Category Archives: Sunday Scrutinization

Sunday Scrutinizations: My Personal Philosophy Expounded

As you may have seen from my previous writings, the last several years of my life has changed to within myself a very specific conviction towards valuing in the utmost, our relationship with each other. It began in a men’s study I was involved with and the reading of a book called, “The Exemplary Husband.” One of the chapters was about relationship. As men we tend to build in our lives priorities. Sometimes our priorities are skewed in that work is our main priority, then family, maybe sports, our friends, and the like. Then we become a Christian and we are told that God should be first, then our wives, our family, our church… You know, we have a more sensible priority list. This book introduced the idea that it is not the things in themselves that have the priority, but the relationships. We should look at it as: Our relationship with God is priority one, then our relationship with our wives, and so on. Another thing I learned in this group was that the reason marriage was so sacred is because our relationship symbolizes the relationship of God within Himself or furthermore, between Christ and us.

Tonight, we initially looked at the creation and how God called all things good until he looked at what was missing or unfulfilled in Adam, and that was he was not in relationship. Being in relationship is the reason God created us. He said that He was making man in His image and in that was the relationship God had with Himself. In the Godhead, God is complete through the relationship He has with Himself. Ponder that for a time. Dwell on it. He did not need to make us, but made us to glorify Him in our relationship with Him and in our relationship with each other. One of the most beautiful poems, according to the pastor, was the one Adam said about Eve. It was not about Eve, but about himself. “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Adam, in his relationship with Eve saw himself. He saw himself fulfilled in Eve. He was fully created for the purpose of relationship and now saw that through Eve, seeing himself fully in that. Does that make sense? Well, look at it this way: when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God, that relationship was broken, they covered themselves up, hid from each other, and we’ve been doing it ever since. We are not fulfilling our purpose, we are not knowing ourselves except through the relationship of each other and in God. Because of the sin in this world we are constantly hiding from ourselves and from others. We fear being truly known. We are broken and our relationships are broken.

We need to remember the gospel and our purpose in fulfilling the gospel in its freedom and it’s relationship. We need to know that there are two things that ruin our relationships mentioned in Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” It is the challenging and envying one another that ruins relationships. To challenge means we look down on others, thinking ourselves superior, it is always a negative connotation and never about spurring on others. When we envy, we look up at others and are bitter for what they have or who they are, we feel inferior. Superiority or inferiority are the two things that destroy a relationship. The relationship here between relationship with each other and the freedom we have because of the gospel is this superiority and inferiority. When we think that we are superior we know we can do the things that please God. When we are inferior we are always ashamed at our failures and think we are horrible people. Because of our superior or inferior thoughts we cannot have the true relationship with God that we should have, that we were made for; it breaks our relationship with Him.

So how did we get this way in that we always compare ourselves to each other? The answer is also in the verse, our boastfulness. This word means empty glory. We try to glorify ourselves because the emptiness we have. We fill ourselves with glorying successes or the failures we have in trying. In the sin that sprang from that first sin we are hollow because of our unfulfilled purpose, so we constantly try to fill ourselves with things that don’t fulfill, and furthermore, we boast in that, creating feelings of superiority or inferiority in ourselves and others. Something inside us makes us believe we’re not great, so we have to boast about our greatness. So again, it comes down to the brokenness of our relationship due to our superiority or inferiority.

Look at what Christ says in Matthew 7, “I never knew you.” In that he wasn’t saying they weren’t good enough or humble enough, but that He didn’t know them. The final exam, as you might say, is about how much He knew us.

We look at psychology and it ways of solving our human dilemma, and it focuses more and more on that people just don’t see the value enough in us. Christianity says that it is sin and that we compare ourselves to others and it is the cause of all brokenness.

One of the things we also do is look at others and become attracted to people because of what they can fulfill in us. Can we spend a good time together? Will they bring me into this circle of friends? We look at what others can do for us in making us feel worthy or give us the glory. When we do this we are devouring each other. Galatians 5:15 says, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” This made me think of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of hell, where people are eating each other. This superiority/inferiority and the brokenness of relationships is in many ways a hell we have created for ourselves. When we look at others for what we may gain, we are using them, or devouring them, consuming people for our own gain. One girl I’ve been talking with about boundaries, said that she needs people. Now, we all need people, but when we need them in a very needy way, where it gives us fulfillment just to be around so many, it is as if we are devouring them. That is a boundary she must keep; not to have people around for the sake of your own neediness. I very much understand this attitude. Her and I are alike in so many ways. I see her in me 25 years ago.

We now see because of Galatians 5:13-14, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” that our only options are to devour or to love, and it tells us in these verses that in love we are to serve one another. How do we choose to serve over devouring? It is by the Spirit of God that we accomplish this.

Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

We are to walk by the Spirit and not regard yourself too highly. Empty yourself, become that servant. No longer look at what others can do for you, thus devouring them, but see what you can do for others.

Self-examination time: 1) Do you give, when there is nothing to take? 2) Do you sacrifice or feel as if you should be served? 3) Are you moving toward people who give you nothing in return? These are difficult questions. The Christian life is never as easy as it seems.

One thing I did ask after. He stated that he had to take a break from relationships, because they are so hard, is that a proper attitude? Even Jesus had to get away by Himself away from others for a time. I love you Jesus, You are my perfect example. Amen!

~Stranger

Advertisements

Sunday Scrutinizations: Change For the Better?

Going off of last weeks sermon, we are now looking at how people change toward exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. One thing we really want to remember is that we are not changing to be better people, but we change because the gospel being understood fully in our lives and those changes come about from that realization. If we are truly Christians we need to be exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, and as such if we don’t see it we need to ask why. Are we truly Christian or is there some idol in our life that is preventing the fruit from growing?

We are usually warned in these types of sermons that things are going to be rough on us, and today, it really was. I am always very open in all my posts, but it seems like this one will be especially hard for me, in that it did hurt to realize what I did as well as not being sure I want to share. Either way, this blog is about me being open and honest so you can know me better, even though I may or may not know you and the feeling aren’t generally reciprocated.

Our reading is Galatians 5:16-25. After several discussions within several small groups we got to the main part of the sermon. We were handed a sheet that had “Desires” on one side and “Overdesires” on the other. “Desire” is mentioned three times in this section and we learn that it is the greek word epithumia, which basically means an over-desires for something. We usually think of desire in the King James Version of lust, which brings to mind a sexual desire, but it is best described as desiring something in an unhealthy way. We can desire something good, like providing for our family, but when it becomes on over-desire it becomes an idol in our lives. We were told to write down things that we desire, just anything, and include some things that are good. If you are following along, I’ll give you a moment to do this and then we’ll continue…

I guess several years ago that the church went through a fruit of the Spirit series and it was then that they thoroughly went through this each one and it’s opposite; it made me want to be there then, but I went through my learning on my own time. At this point we went through a quick summary:

  1. Love – Opening yourself to serve, not for yourself but in being vulnerable
  2. Joy – Supernatural delight in God
  3. Peace – Trust in God’s control
  4. Patience – Truly forgiving
  5. Kindness – Generosity-delight when others are lifted up, even those you don’t like
  6. Goodness – Sincerity/Integrity
  7. Faithfulness – Full of faith
  8. Gentleness – Humility-thing of self less/strength under control
  9. Self-Control – ability to choose the important things over the urgent

And the opposites:

  1. Fear or self-protection
  2. Vainglory/Man made glory
  3. Arrogance or anxious/crazy
  4. Unrighteous anger
  5. Envy
  6. Hypocrisy
  7. Man’s wisdom or thinking
  8. Pride
  9. Impulsive

When we show the opposite of what the specific fruit is, it is some idol in our life, that is exhibiting one of the opposites from above.

So, back to my list. Here are the things I said. “To be thought of as wise. That people would seek me out. Be less insecure. Have more time to read (which incidentally leads to me knowing more and being sought out). More healthy. To be understood. To be known.” We were told to circle those which were more important to us, possibly than even God. If we would be emotionally injured when these weren’t fulfilled we were to circle them. I circled: to be understood and known. Now, you circle yours.  Pray, take some time to reflect on what these are and how they connect with what is the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.

As I sat there praying and contemplating these things, I looked at my list and noticed something. They all had something to do with what other people may think of me. I got very emotional, because God was showing me something. I told you that last year I realized I was being legalistic and prior to this realization I took pride in the fact that I was so un-legalistic. Here I am looking in a mirror of that same type of pride again. There is a pride in me that I don’t care what others think about me, but my whole list were about how I wanted people to see me! I want people to think I am wise and come to me for advice. I want to be more secure in who I am, so I can put all that behind me and join the group and participate. I want to be more healthy so that when the time comes when I finally lose some weight somebody will say, “You are looking good!” I want people to understand my motivations so that there can be no question as to why I am doing what I am doing. Same thing with being known. I write this whole blog in an effort to be known. Sure, it is for me knowing myself better, but in so many ways I am hoping you are reading this and know me better, hopefully knowing yourself better too.

In the light of a current situation I am going through, and some unfairness I believe some people are judging me by, I have rehearsed what my motivations are. It is not really a crisis situation I am going through, but this is a very big decision, and I am in no way taking it lightly. They consider my choices to be completely self-serving and that I’ll find all I’ve ever wanted in it, but I don’t see it that way. I’m told why should I even try to make them understand… because I love and care about them. This is one of the most difficult things in my life and all of it piled up in this realization, and I broke down and wept silently. I was supposed to lead discussion in the group afterwards, but could hardly speak. I see that I was being vain in wanting people to see what I’ve done, I was full of pride and fear, and was envious of all those who apparently have what I desire… or have over-desired.

I think the thing in this is that I have had this realization. Now I can truly see where my lack of love, joy, kindness and gentleness might come from. That I have been so concerned what people think about me, and I thought the complete opposite. In talking with a couple of other men after, it seems that how we men are perceived is a big problem. I am glad I am not alone in this. Being someone so insecure makes you believe everyone else is so much more secure than you.

There were three steps given in order to change: Belong-Who do we belong to? Crucify-Know that it is finished, that the power that raised Him from the dead is the same power we have access to. Keep in step with the Spirit-It’s about worship, and it doesn’t mean we try harder, it just means we worship Him. I was shocked by my realization today, so I can’t give you more of what the conclusion is all about, but I believe you get the idea.

Tonight was a great night, I am so thankful for what we have been learning and will ever praise Him. I praise You Lord!

~Known by Him

 

Sunday Scrutinizations: Change and Growth

Are people seeing the gospel lived out in your life more than they saw it six months ago? This may be a difficult question for you if you live your life under condemnation. I wrote a couple of weeks ago regarding how we should view Christ and our salvation as nothing we can or have done, but it is all done by grace, and when we allow the failure of our sin bring us down or condemn/depress us, it is like we are putting ourselves under the law again. We look at our outward appearance and see how we failed compared to the law, and how our whole attitude surrounding our freedom is what is key. I later made the connection that living with that attitude of freedom makes the future brighter and we are eager to see, it gives us joy we never understood before. Condemnation gives us a dread when facing the future.

We have come to the point in our church life where we need to measure each other and how are we doing in our growth in living out the gospel. That measurement is based in Galatians 5:16-26, and more specifically the fruit of the Spirit laid out in verse 22; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Notice that it says fruit (singular) and not fruits. All these things must be displayed in your life more than 6 months or a year ago. Now, that is not to say that we have times of dormancy or reflection after a period of growth, so we must always display patience with our brother or sister when measuring the growth in their lives. So, we cannot truly measure each others growth without being completely honest and open in each others lives. To most people we reveal about 10% of who we really are which is just the tip of who we are in the proverbial iceberg. It is time for us to ask ourselves the question, “Do we want to keep up the act?” the act of hiding the stresses we have about money and relationships and work. We need to examine if we are handling the stress of our day-to-day lives the same as the world. Are we yelling or eating or overworking or smoking our way out of stress, or are we trusting in the sovereignty of God to fulfill us and be everything we ever need in this world and all we have is because of Him and reminds us that we are where we are no matter the circumstances because of Him?

How do we grow? We grow through change, or sometimes what we might like to call it: stress. My wife is a bit worried about our middle daughter because she never expresses any worry in her life. She is under the impression that everyone has something to worry about. She handles an obstacle to her desire with a glaring look, but is eventually over it. The pain doesn’t linger long in her. My wife worries that when she grows up and out of the home that she won’t understand how to handle her stress and trust in God. I think that maybe she is just that way, that things don’t really bother her, but the glaring tells me otherwise. Is she just going to glare at God and get over it, not really seeing anything as any big deal and never really grow? I believe my wife is right, that she really needs to learn how to express herself so that we can take those opportunities to show her that God wants to see her grow because she trusts in Him and not that things don’t really matter anyway. When things change, mostly for the worse, how do you handle it? Change is inevitable. Your favorite pair of shoes wear out, the job you have wants you to move, a close family member dies. It is all change God wants you to take and reflect His grace to the world. If we are not handling change any better than we did however much time ago, we need to question what is going on in our lives that we are not as close to God, or, if we ever really knew Him in the first place.

Ask someone close to you some questions about yourself compared to what you were like a year ago:

  • Am I more trustworthy?
  • Am I more loving?
  • Am I more generous?
  • Do I show more joy?
  • Do I rest in God’s sovereignty?
  • Am I more patient?
  • More kind?
  • More gentle?
  • Do I reveal more self-control?

These are all tests God uses to measure your growth in the gospel, and if others can’t see it in you, look at the gospel more closely. Are you following the law or following God’s grace? We like to think that if we are comfortable than everything is okay. Are we comfortable to the point because God is not leading us or we not following God’s lead? Maybe we should look at something more convincing.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” Ephesians 1:18-20

We look at these verses and see that the power of Him who raised Christ from the dead, is the same power that is in us. Meditate on that for a minute. The SAME power that raised Christ, that made the change in all of human history 2,000 years ago, the made the fearful have courage to go, to heal, to change lives, to become someone they were not, that God equipped because He called them; that same power is in you. Now do you think because you are comfortable that, that is where this God want you!? Are you settling for what YOU think you can do?

So, I ask again, what are you turning to when you are faced with stress? Because if it not the God who created the whole universe and set about this awesome plan of salvation and is soon to come to set all things right, then you need to examine yourself, turn to Him to grow into the measurement that He has set as standard.

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.” Phillipians 3:10-16

Paul’s ultimate goal was to grow in the understanding of this God, he presses on in that not fully comprehending it yet, forgets what has been and looks to what is, knowing that his freedom is because of Him and he is eager to see that in us as well. We can’t go back and dwell on our failures or think because we are comfortable that it is all, but to press on in our understanding of His unlimited grace. Meditate and these things.

~Stranger

Freedom vs. Condemnation

In all my constant thoughts about freedom recently, I’ve come to a great realization. In the past I have constantly dreaded what this earthly future holds for me. I can’t find a well-fitting job, be it paying enough nor enjoyable enough nor fulfilling enough. My head fills with sorrow at the failures of the past. Failing in school, in relationships, in determination, has made me look forward with dread. I consider what is going on with the world and am sure that Christ will come back in a blaze of glory and set all things right. That future is bright and has been my only hope. Yet when I don’t consider that He has me in His grip and I am His, and He has everything in the future just the way He plans it, and I only hope in His second coming, my attitude sells Him short. He is too small in my mind.

So then I see that, I mean really see, that nothing I do can gain the grace and mercy and salvation, that what I have is all because of Him, it humbles me, cheers me, gives me a sense of joy, of relief that I have never felt before. Here we are, the Church, focusing on all the wrong things. He has prepared me for this moment. It is not like I’ve never heard of these things before, for I have, but they have never truly resonated with me before. I have absorbed this teaching.

Galatians 5:1-2 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.” For freedom has He set us free. As I see it as opposed to condemnation. I am constantly condemning myself; looking at my failures of the past, my sins of the present, and the weariness I’ve built for the future. It is done. As I said a couple of days ago, this is a new and special time for me, in seeing all this and knowing that there is now no condemnation for me. That is what Paul was saying. Of course we believe that God doesn’t condemn us, but do we ever consider that we no longer have need of condemning ourselves. Sure we sin, but get over it. Get the unlimited grace He gives and move my brother.

On a walk today I considered these things and saw in my mind that it is freedom that creates a sense of eagerness when considering the future, and condemnation that creates dread. I am praising Him in my freedom. Come my brothers and wash yourselves in the purity of His grace and walk away from all the self-condemnation that makes us dread the future. Be eager in seeing what He has planned for you knowing that it all has been won, because of Him, because of our freedom!

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinizations: Environmental Freedom

This summer Township Line Church were going out to the streets. Our experiment in inviting the community to our service and dinners had mixed results. It was beautiful to see most of the fellowship continuing to come out in the hot temperatures. It showed the dedication of this family and how we all wanted to be a part of it. There wasn’t many people coming from the neighborhood we were meeting in, but there was many promises of interest; I’m not really sure what to make of that, but God was glorified in it all. The elders have decided that many have appreciated the later meetings so we are continuing it for now, meeting at our old building, 8 miles out-of-town, starting at 4pm and dinner at around 5:30.

Tonight’s sermon, we were told was part 1 of 2. Personally, all the sermons I’ve heard there have one great connection: the Gospel. This first one was called “Freedom”. We’ve been going through Galatians and we are specifically looking at chapter 5:1-18.

So how does the Christian live in Freedom? When we look at the gospel we must understand that all condemnation is gone, that we are accepted because of what Christ has done; it is based on nothing we have done. So we can do whatever we want. That is part of the freedom we understand. Galatians 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” We look at circumcision meaning morality and uncircumcision meaning debauchery. So, neither has value when you are in Christ. It changes nothing in our acceptance, changes nothing in our condemnation.

Let’s look at what freedom doesn’t mean before we go on. We have a concept that when we have freedom, it means we can do anything. There are 3 failures in this idea.

  1. It is self-defeating. This means that when we believe we can do whatever we want, it’ll conflict with other’s desires. We cancel out each other’s freedom.
  2. It is incompatible with the complexity of the human heart. Steak is delicious and we would like the freedom to eat it all the time, but it is unfortunate that our bodies couldn’t handle it.
  3. It doesn’t flow from love. It is unfortunate that in this country all our freedom has led to the most selfish nation ideology.

As Christians we have made the inaccurate mistake of emphasizing that Christ has saved us from something. Incidentally, we also make being saved about being able to go to heaven, when it is about spending eternity with the Creator of the universe. There are a lot of things we have misemphasized as Christians, (yes I just made up the word misemphasized). The emphasis that is the key in understanding our freedom is what we are saved for. Look at 5:6 again. It says that the only thing that counts, or is worthy in this discussion of freedom, is our faith expressing itself through love. Our service, our love for others is the freedom we have.

Now, we face this unsuredness of our place in God by doing good things or trying to stop doing the bad things all the time. We face the condemnation of ourselves because of our constant failure in our own attempts. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. How do we remember that? We just have to constantly fill our life with the certainty of His love every day, through His word, from His people. Let the love of Christ dwell in us richly.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law,” verse 18 reminds us. We are free from guilt. We are free from works of righteousness, and yes that doesn’t mean we have to do any of them, but if we are truly transformed, our freedom will allow us desire and opportunity to do good things for Him. We are free from those things that consume our being that is not Him, to pursue a more beautiful replacement which is the gospel of Christ.

My main take away from this is something that was barely mentioned. Verse 13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (NASB) Again, the bible tells us that our freedom is to serve one another. When we are in the environment God intended for us is when we live to our full potential of love. Look at the fish; it only has freedom in the water, in the environment God intended for the fish to exist in. Does a fish have freedom on your table? Of course not. It only have freedom in the environment God intended. Which is how we are. We only have freedom when we live the life, when we are in the environment He has created for us. He has created us for good works and in doing those with a grateful heart, is when we have true freedom.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinization: Utah is a Far Away and Dark Land

This morning my eldest daughter and I made our way to a congregation we weren’t familiar with to listen to and hopefully meet a guy who was on his way to the deepest, darkest jungles of SouthCentralWestern United States, known as Salt Lake City. A friend from our current fellowship brought me into the know that such a one as this was speaking there, and since he knew I was intimately familiar with the locale, he correctly assumed the level of my interest.

In trying to find out more about this other church, I felt a pang of regret in not taking advantage of this summer’s foray into night services by visiting other fellowships and witnessing God’s hand in the goings and comings therein. And in that, I remembered a discussion with a couple the other night about “cherry-picking” your favorite stuff among the churches you live nearby. Our friends are ones that have come to the current fellowship we are a part of, as well as being members of the previous large group we were attending. They are still participating in ministries there as well as being a part of the new, and have even participated in other congregations activities when there was an opportunity and God was leading them there. *Gasp!* There was accusation that they are “cherry-picking” the favorite things to be a part of wherever that may be. They were told that if you have chosen your church, then you must minister within the programs offered by that church. They obviously, respectfully disagreed. We are a part of the Church of West Plains, and we want to be where God is, no matter the congregation, fellowship, or denomination. That being said, we really want to have that kind of vision, and hope that others see things in the same way. In passing out flyers this summer, inviting people as a community to the fellowship meeting we have been doing, one of these things that stuck out in my mind was people not accepting the flyer stating that they already went to church.

Ouch.

How can we envision His Church in this way? You have yours, and I have mine, and may the two never meet. So I was glad to sit in on a service that baptized a baby (*Gasp!*) and meet a man who has such a heart for the lost. People said they were glad I was there. And you know what? I was glad to be there too, even when they don’t believe everything I do. The heart of Christ was central to our gathering, to the reasons we were all there, that morning.

As you all know, I grew up Catholic in Salt Lake City and became an evangelical Christian in my early to mid-twenties. The people I knew there were all Christians. We were part of an Awana group that came from all over the valley. We had Bible studies, fellowship dinners, retreats, all with other believers. The non-believers I knew of were my family and my coworkers (about 4 guys). I grew up there, knew the town, the places and surroundings. It is a bright and beautiful place for me. So when I heard the introductions for this man and what he spoke about, they made Salt Lake City or Utah in general sound like this faraway foreign land where people have dark hearts and lead dark lives.

How could they speak of my hometown in such a way? Then he gave some statistics: only 2% of Salt Lake is Christian. Given that just a few years ago Salt Lake hit the one million population mark, that means that there are only about 20,000 people there are Christian. Hmmm… that sounds like a lot to me. So then there are at least 800,000 people who are not. Wow. Okay, I’m getting a little of the picture here. He said he was going to be in Lehi, which is just North of Provo, home of BYU, and that Provo only had about 24 churches. That sounds like a lot. I did some searching for how many churches might be in the Salt Lake Valley, but couldn’t find any exact numbers, but I would guess from around 150-200 churches, and again, that sounds like a lot to me. But then I did a search for how many churches are in the West Plains area, where I live now, and see that online I come up with about 50, some people have told me 75. If we take the entire population of Howell County, in which West Plains is the county seat, of 40,000 then number of churches in West Plains alone is 1 per 530 people, but just taking West Plains population it is 1 church for every 160 people! An incredible number. If my guess is right about Salt Lake, then they have 1 church for every 5,000 people, or about 1 church for every 100 Christians.

Looking up the estimates of Christians in China, they have about 3% of the population. It’s no wonder there is a trend to send Church planters there to my little hometown of Salt Lake. It makes me wonder why I left… oh yeah, it’s because I was so comfortable there. I needed to get out and get challenged, to grow and to trust in God way more than I ever could in Salt Lake. Those people who are being sent to Salt Lake to plant churches better be prepared to be uncomfortable. I admire them and hope that I can be a support to them, which I am trying to do now. There is an expertise I have when it comes to going to Salt Lake and I hope people might rely on me in little ways in that, and I hope those that I know there can support them as well. There is a great work of God happening there, what with Ravi Zacharias speaking for a second time in the Mormon tabernacle and the nations evangelicals turning their eyes to the lost, I pray for them and hope you will too. And if you are a friend in Utah and would like to be connected to these folks, don’t hesitate to let me know. We could all use some small bits of support.

Oh, and if I may interject the best resource here for witnessing to Mormons, it is this book. You can find it at the best resources for Christians in Utah: Utah Lighthouse Ministry. There is a right way, and a wrong way to witness to Mormons.

According to a Mormon, Contention is from the devil. Why would they listen to you with signs like this?

Don’t be these people.

Build a relationship first.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinizations: Freedom from Idolatry, Part II

There has been a question posed to me about how I get rid of the idols in my life. I realize that in the previous post I may have not been as clear as I always am in my own head. The response to idols in the sermon is to realize the love of God for you, dwell on it, read about it, make it your own. That seems to be the indication in verse 9 of Galatians 4: “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” If we know or have known what God has done for us, how is it that we maintain our idols, our sin? We will never fully rid ourselves of the sin nor the cause for it until the great uniting, but our sin should be dwindling, growing steadily smaller, making itself less of a nuisance in your life than it did, say last year or twenty years ago. The thing about believing in the love of God and what it does for you is a difficult and yet simple thing to understand, and as I thought about the question that was asked of me, it became clear. So I’m a gonna dole out some fine wisdom to you right here and now…

But first, of course, a little background of thought that led me to these things. I am reading a series of books right now called the Codex Alera. Okay, you’re wondering how a science fiction series can explain simply about the how we fully grasp the love God has for us, but just be patient; I’ll get there. After all, God communicates with us in many different ways, which is sort of my point… So anyway, there is a race of people called the Marat. These people are divided by tribes in which they have a certain animal that they can bond with, they discover what tribe they are a part of in their teenage years. Their needs and desires, lead them to be a part of that tribe. They aren’t even referred to as male or female until a choice is made or a test given, they are whelps until they day they become part of a tribe. For example, Kitai is a whelp of the Gargant clan, (a gargant is like a large elephant I’m guessing). Her father is of this clan, he is largely built, strong, stubborn, is a homebody and is very much humor filled, much like the gargants. Her mother, who has died, was part of the Horse clan. Horse clan types are tall, muscular, and have a strong desire to roam, to see what is over the horizon. During a trial, Kitai’s life is saved by a human boy, Tavi, whom she has a strong contempt for, but still very much interests her. Because of the boy’s actions, Kitai’s eye color changes to match Tavi’s, indicating that she has joined a tribe, a unestablished tribe, but a tribe nonetheless. She is alone, brought there by her interest in Tavi and being saved by him. She now has a vast amount of knowledge to take in because no Marat has ever existed in human culture.

I was just reading this last night and it struck me how this connection of the Marat is similar to our connection with God. God does not connect with all of us in the same way. Some people make deep inner connections and reflections by keeping a journal. Some see God in the love they see in their children’s eyes. Others can just open the bible and make that strong connection there. Relationships with a spouse may be God’s redeeming connection to some. In all these things we see God, we are thankful to Him, but there is something in all of us that we have to find for ourselves that truly makes that ultimate connection in seeing how utterly in love God is with us as an individual. For me, it is the stars. Standing outside in the middle of the night, looking up and seeing the vastness of everything else that is not me, forces me to contemplate how completely worthy of awe my God is, and what it took for the Creator of the universe to visit my heart and make His residence in me. Stars. I can’t fully explain the amazing power God reveals to me by looking at the sky, because it is just for me. Just like you might not be able to explain how God connects with you. We are all unique in the way He created with us and we have to find the way He reveals to us who He is. That is probably why some people might not find that, or don’t see a relationship with God as something as life-transforming as it is supposed to be. They become Christian and someone tells them to start writing down what they learn, and they lose interest, and don’t find the Christian life that exciting. Go out there and discover what your connection is with the savior, think about how exciting life can be when you know the end, and that He is waiting for you in the place you can connect best with Him.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinizations: Freedom from Idolatry

Tonight was first night back to worship services at Township Line since we got back from vacation. I was reminded when the leaders were saying it was going to be challenging to do this, because it was going to be hot: and tonight was hot. It is good to be a part of something that people still are galvanized about even when it is extremely difficult. People were saying to each other how hot they were, but with a smile on their face. It would be so easy to just say, “Not tonight,” and go on with you day, not worrying about it and stay all night in your air-conditioned house. Also, you know what? We had visitors. A surprising amount, and in particular, a surprising type of visitor. Perhaps more about this later, when all is said and done and the dust has settled.

First off though, I wanted to share something regarding my speaking with our Tuesday night fellowship group. We met Saturday morning for brunch and I was able to share some things that have been on my heart, in terms of my job, my wife’s teaching, the direction in our life, some needs we would like to see fulfilled. One thing that really struck me from the conversation was that they told me to be eager and excited and looking forward to what God has for us. I generally look ahead to a major transition with fear and trepidation, because of some past missteps. I needed to be corrected in this, because God does care and love us and wants to give us good things. As my sister-in-law reminded me last week, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” When people have been asking me how things are going or if my job is going well, I have to remember this. It is a perspective changer for sure. So tonight when people asked me my most dreaded question, “How is work going?” I tried to turn that perspective of looking forward to His change for me in this and it changed what I usually say, which is “…mmm okay” or “same old, same old.” I just tell them I’m looking forward to what God is going to do in my life in my job and in my family. It is very much freeing indeed.

Back to what happened tonight: After dinner and singing, I went over with the children’s group to help out as usual and I was told that if I wanted to sit in the sermon I could. “You don’t need me?” I say. “Nope. I think everything is taken care of tonight. You’ve been here every time,” is the response. “But I haven’t been here for the last two weeks?” “It’s okay, we got this.” They really didn’t need me? I didn’t dwell on it too much, because I was just glad to sit down and listen to a sermon tonight. Also, several people said they missed the Sunday Scrutinization thing, so I decided to give my loyal fans what they wanted: hard note taken and great summary… (That sounded funny to me, didn’t it to you? If it didn’t then you’re not reading enough of my stuff.) Anyway, I sat down, didn’t have my bible, or a pen, or my notebook, or a chair for that matter. Some young kid had stolen my chair next to my wife, and I had to kick him loudly out of my seat! I disturbed a lot of people, but it was the principle of the thing! It was my chair. I lugged it there and I’m a gonna sit in it. Well, once I did get my seat back and everyone settled down, my wife provided me with a half a sheet of paper and got me a pen. Isn’t she great? I started taking notes and noticed I had some sort of sore on the side of a knuckle on my writing hand and it made writing very difficult. I couldn’t take as detailed of notes as I usually do, so what I’m going to do is just type out what I wrote, word-for-word, and tell you my gut feeling about the whole thing. Here are my notes:

Gal 4:8-11 Changed my viewpoint
Judaizers -> Jesus +
enslavement -> to good things
v8 – non Gods – idols/nothingness
how do we become enslaved?
How are we free?
idol anything we have/do to gain approval outside of Christ
my idols – comfort/familiarity
1 Jn 5:21 sums up entire book – idols
idolatry is fundamental root of all our “problems” in life
why do we fail? -you have an idol
when we “blow” it – look at what is our idol
look at all the things we use to cope with life
epithermra – things we over desire 1Pt2 being noticed, included, loved
stop and look for the chains to that idol
v9 Free? God’s love

Well, there you have it. An insight into my wonderful note taking; with injured hand. Quick summary: He said that this section completely changed his view when it came to seeing his sin and when he counsels people. Of course Galatians has to deal with those nasty Judaizers who went around telling people that they weren’t doing enough; it is Jesus plus whatever they were selling. We were being enslaved all over again after being freed from sin. But how is it we come back to enslaving ourselves to things that are less important than God’s love, salvation and freedom. Although there is an idea that we are to put ourselves under the mastery of our Lord; that is why we call Him Lord you know, because we are to be His slaves, a rebellious and ornery slave, but a slave nonetheless. We all have idols and those are anything we have or do to gain approval outside of Christ. We can look at all the troubles in our lives and trace it back to some sort of idol. We were surprised, hurt or troubled by something because of some expectation we have in our life and specifically because of an idol we have in it. Comfort and familiarity are strong idols in my life. Also, after heavy consideration and asking questions at the end, I sometimes have self-condemnation as an idol in my life. Sometimes thinking that I’m just too horrible to deserve what He has offered, AND given to me I condemn myself as unworthy of Him. That is something I’ve put before God. I’ve been satisfied at times with my status quo of sinfulness and doubted His love for me, that He could fundamentally change who I am, that I am more important than Him. Look at that! Us self-condemning, those who have a tendency toward depression, are saying that their sin is bigger than God. Oh the Gall of it all!

His love is the most powerful force in the universe: it changes animals to those who are righteous. I think of that story in Daniel about the king who said his creation was grander than God and God changed him to an animal that ate grass for several years. Then God opened his eyes and this king praised God, with all his heart. When God changes us from sinful, enslaved human to righteous and saved saint, that should be the most glorious, most humbling thing we are to ever encounter. His love changed me. Has it changed you? Do you see His love in your life day-to-day? Sometimes we forget who we are because of the wiles of the world sways us and tempts us away from His love. “Come to me, all you who are weak and weary, for my burden is light and easy,” He says to us. We should be excited day-to-day what He has for us. Have you forgotten? Has this world taken you to a path of disappointment, heartache and pain? He is calling you. He wants you to cast all your cares on Him. I will speak of it, how I am excited about what He has done and is doing. He loves you, and that is your triumph over our idols. Remember, idols are generally good things for us, but we take them, or trust them too far. When they become more important than God, then is when they became idols.

You know, I love self-condemnation, but when has it ever loved me back?

~Stranger

 

One Year of Stranger in Rebellion on wordpress

It has been a while since I wrote anything on here, and today when I got on I had a notification award of one year of Stranger in Rebellion. Almost a month has it been since I wrote my last post, honoring my Mother for Mother’s Day. Usually I come back from being on hiatus for a while depressed, sorely needing something to say, and eager to get back on the bus. But not lately. Sure I’ve had a lot I’ve had wanted to write about in regards to popular culture and sermons I’ve heard and writing about all the stuff I see friends posting on that one site. It just hasn’t been pressing me as of late. Even as I sit here trying to remember all the things I’ve wanted to ponder upon through words, it just kind of fades like smoke, dissipating into a dark sky, and you’re not really sure if you really thought about it at all.

So, in the spirit of a writing anniversary, let’s do a quick Stranger in Rebellion year in review, and perhaps this little exercise will get the smoothies flowing again.

As a quick history, the “Strange Confessions” started on May 17, 2012 on my personal “that one site” page. On December 9 of the same year, I started the “Stranger in Rebellion” blog on that same, “that one site.” (Reminder: I say “that one site” because it drives me a little crazy when, in normal conversation, people give the casual aside, “I saw this (so-and-so) on Facebook.)

Then on June 2, 2013 this started. I have written 97 posts and have 79 followers. The most visits in one day was 68, which was December 1st, 2013, and that was when I wrote this article, but the previous day’s article, has the most reads, that being 24. I have an unfinished project in which I answer the 15 most ridiculous college application questions, inspired by this article, in which I am stuck on this question: “St. Mary’s College is casting for the incoming class. Send us your audition tape via the Web or DVD. Please provide us with the site for posting. Selection of this option will stand as your college essay. Consider your audience.” I’ve considered just skipping it, but that just wouldn’t be fair now, would it? Interestingly enough, this article, is one that most people come across when they do general web searches. I suppose it has something to do with the tags that include, aliens, dinosaurs and robots. That was one of my most favorite writes as well. Go ahead and read it if you haven’t. I am eager to get back to finishing this project, so I may skip the video, and then come back later.

Since I started writing I have had great spiritual growth due to a loving and open group of believers we meet with every Tuesday night, and have started going to a church that is small and challenging, which has inspired me to write summaries of what I have been learning. That is something I need to get back to again. Our Sunday group fellowship, or church as I’m uncomfortable in calling it, has taken on the challenge of going to the streets this summer. You can check it here, please do. Many of us have been called to be leaders in specific roles during this time, and I have been chosen as distribution/dissemination leader before we meet in various places in the community. We go door-to-door or where people gather and hand out flyers explaining our purpose. We hide nothing in this as it says that as followers of Christ, we have a duty to go into the community and share the love and joy that comes from knowing Him. It is a very exciting time and much prayer is needed as we will be reminded that we are at War. A war in which the outcome has already been determined, but a war nonetheless.

Writing about these things gets me going and I want to start sharing again. Thanks for you patience and remember to pray for Township Line Church. This is a watershed moment for not only the people, but also for this community. Give God the glory! Thank you Jesus!

~Stranger

P.S. Here is just a fun picture to gain interest as I re-post this on that one site.

Finishing the Catharsis

Writing is my therapy. It is a way to get my thoughts realigned. It pleases me to create, whether or not anyone appreciates the words that stream past the screen. I should do it more often. Thank you God for the laptop I can so easily type on. I can’t imagine sitting here with a 12-pound typewriter resting on my legs, as I peck feverishly out my thoughts and feelings. What would the stack of papers look like? And the wasted sheets… How did a pretender like me get along in the world without a laptop 20 years ago? Well I suppose some of them just went plain mad! Walked off down the road, headed toward the dark places in their minds, and were never heard from again. Words that come from my mind and work their way down the nerve endings and shock the muscles into action, moving and pressing key after key in a miraculous movement of God’s creation and man’s, can stun my system out of rebellion back into the Rebellion I truly needed.

I thought, “Hmmm, perhaps I shouldn’t share this link…” That my dear friends is my Rebellion of the title “Stranger in Rebellion” indeed. My fear that I’m too transparent, always halos my brain, shocking the system of buffoonery I am constantly expounding in my behavior and writings. I do it to heal. God has given me this outlet and I shall use it, Praise Him!

Anyway, I thought I should close out some of the things I brought up in yesterday’s writings, for I don’t want you to get the wrong concepts about the things I am taught on glorious Sunday mornings or otherwise.

Any examples of the “acid test” or the points in finding you might not be converted, were just things to ponder in your spiritual walk, and having one or another be a focus of who you are is not necessarily a sign that you are not saved. And that is not to say we should not be constantly on the lookout for dangerous trends in our thinking that would halt the working of God in your life. God was rich in mercy early in my Christian walk, and revealed to me things that others have an unhealthy preoccupation with, such as leading me to an early reading of 1 John. Highlighted in my mind is the verses that say, “so that you may know”. Those things, in fact, the whole bible is written so that we may know we have eternal life. Then I saw it in lots of places. That you may know: how to give a good answer, the certainty of the things I have been taught, the hope to which he has called, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, that seeing Jesus is seeing God. And most of all, that I may know Him.

He was gracious in giving me such security. One such as I, prone to doubt, fear, and depression. He early on gave me the KNOW.

Now if you find yourself looking at those lists and seeing that you are troubled by all of them, then be wary, find a good church where doubt of who you are is dispelled by the fact of who He is. I don’t have all the answers when things look the bleakest, but I do know that I know. It is not a feeling or a desire, although that does have its place. Even as I wallow in the depths I less and less frequently find myself in, I know that there is an end to all this weariness. Also, a good friend who will tell you the truth about how selfish it is, and that you can’t constantly dwell on what is to come, that what we will get is possible and even more glorious in the here and now. Not taking away at all from the awesome aweness of awe we will experience Him face-to-face. Lord hasten the day!

Thank you for partaking in this wonderful experiment that is my journey on this linear strand with no end, briefly confounded by weeds and mists, which is part of what we all experience.

~Stranger

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Wretched with Todd Friel

A Really Wretched blog

The Journey

learning to be His

Steven D. Jennings

The nations leading blogger from behind bars! Steven shares his journey towards rehabilitation & redemption. He also exposes the realities of prison life...the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Frank Viola

Copious amount of Words, Substantially Packed in an Unceremonious Format from the Former Stranger.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

GODINTEREST - Christian blog covering faith, culture and life

Christian Articles, Christian News, Information and Resources. All God centred posts by Godinterest

Tim Challies

Informing the Reforming

Fencing With Ink

Art, Freedom, and Most Holy Irreverence

pointe4Jesus - Blog

Copious amount of Words, Substantially Packed in an Unceremonious Format from the Former Stranger.

The Matt Walsh Blog

Absolute Truths (and alpaca grooming tips)

Life After Ministry

Leading Mormons to the REAL Jesus Christ

Irony Is A Poor Master

"where all the cool people learn how to think"

%d bloggers like this: