I Felt Unwelcome and Out of Place. That is the Reason I Do Not Go to Church.

“But I feel so unwelcome and out of place. I just don’t feel like I belong.”

Have you ever offered this as a reason for not “going to church”?

Many people have.

And yet, when one feels this way, he must ask himself if the feelings have been caused by a genuine unfriendliness expressed by the saints or if his feelings are the result of his own shyness and social awkwardness.

The picture above was taken on the outside of a church building. Inside were Christians who were talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. I had been inside with them. I had enjoyed a time of worship and a time of camaraderie. But there came a point when I found myself needing to step outside to get away for a period of alone time. No one had said anything that hurt my feelings. No one had done anything to make me feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. In fact, all had welcomed me with opened arms.

But my personality drove me to step outside the doors; to isolate myself from the friendly, welcoming crowd inside.

At that moment, I could easily have left that assembly saying, “But I felt so out of place. I just didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt as if I was on the outside looking in.” And I would have been right about my feelings, but wrong should I have blamed the people who were enjoying each other’s company within.

“But I feel so unwelcome and out of place. I just don’t feel like I belong.”

Have you ever given this as a reason for not “going to church”?

If you have, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the situation and to give gathering with the family of God another try. That awkwardness you felt may have come from within rather than from the actions of those among who you sat the last time you were there.

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31)

“Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40)

“I considered my ways and turned my feet to your testimonies.” (Psalm 119:59

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Littering the Social Media Highways of Life With Something More precious Than Gold.

One day a few years back I was on my way up to my parents’ house, and I met a van being driven by some strangers to our community.  While they were still a good ways off, I saw one of the occupants toss something out the rider’s side window into the roadside ditch in front of my brother’s house.  My first thought was, “How rude to litter, but especially to throw out one’s garbage in front of another person’s home.”  It turned out that they were casting the same thing in front of everyone’s house; it was a plastic shopping bag containing the new phone directory.  Now for some, (those who rely on technology or those who do not own a phone), this would be considered garbage. Their copies may easily have been tossed into the trash.  However, for many of us, this old-fashioned paperback volume is a valued source of needed information.  I generally keep a copy at my computer desk as a resource for researching phone numbers, addresses, names of businesses, zip codes, and future calendar dates.

Spiritually, for some, when another person casts out references to scriptures and biblical ideals, it is as if the person is littering the highways of life; or perhaps a more currently applicable analogy would be littering the personal social media newsfeeds of life.  Many of these individuals consider it rude for someone to purposely, publicly scatter such archaic information onto the social media highway, because not everyone believes the Bible to be a source of useful information.  However, for others, specific references to scripture and biblical principles are a valuable asset, a source of much needed strength and encouragement which they look forward to receiving on a regular basis.

The strangers in the van had been commissioned to deliver the copies of that year’s phone directory to everyone living on our road. Although the method that was chosen is a rarely used method in our community, they accomplished their goal. To some they delivered trash, to others a treasure.

Many feel divinely commissioned to deliver the Word of God to as many people as they possibly can using whatever means and methods are available. To some, the Words are trash, to others, they are a treasure. But to the commissioned, the casting forth is the accomplishment of their assignment.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19,20) ESV

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” (2 Corinthians 5:11a)

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Scars Can Rob Of Us Of The Joy Of Life Or They Can Be A Source Of Renewal And Strength.

Scars.

Most all our bodies are marked by them. Most all of us wish they weren’t.

We generally view scars to be blemishes to the body’s beauty and purity.

They are signs that one’s body has been harmed. It may have been due to a freak accident. It may have been due to abuse; either self-inflicted or inflicted by others. It may have been due to the harmful consequences of an unwise decision. It may have been due to a life-saving or life-giving surgery. It may have been due to an intentional effort to try to improve the looks of the body. But scars are signs that one’s flesh has been openly wounded in some fashion.

The events that scar the physical body usually scar the emotions and soul as well.

Each time we experience the tenderness or numbness of a scar, we are reminded of the way things were before we were wounded. Each time we glimpse a blemish, our mind relives the events which opened the wound. Each time we relive those events, we reflect upon their impact upon our character, our personality, our emotional stability, our interaction with others, and our spiritual beliefs.

Scars produce a variety of reflections and emotions. Some bring back pleasant memories of carefree childhood days; a time when our mama was always there to fix any wound we received while playing. Some remind us of the joy we felt when we heard our baby’s first cry. Some help us to be thankful that we didn’t suffer the full consequences of our stupid youthful actions. Some give us relief that the doctors were able to perform preventive surgery before a major health issue occurred.

But many scars produce negative reflections and emotions. Each time we feel them, we cringe in fear once again. Each time we see them, our mind begins to reel over and over, out of control, as if we were in that somersaulting vehicle once more. Each time we wash them, we hear the abusive words that accompanied the abusive blows which opened the wounds.

Many of us spend much of our lives trying to deal with the events which have scarred our body, soul, and spirit. We want so much to put these events behind us. We desire to not be afraid, or bitter, or resentful, or filled with hate. Though we wish they had never happened and we wonder why they did occur, we realize that the events cannot be undone.

So, how do we deal with life’s scars?

The simplest answer is to say, “Give your life to Jesus, and let him take care of your burden.” But that is a simple statement summarizing a complex process.

Jesus is the answer to life’s problems, but he does not erase the past, nor does he create completely smooth sailing for the future. Jesus does not create a pain free life for his servants.  Instead, he helps them deal with the pain they encounter through love, forgiveness, selflessness, and hope. Jesus exemplifies each of these and then enables his followers to practice them. The problems and memories do not fade away, because the scars are always there. But as we grow in Christ, the events that caused the scars take on a different meaning. And the feelings we have toward those who may have inflicted the wounds transform from bitter hatred to forgiving love.

Scars can rob us of all joy in life or they can provide a continuous opportunity to add more joy to each breath we take. The difference between the two is attitude. Experiencing Jesus’ love can help transform our pain into healing.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Jesus (Luke 23:34) ESV

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” – Stephen (Acts 7:60) ESV

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) ESV

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