Looking With God’s Love

God is calling us in his love. This is a truth that is very simple that even children get it. We see people and treat our friends based on the Father’s love for them. However, in practice, most of us do not start this way. Our human tendency is to view other people according to their responses to God’s love. Let me explain.

God is the Father who calls us out of his love. He calls everyone to connect with his heart for all people and nations. He calls everyone to participate in his compassion for the world. This is God’s compassionate call. Jesus models for us this way of looking at people through God’s heart for the world. When Jesus faced rejection, he still continued seeing God’s love in the persons who rejected him. In Mark 10:21, a Rich Man approached him with questions about eternal life. The text says Jesus “looked at him with love.” Even though later, we read that this man rejected Jesus and walked away in great sadness. Jesus saw God’s love in his life. This was Jesus way. When he was with a Samaritan woman, with a Roman Centurion, with a Syrian mother, among the Jewish religious leaders, with a leper, or an impulsive fisherman, Jesus saw the Father’s love in their hearts and minds. Jesus is viewing the people around him with the Father’s compassionate call.

What does this mean for us today? One way of applying this is by putting a stop to our tendencies to focus on results, on giving priority to only those who are repentant. Many of our reports are on big numbers, on stories of flashy miracles, or on physical healing and spectacular events. We tend to see God’s love as only defined by people’s response to the call for repentance. We forget that God is calling everyone to his love, even the ones who reject him.

So, let us focus on seeing God’s love in people, even if there are no results. Even if a person rejects God, we still should love them. Results are good. Miracles and healing are wonderful. But these are not our goal in missions work. Our goal is to worship God by seeing his love in people’s hearts and lives. Let us celebrate God by seeing and hearing his compassionate call for everyone. 


Switching Questions

A very smart man, learned in the ways of the Law, one time came to Jesus with a question. At the end of their conversation, Jesus said: “Go and do likewise.” Here in this encounter, Jesus is telling a learned man to go and love one’s neighbor. Read Luke 10:25-37, and you will see the (parable) story of the Good Samaritan. Here we see Jesus doing a switcheero of questions—changing the person’s eternal-life question to the question of identity. This expert in the law came with a question on the merits of receiving eternal life. But Jesus knew what he needed. So, Jesus introduced the parable and admonished this person to change his question. The question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” must now became “Who is my neighbor?” This question of a search for identity will allow the person to see God’s love for people and thus give him more opportunities to practice the law of love, the new commandment that Jesus shares with everyone. The switching of questions becomes an open door to a life of love.

Joel Green states that the parable itself is framed with questions concerning the identification of “neighbor.” Whereas Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Plain had eliminated the lines that might be drawn between one’s “friends” and one’s “enemies,” this legal expert hopes to reintroduce this distinction. He does so by inquiring, “Who is my neighbor?”—not so much to determine to whom he must show love, but so as to calculate the identity of those to whom he need not show love. By the end of the story, Jesus has transformed the focus of the original question; in fact, Jesus’ apparent attempt to answer the lawyer’s question turns out to be a negation of that question’s premise. Neighbor love knows no boundaries. (Gospel of Luke. 1997:426)

Here are some questions for you: Did Jesus ever change your questions? Have you been stuck in the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What would happen to your Christian faith when you ask the question: “Who is my neighbor?” What is your switcheero-story?


God Is Calling My Friend

God is calling us to himself. This alone encourages me to go and become a witness for Jesus. I go and share Jesus to others because God’s calling is before me and moving in the lives of the people whom I am with. There are some verses from the Gospel of John that illustrates this truth about God’s calling and his missionary character. Let me cite John 20:21-22 to you.

“Again [Jesus] said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22) The question here is not: How is Jesus sent? Or Where is Jesus sent to?, but rather, Who is sending Jesus? The Great Commission in John 20:19-23 speaks of the Father sending the Son. Who is the Father? What will help us in our answer is to go back to our definition of mission. What is mission? Here is a simple definition based from the John’s text. “God calls us to himself, shows us his salvation in Christ, and leads us by the Spirit to a celebration of the kingdom of God.” In this definition, everything goes back to who God is and what he is doing.

Now, to our question: Who is the God the Father? He is the one who calls everyone to himself. We shall call this as God’s creation call. In the first three chapters of Genesis, we see God calling Adam and Eve to a life here on earth. He breathe into humanity giving them life. He coaches Adam to call the animals, and to give them names. In the beginning God called all creation to life. And in Jesus was life, and he was the light of the world. (Genesis 2 and John 1)

Some people forget that God’s call is a creation call. They think that God calls people to salvation only after they have committed sin or after offending God. No. God’s call was already there at creation, even before sin entered the world. This means that his desire to have fellowship with us is based, not on our need for salvation or the depravity of sin, but from his very being which we can see at creation. 

What does this mean in everyday life? A good example is our way of helping others. When we begin with the creation call of the Father, then we do not start with sin or the person’s offensive behavior. We do not say, “You need Jesus because your life is in disarray.” No! We tell people: “You need Jesus because God loves you and has a beautiful plan for your life.” We help others by leading them to the Father who have already called them from the beginning of time, even before that person was born. God is calling each person to himself. This missionary God the Father is going before us.


Pentecost Sunday, 2022

A story is told of a young boy hearing for the first time the story of the Pentecost from his pastor. The pastor shared the events of the Spirit coming down and the disciples speaking in many languages. The young boy exclaimed: “Pastor, we must have missed that Sunday.”

Today is Pentecost Sunday. The Bible tells us that “Peter and John came down and prayed for the [disciples] that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15).” Pentecost is the time when the earth is renewed (Psalm 104:30), young people prophesy (Joel 2:28), followers of Jesus speak different languages (Acts 2:4), and forgiveness is proclaimed throughout the land (John 20:22-23). I see God’s Spirit coming when church members practice a life of forgiveness and compassion, young people go out protesting in the streets against violence in the land, and missions workers learning new languages in order to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

My prayer is that as you face this week of the coming of the Spirit of God, may you experience Pentecost again, and not be like that young boy who said: “We must have missed Pentecost Sunday.”

"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit" (Romans 8:16).

Here is a prayer, a longing for the Spirit's coming, I want to share with you:

"Dear Lord, I want to see the wonders in the heavens above, and Your signs on the earth below.

I want to hear everyone who calls on Your name and love, and witness salvation, You bestow.

I long to be with the young people who see visions revealed today, and the grandmothers and grandfathers who dream of Your coming day.

My heart’s desire is to be there in the last days singing, and be here when Your Spirit comes pouring.

Dear Lord, I am praying.”

--(DWC, a prayer based on Acts 2:17-21)

God reigns, as the Psalmist reminds us. “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; all gods bow down before him" (Psalms 97:7, RSV). Do we usher in God’s reign when we turn weapons of war to tools of peace-making?

I am sure the acts of remaking weapons of destruction to tools of nurturing life would involve a lot of suffering, as well as moments of power-sharing. Are you ready to suffer for Christ and to share in the Spirit’s power? Paul speaks of the witness of God’s Spirit in our hearts.  He says: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (See, Romans 8:14-17)

"The Spirit renews the face of the ground" (Psalm 104:30, ESV). Let us go forth and nurture this earth, bring healing to our communities, and receive the Spirit when He comes pouring into our lives.


A Tool For Feeding The Hungry (after a shooting tragedy)

(This post is my response and reflection in the aftermath of the tragic death of teachers and students, 19 children, of the Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, Texas.)

What would a weapon of war look like if it is turned into a tool for feeding the hungry? The prophets of the Old Testament have struggled to answer this question. Read Isaiah 2:4-5 and Micah 4:3-5, and you will see the imagery of swords being turned into plowshares.

“God shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks… O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. You shall learn war no more, but you will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.” (Is. 2:4-5 & Mic. 4:3-5)

So, what would an AK-47 (or AR-15) look like when it is remanufactured as a tool to help us cook food for the hungry? What would a nuclear ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) look like if we retro-fit it for food production and distribution? So, what is your answer?

If I were to ask Jesus this question, he will probably not have a direct answer (not because he does not know an AK-47 or an ICBM). He will probably say:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." --(Matthew 5:6-9)

Here is a song that I heard this Sunday morning, a song that captures my thoughts for this time of reflection:

God, Our Nation Feels The Loss. (Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. 2022)

God, our nation feels the loss
as our children pay the cost
for the violence we accept,
for the silence we have kept.
Rachel weeps for children gone;
God of love, this can’t go on!

Jesus, Lord, we hear you say,
“Don’t turn little ones away!”
May we build a kinder land
where our children understand:
Every child here matters more
that the guns we clamor for.

Holy Spirit, wind and flame,
send us out in Jesus’ name.
May we shout and say, “Enough!”
May we build a world of love—
till the sounds of weapons cease,
till our young can grow in peace.

Copyright © 2022 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.


Spirituality With a Hope and a Holy Unrest

“Growth in spirituality is never only a matter of confirming the known and familiar,” Charles Ringma states in his Dare To Journey (1992:110). He describes our life with Christ is more of radical transformation, a restlessness and a vision for what is to come, than contentment and conservation. He cites Paul’s words in his Epistle to the Romans saying: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Hope here is an application of joy and peace. God’s Spirit moves us forward, and thus, our spirituality grows.

Henri Nouwen tells us that “You are [a] Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in” (Open Hands. 1972:126). We keep moving forward being unsatisfied with the status quo and we keep saying that a new world is yet to come. Nouwen continues: “So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life” (1972). 

Where are you in your journey with Christ? Are you in a state of holy unrest? Is your hope in the Lord moving you forward?


“Why you should care about your multiracial friends” (By: Carmen Clemente)

According to the U.S. Census in 2020, the population of “Two or More Races” in America increased by 276% compared to the 2010 U.S. Census. Now, around 10.2% of the U.S. population identifies as being multiracial. Though the population of multiracial adults is growing at a high rate, it is still a relatively new concept. The U.S. Census Bureau had just introduced Americans’ ability to choose more than one race in 2000 (pewresearch.org).  

Growing up as a kid, and even now as an adult, I dreaded the little checkboxes under the question of what race you identify with when filling out surveys and applications.  

I identify as being biracial. My mom is Caucasian, and my dad is Filipino. So, whenever I come across this predicament of which checkbox am I going to choose over the other, a part of me feels as though this indefinitely defines who I am. But it’s only a checkbox, right?  

It is only a game of boxes until I am forced to limit myself to one checkbox that I stumble across named “other.”  

I can’t help but feel the repercussions of this one word for people who identify with more than one ethnicity. All of our unique experiences and identity crises condensed into one word that doesn’t even serve our individuality justice because it dismisses celebration and instead puts us in a box that forbids us to express who we are.  

Instead, we are the “other,” the forgotten, the marginalized. Thankfully, often you will see the checkbox “two or more races,” but even then, this should not dismiss the millions of multiracial people whose stories significantly differ from one another.  

The sad truth is that this is only a small example compared to what multiracial people have to go through throughout their lives.  

My experience as a multiracial child is vastly different from that, say, of a half Hispanic half African American child. Even though we are both biracial, our unique experiences based on our parents’ monoracial identities are completely different.  

One misconception plays out when monoracial people approach or talk to their multiracial peers. A lot of the time, they assume that all of our experiences are the same. More often than not, there is more diversity within the multiracial community than people realize.  

Moreover, I feel disappointed when people think they have me all figured out once they learn that I’m half-white and half-Asian. I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to a Pew Research study, about one in four multiracial adults “have felt annoyed because people have made assumptions about their racial background.”

There is no shame in asking a person of more than one race what they are. There is more to us than our biological makeup. Many multiracial people identify with one race over another. And though we may identify with one race, the world may see us as the other. Working through one’s racial identity, especially when your DNA is made of multiple races, can be challenging.  

For example, I am an ethnic minority, but I also pass as white, so I simultaneously experience white privilege. I feel as though my biological makeup limits me from being able to fully understand and experience the monoracial culture of both my Caucasian and Asian sides. So, where does that leave me? Often, I feel as though I’m left in the margins, that my experiences aren’t valid enough.  

What I long for is for people to be able to recognize my struggle and show compassion. I’m not asking you to understand, but to show up and offer a helping hand when I lose vision of who I am.  

We live in a world that likes to compartmentalize and label, so for multiracial adults who have to navigate through their identity in this world like me, that can be tough.  

I wish I could give you a concrete and straightforward answer to how you can be there for your multiracial friends who may be silently or not so silently going through a racial identity crisis. If I can sum it all up in one word, the best I can give you is this:  

Listen.  

Give us space to express ourselves. Give us time to tell you who we are. Give us grace and understanding when we change our minds about our racial identity.  

And please, do not put us in boxes. 

 

(Carmen is my daughter. This article was published in the Asbury Collegian, April 22, 2022.)


Like It Was Yesterday

What are things or events you remember like it was yesterday? In the post-resurrection story narrated in the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John, we read the disciples' encounter with Jesus. (See, John 21:1-19.) They remember it so well that the writer mentions the number of fish that they caught that same day. Verses 11-12 say: “Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn ‘Now come and have some breakfast!’ Jesus said.” Their fellowship with Jesus did not just end with this breakfast. It continued on to more teaching and reminders about Jesus’ love (Jn. 21:16). They all remember Jesus’ words like it was yesterday.

How is your life with Jesus? Do you have fresh revelation from our Lord every morning? Can you say with the disciples “our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road?” (See, Luke 24:32). Do you remember your encounter with Jesus like it was yesterday?

He said, "Who are you, Master?" "I am Jesus, the One you're hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you'll be told what to do next." (Acts 9:5-6)


Dancing With a Forgiving God

Have you ever danced with a homeless person? Have you ever sat down and ate a hearty dinner with someone not like you? Have you ever celebrated the Fourth of July or an extravagant birthday party with a person from the street who smells and for obvious reasons does not belong to the joyous occasion? You probably know by now the point of these questions: Being with persons who feel like they do not belong to the moment.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we read of the story of the son who squandered his inheritance and lived an immoral life. When he came to his senses he came back to his father. And in verse 20, we see the “father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” We saw the celebration that later issued because of the home coming. (See, Luke 15:11-32.) Here is a picture of forgiveness.

We need to remember that this parable precipitated because the Pharisees and scribes saw that Jesus was receiving sinners. He was eating and celebrating with them (Luke 15:2). As Dr. Green says: Jesus is inviting the religious person to come, and “not only to drop their concerns about Jesus but, indeed, to replicate his behavior in their own practices” (Joel B. Green. The Gospel of Luke. 1997:569).

Here are some questions for us to ponder: When was the last time you joined a celebration together with persons who are considered outcasts by today’s religious standards? Do you feel joy when you see people, those who do not belong to our church gatherings, when they come to a closer encounter with the Good News of Jesus Christ? Would you be able to embrace someone, no matter how smelly and dirty they are, knowing that God himself have embraced everyone with his forgiving arms?

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2. NIV).


Teaching By The Lake: Peter's Story

Peter was there when Jesus started speaking to the crowd. He spoke to the people standing by the lake. His words did not make sense to him. This Rabbi Jesus came and got into his boat.  He continued teaching from the boat. Everything he said did not make sense. Then, he turned around and asked Peter to go fishing with him. Peter went reluctantly. He knew that, at this time of the day, any fishing expedition would end up a failure. But he still went. And when the miracle happened and the boats were filled with fish, lots of them, Peter understood. This Rabbi was no ordinary teacher. Peter responded in worship and said: “Depart from me, Jesus. I am a sinner.” He finally understood the teaching by the lake, after he witnessed a demonstration of that same teaching. The manna from heaven is now the Bread of Life for all people. Just as God feeds the sparrows of the field, this Rabbi is showing his love by providing fish for the poor fisherfolk. And so, when he gave him the invitation, Peter did not hesitate. Jesus said: “Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” At that point, Peter knew that his life will no longer be controlled by fear.  He will follow this Rabbi and trust in him always. He now understands the teaching that this Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light who gives life to all who believe. And so, Peter obeys and he wants others to understand Jesus’ teaching by the lake.  

Our Gospel reading for this Sunday (02/06/2022) is from Luke 5:1-11, where we see the story of Jesus calling his first disciples, including Peter. One question we could ask ourself here is: What are some teachings that only make sense after they are demonstrated to us in real life?