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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

adoptionTen years ago, we met our daughter-to-be through a wonderful organization called KidSave that provides summer opportunities for adoptable older children from around the world. Back then, the country of favor was Russia, but they have since closed their doors and their orphaned and abandoned children languish in bulging institutions. Since Liliana was already a young teen (13), she had a say in the matter. She had to choose.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship [The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ . . . [Romans 8:14-17a; NIV]

The choice Liliana made to permit us to proceed with our adoption was only months after another decision she had to make back in Russia. At that time, she was living in a teen crisis center and the director believed it would be to Lily’s best interest to legally sever her birth mother’s rights. As a result, Lily found herself in a courtroom, her birth mother sitting opposite from her, and the judge asking Lily if she wanted to go through with this legal procedure (this is after months and years of emotional trauma, drunkenness, and verbal abuse). She said yes, not so much to a cutting off from the parent, but that life, that life of sorrow and hopelessness.

You would think she would have jumped at the chance to be adopted here in American. But really, she would have to leave everything that was familiar to her. There would be no going back. She was unsure and afraid. She had no way to know that her new family would come with more than just two parents and two brothers, but would also come with a new history and a new future. She would inherit from us all that we had to give. She would be fully ours.

God does the same for his adopted children. When we turn away from the old life, the old “leadership,” we are children of God. We have legal rights in the family of God. We inherit all that God has for us. But we must choose.

 

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my storyJesus rarely encouraged anyone to share their miracle stories, most likely to avoid the rumor mill and the masses looking to be healed physically but missing the spiritual context. And yet, specifically, the demon-possessed Gerasene, who wanted to become a disciple and follow Jesus was told to return home and tell his story.

The man from whom the demons had gone begged to come along with Jesus as one of his disciples. Jesus sent him away, saying,  “Return home and tell the story of what God has done for you.” [Luke 8:38-39a, CEB]

Apparently, Gerasa (although there is some controversy about the area where this exorcism took place), was a pagan region. When Jesus exorcised Legion (or the many demons), that evil entity asked to be sent into a herd of swine instead of directly into the Abyss. Although Jesus obliged, it is generally understood when the swine then raced over a cliff, that it represented the demon’s demise as well. They Abyss was their rightful “home.” At the same time, the swine herders raced back to the city to tell of of this event–not the wonder of the exorcism and the healing of the man, but the loss of their herds and their violent deaths. These men created an atmosphere of fear around the work of Jesus. When the crowd showed up, they came in dread, afraid of the next “miracle” and asked Jesus to leave them. They did not doubt that Jesus was powerful, they did not want to know how powerful.

And for this reason, I believe, the man who was healed was asked to stay and counter the stories. Only his own words would have the potential to influence others. His testimony could not be denied and the point of the miracle could be re-focused.

Each of us can only tell our own story.

There is an Australian comedian/musician and skeptic who has made quite a stir and made a lot of money mocking believers as well as “New Agers” but I think it’s primarily because of second, third and fourth hand stories (my cousin blah blah blah, etc.). He symbolizes many people in our world who see no reason for faith or the supernatural.

For this reason, I encourage each person to know and tell his/her own story, not the “teachings” or hearsay or Bible stories, just one’s own experience and how faith in God, in Christ, in Spirit manifested. In the end, that is all we have, this personal witness. It’s enough.

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Painting by Prof. M. M. Ninan

Painting by Prof. M. M. Ninan

Healing remains a mystery for most of us. Of course, the science of it all has been investigated and documented by very smart people, but ultimately, the why of healing and who is healed and why one tactic or procedure works with one and not another, it’s simply unknown. It is the realm of God.

Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” [Mark 5:29-30, NIV]  But they [the bystanders] laughed at him. After he [Jesus] put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). [Mark 5:29:40-41, NIV]

The power to heal. What is that? Is this power simply the spirit and therefore, endless, or must it be re-charged like a battery? Is it like manna, merely enough for one day? Do some have more than others? Is this “power” simply the life force and some have more than others? Or is it more likely that we are all equally endowed but diverse in our ability to access it? Or, is it even an it? Is this a Presence and sentient?

My fantasy self, the one that reads light-heartedly of magic and elves and wonder, where good and evil are clearly demarcated, likes to imagine that the people Jesus raised from the dead might still be alive today. I mean, at what point would they die once that power infused them? To my best knowledge, the ones Jesus resurrected died of illnesses and not at the hand of others or by accident. Jesus undid the knot in their thread of life. In the case of Lazarus [John 11], Jesus clearly says that the act of resurrection is to glorify God, the Father.

But, what of us? That’s the question that is really on my mind, I know. There have been healers in the past, people who made a sensation through the laying of the hands and prayer, healing many. Charlatans abounded as well, putting on a show of healing. The authentic becomes more difficult to identify. Even in Jesus’s time, there were magicians and brokers of the supernatural. Our culture is unaccustomed to the potential power of the Spirit. We are logical and scientific. All miracles are suspect. Cliches abound: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” And so on. We’re all from the “Show Me” state of Missouri it seems.

Jesus was suffused in power and he was given the right to wield it or not. This power was so plentiful that some people, like the woman with the issue of blood, were able to grasp it, at times, without his direct intervention: power which could transform and make whole again or even better than it was in the first place.

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. [John 14: 12-14, NIV]

The only thing in the way is me.

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me and me and meRomans 8:7-8 says this, “So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.” [CEB] And never once did I think of selfishness as being offensive; I just thought being self-centered wasn’t “nice.” I suppose another reason I missed this truth is the translations I’ve used over the years where the phrase “living in the flesh” was used. I allowed that to mean a carnal life and I figured I had that one pretty much under control.

But no. I have fooled myself into a comfort zone.

Selfishness, self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and narcissism, they are all threats to the free-flowing of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I am also living in the age and culture of the “self” and the “selfie.” [Our pastor is starting a series at Restore Church called Me, Myself & Selfie, this weekend -- that's no accident either.]  And worse, when I’m in that selfish place, I am actually preventing myself from entering into the secret places of God. I am putting up my own roadblock. I am shooting myself in the foot, as the saying goes.

None of us likes to take the blame for things that happen. It’s simply no fun to make mistakes and then own up to them. But I’m thinking this is a big one.

There are a few simple test questions for this: Do I think about the other person first before I act or speak? Do I register my thoughts within, with the Spirit before I indulge them further? Do I choose consciously or am I living out of a habit of selfishness?

I’m going to take this quiz today.

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Photo by Yasar Vurdem, Turkey.

Photo by Yasar Vurdem, Turkey.

How many people think “I am going to die anyway” as justification for their choices? Is it any wonder, that such a form of hopelessness would drive them to despair and even despicable acts? How and when is that seed planted?

 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright today.” Esau said, “Since I’m going to die anyway, what good is my birthright to me?” [Genesis 25:31-32, CEB]

Was Esau just playing the drama queen because he was so hungry but too lazy to make his own meal? Or, was his life such that he had little to embrace as valuable? He was a man of the hunt; perhaps his life was on the line each time he went out into the wilderness. Perhaps he had experienced near death experiences? In any case, he was a man of the moment. The future held no interest for him.

This way of thinking is such a trap. I see my own son making choices that smack of this attitude, not in the least depressing at face value, just cavalier about the day, not looking at how the day’s choices might impact the next day or week or year. Has our culture spawned more and more of this attitude? Is it generational? I really don’t know.

Some time ago, my brother went through a very difficult patch in his life, his career and marriage in shambles, he was depressed. As the good sister, I had to ask, are you in danger of hurting yourself? His answer encouraged and comforted me: “Never. No matter what might happen today, tomorrow is another day and anything can happen to change my circumstances.”

This is an answer of faith, whether in the resiliency of oneself or in God. It is an answer of hope. May I have such courage always.

The second message in this passage is the danger of the other person. In this passage, that would be Jacob who seemed quite willing to take advantage of Esau’s situation, his blustering attitude, his shortsightedness. We must beware of such people in our own lives. The enemy, who might come to us as “friend” or family member, comes to snatch away from the hopeless. It is a sorrow. Hopelessness opens the heart to greater damage.

Holy Spirit, guard my heart.

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Well, it’s just this simple. Whatever it might mean for you or any other, I cannot really know. But when I say this well-worn verse, I understand it quite subjectively for myself because it is to this truth I literally surrendered when I prayed that “sinner’s prayer” so long ago and asked that Jesus become my personal savior, my atonement and my redemption, my portal to the God of the Universe.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [Galatians 2:2]

It’s a contract of sorts because I gave permission to a spirit being, a very specific Spirit Being, to indwell within me. According to that contract, I also agreed, in theory at least, to give over authority to that Spirit, a right that Person actually earned through a blood covenant, the shedding of blood, which has been a symbol of agreement throughout the centuries of humankind. Interesting too, that this bloodletting was done preemptively, before I was even born. Impossible? Perhaps. But this I believe.

However, I am constantly meddling with the authority of this Presence: arguing and negotiating, ignoring and placating, lying and withholding. In essence, I spend a lot of time pulling on the threads of our contract and it’s only by sheer grace that I have not torn the thing to pieces.

And because I know these things about myself, I must often regroup, reconnect, recommit myself to that deal I made over thirty years ago. It’s shameful really, but true. Thanks be to God, there’s been a contingency plan for every misstep I have made.

path crookedToday, I was walking a path I have walked many times but for the first time, I was walking it in reverse. I assume it’s for this reason I had never noticed that moment in the path where it looked like it came to a dead end. It was just a sharp right turn, but as I approached it, my brain didn’t compute that logic. Instead, I stopped in my tracks, pondering how it could be that the path would end. I hadn’t really reached that point yet, but I stopped anyway, thinking I might have to turn back. How often have I done this in life? How often have I assumed something was at the end, when the way was still there, I just couldn’t see it. The calm of knowing and trusting in that “other way,” comes from within, comes from the Presence of the Holy Spirit, who is more than willing to direct me. It is in this way, that I understood my foolishness yet again.

And it is in this small lesson that I remind myself to trust my God and the Holy Spirit yet again.

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ImpossibleIt’s been the word of the season at Restore Church this year: impossible. And it’s a word that all believers must hear, should hear, need to hear and understand. This word is about us today and our faith. This word is about the extent to which God will do something from nothing. Thanks Pastor Jess Bousa for this word, now illuminated.

It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God. [Luke 1:36-37, The Voice]

The concept is a simple one, that the impossible cannot be expected: it is a miracle after all. And yet these miracles are among us every day but we fail to give them their due. Isn’t it a miracle that a man, like Jess, could be transformed from full-blown drug addict to pastor of a thriving church? Or that I, a self-indulgent, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed actress wannabe could become a follower of the Christ? Or that my children, all adopted, would be “the ones” out of a million orphans to come into our family? All of our lives are filled with the miracles of impossible when God takes the raw material of “nothing” and makes something. Whether one sees the Genesis story as word for word real or symbolic, the message is the same: Creator God is a Maker God, who uses building blocks that none of us can really fathom. Something from nothing. Possible from impossible.

In Greek, impossible is adynateō with meanings that bridge the distance between weakness, inability, and powerlessness to the bottom line: it cannot be done. And God asks me, when will I see and understand the adynateō in myself? Not weakness in what I want to do, my dreams and ambitions. No. This is the weakness in the face of what God wants to do. In Corinthians 12:9, God speaks through Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is talking about the God Plan in Paul’s life and ultimately, in my life too.

God’s power manifests in doing God’s plan. 

impossible triangleOh, silly me. I have missed this obvious all along. I keep trying to get the blessing (and success) for my ideas, my plans, my ambitions, my projects. But there has been little room in my masterminding for the impossible, the unexpected, the miracles of God.

How many sermons and teachings have we heard about knowing God’s will for our lives, as though we might be able to figure out the impossible?

This is the only time I can truly say that the cliche, “whatever,” used by teens for the last decade or so, is truly the correct word in this situation. Our surrender to God is a “whatever.” That is, whatever God wants to do, whatever the Holy Spirit wants to manifest, whatever is possible in God’s cosmos, I choose to embrace today.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am sure this is not a passivity where we simply lie down on a bed and wait for a miracle. If anything, it’s a reckless abandonment of my narrow views in favor of the expansive potentialities of God.

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