Monday, April 26, 2010

“Transformation by the Spirit”

Lately we have been talking a lot about the power of God and how that power can transform us. Spiritually, many of us want to know and experience God more powerfully. We may hear a lot about "personal transformation” or “congregational transformation” but sometimes when we look at our own feeble attempts to improve ourselves or our circumstances, we wonder just who truly changes and how this transformation can happen. We may also feel frustrated and disappointed that God doesn't seem to be doing more to help, and we desperately want to know if there is any hope for us.
Many of us want a better relationship with God and a more fulfilling life, but are we also willing to admit our limitations, struggles, disappointments, and longing? Spiritual growth is truly possible; God is already at work drawing you closer to him and transforming you, whether or not you can see or feel it. The love, joy, and peace you are longing for is not reserved for a few special people but is available to you as well, as you learn to better recognize God's activity in your life and how to flow better with the Spirit's leading day by day.
What can we expect to have for a Spirit-led living and personal transformation? I read recently an article on how we should think of the Spirit as the wind of God it may help us in our perceptive of the Spirit. As a cool breeze may bring relief in the summer, or as a strong air current may fill a sail, the Holy Spirit can suddenly change our perspective, our feeling, or our capacity to respond to any given situation. Through the Holy Spirit, our experience with the grace of God becomes active, and we are able to sense what was not accessible to us otherwise, and to respond in often surprising and life-giving ways to others.
The Holy Wind breathes new life into us, transforming our thinking, feeling, and behavior even while our basic nature remains flawed and limited. Spirit-led living means just what it implies: we live out our God-given purpose in life by virtue of the Spirit's ongoing work within us. This happens moment by moment, as we follow the Spirit's leading, and not by becoming permanently and irrevocably transformed. Our basic human nature is not changed as much as we are enabled to grow in our ability to let the Spirit have its way in us and to keep in step with the Spirit's prompting. We do in fact mature, but we never stop being flawed, limited human beings. Over time, we will become more gracious toward ourselves and others, accepting our human limitations and failures better. We will learn how to become more attentive and responsive to the Spirit's prompting and leading, more helpful to others, and, as a result, more fruitful in our ministries. Spirit-led living provides us with a way to move from unhealthiness to the life God intends for us not as a permanent, complete transformation, but as a tool for living out of our best self in the moment.
Feel the breeze, see ya in church but until then take care of yourself and one another.
Peace & Grace,

Monday, April 12, 2010

Love vs Action

It has come to my attention lately that I use the word "love" a lot. I freely express my love for my wife, my children, my family, our church, music, my dogs, ice cream, BBQ ribs, and even basketball. I think there is nothing wrong with verbally expressing my love for things. But it comes with a danger. My father would say, “Don’t tell me you love me, show me.” What would my relationships look like if I only said I loved things? How would my relationship with my wife if I just said I love you. What kind of adults would my children become if I only said I loved them? No actions, no hugs, no time to listen to their struggles, pain, confusion, and thoughts. Not attending their sporting events, school functions, and walking through each transition in their life with them. What kind of marriage one would have if you never celebrated your spouse’s accomplishments, spent time talking, dreaming, and planning for the future. I believe what my father was saying was that if we say we love someone or something we must be willing and ready to do whatever it takes to back it up.
Jesus asks the same question. In the gospel of John, we hear the words of the resurrected Christ ask Simon Peter do you love me. After seeing the risen Christ, after experiencing the realty of our risen Lord, Peter quickly returns to fishing. As soon as the Easter lilies were taken back up into the attic, Simon Peter has returned to the life he left to follow Jesus. He went backwards to the life he knew before he met Jesus. Instead of reading him the riot act, Jesus just ask Peter one question three times: Do you love me? When Peter replies a resounds Yes! Jesus responds that it is our actions that declare our love, not mere words. Jesus elegantly asks each of us, if you love me, your actions will illustrate to all that you are willing to do whatever it takes to back it up. If you recall I stated over two years ago the secret of getting people into the church. I said it is not a real big secret it is just hard to do. I said you love them, you love them into the church. Maybe the question in light of the risen Christ is not “Do you love me?” but “Who have you shown it to?”
Peace & Grace,