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Archive for the ‘reconciliation’ Category

a poem by Rubem Alves

God as father.
God as mother.
God as wind.
These are metaphors.
Attempts to put into words that which is beyond all words.
God as gardener.
God plants a garden.
The universe is destined for Paradise –
joy, pleasure for God, for women and men, for all beings.
God destined us to be partners –
put tools in our hands, pruning hooks and ploughs;
put words in our mouth,
and invited us to name all created beings in the garden,
so that they may become our brothers and sisters.
Words – they are of two kinds.
Some are produced by the brain:
they serve as tools.
With them we build boats, bridges, wings.
These are the words of knowledge, science, and technology.
We cannot survive without them. They give us the means to life.
Alone they have no power to create happiness:
Boats, but not the vision of unseen lands;
Bridges, but not the vision of the garden beyond the abyss;
Wings, but not the vision of paradise to which we should fly.
They can break the chains of oppression,
but cannot provide the vision of freedom.
For vision, a different kind of word is needed.
A word which no brain can produce.
It comes with the wind.
It is given to the heart.
It is grace.
When the heart hears it, it begins to dream.
It is power to see beyond the visible.
Those who dream are those who provide direction
to boats, bridges, and wings.
They give reasons to our lives.
They are the prophets, the poets, the seers.
The words the community of the spirit is called to give,
these words are of a very special kind.
They have the colours of the rainbow,
the music of laughter and crying,
the perfume of flowers,
the hands of a lover,
the taste of bread and wine.
God speaks and life blossoms.
God’s Spirit is constantly at work re-creating the world.
In Jesus, God dwells among us holding all things together.
To live in communion with the creative word of God;
To say the words which re-create:
That is the mission of the community of faith.

Women’s rights are human rights [Hillary Rodham Clinton].  Happy International Women’s Day.

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Ditto

Wow, how uncanny the similarities between my friend’s and my own family:

In less than 24 hours I will be leaving with my family on my first trip to Asia!  I’m excited and feel so blessed to finally have the opportunity to meet my extended family, many of whom I’ve heard about but never seen. At the same time, I realize that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to witness to them, since we don’t go back very often and the majority of my relatives who are overseas are not believers and are at least as old as my parents. It will also be the first significant amount of time I’ve spent with my brother since he decided to tell me he’d renounced God. So, I would really appreciate your prayers for God’s love to show through in our interactions, even though there might be language, age, cultural barriers, and the usual family tensions.

I also wanted to say that I’m thankful and would love to hear how you’re doing or pray for you if you’ve anything to share; but since I may not be able to communicate as frequently while I’m overseas, I want to go ahead and wish you a very Merry Christmas and send you wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

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by Joshua Radin

some are reachin’
few are there
want to reign from a hero’s chair
some are scared to fly so high
well this is how we have to try
have no envy and no fear

have no envy no fear

brother brother we all see
your hiding out so painfully
see yourself come out to play
a lover’s rain will wash away
your envy and your fear

so have no envy no fear

when your sister turns to leave
only when she’s most in need
take away the cause of pain
by showing her we’re all the same
have no envy and no fear

have no envy no fear

every day we try to find
search our hearts and our minds
the place we used to call our home
can’t be found when we’re alone
so have no envy and no fear

have no envy no fear

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I read a few “replies” online to some letters some other young people have written to a John Thomas (like Dear Abby–see below).  I’ve mentioned this before, about not really feeling bad about my whole 2006 spring fling.  People have tried to comfort me in ways I know is not fully in line with what God desires such as, oh your boyfriend might now be more open to God since you dated him or, what you did physically with him wasn’t wrong.  I keep reading 2 Corinthians 7:10 (Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death) and Psalm 51:4a (Against you [God], you only, have I sinned).  God has made my heart different in the way it feels and understands.  I used to think I had such a cold heart because other more emotional people would be bawling and I would be dry-eyed.  Also, while other girls seem to have their hearts ripped open by guys, I guess I haven’t opened my heart much to anybody (including myself and thus God) for it to be hurt terribly (story of my life: guys I like going after other girls).  Anyway, it’s very humbling to go the distance to “breaking the heart of my First Love” (Revelation 2:4)–I’m still not there yet.  Food for thought:

My girlfriend and I are both virgins, but in past relationships both of us have been physically intimate in ways which were seriously sinful. We have talked about it and have agreed to hold ourselves to a higher standard of physical purity than we had in the past. So far we have succeeded.  It would seem that things are on the right track. But, sometimes I still feel angry towards her for what she has done with other guys in the past. At the same time, I am unable to let go of the guilt of my own sins in past relationships.  I know that we have both repented and that God has forgiven us, and that we should be able to move past it, but sometimes I really feel unable to forgive her and forgive myself. I know it is wrong of me to feel that way — I should be able to take joy in God’s grace and forgiveness — but I can’t seem to help it.  Perhaps you could write an article about moving beyond sexual (or otherwise physically intimate) sins, for those of us who have repented but find it difficult to move on without thinking about the past. As Paul wrote, love “keeps no record of wrongs,” and I want very much to apply that toward my situation.

Since you say that you know that God has forgiven you both, what you’re really asking is, “When will, or how can, I emotionally feel like I’ve forgiven her and that God has forgiven me?” That’s a very honest and appropriate question about forgiveness. Let me give you a few thoughts to help you navigate these waters.

My hunch is that you’re still viewing the whole picture of your past behavior and your girlfriend’s past behavior from your side of the ledger, rather than from God’s. If I’m right, then your views of your past behavior could be better described as “sadness” or “disappointment,” but not “sinful” or “heartbreaking to God.” As a result, rather than truly repent, you’ve really just “felt bad” or “felt guilty” about it, as in, “I really wish I hadn’t done that,” rather than, “Oh, God, my choices must have broken Your heart! Please forgive me!”

Am I getting warm?

Here’s why I think you might have stopped short of true repentance. True repentance bears fruit, and looks like this: it offers nothing to God but spiritual poverty and a desperate heart desiring to change. It results in humility, gratitude, and a deep compassion for others who have or who are experiencing the same sin and blindness. Given that you conducted yourself in exactly the same way as your girlfriend did previous to meeting one another, your anger toward her isn’t anger, it’s really judgment of her, and is pride at its worst. “You, therefore, have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges,” Paul said in Romans 2:1, “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

Your anger would more appropriately be directed at Satan, who deceived both of you into believing that your behavior would have no negative repercussions. Rather than anger towards your girlfriend, your heart should be broken for her because — just like you — she was blind to the hurt she was exposing herself to. Be thankful that God has graciously opened her eyes (and yours) to the truth that you now are walking in.

Forgiveness is two things (probably more, but we’ll focus on two): It is a decision to act, and it is a miracle. It involves your will; and it asks God for a miracle in your heart. We need a miracle to be able to forgive, because we are not naturally inclined to do it. Our “flesh,” or our old nature (that which is self-led rather than Christ-led), is incapable of forgiving. To forgive requires surrendering yourself entirely to God and His economy. And since forgiveness is something God wants us to experience and walk in, we can confidently ask for His help in truly forgiving.

The prayer, “Lord, help me truly forgive X,” is the kind of prayer God longs to answer. So start praying that (or some variation). Part of His answer might be that God gives you a revelation of your own spiritual poverty, reminding you how miraculous it is that He has forgiven you, resulting in deep gratitude and humility in your heart, rather than judgment of someone else’s behavior.

I suggest you take some of these thoughts back to your prayer closet, and see what happens.

One more thing. The consequences of past sin can sometimes continue even after true repentance and forgiveness, but that doesn’t nullify the forgiveness. You can simultaneously regret your past sins, be thankful for what you learned by them, pray that the lesson would be used to make you more like Christ, and rejoice that God has forgiven you and that He works all things for good for those who love him.

I have an odd situation on my hands and would like some advice on how to proceed from here. My boyfriend and I have taken our physical relationship further than I would have preferred and not having set definite boundaries prior to our time together makes it difficult to draw the line once in the moment. We are both still virgins in a literal sense but have ventured into other areas of physical intimacy that I still believe crosses the line of what is appropriate outside of marriage.  I want to back up and create a new line now that we have gone too far but I don’t know where to start the conversation. I love this man with all of my heart and will be marrying him within the next two years but am afraid that this kind of conversation will create a chasm in our relationship that will be painful and difficult to cross. I want to do what I know will honor God but am still afraid that I will get some resistance from my boyfriend.  How do I start a conversation about limiting our physical actions together? And how do I stand firm on what I believe to be the right choices without making him feel like I am steering our relationship in a direction he might not agree with? I know that in order to make this work he has to be willing to abide by the new boundaries as well. I am just scared of what he will say and would appreciate some guidance on the best course of action from this point forward.

Thanks for writing and being so candid about your situation. Let me share a couple of thoughts that I think will help you.

First, let’s use the proper vocabulary for what’s going on. What I mean by that is, your statements like “further than I would have preferred” and “what is appropriate” soften the seriousness of your behavior. If God has convicted you about what you’re doing, then it’s much more than a personal preference or question of appropriateness. It’s sin. Call it what it is and then you’ll know better how to deal with it and move on. Preferences are merely personal choices that tend to have little moral or ethical weight to them. I prefer a cheeseburger more than I do Brussels sprouts, but I’ll live with whichever one is available when I’m hungry.

Do you see how vocabulary makes a difference? You place yourself, by your own choice, in a sexually revved-up situation, and at some point you prefer not to be there, but you’re there, so you live with it. Now, call it sin and you have a whole different paradigm to consider. If it is sin for me to eat Brussels sprouts (my wife would say I act like it is) then it’s no longer a matter of preference. The sprouts are now absolutely off limits. If someone offers me either a cheeseburger or some Brussels sprouts, the action is clear; the choice was made before the two were ever set before me. One is sin and the other is not.

So here is what I need to ask you: Is it merely your preference to change or have you been convicted by God’s Spirit, knowing that Scripture lays out clear guidelines about sexual intimacy outside marriage? Your answer to that question will make all the difference in your ability to “go back” and draw a new line of behavior. If it is merely personal preference, it will be very difficult to draw new boundaries, because they’re arbitrary. But if what you’re sensing is godly conviction, then there is hope for change, and your reaction should be repentance, not a change of preference.

So let’s call it sin. If that’s the case, then your reaction is clear cut: repentance. Repentance means confessing your sin to God, asking for and receiving His forgiveness, and, empowered by His Spirit, changing your mind and behavior to that which honors God and brings Him glory. Viewing your situation this way gives you the most hope for change that sticks. Calling it what it is also impacts how you address it with your boyfriend. He might try to talk you out of a “preference,” but if he’s a serious Christian he’ll be more likely to understand the weight of your decision if it is borne out of godly conviction.

As for how to address this with your boyfriend, you need to approach him with the same grace God approached you with it, but with a strong resolve about your conviction. More than likely, he’s had some of the same convictions, but just hasn’t acted on them. But remember, you are responsible for your sin, your actions, not his. And that’s just what you need to say — that God has convicted you about your behavior and that it has changed (not in the process of changing, but changed — that’s repentance). He needs to understand that this is not a judgment of how you feel about him, and that, in fact, the intimacy you’ve shared has been enjoyable — you’re human and God made it for enjoyment — but that you are going to wait for the biblical context — marriage.

Here’s the crucial part for you. Your concern and desire to respond to God’s heart on this issue must be your highest goal — higher than your concern about your boyfriend’s reaction and higher than your concern about the future of this relationship. If you’re waiting to see what his reaction is in order to decide whether you stick with this, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Yes, it might be painful and yes, it might be difficult, but that’s OK. It’s right, and that is what matters.

On a practical level, now that you know what your new standards are, don’t do anything that moves you in the direction of lowering those standards. If you don’t want to burn down the house, don’t build a campfire in the living room. If you don’t want to cross the line of physical intimacy, then don’t be alone with each other without any accountability from anyone. That’s just common sense. You can have a private conversation or pray together in view of others, so why do you need to be alone? You need to “go public” with your relationship, literally, so that you have accountability for your time together — no more hanging out in the shadows, OK?

No matter how your boyfriend responds, this is the best thing you can do for your relationship. If he doesn’t honor or respect your heartfelt conviction, that’s a red flag about how he would respond to you similarly in marriage. If he steps up and does the right thing, your relationship will be strengthened, you’ll love him all the more and God will get the glory.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  [Romans 12:1-3]

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Today marks the one-year anniversary of me being officially diagnosed by a psychiatrist with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia).  I still haven’t really made much rhyme or reason into all this.  Of course, in one sense, it was such a relief to find some sort of label, some sort of “control” over the situation.  Yet one does not simply up and “embrace” such labels, either, especially when one feels it is so “mild,” so it makes it that much more frustrating.  But good thing I just reread that entry, that sometimes finding the “why” is not that important as finding the “Who” (Psalm 42:11, 43:5).  I doubt I would be diagnosed with those disorders now, so I thank my family, friends, and Church for helping me take off those “grave clothes” (John 11:44).  Now I just need to do my part, take ownership of my own recovery….  Anyway, I started this list two weeks ago, hopefully I compiled all the entries/steps that led up to now:

from my b_luvd xanga:

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

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http://www.tomandnancylin.com/bio/

Risk-Taking: Holy Investment Challenge
Luke 19:12-27
targeted to college and career

Doing risky business with

  1. Our opportunity to be students
              Those who go off to college often find themselves in a different life stage than the rest of us who are workin, building marriages, and raising children.  They have the opportunities to build close friendships (how many say their life friends were made in college), study academics with vast resources around them, to talk late into the night.  Examples of those who have taken advantage of this include a trash outreach in one of the biggest dorms in the nation.  “We are Christians who just wanted to serve in a small way.  Would you like us to take out your trash?”  Some wanted to pay them, others gave them even more trash, but by the end of the night four joined them to see what they were about.
  2. Our money and possessions
              John Ortberg wrote a book titled When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back in the Box.  What do you win that you get to keep?  We need to invest what we have before it all goes back into the box, before we leave this earth, before the Master returns.  A college friend of the speaker’s barely had enough to pay rent.  But whenever JP would come upon some cash he would immediately celebrate by spending it with a friend.  He’d want to play tennis with the speaker so JP would use the money to buy a racquet.  He bought a television set for his roommate.  He’d give (not sell back) his books to incoming students.  And sure enough, there would always be enough by the end of the month.  A couple in their thirties wrote the speaker a $10,000 check because they believed God’s work through his ministry and wanted to invest in that.  A group in Harvard donated $20 each and then used that combined amount to serve their classmates on campus with free coffee during finals week.  The speaker himself, at his initial job, would hold a raffle at his desk to give away free stuff.  Coworkers would congregate around his desk and eventually they built personal bonds.
  3. Our social networks
             Instead of sticking to the same subjects (e.g. weather, daily routine, television shows), we need to risk conversations.  The speaker said that one time the Spirit prompted him to ask his nonbelieving roommate about God.  “Anybody but him!  He’s my roommate!  I have to live with him!”  But eventually he finally asked, “What do you think about Jesus?”  “I’m glad you asked.  I was just thinking about the time I had this near-death experience in a car crash.  I told God if he saved me I would start seeking him.  I went to church for a little while but eventually stopped….”
  4. Time
              We start out all the same, as the parable demonstrates.  Instead of imitating the attitude of the third servant, who knew the minas weren’t going to be his soon anyway and thus did not pay much attention to it, we need the attitude of Schlinder in Schlinder’s List.  At the end he still realized that he had not done all that he could have (e.g. his pin and car).  “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”  Being trustworthy in a small matter, the first servant was given more.  The command is to invest (not to make as much as possible). 

What prevents us from risk taking?

  • Fear (of the Master, of what others think, of failure, of a language barrier..).  “Do not fear” is mentioned 366 times in the Bible, perhaps due to our cowardliness in investing what God’s given us?
  • Asian adverseness for risk.  We recall what our parents tell us essentially: “We took those risks so you won’t have to.”  We’re encouraged to keep a low profile so as to not make waves. 

Pastor Dick asked what we thought of this idea:  He would give everyone in the congregation $5 (financial risk for the leaders) and ask us to give it to the kingdom in some way (social risk for us congregants).  Maybe we want to take someone out, maybe we could pool the money and do something bigger.

Middle of Nowhere: Mongolia 2002 – 2006
I Kings 19:1-19
targeted to the English congregation

Elijah’s Gobi Desert experience:

  • Beersheba is a desert
  • he left his servant behind
  • he made an additional day’s journey deeper into the desert
  • broom tree is only about ten feet high
  • suicidal

Speaker’s desert experience

  • sixth and eighteenth months were the hardest
  • strained marriaged
  • declared he’d buy plane tickets back to the States
  • issues unresolved from the States were brought up in Mongolia

Our own dry isolation experience

  • Quarterlife transition.  We moved away to attend college and miss the familiar community we had at home.  We’ve moved back and find everything different.
  • Family transition.  We recently became engaged, married, had children….
  • Tragedy.  A loved one is severely ill or has died.  No one understands.  We’ve experienced loss and disappointment.  “Where are You, God?”
  • ‘Dry’ spiritual life.  The spiritual connection with God is not felt.

Four stages of desert life:

  1. Stripping process.  Elijah, by leaving his servant behind, he was declaring that he quit his job of being a prophet for God.  There appeared to be external successes but he still felt like a failure inside.  There was the incredible demonstration by God on the altar and yet Jezebel is still unrepentant and wants him dead.  Victory after victory and yet there is still failure. 
  2. Wrestling with God (v. 10).  We complain to God.  “I’ve done all this for You, and there’s nothing still.  It’s unfair!”  The critical decision comes down to this:  Do you give up on God, or go deeper with God?  Coming to this point is a given, but it is especially keenly felt among leaders.  The only question is WHEN (not if) this point will come.  Horeb, the mountain of God, is actually only a seven-days journey from Beersheba, yet it took Elijah the “long time” of forty days, probably because he was wandering and wrestling with God.  Note that though Elijah gave up, God did not give up on Elijah.  God helped Elijah continue to wrestle.
  3. Intimacy with God.  “Angel” in the text means a messenger from God.  This can be a human being who is doing God’s work, or simply feeling the presence of God.  In other words, God doesn’t always come “supernaturally.”  Intimacy is God meeting us at a time of great need.  Sometimes you wonder if it was right that you moved, that you were supposed to be here.  The place where you are now is not a mistake but the very place where God has brought you to meet Him.  Elijah didn’t run away to Horeb; God brought Elijah to Horeb.  And then God asks, “What are you doing here?” (v. 9).  Why did God bring you here?
  4. Transformation and release
    1. From self-seeking confidence to dependence on God and others.  In verse 14, Elijah speaks as if he is the only hope for God’s redemption of Israel.  For the speaker, he was doing pretty well in the States.  But in Mongolia, the children made fun of his since he couldn’t speak Mongolian.  It was quite clear that God would be doing the brunt of the work there.
    2. From being a lone ranger to a community participant.  We think we’re all alone, very unique, but we’re not. 
    3. From an old identity to a new identity.  Other Biblical examples include Moses and even Jesus.  Moses was a prince but had to go into the desert before returning as God’s prophet.  Jesus went into the desert for forty days and forty nights.
    4. Only then did God told Elijah what to do next.

Practical suggestions for going through the desert:

  • Be honestThis is so hard!  Especially for us, with our emotions.  We need to admit that we have an issue with God.  We need to bring our burning questions to God.
  • Determine ahead of time to go deep with GodOur temptation is to seek a thing, an action, another person to fill the loneliness and void.  That’s what the Israelites did by making the golden calf.
  • Rest with the other 7,000 (v. 18).  If you don’t know who else is in a similar situation as you, maybe your pastor would know and bring you two together.  If you can’t discern God’s voice, ask another fellow believer to help you hear God’s Word and see why you are going through this desert.  Don’t wait; initiate.

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