Monthly Archives: August 2020

Being Good Shepherds and Stewards

“I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the 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 members of our families or employees who work for us; they may be team members or 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 friendship.

As the good shepherd, Jesus distinguished 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)  Let me illustrate with a story.

John was a county prosecutor in Duluth, Minnesota.  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 bother.

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 or three 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.” (Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, p. 46-47,

John was a good shepherd of his responsibilities as a prosecutor and of even the people he prosecuted such as Jim.  John says, “I pray before every case that truth and justice will prevail regardless of the outcome it brings.”  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. He persevered in going after a lost sheep in the person of his former friend Jim, and was faithful until he brought him home to the Father just like “the good shepherd [who] lays down his life for his sheep.” 

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

Lift Up the Gates of Your Heart

“Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up you ancient portals that the King of glory may enter. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:9-10) 

At the time of Moses, God would make himself present in the Meeting Tent and speak to Moses. (Exodus 33:7-11) Later, the Israelites built a temple for God in Jerusalem where he was present in the Ark of the Covenant.

In the above psalm, the psalmist is 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 “the hour 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 NIV)  St. Paul would add, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and God dwells 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.  Let me illustrate with a story.

Beverly is an oncology nurse and 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 physically present to them through Beverly.

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. (John 14:12) 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 present to all you place in my path – my wife and family, friends, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, customers, suppliers and strangers.

Have you lifted up the gates of your heart to God and his Holy Spirit?

The Stones Will Cry Out

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He said in reply, ‘I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40)

As Jesus was entering Jerusalem prior to his passion, a crowd of his disciples began to praise God joyfully in loud voices for all of the “mighty deeds” they had seen.  Their exuberant and unrestrained praise caused some Pharisees in the crowd to complain to Jesus, and he responds with the above words.

All of creation had been awaiting God’s personal and physical visitation to make things right upon the earth.  That visitation was now taking place in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of David, King of Kings.  Jesus is saying that if those who recognize his visitation and miracles are restrained in their joy and praise, even the stones, inanimate objects of creation, will cry out.

Years later, St. Paul captures this same thought when he says, “For creation waits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.  We know that all creation has been groaning in labor pains” for God to bring his saving presence to the human race. (Romans 8:19, 22)

As current day disciples, are we loud and joyful in our praise of all the good things God has done in our lives, or are we restrained in our cool and sophisticated ways?

On a winter evening in 1977, I was prayed with for the release of the power of the Holy Spirit by some sisters from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton House of Prayer at an evening of renewal program in Briar Cliff Manner, New York.  I experienced a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and my faith was renewed.  It was a mountain top experience.  I remember driving home in a blinding snow storm on the hilly and curvy roads of upper Westchester County, New York.  I could hardly see beyond the hood of my car, but it didn’t matter, for I was brimming with joy and praise of God for his visitation and the changes that he was bringing about in my life.  Even the blizzard, like the Pharisees, could not restrain my joy and praise.

Today, with five older children and thirteen grandchildren, this space is not sufficient for me to acknowledge and praise God for all his works and miracles I have witnessed in my life.   But if you will stay tuned into this blog, I promise that I will share some of the many blessings with you in the weeks ahead.

Do you hold back your praise of God for the blessings and miracles in your life?

Prayer – The Antidote to Temptation

“Why are you sleeping?” Jesus asked. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  (Luke 22:46 NIV)

After Jesus and the disciples retired to the Mount of Olives following their Passover meal, Jesus suggested that they should pray so that they would not to fall into temptation. He then withdrew to pray about his impending passion.  Even he was tempted to ask God to free him from the trial he was about to undergo, but then submitted to God’s will.

Meanwhile, the disciples were not praying as he suggested, but had fallen asleep.  He chastises them for sleeping and not praying.  We know what happened next; they succumbed to the temptation of fear, and all of them scattered, abandoning Jesus at his arrest.

Jesus’ antidote for temptation is not complicated.  It is simply prayer. In his suggested prayer to his disciples and to us, his concluding petition is, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Mt. 6:13)

Jesus invites us to pray just as he did the disciples.  He invites us to begin our day with him and the Father. He knows from his personal experience that we will not be able to withstand the temptations we face each day without prayer.  Yet, how often do we choose a little more sleep instead of prayer at the beginning of our day?

Prayer nurtures our relationship with Jesus and the Father.  The temptations we face are many and varied — telling the boss what he wants to hear instead of the truth; getting angry when things don’t go our way; engaging in negative humor at the expense of others; flirting with a co-worker; overstating an item on an expense account; getting short with our spouse; or not spending time with our children at the end of a busy day.

One of my more frequent temptations is to get impatient with a store clerk or the person on a help desk when their response seems to take too long or is off the mark.  When I don’t pray, my pride’s expectations are often disproportionate to the problem at hand.  When I do pray, I am reminded to be patient and kind.

With each temptation that Satan threw at Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus countered with a scripture that refuted Satan’s premise for the temptation. (Mt. 4:1-11)  Prayer and scripture are weapons Jesus gives us against temptation and the wiles of Satan.  St. Paul describes them as part of the armor of God. (Eph. 6:12-18)  To these, the Church adds the sacraments of reconciliation and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

How do you protect yourself against temptation?