Editor's Note: Last week the entire Union Gospel Mission staff met at UGM Camp for a time of bonding, renewal and training. The focus of the two-day conference was on who we are in Christ. Tim Rule of the Aphesis Group presented an intensive training on the importance of identity and recognizing who we are apart from our appearance, our roles, our success, our careers, or our family backgrounds.
We're all broken people.
This is what I learned last week in a nutshell: Here at UGM, we are ALL - residents, volunteers, staff - in ongoing recovery because we are ALL broken in one way or another, and we can only find healing to the extent we realize and live out of our identity in Christ. None of us does this perfectly. Hence, the brokenness. We sin. We hurt each other and we get hurt. Living out of our pain and/or our regret, however, only causes us to sin more, to hurt each other more. We must learn to live bathed/drenched/soaked in the love of God.
For me personally, last week was a rich time, an important time, a reinforcement of what I've known to be true for a long time - that what ties me to the residents in our shelters is much more significant than what separates us. It was also an opportunity to realign my thinking with what is true: God loves me not because of my performance but because He created me in His image and adopted me into His family.
The mission of the Aphesis Group, Tim Rule said, is to take the gospel to the remotest parts of the heart. He started by asking us a few questions:
- Where in my heart have I not let God go, not let the gospel penetrate?
- How is the fall impacting my life?
- Is Western culture affecting me more than the gospel?
- How does God step into my family background?
- How does God enter into our pain?
- When identity goes away, what does it take with it?
Over the next two days, Rule began to unpack the answers to those questions, and as he put it, "introduce us to ourselves."
Basic #1: We were created for connection with God and His creation.
Anything that threatens that connection threatens you and me.
Our ability to connect is directly impacted by our a) our ability to trust and b) our ability to forgive.
We often think that we can protect ourselves by rehearsing our pain. Like the image on the screen above, we replay the scenes where we were wounded over and over again in our minds. But it doesn't work. In fact, it makes things worse. We need to learn to replay love.
Basic #2: Everything flows from our inner life.
God tells us in Proverbs 4:23: "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." The word translated "heart," Rule said, is "cardia," which means the center of beliefs, desires and emotions.
God's plan is that your heart be healthy and whole and that you live your life refreshed from within. Imagine yourself as a walking "river of life" (John 7:37-38).
Basic #3: Because of the fall, our hearts have been deeply compromised.
We live in a broken, fallen world, and that has an impact on our hearts. We experience loss every single day. We are disappointed by the people we love. We lose our dreams or bits and pieces of them. We fail.
Basic #4: God clearly addresses every aspect of our inner lives, teaching us how to be healthy spiritually, emotionally and relationally.The reason to spend time in God's Word is not to prove what a good Christian you are or to impress God (we can't). The reason to spend time in God's Word is to be impressed by Him and how much He loves us. The gospel is not just good information, Rule said; the gospel is meant to transform the way you see yourself, the way you see others, the way you see the world, and most of all, the way you see God.
Rule went much deeper over the course of the two-day conference, touching on the effects of guilt and shame in our lives, the impact of our family of origin on our identities, combatting the labels/lies we've assumed over the years and why we give people permission to tell us who we are (bad idea). You can learn more about the Aphesis Group's approach to discipleship on their website. For now, I'd like to leave you with this assessment of our situation:
- You are more marvelous than you ever imagined.
- You are more loved and valued than you have ever dreamed.
- You are more broken than you know.