Monthly Archives: May 2015

How Do We Experience Christ’s Presence in Us?

Do you experience Christ’s presence acting in you through the power of the Holy Spirit? While we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, many of us do not experience the reality of Christ present and alive in us as he promised. Why is this?

Personal Story

I lived my life for many years in a way that buried Christ’s presence in me rather than allow that presence to be manifested. I believed in God, attended Mass regularly and participated in the sacraments. Yet my Christian faith had become secondary to other so-called priorities, namely my career. I didn’t recognize God’s presence in my life, and no one else did either.

Because I had compartmentalized my life, the blessings of Christ’s truth, compassion and healing power were not available to the area of my life that needed them most – my work life. I put Jesus in a box and separated my professional life from the reality of Christ’s presence in me.

That all changed one evening when I met Jesus in a new and personal way in a parish Life in the Spirit program, and some people prayed with me for the release of the power of the Holy Spirit. Before that evening, the words of Jesus in John 14:23 that he and the Father wanted to dwell in me were just words. After that evening, they became real. I began to experience the presence of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a new and deeper way. I stopped burying the Christ that was in me!

Pentecost

This past weekend we celebrated Pentecost Sunday commemorating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit by God on the apostles and earlier followers of Christ after his ascension. Jesus had instructed the disciples, “wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-5, 8)

The same Holy Spirit that Jesus said would empower the disciples to be his witnesses throughout the earth is waiting to be released in you and me to renew our faith, to draw us into a closer relationship with the Father, and to build God’s kingdom in the circumstances of our lives.

You

Anyone can experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit just by asking for it. (Luke11:11-13) It is Jesus’ legacy to us – his means to give us his ears, his eyes, his mind and his heart. (John 14:16, 26)

I would love to hear from you about how you have experienced the Holy Spirit and God’s presence in your life.

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Can We Possess God?

On the day of his resurrection when Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, he told her, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.” (John 20:17) Notice the possessive form of the personal pronoun, “your.”

Jesus was declaring that the God of all creation, who is responsible for bringing into existence all that is, was not just his God and Father, but our God and Father as well. This God and Father, though creator of the universe, is personal and allows himself to be possessed by us – an extreme act of humility! His becoming one of us in the person of Jesus was also an extreme act of humility. Submitting his human life to torture and death for our sake was an extreme act of love!

Jesus tells us that we can possess this extremely humble and loving God if we open the door to our hearts and accept his offer to dwell in us. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20) If anyone will love Jesus and obey his teaching, he says, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23) Think of it – Jesus and the Father taking up residence in us through the power of the Holy Spirit!

Story: For several years Joe operated his dry cleaning business without much thought or concern for his customers or employees. As Joe observed, “I used to lie to my employees and they would steal from me.” His home life wasn’t much better. “I wasn’t really there for my wife and kids.

One day one of Joe’s customers invited him to a breakfast meeting of Christians in Commerce. “At first I felt strange,” Joe said, “but I was moved by what I saw in the men who attended. They were so genuine and supportive of each other and so free to praise God. Through these men, I realized that God was calling me to change.” At a subsequent weekend retreat, Joe said, “I experienced true forgiveness and acceptance, along with a great release of guilt.”

“The Lord has blessed me so much since then,” Joe continues. “He gave me a desire to love and serve my customers and to train and spend time with my employees. My customers say, ‘You’ve changed!’ Through a survey by the Southwest Dry Cleaners Association, my business was rated number one in customer service.

“One of the greatest blessings is my new relationship with my wife and kids. I am home every night now. My wife and I play games with our kids and spend a lot of time with each other. There is a new love in our family,” says Joe. (From Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You)

Joe opened his heart to Jesus Christ and now the God of all creation is Joe’s God and Father.

Would you like the God of all creation to be your God and Father?

Why Forgive?

Story: Author Phillip Yancy in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, relates a story about an IRA bomb that was exploded in 1987 in a small town west of Belfast in which eleven people died and sixty-three others were wounded. One of those killed was Marie Wilson, the twenty-one year old daughter of Gordon Wilson. Both were buried under five feet of concrete and brick. Marie’s last words as she was grasping her father’s hand were, “Daddy, I love you very much.”

What got more publicity than the bombing itself was Gordon Wilson’s subsequent words of forgiveness. Speaking from his hospital bed, Wilson said, “I have lost my daughter, but I bear no grudge. Bitter talk is not going to bring Marie Wilson back to life. I shall pray, tonight and every night, that God will forgive them.”

After recovering, Wilson led a crusade for Protestant-Catholic reconciliation. He met with the IRA, personally forgave them, and asked that they lay down their arms. “When he died in 1995, the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and all of Great Britain honored this ordinary Christian citizen for his uncommon spirit of grace and forgiveness,” Yancy reported.

Jesus’ Words: In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to ask God to forgive our sins as we forgive others. As further emphasis, he goes on to say, “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15) When Peter asks how many times we should forgive, Jesus says not seven times, but seventy-seven times. He then shares the parable of the unmerciful servant who after having his debt forgiven by his master did not do the same with a fellow servant. Finally, we have Jesus’ unforgettable words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Getting Even: Without God’s grace, our nature is not to forgive. We seek revenge for wrongs committed against us, “an eye for an eye.” But unforgiveness is like a cancer. It gives rise to anger and resentment, robbing us of our peace and affecting us as negatively as the original wrong that was committed against us. This effect applies to groups, tribes and nations as well as individuals, and has led to an ever ending cycle of violence throughout human history.

Another Story: Many years ago a friend and I joined the music group playing our guitars for a Saturday evening mass at our parish. After a couple of months we were abruptly asked to leave without any explanation. We were naturally angered by this summary dismissal. We brooded for several months. At a Christmas Eve mass during the sign of peace, I walked over to the music group and offered the sign of peace to the leader, which led to an embrace. The leader and I have been close friends ever since. My friend continued to brood. That was 40 years ago.

Are you brooding over a past hurt or wrong that God wants you to forgive?

Tending Sheep, Employees, Family and Friends

Am I a good shepherd of the people and responsibilities entrusted to me?

Jesus says that he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. (John 10:11) Most of us have never been around sheep, nor would we think of ourselves as shepherds. We may view the analogy appropriate for pastors or bishops, but not for ourselves. Yet, many of us are responsible for people or work just as a shepherd is of sheep. The people may be our families, employees who work for us, customers who we are expected to serve, or even friends who may have an expectation of support. The work can be our job responsibilities, family responsibilities, or expectations flowing from our volunteer activities. As the good shepherd, Jesus distinguishes himself from the hired hand who abandons the sheep when he sees the wolf coming because he neither owns the sheep nor cares for them. (John 10:12)

Shepherd or hired hand? John was a county prosecutor in Duluth, Minnesota for many years. In one of his early cases he was surprised to discover that a former high school friend, Jim, was the defendant. Over the next 26 years John would prosecute Jim a dozen times for theft related crimes to support a chemical dependency.

For a number of years John thought Jim was just another hopeless habitual criminal. Then John recommitted his life to Jesus Christ and experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The next time he saw Jim in court he told him that he would pray for him. Jim said not to waste his time. In subsequent cases Jim would thank John for his prayers and said that he in turn would pray for John.

Then Jim was again caught with a cache of stolen goods, sentenced to prison, but learned that he was terminally ill with sclerosis of the liver. His lawyer arranged for him to be assigned to a hospice. Jim asked his lawyer to let John know his condition and to request his prayers.

Over the next six months John did more than just pray for Jim. He visited him two to four times a week. They reminisced about growing up in the 1950s and talked about their favorite baseball players. They also read the Bible together. That fall, Jim repented of his sins and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. He died in November. “Jim loved reading and praying the psalms,” said John. “God used Jim to teach me about acceptance of suffering and perseverance, and he showed me that it’s never too late to say yes to the Lord, no matter what we have done.

John concludes, “Because God answers prayers, Jim said, ‘yes’ to Christ before he died, and I know he is in paradise today – just like another thief who died on the cross next to Jesus 2000 years ago.” (Excerpt from Hope for the Workplace, p. 46, www.zacchaeuspublications.com.)

Good Shepherd. John was a good shepherd of his responsibilities as a prosecutor and of even the people he prosecuted. Before every trial, John says, “I pray for the truth to be known, for a just result, and that everyone involved would come to know Christ.” John sacrificed his time in supporting Jim and leading him to Christ before he died. He did not run like a “hired hand” in the face of a challenge as Jesus mentioned. He persevered in going after a lost sheep in the person of his former high school friend Jim. He was faithful until he brought him home to the Father, just like “the good shepherd [who] lays down his life for his sheep.”