Posts Tagged ‘Book of Acts’
[28MAY2012] Pentecost: The Day After
Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
“God chose us as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. Then let us stand firm and hold fast to the traditions we were taught.” In goodness and loving kindness, you save us, not because of anything we have done, but in mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit you pour out on us richly, O God, through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Amen.
I continue to meditate upon the gift and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Reading again today from the Book of Acts, these following words stood out to me:
Peter’s words pierced their hearts: and they said to him and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:37-39)
These words from Peter seem to reinforce some of the thoughts I was sharing from the last couple of posts (here and here) regarding the infilling of the Holy Spirit. While it may be a “no-brainer” to assume repentance and following Christ are prerequisite for being filled with the Person of the Holy Spirit, I think many people in the realm of “contemporary believer world” take this for granted. Conversations that I have shared with people lead me to believe that a great number of folks completely disregard the working of the Holy Spirit entirely (as though it is an optional path of Christian enlightenment). Others disregard or outright reject the ministry and infilling of the Holy Spirit because of various outlandish claims and antics coming from some our extremist charismatic brothers and sisters of the faith. Still, there are others, who profess to embrace and even make claim to being filled with the Holy Spirit, but show little outward evidence to support they are being guided and comforted and counseled by this Spirit of the Living God who lives in them.
Peter’s words are a haunting echo in these perilous and post-modern days we live in. Political correctness, and cultural tolerances have creeped into our churches and into our doctrine… perhaps not in a written or “book of discipline” form, but the ways and means of our societal world has grafted itself to the DNA of our faith communities nonetheless. This isn’t necessarily anything new; it has happened in the life of the church over and over again throughout the days of man…even dating back throughout the history of ancient Israel well before the coming of Jesus and the birth of the Church. What do we do about this? Do we purge and scourge? I don’t think that is the answer; nor do I think adapting exclusivist or legalistic attitudes helpful either. I do think taking Jesus at his word and recognizing the wisdom of the elders of our faith who have walked before us can be helpful. Holiness is the command and demand of our God. If we want this God to inhabit us as individuals and us as a corporate body, it is incumbent that we follow his commands. Peter makes this abundantly clear in his words from the Book of Acts as he speaks words of exhortation to his kinsmen.
Moses said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.” Then Moses said, “Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.” (Acts 3:22)
We cannot afford to “pick and choose” the teachings of Jesus we want to follow or model our lives after. We are admonished to “listen carefully to everything he tells you.” If we fail to follow the teaching and lifestyle Jesus instructed us to live, how can we expect to have our communities and our own lives filled with his power and Spirit? The last words of Jesus to his followers was for them not to depart Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Can we afford to be so cavalier about the importance of this instruction to our own Christian experience? I think not.
Veni, creator Spiritus
O come, Creator, Spirit blessed, within our souls be now our guest, And let our hearts become your shrine; Come, fill us with your grace divine.
We call on you as Paraclete, We ask your help as Advocate, Eternal source of life and love, The fiery gift from God above.
O Spirit, power of God’s right hand, Give us your gifts to understand; With grace enrich our tongues and speech, that we your life and love may teach.
O Spirit, guide our darkened mind, Our hearts with love close to you bind; Give strength to our poor weakened will, A love for holy life instill.
Drive off our evil foes we pray, Grant us your grace to guide our way, That we be victors in the strife, By walking in your way of life. Amen.
Stay in the boat. That’s right; when the going gets rough, stay in the boat. Sometimes the occasion calls for us to stay in the boat no matter how bad or scary things seem. This is personal for me. I know I keep writing about this, but it’s where I am. The days bring with them all the ups and downs that a person could imagine and then some. We are waiting on God to direct our next steps and have committed ourselves to go only where He directs… I’ve put all my “eggs” in the “basket of God” and I have nowhere else to go, but His way. I know that sounds dramatic, but as close as I can tell, it is the truth. I say all this to make it clear that sometimes the journey gets confusing and I don’t know what to do…I get the feeling or temptation to take control of situations in my life and “make something happen.” I hear tempting voices telling me to “do something” and taunts bellowing to me that “God helps those who help themselves…” And other stuff like that. It’s enough to drive a fellow mad I say.
Since I’ve returned from my stay in New Mexico where I was attending the School for Spiritual Direction, I’ve put a few plans in motion. So far, not much has developed from them. This silence acts as fuel to the fire of my doubts. This is the place where I love to second guess myself. I feel like the best thing to do is to abandon my plans and do something else, but in my deepest heart, where I know God’s Spirit resides and guides…I know I need to keep trusting and waiting, and it is in this place that the waiting gets so hard. I look at the budget and money is tight; I begin thinking I should just search out any job to help with the finances—and I feel a check in my Spirit. I explore a potential ministry position and think, “this might be good until the right opportunity opens up…” and I sense the Spirit’s grief. I could describe at least another half dozen scenarios similar to these which describe my days over the past few weeks. It can be maddening. Just when I think I’m about to cave in or lose my mind, God directs my reading and speaks to me a word of encouragement. He did this today from the Apostle Paul’s journey to Rome from the Book of Acts 27:27-44. The particular verse that spoke the loudest to me follows:
30 Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. 31 But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away. (Acts 27:30-32 NLT)
If you read this entire passage in context, you’ll find the sailors aboard this ship in very dire circumstances. They were about to die. They had run out of options to save themselves and were just about to abandon ship. The storm and the seas were literally beating them to death and they were scared…thinking they needed to do something. Paul recognized what was about to happen and told them to stay in the boat; an option that put them against the odds of surviving.
A couple of things jump out to me that encourage me from this account. The first one is the soldiers and sailors “cut away” their escape plan (the lifeboat). Once they cut the ropes to the lifeboat, and it drifted away… there was no going back from their decision. The soldiers fully committed their faith and life to the providence of God. Second, they further committed to God’s hand and plan by eating a last meal and then throwing the rest of their food overboard. Talk about all-in commitment!!! At this point you’d think that God would be pleased, there was no backing out for the ship’s crew. What happened next isn’t exactly what we’d expect from our story though; the ship ends up running aground before landfall, getting stuck on a rocky shoal, and the waves continue to bash against the ship until it is shattered and broken apart sending all two hundred seventy six travelers into the sea…(even some who could not swim!) into the stormy ocean and over rocky shoals. But, God delivered every single one of them safely to the shore; not a single passenger perished, even those who could not swim.
My situation might not be as desperate as those people aboard the ship during that storm, but I can get pretty panicked too sometime with my doubts and sense that I should do something, anything to make something happen. I know God has a plan for me and my family. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know the Spirit in me is saying; “stay in the boat.” Against every sensibility that I might have, I need to stay in the boat. Regardless of what I see around me and no matter how terrifying the situation might look, I need to stay in the boat. Even as things unfold and as I commit to stay aboard the “Good Ship Wait,” I know that it may not be an easy ride. I might be one of the dudes that doesn’t swim well and might take on a little water in my lungs, but trusting God…He will deliver me. Okay. So the storm is raging and the word is to stay aboard. Consider me cutting the lines to the lifeboats. I’m in and I’m staying in. I believe God will deliver… I might have to do some swimming and I might have to grab a plank to ride in to the beach, but I’m in all the way to the end. Praise God.
I woke up this morning with desire to praise God and realize that it is a direct answer to my closing prayers from last night. I am inspired and encouraged. God has breathed on the “spark” of desire for Himself that He has planted within me. That spark has been kindled into a flame and with my partnership with the Holy Spirit within me we shall stir and fan that kindled flame into a roaring fire today! (2 Timothy 1:6)
O LORD, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. Give thanks to the LORD, whose mercy endures forever. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end. Amen. Give thanks to the LORD, whose mercy endures forever.
Most loving Father, hear our plea! You rule the world with equity, together with your only Son, and with your Spirit, three in one. Amen. Give thanks to the LORD, whose mercy endures forever.
As I spent time this morning in praise, prayer, and Scripture reading, I was comforted in several ways. First, I was comforted in the renewing of the day. Today is a day that I have awakened in the grace and providential care of the Most High God. I choose to rejoice in this knowledge. Second, I am comforted in the prayers and hymns of the Church which declare the majesty, glory, and sovereignty of our great and glorious God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am saddened to admit that as much as I know this truth, I am quick to forget its meaning to me in this life. I am a man of “wandering” eyes…I see circumstances, situations, and crisis that lead my heart to doubt and desire to take control of my life. I am in a state of continual need to repent of my wandering eyes and wandering heart. The love of my life, King Jesus, deserves my undivided attention…and I cannot afford the strife that comes with wandering eyes. I shall work to discipline my “eyes” and keep them trained on the Prize, the Bridegroom of the Church and my King, Jesus.
I am quick to complain on occasion, if not openly and verbally, I do so in my heart. I lodge my complaint against the Lord; “How long, O Lord, How long must I wait?” I’m not proud of this, but I grow impatient. Realizing this was especially poignant for me with today’s Scripture reading as I was reminded of the plight of the Apostle Paul. In the later chapters of the Book of Acts, the account of Paul’s trial is told. I was reading from chapters twenty four and twenty five this morning and see an incredibly stoic and determined patience exhibited in the apostle. As he goes through and survives death threats and planned assassination attempts, he lands in front of Felix (Roman Procurator of Ceasarea). In my Scripture reading (Acts 24:26-27) I was reminded that Felix “toyed” with Paul for over two years, keeping him in jail under guard mostly with hopes that he (Paul) would offer him a bribe to be released. Talk about waiting without knowing… The context of this particular imprisonment (spanning some writings in the New Testament Epistles and the chronicle of the Acts) teaches us that Paul was all but sure this journey was going to end with his death; however, in the process he would have the opportunity to spread the news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While he waited. For next steps. That would ultimately culminate with his death. Wow. Waiting without knowing when… Reading this and realizing my selfishness and weakness brings me to a place of mourning and repentance. I am comforted that God cares enough for me to send these Scripture reminders my way. If God’s grace were not evident enough in the passage He sent to me from the Book of Acts, His mercy and grace shine evermore brightly in the prayer from the Psalms He gave to me when I was feeling chastised to let me know it was okay to share my troubles with Him…
I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn… I pray to you, O LORD, I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” (Psalm 142:1-3, 5)
I close out my morning praise with the following prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola:
O, Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of your presence, your love, and your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to you, we shall see your hand, your purpose, your will through all things. Amen.
Pentecost Sunday: A Meditation upon the Holy Spirit
Pentecost. Wait. The Holy Spirit. Infilling. Consuming Fire. Breath of GOD. Trinity. Unity. Baptized with. Inhabited by.
These are just some of the thoughts and words that bounce around in my mind when I think of this day, Pentecost, and the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus that we could (and would) share His Spirit. I think of the implications of the Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-26) and what it means to be filled with, guided and comforted by, submissive and obedient to, and always in the Presence of the Holy Spirit of GOD Almighty. The promise of holy relationship reconciled and restored; Trinitarian fellowship renewed and unbroken… this is what I think about and rejoice over when I consider Pentecost.
I am Driven and I am Drawn…
I am driven to pursue the promise that Jesus gave to us; the invitation he extended to His followers and all who would believe: “I pray for them… Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one… My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:9-23).
It is the express desire of Jesus, according to this most passionate prayer, that His followers would enter into the Triune Unity with the Godhead. I believe this. Accordingly, I do not believe that Jesus would pray for or ask for anything that was not possible and it was Jesus who said that “all things are possible with God.” While there might be argument about the context of that particular quote, Jesus was, in fact, speaking about salvation and my use of this quote (Triune unity with the Godhead) is the ultimate expression of salvation (Matthew 19:25-26).
We find it easy, normal even, to believe that Jesus was in unbroken fellowship with the Godhead. We expect and talk of Him with an understanding that He, Jesus, viewed everything from the perspective of the Father. Jesus’ own testimony to this expectation validates our beliefs and understanding (John 5:19-20; John 6:38; John 17:6-8). We also know that the greatest agony Jesus experienced was separation from the unity of the Triune Godhead (Gethsemane: Luke 22:24; Matthew 26:36-46. See also the Crucifixion: Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). What is it about this understanding and this picture of Jesus that draws me? The answer, I believe, is the Holy Spirit… the same Holy Spirit that dwelled in and empowered Christ, that Christ Jesus promised would come to dwell in and empower me, draws me.
I am Driven and I am Drawn…
I am driven and I am drawn to a relationship that is filled in the same capacity as that of my Savior Jesus. The thing that He agonized over was separation from the LIFE of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Do I feel agonized over the thought of separation from the Godhead? Jesus was continually drawn and lived in unbroken relationship with the Godhead… the question that begs asking of me is this; “Do I sense a continuous draw to grow deeper, more intimate, more passionate, more symbiotically and synergistically connected to the God in whom I say I live, move, and breath? (Acts 17:27-28).
It is the gift of God Who, in His mercy, completes the hidden and mysterious work of creation in us by enlightening our minds and hearts, by awakening in us the awareness that we are words spoken in His One Word, and that Creating Spirit (Creator Spiritus) dwells in us, and we in Him. That we are “in Christ” and that Christ lives in us. That the natural life in us has been completed, elevated, transformed and fulfilled in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Contemplation is the awareness and realization, even in some sense experience, of what each Christian obscurely believes: “It is now no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.” —Thomas Merton; New Seeds of Contemplation
Truthfully, I fall terribly short from this continuous experience, but falling short does not keep me from striving for it. As I have read, studied, and prayed over Scripture, I am fully convinced this expectation to live as Christ is what God has intended for us. We are Sons and Daughters of God; we are Brothers and Sisters of the First Born Son of God. The blessed Holy Spirit is the gift to us enabling and empowering each of us to live as Christ. This is Pentecost; this is the promise; this is the reality of the Holy Spirit, God with us, and Christ in us. We live as Christ. I am driven to Him and I am drawn to Him, so I might live as Him… as He promised.
The final question I have and the challenge before us all is this: Do we live with this hunger? Do we live with this driving, drawing, burning desire in us, before us, and behind us? If we do not, I dare say there is something dreadfully wrong with our understanding. The message and the mission of Christ is not a cerebral conversion, not an intellectual affirmation. The Holy Spirit “coming upon you” is a metamorphosis, a transcending transformation to a new life…a new being and a new way of being. Personally, I refuse to believe otherwise. “You will receive power…” It seems to me, if we have this same Holy Spirit of God who is the Third Person of the Godhead dwelling within us, we would have this hunger…an inescapable yearning to be in whole and holy, pure and unbroken fellowship and relationship with GOD Almighty. If this doesn’t exist within us… something must be wrong in my estimation. My guess is there were hundreds of church sermons today that shared those words with tens of thousands of congregants who profess to believe and follow Jesus Christ. I wonder… How many of those believe they can live with the same power and personality as a Son or Daughter of the Most High God? I believe and it will be to my dying breath that I strain forward for that prize in this life until I cross over to whatever God has in store for me in the next. Amen.
O God, who on this day didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.