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Holy Spirit

Thanksgiving 2014 Day Thirteen: For the Law

imageNo escaping it I am under the rule of law, natural law (what goes up must come down), civil law (speed zones, property, taxes, etc.), moral law (ethical behavior) but what place does God’s law have in my life as a Christian saved by Grace?

As a Christian, one thing I know, I cannot keep God’s law, but as a Christian, I know God’s law is meant to illuminate a righteous path. Taking only the Ten Commandments, as a Christian I now see them not as “Thou shalt not’s” but as “how to live freely’s” .

“Be faithful in your marriage” rather than “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

The law no longer condemns; the law lights my path as a Christian and I am not alone for the Holy Spirit works within me till every chain is broken.

I am no longer condemned by the law:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

For in Christ the Law is being fulfilled in me:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭17-18‬ NIV)

And so today I am thankful for all the laws of God, natural, civil, moral and spiritual for with Christ they free me and keep me grounded.

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Thanksgiving 2014 Day Seven: For the Pure Heart You are Creating in Me

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Purity that extends deeper than surface appearances comes with at a price. I am grateful for the One who paid that price. Even though He knew what a garbage pit my interior self was in.

A Deep Cleansing of my soul, like deep cleaning of a home, requires HELP! Or more precisely, The Helper promised by Jesus Christ to his followers, The Holy Spirit. First, like cleaning a room there are decisions to be made, what to keep, what to give to someone else, and what to throw away. Other eyes are often needed lest I cling to something best thrown in the trash.

And you know what else, it requires on going reevaluation, maintenance, and relinquishment to His wisdom in matters of purity of heart. I do tend to drag stuff out of the ash heap at times. It is a never ending cleaning job, but fortunately, the Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting, because we are promised that he will not stop purifying his followers:

‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ NIV)

How I set my mind to this matters. It matters what I allow into my inner self, into the temple of the Lord that I do not entertain impure thoughts.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10‬:‭5‬ NIV)

It matters that I allow the Holy Spirit full access to every corner of my life and that I open my eyes to see and take in that which will work to make me pure so that ONE day I will see GOD.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭8‬ NIV)

Thank you, Holy Spirit for helping me everyday to unearth the garbage that needs to be tossed. Help me day upon day to become purer and to encourage purity in others. Amen

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
May I devote my life wholly to Thee:
Watch Thou my wayward feet,
Guide me with counsel sweet;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Teach me to do Thy will most lovingly;
Be Thou my Friend and Guide,
Let me with Thee abide;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
Until Thy holy face one day I see:
Keep me from secret sin,
Reign Thou my soul within;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

Words: Fannie E. Davison 1877

Music: James H. Fillmore, Sr.

WHAT AM I FULL OF???

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Pastor Dan’s sermon question today was:  “What are You Full of?”  Good question, right?  Typically, when we hear someone say, “You are full of ______.”, it is not a compliment.  Naturally, in our sin nature, I am full of myself; I am naturally selfish, and what I am full of will eventually come out.  So as a Christian with the Holy Spirit residing within, I can allow Him to fill me tossing out the selfish me.  Like Stephen, who spoke the truth of the gospel to those who were “cut to the quick”  by his every word, driven by their fear and selfishness to shed their outer garments at the feet of the man, who would be the Apostle Paul , pick up rocks and stone him to death.  The Word of God offends to change us, but rejected can lead to unspeakable acts against our fellowmen.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (‭Acts‬ ‭7‬:‭55-56‬ NIV)

The Lord let Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit” see into his future where Jesus stood with him at the right hand of God ready to receive his spirit.

One way we get plugged into God, recharged, is in corporate worship.  But that is not enough.  We are in some ways no different than our electronic devices, like a cell phone, we need regular Bible study, prayer, interaction with Christians so that “self” does not claim more of the Holy Spirit’s space within.  Regular recharging is necessary.

Being filled with the Spirit does not make any Christian perfect, but He does alert you to what needs correction and offers to fill, empower, encourage righteousness.  He will pull us closer not point out or blame.  

We need to cut each other some slack also.  As we are filled more and more with God, He helps us because He is “The Helper” among other character traits.  Pastor Dan pulled a greeting card from his pocket that illustrated how this works:    “Sometimes I wonder why I put up with you, oh yeah, its because you put up with me”

Jesus promised believers the Holy Spirit.  God has promised even before Jesus that He would be with us.

Now this is what the LORD says. He created you, people of Jacob; he formed you, people of Israel. He says, “Don’t be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called you by name, and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you cross rivers, you will not drown. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flames hurt you. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭43‬:‭1-2‬ NCV)

There is so much in these two verses: 1) Fear not 2) Saved 3) God knows individual names 4) we are His and even that will not prevent Life with all its hazards, upsets, tragedies, holes in the pavement from happening, BUT He will go through it with us.  And that’s how we know that the “Giant Slayer in us is greater than any GIANT we encounter….if I never meet a Giant, how on earth would I know that?  

Pastor Dan told a story about riding one of his daughter’s bikes in the dark when the front wheel hit a hole and flipped him over.  Based on that story I have composed this little jingle:

Life is like a bicycle ride when your front tire finds a hole
No time to change direction as over the bars you go
No time to cry or act as you fly to land with a smack 
On life’s hard tarmac, lying there on your back, you know.. Where do you Go?

Without the holes, without the blindspots, without the betrayals, without the GIANTS, we would never KNOW that “Greater is He Who is in me, than he who is in the world.”

Sometimes we are doing everything we can and still we hit the obstacles, the obstructions, the holes,  THE Holy Spirit within is there for those times.  

WHAT ARE YOU FULL OF?  MY CHOICE every day to PLUG in and FILL UP or run on selfishness.

Do not be drunk with wine, which will ruin you, but be filled with the Spirit. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭18‬ NCV)

What I Believe Makes Me Who I Am–Theology on an Icy Morning

I am not the most succinct person in the whole world, so boiling things down to a few words about something as all encompassing as “My Theology” is mind boggling. I could point to the Bible and say I find it there and be truthful, but even in there I find more to explore about the world, history, and people. God has planted himself everywhere, if only we could see. Paul wrote in Romans that God is evident in all creation, so none of us are without knowledge of Him.

I encountered a Aborigines’ account of creation and the fall of man in which the evil one was a bat! The Biblical account and this tribal story are remarkably parallel. No wonder that the symbol of death is the “Bat”. We also were visited by retired missionaries, the Eubanks, to Thailand, who shared the story of entering a classroom in Thailand to share Jesus with a group of children for the first time. The majority religion in Thailand is Buddhism. As they spoke to the children, Mrs. Eubanks noticed one child who listened closer, her eyes growing brighter and brighter until her body could not contain what she had to say. She waved her hand excitedly and exclaimed, “I know this Jesus! I just didn’t know his name.” The Eubanks expressed how God surprised them by already working in the hearts of the people of Thailand. He was there a long time before they arrived.

So, the enormity of God and of my meager theology cannot be boiled down easily, but as I consider His Scripture, I realize my basics from cover to cover are there. God’s Love, Justice and Mercy with which I form not only by theology, but my worldview. I am a Christian, but I am not the only Christian.

And so on this cold, December morning, Here is my paraphrased theology in a bursting nutshell:

In the beginning God created and it was good. God existed before all creation, before the beginning and in creating used the words, “Let us make….”, so the One God has more than one person. Human beings with free will sinned and while the good God created remained, weeds grew, blood was shed, storms brewed and sickness with death entered history. God chose Abraham to bless ALL the peoples of the earth.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel

At the perfect time in history The Word (Christ Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Out of his life, death and resurrection we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

The Holy Spirit remains within for the believer and in the world to call non-believers to Christ. But this time, this earth has an expiration date known only by God. We are therefore called to be His witnesses to all the World. And until then I pray “Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

I know too that others seeking also to boil things down have done a better job than I. So I turn to “Creed” Rich Mullins’ theology song from the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

CHORUS:
And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man

I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God’s mighty right hand
I believe that He’s returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men

CHORUS

I believe it, I believe it
I believe it
I believe it, I believe it

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,
Our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends

CHORUS

I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe it

The Word became Flesh and Embraced me with Grace
The Word became Flesh and Embraced me with Grace

Should have just gone to that first, RIGHT? So At Christmas…Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Here’s the Utube link: http://youtu.be/H-61MaWETiU

The Power of a Grateful Heart–The Forgiveness Factor

imageFor much of my life I have found forgiveness difficult. Oh, not forgiving the silly little stuff, but if I felt I had been wronged or even if I felt someone I love had been wronged, it took me a while. In fact, sometimes a vivid recording of a past hurt plays in the theater of my mind, catching me off guard, hurling me into a pit of vengeful slime. These events catch me off guard and can turn even the best of days sour. I hate the realization that the very image of another’s face can raise such vile thoughts in me, a child of God, forgiven, redeemed, loved.

I hate admitting that I still harbor “ill will” toward anyone.

How could I??

God has forgiven me SO much.

Unforgiveness is incompatible with the character of God.

Unforgiveness is a Sin…against God, against those from whom I withhold forgiveness, and against myself.

My mind becomes a battleground as I struggle to throw off the devil’s blanket of unforgiveness so I can crawl into the light of God’s grace. There exposed to his light I can face the fact that in spite of my best efforts to open myself to God’s examination some issues remain in a dark little closet of my mind. Oh, I don’t fool myself believing I have hidden sins from the Holy Spirit, but sometimes I do manage to bury them so that I don’t have to face my own lack of forgiveness. Unfortunately, nothing that detrimental can remain buried.

I have a choice, continue to withhold forgiveness or forgive. Easier said than done.

And so,

Forgiveness for me requires many conversations with myself and even more with God. I know that forgiveness is not an option for Christians. I know that it liberates the one who forgives more than the one forgiven. I know it all in my head, but there are times my heart, with all the shattered pieces cannot quite see it.

I have learned by the grace and forgiveness of God to bring it all to him. All the broken pieces, the hurts, intended or not, the people who cause me to stiffen my back, all my ugly thoughts….I have learned to bring them to him. He forgives me and I beg him to work though me to forgive the wrongs and to bless others.

He has shown me how to pray for the ones I cannot yet forgive and each day I find myself growing more and more concerned for their well being. He has shown me that my letting go, my forgiveness cannot be withheld just because another does not say, “I am Sorry.” He has shown me that nursing a hurt only makes it fester. He has shown me those to whom I need to say, “I am Sorry.”

Open honest conversation with God and open confession changes my attitude toward those I feel have hurt me or those I love. For one thing I see them whether Christian or not as those for whom Christ died and those who God loves. I continue to struggle with some older hurts, still haven’t quite forgotten the biting words or actions, but God continues to work with me in this very Christian business of FORGIVENESS.

And so today, I thank God for His Forgiveness. I thank him for creating in me a desire to forgive and not retaliate or seek revenge. I am grateful for the forgiveness of others for wrongs I have done. I am thankful for His Gift of Forgiveness that brings reconciliation of relationships and pray that whoever reads this today takes inventory and begins intentionally to converse with God and to forgive others.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)

The Power of a Grateful Heart–Weakness Gratitude

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If I must boast, I will boast of the things that [show] my infirmity [of the things by which I am made weak and contemptible in the eyes of my opponents]. (2 Corinthians 11:30 AMP)

I participate in a Fitness Class with an over 50 age range. Many of the exercises focus on strength training, working with weights, wall sits, squats. And, in my attempts to keep my mind strong, I read and listen to books, I do cryptograms, I write, and I play Words with Friends…ok the last one may or may not keep my mind strong. I desire to be spiritually strong also and so engage in the four “W’s”, Worship, Word, Witness, and Work. Strength, being strong, being able to “leap tall buildings with a single bound”, having others comment on how strong a person one is, along with beauty, power, riches, etc., we cultivate the importance of being strong.

And, yet

I am weak. No amount of strength training, aerobics, Zumba–those three classes about killed me, no matter how many books I read, concerts I attend, memory exercises I complete, no extended Bible study or prayer time will turn back the clock or make me STRONG!

And, yet

I am thankful for all my weaknesses, for the time I collapsed into the arms of Jesus 30 plus years ago and said, “I cannot go on another minute like I am. Save me or Kill me.” “I am weak but he is strong.” (Just a Closer Walk with Thee, Lyric author unknown).

Whatever anyone sees in me as strength comes from Jesus, from the Holy Spirit living in me. As I yield myself and disentangle myself from trying to do things on my own, He lifts me to my feet, cuts off the tangled mess of overdoing, leads me to rest by his still waters and restore my soul. He shoves me or leads me, whatever it takes, into the midst of life with all its heartaches, triumphs, tragedies, trials, routines, appointments, and grumpy people, who are so like that old woman in the mirror, so I can discover the transformation of my weakness when dependent on His strength.

But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NCV)

So I am

Thankful for my weakness

And

Thankful that I can help those weaker than I am by telling them about the ONE who can do more that “leap tall buildings”, the ONE who can take a weak woman like myself and fill me with his strength.

I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and help the weak. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35 NCV)

By the way, I am still going to fitness center, reading, praying, worshipping, etc. Because God meets me there and strengthens me. He just doesn’t let me get too caught up in my “self-help” plan and reminds me occasionally that my flesh is weak and not so young anymore. LOL image

Unforced Rhythm in the Dance of Life

image“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

When God was handing out athletic ability, gracefulness, and rhythm, I was dropping the ball, tripping over my own two feet, and dancing to the words not the beat of the song. . .not to mention singing either flat or sharp. I just did not find the fun in running, hitting, or catching and though I longed to dance never really grasped the rhythms of it all. I have been clumsy and awkward most of my life, including having an eating and drinking disorder–I spill or drop food on myself often. I have envied, yes, yes, I know that envy is sin, especially the kind that turns to coveting, actually hoping the graceful fall. So easy to fall into the trap of coveting and so very wrong.

As I have aged I have not become any less awkward, but I have learned to enjoy some sporting activities, even some as a participant [tennis]. I took lessons which helped. And yet, the truth is physical grace lies outside my purview and that is okay now. I am not the scrawny kid chosen last for the team. God gave me other abilities and I am still learning the grace of those rhythms.

I am also still learning the Rhythms of God’s Grace, that fill me, lift me and give me peace. The world is a tiring place, full of responsibilities, chores, physical deficits, mental, financial, relational challenges, full of fun stuff that tasks physically and mentally as well. Face it! We’d be Super Heroes, if we didn’t get tired.

God promises that if we keep company with him, which should be easy for us Christians, since the Holy Spirit lives within, but unfortunately I still try going my own way only to plunge into a series of missteps, fatigue and often depression. Why? When as The Message puts it God desires to lift my burden and give me rest, if I will

Come away with him
Walk with him
Work with him
Watch how He does it
And He will
show me how to live freely and lightlyIn other words, if we put our feet on God’s feet, He will guide us through the rhythms of the dance of life effortlessly no matter how graceful or in my case not graceful we are.

The Intimacy of Life Within

Owen and his Mom...the newest member of our family.
Owen and his Mom…the newest member of our family.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God has God living inside, and that person lives in God. (1 John 4:15 NCV)

The experience of having another live inside of you is the most intimate of all human experiences. When I was expecting our first child, during those first few months, I knew I was pregnant, but my body told me little else. This was long before ultrasounds that allow expectant mothers to see their unborn child, to hear the heartbeat and see tiny kicks weeks before feeling those movements. One August afternoon when I was lying down for one of my frequent naps, I felt and then saw my unborn son move. A ripple within in sync with the slightest flicker of movement across my belly. The reality of the life within me took hold both of my head and my heart

So it is when the Holy Spirit comes to abide within the believer, from the moment of confession of faith in Jesus Christ, the moment of conception, He enters with a life force that will grow within, that will change forever the believer and that the believer will not be able to contain. In a sense, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, we, who are Christians become Christ-bearers. The Holy Spirit, unlike the unborn child, who will grow and be born a separate being, the Holy Spirit resides within forever, gradually transforming and maturing each Christian until we are born into Heaven.

During the process, like with pregnancy, the changes become more visible, less easily disguised. Like a baby-bump expands, so do the workings of the Holy Spirit within show. The intimacy of pregnancy does not stop, when a child enters the world…the mother and the child remain bonded…forever.

Certainly there are changes in the relationship of a mother and her child as she turns him loose for his first steps and continues to let go as he matures until to all those watching his independence seems complete. Ah! but as a mother of three I know since the first quickening within my womb to now, I have never completely turned loose.

God calls each of us to Him, but when we accept Jesus as our personal savior, He enters the core of our being…AND He never turns loose as He molds us from within, as He quickens our hearts to be like Jesus, as our spirits become entwined with his…even when we try to run away..He remains. We are His and He is ours!

My prayer today is that all will come to know the intimacy of the Holy Spirit within.

Blessings to all who are expecting babies today and to all new mothers, as they marvel at the wonderful miracle of life.

My Choices Matter

imageI am only one person, but how I choose to live matters.  

Each one of us matters and how we choose to live, indeed to which drummer we march makes a difference.  When I was in high school, SO many years ago, we were required to memorize and recite increasing numbers of lines of poetry.  I cannot remember the exact numbers, but I think it was 100 as sophomores advancing to 200 as seniors.  Needless to say, I have boundless partial poems in my head that manifest themselves like specters.  They are indeed a kind of haunting.  With some prompting I can sometimes remember a whole poem, but usually only snatches of the works.   Some are really difficult to shake, such as “It was the 18th of April in 75, hardly a man is still alive, who remembers that fateful day and year…” (Midnight Ride of Paul Revere)  or “Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these are “it might have been'”(Maud Muller) or “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward” (Battle of the Light Brigade)…So many little ghosts.  

One of those hard to shake poems is  The Horseshoe Nail by George Herbert

For the want of a nail
The shoe is lost

For the want of a shoe
The horse is lost

For the want of a horse
The rider is lost

For the want of a rider
The battle is lost

For the want of a battle
The kingdom is lost

And all for the loss
Of a horse shoe nail

Our action, reaction, or lack of action to the offenses of life have far reaching ripple effects the total scope of which, we may never know.  How I choose to live my life with others, God, family, friends, the checker at Walmart, matters.  The scripture of the day at YouVersion.com for yesterday was I Thessalonians 5:15 but I have chosen to expand it for this post:

Now, brothers and sisters, we ask you to appreciate those who work hard among you, who lead you in the Lord and teach you. Respect them with a very special love because of the work they do. Live in peace with each other. We ask you, brothers and sisters, to warn those who do not work. Encourage the people who are afraid. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. Be sure that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to do what is good for each other and for all people. Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus. Do not hold back the work of the Holy Spirit. Do not treat prophecy as if it were unimportant. But test everything. Keep what is good, and stay away from everything that is evil. Now may God himself, the God of peace, make you pure, belonging only to him. May your whole self—spirit, soul, and body—be kept safe and without fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes. You can trust the One who calls you to do that for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 NCV)

God calls each of us to live fully and fully love because He loves us.  How you live in relationship to others matters.  How I live in relationship to others matters.  Remember the horseshoe nail.

And Choose how now to live.

In the face of offenses toward me, how I choose to respond MATTERS

Retaliation considered
Revenge intended
Lives upended
Friendships ended
Families untended
Churches splintered
Communities offended
Human earthquakes, famine of spirit,
Wars and rumors of war
Wrong heaped upon wrong unending
To what end?
Destruction.

Forgiveness considered
Kindness intended
Life defended
Friendships unended
Families strengthened
Churches united
Communities enlightened
A peaceable kingdom without and within
Grace for all ages, seasons and times
To what end?
Reconciliation

Along with the fragmented hauntings of old poems memorized years ago, are also the scripture texts I have memorized that the Holy Spirit calls to my remembrance just at those moments of choice, when what I do, say, or act will be kind or cutting. Those are the “braking points” in my life, my opportunity to be an agent of destruction or reconciliation. Pause, choose well, today…it matters.

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