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Will We Let The Holy Spirit Get Back to Work?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20  do not despise inspired messages. 21  Put all things to the test: keep what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (TEV)

I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.

The words spoken by Christian tongues today are unfortunately anything but fire. They taste all too much like water that has been left standing and is barely lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We have no desire to burn either ourselves or others, but in not doing so we place ourselves at a distance from the Holy Spirit and our Christian Faith degenerates into a self-made philosophy of life that wants to disturb as few as possible of our comfortable habits and relegates the sharpness of protest to a place where it can cause the least inconvenience to our customary way of life. If we elude the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, it is only at first glance that being Christian seems easy for us. What is comfortable for the individual is uncomfortable for the whole. Where we no longer expose ourselves to God’s fire, the frictions among us become insupportable and the Church, to quote Saint Basil, is torn by the cries of interior factionalism. Only when we are not afraid of the tongues of fire or of the strong wind that accompanies them does the Church become an icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.

My youngest years were spent on the fringes of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Roman Catholic Church. And like many, I witnessed abuses, the one lady who always had to have a prophecy, the crowd of people mumbling their prayers, each one trying to be louder than the next, the people that claimed spiritually giftedness, only to go hang out after the prayer meeting talking in ways that weren’t godly. I know too many people who bore scars and are afraid of churches because of those days.

(Note: I have seen similar folk in most of the churches and denominations I’ve been associated with over the years.)

And noting the extremes of such movements, if people stay in the church, they end up in churches that deny the Holy Spirit works in any miraculous way today. They come so close to embracing a form of deism, thinking that God left us the scriptures (and maybe the sacraments) and therefore we need nothing else, even His presence.

You really can’t claim that Pope Benedict or Martin Luther were charismatic or pentecostal extremists. In fact, most would assume they are contrary to the position of those movements.

Yet they both see an incredible need for the church to be ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Their words resonate with St. Paul’s about ot restraining the Holy Spirit, but heeding the Spirit’s call, and taking joy in the work of the Holy Spirit, as He calls, gathers, enlightens us and makes us Holy.

Such is a miracle, it is a supernatural work. It goes beyond on anything we can control, and therefore it makes us nervous. Theologians and people who need to understand get anxious, and as we realize God’s ways are not our ways, that who He sends us to serve, that those He brings us to love are not whom we would choose. Nor it the way we are to minister to them the way we would prefer.

As Pope Benedict notes, this isn’t the most comfortable of places to be, as we are directed by the Holy Spirit, given gifts and abilities, insights and a new heart (see Ex 36:25ff) that resonates with the will and desire of God.

So how do we listen and hear? How are we guided by the Holy Spirit? How do we know if what we are hearing is the Spirit’s guidance?

Luther would say prayer, meditation, and faith-building stress. For the more we look to Christ- the more we realize He is our hope, our life, the revelation of the Trinity’s love, the more we are hearing the call, the more we are gathered, made holy and used by the Holy Spirit to reflect the glorious love of God into the darkness of this world.

So don’t hold back the Spirit… don’t depend on your own reason or strength, but rather depend on God, as He reveals Himself in scripture.

And dwell in His peace!

Luther’s Small Catechism: Part 2 The Creed: Article Three

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Realizing and Revealing the Lord is With us: We can depend on Him!

Realizing and Revealing that

The Lord is with us…and

We Can Depend on Him!

Judges 7:1-15

 

 

When God removes all that we think we need, may we find great assurance in His Presence, a presence so strong that others, even our adversaries cannot help but comment on the grace and peace seen in us!


There is a nightmare that many people have, or so I have heard, the night before a big presentation, or some major point in their life – where they are the center of attention.  It’s been described this way – there you are, the center of attention and everyone is looking at you, staring at you – and you realize you borrowed the emperor’s new wardrobe.

If you don’t know that story… you all of a sudden realize – you forgot to get dressed after taking a shower.  Clothes are a good thing – and to be left without them in a dream isn’t as bad as being without them in public!  But those dreams are often considered symbolic of our fears – that we will be found, we will be proven to lack something – that we will be defenseless against criticism – and that we be seen as losers.

I have the strangest feeling that Gideon knew that anxiety, that guy wrenching fear.  Probably even before his army was reduced from 32,000 men down to 300.  “God
,” I can hear Gideon saying, “what are you thinking?  I have nothing left, and you want me to do what?

In this season of Lent, it is time to ask, to even plead that God help us give up those things we depend on, rather than depending upon His love, His mercy, His wisdom. Like Gideon – this is a time to realize – how much we need to depend on God, and indeed how

WHAT DO WE DEPEND ON, WHAT IS OUR GOD?

As I consider the conversation between God and Gideon, as I dwell on it, I have to wonder what I want to take into battle – and why?  For a general, for the leader of an army – it would be the men, the size of the army, the advisors – I would want to have the best.

For us, what do we want to take with us? What do we depend on?  It may be other people, those who lead us, or those we have come to trust.  It might be the technology, or the books, our smile, or ability to think on our feet.  What do we depend on so much, that we would not give credit to God for delivering us out of the situations we find ourselves in, or the situations where we, like Gideon, are called on to rescue people from the oppression brought about because of sin?

We have to remember that – Lent is not just about our realizing the presence of God in our lives in our time of need – but also our seeing that revealed to others.

It is so easy for us to forget about our need and our ability to depend completely on God.  we are caught up in a world that proclaims to us a different gospel – a different message of salvation.  If we want to get of the jam we are in, we are programmed by our society to do what all Americans do. If we want it done right, you do it yourself!

If we watch our supports stripped away… will our trust and our dependence on God still remain?  The answer isn’t found in us, in our faithfulness.  It is found in His.  This is at the core of Lent – realizing that in our weakness, we find, quite joyfully, the love of God making as we realize His presence….

DO WE REALIZE WHAT OTHERS SEE?

That can be when the most miraculous of all things happens, as it did for Gideon.  Sent by God into the camp to be encouraged, he hears something absolutely wonderful – something that causes him to drop to his knees in worship.

13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!” 14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!” Judges 7:13-14 (NLT)

Note that it is God who gives the victory, we can’t ever forget that.  When we talk to someone, and they come home and are reconciled to God as the prodigal is, when we baptize someone here, it isn’t their own strength or power that saves them.  It wasn’t their own ability to discern the truth about God’s heart towards them.

It’s simple – God works through people like you and I, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives – to reveal God giving the victory, God freeing His people from what binds them. We may never see the results; we may never understand the depth of the victory.

Or when we do, we’ll shake our heads, and realize how great our God is… and we’ll bow and worship and praise Him.  Even before we see the final result of the victory. Even as we only see the foretaste of it, as we realize the promises made sure for us in our baptism, as we kneel at the altar, and realize He has called us here… to dine with Him, to commune with God.

Even before we see heaven, and the glory of God in which we dwell… through His love, through His guidance, we can begin to understand the incredible promises that come, as He comes, as He pours grace onto us.  When we begin to realize what it means “that the Lord is with us”….

and as our lives reveal that promise is for them, as well

As our lives are lived out, in the peaceful presence of God which passes all understanding, as our hearts and minds kept in Christ Jesus.   AMEN!

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