Tag Archives: HolySpirit

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollForgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

  • Everybody has a past. Are there things in your past that you regret so much that repentance is impeding your service to Christ? Are there accomplishments and honors in your past that keep you from relying on Christ as you try to serve him? Can you learn to forget those things and focus on where Christ is leading you now?
  • The Bible Exposition Commentary says that when we forget what lies behind, “It simply means that we break the power of the past by living for the future.[1] If you live today for the future Christ has in mind for you, what will you do differently? 
  • Sometimes it is somebody else’s past that holds us back. If someone else has done me harm, and I am not able to forgive that wound, it becomes like a shackle around my ankle as I try to go forward. What part of your past needs to be redeemed by forgiveness before you can actually “press on toward the goal?” 
  • Even though you forget what is behind you and let go of impediments that allow you to move forward, are you trying to multi-task as you move forward? Are you spreading yourself thin by trying to achieve all the things you think you ought to be doing? Do you need to let go of your desire to accomplish many things in order to be able to focus on the single “heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus?”


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Php 3:13). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Looking Back at Sunday’s Gospel

Sunday’s readings: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18     Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1     Luke 13:31-35

The Gospel: 

            At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.

’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”     Luke 13:31-35 

One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after; to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. … for he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent.” Psalm 27:4, 5 

When someone warned Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him, Jesus did not stop doing what he was doing. He did not run and hide. Nor did he rush to Herod and get in his face. Jesus pointed out that his death was essential to his work, and he was ready, knowing that only if he died could he rise again. He said, “On the third day, I finish my work.” Then he began to weep over Jerusalem where the temple represented God’s choice long ago for a point of contact between heaven and earth. He wept, because people had so thoroughly corrupted temple worship that it could not serve God’s purpose any longer, and the same people did away with anyone who tried to assert God’s purpose. Jesus looked ahead to the rending of the curtain that would end the useful life of the temple of stone, because Jesus was the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God on earth. In him, the kingdom of God drew near to everyone, but after Jesus returned to heaven, there needed to be another way for the kingdom to draw near to the people.

That goal would be accomplished by individuals. In Psalm 27:4 the writer said that all he really wanted was to live in the house of the Lord always. His relationship with God the sort of relationship God had in mind in the model of the temple. The psalmist felt that he was part of God’s family who could count on God’s presence and protection in time of trouble. This theme is repeated in many places in the Bible. Perhaps the best known is in the 23rd Psalm where David wrote, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This theme is one of the places where the unity of God’s revelation in the Old Testament and the New Testament is very clear. It would be most vividly repeated when Paul wrote to the Corinthians that our bodies, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are temples.

The temples where Israel worshipped in Solomon’s day and in Jesus’ day were gigantic stone structures intended to portray the greatness of God and to be places where God literally took up residence on earth. They were physical representations of that grand day in the future described in Revelation saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals.” Paul’s words make it clear that until the fulfillment of the prophecies in Revelation, we have that same role. We are the vessels of God’s presence among men, walking temples that bring the kingdom close to the people we meet.

That is a huge responsibility. It is more than we could possibly do on our own. Fortunately, the fact which makes it true is the same fact that empowers the reality. When the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we are no longer on our own. We serve God according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, speaking and acting in obedience to our call to serve Christ and to be light and salt in the world.

The fact that the Holy Spirit indwells the people who serve God was known to the men who founded the United States. Those men believed that human beings were God’s servants and in the spirit of that belief, they also believed that no human institution should interfere with a person’s obedience to God. They would be appalled if they heard that the government of the USA had determined that only behavior confined to a building dedicated to worship was considered to be religious behavior. They were like the psalmist. They believed that in our hearts, we were always in the house of God and always subject to his sovereignty in our lives.

Because of our great responsibility to be agents of God’s in-breaking kingdom, we have an equal responsibility not to let human tendencies muddy our message. We have the right and responsibility to follow Christ’s teachings with regard to the sanctity of life and the meaning of family, but in the battleground of ideas, we must equally project Christ’s love for all people, even people whose agendas are in complete opposition to God. When Jesus heard that Herod was looking for a way to destroy him, he did not try to zing Herod with “nastier than thou” rhetoric. In fact, on the night of his trial, Herod gave him a chance to do just that, but Jesus chose to stick to his mission, the salvation of all people.

How should we respond to the terrible things people arguing cultural and political issues say about Christians and Christian ideas? We might learn something from Pastor Saeed Abedini. Pastor Saeed was able to send a letter to his family in America via Iranian relatives who are allowed to visit him. In his letter he said:

They are just waiting to see how I react to all of their pressures and persecution. What will come out of me during these intense times? But again, this is another golden opportunity for me to shine the light of Christ in this dark world and to let God to use me.

Yesterday when I was singing worship songs, the head of my cell room attacked me in order to stop me from praising but in response I hugged him and showed him love. … It is during these harsh conditions, that I deeply need God’s Saving Grace so that I can be the fragrant scent of Christ in the dark house of Evin prison.

Pastor Saeed shows by his behavior and attitude that the Holy Spirit lives in him. He truly is a little temple bringing the Kingdom of God near to his fellow prisoners, his guards and all who come in contact with him. When we are engaged in conversations and verbal combat on the subject of culture change demanded by secular thinkers, we need to remember how Pastor Saeed defeats his enemies. He prays to be the fragrant scent of Christ, the incense of prayer in a temple, in the dark house of Evin prison. We must pray to be the fragrant scent of Christ in the dark house of political discourse in the USA. 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16

Read this week’s news from the persecuted church and the culture wars in the US at Living on Tilt the newspaper.

The End of Time Doesn’t Matter

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...
Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s readings:
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36
 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Luke 21:33 

As the day of Jesus’ death approached, he packed a lot of guidance and instruction into the time he had left in the flesh. The gospel for today includes comments ranging to the end of time. A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to figure out when that moment will come, but that is not the reason Jesus said these words. When he said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,” he meant to be lifting the concerns of the disciples out of the rut of prophetic decoding.

It is easy for people to be lured into attempts to sort out the prophecies in an attempt to put the date for the end of the world in their calendars. People like calendars. The popularity of organizers and self-help books about time management attest to human fixation on taking control of the flow of time. Yes, I said control of the flow. Human beings do not like the fact that we can’t get a grip on time and slow it down or speed it up at will. Time is completely beyond our reach. Yet humans organize and prioritize and multi-task endlessly in an attempt to control time, anyway. The fact that nobody knows when it will end is distressing. How will we ever get everything done by then? Jesus wanted people to know that his message transcends time. If time is out of control, his word is true. If time is over, his word is true. We don’t need to know when time will end. It is irrelevant to his claim on us and our faith in him.

Those words have two additional values for Christians.

First, no matter what is going on in our lives, Jesus’ words do not lose their power or their relevance. When we become physically ill, we take medicine. There are many different medicines to take, and it is important to use the right one for each disease. Sadly, it is also important to use them with discretion, because some medicines lose their effectiveness with repetition. The words of Jesus apply in all places at all times, and they never lose their effectiveness. His words are true, always.

Second, even if everything in time and space dissolves into eternity, the words of Christ continue to be true and relevant. Nothing that happens now or in eternity changes the message of Christ. Human project management is big on deadlines and milestones. Work must be done as required. We love projects that come in on time and under budget. For that accomplishment to have any meaning, we need to know the point at which the project would be considered a failure. Yet Christ tells us that it doesn’t matter when time ends. His call to us, his claim on us, his words to us do not change just because time ends. When John was given the vision he recorded in Revelation, the crucial element in the vision was the presence of the slaughtered lamb at the right hand of God in the heavenly throne room. Christ and his words are as relevant after history ends as they are today.

Then why did Jesus even bring up the “end times?” His point is not to send us into a calculating tizzy. His point is to remind us that there is no time to waste. We need to be doing his will and living his way right now. We need to get started. We need to be busy doing it right now. His point was not to tell us that we have some certain amount of time to share his love with the world so we can organize our time in little packets and meet some milestone. He wants us to start sharing his love right now and keep doing it till we go to meet him through the doorway of death or until he does, in fact, return.

When Jesus burst on the scene, the gospel writers record that the Holy Spirit fell on him at baptism, and after that, as he roamed the cities and countryside, he talked about “the kingdom of God” coming near. Jesus the Messiah was God in the flesh, and when he came near, the kingdom did, indeed, come near. After Christ’s ascension, the Holy Spirit fell on his followers, and in Paul’s words, their bodies became temples for the Holy Spirit. The first century Christians, and twenty-first century Christians and Christians in the future till the end of time bring the kingdom with them wherever they go because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our work is to be the kingdom in the midst of humanity, sharing the love of Christ with everyone we meet. We don’t look in our organizers to see if today is a “witness to Christ” day. Every day is a day for our testimony, because every day Christ’s words are true and Christ’s love is relevant.

It isn’t easy to be faithful. People resist Christ’s words. People resist Christ’s love. People actually become angry when we bring the kingdom of God near. Jesus had the same experience. He brought the kingdom near to the scribes and Pharisees, and they conspired to crucify him. We risk the same fate. Sometimes the resistance is mild, as when someone told me recently that I should not be talking about religion in a conversation about what government ought to look like. Sometimes the resistance is fierce, like when Nigerian church members were ambushed as they left church one Sunday; some were killed, and many were wounded, just because their Muslim neighbors resented the existence of a Christian church in their neighborhood. We must be prepared for people to be upset or even violent in reaction to our faithful testimony.

Jesus told about the way the world will end, and told us he would return, so we would have that truth to build our hope. That information prepares us for the way things really are. The fact that we can’t possibly know when or where to expect to see the end should take the panic away. We don’t have a deadline or a milestone to worry about. All we need to do is be faithful every day. One day he will come again, and when he does, nobody will fail to see it. In the meantime we simply do the one thing he has asked us to do: share his love with everyone we meet. His message will always be timely and relevant, because, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but [Christ’s] words will not pass away.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Jesus Christ is Alive!

The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection)
The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blogging Through the Book Part 4

There is a big culture war in the US right now between people who want religion kept out of public life and people who don’t know how to live separate from their religion.

The key to the problem between the two groups is the resurrection. One group says that this world is all there is and we just make the best of it. The other group says that Christ rose from the dead, and this world is just the beginning. This group claims that the resurrected Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit indwells them, and they can’t go anywhere without his presence.

One point of great conflict is the subject of ethics. If this world is all there is, and if it is up to us as humans to figure out a good way to live, then there can be all sorts of variables in the mix. There is no absolute, no revelation, nothing eternal or permanent. Ethics can evolve and mutate.

On page 82 of The Gospel of Yes Mike Glenn says. “If Jesus is just a teacher [i.e. not risen from the dead], the Beatitudes are inspirational moral goals to which we should aspire.” Many humanists and even many adherents of other religions view the Beatitudes precisely this way. Christian humanists, if there can actually be such a thing, teach the Beatitudes this way. Mormons think of the Beatitudes this way. Other philosophies and religions, (Hindus, for example) see the Beatitudes as kind and lovely teachings to be admired.

If Christ rose from the dead, however, then this world is not all there is. There are eternal absolutes. There is a God who reveals himself and teaches us something better than we can even imagine on our own.  Glenn continues by saying that if Jesus is alive, then “the Beatitudes become the moral expectations of the coming Kingdom.” The Beatitudes are not about time and space; they are about eternity and infinity.

Christ promised his followers that the Holy Spirit would come, but he could only come after Jesus died and rose again. The resurrection was that important. The Holy Spirit is the power of the resurrection living in each believer, as Paul wrote in a letter to the church at Corinth, saying that our bodies are temple[s] of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)  We walk around all day every day in sacred space. The cultural argument about secular and sacred spaces makes no sense to us, because we live in sacred space all the time. We live at the intersection of time and eternity.

When a secular thinker reads Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7) he does not recognize the eternal and infinite dimensions of that teaching. He is like Simon Peter who asked Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times. The secular philosopher, who believes Jesus was an astonishingly good person who was badly misunderstood and mistreated, asks how we can ever be truly merciful. He believes that advocating the end of the death penalty sounds merciful, because he believes he is giving the convicted murderer the opportunity to continue living in the only world there actually is. The only mercy he can imagine is extension of life in time and space. He actually believes that the murderer is being given time to come to his senses and perhaps improve both his character and his life experience before he dies and goes out like a light.

When we read Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy, we know a living Christ who has already shown us mercy from the eternal and infinite throne room in heaven. We show mercy, because we have received mercy, and we will receive mercy in the Kingdom where the Beatitudes are the Word of the Father. Christ, God in the flesh, spoke those words. Christ is the Living Word of God for eternity. His words shape not just this world, but the world to come. We advocate for real mercy, for eternal mercy, when we share the good news of Christ and his mercy to us. We never live exclusively in the present world, because the indwelling Holy Spirit leads us to live in an eternal context.

This truth doesn’t make life easy. It puts us in conflict with people who want us to shed those eternal values when we are in the “real” world. The “secular” world. If the Holy Spirit lives in us, we can never actually be in a secular space or a secular situation. This is the reason that, for Christians, issues such as the death penalty and abortion and euthanasia and genetic selection of babies and even birth control are never simply secular issues. We are concerned about not only our own behavior, but also the behavior of people whom we influence. A Christian employer who operates a dry cleaning shop won’t choose health insurance or background music or the wages he pays simply on the basis of time/space values. If his eternal values conflict with the values of secular neighbors or a secular government, he may have some time/space problems. If he is true to his eternal values, however, Christ promises never to leave him and promises him eternal rewards for his faithful testimony.

I haven’t always been alert to the eternal connection of all my actions. I have been lured more than once into a secular answer when I should have listened to that indwelling Spirit. I have been deeply grateful for the mercy shown to me when I made those bad decisions. I am not likely done with making mistakes. However, I am learning to listen for the voice that speaks in sheer silence, the voice that speaks living words from the Living Word of God.

I am daily more grateful for the truth of the resurrection. And I am grateful to be resident eternally in sacred space.

 

 

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Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”

 

A Hymn for Meditation

 For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the earth (Photo credit: Ben Bawden)

For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,

for the love which
from our birth
over and around us lies;
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,

friends on earth
and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts
and mild.
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

 For each perfect gift of thine,
peace on earth and joy in heaven.
For thyself, best gift divine,
to our world so freely given.

Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

                      Folliott S. Pierpoint

 Questions for thought and prayer:

  •  At the end of each verse, you sing the words “sacrifice of praise.” Do you think it is a sacrifice to give praise to God? If ”sacrifice” means to surrender something that you might really want to keep, what are you sacrificing when you praise God?
  • The hymnwriter speaks of humans being immersed in love from the moment of birth. What does he mean? Do you agree with him? Why, or why not?
  • The third verse offers praise for “peace on earth,” recalling the promise of the angels when Jesus was born. Is there peace on earth? Where? Who has peace? Can there be peace on earth when nations are at war?
  • Even if you don’t write poetry, what would you include in a fourth verse to this hymn?

© 2012 Katherine Harms