Friday, June 28, 2013

Psalm 102 Revisited



Write this down for the next generation so people not yet born will praise God:  God looked out from his high holy place;
    from heaven he surveyed the earth.  He listened to the groans of the doomed, he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion, so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets and wherever people gather together along with their rulers to worship him.
-Psalm 102: 18-22 (The Message)

God gave me this passage through the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer 13 years ago (today as I write this) as I worked at a hotel in Tuscaloosa.  These verses were a living prophetic revelation (His words are Spirit and life – John 6: 63) that led me back into formal pastoral ministry.  These verses revealed to me the nature of God.  I needed to experience again the heart of God.  This is the heart of God.  God looks out from his high holy place, surveys the earth, listens to the groans of the doomed, and sets them free from their death cells.  Alleluia!

This is the heart of God.  This is the nature of God – to survey, to hear, to set free.  Alleluia.  Our heart & nature is to record what he’s done so the generations to come would know.  Our heart & nature is to sing God’s praise in the streets wherever the people & rulers gather to worship.  Our heart is to remember the doomed being set free so the generations to come would know & experience & praise.  Alleluia.

Now I read Acts 5: 32.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.  I read this verse a few days ago.  It struck me all over again and, this time, because I found this nugget of truth through my own inquiry and not because somebody told me.  I am a witness of the resurrection because the Holy Spirit dwells in me.  This puts new light on what I’ve experienced through Psalm 102: 18-22.

I still know the heart of God, and I will encourage the singing of God’s praises everywhere.  The writing down for the generations to come is good, yet, with the Holy Spirit in the future generations, they will be witnesses of all God has done & is doing.  Our responsibility is to recall God’s actions AND to perpetuate an environment where the Holy Spirit is welcomed, known, embraced & craved.

Bill Johnson, in his book, Hosting the Presence, speaks about a dove landing on a person.  If the dove is to stay, one must walk carefully.  Bill encourages us to walk with the dove in mind.  We ought to live with the presence of God in and on us in mind.  The Presence is the Spirit upon us.

As we walk and live and work and love with the presence of God in mind, the Spirit witnesses to our spirit over and over again that we are God’s children redeemed by his blood and saved by the resurrection and made new by the Spirit himself.  We are witnesses of God looking, hearing & setting free throughout history.  Tell this to the generations to come and live with his presence with us always in mind.  Write it down, sing it, join with others as they rejoice in what God has done and is doing.  We are witnesses and so will be the children to come because we’re welcoming, embracing & craving his presence. 

What if you lose your journal or forget what he’s done in your life over the years?  Seek his face and crave his presence.  The great God will remind you and encourage you to be a living witness of all Daddy has done for and through you and all saints throughout time.  That’s pretty cool!  What a wonderful life God has given us!

Alleluia!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Will of God



The fishing was fair.  The sun was high.  The wind was blowing, and the waves were growing.  I was certainly glad there was no storm on the horizon, but the waves were getting the better of me.  My stomach was growing more and more uneasy.  That bothered me more than physically.  My pride was being affected as my queasiness grew.  I had been on the ocean before with high waves.  Why was my stomach rebelling this time?  Even twenty years later, I can’t tell why.

It would have been a good time to pray, I guess, but I didn’t.  In relating this to Mark 4 where the waves grew and the boat had its fair share of fishermen aboard, I didn’t pray, but the disciples felt the need to do the next best thing, wake up Jesus!

They saw a need, went to the source of all help, asked for relief and received it.  As a result, Jesus asked them, “Why do you have so little faith?”  Didn’t they do what they were supposed to do?  That’s how we pray, and are suppose to pray, right? 

Jesus wanted them to live out of their faith, faith in the name of him who was with them.  They are his disciples, his learners.  We learn from Jesus in order to be like Jesus.  When Jesus was awakened, he knew what the will of God was, to still the storm.  The disciples knew what their will was.  It was to still the storm.  Perhaps they weren’t sure what the will of God was in this situation. 

We sometimes think God might have a bigger purpose in mind than what we think.  Maybe it was the will of God for several elementary-age kids to die from a tornado in Oklahoma this spring.  Maybe it was the will of God for suicide bombers to kill ten people in Baghdad a few days ago.  Maybe it was the will of God for hundreds of people to die when a building collapsed around them in India a few weeks ago.  Need I go on?  Isn’t that down right stupid?  Surely we can all agree none of this was the will of God.  If it was, I’ll stop writing now and become a content agnostic if you stop reading this dribble.

Sorry, I haven’t stopped writing.  What about you?

We are his learners.  From him, we learn what the will of God is.  From his actions and words, we learn what our responsibilities are from what he said and did on the earth – to bring heaven to earth.  Jesus didn’t bless this storm in Mark 4.  He calmed it by declaring the will of God in the atmosphere.  Disciples are to learn the will of God and declare it, live it out, share the Good News and see what heaven looks like.

In prayer, bring before the Lord your agreement with what you already know to be his heart-felt will regarding that concern and declare your trust in that.  As part of prayer, we should also listen for directions from God on how he would want his will carried out. 

I never lost my cookies on that fishing trip.  I’m prone to feel nauseous, however, when good church folks construct theologies that make God out to be a conjurer of storms and murderer of the innocent.  That makes me sick because I know what the will of God is.  What about you?  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Invisible



You can find it discussed regarding the birth order of children and their behavioral tendencies and how they feel about themselves.  Children that are in the middle of a family’s birth order may recognize themselves at certain points in their development as the invisible children.  The oldest and the youngest get all the attention naturally.  Middle children may only get attention from their parents in disciplinary forms when the children behaved negatively.

As we have followed God’s calling and disappeared from a denomination’s radar screen and pursued employment and relationships outside of the ecclesial dictated format, I feel invisible.  I’m the youngest in the birth order in my family.  We’ve promoted ourselves in order to find employment and to inexpensively advertise the ministry we founded and now direct.  Regardless, I feel invisible.

Though dreams are not dependable, I don’t believe, to accurately depict all of my inner feelings, I’ve dreamed on several occasions of being in a group of people engaged in activities, some chaotic and some orderly, but I was never acknowledged or engaged by any of the people.  I felt invisible and ignored.

We’re now designated as those who have withdrawn their ordination voluntarily from our denomination.  One of the outcomes of this recognition is that home office permits us to withdraw monies we’ve personally contributed to our pension.  For this to happen our regional office must send word to home office that we’ve voluntarily turned in our ordination certificates.  The funny thing is that April was sent a letter from home office stating that she had turned in her ordination and is permitted to withdraw her funds.  I had turned in my certificate months earlier and still was not recognized as having voluntarily quit ministry.  It was as if I was invisible.

Have you ever felt invisible?  Or have you ever felt visible for the first time because most of your life you’ve felt unseen by most people in your world?

This reminds me of a story in the gospels of a woman who suffered from unrelenting bleeding.  In the midst of a large crowd pressing in on Jesus, she knew if could but touch his clothes she could be healed.  She did, and she was.  Jesus knew of all the people pressing in on him there was one who touched him and power left him to heal her.  She was no longer invisible. 

She became visible, known, never forgotten, recorded in the gospels and healed.  In her invisibility, she became desperate and sought out Jesus as her only hope.  Suddenly, invisibility is an asset and not a liability.  Invisible as a member of crowd.  Visible by her faith and determination to find and encounter Jesus and Jesus alone.

Jesus, you’re my only hope.  I will press in to find you, though I remain invisible.  I will press in to hear your words and trust in your power, though I am not visible by my world ever present.  I will touch your very essence and know of your grace for me, though I feel invisible or alone as I pray or worship in a crowd of believers.  Jesus, you’re my only hope.  Your power in love and Spirit will fill me and address my needs, and I will experience your love for me as your follower, born-again of your Spirit, and healed of all my diseases by your strips for all.  You see me.  You know me.  You love me.  You touched me, and I am whole.  Alleluia!