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“Turn and Face the Strange… Ch, Ch, Changes”

In this episode of Stranger in Rebellion, congratulations and good wishes and hope for the future of our family are in order. Things sometimes move rather quickly around here, but then again, stop rather suddenly, and it can be quite the roller coaster ride if your orbit circles the center that is our mass. If you want to find out quickly what the congratulations are all about skip ahead to the bottom at, “Final Verdict,” but be warned that what happens between here and there is my true heart and reveals to you my philosophy that I have gained here in West Plains regarding truly knowing who people are…

Over the last couple of weeks I was surprised to find a company that really pushed towards gaining me as an employee, so much so that they flew me out to Denver to interview me. More surprising was many of the reactions from our friends here in West Plains. (Actually they have become more of a family than anything else.) When announcing our transition from Salt Lake City to West Plains almost 5 years ago, there was a resigned sigh from our church family. What I mean in that, is that people accepted what we told them and, perhaps regretted that it was so, but didn’t really fight the idea that we had made. Looking back now maybe they did see the Lord’s hand in it all, and didn’t feel compelled to question our motives. I know that the whole AWANA team and the kids that were a part of it, felt bad about the whole thing, but the only real question about it all was an older boy who came up to me and said with disdain in his voice, “Okay now, where are you going and why?!” That was the biggest regret in leaving Salt Lake; those kids I knew and loved… and left behind. Sure, they’re all doing fine and dandy without me, but just the fact that I’m not in their lives now just leaves me empty somehow.

When we told some friends here in West Plains, there were a lot of questions, a lot of statements about how they felt, and a lot of reminders about how much we should be praying. The last one was like, “Duh! How can we not pray?” Prayer was constantly, continuously, perpetually, uniformly, and weightily a part of the last week’s activities. To me, it was like telling me I possibly couldn’t understand what God was trying to say, so you better listen to us. I thought that if we did stay, that particular relationship would not be the same, but in talking a bit more to them I believe part of what was happening was shock at such a surprise announcement. I apologized and told them that I should have been more forthright and let them know we have been semi-seriously looking at a transition. I didn’t realize how soon such a great opportunity would come up. I should have explained more about our belief in West Plains as temporary.

One of the most compelling things I heard in this time from a friend was, “If this move is God’s will then great, but if we believe that it isn’t God’s will then we will do everything to stop you.” I mean, what? Really? You’re going to do everything you can to stop us? I was at first a little disturbed by this; how can someone hear more from God about what is best for us, than us? Then it became more and more comforting, knowing that if someone apart from the issue sees it different or hears or knows something that we can’t or won’t, that force might become necessary in the convincing of God’s will. I’m not talking him knocking me out, tying me up and putting me under bright lights until I see the truth, but I guess it would be strong, steady persuasion. I guess at this point I’m glad I am truly convinced of God’s will in all this at this point and can share it with them, and you now.

God’s will. It can be sometimes difficult to discern. This job for example: it just happened all so… perfectly. You remember me writing about how I needed to get my resume in order and getting it out there, well as soon as I did this, I applied, was contacted and she forgone the second interview so that I could fly out for a better view of it all. I was training up in St. Louis for the week she wanted me to come out and I told her I could fly out after training was over. Getting to an appropriate airport is difficult here, but being in St. Louis at the time? How… God’s Will like. I found out that my true spiritual mother and father were going to actually be in Denver when I was there. You see, we have family in Denver and my true spiritual mother and father, (Aunt and Uncle), live in Yankton, SD right now and just happened to meet back up in Denver after she spent 2 weeks in Salt Lake City watching some of her grandkids. Before the interview I found out we were flying out on the same plane! I wanted them to do the early check in, since I was going to be at the interview, and we saw the connection. My interviewer asked me when I wanted to fly back and I gave her several options, and she just happened to pick the same flight they were on!? It was a too much of a coincidence, too much of a sign.

Another friend asked me what this decision had to do with Perspectives. You may recall we had the opportunity to take this class last year. It was a wonderful time of learning and seeing God’s work and will in the world. We gained a more global perspective and the attitude to move anywhere He would have us go. I said that since Denver was so big that it would have a cultural opportunity to serve Him in many ways. I didn’t do much research on the fact, but I can figure it to be true, right? God is at work everywhere and anywhere. It seems like a great place to be, if truly God wanted us there.

The other thing I was told by the same man who said they would stop us, was that it is a good thing that you are going. Because in the going, you can hear God better. This was told him by his brother when he was told to visit colleges. Paul was stopped when he was going in a direction he desired or believe he was led to go, and turned in another direction. It was a good thing that I go. A good thing that I go. But this company spent around $700 dollars for me to go, that is quite the engagement ring, per se. Committing to a fly-out is serious business. What if I really, truly believed God was stopping us?

The other thing is my family. Being in Denver is only a slight day drive from Salt Lake. I very much so worry about something drastic occurring in SLC that needs my immediate attention or even my whole family’s. It is just a slight jaunt up and over the mountains to get there. Coordinating an immediate geographical change from West Plains to SLC would be overwhelmingly expensive. It ain’t gonna happen without some generous horizontal funding.

Final Verdict: Everything seemed to be screaming, “Move!” but in walking out of the interview and sitting in front of the shop until my ride came, God was slowly and reassuringly convincing me that this move was not His will. He wanted to show me that even in the midst of everything seemingly being a sign, that the sign in itself is not always what is revealing His will. I called my wife and told her my initial belief, but I had to see her face-to-face and talk before we could be certain. I have a long letter to write to the company regarding my decision, for in this decision I believe I have something to share with them in order for them to make a better decision in whom to hire. I haven’t even received an offer yet, but I know what my, no, our, no, God’s decision is. He showed me that what I was committing to there would not be Him, but would be a company. He showed me that what He has prepared me for all my life was not to be completely turned over and changed to suit a need and desire for myself and more so even my family in the immediate. I’ve made more of a commitment to Him over the last few years that I ever realized could be ten years ago, when I would have taken this job, no questions asked. The people in my life here have made me appreciate so much, I love them all and am more committed than ever to involve myself and my family in what God is doing here through His church and through us. That is not to say I won’t stop looking at opportunities in other geographical locations, but the examinations will now be more solid, more in line to understanding a greater need and purpose therein, and that is His ultimate will, is it not? Yes, I know we have disappointed many a family member, but it is not the end of all hope. Congratulations are in order because we heard what was to be. The future is and always will still be bright because He is there, He is here and He is.

~Stranger

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Strange Confessions: The Performance Record of Choice

Strange Confessions: I am petrified that I am being forced into a position to make another wrong choice in my life, as well as the fact that I think it might be God working in me for another major transition ahead.

Since I’ve been a Christian there have been some decisions in my life regarding a major purchase or job change or how we raise our children that I attempted to listen to what God would want me to do, but ended up feeling the pressure of a deadline or dissatisfaction or I just plain didn’t have the patience to wait for a clear picture. So I found myself in many peculiar positions of getting what I thought I wanted, yet it turned out to somehow be a cosmic joke played on me with added strain added to reveal the impertinence of my actions. I won’t go into it all now, because A: I’m not sure if I’ve already told you about some of these situations I’ve put myself in, and number 2: the stories behind these decisions is not the point.

My point is that these last two sermons I have absorbed these past two weeks have revealed in me the perilous point I now find myself in. I did not write at all week last week because of a funk I’ve been under. Let me just say it outright: I’ve been selfishly depressed.

The Perspectives course I have been taking, which started out grand, has rusted the gears in my mind because of the view I hold of myself. Who am I, that I could possibly begin a journey that would lead myself and my family to a point of excitedly getting to experience a culture that would be both a challenge and a blessing, to share our lives with people outside of the framework of our own wearisome culture? That is my thoughts my friends. Yes, don’t start convincing me of the argument that God uses the weak and the foolish and the blind, for I know all that. It is my Performance Record that gets in the way.

Work has been the other great “sign” or “challenge” or “prompt” that has given me the idea that things are pushing me to another change. Yet is it just me being more and more dissatisfied with work that I want to leave or quit or even get fired just so I have an excuse that it really was God pushing me? I really do believe that the way things are going at work, things are going to quickly come to a head and a decision is going to have to be made about what are we going to do next. Then I look at my Performance Record, and I see that maybe things aren’t as light at the end of the tunnel as they seem.

My 16-year-old daughter has been driving more and more lately, and she is very unsettled in the way it is so difficult in planning for her to work some, earning extra money for the college degree she is planning on and we have outright told her there is nothing for her from us in that regard. I failed out of the high school all my family went to, lost the grant I had in college due to selfishly staring at my navel through the drug-induced haze pouring through my mouth, couldn’t do well enough at the community college to strive and push myself into the betterment of who I always thought I could be. Then I jump from job to job, not climbing any corporate ladder I always convinced myself wasn’t for me and find myself in a managerial/design position I knew was a home run, but is drowning in the excess of poor communication and a series of managers not close enough to delve into the whys and hows of the complexities I have tried to convince them of, but find that every issue I bring up is my fault and my problem to handle, because after all, didn’t I take a class for that? I want to provide to my children the means to succeed if not the funds, but it seems that the mists of my poor Performance Record is finally catching up with me, and is convincing me that it is too late to do anything about it.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the sermon recently had something to do with a performance record of sorts. We have gotten into a series on Galatians, and last week was about the “Reversed” gospel. There were people going to the territory of Galatia convincing the new Christians that there were things they had to do to earn God’s favor. There were 4 points or acid tests that summed up the focus of the sermon, things that we had to take and see if they were true in our lives, to see if we were following a “reversed” gospel:

  1. Fear of man: Who am I trying to impress? Where do I gain my approval, acceptance and security from?
  2. Internal Power: God called you. Are you forgetting that when God speaks, action follows? Whose power are you relying on?
  3. Illumination: Do you truly understand what the gospel is? Where are you gaining your understanding?
  4. Relationship: Are you delving deeper into a relationship with the one who saved you, or abandoning it because it is a duty to serve Him, and not a delight?

When he spoke about who I am trying to impress or gain approval, acceptance, security from, I thought I don’t care about what other people think about me… but that isn’t true. I either want people to know me better from reading what I write and approving of it or, I dismiss them altogether if there is any semblance of rejection. I realize that even as people gain what they need from other men, avoiding them so that you don’t have to face rejection is another way of saying you thirst for man’s approval and not God. Sometimes it is even the case when you feel superior and reject all others as dumb or uneducated or filthy, that you might not be giving people the opportunity to reject you, and thus, you respect the opinion of man… in a roundabout subconscious sort of way.

My Performance Record is terrible in this instance.

And thus, we come to it. Yesterday’s sermon also had 4 points. We looked at the question of how do we really know if we’ve been converted. The four points in this instance were:

  1. Performance Record: Are you concerned more with what you are doing than who you are?
  2. View of God: Are we putting our idea of who God is and putting against what we see in the Bible, or are we accepting the change of view in revelation of Him. If God is a god we have created in our hearts than that god cannot change who we fundamentally are. We will always struggle with our “mistakes” rather than our sins. Paul understood that God would never become a man, that God would never cease the sacrificial system. When Jesus came to Paul, he asked the question that held it all for him, “Who are you Lord?”
  3. Relationship with Christ: There is no try in Christianity, there is just be one. Our failures don’t make us who we are, our relationship with the one who declared, “it is FINISHED” makes us who we are, and we should start behaving like we believe it is done instead of always trying to please Him.
  4. Who gets the glory? Are you taking the credit for what God has done in your life? It is the man who understands the Weight of His Glory who has been converted.

Understanding the concept of the Performance Record really resonated with me.

Our entire society is based around the concept of what we’ve done, and we believe it is the same with God. God reveals our performance record in the sermon on the mount. Have we killed anyone? No. But have you hated or gossiped about someone? Have you committed adultery? No. But those who have looked upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. And it is about our heart, right? Not our actions. All of us have sinned and there is that chasm that separates us from Him. I look at the performance record of my life and it is the failures that are glaringly obvious. It overshadows all. Light should light up the darkness, but the darkness of failure seeps in like an oily smoke, distorting the view of all the successes, the things that should be my focus. Oh, what a terrible, tortuous thing it is to compare ourselves with others. To see friends and family going past me, the weight of failure keeping my eyes downcast, only seeing the shadows that could have been. I need a Scrooge or a George Bailey moment to see the light… no, I need a God moment everyday. I need a wonderful wife moment, a beautiful children moment, an incredible fellowship group moment, a home with a roof moment. Woe to the weeds of life that are so tall and out-of-place that the eye is drawn there, and this change that is just over the horizon makes my sorrowful performance record give weight to all the doubt, fear, hatred, dismay, discouragement and failure that is the past.

LORD, take this weight from me. Work in my life and through your word and through your people to renew the hope I know is just under the surface, waiting to sprout again. Bring about the reminder of a life that is eternal with You right now. The weight of weariness I see in the world everyday is not reflecting your glory, it is the beauty life in your people who I need to reflect on. The thoughtfulness of my wife, the joy of my children, the concern of a friend. You are in them all, reflecting the things I need to see. I know this weight is a lie. You are the truth, You are the Way, You lead me to comfort and peace. I take over and lead to failure and sorrow and You stand apart, waiting for me to look up into Your face. I love You for showing this truth to me in the way You have given me. Thank You for Your Spirit, alive and living in me. Show me Your way, that I may walk with You, and be where You are, no matter where that is. Thank You God, Thank You!

Sunday Scrutinizations: Continuing in the Flow

I have not written on here for a while because of the reading demands of the Perspectives course I am taking as well as taking in some of the Olympics going on over in Sochi, Russia. I need to not be off here for so long next time, because there is so much that is happening in my life and this is my only outlet for figuring things out. I know I’m dependent on my writing because this morning was sharing time at church, and as soon as it was announced I knew I was being required by God to speak, and my communication was sadly lacking in cohesion.

These last two years have been the biggest time of growth for me and my wife. God has changed my perspective on what the Church is, on what a Christian looks like, who I am in relation to these and that I don’t have to hold those standards to others that God has called me to. The preparation for me to realize these things have been our move to West Plains, in essence our breaking away from what I held as a great source of security, some very difficult trials in relationships with other Christians, and finding some other deeply committed Christians who have such depth and diverse backgrounds, that I have really been able to trust. The love I have for my wife and realization that we are growing together in this journey has made me even more faithful and trusting in Him.

This and so much more is what I wanted to share this morning. I was so discombobulated about talking freely, and worried that I would ramble on that I don’t even remember what I said, not sure I made my point, and just cut myself short because I couldn’t focus. Enough about me though, I want to talk about what someone else said and our conversation afterwards.

A single mother got up and talked about how disconnected she feels with everyone because she feels like she has no mission God is calling her to and that her kids are important to her yet she feels like she is even failing in that. Her kids go to public school and most others are in a Christian school or are home-schooled. It seems that all the things of her life that defined her were the opposite of what was going on in any number of people within the congregation. She said that she never determined her life to be a circle of perfect Christian people but that is what is going on now and it seemed that she was very discouraged by that.

I could understand fully what she was saying. I mean, it was only the previous week that I didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone at that church. It wasn’t anything anyone did, it’s just me. I feel so disconnected sometimes, that no one knows me, that they are only talking to me because they have to, that the things they talk about are not important, too cerebral, or they don’t really care about my opinion nor do I want to anyway. If people cared they would read my blog, comment and like it; which most people don’t anyway. But again, that is just me. People are normal, I, am particularly… not. Or at least I like to think that I am. We reach an age, say about 14 or so, where things get bogged down in some sort of particular personality politics that wearies me. I have things going on in my mind that I dwell on and contemplate that others just don’t want to deal with, either because it is too immature, too weird, too depressing or just too deep. I’ve had conversations with people in the past where I’ve hit nerves. Not the kind that are like, “Hey! That hurt,” but more like, “Hmm… we’ll talk about that some other time. I’ll call you,” and they never do. It didn’t connect with them. But with kids, or some very close friends, getting together is like continuing the flow. It’s like getting into a familiar river, a bit cool to get you excited and the flow is how you remember it, and it is so nice to be in it, letting it take you away.

I went up to this woman afterward and told her I knew exactly how she felt. She has come up to me before and told me she is generally a man-disliker, but she felt different about me. I don’t know why she felt this way, but she did. I usually give off the “you don’t want to know me” vibe to people and I am not used to people saying they liked me right off. Her reaction to my empathy was one of confusion: “Why? How is it you don’t get along or connect with these people?” She figured I was married, had home-schooled children, perhaps I look like I got things together(?), why didn’t I connect? To me basically it did come down to trust, but why can’t I hold a conversation like everyone else does?

A few weeks back I wrote that I believed it was Satan or demons that told me to be wary of people trying to manipulate me. Manipulating me into doing God’s work? Really. That is what I believed. I believed that if my heart was strangely moved by a presentation, I started hardening it, because I convinced myself that I was just being manipulated. This had gone on since I became a Christian. The things we believe that make us not do His work are unlimited. We can convince ourselves of anything in order not to do His work or do something that is against His will. Wide is the gate and many are the paths we take away from the Lord.

With tears welling in her eyes she told me she was a failure as a parent. She had resigned it. Just as I had resigned that people are just manipulative. It was from Satan, and so is what this woman was telling me. But could I say that to her without sounding like I’m a recording in a box? “That is from Satan. That is from Satan.” over and over again. Maybe she has heard that before and has convinced herself that when people say that it is an excuse that you are the failure, and brings it back upon self, and continues the cycle. We just don’t know these things until we know people.

I find it hard to get to know people who just so happen to go to the same building week after week, forced into a situation of facing me yet again, until that guilt builds up to say, “Hey, next week I’ll be sitting at your table,” as they leave. You don’t really want to sit at my table so don’t feel so freaking guilty to tell me that is what you plan on doing, meet me where I am: where ever that might be (I say in a small squeaky voice because I don’t really know where that is really). In so she may find it hard to know people because everyone else has a “successful” marriage, has “Christ-filled” kids. They don’t have time for little-Miss failed marriage and now failed kids. Both our ideas are from the darkest pits of hell! I’ve heard this stupid little trite saying before about how today is a gift that is why we call it the “Present”, but it makes a whole lot of sense. I can go on thinking that you don’t know me and you sure don’t want to know me, or I can wake up and say that not all people are like they were in the past and darn it some of them might actually like you if you give them a chance, so stop being so suspicious all the time and talk to them for crying in the mud. And, my friend can say that every day is a new day to just do the best I can with what I have been given, with where circumstances have brought me, and I am going to forget what I am trying to convince myself and realize that every day is a new day, a new chance to do just a little better, to know God just a little better, to hug my kids just a little more, to be vulnerable just enough so that it will stop building up and take over when I want it to the least. Everyday is a gift to do more. We don’t have to be miracle workers, that is what God is for, we just have to follow Him where He leads. He is not leading me to be more suspicious and He is definitely not leading my friend to convince her that she is a failure. I rebuke that now! My Christian brothers and sisters are not out to betray me or hurt me or leave me or ignore me, even though it may seem like it, they are just living their lives the best they can in the circumstances God has put them in.

It all comes down to relationship. God has made us in His image and one of those aspects is relationship. With sin in the world we began blaming each other for our own faults and still do today. I pray that as Your Church grows that we can become vulnerable and encouraging as You meant us to be. I pray that Your name would be glorified in our failures and our successes. I pray that we would seek Your unity and forget about the things the make us different that would divide us.

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.

Sunday Scrutinization: Sobering Sermon

What I have been learning lately has been very sobering to me. When the pastor said this was going to be a sobering sermon today, I was like, “I can handle this, bring it.”

The last two years have been quite the journey for my wife and I. For myself I have been learning more about what the church is, what we should be striving to, in a more general way. I wrote some stuff on that one site in the process and got some concerned citizens, who normally wouldn’t say “boo” to me if I had the hiccups, ask me if I was okay. Just the journey I’m on my brother, just the journey. Last year was all about discovering my legalistic tendencies and the blame shifting from others to myself laid slit open and bleeding on the carpet. God revealed these things to me in the way only I could see: slow process, writing, and great friends. I learned to look at other Christians and not think that they’re doing it all wrong. My wife and I together have learned about relationships. Specifically how hard it is for us to keep, repair and most importantly build them. Tonight some people from church called us and asked if we wanted to come over. My initial reaction was, “No.” I mean seriously, I was in my “give-up” pants and everything. You just don’t call a man and expect him to change pants and come over. My wife reminded me that if we are to be able to build relationships, we have to be able to change out of our “give-up” pants once in a while.

This year we’re hitting it right off the bat. We’ve started last week on the Perspectives course. How thankful we are to have this opportunity in little old West Plains, and it seems that this is going to be the year of seeing how the Church should look like within our own selves. I feel like something is starting to rise over the horizon. That there is change a-comin’. I don’t know where from and I certainly don’t know what, but I am getting quite unsettled in my own personal… person I’d guess you’d say. The difficulty here is that I am so dissatisfied at my work. I think to myself, “Why would God use me in something big, when I can’t even content myself with the job I have?” I’ve always been the type that believes you succeed where you’re put then you’re given better. At least from God’s perspective. I changed jobs on my own often enough to try and be contented that I know God is just shaking His head at my futile attempts at self satisfaction. But then I also think, “What about the house? My kids? My desire to be in Utah again?” It’s like I’m building up excuses before anything real happens. I believe that if God calls me and my family somewhere there will be this line up of excuses as to why I can’t go, just like before we moved here.

In the Perspectives course we see that there is a blessing to be shared so that the nations, every tribe, every tongue, will share in that blessing, and it didn’t start in the New Testament, but with Genesis 12:1-3. Today’s sermon was about how God is a sending God. I’m just going to throw the verses out there he used first:

So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” ~Isaiah 6:5-8

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” ~Isaiah 61:1-3

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them,“Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” ~John 20:11-23

God is a sending God. The verses in Isaiah are obvious, but it is the verses from John that were the focus. I’ll make this brief, because I know you’re growing weary of the amount of words, and I’m starting to sound like this is going to be a downer.

The first mission Jesus sent someone on after His resurrection was Mary. She was to go and tell the disciples what she had heard. Was she successful? Of course she was. We read in another account that they don’t believe her. Just because the disciples didn’t believe did not make Mary’s mission a failure. When Jesus did show up, in a locked room full of fearful men I might add, He said peace to you, or Shalom, or more specifically “God intended it”. The disciples are afraid, locked up in their room, thinking that the last 3 years were a waste, when Jesus shows up, being killed a few days ago, and tells them all is how it was intended to be. He was showing them His hands and His side and said again, peace be to you. Then tells them as it was for Him, so it will be for them. Then He breathed on them. God’s breath brings life.

What does this mean for you? For me? To work our life just so we can upkeep our possessions? To stay where we our because of our good job? Our good home? Will I think I’m too old and untrained? Will I believe the lie that I’ve never succeeded in anything in my life so why should it start now?

Should debt stop us? Should the threat of a parent or grandparent, that it won’t happen to my children? Should we not go because we feel like we’d fail? What have we done lately to truly OBEY the Lord?

What have I done? Will I be ready? If I am called and if I am ready, will I be willing to bear through the barriers that will be thrown up to block the way? Will I recognize it all as what He intends for me? Are these all just in preparation for the excuses?

Dear God, Help me to serve you. Help me to breakthrough all barriers that would come in front of me. Help me to see the Truth. To see the Truth that would shatter the lies. Give me and my family strength to trust You. To know You enough that we would recognize Your voice when we hear it. You said we would know Your voice, let us not follow the lie. Help us to see people as you see them: in deep need of a savior, in deep need of relationship with the God of the universe. Help us to keep our appointments with learning more about You. Give us strength when we don’t want to do it anymore. Give us strength when we feel all alone. You are the creator and sustainer of all things. Sustain us through these times of growth, of challenge, of change Lord. You are my God and I will ever praise You.

Mitch Teemley

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