Christmas Eve Musing: On Christmas Past- Memories & Honor with Joy & Sorrow

Once upon a time a man wrote a story where a person looked at impact of Christmas past, present, a future to the point it changed his life and led to repentance. It is a story that captured the hearts and minds of many. In praying about what to write this season the focus on Christmas past, present, and future is what developed in my mind. See this Holiday; these days have become a very important day for the Church as a whole. Like a certain character in a book if each of us takes time to reflect on the past, present, and future elements of Christmas there will be impact that can lead to change.

Christmas it is a day that is meant to be a celebration and remembrance. It is a season that reminds us and focuses on what God has done and given in the gift of the Incarnation. A reflecting when God came to earth with a plan to reconcile all willing to receive to him, bringing peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Christmas as we know it today developed over time and a variety of stories and actions that have become part and parcel of the day. Now it is noteworthy, that God did not initiate this holiday itself. This celebration does not actually fall on the exact date of Jesus birth. Rather, it has become simply a day set aside where the focus is on what God has done. It is a day to think, learn, and look back on Jesus being born, coming to earth with His mission. It is a day in which Thanksgiving and Honor is given to God almighty. God’s act of love is remembered and acts of love are demonstrated to others. Those acts then create more memories and traditions that ultimately serve to Honor God.

Each family has traditions. Some remain consistent over time. Some fade as life changes. The traditions develop around memories of the ways love was demonstrated. In general we repeat the things that brought present memories to us, so that those we love can have a similar experience to our own. We care and give because we love. Sure, not all that has occurred on this Holiday is pleasant, pleasurable, or joyful. Sometimes there are hard and difficult times. Traditions end. Times change. Death and suffering take their toll. Yet, there are the memories formed and memories created. Even the hard times have moments of significant meaning for each individual. For God is always at work demonstrating His love, showing that He is now accessible and with us, because of the gift He gave of Himself that this Holiday commemorates and gives honor. And how we have been impacted by God and others has lasting impact. Otherwise none of us would have traditions. What we do we do because of what we have received for we act based on what we have received, hoping others receive similar.

Now while we have these traditions that touch us, ultimately each of us has our own personal memories. For ultimately any looking at the past is very personal. We are able to look at the joys and pains; the elation and grief. For in this world there is always good mixed with bad. Even the celebration of Christmas demonstrates that fact for we live with Christ-center thoughts and traditions and the other stuff. Good and bad. Those we love express the love, but they fall short. They may give what they can with good intention or be focused on self; or more often a combination of both. Now here is something that is special. This Holiday focuses on God loving and giving a gift unlike any other. God gave the only good and perfect gift: a gift of both Joy and Sorrow for God came to be with us, be among us to suffer greatly so that we may be reconciled to Him and enter relationship with our Creator. Now just as God’s perfect gift bring mixed emotions. So do our experiences and memories. We are touched in many ways with good and bad; love and pain. Each of our lives and stories are different. Each person has a unique Christmas past; ways that you have been impacted by others. Ways gifts have built you up. Ways actions have results in fears, defenses, and barriers. We all have them.

Initially when started writing this story the though was to perhaps share a memory of joy, disappointment, and even sorrow. Ask me in person and will gladly share stories. This article though is really to encourage personal reflection. Embrace the pleasant and painful memories. Embrace both the Joy and Sorrow and let each impact how you interact with others in this time and season. Identify, recognize, and remember what has gone on and see where God is working. Then give God glory and honor in your actions. Take time this season to grow in relationship to God and others as you remember your Christmas Past for whatever it is, look and you will find God’s love reflected, in both the best and the worst. And as you enter those memories and your Christmas past let “Hosanna’s” spring forth and the refrain of the Angels take root “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will to men.”

Pentecost Sunday Musing: Holy Spirit Empowerment

Today, Sunday 6/12/2011 is Pentecost Sunday[i]. It is the day that focuses on our being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is also known as the Jewish festival Shavuot.[ii]  In terms of previous thoughts regarding Pentecost please read https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/shavoutpentecost-musings/ and https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/musings-on-pentecost-sunday-shavu%e2%80%99ot/ in addition to today’s article.  Also please take time to celebrate having God with us and being in-dwelt with the Holy Spirit.

God set aside this day for a reason and a purpose. God specifically directed the disciples to wait. They were not to go off on their own and start sharing the good news about Salvation, they needed what they did not yet have.  See, on this day something happened that had not occurred before. Sure, there were instances of people being empowered by the Holy Spirit including Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, and others.  But there never had been the moment where God took up residence within the human spirit. It was the day that the following of God’s truth and God’s ways was given the empowerment through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enabling God with us, every day. It was the day that God’s ways, God’s law started being written on the hearts of humanity and daily fellowship with the creator enabled. 

Granted, there is a lot of ways folks understand and misunderstand the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  But, God made it clear that there is no fruit and progress without the Holy  Spirit. He directed the disciples to wait, to not go off on their own power to spread the gospel. Something else was needed.  Even then, he directed them to start local and move outward.  There were specific steps for specific times.  Now we may not always grasp or understand. At times we may be waiting, but God does go before us. He provides us what we need, when we need it. The Holy Spirit within us is evidence of this. But God gives when He gives in accordance with His will with what is necessary.  It may not match our viewpoint or understanding at all; for we do not see things clearly, only in part.  Think for a moment to what it would be like to be a disciple and having seen Jesus ascended and being directed to wait without having any idea what was coming.  Then Pentecost comes and the Holy Spirit comes and indwells. What a glorious day but no one could have possibly known what it meant until it happened. 

 

Now note that God still gives what in accordance with His will with what is necessary. It does not always line up or look like we think it should. We are told to listen and follow. We are to wait when directed to wait and we are to move forward when God says move forward. Each step involves trust.  Each instance and circumstance and life is unique.  Too often, each of us can look toward a certain way God moved and apply it broader.  But each circumstance, each person, each life is unique. God works in us all, and those of us who have submitted to God’s way and follow the true path have God with us. It is not a special thing about any of us, it is not a ‘divine spark.’ It is God taking up residence within us, to give us the power and direction to respond to God’s truth and love God and others in accordance with God’s will.  We simply need to trust and obey and be about what God directs each day. We are given power to do so each day, but it requires a daily surrender to the Holy Spirit and a seeking out and following God’s direction but in God’s word and in the prompting of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Doing so makes each day a glorious day and leads us into the path of contentment recognizing that we can do all things through God’s empowerment which is enabled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for this day, many years ago that allows me to walk, write, and do what God sets before me when I surrender daily.  It is this that enables us all to be conquerors and empowered to do whatever is ahead. For none of us can do what God directs on our own accord, just as the disciples needed the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so to we need this empowerment. It starts with surrender and following God with trust and obedience.  He gives the power, we just need to stay in step. When we are obedient and not relying on self, we can know that God will see us through to where He wants us, for He is promised is always faithful and He has given us the means to be empowered for whatever He asks in whatever circumstance.

Holy Week Musings: Good Friday and the Crux of the Cross.

The day of April 22nd, 2010 is Good Friday.  It is the day we focus on Jesus death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins.  The very action taken on that day is really the fulcrum point of all of history. The cross and Jesus death as the eternal lamb is central.   Now in order to understand how essential and critical Jesus death was to the whole of history let us go back to the beginning of humanity and the first sin of man.

Back in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.   In that disobedience, lies of being able to be able to determine right from wrong and elevate self to be “like God” was at the core.  It was a move out of being dependent on God, to being able to determine for self what is right and wrong.  This decision brought separation from God and resulted in consequences for the whole of creation. Those consequences entail the varied forms of suffering and the twisting of all creation.  The consequences that are suffering were designated by God, for apart from God, nothing is right, nothing is as intended.  It is a natural out-flow. When things are not in correspondence with how God intended to work, through dependence on Him, the result is pain.

Now recognizing that the pain and suffering comes as consequence to the initial deportation from depending on God, let us look a bit more closely at what Jesus death means.   Jesus came because of love. God had the plan ready to go when humanity chose to go on way.  The plan was for the innocent to take on the wrath for the guilty, but not just any innocent, a member of the Godhead himself,  Jesus the Son.  He left the full dynamic relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit, took on humanity, and took on all of suffering.  He lived perfectly, was wholly innocent, and suffered that we might live.  It was God’s plan, for there had to be away to redeem that which went another way.  Love dictated such an act.  The wrath of love dictated that the price be paid. So God paid it Himself. 

It is very important to grasp the depth of what it means that the Son of God came in the flesh.  Jesus, in whom “All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in bodily form”(Colossians 2:9), came to earth, entered in to suffering all in order that we may be free.  All God actions prior to the cross pointed ahead to the event and after everything points back to the cross. It is the center point.   He endured the suffering of humanity. He took on the worst death humanity could conjure. He was betrayed, mocked, belittled, and scourged.  This all because He did not measure up to what humanity expected, that He make the immediate life more comfortable and undo the tyranny.  He came to undo a tyranny, but that tyranny was the consequences of humanities sin. Just as through one man, sin entered the world, so too by one action, a solution was provided and tyrants defeated.  Just not in accordance with human perspective. 
Jesus came, suffered, and died so that the justice demanded by human pursuit of self-determination and moving away from surrender to God was fully satisfied making the action on the cross the crux of God’s plan and His story for humanity.  

It starts with sin and God establishing the consequences as the whole of creation is twisted. God takes on humanity, takes on suffering, and dies.  Dies, rejected of men.  For the first time the relationship of the Godhead is broken as the Father turns away from the Son for he cannot look upon the sin, for it is too much.  Jesus takes it all on, willingly, following the fathers plan, always in perfect submission to His will.  It is noteworthy, that at the moment of the death there were many events testifying to the importance and crucial moment.  Storms, darkness, earth quaking, and the veil tearing in two.  There has never been a greater act of love.  For some the act is foolishness, how can a Father require a Son to die for those who reject the father and are in conflict?  What is not grasped is the Son was fully on board, always in surrender to Father’s will, for there was no other way to make things right.  No other way to undo the twist and the suffering that entered due to self-determination.  God took the initiative. One that demands response from all and one of which to all response will one day be given, some just with weeping and gnashing of teeth because they continued along the way of self-determination instead of surrender to the one who suffered all so that all can be freed.

Worship in spirit and truth: How do we?

Well I never did give the second talk as posted on the blog. Originally was going to give a combined talk during a Wednesday prayer service but that also was set aside. Instead we video recorded this combined talk. I believe this combined talk does a more concise job of making both points. I hope to be able to have the video available on the blog at some point but in the meantime is his the combined text about worship in spirit and truth. May God bless all who read this.

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Good evening, it is a joy and privilege to be speaking here and I thank Pastor Lon for the privilege of sharing what God has put on my heart. When Pastor Lon asked me to speak what was put on my heart by God was to talk about what it means to worship in spirit and truth. So we will take a look at what it means to worship in both spirit and truth.

 

The main text for this topic is John 4:20-24 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 

First we need to have a general definition and understanding of worship before we can examine what it means to worship in spirit and worship in truth. There are two key passages that highlight a general definition of worship: Romans 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. And John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease.”

 

Those verses really define worship as God being placed at the forefront; it involves elevating God and surrendering self. Worship is all about our relationship with God. It is all about knowing God. This is even made clear in the source passage. Samaritans and Jews had significant issues of who held the proper place of temple and followed God truly. Samaritans believed that the temple belonged at Mount Gerizim, Jews in Jerusalem. Samaritans claimed they simply followed the commands as written whereas the Jews had the interpretations of the law. They really were at strong conflict; they did not like each other at all. They disagreed over both the place and form of following God. Jesus response was contrary to both views. Jesus told the Samaritans that they worshiped what they did not know, while the Jews worshipped what they did know. So Jesus was response pointed to something different than either party engaged in. He stated true worshipers will worship in both spirit and truth. Tonight, we are going to examine those relationships. What are the relationships described as worship in spirit and worship in truth? First we will examine the dynamics of worship in spirit than we will examine worship in truth, and will conclude on how such worship can impact the world.

 

In order to understand what it means to worship in spirit first we need to understand what is spirit? The bible has multiple references to spirit. 348 references in the Old testament, 350 references in the new testament. Now not all those references are referring to the human spirit, some reference the Holy Spirit, some reference evil spirits. But the bible does speak specifically about the human spirit. Here are some verses to give an example:

Psalm 51:11 “Create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit within me”

Matthew 5:3 “blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Mark 14:38 “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”

Rom 8:16 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”

The spirit is the inner most part of man. The bible tells us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. If you think about it, the Holy of Holies is symbolic of the human spirit. The spirit is the deepest part of humanity. The spirit is the place that Holy Spirit indwells:1Co 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.

 

Worship in spirit is all about God with us. It is about being indwelt with the Holy God in our spirit. It takes things away from rightness of place and into being indwelt and surrendering to the Holy Spirit.

It is all about a covenant relationship with the almighty God, where God is within us, leading us daily.

It is a change from the past. If you read Exodus 19 and 20 you will find that Israel initially was simply to hear God’s voice and obey. However, they got frightened of God’s voice and wanted a different covenant. The result was the need for a mediator and a set of mediated instruction known as Torah/the law. But now because of Jesus Christ we no longer need a mediator. We have a relationship with access to God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is not just hearing God’s voice. It is not just following God’s mediated instructions. It is being indwelt by the Holy and living God through the Holy Spirit.

 

We will look at three passages to understand how this works. The first passage is Colossians 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. The key part of the passage is the second part of the verse. Christ in us the hope of glory. This indicates that it is Christ in us that everything points to, it is the essential point. Yet, we know Jesus is in heaven as indicated in the next verse; Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. So here the verse says Jesus is in heaven appearing before the father on our behalf. So is Christ in us or in heaven, how does that work. It is explained in Ephesians 3:16, 17a that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–

So this indicates that Jesus is in us, through the Holy Spirit residing in our spirit. . God is truly with us. His presence abides in us. So here is how it works. Jesus is in heaven with the father, interceding on our behalf. Our faith enables us to be redeemed through His sacrifice for our sins. This enables us to be filled with God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in our spirit. This is the dynamic of worship in the spirit. We have the Holy Spirit who communicates to Jesus who goes before the father. So since the Holy Spirit resides in us we can begin to understand worship in spirit. It really is about an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit and as such with God. It involves ultimately Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Let’s look at understanding relating with the Holy Spirit a little bit more, how do relate with the Holy Spirit? Four passages help explain this better. The first passage is Ephesians 5:19 Do not be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery, but be being filled with the Holy Spirit. We all know what it is like to be drunk with wine. It is a loss of self control. The imagery stands in contrast to being filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit involves a release of self, and letting the Holy Spirit fill. It is an ongoing process. Actually most English translations describe the passage as be filled with the Holy Spirit but if you look at what the literal translation is, it is be being filled. It is an ongoing process.

Another verse that helps understand relating to the Holy Spirit is Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Now you may be thinking what that verse has to do with the Holy Spirit. Well, if you examine the meaning of yoke it is clear it points to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us to the right way of living. There are actually two ways the word yoke was used that help us to understand this. A Rabbi’s instruction for students is called a yoke. It is how a Rabbi expects his disciples to live. Now we have a more common understanding of a yoke in relation to animals. A yoke guides them in the right path or direction and keeps them from heading their own way or direction. In the same way the Holy Spirit is our guide and leads in the right path.

The next passage is really two separate verses but they really emphasize the same point. Galatians
5:16 & 25
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” & “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” We always have a choice, walk in self or live by Spirit. Go our own way, or follow the Holy Spirit. It is up to us, choose to submit to the Holy Spirit, God within, or we follow the way of self. Let’s look at this in another verse: John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
How do we abide in Christ, what was Jesus talking about here? Well, it is worship in the Spirit and surrender to the Holy Spirit. Worship in spirit is daily following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is daily surrendering self to His presence. It is abiding in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

 

When we engage in such daily surrender God gives us many benefits. It is not about some external manifestation. It is not about some internal mystical experience. It is about God with us and daily abiding in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a quick look at some of what we gain when we surrender to the Holy Spirit. The best way I can summarize this is that the Holy Spirit changes, teaches, empowers, and intercedes for us.

In terms of changing us it starts with conviction of sin: John 16:8-11 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

The Holy Spirit also enables us to overcome our sinful desires and attractions of the flesh as seen in Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

The Holy Spirit also teaches us as seen in John 14:26: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. It is also seen in John 16:13:When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. So the Holy Spirit is our teacher. His teaching leads to the Holy Spirit empowering us.

 

The Holy Spirit empowers us, enabling us to bear witness to the truth
Act 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
His empowerment includes giving us the gifts of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
When we worship in spirit and surrender we receive these things in the midst of our circumstances. They come from surrender to the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit also empowers us by given gifts or manifestations. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Not only does the Holy Spirit empower us in many ways, but will also intercede for us: Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

So there are lots of ways the Holy Spirit helps us. Worship in spirit is surrender to the Holy Spirit and not relying on own strength. Worship in spirit is surrendering to God on a daily basis and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is ongoing relating with God. It is God dwelling in us and leading us on His path. Now it can involve righteous behavior. It can involve internal, mystical experience. It can involve outpouring and external manifestations. It can involve supernatural activity. There are places where we sense the Holy Spirit active, such as in this church. But none of these are worship in spirit. Worship in spirit is daily, ongoing surrender of self to the Holy Spirit.

 

So now we understand the relationship that is worship in the spirit. Let us now look at the relationship known as worship in truth. The relationship with the Holy Spirit is pretty straight forward, it is little more difficult to understand having relationship with truth. How can we relate to truth?

 

In order to have a relationship we need to have knowledge about what it is we are supposed to be in a relationship with. So we need to get an idea of what the meaning of truth Jesus is referring to here. Now some may focus on worship in truth as being about the right way of worship or having the right mindset. Truth defined as doing it the right way. Yet, the Jews and Samaritans both professed attempts at doing it the right way. So Jesus was clearly talking about more than a right way of worship.

In order to better understand what Jesus meant, let us look at the meaning of the word used in this passage for truth. It is the Greek word Alethia (all-lay-thay-ah). Now in a lot of cases the word is simply used to refer to veracity or correctness, however the Gospel of John is about relationship with Jesus and the words chosen are ones that convey specific meanings as understood within the culture. The word Alethia has far deeper meaning in Greek culture than correctness. In examining the word several words came up consistently regarding the meaning of the word including: unhidden, revealed, unforgotten, reality, real, genuine, and sincere.

For me the words that came to mind that summarize the full meaning of Alethia came down to this: remembered revealed reality.

    

Therefore, worship in truth far transcends the idea of correctness and is something of lasting impact on the individual. It is about a genuine response to the revelation of God which has life changing impact. Since worship in truth starts with the revelation of God we need to examine what the revelation of God is and how it impacts us as individuals. By understanding each of those areas will get a better grasp at the genuine response to God known as worship in truth.

 

God does reveal himself in many ways including creation and other people. The primary sources of revelation are twofold. In talking about worship in the spirit, we discussed the Holy Spirit teaching us, so therefore the Holy Spirit is one clear source God’s revelation. Yet, God did not just leave us with the Holy Spirit but also with His written revelation of self, the Word of God, the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”
and in Romans 15:4
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
and Jesus himself stated in John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” So clearly God has revealed himself in scripture. Scripture is truth, ultimately truth about our relationship with God.

 

Now God’s revelation is not just about revealing God but it also reveals what is right for us. Psalms 119:105 states: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” In other words, God’s revealed word gives us the light we need so we do not stray from the right path. It gives us the way to walk. The second part of 2 Timothy 3:16 also makes this point by outlining the uses of God’s word, it useful for teaching, correcting, confronting, and training; all means of our walking rightly, and as such worshipping in truth.

 

So the God’s word reveals about God and what is right for us, but neither of those to areas are really the central theme of God’s revelation. Yes, the central theme is still about God and our relationship with God but the central theme is really all wrapped up in Jesus the Messiah. It is about as stated in Colossians 1:27
Christ in you, the hope of glory.
The whole of scripture is about Jesus. Jesus fills the whole of scripture with meanings. This is shown in a few places in scripture. Let’s start with what Jesus himself said: Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. The word translated for fulfill actually is better translated as fills them up with meaning. Jesus gives the meaning to the whole of scripture. Everything that was part of Jewish life in following Torah pointed to Jesus.. Paul in Colossians 2:17 puts it: “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Jesus is the substance to the truth of the Gospel. And regarding Prophecy, John wrote in Revelation 19:10 the last half of the verse that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
So as you can see, the word of God is all about Jesus and our being restored to relationship with God. It is the essence of God’s revelation. More simply put Jesus is the truth. Jesus himself proclaimed in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” The word Jesus used here is the same one we are examining related to worship in truth, alithea. Jesus is the remembered revealed reality.

 

There is one more verse I want to touch on in discussing God’s revelation through His word, and that is John 1:1-5:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
This verse again really highlights that Jesus is the revelation of God. The word used here is the Greek word Logos, which is generally translated as reason, and in usage points to a concept of God’s reason. There are really three dimensions to the Greek concept of Logos: divine nature, source of all life, and a mediator between the divine and the natural. This is in essence what God’s revelation is all about. John further points out that God’s divine reason then brings light. Jesus himself proclaims this in John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. So Jesus is not just the living embodiment of the Word of God, but the source of light that in turn directs our path.

 

So now that we have examined what God’s revelation is about, which is Jesus, who is the remembered revealed reality it is time to look at how God’s revelation impacts us. The heart of understanding worship in truth also comes in understanding the impact of God’s revelation in our lives, or more importantly how we are changed by Jesus and the response it draws. The impact of God’s revelation can be looked at in three areas: our identity in Jesus, our place in God’s kingdom, and our genuine response.

Let us first examine God’s revealed truth regarding our identity. Here is the fact, each of us at one point were not part of the kingdom of God, we were enemies. This is true for even people like myself who accepted God’s grace at first choice. We were born into darkness, as enemies to God’s kingdom. We were born as sinful, selfish people. As it says in Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Now through Jesus we are no longer enemies. We have peace with God Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And remember it is Christ in us that is the hope of glory as seen in Colossians 1:27. Because of the revelation of Jesus and His redemption of sins, we are no longer God’s enemies if we accepted the gift of Jesus through faith.

Our identity is more than being no longer enemies who have been brought to peace with God. God has not just indwelt us with the Holy Spirit allowing Christ in us as we examined talking about worship in spirit. God has also changed us. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone who is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.”
God moves us away from our own selfish way of doing things into a new way. We are made new. We are changed from people of darkness to people of the light. And not only have we been made new and at peace with God, we have been set free from bondage and adopted into God’s family as seen in Romans 8:15-17 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

 

In fact being made at peace with God, being made new, being set free, being adopted are really all part and parcel to becoming children of God and as such heirs. So the truth is God has done much for us, he has brought us out of darkness into light and not only have we been brought to peace and made new but made into children with an inheritance. This the identity of those of us who submit to God, something far greater than anything we could do of our own accord in our own worlds.

 

Now being we are heirs and children of God, this brings us to examining an understanding of our place in God’s kingdom. As children of God and heirs, God has in mind specific tasks and has gifted us accordingly. Even before we entered into the kingdom of God, God took His time in creating each one of us. Psalms 139:13-15 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. We see evidence throughout scripture of God using varied people for His plans and purposes. Being Children of God he has a plan for each of us. He has given us talents to use and invest and gives us spiritual gifts through the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
So God has given each of use gifts to use and invest in the kingdom. He created us with purpose to build up one another and work toward the common good of the kingdom of God. So, it is important for use to use the gifts God has given and not only that, be thankful for what God has given. 1 Corinthians 12-14 really is worth spending time examining regarding the gifts God gives to His children. It is important to note that in that passage the point is made is we are all different parts of the body. This point is also emphasized in Romans 12:4-8 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. We need to accept what God has given us and move in the areas God leads. We need to not withhold our talents and gifts but use them. We also are not to think highly of ourselves and become prideful. Not to be envious of how God has gifted others, but praise God and accept what the King has given to His child to serve Him.

 

So we have looked at God’s revelation and impact on us, it is time to turn our attention to understanding our response to all that God has done and revealed. Understanding our genuine response to God’s truth, the remembered revealed reality, is really at the core of understanding worship in truth. It is all about what we do in response to what God has revealed and done in our lives. It is our response to His grace.

 

Now I want to give you an illustration that highlights the nature of genuineness. This past week me and my wife decided to buy some watches. Now these watches are not ordinary watches, they are replicas of famous expensive watches such as Cartier, Rolex, and Armani. They look and function like the genuine article. You look at them and cannot really tell the difference from the real thing. However, that appearance is external. The internal workings of the watch are not genuine, but something functional. These watches only appear to be genuine. The genuine article is true on both the inside and outside. So when we consider worship in truth as being a genuine response to God, it gets beyond appearance and to what flows from the inside. What is on the outside reflects the inner workings.

 

A key passage in understanding genuine response is found in James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Now upon hearing this portion of the word of God, did you hear James discussion the very essences of the word for truth John used. Each element of remembered revealed reality is evident.

 

The first element being remembered. James clearly points out the differences between remembering and forgetting and using the picture of looking in a mirror and forgetting what you look like upon leaving. Yet, for many of us, we spend a lot of time forgetting. We go to church, read the bible, pray, and such yet as soon as finish, we forget. When we forget we are not walking in truth. Spending time focusing on God’s revelation serves as a reminder.

The second element is the revelation, this is what we are to remember. Everything mentioned tonight are things we need to continually remember. The greatness of God’s gift in Jesus and our being made children of God who serve His purposes is vital to us. All this is revelation to be remembered.

And the third element is that of reality. Remember revelation only become reality in one way, by action. As James points out, faith without works is dead. So than what are we to do, what are the works God requires of us?

 

Well the apostle John put it this way in 1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Is it simply doing things the right way, following a code or instructions the right way or has God got something more in mind? Remember both the Jews and Samaritans tried to do things the right way, so clearly there is something more involved. Well John did define God’s commandments earlier in 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. So the key here clearly is to walk in love, love of God and love one another. Jesus himself stated Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And adds in Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So essentially it comes down to this. Love God with your whole self. The designations of heart, soul, mind, and strength for some can be confusing so let me give some clarity. These four areas are the elements of self. Self is made up of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. God wants us to love Him with our complete self. The second command is to love others. This is evident throughout the New Testament in with discussions of interactions with one another. Some examples of our directions are: submit to authorities, submit to one another, bless those who curse you, and love your enemies. Words easily said, sometimes easily agreed to, but difficult to live by. Yet, the genuine response to God’s revelation results in our living in love. It is reflected in our deeds. It is not about style, or substance, or place, or any “thing.” Worship in truth is about walking in love. It is how Jesus walked, with genuine love. Our genuine response is to be imitators of Jesus. Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Now it is worthwhile to point out here, that we all fall short of this standard continually. We all fail to walk in full love, our self gets in the way, way too often. Yet, God is aware of that. Anyone who imitates another does not do so purely. We key in on some part of the greater whole and reflect part of the character. The key is that we reflect God’s love. God does not expect us to do it perfectly, but to seek to do it with all that we are. As we do so, we imitate and reflect God. This reflection is a key concept. Jesus called us the light of the world in Matthew 5:14 and directs us in Matthew 5:16 to Let our light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven. Yet, Jesus also referred to Himself as the light of the world in John 8:12. So how does that work? Jesus is the light. He gives us His light, which we in turn reflect to the world. Our walking in love of God and others reflects Jesus. Our genuine response is not something that happens in a void. What we do is seen by others.

 

This leads us to the final portion of today’s message. All of this understanding of worshiping in spirit and truth leads us to how this impacts the world. Our having an ongoing submitted relationship to God through submission to the Holy Spirit and reflected in a genuine response to God through living in love has impact on the world. Given God’s remember revealed reality and being a temple of the Holy Spirit, we have a responsibility. We are as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. What this means, is we are God’ representatives on earth. Does he need us to draw those in darkness to the truth? Not really. But he chooses to use us, so that His love can be seen through us. It all comes down to that passage in Colossians 1 :27, Christ in us, the hope of glory.

 

Now there is a very really danger for each us as we are in the world. The danger comes in forgetting God’s revelation and being tempted to conform to the things of the world or love them. Romans 12:2
states: Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Clearly the ways of the world run contrary to what God desires of us, the world seeks to derail us from a life of submitted relationship that results in a genuine response to God’s revealed reality. This is also emphasized in 1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

 

So then the question is how do we keep from being captivated by the world? Well Colossians 3:2
put it this way Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
It is a matter of what you value. The temporary things of the world, or the eternal things of God. This is pointed out in Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,

where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So we need to continually focus our thoughts that this life is momentary, God has more for us.

 

So here is a central point of understanding worship in spirit and truth. When we walk in submission and exhibit genuine response to God’s remembered revealed reality, we let our lights shine. Recently I have come to understand the moon as a symbol of the church. The moon reflects the suns light, in the same way we reflect the light of Jesus to the world. In addition the amount of light we reflect does vary. We have moments where we reflect very little light, just a sliver. There are times we shine brightly giving the full reflection we can give. It all varies as to whether we are walking in submission and responding genuinely or following our own ways. When we walk in loving God fully and loving others, the light shines brightly, when we look after self, we reflect less light.

 

So how do we move in reflecting more light? How do we walk more clearly in worshipping in spirit and truth? There are some basic steps we can do.

 

Ask Holy Spirit to show you what you need to change and wisdom on how to chance

Submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading and let the Holy Spirit empower you

Turn from the things that inhibit walking in love of God and others.

Focus your mind on things above, not on things of this earth.

Remember who God is and what He has done.

Respond with genuine giving of yourself.

 

 

 


Fellowship of Maceio English service 9-26-2009: Worship in spirit.

On September 26th, 2009 I spoke at Fellowship of Maceió Church, in Portuguese, Igreja Batista da Comunhão, after my brother-in-law, Pastor Lon Davidson asked me to speak at there English service.  I will post here the thoughts I shared while speaking. It probably is not a perfect replication of all I said but the essential points are included. 

Good evening, I was surprised when Pastor Lon asked me to speak at the service but am glad to be doing so. After being asked to speak, I prayed and asked God what to speak about and the direction he pointed me was to speak about what it means to worship in spirit and truth.  Tonight we focus on worship in spirit. 

 The main text for this topic is John 4:20-24 and it is where Jesus talks about worshiping in spirit and truth.  

John 4:20-24   Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 Now in order to understand what it is to worship in spirit and truth we first need to have an understanding of worship. There are two passages that point to the essential meaning of worship.

Romans 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 

John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease”

For the purpose of this study worship is defined as putting God at the forefront and involves elevating God and surrendering self.  Now there can be whole sermons written on the nature of worship but this simple definition is central to what we are examining.

It is also good to be aware of what the issue was that Jesus was responding to.  Samaritans and Jews had significant issue of who held the proper place of temple and followed God truly. Samaritans believed that the temple belonged at Mount Gerizim, Jews in Jerusalem. They really were at strong conflict; they did not like each other at all.   So, yes Jesus response was contrary to both views.  True worshipers worship in spirit and truth.  Today we are examining worship in spirit. 

In order to understand what it means to worship in spirit first we  need to understand what is spirit?  The bible has multiple references to spirit. 348 references in the  Old testament, 350 references in the new testament. Now not all those references are referring to the human spirit, some reference the Holy Spirit, some reference evil spirits. But the bible does speak specifically about the human spirit. Here are some verses to give an example:

Psalm 51:11 “Create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit within me”

Matthew 5:3 “blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Mark 14:38 “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”

 Rom 8:16  “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”

The spirit is the inner most part of man.  The bible tells us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  If you think about it, the Holy of Holies is symbolic of the human spirit.  The spirit is the deepest part of humanity. The spirit is the place that Holy Spirit indwells:

1Co 6:19  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own

 

Worship in spirit is all about God with us. It is about being indwelt with the Holy God in our spirit. It takes things away from rightness of place and into being indwelt and surrendering to the Holy Spirit.

It is all about a covenant relationship with the almighty God, where God is within us, leading us daily.
Now to understand the nature of this relationship it is important to understand the past covenants, in particular with Israel.

Do you what we refer to as the law was not the first covenant.  Rather it was the second option.

God first simply wanted Israel to hear his voice and obey. The biblical reference for this is Exodus 19:5.  However, the voice of God scared them and they wanted to renegotiate the terms.  This is found in Exodus 20:18-19.

 God agreed to renegotiate and this resulted in God using a mediator or intercessor: Moses, priests, and prophets.  It resulted in the Torah, what we call the law: mediated instructions. This can be found in Deuteronomy 18:15-19

 But now because of Jesus Christ we no longer need a mediator. We have a relationship with access to God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is not just hearing God’s voice. It is not just following God’s mediated instructions.  It is being indwelt by the Holy and living God through the Holy Spirit. There are three passages that really explain how this works:

Colossians  1:27  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

This indicates that it is Christ in us that everything points to, it is the essential point. Yet, we know Jesus is in heaven as indicated in the next verse;

 Hebrews 9:24  For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

So Jesus is described as in us, yet He is in Heaven with the father.  How can both be true? This is answered in the next verse;

Eph 3:16, 17a  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-

Jesus is in us, through the Holy Spirit residing in our spirit. 

So here is how it works.  Jesus is in heaven with the father, interceding on our behalf. Our faith enables us to be redeemed through his sacrifice for our sins.  This enables us to be filled with God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in our spirit. This is the dynamic of worship in the spirit. We have the Holy Spirit who communicates to Jesus who goes before the father. It is really an amazing thing to have all aspects of God interacting when we worship in spirit. 

God is truly with us. His presence abides in us.  So since the Holy Spirit resides in us we can begin to understand worship in spirit.  It really is about an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit and as such with God. 

Let’s look at understanding relating with the Holy Spirit a little bit more, how do relate with the Holy Spirit?

 Four passages help explain this better:

Ephesians 5:19  Do not be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery, but be being filled with the Holy Spirit.

We all know what it is like to be drunk with wine. It is a loss of self control.  The imagery stands in contrast to being filled with the Holy Spirit.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit involves a release of self, and letting the Holy Spirit fill.  It is an ongoing process. Actually most English translations describe the passage as be filled with the Holy Spirit but if you look at what the actually translation is, it is be being filled. As I stated it is an ongoing process.  Now lets look at the next verse that helps understand relating with the Holy Spirit.

Mat 11:28-30  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yokupon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Now you may be thinking what that verse has to do with the Holy Spirit. Well, if you examine the meaning of yoke it is clear it points to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us to the right way of living.  There are actually two ways the word yoke was used that help us to understand this. A Rabbi’s (teacher) instruction for students is called a yoke. It is how a Rabbi expects his disciples to live. Now we have a more common understanding of a yoke in relations to animals. A yoke guides them in the right path or direction and keeps them from heading their own way or direction.  In the same way the Holy Spirit is our guide and leads in the right path.

The next passage is really two separate verses but they really emphasize the point.

Galatians 5:16 & 25 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” & “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

We always have a choice, walk in self or live by Spirit.  Go our own way, or follow the Holy Spirit. It is up to us, choose to submit to the Holy Spirit, God within, or we follow the way of self. Let’s look at this in another verse:

 John 15:4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

How do we abide in Christ, what was Jesus talking about here. Well, it is worship in the Spirit and surrender to the Holy Spirit. Worship in spirit is daily following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is daily surrendering self to His presence. It is abiding in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. When we engage in such daily surrender God gives us many benefits. It is not about some external manifestation. It is not about some internal mystical experience. It is about God with us and daily abiding in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits.

First the Holy Spirit gives testimony to our New Identity.  Romans 8:16-17 states:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The Holy Spirit also teaches us as seen in John 14:26:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

It is also seen in John 16:13:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Both those passages actually show the Holy Spirits function here on earth and in our relationship. Leading us and teaching us truth is one of those roles. Not only does He lead us into truth, when we ask for wisdom the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into Wisdom.

James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Holy Spirit  leads us to repentance and helps us overcome our flesh. I already referenced

 Galatians 5:16  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

and it clearly shows the Holy Spirit has a role in our overcoming sin.

 When we worship in spirit and surrender to the Holy Spirit we receive fruit. This is seen in Galatians 5:22-23 which should be familiar to you.   

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When we worship in spirit and surrender we receive these things in the midst of our circumstances. They come from  surrender to the Holy Spirit.

 Also the Holy Spirit gives us gifts, things to use to make disciples as seen in:

 1 Corinthians 12:7-11  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. So you can see surrender to the Holy Spirit and walking in worship in spirit has many benefits.  Now I want to bring this to a close and give you some questions as an application point.

 In summary, worship in spirit is surrendering to God on a daily basis and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is ongoing relating with God.  It is God dwelling in us and leading us on His path. Now it can involve righteous behavior. It can involve internal, mystical experience. It can involve outpouring and external manifestations. It can involve supernatural activity. There are places where we sense the Holy Spirit active, such as in this church. But none of these are worship in spirit. Worship in spirit is daily, ongoing surrender of self to the Holy Spirit. So for application thing about these questions:

 What is more evident in your life?

Are you walking in flesh or walking in the Spirit?

Are you depending on self or things of this world for what is described as fruit of Spirit?

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you today that you need to change to walk in the Spirit and live out worshiping in Spirit?

Now I will close in prayer, take a few minutes to think about those questions and I will then pray.

 

 

Dear heavenly father, thank you for sending the gift of your Son. Thanks for sending us your Holy Spirit and truly being with us.  Lord, make us aware of when we are walking in flesh and not the Holy Spirit.  Draw us into deeper worship in spirit while we release self and fill us with your Holy presence through the Holy Spirit. Thank you father, for making this way for us, help us to surrender. In your name, Amen.

Musings on the pain of separation and relationship to feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Well this last Saturday was Rosh Hashanah. If you haven’t read last years article on the subject I hope you take the time to do so, it focused on the alarm and awakening aspect of the first trumpet. Now while I have some other thoughts related to Rosh Hashanah for another article I want to first attend to thoughts related to my experience which happened to fall on Rosh Hshanah.  The day for me was a traveling day.  Me and the wife were in the midst of traveling to visit family in Brazil.  In this process we needed to leave our little dog, Bella, behind.

Now we left her in good hands with my mother. She will be treated more like a dog and will have the company of my mom’s dog.  Yet, leaving her behind was very difficult.  As we left her friday night, the sadness was great.  The worst part was when we left and she followed us right to the door expecting to leave with us and having to see her watch us leave not understanding what was going on. My mother reported that whole first night she kept looking for us to see if we were returning.  She has now settle into the routine of that house but clearly she missed us.  Now, me and the wife feel this way over our little dog. I cannot yet imagine what it is like to be separated from a child you love. 

Thoughts that came to my mind during this time centered on how much pain God experiences over separation from us. There are two thoughts related to this.  First of all is the separation of sin.  The choosing to turn from God that goes back to Eden had to be devastating for God. God was enjoying his fellowship with his creation and then choices were made that brought on lasting separation.  This separation is so severe that God refers to it as death.  God certainly felt an intense amount of grief over that choice.  In the same way each time we go our own way, chase after whatever idol seems to satisfy, God is in great pain. He wants be with us.  He wants to be with us so much that he has taken whatever means necessary to reconcile the relationship.  He pursues connection and for each rejection, He has great pain.  The thought of such pain of separation draws me to examine myself and turn from that which separates me from the love of God. It is important to note, that once reconciled with God, there is nothing that we do that brings back that separation of sin. God has made it so that pain does not have to be experienced again.  Nothing will ever separate us from his love again.

The second thought the pain of separation brings to mind is about the joy of reuniting.  During this trip we are going to spend time with the wife’s family. Several of them we haven’t seen in five years.  When we landed the family members that were present were literally jumping with joy.  It is of great joy to be reunited with those you love after separation.  The same is true with God’s relationship with us.  There will be nothing of greater joy than when Jesus is able to end the separation and return to be with us.  The first trumpet is a call that says the time is truly near and Jesus is coming soon.  Now regardless of end times theology one subscribes, the fact is the first trumpet signals the soon and coming return of  Jesus. It is a time of exceeding joy.  The time of the pain of separation is over, and the joy of fellowship returning.  

Another thought that crosses my mind is that when there is separation we always have something to look back on with memory. For our dog we left something behind with our scents on it.  We have pictures, videos, and our memories to ease the times of separation from those we love.  God did not leave us without means of relationship.  He left us two things.  The Bible and the Holy Spirit.  The bible gives us God’s words and gives us pictures, memories and directions on how to live until his return.  Yet, he did not just leave us with his Word but also has indwelt us. While Jesus has left, we do have the Holy Spirit dwelling within.  God is truly with us.  For me it may seem like interacting with God on similar levels to communicating by phone or internet.   We have that direct connection but yet it is not quite the same as full physical contact with another body.  Yet, God even left us a third piece to deal with that separation.  We are the body of Christ. When we interact with one another, we  are able to step into the void of seperation. We reflect and demonstrate pieces of God’s love. 

So for each Christian, we eagerly await the soon and coming return of Jesus.  We long to hear that first trumpet blast that says the time is rapidly approaching.  God left us the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and each other to help us in this time of separation. But the time is soon coming when we will no longer be longing for the return of Jesus and experience the joy of His return.