Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Deleted "Spirit Cafe" Devotional

The following is the devotional post written by Rev. Randall Forester that was recently deleted from "Spirit Cafe Blog" by the i.ucc website administrator. Details of that action are described in the previous post.

Lent can sound scary and daunting for people. Discipline--ugg. Denial--oof. Service--yuck. The season begins with Ashes and somber reflection and ends at the foot of a cross--who really wants to fall crawl in the muck and mire of sin and self-denial and introspection, when we could just jump from the hedonism of Fat Tuesday to the celebration of the cross?

After all, doesn't the old hymn that Jesus loves me just as I am? So, if I'm a fun-loving, hedonistic, stuff-my-face- with-Granny's- ham-and-biscuits- til-I-pass out, shouldn't I just stay that way?

Well...that's the whole point of Lent.

Yes, Jesus loves me just as I am, but He came that I might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10.10). And to know that life, I need to grow into His image of me that He prepared for me. One way to know that life is to live according to the godly attributes. For instance, there are the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.22-25:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Joy is love exalting and peace is love at rest. Patience, love enduring in every trial and test. Gentleness, love yielding to all that is not sin. Goodness, love in actions that flow from Christ within. Faith is love's eyes opened, the loving Christ to see. Meekness, love not fighting but bowed at Calvary. Temperance, love in harness and under Christ's control. The Christ is love in person, and love, Christ in the soul. *

The reason there's no law against these attributes, is because if we lived according to them, there would be no need of the Law, as we would be walking in step with the Holy Spirit. A good discipline during Lent that I have is to simply pray through these attributes, one a day, and ask how to manifest that fruit in my life in a godly way. A concordance helps to find a verse or verses that will guide me on this journey.

It is a vital journey because just as God calls us to the pursuit of the good fruit, there is the tease and temptation of bad fruit. Paul talks about these sinful distortions of the good fruit in Galatians 5 as well in verses 19-21:
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
These sound like some of my Mardi Gras moments past before I truly invited Jesus into the center of my life, and I recognize how the lure to the bad seed can still be just as strong. And so ... I need the rhythm of Lent to come around every year to continue that good work begun in me, having faith and confidence that God will bring it to completion (Philippians 1.6).

There are always signs of how this good work is continuing in the world. In fact, it's a revolution that is continuing in our midst. Following the path of Christ has always been counter cultural, but there are signs of the kingdom of God breaking into this age.

“People are hungry for a hopeful message about homosexuality that encompasses God's truth, as well as His compassionate heart,” Exodus International President Alan Chambers said. “We are thrilled to be a small part of what God is doing to reach a new generation with His liberating truth.”

Indeed, Exodus International and other ministries are seeing people freed from the bondage of immorality that Paul speaks of in Galatians 5 and born to the freedom to according to the fruit of the Spirit. Seeing others gain their freedom gives me hope to live freely as well.

Join with me in praying through Galatians 5 this Lent that we might out be fruitful for God in His Spirit.

Amen.

your fellow companion on the journey,
revrandawg


---
* Missionary Dr. Kenneth Moyner, quoted by John Stott, "A Vision for Holiness," Preaching Today, Tape No. 94

10 comments:

David said...

Wow! Is there ANYTHING we can do to help your congregation leave the UCC? Anything at all? Just let us know.

We don't need you or your destructive theology in our denomination. We don't need the pain you inflict on gay and lesbian adolescents. We don't need the environment of violence and hate you create. We don't need your misogynist and homophobic interpretation of scripture.

I speak for all those gay and lesbian people who have been abused and pained because of people such as yourself. This needs to stop. We can disagree about theology but when you advocate an organization which had led to suicide and depression for gay and lesbian adolescents we have to stand up and say "ENOUGH".

Living the Biblios said...

The United Church of Christ, no matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here.

Thanks for the welcome David!

David said...

God, I will never get over people who think being "inclusive" means being welcoming to hate and child abuse (which is what you are essentially advocating). We are welcoming to people, not their hateful ideology.

I would LOVE to see all FWC churches leave the UCC immediately and I know I am not alone in this perspective. In fact, I just had lunch with our conference minister last week and she said the same thing. In fact, she told me shes prays every day that the FWC churches would leave. I know our congregation broke out into applause when it was announced that some 200 congregations left after General Synod. The vast majority of us in the UCC do not want to be associated with your congregations or your theology. Again, PLEASE LEAVE.

John Roberts said...

David,

Would your conference minister be willing to put her feelings in writing? If that is the true sentiment of the leadership of the UCC I would love for them to own up to it.

The message that came out of General Synod was that the UCC was to give place for all voices including those we may not agree with. Can you live in a denomination with people who don't agree with your beliefs about sexuality? Why or why not?

David said...

"Can you live in a denomination with people who don't agree with your beliefs about sexuality? Why or why not?"

No, I certainly cannot. My religious life is focused on bringing about justice, peace, and equality. This means a commitment to social justice and activism -- which both have long histories in the UCC. I cannot associate with people, nor fund their organizations, who are seeking to do the opposite. Advocating for reparative therapy for gay and lesbian adolescents is advocating for child abuse. It is the antithesis of my values, and something I find anathema.

Face it, the UCC is a progressive denomination. People have considered it "liberal" since its founding in 1957. Conservative congregations in the UCC give very little, if anything, to the larger church. They are dead weight that we can easily do without.

David said...

"If that is the true sentiment of the leadership of the UCC I would love for them to own up to it."

How much clearer do you need it to be? Conservative ideology is NOT welcome in the UCC. Explore our seminaries and see how many are graduating "conservative" seminarians. I'll answer that for you -- none of them!!

Our congregations pray every day that FWC churches will leave. I was very disappointed to hear that Mr. Weis' congregation decided to stay some months ago. We as Christians need to exercise some discipline and remove these individuals, and their immoral theology, from our midst.

John Roberts said...

David,

I know of at least one UCC seminary (Eden - St. Louis) that graduated one ECOT student (me)

David said...

And how long ago was that? ;)

John Roberts said...

It was 1995. So David, where do you go to Church? I assume you are a lay person. Am I right about that?

David said...

I attend a congregation in New England. Yes, I'm a lay person.