Fundamentals—How Now Shall I Live?

 

We’ve been asking the question for millennia.

How do I live my life? What is the guiding principle behind the decisions I make?

Facebook Responses How do I live

We struggle, even those who have considered carefully how we should live. We don’t always know how to apply the moral and ethical ideals that drive us. We are not always going to get it right, but we are called to walk in love, to seek the good of others, to serve them and seek to honor them.

Humility is Key

In the book of the prophet Micah, the question is asked how do I approach God to please him?

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings…Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil…?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:6-8

God is not interested in our appeasement or sacrifices. God desires that we walk in humility and love each other.

This is a problem for me, because I love to be right. There is nothing I want more than to always be right about everything in every conversation and every argument, and make every right choice. Always.

Except I am not, and neither are you. We can be assured that on some points, we will get it wrong. From time to time we will each believe and say and do wrong things. There are no exceptions, which is why it is so important to walk in humility and grace that sets us free.

Liberty.
Christian liberty is to be granted in all areas not essential to one’s final salvation. Due to human imperfection there are differences of faith and practice among God’s children, but they anticipate a time of greater unity in the faith. Until that time there must be unity in essentials but liberty in non-essentials, with love in all things.
EFC-MAYM Faith and Practice

Giving up power & position

Humility is a daily attitude recognizing that our status is not the most important thing. It doesn’t matter if I have an impressive title or great reputation if all I do is serve my own self interest. We are called to follow God’s example of using our gifts, talents, and resources to serve others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…
Philippians 2:5-7

Choosing to love

Our humility, our service, our lives are empty if we do not act in love. Love is not a fuzzy feeling or something that drifts with our moods. Love is a desire and determination to seek the good of the loved one. Love means choosing to do good for someone even if you disagree.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

God calls us to join in the work of reconciliation, to join in actively seeking the good of our neighbor along with ourselves and our world. It begins with humility and it looks like love.

 

 

 

 

 

A week of sorrow

My heart is broken.

It’s been achy all week, and the tears have been so close to the surface.

I hurt for the survivors of the night club shooting in Orlando, FL.

I weep with the families of those whose loved ones were murdered.

I am desperately beside myself with the grief of knowing that so many of those who are affected by this tragedy are convinced that God hates them. Because that is the only message they have heard from Christians.

Not all Christians think that way. Not all Christians (even those who are not affirming) believe that way. But all too often, we let the voice of the extremist shout “God hates fags!” without a rebuttal.

So here’s my rebuttal. God loves human beings.

The Gospel is that God put on human flesh to dwell with humans in our beauty and brokenness, to walk with us. Jesus spent his time looking into the eyes of sinners. Touching them. Healing them.

Loving us.

Here is a trustworthy saying, Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. -The Apostle Paul

Whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone. -Jesus the Messiah

It is time for Christians to stand up. Speak out. Love.

I am the worst sinner, I have no stones to throw. All I have to offer is the grace, mercy, kindness and love of God that have turned my life around.

God loves every person involved in this tragedy. From the straight cis to the gender fluid, and everyone in between, God’s love does not hinge on our sexuality.

It didn’t for Rahab.

It didn’t for the Samaritan woman.

It didn’t for the one who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.

God does not require that we cleanse ourselves, or make ourselves Holy or perfect. God’s invitation is clear, “Come to me those who are weary with heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” If you are tired. If you are heavy with grief and the weight of the world, come.

Come sit in God’s presence and pour out your heart.

Come with your anger. Your pain.

Come with your questions. Your doubt.

Just come.

God is waiting.

God wants to heal.

God loves

You.

 

For Orlando, for those who died, I will not be silent.

Fundamentals—Church

We all have different thoughts, images, and impressions surrounding the Church. For some those are precious memories of a family supporting us in our difficulties and rejoicing in our victories. For others, and probably far too many, Church evokes a sense of dread, betrayal, and pain.

Let’s face it, we have some really high highlights–disaster relief, establishing centers for healthcare and education, works of mercy wherever the Church has ventured. We also have really low lowlights–the Crusades, persecution of Jews in Europe, the Inquisition, persecution of other Christians with whom we disagree, sanctioning the oppression of many indigenous peoples through colonialism, and more.

We have to recognize our mixed heritage so that we can live today with humility in seeking to answer the questions, “What is the church supposed to look like? What is our purpose? What does it look like when we get it right?”

Our regional Faith and Practice says this about the Church.

The Church.
Those who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior are born again into His kingdom by His Spirit. These persons make up the true Church of Jesus Christ which is spiritual in nature and universal in scope. By His Spirit, Christ is present whenever two or three meet together in His name. Such a meeting is a local church which is a visible manifestation of the Church universal. Every believer should be related to a local visible part of Christ’s universal Body in order to worship, witness, and work more effectively for the glory of God. Every believer is committed to be involved in the stewardship of God’s Kingdom through the Church until the Lord returns.

In Friends tradition, the Church is made up of every believer.

That means our Methodist friends, Baptist friends, Presbyterian friends, Catholic friends, Orthodox friends, our Pentecostal and Charismatic friends, too. All believers, regardless of which denomination, whatever name they go by or group they worship with, all are part of Christ’s Church. That means we all have a shared burden over our past failures, and we all have a shared victory in the ways the Church is bringing light into dark places and healing where there is hurt.

The apostle Paul has a lot to say about the Church, what it should look like, and how it should work together. He wrote consistently about the church being a unit made up of different parts with different gifts and functions. You can read all about it in I Corinthians chapter 12 & and the foundation of that cooperation in chapter 13. I want to narrow the focus, though, to the purpose of the Church. Paul talks mentions it in part of a prayer in Ephesians 3.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:17-21

Our number one purpose as the Church is to glorify God.

Glorify is a word we use a lot and study very little. Its definitions include the act of worship, as well as “to light up brilliantly” and “reveal or make clearer the glory of God by one’s actions.” Glorifying God means living and acting in such a way that we shine a spotlight on God’s goodness, mercy, righteousness, and love.

Paul calls us God’s ambassadors. Ambassadors do everything in their power to represent their nation and its leaders well. They aim to showcase the values of their culture and bring about better understanding between the people they represent and those with whom they live.

We glorify God through worship that looks like service.

Worship is more than a time set aside each week where we get together, sing, preach and testify to God’s goodness. This is great, but we can lose sight of the obvious, the people we meet with are our fellow ambassadors. The ambassador’s main function is outside their cultural bubble.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. Galatians 6:10a

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:5-6

Yes, we need to serve and minister to the needs of those are within the Church, but we absolutely must serve and love those who are not.

Love God, Love Others

Jesus famously gave a brilliant answer to those asking which part of the Torah was his guiding principle. He said the entire Law and Prophets hang on two commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. If this is Jesus’ central command, it ought to be the guiding principle for all believers in their everyday life, but even more so the bedrock foundation of the actions of the Church.

Glorify God, Serve the World

Living on that foundation of love allows us to bear witness with our lives to the Good News. What is Good News? That God created us, loves us, reaches out to us, wants to restore our lives, relationships, and all of creation. Our job is to live so in step with the Spirit that we can give an answer to why we follow Jesus, what walking in faith has produced in our lives, and do so in a gentle and gracious manner.

Fundamentals—Salvation

When Christians talk about salvation, we often give the impression that it is a moment in time in which we flip a switch that means we will go to Heaven when we die. While I believe Heaven is important, salvation is bigger than what happens when we die.

In the last Fundamentals post, we looked at humanity and sin. Sin broke our good relationship with God, with our fellow humans, and with creation. Salvation brings an opportunity for restoration of those relationships as well.

Walking with God

God has always wanted to walk with us. He created us to be in relationship with himself. In the days of the Garden, he walked with the man and woman in the cool of the day. It was his habit. Through the times of chaos, the patriarchs, and the early law, God reached out for fellowship. The Old Testament writers spoke again and again about a time when God would write his law on our hearts and the need for external coercive measures would fall away. A time of restored relationship with God, and a renewed sense of fellowship with him.

Jesus came, announcing a fulfillment of prophecy and the nearness of God’s Kingdom.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…” The response that Jesus calls for is repentance and belief.

Repentance is a concept that gets a lot of bad press. At it’s core, though, it is simply a call to change your mind and change your direction. We do it all the time without even thinking about it. I was using a particular brand of laundry soap, it gave me hives, so I repented of using that soap and switched to one that didn’t.

Photo by linder6580

Photo by linder6580

My daughter had a choir concert out of town a while back. It was important that we get there on time for the rehearsal because I was driving 2 other girls to this event. I followed the directions and couldn’t find it. I drove back and forth, up and down the same street for a half mile in both directions and couldn’t find it. Finally I rechecked the directions and realized I had turned right when I should have turned left. I repented and went back to where I made the wrong turn and took the right one. We got there right on time.

The story of humanity making a wrong turn at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil begins with an idea that we need to be more like God. There is just one problem.

Only God can be God.

We’ve displaced God, taking on the role of owner of creation and judge over ourselves and others. We’ve often trashed creation, and we do a terrible job of judging rightly. We tend to see our wants as needs, and the mistakes of others as much greater than our own. Salvation begins the process of restoring God to his rightful place in every aspect of our lives.DSC00977

Relationships Healed

The way to restoration in our relationships is taking on a new view of self and others. A realistic view that Jesus talks about in his parable about the speck of dust and the log. The Holy Spirit helps us discern where we’ve gone wrong and begins to form in us the ability to see through the lens of grace. We have to know who we are in our brokenness and receive God’s healing grace for ourselves when we find we are not able to live up to a perfect standard. Only then can we begin to extend that same grace to others. That is how we find healing in ourselves, forgiveness for our mistakes and the ability to offer the same healing forgiveness to others.

DSC00889

Creation Care

In the beginning we had a job to do. We were to be stewards of creation. When we walk in sin, that relationship is broken as well. Paul says that creation cries out for redemption. It is our job as Christians not only to administer grace to our fellow human beings, but to care about all of creation. That means asking God how we can participate in stewarding creation in our daily lives. It means caring about things like waste of resources, mistreatment of animals, and even climate change.

You and I can’t fix these things on our own, and that is not our job. But it is our job to care and to do what we can to manage this gift well.

God desires to do more than give you a ticket to heaven. God wants to bring restoration to your daily life, your relationships, and the whole earth.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

 

Below is the statement on salvation from our regional Faith and Practice.

Salvation.

Salvation is a personal matter between people and their Maker. It consists of forgiveness for sins as well as sanctification or the cleansing of sinful human nature. People can be redeemed because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ and the direct work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit restores people to fellowship with God the Father and enables them to love Him wholeheartedly. Salvation does not depend on outward ceremonies or symbols. Sanctification is the work of God which is accomplished through the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer who is yielded totally to God. The believer is thus empowered to witness to the living Christ. Sanctification is both an act in which one’s heart is cleansed and a process in which the life is continuously disciplined to God’s holy standards.

Fundamentals—Humanity

With the topic of the human condition we inevitably include the issue of sin. Don’t click away! This isn’t your average bash-you-over-the-head discussion of sin.

I asked my Facebook friends for questions they ponder about humanity and sin.

Facebook Questions Sin

To begin to understand humanity we have to start with creation.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Genesis 1:26, 31

God caps off creation by making people, and surveying all that was made, issues a declaration that it is “Very Good!” I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met anyone yet who would look at the world and say that everything is just as it should be. We may have different views of what would make a perfect world, but we all agree, this isn’t it.

If we keep reading, we find a story about why all is not right with the world. It tells of man and woman going outside the will of God in effort to become more like God. The temptation was to see creation as incomplete, especially in regard to just how much divinity was instilled in humanity. The result? Relationships were broken and fear was born.

Mutiny and the Beginning of the Blame Game

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8-9

God came walking in the garden, and the people hid. When asked what happened to change their relationship, the man points the finger at the woman and at God.

“The woman you put here with me—she did it. It’s her fault!”

And the woman passed the buck to a fellow creature.

“It was the serpent! He did it!”

The writer of Genesis tells us in detail what our brokenness looks like. Distance from God. Disturbance in our relationships with self & others. Fighting for survival in a hostile world.

We still see the same things thousands of years later. And we are still playing the blame game. There’s just this one nagging problem.

We have no Leg to Stand On

One thing we all agree on regarding sin is of course which sin is the worst, right?

Somebody else’s.

Ask anyone and they can tell you why their mistakes are understandable, their choices justified, and why that person over there is a big-fat-sinner. You might think this is the official position of the church, but the writer of Romans disagrees:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things…do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:1-4

By sitting in judgment over others, we go back to that first temptation to put ourselves in God’s place! And we don’t do a very good job of responding to failure with kindness, forbearance and patience. We don’t even respond to our own sin in that way. By seeking to justify our actions, we just bury the lead that sin is sin because it is destructive. Wounds need to be cared for with kindness and our sin needs to be addressed with grace.

Repentance is built on an acknowledgment that we are wounded and in need of care. It is literally translated as a change of mind. We change our minds, our attitudes about the choices we are making. Instead of duct-taping that gash on our leg and crossing our fingers that gangrene doesn’t set in, let’s go to the doctor and get some actual medical help!

Our Attitude Should Be Humble

Especially those who are Christians, we have received nothing from God but kindness and patience, who are we to condemn someone else? The Apostle Paul has a great take on sin. I think it needs to become our new Christian talking point in regard to sin.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
1 Timothy 1:15

Not because we are worthless, but because we know better and choose to wound ourselves and others anyway. We have great value as image-bearers of God, and we are ALL worthy of spiritual healthcare. When we choose to see our failure as worse than the person in front of us, and we know that God has responded to us with grace, we are better situated to dispense that grace freely as well. If God has forgiven my sin and accepted me as a full heir of Heaven, God can accept anyone.

Sin describes where we go wrong, but it is not the end of the story. It isn’t even the biggest part of the story. Would you find it refreshing if I told you that what is broken can be restored? What if it is God’s dream to make it all “Very Good” again? Check out the next post in this series on Salvation.

Summer Chores & Activities!

Once again school is out, and we are rebooting our Pick Five chore system. Here is the skinny on the stroke of genius that has gotten us through 2 summers of my working full time from home with three kids (now 12, 9, not quite 4 years old) and keeping my sanity!

These are the benefits I’ve seen in the two summers we’ve used this system:

  1. A set of chores and activities that they can choose and do on their own.
  2. Self-regulated screen time.
  3. Built in reading time.
  4. Simple rules: do your 5 chores anytime you choose, one TV show, one 30 minute session on any other screen, additional screen time is earned by doing extra chores.
  5. Kids that contribute to the household chores!

Here is a link to the original post from May of 2014:

https://refreshinglifeblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/kids-a-k-a-in-summer/

Here’s our updated chores and activities for our growing kiddos!

Chores And Activities

Chore and Activities 2016

Still a great system, and still adding refreshment by the score to my life. Enjoy!