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Sunday Scrutinizations: Environmental Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Stranger

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The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Today was a completely fantastic day! God is at work in West Plains and especially through the fellowship of Township Line. I still am amazed and thrilled that He brought me into this group to see Him grow bigger and more incredible with every week. And this weekend has just begun.

Thursday we went to the West Plains Motel to hand out some flyers announcing our meeting at the park on Sunday night. The motel is almost all low-income residents and many of them need a little hope in their lives. Our family was the only ones going around and we decided that it might be prudent to ask the office if it was okay to knock on doors and hand out flyers. The lady at the desk didn’t give us approval as she wasn’t the owner, and I was able to leave some in the office. We walked around and talked to some people outside their rooms and told them about our gathering. (If you didn’t know, Township Line is gathering in several different places around the community this summer for meal and services, to get to know people and stretch out our leadership/relational skills.) Many people’s responses were positive and I hope many can come and see a people blessed and sharing the blessing of love and grace He has given us.

Today was another adventure with this group: A woman in our fellowship wanted to have block parties in differing places where some of the members live and serve and present the gospel to children. This was the first morning she had it and it was at her house. She was nervous about getting everything together and that kids would even come. There were a few kids that came and a little late at that. But she needn’t worry as God is at work in His people and what took place honored God and I believe got some of the kids thinking.

The puppet group was invited to do a song and skit that was supposed to be the majority of presentation of the gospel. The puppet group we were involved in at our former gathering, sort of dissolved after the leaders of the team started going to Township Line. (God has seasons in mind not only for His people, but also for those gathering in His name. I have no ill will towards the former fellowship we gathered with, it was just time for us to move on. I’ve never considered it a severed relationship, just a different one. I still love and see many of them and hope for growth and love to grow there.) So we have a few puppets and a new stage was built, so this was the trial run. It was a lot of fun as my wife and two youngest daughters helped out for a song. (My oldest, who started out in the puppet group with me, was taking the ACT, so she wasn’t able to make it.) My wife and I had a skit planned where she stood out front and interacted with a puppet in talking about “Whosoever” shall be saved. Well, since we had such a late start, my wife had to go pick up our oldest from The Test at the time we were going to do the skit. We had a back up plan of one of the guys replacing her. He stood in and was great. He did some ad-libbing; of which my wife was adverse too, and did a great job talking to the kids at the end.

Tonight we had a community dinner that we provide once every few months or so, that people from all over come and enjoy a free meal, and we get to meet them and find out what is going on in their lives. We got there a bit early and people were working and trying to get things prepared. Some kids were underfoot and I proposed to give them all a little walk before people started showing up. Walking down the block, we heard some loud shouting and raucous behavior down a blind alley. Three very tall, shirtless college basketball players came out and I put myself between the kids and these “boys”. As they were past us, I called to them, “Are you guys hungry?” They turned and looked at me and hesitated, then answered the obvious, “Yeah.” I told them we’re having a free meal of steak and hamburgers just down the street and they were invited to come. They said okay, but I wasn’t sure if they’d show. They did show up and brought one of their friends with them. It was great. I got all their name, although I don’t remember any of them, and found out one was from Dayton, another Pittsburgh, and another Atlanta. I wasn’t able to talk to the other one, but I find it incredible when I find out where people came from and then find themselves in little ‘ole West Plains. Some of the other guys from our group got to talk to them and it was wonderful that they came. At the time of their leaving, (with bowls of fruit cobbler and ice cream in their hands), one of them gave me a hug. It was incredible and I’m tearing up now as I type thinking about what a blessing it is to be blessed by someone you don’t even know, nay barely let them pass by as God used my voice to call out an invitation to them. What fun! I met lots of regulars who come to these community dinners and many new faces. This is such a great opportunity to meet people. There was an announcement about tomorrow’s services and some woman I was talking to asked me what denomination we were. I told her we were non-denominational and that we believe in the bible and that Jesus is our savior and died for us and we don’t have to do anything but accept His gift of mercy and forgiveness to be with Him forever, but that doesn’t mean we can do what we want, our lives should reflect the thankfulness we have and shared with those in the community and that is why we have these dinners. She was smiling and very interested, then told me she was a Catholic. I told her a little bit of my background, growing up Catholic in SLC. I told her she should come tomorrow and she said she would hope to.

God is so good. I’m reeling with joy. My cup overflows. I am so thrilled to be part of this work and I am continually praying for His Spirit to move in and through His people here in West Plains. I have shared with some of those in our former group about this summer movement and invited them. Many are enthusiastic and say they will come, some worry that it will look bad to gather with those not of their group. I praise God that one day all division will be wiped away and we can come to Him under His banner and praise His Name forever and always. Amen. And please continue to pray for this time, thank you.

Even in this dark time when there is so much uncertainty, and I watch the news and feel depressed and distressed, I know God is at work in the little things, the small bits, and it grows and grows. Thank you God.

~Stranger

(Author’s Note: I won’t be writing Sunday Scrutinizations for the summer because in addition to my flyer/dissemination leadership duties, I will also be with the kids during the actual sermon time, but I will be writing about what is going on and hopefully interview the people in leadership in this movement.)

One Year of Stranger in Rebellion on wordpress

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Stranger

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

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