Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Adulthood: When Does it Start?

I wrote the following article for our church's newsletter.  I would welcome any feedback.

When does someone enter adulthood?  The obvious answer most would give is, “When they turn 18.”  Those who are a little more thoughtful, or consider their own life, may give a benchmark: When they graduate from high school, when they support themselves financially, when they get married, or for some even, when they have children.  Both fall short, though.  What about the person who never marries, are they not a true adult?  Or if a couple decides not to have children or are unable to have children, do they remain children themselves?  And on the other side, what about someone who, at sixteen years old, is working a full-time job in order to support their single parent and younger siblings: have they not entered adulthood simply because they haven’t reached some magical age?

I have come to see the transition to adulthood as just that: a transition, a process.  So if there isn’t a specific time that you “become an adult”, if adulthood isn’t measured by an age or a benchmark in life, then what is adulthood?  Why do we even differentiate between someone who is a “child” and someone who is an “adult”?  In the simplest terms, our society defines adulthood as the age when an individual can be held responsible for their actions.  So when you are 17 years and 364 days old, you are not responsible for a great number of possible actions.  In fact, not only are you not held responsible, but your parents can actually be held responsible for what you have done.  Rather than looking at it as a day, though, a moment in time, I would suggest that one enters adulthood when they begin making decisions that will affect the rest of their life.

Some may argue that this makes everyone an adult.  A 6 year old can make the decision to jump out of a window or not, and that decision will very well affect the rest of their life.  I would agree and even take it the step further to say, in that small area of their life that 6 year old has more responsibility, and is closer to adulthood, than an infant, who cannot make that decision.  In effect, I am defining adulthood as responsibility.  In our culture we recognize adulthood as a time when a person can be held responsible, so parents allow their child to live under their roof, adding no value to their own life or the lives of others, and then suddenly when that child turns 18 the parents expect them to hold a steady job, pay rent, and make life altering decisions.  But in reality, that “child” was already making life altering decisions, they just weren’t being held responsible.  And since they weren’t being held responsible, they didn’t feel responsible.

So adulthood is responsibility: making decisions that will affect the rest of your own or somebody else’s life.  But I would make a further distinction between adulthood and maturity.  Adulthood is when society allows you to make decisions that affect the rest of your life; maturity is when you realize that the decisions you make are affecting the rest of your life (and others’ lives).  So, the 25 year old who continues to live in their parents’ basement playing video games instead of trying to get a full-time, life supporting job has made a decision that will affect the rest of their life.  They have decided NOT to pursue a life-sustaining income.  However, they do not yet realize that by deciding not to act they are altering the outcome of their own and other’s lives, so they are an adult, but they are an immature adult.  And the 16 year old who takes everything seriously, tries their best at school, and thinks about where and who they want be in 10, 20, and 50 years but whose parents still control every decision that they make: not allowing them to get their driver’s license, choosing their college for them, and perhaps even pushing them into a career, is mature even though not being allowed to function as an adult.  In fact, it is possible to have mature children not functioning as adults because of immature adults who are parents.

Adulthood doesn’t entitle you to anything; in fact, it requires things of you (maturity, wisdom, and caring for those who can’t care for themselves).  Too often we’ve presented adulthood to our children as an age, a point in life, rather than teaching them how every decision they make has consequences.  We shouldn’t teach our children to be adults, we should teach them to be mature; and once we see maturity then they can be rewarded with the responsibilities (and privileges) of adulthood, even if only in some small area of their life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Regret, Realism, and Hope

When I look back at my life, there are things that I wish I had done differently. I wish, when I was a preteen and read countless books a year, that I had been more interested in learning and read more non-fiction rather than fiction. I wish, when I was a teenager and making money with little to no financial responsibilities, that I had understood investing, finances, and compounding interest more fully. So how do I handle those experiences and my reflection on them? It seems to me that there are two common ways of dealing with past mistakes: we can learn from them and move forward with more confidence and wisdom, or we can wallow in them and live stuck in the past and full of regret.
Recently, I've been finding myself living more and more in that place of regret rather than learning, and today I began to realize that and consider why it was. As I followed the thought processes that went through my head, I realized something I was doing that led to a point of regret. When I considered alternative scenarios, had a made a decision different from the one I made, I only considered the good things that could have come from it. Also, when considering the effects of the decision I had made, I only considered the bad things that had come from it.
But the truth is, every decision that we make brings both good and bad. We are always faced with opportunities, and by the very nature of time we will take some of those opportunities and others we will leave behind. So I am going to work on being more realistic when thinking about where I am at, where I have been, where I will be, and where I could be.
Life will always contain good and bad, but ultimately what defines us is not our situation, but our relationship to our Father. We are not what we could be, but we are what He has made us to be; we are not where we should be, but we are where He wants us right now.
So, may you live out of a love for God, recognizing your faults and failures, not so that you beat yourself up and live in the past, regretful of what you have or have not done, but so that you can accept His love and forgiveness, turning from yourself and your sin, and running into the future that God is preparing for you in Christ Jesus. He is our hope and he is our salvation. Trust in him and you will never be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Update: Life and Blogging

I haven't had any time to follow up on my Bible Study plan from the beginning of the year.  I still plan to do an in-depth study through Scripture on the nature of the atonement, but work and seminary have been keeping me pretty busy so far this year.

I always wrestle with what to post on this blog.  My original intention in starting this blog was for it to be a place for me to write things I was wrestling through as I got to know God and understand His mission, but since I now hold a position in a church where my ideas influence the beliefs and lives of others I recognize that it may not be wise to post everything I work through personally and theologically.  Sometimes the path of learning, especially when it comes to hearing and discerning the voice of the Spirit, can take us down some odd trails.

So rather than writing intellectual pondering only, which is what this blog has mostly been up until this point, I may throw in some personal/life updates as well.

I was asked recently where I saw God at work.  Here is how I responded:

God’s really been working on my heart as far as future direction in ministry. Nothing concrete, but wrestling through whether full-time “church work” is the direction I’m heading, or if bi-vocational ministry is more the direction. On Sunday morning I really felt God give me the affirmative that some of the ideas I've been toying with are from Him and not my own. Basically, my idea is to lead a church towards seeing themselves as a missionary outpost in the community rather than a program for their members, and in order to do that I feel that I should be working in the community some rather than spending 50-70 hours per week on “church” things.

Later I was talking with a friend who is really passionate for God but has been very inward-church focused. They told me that God has been completely changing their long-term vision and they're not even sure that they'll be working in a church in the future, but instead they're hoping to be a “community pastor”.

Add onto that, we’re heading towards a series on evangelism, and there have been at least 5 people in the past week who have been very vocal about a new/renewed desire to share the gospel in our local community.

Tell me that’s not all God at work!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Psalm 62:1-8: A Paraphrase

I did this for youth group tonight and thought it might be worth sharing.  Tried to put Psalm 62:1-8 in words that we would use in everyday speech.  I found it to be moving...I hope you will too.

The only way I have peace inside is in God
He comes through for me.
He’s like a rock for me, I can count on Him;
He’s like a bomb shelter from life; nothing shakes me.

How long are you guys gonna come after me?
Are you trying to push me over –
because I’m already partially broken,
because I’m hurting and weak?

I’m sure they’re out to get me!
Trying to push me down!
They love to lie…
When they’re around me they say nice things,
but inside I know they hate me.

Yes, inside, I only find peace in God,
My belief in a better tomorrow is because of Him.
He is my rock, I can count on Him;
He’s like a bomb shelter from life, nothing shakes me.

You can trust in him for everything too!
Pour out your insides to Him, the things you hide from everyone else.
Because God is a refuge!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Studying the Scriptures: My Approach

I wrote the other day about my goal to read the entire Bible with this question in mind: How is it that Jesus has corrected the problem of sin thereby allowing rebellious people to turn in faith to God?  My goal is to develop an understanding of atonement, the nature of sin and salvation, based on the entirety of Scripture.  Since then I read a post from April 2012 where I suggested that there are two basic questions that the entire Bible is answering: Who is God? and What does He want with me?  While these two questions do not directly relate to the question of how God has accomplished salvation, it seems that they would be appropriate to consider as I read through the Bible asking the question about the nature of the atonement.

So this is how I will approach my goal:
Tuesday and Wednesday I will read a passage of Scripture and begin to reflect on these four questions:
     1) Who is God?
     2) What does He want with me?
     3) What is the nature of sin?
     4) What is the remedy for sin?
Thursday I will write my thoughts in relation to the first question: Who is God?
Saturday or Sunday I will write in relation to the second question: What does He want with me?
Monday I will write in relation to the last two questions: What is the nature of sin? and What is the remedy for sin?

In approaching it in this way I hope to give a full week of thought to each passage before writing my conclusions on what it says about atonement.  Hopefully asking all four questions rather than just the last two will also make the whole exercise more fruitful.