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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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Sunday Scrutinization: Thankfulness for Today’s Sermon

I usually don’t write about Christian living, Christian doctrine or any type of Bible study or prophecy per se, although it does involve itself in some ways in my writings, usually as something I’ve gained through my experiences as a side or end note. Anyway, there are so many others who do it so much better than I. This blog is dedicated to introspection, relationships, humor and pop-culture as it relates to the Christian experience more than anything, but I’d know there would be side trails as well.

First off, I’m am so glad of the change we have made recently to go back to the church we had visited several months back. It is a bit hard for our girls but for the most part, I believe in the long run, we’ve made the right choice. Already it seems, that we have found a niche for ourselves there. We have felt needed and we have needed them. I listen to our pastor and I am grateful that he does not fit the type described in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires,because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” This man, as he said last week, “is through playing around!” This congregation is facing many wonderful works of God and He is moving to us and through us: Praise Him! This is not to say our former pastor was the type from 2 Timothy, it was just on a different level. It was never beyond me, but apparently it was beyond some, as that is the reason the congregation has shrunk, so I’ve been told. However, it is much different here. It is smaller for one: as a good friend who goes there told me, “he has driven away the traditionalists,” which seems to be prevalent in the Bible belt congregations. It has made the majority, at least all I have met, very dedicated to the Lord and what He would have planned for us not only on an individual basis, but for the congregation as well. They are very dedicated to community but not in the way we have seen. You know what I mean, “Bring them to church on Sunday, and we’ll get them saved for ya!” No, this is not the way it’s done where we are now. I’m very excited to see what is going to go on in future days.

Joe, our pastor, has been going through Romans, and today we looked at how we, as Christians, are to look at the world; more specifically, our enemies. The verses we looked at were chapter 12:14-21:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

So first he gave us a list of opposites, and had us choose what side we believed we were on: uneducated/educated, moral/immoral, urban/rural, logical/emotional, internal/external, fit/unfit, pessimist/optimist, young/old, type a/type b, rich/poor, conservative/liberal. Then he had us think of three specific people or groups who were on the opposite side of us, who we have had some trouble with previously; who we might, perhaps, think of as our enemy.

He then spoke of how in the Old Testament it was “blessing for blessing, curse for curse, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Because that was God’s system of justice. But because justice was dealt with on the cross, once and for all, it’s now justice and mercy; equally balanced, perfect, because He is perfect. Now we are to bless those who persecute us and not curse. So different from what the world is all about. So, how do we know what that means. How do we know we are blessing those and not cursing. We find that out from these verses.

  1. Identify: We need to identify with those we see as enemies by rejoicing with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. What is our natural inclination when our enemies rejoice? We want what they have, we want to see them fail. And we rejoice when they do. This is an intentional choice we have to make. Knowing this is what God wants us to do, doesn’t make it easier, but on a day-by-day intentional choice, in prayer and being a living sacrifice to God, we can gain this attitude. Identifying with our enemy.
  2. Be Humble: We accomplish this by realizing we are all the same; that we are all human, all sinners all created and loved by the Lord. Keep your mind down, on the humble things, associate with the lowly, realizing that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Knowing that there is no one wiser than our God. Keep yourself of the mindset that He knows all sees all and has created every thing, through the power of His word. This keeps us of the mind we need to be. Humbled. We are not better or worse than anyone else, and we are all loved the same.
  3. Respond Instead of React: Again, this is an intentional, conscientious thing to keep at the forefront of our mind. We want to crush people when they hurt us, when they deal out… evil to us. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Remember that we need not look upon these “attacks” on us as necessarily personal, however much we want to, but keep in mind that the Lord wants us to grow and realizing that these temporary trials are for our own good and the evil we receive comes from the dark forces of the power of this age in this world at this time, and if we are humbled and in the word, we will be slower to react and quicker to listen to His small voice, giving us the time we need to keep the head God wants us to display: Christ. Remember the good things, and the good things are all from God. Amen!
  4. Bring Wholeness: “Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.'” It seems that this would follow naturally from the first three. We identify, we humble ourselves, we keep our head, then we keep peace. We know that whatever may befall us will be taken care of by Him who brought us to salvation. It has all been taken care of, and will be, and has been. Praise be to God! We have no reason to take it upon ourselves for He took it all, all to Him we owe. Blessed be the Rock of our salvation! This world needs no more conflict as you can mightily see. Bring peace, He calls us to, bring peace. Blessed are we who bring peace. Is not that motivation enough? Bring peace my brothers.

So, we have intentional decisions to make here. To follow all that we want, or to follow Him. Are you a fan, or are you a follower? It’s time to get out on the field. Do you want to go out on the attack? Well, great! Just do it in the right way. Do you walk away from a conflict inspired by evil? Aggressiveness forgets about the love of God, forgets the good. Passivity leads to enabling. We are called to take up our swords! We are called to be the light! There is a darkness overcoming this land. Overcome this with good. Overcome this with good. It may not be overcome in this world, in this whole, but in our hearts, in the place and position God have given us, good will overcome.

He ended up with reminding us that we need to absolutely, positively abhor evil. Do we do that? Can we really look at our lives and say we hate evil with all our being? Absolutely HATE it? For those of us with children we can love them more. The more we love our children, the more we hate evil. Is it not true? I see that. The times I have a tendency to give in to my sin, I am mentally far away from my wife, my children. The love is gone, the sadness comes, I give in to sin. Love. Show God’s love to those close to you and evil will be far from you. God is love, and He has overcome.

I praise You, I praise You, my Lord and my God.

~Stranger

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