New Covenant in Christ

What does it mean to live in the New Covenant?  It is more complex than I will say here, but here are some points to ponder.  

The Old Covenant was one where the Jews were called to follow God by obeying certain rules. One of the rules was that all men had to be circumcised. This was a sign that one was in covenant with God.  In addition, they agreed to perform certain sacrifices, and to live pure lives. In exchange, God would bless them, and even reside with them.  He resided in the Arc of the Covenant and in the Temple.  

As we see in the Old Testament, the people did their best to live out the covenant, but in the end, because of sin, they were unfaithful.  Thus, the prophets spoke of a new covenant, one in which the law would be written in our hearts.  One that would convert our stony hearts, and empower us to live a life of freedom from sin.  

Jesus came to institute this new covenant.  He fulfilled the laws of old, and gave us the tools needed to live a life in conformance with the laws that remain – love of God and neighbor.  It may sometimes seem like Jesus’ mission failed because sin still rules us to some degree, but this is not the case. 

As with the Old Covenant, God resides with us.  Once we are baptized, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his new temple, our bodies.  It is no longer one human trying to live up to the standards of the law. No. It is about us striving for compliance and, at the same time, allowing the Spirit to bolster our efforts. It is about working with the Spirit to disentangle from sin, and to live more holy, Christ-like lives.  It is about sacrifices of praise as preached in the Psalms. It is about trusting in the Spirit to lead us and guide us to more fulfilled lives in our times.  

When we walk in the Spirit, we find ourselves more fully loving God and neighbor because we are in an ever deepening union with love itself. We experience greater gratitude and joy. We are led to humility, and the joy of being weak before a God who wants to provide everything for us. 

Spend some time in prayer today, and reflect on your life in Christ. How is your walk with the Spirit? Do you allow him to guide you to a life of more joy and compliance with the law?  Say a prayer asking him to show you where you can improve in your faith walk, and be open to the answer he provides.  He promises you a life free from sin, but first, you must surrender to him so he can heal you of all things that hold you back from living a more Christ-like life. 

In Him,

dw

“[D]evelop[ing] self-knowledge, [is] an essential element on the spiritual journey. Keep in mind, however, that awareness of God is our ultimate goal. Self-knowledge, in the light of God, is only the beginning of any meaningful growth in our relationship with God. These initial steps lay the groundwork for the rest of our journey. We can never expect to plot an accurate course to our destination if we don’t know where we stand at the start.”

 Daniel Burke and John Bartunek, Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2012), 85.

Rebellion

Last weekend, I witnessed the most incredible temper-tantrum! It was about 20 minutes of foot stomping, hand thrashing, crying, and screaming.  It was amazing to sit and watch as she cried it out.  Slowly, over time, she submitted to the authority, and peace returned to her face.  

This event made me reflect on my relationship with God, my authority.  God longs for us to be a healthy and happy people.  It is in our own disobedience, and longing to do things our way that we find discontent.  We spend our own 20 minutes thrashing about, trying to get God to bend his will to ours.  He is the perfect parent, and he will let us shout it out for as long as it takes.  Just as with this child, when we submit to his parental will, we will find joy and peace.  

In addition to the joy and peace of surrendering to the parent, this child also opened herself up to the parent’s instructions. These instructions will help her to be a more productive member of society; a more well rounded person; a more loving person.  So to will we learn to live better lives when we surrender to God.  

Spend some time with God today considering where you are in rebellion against his will. There may be some areas where you don’t even realize you are refusing to submit.  Be open to God’s parental nurturing and wisdom.  Let him help you live an ever more fulfilled life in Christ. 

In Him,

dw

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

I have recently found myself pondering the Trinity. For instance, what is the difference between a personal relationship with Christ, and walking in the Holy Spirit?
 
Through prayer, I have come to see that a personal relationship with Christ is one that is formed through prayer and meditation. It is in studying the Bible, especially the Gospels, that we learn who Jesus is, and thus come to know him.
 
Walking in the Spirit is the fruit of one’s relationship with Christ. As we are shaped into the image of Christ through prayer, the Holy Spirit helps us to live more like Jesus. He is there to guide us, to teach us what is written in our hearts, and to show us how to live a life in the Garden of Eden, despite sin in the world; to live in God’s Kingdom in the here and now.
 
Of course, from a theological perspective, knowing one is in a sense knowing all three persons; however, I think God gave us the three persons so that we have more ways of approaching him. It is in opening oneself to knowing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we have a fuller understanding of God.
 
Spend some time today pondering your own faith walk. Are you cultivating relationships with all three persons? You have a Father who loves you, and wants to be called Abba. You have a brother, who wishes to illuminate your life with knowledge of the Father through the things revealed to us by his life. You have a Holy Spirit who longs for you to walk with him so that he can help you live a more fulfilled and fruitful life. Spend some time each day cultivating your relationship with one God in three persons.
 
In Him,
 
dw
 

What does it mean to be a Christian? 

In the early Church, people came to know Jesus when they understood that they were in need of a savior because they were sinful; they could not help but sin without God’s help.  There was conviction in their hearts that they were not living in line with what their creator intended for them. There was conversion, repentance, and baptism, which was followed by joy in the forgiveness of their sins.  

Through baptism, they understood that they died to themselves, and were raised again in the resurrection of Christ. They were no longer “I,” but Christ lived in them.  They were all united. They were one in Christ.  Thus, when one person hurt, the community hurt. When one was hungry, the community was hungry. They responded to this need by giving to those with less. They gave, even if it hurt the giver’s bottom line.  When they gave to the point of hurting, they trusted that the community would care for them if they ran into trouble down the road. 

They understood themselves to be one, and that this oneness was perpetuated and strengthen through the breaking of the Bread. They believed their bond required them to partake of the Bread for it was in the bread that Jesus, who was known to be present therein, would continuously renew them in Christ, the head of the body. 

They understood that hardships and trials were a part of life, and that in Christ, they could persevere, and even find joy in surrendering to God’s will for that moment in their life. They trusted God to guide them in the Spirit, and to give them the heroic courage to face even the most horrific challenges. In fact, legend speaks of St. Lawrence, who was roasted alive over an open pit.  He is said to have told his persecutors that he was done on one side, and needed to be turned over. What humor amidst such pain and horror! 

It is this kind of faith to which God calls us. We cannot live a life in God if we do not walk in the Spirit. How can we better incorporate the works of the Spirit into our lives today?  I’m sure others have some better ideas, but here are mine: Invite the Spirit into your day many times throughout the day. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to renew this invitation.  Look for the slight tugs within that call you to the greater good.  Look for the slight nudges towards helping a person who may be in need.  When in doubt, go with the good choice that you desire to do least.  Afterwards, prayerfully reflect on the event, and see what you can learn from it in hindsight; see what you can learn about the Spirit’s method of communicating with you. Take that knowledge into tomorrow where you will repeat the process, and continue to grow in wisdom of how God works within you.

In Him,

dw 

Basking in God’s Love

Have you ever stopped to think about how much God loves you? How much he longs for you to be deeper and deeper in love with him? I propose that it is only in going ever deeper in this love relationship that we can find true meaning and happiness in this life.

At the same time, there are many things that keep us from more fully entering into this relationship. We may have trust issues from our human relationships that impact our understanding of our relationship with God.  At our core, I believe we fear that we are unlovable because we know we are sinners; we are imperfect.  In our culture, this truth impacts the ability for others to love us.  However, God’s love is unconditional. He knows our sinful nature even better than we do, and I think that frightens us.  It frightens us because we have all been judged, and have felt the rejection of such judgments.  

Therefore, basking in God’s love is not as easy as it sounds. We have our fears of being vulnerable and of being judged.  So, we run from experiencing his love.  If you do not believe me, try meditating on his love for you. See if you can bask in his love for 20 minutes a day. Watch how you find yourself wanting to be busy or to otherwise avoid the process.      

Spending time basking in God’s love is like a bride standing before her bridegroom on her wedding night.  She stands before him, naked, vulnerable, wondering what he sees, and worries that what he sees is not good enough. She fidgets before him or even resists standing still in the light before him.  When she finally stops avoiding, and stands before him, he takes her to himself, and loves all of her fears away.

Spend some time in silence today, and picture yourself before your bridegroom.  Stand for as long as you can, and then push yourself to stand even longer.  If you feel fidgety, reminder yourself that he loves you. He already knows your defects and failures. He loves you anyway.  Be aware of the joy of that love, even if it, like hope in Pandora’s box, is at the bottom of your awareness. Let this joy float to the top; let it offset your fears.  Try and spend even more time tomorrow basking in the love of a God who longs to fulfill your every want and need through the healing power of his love.

In Him,

dw 

August 20, 2019

Treasures in Heaven

We live in a world where our faith and culture are in conflict.  Jesus says, carry the cross.  Society says, be comfortable. Life should be about physical pleasures. Jesus says, store up treasures in Heaven.  Society says, take care of yourself first, and then take care of others if there is anything left. Jesus says, give generously, and trust him to take care of you; let him take care of others through you.  

If we turn to the saints as examples, we see some who gave up everything in their fight against this conflict. We see others who continued to live their noble lifestyles, but gave tremendously to the care of others through financial aid and the gift of their time and talent.  They lived their lives according to the Gospel in the ways in which they felt called.  

God is always calling us to do more; to go deeper.  He loves us where we are, and allows us to take baby steps towards being better neighbors; better Christians.  He is delighted when we allow the Holy Spirit working in us to foster larger steps, too.  The concept is that we are never holy enough. We can always do more. We are on a spiritual journey of constant improvement. 

Let us spend some time in prayer today seeking where God is calling us to resolve the conflict in favor of Heaven.  Let us ponder anew how we can be more prayerful, more generous, and more loving.  

In Him,

dw 

My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

How many of us feel abandoned by God?  How many of us have trusted in God, not gotten the results we expected, become confused, and felt like he was not there for us?  I know I have fallen into this trap.  Again, this is the result of not understanding how God, in his infinite knowledge, cares for us.  

We see this feeling of abandonment even in Jesus, when his humanness cried out these words in anguish.  In these words of Jesus, we see ourselves, our pain, and our confusion.  We also see how God used this place of feeling abandoned for the salvation of all people.  We see how God used the unexpected as a way of bringing humanity closer to himself. 

From this example, we can learn to trust as Jesus trusted. He may have experienced feelings of abandonment, but we know that he knew the true value of what was happening to him. He knew that all things work for the good for those who love God. 

It is amazing that God loves us so much that he became man so that he could show us how he understands our human nature. He felt our pain.  He felt our loneliness. He felt our joy. He felt it all.  Jesus continues to feel and to experience our humanness as the head of the body of Christ. 

He knows our hurts and pains firsthand. He has a plan.  He will use our negative experiences to his glory.  Yes, we might feel abandoned, and even doubt in God.  Learn from Jesus’ experience on the cross to know that even when things feel bleak and we feel abandoned, God is in control.  He will bring good things from the pain.  

Surrender to the will of the God who loves you enough to have walked in footsteps similar to yours. He has compassion, and he will bring you through this. 

In Him,

dw 

A (Possible) Plea from God

My people, I long to free you from suffering and pain. I long to show you your misconceptions about me, and to help you to better understand my plan of salvation; my plan for your life.  I need you to see how much of your pain and suffering is tied to your misconceptions about me. 

I long to show you how deeply I love you.  I long for you to be joined to me, and to share my divinity with you; for you to be one with me. If only I could open your eyes more fully to my wisdom.

I have shown you the way through the example of the people in the Old Testament.  Their flaws are your flaws (or at least metaphors for your flaws). I long to protect you, but my way of protecting. I know my way doesn’t always meet your expectations of how a God should behave. I know this can be confusing for you, but trust that I know what is best for you.  You will experience bad times, but you will also enjoy good times. Both the good and the bad teach you and reform you in my sinless image. Remember that my image is of service, persecution, crucifixion, and love.  Many people heard my word, and walked away. Do not do the same.  Trust in me.  I have your eternal best interests at heart.  

Come to me. I know you thirst. I know you long for greater meaning in life. I am here. I long to show you how much I love you. I want you to receive the love of one who knows you, including all the skeletons in your closet.  I still love you, but I long for you to transcend this plane; to live life to the fullest in the good times and in the bad.   

I am the way, the truth, and the life.  Let me be your muse, your inspiration, and your strength.  We can do great things together if you let me in a little more each day.  

Be open to me today. Hear the words of love I speak to you.  Open yourself to my guiding hand. Trust in me. 

In Him,

dw

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Being a Christian is about knowing that, as a result of sin, we do not live the life God intended us to live.  It is about an ever deepening understanding of our sinful nature, how it negatively impacts not only our relationship with God, but also our ability to live a full life. It is about an on-going conversion experience where we work with God to shed our old selves and to become new in Christ. It is about realizing that God created us to live a life of trusting in Him; of walking in his Spirit. It is about us cooperating with the Holy Spirit within us for the conversion of souls and the good of all mankind.  It is about loving God and neighbor, and more importantly, letting God love others through our cooperation with the Spirit.  

It is about realizing we are all like the Apostles before Pentecost – not fully understanding the Gospel message, but slowly letting it sink in as our sinful nature is shed a little at a time because this is what allows us to be more open to God’s truth. 

It is about helping others, even if it means forgoing the fancy car, the new outfit, and/or the cup of Starbucks.  It is about remaining charitable, even if people take advantage of our generosity.  

It is about being unconditionally loved by a God who accepts us where we are, and longs for us to go ever deeper in communion with him.  Most importantly, it is about living in the joy of being in union with the God of the universe. 

I pray we all find ways to continuously go deeper in our faith walk, and to learn to be generous and loving despite all circumstances. I pray that each one of us experiences the love of God each and every day, and that these experiences show us how to live more and more like Christ. 

In Him,

dw