Monthly Archives: July 2018

Small Steps toward God

Sometime after Pentecost, Peter and John were going into the temple and a man crippled since birth asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him and said, “Look at us!”  So the man, expecting to get something from them, gave them his attention.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. (Acts 3:1-10)

Before the man could be healed he had to look at the presence of God in the person of Peter.  He had to be willing to look God’s way before God could act in his life.  It may have been a first step for him, a small step, in moving toward God, but it was a small step that led to him leaping for joy in praise of God.

God in his love, mercy and generosity, will take the smallest movement from us toward him and act on it.  Having been a cripple since birth, this man had probably been begging for many years at the temple gates.  He was likely ignored by most people passing by.  For the few that dropped a coin in his cup, even they may have gone on without acknowledging him.

So here was Peter, who did something hardly anyone ever did.  He stopped, gave the man his full attention, talked to him and offered him God’s presence and healing.

There is a lesson here for people on both ends of this spectrum.  To followers of Christ Jesus, we have the capacity to bring the presence of God through the power of the Holy Spirit to the people and circumstances in our lives.  To those who are lame, in need and impoverished in spirit, the smallest response on their part toward God begets a response from God. 

Once or twice a month I take communion to the residents of a local nursing home.  Sometimes residents afflicted with Alzheimer’s are not able to physically receive the Body of Christ in the host, so I offer to say the Lord’s Prayer with them.  That happened this past Sunday with a gentleman, and while he could not receive communion, as soon as I started to say the Lord’s Prayer with him, he began to try to say it with me.

A small step for both him and me, but one where God was fully present! 

Advertisements

Maintaining the “Wow” of God

the-creation-of-adamIn the midst of the cares of daily life, how do we retain the fervor of our faith in God? 

If you ask someone how they are doing, they will likely tell you how busy they are.  And it’s true.  Most of us are on the go all of the time.  Both parents working demanding jobs, getting kids off to school, attending children sporting events, preparing meals, volunteering for various activities – all contribute to a feverish pace that can crowd out our focus on God’s place in our lives.  Information technology now makes us available 24/7 to bosses, customers, family and friends.

While we may believe that our modern life has become more hectic than prior ages, the erosion of our focus on God is a condition Christians have faced from the very beginning.  In the Book of Revelation we read of Jesus criticizing the Church of Ephesus for forsaking their first love of God.  He chides them for how far they have fallen and tells them to “repent and do the things you did at first.”  (Rev. 2:5)

To the Church of Laodicea, he says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  Because you are lukewarm…I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16)

My wife and I were blessed to have reconversion experiences during the height of the Catholic charismatic renewal in the 1970’s.  These were exciting spiritual times for millions of Christians who were experiencing the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives in the U. S. and around the world.  There was a certain “wow factor” that seemed to pervade everything.

God seemed so present to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Prayers at mass took on new life.  Words seemed to leap off the page of scripture with new insight and meaning.  We looked for ways to join with others who had similar experiences of renewal, and engage in ministries of outreach to share Jesus’ good news with others.  We would pray with anyone for any need at any time.

Recently, I got out the Bible I had begun reading back then and was surprised at all the handwritten notes I had made in the margins recording various insights at the time.  I also found a couple of letters from two of our daughters that I had stashed away.  Each of them had commented on the impact they saw that the Lord was having on their mother and me and our family.

Forty years later, I wonder if my zeal and enthusiasm has waned a bit. Yet, I know that God has not changed. Nor has the need changed for us to be his presence in the world today to the people and circumstances in our lives. 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God.” (Psalm 139:14, 17)

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

WOW!

Acknowledging Jesus before Others

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” (Mt.10: 32)

After experiencing a new relationship with Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, I was eager to share about my experience with others.  One of the first persons I shared with was Pete, a colleague who I had worked closely with earlier in our respective careers for a large international oil company.  He seemed quite open to hearing about my experience and its impact on my life.

A few weeks later I was at a company reception and met the executive who headed up our operating division.  I was wearing a dove in my lapel which he noticed, and in his gruff New York accent, asked “What’s the bird?”  Feeling a bit intimidated, I said, “It’s a dove.” I then went on hesitantly to explain that to some people it means peace and to others it stands for the Holy Spirit.  He shot back, “What’s it mean to you?”  I said the Holy Spirit, and he said, “Oh,” and walked off.

I thought, “Well, I didn’t handle that very well.”  I was upset with myself for muffing an opportunity to talk about the Lord with one of our senior people.

A week later I was having lunch with Pete.  He was now on the staff of this executive and when he asked Pete why I was wearing a dove lapel pin, Pete shared my entire experience of meeting Jesus in a new and personal way and how it had impacted my life.

Because of Pete’s relationship with this person he was able to share my testimony in a way that I would never have been able to do myself.  This person later became the CEO of the company.

Jesus was rather emphatic with the importance he placed on us bringing his life, truth and presence to the people and circumstances in our lives.  He warned, “But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 10:33)

When is it appropriate to share our faith and testimony with others?

It is noteworthy that when Jesus sent out the twelve and the seventy-two, he instructed them not to go from house to house, but stay in one place, build relationships and serve the people by healing their illnesses and casting out demons.  Only after they had done those things were they to proclaim the gospel and that the kingdom of God was at hand. (Luke 10: 1-24)

This guidance is appropriate for us as well.  While God is able to act in any circumstance, we represent him best when we develop a relationship and seek to serve the needs of the person before we start sharing our own experience with the Lord.  Words have more credibility when preceded by friendship and service.  Missionaries have been following this practice for centuries.

Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” (Mt. 10:16)

Seeking God’s Will in Moral Choices

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2)

Pat had just completed her master’s degree in Instructional Design and was having difficulty finding work in her field.  Finally she was hired to complete the last six months of work on a three year federal grant at a small college.  The purpose of the grant was to build a media center in the college’s Agricultural Department to create more engaging learning methods using the media center facilities.

Part of Pat’s work was to conduct surveys on the effectiveness of the grant and then write an evaluation which would be sent to the federal agency supplying the grant.  When Pat presented her report to the department chair, he asked her to remove certain negative findings coming out of the surveys relating to the faculty’s lack of use of the media center.

The department chair did not want the college – or himself — to look bad, which led to his request to revise the report.  Pat says, “When I balked at signing a revised report, the department chair reminded me they were seriously considering offering me a permanent position after the grant ended.  He implied if I went along with the request, I could continue to work for the university.  He also implied that my lack of cooperation would make the post-grant job disappear.”

Pat refused to sign the revised report.  The department chair relented and forwarded the report to the federal government as Pat had written it.  But as he had indicated, the subsequent job never materialized.

In seeking God’s will on her choice, Pat reflected, “This was my first professional work after receiving my degree.  If I started my career this way, how could it not have an impact on how I conducted myself later on?”

Pope Francis in his recent book, Our Father, says, “God does not conceal his will; he makes it known to those who seek it.  He does not force those who are not interested in his will, but he is waiting for them.  He is always waiting.”

Referring to the story of Adam’s fall in Genesis, Pope Francis says there are always two symptoms to saying no to God’s will – fear and accusing others for our mistakes.  As soon as Adam ate the fruit from the tree of good and evil, he became fearful and hid himself from God.  When God confronted him with having eaten the forbidden fruit, he sought to blame Eve for his failing.

In Pat’s story she could have acceded to the department chair’s request to eliminate the negative findings in her report out of fear of losing the opportunity for continued employment.  She could have also blamed her choice on the coercive actions of the department chair.

Pat chose to do neither, but instead sought God’s will in making the right moral choice.