Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Tita.Johns.ReceptionWe will be headed back to Florida in a couple of days to celebrate the life of Dorothy Guidry, my mother.  As a part of that service I have been asked to write out a memory that I have of her.  There are of course many individual memories that are cute and maybe a little angsty.  There is the time she was chasing me (in fun) and I headed out the storm door, missing the handle by inches, my hand went through the glass sending us on a trip to the nearest ER.  I remember how quickly the nurse in her came out as she wrapped my arm and instructed me to put pressure on the wound.  Her quick and calm response kept me from panic and you can be sure that I soaked the injury for all it was worth for years (If you have seen White Christmas you will know what I mean…)

There were strings in our string beans, hidden gifts on birthdays, Christmas scavenger hunts.  I remember her chain smoking as we waited for the movers to come during one of our many moves (she quit before I was a teenager).  I remember her patiently working with me to send a tape (mini reel to reel!) to my Dad who was posted overseas.  However my greatest memory of her is not any of these events.  It is a quality.  My mother pursued the heart of Jesus.  She loved and adopted people, just as He does. This love was without conditions and the adoption was freely available, it only needed to be accepted and there was a tacit understanding that this adoption extended to our family.

Whether it was the woman under the couch, the girl with the injured heart or the eleven year old smoker who would bruise me repeatedly standing outside our church, she brought them into the love of Christ in our home. Some of her adopted family will be sitting in the memorial service on Friday.  Some could not accept or persevere in their adoption and passed from view and some ended tragically bringing tears that few saw.  Some were (briefly) boyfriends or girlfriends but the love and adoption was never withdrawn.  Some are husbands and wives who stood by her side during these last days of life here on earth.  She has in this adopted family Peters, Pauls, Zaccheus’s, Mary Magdelenes, Marthas and even a few Lazarus’s. She has blessed so many and we have all been blessed in return.

This Spirit led heart guided our choice of church family.  We were never a “denomination”.  She taught us to seek the place the Holy Spirit would have us serve, not necessarily the place where we felt most comfortable or the place that served us best.  Our church family consists of Anglican,Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, Independent, Calvinist, Wesleyan and Armenian members literally all over the world.  This was not born of an inconstancy of belief but from a solid faith anchored on the Rock that allowed her to grasp the width and breadth of the Kingdom of God as few do.

 

Read Full Post »

Meeting

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not event the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

Read Full Post »

High Places

“A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

“Higher, Higher”

“Higher and Higher”

 

Everyone wants to get to higher ground in their Christian experience.  Unfortunately too few want to do the work that takes us there.  The Bible is our comprehensive guide to Hupomone living and when one adopts the Hupomone lifestyle the practice of the Gospel of Jesus Christ prepares us and carries us to the high places that we want to go.  So here are three principles for getting to higher ground.

 Carry the right equipment.

My son Robert is in the picture.  My brother-in-law, born and bred in Colorado, is an avid hiker of 14’ers.  These are mountains where the summit is above 14,000 feet.  This picture is taken at just such a summit. He made sure that Robert had all of the equipment that he needed to reach the summit with as little discomfort as possible.  Without the right equipment the journey is painful and difficult and there are many who opt not to complete and settle for lower areas.  Layered clothing protects you from the elements.  Higher Ground can throw all kinds of damage at you.  Wind can rip at your skin and steal the water from your body.  The sun can burn and blind in the thin atmosphere of the heights requiring quality sunglasses to keep the path visible.  The right shoes are essential as the steep inclines and uneven surfaces tear at your feet and legs.  Consider Ephesians 6, a much quoted passage about the armor of God.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore *, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Paul uses a military metaphor to make the same point.  If you want to get to higher ground you need to have the right equipment.  The higher that you want to go, the better the equipment you need.

Train for the journey

My son made several trips to Colorado.  Along with ensuring that Robert had the equipment that he needed to make the trip, his uncle built and tested his stamina through smaller local hikes.  God provides us multiple options for training and has given us the Holy Spirit to navigate our spiritual formation.  His Word the Bible is of course the basis for all maturing.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Just as his uncle guided him in preparing to seek high ground, God provides each of us with spiritual leaders in our lives who will help us train for the heights that are ahead of us.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together * by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16

Take the Journey with others

Robert did not hike any of summits by himself.  He went with his uncle and cousins.  He went with family whom he trusted and who were more mature in dealing with the mountain than he was.  There are stories of men who foolishly tested mountains alone or in groups unprepared.  They typically do not end well.  The circle of trust that you enter with brothers and sisters in Christ cannot be a mutual admiration society.  It must be one that recognizes the weaknesses of its members and steps in bring the fellowship to the summit.

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

The Holy Spirit is of course the penultimate member of any Christian fellowship journeying to higher ground.

26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; Romans 8:26

The Spirit steps in when our humanity fails us.

God did not design His people to operate alone.  While Robert is pictured alone, he is with a group, one that he both admires and trusts.  While the journey is one of fellowship, the joy of the summit is even more the fruit of godly community.

By all means reach for the summit.  Seek the higher ground that God has for you.  The air is thin making it difficult to breathe, the cold wind will chap and chill even while the sun burns.  Your legs will feel like wooden posts and your eyes will struggle to pick out the path but higher ground is your purpose.  It will draw others to you and fulfill the Gospel.  Just remember to bring the right equipment, train under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the men and women of faith that God places in your life and take the journey with others.  Now this doesn’t mean that you won’t make it to the summit without doing these things, but the joy will be lost in the struggle and the summit may just feel a little hollow as you struggle to catch your breath.

The Lord is my Strength and he has made my feet like hind’s feet and makes me walk on my high places.  Habakkuk 3:19

 

Read Full Post »

Clock

When I was younger I thought a lot about moments and what an important part they played in the very existence of creation.  I even created my own definition for God based on them.  I proposed that God was the being who was able to experience every moment in its completeness and that He did this in the moment or in the present.  Stated another way God’s present encompasses all of creation in all of time in His moment and He alone is able to full perceive that present.

Imagine that.  Just for giggles take the moment that you are in right now.  Experience as much of it in a discernible way as you can.  Human beings are extremely limited in what they are able to perceive (observe with knowledge).  These limitations are based partly in the narrow ranges of our senses (physical) and partly in the limitations of our ability to process the information that our senses deliver(mental).  Another real limitation is that our mind likes to play tricks on us and will interpolate expected results into the perceptual results of our senses.  Trained observers can enhance the percentage of any given moment that they perceive. Some people have an innate ability to process and retain the information conveyed by their senses to a much higher degree, and yet even these extremely talented individuals only perceive a small percentage of each moment that immediately surrounds them, never mind The Moment that encompasses all creation.  I am not sure that in many ways my definition of God was that far off.

However the conclusion that I drew about the purpose of humanity was far afield.  I suggested that given that we are God’s creation…in His image (there, wasn’t that nice of me to drop a little Bible into it) …our purpose was to experience every moment to its fullest extent possible and that the common good was for all men to help all experience their moment to its fullest.  In that way we would be operating in the Image of God.  The fatal flaw in that line of thinking is that we are called to take on “the mind of Christ” not try to be God.  This is the very flaw that Satan introduced in the Garden of Eden. “‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…'”  Genesis 3:5.  When we try to be God instead of taking on his heart and mind the result is a blurred image of who He is.  Our inability to perceive as only he can coupled with the foibles of our human condition condemn even the most perceptive and skilled among us to failure.  We fill our lack with judgement and legalism transferring our failure onto those around us.  Only in the constant attack can the mirage hold, grace becomes uncomfortable and truth is out of focus.

This is not to say that developing our abilities of perception is an ungodly task.  In fact the Bible speaks again and again of men whose perceptive abilities were enhanced by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As followers of Christ we become trained observers, growing our ability to perceive the moment, by developing our relationship with God.  When we do that we will not only be empowered by the Holy Spirit in our perception, we will naturally grow our own abilities as well.  I have heard a theology of intentional incompetence preached in a variety of venues.  It suggests that we sit back and ignore our natural abilities so the Holy Spirit can step in and work.  This is absolutely not in Scripture.  With Paul I say, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed accurately handling the word of truth…”  2 Timothy 2:15.  We are called to make our best effort in conjunction with the Holy Spirit and empowered by our relationship with God.  The Holy Spirit often came upon Moses as he directed the journeys of Israel through the wilderness, but it  listening to the wisdom of his father-in-law that set up a workable system of governance among the people.

We need to be diligent but still rest on a God who exists in The Moment.  How comforting it is to know that He sees it all!  How joyful to know that Eternity is our inheritance and that he calls us to His mind and heart, not to His ability.

“in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”   Romans 8:26

“For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.                         Psalm 48:14

 

Read Full Post »

Here is another in the series of Blog Posts started and never finished.  This one was begun on my birthday in 2014.  The same day that I penned (typed?) An Introduction to Hupomone. I did not know that we were about to weather another unexpected storm of circumstance in our lives.  Honestly we did not do a great job of hupomone living as we walked through the situation, but God is faithful and we grew (and are still growing) by the power of His Spirit.  Thank you for joining me for another piece of my Hupomone journey.

“Remember those who led you, who spoke  the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings “

Hebrews 13:7-9

 

Perseverance is not a trait of the human condition.  While mankind toys with the concept and we are able to point to individuals who in limited circumstances demonstrate a form of perseverance, they do not rise to the standard of Biblical perseverance.  It is for this reason that true perseverance only comes as a direct gift of God.  This gift rises from His very nature.  Our title verse today expresses that nature, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Being as we are forever changing, it is hard for us to conceive of an unchanging God.  We do in fact attribute change to Him as often as we can.  We seize on biblical narrative that “demonstrate” how God has changed the way that he deals with men, losing the thread of the redemptive plan set before the creation of the world.  It is perhaps the only way that finite creations can conceive of an infinite creator without child-like faith.  We unwittingly demonstrate Jesus’ assertion.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before * them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless * you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3-4

God proclaimed his divine perseverance when He declared to Moses,

“Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.  Exodus 3:14-15

The Eternal I am announcing His perseverance to all generations.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way:

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

While not Scripture, I love the simplicity of its treatment of the divine, perhaps the child-like way it approaches the question of his nature.  Yet still for all its simplicity, the nature of God is incredibly complex in its interaction with the human condition.  It is this complexity that smells of change to the inquiring (but limited) mind.  The complexity of the infinite as it intertwines with the finite takes on the appearance of instability,  even chaos when observed from the finite perspective. However there is in fact a singularity of purpose and intent in every nuance of the relationship.  This purpose is wrapped up in another concept that struggle with.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

It is this eternal purpose that removes the onus of circumstance from our lives when we accept the Hupomone aspect of God’s nature with childlike faith.  It frees us from the whirlwind of circumstances and allows us to see the straight line of God’s intent within the chaos of finite existence.

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

The Holy Spirit has freed us from the law of sin and death, the law of circumstance. Hupomone living is choosing to operate in the eternal through the power of the Holy Spirit, pursuing our ongoing transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.

Read Full Post »

I wrote most of this piece five years ago.  We had recently gotten back to Toledo after 4 months in Cleveland following Allana’s bone marrow transplant and after weathering what was easily the greatest test of our lives.  I can remember hearing this song that morning and feeling the impact of the words more than I had ever.

TisSoSweet

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,Just to take Him at His word, Just to rest upon His promise and to know ‘Thus saith the Lord’

Wonderful words penned by Louisa Stead over 200 years ago ring true today.  She lived in a world that served up tragedy on a regular basis just the same as we do today.  Even as we struggle with the trial of Leukemia the trials of this world impact so many others all around us.  A young bride is bereft of her husband on the way to her honeymoon.  A mother and grandmother passes away.  A child is desperately ill.  Families are losing their homes.  All these things rock the carefully manicured lives that we try to prepare for ourselves and those closest to us.  It is in the midst of grief and turmoil that the words of this great hymn begin to make sense Jesus, Jesus how I trust him.  How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er.  Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus oh for grace to trust him more.”    It really makes sense because it is grace that makes our trust possible.  I have in my life attempted to trust by study, by effort and by ostrich (sticking my head into the sand).  I can attest to the fact that these paths to trusting our Savior do not work.  In the end they magnify the turmoil and most often leave one sensing an ever increasing gap between God and oneself.  We end up feeling unloved and that God has somehow failed to keep up his end of the bargain.  Thoughts like, “But God I have done everything you asked…”; “Lord I don’t know what you want from me I can’t do anymore…” tear at our faith and bring in a spirit of defeat that can be more devastating than the tragic events themselves.

It is when by grace we detach our faith from circumstance and effort, relying on the Holy Spirit, simply fanning the flame of the gift that God has given each of us through whatever circumstances occur because we are convinced that He will guard us and the Gospel He has entrusted with us through the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 1:6-14).  Paul follows up this impassioned guidance to Timothy with the difficult circumstances that Paul found himself in and the sustenance that God provided to Paul.  I think that even in his chains Paul would have sung Louisa Stead’s lyrics with an honest heart.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

Read Full Post »

Our Story

There are times

in the Christian walk when it is clear and obvious what God is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.  However those times, at least for me are few and far between.  When God asks us to walk a particular road there are times when we never (perhaps until we are in the glory of His presence) know the rest of the story.  There are other times when we are far past that path and have moved to other roads of His choosing that He honors us with a glimpse of the rest of the story.

Sometimes we are “the rest of the story” for someone else.  Early in Allana’s battle with Leukemia we were both in a dark place.  The realities of Chemotherapy had begun to set in. We were separated from our children because of the epidemic levels of illness in the Toledo area and Allana’s dropping immune levels.  The nature of the Leukemia and the length of the battle ahead was becoming apparent.  The response of our faith community, friends and family was amazing.  They were all definitely the boat that God provided to keep us afloat in the storm, but still the waves, the wind and the darkness were overwhelming.  Into this storm walked a young nurse.  She was not one of our regular nurses, in fact we never saw her again.  She came in to the room during her shift and told us that she had heard we were believers and asked if she could pray with us at the end of her shift.  The prayers of many, all kinds of prayers, have been a comfort and strength throughout many trials in our lives, so of course we said, “of course”.

When the end of her shift came, she arrived as she said.  She was so young and seemed so small in comparison to our plight.  Don’t get me wrong we appreciated her heart and the prayers of everyone who lifts us up to God’s throne, but our expectation was perhaps a little wind for our sails.  However God knew that at that moment we did not need a little wind in our sails.  We needed light to shred the darkness and we needed to FEEL the presence of God.  This little nurse began to pray and called down the fire of heaven into that hospital room (and yes I am crying as I type this).  The darkness and the storm shredded in the light of God’s presence.  I can certainly imagine the joy of a mariner caught in a seemingly endless storm when the sun breaks through to warm his face.  I honestly don’t remember what happened next, it is lost in the overwhelming presence of God. I am sure that we thanked her.  I doubt that she realized the importance of her obedience to God in our battle.  I have told this story a number of times, but I don’t know if she has ever heard the rest of the story.  I hope so but that decision rests in the hands of God.  We are so blessed when He imparts the rest of the story into our lives but as His children we can be assured that the rest of the story is amazing.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »