The Transforming God

Image courtesy of CreationSwap via Paule Patterson

Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog for women posted recently on the moral universe of Glee and how creator Ryan Murphy has become an evangelist, touting the message of tolerance to viewers each week on prime-time television.  The post discusses how Glee does a great job of bringing to light various social issues however it stands on the platform that we as people should accept ourselves and others just as we are.  Her.meneutics then says:

But the Christian story tells us that we are born broken, and that we need to be transformed; that we must put off the old self, and be made new. I believe this to be true; but beyond that, I believe it to be a better story, every time, than a story about a person who learns to accept herself the way she is.

I certainly believe that Jesus fully loves and accepts each of us exactly as we are, no matter where we’ve been.  But I love how this post has clearly pointed out that our Savior is a God of transforming grace and His gospel is not meant to be received as one great meal but as an eternal feast of mercy, kindness, love and yes…even gentle correction that will no doubt change us.

For those of us who come from a past where we have sinned in the most colorful ways or have been sinned against…whether we come from a life of crime, substance abuse, promiscuity or even prostitution, or if we’ve been sinned against by those we should trust most, our parents and caregivers… many of us can rightly blame our current condition on our past or maybe even our DNA.  But the gospel of Jesus allows us to be set free from our past. That which we’ve done and that which has been done to us.

Jesus didn’t freely die upon the cross so things could remain the same.  His blood was shed for a new covenant to bring change to the human race, one soul at a time.

Let us love one another exactly where we are but let’s also love one another enough and in ways that point to Christ who will never leave us unchanged.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Anomalies and Other Things

The One Who Showed Mercy by Christopher Koelle

I am an anomaly. An Iranian-American-Jesus-follower who prays for the peace of Jerusalem.

We left Iran when I was four because of an impending revolution which eventually abolished separation of religion from state. I left England at the age of 6 to come to the U.S. because immigration laws were much different then. My family was welcomed, my dad was given a job and we created a life that led me to education and opportunity.

I love Muslims. Not just because you are supposed to love everyone. I love them because some of them are in my family.

The memories have not faded from the day the planes flew through the buildings, nor do I ever wish to forget. I remember where I was sitting, what I was thinking and all the events of that particular day.  I remember crying in the bathroom because I had a visceral realization sometime on the afternoon of 9/11/01 that my 5 month old son who had only experienced love, would one day understand hatred. I remember for a long time being angry at Islam. Angry it stole away the country I was born in. Angry for the people I loved who were now under an oppressive expression of it. Angry it had now crashed into my home country and taken thousands of lives and shattered millions in the wake of it.

In the book of Luke, an expert of the Law asks the Teacher, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The expert asked another question, “Who is my neighbor?”

And so begins the story of the Good Samaritan… a Jewish man falls into the hands of robbers. He is beaten and left to die in the street. After a priest and a Levite, two of his own kind, pass him by and continue on about their business, a Samaritan stops and takes pity on him. He bandages his wounds, uses his oil and wine to soothe the pain, takes him to a safe house, cares for him and pays for his recovery.

The Samaritan is identified as the neighbor of the man who fell into the hands of robbers. Samaritans were a mixed race of Jews who intermarried with gentiles. Because of this, they were despised by pure-blooded Jews for having lost their Jewish purity. The two people groups had a long history of animosity towards each other.

It’s really easy to love a neighbor who has a lot in common with you. It’s easy to love a neighbor who is kind and generous with you. Loving someone different from you and does not agree with you is hard. It requires surrender, humility and grace. I believe what Jesus is telling this expert is your neighbor is often the one person you despise the most.

My Bible says this about Jesus: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

In Romans 12, it says things like, “hate what is evil and cling to what is good…bless those who persecute you…be willing to associate with people low position…if your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I wonder if  mine is the same as the copy they have in Gainesville Florida.

Purposefully Yielded: Adventures in Puerto Escondido, Part I

I had high hopes of blogging our team’s adventures (or mis-adventures) in Puerto Escondido. However God so sovereignly intervened by not allowing me any cell phone or email access the majority of the time there. That was the first blessing. In an effort to not forget what we experienced, here it is in bits and pieces. This is part/bit I. It’s as though a veil has been lifted from my eyes now that I’ve experienced a short term mission through King’s Harbor. The Velasquez family is very dear to the Lind family, so I thought I knew a lot about their vision, their mission and their lives in Puerto. I had heard about Casa Hogar and bought the honey they make there. I knew about Mike and Vanessa Allbutt and Christian Surfers. As a church, we support them financially and many prayers are lifted up on behalf of them as they are home grown and sent by us. But I didn’t realize how little I knew until I was there. There is nothing like experiencing it first hand. There is nothing like visiting the trench your friends are living in. There is something so sacred about partnering in the Gospel… physically as well as spiritually and financially. This is not to diminish other efforts that take place because they are all too important. But it begs the question… if we are all called to go and make disciples… of all nations… then what does that mean? About 3 years ago, I attended a conference in which one of the speakers commented that the American Church has abdicated its responsibility to missions to Para church organizations. This is paraphrased because it was three years ago and it wasn’t a slam against Para church organizations as much as it was a rebuke to the Church for simply cutting checks and leaving the so called “work” to someone else. I’m not implying that KHC is doing this either. But I am confessing my own blindness and apathetic disposition to the missional community established in my home church. We are all on a mission field and we would be remiss to believe that only those who go far away are called to missions. But in the spirit of integrated community, doing church as a team, or just simply “community”… if one of us from this community is sent, it sure does glorify God but does it edify the body to the degree it could if no one else has seen, heard directly or been a part of what is happening? The work that God is doing through Mando and Myra and their kids is profound. He is using them in a mighty way in Puerto Escondido. They belong there and the city needs them. The community of Christians they are a part of for fellowship and ministry is delightful. Mike and Vanessa Allbutt and their three kids are from Australia and share the same heart and mind for the surfers who unbeknownst to them are searching for the God of all creation. Mando and Myra welcome the strangers, the sojourners, the passer bys. They have time for everyone because they live to love people towards Jesus. The orphans at Casa Hogar respond to them and look forward to their visits because they reflect the face of the Lord who as taken them in (Psalm 27:10). The church they are a part of is slowly learning what it means to be The Church as they begin to understand the necessity of building relationships and unity with fellow churches. It’s highly improbable that we are all called to go on long term or short term missions. But it is likely that many of us are avoiding it as well. I know I was. So take this as an encouragement… to pray… inquire of the Lord. I’m fired up because I just got back. I’m not denying the “high.” But maybe God is using that fire to encourage you to pray about where He may send you for a visit in a trench other than the one in which you live. Taste and see what God is doing through your church in Puerto, in Haiti, in Thailand, at Royal Family Kids Camp, through the ShareFest work day. See what God might do through you.