Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who is God? Who am I? And how do I relate to you?

Tonight we received certificates to show we completed our counseling courses require to serve in Liquid Church's Care Ministry. We were asked to answer three questions from the perspective of what we learned in our course work. 
This is that essay. 

God is perfect; perfect power, perfect wisdom, and perfect love. Because God is love, He created humanity to love Him back. He did not want forced, coerced, manipulated love so He created us with free will. With the freedom to love, God also gave us the freedom to turn away from His love. We call this sin.

Even before God created the world, He knew we would sin so He had a plan to reconcile us to Himself and be with us in perfect peace forever. His plan spanned millennia, generations and nations. God is patient, willing to bear the pain of our rejection and of watching our self-inflicted tribulations as we ran from Him and His perfect will. We could not save ourselves even after God gave us His Law and His warnings through His prophets. Even when we desired to be righteous, we became self-righteousness. We were hopelessly dead in our sin.

At just the right time, Jesus came to save us. He left paradise to meet us in our broken world. He walked beside us, telling us stories, asking us questions, and healing our diseases. He demonstrated He was fully human by eating and drinking, laughing and crying, bleeding and dying. He demonstrated He was fully God by His control over the sea and the rain, over angels and demons, over life and death.

Jesus took all our sin on His own body and paid our debt to God in full. As He died, He proclaimed, “It is finished.” Death could not hold Him, nor will it hold us when we trust in Him. We are truly free now, free to choose God, free to love Him as He always intended.

God adopted me and I am His daughter, beautiful and perfect in His sight. That is how God sees me in His eternal realm. However while I am trapped here in time and space I must still work out my salvation in fear and trembling. I must diligently follow Him and be alert to the evil one as he accuses me, tempts me, and appears as an angel of light.

Now God is our Father so we are one family. I am the sister and my family is vast, from every continent, every nation. I link arms with them, lean on them, help them as they help me. We share God’s truth and God’s love. I love and forgive them. I listen with humility as they point out my blind spots, and I confess and pray for the Holy Spirit’s power for change.

All glory to God!
Before this course, I knew to speak with mercy and tenderness as I point out the blind spots of others. However, now I realize I cannot understand their pain or attempt to help them until I walk beside them as Jesus did. I must enter their world, listen intently, and ask questions. I cannot assume I understand their heart or their situation. I do not know their answers. Only Jesus knows. Only He can see what is in the depth of their hearts. I must be patient and love them as Jesus did, freeing them to change or not, at their own pace, in their own way. Jesus was in no hurry to fix people. He was willing to withstand the pain of watching our trials while He waited for us to be ready to accept Him and His truth. So it must be with me.

We offer them Christ’s stories, the thread of themes from Genesis to Revelation that demonstrate God’s grace and truth. Where does their story intercept with God’s story? Where is God encouraging change at a heart level, not merely our changing our behavior? What truth or mercy of God are we missing or misunderstanding? We bring them to the Holy Spirit and trust God for change in His direction and timing. As we point them to God, we are confident God is faithful. He will use our pain for His glory and give us peace.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Confession, the Pathway Home

Confession has a bad rap.

It conjures up images of an old white-bearded man pointing a long bony figure at us snarling "repent!" Or the apprehension of a small child entering a small dark closet and whispering the words, "Bless me father for I have sinned." It is the dread of being exposed and seen with our hands dirtied with our most heinous deed. It is the anxious anticipation of your dad's scream, mom with the wooden spoon, or sitting in the principal's office.

That is not God's view of confession. Proverbs 28:13 tell us, Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. James 5:16 has even a better promise, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Mercy and healing are the sweet fruit of confession.

Jesus paints an even more delightful picture in the story of the prodigal son. The son leaves home, takes his inheritance, and makes a series of reckless choices. He finds himself homeless, hungry and surrounded by swine. It is there that the scriptures tells us he came to his senses. He confesses his sin and in that turning point, he starts on his way home. The son expects punishment.

However, there is no punishment waiting for the lost son who returns to his father, only an embrace of love, tears of joy. The father summons his servants to bring the sandals, robe and ring. The servants knew immediately right where to find these precious items that would restore the wayward boy to full son-ship. Why? Because the father always had them at the ready, waiting only for the son to return to him.

There is no punishment waiting for us either when we confess. God is not waiting to give us penance, as if a few prayers or acts of contrition could erase our sin. No, Jesus paid it all, it is finished, completed, accomplished. Our restoration waits for us to receive it, if we would only come home.

At Aunt Tillie and Uncle George's beach house there was
always a celebration! 
And then there is the party because the father is ecstatic to have his son home. The father instructs the servants: Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Confession is the privilege of God's children. It is the vehicle for God's mercy, His healing, His celebration. God the Father invites us  His children to come to Him to confess, so that we can be restored.  Because that is what the Father desires, for us to come home, sit at His table, enjoy His presence.

Confession is our pathway home.

To read the entire story of the prodigal son, see Luke 15:11-32.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Prejudice and Transformation

Last Friday I went to the movies and watched Hidden Figures. As the movie progressed I winced as I watched the true story of three women who endured treatment that no human should experience. Prejudice in all it's hateful glory was on display. However, by the end of the movie, the hearts of the most prejudice among the players had changed. Instead we saw understanding, respect, and kindness on the screen. How did that happen? What triggered the transformation?

On Saturday night, my daughter and I watched the 30th anniversary edition of The Breakfast Club. She had never seen it before, indeed it was released before she was born. "Why do you like this movie, mom?" she asked.

Because it too was about prejudice and transformation. There were no people of color in this movie. In fact, they were all white, straight teens in a middle class high school. And yet they found a way to be prejudiced, to put people in little boxes and not let them out.

The brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal. But one Saturday they were forced to sit together all day and after they fought and talked and played together they discovered they were not so different after all. Same thing happened in Hidden Figures. Forced to work together in NASA for the common goal of getting a man into space and returning him safely, they discovered they could see past the boxes of man and woman and black and white that they had been forced into.

Our family in Washington DC 
Tomorrow is the day we remember Martin Luther King Jr. He was a great man who fought for liberty and peace. Four days later, the power of presidential leadership passes from our first black president to a white man, a billionaire real estate tycoon who never before held public office. 2016 was a year tarnished and torn by trash talk and bloodshed and bigotry. We remain a nation divided into pieces and more than just black and white.

How do we heal from this?

Like the teens in The Breakfast Club, maybe we need a Saturday detention, a forced time to sit face to face. Maybe we need a common goal like those who discovered they needed even Hidden Figures to help them all succeed.

Maybe if just one of us reaches out  to someone different to listen, not mere to judge and mock but to try to understand.

Maybe me. Maybe you. Maybe today. Let's try that. Are you in?



I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 
-- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

Me too, Martin. Me too.