“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Round Up of the Year

Here we are, drawing another year to a close... As I look back over the past year in our church, I must say that there have been some very wonderful times in our congregation, and likewise, we also experienced some tremendous heartbreak.

This seemed to be a year with too many funerals in it, many in our church, including myself, lost loved ones. And while some knew the Lord and are now in His presence, far too many died in their sins.

We had several marriages that took place this year as well, (we are fairly small), and this has been a blessing for me as a pastor. Also, there were the baptisms; some of the people who were baptized this year had previously told me that I would see them in church (to quote), "when hell freezes over." Ahh, I love the Lord! It was an incredible blessing to see these same people, brought into fellowship with us as they were drawn by the Lord as He was lifted up!

I think of the financial struggles we faced, and are facing, and yet I do not look at these in trepidation; the Lord has consistently provided for all of our needs for the past four years, and I am not about to start doubting Him now. I really have learned a lot about myself this year when it comes to worry (I do WAAAYYY too much of it), but these words ring in my ears and my heart: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33, 34).

I think of the many mistakes I made, and the sermons that I would dearly love to redo, and I think of the growth that I have experienced this year in the position of pastor. I think of how the Lord has blessed me with the best elders and deacons that a man could ask for, and how much my wife has been such a support and a blessing as well.

And I am concerned about what I see in the Body of Christ.

As we have gone through the year we have seen technology enable us to 'dialogue' in an entirely new way (for many of us), as a Body of believers. I have found some wonderful places that I visit every morning for inspirational, and/or challenging thought. I think of blogs such as Pyromaniac, The Highland Host, Tom Ascol and many others. And, of course, there is always the morning 'funnies' that I read, such as marc's place. While he is always funny, he also makes us think.

I think of people whose acquaintance I have made, such as Alan (The Gadfly), and Daniel, and of course my friends from across the ocean, Libbie, and Matthew.

I may not agree with all of these folks all of the time, but each of them, and many more who I simply cannot list due to length restrictions, have impacted my ministry. They have made me reexamine some of my beliefs, and in some areas they have caused me to strengthen my resolve, while in others, they have caused me to go do some homework, but each and every one challenged me!

I stated at the beginning of this thought that I am concerned about the body, and here is why: While I have had great experiences via the blogsphere, I have seen a definitive note of battlements being drawn up and people finding themselves either impaled on the fence between camps, or publicly ridiculed for being foolish enough to disagree. Some have simply found the 'yes men' who are allowed to post on their blog, thereby keeping the conversation insular and useless.

This is disconcerting to me. I am all for a good, spirited debate, however many of the 'debates' recently have turned into character assassination, or exile to the Siberian outposts of the blogsphere. I think we MUST stand for correct doctrine, and I am not espousing an inclusive, all are equally right, type of atmosphere, but I think we have gone beyond that in recent months.

It seems that we are more interested in finding out where the others are incorrect than in fostering true discussion about subjects which have been debated for many years.

Unless you are a Reformed, Cessationist, who is Baptistic, and adheres to the 1689 Baptist Confession, and ONLY reads the Puritans, you simply are out in left field.

Or, if you are not a Paedo-Baptist, who has properly catechized your children in the Westminster Confession, and is properly sacerdotal, then you simply fall outside the pale of Orthodoxy!

Sad...

I pray that 2006 will be a year when we can have proper discussions without calling another person's faith into question over the smallest 'deviation' from 'proper faith'. Now, if anyone actually will read this lengthy post, I want to reiterate: I AM NOT ADVOCATING AN INCLUSIVISM THAT STATES ALL BELIEFS ARE EQUALLY VALID. What I am stating is that disagreements should be dealt with in a proper Christian manner.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ ARE NOT the enemy; they may well try your patience, and they may even attack your ego, or knowledge, but please, remember the Lord's words in John 13:34, 35: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

I pray that 2006 will be the year when we, as Christians, are known for our love, and not our fractious manners.

9 comments:

Ephraim said...

Ray,

Did you really post this at 5:48 am? You're 2 hours ahead of me, so that means that while I was sound asleep, you were composing your thoughts and putting them out into the ether. You are dedicated!

I've noticed the same trend in the blogs that you mentioned. I do find some great insights mixed into all the animosity though. That, and that fact that someone might actually respond to something I wrote is what keeps me coming back.

YHWH sums up love as obedience in the context of "if you love, keep my commandments". I honestly cannot find another way to love either Him or my brothers and sisters without the keeping of His commandments. As to which commandments those would be is still a source of great debate, but most would agree that at least the basic principles of divinely inspired relationships must be practiced.

Since Chanukah is not a "moed", we have opted to observe it during the rabbinical calendar days. I have to admit that I am somewhat saddened to see so many Christians missing out on the significance of what took place at that time. Put simply, if the Maccabees had not fought and won back the temple, the Messiah would not have been able to fulfill that portion of Torah which commanded the sacrifices of His dedication at the time of His brit milah. It was why YHWH gave victory to the Jews over the Greeks. There is so much there to learn. It was not a time of Israel being abandoned by their Elohim.

Whatever you and your family may celebrate, may the blessings of YHWH come to you through His Son, Yeshua HaMashiach.

Shalom

Ray said...

Ephraim -- Good to hear from you... May you enjoy this time when the Light of the World shone forth!

I, too, celebrate the Hannukah season as well... I have several friends who have begun to do the same, and appreciate the 'illumination' that celebrating this time has brought to them.. :-)

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Its been fun reading your posts and the comments you have left on my blog.

Have a nice holiday.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Ray said...

I have enjoyed making your acquaintance as well Matthew!

Have a wonderful holiday!

Ray

MomUvTen said...

Stumbled upon your blog as I was reading comments in "Responsive Reading." (Our family attended Evangelical Church of Fairport,NY, for a little while several years ago, so knew of Reid Ferguson and his web site.) I have been BLESSED by what I read in your blog as well. The entries on humility, the true significance of Christmas, the need for love among God's people, even when we don't agree on everything, the Ryken Bible Handbook. (My husband and I have plenty of Bible study tools, also, but we ordered one of the handbooks after reading the endorsement by Reid Ferguson!) Thanks for posting. I'll be coming back for more, most likely, as time permits.

MomUvTen said...

P.S. I see one of your favorite books is "Kon Tiki"...by Thor Heyerdahl. We read that a couple years ago...a little each day to our kids, then this year saw the documentary film (video) of the actual voyage. Fascinating! Good reading and not too many people know aboutit.

Ray said...

momuvten --

Yes, I love Kon Tiki... I have re-read it many times over the years...

Welcome to my blog...

Ray

Mike said...

"Or, if you are not a Paedo-Baptist, who has properly catechized your children in the Westminster Confession, and is properly sacerdotal, then you simply fall outside the pale of Orthodoxy!"

Wow! Hellooo, missing the whole point, huh?

Merry Christmas Pastor.

Mike

Ray said...

I think our desire is to exhort our borthers and sisters to a proper understanding of the Scriptures; however, I think that often we can become self-righteous shrills in our absolute certainty that they have missed the whole point.

I myself believe that the Reformed Baptist perspective is correct, however I have learned much from those who come from the other reformed Traditions.

I also can, and have learned from other men of God who have differed with me... See here .