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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

waterI am not really that good at breaking down knowledge into sequential bites. Teachers, for this reason, are truly amazing. They understand what a student has to learn first and then second and so on. It’s hard for me to analyze what I know and then back up to how I figured something out or how I learned a particular task or took advantage of an inborn talent.

But this much I know, in order to “come to the water,” a person must realize he/she is thirsty, in other words, in need. Meaningful change cannot happen without acknowledging the status quo as a) not working or b) not acceptable.

All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
Why spend money for what isn’t food,
    and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy? [Isaiah 55:1-2a; CEB]

Part Two: Once a person figures out that he/she is thirsty and starts looking around for something to quench that thirst, this is the point when circumstances and people play a vital role.

When I am thirsty, I don’t always pick the best thirst-quencher. Intellectually, I may know that water is probably best, but I am guilty of popping a beer or soda instead. Sometimes I choose badly because of convenience, sometimes I choose badly because I am offered something else from a person nearby.

And lastly, accept the paradox of God’s offer: water where there does not appear to be water; food where there is no money to buy food, etc. God, through Jesus, is continually offering and calling and drawing Human to the Godhead, to a life of Spirit, where thirst is perpetually quenched. We are so used to living a life of unmet needs and wants; we can barely comprehend an existence or space in which we would be completely satisfied. This is the life within, not the daily grind. If the Spirit is quenched, the 3-D life can be conquered, the journey can tolerated, the sorrows born, the disappointments made powerless.

Why spend money [time, energy, etc.] for what isn’t food? Believe in a better way.

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miracleIn currently voguish vernacular, if something is unbelievable in its stupidity or absurdity, someone might say, “Really?” and pitch the voice very high. This is how I imagine Jesus alluding to the people from his hometown, Nazareth, who could not accept the reality of his miracles.

Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief. [Mark 6:4-6a, CEB]

Anyone can reject a miracle.

I suppose a miracle can still happen without you, but how you or I respond to a phenomenon is personal and somewhat subjective. If it’s important to you to dissect the event, to find a scientific reason or explanation, to question it’s integrity, then it can be a non-miracle for you. But to assume that your understanding of an event is the only way to see it is absurd and unrealistic, whether from the side of science or faith. People interpret events according to their “Weltenschauung” [a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity's relation to it].

It’s up to an individual to change or adapt the conception of what is possible or impossible. Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.” [Matthew 19:26, CEB] It is the biggest leap of faith, to accept that all things are possible with God, to accept that nature can be manipulated, to accept that there is a reality outside (or beside) of our own.

But if there is a soul, if there is a spark or Qi or spirit that is not limited to our five senses, then God is possible too. And if God is possible then miracles are possible, by definition.

I am open to miracles. I am open to the hand of God in my life.

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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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