What is Sin?


Augustine defines sin as disordered loves. We all love a variety of different things. I love God and I love sushi. I love my husband and I love a new pair of shoes. I love my children and I love a bold cabernet. Sin is when my loves get out of order.
When a friend trusts me with her story and I repeat it in gossip, I love my popularity more than my friend. That is sin. So then, repentance is first a confession that my loves are disordered. Second it is a turning away from the lessor love and towards the higher love.
An activity that helps me in self-reflection and prayer is simply to rank the things I love. Then, I ask myself if the thing I say I love most is getting the best time, energy, and focus of my life. If not, my loves are disordered and I have some work to do with the One who loves me best.
For more theological reflection, read:

Face to Face and Heart to Heart   


Last night we said goodbye to Sandra, our dear nanny who has lived with us and loved our children alongside us this past year. Our house was filled with all the smells of Sandra’s favorite foods, all the sounds of a lively party, plus all the emotions of goodbye.

I loved the entire evening. From preparing food together, to the kids playing inside and out, the hugs and gifts and prayers and tears – my heart was full.  It felt like a little taste of heaven to me, with so much love in the air it was palpable. One of the reasons I savored the night was because it was all face to face and heart to heart. So much of my life is lived in logistics-land where schedules and plans and lists seem to dominate. But last night, there were no screens or texts or typing. There was no voice coming through a device with no face, and no Facetime simulation of real life. No, it was the real deal. People who love Sandra gathered to express it in person.

There is no replacing in-person. I’m grateful for all the virtual ways we can keep connected to one another from afar, but there is just no replacing in-person, shared space, eyeball to eyeball time.
And here is a little secret: No one else can build this for you. You must show up in your real body with all its insecurities and accomplishments.  You’ll have to get your skin in the game of messy, imperfect, sometimes boring, often impractical, inconvenient, unproductive and surprising relationships. From time to time I hear people complain that “the church” just isn’t building a strong enough community for them. And while I’m always open to the ways we can improve, my heart and my life tell me that no organization can do this work for you. You must cultivate it – like a garden. You will have to be the one to plant seeds of friendship, and water them, and pull up the weeds.  A church can point the way towards deep spiritual community by offering environments like small groups, and creating shared experiences together – but all of these things only serve as a signpost – an arrow – that points the way. The church programs are just arrows pointing towards spiritual friendship, they cannot replace it. Spiritual friendships are only fostered face to face and heart to heart. A church can point towards deep community, but it cannot create it for someone. An organization and its leaders can seek to model and build and value spiritual friendships, but they can never be a substitute for someone showing up and doing this work themselves. If you’re going to know true community, you have to commit yourself to some relationships long past the point where you find yourself saying of those relationships, “they just don’t work for me anymore.”  You’ll have to get disappointed, work through that, and stay. If you want to experience friendship, community, and love you’ll have to show up, over and over again and sometimes, when you’re least expecting it, you just might bump into a little bit of heaven here on earth – where Christ himself is present in the bread and in the wine and in the going away party for your friend.

Orphans to Heirs


In Genesis 1, we discover that we were created by God. We were in the beautiful garden of Eden, our creation was labelled as good, and we were described as image bearers. Then in Genesis 3, we turned our backs on God. In that moment we became orphaned by sin. There was a break in the bond we shared with our Maker. The scriptures say Adam and Eve no longer were able to walk naked with God in the garden and feel no shame. Suddenly they knew they were naked, felt ashamed, and lost intimacy with their Creator. Shame entered the scene of this world and has never left. But in his lovingkindness, God sent Jesus to make a way for our adoption back into the family of God. Then he also sent his Holy Spirit to our hearts so that we can experience our adoption. In Christ we are adopted, through God’s Holy Spirit we experience our adoption. 

The Holy Spirit makes real our rescue from the orphanage of our own sin and shame. You can be adopted, but not experience your adoption. You can be an heir, but live with an orphan spirit. You can have a provider but keep hoarding food in isolation.
To be adopted into a family is to forever know intimacy, provision, protection and care. Intimacy is shared life; intimacy with God is shared life. The same power that made Jesus alive is now making us alive in him. This is living in the light of the resurrection. This is living out all the rights and privileges of our adopted life. We are no longer orphans but heirs.

The Gift of Disillusionment 


Intimacy with God requires that you deal with your disillusionment. Sometimes I meet people who say, “I used to follow Jesus, but then I just got disillusioned.” Do you know what disillusionment really is? It is about losing your illusions. We think of that word negatively, but I wish we could think of it positively. Because every time you feel disillusioned, it is an invitation to a deeper faith.
Barbara Brown Taylor says:
“The disillusioned turn away from the God who was supposed to be in order to seek the God who is. Every letdown becomes a lesson and a lure. Did God fail to come when I called? Then perhaps God is not a minion. So who is God? Did God fail to punish my adversary? Then perhaps God is not a policeman. So who is God? Did God fail to make everything turn out all right? Then perhaps God is not a fixer. So who is God? Over and over, my disappointments draw me deeper into the mystery of God’s being and doing. Every time God declines to meet my expectations, another of my idols is exposed. Another curtain is drawn back so that I can see what I have propped up in God’s place – no, that is not God, so who is God? It is the question of a lifetime, and the answers are never big enough or finished. Pushing past curtain after curtain, it becomes clear that the failure is not God’s but my own, for having such a poor and stingy imagination. God is greater than my imagination, wiser than my wisdom, more dazzling than the universe, as present as the air I breath and utterly beyond my control.”

This Series is Close to my Heart 


I heard a story from a friend recently who adopted a little boy from China. She told me that the night before their son’s adoption, after dinner with his foster family, she had her first bout with anxiety.  She started thinking, “Oh dear, what if this is a mess? What have I gotten us into?” Later in the evening, back in her hotel room, in the midst of all that fear, she began to pray. In prayer, she sensed God say to her, “Breathe in my Holy Spirit, breath out fear and doubt. I have brought you to this place. Have faith and proceed.” And since that night, she has had complete confidence that this was her path designed by God. 

In that moment of adopting their son, she experienced her own adoption as God’s beloved child. She felt God’s Holy Spirit drawing her close, caring for her, and reminding her that she is not alone.
Last Sunday we started a new sermon series called Orphans-to-Heirs. We are talking about the spiritual doctrine of adoption. Adoption is close to my heart since our second child is adopted. In this series, we are exploring how it is possible to be adopted into the family of God but still live with an orphan spirit. An orphan spirit is one that feels they are alone in the world with no one to take care of them. In contrast, this is the basis of what it means to be an heir: God’s love grounding us, transforming us, and directing us.
“For your have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:15)

Our Jobs as Parents 


While I was on sabbatical, I met with a pastor friend here in Denver who shared with me something that I have incorporated into my own life as a parent. Thanks to this conversation, I now tell my kids that Daddy and I have 3 jobs as their parents:
1. We help keep you safe.
Physical safety may be most important when they are younger, but mental and emotional safety become increasingly important as our children grow.
2. We help you to make good choices.
These choices are about being kind and healthy to themselves and others. As our children grow, we will become coaches in their decision-making.
3. We help you remember who you are.
We remind our children by what we say and how we live life together as a family that they are loved, chosen and valued.
Our parenting jobs reflect back to God’s creation intent, and his intended triad of Safety, Significance, and Security. We lost these three things in the garden and are on a continual journey to return to them. Our children need us to lead them on that path.
Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.
 Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

Ongoing Conversation


Why is it that sometimes you’ll meet someone who has followed Christ for decades, been faithful in attending church, been committed to countless small groups and volunteer service activities, but they have become more impatient, unkind, rude, or judgmental? Why is it that I can be so busy serving Jesus while simultaneously moving farther from reflecting his heart and image?  
Have you ever noticed that church activity does not guarantee a person’s transformation into Christlikeness? Church is just the container; it is not the substance. Christ is the one–the only one–who can transform human hearts. No amount of good Christian activity can substitute. No amount of small group participation, Bible study, prayer, or church attendance can do the transforming. Only God himself can do the work of God.  All these good activities are just signposts meant to point the way to a direct engagement with God.
We’ve been told a lie. The lie is that with enough involvement in Christian activity we will experience the abundant life Christ spoke of. This is not true. Christ himself is the abundant life. Activities, disciplines, involvements, and service, no matter how powerful, are not the same as direct connection with God himself.
Too often we think of transformation–or conversion–as a one-time thing. We say, “Oh, I got saved freshman year of college,” or, “I became a Christian as a child.” We forget that spiritual formation is an ongoing process of being formed into the image of Christ for the sake of others. We neglect the teaching of Jesus that says, If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Mt 10:39 ESV , and the teaching of the apostle Paul that says, “We must work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12).
The core of the gospel is an ongoing commitment to die. To die to self and be raised to new life in Christ. Oh, how my ego resists the dying! My false self with all its posturing and pretending has to die so that my true self can be born. My self-creation has to die so that my authentic self can be found again. The self that God created me to be before sin’s distortion.
We all have a shame-based fear of being ordinary. We seek to prove our worth through hustling, proving, posturing, being unique, or procuring fame and fortune. Some of us need to be right, some of us need to be loved, and some of us need to be seen as competent or powerful. We use various narratives and stories to prove we are important.
People offer opportunities for conversion, of ongoing change. When I get cut off in traffic, I have the opportunity to die to my need to be first. When I am offended, I am presented with the choice to die to my need to be the center. When I feel rejected, I can die to my need to be liked by everyone. These small deaths make room for resurrection in my life. I can be raised to new life in being fully known, fully loved, with no fear of rejection in Christ.
The powerful question I can ask is this: Is my life growing in the fruit of God’s spirit? Am I more loving, joyful, peaceful, patent, kind, good, faithful and full of self-control?  This is the evidence of God’s transforming work in my life. Not greater involvement in church, but more of the fruit of the Spirit.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
— Jim Elliot, missionary martyr

Needy or In Need?


I was listening to a podcast recently in which the speaker asked, “What is the one word that someone could use to describe you that would devastate you if it was true?” Her answer was “needy.” Most of us would rather be just about anything but “needy.” Why is that?
There is a difference between being “needy” and being “in need.” When our condition of being in need becomes our identity, we become needy. Rather than just having a situation, we develop a reputation. But to be in need is to be human. Jesus demonstrates this throughout His life-from birth as a fully dependent infant, to the crucifixion, where He spoke through parched and cracked lips, “I am thirsty.” Jesus had needs, but that did not make Him needy, it made Him human.
We all have times in which our needs exceed our resources. At Platt Park Church, we have a small but mighty group of people called “The Blessing Team.” We are on the lookout for ways that we can bless people by helping to meet the very real needs in their lives. Here is just a glimpse of some of the ways that we have done this:
· Helped an individual avoid eviction by paying rent
· Supported a refugee who is going to college
· Helped a family of five by paying their rent
· Paying for several counseling sessions to help a couple
· Paid towards reducing medical bills for an individual
· Monthly stipend for transportation for a person with special needs
· Handed out grocery and Uber gift cards
It is a marvelous and joyful experience to be giving out of our abundance to help those around us, both in our faith community and outside it. It is the love of Christ that compels us.
This Sunday, October 1st, we will be collecting gift cards to distribute as needs arise. We thank you in advance for donating grocery cards, RTD pass books, or Target cards.
If you are interested in hearing more about the Blessing Team, or in serving with us, please contact Carol Schmidt at carolschmidtco@gmail.com

Listen to the River (Not the Highway) 


The first thing I noticed when my sabbatical began was that the moment I opened up space in my life, a variety of things fought to fill that space. 

One night after dark, I went out on our back porch in Frisco to look at the stars and listen to the river. As I sat there, I noticed that I could hear both the rushing river and the distant sound of I-70. Both were present in the air that night, but I could choose which to focus on – the soothing river or the racing highway.
No matter if it is an hour, a day or 3 months that is set aside for rest and replenishment, the demands and distractions of life always will crouch at the door. Just waiting to jump in and fill up our time, our minds, and any space for silence and solitude.
This is my experience. There is always the highway noise at first; it takes some time to settle in and listen for the river of God’s Spirit flowing.

Human Dignity


She stood there with a scowl of sorts on her face and she wasn’t singing. A combination of bored plus defiant spread across my 3-year old’s face as she stood on stage with the entire preschool for the end of the year performance. All the kids were singing, but Lyla was not singing. All the kids were clapping, but Lyla was not clapping. All the kids seemed happy to be up there, but Lyla did not. 

My Mama-heart just loved watching my girl. As other moms looked over at me, I flashed my proud smile and it was honest and true. As Lyla’s mom, I really didn’t care if she sang all the words and did all the actions at the preschool show. I just loved watching my girl.
I think that this is God’s heart for you. You are not a machine designed to crank out products with efficiency. You are a human being, an image bearer, a holy child of God. You are a precious soul full of dignity and worthy of love. You were not produced in a factory, like a cog created to get stuff done. You were knit together in your mother’s womb. Even if your mother never knew you, God saw you and knew you and loved you before you were ever born.
You – with all your quirks.
You – with all your wonder.
You – with all your struggles, shame, and failures.
You — with all your wishes, hopes and dreams.
God sees you on the stage of your life and delights to watch you, to be near you, to marvel at the one-and-only creation that you are. You don’t have to perform perfectly. You don’t have to do anything at all to be fully known, fully loved, with no fear of rejection. God just looks at you and loves you as His beloved child.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:13-18)