Monthly Archives: June 2016

Belief in More than Ourselves

What are the reasons for your belief or unbelief in God?

On a recent cruise vacation, my wife and I visited the Island of Gozo, part of Malta, where we toured the Ggantija Temples dating back to 3600 BC.  This makes them older than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge in England.  Eighteen hundred years before Abraham, these ancient ruins reveal the human heart attempting to acknowledge a cause, force, or person larger than itself to explain our existence.

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God created us with a desire to seek him.  It is part of our DNA.  Intuitively, we know that there is something more than ourselves to explain all that we observe in the world in which we live.

The Book of Hebrews captures well what has happened and God’s intention.  “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb1:1-3)

God demonstrated his great love for us by becoming one of us in the person of Jesus, in order to bring his presence into the world in a very visible way at a specific time in history.  Jesus demonstrated his great love for us by sacrificing his life to free us from the grip of sin and Satan’s power over the world.  By the resurrection of Jesus, God confirmed the saving nature and power of that sacrifice.  

In contrast to the people of the ancient world, we are blessed to have the benefit of God’s revelation through the prophets, scripture, the words of Jesus and the teaching of the Church over many centuries.

God’s plan for creation is to dwell in us, his human creatures, through his son, Jesus Christ, so that we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, can partner with God in bringing his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives. 

God never stops reaching out to us.   Like the Father of the prodigal son, he is always waiting to receive us. (Luke 15:11-32)  Even when we have turned away from him, he is still seeking us.  Like the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one lost sheep, God never stops loving us. (Luke 15:1-11)

We are incomplete without God in our life.  No matter the knowledge we have gained, the success we have achieved, the fame we have experienced, the wealth we have accumulated, the friends we have made, we are not complete and will not be satisfied until we ask the God of all creation to dwell in us.

Forgive me, Lord, for my sins and excluding you from the core of my life.  Come, dwell in my heart.  

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Is. 55:6)

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Action — the Fruit of Faith

Do your actions attest to your faith?

When I worked in the legal department of a large international oil company we had an administrative assistant who was quite vocal about her Christian faith.  Her conversation was filled with references to her Christian beliefs and opinions on a variety of subjects.

Her job performance in providing administrative assistance to three attorneys, however, fell short of the expectations for her position.  It fell to me to counsel her about her performance.  I will never forget her response when I pointed out that her work in serving the three attorneys assigned to her was not meeting the requirements for her job.  Indignantly, she declared, “I don’t serve anyone but God!

St. Anthony of Padua said, “Let your words teach and your actions speak.  We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore, are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit, but only leaves.”  

Bearing fruit in our lives is important to Jesus.  He said, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)  What kind of fruit?  St. Paul sets out in Galatians 5:22-23 what he describes as the fruit of the spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”   I believe that faithfulness also includes seeking to do our best.

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus is very harsh with the servant who buried the talent he had been given instead of investing and multiplying it — a lack of action.  In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus condemns the people who did not provide food, drink, shelter, medical care and their time to individuals in need – a lack of action.

We have all heard the line, “actions speak louder than words.”  This is particularly true when it comes to faith and love.  Faith and love are not real until confirmed by our actions.  When Jesus told someone that his or her faith had healed them, it was usually preceded by some affirmative action of the person exhibiting their faith.  (The woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, saying, “If only I can touch his cloak.” [Mt. 9:22])

This is not about whether salvation comes from faith or works.  This is about whether our actions make our faith and love real.

Scripture tells us that God is love.  Being omnipotent, God can of course exhibit that love through consolation in prayer or in any number of ways.  Oftentimes, his way is to use us in bringing that love to others.

Does God Dwell in You?

In Galatians 2:20, St. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”   Do we as Christians really believe that Christ lives in us, and more importantly, do we live our lives as if God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is present in us?

Imagine if Jesus were physically at your side 24/7.  Would his presence not have an impact on what you say, do, and how you react to the people and circumstances in your life?  One of the great benefits would be that in every kind of circumstance you could ask, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?”  

Think of having the Lord’s ever-present counsel in how to respond to a difficult colleague at work, a child in need of discipline, a friend who needs someone to talk to, the morality of a certain business practice, the need to reconcile with someone you have offended, and all the myriad of life’s daily challenges.

This is exactly what God offers us when he says, “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)  Eating together is a sign of being together and sharing life.   John’s Gospel affirms this reality when Jesus says that he will not leave us as orphans, but will live in us and that he and the Father will make their home in us. (John 14:15-24)

Three times, St Paul speaks of this in terms of our being “the temple of the living God” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you.” (2 Co. 6:16, 19; 1 Co. 3:16)  In other words, we are the place where God dwells.

God’s plan for his creation is to dwell in us through his son, Jesus Christ, so that we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, can partner with God in bringing his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives.

Yesterday we were at a Christian gathering where several teenagers were being sent on a mission trip for a couple of weeks.  One of them was our grandson, Max.  As people gathered to pray with them, I found myself at the back of the crowd.  I asked the Lord if I should push my way through the crowd so I could put my hand on Max’s shoulder, and I thought the Lord said yes.  I pushed my way through the crowd so I was standing directly behind Max and put a firm hand on his shoulder.  As the prayers were concluded, Max turned around to see whose hand was on his shoulder and saw that it was me, his grandfather.  With big smiles, we gave each other a big bear hug — a small thing, perhaps, but hopefully an encouragement to Max.

God, who dwells in us, wants us to come to him with all our decisions, small and large.  Like all endeavors, practice makes it better.  Our goal should be to make it a habit.  Jesus says, “I am with you always.”  Paul says, “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations…is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:26-27)

Thorns of Busyness*

Does busyness choke out your relationship with God – spending time with him in prayer, reading scripture and seeking his will in your lives? 

In explaining one aspect of the of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says, “Still others, like seed sown among the thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word and make it unfruitful.”  (Mark 4:18)

There are many kinds of thorns – worries, ambition, wealth, recognition, position, possessions and busyness, to name a few.  The Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, but he did not let the pain of them deter him from his mission.

Busyness, as much any other circumstance, makes the word in many of us unfruitful.  We rush to get dressed in the morning and have our breakfast before we rush to work.  At work, there is often more to do than the time available, so we rush from one task to another.  After work, we rush to take our kids to practice or a sporting event.  We then rush home for dinner because we have a meeting after dinner at church, school or some other place, or we need to help the children with their homework, or we have a brief case full of work.  Even when we are not in fact being rushed, we have a sense of being rushed.

All of this rushing crowds out God.  Intimacy with him is sacrificed.  The noise of busyness keeps us from hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit and understanding the Spirit’s call each day.  Notice that Jesus says the outcome is that the word in us becomes unfruitful.  The rich guidance of the word goes unused.  Jesus’ desire for us is just the opposite – “I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)

Life will always have its demands.  Do we let these demands choke out God’s word and presence in us, or do we invite him to join us in their midst?  I used to pray a lot in hallways and elevators as I went from one meeting to another, acknowledging God’s presence and asking him to go before me.  There seemed to be more fruit when I did and less when I didn’t.

God’s presence is available to us in the midst of our busyness.  Offer up your schedule to him at the beginning of each day.  Remember his words, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)

*Reposted from July, 2014