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76-6224 Ali'i Drive
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740
USA

Living Stones Church, a church in Kona Hawaii, is a diverse group of individuals united by a common love for Jesus. Our goal is to become the kind of church described in the Bible: a culture of faith. 

Living Stones Church Blog

Be inspired and challenged by posts shared here by the pastors, staff and ministry leaders of Living Stones Church. 

What's in your closet?

Megan Mitsuda

Author: Andrew West

"What’s in your closet”? This is one of the strangest questions the Lord has ever asked me.

I had heard the question before, in Cambodia in 1995 whilst building a fish farm for orphans and widows in that war ravaged land. I couldn’t believe that a blind, (former prostitute) widow was a better evangelist than I was, taking every possible opportunity to share the gospel. The children in that shelter also seemed to love the Lord more than me. I saw them eating fried cockroaches and rats, yet they beamed with a joy that was obviously heavenly, they seemed content with their simple life there.

I asked the Lord “Why do they seem to love you more than me, Lord?” I have set my career aside to be a missionary, trained hard at various bible colleges, but they seem to have a fire in their belly for the Lord that I didn’t have (well, the fire in me wasn’t as obvious anymore!).

The Lord then showed me a very distinct picture: I was standing there with my “stuff”, it was actually a closet full of the things. Things that I am and had earned, things like athletic awards, academic degrees etc. These things that are a part of who I am. There is nothing wrong with these things, and I had always asked the Lord if I was to pursue them, and I had given them all to Him. The Lord was also there, a very big part of who I am.

I then felt the Lord say to me “ Now look in her closet” and the closet of the blind widow was pretty barren, except for the Lord. He was ALL she had, and He wasn’t being cluttered out by other “stuff”, as good as the “stuff” may be.

“This is why she holds onto me with such fervor, I am all she has, I am everything to her”.

This wasn’t a rebuke, but my life suddenly snapped into perspective.

But why?

Why Lord was she born into a family (that was going to die in the war) in that situation and time? In a small developing Asian nation, in a poor rural society with dirt floors, with little chance of education, and only prostitution to feed her kids, then malaria, then blindness.

And why Lord, was I so blessed to be born into a Christian family, in a wealthy nation, with good education, good health, and access to a good career?

Yes, why was I so “blessed”, and she so “un-blessed”? 

I asked the Lord: “Was it sin Lord? … Sin in her life, or her family’s life”? 

The answer came “No

“Is it because You love me more than her Lord”?

The answer came again “No”

Then WHY? Why the disparity in our lives?

The Lords answer was kind, profound, and simple:

“To whom much is given much is required.” (Luke 12:48)

I wish I hadn’t heard that!    …  because I owe A LOT

Twenty one years later I found myself in Northern Uganda with Living Stones Church’s first African outreach. What a place! What a team! And what a beautiful bunch of orphans and widows! The love of Jesus in that place is tangible.

Again, a land scarred by man’s atrocities. But looking into the eyes of such beautiful innocent kids makes the trip worth it! Many of these innocent eyes had witnessed the killing of their own parents by the rebels. 

But looking into their eyes I see hope and a future. Man’s killing fields are once more being transformed into God's healing fields. But it has not happened by itself, It has happened because a faithful missionary couple “rescued” a bunch of orphans (some child soldiers) ten years ago and set up “Otino Waa” Children’s home. Totally putting feet to Gods word, James 1:27: "Pure and undefiled religion is to take care of the widows and orphans in distress.”

Again, God was dealing with my self-centered, proud, over-entitled heart. Placing everything again into perspective.

Each of our team were given eight kids, a house Mum (a widow) to eat with and be a part of for the entirety of our trip. Eight boys with only one bible between them, but they seemed to know the scriptures so well. 

My boys took me to their room and proudly showed me their neatly made beds (with ripped mosquito nets). Then one proudly showed me his closet, and in this closet I didn’t see much, for he was wearing the only pair of shoes and socks he owned. I saw a few little items, pictures he had drawn, and a few knick-knacks. But he had Jesus. How can they love Jesus so much? Having lived through so much hurt in their short little lives … and possessing so little?

Again, that’s precisely why ... Because Jesus is EVERYTHING to them.

Maybe one of the most impactful things occurred walking with the team back from an open-air market. The amount of trash in the dirty ditch besides the road is pretty appalling. This road-side ditch had muddy, brown. stinky water slowly trickling through it. I witnessed a man in ragged trousers pawing at something in the mud. Curious, I slowed to see if the old gentleman was collecting plastic to recycle. But I was puzzled, as they don’t recycle here. As he fished out an old plastic cup from the muck I saw him “wash” it in the putrid water. Then to my absolute horror he dipped it in the disgusting flow and started drinking. I yelled “Please no, don’t drink that!” and with that I gave him my water bottle. He took the water and immediately shot out his other hand for money.  I gave him a 1000 shilling note (approx. 30 US cents) and he beamed. Then I heard mocking laughter around me and I looked up to see derision on faces oflocals watching me. Their faces said it all “Why waste any amount of money on such a worthless guy?” 

OK, in all likelihood that man is already dead.  Did the meager effort on my part do anything? … probably not. He was born in obscurity and he probably died in obscurity, but one thing is for certain; He was made in the image of God. He is also loved by God as much as me, and valued as much as me, AND to quote the words of John Bradford (and later Wesley): “But by the grace of God, there go I.” So every time I look at the orphans and think of the road that they have had to tread, I too recite “But by the grace of God, there go I”

More to the point, what would you have me do Lord? Because To whom much is given, much is owed. 

… and I owe so, SO much.

We are going back to Uganda next year. There are projects we feel that we are to partner with:

- Expanding the medical clinic

- Building a sustainable farm with a well 

- College sponsorships for the orphans (only $5K to become a doctor)

- Helping a fledgling local church in a nearby district called “Kona” (seriously!)

But most importantly; we are simply being called to be the hands of Jesus. Some people may say “Why Africa? Why so far away?” … I say “Why not”? The word says: 

“You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

The Pride Chronicles: “How Do I Look??"

Megan Mitsuda

Author: Sara Burns

When I was a teenager, I joined the common girl fad of starving myself. At the time, in the late 90’s, famous girls looked like they had a daily diet of raisins and ice. Kids my age had dark-lined eyes, sunken cheeks, and choker necklaces, like they had stepped out of a Tim Burton film; it wasn’t popular to be happy or healthy. I wanted to be popular, so I started the destructive habit of obsessing over how little I could eat. Calista Flockhart set my standard. During this time, anorexia was glorified as a condition to be pitied and pandered to. I desperately wanted those things from people as well. But deep down I knew that God wasn’t happy with my choices. I struggled for attention and at the same time knew God wanted to have a talk with me, but I avoided it.

Then one night I had a sleepover with a friend. This same friend was my secret competitor; at parties I would strive to eat less than her or compare notes with what she had eaten that day. Often I was up against: “I’ve only had black coffee for the last three days.”  We were in the same sick game. At the sleepover, she shared with me how she had been recently challenged by an older role model of ours. This wise mentor had told her that the root of her eating issue was PRIDE. Ouch. I sat there on my bedroom floor, her on the bottom bunk, as she relayed this conversation and I started feeling fidgety. There was no room for self-pity in that prognosis. I couldn’t sugar-coat and ignore my struggle under the glaring light of that revelation. It was the same truth God had been whispering to me, but I had shut my ears to. Now a friend was speaking it to me directly and I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I couldn’t hope for people to feel sorry for me or want to affirm me out of this hole I had dug for myself. I would have to deal with pride if I wanted freedom.

With a new resolve, I started to address the issue. I began to starve my pride. I ate my whole dinner instead of spreading it across my plate to look like I had eaten it. I almost self-righteously ate big bowls of ice cream, rather than snack bags of craisins. I drank glasses of milk, rather than Diet Coke. I consequently developed lactose intolerance, but that’s beside the point. I kept this anorexia, for me this form of pride, at bay and tried to keep it from having the last say in how I acted toward food. I had taken the first step, I guess, and identified starving myself and obsessing over my body as SIN. Unfortunately, I had just exchanged one form of pride for another.

I wrestled with this issue on and off for about eight years. My issue still lurked in the corners, scrawny through starvation though it was. It was a threat to my spiritual and emotional well-being, because when the pressures of life mounted, that ugly thing came out of hiding and attacked.  Whenever I lost my resolve to be holy and wanted to be accepted instead, I reverted to trying to control or adjust my body weight and then hating myself when I couldn’t do it quickly or completely enough. I found small victories and seasons of peace and freedom, but it was always waiting for a weak moment. I was still very self-absorbed. I really really wanted people to take notice of me and like me. I hated myself when I didn’t get the kind of attention I wanted. It meant I hadn’t had the level of self-restraint I needed. It meant I wasn’t born with the beauty I would have wanted for myself.

I found that when I had opened the door in my life and let in the monster of anorexia, I had also invited perfectionism, control, and self-hatred to rule my decisions. If I wasn’t actively starving myself, these sins would look for different outlets. If I wouldn’t control what I ate, then I would control another aspect of my appearance.

When I got married the struggle once again got real. I was put in the pressure cooker and the things that had lain dormant quickly resurfaced, to my (and believe me Ryan’s) dismay. Any thoughts that marriage and true love would wipe away further concerns over my appearance quickly vanished. I was still concerned about looking good, and now I had to look good all the time.

Three years into marriage, one evening things mercifully came to a head. Poor Ryan had spent three years fervently and vainly trying to convince me that I was beautifully and wonderfully made, but I had allowed the lies in my head to grow too loud. It spoke spiteful, hateful, and lying things about myself and I was tired of agreeing. I came to the point that night when I knew, either I kill this thing or it will rule me. It was satanic. It was ungodly in these thoughts it provoked. It had to go. My amazing husband very willingly led me in a prayer which I prayed through gritted teeth because I had been very familiar with these lies for so long. I took a stand and told that pride with a mixture of self-glorification, control, perfectionism, and self-hatred, a very toxic tonic, that they were done. I didn’t even know who or what I was dealing with at the time. I just knew there was evil lurking in my heart that was choking me, and they must leave in Jesus’ name. I said NO. No. No. No. Until every last bit of my “yes” to it was gone.

I am here to tell you that my stand had an effect. I immediately felt empowered and stronger than the pride that had minutes before been mastering me. I had cut the legs of this harassing enemy right out from under him, just by looking him in the face, calling him out, and saying NO.

I can’t lie, the problem didn’t disappear without a trace. I had fainter echoes of the former lies for a while. I can remember a specific time a week or so after this powerful prayer time that I was in the kitchen and started worrying about eating too much. I felt the same suffocating squeeze on my heart, but this time I realized what was happening. I recognized the lies I was starting to listen to. I felt a rush of grace and I put my foot down and started repeating my “no’s” and then doing the opposite of what this pride wanted me to do. I told myself the truth.

I remember feeling freedom for the first time in a while as I ate without worry. I remember how the lies gave up so much more quickly...it was as if I intimidated them now. This facet of pride made various attempts to bully and control me again, but I was removed to a higher mountain and the battle was no longer on the same ground. (James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will LIFT you UP.”) Any of you who have struggled with unhealthy body image, self image or eating habits will understand the relief it was to be free. The obsession and anger were gone. As long as my determination remained to relinquish my pride to the Lord, He continually granted victory in my life.

I came to realize that pride often bars the gate that leads to victory. It blocks the flow of grace. When we remove the pride, we can experience a surge of victory. I saw this victory. I was able to enter into a healthy body image and healthy eating habits. It took years to feel fully free, but it was always a winning battle. I took ground every time. Each time I continued to say no to this pride, it meant a new surge in my breakthrough. And each breakthrough took me farther and farther from the place I had been in that pride before. (James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore it says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.)

My encouragement to you today is to look at where you are too self-focused and recognize that it is not God’s best for you. God wants you free from that perfectionism and self-hatred that comes bundled together with self-worship. Repent for putting “self” and “appearance” over God. Say “NO!” to that stuff that drives you away from the presence of the Lord, and experience the freedom Christ died to give you. Join me in breathing deeply of the Father’s grace and the strength He so ardently wants to give you in this area!

 

The Pride Chronicles: Neat Freaks Anonymous

Megan Mitsuda

Author: Sara Burns

mary-poppins.jpg

It tells you something about my personality when my favorite part of Mary Poppins as a child was when she cleaned the bedroom. I would get aggravated right along with Mary when that noncompliant squeaky toy kept popping out of the bedside table drawer. When the “Spoonful of Sugar” song came to an end and everything settled into its proper place, I breathed a sigh of relief. (Truth be told, sliding up and down the staircase vied for “favorite scene”. I was, after all, still a kid.) Probably about half of you readers can relate. The other half may need to wait for the next chronicle while I talk to my peeps for a while.

If you are like me, there is just something about neatly-folded clothes drawers, perfectly-straightened piles of books and the sparkle of a freshly-mopped floor that send gentle shivers down your spine and make you want to dance a circle around yourself in glee. That said, I’m all about the final product, not so much about the process itself. (Never could perfect the “Poppins snap”, so alas it has always been tedious elbow grease for me.) I heard that cleanliness is next to godliness. It is probably because you feel like you have nothing left to prove when you’ve thoroughly polished the house. It comes with a supreme sense of being right and at peace with the world around you.

God likes order and structure and things being in their proper place too. Just think, He invented time, and the balance of gravitational forces, and the orbits. He put peas nicely in pods and gave kangaroos handy pockets to hold miscellaneous joeys. He created animals like elephants and cats to bathe themselves, and even made those little aquarium shrimp that clean their dirty tankmates (watch Finding Nemo for more information). He had ants march in a straight line and cats cover over their own doodoo.

All of you orderly people are nodding your heads right now and feeling justified in being uptight about timeliness, neatness, structured living, and everything else Monkish. “Yes!!!” You think, “I’m godly in feeling this way! Maybe my cleanliness is not just next to godliness, but is righteousness itself!” The question is, is your orderliness and God’s the same?

Take a second look around the world and you start wondering if maybe God’s definition of order is unique. Amid the order, I find things that fit more readily under the category of “disorder” in my book. The sea is teeming with wildlife, swimming in disorderly fashion in a beautiful chaos. The earth is overrun with an abundance of plant types climbing all over each other. Fur is very furry and dirt is dirty--was there a need? Dog drool and slug slime: need I continue?

First Corinthians 14:33 says that “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace”. If you read the surrounding verses, you find out that this means only two or three people speaking in tongues with interpretations, and prophets prophesying one at a time and not all at once. I venture to guess that there are some people who would not feel comfortable with this type of “order” in their Sunday morning service.

It’s similar to God’s timeliness:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. 2 Peter 3:8

He’s not slow, we just have to change our definition of fast. This is the same principle I’m working with for with orderliness. Everything is not out-of-control; it’s just not in my definition of “managed”.

Think about this. God actually invented childbirth and said women would be saved through it. If you ask me, He could have imagined a less chaotic and more sterile process. Perhaps, though, women are saved through this humiliating loss of control? I can attest that childbirth can be the most pride-stripping, dignity-losing process of a lifetime. It forces you to need God’s help. Maybe childbirth is a picture of how God wants us to put up with disorder and mess, trusting Him to work amidst out-of-our-control chaos.

Here is my question: Is your need for order unbalanced? Is your control controlling you? The reason I ask is because mine definitely is. (Maybe I should have entitled these “Confessionals” rather than “Chronicles”) Basically I have to look no further than the fruits in my own life to call my NEED for order and perfection a sin.

My pride (we finally worked in the title topic), or the need to be in control of things and not God, is played out in my constant pursuit of perfect prettiness around me. I want to be pretty, have my kids act prettily, have my house clean and pretty, have everything work out in my own pretty timing...you get the pretty picture. In my pursuit of these things, what do I get? Stress, anger, resentment, misplaced priorities, and a tendency to domineer. These are not pretty things. Very unpretty; ask my family. If instead, I am ok to serve Him in some unprettiness, then He will get more of the praise, not me. Order often makes us look good. But our life is not about that, it’s about making Him look good.

I heard a very impactful definition of sin when I was in high school and it has stuck with me. It is from Susanna Wesley, mother of the evangelists John and Charles Wesley, and it is:

Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.

I have to tell you that when I yell at my kids for spilled juice and gripe at my husband for the number of chores to be done, my body has most definitely taken over my mind and it is one of those instances where anger is not justified as righteous. My control (a pseudonym for pride) is controlling my behavior. I have given top priority things that God isn’t, and it is usurping my ability to take on God’s priorities in the moment.

Where do you see control control you? Are you so consumed with cleaning up that you won’t stop to make a little mess playing with your kids, if that’s what they need? Are you so concerned with getting somewhere on time that you do not appreciate the process of getting there, but instead spend it stressed and mean to everyone around you? Or, so we cover everyone’s control issues, maybe you need things done right (eg. your way) and so in your mind teamwork is a term used by the less competent. Your prideful need for control and order and things done “just so” has made you a monster. Did you ever stop and ask God if the things you are so concerned about are a concern to Him?

Here’s the truth: your pride can make you miss the glory He wants to reveal in the middle of messes. It will blind you from the cry of someone in need of a little grace, when you’re too busy straightening the situation. It will stop your ears to the whispers of the Holy Spirit in the middle of mayhem. In your search for a tidy life under your control, you will forfeit miracles. He works best and brightest in our chaos. Give Him the chance to.

Our pride will keep us straightening our lives and everyone’s around us until we are driven half-mad. It is a never-ending process to perfect things in an imperfect world. As an alternative, we can release this need to God and let Him do His job of being in charge. He can call the shots and we can do only what is important to Him. If He is saying, walk out that door and take your kids to the park, and your mind is screaming “But dishes in the sink!!!”, WALK OUT THE DOOR. If that schedule is managing you, lay it before the Lord and let Him use a red marker to rewrite it. If you can’t sit and read your Bible because you need to dust the table beside you and then straighten the couch pillows and pick the lint off the carpet and then find yourself somehow degreasing the front of your oven while simultaneously brushing your dog’s teeth (don’t judge; you know what I’m talking about), then PRAY. Seriously, this stuff needs to let go of you for a while. Bring your control to Jesus and let Him have it. It’s so much more fun to take His lead.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

The Pride Chronicles: Getting Good at Being Wrong

Megan Mitsuda

Author: Sara Burns

Well, here goes. Another chronicle on pride, another opportunity to humiliate myself. This is going to be such a cleansing process. So, which aspect of my multi-faceted pride should we draw upon today? How about...

I don’t like being wrong.

Ever. I’m sure some of you can relate. But I guess those of you who can won’t ever admit it. Did you like being told “no” as a child? Never! We’ve never in our human flesh gladly accepted correction. That comes from the Holy Spirit because it takes His humility. I know as a toddIer I must’ve had that same little devious arched eyebrow that my kids get when we start introducing the “no”. I’m sure you did too. I’m sure in our own ways, we still do. It’s that little blossoming rebellion that says, “Did you really just oppose me?”.

Not only do I not like being wrong, I don’t like getting things wrong. And being less than perfect.

When we first got married, Ryan started as a worship leader at our church. I was often keyboard player for the worship band. I had grown up in a somewhat musical family and had gone to college for music; he had grown up in a very musical family and had toured in college for music. He trumped my knowledge and experience, but I wasn’t about to happily roll over and concede. Also, I desperately wanted to impress my new husband with my abilities. What sounds like a perfect setting for fun times as happy spouses was instead tense and biting as he tried to critique and I boiled in anger. (I have matured a lot since then…)

Then there were the times we tried playing tennis together. I look back on them with a mixture of fondness and frustration. I grew up playing, and he didn’t know the tiniest thing about the game. Perfect, I thought. Unfortunately, he has a natural knack for just about anything he puts his hand to. He has more of an obstinately determined personality that will drill until he gets something right. Soon we couldn’t play anymore, because I was losing too much. We started going to just “hit around” instead of playing an actual game because I just couldn’t take it.

Don’t even get me started on ballroom dancing. In this I do still remain the more talented of the two of us, but unfortunately I can never take the male lead position so this sport too was a bust.

I have sections of my life that I am very happy being humble about, and even invite criticism. Like…hold on a second, it’ll come. I don’t even pretend to be good at sewing, crafting, or any form of minute handiwork (I may find pride in this fact, however). I am not at all good at taxes or reading detailed instruction guides or fixing things in general. In these areas I happily invite Ryan to instruct, or even better, take over. But batten down the hatches and secure the rigging if he should give me constructive criticism on my cooking, gentle suggestions on my conduct towards the kids, or kindly intended words of advice on my use of time. Heck, I don’t like him telling me to try a different shirt. (Uh! You don’t faint at my beauty whatever old thing I may have on?!)

I think I have always resented criticism. Actually I’m certain of it. It just stings so badly. I’ve always wanted to naturally be the perfect daughter, Christian, friend, pastor’s wife, student, writer, athlete, etc. I’ve wanted the praise minus the instruction and the glory minus the sweat. I especially want people I admire to only ever recognize my sterling qualities.

Why does it hurt so much to be found wanting in the eyes of people we love? We are trying SO hard to perform well. We are trying so hard to be accepted. Why do we try so hard? Maybe childhood hurts, but also, we want some of the glory for ourselves. We want to be able to take the credit for our goodness or success. We’re glory-stealers naturally.

Remember Adam and Eve? They gladly received direction every day from the Lord, until they sinned. Then they exchanged their godly character for traits of satan. Now we are each born with natures poisoned by the nature of satan. Satan was the ultimate glory-stealer. We will struggle our entire lives to steal God’s glory until we give over our lives to Christ. Then He can start the process of reworking our characters into Glory-givers instead.

So how do I get good at being wrong?

First and foremost I have to stop working to impress God. I have to give in to His work for me. This is the gospel. A heart submitted to this gospel will change every other relationship. The more my heart settles on the fact that God is satisfied in me, that He is indeed proud of me because of Jesus, then I can be at peace with every other relationship. His pleasure will fill my heart so much that I won’t need much else!

Also, I need to quickly shed the nature of the devil and take on the nature of Christ! How can I? Rush to accept criticism, swallow the bitter pill of my own pride, and get on with humility. Pride will stifle our growth and the things we so badly want to be good at will never progress in its shadow. I wonder how many things I would be better at today, had I been ok with criticism in my past? There are works to be done and people to become and it starts with being okay with being wrong. God’s pleasure over me makes me okay with being wrong and needing help and not being the best. I can embrace humility as the way to His character. The more I embrace humility, the more I will be absorbed by the nature of Jesus.