We Are One

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Fruitless searches

Mis-spelled words

Random mis-steps

Falling hard.

Foggy brain

View obscured.

Troubled times

And misspent years.

Coursing passions

Overcome fears.

The mist parts

Softly shaded images

Emerge from shadow.

Hopes restored in

Christ alone.

We are one

In Him

Through Him

Because He Lives

A Triune God

We become

One.

A Nicodemus Moment

Nicodemus was a Jewish leader, teacher and member of the ruling Sanhedrin. He came to meet Jesus under cover of darkness. The life-altering and life-affirming conversation that followed has changed the rest of human history. Nicodemus wanted to know how one could be saved. When Jesus told him that we must be born from above, Nicodemus replied with words that really hit a nerve for me.

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” John 3:4

In a Bible study that I led on John’s Gospel many years ago we talked of how very human Nicodemus’ response was. Most of us under the same circumstances would ask or at least wonder a similar question. For those of us who have already buried our Mother it rings even more powerfully. How can we be born a second time?

Jesus was teaching a new thing. John the Baptist was baptizing with water alone for repentance.  Jesus was beginning to introduce the Holy Spirit.  The rebirth that Jesus was ushering in is different in character from what had existed before.

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above. ’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5b-6

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are made new. The water with the Spirit becomes a force that offers eternal life. The water and Spirit washes clean souls. It is miraculous. Baptism is beyond the ordinary even though it uses something as ordinary as
water.

church-window-1016443_960_720I often respond to challenges by planning my response. I create a plan. I strategize. I prioritize. I make back-up plans and worry. Nothing I do will guarantee success. When I first rely upon my own problem-solving ability I deny God the chance to guide me from the start. Only through the assistance of the Holy Spirit is real success to be expected. On far too many occasions I have resorted to prayer at the end of a planning session to ask God to bless my efforts. It galls me to admit how arrogantly I have acted.

What I do or plan is not what is important. I am not the one in control. God doesn’t exist to do what I want or to bless my endeavors.

When I try to be the source of all the answers I begin to play God. Only when I step back and allow God to exercise His rightful authority do I make room for His plans to take shape in my life.

Nicodemus recognized the problem of death. His practical question was for each one of us. Jesus told him that the Spirit is the answer. The ideas borne of the flesh are of finite value. The solutions born by the power of the Spirit lead to eternal life.

As I confessed to my Bible study friends I have had many a “Nicodemus moment.” Ever after when I find myself looking for human solutions to spiritual problems I call the problem what it is, a “Nicodemus moment.” That helps me to course-correct and make room for the Holy Spirit to have a place in the solution. I pray first and plan second. It is astounding what keeping things in the proper order will do.

This post is one for the If:Gathering study on the Nicene Creed. As we reflect on what it means when we say that we believe in,”One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Nicodemus teaches us some of what that means. We must move out-of-the-way and let God accomplish our salvation because under our own power we cannot hope to win our salvation.

How to find Truth

Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary
and became man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day He rose again
in accordance with the scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,*
 with the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified, He has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

*In the original creed agreed to in 325 A. D in Nicaea it merely stated that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father. The “and the Son” was added by the western churches to help combat a heresy that was prevalent at the time. The inclusion of the phrase, “and the Son” in the west is used today to refer to the fact that God is One God, triune consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the eastern churches the addition is seen to upset the nature of “procession” and is unacceptable. The following is not an article on the “filoque controversy” as it is known. For more information on the conflict please see a more informed source. I am merely noting the discrepancy so that whichever tradition you follow you will know that I cited my version here and made note of the conflict out of respect to both opinions.

imageIn the If:Gathering online Bible Study the theme for today is, I believe the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us. Our culture defines truth as relative. For those who cannot define truth it becomes impossible to know if you are living in the truth. As Christians we recognize the need for a higher truth, a definitive Truth that can withstand the effect of societies’ redefining values over time. The search for truth can occupy a lifetime. In the Nicene Creed we say, in effect, that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals truth to us.

How do we know if we belong to God? How can we know if we are His children? In Romans 8:14-17 we are told that’ “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” The way that we can find peace in knowing that we are loved by God is by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to Truth. In John 16: 13 Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would reveal the truth to them.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever He hears, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.”

When we study and read the Bible we are reading the Word of God. However, if we read without asking the Holy Spirit to guide us we are vulnerable to mistaken understanding. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand the Truth. Even the devil quoted scripture to Jesus during the 40 day of temptation in the desert. Simply learning the worlds without the Holy Spirit will not suffice. But to all who call upon the Holy Spirit to help them the words are living and active the Truth that we crave. We have not been left to uncertainty and continued doubt. When Jesus ascended into heaven he did not leave us as ‘orphans”, but left us the Holy Spirit to live with us, in us and guide us.
We pray…
Holy Spirit come and enliven our minds and guide our hearts. Help us to learn from your Word. Lead us in our thoughts, conversations with others, prayers and concerns. Help us to have the courage to turn all of our lives over to you. Make us vessels that you can use. In Jesus Holy Name we pray to The Father of Glory and Might through the Power of the Holy Spirit, One God through the Ages. Amen.

Joy and Strength

Today I am joining the gang at Five Minute Friday’s at Kate Motaung’s blog. The word for today is JOY. Five Minutes-Free Writing-No excessive Edits

Go:

“The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Joy: it is the name of friends.
It is the word on one of my favorite teacups.
We see it plenty of times at Christmas.

Joy is something we all want to feel, but like all feelings it comes and it goes.
Much sought after and hard to hold on to; joy weaves itself in and out of my life. I wish I could say that joy is a feeling that I find myself in possession of frequently.

Joy is not really just a feeling. According to Nehemiah 8:10 it is the source of our strength.

Wow, strength is a word that I think I need even more than I need joy. I am beginning physical therapy this week. I have been run down with health problems and I need to keep my muscles strong while I heal. Strength is what I really need. The Word of God tells me that joy leads to strength.

Stop:

The Word tells us that finding our joy in the presence of the Lord is the ultimate strength.

All we need is God and we will have joy and strength.

We are not dependent upon health or feelings.

All we need is to be in God’s presence.

Listening For God

Look up 1

You feel the beat of my  heart, Lord.
You hear the sounds of my doubts.
You overhear the words of my mouth,
Before I say them out loud.

You know what I really feel
When I have buried it deep.
You see the show from the truth,
What I truly believe.

You know all that I want,
My secret hopes and dreams.
You read the depths of my doubts,
What things are not as they seem.

Look up 2

You say that I am enough.
You listen to my ardent dispute.
You have compassion for me,
Lord, you lived here too.

You sing soft songs to my heart.
You say, “Be still, my dear.”
I tell you, “I’ve  got a plan.”
You quietly hold me near.

You say, “I’ll fight for you.”
I beg for more strength.
You conquered death for me.
You’ll go to any length.

Look up 3

You won the battle with sin.
I fight my own way.
You plead, “Please, be still.”
You defeated the fears I can’t name.

I give us lists for each day.
You wait quiet for me.
I implore, “Lord, just speak!”
You whisper my name.

Look up 4

Like Mary, I’m stilled.
For a moment fear fades.
“My Savior, He lives!”
You won’t go away.

We sit in silence a time.
My attention, it fades.
I run off chasing the mist.
Why can’t I remain?

#anythingproject

Growing Up Into My Three-Year-Old Self

Three-year-old joy

Three-year-old joy

At the end of each of the hardest physical crashes of my life, I realized that I had been pretending to be someone I am not. I was pretending to be strong. Perhaps it was an unconscious attempt to fool myself into ignoring the physical symptoms of the fatigue. At any rate, I had to do some soul-searching each time and recovery included not only rest but a deliberate attempt to reconnect with my gentle, authentic nature.

Right now I have a picture of myself at age three on my inspiration wall. She had such an enthusiastic smile that little girl. What became of her? At that age I radiated joy because I still knew pure love. I had experienced cruelty from the neighbors, but I was so young that I didn’t know it would continue. I loved everyone and I still believed that everyone loved me. All people and all of God’s beautiful creation was filled with love. My Mommie told me that Love (that was God Himself) made the world go around. I believed it. I thought everyone knew God was all loving. I thought everyone knew Agape love. I could not have articulated these beliefs at three, but that was the world that I knew then.

My life is a process of growing back into that innocence. God is love. He has made everything good. All creations will one day be restored to what it was meant to be. We are here in this brokenness to learn to be our three-year-old selves in spite of the evil still prowling the world.

Leaning into JESUS, not our own strength, is the only way to grow a strong spirit. Meekness is the opposite of weakness. We can only be meek when we learn to let love grow stronger than fear. No one can be meek when they are operating out of fear. It requires the option of retaliation and we choose forgiveness instead. When our response is based on fear we are listening to the evil in the world not the love that comes from God.

Actual strength and wisdom only seem to occur when we go through the fires and the floods of this life and remain our gentle, loving, authentic selves and survive to reach the other side of one adversity after another. We spend so much time relying upon ourselves that we can lose touch with who we really are along the way. Learning to trust God enough to be our original selves in a harsh world usually involves much physical suffering and loss of strength. I wish I knew an easy way to reconnect with that three-year-old joy again. I will keep the picture up for a while as a reminder that the world is a glorious place full of wonder and awe. Love made the world. He is all good and we are His children.

Sit Down

The verse that stopped me today was, “Mark 9:35-37
” Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” What first made me pause for some reason was the phrase sitting down. I checked the Greek and found out it is καθίζω kathizō ; another form of to make to sit down, to sit down:–appoint(1), rested(1), sat(5), sat down(15), seat(1), seated(1), seated themselves(1), settled(1), sit(9), sit down(4), sitting down(1), stay(1), taken…seat(1), takes…seat(1), took…seat(3).

Jesus’ disciples are arguing about who among them is the greatest and Jesus stops, sits down to rest and calls them to Him. I would have jumped right into a debate over theology with them. Jesus lifts a little child into His lap and teaches them humility. He uses an object lesson. He slows them down to listen. He knows that if He scolds them they will become defensive. If He tells them that they should memorize everything He says they will be distracted or annoyed, depending on their temperament. Jesus stops. Jesus sits down and waits until He has their full attention. Then He uses something everyday and unforgettable to help them remember.

Forget about putting yourself first. Don’t worry about your own accomplishments. Love and serve others. Listen patiently to what other people say. Love them gently. Follow Me.

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Enough

I don’t fit into my life. By which I mean that my spirit doesn’t fit into the life my body dictates. If you have ever experienced medical grade compression stockings you have a metaphor for my life. Technically I know it must fit, but squeezing myself into it is a struggle.

I don’t have the temperament to sit and watch television for any period of time. If I could sit back with my feet up and just mindlessly watch it I would fit perfectly into my physical abilities. When I do watch television I’m always doing something else at the same time. I reserve it for late at night or when I’m very sick. There are too many things that I want to get done so I knit, or plan, or groom my dog while watching tv.

The verse for today is from St. Paul’s second extant letter to the Corinthians chapter 12 verse 9

my grace is sufficient for you

this is one of the most powerful passages St. Mark’s epistles for me. I struggle to accept that His grace is enough. I know that I am saved by grace alone and that I do not add anything to it. I cannot add anything to my salvation with works. What I struggle with is the practice of accepting whatever He gives. I confess to struggling with wanting more. I want more to be done. I want to do more. I -I -I. That’s the problem.

His grace-is enough. Enough. I don’t know that I have made peace with enough. I always want more. How is it that I cannot allow the one who knows everything to decide when enough is enough? Today I am working on learning enough.

Hikanos Greek adverb, meaning enough or sufficient is the word I struggle with. God is large enough. Why should I struggle with a simple statement like that? Some synonyms for sufficient according to Merriam-Webster are competent, adequate or enough to meet the needs. how could God not be adequate to meet my needs?

God’s grace is sufficient. I stand here. And I rest here. His grace is enough.