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Posts Tagged ‘The Spirit’


Ezekiel 18: A New Heart and a New Spirit

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Written on December 17, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Jacob Willemsz de Wet: Workers in the Vineyard

The prophet Ezekiel foreshadows the story Jesus tells us in Matthew 20 about the vineyard owner who pays the same wage to the worker who has worked for but an hour as he does to the one who has worked all day.  We are cautioned by both prophet and Messiah not to complain about God’s generosity – we may one day hope to benefit from this abundance.

The prophet also foretells the story Jesus describes in Luke 15 who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go in search of the one that is lost.  We are told by both prophet and Savior that we are as precious to God as that one sheep.  This story is told as an illustration of God’s determination to call us – we may one day have need of this persistence.

Ezekiel tells the people in exile that they must move beyond these old proverbs and customs of believing that the sins of one generation are visited upon another.  He foresees what Jesus tells, that there will be a Messianic Age when we are released from the old and given a new heart and a new spirit – this spirit is forgiveness – this heart is love.

This is wonderful news!  Yet, it brings with it a reality that we may not want to hear.   With this newness comes the responsibility to return and repent.  We cannot expect that the good we have done will somehow outweigh the bad; yet we have the certain knowledge that all Ezekiel has foretold is true.  God will persist in calling out to us as we wander lost and alone.  And God has a heart large enough to repair any damage that has been done either by us or to us – for we have this promise from the prophet Ezekiel that we see fulfilled in our brother the Christ.  Jesus has died yet lives.  Jesus returns for us . . . so that we might live.  The Spirit abides with us . . . and brings us this new heart . . . this new spirit . . . as a gift from God.  All we need do is reach out our hands, and open our hearts.

 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God.  Return and live!


A re-post from December 16, 2011. 

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/jacobwillemszdewetdasm11.jpg and http://www.ideachampions.com/heart/archives/quotes/index.shtml

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Mark 1 -3A Reason to Believe

Tuesday, February 20, 2019

Today we return to the Gospel of Mark and when we study these opening Chapters we discover that they provide the perfect resource for us when we have had a bad day, an awful week, a cataclysmic month, or a horrendous span in our lives.  In these simple stories we will find the courage to continue an arduous journey; we will find hope that will impel us forward through tragedy.  We will even find the strength to help others who journey alongside us. Mark shows us a typical series of days in the life of Jesus in such a way that we might see ourselves putting aside our worldly worries to follow him.  Mark, with his quick-moving, thriller Gospel, gives us a reason to believe.

John the Baptist serves as a precursor or herald for the Messiah who follows him.  Our troubles and woes often announce themselves as well.  We feel a frisson of fear, a foreshadowing of something not fully revealed.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these forebodings are not our ultimate end.  Our end is rescue and redemption.  John baptizes the one who saves us all and Jesus unites with us in our own baptism.

The Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for forty days where he lives among wild beasts, is tempted by Satan and is ministered to by angels.  We too are driven into the barren wastes where we also met with devils and angels.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these dead places are not our last stop – even though they may seem to be at the time.  Jesus relies on the Father and unites with us in our own sufferings and temptations.

Jesus begins his ministry.  He cures many.  He gathers a following.  He chooses steadfast friends from the countless who follow him.  He is hounded by those who envy his relationship with God and the people.  We too step into the world to reveal our gifts and to allow God to act through us.  We too encounter obstacles to the Call we feel.  We too are harassed by those who cannot abide our closeness with God.  When we follow Jesus we know that there is no one, no idea, no thought, no thing that can separate us from God.  God never strays; it is we who have the choice to abandon or to abide.  Just as Jesus turns always to the Father so do we.  Jesus unites with us in the struggle.

Jesus steps into dangerous territory and his family and friends caution him, they even question his work.  We have seen the look of disappointment on the faces of others who misunderstand our steadfastness, who feel betrayed by our fidelity to the Gospel.  We know the sensation of rejection when those we love can no longer abide with us in the Spirit.  Jesus invites us to be one with him in the sacrifice we make in our own Gospel journey.  Jesus bonds with us as his sisters and brothers; he holds us close.  Jesus becomes one with us and takes up our too-heavy cross.

These opening stories in the Gospel of Mark draw us into Jesus’ story just as a good cinematographer hooks us in the opening shots of a film.  Jesus moves from friend to foe, from those who love him to those to hate him; and he always keeps his eye on the Father.  Jesus accompanies us in our own story; and he helps us to be mindful of the Spirit.

As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, we do well to read these opening Chapters of the Gospel of Mark for he tells us all and he tells us quickly.  Mark celebrates Jesus even as he foretells his awful end.  Mark holds no punches, sweetens no madness, and obscures no ugliness.  Mark shows us all.  Mark’s story gives us hope when tragedy strikes.  Mark’s story gives us courage when cataclysm hits.  Mark’s story helps us to prepare for the journey.  Mark’s story gives us a reason to believe this amazing Christ.


A re-post from February 20, 2012.

Image from: http://www.atotheword.com/2011/04/05/jesus-man-born-blind-for-works-of-god-to-manifest-in-him/

For more on the Gospel of Mark, see the Mark – “I Am” page on this blog. 

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John 14:16: Seek Connection

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Jesus says: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. (GNT)

God the Creator says:  I know that on many days you feel disconnected and ungrounded; but my Spirit lives in you to bring you home to me. I know that you spend nights feeling alone or even abandoned; but my Spirit is with you always. Do I not promise this to you in your exodus journeys that bring you out of enslavement to dangerous ways of life or thinking?

Jesus says: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. (NRSV)

God the Creator says: Do I not, in the person of my son during the great Discourse on the evening before my human death, promise that I will be with you always?

Jesus says: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever. (CJB)

God the Creator says: Do I not promise to abide in you every morning at your rising, every noonday when you pause to rest in me, and every evening when you lie down to rest?

Jesus says: I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. (MSG)

God the Creator says: You can rely on me. You can believe in me. You can stand firm on my shoulders. I speak the truth of my love to you when I tell you that I have been with you since before your inception; and I am with you through endless time and space. Rest peacefully in me. Always.

When we use the scripture links and the drop-down menus to explore this verse, we find new connections with the Creator, with Christ, and with the Holy Spirit. To discover how the Spirit helps us to understand Scripture, click on the image above of visit: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/the-holy-spirit-the-word-of-god-and-you.html 

Tomorrow, seek participation as we begin the season of Advent.

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Psalm 16: Seek Confidence

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trust

When we begin to trust God, we grow in confidence. When we grow in confidence, we are better able to trust God.

You, Lord, are all I have,
    and you give me all I need;
    my future is in your hands.
How wonderful are your gifts to me;
    how good they are!

This is a beautiful prayer of Trust in God’s love for us – for his safekeeping of us. I like the metaphor of the Cup. It may refer to our daily drinking from the chalice of Christ’s sacrifice for us; or it may refer to our own willingness to offer our lives back to God as a blessing in the Cup of Our Lives.

God says: You have every reason to doubt my existence; but know that I move in you as the Spirit of goodness, justice, truth and mercy.

And so I am thankful and glad,
    and I feel completely secure,
because you protect me from the power of death.
I have served you faithfully,
    and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead.

God says: You have every reason to believe in me. I have created a world in which you have freedom of choice and the promise of my strength and guidance.

I praise the Lord, because God guides me,
    and in the night my conscience warns me.

I am always aware of the Lord’s presence;
    God is near, and nothing can shake me.

God says: When you read these verses today, rely on my deep and constant love for you.

You will show me the path that leads to life;
    your presence fills me with joy
    and brings me pleasure forever.

God says: Each time you recite these verses, my Spirit rises in you as it calls you to join me in the great mystery I have planned for us.

Protect me, O God; I trust in you for safety.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    all the good things I have come from you.”

God says: You have every reason to doubt me. You have every reason to believe in me. Today I call on the Spirit within you. Today I call you to place your trust in me. Today I ask you choose to grow and live in my love, mercy and confidence.

Adapted from a reflection written on July 1, 2007.

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Proverbs 12: If You Love Learning

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The school in which I teach has a front portico with seven columns as a direct, overt message that we seek knowledge. (See Proverbs 9.) The school motto is: Veritatem prosequimur – Pursue truth. For an institution of learning, the image of Wisdom building her house is apt. Today we explore several verses from Chapter 12 as we reflect on the value of taking advice.

If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—
    how shortsighted to refuse correction!

Acceptance of a valid critique is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

You can’t find firm footing in a swamp,
    but life rooted in God stands firm.

Building our spiritual house on Christ is a sign of our confidence in The Word.

The words of the wicked kill;
    the speech of the upright saves.

The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble;
    the conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

Sharing The Word with others is an invitation to the Spirit.

Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;
    the prudent quietly shrug off insults.

Living The Word brings us fortitude rather than fear.

Evil scheming distorts the schemer;
    peace-planning brings joy to the planner.

No evil can overwhelm a good person,
    but the wicked have their hands full of it.

Living as Jesus teaches is a sign of courage rather than submission.

Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge;
    talkative fools broadcast their silliness.

Sharing The Word in the Spirit is a sign that the Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is now.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we find that a love of learning is essential for workers in the Kingdom.

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part III

The Sadducees

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do we fear . . . and why?

We reflect on the story of the early apostles (Acts 5) as they remain faithful to Christ while suffering and rejoicing with equal energy and passion. When we open ourselves to God’s generosity, we come away refreshed and encouraged with the news that when we respond to the call to do God’s work, we know that we quickly find God in the obstacles that surround us.  We know that we are Rocks in company with Peter; we know that we can serve as foundations of the living temple; we see that we are able confront corrupt authority; we can rejoice in our suffering to bringing truth and light to the world.

When we reflect on this story, we understand that a small group of the faithful, through the power and love of the risen Christ, successfully challenges the old guard. We realize that the Sadducees are afraid to order a sentence of death on these Jesus-followers because they fear the people will revolt. They fear the power of the Spirit.

There is irony in this story. Those who inflict fear on others eventually experience fear themselves. This we see the power of the Spirit unfold, rising from fear to bring us peace. This,we begin to understand, is the gift of salvific suffering.

And so today we ask ourselves, what do we fear, and why?

Tomorrow, how do we suffer with Christ?

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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Matthew 7:7-8: So Very Goodask-seek-knock

Monday, December 5, 2016

This week we explore how to put our love on the line just as the Creator does by abiding with us, just as Jesus does as he shows us The Way, and just as the Spirit does as she comforts and remains in us.

In Genesis 1:31 we are told that God looks at Adam and Eve in the garden of creation and declares that it was good, so very good! It was evening, it was morning – Day Six.

Matthew bring to us the words of our brother, Jesus: Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. (MSG)

If we are to lay our love on the line, we must be direct with God. If we are to have solid and honest relationships, we must be open with our loved ones. If we are to establish bridges with our enemies, we must be straightforward, authentic, and open to the wisdom of the Spirit. If we are to put our love on the line . . . we know quite well what we are to do.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we find that God shows us how The Way. We know that we will need to remain in constant communication with our Creator, Brother and Spirit if we are to know just how and where to go. And we will come to understand that it is good, so very good. 

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Mark 7:36-37: Our WordsThe-Power-of-our-Words-Vision-Wall-Poster-copy

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.

God has gifted us with the gift of words . . . today we reflect on the purpose of this gift . . . and the use of our own words in our daily lives.

“Watch your words diligently. Words have such great power to bless or to wound. When you speak carelessly or negatively, you damage others as well as yourself. This ability to verbalize is an awesome privilege, granted only to those I created in my image. You need help in wielding this mighty power responsibly.

“Though the world applauds quick-witted retorts, My instructions about communication are quite different: Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Ask My Spirit to help you whenever you speak . . . If [people around you] are silent, pray before speaking to them. If they are talking, pray before responding. These are split-second prayers, but they put you in touch with My Presence. In this way, your speaking comes under the control of My Spirit. As positive speech patterns replace your negative ones, the increase in your joy will amaze you”. (Young 126)

jesus callingIn her wonderful devotional, JESUS CALLING, Sarah Young bases daily reflections on scripture. She brings us wisdom that we might want to use in a modern climate of insults and one-liner sound bites are meant for broadcast news. Jesus comes to as THE WORD of the loving presence that created us in an image of goodness and compassion. When we take in the words that flood around us it is so frequently difficult to distinguish truth from lie; but what is easier to distinguish is ego versus selflessness, greed versus generosity, false fruit versus abundant fruit. When we are confused about whose words we are to believe or reject, Young presents us with a distillation of God’s message: we must rely on the Spirit for guidance, we must depend on Jesus as an example, and we must trust in the Creator who has created us in God’s image in and for love alone.

Tomorrow, healing the paralyzed man.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. Print.

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Mark 12:13-17: A Prayer for Paying Taxes and Tithes

Tuesday, August 2, 2016333-2016-tithes-or-taxes-300x292

Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Jesus is The Word of God, the light in the darkness, the rescuer of souls. In our conversations with Jesus, we might well ask the same question . . . must I pay attention to the institutions and systems put in place by humankind?

He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one.

Jesus is the Son of God, the Son of Man, the bringer of good news and redemption. In our prayer with God, we might well hear the same question . . . why do you complicate your life and what is it you are really asking of me?

“This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?”

“Caesar,” they said.

Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is God’s.”

The Spirit lives in each of us, even those of us who appear to ignore the presence of the healing, living God. In our interactions with all of creation, we hear the same commandment . . . love me as you love yourself, love your neighbor and even your enemies as yourself, and live in my presence always. This is all I ask of you . . .

Their mouths hung open, speechless.

In our interactions with God the creator, God the Son and God the Spirit we hear a consistent message . . . we are in this world but not of it; we are made in God’s image and we are children of God; we made in and for love, love to be shared and not harbored, love that takes risks and does not shelter its own comfort, love that endures and withstands. When our mouths hang open at such outrageous hope, we pray.

Loving and forgiving God, we bring our little and big problems to you. Help us to see that you are all we need; give us patience and hope.

Generous and compassionate God, we bring our worries and anxieties to you. Guide us in understanding that you know and see all; send us your mercy and grace.

Courageous and outrageous God, we bring our fears and doubts to you. Heal us of our pettiness and deceit; bless us with fidelity and peace.

Timeless and limitless God, we bring our questions and confusion to you. Grant us your serenity and peace; transform us in your wisdom and love.

We hear Jesus’ words to render our taxes and tithes with common sense and generosity. Let us give over all that is of this world to this world, let us keep our eyes on Christ as our example of how we are to manage this world, and let us keep our hearts and minds always in the hands of God.

Amen.

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