Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

It is Pentecost.  The day we celebrate the gift (and gifts) of the Holy Spirit. What an amazing and blessed day.

Last night my church celebrated Pentecost with a beautiful vigil.  To the outside world it may not have seemed that way.  The attendance was low.  The music quit working not once, not twice, but multiple times.  The wind blew the candles out in the candle-light procession, not once, not twice, but multiple times.  Rain began to fall during the celebratory bonfire.  To the outside world, perhaps not a success.  But what the outside world didn’t know — what the outside world never fully appreciates — is the true beauty of God’s presence.  And God was there.  The Holy Spirit was there.  I felt His presence almost immediately.

For several weeks, I have been struggling because I felt disconnected from God.  The world had become too busy.  Human events had dominated my life.  I had tried, and failed, on several occasions to welcome God back in, but quickly became distracted again by what the world deems important.

Last night, when the man-made speakers failed, and the flames from the man-made candles blew out, I felt the presence of God.  I felt His Spirit fall upon us.  And it was good.

Today the Bible opened up to the last verse in Matthew:

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

This passage tells me a few things, all of which reinforced my experience last night.  First, the apostles who had spent three years with Jesus, doubted, even when He stood right before them.  This is comforting.  Because I too have doubted.  I have felt disconnected.  I have felt lost.  I have doubted.  Even when God is right there in front of me.

Second, of course, is the commission by Jesus to all of us to go and make disciples of all nations.  His name, His love and His commandments are not something we can keep to ourselves.

And third, and the one that I could use a reminder of every day, is the last line of Matthew’s gospel: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Sometimes I can feel God’s presence in a powerful way.  I become overwhelmed and am often brought to tears.  Other times, particularly when I am distracted by the world, I miss that feeling.  But He is there.  Behold, He is with us always.

And like last night, when things seem to be going wrong, or not in line with what we as humans have planned, God shows us that His plan is better and can not be judged by human standards.  He is with us.  As a Father who loves us, as the Son who carries our burdens and as the Holy Spirit who guides us.  He is with us and He will love us, carry us and guide us when we least expect it and in ways the human world cannot fully understand.

Come Holy Spirit! Come and do your will!  Renew the face of the earth! Come set our hearts afire!  Come Holy Spirit!

 

 

Why Worry?

I worry.  A lot.  I worry about being a good parent.  Being a good spouse.  Being a good business partner.  I worry about making enough money, maintaining job security, obtaining financial security.  I worry about my health, and my family’s health.  I worry about my son’s future and whether I have done enough to help place him on the right path.  I worry about my faith, my future and my relationship with God.

Tonight, I read Matthew chapter 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?   Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.  But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.   If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Matthew 6:25-34

Do not worry about tomorrow.  That is a wonderful idea, isn’t it?  The Bible is filled with this idea.  But is it possible?  I struggle with this.   I want to be able to do this, but how?

This passage seems to provide an answer: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

We worry about things on earth — things the pagans seek.  Things that won’t matter in our eternal life.  God.  That is all we really need.  That is all we need to seek.  If we just focus on Him, what is there to worry about?  Oh, I want to seek you Lord!  I want to cast my worries aside and focus on you.

Our Father,

You are all powerful in heaven and on earth.  Hallowed be your name!  Let your Kingdom come.  I pray that your will be done on earth and that I let go and let you take control.   Give us this day our daily bread — and the acceptance to know that is all we need.  Help me not to worry about tomorrow’s bread and instead to just seek you.  Forgive me for the times I fail and the times I turn away from you.  And help me to forgive others who fail me.  Lead me away from temptation and when I stray, deliver me from evil, so that I may always return to you.

 

Repent

Lent will be here in just a couple of weeks.  Today, the Bible opened to a short and simple statement from Jesus:

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17

Repent.  I have heard that word since I was a child.  Particularly during Lent.  Repent.  For the first time, I looked up its definition.  Here is what my quick internet search revealed:

  • to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.
  • to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
  • to feel regret or contrition
  • to change one’s mind
  • to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc.
  • to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.

To feel or express sincere regret or remorse.  So first, I need to feel and express regret and remorse.  The regret part comes pretty easy for me.  I have lots of regrets.  The part I can probably work on is the sincere remorse, which I think is a little more than just regret.  To be sincerely sorry for my sin.  To be sincere, I have to really think about it.  I generally don’t like to think back on the things I do wrong and instead I just lump them into general categories and try to move on.  I don’t want to think about the things I do wrong.  I don’t want to think about sin, and particularly not about my sin!  As a result when I do think about my sins (often just briefly) or prepare for confession, the same sins come back to mind.  Perhaps because I have not truly repented — have not thought about them enough to have true, sincere remorse — and as a result have not allowed myself to be freed from them.

The other definitions are even harder.  Repent: To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.  To feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better.  Its not enough to feel sorry  or to feel regret.  To repent, we really need to think about our sin — we cannot hide from it.  We need to think about what we have done wrong, so that we can have sincere remorse.  Without sincere remorse, how can I truly dedicate myself to amend my life, to change my life for the better.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  It is time to repent.  Time to change our lives for the better.

Lord,

I am sincerely sorry for my sins.  Help me to dedicate myself to do better.

Fireworks from the Holy Spirit

It’s time to get ready to go back to work after a 4 day weekend celebrating the birth of our country.   It seems like there have been fireworks for the last 4 nights, and I am sure, plenty of oohs and ahhs.  The Bible tonight opened to John the Baptist providing rebirth through baptism and foretelling of Jesus:

“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 3:11-12

Matthew tells us that Jesus has His own fireworks for us — baptism through the Holy Spirit!  Imagine those fireworks, the oohs and the ahhs created by the fire from the Holy Spirit.  Close your eyes from the world before you, the computer or phone screen, the man made fireworks or electronic flashes of light and feel the Holy Spirit surrounding you.    Better than any lightshow on earth.

Now I know in this passage John talks about Jesus separating the good from the bad.  He will gather his wheat in  his barn and the chaff he will burn.  I quickly googled “chaff” and one of its definitions is “worthless things; trash”.  But as I read this passage tonight, I don’t know that Jesus separates out the trash to dispose of it, as I used to think when I read this passage.   Thank goodness — because I know I feel like chaff more often than I feel like wheat!  Are any of us really the wheat ready to be gathered?  So what becomes of us?  John says He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.  But John has just told us that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire.  So is it bad to be burned with fire?  Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to baptize us.  Even if we are just the chaff, if we go to Jesus, if we repent, if we ask for the Holy Spirit, then the fire that will burn is the fire of the Holy Spirit.  And for those of us who may be chaff, don’t we need the Holy Spirit more than those who are already the good wheat gathered in heaven (Jesus’ barn)?  Jesus sends us the right fire — even when we feel worthless, even when we feel like trash, even when our actions may have been trash — He offers us rebirth.  He offers us help through the Holy Spirit — we just need to accept it.

Dear Lord,

I am sorry for my sins.  I am sorry for the times I have not placed you first.  Help me to grow into the hearty wheat.  I am ready to be baptized by the Holy Spirit!   Send me your fireworks!

 

 

Healing prayers

Today, I learned that a friend was in need of prayers and healing.  I felt helpless to offer any words of comfort.  My mind quickly turned to prayer and I asked God to provide her with healing and comfort, but outwardly I was unable to offer the encouragement and comfort that she needed.  I wanted to do so much more.

Tonight the Bible opened here:

At once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  After they got into the boat, the wind died down.  Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.

Matthew 14: 27-36

I have faith that my friend will be healed.  I believe God has great plans for her.  I am certain of it.  Indeed it was her faith, and kindness and love that brought me back to the church and to God in a much more meaningful way.

Tonight I pray that she knows that Jesus is holding his hand out to her.  He is holding her and will get her through the temporary struggles that she is facing.

Dear Lord,

Please help all those who are struggling with health issues.  Give them the faith and courage to know that you are there, that they are safe, and that all of these struggles are temporary.

Thank you for sending my friend to me.  She has been such a reflection of you in my life, help me to be that to her.  Help her to know how loved she is.  Please heal her body and strengthen her spirit.

Forgiveness first

Tonight the Bible opened to Matthew:

He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”  At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”  Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”  He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.

Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus offered forgiveness first.  When I first read this passage I wondered why Jesus didn’t heal first.  I had to read it a couple of times before I realized He did heal first.  He healed the paralytic’s soul first.  As always God knows best.

Lord,

You know all things and know what I need. Heal me, Lord. Forgive me.  Help me to forgive others.

I want it all!

Can I have it all on earth and in heaven?  This is the question that haunts me.  Today’s verse once again drove this home:

Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.  If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”  Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:16-24

I almost wish the young man had not asked the question.  I feel like I do “ok” with the commandments…  most of the time.   Of course a lot harder is the one Jesus throws on – love your neighbor as yourself.  But I feel like I can at least feel like I do that…  some of the time.  But give away my possessions?  All of them?  I like my possessions.  They provide me with a sense of security.  I grew up without many, scrounged for one meal a day in college, worked 3 jobs at a time on occasion.  Give up everything?  Do I trust God enough?  Is that what Jesus is asking me to do — trust God not the material world?  Honestly, every time I hear this verse, my blood pressure rises, I begin to panic and I feel depressed.  I am not sure I ever read the very next lines, though — which give me hope:

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:25-26

I cannot do it without God — if I think I can, I will only end up panicked and depressed — because I know I will fail.  I am not strong enough.  I am not good enough to be perfect.  I am not able on my own to achieve eternal life.  But with God it is possible.

So I will continue to strive to do all these things, including giving more.  And I will continue to ask God for forgiveness when I fail, for mercy when my time on earth ends, and that it be His will that I might have eternal life with Him.

God,

I love you.  I want to spend eternity with you.  Please forgive me for the times that I have failed to keep your commandments, failed to love my neighbor, and acted selfishly with my time and possessions, focusing on worldly wealth rather than heavenly wealth.  Help me to do better.  I beg you to grant me your grace and your mercy, so that I may one day be with you.  I know I am not worthy of this, but I trust in your love.

Eye-Opening

Today’s Bible  verse was “eye-opening” to say the least:

As they left Jericho, a great crowd followed him.  Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “[Lord,]  Son of David, have pity on us!”  The crowd warned them to be silent, but they called out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on us!”  Jesus stopped and called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”  They answered him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight, and followed him.

Matthew 20:29-34

Now, I know I have heard before the comparison between the blind men and the rest of us.  We are all, at times, blind to what is right before us.  And sometimes we are blind to God.

But what struck me when I read this passage was the crowd warning them to be quiet.  The blind men were calling out  to Jesus “open our eyes” and the crowd was trying to dissuade them, telling them to shut up.  Sometimes it seems like today’s crowd is still trying to silence those who seek Jesus, those who long to have their eyes opened.

Lord,

Help me to continue to cry out for you, even when the world tries to silence me.  Open my eyes, Lord!

Amen