Monthly Archives: February 2016

“Listen to Him!”

How do you listen to God?

After describing the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah speaking to him in the presence of Peter, James and John, Luke’s Gospel reports that a cloud covered them and a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my Son whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35)

It appears that God was directing his remarks to the three apostles.  Peter was focusing on his delight of being present to witness the miraculous appearance of Moses and Elijah.  He makes kind of a silly offer to make shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah as if they were going to continue to hang around physically after having completed their mission to speak to Jesus.

In almost the form of a rebuke, God lets Peter and the others know that their friend, Jesus of Nazareth, is God’s very own son whom he has chosen.  He emphatically commands them to listen to his Son.

This is a command that is applicable not only to the apostles who spent three years with Jesus, but also their successors and followers, including us.  Do we listen to Jesus?  How do we listen?

There are multiple ways in which Jesus can speak to us.  He can do so directly by putting thoughts in our minds through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  He can speak to us through our reading of scripture and other spiritual writings.  He can speak to us through others.

Let me share a recent experience.  In the middle of the night about a week ago, I awoke and could not go back to sleep.  As I tossed and turned, a good friend of mine kept coming to mind.  At first I just dismissed it as a random thought in my quest to go back to sleep.  But thoughts and a picture of him in my mind kept persisting.  I wasn’t going to sleep and the thoughts of him were not going away.  I started to wonder if something was wrong for him.  Was he experiencing some health issues?  Was he in physical danger?

I was prompted to start praying for him – if it was a health issue or if he had an accident, I prayed that God would protect him from serious illness or injury and get him the medical care he needed.

The next day I was shocked to receive an e-mail that my friend, who was on a mission trip repairing houses, fell from a ladder that very morning, incurring a concussion and seven cracked ribs.  The timing was beyond coincidence.  Fortunately, a co-worker was present who arranged for immediate emergency transportation to the hospital.  He is now on the road to recovery. 

I can only conclude that the Holy Spirit was bringing my friend to mind and prompting me to intercede on his behalf before the accident even occurred.  I thank God for his grace and mercy, and for the Holy Spirit that led me to listen.

Battling Temptation

How do you fight temptation?  The Gospel of Luke reports that Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  (Luke 4:1-2)

If Jesus, who shared our humanity, needed the Holy Spirit to resist the temptations of the devil, how much more do we?  Certainly, our fallen humanity makes us subject to all kinds of temptations.  The list is lengthy.  St. Paul says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Other sins are more subtle, such as checking our faith at the door of our workplace, not taking time to listen to someone who is hurting or failing to be kind and respectful in our relationships.  These sins of omission can be just as destructive to others and us as the more obvious sins of commission.

There was a time in my life when I let my work and career take precedence over my wife and family, but fortunately I was invited by a priest and a group of nuns to be prayed with for the release of the power of the Holy Spirit.  Experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit in a more personal and real way opened my eyes to both the sins of omission and commission.  The Spirit gave me an entirely new perspective in how God was calling me to love and serve him through my family, work and ministry.

Experiencing the fullness and presence of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to resisting the devil’s many temptations. 

We all have different propensities to sin, but Jesus came to forgive and free us from our sins through the power of the Holy Spirit. I can personally testify that Jesus can set you free of a nagging, persistent sin.  Ask Jesus with all your heart to take a sin from you, and he will do so!   

Last week I received word that one of the nuns who had prayed with me years ago had died on Christmas Eve.  Her name was Sister Pauline Cinquini of the Sisters of Charity, part of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton House of Prayer in Scarsdale, New York.  She was truly a woman of God, using her gifts of love, teaching and music to bring the renewal of the Holy Spirit to countless people for more than forty years.

I will never forget her reassuring words of God’s love and forgiveness on an October evening years ago that, together with the power of the Holy Spirit, changed the course of my life forever.   I know she is in the presence of the Father, and as Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:9, we have not heard, seen or conceived what God has prepared for her.

By Jesus’ example in the desert, let us fervently seek the Holy Spirit in order to resist the temptations of the devil.  

 

 

Unique in Birth and Purpose

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“You were an idea in God’s mind before you were born,” my wife overheard our 5 year-old granddaughter, Rosie telling Ellie, her younger sister.  Ellie had asked where she was at a time before she was born.  This may have been an idea Rosie had heard from her mother, but it is nonetheless a profound truth confirmed by God’s Word.

The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)  The psalmist says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  (Psalm 139:13-14)

These words spoken to Jeremiah can also apply to us.  We are not a product of chance.  We are not the result of some random accident of an evolutionary process.  The most important part of our nature – our soul and spirit – was created by God and known by him before our physical nature was born.  St. Paul says God “chose us in him before the creation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4)  We are “precious in the sight of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:15)

God loves us even before we come into being.  Like a parent’s love for a new baby, he loves us before any of our achievements or failures become evident.   When our first daughter was born, I was so full of joy and love that I went directly from the hospital to our church, knelt before the altar and thanked God for this new person who was precious in my sight.  I experienced the same level of love for each of our other four children.

Not only does God consider each of us unique, he has a unique purpose for each of us that is distinctly tailored to match the gifts and nature of our being.   This purpose includes loving and caring for the people in our lives that we are uniquely suited to love and care for.  I believe that God intended for my wife and me to come together and love and care for one another.  When we may have appeared to be going different ways, he implanted a course correction in our hearts to fulfill his purpose for each of us.  He intentionally gave us specific children and now a larger family to love and care for that has always been a part of his purpose for us.

God’s unique purpose for each of us also includes our work which we are distinctly equipped to do. When I graduated from college, I began to work in the marketing department for an international oil company, but that is not where God equipped me to be.  Through another course correction he put in my heart the desire to go back to school and study law, and he gave me a work especially designed for me that served others and thus, him.

Whatever our work, if it is where God wants us to be, it is important to him.  It is like a thread in the larger fabric of civilization.  Regardless of how small the thread, pull it out, and the fabric is weakened.  (See Lester DeKoster, Work – The Meaning of Your Life)

While our pride and sin can frustrate God’s purpose for us, we can take confidence in Paul’s words, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)