Category Archives: Spirit

Searching and Finding

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. John 4:22-23

Do we ever think of God actually looking for something, of him seeking?  It’s not a picture we contemplate frequently.  The illustration that best conveys it I think is in this verse, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  (II Chronicles 16:9)  God’s eyes are actively searching, looking at each person all over the world.

And today’s red letter passage says that one thing God is looking for is people who will worship him in spirit and truth.  Jesus is saying that all through the ages, God has wanted this, and now the time has come when it can come to fruition in a greater way than ever before.

What does it mean to worship in spirit?  On one hand, it means worshipping with the Spirit that is in us.  In Ephesians 5:12, we are told to sing and make music to God in our hearts right after we are told to be filled with the Spirit.

On the other hand, it means worshipping with our spirit.  What is our spirit?  I love this definition that was in one of the commentaries on this passage: “Our spirit is the part of us that was made in the image of God.  It is the place where we were made to commune with God.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary)

Our spirit is the part of us that longs to be connected with the Creator.  It’s the part of us that can’t deny that there’s something greater, the part that longs for meaning.  It sees the splendor of nature and looks for the divine.

Worshipping with our spirit is the act of reaching out with all that is in us towards the Lord.  And as we do, we connect, and feel that we are finally where we’re supposed to be.  It reminds me of the verse in I Peter 2:25, “For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 

In a very real way, since the days of Adam and Eve, our spirits have been wandering.  But now we can find the lovely comfort of being in our Father’s presence, right where we’ve always belonged.

And then what does it mean to worship in truth?  I think we have to look at the beginning of today’s passage, where it says, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”  Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan woman, and he was reminding her that the Jews had the truth.  As they went their own way, the Samaritans had fallen into doctrinal error.

Jesus was saying that God’s eyes are ranging over the earth, looking for those who will reach out wholeheartedly to connect with him, and also act wholeheartedly according to his word.

The woman at the well is thirsty, both physically and spiritually, and Jesus is saying that God is looking for those who are thirsty.

More than that, he’s saying that the only way to truly quench the thirst is to do it God’s way.  Going our own way will never satisfy.

Yesterday, my friend Marge and I studied the Bible with a young woman.  What was so encouraging about the study was that we had a deep talk together.  We talked about our marriages. We were real about our bad attitudes that messed us up.  It felt so healing to recognize the inner gunk, and work towards making it better.

How often are we real about what’s going on inside?  That’s the way to find depth of our inner thirst.

Then our spirit can reach out for the water that will satisfy.  As we connect, our spirits will soar more and more away from the inner gunk of life.

And we will recognize that our own best efforts have messed us up.

We will realize, as never before, that we want to worship in spirit and in truth.

God’s eyes searches because he wants to bring us back to himself, where we belong.  He is completely happy to have us with him.  We are completely happy to be there.

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The Crazy Blowing of the Spirit

windmills

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)

The other night, I couldn’t sleep.  My mind was spinning with thoughts of stressful situations.

But then it occurred to me that I have a resource that can get me through all of the challenges, including getting back to sleep.

I have the Spirit.

The Spirit is like an extra thing.  I don’t have to depend on the same old stuff that hasn’t worked.  There’s something in me waiting to be tapped, waiting to give me hope and strength, telling me I can make it.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (John 4:4)

When I remembered that I have something in me that is stronger than those things that daunt me, I felt empowered.  I knew that I could handle the trials.  Sleep began to creep over me in a supernatural way, and soon I was snoozing once more.

The Spirit is amazing.  So it’s no wonder that Jesus would tell believers that they need to be born of the Spirit.  They would need a piece of the divine in them to carry out his mission.  They would need extra strength to overcome temptation and persevere.  They would need to be different than the world.

Here are some things we can take away from today’s red letter passage.

We’re a part of a spiritual kingdom.   The context of this passage is that Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about how to see the kingdom. Jesus said the flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit to spirit.  In essence, Jesus was saying, “What you seek is actually invisible.  It’s a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. And so, to be a part of this kingdom, you’re going to need to be born of the spiritual.”

Do we understand that those of us who follow Jesus are born of the spiritual, and that’s our milieu?  We work through an invisible realm.  It’s counter-intuitive.  Yesterday, I coached someone who was being pulled in two directions.  One one hand, they wanted to solve their financial challenges by finding ways to make more money.  On the other hand, they wanted peace, and to be more centered in God.  They decided that focusing on the latter would help them achieve the former.

This is what we have to keep remembering.  We look for physical solutions to our problems.  And this is not a bad thing.  But the way we operate is to seek the kingdom first, and pray.  Our solutions start with the spiritual, with faith.

The Spirit is a moving force.  Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind, which is anything but stationary.  As I’m writing this, I’m on an airplane flying across the US.

Airplane Sky

View from the airplane window.

It would do me no good to be on the airplane and sit on the tarmac.   I did that once before, when there was a thunderstorm delay, and we were stuck for hours on a hot airplane.  That was the pits!

And so it is with the Spirit.  It’s meant to take us places.  Sometimes it motivates us to physically move to a different place or situation.  Other times it empowers us to grow internally.

“For God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.” (II Tim 1:7)

The Spirit takes us to unexpected places.  Jesus said that the Spirit is like the way the wind blows and no one knows where it came from or where it’s going.

Do you ever look around you and say, “This is crazy.  I don’t know how I got here.  But it’s good.”

I was talking with my son in law recently.  Over the past four years, he, my daughter and my grandchildren have lived in Chicago, Seattle, Indonesia, and now in  in the San Francisco area.  It’s been a wild ride.  But he’s come to realize that God took him and his family to a place where they will do their best and thrive.  He said this is not how he would have planned things!  But he sees that God’s way is much better.

The same is true with my own personal development.  Believe me, I would have self-helped myself in different ways than the trials I’ve endured.  My way would have included a lovely smooth path.  But the Spirit has brought me from a place of being opinionated, judgmental and full of myself, to being more surrendered and more dependent.  I’m more joyful and peaceful.  I feel more ready for heaven.

In conclusion, let the Spirit work.  Don’t restrict it!  Do we open ourselves up to the workings of the Spirit, or do we quench it? (I Thes. 5:19)

I’m off the airplane now. But on the flight, there was a little boy behind me who kept up a constant stream of commentary.  He exclaimed about what he saw out the window.  He expressed his excitement at take off.  He asked random questions.  Whatever he said was unfiltered.  Meanwhile, no one else on the plane was talking.  They kept their thoughts to themselves.

It reminds me of the way we are with the Spirit.  We’re reserved. We’re civilized. We’re fearful and cautious.  We don’t let that inner self run wild and free.

But where would the Spirit take us if we let go a bit?  Recently, my friend Marge was inspired to take her small group to visit a church right around the corner for midweek services.  She wanted to promote unity.  It was kind of a bold crazy thing, to walk a diverse group of people into to a little country congregation.  But they ended up having a great fellowship.

Who would the Spirit create in us if we let go a little bit?  As I’ve studied life coaching, I’ve been able to throw off more of my negative self talk.  I’ve had so much more room for spiritual thoughts and growth.

windmill 2

After I got off the airplane, I drove through the prairies of Eastern New Mexico.  Along the way, I saw the giant windmills that are becoming more prevalent as the nation utilizes wind energy.  The windmills are a great visual for me.  The propellers are set way up high, where their motion can be unimpeded. (Okay, there’s a telephone wire in the picture, but it’s actually far away.) It reminds me that the “wind” of the Spirit works best when we raise our focus to God, instead of at the level of our worries and fears.  The blades are continually rotating, and it reminds me that the Spirit is an ongoing force.  If we get in the flow of it, we will have a constant cycle of love, joy, peace, patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self control.

Let’s appreciate how incredible it is that Jesus came to bring a spiritual kingdom.

Let’s live as citizens of this kingdom, and draw on the amazing resource we have in the Spirit.

Let’s be conscious of the times we clench up and inhibit the Spirit, and strive to open up instead.

It’s a wild ride!  But it’s going to take us to amazing places, and do amazing works in us.

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Quiet Time, July 7, 2016

Sisters, let’s do something different today.  Let’s have a quiet time together.

First, let’s thank God for the gifts he gave us yesterday.  I keep a gratitude journal and try to write in it every day. I have over 1850 entries right now.  It really helps me keep the positive in perspective.

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My gratitude journal, part of my quiet time.

Father, I thank you so much for having more energy yesterday, after struggling with a urinary tract infection in days prior.  I thank you for the rain that sluiced down upon my poor dry yard and flowers. Thank you for the lovely purple Mexican poppies facing me this morning.  Thank you for the great talk I had with Jessica, and the adorable pictures she sent me of little Josiah. Thank you for Mitchell and Lorena coming over last night, and the laughs we shared, and the spiritual encouragement we gave each other, and for their friendship. (I’ll stop here in the interest of time.)

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Now, tell God what you are grateful for…..

Next, let’s pray by breathing in the Spirit and breathing out sin. I heard someone mention this technique, and it is a great thing to do throughout the day.  Everyone knows meditation is helpful.  Classic meditation is focusing on your breaths.  So let’s focus on taking spiritual breaths.

Breathe in the first fruit of the Spirit, which is love.  Feel God’s amazing love for you, how much he cares about each detail of your life.  Breathe out all of your animosity, the bad attitudes towards others, the resentments, and so on.

Breathe in God’s joy.  Picture him in the heavens, rejoicing over all of his splendid creation.  Picture him looking with joy at all the people who have given their lives to him and serve him.  Now breathe out your angst.  Breathe out the things that brings you down.

Breathe in peace.  I envision a vast shining network of threads stretching over the earth, and God controls them all.  He is the grand orchestrater.  Nothing escapes his will.  He will accomplish his purpose.  Breathe out all of your inner turmoil.  Put your worries in God’s hands.

Breathe in patience.  Remember that God is long suffering with us, slow to anger.  His patience is like a tempering force in the universe.  Breathe out all your impatience, the frustration over the things you want to change.

Breathe in kindness.  Feel God’s good will towards you. Remember the blessings he gives, even though you don’t deserve them.  Breathe out the unkind thoughts you have towards others.

Breathe in goodness.  God is light.  In him there is no darkness at all.  When you pray, you are surrounded by his goodness on every side.  Breathe out anything that is rancid in your thoughts and character.

Breathe in faithfulness.  If you are a disciple, God is totally committed to you. He will always do right be you.  But God is also committed to each person, because they are his beloved creation that he watches over.  Breathe out all your doubts and your wishi-washiness.

Breathe in gentleness.  Know that God practices such restraint.  We are his children and he treats us with a careful loving hand.  Breathe out all of your harshness.

Breathe in self control.  Feel God strengthening you to serve him in the right ways today.  Breathe out all of your laziness and lack of commitment.

That was wonderful!!  Now let’s petition God and go down our prayer lists.  I’m including prayers for the REACH conference and the people who are traveling.  I’m praying that my return to health will continue, and that I won’t have any complications.  I am especially praying that we can find someone who can be our campus minister.  If we found someone at REACH, that would be awesome!!

Pray now…..

Next, let’s look at the Bible.  I’ve been studying Malachi, and I’m almost done.  Here is Malachi 4:1–

Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

This verse talks about a judgement day that is coming.  This can be the fall of Jerusalem.  It can also be the final judgement.

The thing that concerns me with this verse is that arrogance is put on the same scale as being a wicked evil doer whose fate is to be set on fire.  Let’s watch ourselves.  I just finished a quick read through Matthew, listing all the passages that dealt with sin.  There really aren’t that many things Jesus condemned as sin.  But a major one is pride.  He talks about not doing things for show, to be seen.  This verse sums up his attitude:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  Matt 23:12

Let’s examine ourselves and think of how we exalt ourselves.  Do we think we’re better than others?  “No!” we proclaim.  But as I thought about it more, I realize that I make a thousand little judgements through the day and look down on the way people dress and conduct their lives.  There’s just something about trying to be my best for God that makes me look at others and decide they aren’t doing what they should do.

Reading Romans 14 helps me in this. Here are a few highlights: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. . . Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. . . . You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”

There is much more I could say on this, but read it for yourself.  We must somehow balance calling one another to righteousness with forbearance.  We must be humble, because we are ALL SINNERS!!!   I love what Guy Hammond, a minister who struggles with same sex attraction, says about this:  “Love the sinner.  Hate our own sin.”

Okay, moving on.  This verse in Malachi echos a theme found elsewhere in the Bible.  Look at Isaiah 5:24: “Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.”

And check out what John the Baptist said:  “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  Matt 3:11-12

Yikes!  John talks about a side of Jesus we don’t want to think about.  It is a great reminder that Jesus isn’t all soft compassion and fluff.  He also expects people to toe the line, and will help execute judgement on those who don’t.

There have been a lot of fires lately.  Here is one in the Kern River Valley in California on June 24.

Fire

Credit: Michael Cuffe

The fire was especially bad because the area is so dry.  Notice the words God uses for those who will be burned up — stubble, straw, dry grass, chaff. All of these refer to dry, useless vegetation.

fire afterwards

Aftermath of Kern fire

So what should be our goal?  To be like the tree planted by water that always drinks in God! “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.” (Ps 1:2-3a)  When we prayed earlier, didn’t you feel strengthened and enriched?  Didn’t your brittle coarse attitudes fade away?

And this is what God says next in Malachi 4. “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

When we seek God, when we follow Jesus, we feel better.  We are healed.  We leap for joy!!

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, quoted part of this verse when he prophesied about his son:

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1:78

Thank you, God, for these wonderful verses.  Thank you that they give us direction in our lives.  Thank you that so much peace and encouragement can be found in you.  Thank you that you sent your son to give us hope and a way to be closer to you.  Help us to be humble.  Forgive us of our pride.  Help us to be serious about sin.  Help us to always come to you, the SOURCE.  May we walk with strength and joy today. May all of this be always and only for your glory.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Clearing the Inner Courts

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’ ? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:15-17

It is challenging enough to think that Jesus was zealous for the integrity of the temple, and we need to be the same way with the church.  I could choose to write a great blog on this.

But what is on my heart is a deeper application.

Because today, WE are the temple.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?   I Cor 6:19

And thus we see the zeal of Jesus as a call to fight for the integrity of the inner temple — our hearts, where the Holy Spirit resides.

Whatever we allow in our hearts, we allow into the presence of the Holy Spirit.

We talked about this verse last week in our house church:  “Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? ‘” Acts 5:3

Simply by the act of lying, Ananias lied to the Spirit, because the Spirit was inside of him.

The Spirit experiences our sin.  This is so convicting!  If I am grumpy or angry, I am imposing this on the Spirit.  It’s like taking the Spirit and forcing Him to dwell with a repulsive unsavory character.

I mean, look at this passage —

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Bad attitudes towards others grieve the Spirit.  And why wouldn’t this be true?  God is love.  These attitudes are the antithesis of love!  And we expose the Spirit to our unloving attitudes all the time.

So I’ve been speaking generally, but I want to confess that this idea has been kicking MY booty.  I’ve realized how much bad attitudes dominate my inner self.

I’ve tried many times to get rid of it, but I have at times self hatred.  It seems not so bad, because I’m not hating anyone else, or even God.

But when I realize that the Spirit has to live in the midst of this, I see how bad it is.

I’ve also been resentful a lot lately.  Again, it doesn’t seem like something outside of normal struggles.  Until I think of how my resentment is crowding out what the Spirit is and what He wants to do inside of me.

Because the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  These things should be multiplying inside of me.  The Spirit’s trying to make my inner self a wonderful, ever expanding oasis of God’s goodness.

Instead, like the thorny soil, I choke out goodness with worry and grumpiness.

Really, upon deep reflection, I’m appalled to realize that I’m actually a spoiled child who keeps stomping her foot because she’s not getting her way.  So much of the time, if I’m honest, I have this strong uneasy feeling that things are going wrong, that they should go differently.  In my pride I feel there’s a better way for them to go.

And I realize that my self hatred and resentment stem from this feeling that things aren’t what I think they should be.  It’s really just a temper tantrum.  No wonder the Spirit gets grieved.  He’s trying to do what’s best for me, best for those around me, and instead I rage against Him.

If I am the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, I’m making the Spirit live with a whiny surly teenager! I’ve been a parent and I know that’s  miserable!  If I’m going to be like Jesus, and clear the temple of impurity,  the grumpy arrogant teen has to move out!

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? . . . What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy?  James 4:4-5

 Jesus was zealous for the whole space of the temple to be dedicated to God, not crowded with those who sought worldly gain.  In the same way, the Spirit is zealous for the whole space of our heart, and jealous when we let anything else crowd Him out.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Col 3:15

The awesome thing I am finding is when I respect and cherish the Spirit within me, when I stave off the bad attitudes and let Christ’s peace rule, I can feel the Spirit swelling within me.  It’s like the Spirit can finally act!  There’s a bounty I’ve only begun to discover and experience!

Let’s listen to the Spirit and NOT SELF!  Let’s drive out the worry, the resentment, the insecurity, the anger, and so on, and make God’s house — our hearts — a place of prayer.  He has so many blessings He wants to lavish on us, if we’ll clear the way.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. . . .

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. . . .

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere  Ps 84

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