All posts by Jim Stitzel

Jim cultivates interests in a variety of areas. He is an avid storyteller, specializing in (dark) speculative fiction and webcomics. He is also a professional code wrangler and dabbles in amateur photography.

Robbed!

It is now nearly 4 AM on Saturday, and Elizabeth and I are only just getting to bed. We arrived home from carriage driving in downtown Indy at about a quarter to 2, just a couple of hours ago, to find that our townhouse had been broken into, burglarized, and ransacked. It was an obvious smash and dash job, though the burglars had time to completely destroy our living room and upset our computers in our upstairs study. All told, it could have been worse…. they made off with only Liz’s new stereo system (that she received for her birthday last year), our DVD player, a handful of Sega games (but NOT the Sega Genesis itself or my Playstation, all our remote controls, and $160 in cash. The cash itself was crucial to us, as it was the way in which we were going to pay the vet bill for our horses this coming Tuesday, so they could get their annual vaccinations. We called the police, who came and took a statement, and then we called a maintenance man from our complex to come and temporarily fix our back patio door, since the locking mechanism had been broken when it was jimmied open. Needless to say, neither one of us feels very safe tonight. We are sad and discouraged at this setback and wonder most of all why God would allow this to happen to us.

To add insult to injury, a significant bank error has occurred this week that has frozen us out of our primary checking account. To make a long story short, a $28 check that we wrote on Wednesday was mistakenly deducted from our account to the tune of nearly $3,700, overdrawing our account by $2,600!! We are working with our bank to rectify the problem, but it will probably be into next week before we are able to access our money. Needless to say, with tonight’s burglarly, we have no money to get us through until our account is accessible to us again, other than what meager tips we earned from carriage driving this evening.

Your prayers are coveted right now. We know that God has His reasons for allowing this to happen to us right now. We only wish we knew what they are. Lord willing, this will be the extent of the testing He has for us. Pray that we will learn what we are supposed to from these trials.

Forced Worship

[Why is it that I always come up with my best thoughts when I’m driving down the road, listening to jazz, away from any venue where I could possibly actually record my thoughts as they come to me? I really ought to find my mini-recorder and keep it in the Explorer with me….]

I recently just finished up a CD series of Donald Carson, who spoke this past winter at Cedarville University during the annual Staley Lectureship Series. He spoke on the emergent church movement and integration of postmodernism into that movement. Something that he said really stuck out to me — postmodernism holds as one of its primary foundations the establishment of personal experience to determine truth. This method of finding ‘truth’ has crept into the church and influenced it in ways that I, personally, find somewhat alarming.

Something that has stuck in my craw for a few years now has finally been revealed to me, based upon this ‘revelation’. The worship times at Cedarville (during my five-year tenure there), especially the student-led times, often had a feeling of wrongness to them. A good friend of mine described it like this: “It was like they were ‘forcing’ us to worship, like they were saying, ‘Worship, dang it!'” This was in response to the call to worship, where the congregation was called to think on God, to think on all He has done for us, and to worship him with your heart, essentially with your feelings, your emotions. On the surface, this all sounded very good, but something still stuck out as being wrong about it. In reflection now, I see that this call to worship focused almost exclusively on the experience of God, little on the knowledge of Him and on His revealed truth through His Word. And the songs we sang, the worship choruses, were fantastic for building up emotion and describing the experience of God in our lives, but they also left me feeling theologically destitute, frequently neglecting words of Scripture, words of absolute truth to put all my experiences as a Christian, as a follower of Jehovah, into perspective in light of the Almighty One of Heaven, instead paving over them with poetic niceties. (Don’t get me wrong; I believe there is a place for this sort of worship, just not to exclusivity.) This is the wrongness that I perceived there, this almost single-minded focus on the experience, to the near-exclusion of the absolute and powerfully revealed truth of the Bible.

The weakness of this is that each individual interprets the same experience in a slightly different way, thereby gleaning a different version of the ‘truth’ than all the others. Truth suddenly becomes relative to the individual, based upon their own analysis of the experience in question. Multiple psychological studies have shown that people often define reality by their experiences, much more so in today’s world than in any other time in history. Their ideas of what is true and what is not is flavored by the circumstances they encounter each and every day. The trouble is, every single person encounters a different version of the ‘truth’ because of this approach. Of course, a postmodernist would probably now say that this all the more justification for their worldview, that nothing can ever be truly known because every person’s perspective is slightly different, that reality is constantly shifting for everyone because the only basis they have for ‘truth’ is their own experience of the world around them. They would even say that individual interpretation of the Bible as a standard for absolute truth is perpetually flawed and relative to personal experience because everyone is going to interpret the Bible according to the ways in which they perceive and experience the world. And yet, this is a flawed premise, in and of itself, for the Bible can be interpreted according to an unchanging standard and often be applied to a wide variety of circumstances and settings. All this is not to belittle the practicality of experience in determining truth. Paul himself, in many of his epistles to the early church, specifically encouraged the saints to test their faith against their own experiences and knowledge. But he also pointed them to Scripture, pointing out their sins and flaws, pointing them back to the path that leads to Christ. So, while experience is valuable for the testing of our faith and the working of our salvation, it cannot be held up exclusively as the only means for establishing truth because our own interpretations of experiences are frequently flawed and tainted by our finite sensory and cognitive capacities. The one source of truth that I am aware of that never changes (and has never changed over the centuries) is the Holy Scriptures, and while my own experiences help me understand this God that I love a little better and relate to my fellow man, they fall short of the true understanding of Him who I serve. Can I ever hope to know God and His truth fully? No. Not ever, for I am limited in my understanding, and I always, ever will be. But it is not enough to stop me from trying to learn more and understand more, from the only Source of true knowledge, for all the rest of my days. And I expect that I will often be wrong in my understanding. But I can frame my daily experiences within the context of the Word of God, and thereby gain truth and sanity and direction for my life.

Power of Faith

I Peter 1:8-9 – 8Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with and inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

What amazes me here is that this whole process is accomplished purely on the power and strength of faith. This might explain why, though I have never completely lost my faith (only faltered), I have not grown as much spiritually over the last year or two as I would have liked. I have not had the sort of faith that draws me to my Saviour, that instills within me the joy of my salvation and a renewal of my spirit, let alone an inexpressible and glorious joy.

And something else that stands out to me is that salvation seems to carry with it two separate processes — one that is carried out once with eternal implications, and one that is continually being carried out. The one-time action is the initial acceptance of God’s gift of salvation. The continual process is the working of my faith to constantly reshape me into a child of God, the throwing off of the ‘old man’. So, salvation is both a one-time act and a continual process of transformation.

Blessed Be…

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 ESV (emphasis added)

Racism

So, what’s the issue with racism? In the evenings, on my way home from school, I tune in to Scott Sloan out of Cincinnati. Racism in that city has always been such a huge issue, and lately again it has been the subject of a great deal of discussion — blacks accusing whites of racism, whites accusing blacks of the same. It seems just a little bit ridiculous to me.

What I don’t understand is why everyone is so sensitive. Granted, there are still people out there who discriminate against anyone who is not white. And it goes the other direction, too. But the real issue, to me, is that it’s even an issue at all. Sure, people are sinful and foolish and flawed and are going to make judgments based on stereotypes. And you know what? It’s a fact of life. So get over it!!!

We’re all part of the human race, right? So what if your skin is a different shade than mine? So what if your accent and mine don’t match? We’re all still created in God’s image. So what if we’re different, if we come from different cultures, different mindsets? Just because you look different doesn’t mean that you are so different. And frankly, there are people the same race as me who are far more different from me than someone is a different race and culture than I am. And there are people of different races who, except for the color of their skin or the accent in their voice, are virtually identical to me.

It’s so foolish and juvenile to get upset about things just because of skin tones. I wish people would just grow up…..

Revealing a Person’s True Nature

I have a theory concerning alcohol. I tend to think that alcohol is the ultimate truth detector. By that I mean that I think alcohol has the ability to show what a person is really like. People are so good at identifying traits and characteristics of themselves that are unacceptable, inappropriate, and undesirable and at putting up a facade to cover those traits up. People are very good at showing the face that they think people want to see, the one that is socially (and often even morally) acceptable in their culture, the one that makes people like them. However, introduce alcohol into that equation and the truth is soon revealed. Those barriers are broken down; the individual relaxes (alcohol is a depressant, by the way). The guards disappear, and the true essence of a person is revealed. Some people are shown to be fools — silly, idiotic. Others are shown to be full of anger and rage — getting into fights, yelling, screaming, shouting. All these things, I believe, are ever present in these people, but are protected and guarded away. But when they lose control to alcohol, they lose control of themselves, and the true heart of a man is laid open for all the world to see. And instinctively, I think other people know this. That’s why, when a guy gets drunk and gets angry at his friends over something, often times he sobers up to find that he has lost friends, because they know that, even though he was drunk, it was really the way he felt.

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I don’t drink, so I’ve never been drunk, but I’m pretty sure that if I ever did get drunk, I’d probably be one of those angry people….

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Inspired by the Wank & O’Brien Morning Show on RadioNOW, 93.1, Indianapolis, IN.

Strange

Observation for the day:

I find it interesting how, when I post something personal, it generates comments; yet, when I post something with the aim of stimulating thought, something actually worth talking about (aka, not my life), feedback is strangely absent.

(And no, this is NOT my way of begging for comments, merely making an observation.)

Problem of Evil

The problem of evil in the world has always been one that has tested men’s faith. And not just their faith in God. We’re also talking faith in people, faith in institutions, faith in the power of good to overcome evil, and so on and so forth. Yes, there is a LOT of evil in this world, a lot of it. But on the other side of the formula, there is also a lot of good. It is just that evil tends to be louder, more flamboyant. People notice it much more quickly than they do the good things, and they make a bigger deal out of it. Our media is partly to blame for this, of course, but so are we. I mean, how often do you find yourself gossiping with someone else about some big story you heard? You know, the one about the woman who left her husband because she was sleeping with an artist and decided she loved him more than her husband. Or the one about the husband who ran down his wife in their front yard with the family minivan. With their 9-year-old daughter in the passenger seat. Isn’t it so easy to talk about these things? Don’t they inspire a lot of conversation? Don’t they incite some of your baser passions? Don’t they excite you in some horrifying manner of disbelief and shock? And isn’t it so easy to become cynical about people, to question how a supposedly loving God can allow such horrendous things to happen to such (seemingly) good people? Isn’t it so easy to let such horror and pain and suffering — and yes, evil — quench our faith just a little? And then, one day, you find that you have become so hardened in your heart that you wonder why you had any faith to begin with. We have forgotten the good things. We have forgotten that there really is a God who loves and cares and who hurts to watch these things happen to the creatures made in his likeness. It was never meant to be like this. It was meant to be a perfect world. But God in His sovereignty did not want a mechanical love from His creation. So, He gave us free will, and we chose to forsake Him, accepting the consequences of that decision. And now sin and evil exist, for a season, and we must bear that. Soon, though, all will be made perfect again, and sin and death will be no more. Pain and suffering and sadness will be wiped away, and it will be like they never were. Until that day, we must walk strong and keep the faith and look ahead, as Paul said, on those things which are before us, forsaking those things which are behind us, plodding on to the goal which He has set before us, therein to be made into the image of the Son. So, keep the faith, my friends, and be encouraged. These hardships we face cannot last much longer, and then we shall enjoy a bliss unlike any other we have ever known.

Amen

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What can I say…. I was inspired….

Spiritual Gifts Inventory

Do you know what your spiritual gift is? If not, then you should find out, for it will help you to know how to aid the Body of Christ.

Follow this link to a website that will help you determine where your spiritual gift(s) is, so that you may begin using it for the glory of God. (Follow the navigation to the individual spiritual gifts inventory.) It is 4 pages, 108 questions, and takes about 20 minutes to complete.