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Posts Tagged ‘Luke 15’

From Holy Card Heaven online Collection

The Israelites were set to enter the promised land when Moses gave one last sermon (since he was not going with them) in which he warned them of the slow falling away that would probably happen. And yet, he also promised a God way to stop the downward spiral.

Deuteronomy 4:29
But if from there [Canaan] you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

So many times, I have not recognized my own descent into old habits and ways.

How often have I successfully achieved my weight loss goal and then, slowly crept right back up again to the old weight or worse, a higher weight. I lose my tenaciousness after the goal is met. I stop paying attention. I listen to the wrong inner voice that gives me permission, “just this once” or “a little won’t hurt.”

But this same thing happens spiritually. When I experience those divine highs, it is often easy to lose sight of the way that got me there.

God is not the one who is far away. I am the one who turned aside. I lose my focus and become engaged in something along the side of the road. And soon, I am heading down a side path, picking up crumbs along the way, curious where it will lead even, but ultimately I end up in some brambles and the trail that looked so clear at first, is indiscernible.

At that point, what to do? I look up and see I am in uncharted woods. How do I seek God at that point “with all my heart?” What does that look like? When I am in chaos or depressed or caught up in a situation or relationship that is overwhelming, what is next?

That is the moment in which I must choose how to give up. But which kind? Will I give up to the moment and keep doing what I’ve been doing? Will I say, “what’s the point of trying anymore?” Will I eat the next ten pounds in resignation? Will I stay in an abusive situation? Or is there a different way to give up?

Seeking God with the whole heart and soul is a type of submission, a giving in, a giving up to a higher authority. It’s confessing my inability to fix, solve, or extricate myself from the moment.

This is the most dangerous juncture. This is the prayer point that can change everything — or not.

Each time I reach this point, the fear is almost overwhelming. If I really give this up to God, what will my life be like? Will I be the same person? What if I have to become a missionary and go to Africa or Uzbekistan or something like that? Will I have to sell everything and live with the poor in India? If I give God my heart and soul, will I turn into some right-wing Bible-thumping narrow-minded extremist?

Goofy, right? I’m just saying, that’s how my mind careens when I’m faced with true change. But, of course, it’s not like that at all. When I do pray in this letting go way, when I confess my weaknesses and my self-destructive choices, when I hand my “out-of-control” to God, slowly and methodically, the downward slide stops. Breath. And a new way is illuminated, sometimes dimly, sometimes in bright neon. But God’s promise is a faithful one.

Seeking God with my whole heart and soul is a prayer of confession and discovery. Like the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-31], my eyes are opened, and I am able to start the walk home, one foot after another. I become the small child who is learning how to walk, each step I take toward the arms of grace is a victory. And the angels rejoice.

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Cloud of Witnesses by Jean Moore

Is it really Abraham and Isaac and Jacob? What about the disciples or maybe a few of the women who managed to get their names in the book? Or what about all the unnamed saints? Is it one cloud for all of us? Maybe they’re color coordinated.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Honestly, there are a lot of dead souls between the Old or New Testament times and now. Who are these people? And what do they see?

I would assume that most traditional Christians believe these cloud formations are all the folks in heaven, especially the long-gone relatives and extended family who are cheering them on. Big family: big cloud.

But I’m not from a big family nor have I done much in the genealogy department to scout out family members I never knew I had. I suppose the cloud could be my “church” family but then, let’s be honest, do I believe they would keep checking on me if I’m not connected to that “building” where they met me in the first place?

I know I’m being flip, but I want to challenge the concept in my own head. What have I speculated over the years? I’ve read this scripture hundreds of times. It always sounded nice, the uncountable numbers celebrating when a “lost one is found” like the lost coin of the old wife [Luke 15:8-10] or the shepherd who searched until he found his lost sheep [Luke 15:4-6].

But I’m not lost (at least I hope I’m not). Instead, I’ve been treading Christian waters for thirty years: is the cloud still around? Are they applauding or are they waiting for me to get on with it? Is the cloud “individual” or corporate (like the “hive mind” of the Borg in Star Trek)?

Or is it time to let go of the literal image and consider the essence of this verse?

Didn’t Solomon capture it: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9] Our cloud of witnesses faced similar challenges to the ones we face today: they grieved and laughed, they grew families and lost them, they saw success and failure, they laughed and cried. Life goes on. They did it, we can do it. They lived by faith, we can live by faith. They trusted God, we can trust God.

It’s a cloud of love, a cloud of hope, a cloud of humanity that made it through and learned the deep lessons. They are part of the realm that the Holy Spirit embodies. And just as we have access to the Holy Spirit; through that same Holy Spirit, we have access to the cloud who lived and live still outside our understanding.

So, I thank you “cloud of witnesses” and I thank you Holy Spirit. Keep me running and mindful of your presence. Keep me in the race.

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Wood Engraving by Gwen Raverat

Whenever the word inheritance comes up in scripture, my mind vaults to the story of the prodigal son [Luke 15] who is given and subsequently wastes his birthright share in “wild living.” But an everlasting inheritance can’t be expended, nor can it be given ahead of time, or can it?

Hebrews 9:15a
[Christ, the Messiah] is therefore the Negotiator and Mediator of an [entirely] new agreement (testament, covenant), so that those who are called and offered it may receive the fulfillment of the promised everlasting inheritance. . .
[Amplified]

So many Christian people are quite focused on the heavenly bequest and even use the promise as an appetizer to entice others into becoming followers of Christ. It sounds a little like the lottery, as though they are saying, if nothing else works out down here on Earth, at least we know we’ll have entry through the pearly gates and streets paved with gold; at last, a life of leisure with no pain, no worries, and no kids (only kidding on that last one).

But is that the point? Are we supposed to be toughing it out here because we can count on this inheritance later? This would be like our own children making no efforts now and simply waiting around until the parents kick off and the 401K’s are distributed.

I think the everlasting inheritance supersedes time. Just as there is no time in God’s world, our heritage is not limited to our death and subsequent afterlife. Instead, it was precluded by Christ’s death and the distribution included the Holy Spirit who lives in and among us now.

You want to spice up the Four Spiritual Laws or your personal proselytizing, then start including the wonder of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us now, who partners with us in this life, who draws us into being better Humans, who stimulates our internal compass toward those in need, to pricks our conscience, and teaches us to love others by loving us.

This is the everlasting inheritance that is here today.

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