Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Life Together: From Bitterness to Grace

How do we live with grace? We talk a lot about church community, but true community doesn’t just happen. There’s more to life together than just words. There are attitudes and actions. There’s a climate we create in the church. I don't know what your experience attending church has been like, but I do know this: life together can be hard. We are flawed people in whom God continues to work, but God wouldn’t have to do that if we had it all together. So let’s talk a little but more this morning about how to do life together.
THEREFORE, put away your lies and speak the truth to one another because we are all part of one another. When you are angry, don’t let it carry you into sin. Don’t let the sun set with anger in your heart or give the devil room to work. If you have been stealing, stop. Thieves must go to work like everyone else and work honestly with their hands so that they can share with anyone who has a need. Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them.  
It’s time to stop bringing grief to God’s Holy Spirit; you have been sealed with the Spirit, marked as His own for the day of rescue. Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison. Instead, become kind and compassionate. Graciously forgive one another just as God has forgiven you through Jesus, our Liberating King. (Ephesians 4:21-32, The Voice)
It’s interesting to me that stealing, lying and relentless anger * are all listed together. They seem unconnected, but I don't think they are. They all create distrust, anxiety and a lack of safety. They all make us want to retreat or withdraw rather than engage honestly and openly. They all undermine community. In a setting like this, you are never safe.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"You Can Be Anything You Want To Be!" (And Other Silly Graduation Slogans)

Graduation is the time of your life when a lot of motivational slogans are thrown around.  I want to challenge five that you have heard or will hear, not because they are always entirely wrong, but because they are almost never entirely right.

#1 Keep On Being You! You’re Perfect Just The Way You Are.
No, you’re not. I’m not either. You have issues. If you don’t know that yet, you will learn soon enough. Your teacher in college will give you a C, and you will have earned it. Your boss will write you up, your girlfriend or boyfriend will be rightly upset with you, and your parents will not like every decision you make. No one is perfect but God, and He, too, is well aware of your deficits. Yet He loves you anyway, and the ashes of your life are the very thing that will display the glory of God as He makes you into something beautiful.

Learn to see your frailties and failures with honesty but without shame. Grow. Build your strengths and at least address your weaknesses, but don’t hide the fact that you are imperfect. We all know it already. It’s okay. We aren’t either. And it is in the midst of our weakness that the strength of God is seen most clearly.