In the Hebrew Scriptures, the gift of the spirit was specifically anointed on certain people. Not until the New Testament is the gift of the spirit poured out on the world both Jewish and Gentile. In retrospect, from a human point of view, making the gift of the Holy Spirit available for anyone seems to me a huge risk on God’s part. For those who believe in its power and authority, such a gift in the wrong hands can prove devastating to the one who possesses it, if not properly used. Certainly in biblical times there were many who did just that, using trickery, and false witness to convince others of their authority thus causing people to turn away from God’s truth. (And) Even now when storms, distractions or disillusionment happens we become vulnerable to the trickery, and false witness of this day as well, and we turn away from what God has promised. But what about God’s point of view? Though we can’t presume to know God’s thoughts, the fact that Pentecost occurred and given the gift of the Holy Spirit through his son; who does such a magnanimous, and some would say awesome, philanthropic act as to make available a free gift with such power and authority? I have to ask of myself, how is it that a gift so generously given, when received is either selectively used or used with severe abuse? Surely God already knew at least by that point that the risks were at best 50/50, some believing, while others just shrug it off. As time moves on, of course the risks become greater as some, believers and non-believers, now claim to possess the spirit without evidence of really having it. Surely today with all of the distractions and disillusionment of what we see and what really is; the thought of the Holy Spirit reconciling our hearts to the mind of God in the midst of struggle (storm, distractions, doubt, fear etc.) seems like an overwhelming task, yet clinging to the hope of this ultimate goal continues to live on today. As the world turns and we become more attached to tangible things, our journey toward reaching the intangible seems harder and longer to reach. Perhaps however, in God’s way of thinking, abandoning this hope even if only for a few was never an option and it seems that Pentecost (the gift of the Holy Spirit) perhaps, is not God’s ultimate act towards his creation. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of taking the risk?
Lent: Day 11 – Because of his faith in God alone who interprets dreams, Joseph is placed in a position to make a difference. He does so because he himself now has a family of his own. Thus, saving Egypt means saving his own family. Joseph’s wilderness was a good ten plus years, plenty of time to discern his relationship not only with God, but also with the family he as been separated from. He has time to discern the responsibility that his own attitude, arrogance and naïveté played in his endured and present circumstance. My guess is that initially, Joseph was angry. Perhaps he even thought about vengeance until his situation seemed to get worse, being falsely imprisoned, in spite of God’s favor. Yet ironically, being in prison saves his life. Joseph’s faith in God allows him to truly recognize and experience God’s wisdom in his life! Yes, Joseph suffered, but it was not his suffering that saved the life of his family but rather his faith in God. In this journey, we fight a lot of battles and suffer a lot of things for our selves and the people we love. To put our hope in those battles and suffering I believe is a disservice to God. I believe our hope should be in our faith and belief that God’s wisdom in the midst of our circumstance is greater than our own. Victory is only a matter of time.
Genesis 41:46-57 Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.’ … all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world.
1 Corinthians 4:8-21 We are fools for the sake of Christ, …To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly.
Christ and his Church is really what it’s all about. Christ is the head and we are his body of believers. The relationship we have with one another should reflect the relationship Christ has with his Church. Within each other we should strive to see Christ. While at the same time, within one another we should strive to see a valued part of Christ’s body. We are both anointed to lead and redeemed to serve. No matter who we are, where we’ve come from, or where we believe our selves to be going, it doesn’t get much simpler than that. In honor of Shrove Tuesday, shrive one another and value our relationships, the way that Christ values us.
Philippians 3:1-11 …I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…
Shrove – past tense of shrive
Shrive – To hear the confession of and give absolution to (a penitent). To obtain absolution for (oneself) by confessing and doing penance.
‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ Even today we often find ourselves looking for a sign from God and one never seems to come. It is most important that at this kind of juncture in our journey, we know Christ for our self and allow our faith in him to carry us to the victory we can expect to receive. We realize that every moment in our lives is a cause for praise and stop looking for God’s presence in a sign because the sign of his presence is the belief that is within ourselves. It is then that we know that the new covenant has been made manifest within us. Instead of looking for a sign to come, we focus on the signs he has already given in this journey both great and small. We will be encouraged and know that God is faithful and will provide according to the order of Melchizedek, the high priest himself. In every circumstance we are both blessed and never forgotten.
Signs; Knowing Christ; Blessed According to the High Priest
Today’s blog is dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Never again will I curse the ground…nor destroy every living creature.” Even God had a turning point. Jesus coming into the world was another drastic decision on the part of God to choose life rather than destruction, because the law given to protect and keep had instead become a burden to his own chosen people. Destruction wasn’t going to solve the problem, because humankind would only be born in to the same physical world. Thus humankind being created in the image of God had to make the conscious decision to be renewed (born again) in Spirit, which involves a complete change in the heart and mind with respect to our relationship with God. With Christ as our example in human form we now by his life, have an opportunity to make that change and share in his glory. The Epiphany (manifestation of Christ to the gentiles) is our drastic, and all too certain, turning point. Through Christ (not money, fame, nor group) everyone has the opportunity to make the conscious decision to seek and follow the God within. No one knew this better that Martin Luther King.
Drastic Decision; Born Again; Christ is our Example
When Philip finds Nathanael to share with him that they had found the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote about, Nathanael didn’t sound convinced or enthusiastic about Nazareth being the hometown of the Messiah. Nazareth is apparently equal to the cities we have today which suffer from many economic hardships which brings along with it poor standards of education and violence. How is it possible that anything good could come from such a depressed economic and social state? Philip simply responds, “Come and see,” and what happened next blew Nathanael’s mind. I will never forget a program I helped to participate in while working for a national social service agency that brought the brightest high school students from around a metropolitan area. The students that participated were from the highest ranked schools in a major city and surrounding counties, as well as a school that was noted for its failures in educating its students. One of the workshops involved an elaborate economic and mathematical exercise. Each school was charged with working out a plan concerning supply and demand and be the first group to find the solution to that plan. To my own amazement the students from one of the most economically depressed areas in the state were the first (rather quickly) to finish and get it right! We often harden our heart to what we see from a distance. But what we see cannot be compared to God’s higher thoughts or what God knows is within any of us. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? I say, God created us, good can and will come from anywhere God chooses. Just come and see!
Anything Good; Don’t Harden the Heart; God Creates What Is Good
There is a difference between going after something because of what you can get out of it and going after something because you believe in its power or authority to change or transform for not only your life but the lives of others. A champion athlete learns through focus and discipline that being the best brings him fame and glory. Not until the champion realizes that focus and discipline also helps to increase self-confidence, positivity, and drive, then uses the benefits of that gift to help others gain focus and discipline, that it may enhance other lives in whatever they choose to pursue. Elijah was anointed with the gift of prophecy, yet he was running away from the people to whom he was to prophecy. God directed him to go back to the “wilderness” that existed in the city of Damascus! God has a plan and a purpose for the gifts he has given each us. He will protect us in his plan and he will guide us in his plan. In the end we will have participated in his greatest reward; that being the legacy of God’s enduring love.
Selfish Ambition vs. Power to Change; Stand Firm in God’s Call; Let God Reign
During this advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we are reminded a lot about preparation and keeping awake for the return of our Savior. Particularly, today’s reading warns us to not be caught unprepared. This morning I am remembering the story about Jesus cursing the fig tree because it had no fruit (Matthew 21:18-22). It seemed awfully unfair to render such harsh punishment especially since the fig tree had no way of knowing that a hungry Christ would come strolling along its path. Although the question could be asked, “whose responsibility it was to tend to the fig tree,” I can relate to the humanness of Christ who experiences hunger, desire (to be fed), and the frustration and anger when his expectation is unfulfilled. What I also see is that when his disciples question him, he essentially assures his disciples and us, that we are not the fig tree! I know for myself, had I witnessed this experience, my initial thought would be; “If Christ would do that to a fig tree, what might he do to me?” The last thing I would want to do is disappoint someone who has that kind of authority. Yet in hindsight I know that there are situations I’ve met in life where I have fallen short of God’s expectation. Apart from this fact, Jesus says; “By faith, we have that same authority.” Life is not without disappointment and living is not without expectation. Thus, I believe the message to stay awake is not simply about living according to God’s Word because quite frankly there are many “unproductive fig trees” in the world. We have to be able to recognize those unproductive situations that may ultimately cause us to be unproductive. Instead, we are encouraged and reminded of the authority we have by faith in Christ to “move them out of the way,” because our purpose and goal is very clear. Don’t give away your authority through Christ. Keep Awake!
Matthew 24:32-44 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what dayyour Lord is coming.
Matthew 21:18-22 ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea”, it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’
For all my sons and daughters-
We’ve all heard the expression “seeing the forest for the trees.” It is an idiomatic expression used when we are overly concerned with the detail and unable to understand the whole of a situation. We’d like to think that it rarely refers to us. However, I believe that it often refers to each of us more often than we’d like to admit, particularly in terms of relationships. While it is important to focus on the well-being (spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual) of the self, we cannot escape how our personal well-being affects other people. I have come to understand that God alone sees the larger picture in each of our lives and what we see are merely snippets. Because of this, I have also come to more fully understand (through personal experience) that we should put our trust in God alone. This is not to imply that we should not trust anyone, but understand that faithfulness comes at a price. Be alert! Only one person has paid that price in full! Only one person continues to pay that price. In Him we celebrate. In Him we await his coming again! As we wait with patient endurance, we need to trust that with each other, according to God’s Word, we will do the very best that we can. For the times that we don’t succeed, we trust that each of us will just keep trying, even when difficult decisions have to be made either for the self or the other person. The days will come when we look back on the snippets and see how the whole picture is developing. We can’t however look too long because as long as we are on this journey the whole of the situation will continue to develop. So for now and every day, in our consciousness, we have only to accept where we are and trust that the Spirit of God within, will guide each of us until the whole picture is complete. Praise be to you Lord God!
Psalm 41 Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.
Matthew 24:15-31 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Revelation 3:7-13 I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, … I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ (John 1:6-8, 19-28) In today’s world perhaps we’ve all at some point and time faced modern day Pharisee types (and at other times played its role) who rightfully question authenticity. After all they’ve studied the law and presumably followed its instruction. They too have been waiting for the Messiah to come and they need to be sure. Of course, we know in the end many of them chose not to believe that the Messiah was in fact among them despite John’s message, but that’s not the point. When the question comes before us, just like John, we need to know who we are! There is no need for pretense because like John, God has already anointed us to do what he has called us to do. If we by our testimony, confess with our mouth God’s authority within us to use the gift that he has given, it’s not our fault they don’t believe or our responsibility to make them believe who we are. However, for those other times when our own authority causes us to question God’s authority and testimony within others, what will we believe? It may help us to remember, that if we ever begin to think that we are the greatest person in the room, among our profession, or even in our own ministry, we limit God’s possibilities for growth within us.
John 1:6-8, 19-28 ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”…‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’