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Why Should It Be? You and I Should Get Along So Awfully

Question 10, inspired by this article.

Amherst College: “Sartre said, ‘Hell is other people,’ but Streisand sang, ‘People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world.’ With whom do you agree and why?”

Ah! Well done Amherst College, well done. Use your questions to discover our stance on two of the most outstanding politically left philosophical, as well as artistic minds of the last century and their seemingly contradictory “statements.”

Let’s start with what Sartre said and why: “Hell is other people,” was a line in Sartre’s play “No Exit.” It is a play about three people who have been condemned to Hell. This Hell that they are in is a room, with no exit… forever. These people only see themselves by how others see them. In the case of only being able to understand yourself from how others may see you, is perhaps the Hell that Sartre envisioned. Sartre himself probably did not “hate” people as may be suggested by the question posed, because of what you are trying to contrast, but may have in fact hated the idea that what people see, by our actions or words, is what they judge us to in fact be. There is so much more to us than our actions or words. We are made up by our history, by our thoughts, by the way we interpret the world, its people and it’s culture. We all have come to conclusions about who we are by everything we have observed and decided how we see these things. How shallow, in fact, what a Hell it would be to live and be judged by people who don’t really know all these things you have seen and how that has made who we are now. You cannot understand from these statements that I believe we all have excuses for our behavior, for we should come to the conclusion that we should not act on every impulse, but be able to control ourselves, that is true humanity, true relationship. If it wasn’t, we’d be all going around killing each other, and stealing, and demanding, and destroying; for there are some philosophies that espouse the notion of doing what thou wilt. Anyway, Sartre does not believe that people are the poison that makes our life Hell, it is just Hell when we don’t know each other; a thought I say “cheers” to, and raise my glass high!

Now, on to what Barbara Streisand “said.” The statement here is from the song “People” from the musical “Funny Girl.” The musical is based on the life of a comedienne from the Ziegfeld Follies days and her turbulent romance with a gambler. Now, I haven’t seen the play “No Exit” or the musical “Funny Girl” so I am surmising a bit about what each of these quotes might mean in the context of a small amount of research I did on the two. What I see from the time this song is sung and the lyrics therein, is it is kind of sad song about how as adults we have lost our childlike ease of entering into a relationship, and that we get to a point of either admitting we don’t need anyone or we have an unhealthy co-dependency towards anyone who shows any interest towards us. Consider this lyric: “We’re children, needing other children / And yet letting a grown-up pride / Hide all the need inside / Acting more like children than children”. The song is filled with regret about how we betray each other, how we don’t really understand that we do need each other, and how lucky those people are who have that knowledge. Those people who have a healthy need for others are finding those of the same need. How horrible it is to have an unhealthy need that you go to those who hurt us the most. It is much like a Hell that we have developed around ourselves, because of those we attract.

You ask me who I agree with and why, when each of these statements are, at the core, almost saying the same thing. Superficially though, I would agree with both. Dealing with people sometimes is like Hell, if Hell were a temporary situation, but it is not. We have to have patience and love for those we deal with, because we never know what they have been through. I have a really hard time with people who are going way under the speed limit in front of me, or those who come up way fast behind me and stay there, on my bumper. However, I do not know their situation. Maybe they just lost their husband, or are hurrying to that meeting they have hoped for in the last 5 years. We never truly know each other at the core of our being. What made us do those things that may so drive others insane? Have patience. Have compassion. Have control. We are not an island dealing with self and self alone, but we do have to deal with how we react to situations. Many people choose not to know why others do the things they do, they just want to stay angry. I know there is differences in our beliefs, but do you just believe by tradition or have you worked out things in your own mind? Have you closed your mind on something solid, or are you still open to what others may say?

You people at Amherst College, have you done your best to understand why others believe the way they do, or do you never give the opposing viewpoint an opportunity to voice their experience? I would hope that as a college considering someone whose view is Christian and conservative, would not reject me outright because I’ve come to my conclusions through the experience of the life I have led. I understand your possible progressiveness. I would see to it that I sought out to understand of all my classmates, professors, and faculty by hearing about who you are and how that came to be, and that you would give me and those of similar ideologies equal opportunity. Let us not break down the structure we have built our “Universities” around; the one from many. You have asked a question that revolves around people and our relationship with all, give all the chance to learn, from all.

~Stranger

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Disillusioned: My “Final” Say on Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinizations: Believing the Lie That Being Liked is More Important Than Being Loved

How are we to function as a church body?

Continuing in the series regarding the relationship of believers to each other we read the whole of chapter 4 of Ephesians. I noticed the amount of times one was referred to. It spoke of one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. I also read about unity. Unity has been the subject of much what I have written about lately, although I may have not used the word. Let’s go back a bit in Ephesians and look at a couple of verses:

“in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” 2:22

“to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” 3:10

These verses tell us we are being “built together” and that we would know the manifold wisdom of God. This is all done in unity. This cannot be done in isolation. Together we walk worthy of the calling. We put God on display through our humility, our gentleness, our patience, and our love; for each other. We should see our relationship with each other in the church as a marriage. It should be the ultimate difficulty to break fellowship with other Christians.

Recently I and my family left the church we have been going to since we moved here. I never intended it as a “divorce” from the fellowship, in fact, we are still involved with a food ministry, the puppet ministry and my daughter involved with the Bible drill at the former church. I let the Senior Pastor know of our decision and many others as well. Although sometimes we run into people who haven’t seen us in awhile and demonstrate concern that we are not going to church. We assure them we have found a good home church and a great fit for us now, in this season of life, but it seems that they are overly concerned about our spiritual health, which is a good thing, but too connected with where they may be. It is a very hard decision to participate in another fellowship, we never want to hurt anyone, but we have to make the best choice for our family and most specifically the spiritual head of the house. I wanted to say all this as introduction to what is to continue in the look we had at Ephesians 4, with a few verses specified.

To each one of us grace is given (v. 4). What are some of the other gifts that God has given us? Each other. See verse 11, it talks about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We commonly see this as particularly personal, but I have never imagined it as the person given to us by God. They are gifts to us; the Church. I needed to be shown this as God has given this to us and to be very thankful to Him. Of course, what are they for? Verse 12, it seems again, I never saw it in the way presented. They are given to the Church for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry and edifying the body of Christ. Now we have to ask ourselves, When was the last time I built up the body? I am many times wondering where are the people who know me enough to build me up, without thinking about the gifts I have been given and how I have been using them to fulfill God’s purpose to become more and more like Him. Verse 14 shows us what it will be like when we are bound together as God intended: that we should not be children, tossed about by every wind of doctrine. There are still many children in the church today and I believe that is one aspect of where God has grown my concern. God is everything. God is Truth. God is supernatural. God is my all in all. He gives me hope. He gives me purpose and meaning. When I see someone who is a Sunday only Christian, I have my concerns for them. But it seems as though they are the hardest to reach. Something else may be filling their hope and purpose and meaning. What does God really mean to them? I should know them and love them, and hopefully, someday be able to teach and edify them, but I know that ultimately it is God who changes people. I have my love and concern and purpose though. I want to see that the deceived see truth, that the children reach maturity. I know I am not perfect and would hope that someone loves me enough to say what I need to hear, so that I don’t remain a child or deceived, however the case may be. We need to speak truth into others lives, but we need to know truth.

So, we come to it: How are we going to get there?

  1. Press into the family. We have to know them and we have to allow others to know us (ouch!). I’m so good at letting out who I am on here, but it is very difficult for me to live out what and how I write. I don’t mind if people read this and I so hope they do, but if I can’t be open and honest face-to-face what good am I at laying it all out there. I am getting better though, thank God.
  2. We need to see clearly. Someone needs to tell me the truth, and they can only do that if we are part of the family. Press in, be ready, put down your defenses. (I’m talking to me here especially.) We should no longer walk as the Gentiles, in the futility (purposelessness) of mind, no longer in darkness keeping the light to ourselves or living in isolation. Behind every sin is a lie about God. Remember, God is great, God is glorious, God is gracious, and God is good. If we look at our sins it reveals to us we have believed a lie that goes against one of these characteristics. Complaining about our boss: we forgot God is sovereign, seeing all and has all in His hands, that He has been gracious to us expecting us to give grace to others, and that all our suffering is ultimately for our good.

We have believed for too long that being liked is more important than being loved. Let us not perpetuate the lie by only consoling and empathizing with those who sin, but also calling them out, revealing the lie that we have believed, making sure you do not consider yourself more highly because we all at one time or another believe the lie. Take the log from your own eye, but definitely remove the speck from your brother’s eye, whom you love.

And finally: Why don’t we speak the truth?

First, we fear that we will have the truth shown to us that we are afraid to see. Who are we? We are children of God, holy and made righteous by His blood. Our eternity is reserved for us in heaven, which is just a dim reflection of what we see here on this earth. We are chosen for a higher purpose and if we are unwilling to hear truth spoken to us, what do we deserve of what God has reserved? Truly we deserve none of it, but this is God, the creator of the universe, who knows all and sees all deserves our attention when He speaks to us through each other. Amen?

Second, we believe we are unworthy to be bearers of the truth. We are not to gain pride in throwing the truth around, but have enough humility to give someone what they need: the truth. We need it, they need it. We have it and have a responsibility to give to those we know and love. Never throw it in ones face, truth is not to be haphazardly spat out with disdain, but lovingly cherished and transferred.

Thirdly, giving truth is abnormal. The truth makes enemies, makes people uncomfortable, it shows that you have a concern more with being liked. They may not like me, we say.

Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, And a flattering mouth works ruin.” When we lie or perpetuate the lie we hate those, the bible says. Comfort without truth works ruin. It is obvious that when we just seek to be liked we can never truly love. Like a child who needs discipline, a loved one needs truth. They may hate you for the moment, but thank you for a lifetime.

Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Friends, loved ones, will cause hurt. Enemies kisses are deceitful. The truth will almost always hurt, let’s be prepared to hear it, I am from you.

Redwood trees are the largest trees in the world, but they have some of the most shallow root systems. How do they stand up? Their root systems are intertwined, they hold each other up, they support each other. Let us be as the Redwood trees. Let truth be our root and love be our bond.

~Stranger

A Wet Day In Charleston

Strange Confessions: Problems come about at work: “Ugh! I hate that I have to deal with this all the time! Why can’t work ever be easy? Please Jesus, come back now…” Problems come about while doing ministry: “Oh this is so exciting! How are we going to figure this one out? We’re going to have so much fun *squeal*! What a great time for bonding with God’s people!”

It rained yesterday in Charleston, Missouri: a lot. Two weeks ago the forecast was calling for freezing rain, snow, and low temperatures. As the days went by, outlooks became a little brighter. It was going to be warmer and final percentage for chance of rain: 80%. Nice. I am usually the one who drives the bus for the two and a half hours it takes to get to Charleston and back on the third Saturday of the month for food distribution day at the Shining Light Mission located there. Having 15 people’s lives in your hands can sometimes make you a little tense, especially when the weather turns ugly. It rained the whole way there, but just a fine to moderately heavy drizzle. Once we got to the low-lying plains of the Southeastern corner of Missouri, water was standing high in the ditches on the sides of the road, and my eyes were pealed for chances of a hydro-planing situation. This made me grip the steering wheel tighter and my shoulders try to disappear into my ears. But, we got there safely. Praise God.

We were going to be short this month for help. The only other church with major volunteers were out and most of the experienced players on our team were going to be gone. This third Saturday of the month fell harshly: four days before Christmas. I was volunteered back in November to head up recruitment for this month of trial-like small numbers. Blessedly, I had help. It ended up we scheduled 21 people to come. Hallelujah! That should be enough. We got to the church parking lot at 6:15am to get the bus all warmed up and ready to leave. Our main connection showed up and said several people weren’t showing up, but, there was some unexpected people there ready to go. It ended up being 26 people! We took the smaller bus of 15, someone else took 7 people in their van, and another family of 4  just ended up going on their own.

Once we got there, the pantry was jam-packed with donations for distribution. I told everyone that the first half-hour there was a little slow until we all found our position and our groove. It took a while to get organized because we were so crowded with extra people and donations. What a blessing. My spirit’s were starting to soar. I was getting excited about getting the problems solved that were beginning to show their face. People were looking lost. Others wanted to look around. We needed some organization, some purpose. Moving around pallets and boxes of food with so many people standing around was fun, sort of. Once my wonderful wife got pantry goods sorted for bagging, then things really got moving. I was with a new guy I recruited from my bible study, and a young, eager, local kid who usually only benefits from the distribution. We were busting open boxes of a rice mixture getting them in bags, tying them off and handing them over to be counted. The kid was all, “Slow down!” and I was all, “No way! Keep it coming, we can take it. We got strength and skill from God.” We packed 310 bags from the pantry, 306 for the USDA, and we had boxes full of mini-sausage biscuits, bags of potatoes, containers of bleach, and assorted frozen meats (including chicken feet) to organize and give away.

We broke for lunch at about 11:45 and came back before the distribution time of 1pm-4pm. The head of Shining Light told us to close the regular door we go out of to load the groceries, for he had a new plan. The fields and playground were already flooded and the front was growing; but the rain was staying at a slow drizzle, which didn’t seem much of a threat. Generally, ministers and ministered to, go in circles and arcs to keep things moving, but this rain was causing a problem we had to figure out. The only exit was the front and we had to let people in early to stay out of the rain. We had to reroute the line through another room to clear the hall and had several checkpoints so only 5 people could come back at a time. The teens are usually the grocery herders, bringing goods out to people’s cars. I wanted to do it this time, so I could talk to people and give others breaks from getting wet. It took a while to get those teens inline so we could go past each other and not cause too much chaos; because there was going to be chaos! I would yell at them every time I saw them, “To the right! To the right!” “Hold still! Wait until this group goes through!” “Move it out! Get those loaded!” “Not here! Open up the cart at the back of the line.” All in good-natured commanding, I hope. Someone gave me a full weather rain slicker, so my top stayed dry, but my jeans and shoes? They weren’t going to be dry until next year. These kids though: they were getting soaked, but their spirits stayed high! I had to yell at a couple, including my own daughter, to make someone switch with them. There was some teen boys in the food packing area I made switch out. There was even a determined girl who was having so much fun being utterly drenched, she got mad at me for caring. Can you believe that? No good deed goes unpunished, yes?

At around 3pm, God opened up the heavens to pour the rain down in sheets. Even the raindrops were shedding rain. By this time we had finished most of the line, for our numbers were lower than usual: I wonder why… Anyway, from 3pm-4pm is my favorite time: we’re not too busy, for the line is shorter and not as urgent, I can talk with all the other workers and especially the teens, there is just more time for great fellowship and fun. I was singing carols and cracking jokes, (I am always my best audience) just enjoying myself. My wife told others I have two types of natural highs: the 2am highs and the “just served a ministry” high. It was a tough day for a lot of us, but I felt like I was on both. Santa was there giving out candy canes, and we had this little routine. “Merry Christmas Santa,” I’d yell as I went along on my errands. “Merry Christmas Mark!” he’d yell back. I would turn in shock, surprise, and utter joy in my face saying, “How do you know my name?” He’d laugh and others would giggle. It was a lot of fun. I heard someone say that a group of teenagers could really sing. I searched them out and asked them to sing some Christmas carols. Much to my disappointment, they wouldn’t agree. Hey, I was having fun. Some didn’t like my singing, but they had a smile on their face.

Getting ready to go, I had discovered that the front lot was covered with at least 8 inches of water. It was a shock: how was I to cross the street to get the bus. One of the other drivers and I were scouting out the path of least resistance, or perhaps it was most resistance we were looking for: strong, sure footing. I glanced across the lot and saw the last driver striving purposefully across, wading in water past his ankles. He was unknowingly heading directly toward the now hidden ditch carrying a large bag of clothes, when suddenly he pitched forward into the ditch throwing the bag in the road in front of a moving truck. The truck squealed to a stop and I ran across the water, soaking my shoes to get to him. He went up to his chest in water and pulled himself up, out and to his truck before I was even half-way there. I know if I was in his position, I would have wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I don’t know him that well or I would have called him today to see if he ever got dry. Hopefully he got to some store for some dry clothes before trekking the 3 hours back. I successfully got the bus across the pond and everyone piled inside when we were off. The roads in town were flooded and I was thankful to get to the freeway. Water was higher in the valley than when we came, but the road didn’t have any standing water. Thank God. With the slower speeds we got home a bit later than usual, but with our hearts filled at working together with great purpose at working for God.

I discovered that I just love serving when there is some problem that needs to be solved. We talked about it later, how there was always some obstacle we had to overcome to get the job done, and that is what makes it enjoyable to me. Yesterday was the most difficult day we’ve had there since starting there this year on a regular basis. I cherish these moments of purpose, fellowship, serving, and mission. Yet I wonder why I don’t feel that sense of good, that sense of right, when I do my daily duty of supporting my family, trying to help and guide the companies I work for, giving the employees a good sense of caring and doing a job well. Then I consider the minister in the field; every day filling such a great sense of purpose. Do they look at the problems that arise the same way? Do they groan under the same pressure, under the same issues that need to be dealt with? Our bible study met for supper and a summary of what God has/is doing in our lives this year the other night. We have a few students in our group who shared that they were frustrated that they can’t just go out and start serving God or that they don’t really know what they should be doing or that their sense of purpose is out of whack. I didn’t really want to tell them that that is the way I feel almost every day I have to go to work, because after all, shouldn’t we imagine that this sense of meaninglessness will eventually go away? I was just amazed and humbled that we had such a thoughtful group of youth, wanting to really get on with their lives. When I was their age, I would stay young and irresponsible as long as I could. It is hard to know that there is a purpose out there for you to face and having to wait and wait and wait. But God teaches us patience, yes He does. He has taught me much here in West Plains, and I’m so thankful to be able to see it all and examine it all and write about it all here. Incidentally, God has given us a great and terrible gift here with this technology. I pray that someday I would have the privilege of finding out if I could maintain my sense of joy in the regular problems that would arise in serving Him or at least see that joy in the day-to-day of the work I find such trouble enjoying one single day of the week.

Stranger

(By the way, do you like my new signature? Also, see my logo and icon below. I like the picture of the single, lonely tree in the desert.)

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Sunday Scrutinization: Unity

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

~John 17:20-23

The congregation that I and my family have now placed ourselves in, is going through something very unique: the joining of two very different congregations.

We are still just a few months being a part of this group and there has been a request from another church in the area to join together. This other church has lost most of its leadership due to people moving away. The remaining elder has given up his post. But, it has proven difficult for him to still be a part of this church and not be seen as a leader and his is still looked at as one. He is friends with the two main elders in our church and has asked them if it was okay to sit among their congregation. The church hearing about this put forth the idea of joining with our group, as they will no longer have leaders.

We have had several meetings where we have had questions posed and what our elders expectations are for us. That we would be prophets, priests and kings among the new group. We are to seek their needs and be sensitive to what they might be going through. We have changed around schedules and meeting types to accommodate their feelings.

This other church, at least how I believe, understand and heard it, are bordering on legalism. It is no mistake of God that we have been in the final chapters of Romans for the last couple of months. Yesterday was the first time we were two churches made into one. Through some of the questions asked of the elders and in myself talking to them, I do see them leaning toward legalism.

Yet through what I have learned in these last months, I, myself, have been heading down that path, but in a much different way. We all have our tendencies to take the route of what it looks like, superficially, to be a Christian. And our expectations of others may confirm where we are headed.

But, now is not the time to dig out others differences, and expose them to the light. Now is the time to seek what unifies us. Now is the time to agree with the essential of essentials. Of course we all have our ideas of what is essential, but we need to take these from God’s Word.

This is a momentous occasion! The Church, after years of splits and hundreds of denominations and names; is unifying. Yes, in a small corner of this country we call America, but it is momentous nonetheless. I thank God for this opportunity to witness a reunification of what was never to be brought asunder. A unity that Christ Himself prayed for. That we would be united as He and the Father are united.

Pray for this situation. That we may look beyond differences and find those things that unite. That those who would want their convictions heard, would see them as less important. That we could be prophet, priest and king to each other in love and in peace. And eventually, that the world would see this, and see Christ at work, in His church. That people would believe in His church again.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinization: The Empty Pipes

At the church where we were regulars, but now only visit occasionally, there are organ pipes on the back wall, behind the pulpit. We went there tonight for services and I was reminded of something the pastor told us about those pipes. Those pipes are not the actual, working organ pipes. They are just there for show. The words of Jesus in Matthew 23:27-28 says:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. “

So this morning at our new, regular congregation we read Romans 12-16. A chapter was read and we talked with the people around us for a couple of minutes about what jumped out at us. When all chapters were read we all brought up the things we talked about, then we brought up any questions we had. We got to the questions regarding chapter 13, and of course the issue of resisting the authority God has placed over us in the form our government was mentioned. Someone made a disparaging remark regarding the current leader we now have in these here United States. Our pastor went a little off on a unity speech. He spoke about how even if he disagreed with the current politicians, he would back up those in the church who might feel offended by anyone who speaks against what God has ordained over us. We, as the Church, need to be completely aware of what may cause any division among us and stop it where it may rear its ugly head. I have been guilty of making remarks that would divide, and will be extremely careful in the future about any of these situations I may put myself in. I have learned with family not even to honestly ask why they think what they believe, because they instantly see this as an attack.

At tonight’s services the same subject was addressed: Unity. With a different emphasis. A story was brought up about how there was money enough to redesign the sanctuary. The congregation was told that the sky was wide open as to design. There was opportunities to put forth color schemes regarding walls, ceilings, carpet, and pew cushions. Ideas came in, there were votes, leading designs were brought forward, others were eliminated, then there were two left. Votes were made again and a winner was finally declared. Unity was maintained within a situation that could have destroyed the church. I turned to my wife and said something to the effect that this type of problem was huge in First Century Church. Of course I was being sarcastic.

These three things had connections in my mind. I faced true conviction of my sinful behavior, then saw an almost superficial discussion on the same topic at the same time noticing how we as Christians put up a fake facade; a facade that doesn’t matter. I appreciate the views God gave me this morning and evening. I thank you God for whatever you need to show me in your time. I praise you for your sovereignty over the leaders we have here and in other countries. I don’t necessarily look forward to the day that may come where we may face harsh persecution in this country, because I have daughters now. But, it may be the only thing that truly unifies us, ignoring what doesn’t matter.

~Stranger

 

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