Monday, October 31, 2016

The most important things for us to support this election

In a normal presidential election year, I save an election post for election day. This election year is so unusual that I thought it might be better to say this before things get any more interesting than they already are. The most important things for us to support would not be Flawed Candidate R (rude, crude, and lewd) or Flawed Candidate D (so dishonest and corrupt that even long-time political insiders express shock repeatedly; for the full story see WikiLeaks). It's unfortunate that the alternative parties didn't nominate anyone particularly qualified; this could have been their opportunity.

This election -- of all elections that I can remember -- we should be able to see why people would have reservations about whichever candidate we ultimately vote for (or already voted for, to recognize the early voters). Hateful rants about the opposition candidate are even more unhelpful than usual when both candidates are so deeply flawed. This election -- of all elections that I can remember -- we go into the election knowing that, whoever becomes our next president, most of us sincerely wished for better options. This election -- of all elections -- we need to firmly reconcile with the people who voted differently, and if we presume to think they need forgiving, then forgive them already. As a nation, we're awfully close to the edge of the cliff.

From a purely political viewpoint, I think the most important things for us to support this election are: 
  1. The acceptance that all law-abiding adult citizens are allowed a vote, regardless of whether they vote with you.
  2. The insistence that fair and legal elections will place the candidate elected by the voters, which is how we ensure the consent of the governed (usual disclaimer that we run the totals by state here, so that the little states don't get steamrolled by the big ones).
  3. That the legitimacy of the election is more important than our party winning. 

If our party membership supports the nation, then it makes the nation stronger. If our party membership takes precedence over the idea of equal citizenship or the consent of the governed, then the nation loses.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Essential Bible Verses for Evangelism

I've added a few comments, though most of these verses are presented without comment. 
  1. Grace be with you/The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you (and variations on the same). (Romans 16:24, 1 Corinthians 16:23, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Philippians 4:23, Colossians 4:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:28, 2 Thessalonians 3:18, 2 Timothy 4:22, Titus 3:15, Hebrews 13:25, 2 John 1:3, Revelation 22:21)
    Many of the letters of the New Testament end with nearly the same blessing. Religion, done right, is a channel of blessing because Jesus revealed his Father as the God who blesses. Our mission as evangelists is to bring good news, so that the person who hears is blessed. Evangelism, done right, is a channel of grace and blessing to the one who hears.
  2. It was right that we should make merry, and be glad: for your brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:32)
    The lost are our own brothers and sisters in Christ. It helps to be conscious of both their loss and ours, and that rightly any two people should have a brotherly relationship.
  3. You are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of the human heart. (2 Corinthians 3:3)
  4. The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving (James 3:17)
  5. Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God (I Corinthians 1:22)
    The Word of God has a human face, and compassion, and values love -- and values us.
  6. Let your light so shine before all that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
    In our worship, we glorify God. If we go to the world and live the way He teaches -- which is the worship He has asked of us -- we add to the number of people who glorify God.
  7. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15a)
  8. Do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15b)
  9. Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. (1 Peter 3:16)
  10. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Essential Bible Verses for Healing Shame

Shame has different elements, from feeling dirty or exposed, abandoned, and disowned, to a loss of confidence about being accepted or valued, to the fear of rejection and being alone. The Bible speaks to these: 
  1. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. We hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we assigned him no value. (Isaiah 53:3)
  2. God opposes the proud, and gives grace to the humble. (I Peter 5:5)
  3. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who had no need to repent. (Luke 15:7)
  4. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
  5. You are washed, you are made holy, you are made innocent in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6:11)
  6. And white robes were given to every one of them; and it was said to them, that they should rest yet for a little season. (Revelation 6:11)
  7. You shall no longer be called Forsaken; neither shall your land any more be called Desolate. (Isaiah 62:4)
  8. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God. (John 1:12)
  9. He calls his own sheep by name. (John 10:3)
  10. That you may be blameless and faultless, the children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:15)
  11. To him who overcomes, I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:15)
  12. The home of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)

Follow-Up: A Well-Loved Pitcher and Glasses

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Order of Confession

P: If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

C: Create in me a clean heart, O God.
I confess to you the things of which I am ashamed.
I confess to you the things for which I wish to make excuses, or would rather hide the truth.
I confess to you the things for which I have blamed others.
I confess my resentment for when I have been wrongfully blamed.
I confess my satisfaction at the downfall of the arrogant.
I confess my gladness when the crooked are caught in their own snares.
I confess my eagerness to hear evil of those I despise.
I confess that I despise those whom you love, and that I wish to justify it.
I confess my willingness to repeat evil tales.
I confess my fondness for complaining or arguing.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

P: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Guilt and Shame: Where religion and psychology meet

I've mentioned before that I've been participating in a Twelve-Step group for people whose parents were addicts. It has come as a surprise to me that shame plays such a key role for children of addicts. Without breaking any confidences, I think it's safe to say that shame is a typical struggle for people who were raised in a dysfunctional home. The varieties of shame, and the fact that it's such a common experience, are beyond anything that I'd have suspected. There is shame over being unwanted / unimportant, shame over things that were said or done to us, shame over the government taking an interest in the parenting in that home, over problems in school, over being hungry or badly dressed or having lice or having the utilities cut off or being from "that home" with the police car flashing its lights outside (again). It's about having so many experiences that can't be repeated in polite company.

Keep in mind that shame is an entirely different thing than guilt. It's easy for someone to offer as consolation:  "It wasn't your fault." True enough, and that would help if the problem were guilt; but that's not the point when the problem is shame. I'll put it like this: almost a year and a half ago, my mom said I could take some of my grandmother's things - a pitcher and some glasses -- from her home over to mine. I could see the potential in the pitcher and one of the glasses, but I wasn't sure I wanted the rest of them. They were filthy. I couldn't imagine ever drinking from them. They were so filthy that I was unwilling to put them in the dishwasher with other plates and glasses, since I didn't think that the dishwasher could manage that level of dirt. I filled the sink with hot water and soaked them, and washed them by hand. After the first wash they were still dripping dirt and the water was too dirty to clean them further. So I emptied the old water and did it again. After the second wash, they were still dripping a little bit cloudy when the second batch of water became too dirty to get them any cleaner. After the third wash, I was willing to put them in the dishwasher. Now that they are clean, I can see that they are actually beautiful. But in their original state, they were beyond ordinary "dirt" issues. They needed a lot of work before they were up to an ordinary level of mess, where they could go in the dishwasher. In that home, the levels of neglect are so profound that anything coming out of there will need remedial work. So at the end of the story: On a human level, shame is when you are so dirty that you can't even go in the dishwasher with the good dishes.

Some kinds of shame are about feeling dirty, some are about feeling unwanted. To heal the wounds of shame, it is necessary to become clean, and wanted, and welcome at the table.