my job here on earth can be completely devoted to serving others, connecting with others, and serving a good God. This summer I was reminded of the good life that God offers. Whether or not you believe in God, I think most of you would agree that money, sex, and recognition can only get you so far in life, and that it all eventually comes to an end. Living the Christian life however, in its purest form is about loving God, and loving and serving others. This is why I love what I believe. I will always have someone to serve, I will always have someone to love, and I will never have to be concerned with what I do not have because I will be concerned of what my neighbor does not have out of love. I am finding that living out love is hard, but it is also the most exciting. Love is dangerous, but I think that is what also makes it the most exciting and rewarding. And so I conclude that this summer has been all about striving to love others and realizing my purpose in life. My life is exciting and it is because of the gospel. Moving into the fall semester I will be busy with my RA position, a part time job and will be returning to my leadership position at Trochu Baptist Church in their youth ministry, but I have also decided to add a degree. Not only will I be pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in Youth Ministry, I will also be working towards my Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies. The Intercultural Program will include a practicum overseas for nine months, called Globetrek. I am very excited about all of this and ask that you pray for me(assuming you believe in such things) as I continue on in this journey. Until next Friday, have an awesome week, take time to meditate, and give radical love a try. Your life will never be quite the same.

-Spencer

My First Post

Summer came quickly, and is leaving just as fast. I had many great adventures and learning experiences this summer that some are interested in hearing about, and so I have decided to create this blog. In this blog I will post updates on my life, opinions on events of our culture, and thoughts on everyday things. I plan on posting every Friday, so stay tuned. I look forward to using this website to keep all those who are interested in my life updated. I hope you are all having a fantastic rest of your summer and I should have something posted tomorrow!