Writing a Prayer of Confession

It is not often that I confess in writing. Most often, I confess verbally.

There is something different about putting your sins down on paper. Seeing the words on the page makes them more tangible and seem more ugly. The sheet of paper is filled up with things of which I am not proud in my life. Yet, it is also cleansing. There is something powerful in naming the places where I have messed up and am in need of God’s grace.

I have written a prayer of confession on Ash Wednesday for thirteen years. Sometimes, it seems, that I find myself writing some of the same things from year to year. All too often, I seem to cling unintentionally to some of the thoughts, words, and actions which separate me from God and other people. There are areas where God has been at work to help me make progress and there are new areas which I have not found necessary to confess in years past. All of this is part of the journey of going on toward perfect love of God and neighbor.

Each of the years that I have written my prayers in this way, I have also had the opportunity to place them in a fire to be burned. This is a cleansing ritual and helps me begin the journey toward Easter. I am so glad to be on this journey again.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Repent and believe the gospel.

Scripture Monday – 1 John 4:10-11

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:10-11, NIV).

I don’t have much of a question about these verses.

They are a beautiful picture of the love that God has for us.

We are able to love others because God first loved us.

An Open Invitation to Preaching Collaboration

This coming weekend, I will be preaching on Wrath at Resurrection’s Central Campus as part of a series on the Seven Deadly Sins. I am working and praying hard to have the best possible sermon for this weekend.

This is where you come in.

I want to hear from you – what questions, ideas, suggestions, scripture verses about wrath or anger do you have?

Visit http://ow.ly/cO2H to vote and submit your ideas and suggestions.

What does God think of divorce?

Email Received:

I am writing because I have a few questions I need help with. I am recently divorced. It seems my wife didn’t understand that you are not supposed to date other people when you are married. We tried to work it out the first time 3 years ago, but the second time she decided to stay with her boyfriend and I moved out. It’s been about 8 months since the divorce and I am now starting to date one of my best friends. We have brought each other back to church and now that I am growing in my faith I have some real concerns. What does god think about divorce? I read so many things about how god hates divorce and I am worried that I have committed a sin when it was of no choice of mine. I just don’t know how to feel about this and could use some guidance.

My Response:
Thanks for the question. I have a couple different responses to your question – What does God think about divorce? The first response that I would like to share is a statement from the denomination on divorce. It is a part of the Book of Discipline which is the governing document for United Methodist Churches and you can find this section online here – http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1723

“God’s plan is for lifelong, faithful marriage. The church must be on the forefront of premarital and postmarital counseling in order to create and preserve strong marriages. However, when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness. We grieve over the devastating emotional, spiritual, and economic consequences of divorce for all involved and are concerned about high divorce rates.”

A couple other online resources that may be helpful:

My response is that part of the reality in your situation is that there was already a break in the covenant of marriage. The divorce did not break the covenant of marriage between you and her. It was already broken through the infidelity. There are times when marriage can recover from cheating, but it takes the desire and commitment of both persons to make it happen. It sounds as if your ex-wife was not willing or able to make that commitment to make things work.

I hope that this is helpful. Please feel free to send an email with any additional clarifying questions or other ways that I can provide guidance. Thanks and hope your week is going well.

You might also see a previous post, Can two deeply committed Christians get divorced?

What do you think?

God’s Work through Sinful People

I received this question from Craig via email. This question is in reference to this past weekend’s sermon which you can watch here.

This weekend Adam mentioned that “give us this day our daily bread” was in part an invitation to place our trust in God. He made reference to one of the scriptures that discusses the birds and how they are taken care of and they don’t worry, etc. He then gave his response to a question he frequently gets about how can he put his trust in God when so many people die of hunger every day. His response was that God works through people and that it is a distribution problem, not a supply problem. I agree with this, but what that means then is that you not only have to put your faith in God to provide, you also have to put some faith in fellow man. Given the brokenness of mankind, this is not very comforting. I know that if I personally was in need of say food, I would be worrying because I have to rely most likely on others, not God per say directly (since he works though others), for assistance. So I guess my question is, how do you reconcile putting your trust in God with the fact that he works through others who have a bad history of not doing the right thing, sometimes resulting in the actual death of people?

Craig, I think that you raise an excellent critique. It can be a bit scary sometimes to trust God’s work to sinful people. There have certainly been many examples throughout history of God’s people doing more harm than good – moving further away from God’s kingdom coming on earth rather than closer to that reality.

That being said, I believe and trust that God is at work through people throughout the world. I think an amazing witness to the power of the gospel is that the church has endured despite our worst and best efforts. My hope is that God is at work through even people like me. I believe that each person has the opportunity for redemption and a new life in Jesus Christ. We may not be able to live in a right way, but through God’s power we are able to move toward life as a deeply committed Christian.

What do you think?