Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Does God Hate?

Y-E-S! My month of daily blogging is officially over! Thirty-one daily blogs - now, I need a nap! It’s been a great experience, but it will not be continuing. I am officially done (until the next challenge). In February, I will blog on Sundays and Wednesdays only.

* * * * 

In response to yesterday’s blog featuring the Christian Democrats of America’s song “What are Your Values?” and the line that said, “if it is hate, it is not of God.” I had someone tell me that there are things that God hates. So I would like to explore the things (not people) God hates here:

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Proverbs 6:16-19

  1. A proud look: Pride – the devil’s sin. I think many of us struggle with this. We get a little bit of power or accomplishment and we think we are better than. Some say, I work hard, why should I pay more taxes than those who earn less? We see a homeless person holding a cardboard sign and mutter, “Get a job!” Someone struggles with a sin that is not a temptation for us and we feel superior. A woman has to work to keep her family off welfare and people say, “A woman’s place in is the home.” I struggle with pride at times myself. Being humble and away from judging others is a constant struggle.
  2. A lying tongue: not just the big lies. Most people become comfortable telling little white lies. Nope, there are no “little” sins.
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood: this one is a no-brainer. Everyone I know – whether believer or atheist agrees that murder and violence are wrong.
  4. An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations: I’m not sure what this is exactly. But I would venture that it can be a lot of things: holding a grudge, lustful thoughts, bitterness, hatred, etc. all those impure thoughts we have to battle against. There have been many – MANY – times when I have abstained from taking communion at church because of my feelings toward another person – lack of forgiveness, anger, etc. Keeping the mind pure and godly is a struggle many of us face.
  5. Feet that are swift in running to mischief: Do I sometimes say things to get a reaction? Guilty. I tell myself, “I’m just being honest,” but that’s not always my only motivation. What are some other ways feet can run to mischief? Probably many…but I would love to hear from readers some examples ….
  6. A false witness that speaketh lies: ever heard the saying “snitches get stitches”? Yes, me too. I’m the youngest of five kids. I learned early not to be a tattle-tale. But tattling and bearing false witness are not the same. If something is wrong, speak up. If you are asked what happened, tell the truth! If you are summoned to appear in court, don’t come up with creative ways to avoid bearing the whole truth. If you see an injustice, don’t look away. People are depending on you to do what is right.
  7. And he that soweth discord among brethren: are you afraid to ask questions about God? Asking questions because you want to discover the truth is not sowing discord. Judging and shunning someone who seeks the truth is sowing discord. Why can’t we have an open, honest search for God’s truth? Nothing is more important than this. But, this may be related to those who spread gossip about other believers. People who cast judgment on others – you’re not God, you’re not the Holy Spirit. If you need to address an issue of sin, do it directly by speaking love into that person’s life. Sowing discord is gossiping behind someone’s back.

What do you think of these things? What can you add? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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On another note: I’d like to wish a happy birthday to my big sister – in our adult lives we’ve become good friends and I’m so glad she’s in my life. I love you Karin J

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Religion and Politics: What Are Your Values?

In December, I posted two blogs explaining why I am a Democrat (you can view them by clicking here and here).

This evening I came accross a video by the Christian Democrats of America that reflects my feelings and beliefs about politics and religion so well I want to share it with you, my readers. I realize that the majority of evangelical Christians identify as Republicans, and I would love to hear what you think about this video.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Hard-Working Woman

I find it transparent when someone doesn't like what I've written or said, but cannot defend his objections so instead attacks me as a person - and his favorite topic is my gender. 

So, to the man or men who like to post trollish comments about women who work outside the home, I dedicate today's post. Also, to the man who called someone "retarded" for claiming the virtuous wife/mother in Proverbs 31 was an income earner, please read verses 16 and 24, which clearly state that this woman provides income for her family.

* * * * *

Proverbs 31 provides a detailed metaphor of feminine wisdom in the context of a family and a community.

The most quoted section, verse 10-31, is a chiastic poem, that is, a poem that cycles through alternating thoughts. The chapter speaks of the worth of a good wife to her husband, the manual labor that she does, her fulfillment of responsibilities to those who need her, her ability to provide for her family, and her wisdom in caring for herself so she can share her strength with others. These ideas are presented in a kind of circular pattern throughout the section.

The chapter begins with King Lemuel recounting advice his mother had given him. She exhorted him to not fall to weaknesses that would compromise his position as king, but to care for the poor. One of the weaknesses she mentioned was the susceptibility of his strength—or “noble character” (31:10)—to be harmed by improper relationships with women. Although verses 10-31 do not directly follow this warning in the original, they do illustrate a fitting description of what kind of woman Lemuel should seek.

   10 An excellent wife, who can find?
       For her worth is far above jewels.
   11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
       And he will have no lack of gain.
   12 She does him good and not evil
       All the days of her life.

A good, supportive, trusting wife is a blessing to a man. A woman who partners with her husband, who is reliable, and looks out for his interests, gives a man a security that is greatly lacking in the world. She is worth more than a substantial paycheck. To bring in the metaphor, wisdom provides the same benefits—it is worth more than money, you can always trust it to make the right decision, and it provides blessings for those who have it.

   13 She looks for wool and flax,
       And works with her hands in delight…
   19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
       And her hands grasp the spindle…
   27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
       And does not eat the bread of idleness.

The wife of Proverbs 31 isn’t afraid of work. She gets up in the morning and gets things done. In the time of Solomon, this involved making fabric and sewing clothes, but verse 27 certainly applies directly to us today—taking care of our responsibilities is a characteristic of wisdom.

   15 She rises also while it is still night
       And gives food to her household
       And portions to her maidens…
   21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
       For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
   20 She extends her hand to the poor,
       And she stretches out her hands to the needy.

Another characteristic of wisdom is the grace to help others. The Proverbs 31 wife ensures that those under her care receive what they need—food, clothing, protection. And she is able to serve others out of the excess of her work and the leaning of her heart. She has so internalized her role as a provider that it extends past her immediate responsibilities and into the community.

   14 She is like merchant ships;
       She brings her food from afar…
   16 She considers a field and buys it;
       From her earnings she plants a vineyard…
   18 She senses that her gain is good;
       Her lamp does not go out at night…
   24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
       And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

Beyond that, she’s very savvy. She’s educated about the world and the world of business. She knows how to use her skills to provide for her family, and she’s not afraid to go interact with that world, whether it be as a merchant or a buyer. She knows how to use her strengths to her best advantage, and she fully realizes how valuable her efforts are.

   17 She girds herself with strength
       And makes her arms strong…
   22 She makes coverings for herself;
       Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
   25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
       And she smiles at the future.
   26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
       And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

The Proverbs 31 woman not only knows her worth, she knows her responsibilities to herself. She would not be able to provide for others if she neglected her needs—both physical and spiritual. She makes sure her appearance reflects her respected position as an influence in her community. Her greatest strength is her wisdom—her accurate judgment about the world and her influence in it. And she is quick to share the wisdom she has gained to encourage others to reach their potential.

   23 Her husband is known in the gates,
       When he sits among the elders of the land…
   28 Her children rise up and bless her;
       Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
   29 "Many daughters have done nobly,
       But you excel them all."
   30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
       But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
   31 Give her the product of her hands,
       And let her works praise her in the gates.

She knows that, as a partner in her marriage, she has a tremendous influence on her husband’s ministry. She can integrate her life—both domestic and professional—with her ministry in such a way that her husband has the freedom to serve. In fact, her reputation is so established, that it bleeds off onto him.

The Proverbs 31 wife is a fierce provider and protector for those she cares about. She is wise to the ways of the world, but lives by the wisdom of God. As in the rest of the Proverbs, these specific examples provide a metaphor for the larger truth. How any individual woman exemplifies these characteristics will depend on her situation, gifts, and abilities. The key is in verse 30, just as it is in the beginning of Proverbs, in 1:7:

But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

* * * * * 

This article is reprinted with permission and was originally published on

Monday, January 28, 2013

God is Not Mad at You; God Loves You

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Romans 10:9

The Bible makes it clear what we must do to be saved: confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. That's it. That's the Good News of Jesus Christ. Salvation is free. You do not earn it. You cannot earn it. Your attempts to earn it are filthy rags.

When you stand at the judgement throne at the end of your life. The accuser, Satan, will be there accusing you of all your sins. Each one of your sins is enough to earn you damnation.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Have you ever told a lie? You deserve to go to Hell. Ever thought an unkind word? You deserve it. Ever called someone "stupid," "crazy," etc.? You deserve it. The payment for sin is death. Now here's the Good News: if you are saved, Jesus paid the death penalty for you. So as Satan stands before the judgement throne accusing you for all your sins, Jesus stands next to you calmly replying, "I have paid." Jesus paid it all!

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

John 10:28-29

When a person is saved, they are saved forever. Don't believe it? Of course not. You are human and that doesn't make sense. But, God says it's so (see John 10:28-29). Jesus paid for all sins - past, present, and future.

Do I believe that a person who is saved WILL be in heaven? The Bible says so. There is no middle ground. I believe all of the Bible. Not just what makes sense to my limited, human understanding.

I believe it. And once you can get past the point of thinking that God is mad at you, you will understand that "peace that passes understanding." When you are safe in a loving relationship - do you take advantage of that unconditional love? If a person does, that is a sign they were never saved in the first place. A true believer cannot continue to be in opposition to God's law. The Holy Spirit will not allow a child of God to be in sin and at peace. That is why Jesus left us the Holy Spirit.

Your name can be written - in permanent ink - in the Lamb's Book of Life, right now! Legalism and living in constant fear doesn't work so well. Why not give grace a chance?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tonight, I Witnessed the Miracle of Salvation

There have been some comments here lately on the roles of women. You know the coulds and shoulds and should-nots, etc. about what we think other people should do? I think it’s clear to my regular readers that women’s issues are important to me. And I have to admit that I was really into the pro-woman blog post I wrote earlier this evening. But that will have to wait for another day, because before I posted my rant, I went to church and experienced something so amazing, incredible, emotional, and spirit-filled that I could not wait to get home and tell you about it.

We’re not promised tomorrow. We don’t know when our time here is up, so with that in mind, please open your heart and consider my *imperfect* attempt to relay this message to you.

Tonight’s church service began with an alter call and then an open invitation to be baptized right then and there. The baptismal – which resembles a hot tub or a small rehabilitation pool – was out and filled with warm water. One of the pastors came out dressed in swimming trunks and a polo shirt and got into the waist-high water. The head pastor joined him. And four people came forward to be baptized. The first two were women. Each, in turn, got into the tank and gave a short testimony. The pastor asked them the following questions:

Pastor: “Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior”

Response: “Yes.”

Pastor: “Are you going to walk with him all the days of your life?

Response: “Yes.”

Pastor: “Based upon your profession of faith, we now baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Each person was guided backward until his/her body was fully submerged and then brought back to a standing position. The two pastors then stood in front of and behind the person with their hands upon the person’s shoulders, back, and head and prayed for them.

After the two women were baptized, a twenty-nine year old man came forward and stepped into the tank.

Pastor: “Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

Man: “No.”

Wow. This was unexpected. Baptism takes place after a person has professed faith in Jesus and accepted the free gift of salvation. But rather than turn this man away, Pastor gave him the opportunity of salvation right there in the baptismal tank.

The man repeated the sinner’s prayer:

“Dear Jesus. I give you my life. All that I am. All that I’ll ever be. I give it to You. Please forgive my sins. I confess that I have tried to do life without you and it has not worked out. I believe you are Lord. I believe you rose from the dead. I want to live for you. Amen.”

And in that moment, the man was saved.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Romans 10:9

I’m sure there were some dry eyes among the hundreds gathered in the Saturday evening service – but not many. To experience and witness the miracle of salvation is a gift and something you cannot experience without being seriously moved. There I sat stewing about sexist comments, when suddenly issues of gender were clearly not so important – the big issue that needs to be addressed is the one of salvation!

He was saved permanently. He WILL be in heaven.

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
John 10:29-29

After he prayed the salvation prayer – the pastors asked us all to reach forward in agreement as they laid hands on him and prayed before they went through the baptism ritual as they had with the others.

Dear readers – you can do this at home. You can ask for and receive the free gift of salvation right now alone at home! You don’t need anyone to approve you and you don’t need a preacher. You can do it alone. It’s between you and God. Pray the sinner’s prayer (the one above in red) and know that you are saved. You don’t have to tell anyone – really just try it and see what God does in your life. I guarantee that you will be truly amazed if you do this.

Our church believes in baptism and practices it. But we believe that the decision and prayer is the actual time that salvation occurs. That if a person sincerely prays for salvation but dies without being baptized, they are still saved.

Now what? Pray. Talk to God about anything – He already knows everything you do and think, so you may as well be honest with Him. And, read the Bible. One chapter a day. It doesn’t take long – maybe five or ten minutes. We talk to God through prayer; God talks to us through scripture.

If you are reading this and you want to go to church – please do. Lots of churches (like mine) have Saturday evening services and many also have Wednesday evening services. If anyone reading this would like to go to church, but is intimated, please send me an email – I would love to bring you to my church.

Friday, January 25, 2013

We're Not Promised Tomorrow

I was reading the recent stories from my favorite newspaper, The Oregonian, and came across a terribly sad report (click here to read the story). A physically-normal three-year-old girl choked on a meatball and died on Monday while at daycare. Who would think?
The fact that she was at daycare and not with her parents – so sad! These parents will have to live without their little girl forever knowing they were not with her in her final moments. These things happen all too often – a four-year-old chokes on a popcorn kernel in a movie theater (or a bunch of people are randomly gunned down in a theater). Families send their first and second graders to school, but they never make it home. You just never know when someone you love is going to be taken.
Please give your kids a hug and pray for this grieving family.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

No, Sir, YOU are the Troll . . .

 … but I love you anyway and so does Jesus!

Recently, my biggest fan (e.g., anonymous poster from Oregon City) claimed that I was “trolling the FOC.” So, here you go: a free vocabulary lesson from your favorite blogger:

In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion [].

In 1999, when I left the FOC for good, I moved to a nice community in Lake Oswego and soon began attending Mountain Park Church. In early 2000, I made a conscious decision to follow Jesus. I was baptized later that year.
In the Spring of 2001, a former NFL player came to our church to teach a class on Christian apologetics. Apologetics is a lot like evangelism in its aim, but it is different in that the course trained us to respond to objections to the faith. On the first day of class, the leader (I cannot remember his name – I think his first name was John) asked us to think of a friend or acquaintance who we knew would NEVER accept Jesus as his/her savior. That was easy for me. I knew someone who was very much against organized religion. A friend that I had met in college, who told me that my religion was all well and fine but not to bring up any of that “crap” around her. So that was who I chose.
The hard-liners were the ones we committed to praying for. Maybe it was a test. I don’t know. Two days after the first class, this friend called me up on a Wednesday evening and asked what I was up to.
“I’m going to Bible study. Wanna come?” I said, fully expecting to get shot down.
“I don’t have anything better to do, so why the hell not?” she said.
Against all odds, this woman who had told me to keep my religion away showed up to bible study and within an hour had committed her life to Christ. It was a miracle. And the only person who can perform a miracle is God.
I don’t relay this story to pat myself on the back. I had nothing to do with it – except a few feeble (totally disbelieving) prayers. God did the work. God always does the work. Our attempts to be righteous or right, good, faithful, etc. are filthy rags.
Whether you appreciate it or not, I am praying for you and ask that my believing readers pray for you too.

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
Isaiah 41:1

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Don't Call an Ambulance!

I have been pretty miserable for the past several weeks. First I had a flu that didn’t want to get better, until I dosed up on “Nature’s Flu Shot.” Yuck – that stuff was terrible; but it did give me a few days of respite before the next infection set in.
I have a pretty easy work schedule as a part-time instructor. I teach three classes, back-to-back, on Mondays and Wednesdays. I work from 8:30 until 1:00. Not bad, right? It allows me to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms three days a week. And, I don’t just work the nine hours – although that’s what I’m technically paid for. I spend twenty or more hours every week grading papers and preparing my lectures.
This week, thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I only had to report to work one day: today. I was feeling terrible and so were my kids. I couldn’t send sick kids to school – but there really isn’t much choice for me. I go to work: there’s no option to stay home. Although, today I wish I had cancelled my classes and stayed in bed.
I made it through the first two classes – in a fog. But, things went smoothly. My third and final class of the day started out okay, but ended in humiliation. It was ten minutes before the end of class and I was talking to the students about the difference between subject pronouns and object pronouns when I smacked the back of my right hand into the corner of the metal eraser tray on the white board. Yeouch! The pain tore through my body. But, I didn’t want to make a scene. Ten minutes to go. I could do it. Or, not.
Within seconds of hitting my hand, my vision was black and I knew I was going down. I stopped the lecture, said, “Class dismissed,” and bolted for the door.
I dashed into the main office heading back for the shared instructor workroom, but ran into unexpected obstacles. I was feeling incredibly dizzy, my vision was blurry-gray, and I knew I was going to pass out any second. Unfortunately, someone had left some boxes in the walkway, and there was a person standing at the copy machine. Swerve, smack, and Suzi hit the ground face first.
I heard someone behind me say, “Call an ambulance.”
That was enough to rouse me. I can’t afford an ambulance. Part-timers (adjunct professors) do not receive health insurance benefits. “Don’t call an ambulance. I don’t have insurance.” I said. And with the sound of water rushing in my left ear, I lost consciousness.
Thankfully, the ambulance was not called. I came to minutes later with my face in a pillow and several of my colleagues standing over me discussing what had happened, what forms needed to be filled out, the color of my complexion, etc. I lifted my head to look behind me and saw a group of students watching from the foyer.
I’m not sure how hitting my hand – it still hurts like heck! – caused me to black out and faint. I think it was partially due to the recurring viral illness. I went home and slept for hours, waking to read to my kids, write this blog, and then return to my comfortable bed.
Someone recently said to me, “Suzi, you’re still a faith healer, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes, I am. I will always rely on faith. But I only avoid hospitals and doctors because I cannot afford to go.”
I believe that faith and medicine are not mutually exclusive. But, until I can afford medical care, I’ll continue to be a faith healer by necessity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Are You So Bitter?

Bitter: adjective. Characterized by intense antagonism or hostility. 

In the past seventeen months (since I began this blog), I’ve been accused of being bitter more times than I can count. I’ve come to realize that this is the go-to insult for people to use when they can’t win an argument. And, really, I don’t want to argue with anyone. But I will try to explain my feelings about the Followers.

  1. Sympathy. This is my primary emotion when I think of this group. I feel sorry for young women who are made to feel that they are insignificant. For teenage girls who have to wait in a corner for some boy to deem them worthy of a dance or date. Outside of that group – guess what? Girls and women do the choosing. Yes, that’s right! They don’t have to ask boys out (and most do not), but they select who they will go out with – because for every girl, there are several guys vying for her attention. I feel sorry for young women who are born with brains, but advised to downplay their intellect so as to not intimidate boys. I am sad that you do not have the option to go to college. I feel sorry for the young women who marry at age seventeen (often dropping out of high school for this event) and start having children so young. It makes me sad to think of the women there who are living with domestic violence (no – I’m not saying all men abuse their wives – but enough do and there is zero support for the victims).
  2. Responsibility. When I learned the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ, I felt so shocked! Jesus loves me? Yes! (But, I’m so unworthy). Jesus loves all of us and wants us in heaven. He made it easy for us. I wish someone had told me years sooner. I know how hard that is to accept when you come from the FOC. I thought it was ridiculous! I fought accepting this truth for months, but someone cared enough to persist in praying for me. When I told my family that I’d become a born-again Christian, they tried to disprove that a person could KNOW that they are saved.
  3. Nostalgia. I miss some of the people I grew up with. The people I love and care about now would never shun me. But I would love to catch up with some of the people who were, during my formative years, central to my life. I also miss all the great social events and structure: all the support for the sick, grieving, and celebrating.

I never expected to write about this group. I was terrified to do so, but I cannot explain the feeling of freedom that I’ve gotten from doing so. I still feel like a Follower in so many ways though. I would never call someone a “fool.” I would never take God’s name in vain. I would never use the words, “I swear.” Some people say these “nevers” of mine constitute legalism. But, I don’t care – these are values that are important to me. Why disrespect God? I do not want to hurt anyone. And I hope and pray that my words will do more good than harm.

Still think I’m bitter?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

A lie cannot live.
- MLK, Jr. 

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved 
in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil 
without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. 
- MLK, Jr.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than
 sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. 
- MLK, Jr.

The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who
 remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
- MLK, Jr.

The time is always right to do what is right. 
- MLK, Jr.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sex Swapping Scandals

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Luke 6:41

The mid-1980’s were a tumultuous time for the FOC, and for my family. In 1986, our final leader/elder, Glenford Lee, died. In the first weeks of 1987, my sister left church and went into hiding with my toddler niece. The story of my sister’s life and the impact it had on me and my family is the subject of my second memoir.

When Glenford passed away, nobody knew what would become of the group. But our immediate response was to pay our respects. The way I remember it is that everyone in church went to Glenford’s home and parked along the streets and in the yard and stood in line waiting to walk through the house and view his body. I stood in line with my folks and my sister, while my brothers stood apart from us with the teenage boys.

But there were several families who were noticeably missing from the grieving throng that day. A dozen or more respectable married couples had been involved in an expansive sex swapping scandal. I believe they all stayed away. 

The couples got together with various others and had sex in the same room and swapped partners. Sometimes married couples engaged in these activities with the knowledge and consent of their partners and sometimes not. Some people were far more involved than their spouses. Sometimes they brought their children along and ordered them to stay in another room. Video cameras were involved.

I don’t bring this up to cast blame or judgment on anyone. I’m certain that’s not my place. But what hurt me at the time was that some of these sex swappers were the parents of my friends. And these “upstanding” folks were so unkind to me! They told their daughters to stay away from me because they disapproved of my sister. I was thirteen years old and these self-righteous hypocrites were absolutely horrible to me because my sister was no longer living in Oregon City and a member of the group. Their behavior was irrelevant as long as they showed up twice a week and sat on the benches.

Later, when I married outside the group, it was some of those same folks who were the loudest complainers of my continued presence. Nearly everyone shunned me, but these people went further than most in their dirty looks and the statements they made about me to my family members.

A lot of folks were hurt during those times. Not just the families and children of the swingers, but also people who had looked up to those people. Some said that it was a turning point in how they felt about the church.

This wasn't the first time a sex scandal would blow up in the group - and it certainly wouldn't be the last. 

People make mistakes, but how they deal with those mistakes can make all the difference.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cory Nikkel: From Seeker to Preacher

This is the follow up post to last Saturday's article by Cory Nikkel. The issue of how a man is called to preach the gospel is central to the beliefs of the Followers of Christ. The FOC has been waiting since 1969 for God to supernaturally call a preacher to lead their church. 

* * * * *

Cory Nikkel: from my last post , I left you with my “seeking” mentality to find more of Jesus whether it was in or outside of church. Before and after this process of discovery I was uniquely called by God to be a minister of his word for the advancement of his Kingdom, especially within the eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old generation.

Calling #1
In high school I had a lot of success in athletics. I played varsity sports as a freshman and was scouted by colleges to be a top athlete in basketball, baseball, and football. Sports were my life. My sophomore year I broke my foot for the third time in my life and had to miss an entire football season. I was devastated. I remember being so mad at God I told him to f-off numerous times and didn’t want anything to do with being a Christian—it was his fault that I broke my foot, or so I thought.
One day after chapel I sluggishly crutched my way to Bible class and as I was about to enter, my theology teacher popped out, “Cory, what are you doing?”
“Sorry I’m late.”
This time shouting in my face, “Cory! What are you doing with your life? God has called you to be great among this generation and you are standing here flat-lined on your death bed! Rise! Become who you were meant to be!”
I was immobile, shocked, confused. But I knew then that all these tools that God had given me in my life were meant for a greater purpose, and I felt for some reason that it was for ministry.

Calling #2
For two and a half years in college I was the spiritual leader for many. I led Bible studies, worship services, spoke at churches, youth groups, and evangelized whenever an opportunity arose; but something wasn’t right. I was faking my spiritual life—I could walk the walk and talk the talk but nothing was real for me. I was lost in myself and the personal pleasures behind the scenes that I adored but the spiritual community I lived in couldn’t know about.
Little by little I lost my calling, my heart for ministry, and my spiritual life. It was then that God called me to drop out of college and go to Australia to do mission work. I battled with this for a long time. This meant I had to leave my football team which I was captain of, school where all my friends were, and the comfortable life I knew. But the persistence of God was unbearable, so I went.
While in Australia I found myself in the middle of a Eucalyptus forest, in front of a group of thirty-seven believers from seventeen different nations, being questioned by a man I just met about my life’s calling.
“Will you really let go of your desires to pursue God’s will, Cory?”
“I’m not sure if I can do that. How do I know what’s his idea and what’s mine?”
“It’s simple, will you stay here and do missions for the rest of your life if that’s what the Lord has called you to do?”
My mind raced as I thought of all the things back in Iowa that I wanted, needed, and didn’t want to leave. How could I give that up for life in missions? The inner battle continued and then God spoke to me, “If you have submitted your heart to me and only me, you will do whatever I ask you to do.”
It all made sense now, “Yes, I’ll stay and do missions if that is what God wants me to do.”
A big grin crossed the man’s face, “Good. The Lord told me this morning if you’d submit your life to him and deny what you want for yourself, he’d bless you to return home and equip you with gifts to rise you up as a leader in your generation.

Present Day
It wasn’t a pretty process, but I’ve accepted the call. These two instances bring weight to God pulling me towards a ministerial vocation, but I also can’t deny the set of skills he’s blessed me with either. I have a natural ability for speaking, writing, and being creative. I thrive under pressure and being in front of crowds of people and the Lord has blessed me in those moments, too, almost as if to say, “Thank you for doing what I asked you to do.”
Os Guinness once wrote, “The secret of seeking is not in our human ascent to God, but in God’s descent to us. We start out searching, but we end up being discovered. We think we are looking for something; we realize we are found by Someone.”
This is exactly what happened to me. I searched for God and answers to the big questions of my life, but in that search he found me and planted me exactly where I need to be—preaching, writing, and equipping the children of God, especially the eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds.
I am twenty-three years old and being a minister is what makes sense to me. God called me to it and preaching as well as studying the Bible is what gives me the most joy; it is what fills me up and I long to do it day after day. I don’t always get it right and I’m learning a lot in this journey, but God’s unique call in my life is one that I will never be able to deny.