Category: TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES

THE ANTIDOTE TO BOREDOM

Many of us fail to live our lives to the full. Countless people reach old age wishing they had done things differently, and that they had made more of their time on earth…

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Here’s the second half of my rant on the subject of boredom. It’s the biggest half (joke). I wrote in the shortest half that I’m convinced vast numbers of us are bored, and this boredom drives us to attempt to fulfill our lives in many ways, some of which are wasteful or wrong in the eyes of our Creator.

Our society has reduced the human mind to a manageable size in order to maintain a controllable populace, while at the same time convincing us that life is getting richer. As I wrote last time, our modern world seeks to profit from the problem it creates, taking natural freedoms and real, free, God-given paths to fulfillment from us, and then providing endless forms of what it calls “entertainment” at our expense to fill in the gap.

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).

What did Jesus mean by “abundant life”?

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WHAT THE ANTIDOTE ISN’T

We tend to expect that a “real” and a “loving” God should be at our disposal twenty-four hours a day, like some supernatural Jeeves, fulfilling our every desire, fixing all our problems and just generally facilitating our own idea of happiness. This, according to our carnal minds, would be abundant life. However, you only have to look at the lives of some of the richest people around, who have all the time in the world to enjoy their wealth, to see that money and privilege don’t automatically provide happiness, contentment or a trouble-free life. And to make it worse, “The eyes of man are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20).

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When it appears God has failed to deliver all the goodies we think a loving God should deliver, and failed to perform all his duties as we see them, we’re prone to giving up on him. I’ve written extensively about this subject, particularly as it relates to the whole question of suffering. Here we’re being more specific and considering fulfillment and the enjoyment of life.

What did Jesus mean by “abundant life”? When we read the gospels and particularly the letters of the apostles, we don’t read about a Church having a swinging time, overcome by ecstasy and euphoria. In fact, if we look at the life of Jesus himself- our example-we see that he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Then he was crucified. Perhaps this “abundant life” we’re promised doesn’t necessarily include all the good things we want out of this world: perhaps it means something else.

THE FIRST SHOT

I think abundant life in this context means that we have an inner joy of communion with our God, with the peace and hope it brings, and a spiritual life which will never end. It could be the subject for an entire series of posts. I just want to make clear here that the Christian life is not always one of earthly delights and delirious deliciousness in the way people who don’t know God would expect. It may instead be one of suffering and persecution, as it is in many parts of the world. Our consideration today is about whether, and if so how, we who are (in theory) free to pursue life, liberty and happiness should actually go about doing the same.

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The first answer must be a scriptural one, because we’re told that we are to “die to self”. We’re supposed to pick up our cross daily and follow him, and to serve our brothers and sisters. Paul said, We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:1-2 NIV).

The Christian life isn’t about fulfilling our own needs, but how we can minister to each others’ needs. In that way we fulfill our obligation to our God, we express the love we’re supposed to be expressing, and as a result we find deep meaning in life for ourselves.

Having made that priority clear, I’m convinced that God doesn’t expect us to sit around groaning and sighing for the rest of the day in order to “die to self”. Dying to self doesn’t mean we have to be miserable, morose and moribund to be a good Christian, or that we have to be straight-laced, bored and boring: it means we put God and others first before ourselves. And don’t forget that joy is one of the fruits of the spirit: it’s for the believer (Galatians 5:22). We gain joy (the real thing-not that elusive stuff the TV waves in front of our noses) by knowing Him and being in a proper relationship with Him. However, on top of that God has provided many ways and possibilities for us to enjoy life.

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CHRISTIAN REDUCTIONISM

When I first became a Christian I was so intent on parting myself from my former way of life and all that I perceived to be “of the devil”, that I purged myself of almost everything I possessed, everyone I knew, and all I had previously enjoyed. I cut myself off from all my former influences and pleasures. Friends thought I had been brainwashed by some American cult (cults from anywhere else in the world were acceptable). They were so “concerned” that they avoided me like the plague (a little irony there)…perhaps a hint that I was actually on the right track, because:

What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Having been a bass player by profession, I sold my bass and my amp. I detached myself overnight from my musical and theatrical contacts. I disposed of all my books, memorabilia, photographs, and my entire record collection-all the music I had loved, enjoyed and been musically influenced by for years.

All I had left was a bed and a Bible, and I was considering getting rid of the bed…

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GREY AREAS (UK spelling)

Two years later I began to swing back the other way. Now, many years on, I find myself, without any feelings of guilt, enjoying things which some Christians would consider unacceptable, ungodly, far too worldly, and maybe even damnable. I regularly thank the Lord for what he allows me to enjoy and blesses me with.

No, I’m not one of those people who gets high every day and has a string of live-in lovers. Such things are among the “black and the white” as far as I’m concerned, the things we can know are wrong in the eyes of God, and as Paul said:

“…those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

I’m speaking of things which are not forbidden or perhaps not mentioned in the Bible, but which some people think are out-of-bounds for Christians: things sometimes called “grey areas”:

“Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves” (Romans 14:22).

That’s a verse some people would like to have removed from the Bible. But grey areas do require some thought and prayerful Biblical consideration. We shouldn’t allow anything which will control us or harm us:

Everything is permissible for me-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me-but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Paul counseled the consideration of others as our ultimate guide in those grey areas:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak… “…so this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8: 9, 11).

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LIVING LIFE

I believe in raging against the mold our own society attempts to squeeze us into. We all have different DNA. We’re all different in character for a reason: let’s tap into that difference, and use it for God’s glory first, and then for our own satisfaction. This applies to our careers, our pastimes and hobbies, our relationships, and to all of life. Some people are so busy trying to be different in the way they think the world will be impressed by that they’re actually all “different” in the same ways. They completely miss and mask their own, true characteristics. For goodness’ sake-for God’s sake-be yourself.

Who gave humans the capacity to laugh, to run, to see the world’s beauty, to make love, to read, to create, to imagine, to play, and to do so many other things? It wasn’t the devil, and it certainly wasn’t Charles Darwin or the process outlined in his theory. God made man (men and women) in his image: we’re able to do what we can do because of His loving, incredible design.

GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE

Look for the things you love to do and which are not ungodly, and do them to the best of your ability. This includes your career. Don’t spend years trying to discover “God’s will for your life”. His will is simple: that you be conformed to his Son. He may well have a specific plan for you: he will make it happen without you having to know in advance what it is. He has given you talents and gifts. He has given you a love for something-a passion. Do it to the best of your ability, and God’s will will be manifest in your life.

Life is to be lived: family; love, romance and sex (in its proper place and form). Adventure: why would God tell man to “fill the earth” if he didn’t want us to explore it? Challenge, learning, friendship…it can all be within his will, and it can all be enjoyed to the full. The world is a big, beautiful place, and life can, at times, be amazing: make the most of it.

If the Bible doesn’t condemn it; if doesn’t hurt you or anyone else; if it doesn’t damage or neutralize your faith-do it, and enjoy it.

 

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HOLY BOREDOM

An old song by a British band I once liked was titled “I’m bored”. I’ve identified with the sentiments of the song numerous times in my life, and this little admission forms the basis of a theory of mine which I believe explains many maladies in our world…

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I was listening to a discussion about Don Quixote, the fictional, self-styled knight-errant, created four hundred years ago by Cervantes. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it-most particularly the Tobias Smollett translation. Quixote made himself what he could never really be-a brave knight-and went out into the world in search of adventure, causing all kinds of trouble, mostly for himself.

The learned panel discussing Quixote debated whether he was mad or just eccentric. I go with the “eccentric” diagnosis. However, I say that it was an eccentricity born of boredom, as eccentricity probably often is. Quixote had had it with his dead-end, uneventful existence, and having read all those exciting stories of knights traveling the world and fighting dragons and saving beautiful maidens, he could only find a way of avoiding madness by re-making himself as one of the knights he’d read about.

Isn’t that the kind of thing children do? Their little minds (before television, overbearing parents and public education get a hold of them) are vitally, vibrantly, constantly active, and unencumbered by the stiff, monochrome, limiting confines of reality, they create their own worlds to find fun and thrills in.

We humans look for meaning and entertainment in all kinds of ways. In the West large numbers of people are fixated on Television. I’m not saying TV us intrinsically wrong. It isn’t, but for millions who live out drab, uneventful time-lines, or who don’t have the time, energy, money or imagination to do the real thing, it’s a convenient and easy way to experience any number of situations and activities without moving out of the comfort and safely of the e-z chair. The rest of us are virtually (pun intended) addicted to various forms of digital entertainment via the internet and computer-based devices. We’re all trying to brighten our lives somehow.

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Conquerors and marauders do their thing partly because it’s so thrilling. It’s much more fun setting fire to things and picking fights with people than spending eight or ten hours of mundane drudgery a day at the office, followed by a few hours of sitting on a log or in an armchair, dreading the thought of doing it all over again for the bazillionth time the next day. People take hallucinogenic drugs not necessarily because they’re evil but because normal life is so stale, empty, gray and uneventful in comparison. I’m not condoning illicit drug use-just stating a fact. Even cats are similarly challenged with boredom, which is why they sleep so much. Some people sleep their lives away because dream worlds are much more interesting than the real one.

I’m not pointing any fingers, because I’m as guilty as anyone. And anyway, I’m convinced that God created us for so much more than what we as a society have made available to ourselves.

Neither am I saying that sin doesn’t play a part in such things as despotism, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity: it does. In fact, it’s the central cause, the root cause. But sin is frequently manifest in the lives of us humans because we’re seeking-consciously or unconsciously-meaning and fulfillment. Just look at Eve, who was persuaded that she would gain some exciting kind of enlightenment by doing what God had told her not to do.

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We’re bored. We’re more bored than we realize. We’re seeking vital, real, experiential, fun-filled, scintillating lives. And because we’re so incredibly and intricately designed, so fantastically crafted, yet using only five percent of our brains and sometimes even less of our physical potential, we look for a way-any way-to do something to alleviate the mind-numbing, crushing frustration and boredom which we often don’t recognize or identify. We’re unable to analyze our problem, let alone look for an answer in any constructive way. And having not lived long enough or having been unwilling or unable to find the wisdom or the power to control ourselves, we-that is, some of us-launch out in ways which may be destructive and which are sometimes sinful. Profligacy, hedonism, harmful proclivities, addictions all come from an inability or unwillingness to assess or conjure up a proper response to our pent-up potential.

Modern society is part of the problem. It also seeks to profit from the problem it creates, taking natural freedoms and real paths to fulfillment from us, and then providing endless forms of entertainment at our expense to fill in the gap. However, in many ways it fails to give what we really need to overcome our condition.

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So what’s the solution: what do we do? I’m not sure that there is a completely satisfactory fix in this life. I do, however, agree with Augustine, who, having once lived a life of unbridled hedonism, came to the following conclusion:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

(From “Confessions”).

Solomon, sometimes seen as the wisest man who ever lived, sought after meaning and fulfillment through entertainment, sex and wealth. Being a king, and a very successful one, he was in a position to fulfill all his sensuous desires in as many ways as he could imagine, including possessing a huge harem. However, having tried it all he eventually came to the same conclusion as Augustine. Deciding that it was all “vanity” or emptiness, he declared:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV).

I hear some of you groaning and complaining about “church”, and about how boring and unfriendly it can be. Actually, I didn’t say anything about “church”. And do you know what? I agree with you: “church” is frequently not what it should be, and no amount of what’s called “contemporary worship” is going to cut it for me personally-although I understand that it seems to do the trick for some people. Yes, church can be rather dull and can fail to provide the things in life we crave for, but really, it isn’t intended to, on its own. Church attendance is part of a much bigger picture of living life in step with our Creator.

How do us active-minded, imaginative souls live a life of faith and obedience without screaming inside with frustration? Is the entertainment the world offers off-bounds to believers wanting to live a godly life? The answers to these questions could be the subjects of an entire series of blog posts, and I could probably not do them justice even so. However, in part 2, I’ll attempt to offer a few thoughts…

Copyright © January 2017 by Nick Fisher

 

KNOWING GOD (short version)

August 2013 012

What could possibly be better than knowing an infinite being who loves you unconditionally?

Encounters with God have been the greatest experiences in my life. It may seem to the unbeliever and the skeptic that when I say I “know” God I’m making a very arrogant claim. I want to share the reasons I feel confident in saying that I know God…

KNOWING ABOUT GOD

Part of knowing God is knowing about God: God can be known to a great degree by the things he has made, “so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

When we know about God-who he is, what he’s like, what he loves and what he hates, what he’s done and what he does-we can more clearly understand God and so know him. But we can use that understanding as a step to a much deeper knowledge. We evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inspired message of God to man. As a defense of this view I’ve written posts such as this one:

https://nickyfisher.com/2015/06/14/a-spiritual-defense-strategy-acronym-2/

RELATIONSHIP

Biblical scripture gives clear directions on how to come into an intimate and personal relationship with God. I’ll attempt to summarize them here:

1: We are separated from God from birth because God is holy and perfect, and we are imperfect and sinful. As Paul said,

“…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23);

2: We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God through good works or rituals, or by joining a religious organization;

3: Jesus, God’s only son, came into the world to become our “bridge”, our connection to God. He died on the cross to pay the price of our sin which is death, and he rose from the dead in order to conquer death and give us new life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come;

4: Jesus said “You must be born again” (John 3:3-8).

Being born again involves the Spirit of God, upon our invitation or/and step of faith, entering our being and bringing our spirit alive and into an inseparable and unbreakable union with his. We become acceptable to God because we associate ourselves with his son Jesus.

HEARING FROM GOD

While there are from time to time moments when God seems to speak words into our minds, I think this is by far the exception. A much more realistic way of understanding the concept of God speaking to us is that by His spirit within us he impresses ideas into our minds so that we can conclude what he wants us to think and to do.

However, if we’re not careful, this can be a very subjective method of “hearing” from God. Some Christians are guided by their feelings, when in fact feelings are entirely fallible and untrustworthy. God can “speak” to us without our emotions being stirred, though I confess that in my own experience encounters with God’s spirit do sometimes arouse a range of emotions: the important thing is not to be governed solely by feelings or emotions.

We need to compare the thoughts within us with what we read in scripture. If what we sensed is confirmed by scripture we can confidently conclude that God may have “spoken” to us. In this way we can learn to “know” God.

When we’re sensitive to God in our lives we can notice God’s intervention, guidance and presence, and we can see answers to prayer, even if they aren’t the answers we wanted. It’s these experiences which work with scripture to help us understand more about God, and when we know more about him in our own lives, we know him more.

THAT TINGLY FEELING

While I’m not one to gain spiritual “power” through all kinds of supposed manifestations of God’s spirit, popular in some Christian circles, I believe there are ways to “feel” the presence of God. The surest way of enjoying the presence of God and of sensing his spirit is by spending time giving him genuine and unreserved praise and thanks, acknowledging who he is. The sense of wholeness, peace and joy I’ve felt in times of worship are without equal: they are my number one greatest experiences in life.

MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES 1: KNOWING GOD

August 2013 010

What could possibly be better than knowing an infinite being who loves you unconditionally?

Encounters with God have been the greatest experiences in my life. It may seem to the unbeliever and the skeptic that when I say I “know” God I’m making a very arrogant claim, or that I am at least partially insane or deluded…

(There’s a short version of this post: this one is long!)

(ASOK, “Hunter”)

Some people think it’s impossible to know God, since they can’t see him in the sky or under the bed, and that’s as far as they’re prepared to look. They haven’t heard him speak, they can’t see God in operation, they can’t see him doing the kind of things they think a god should do, they’ve heard that he’s a boogie man wanting to spoil everyone’s fun, and they’re convinced that “all” the educated people “know” there isn’t a God: magically, the human “expert” has become the all-knowing one!

We evangelical Christians talk of having a “relationship” with God, and unbelievers either mock or just don’t get it. Without going into a lengthy theological study, I want to share the reasons I feel confident in saying that I know God.

KNOWING ABOUT GOD

One part of knowing God is knowing about God. God can be known to a great degree by the things he has made, “so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Nature is itself witness to the fact that there is an incredibly intelligent, powerful creator who knows all about beauty, science, and as many things as you can mention. In fact, since he created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) there’s nothing in all creation that he doesn’t understand and know far more intimately than any evolutionist you can mention.

God is an infinite being, and we are extremely finite: it’s impossible for us to know all about him, or to know him fully. But by studying the world around us we can see that God is endlessly creative. He’s a lover of beauty, order and design, and more powerful and intelligent than we can imagine. We can see that he must be outside of time in order to create time (Genesis 1:1) and that he must be beyond matter in order to create matter. We can see that he must love humanity since he created us, and that he must have incredible patience, since he is also patient with us.

When we know about God-who he is, what he’s like, what he loves and what he hates, what he’s done and what he does-we can more clearly understand God and so know him. But we can take this understanding to a much deeper level. We evangelicals have come to believe that the Bible is the inspired message of God to man. In defense of this view I’ve written posts such as this one:

https://nickyfisher.com/2015/06/14/a-spiritual-defense-strategy-acronym-2/

RELATIONSHIP

Biblical scripture gives clear directions on how to come into an intimate and personal relationship with God, and I’ll attempt to summarize them here. I don’t mean to say that there’s a strict formula to follow, that we have to have all the jargon just right and say a magical incantation before it “works”: some people enter into this relationship naturally without realizing that they are being reborn. It’s the step of faith towards God that’s important:

1: We are separated from God from birth because God is holy and perfect, and we are imperfect and sinful. As Paul said,

“…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23);

2: We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God through good works or rituals, or by joining a religious organization: organizations and their “priests” have no power to influence God (and I say thank the Lord for that);

3: Jesus, God’s son, came into the world to become our “bridge”, our connection to God. He died on the cross to pay the price of our sin which is death, and he rose from the dead in order to conquer death and give us new life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come;

4: Jesus said “You must be born again” (John 3:3-8).

Being born again involves the Spirit of God, upon our invitation or/and step of faith, entering our being and bringing our spirit alive and into an inseparable and unbreakable union with Him. The work of spiritual rebirth is entirely his. We can’t have a relationship with God until we are reborn. We activate this rebirth by realizing that we need and want God, by turning from our old ways which are in opposition to God’s ways, by inviting his intervention, and by entrusting ourselves to God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are acceptable to God because we associate ourselves with his son Jesus. God accepts his son completely, and all who associate with him.

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The “entrusting” I menitoned can (to my mind) be likened to boarding an aircraft. We don’t fully understand the wonders of flight, how the plane is built, how the pilot operates the plane or how he navigates and arrives at our destination hundreds or thousands of miles away, but we still make the decision that we are going with him anyway because we want to, and because we believe he can get us there safely as his airline vouches he will. We commit our lives and our near future to the pilot, the plane and the airline. In a similar way, to be born again we commit ourselves to God through his son Jesus Christ.

Being born again is just the beginning of a new relationship with God. Jesus Christ is our mediator (scripturally, our only mediator). Our prayers and worship are acceptable to God because of Jesus his son. Through this prayer and worship, and in fact through the way we conduct ourselves in all areas of our life, we can build a relationship with our Creator.

Alright, you may say, so far so good, but isn’t the communication stream rather one-sided? How does God communicate with the believer?

HEARING FROM GOD

There are some who are convinced that God speaks audibly to them, and directs them in every area of life, right down to which box of cereal to pick from the supermarket shelf. With respect, my view is that this is very faulty theology. While there are from time to time moments when God does seem to speak words into our minds, I think this is by far the exception rather than the rule. A much more realistic way of understanding the concept of God speaking to us is that by His spirit within us he impresses ideas into our minds so that we can conclude what he wants us to think and to do.

However, if we are not careful, this also can be a very subjective method of “hearing” from God. Too many Christians are guided by their feelings (as are many unbelievers) when in fact feelings are entirely fallible and untrustworthy. God can “speak” to us without our emotions being stirred. I do confess that in my own experience God’s spirit can arouse a range of emotions: the important thing is not to be governed solely by feelings or emotions.

It’s vitally important for us to compare the thoughts within us with what we read in scripture. If what we’ve sensed contradicts what we can know for sure about God our thoughts are wrong, and the idea came from our own minds or from somewhere else. If what we sensed is confirmed by scripture we can confidently conclude that God may have “spoken” to us. In this way we can learn to “know” God.

So a relationship with God comes by having his spirit within us, and by being guided and willingly changed by his word. It comes by being receptive and sensitive to guidance and correction via our conscience. It comes by living out his commandments and his will in our daily lives (such as having love for others). It comes by learning about who God is: what his character is, what he loves and what he detests, by knowing and understanding how he has dealt with people in the past, by knowing his revealed word (his commandments and clear statements), and by knowing and loving his son Jesus Christ.

When we’re sensitive to God in our lives we can sometimes notice God’s intervention, guidance and presence, though sometimes only when we look back in time, and we can see answers to prayer, even if they aren’t the answers we wanted. It’s these experiences which work with scripture to help us understand more about God, and when we know more about him in our own lives, we know him more.

God already knows all about us. David said:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

Scripture makes clear that God knows our thoughts, and Jesus said:

“…the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30).

THAT TINGLY FEELING

While I’m not one to gain spiritual “power” through all kinds of supposed manifestations of God’s spirit, popular in some Christian circles and which I think are no more than deception, I believe there are ways to “feel” the presence of God. For example, the surest way of enjoying the presence of God and of sensing his spirit is to spend time giving him genuine and unreserved praise and thanks, acknowledging who he is. Such times have, for me, been the most sublime moments of being in my life. The sense of wholeness, peace and joy I’ve felt in times of praise and worship are without equal, and impossible to describe.

The surest way to feel better about a situation in life is via the prayer of faith. As Paul said:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

And the surest way to get intimate with God is to get intimate with him. As scripture says:

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8 ESV).

MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES 2: FAMILY

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Here I go again, offending the PC crowd!

Karl Marx would gnash his teeth with rage if he knew what my second greatest experience is, since a central aim of his was the destruction of the bourgeoisie family, and by that he meant the traditional Judeo-Christian family: one male father, one female mother, married for life, along with their children and extended family. Our society has fulfilled his wishes to a great extent. Well take this, Mr. Marx…

I was raised when Marx’s hated clan was still pretty much intact in the West, and I’m thankful for it. Yes, it wasn’t always peace, love and harmony, but those things were there, along with stability and commitment, and so what can truly be called “love”. Love is not being nice to someone so long as they meet your expectations, your desires, and your requirements regarding looks, shape, size and financial success: that’s just using someone.

This commitment and love is both an intentional reflection of God’s commitment and love for us, and obedience to his word and commandments.

For those of you still reading and who haven’t clicked off in an offended rage, I would like to first of all say that I realize many people have been mistreated, rejected and abused by family, and had no power to stop the destruction of their own family. Some who perhaps did now regret the mistakes they made and are unable to fix them. This is not because of a fault in God’s design for the family unit, but as I’ve said before, it’s evidence that human nature is indeed “fallen” in the Biblical sense. We started off facilitating divorce in extreme circumstances: now we’re positively encouraging gross immorality and family break ups.

So now I’ll briefly discuss my own family experience. I say “briefly” because I’m sure that only one or two of you have read this far.

My wife and I have had our problems-major problems. There have been times when I’ve regretted marrying her, and when I wished I could be a thousand miles away. I’ve no doubt she’s had exactly the same kind of thoughts: this is normal in marriage. But as with anything worth having, you have to persevere, and we have done this, for twenty-eight years.

The old analogy of a rough diamond being fashioned into something beautiful is relevant here. When you persevere, you end up with something you could never have had if you had extracted yourself early on. You find yourself in a relationship in which another human knows you more than you know yourself but loves you anyway. You find yourself with a companion that has been with you all along, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health”. You see that your children have enjoyed stability, security and commitment, and have been given a birds eye view of how to be committed, and how to forgive and forget. You see that you have contributed to the stability of your community and your society, and that you have, as difficult as it may have been at times, been obedient to your creator in at least one area of your life.

One thing you do not see is a trail of destruction behind you in the form of ex-lovers, estranged children and memories which you can never enjoy but instead keep locked up in your subconscious.

I have two sons. How I wish I’d had the wisdom to bring more into the world for my pleasure, for God’s glory, and for the benefit of the rest of the world (and to annoy Marx and his present day sustainable-growth crowd as much as possible).

My sons have been very nearly the greatest blessing in my life-far more than almost anything else I could name-hence family taking the number two slot in my greatest experiences. One of the many abiding memories I cherish is of both of them as toddlers running to greet me home from work, and me hugging them as tightly as I could: nothing in the physical world can beat that. Actually I can still do that-they just aren’t easy to throw up in the air any more.

Yes, children can bring a lot of trouble into their parents’ lives. While I’m not saying that’s always avoidable, I’m convinced from my own experience that love, kindness and commitment and the right attitude will, in most cases, release good, level-headed and loving offspring into our society.

I have two sons that I’m immensely proud of: two young men who aren’t likely to be menaces in their society, who aren’t likely to cause trouble for our law enforcement people, and who aren’t going to be a drain on our welfare budgets.

Thank you Almighty God, for my sons, my wife, and the amazing experience of having a family.