Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Church

I've been in a really weird place lately as far as my spirituality goes. Spirituality meaning... the way I view the world, the way I view the church or The Church, and even my own relationship with Christ. It's been really difficult to put a lot of my thoughts in words because I’m still having difficulty actually wrapping my mind around many of these thoughts and what some of these things mean in the whole context of being who God created me to be.

There are many things within myself, which I’ve begun to examine more closely. There are also different things that I’ve seen in the world that I’ve been forced to examine more closely. One of those “things” is how did Christ intend for the Church to function? What is the purpose and what was it meant to do or greater yet, what is my role in the church. I don’t necessarily think that our version, or today’s version, of the Church is a bad one, I’m just not so sure that it is what Christ intended for it to be. I truly think that probably the closest I come to being the Church that Christ intended is whenever (or wherever) I am fulfilling the purpose for which God created me for by using the gifts that He equipped me with to glorify His kingdom. This may be during “church on Sunday” or leading small group or just when I’m in fellowship with other believers. I think that we have become so ingrained by tradition and our worldly thinking that we have trouble remembering that the “Church” is not a geographical location but rather we, as a body of believers, are The Church. I had a discussion some time ago with someone about whether or not “churches” should be for nonbelievers or should churches be for believers/Christians only. At the time, I thought that the fact that Church would be just for believers was just ridiculous but as I grow (hopefully) spiritually, I think I’m beginning to see the point that was trying to be made. The Church, that is the Bride of Christ, is made up of believers. There cannot be a nonbeliever within the “Church” if we are considered the Body of Christ. How can someone who is outside of Christ be a part of the Body of Christ? I think that this is where we (Christians) have become blurred in our thinking and terminology when discussing church. I’m not sure that what we do on Sunday’s isn't more about the great commission. It’s anytime that we gather as believers, share resources, help one another out and build one another up that we truly begin to function as the Church.

Acts 2:42-47 (King James Version)
42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Please bear in mind that this is probably the closest that I’ve come in months to gathering many of these thoughts into an actual coherent writing. While I’ve done some research and a lot of meditation on many verses and things concerning the church, what I’ve said above is purely only my thoughts and part of my meditation as I continue to question (examine myself) in an effort to fully understand who God wants me to be.

I sat in Church yesterday with tears streaming down my face as our pastor spoke to many of these things that have lain heavily on my heart over the last couple months. It was as if God had taken a moment to sit with me and say… Michael, I know what you have been going through and I want you to know that I love you, I care for you and I’m always there for you. I was completely overcome by His Presence. I stated above that maybe what goes on Sundays is just part of the great commission. While I still believe this to be a major function of today’s church, there are many things that go on during a service which are a part of The Body of Christ. I am truly blessed to be a part of a “Church” that doesn’t see walls when we talk about who God wants us to be and how we function as the Bride of Christ.

I love fishing

Today my thoughts are about fishing.
Any of you who have known me for any time at all will know that I love to fish. It is one of my passions but unfortunately not something I get a lot of time to do. You would think that because fishing is one of my passions, that I might make more time to do it, and perhaps I should. Then again, maybe it’s the rarity of it, which makes me so passionate about it.

One of my favorite movies is called “A River Runs through It”. It’s based on the semi-autobiographical novella written by Norman Maclean. One of my favorite parts of the movie is from the opening scene. Here is the quote:

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.”

I believe the reason fly-fishing appeals so much to me is because of the beauty that I find in it. There is something about standing in a cool mountain stream as the fog comes off the water and watching a trout rise to take your fly. I think it’s the beauty of standing in the middle of God’s creation, making the perfect cast, with the right fly and watching as everything you’ve planned and worked for come together in that one perfect moment. That wonderful moment when a fish graces you with the pleasure of his leaping presence at the end of your line. Then there is the moment of release, when the battle is over and you are thankful for those few short minutes of being allowed to watch the gracefulness and power of one of God’s creations. There are even moments when I make that perfect cast and my fly, created by my own hands, settles softly on the water and drifts into the path of a fish as he rises ever so gently to take it in his mouth, in that one small moment, sometimes, I feel beautiful.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I think that God created within each of us something that yearns for beauty. It could even go back to our exodus from the Garden and our soul remembers the beauty that we enjoyed while there and it aches to have that beauty again. As much as I love fishing and enjoy the beauty that I find there, it could never compare to the beauty that comes from having a relationship with Christ. I never feel more beautiful then those moments when I’m fulfilling the purpose for which God created me and I can feel his pleasure.

Matthew 4:18-20 (New International Version)
The Calling of the First Disciples
18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20At once they left their nets and followed him.