Posts Tagged ‘Gospel of John’
Saturday: Day 4 of Lent
Free of Guilt—Prayed for by God
I don’t know where the Spirit is leading me this Lent, but it is starting out with a very serious departure from my previous seasons of penance, contrition, and somberness. I have several devotional books that have been labeled specifically for Lent and I’m following the Daily Scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, providing evidence to me that I have not subconsciously planned or contrived the direction my heart is drawn. I will continue my practices and devotion, and follow where God leads.
I began my morning with reflection on Psalm 30 and 32. I came away from that reflection with the following as my prayer:
I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me—you restored my health, and brought me up from the grave. O LORD, you have kept me from falling into the pit of death. Weeping and my tears may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. You are the morning, my LORD, You are the Bright and Morning Star! You are my Joy! The Bringer of Light and the Giver of Life! You have turned my mourning into a morning of joy-filled dancing! I will sing joyful praises to you and not be silent. O LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Personalized from my heart from Psalm 30)
My disobedience is forgiven. My sin is put out of sight. The LORD has cleared my guilt. He forgave me! All my guilt is gone! I will give thanks to you, My God and King, I will praise you forever! (Personalized from my heart from Psalm 32)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything… God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7 NLT)
The past three days, the Gospel reading has come from John 17. This passage of Scripture is among the most influential passages found in the whole Bible for the context of my spiritual development and continues to be one of the most formative passages of Scripture no matter how many times that I read it. There is something mysterious and divine about the energy that soaks into my soul each time I encounter Christ Jesus, the Living God, through this text. It is the prayer of Jesus, perhaps that is part of its mystery. I find this prayer always challenging and always inspiring. The promise and intercessory petition of God (Jesus) for us, his disciples, is mind-blowing.
Excerpted from John 17:9-26
My prayer is for those you have given me… Protect them, so they will be united just as we are… Keep them safe from the evil one. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. I am praying not only for these disciples, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message—I have given them the glory you gave me. I pray they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. I am in them and you are in me…May the world know you love them as much as you love me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so…
Simply an amazing passage of Scripture. This, prayer of Jesus, is this God praying to God… himself? And praying for humanity, not only for his immediate disciples, but all those who will believe in him/Jesus through their message. Yes, that will make me inclusive in that prayer!!! One of the things that I find so moving about this prayer is how it reveals the heart of God in it. Jesus says as much; “I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so…” (John 17:26). It seems safe, then, to me, to assume that what is happening in this narrative account of Jesus in the Garden is Jesus revealing God the Father, his heart for us, the loved ones who will follow him and believe in him.
I am so grateful for this “reveal” of God to me… it seems fitting for this season of my life. The “Type-A” personality I am, I can often be tempted to guilt over performance issues where I feel I am not ready, studying, writing, or praying enough (as far as Christian disciplines go). I sometimes feel my thoughts are dark, evil, and unholy… There is no shortage of stuff that can bring me down and I can be tempted by the darkness and doubt to accept a false image of God—not unlike the false image that was offered to Adam and Eve during their Garden Temptation, which they ultimately accepted. I can see where that has brought us. I don’t want that image or the catastrophe it brings; no thanks!
What I continue to learn and constantly affirmed is that the Father is far more loving that I can ever imagine. And this loving Father, according to the prayer of Jesus, loves me as much as he loves the Only Begotten Son (John 17:23). Out of this world AMAZING. How can I not praise HIM!!! How can my heart not be joy-dancing-Glad!??!
Here is what my heart sings today:
I am flesh, but I am Divine because Christ is in me.
I am mortal, but my soul is immortal, promised by God to be with Him forever.
I am broken, but in the process of being restored.
I was the son of Adam, but now am the adopted son of God through the Son of God
Glory be to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Nominal Christians and the Zombie Apocalypse
Readings: Psalm 97, 99, 100 ◊ Judges 13:1-15 ◊ Acts 5:1-42 ◊ John 3:1-36
“Acknowledge that the LORD is God… LORD, your name is holy. The LORD is King!” Psalm 97:1; 99:1, 3; 100:3
My thoughts today are inspired primarily from readings in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Chapter five opens with a narrative about a married couple named Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11 NLT). This recounting tells of this couple selling some property they owned and bringing part of the money to the apostles while claiming that they were bringing all of the money from the sale.
I’ve read this account from Scripture many times and I’ve heard teachings from it many times as well. In most cases, the main point has been stealing from God and attempting to deceive God. During my reading today, I think I was given a glimpse of a more encompassing application.
“How could you think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord?” (Acts 5:9 NLT)
As I was reading this passage, I noticed several things that seemed to parallel the spirit of our contemporary society. As we have acknowledged earlier, Ananias had property that was solely his (and his wife Sapphira’s). Peter acknowledges and affirms that the property and the money was Ananias’ to do with as he willed (Acts 5:4). Therefore, the issue here was not about stealing from the Lord, at least not in the strictest sense. I can understand how stealing from God might be an interpretation in a collateral sense as Ananias had professed offering all the proceeds of the sale to the apostles, yet held back a portion for himself, but I think this misses a more important and comprehensive understanding of the text. Likewise, I’m curious about the nature of our focus on the deception of Ananias and Sapphira. Speaking only for myself, I believe I have missed the true deception until now.
I recognize part of the deception perpetrated by this ancient couple was prompted by vainglory. I think it is natural to assume they were motivated to deceive because they wanted the accolades of their peers and the apostles; they wanted the appearance of righteousness without the cost. It was this realization that made me aware of the similarities existing between Ananias and Sapphira and our contemporary world, especially the first-world west.
How might we be similar to these deceiving posers? Anytime we prop up our appearances to show forth a false righteousness, assuming honesty and lacking whole-hearted obedience to the teaching and the commands of Jesus, we are cut from the cloth of Ananias and Sapphira.
This was the primary transgression of this deceptive duo. It was not that they were “cheating the Church or God” of financial offering, and it was not that they were lying to their “pastor” or brothers and sisters in the Church. Their sin was the conspiracy of deceiving their own heart and in the process tempting the Spirit of God.
What is an example of this conspiracy and heart deception today?
I think there are many examples, but likely the most pervasive is the attitude of nominal Christianity. Before explaining what I mean, it might be helpful to clarify that there truly is no such thing as a nominal Christian. A Christian either is, or is not. This does not mean a Christian cannot be without fault or imperfect… quite the contrary. There are many imperfect Christians and Saints. A Christian is simply a person who has accepted in word and testimony that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. Their confession of this faith is their word. Their testimony is the outworking of faith that accompanies their word, which manifests itself in Holy Spirit empowered love and honest obedience to all the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ (whether through him directly or interpretations thereof through the apostolic writings of his disciples). Consequently, a nominal Christian is one who selectively chooses the commands and teachings of Jesus that they will follow. They will maintain an appearance of faith and righteousness vis-à-vis various works of the flesh with the intent to look holy before their peers, but resisting God’s transforming work in other areas of their life. This is not unlike the transgression of Ananias and Sapphira…not at all. The mediocrity of faith and unwillingness to surrender the throne of self to God is the sin unto death of our day. This sin renders the Church powerless and all but completely stops the spread of the Gospel. It is the sin that Jesus confesses, which makes him want to wretch.
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Rev. 3:15-16 NLT)
In our example from the Book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit strike both Ananias and Sapphira dead in their tracks for their sin. The question might be asked, “Why not the same sudden punishment for us today?” Perhaps the mercy of God is extended to us that we might correct our selfish error while there is still time. Those who fail to obey the Christ have already had judgment passed upon them; “Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment” (John 3:36 NLT).
If we fail to answer the call of Christ, to follow Him faithfully and obediently surrendered to his will and way (regardless of the fits, stutters, stumbles, and shortcomings, but still faithfully giving our whole-hearted effort), we are nothing but walking dead… Zombies, unaware that our self-righteous conspiracy to test the Spirit of the Lord has murdered our soul.
My Prayer Today:
O God, I look to you and call upon your name for the blessing of peace that surpasses human understanding. You alone, O LORD, know the state of my mind and the condition of my soul. I open and offer them both to you and humbly ask that you order them according to your will and purposes. Remove from me, all those distractions that would derail my attention. Attune all of my senses to your frequency that I might resonate in perfect harmony with you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday Easter Week—True Love Reveals
Readings: Psalm 103 ◊ Exodus 12:28-39 ◊ 1 Cor. 15:12-28 ◊ Mark 16:9-20
The following devotional piece from Carlo Carretto provided me with much to reflect upon this day:
Marital love is an image, however, pale, of the reality which develops little by little between the Absolute and the creature, between God and humankind, between Yahweh and Israel.
In marital love it is not enough to study the beloved, write poems, or receive cards from far away. Couples must marry, say “yes” to one another, go behind the veil of intimacy, delight in one another—exultantly, become close, cultivate friendship, stay together as much as possible, coalesce their wills, make two things one, a scripture says.
But pretending to know the other just by studying him in books or photographs means remaining outside real knowledge, real mystery. Today, many persons who seek or study God do just that. They study him in books, make him an object of speculation, approach him from intellectual curiosity.
With what result? The more we study, the more our ideas become confused; the more we get caught up in discussions, the farther we go from him. I think this is the nature of the crisis in the Church today; it is a crisis of prayer, it is a crisis of contemplation. Study is no longer the light of spirituality, and curiosity has taken the place of humility.
Self-assurance and derision of the past are the false light which guides man’s pride in the labyrinth of God’s “unknowing,” pretending to seize the truth with the strength of intelligence only. But God’s truth is the same, truth is the secret of things “up there,” and no one can know it without revelation from God.
Has Christ not already said so? In the upper room, replying to the worried question put to him by Judas (not Judas Iscariot) about why he was not manifesting himself to the world, but only to this intimate friends, he replied with extreme clarity: “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him” (John 14:23).
Only love brings God’s coming to us, his living presence within us, and his consequent revelation.
He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him (John 14:21).
—From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto—
Easter Tuesday Prayer
O God, who by the glorious resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ didst destroy death and bring life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.
Be Faithful to the Day
I’ve taken a little time off from the blog for the past few weeks. I have been realigning my focus and learning some new habits. This has caused no little amount of upset to my routines and even to some degree, my self-perceived identity. For the record, it’s all good though. Occasionally we need measures of reset, new goals, and a shift in routes we take as we pursue our destination. I’m in full pursuit, as determined, and passionate about the call and message of God as I have ever been. I am excited about what lies ahead even though what does lie ahead I cannot clearly make out. I know that God leads and never leaves. I know He is leading me and wherever we go… it will be right and it will be good.
I’ve been thinking about whole-heartedness and discernment for the past couple weeks. The two words are distinct thoughts in my head/heart, but they seem to overlap and blur from time to time. A couple weeks ago while reading from the Gospel of John, I was given pause to reflect when I read the words of Peter after Jesus questioned the loyalty of the disciples (John 6:60-69). Peter responds to Jesus’ question saying, “To whom shall we go?”
As I consider what it means to be whole-hearted, I was gripped by a stream of questions when I “heard” Peter’s “To whom shall we go?” The Gospels teach us that many of the disciples left all they had to follow Jesus. During the course of their time with Jesus, I believe they were given opportunities to realign themselves with their former lives or even separate themselves from following Jesus…similar to some of the other “followers” who went their own way from Jesus. I think as time went on, it became more and more difficult for them to choose any other path, but the one they were on. Even if they weren’t all in at the beginning, at some point they did become all in. Maybe I’m extrapolating something that isn’t there and maybe I’m projecting some of my own experience onto the gospel narrative, but there seems to be a parallel to Peter’s words and my own life. Sometimes I wake up and wonder what am I doing…I feel the closeness of God, the presence of Christ, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit within me, but I still feel like the murkiness of what lies ahead has not lifted. The way is cloudy and sometimes very unsure. I question my call and confess that I do not know what tomorrow brings, and I have nowhere else to go—only to sit at the feet of Jesus—for I have forsaken all other things. I only know that if I am to honor the God who loves me, I must be faithful to the day.
I do feel a sense of urgency about “tomorrow,” yet I do not know what to do about that urgent feeling. I say to myself; “Be faithful to the day and tomorrow will come.” This is how I can be (and remain) whole-hearted, by being faithful to the day. What does it mean to be faithful to the day? It can be a little tricky determining what that means or looks like.
As I was reading today (more from the Gospel of John), I was arrested again by more words from Jesus. Jesus was responding to a question from his disciples about sin and a blind man and he said to them; “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us” (John 9:4). While I realize the contextual application of this word, I believe the Holy Spirit was also guiding and teaching me with these words. I quieted my mind, focused my spirit on the person of God, and silently asked, “What do I do with this word, Lord?” I wonder what does tomorrow bring when there are so many uncertainties; I wonder what I am supposed to do about bringing tomorrow to bear or if I bear responsibility on bringing tomorrow at all… How do I “quickly carry out the tasks assigned to me?”
I think my answer is the same as I wrote earlier: Be faithful to the day.
I carry out my tasks quickly and clearly by remaining faithful and attentive, surrendered and obedient, humble, and loving with every interaction that comes my way. Day. By. Day. One day at a time. Be faithful to the day. This is where I do the work of God and this is “the what” of my calling and work of God. I teach. I preach. I live, with my life, the message and the task that God has given to me. I be faithful to the day.
And may the LORD my God show me his approval and make my efforts successful. Yes, make my efforts successful. (Psalm 90:17 NLT)
Readings: Psalm 30, 97 ◊ John 16:29-33 ◊
O Light, shine on our senses and dispel the sleep of our soul. To you before all else may our voice resound and let us pay our vows to you. O God, shape and renew me until I bear full the image of my Savior Jesus. Hear, O LORD, and be faithful to me; O LORD, be my help. Amen.
“A well-cultivated spiritual life is the best way to find peace and security. Countries in the far north are cold and frozen because they are at a greater distance from the sun. Some Christians are cold and frozen because they live too far from heaven.” –Richard Baxter
Lectio Divina: A Scripture Reading from John 16:29-33
29 His disciples said, ‘Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ 31 Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? 32 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ [NRSV]
As I read these words, several points jump out to me. I consider why they grab my attention and what they are speaking to me.
- “By this we believe you came from God.”
- “Do you now believe?”
- “You will be scattered.”
- “You will leave me alone.”
- “I am not alone / the Father is with me.”
- “I have said this so you may have peace.”
- “You will have trouble, but take courage; I have conquered the world.”
The disciples, now approaching three years or so having been with the company of Jesus, have witnessed countless miracles by his hand. They have seen Jesus command the elements of earth, calm the stormy sea, walk on water, change the molecular structure of water to wine, multiply bread and fish, command human cells to heal themselves, and even raise the dead to life… and now they proclaim; “By this we believe you came from God.” They boldly make this proclamation because Jesus announces that he speaks plainly.
Considering miracles and the challenges that we might face in a lifetime, there might be many occasions when our faith will be called into question. Here, in this particular setting, Jesus even challenges the belief of his own disciples calling their faith into question based on their confession. “Do you now believe?” he asks them. Then he announces to them what he knows about their belief and their heart; he says, “You will be scattered…You will leave me alone.”
I think of the many ways I am “scattered” and a flood of ideas stream into my mind. The context of “scattered” in Jesus’ words refers to the night of Jesus’ arrest and may indirectly follow through to the persecution of the believers in Jerusalem following Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost blessing of the Holy Spirit, but I believe there is more that can be gleaned here on a personal level.
Jesus also tells his followers, “You will leave me alone.” So I ask; “In what ways do I leave Jesus alone and how might I become separated from him?”
I think it might be true to say I “leave Jesus alone” and become “separated” from him whenever I become overwhelmed by the tasks or circumstances from any given day. The noises and voices that can suddenly fill my peace unexpectedly also have the potential to “scatter” and “separate.” In fact, I believe that any moment that my peace is disrupted, I have momentarily become scattered and separated. Now, this is not sin. Jesus did not call it such. What he said was “you will be scattered… and you will leave me alone.” The point in clarifying this is that when I become separated and scattered…leaving Jesus alone… this should not induce guilt.
Let me repeat, This should not induce guilt, but neither should it induce denial.
Two important things come to my mind here. First, there are times we will become scattered and we will leave Jesus “alone.” This does not mean we have been cut off from Jesus or abandoned by the Holy Spirit. What it means is that we have lost our focus and locus (our place of centering). It is for this reason that Jesus speaks very clearly when he follows his challenge to them with these words:
“I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
I am not alone. The Father is with me. You may have peace. Take courage. I have overcome.
These are good words. Real words. Comforting words. Encouraging words. Especially when I consider that I will have days when my thoughts and even my heart are scattered…and I leave Jesus alone.
There are several notable takeaways here for me. First, as we walk after Jesus and with Jesus—as we are also filled with the Holy Spirit—it is true that we (also like Jesus) are never alone. We are never actually cutoff or separated in a real sense. We are forever connected and joined with the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is always with us. Since this is a promise of Jesus to us, we can have the confidence to know that we may have peace, and this no matter the circumstance. We can have peace.
Jesus advises us to be anxious for nothing and do not worry. Being anxious and overcome by worry are the precursors of scattered and separated. It happens; Jesus knew this and said it to his disciples…and to you and to me. The point to remember is that when we become scattered and we leave Jesus alone, we can easily become reconnected to our peace, Jesus, unscattered and reattached to the Vine. No matter our doubt and no matter our fear, we can “take courage” because Jesus has overcome and because He has, we can overcome too.
I am reminded, as I sit here now, God is gazing on me with love and holding me in being. I pause for a moment and think of this. I need to close out the noise, to rise above the noise. .The noise that interrupts, that separates, the noise that isolates. I need to listen to God again.
Today I just want to be especially sensitive and attentive to your presence. Help me and let my heart respond to your love. (Sacred Space)
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.
God Works in You, A Man Born Blind…
I’ve been thinking about my morning Bible reading for most of the day, a hodge podge of Scripture that is seemingly unrelated, but seems eerily connected in some divine “now what” sorta way. The Gospel reading came from John the ninth chapter where the healing of the “Man Born Blind” is recounted. The entire episode is rather bizarre in that most of Jesus’ accusers are neither happy for the blind man who can now see, nor are they incredulous that he has been healed at all. Instead of happy and incredulous, they are fuming and flipping mad at Jesus for healing the man…and on the Sabbath Day no less. What was Jesus thinking?
The part of the story that really stroked my brain and got me to thinking comes at the end of the chapter.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (John 9:39-41)
Two very serious points in these words of Jesus: (1) “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (2) “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” These are some serious self examination questions if there ever were any. The questions I think begging to be asked are what am I doing with the wonderful, marvelous grace God has given to me? What is it that I or we claim to know? The Pharisees claimed to know Moses and the Law. I think they also knew the writings of the prophets and the prophetic poems and songs of the Psalms. The foreshadow of the Christ was in all of these, and that they did not know Jesus… well, that was the seal of their guilt. How much more revelation do we have in our age? How much more information do we have at the touch of a finger or the birth of a thought even… but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
Another passage in the hodge-podge soup of the day comes from the letter to the Philippians 2:12-13 NLT.
Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Scripture passages like this cause us grief and trouble. As Protestants in particular, we don’t like the words “work” and “salvation” to be joined in the same page…much less the same sentence. We prefer the magic of grace where we get saved without lifting a finger. In the interest of fairness, we cannot earn our salvation, but that doesn’t mean for one instant that work is not involved. Over and over through Scripture we are invited into partnership with God. We are instructed to do certain things and to abstain from certain things; we are given models to follow—an athlete, a farmer, a soldier—all of which the lifestyles and character involve disciplined and hard work. Yet, so often, we want for God to wave His arm over us and make our unhealthy habits disappear without us making any sacrifice whatsoever.
The apostle Paul reminds us that we are “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1). Wow, stewards of God’s mysteries he says. I wonder if we take this role seriously. I wonder what am I doing to exemplify the work of God in my life in proportion to what I know. No, I know I am working to show the results of my salvation. I am.
Out of deep reverence and fear, I know God is at work in me and I know that it is He who gives me the power and the desire—His Holy Spirit at work in me—to do what pleases Him. I can see, and I want to be and remain being guiltless before my God. Therefore, I will continue to press on, seeking to understand and put into practice all I learn about loving the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength.
I am a steward of God’s mysteries. I will work, live, and continue to mature in all of His ways for the simple reason that I was once that Blind Man and it was me He healed…and like that blind man… I worship the God-man who made me see (John 9:35-38).
Divine Reading (John 8:37)
“Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there is not room in your hearts for my message.” (Jesus speaking) John 8:37 NLT
Jesus is throwing down some heavy duty on his listeners with these words. The entire passage is pretty hard stuff as he actually calls his kinsmen “sons of the devil,” but I think the crux of the conversation is found with the words found in this verse above.
What I find rather ironic is that Jesus affirms their heritage and acknowledges their birthright; “Yes, I realize you are descendants of Abraham…and yet…” I think these words also apply to you and to me.
It seems a day doesn’t go by where we are not reminded of our rich Christian heritage. In some sense, we too are descendants of Abraham. We’ve been taught God’ law. We have been “brought up” with teaching about Jesus, “and yet…” I think we are no less guilty than Jesus’ audience is with our own attempts at trying to “kill” him.
Every time we try to redefine Jesus we try to kill him. Every time we try to change his teaching to conform to our ideals and societal pressures, we try to kill Jesus. Every time we refuse to enter his kingdom, we effectively try to kill Jesus.
We look to one another even as we try to kill Jesus and tell each other we are good people; see how we “prophesy in your Name and cast out demons in your Name, and perform miracles in your Name,” Jesus? “And yet…” Jesus responds to us “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws” (Matthew 7:21). We miss the point. We break God’s law because there is no room in our heart for his message.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest of God’s law (commandments) was, he answered; “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength'” (Mark 12:28-31). We are incapable of honoring and following the greatest commandment because there is no room in our heart for it. Most of us choose to love ourselves most. The result of this self-idolatrous behavior is that many of us want to “kill Jesus.” We refuse to love God with all our heart, because “we can’t.” Therefore, we substitute other “acts” of obedience in the place of loving God and accepting the message of Jesus in our hearts. We build buildings, we cast out demons, we institute programs, and perform miracles, we hold audaciously superior Vacation Bible Schools, form awesomely cool Worship Bands, and prophesy about the mighty works of God… “and yet…” There seems to be little room, even no room in our hearts for Jesus and his message. He said love with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, All your mind, and All your strength. Are you? Or… is there enough room in your heart with you in there too?
O Heavenly King, the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, who are present everywhere, filling all things, Treasury of Good and Giver of Life, come and dwell in us, cleanse us of every stain, and save our souls, O good One. Amen.
♦ Psalms 33
♦ Exodus 19: 3-8, 16-20
♦ 1 Peter 2:4-10
♦ John 14:21-29
What is present to me is what has a hold on my becoming. I reflect on the presence of God always there in love, amidst the many things that have a hold on me. I pause and pray that I may let God affect my becoming I this precise moment.
(From Sacred Space, the prayerbook of the Irish Jesuits)
“He lives with you now and later will be in you…” (John 14:17)
Paraclete: (Greek) consoler, helper, protector, intercessor, or defense lawer—paráklētos: called to one’s side.
According to the narrative account from Luke and Acts, today would mark nine days that the disciples and upwards of another one hundred people had been waiting for the out-pouring and impartation of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised. Jesus had told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait until they were baptized in fire of the Holy Spirit.
He did not tell them how long to wait or how long they would be waiting. He simply to told them to go, wait, and do not leave until… so they were waiting. Without knowing. Trusting. Obeying. Believing.
How far we have deviated from the instructions of Jesus.
Father, you not only give life and uphold us by your power, but through your Holy Spirit you marvelously renew us. We turn to you and pray: Send your Spirit, LORD, and renew the earth!
As people of God, Christ followers, we are called to be filled with power—Holy Spirit power—that alters and changes the very composition of our nature. We are baptized not only with water, but fire, the seal of a new creation and the foreshadowing of resurrection life, which is lived with purity of soul in the here and now as we wait for the fullness of God’s Kingdom to come in our eternal tomorrow.
While so many would lower the bar of the high-calling of Christ, Jesus calls us to be filled with the Spirit of the Ancient of Days. Infused with the very Person and Glory of God, we are able and capable of walking in the same power and authority of Jesus while he walked as the incarnate Son of God on this earth. Why is it, then, so many professed followers fail to walk with this power and authority? Is it possible that so many who profess to believe, do so with the same informed belief as the demons of whom James speaks (James 2:19). And, if this is the case, it might explain why there is little Holy Spirit evidence in the lives of these similarly professing believers. When the Holy Spirit fell upon and infused the lives of those who waited, they were forever changed. According to Jesus, they were in better condition than when he had walked with them personally (John 16:5-9). I think the same can be said for us, if we will only believe…if we will only wait, submit, surrender, and obey. The Holy Spirit does not fall upon or infuse those who do not surrender and obey. Jesus said the very first step to becoming his disciple was denial (surrender) of self. If we do not surrender, we are not his—If we are not his, we have no Holy Spirit power.
[27APRIL2012] Eastertide Devotional Series
I will be posting this devotional series as part of my Eastertide reflections for the next three weeks (see this link for other installments in the series). Each week of this devotional series focuses on a specific theme (week one: brokenness, week two: repentance, and week three: renewal). I hope you’ll enjoy the series and I invite you to comment here on the blog or email me direct; I would love to hear your thoughts.
Scripture Reading: John 10:22-30; 14:15-31
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me… If you love me, obey my commandments. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me.”
The past few weeks have taken us on a journey leading up to this place of spiritual renewal. We have realized that recognizing our brokenness and responding with repentance (turning back to God) are prerequisites to beginning the path of renewal, but there is more… As we have explored the dynamic of renewal this week, we are learning that it requires certain commitments from us. We learned on Monday that renewal requires humility and contrition; coming before God and asking Him to renew and restore us. Tuesday we acknowledged that renewal and restoration are a partnership with God and that we have a share in the responsibility of our spiritual renewing. Wednesday taught us that successful renewal is best found through deliberate and intentional planning: assessing our need, formulating a plan, enlisting the help of others and putting the plan into action. We learned Thursday, that being wholehearted in our efforts of turning back to God is necessary for our successful renewal. Without our wholehearted involvement, it is likely there will be no partnership with God and spiritual renewal does not happen when we are doing it alone.
The next step in our process of renewal and restoration is hearing the Voice of God and our active obedience to His Voice. Jesus said; “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” This short, but very deep, statement can be summed up as follows: Hear, Listen, Obey. If we have any expectations for hearing God’s Voice, it will always require obedience. Without obedience to God’s instruction, our ability to hear His Voice degrades. Without His Voice, there is no instruction and direction from Him. Without God’s instruction and direction, we lead ourselves blindly and return to our own way… spiritual renewal and restoration fails, as do we. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me… If you love me, obey my commandments. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me.”
I confess that my obedience to God’s Voice, following Jesus, has not always been easy. I have often had to make difficult choices, putting aside my personal desires and sacrificing many things along the way (friendships, career, financial decisions, my pride, and these are just a few). The upside of these sacrifices for obedience has been my renewed ability to hear and respond obediently to His Voice!
Have you struggled with being obedient to God’s commands and direction in your life? What has been the source of your struggle? How well do your hear God’s Voice? How closely do you “follow” Jesus?
Our Prayer: Lord Jesus, I admit that I do not always listen to your voice. Sometime I feel that following you is negotiable and discretionary…that I can jump on and off the path without repercussion. I tell myself this, but I know in my deepest heart that it is not true and every time I “jump off the path” or fail to obey you, I weaken our relationship. Lord, I want to confess again, that I am weak, but I know that you are strong, so I ask you to be strong in me. Help me to hear you clearly and by your Holy Spirit, help me to obey you and show you how much I love you by following you. May my life be all for your glory and your honor. Amen.
[13APRIL2012] Eastertide Devotional Series
I will be posting this devotional series as part of my Eastertide reflections for the next three weeks (see this link for other installments in the series). Each week of this devotional series focuses on a specific theme (week one: brokenness, week two: repentance, and week three: renewal). I hope you’ll enjoy the series and I invite you to comment here on the blog or email me direct; I would love to hear your thoughts.
Brokenness: Week 1 | Day 5
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:57-75, John 18:12-27
In these readings we are provided an account of the proceedings when Jesus is presented for questioning by the high priest, Caiaphas. As I read about the events taking place, I notice evidence of brokenness in the life of Peter that has striking similarities to my own brokenness.
Some of the first words in this account explain that Jesus is being taken to the high priest’s home to be questioned. As Jesus is brought before the council of elders, we are also told the following:
“Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end.” (Matt. 26:58)
It is easy to speculate why Peter may have “followed at a distance,” but further into the events of the evening in question we are told Peter denies any knowledge or affiliation with Jesus (Matt. 26:69-74). I have heard many explanations on the reasons why Peter may have acted in the manner he did on that evening…I have heard that it was cowardice, frustration with Jesus, misunderstanding of Jesus’ actions, and even anger with Jesus. Any of these explanations may be valid, but two things we know are indisputably true; (1) Peter put distance between himself and Jesus, and (2) Peter emphatically denied knowing Jesus even to the point of cursing himself in the process.
The similarities of Peter’s actions and my own may be separated by generations of culture and situational circumstance, but I believe there are similarities nonetheless. On this particular night Peter had professed deep love and undying loyalty to Jesus. Also on this night, Peter had been willing to fight for Jesus…even perhaps to the death since he had stricken a guard with his own sword. Yet when his loyalty was pressed, whatever his motivation and reason, Peter distanced himself from Jesus and when cornered, he denied Jesus altogether. I admit my brokenness has defeated my loyalty to Jesus at times when I wanted to be popular, when I have been involved in career advancement and with issues of money and with taxes…even at times when I have been involved in buying and selling. My actions have betrayed knowledge of Jesus in the ways I have acted less than Christ-like and devoid of an ethic that honors Jesus.
Can you think of times that you may have “placed distance” between you and Jesus? Have you been guilty of denying Jesus out right or through your actions?
Our Prayer: Dear Jesus, I don’t have to listen long before I can hear the cock crowing in my own life. I surrender my brokenness to you with humility and sadness. I know there are times that I have denied you and I have not admitted it. I feel that by not talking about it, maybe it didn’t happen, but I know that it has. I ask your forgiveness and I ask you to help me be bold in my faith, help me to walk closely with you and never allow distance between us that would provide me with opportunity to deny you ever again. I wish to be seen with you and be like you as you want me to be. Amen.