Category Archives: Christian Renewal

“I Am Doing a New Thing”

Do you like to hold on to things of the past?  

While some memories may be pleasant to recall, past hurts and sins can be painful.  Dwelling on them can lead to anger, resentment and self-condemnation.  Isaiah says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

God’s work did not end with his creation.  Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  (John 5:17)  God never stops creating.  He is constantly doing new things.  Through his Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, he loves, forgives, teaches, heals and guides.  He also invites us to join with him in taking care of his creation.  In all of this he is always looking forward, not backward.

Our sin interferes with God’s creation and work, but fortunately God provides a remedy through repentance and forgiveness.  Once we acknowledge our sin and seek to change, God offers forgiveness.  Sometimes even though we have repented of sin and received forgiveness, we have difficulty letting go of our sin.  Since sin often has consequences, sometimes these consequences keep reminding us of our past sin.

While it is natural to regret our past sin and mistakes, once we acknowledge them and are forgiven, it is time for us to move on. That is what God does.  Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that he did not condemn her and that she should go and sin no more. (John 8:11)  While I still have regret for some of my past sins, I have moved on and seek to live the life that God is calling me to live today.

That life includes loving and caring for my wife of 52 years, supporting an adult child with special needs, and being available to love and encourage four other adult children who are raising families of their own.  It includes being a good steward of the time, talents and resources God has made available to me to serve him in family, work and ministry.

In each of these areas, God is always seeking to do something new to further his kingdom on this earth.  As spring approaches, we see God’s constant renewal in nature, with the budding of trees and the popping of daffodils out of the soil.  So to with us, he is always seeking to do something new – providing  new opportunities for us to love, forgive, teach, heal, guide – always looking forward, advancing his creation “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

St. Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (2 Cor. 5:17)  May we embrace God’s desire to do a new thing in us each day.   

The Blessing of Burdens

When are we most likely to experience the closeness of God – in our trials or in our victories?  St. John of the Cross said, “When you are burdened you are close to God.  When you are relieved of your burden you are close to yourself.” (Sayings of Light and Love, No. 4)

In this proverb-like statement, he proclaims a truth that captures our human nature intersecting with the ways of God.  When things are going well for us we tend to focus more on ourselves than God.  Remember the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus.  Only one returned to thank him and praise God. (Luke 17:17-18)

When we are burdened beyond our capabilities or unable to envision the solution to our needs, we are more open to turn to God.  We are more open to acknowledge the humble state of our need.

When our youngest daughter was facing open heart surgery at six months to correct openings between the auricle and ventricle chambers of her heart, some dear Christian friends came to pray over her and us.  After praying with us, one of them said, “God has never been closer to you than right now.”  He was right.  We experienced both God’s presence and his peace.  During a subsequent pre-surgical catheterization, we learned that the most critical opening had been healed, and the surgery on the less serious opening could be postponed until she was four, when she was much stronger and the surgery would be less risky.

The liturgical readings for this past Sunday from Daniel and the Gospel of Mark were about the tribulation of the end times and the signs preceding the second coming of Jesus.  The overall message was that we need not fear these events for we have the hope of the coming of Jesus who will set all things right.

We should have the same hope when faced with various burdens in our lives, for they are opportunities to experience Jesus and his mercy, love, forgiveness, renewal, and restoration.  The burden could be a sin, the alienation of a friend, an illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a personal financial crisis.

Whatever it is, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:28-29) 

This past week, at a Christian ministry for the local jail, I listened to three different men share how the tribulation of their imprisonment had led them to be open to listening to God and his invitation to become a part of their lives through Jesus Christ.  One literally said that he would be dead now if he had not been imprisoned, which caused him to listen to God and come to know Jesus.  

His burden has become his blessing. 

Do We Value the Holy Spirit?

According to St. Paul, when we receive the Holy Spirit we can know the mind of Christ. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:9-10) He goes on to say that no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. In the Holy Spirit, we may understand what God has freely given us – words taught not by human wisdom, but by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

In contrast Paul also says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned…But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2: 14, 16)

The Holy Spirit gives me a sense of belonging to God – a feeling of security, knowing that the God of all creation is my Father. He is not distant and out of reach. He has made himself available to me by becoming one of us through his son, Jesus, the Messiah. I can see how much he loves me by how he sacrificed his life through the tortuous death of Roman crucifixion. His Spirit gives me the desire to overcome my selfish nature, and love and serve my wife, family and others as much as I am inclined to serve myself.

The Holy Spirit helps me to understand that I am to be a good steward of the people and circumstances in my life, including family, work associates and friends. He has taught me to have courage and trust when faced with the life threatening illness of cancer, a family challenge of a disabled child or circumstances that threaten a career path.

The Spirit gives us knowledge and understanding in our perspectives, conduct and relationships. For example, he enables us to see the natural order of God’s creation. Some people see conflict between science and faith, but the Spirit shows us that science is simply the discovery of the mysteries of God’s creation

How remarkable! Who can equal God’s love for us and the gift of the Holy Spirit which is our enabler in love, wisdom and truth?

I once heard that the contrast between living life in the fullness of the Holy Spirit and not doing so is similar to the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Jesus said, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?  You may believe in God the Father and God the Son, but are you experiencing their personal presence through the gift of the Holy Spirit?