Archive for the ‘Holy Spirit’ Category

Paralytic Point   2 comments

A verse jumped off the page at me in Mark 2 this morning. The story of the four men bringing their crippled friend to see Jesus is one of those classic tales that is told in early discipleship teachings. Rightfully so, too, as it is a great visual for children to learn of how much Jesus loved the man and healed him. It is also an early look into how the teachers of the day would challenge Jesus because of the forgiveness of sins issue Jesus raised to their objection. There’s another hidden treasure embedded because the man got up, picked up his mat, and walked away. Carrying one’s mat on the Sabbath was also breaking the law.

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What jumped at me today was not the additional tale of the crowd size. The house was filled to the brim and even at the door (and I’m assuming windows) crowds were gathered to hear Jesus. Why? What was he doing? Did they all know about the mat and roof story that was about to happen? Nope!

Between describing the crowd and the introduction of the crippled man and his companions, the text simply says this, Jesus was preaching the word to them (Mark 2:2). That’s it. He wasn’t healing the lame or the blind or the deaf. He wasn’t performing other miracles of any kind or even magic tricks. He wasn’t glowing in the dark and telling people to pray to him. He wasn’t turning water into wine (I’d follow him around for that-just kidding). He was preaching the word to them.

Overlooked a lot in the teachings about Jesus today is how much he preached. The stories and healings and miracles and dialogues are rich with messages to share, and they should be shared. But we see more than a time or two in Scripture that when he is out and about he is teaching and preaching, “as one with authority.” His preaching was powerful, penetrating, unique, bold, and obviously engaging to have so many come from all over the place to hear him.

Maybe I should ditch my scrolls of questions about how things are done when I get to heaven and just do the Mary thing – sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him teach. Perhaps that’s the point.

Gyon   Leave a comment

I have no idea if I have spelled it correctly. I also have little faith that it is an actual word. All I know is that I have heard it a lot over the years, and to this day I am unsure what it means. Language and dialect tend to do these things to us. They separate us and cause us to look at each other differently, sometimes cocking our heads and wondering what on earth the other person is trying to communicate with us.

For example, my Aunt Joan was notorious for using this word, “gyon.” She pronounced it (as I have heard others) much like it is spelled (or at least my attempt at it): a hard “g” followed by “yahn.” She used it much where I would use the word “darned.” If I wanted to know where something was and she was unaware, she would reply, “Gyon if I know.”

I remember countless times asking her what that word meant. Mind you, I would often get the same statement in response, “Gyon if I know.” This is not helpful. I can imagine the day of Pentecost where all of the disciples were speaking languages unknown to them. The people were justifiably amazed at this. There were rumblings among the people, some saying the disciples were drunk. My imagination does not have to work hard to visualize my aunt as one of the disciples that day. I can easily see someone coming up to her and asking how she is speaking in their language. I can even hear her voice as she would utter her response, “Gyon if I know.”

Bless her heart.

What was true when I was growing up is still an issue in some churches today. There is a language barrier between those who have been in church all of their lives and those who are just beginning to explore what church is all about. Church folks will use church words and the explorers just scratch their heads and wonder what language they are hearing or question if they’re still in the same galaxy when they walked through the front door that looks strangely like some portal. They came in, sat on our hard benches, and noticed how some folks appeared to not get “bleacher butt” like they did because the “from here” folk were used to the discomfort. Then someone spoke from a podium with thees and thous and confused the heck out of their children.

I suppose that I will never understand how and why some of God’s really good folks insist on speaking a language that other folks–especially those seeking something incredibly important–will never understand. But if anyone ever asks me why I think this is still the case in some circles, I know what my response will be.

Gyon if I know!

Overflow Leadership   Leave a comment

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I grew up at the end of the age of full-service service stations. My Dad and his brother co-owned one and I could not wait to be old enough to work there. When I turned 13, I was finally given my opportunity. With training on the cash register and gas pumps, checking tires and oil levels, I was placed in charge of the gas customers. There was one rule I had to live by in front of all others–when the bell rang to indicate a vehicle had pulled in to get gas I was never to walk to provide their services.

Principle: Whenever you serve others, RUN!

That principle guided much of my work life for several years, especially whenever customer service was involved. Anyone who had a need was served as quickly as possible because they were the most highly valued person on earth at that moment. While that is a wonderful principle for service, the methodology needs some tweaking for those serving in ministry.

Much of the service of a ministerial leader is built upon the spiritual health of the leader. The better their connection with the Divine, the more authentic the service they provide. This is true for more than professional clergy; it applies to all those who serve others in God’s name and is easily applied to all who serve in caring capacities.

The key to offering relevant service is in how we serve, not necessarily how fast. Pastors can tell you that if they “run” every time someone in their congregation needs some form of pastoral care, they will burn out sooner than later. Yes, there are times when running is appropriate, but to do so as a regular practice often comes from an unhealthy sense of duty, as if you are being graded by your speed. When this occurs, it’s as if you are serving God because of a debt.

You do not owe God anything.

The best way to serve one another is not to see how quickly you can react, but how authentically you can respond. If leaders are to be true vessels for the Lord, then we must do what it takes to ensure we are being filled. Cars don’t get far on empty tanks (or batteries, tipping the cap to electric tech here). Leaders do not serve effectively when drained.

Lead from your strong connection with God. Do everything it takes to tap into the strength God gives you because of how you relate with God. Your connection is uniquely yours, so do whatever practices work best for you, be it meditation, prayer, Scripture/Lectio, silence, etc. Whatever it is that best fills you with the Presence, allow God’s love to flow through you. This is done with great joy because you know that what you are sharing is God’s gift of love for everyone in your path.

The best service you can offer to others comes from overflow and not obligation.

No Sad Songs Allowed   Leave a comment

Birds greet each morning with a song. Even if the weather is less than admirable, their song remains the same. More importantly, their song does not change in tone, mood, or volume, not that I have noticed anyway.

I wager that this is a glimpse of the heavenly. I know that Scriptures talk about no need for a sun since God provides the light, but I often imagine life in God’s presence to still have a lot in common with the life we experience now. I hope there are mornings and afternoons and nights. I hope there are temperatures that fluctuate and that it rains and gets windy and snows. I can almost imagine living in perfect simplicity as if in a country cabin complete with fireplace (and, please, central air).

My imagination can take me to what I’ll call heaven while still having no real clue what it is like. That’s ok with me. I don’t need to know because my soul understands the most important part of all—eternity with God and those who have gone before me. What else do I really need to know? Of course I want to play golf, but in addition to the fun of the game, I can’t wait to see my divots grow back in an instant and have the trees toss my errant shots back onto the fairway. It’ll be fun to laugh with the sand as I whack away fruitlessly to get my ball onto the green.

I won’t need a caddy either because I’ll have something I’ve never really had, knees that are intact and functional. That would be new. It won’t bother me either if I will have lost all of this weight that I can’t seem to dispose of here on earth. I try. Ok, not really. I wonder if I’ll have hair, and this time on the top of my head like I used to have instead of my back and arms and chest. Will my teeth be white (think pearly)?

I try to live my life basking in the joy of God’s presence. Life to the full means life that is joy-driven. It is a happy life in spite of all this crazy old world can throw at me. Sometimes I do really well with this while other times it is work just to muster a smile. My moods change like the wind occasionally just like it is with every other human. My song is not always filled with joy.

But the birds remind me—every morning—that a time is coming when I will greet the new day with laughter, smiles, and the loving glow that comes from an overflow of God’s incredible grace. Even on a cloudy, rainy and cold morning, how can I help but sing?

Christmas Trips   Leave a comment

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Everywhere I have served as Pastor I have tormented adults and youth with a Christmas IQ quiz. The test is designed to help people differentiate between what Scriptures actually say about the Nativity scene and what traditions we have added to it. Let’s face it, we are professionals at filling in the blanks because we don’t always enjoy stories with missing details.

One of the quiz questions has to do with how Mary traveled when she and Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This trip could have taken a couple of days and she was about to pop with baby Jesus. Pardon my uncaring choice of words there. The multiple choice options are that she:
a) rode a donkey while Joseph walked beside her
b) took Amtrak
c) walked just like everyone else
d) the Bible doesn’t say.

Most people select “a” because it just makes too much sense. A donkey has a smoother back than a camel, I’m fairly certain Amtrak wasn’t around yet, and it seems mighty mean of Joseph to make her walk that far being that pregnant.

The correct answer, if you’re curious, is d), the Bible doesn’t say.

The point? Well, there is none, unless you’re trying to score higher on the quiz than everybody else in the room.

We do not know how they traveled although I’m quite certain you can eliminate Amtrak from your guesses. They traveled from Nazareth, crossed the Jordan to go down it’s east side to avoid Samaria like most good Jews did at that time, crossed back over at Jericho, then trekked up the rocky path to Jerusalem, then a few short miles more to Bethlehem.

Do you remember traveling as a child?

I recall a particular journey when I was a child when my Dad took my sister and I to Florida so we could go to Disneyworld. We were in a Volkswagen van that died on us on the way down. All I know is that it took most of the trip money to get it back on the road, so we didn’t get to do a lot upon arrival but did manage to get into Disney. Along the way, Bonnie, my sister and I did a lot of goofy singing, mostly the jingle to Country Corn Flakes. I never really found out if they didn’t wilt when you poured them on milk.

We were kids, and kids on adventures to places where they know there is going to be great fun are usually pretty happy children. So we sang and laughed and had a ball on the way down. I am not sure what it means, but I have zero recollection of the ride home. Actually, I’m positive I know what it means—that part was not nearly as important to me.

The trek that Joseph and Mary were on was certainly nothing fun. They had to go because it was census time and they needed to report to Joseph’s family’s town, Bethlehem. You can imagine the extra burden of not only Mary’s pregnancy, but then upon arrival the highly serious situation of actually delivering the baby! This journey, of course, ended quite well with Jesus, but it was a very tough trip!

How do you approach life these days? The year 2020 has been anything but a picnic or a fun ride to an amusement park. With all of its pitfalls and unexpected twists and devastation, this has been one heck of a ride that nobody has enjoyed. Yet Christians have this one thing in common that keeps us going. It is something that drives us to continue taking the next step we need to keep moving forward.

It is simply this: we know that at the end of our journey, no matter how or when that happens….is Jesus. The Lord is with us every day as the Holy Spirit never leaves our side. That is how we survive the adventure of life. But at the end of that journey, we get to meet Jesus.

And that, my friends, is what the JOY of Christmas is all about for you and me today.