Filters

As I mentioned yesterday, I am currently reading That’s A Great Question: What To Say When Your Faith Is Questioned by Glenn Pearson. Pearson’s basic premise is that we all see the Bible through various filters. We have presuppositions and opinions that we bring to the table before we ever begin to actually read it…and those filters affect the way we react to the message.

Pearson suggests that there are two categories of filters for people who fall outside of the historic Christian faith: those which add to the Bible, and those which take away from the Bible. There are different types of filters found within the two categories as well. Under the first you find: the filter of new revelation, and the filter of outlandish speculation. The second category contains three different filters: the filter of atheism, the filter of antisupernaturalism, and the filter of selective Christian theology.

I am just now getting into Pearson’s descriptions of the filters and how they affect one’s view of the Bible. I am reading through the book slowly (for me) so that I can really think about what he is saying. I have re-read a couple of sections and made notes. I am really interested in what Pearson has to say and I am trying to absorb what I read so that it will be useful to me as I minister to others. Pearson makes a great point when he reminds us that: “Each of us (emphasis his) operates with presuppositions that affect our conclusions about the Bible, God, and Jesus.” (location 444 in the Kindle version)

I have to remind myself of that often. I was raised in the church…the independent Church of Christ…the eastern North Carolina flavor. There are certain things that were instilled in me at a very early age that still affect the way I read the Bible and the way I live out my faith. Baptism (by immersion) and the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper are a HUGE part of my belief system. In the past I looked at other Christian groups (often judging them) by the way they practiced (or didn’t practice) those two things. That was a filter through which I saw Christianity. I have known people who honestly believe that the King James Version of the Bible is the ONLY acceptable English translation. That is one of the filters through which they view other believers. To many of them, those who do not use the KJV are not only using perverted versions of the Bible, they are in danger of going to hell. The filters through which we view things are very important.

I know that I have my own filters. Some of them are stronger than others. Some of them need to go. In chapter 2, Pearson talks about looking at “Jesus Unfiltered” in the Gospel accounts. I am trying to do that more and more but let’s be honest…it is hard to set aside your presuppositions. It is hard to read about Jesus and not see the Sunday School flannelgraph figures from my childhood. It’s hard to embrace the grace and mercy Christ brings when there are years of hellfire and brimstone sermons still echoing in my head. There are so many filters distorting who Jesus is. It is my prayer that this book will not only help me with my personal filters, but it will also help me minister to others through the various filters they have been using.

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Monday Morning Rewind 10/21/13

I successfully met my blogging goal last week. This week I am shooting for five posts. Someone suggested that the first post of the week could be a rewind or a look back at the weekend…I think that is a good idea so I am going to attempt to do that here.

For the past eleven weeks Geoffry (my oldest son) and I have been coaching a bunch of third graders in Upward football. If you are not familiar with the program it is a Christian based flag football league that emphasizes various Christian character traits during practice and on game day. More information can be found at their official website (www.upward.org). This is the first time I have ever attempted to coach football. I did co-coach soccer and tee ball many years ago when Geoffry was younger…but I was always an assistant coach. This was a much different experience and I have enjoyed it…for the most part.

For starters, managing nine third graders at one time can be challenging. The first three weeks are spent teaching the fundamentals of the game and trying to learn all the crazy rules that come with flag football. The field is only fifty yards and there are “no run” zones that dictate passing plays. It is a six man game with substitutions made on offense and defense AND at the start of every quarter. It can be a tad bit confusing if you have never done it before. I will give Upward credit…they have developed in depth and easy to understand coaches aids. By the time the first game rolls around most of it makes sense.

I have been extremely fortunate having Geo (that’s what I call him) helping me. He knows football. Between watching it on TV and playing it on X-Box…he understands formations and play calling…so I let him handle that aspect of the game. He has done very well. He’s old enough that the kids listen to him but he’s young enough that he’s cooler than me…the old guy. Anyways…I have had fun this season. We missed one game due to the weather. We also missed another game (Geo and I) when I was up in Pennsylvania meeting our new church family. Upward really doesn’t focus on scoring and record keeping but I would be lying if I said that no one did that. We do try to teach good sportsmanship but we watch the score. I know our record. I would be willing to bet that every other team knows as well. FWIW…we are 4-2 with one game left.  We won the first three and then dropped two in a row. We did a little better this past weekend and won again.

As much fun as I have had…I really don’t think I would want to do this again…at least not with this age group. Don’t get me wrong…these kids have been awesome…their parents have been great…it has been a positive experience…it’s just not something I am cut out for. I volunteered to do it this year because my work schedule allowed for it and we really needed coaches. It is not something I was passionate about or even wanted to do. I signed up out of a sense of obligation. I am glad that I did it though. Like I said…my kids have been awesome. They have gotten better as the season has progressed and they have been good sports whether they won or lost. I am more proud of that than anything else. We have our last practice tonight and our last game this Saturday. I am excited and I hope we come out and play well. I want to end this thing up right and have a lot of fun. But I won’t lie…I’ll be glad when it is over.

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I am currently reading this book.

That’s A Great Question: What To Say When Your Faith Is Question

I got it for my Kindle Fire for free. I started it yesterday and I am really enjoying it. Glenn Pearson isn’t a professional theologian (he is Executive Vice President for Georgia Hospital Association) but he is intelligent and has a deep respect and knowledge of Scripture. He writes in a style that is understandable without being watered down. I have finished up the introductory chapters and am about to begin the “meat” of the book. I hope to share my thoughts as I make my way through it.

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I think I am going to develop a sermon series based upon Kyle Idleman’s book Gods At War. We just finished up the small group study last night. I would like to dive into it a little more deeply and I believe it is a topic that everyone can benefit from. We all have things that we sometimes place before God. That’s idolatry and it displeases God. I have been challenged by Idleman’s book and the study we did.

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I think that is going to do me for this morning. I have some ideas for my posts for the rest of the week and I need to flesh them out a bit. Stick around…hopefully I will keep this thing up and running.

Ungrateful?

I have been doing some reading (and along with that…thinking) about being thankful. I am trying to go ahead and get a good start on the first two sermons I will preach at Granville Center Church of Christ. The first one will be on Sunday, November 17 and the second will be the following week. That puts them right there during Thanksgiving so I felt that a two sermon series on being thankful would be timely and appropriate. I have chosen 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to be my starting point.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

As I have pondered those three short verses (always keeping their original context in mind) I have come to the conclusion that I am not as thankful as I should be. In fact…I am probably guilty of being ungrateful for the things that God has blessed me with.  The passage I quoted above is taken from a letter Paul wrote to encourage a group of believers who were distressed. It is part of his closing remarks as he explains that Christ’s return will be soon. He pleads with them to remain “children of the light and children of the day” and to avoid the acts of darkness. He challenges them to be different from those in the world…those who have chosen to walk in darkness. Salvation, he reminds them, is found in Jesus and they should not lose hope. His final instructions mention acknowledging those who work hard, living in peace with one another, and warning those who fall astray. They are to do good to all. That is when the above passage comes into play.

Even when dire situations arise, believers are to hold to what is good and reject what is evil. Romans 12:9 echoes this when it says:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (NASB)

The truth is…many of us, when faced with difficult circumstances, do the exact opposite. We look for the easy answer or the quick exit, even if we know it is not what God would have us to do. We look to the world for the solution and often compromise what we claim to believe. I know that I have been guilty of it.  To top of it off, we gripe and complain about the problems we are encountering, even when we are the cause of many of them. We point fingers and place blame and do everything BUT what God has told us to do.

Let’s be honest, it is not easy to be joyful when things feel like they’re falling apart around you. It is hard to give thanks and be positive when it seems like the world is out to get you. Casting Crowns released a song a few years ago called Praise You In This Storm. The chorus goes like this:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

As difficult as it is to maintain this attitude, I believe that is exactly how we should respond. There have been too many times in my life when I was ungrateful for the things that God had done for me. I used my problems to excuse myself from being thankful in all circumstances. I cursed the negative things going on around me and neglected to recognize the blessings I was being given, even in the storms of life. In most of those times I stopped praying. That is dangerous. I believe you can directly connect the amount of praying you do with the thankfulness you have in your heart. A life lived without prayer quickly becomes ungrateful. Bitterness and hatred spring up when things go wrong. What’s worse is that God is not recognized and given praise when they DO go right.

Paul understood this. He had every earthly reason to be bitter and jaded, but he praised God and was thankful…even during persecution. He understood that regardless of what happens here on earth, we can find our hope and joy in the fact that Jesus died to bring salvation. That is reason enough to give thanks. When that becomes our motivating factor…we have no reason to be ungrateful any longer.

Nothing Else Matters

On page 97 of his wonderful (and convicting) book Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes the following:

Hear me clearly in this, because it is vital – in fact, there is nothing more important or eternal: Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants? Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He made?

The quote closes out a chapter entitled “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God” which builds upon Chan’s premise that too many people in the Church (especially the American Church) are lukewarm and not giving God their all. I must admit that I was immediately convicted upon reading it. Chan accurately paints a picture of those who, in spite of their material possessions, are poor spiritually. He explains:

Because we don’t usually have to depend on God for food. money to buy or next meal, or shelter, we don’t feel needy. In fact, we generally think of ourselves as fairly independent and capable. Even if we aren’t rich, we are “doing just fine.” (p. 89)

I can honestly say that there have been times in my life when I lived with that exact mindset. I had a good job, a nice car, a good place to live and plenty to eat…what did I need God for? On top of that I had blindly convinced myself that I had achieved all of those things on my own, through hard work and determination. I believed in God and payed Him lip service in church on Sunday morning and I thought that was perfectly acceptable. I had forgotten Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 when he told us to seek the kingdom of God first, and all of our needs will be met. When we do not struggle to meet those needs we often (falsely) assume that we no longer need Jesus.

In a recent Twitter post, preacher (and author) Timothy Keller stated: You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.

In the not-so-distant past, God humbled me and broke me to the point where I can now see the truth in Keller’s words. I spent so much of my time chasing after the things that the world told me that I should want, even when I really did not want many of them in the first place. Even after making the decision to go to Bible College and pursue the preaching ministry as a career, I can’t say that I was truly putting God’s kingdom before my own selfish (and foolish) desires. I learned quickly that not every one in ministry is doing it for the right reasons. Although few people become wealthy through preaching, many do achieve a certain level of success and job security. That is what I sought for myself. The salvation of the lost was a secondary goal. As horrible as it sounds, even when I was seeking to do kingdom work I was still approaching it from a worldly point of view. God quickly changed that.

So here I am now…Francis Chan’s words STILL ringing in my ears. The same struggle still occurs in my mind. What is my motivation? What is my goal? Why do I want to preach? In the past I would have had many different answers to those questions. I don’t sit here and pretend to be perfect this morning. I still have to rely on the Spirit to fight that internal battle for me. As the title of the blog says…without Him…I am nothing. In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul gives us his famous definition of love. He begins by listing amazing things that people can do for the body of Christ. However, he makes it clear that they are meaningless without love. Jesus, when challenged by the religious leaders of the day, summed up the entire Law of God in two simple commands: Love God and Love People.

That has become my motivation. As I prepare to start a new phase in my life I want to remember those two commands…daily. I don’t care if I am the best preacher ever (I do want to be good) and I don’t care if I pastor the largest church in America (I do want it to be healthy and growing). I want everything I say and do to be motivated by love because honestly…nothing else matters.

The Five Stages of Pastoral Ministry

I came across an article by Thom Rainer yesterday and found it insightful and useful. The title is “Five Stages of a Pastor’s Ministry” and it can be found on his website (thomrainer.com). I have read several of Mr. Rainer’s books in the past and respect his opinions on the ministry. According to his bio he has over two decades worth of experience studying issues that affect the church. His book The Unchurched Next Door is one that I have read many times and his collaboration with Eric Geiger (Simple Church) was required reading in one of my Bible College classes. I say all that to say that I usually listen to what Mr. Rainer has to say and I almost always learn something. This short article is no different.

The five stages he has identified are:

1. Year One: The Honeymoon

2. Years Two and Three: Conflict and Challenges

3. Years Four and Five: Crossroads, Part 1

4. Years Six through Ten: Fruit and Harvest

5. Years Eleven and beyond: Crossroads, Part 2

Seeing as how I am about to begin a new ministry in an unfamiliar area…I am especially interested in what Rainer has to say about the first two stages. After consulting several books and websites that address pastoral burn out I learned that average length of a pastor’s stay at one church falls somewhere between 3-5 years. I know many ministers who have defied this statistic and are well into their second decade with a single congregation. However, if the statistics are true…and they appear to be…those long-term guys are few. So…as a guy who is about to step into a new ministry…what should I do to assure myself and my new congregation that this is for the long haul?

First of all, I think it is important to realize that both sides are bringing in baggage from previous experiences. There are both positive and negative things that both pastor and congregation will be holding on to. These things may not be up front during the first months of a new ministry…but they are there. As soon as that “new car smell” wears off you can guarantee that those things will eventually see the light of day. I truly believe the best thing one can do to avoid those bumps is to acknowledge them early on. Some may disagree with me but when I sat down with the elders during my “interview” I told them about the negative experiences I had coming into this. I let them know how I had failed in places and how I thought others had failed me. I was not being purposefully negative and I didn’t dwell on it…but I wanted them to understand exactly who they would be getting.

Second, I am not naive enough to believe that there will not be conflict in my new ministry. I have been going to and serving in the church my entire life and, if nothing else, I have learned one thing: as long as people are involved, there is no “perfect” church. As excited as we all are, there will come times when I and the congregation will not see eye-to-eye on something. I believe the answer to navigating those times is to remain spiritually active. We must be in the Word and we must be praying…at all times.

I am truly humbled to be given this opportunity. Although it sounds cliche’ I have learned that God doesn’t necessarily call the qualified…He qualifies the called. I am already praying that my ministry is fruitful and that Granville Center Church of Christ can point people to Jesus Christ. I know that won’t happen if I depend upon myself. I know that it won’t happen if I depend solely upon those in the congregation. Together we must depend on Christ.

I eagerly look forward to this first year…the honeymoon that Rainer describes…but I am also very aware that right around the corner lie the conflicts and challenges that will eventually bring me the crossroads. With God’s wisdom, grace, and mercy I hope to see what lies beyond that.

The Start of Something Beautiful….

Those who know me in the “real” world are aware that I went back to Bible college in 2005 at the age of 35. I had a wife, two sons (ages 9 and 4) and a newborn daughter. I spent the next three years finishing my degree and serving in two separate weekend youth ministries. At the start of my senior year I began preaching at a little church in eastern North Carolina. I served there from July 2007 until January of 2008 when the unexpected happened. I came on as interim minister under the assumption that the congregation would vote to hire me. I had 100% approval of the board of deacons and elders and (as far as I knew) the support of the congregation. Well…January came and a handful of people who had barely made an appearance during the six months I had been preaching there showed up and were allowed to vote. Needless to say…I missed being voted in as the minister by only a handful of votes. I was crushed. I pondered what my next move would be.

In March of that year I went to Louisiana and Mississippi went with a group of students on a work trip. I fell in love with the area and I eventually moved my family down there to work as a church planter. We were there a couple of months when I realized that I did not share the same vision as the organization funding the plant. We moved back to North Carolina in April of 2009. In one year I had landed two promising ministries and then lost both of them. I found myself unemployed and depressed. I eventually found a job working with Habitat for Humanity in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. That is what I have been doing since March of 2010.

Today is Tuesday, October 15, 2013 and I am sitting here at Habitat for Humanity…beginning my last four weeks as an employee. On Monday, November 11, I will be moving to Granville Summit, Pennsylvania to begin serving as the minister for Granville Center Church of Christ. I am still experiencing and sorting through all sorts of emotions and feelings as I begin planning this next stage in my life. I have spent the better part of five years questioning God. I have continually wondered why He would have me uproot my family and go off to Bible college, only to have me experience some of the things I have experienced. I have been wounded and disillusioned by the very people I thought I was supposed to be ministering to.

I have been blessed though. I have been a member of (and now serve as an elder at) Stoneybrook Christian Church in Wilson, North Carolina. They have been the best church family I could ever have imagined. They have supported us during our journey and stand by us now as we begin this next phase. There are still some dark corners in my soul that are bruised and hurting…but the love of Christ has brought me to a place where I am overwhelmed and humbled to be given this chance. I am already praying for the wonderful people in Bradford county, Pennsylvania.  They are already showing us love and we aren’t even there yet.

Through all the pain and heartache I have been reminded that God is good…all the time. I am thrilled to see where He takes me next.

Summer 2012

I am a terrible blogger. Truth is…I cannot honestly call myself a blogger. Apparently I am not insightful or dedicated enough to manage such a task. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE the idea of being a blogger but I lack the discipline to carry it out. I believe that I do have some interesting opinions and that some people may even want to read them. I guess the question I have to ask myself is: Am I really going to do this? With that…I’ll share a little bit I wrote the other night…just because I felt like writing.

           I am sitting here in my Dallas Cowboys pajama pants, listening to U2 songs playing on my battered HP laptop. Robin, my wife of twenty-one years, is laying on the bed next to me trying to watch a movie on her older (and even MORE battered) HP laptop. This is a routine we carry out at least two or three nights a week. It’s not that we have nothing better (or exciting) to do, this is just comfortable. It works for us.

            Bono is doing his little ad lib wailing at the end of One when Jamie, our seven year old, walks into our room and whines, “I want the Kindle.” Robin lets out a half-hearted sigh and tells her to go back into the living room. The whining intensifies and Jamie turns her attention from the Kindle to the Acer laptop that I use for work. One fades out and the opening chords to Yahweh emanate from the tabletop speakers hooked up to my computer.

            I ignore Jamie’s whining and try to focus on Bono as he sings. I don’t know when I became a fan, but I can definitely say that U2 are one of my favorite bands. That wasn’t always so. They came onto the scene when I was ten years old but I don’t recall the first time I consciously heard them. It may have been at my uncle Allan’s house up in Waynesboro, Virginia. I do recall seeing a cassette copy of The Unforgettable Fire among my cousin Doug’s tapes. That would have been when I was fourteen.

            But as I sit here and think about it, I am sure that I must have seen them on M-TV before then. I remember the live video for Sunday Bloody Sunday that was recorded at Red Rocks. Although it would be a few years before I became a true fan, that video did make an impression on me. Bono was waving that white flag out over the sea of fans as the rain soaked them all. I didn’t understand it at the time but I thought it was pretty cool when he yelled out, “This song is not a rebel song,” at the beginning, right before The Edge played that iconic guitar lick. I was into Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, and Twisted Sister at the time, but that was still fairly hard core.

            I just remembered something. Robin is using the Acer to watch the movie. Her laptop’s CD/DVD drive is not working. It stopped a couple of months ago. I actually replaced it with another drive but it doesn’t work either. I can only assume that it is something inside the machine that I am not capable of repairing on my own. I would like to buy her a brand new computer but that will have to wait until she finds a job. She graduated from Liberty University back in May but has yet to find anything. We’re trying to be patient and trust God. But I digress, back to U2.

            I do remember the video for New Year’s Day when it was in heavy rotation on M-TV. I will be honest; I usually turned it to something else when it came on. I haven’t seen it in a long time but if memory serves me correctly, there are lots of shots with horses and the band in a snow-covered forest. I guess I will have to look that up on YouTube tomorrow and check my facts. Anyways, I didn’t care for the song or the video because neither was as cool as Kevin DuBrow and his metal mask.

            As I sit and listen to it tonight, I can’t help but wonder about the lyrics. I didn’t know it at the time but they were the most Christian band on M-TV. That was still a couple of years before Stryper crashed the Dial M-TV request lines in all their yellow and black glory. At the time I had no idea that three of the guys in U2 identified themselves as Christians. I always felt the tension between my church upbringing and the music I listened to. In 1983 I was still two years from discovering Stryper and Petra. Those two bands would become HUGE in my life, but at thirteen I was still deeply engrossed with the devil’s music.

            I admit it; I still don’t quite grasp all of Bono’s lyrics. Sometimes it is simply because I cannot understand them. I can’t honestly say that I have sat down and deeply analyzed them though. U2 aren’t my favorite band (that would be Electric Light Orchestra) but I do listen to them quite a bit. I would even put them in my top ten but the truth is, I usually have them playing in the background while I’m doing something. There are a handful of songs that I know every single lyric to but I’m far from being a die-hard fan. I’d kind of like to be but I’m not there yet.

            I do feel something different when I listen to them. It’s something tangible too. I do believe that music has a spiritual quality to it, maybe even a mystical quality. There are many songs that move me spiritually when I listen to them. I can close my eyes and it just seems like God steps into the room with me. I find it amusing (and sad) that those are usually not praise and worship songs. A lot of classical music has that affect on me. I have never studied music theory in depth but I assume that there may be something about certain keys, chords, and combinations of notes that stir that sort of thing up within people. Whatever it is, I know that a great deal of U2’s music does it to me.

            Some of it is the lyrics, I won’t deny that. When I hear Bono whisper the opening lines of Wake Up Dead Man it’s like he was peeking into my mind when he wrote it. I know some Christians have an issue with his use of the f-word in that particular song but I happen to think it is one of the most honest prayers I have ever heard. I would imagine that King David may have penned just such a lyric, profanity and all. I guess that is why I consider Bono and his band mates modern day psalmists. They speak openly and honestly about their faith and how it functions in the real world. I wish more Christian artists would do the same thing.

2012 Is Almost Here

I have neglected this little blog since its creation…but I think it is time to rectify the situation. I hope to make substantial daily posts as the new year rolls around us. I post online in various places but have never really kept what I consider a true blog. I would like for this to be such a place. I do have things on my mind that I like to share and I have never really gotten the hang of doing it in this medium. Perhaps that will change.

A Couple Of Random Thoughts

I have deliberately refrained from posting here for the past several weeks. It’s not that I forgot or neglected it…I just didn’t feel that I had anything substantial to say. I do not want this to become like my other blog attempts. It is easy to re-post videos or stories that I see on other blogs…it is also lazy. I would rather go without posts than to post other people’s thoughts and ideas. My eventual goal is to compose and post every day of the week…but for now…I’m taking baby steps.

The band I mentioned in an earlier post is now playing shows. We have done one coffee shop gig that was packed wall to wall. We also led worship at a local church. We are leading worship for the “Back To School” chapel service at North Carolina Wesleyan College this weekend. I am really excited about that. We are getting out and making contacts in many different circles. We are playing the coffee shop again in September and are leading worship at a couple of different churches. The opportunities are starting to present themselves and we are amazed at how quickly God has blessed this little group. Our goal is to use this as a springboard for an alternative service that reaches out to those who feel alienated from the church. We are trying to be patient and let God move in His own time…but it is hard not to get excited.

I have been pondering a couple of issues that have become hot button topics over the last week or so. The first one is the proposed Islamic activity center and mosque that is being planned for a spot two blocks away from “Ground Zero” in New York City. I have been watching both sides debate this and as much as some people may disagree…I believe the correct thing to do is to allow it. The property is legally owned by the group and (as far as I can tell) it is zoned for such a building. The argument against the center is that it is somehow disrespectful and/or distasteful to those who lost loved ones in the attack on the World Trade Center. The other side argues (quite successfully I might add) that this is a matter of freedom of religion…an ideal that America was built upon. Needless to say…the rhetoric back and forth between the two sides had been heated and animated.

Here is where I stand on the issue. As a Christian…I am disturbed spiritually by the advance of any religion that contradicts the truth of the Gospel. However…as an American…I am thankful that I have the freedom to believe and worship where, when and how I please. If I believe that I am owed that right (and I do)…then other American citizens with opposing beliefs are owed it as well. I can see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to build this activity center. It is a community building that will house a gym, a pool, classrooms and a chapel for those who choose to use it. I wouldn’t want the city government ignore zoning and building codes and refuse my legal right to construct a building used for Christian outreach. Shouldn’t every one be given that same right?

The other issue has been going on for much longer and (in my opinion) is a much more serious issue. The debate for (and against) homosexual marriage has recently heated up again. California’s Proposition 8 was struck down by a judge as unconstitutional. This was supposedly going to clear the way for legal homosexual marriages to begin. Well…now a judge has placed a stay on the ruling that would allow gay couple to get married in California. Both sides are in a tizzy (is that a real word?) as the drama unfolds. I won’t even begin to get into all of the issues concerning state’s rights versus the federal government. I want to address what I see is the basic issue.

As a Christian I truly believe that homosexuality is wrong. I recognize that there are some biological factors that come into play…but if we’re honest…all of us are born with biological factors that lead us into sin. Also…I believe that in God’s eyes…there is no such thing as marriage outside of the boundaries He has set for it. This debate isn’t about “redefining” marriage. That can’t be done. I know a lot of well meaning Christians who have jumped into this fight with their arms swinging. Here is my opinion. We shouldn’t be surprised that a worldly government is going to do things that are contrary to the word of God. We shouldn’t be surprised when lost people act like lost people. We shouldn’t be hateful, judgmental and vengeful against them. After all…we are all in the same boat they are in. All sin is offensive to God. All sin put Jesus on the cross. Homosexuality is not ranked higher than lying or cheating or overeating.

I believe it is time for the Church to separate itself from the government. The judge who struck down Proposition 8 made it clear that he wasn’t taking away the Church’s right to define “religious” marriage. This is about civil unions and the benefits that government provides for them. Too much of the debate is focusing in issues other than that. If the government sanctions gay unions…why should that surprise us? It sanctions other unions that are not accepted in Scripture. There are benefits for heterosexual couples who are not married. There are benefits for heterosexual couples married outside of God’s will. This is the same thing. No one can make the Church recognize them as biblical unions. I think it is time that we draw a very distinct line between legal marriage and spiritual marriage. I think it is time for the Church to cut all ties with the government…but that is totally different issue that I make take on later.

So…that’s my two cents worth.

Demographics

Some brief statistics for this area.

The current year (2010) population in this selected geography is 96,869. The 2000 Census revealed a population of 94,973, and in 1990 it was 87,216 representing a 8.9% change. It is estimated that the population in this area will be 98,633 in 2014, representing a change of 1.8% from 2009. The current population is 48.8% male and 51.2% female. In 2009, the median age of the population in this area was 39.0, compared to the US median age which was 37.1. The population density in your area is 308.3 people per square mile.

There are currently 40,085 households in this selected geography. The Census revealed household counts of 36,100 in 2000, up from 32,704 in 1990, representing a change of 10.4%.  It is estimated that the number of households in this area will be 44,023 in 2014, representing a change of 9.8% from the current year. For the current year, the average household size in this area is 2.42 persons.

In 2009, the median number of years in residence in this geography’s population is 3.21. The average household size in this geography was 2.35 people and the average family size was 2.98 people. The average number of vehicles per household in this geography was 1.8.

In 2009, the median household income in this selected geography was $45,348, compared to the US median which was $53,679. The Census revealed median household incomes of $35,644 in 2000 and $25,803 in 1990 representing a change of 38.1%. It is estimated that the median household income in this area will be $49,581 in 2014, which would represent a change of 9.3% from the current year.

In 2009, the per capita income in this area was $24,344, compared to the $US per capita, which was $26,477. The 2009 average household income for this area was $57,410, compared to the US average which was $69,330.

In 2009, the racial makeup of this selected area was as follows:  52.1% White; 43.9% Black; 0.5% Native American; 1.0% Asian/Pacific Islander;  and 1.2% Other. Compare these to the US racial makeup which was: 73.9% White, 12.4% Black, 0.8% Native American, 4.4% Asian/Pacific Islander and 5.4% Other.

People of Hispanic ethnicity are counted independently of race. People of Hispanic origin make up 2.7% of the current year population in this selected area. Compare this to the US makeup of 15.6%. Changes in the population within each race and ethnicity category from the 1990 Census to the 2000 Census are as follows:  47.9% American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut Population;  110.5% Asian, Pacific Islander;  19.9% Black;  262.4% Hispanic Ethnicity;  546.4% Other;   White  -2.1%.

The median housing value in this area was $60,580 in 1990, compare this to the US median of $78,360 for the same year. The 2000 Census median housing value was $91,589, which is a 51.2% change from 1990. In 1990, there were 19,981 owner occupied housing units in this area vs. 23,057 in 2000. Also in 1990, there were 12,724 renter occupied housing units in this area vs. 13,044 in 2000. The average rent in 1990 was $227 vs. $348 in 2000.

In 2009, there were 46,529 people over the age of 16 in the labor force in your geography. Of these 88.2% were employed, 11.6% were unemployed, 38.4% were not in the labor force and 0.2% were in the Armed Forces. In 1990, unemployment in this area was 4.9% and in 2000 it was 7.4%.

In 2009, there were 46,833 employees in this selected area (daytime population) and there were 3,759 establishments.

For this area in 1990, 51.0% of employees were employed in white-collar occupations and 49.0% were employed in blue-collar occupations. In 2000, white collar workers made up 55.7% of the population, and those employed in blue collar occupations made up 44.4%.  In 1990, the average time traveled to work was 10 minutes and in 2000 it was 18 minutes.