Marriage Sanctity Straight From the Pages of Genesis

God had just finished creating the earth and everything in it, and it was good. Except for one thing— God saw that it was not good for the man He’d created to be alone.

In the beginning, Adam was alone.

God had just finished creating the earth and everything in it, and it was good. Except for one thing— God saw that it was not good for the man He'd created to be alone. Genesis 2:18 tells us:

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

So, God called the animals He'd created to Adam. Adam named them, but after all that, it was obvious that God hadn't yet found what He was looking for. So, he decided to put Adam to sleep. Genesis 2:21-24 says:

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Of course, it all went downhill from there with the whole fall of man thing, but that's not the point. In Genesis, God pointed out to us a foundational principle of our souls: it's not good for us to be alone. That could also apply to surrounding ourselves with Godly people, but that's not the point of what I'm writing to you either. In the beginning, God established the idea of marriage. He also established its sanctity, because if two people become one flesh, you can't separate them. That's why marriage is so important. One man, one woman, for life. Today, however, marriage has been devalued to the point where it's almost comical. With this suddenly popular idea of gender fluidity and self-defined truth, God's original purpose for marriage has been lost to us. God's Word is eternal and unchanging, but we have foolishly thought that we could redefine marriage. That's not our place. God set it up, and we can't knock down a foundation that God built. That's foolish. If I told you, "Hey bro, try and push over the Empire State Building by yourself with your bare hands," you probably would laugh. That's what we're doing. We, in comparison to God, are gnats. In fact, we're lower than gnats. We are powerless; we only have the fleeting power that He allows us to have.

Marriage is God's idea, and he didn't design something that foundational as a fluid idea. That's a human fallacy. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Not a whole lot of leeway there.

One man. One woman. For life. That's how God designed it. Even basic anatomy cries out to this fact. Gender fluidity and homosexual marriage are just perversions of God's initial plan. That's just how it is.

Missing Out on God’s Grand, Whimsical Adventure

After a terrifying episode involving being asked to dance by a stranger, I learned an important lesson about my “comfort zone.”

A couple months ago, I read a book that redefined how I looked at my life. I posted on it previously— A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The crux of the book was living life like it was a story. It’s a difficult concept to explain in one or two sentences, so I’ll just link to my previous post on the subject. 

https://spencerrayart.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/its-not-about-the-destination-its-about-the-journey/

God has a grand, whimsical adventure set out for us. After reading the book, I knew I had to live differently. The status quo wasn’t gonna work anymore. I had to get out there and live adventurously. Take risks. To find God in the most whimsical situations. There was one big problem— I’m actually pretty reserved. I don’t like taking risks. I, like most humans, am afraid of change. My comfort zone is, well, comfortable. I don’t want to leave it.

This all came to a head a couple weeks ago. While on a Destin, Florida vacation, my family and I were walking through the Harborwalk Village boardwalk.

This place.

Down a ways on the boardwalk, there was a free concert going on. Two country music songwriters that had written some chart-toppers for bigger names were performing. I don’t listen to country, so I didn’t recognize the songs, and I also didn’t like some of the alcohol-heavy lyrics. So, I wasn’t having a great time. All of a sudden, a blonde young woman probably about my age got up and started dancing. She was inviting others to dance with her, mainly other girls and some 6-year-olds. It wasn’t just mindlessly dancing, either— it was closer to slow dancing. I avoided direct eye contact, mainly because I thought she was nuts. With an irony that could only have come from the Almighty, she came up to me and asked me to dance with her.

At this point, time froze. Since most of you don’t know me personally, you probably don’t know that I am not suave, and I am terrible in a sudden crisis. So, as this rather attractive young woman asked me, a single young man, to dance with her, I… froze up, and quickly shook my head no as a knee-jerk reaction. Immediately, I knew I’d most likely made a mistake. She moved on, asking my younger brother and my younger sister. They also said no. 

Now, I don’t suggest that you accept every strange offer you get, or that you accept an invitation to dance with every stranger you meet. What I was being asked to do wasn’t sinful. Again, you probably shouldn’t accept every strange offer that comes your way. The reason I felt bad is because I was too afraid to leave my comfort zone. I was too afraid to answer a call to adventure… not one that called me to something unsafe, but to something pretty harmless that would only end up giving me a good story to tell. 

So why do I talk about all this? As Christians, we can’t afford to be too shy. We can’t afford to hide in our shells. We’re called to “go forth and make disciples of all nations,” and being too afraid to leave our comfort zone will hinder that mission. Along with that, the stories of our lives can only be hindered by fear of change, by fear of leaving our comfort zone and following God’s grand, whimsical adventure. If we sit around in our comfort zones and ignore the call to adventure, we’ll never develop as characters. We’ll never change. We’ll be the same boring people we were before. When we feel God calling us to adventure, we can’t ignore it. We can’t just sit around in our nice, comfortable lives and get boring. If we hear a call, we should first pray. If you feel very strongly that God is telling you no, then don’t go. But, if you feel very strongly he’s saying yes, go for it. Adventure brings about character development. It teaches us things we never would have learned had we not gone. 
So, next time a pretty girl my age asks me to dance, will I say yes? I dunno. I’ll let God be the judge there. Will I start trying to leave my comfort zone, and answer the calls to adventure? Definitely.

Were you in Destin on the night of July 12th? Are you as scared of dancing as I am? Comment below!


Why Spider-Man: Homecoming Ultimately Falls Flat (Mild Spoiler Warning)

Spider-Man: Homecoming was… well, it was a movie. Why do I dislike it so much? And why are we still talking about Spider-Man 2?

After the dud that was the duo of The Amazing Spider-Man films, we now have Sony’s attempt to turn everything around, this time with a reboot film deeply entrenched in the MCU— Spider-Man: Homecoming. Before I get into the what I didn’t like about the movie, I’ll tell you what I liked. 

First of all, Tom Holland is a great Spider-Man. He plays the character very well, including the character’s awkwardness and quippy nature. Secondly, I liked the Vulture. While not really given much to do, Michael Keaton is another high point of this film. The characterization of Peter’s best friend, Ned, is also very likable. The costume was great, and while I’m mixed on the idea of Peter being given the suit and it making him into a more tech-based Iron Man-lite, I also liked the banter between Peter and Karen (or “suit lady,” the A.I. in the Spider-Man suit). 

Now the bad. This movie has a few glaring issues aside from the bigger problem. Firstly, the incessant swearing. Like seriously, it never stops. It wasn’t funny, and instead was jarring and took me out of the film. Secondly, the characterization. I know I previously praised the characterization of Spider-Man, which I still hold to, but there’s a big problem with it. Peter in the comics has always been a loner, and he’s been independent— he was smart and quick on his feet, not needing the help of Tony Stark’s fancy gadgets to get him out of a pickle. I missed that aspect of Peter’s character— the independent genius. I understand why they made Iron Man a fixture in this film (to further establish Spidey in the MCU), and I’m happy he’s in a bigger pen of characters to play with, but something just felt… missing in his interactions with Iron Man. Which leads into the film’s biggest and most glaring issue…

It completely lacks any substance. While I still have problems with Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies (the ones with Tobey Maguire), the reason they’re still held in high esteem to this day is that they have great depth. Spider-Man 2 especially. They have a greater theme, and they have something to say about that greater theme. Homecoming doesn’t really have a theme. It doesn’t set out to say something meaningful, it sets out to be successful movie that sets up a franchise. It also tries to be a comedy, and while most of the jokes are funny, it just felt… flat. 

I don’t have anything against comedy in superhero movies— earlier this year, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed at its jokes, but I enjoyed it more because of its deeper themes of family and fatherhood. That made it memorable, and gave it something aside from the comedy aspect. 

Did I like Homecoming? Well… I thought it was just fine. It was a fine, perfectly forgettable superhero flick that fits well with the summer blockbuster fare. Do I ever want to see it again? No. Do I wish the movie would cut down on the foul language, franchise set-up, and lack of substance? Yes. Does Sony as a film studio need to get its crud together? Absolutely.

What’d you think of Spider-Man: Homecoming? Comment below! I wanna hear your thoughts on this.

No Spoilers Review: War for the Planet of the Apes Absolutely Blew Me Out of the Water

As someone who’s barely even heard of the franchise, what’d I think of its final chapter?

Before the review, first a little backstory. 

Yesterday, on a whim at 3:28, my brother and decided to go see a 3:30 showing of War for the Planet of the Apes. Luckily, we were standing right outside the movie theater, so we bought our tickets and headed in. The problem? We’d never even seen (and barely even heard of) the previous two films in the trilogy. I’d seen the trailers and heard the buzz, so I was intrigued. 

We plopped down in our plastic-y AMC movie theater seats and sat through 20 minutes of uninteresting, unmemorable trailers. Finally, the movie began, and from that opening minute to the final minute of its over two-hour run time, my brother and I were enthralled. A lot of these characters we didn’t even know the names of, yet we reacted viscerally and deeply when they struggled. The beautiful soundtrack played softly in the background throughout the film, enhancing the movie’s scenes. The special effects were fantastic, and language was nonexistent until the film’s last fourty minutes or so. To add on to all that, the acting was phenomenal.

When the credits rolled, I got up from my theater seat in shock. Literally. As I walked out of the theater, I had no idea what to say. As my brother and I met our parents outside to eat dinner at the mall, I had no idea how to describe the experience I’d just been through. I’d fallen in love with a bunch of characters I’d never met before as their story reached a gripping climax. 

Do I recommend the film? Highly. Not for younger kids, definitely, due to the high-stakes and intensity, but teens and adults will do fine. Violence never becomes gratuitous, but the film does have quite a few battle scenes. 

Score: 9.5/10

Why I Unashamedly Love Duck Dynasty

I like Duck Dynasty a whole lot. Before you judge me, here’s why.

I’m going to preface this discussion with a statement. I am an avid meat-eater, but hunting isn’t my thing. I’ve only shot a gun twice, and absolutely hated it— I told my dad that even though I was shooting a nonliving target that it was the most violent thing I’d ever done and I never wanted to do it again. However, I have no problem with hunting, as long as it’s for food and not for sport. I understand why some Christians are vegetarian or vegan, and I respect them for it. 

Now on to Duck Dynasty. I may catch some flack for this (sue me), but it’s one of my favorite television programs of all time. I think it’s funny, it’s relatable, and it’s just full of good people. The Robertson family catches a lot of angry Tweets and Facebook comments for their views (conservative Christian ones), but I’m personally very happy that we had a Christian family on a mainstream television network for years, praying in Jesus’ name at the end of each meal. 

I also love the people it’s brought into the spotlight— unlike other reality tv shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, it has introduced the public to wonderful people of faith. Just about all of the cast has written a book or two, and some like Jase’s book Good Call and John Luke’s book Young and Beardless have changed my life and my way of thinking. Sadie Robertson has been a wonderful influence on young girls (also unlike the Kardashians). The Robertson family is a just a bunch of good people with a lot of wisdom to share.

Sadly, the show has recently wrapped up after having a healthy run of 5 years. I sure hope the Robertsons stay in the public spotlight— spreading the Gospel, hunting for ducks, and being a light in the darkness of media and reality tv. 

The takeaway here? Well, I think you should read some of the amazing books the Robertson family has put out. Here are my favorites out of what I’ve read (I haven’t read all of the ones they’ve put out, for the record)—

  1. Young and Beardless by John Luke Robertson 
  2. Good Call by Jase Robertson
  3. The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God by Jep and Jessica Robertson

What do you think? Do you like Duck Dynasty? Have you read any of these books? Have you ever eaten duck? Let me know below! 

Retaliation, Vengeance and VeggieTales

How do we respond to those who mistreat us? With vengeance? With love?

I posted recently about my experiences with bullying and why Christians should build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I stand by that post still, but there's one part of the story I mentioned, but I feel deserves an extended look. Today, I'd like to talk about retaliation (or taking revenge). 

I'd like to direct your attention to an episode of VeggieTales. I can't help seeing the comparison here— I grew up basically addicted to the show (though not understanding the lessons until much later). The episode I'd like to refer to today is Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush

This episode was a parody of Indiana Jones (obviously) and it even had a theme song performed by THE CHARLIE DANIELS. No joke. https://youtu.be/CVoIkzGMnwM

In the episode, Larry (or Minnesota, I guess) tries to get back at his jerk nemesis, Professor Rattan, by bullying him back. He learns that if you bully a bully, that makes you a bully. When you say something mean back or hurt them back, you're stooping down to that level. You're now no better than them. It's the same reason Batman refuses to kill— it's crossing a line, and it means you're just as bad as those persecuting you. It's pretty meaty stuff for a VeggieTales episode, and I recommend you watch it.

When we're on the receiving end of abuse, our instinctive reaction is to retaliate. We start shooting back. When kids would pick on me, I'd pick back harder, and then I would get in trouble. Granted, the teachers weren't doing anything to help the issue (just perpetuating more by turning a blind eye to the cause of the issue), but they were right to get onto me for what I did. I can't remember where I heard it from, but I learned recently that we can't control our surroundings or what happens to us. The only thing we can control is how we react to those things. I'm not victimizing myself here— wrong was done to me, but I'll be the first to admit I wasn't innocent in the situation, either.

Back when I was being bullied, my hands weren't clean. I had even been a bully to others who didn't attack me first. Once you have a mindset of vengeance and retaliation, you begin to just attack everybody. Lines are blurred, and eventually you're picking fights with people who didn't really do anything  to you. Going back to the Batman analogy, it's a line you cross. Once you cross the line one time, it gets easier to cross the next time. And then easier the next time. And the next time. You get the picture. 

I read recently in Bob Goff's book Love Does that it's much easier to get defensive if you live with clenched fists. He offers that we instead lives with our palms up, because it's much harder to get defensive with your palms up. As Christians, we are supposed to be a light in the darkness. If we use Satan's tactics and try to get vengeance on those who wrong us, we're no better than them. What should we do instead, you ask? Kill them with kindness. Proverbs 25:21-22 says:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. 

If you react lovingly and nonviolently, your enemies will see that there's something different about you. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How about we start now? Two wrongs never make a right, but if you choose to do right to those who do you wrong, Christ's love and light shines through you. 

It’s Not About the Destination— It’s About the Journey

Can we apply rules of good storytelling to how we live our lives?

Think about it. You've seen it a thousand times in the movies— somebody's living a boring, normal life until something happens that calls them on a great adventure that changes their lives forever. That's the beginning of most stories we humans have ever told— normalcy, call to adventure, character development. It's a great basis for a story, which is why we use it for every one of 'em we tell. 

Except for our lives. 

The most important story we tell is the story of our lives. Yet, in life, we don't tell the best story we can. We settle for staleness and ignore the story God has called us to. He's got a grand adventure planned for us, but we'd rather just sit around and eat Doritos. 

Where is this all coming from? I read a book recently that changed how I think about life— Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In the book, Miller shares the lessons he learned while turning his life story into a movie. It's a great read, and throughout the book he teaches principles of storytelling and tells us how we can implement them in our life story. After reading the book, I began to think. When was the last time I answered a call to adventure? When was the last time I got out of my comfort zone? I shocked myself when I realized that it had been a very long time. Like seriously, I couldn't remember the last time I'd done it. It startled me. So, I began to think, 'What adventure does God have planned for me? Why am I ignoring the call?" 

Think about Finding Nemo. It's one of my favorite films, but think about how boring the story would have been had Marlin just given up after Nemo was taken. The whole movie is Marlin being forced out of his comfort zone. When he finds Nemo and returns home, he's changed forever. He's no longer constantly in fear and worry, and he no longer wants to hinder Nemo and keep him inside. If he'd never gone out in search of Nemo, he'd never have changed. He'd still be the same character. 

The journey is a time of refining and change. Going on the adventure God has planned for us won't leave us the same once we come out on the other side. If we live without changing or without undergoing character development, we're not living a great story. 

In our lives, we need to get out there and live. We need to continue using our brains and following our morals, yes, but we need to start living great stories. 

Here comes the challenge. I took it upon myself to make a list of fun little adventures I'd like to go on. Not a bucket list. That's too confining. Once this list is complete, I want to start another one. I picked 24 items (you don't have to do that many), including poke a live fish, grow a beard, play bagpipes, learn to juggle, and many more. 

Start an adventure list to start tackling with your loved ones. Make some memories you'll regale others with around the fire twenty years from now. As stated in the movie Up,  "Adventure is out there!" Go find it. Go grow as a character. But still use your brain and your better judgement. God's calling for you probably isn't to die like that hairy El Macho guy from the second Despicable Me movie.