Monthly Archives: April 2015

Lift up the Gates of Your Heart

Does the Spirit of God reside in you?  

At the time of Moses, God would reside in the Tent of Meeting. (Exodus 33:7-11) Later, the Israelites built a temple for him in Jerusalem. In Psalm 24, we read, “Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:9-10)

The psalmist was declaring that the gates of the city be opened so that the people could experience God’s visitation and presence. A millennium later, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 23) He would also declare that the “the Kingdom [of God] is within you.” (Luke 17:21) St. Paul would add, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

God’s desire is not to reside in a Temple of bricks and mortar, but in the temple of our hearts.

Beverly who is an oncology nurse in Gilroy, California, says to her patients as she begins an IV, “Let’s pray that this IV will be painless.” At some point she will ask her patients if she can pray with them. They always say okay. At a time when medical care can become quite impersonal, Beverly says, “We get very close to many of our patients. I went to Pat’s house to help her out before she died. We’ll go to the hospital and pray with patients, even in a coma. People tell me, ‘You shouldn’t get so close to your patients,’ but I tell them that ‘this is my God job.’”

Beverly is bringing God’s presence to the patients that come to her clinic. She cares for them; she intercedes for them; as a Gospel singer and concert violinist, she sings and plays for them – she loves them just as Jesus would love them if he were physically present. He is present to them through Beverly. Read more in Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, p. 37, www.zacchaeuspublications.com.

When we open the gates of our heart to his presence, God shares his own Holy Spirit with us. The Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and empower us to do the same things that Jesus did and even greater things. God’s love becomes our love, his strength becomes our strength and his word becomes our word – all for the purpose of bringing about his Kingdom through us to the people and circumstances of our lives.

Lift up the gates of my heart, O Lord that the love and mercy of your presence may be manifest to all whom you place in my path – my wife and family, friends, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, customers, suppliers and strangers.

Amazing!

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The High Cost of Lies

It takes a lot of effort to support a lie. Can you remember a time when a little “white lie” led to another lie and then another?

The chief priests and elders of Jesus’ day did not know how to deal with an empty tomb and the possibility that Jesus, whom they crucified, was raised from the dead. Most everything that Jesus said and did was outside their paradigm for a Messiah. His resurrection was untenable to them. So, they devised a lie and paid those who were guarding his tomb a large sum of money to testify to the lie.

Matthew reports, “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. So the soldiers took the money and did as they were told.’” (Mt. 28:12-13, 15)

Providing cover for a lie can get complicated, taking time, creating anxiety and exacting an emotional toll. How often have we seen a public figure pay a high price for living a lie, sometimes costing them their marriage, family, career and, like the chief priests, even hush money?

In Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, www.zacchaeuspublications.com), there is the story of Pat who had struggled to get a job after completing her master’s degree. She obtained temporary work at a small university to write a report about the effectiveness of a federal grant for a media center to improve teaching methods. When her report included survey data about the lack of use of the media center by the faculty, she was asked by the department chair to alter the data so that he and the university would not look bad. He implied that a permanent job would be in the offering if she acceded to his request, but probably not if she refused. Pat refused to go along with the lie. The job was not offered. But Pat’s conscience was clear, and her response helped her get a better job elsewhere several months later.

Truth is less complicated than a lie. It is liberating. It is cleansing. The lack of truth is an obstacle to the Holy Spirit acting in our lives, while its presence testifies to the power of God. Truth is the pearl “of great value.” (Mt. 13:46) Paul says love rejoices in the truth. (1 Cor.13:6)

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) “If you hold to my teaching…then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

How much do we value the truth? How much is a lie costing us? Let us pray for the courage not to exchange the truth of God for a lie. (Romans 1:25)

Do You See the Risen Jesus?

Jesus was dead. They saw him die, and they saw the tomb where he was buried. The trauma was indelibly printed on their minds and would not be easily removed.

Now he was appearing before them, but they did not recognize him. Mary Magdalene did not recognize him until he said her name, “Mary.” The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize him though he walked with them until nearly dark. Only at the breaking of the bread as they began to eat were their eyes opened.

To overcome the trauma of seeing Jesus’ torturous death they needed proof to confirm what their eyes were now seeing. After offering them his peace, Jesus “showed them his hands and side.” (John 20:20) Later he eats fish to show that he is not just spirit but also flesh. (Luke 24:42-43) On another occasion, he confirms his presence with a miracle catch of 153 fish. (John 21)

Overcoming our paradigm of death and its irreversible nature is no small matter. It was true for the disciples and it is true for us. Yet, that is exactly the hope that God offers on Easter morning in the person of his son, Jesus. God became one of us to show that life does not end with our physical death. Who we are has less to do with our physical nature than with our soul and spirit, which are a created by God and mysteriously joined with our physical nature at conception.

Jesus bequeathed to both the disciples and us something to take the place of his physical presence – the Holy Spirit, which he described as giving us the power to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit enables the words of Jesus to become a reality in our lives — he is in us and we in him just as the Father is in him and he is in the Father. He says the result is that, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:12-13)

With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience Jesus’ personal presence in our daily lives. For me, it first happened on an October evening many years ago when I met him in a personal way and he took the sin and disorder from my life. We now meet for coffee and prayer every morning. I also see him every day in the big bright smile of our daughter with Down syndrome whose many hugs reflect her natural inclination to love.

I see him in the love of my wife and all or our children and grandchildren as they respond to his love for them. I see him in the inmates of the local jail who accept the humility of their present circumstance and seek the sacrament of reconciliation. I see him in the teenagers and college students we know who postpone career decisions to serve him on college campuses and impoverished areas.

Where do you see the risen Jesus?