Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Testimony

The Conversion of Mudcat Stew.....

It was 9 years ago, I was 27, when the events surrounding my coming to Christ transpired. This is not a full biography of me, but to sum up the events prior in short order. I was baptized in the church of my parents (SBC) when I was 7. In all truth, I just got wet, my commitment was disingenuous. I was active in church till age 16. I abandoned my families religion for a number or reasons. I became agnostic which trended towards atheism. I began following a path of excess that involved drug and alcohol abuse, as well as being an incorrigible but successful skirt chaser.

The path I was following was very self destructive. I was a bright kid, and had academic scholarships as well as SAT/ACT scholarships. Within my first year of college I had ruined those. I eventually dropped out of school altogether and had a hard time holding down a job of any sort. My parents were pretty intolerant of my behavior and threw me out... with hard feelings on both sides. I managed to find people who would put me up in between jobs, when I couldn't pay rent.

At age 23 I struck up a relationship with my old high school sweetheart, an inactive LDS who was walking the same destructive path as myself. We moved in together and our love for each other at least saved us from the brink of total disaster. We left the hard drugs and got decent jobs in retail management. In 2 years we were married and we moved back to our hometown and “settled down” a bit. We both took jobs in outside sales. I sold office equipment. We both did not go to church and God was not a part of our relationship.

Enough of a back story. Okay, now to the conversion of Mudcat.

2 years later, age 27, it was Oct. 21st of 98 ,little had changed. Both of us in our same occupations, etc.. She was pressing on me very hard to have children, I was having the worst 6 months in sales in my life, and we had a lot of financial problems. I was totally stressed out.

On this particular day, at work, my delivery guy was out sick and I needed to demo 3 machines. The last machine was at a small black baptist church and was scheduled to be delivered at 6pm before their Wed. prayer meeting. I took the delivery van and 3 machines that morning and went alone. I had a lot of windshield time and did a lot of thinking about the fact that my life seemed to be falling apart.

After the first two machines were delivered, I headed out towards my last destination, it was late afternoon. I had lots of time to get there and decided to take the long way round to think a bit more. But, the more I thought, the more distressed I became. I felt so boxed in about my life and there was no obvious way out of my problems.

Anyways, so lost in thought, I wasn't paying attention to the road. I saw a long piece of steel laying in the roadway, to late. I had a blowout, but managed to keep the van under control and pull over as best I could to the side of the road. There was a steep ditch and I could only pull off partially on the side of busy two lane road. The tire that was blown was on the highway side, unfortunately. I was also stranded several miles from the nearest town (which was a small town, that lived below poverty line and there were no cell phone towers in that area back then).

Well, I did my best to emotionally “sober up” and went to the rear to get the spare tire. I had a significant problem...the handle that held the nut that loosened the spare was broken off and nothing short of pliers or vice-grips would loosen the spare. I searched the van, but I didn't have any. I did my best to come to grips with the fact that I would be very late and prepared myself for a cold 5 mile hike to town.....It gets strange right here.

I stepped out of the van and there was an 11-13 year old black boy, sitting on a black quarter-horse across the road. (This was a strange sight...even in the deep south in 1998). He asked me if I needed help and I explained I needed pliers. He said he had some at his house and pointed to a ramshackle of a place down the road ....and galloped of.

I retrieved the jack and began to jack the tire. Here was another problem. I was having to change the tire with my body in the highway. No sooner than I had started changing the tire, a State Trooper pulled up. He was a monstrous fellow...tall, muscular and black. He said he would block the lane while I finished and he pulled his car out into the lane to protect me.

No sooner than the I got the old blown out tire off, the kid shows back up on his horse and gives me the vice-grips. I get the spare and put it on...thank everyone and go.

My hands and arms were filthy and I stopped at a gas station in the upcoming town, but they did not allow people to use their facilities and they were the only gas station in town. I asked if anyone else in town had a restroom and he said no place that was open after 5pm. And it was a hair past 5.

I headed on to the do the demo and managed to beat the members their. I washed myself in the spigot. BTW....the name of this particular baptist church was Calvary Baptist.

The copier demonstration went fine and I departed in the van. I reflected on the events of my rather bizarre day. And in the next few moments of travel I determined a lot of the symbolism of those moments.

The blown out tire was me/my soul.
The new tire was something I couldn't get on my own, it was salvation.
The boy was a symbol for Christ.
The horse, the Holy Ghost, in other words how Christ moves.
The trooper, God the Father, the Law.
(This part came to me later)....The fact all three were black is so I would notice they were all the same. If they had been white, as I am, I probably would have been to thick headed to notice they were different than me.
The vice-grips...his atonement...the only thing that would help me get the tire (salvation)
To top it all off...The only place I could get clean was at the water of Calvary (blood of Christ).

After these things sort of "clicked together". I felt the presence of something other than myself. I believe it was the Holy Spirit confirming what I had concluded. I didn't feel all warm and fuzzy good. More like someone was speaking to me in thought. It was then and there I pulled over and asked my Savior into my heart. Shortly after I was baptized in the church I grew up in.

Since that time we have had three children and my family and I are part of a growing and dynamic church. For many years now, I have served as the bassist for the orchestra. My small group meetings are comprised mostly of the families of the orchestra and I teach some of the classes. I even coach my kids in the local sports programs. I have done will with my career and am the sales manager for the company I work for. My wife has been able to open her own business and is a respected member of the community as well.

At age 20, I never thought I would live to see age 30. It is amazing what Christ can do and anything that has happened to my benefit, I give him all praise and glory.

I am so thankful for what God has blessed me with. If you read this and have yet to meet Christ Jesus, I hope you will consider asking him to be the Lord of your life and commit yourself to do your best to follow his teachings.


Mudcat Stew

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Problem of Prejudice Within Christianity

In my opening post I asked

What are the biggest hurdles we as Christian's face? As I see it, prejudice is the greatest foe.

Merriam-Webster Online defines prejudice as:
1 : injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights; especially : detriment to one's legal rights or claims
2 a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

Christianity as a whole, doesn't have the A+ report card on its lack of prejudice. As evidence towards such prejudice, critics would point to some major events in Christian history such as the Spanish Inquisition, The Crusades and witch burnings. These three areas have combined death tolls estimated at over a quarter million and perhaps as much as a million.

Most Christians in response to such would say that these people who committed such atrocities were not acting in the interests of Christ, but were rather misappropriating the name of Christ for unrighteousness.

It is an obvious, and in my opinion correct attempt at dissociating Christ with much of the unrighteousness that his been done in falsely in his glorious name. However, it does little to nullify the argument that people can do some things that are just flat wrong and still manage to convince themselves and others that Christ should get credit for it.

It is fairly apparent that Christians have made much progress in the area. Events of such mass injustice as those I posited are literally unheard of in this day and age in association with Christianity. There are still instances that arise though. Seems at least a few times a year, we hear of a church being burned, some faiths missionaries being injured, imprisoned or murdered.

However, prejudice amongst differing Christian sects still occurs in typically a much more subtle fashion. Things like... Don't buy from Bob he is an Evangelical. Don't invite those children to the party they Mormons. Don't hire Johnny, he's a Catholic.... I could go on. But hopefully you understand where I am going.

It is quite possible you yourself have been in a conversation, where religious jokes were passed around. Perhaps told them yourself. Or you were witness to the derision or ostracism of a person because they were a part of a different sect of Christianity.

I think back to Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan.
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead with no clothes. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, and he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, he too passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and looked after him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." NIV

The tale itself speaks of how a Samaritan was kind Jew, though he had been passed over by to Jewish holy men. I won't bother with detailed outlay as the story speaks for itself and I think most of understand that the Samaritans were people that the Jews held great prejudiced towards. Now I emphasized did emphasize Christ's question and the lawyers response. It has been posited, that the lawyer held a similar contempt for Samaritans and was unwilling to even name a Samaritan directly, but rather preferred a more ambiguous response.

It seems evident to me that Christ was making an appeal to the audience, that it is possible for people to conquer such prejudice and truly be neighbors to their fellow man even when they have vastly different views.

Also, it seems that in fact that two Jews, for whatever reason, failed to help a fellow brother. There was a rather blatant verbal barb to his audience. I imagine we could likely identify with all of the characters at some point in our lives.

Like them, I feel there have been times when I have passed along the other side.

I daresay there have been moments where I was more like those robbers. My blows may have been verbal but I think we know what Scripture tells us of the wounds we can leave with our own words. I may not have taken their possessions, but if I denied someone patronage of a business, or work, or just plain civility and the right to exist am I actually any less a thief?

There have been times as well, that I have felt similarly to fellow who was robbed.

This is the problem of prejudice within Christianity.

But how is it resolved?

I think there are a few easy steps we can take.

The simplest and easiest to implement is to refrain from prejudice ourselves and teach our families this as well.

When we the Lord affords us the opportunity to be the good Samaritan do so.

The next two are a bit tougher to implement, as it takes a bit more courage.

Be prepared to approach this situation when we confront it in social situations and at work in the spirit of Christian love. I am asking us to be more proactive here. Rather than being the Samaritan or simply not being a robber, I am suggesting we actually try to be the policemen on patrol.

Also, carry this same attitude into our own respective churches. It is sad to say, but this is likely the place where we will see the most opportunity and the most repercussion.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.


Mudcat Stew

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How can we as Christians make steps towards at least a general sense of unification with those of other Christian faiths?


I am Mudcat Stew.

This is my first official blog post ever. I am very excited about that. To give you a little background, I am an Evangelical Christian and am a member of a local Southern Baptist church.

I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people in the course of my life. Some I have met through forums such as this one, others in my daily work and social life. Many claim Christ but their beliefs vary from mine on different points. Yet as I see it, every one I have talked of Christ with ... Catholics, Orthodox, Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals and so forth. Seems all share a profound love and respect for their Savior. Yet despite this common love of Christ, our variant beliefs cordon us off from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think the subject I am bringing up is a rather difficult one, but one that can hopefully be discussed. One general problem I see, is that nearly all faiths basic solution is for everyone to come round to what they believe. Hopefully you are as cognizant of the fact as I am, that this is an unlikely scenario in any temporal sense.

Recognizing that, I would posit Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-7 that "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."

This statement is a powerful one that I read quite often. Looking at the text, I think it is pretty obvious that Christianity as a whole has done a fairly poor job of it. Sometimes it just makes me want to curl up in my nice cozy ecclesiastical ball and pull the shutters closed on the rest of the world.

In fact many people do just that, however I think this sort of thinking seems to be a bit contrary to Paul's encouragement to be longsuffering and forbearing one another in love. Such language seem to imply the challenge of such unity.

Please note, I plan to give you my own thoughts about the questions I have asked below in future blog posts. Your comments on them, or anything I have said so far, are more than welcome.

  • Given the current state of things, how are we to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
  • What are the biggest hurdles we as Christian's face?
  • What are some possible solutions to surmount them?


The Mudcat