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Sunday Scrutinizations: Light in Dark Places

I didn’t participate in the service this morning, I was teaching Sunday School. I was going to someone’s house tonight for a little get together, I don’t really know why, but it ended up snowing during church and we barely got home. It snowed until around 3 pm and there is a chance of more snow later, so we opted out for going out. We got a whole bunch of chicken wings, bean dip, hummus, veggies, grapes and some coconut oatmeal cookies just sitting around because it’s too much for just one family. You can come over if you’d like, there’s plenty, if you can get here. Well, maybe by the time I post this, it’ll be sleepy night-night pajama time. So… just imagine a lot of food, and you can’t have any. Although you probably have too much food sitting around where you are too.

I’m sitting here among bunches of food watching dudes crash heads and a doofus thinking he went into some lame time machine, wanting to write a bit. So I’d like to write a little bit about the guy who spoke at our Perspectives class last Wednesday night and promote Perspectives a bit.

I’m only in my third lesson of fifteen, but this Perspectives thing is really the real deal of encouragement to go. There has been so many things I’ve heard in such a way as to make think I’ve never really heard anything before. Seriously, it’s really nothing new, but it presents things in such a way that makes me want to know God more, glorify His name like never before, express His kingdom through my life, and see and hear what He has done and is doing throughout this small blue planet He has made in this unimaginably huge universe He has created. If you haven’t heard about it, check it out here. We were blessed here in this community to get this course here because someone in West Plains called Perspectives within a couple of days of another person in Willow Springs, about thirty miles away. If you want some encouragement and you want your perspective on God and His glory in this world changed for good, find someone who has taken it, talk to them and see about taking a course in your area.

John Zumwalt. This guy looks like, mm.. a hippie. I’m not much for knowing and liking the hippie type so I knew that this guy was going to challenge my preconceived notion that hippies are not in particularly good for anything. Then he said something that made me instantly like him. He was talking about his art degree, and he said, and this isn’t a direct quote, “I majored in oil painting and pot . . . I mean pottery.” Okay, so he’s funny. Lot’s of people are funny. What idea is this guy gonna feed me that will make me wake up out of my spiritual slumber? He shared with us the story of where he is now. He lives in a city near Oklahoma City called Valley Brook. He, well I believe it was his wife that opened up a coffee shop in this city. Apparently Valley Brook is a pretty dark corner of the capital of OK. It is full of strip clubs and meth homes and is bordered by a mountainous dump on one side and a sewer treatment plant on the other. At least that is how he describes it. But check out the Wiki page and do some digging to see if it is not true. The coffee shop is called Joe’s Addiction and they recently have gone through some trouble down there. Here is a link to an article and video regarding the issue. (Slight warning on slight language on the video.) The wife has a blog where she talks about this some. This is an obvious case of Satan attacking the light being revealed in a very dark place. Character is being attacked and they are doing some good down there. Sure the shop attracts people of questionable character, wasn’t that what Jesus did? My heart goes out to these people and their desire to share God with wherever they are. It was really an encouragement to me.

John spoke later about the kingdom of God and our thinking about it. So many of us are discouraged by what we see in the world but he only has seen the positive. We can be shut down by our discouragement. Go down into our own little comfort corner and wait for Christ.

“You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” ~Matthew 25:26-30

He spoke of the dark places in this world where there are not the feet of Christians expanding His kingdom, pulling people from their physical and spiritual slavery. Yes it is God who ultimately gets them out, but we are told to go. We are to obey. As I said in my previous post, we are the only seed that refuses to be scattered.

I rarely go up and speak to people who “seem” more important than I. I believe meeting me is not worth people’s time. In our bible study the other night I asked what does 1Thessalonians 5:12-13 look like. “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” I was reprimanded some, because it’s like, “duh?” but I don’t think I’ve ever really done that. I’ve been ignorant and/or lazy in a lot of aspects of my social/spiritual life. And I’d like to thank God for opening my eyes in lots of ways through John Zumwalt and working through the last few years to get me to hear these things as I really should have. It truly is time for change. For too many years I’ve wasted the gifts God has given me. Like I’ve told you as well, I have no idea what God has in store for me, or even if there is a move in store for me in the future, maybe here is where I am to be. But it will no longer be the same. Thank you John. I will pray for these people and all those who bring light to such dark places. Help me find the dark places here where Your light needs to shine.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinization: Tomorrow Needs to be Today

I am overwhelmed right now. Overwhelmed by what God has done and is right now, doing in my life. Everything is connecting and meshing in a way I had not expected several years ago. This is something I feel inadequate in expressing. I can be self-deprecating. I can make excuses that it is hard for me to connect with others. I can manipulate. I can be humorous like dry white wine with a lemon infusion. I can hide. I can forget about my hope. I can do many things. But, explaining my love, my fear, my hope and my total amazement at what is going on in what I have been learning.

I recently learned that there have been several people who have been secretly reading this blog and especially this segment. I don’t know if they like the expression of what I’ve learned, or perhaps seeing a teaching from a different point of view, or they like my writings(?), or something else, so writing this jumble of thoughts might not connect with the normal reader. I’m just going to summarize some of the specific things I have learned and my thoughts on what they mean to me right now.

Funnels. Spirals. Sunday’s sermon started with funnels. One stem up, one stem down. Two church views. One view: the majority of Christians enter the large part of the funnel, the church, and make smaller, core groups that in turn minister to the needy church. The result: the church remains self-focusing, relying on the committed to keep a tenuous hold on the Christian community that could disappear like smoke. Second view: a committed, smaller core of community believers are part of the church that goes out from the church into the world to minister, to witness, to spread the gospel. Sure, it doesn’t stand up on all three legs, but you get it right? The spirals were introduced in the second lesson of Perspectives and is a very similar idea. One view: church in the middle an arrow spiraling toward it, the idea is the church is relying on its attraction so people will come and know God because of the people. Second view: church in the middle arrow spiraling outward. Obvious conclusion this is optimal because we go. We go. Which is the whole point of what I am hearing in my ear and in my heart. As John Zumwalt said last night, we are the only seed that resists being scattered. He made motions of throwing said and said, “Go!” and looked at his hand like the seed stuck. “Go!” he called and threw again looking at his unscattered seed. How long have I been resisting the command to go? He also spoke of the sower piling all his seed up for acres of field in the corner. How long have I stayed in the comfort of my own little pile of seed? We are the seed. We are meant to be scattered. My wife and I have talked about that we have possibly made the first and hardest step of being scattered. That West Plains move was being pulled from the plant in preparation for a more difficult scattering. This is our preparation. We are understanding that we need to go. I don’t know where, I don’t know when. But this is the beginning, the beginning of understanding that for too long we have been complacent and, this is hard, not obeyed the Lord.

Listening to John Zumwalt last night I realized something at one point and I wrote it down. Here it is: “My resistance to feel is because I feel I’m being manipulated. I have to understand that God will not manipulate me, but that I will move when I hear/feel You.”

How often have I felt God moving me to compassion and just understood that this person is just manipulating me!? Do you understand what I’m saying here? Someone spoke and I begin to feel compassion, mercy, understanding and shut it down because I felt I was being manipulated! That is Satan, and I rebuke this feeling and pray that the Lord would breakthrough and tell me the mercy, compassion and understanding is from Him, like He did last night. He spoke of the young girls in Mumbai, and whose feet are going to go there and save them from the sex-slave life they are doomed to live. Earlier in the night a question was posed, has God laid on your heart a country or people group to begin to pray for. He hasn’t laid any specific people on my heart, but throughout the night, young people’s situations kept coming to my mind, even before his speaking about the girls in Mumbai. During the break I was speaking with a couple of guys about this and we were talking about how the Super Bowl is a dark spot in our country right now. This weekend represents the highest sex-trafficking in our country. Where is the outrage? The news media? We ignore what is going on in our own country and once in a while talk about those distant parts of the world, that we might react to, may give money, or some care and good thoughts go out. Children are being bought and sold around the world and in this country. I have this bitterness welling up in the back of my throat right now, and I didn’t expect to dwell on this so, but perhaps this is where God is leading me, no manipulation needed. Shed a tear for all the innocence Satan has stolen, destroyed and killed. When am I going to say it is time to STAND? What is going on in my own community? Children are growing up in broken homes, not knowing a kind, loving and genuine word all around us. It may be time to get up, get off my seat, move my feet and do what He says. This can’t be tomorrow anymore. How long has God been expecting me to move? To be scattered and show His love, glorify His name, turn around, share His kingdom now!

God get rid of my excuses. Thank You for showing me that it has been You all along. Give me Your compassion. Show me where to go. I have had these works waiting for me from the beginning. You have revealed my gift of relation to younger people for a long time. It’s time to go to the darker parts of this world and reflect Your light to hearts that need Your love, that need purpose. Thank You for giving me Your heart in this. That I have this opportunity to grow with your church, thank You. That I have the opportunity to have my perspective changed, thank You. Get rid of all my excuses. We went through all the worldly difficulties of transfer in this world to train in trust, in trust more in You. You can do anything that needs to happen to this uneducated man, whose heart is growing more and more to glorify You. This family needs your guidance. Help us to know where to go, to know what to say. Guide our feet, be our tongue. In You, in you I find my peace. In You, in you I find my strength. In You, I live and move and breath. Let everything I say and do be founded by my faith in you. I lift up holy hands and sing: Let the praises ring! Oh Lord my God to you I give my hands. Oh Lord my God to you I give my feet. Oh Lord my God to you I give my everything. Take all I am.
Oh Lord my God to you I give my life.

Thank You God. Thank You.

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