Monthly Archives: November 2020

God’s Breath

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16 NIV)

All scripture in the Bible is from God, confirmed by his son, Jesus Christ, and validated over time by the Church fathers.  Scripture instructs us about life, existence, purpose, truth and all that is important. 

For many years I have made scripture a part of my daily prayer time with the Lord at the start of the day.  After experiencing a renewal of the Holy Spirit in my life more than forty years ago, I had an intense desire to read the Bible.  I started to read it from cover to cover as I commuted on the trains in and out of New York City each day.  As with many people who have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the words seemed to leap off the page with meaning.

Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms, spends its entire length extolling all that God’s word is and does for us. 

  • “Your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors.” (v. 24)
  • “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” (v.105)
  • “Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” (v. 111)
  • “Through all generations your truth endures.” (v. 90)
  • “Lovers of your teaching have much peace.” (v. 165)

Proverbs says “Every word of God is flawless.” (James 30:5)   James exhorts us, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (James 1:22) The Gospel of John tells us that God’s word became flesh in the person of Jesus “and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)  

God’s promise is indeed to dwell in us if we invite him in.  “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)  Imagine that!  The God and creator of all that exists and his son want to make their dwelling in us!  It’s all in the Good Book.  Wherever we may be with God’s word, God says, Go deeper!

Jesus says he is standing outside the door of our hearts knocking, waiting for us to open the door. (Rev. 3:20)

Want to know more about Jesus?  Read scripture and you will learn who he is.  Invite him into your heart, and you will come to know him personally.

Our Desire for Recognition

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt. 23:12)

In spite of Jesus’ admonition, many of us struggle with the desire to be recognized and honored.  While I may try to be humble, there is an unspoken desire in me for recognition that has been a weakness in my character for a good part of my life.

This can manifest itself in various ways — being disappointed when we don’t receive compliments, experiencing jealousy over another’s success, allowing ambition to crowd out other priorities in our lives. There was a time early in my career when I allowed the desire to move up the corporate ladder to short change other responsibilities in my life.  Fortunately, the Lord opened my eyes to this reality and gave me the grace to bring better balance to both family and work. 

Still, I quietly desire recognition for things I do.  St. Gregory of Nyssa said we should “openly despise the accolades of the world and reject all earthly glory.” He suggested seeking God’s will instead of our own as a true act of humility and self-denial.   

St. Paul has one of the best statements about seeking recognition.  He says, “Do nothing out of selfishness or vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”  He then goes on to make one of the more eloquent statements in all of scripture when he declares that our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.”  (Philippians 2:3, 6)

If Jesus, the Son of God, did not seek recognition for who he was, why should we? Confident in his relationship with the Father, he was content with the family who raised him, with his likely carpenter apprenticeship to his earthly father and the evolving revelation by his heavenly Father to teach, to witness and eventually to sacrifice his life in a tortuous death for the rest of us.

St. Peter in his first letter encourages us to “clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.’  So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6) 

A priest once told me that the recognition we receive from God in being loved and accepted by him is all the recognition we need. 

Do you seek recognition in the world’s eyes, or is being loved and accepted by God sufficient for you?  

Where Do You Look for Purpose?

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5

When Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body after his crucifixion, they encountered two men described by Luke as angels who asked the above question.  

To their astonishment, these men told them that Jesus was alive!  He was not dead, though he had been put to death on the cross.  How incredulous the whole scene must have appeared to them.  Two days earlier, they saw Jesus die and taken down from the cross.  They saw his dead body embraced by his mother as she wept.  They saw his body placed in the tomb.   How could he be alive?

Our God is the author and creator of life.  He is not bound by our perceptions. 

How often do we look for the living among the dead?  How often do we search for Jesus where he is not present?   How often do we look for real meaning, purpose or happiness in life where they are not to be found – in that next job, promotion or the ever-changing notion of success; in a particular friend, group of friends or organization; in a sports team, sports hero or celebrity entertainer; in that new house, boat or car; in breaking 80 in golf, achieving a perfect 300 game in bowling or completing a full marathon in record time; in food, alcohol, drugs or other unique experience?

I know a friend who was looking for meaning and purpose in life and tried all kinds of things, even traveling to the Himalayas in India, searching for the “Living Master.”  He did not find him.  Only later, after attending a weekend retreat in his hometown conducted by a Christian outreach to the business community, did he find the true living master, Jesus, the Messiah. 

This friend found that Jesus had been waiting for him all along. “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) 

Jesus became alive and present to my friend, providing the meaning and purpose he had long sought.  Ever since, he has been operating a construction business, bringing God’s presence to his employees, customers and community in how he relates to others, does business with integrity and seeks excellence in all that he does.

Where do you look for purpose in life?  Is it Jesus?  He is present to you this very moment. 

Enlarging Your Tent

“Enlarge the space for your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly; lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes.” (Isaiah 54:2)

The Prophet Isaiah is suggesting that we should enlarge the tents of our lives and work.  Whether as individuals or as a group, we tend to get comfortable with familiar people, familiar friends, familiar routines, familiar work, and even familiar forms of outreach.  Isaiah encourages us not to fall into the bed of comfort and familiarity, but rather to move the walls of our tents to include people who are not a part of our normal social patterns, people who may not necessarily share our background, beliefs, and values.

I have been involved in various forms of Christian ministry for a good part of my adult life.  Much of it has been peer related – young people when I was young; business people when I was in business; people who were part of my social patterns at the time. 

A few years ago I started volunteering in a local jail ministry.  It challenged me.  I was not comfortable and felt like I was out of my element.  While this ministry is currently suspended during the COVID pandemic, I believe God wants me to continue when it resumes.   God calls us to faithfulness, often without the benefit of a report card or feedback.  It is our presence and love that he wants regardless of what we perceive the outcome to be.

Enlarging our tents can also include how we relate to one another — family, friends and strangers.  Pope Francis has encouraged us to engage in “little gestures” of love.  He cited examples for the family. “They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.  Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early breakfast awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work…a blessing before we go to bed.”  “Love is shown by little things,” says Francis. 

In an Alpha outreach program at our local parish, when we pray with people to experience more of the Holy Spirit in their lives, we often hear about their desire to love more.  Loving more starts with “little gestures” of love.  As the King said in the Parable of the Talents, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.”  (Mt. 25:21)  

Loving more starts with the little things every day.  As loving in the little things becomes a habit, God increases our capacity to love and sacrifice in the larger things.  A habit of love in the little things will open the door to people familiar and unfamiliar, and enlarge our tents.

How can you enlarge your tent to love in the little things?