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Posts Tagged ‘power’

Painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927)

Painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927)

Samson had everything he needed to serve and lead. He was called from childhood, from the day he was born. He was a Nazirite: dedicated to God. But these gifts made him prideful. He lost sight of the true source of his strength.

“Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines confronted her and said to her, ‘Seduce him and find out what gives him such great strength and what we can do to overpower him.’ . . . “ [CEB, Judges 16:4-7a]

Did Samson make a mistake falling in love with the “wrong” woman? Apparently women were his weakness even more than his hair.

Delilah wasn’t the first time a woman betrayed him. Read Judges 14 where his Philistine wife [unnamed] beguiled him for the answer to a wedding riddle and told her relatives. That treachery ended badly with Samson taking revenge both in killing thirty random Philistine men and later destroying a number of his enemies’ fields and crops. The Philistines feared and hated Samson. And yet for the next twenty years, he continued to win victories with his strength alone.

Then Delilah, yet another Philistine woman, came into the picture. Her village elders offered her great sums of money for the secret of Samson’s strength. And so she double crossed Samson. Why couldn’t he see what she was doing? Why couldn’t he remember how it went the first time? Did he actually trust Delilah? I don’t think so. Pride consumed him. He could not imagine that God would allow him to be defeated. That lesson came hard when he was taken, blinded, and put to labor in prison, reduced to a stock animal grinding grain. He told Delilah the “secret” of his strength. But really, the secret was the hand of God. The hair was a symbol of the covenant.

Do I know the real secret? Or I have I fallen into Samson’s folly?

God has given us all gifts, strengths, and abilities. Certainly, God has given much to me but I take most of it for granted: my comfortable life, my health, my stage presence, my writing, my adopted children, my energy, my passion and enthusiasm, my long-standing marriage, my home, my job, my church; the list goes on and on. I am too comfortable I think. My gifts have become a norm like Samson’s long hair. As a result, I have lost my vision and gratitude for them and their purpose in my life.

Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.” [Luke 12:48b]

Art by Cheryl Ward

Art by Cheryl Ward

Forgive me O God, for I have sinned in my plenty, fearful of less, but holding on too tightly to the cornucopia.

I remember, back in the high days of the Toronto Blessing (1994) when people were “catching the fire” and manifesting all kinds of strange behaviors (of course, lives were changed as well – I have no bone to pick with that revival experience), one of the popular phrases/prayers was to say, “more” Lord. They were asking for more of God, I know, but looking back, it also feels a bit narcissistic: give “me” more, touch my life, etc.  I suppose the ideal would be that God would give me more so that I might give others more. But I don’t see myself following through on such an arrangement. At least, not so far. There was a time I longed to be used of God in some miraculous way, as a conduit for healing or prophesying or wisdom . But I’m thinking, for the few who gained great popularity in those arenas, most of them went the way of Samson. With great power comes great temptation.

No, I don’t want that either.

I just want to be true to the Presence of God in me, to hold my hands and heart open, to speak truth, to forgive freely, to look and listen without comparing people to myself or to one another, to accept now with gratitude and pray for tomorrow with confident anticipation because God is sovereign. I don’t need to wait for my hair to grow long or my days to number into the seventies or eighties. Samson didn’t need to wait either. It just took him that long to figure it out.

Let this reveal have legs, Lord, and roots. Nourish my soul with your Breath. Today and always.

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew

The ultimate offerings at the center of the universe then, this throne that is surrounded in concentric circles of devotees, are seven words or seven blessings. They identify the One who is worthy to receive them and they engage the giver who recognizes their value.

Revelation 7:11b-12
They [angels and elders] fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

1. Praise: approval and admiration; good job! way to go.
2. Glory: resplendent beauty and magnificence as well as “high praise” and distinction.
3. Wisdom: knowledge of what is true and right coupled with justice; enlightened understanding.
4. Thanks: expression of gratitude, appreciation, and acknowledgment.
5. Honor: honest, fair, and worthy of respect.
6. Power: marked ability to do or act; a force.
7. Strength: courage, firmness, as well as mental and/or physical power.

Amen, they cried out. So be it. This is the God we worship. This is the God we trust. This is the God we love.

And these are the merits and offerings we should be recognizing and offering to others. If Spirit is source, then these must also come from there. Is there anyone who cannot benefit from them?

Want to pray for something? Pray for these.

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St. John is obsessed with love and its power. But to speak of it in today’s world sounds trite and cliche. Love has been relegated to movies and teenagers. Do people really believe love is a power so strong, so rich, that it can change a life, a culture, a world, a civilization? Or is it just a Valentine?

I John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I don’t really feel qualified to write about this topic at length, mostly because of my own anemic love life, and by that, I mean loving the unlovable, the unlovely.

It’s not that I don’t believe God is in the love of family, friends, and loved ones, but I have a sense that loving in the hard places, the paradoxical times, the nontraditional people, the unexpected situations: this is where God manifests more profoundly. These would be the occasions I might actually experience the same God who loved me when I was deeply entrenched in life-killing habits (drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and the like). That love turned me around. That love upended my perceptions. That love was conscious and real, almost tangible. It was one of the reasons I committed my life to becoming a follower of the Christ: I saw God by being loved unconditionally.

For whom can I do the same? Why am I so afraid? There was so much grace in being on the receiving end and yet, it has become so difficult to get out of my safety net and love others the same way, without judgment, without expectations, without strings attached.

Our current church has a lot of buzz phrases, some more meaningful than others, but without a doubt, the one that resonates the most with me is that we offer love and service to others “with no strings attached.” I know that our pastor, Jess Bousa, pulled this mandate out of his own experiences, out of the God-love that was given to him when he least deserved it. The church, Good Cause Foundation, the open door policy he has established, are all an outgrowth of seeing God and thereby showing God through himself. Jess got it and he’s one of the reasons I’m hanging around this young pastor, I want to catch the fever.

It’s all simple: love others if I want to see God. And as I see God, I will want to love others. Infinity. Circle. Mandala. Synergism.

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I have heard it said that everything we need—we have, in order to accomplish what is needed to fulfill God’s destiny. This is so easy to say but so hard to live, to believe. If anything, I see myself (and those around me) always looking for more and still more, thinking that will make the difference.

II Peter 1:3
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

I remember during the season of the “Toronto Blessing” when a great outpouring of delights and miracles seemed to be endless at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church of the mid-nineties. In addition to a variety of phenomenon from laughing to falling out in the Spirit to shaking, a buzz word of that time was “soaking” in the Spirit and asking for “more.” More, Lord, more.

In hindsight, this call seems self-indulgent. It feels too much like more Edmund in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe who, under the influence of the evil White Witch, could not get enough of Turkish Delight. When she asked what he liked the best, this was the first thing that came to mind, this sickly sweet candy. And then, he was driven by his desire for it, excluding all else.

Do we really want more? Do we really want Divine Power? Would we know how to wield it if had hold of it consciously? Would we merely laugh and shake and cry? Or worse, be like Bruce Almighty, who uses this temporary power for personal gain.

Or, do we want “more” power because we have our own vision of what we want to do or be?

God’s divine power is available to us for one purpose, to live a godly life. And what is a godly life: to love others, to serve those less fortunate that we are, to worship and adore God.

And out of that, comes, on occasion, an opportunity to make a difference.

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I struggled with this one verse today. It’s going to be a slow trip to I Peter at this rate. Although I have come to peace with the idea of “fear” of God as awe and so forth, this verse is pulling me into new territory: downright fear of God who is not just my friend & Savior, but also sovereign.

I Peter 1:17
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

I kept reading this verse over and over again trying to find a way out. I even checked some of the commentaries and a few blogs. It’s a challenge; it’s not warm and fuzzy with words like judgment and fear as pillars of the verse.

In the end, I found a wonderful blog post by Terry Hamblin (Mutations of Mortality) on this same verse. And I have to thank him for opening me up to accepting this verse at face value and allowing that to resonate in my soul. Amazingly enough, he quotes one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, from The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe,

“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than me or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” asked Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And that’s the point. We must remember that God is God and not our “chum.” God is loving and we, as believers, enjoy the safety of his mercy and grace, but God is also just and cannot be mocked or toyed with.

As much as I like to talk about God within and the Kingdom of heaven within and all of that, I must also remember that there is part of God without, that bigger God Being that envelopes all that is. Power is too small a word.

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For mercy to have its full power, it must be a two-way street: that is the God road. Same as forgiveness, whose power can cast a wide swath when it flows freely. I forgive, God forgives me. I show mercy, God shows mercy to me.


James 2:13
. . . because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

The truth is that mercy and forgiveness are a type of twins really, aren’t they? In both cases, the person who needs forgiveness (or mercy) doesn’t deserve it. They are guilty. And yet, if I, whether it’s deserved or not, extend mercy and/or forgiveness to this rascal/deadbeat/handicapped heart, God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, where you have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of great things.” [my paraphrase of Matthew 25:23]

Those are the significant few things: forgiveness and mercy. And once again, as in so many of my posts, it’s paradox that rears its goofy head again. We are encouraged to do the very last thing we want to do.

There is no guarantee, in fact, less than a guarantee, not even a promise or law or a mandate that my stepping out to forgive the other will mean he/she will forgive me (either for the same situation or another one). The process doesn’t work that way. The exchange is between me and Holy Spirit, not me and thee.

So, when I play “rock, paper, mercy,” it’s always got to be mercy. And it may look from the outside as though I’m losing every contest, God says I’m winning where it counts.

My daughter once asked me how my husband and I have managed to stay together for all these years; we are after all, quite different. And all I can say is that we have practiced two key concepts: acceptance of what is and mercy/forgiveness for what is not.

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What is it about the laying on of hands that is so potent that Paul must give warning about it? Some translations imply it’s the implied authority that the laying on hands imparts, but I think there might be more to it than that: it might have to do with power.

I Timothy 5:22
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

When the elders or leaders lay hands on Timothy, he was empowered or anointed or sent forth to do the work to which he was called. The people who touched him agreed with this call and witnessed it. They shared some part of themselves through that touch. And with it all, came the “gift” that was his and needed for the work ahead.

On occasion, we still see the laying on the hands in our contemporary churches. Sometimes, it is done to send out someone on a missionary journey or a new project. But more often, it is done in the name of healing. And isn’t it because we want that act to evoke a change? We desire for our health, let’s say, to give strength to the one who is sick. Or, maybe, we can be a conduit for a greater power, that of God Himself through the Holy Spirit within us.

But why doesn’t it seem to work?

Perhaps we lay hands too quickly. Perhaps we have missed the true transaction. Perhaps we should step back and consider why we are reaching out.

The laying on of hands should be intentional. I intend to make my next act more meaningful. I will ask for the explicit participation of the Holy Spirit beforehand. I will prepare my heart and clear my mind and purposefully extend the promise of the Christ.

Who am I to do this? No one, but a follower of the Christ who walks ahead of me and shows the way.

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