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The End of Stranger in Rebellion

Strange Confessions: This opportunity in Denver and the subsequent reactions of my church family here in West Plains has affected me greater than I first thought.

I have been part of a discipleship group with three other men here for the past month, and have been discussing many things with them. The congregation that I am a part of now does not see discipleship as I always imagined it: sitting there with a book of doctrine in your lap or on the table and going over again what we have known but occasionally forget, forcefully trying to slam it into your brain for good. We take walks, and talk. We ask each other questions about what we would do in certain situations. There is discussion about how we are leading our family and ways we can do it better. We talk about long term relationships, careers, and ministries. We consider the immediate and grasp the consequences of the past. The Holy Spirit flows through our assembly as we do our best to honor Him in all our contemplations.

“Why do you call your blog ‘Stranger in Rebellion’?” I was asked the other night. I am quite proud that I came upon that name and all its connotations, stemming from the “Strange Confessions” and other strangeness that encompasses who I believe I am. Earlier that night I told them about my difficulty in writing over the past few weeks. I tried writing about the sermon regarding Friendship three different times. It seems as if I’m stuck in trying to convey the importance and value of what being a true friend in the full biblical sense really is. I get caught up in thinking about how I was so interested in getting out of West Plains, that I forgot about… relationship: family and friends that I’m not sure I’ve really had until these last couple of years. I don’t want to devalue our church family in Utah in any way, but this is so much different from what I knew back West. We also discussed the Youth Group that is starting up with me at the helm, and how I want to go beyond what is the other standard fare offered here in West Plains. I think about all the “wasted” time that has rushed by in the past and how now I see the world, God, and the gospel in such a brighter light, and I want to share that with these young adults so that they at least have the opportunity to understand all that before their life is in their sun’s declination phase. There is a passion inside me that wants to reveal the God that I now know, the gospel that is all about freedom, and glory that shines in us every day. I’ve missed the times when I taught Sunday School years ago, that is when I fully got into the Word. Yes, I struggle with giving my God the time He completely deserves, yet in teaching the desire comes fully alive.

The question posed to me lied more in the fact that I am no longer the “Stranger” I once was, and might be part of the reason I am struggling to write. They say people don’t change. We know, as Christians, that this is completely false. Others understand this in some superficial way. Sure we change our minds, our habits, our style, but fundamentally we are the same. I am new. In many ways I am the same. I stay quiet when I don’t feel what I say is important enough or smart enough or considered enough. I get very opinionated and loud when discussing our societal woes. I enjoy movies and pop-culture. I love my family and I miss the ones I am related by blood, who are far away. Yet, I am new. There has been a switch that went off inside me that I need to explore. This something is more… mature, you might say. It is more willing to Be where God has me. Resolve is changing to contentment.

I think my friend hears all this in me and, considers the Stranger to be no more. And to tell you the truth, I believe he is right. Change is inevitable. This considered move to Denver revealed how much I am attached here. Prior to these occurrences, I saw us moving and forgetting about all that we knew here, in West Plains, deleting contacts in our phone and on that one site. Now, as I ponder these possible actions, it almost brings me to tears. This place has become so much a part of what I am, who I am, that I can no longer consider forgetting it all once we are geographically gone, if that ever happens.

This change is not a new idea in my mind, for over the last few months I have thought things needed to change about the blog. Make it more about life and the gospel and our culture as it relates to us all and step a little bit away from it being about my experiences. Not stepping away entirely, because my experiences are about who I am, but in a more… generic(?) way. I don’t know, perhaps you’ll understand once I start going on the new name/site that I will develop… eventually, when I am ready. Writing is a desire in me that I can rarely contain when the spirit is upon me. So after 125 posts to this site, farewell. I will post a link here when all the newness comes about.

Thank you all for reading Stranger in Rebellion, I hope to see you all in my future endeavors.

~Friend

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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

Disillusioned: My “Final” Say on Politics

I am disillusioned by politics and I wish more people would become as disillusioned as well. The opportunity is there, they just have to snatch it and hold it close. There is no shame in that. I’m not calling for people not to participate in the political system, but to just not expect that your particular party is doing what you voted and/or expected them to do. I have been disillusioned since the middle of George W Bush’s first term. I would have considered myself a liberal by the time I became politically aware; sometime in high school. Calling myself, at the time, politically aware is a misnomer. The only thing I was aware of was that Reagan was evil, at least that is what I heard, or thought, or understood. Come to think of it, I don’t know where I got that idea. I just somehow knew he hated the environment, women, poor people and peace: of course he was evil. Opinions change.

My political understanding eventually came under the influence of my new-found faith as well listening to talk radio. I regarded life, and accountability and responsibility above all things when it came to politics, and I saw liberals as having none of those qualities. I went from one political spectrum to the other in a matter of months. When on one side, I dismissed any ideals of the other. That all started to change after GWB began throwing money at stuff to try to fix it. I soon realized that Republicans were no champion of the nation, the state, the individual. They didn’t provide the hope or ideal that they were supposed to be propagating to their constituents. Now that I see such a perceived failure of the other side, I expect many who follow the personality in charge to fall away in droves, following the tact of a reasonable person to realize no political party can truly accomplish what the ideals are set apart to be. It seems, that this is not the case. Many are sticking like the stubborn symbol representative of their party. Come on people! Step away from the politicking mass and fight for reason! Alas, in my disillusion, I seem to be standing alone. Nothing really changes, just the names and whether or not there is a D or an R following.

I see though that a healthy dose of disillusionment is what sets a reasonable, accountable, responsible person apart from a fanatic. Democrats are, it seems for the most part, fanatics. Yes, there are some Republican fanatics, but they are not trying to shut down the voice of the other side. Liberals are viciously trying to shut down conversations on abortion, on creation, on rights, on health choice, on religious liberty. They are unwittingly shutting down our freedoms. They don’t see that forcing people to accept what they are offering, that they are shutting down choice, and freedom. They are amazingly proud of their president, but can’t really say why, but don’t ask them, for it is an attack and you’ll be deemed a racist. You think perhaps I may be exaggerating a bit? I visit many popular culture websites, ones that deal with science and science fiction, fantasy and the “Con” life, movies and television, discoveries and history, comedy and the drudgery of life. Some headlines of articles that deal with the political stance of a cultural issue have words like “Idiots,” “Evil,” “Hate,” “Stupid” forgoing to end an argument by calling the particular conservative names. If you are any type of conservative you know what I’m talking about.

I really try to stay out of the arguments. In fact, on that one site, I have chosen to stay out of politics altogether, except for this one last political blog that I will link to. I’ve had some rather unfortunate situations occur with relatives and friends that I never intended. That one site is not necessarily the forum for civil discussion. So, what I want to say, needs to be said, then I’ll try to keep my peace.

First off let me say that I don’t hate anyone. I may get furious at the driver who is intent on not following any rules of spacing between cars at any miles per hour, but I don’t hate them. Nor do I hate your lifestyle choices. I don’t hate the person who believes life is less important than casual sex. In the same way I don’t hate the person who finds my belief in God and His creation, insane, and at the same time insults and degrades Him. No one is trying to stop you in your lifestyle or beliefs, at least no one who is reasonable. I want to encourage healthy debates. For me those choices are meted out on a personal and individual level. If you ask me what I think or feel or believe, I’ll tell you, and I’d like to know more about why you have chosen the way you think, feel and believe. If there is one thing I am, it is open, to hearing about you. I find it the most interesting thing, to find out why people believe what they believe; it is a part of our heritage, our culture.

Setting the healthcare issue aside, as well as foreign policy, wealth redistribution, immigration, non bi-partisanship, education, and Constitutional issues, this current president has done a fine job. I’d commend him on something specific that was worth standing up and cheering for, but one alludes me right now. The actions taken on the issue of marriage, of the current government, is what has brought me out of my political bomb shelter.

A conservative such as myself, may be seen by history as such a one as the KKK is seen now, if we do not bring the argument to a reasonable transcendence as to why we understand marriage in the way it was created. Within that statement lies the main problem: “created”. “One man, one woman,” we shout from the trenches. Others are more calm and willing to reason, but are rarely heard. For me, marriage is a sacred word. God gave it as a gift for mankind, as a symbol of what our individual relationship to Him is to be like as well as to propagate the species of man. If two women or two men are born or develop a strong sense of oneness between each other, and feel that someone of the same-sex will fulfill a purpose or completeness within them, then I am happy for them. I will not disparage or fight against what they deem fulfilling. Let us set aside why they may have come to be this way, for this conversation is about the term: marriage. Call their relationship what you will, make a new term, for marriage has already been taken. Yes, I understand the desire for acceptance of society and co-opting the word will hasten the day. The abuse that many have suffered in the name of religion, morality and normality is shameful, within all aspects of race, culture or creed. We should be just as loving and forgiving as our heavenly Father. Yes, I believe that actions and thoughts regarding what many a couple do behind closed doors or sometimes even out in the open is sin. I, am a sinner. A sinner who has been given Life and Life abundantly. God has and is still dealing with me in many areas of my life marred by my choice to sin, whether in action or thought. He deals with me on an individual level. What may be something I accept as good in my life may be seen as sinful to someone else. I fully expect God to deal with me or the person who sees me as sinning, to change our hearts and attitudes to His right and true way of thinking. If He does not do it here, than He will definitely in the life to come, when we will finally face Him. Many of my fellow Christians would never see a homosexual having the ability to truly come to Him, but I do not. God draws whom He will and those will have a choice, and God will accept them into His family, as they are. If God sees it necessary to change people after they come to Him, He will do so, or they will be in rebellion against Him. He is accepting and willing that all will come to Him and He has made it ultimately possible because of Him coming as a man and facing all temptation as man faces. It is on an individual basis that God changes, not corporately. He will never force you to come to Him, for that is not love.

Speaking of forcing, it seems that is what is happening to us conservatives. We are being forced to accept that what God has given as sacred is being used as political fodder to force an acceptance of what is sin. I hope I am not the only one speaking in such a way, trying to reason, to present our side. What I do think is happening is that some may see an article on homosexual marriage, find out the author’s perspective is conservative than dismiss it out of hand. I saw a video the other day of a conservative group on a college campus trying to interview participants of a Feminist conference. Someone found out the interviewer was from a conservative group and started telling everyone not to talk to her because of her background. She was followed around and as soon as she found someone to talk to, participants would tell the interviewees and mouths would close. Was that reasonable? It was a disgrace is what it was. That is what is happening today. Civil dialogue is being thrown out the window for shouting down your opponent. Battles are being won by insults. It makes me sad, very sad to what our freedoms has brought us: bondage. There is coming a day that what I say here will be marked as hate speech. It is already in some progressive European countries. Woe to us who have for so long given ground in the culture war, because of apathy and poor arguments, yet this is the way it was dictated to go. We have suffered too long contemplating self. This country was so great our only opportunity was self-examination. Let us look to the opportunities of not staring at our own navels. Go into the world and see what we so take for granted. Show the love God has poured out to us, if not for God than whatever you are thankful for and put it toward… not focusing so much on ourselves.

This started out as a statement I just needed to say regarding the horrifying political climate of today, but has grown into something I did not expect. I pray for this country and the relationship we have with each other, that we can talk again, share ideas and thoughts and why we do what we do or believe what we believe. It hurts me to think that so many relationships have been severed because of who is elected or what laws have been passed, but it doesn’t surprise me because even within the Christian community divorcing each other over the color of the carpet. I look toward the day when all will be made right. I look to the day where I am shown the error in my thoughts and deeds. I look to the day when all nations and cultures will gather at His feet praising Him and His works and His justice and His righteousness, in true unity and true diversity. I pray that we Christians will look beyond our own personal preferences and just desire to share the love that God wants us all to display, because He made us and loves us just as He intended us to be. Thank You God, thank You!

~Stranger

Auto-Complete Culture

I came across this article the other day. Below is one of the pictures from the story. Yes, there is gender inequality in our world, even in this homogeneous culture in these United States. It seems unfair that the our culture points out this inequality in a Google search “auto-complete”.

The signs that our internet, influenced culture is bringing down the intelligence of this country is obvious if you’ve ever visited one of those Chatbot sites to see the development of artificial intelligence. I believe that these sites analyze responses real people give it from statements it has made. It eventually develops a “personality” reflective of those who “chat” with it. Your conversations with it eventually dwindles down to insults. You can’t expect too much from these conversations, but it is reflective of our culture.

So when someone wants to make a statement about inequality or how unfair it may be or is, in this world for women, using Google’s Auto-Complete is a trifle inaccurate. Especially when it comes to the horrible mistreatment women suffer in other cultures around the world.

Many of these auto-completes are used in comedy/fail blogs because of the ridiculous items that come up. Here is a culture that shuts down any criticisms toward a religion that treats its women like property, and yet can’t stand the traditional views many of us hold because that is what this country is founded on.

Yes, those Google searches may be common, but not because we are looking for reasons to defend unfair actions towards women, but because people ask us or we read about these things and seek answers, perhaps ignorantly, from the internet. I can’t tell you the reasons these searches are common, I can even admit that there are Christians who hold ignorant viewpoints strongly because they want to be right, but the way these are used, is wrong.

Yes, women shouldn’t accept the way things are, or be discriminated against, and they should make their own decisions, and should be seen as equal, as these posters point out: but so should men. So should we all. We live in a world of sin. No attitudes we hold will ever be perfect. Using ridiculous auto-completes to make your point will not take away the idiotic attitudes of us all.

There have always been and always will be people who have good intentions to try to change this world with pithy statements, but only one thing can change people on an individual basis for good. Yet, they will use His name for evil as well. I pray that those who would call upon the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, would share the good news, and He will change us, in His time, and each on an individual level.

I would hope that we could really focus on true inequality in this world, but alas, I read things in His word that tell me this world will get worse, that right will be wrong, that good will be bad.

Lord Jesus, I pray that you would hasten Your return. But that I could do Your work You have for me, while I am still here, joyously. Amen.

~Stranger

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