Love Can Change the World

Do you believe that “Love can change the world?” I think that we think it, say it, but don’t necessarily believe it or live like it. As I’ve been reading scripture, I’m constantly reminded about the power of love and the need to give it freely. I also am constantly reminded that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (change) and not control or manipulation. I still admit that I default at times to control games and subversive forms of manipulation to try and change people. As a parent, I sometimes have to punish my kids. But do I really think that punishment will change their behavior in the long run? I don’t think so. I believe that a moment of love has more power than years or even decades of judgement.

I was watching a clip from “les miserables” last week. It’s the opening scene where jean valjean is just released from prison (20+ years of hard labor for stealing bread) on his way to meet his parole officer and is invited into the home of a catholic bishop for dinner. Jean Valjean can’t believe that he’s being let in and keeps reminding the bishop that he’s a criminal, he just got out of prison, and he’s dangerous. The paper in his hand says that he’s dangerous. In the night, Jean has nightmares of his time in prison. He woke up remembering exactly who he is (or at least who he’s been told he is). Then he gets up and steals the bishop’s silver spoons and when he’s caught in the act, he knocks out the bishop and flees. The next morning, he’s caught by the police and brought back to the bishops home. When the police ask the bishop if he knows the man, he says, “yes.” And when asked if he really had given Jean the silver spoons as a gift (Jean’s story to the police), he says, “yes I did. But I’m very disappointed in you Jean. Why did you not take the candlesticks? They’re worth more than the spoons.” Then he draws up close to Jean and stares into his most humbled eyes and declares that he’s bought his life back unto God.

In this moment, Jean’s whole life is changed. Year’s of prison that was supposed to reform him did nothing but destroy his humanity. Yet, in a moment of radical love and radical grace, his life is changed forever. Love can change the world! And if we choose to love, perhaps we can be a part of changing it!

eating humble pie… sort of…

my shortsidedness and hard headedness never ceases to amaze me.  i was preaching this past sunday on John 4.  on of the sections was about the disciples urging Jesus to eat and him responding, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”  He’s talking about doing this will of his Father and they’re still thinking about food.  i’ve been so convicted of this truth.  I believe that we still think that we’re “not ready” or that we “need to be fed more.”  but, the truth is that when we act and step out in faith, we grow and we become stronger.  in essence, we are fed.  it’s crazy that the disciples have been walking with Jesus and yet when he talks about this, they are wondering what literal food he’s talking about.  Whereas, Jesus will always talk about the nourishment of our souls being the thing that satisfies us to our deepest core.

anyhow, i’m preaching this word and  i’m thinking that i’m getting it in me as well.  but that wasn’t necessarily the case.  we had our monthly potluck dinner after our gathering and while i’m eating and talking a guy taps me on the shoulder to say hi.  it’s one of our brothers from the street that hasn’t been around in a while.  he’s talking to me and telling me that it’s been a long time and that so much has changed.  i tell him that it’s good that he’s here and that it’s good that he came tonight since it’s potluck night and he’d be able to eat.  he comes up to me again about 20 minutes later and says, “you know… life is more than just food.  i want and need something more.  i’ll be here next week for the service.”

i sat there speechless and humbled.  i had just finished preaching a message about a greater food that satisfies our soul, and immediately need to be reminded by my homeless and hungry brother that life is about more than just food for our bodies.  this was definitely a humbling reminder that God’s word doesn’t need to just flow through me, but needs to flow in me as well…

Solitude is the Furnace of Transformation – Henri Nouwen…

I hate being alone!!!  I can’t stand it.  On a Meyer-Briggs personality profile, I’m a capital “E” for Extrovert.  I have no “I” in me.  I get so fueled by being surrounded by people and have to be pulled away from the crowd in order to get me out of it.  But… this past year has been a season of more alone time than I’m particularly used to.  And it has been in this alone time that I’ve had to face some incredible, dysfunctional junk in my life.  People have asked me about my journey of church planting and I’ve openly shared that it’s been a hard and painful year.  Mostly, I’ve had to face the incredible fear and insecurity that is deeply rooted in my heart and soul.  Being alone forces me to find my identity in Christ alone.  I’m so easily swayed to find significance and worth in others and how they “feel” about me.  Simply put, I’ve heard the question from God: “Why do you want to plant this church? Is it because you love people? Or is it because you want to be successful in your ministry?”  It’s humbling and almost shaming to answer honestly.  I do love people!!!  But when I’m honest with myself, I know that I love me more.   And I know that I wrestle with my sense of self-worth.  This is why my times of solitude shape me and help me cling to Christ all the more.  It’s in my aloneness that I have no one to turn to and have no way to fix me on my own.  It breaks me into a posture of opening my life to Jesus.  I was sharing my process and journey with my previous pastor (Dave Gibbons – Newsong Community Church) and he recommended reading Henri Nowen’s book “The Way of the Heart.”  Nouwen beautifully portrays my struggle and has helped me to embrace my time of solitude rather than run from it.

There is so much more I’ve learned from my times of solitude.  More will come next week…