Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Baptism in the Spirit

I refuse to accept the narrowing down of the Church to fit my own predispositions, preferences and, let's be honest, prejudices. That is not to say that it is bad to express oneself within the confines of one's own tradition, but to do this while understanding that that is more about one's own identity than the truth. So I can personally accept and celebrate the life that I see and experience in Pentecostal, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and other churches not of my own, which is Anglican Evangelical/Charismatic.

That is why I enjoy reading and listening to Fr Raniero Cantalamessa who is the Preacher to the Papal Household and a Roman Catholic Charismatic. Here is an article by him on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which is something that crosses denominational boundaries:

CONCERNING THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

It is important to understand what the Renewal in the Spirit is all about. After the Second Vatican Council, many things in the Church’s life were renewed--the liturgy, pastoral care, canon law, the constitutions and dress of religious orders. Although all these things are important, they are only external things. Woe to us if we stop there and think the task is finished. It is not structure but souls that are important to God. “It is in men’s souls that the Church is beautiful,” writes St. Ambrose...and therefore it is in men’s souls that she must make herself beautiful.

God is Author and Power
The Renewal is a renewal in which God, not man, is the principal author “I, not you,” says God, “make all things new”(Rev. 21:5). “My Spirit--and He alone--may renew the face of the earth” (see Ps. 104:30). From the religious point of view, we tend to view things from a ptolemaic perspective: at the foundation are our efforts--organization, efficiency, reforms, and goodwill. These have the earth here as the center which God comes to strengthen and crown by His grace and our effort.

We must--at this point as the Word of God cries out--”give the power back to God” (Ps. 68:35) because “the power belongs to God” (Ps. 62:12). For too long we have usurped this power of His by managing it as if it were ours, as if it was up to us to “govern” the power of God. We have to totally change our perspective. That is, we have to acknowledge simply that without the Holy Spirit, we cannot do anything, not even say, “Jesus is Lord!” (1Cor. 12:3).

The Baptism in the Spirit is not a sacrament, but it is related to the sacraments of Christian initiation. The Baptism in the Spirit makes real and in a way renews Christian initiation. The primary relationship is with the sacrament of Baptism.

We believe that the Baptism in the Spirit makes real and revitalizes our Baptism. To understand how a sacrament which was received so many years ago, usually immediately after our birth, could suddenly come back to life and emanate so much energy, as often happens through the Baptism in the Spirit, it is important to look at our understanding of sacramental theology.

Catholic theology recognizes the concept of a valid but bound sacrament. A sacrament is called bound if the fruit that should accompany it remains bound because of certain blocks that prevent its effectiveness. Extreme examples of this are the sacrament of Matrimony and Holy Orders received in the state of mortal sin. In such circumstances these sacraments cannot grant any grace to people until the obstacle of sin is removed through Penance. Once this happens, the sacrament is said to live again, thanks to the indelible character and irrevocability of the gift of God. God remains faithful even if we are unfaithful because He cannot deny Himself (see Tim. 2:1-3).

In the case of Baptism, what is it that causes the fruit of the sacrament to stay bound? The sacraments are not magical rituals that act mechanically, without the person’s knowledge, disregarding any response on his part. Their effectiveness is the fruit of a synergy or cooperation between divine omnipotence--in reality the grace of Christ or the Holy Spirit--, and human freedom. As St. Augustine said, “The one who created you without your cooperation will not save without your cooperation.”

The opus operatum of Baptism, namely God’s part, or grace, has several aspects: forgiveness of sins, the gifts of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity (these, however, only as a seed), and divine sonship. All of these aspects operate through the effective action of the Holy Spirit. But what does the opus operantis in Baptism--namely, man’s part--consist of? It consists of faith! “Whosoever believes and is baptised shall be saved”(Mark 16:16). Along with Baptism therefore, there is another element: the faith of man. “To all who received Him He gave the power to become children of God: to those who believe in His name” (John 1:13).

Baptism is like a divine seal put on the faith of man. Having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and having believed in it, you have received (of course, in Baptism) the seal of the Holy Spirit (see Eph. 1:13).

Baptism and Confirmation of Faith
At the beginning of the Church, Baptism was such a powerful event and so rich in grace that there was normally not a need of a new effusion of the Spirit like we have today. Baptism was ministered to adults who converted from paganism, and who, properly instructed, were in the position to make on the occasion of Baptism, an act of faith, and a free, mature choice. It is sufficient to read the mystagogic catechesis on Baptism attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem to become aware of the depth of faith to which those waiting for Baptism were led. In substance, they arrived at Baptism through a true and real conversion, and thus, for them Baptism was a real washing, a personal renewal, and a re-birth in the Holy Spirit.

The favourable circumstances that allowed Baptism at the origins of the Church to operate with so much power was that the grace of God and man’s response met at the same time. There was a perfect synchronization.

Infant Baptism in a Non-Christian Environment
But now this synchronization has been broken since we are baptised as infants. Little by little this aspect of the free and personal act of faith no longer happens. It was substituted instead by a decision made by intermediary parents or godparents. When a c child grew up in a totally Christian environment, this faith could still flourish, even though at a slower rate. Now, however, this no longer the case, and our spiritual environment is even worse than the one at the time of the Middle Ages. Not that there is no normal Christian life, but it is now the exception rather than the rule.

In this situation, rarely, or never, does the baptised person ever reach the stage of proclaiming in the Holy Spirit, “Jesus is Lord.” Until one reaches this point, everything else in the Christian life remains out of focus and immature.
Miracles no longer happen, and we experience what Jesus did in Nazareth: “Jesus could not perform many miracles because of their lack of faith” (Matt. 13:58)

God’s Will
Here, then, is what I feel to be the significance of the Baptism in the Spirit. It is God’s answer to this malfunctioning that has grown up in the Christian life in the sacrament of Baptism.

It is an accepted fact that over the last few years there has been some concern on the part of the Church, among the bishops, that the Christian sacraments, especially Baptism, are being administered to people who will not make any use of them in life. As a result, it has even been suggested that Baptism should not be administered unless there are some minimum guarantees that it will be cultivated and valued by the child in question. For one should not throw pearls to dogs, as Jesus said, and Baptism is a pearl because it is the fruit of the Blood of Christ.

But it seems that God was concerned about this situation even before the Church was, and He raised up here and there in the Church, movements aimed at renewing Christian initiation in adults. The Charismatic Renewal is one of these movements, and in it the principal grace is, without doubt, linked to Baptism of the Spirit and what comes before it.

Release and Confirmation of Faith
Its effectiveness in reactivating Baptism consists in this: Finally man contributed his part--namely, he makes a choice of faith, prepared in repentance, that allows the work of God to set itself free and to emanate all its strength. It is as if the light is switched on. The gift of God is finally “unbound”, and the Spirit is allowed to flow like a fragrance in the Christian life.

In addition to the renewal of the grace of Baptism, the Baptism in the Spirit is also a confirmation of one’s own Baptism, a deliberate “yes” to it, to its fruit and its commitments. As such, it is also similar to Confirmation. Confirmation is the sacrament that develops, confirms and brings to completion the work of Baptism.

From it, too, comes that desire for greater involvement in the apostolic and missionary dimension of the Church that is usually noted in those who receive the Baptism in the Spirit. They feel more inclined to cooperate with the building up of the Church, placing themselves at her service in various ministries both clerical and lay, to witness for Christ--to do all those things that recall the happening of Pentecost and which are actuated in the sacrament of Confirmation.

The Baptism of the Spirit is not the only occasion known within the Church for this reviving of the sacraments if initiation. There is, for example, the renewal of the baptismal promises in the Easter Vigil. There are also the spiritual exercises and religious profession, sometimes called a “second Baptism.” At the sacrament level there is Confirmation. It is not difficult to discover in the lives of the saints the presence of a spontaneous effusion, especially on the occasion of their conversion. The difference with the Baptism in the Spirit, however, is that it is open to all the people of God, small and great, and not only to those privileged ones who do the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises or make religious profession.

The Will of God in History
Where does this extraordinary force that we experienced when were baptised in the Spirit come from? What we are talking about is not just some theory, but something that we ourselves have experienced and therefore can say with John, “What we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what our hands have touched, this we also announce to you, so that you too can be in communion with us (see John 1:1-11). The explanation of this force is in the will of God because God was pleased to renew the Church today by this means, and this is enough.

There are certainly some biblical precedents, like the one told in Acts 8:14-17, when Peter and John, having heard that Samaria welcomed the Word of God, went there, prayed for them and laid hands on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit. But these biblical precedents are not sufficient to explain the vastness and depth of the contemporary manifestations of the Spirit.

The explanation, therefore, is in God’s plan. We could say, by paraphrasing a famous saying of the Apostle Paul: Because Christians, with all their organization, were not able to transmit the power of the Spirit, God was pleased to renew the believers through the foolishness of Baptism in the Spirit. In fact, theologians look for an explanation, and responsible people for moderation; but simple souls touch with their hands the power of Christ in the Baptism of the Spirit. (1Cor. 12:1-24).

We men, and in particular, we men of the Church, tend to limit God in His freedom. We tend to insist that He follow a compulsory pattern (the so-called channels of grace). We forget that God is a torrent that breaks loose and creates its own path, and that the Spirit blows where and how He wants. (Notwithstanding the role of the teaching of the Church to discern what actually comes from the Spirit and what does not come from Him.)

What does the Baptism in the Spirit consist of, and how does it work?
In the Baptism of the Spirit, there is a secret, mysterious move of God that is His way of becoming present in a way that is different for each one. Only He knows us in our inner part and how to act upon our unique personality. There is also an external community part which is the same for everyone. This consists mainly of three things: brotherly love, laying on of hands, and prayer. These are non-sacramental but simply ecclesiastic elements.

From the Father and Son
Where does the grace we experience in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit come from? From those around us? No! From the person who receives it? No! It comes from God! We can only say that such grace is related to Baptism because God always acts with coherence and faithfulness. He honours the commitments and institutions of Christ. One thing is certain--it is not the brothers who impart the Holy Spirit, but they do invoke the Holy Spirit on the person. Only Jesus may give the Holy Spirit.

As to the manner of this grace, we may speak of a new coming of the Holy Spirit, of a new mission by the Father through Jesus Christ, or a new anointing corresponding to a new degree of grace.

Note: The Holy Spirit is bringing us closer together as Christians at this time whether willingly through His Spirit, or unwillingly through persecution. The above article underlines this and I rejoice to read what people like Fr Raniero is doing and saying.

The importance of liturgy

The importance of having some kind of shape to the way you worship

God of love, God of judgement - Episode 2

God of Love, God of Judgement? - Episode 1

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Heaven - with Billy Graham

Them and us? Or just us?

Christians have a propensity to divide despite the fact that Jesus' expressed will and prayer is that we "should all be as one" (John 17:21). Somehow it makes us feel good and righteous to be able to point out the flaws and doctrinal inaccuracies of others while ignoring the ones that belong to us and are staring us in the face.

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the day when the Spirit fell on the gathering of disciples as they met and prayer together in the Upper Room. What followed next was an explosion of spiritual energy and power which is even today still sending out ripples across the world and upsetting the carefully laid plans and intentions of the Church to have things their own way. I love the picture once painted by Rev David Watson of someone opening a window on a windy day only for all the carefully folded and stacked papers in the room to be sent flying everywhere. No wonder some of the more staid and tradition bound churches like to keep the Holy Spirit out. Goodness knows what will happen to our preconceptions, misconceptions and personal conceptions of the way things should be.

In recent years I have read a lot about other denominations and in particular those two great monoliths the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches. And what has surprised me is that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and doing wonderful things among the more open-hearted and minded among them. An example of what I mean can be found below. Leaving out all references to Roman Catholicism you could easily mistake it as being written by some fervent Pentecostal or renewed Evangelical:

"Without Pentecost, the Gospel is not truly Good News.  For the seven gifts and Pentecostal charisms given by the Holy Spirit on this birthday celebration of the Church Catholic are essential for the success of our mission and indispensable for a joyful, victorious Christian life.

As a teen, I thought the clergy were supposed to do everything. We laity were just called to pray, pay, and obey. Oh yes, and keep the commandments, of course. The original 10 seemed overwhelming enough. Then I discovered the Sermon on the Mount and nearly passed out.

Perhaps this is why many inactive Catholics are so resentful of their upbringing in the Church. For them, religion means frustration, failure, and guilt.

Somehow they, and I, missed the good news about Pentecost. OK, we Catholics celebrate the feast every year and mention it in Confirmation class, but lots of us evidently didn't “get it.”

Because if we “got it,” we’d be different. Bold instead of timid, energetic instead of anaemic, fascinated instead of bored. Compare the apostles before and after Pentecost and you’ll see the difference the Spirit makes.

The gospel is Good News not just because we’re going to heaven, but because we've been empowered to become new people, here and now. Vatican II insisted that each of us is called to the heights of holiness (Lumen Gentium, chapter V). Not by will-power, mind you. But by Holy Spirit power. Holiness consists in faith, hope, and especially divine love. These are “virtues,” literally “powers,” given by the Spirit. To top it off, the Spirit gives us seven further gifts which perfect faith, hope, and love, making it possible for us to live a supernatural, charismatic life. Some think this is only for the chosen few, “the mystics.”  To the contrary, Thomas Aquinas taught that the gifts of Isaiah 11:1-3 (wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord) are standard equipment given in baptism, that all are called to be “mystics.”

Vatican II also taught that every Christian has a vocation to serve. We need power for this too. And so the Spirit distributes other gifts, called “charisms.” These, teaches St. Thomas, are not so much for our own sanctification as for service to others. There is no exhaustive list of charisms, though St. Paul mentions a few (I Corinthians 12:7-10, Romans 12:6-8) ranging from tongues to Christian marriage (1 Cor. 7: 7). Charisms are not doled out by the pastors; but are given directly by the Spirit through baptism and confirmation, even sometimes outside of the sacraments (Acts 10:44-48).

Do I sound Pentecostal? That’s because I belong to the largest Pentecostal Church in the world. Correcting the mistaken notion that the charisms were just for the apostolic church, Vatican II had this to say: “Allotting His gifts “to everyone according as he will” (1 Cor. 12:11), He [the Holy Spirit] distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. . . . These charismatic gifts, whether they be the most outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are exceedingly suitable and useful for the needs of the Church” (LG 12).

Powerful gifts, freely given to all. Sounds like a recipe for chaos. But the Lord also imparted to the apostles and their successors a unifying charism of headship. The role of the ordained is not to do everything themselves. Rather, they are to discern, shepherd, and coordinate the charisms of the laity so that they mature and work together for the greater glory of God (LG 30).

So what if you, like me, did not quite “get it” when you were confirmed? I’ve got good news for you. You actually did get the Spirit and his gifts. Have you ever received a new credit card with a sticker saying “Must call to activate before using?” The Spirit and his gifts are the same way. You have to call in and activate them. Do it today and every day, and especially every time you attend Mass. Because every sacramental celebration is a New Pentecost where the Spirit and his gifts are poured out anew (CCC 739, 1106).

That’s why the Christian Life is an adventure. There will always be new surprises of the Spirit!
Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

See what I mean? There is nothing here that would make me tut or shake my head because of its heretical teachings. In fact quite the contrary I found it interesting, informative and challenging.

So in this week leading up to Pentecost may God make us more and more open to where the Spirit is at work and let us not grieve or quench him in our own lives by ignoring the new things he is doing with old wine skins, including our own.

Hallelujah in the city

Came across the following song sung by Joan Osborne, one of my all time favourite singers. It was written about seven years ago and I have no idea as to the intended meaning of the lyrics but they sound pretty Christian to me. This is from someone who sang "What if God were one of us?" and "Saint Teresa".

In an interview she talked a little about her faith:

"I remember very vividly being taken to church when I was young. I was raised Catholic until I was about 8-years-old, and was very captured by the ritual of it—the smells of the incense in the church and the very sombre rituals. I kept thinking that I saw Jesus walking around behind the altar and kept looking for him and thinking that he was hiding back there.

I remember telling my parents that I wanted to become a priest, and they told me I couldn't because I was girl. I remember being taken aback by that and very impressed with a sense of injustice, as some little kids definitely have that sense of injustice. I think that might have been the first crack in the foundation of my Catholicism right there.

But I was always swept away by the feeling of the spiritual space inside the church and by all of the trappings—the beautiful clothing and the lovely stained glass windows, and being very much a marker [that] this is a special space inside this church. This is where we come to do something different than we do in the outside world."

So the lyrics of the following song reflect some of that understanding of faith even if she didn't write the lyrics.

I have been unfaithful
I have been untrue
How'd I find the road that
Brought me back to you?

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

In this crowded city
I was so alone
Stranger to my own eyes
Heart without a home

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

On the riverside drive
On the red of night
In the churches of Brooklyn
Underneath the Chelsea lights
Up in Battery Park
And up in Morningside Heights

Hallelujah

Suns are in the sky now
Suns are in my veins
Throw me in the fire now
Love is what remains

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Monday, 9 May 2016

The following is a short article on reading the Bible which is very useful for the first time reader. It's by Michael Hyatt an Orthodox Christian (i.e. from the Eastern Orthodox Church). It's well balanced, full of common sense and a good introduction to starting to read the library that is the Bible. 

I remember the first time I tried to read the Bible for myself. I found my grandfather’s copy on a shelf in his living room. I was nine years old.

I sat down on the floor, cross-legged, with the Bible on my lap. I opened it slowly … reverently … and began to read.

I was fascinated by God’s creation of the heavens, earth, and man in Genesis 1–2.
I was swept into the drama of man’s temptation and fall in Genesis 3.
I was saddened by Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis 4.
I felt like I had discovered a lost book—the key to the universe! I was captivated.

Then I hit the “begats” in Genesis 5.

Oh boy.

My eyes glazed over.

I closed the Bible, stood up, and slipped it back on the shelf. I didn't pick it up again for another ten years.

So many people have told me they've had similar experiences. They know they should read the Bible; they just don’t know how to begin.

Even if you are not a Christian—or don’t consider yourself a spiritually-inclined person—the Bible is worth reading. Without question, it has had a greater impact on Western civilization than any other book published.

You can’t understand great literature, common metaphors, or cultural allusions without a basic knowledge of these ancient texts. (I use the plural because the Bible is actually a collection of books.)

But how do you start? The Bible is, after all, a big book! I have read it through several times. In fact, my goal is to read it through every year, though it some times takes a little longer.

This has served me well in so many ways. I find myself referring to the stories and sayings again and again. The best part is they have become the foundation and raw material for everything I do.

In this post, I thought I’d share how I read the bible. It’s not the only way to do it, of course. But I thought this might be helpful to you if you want to read it all the way through and partake of its treasures on a regular basis.

Read at a set time each day. As I learned a long time ago, what gets scheduled gets done. I read the Bible first thing each morning, so I don’t get side-tracked by something else.
Distinguish between reading and study. When I am reading, I don’t try to do word studies, read commentaries, or chase cross-references. While this can be valuable, I consider it Bible study—something I reserve for other times. The goal for my reading is breadth not depth.
Use a balanced, Bible reading plan. This is key. I read from four passages each day: Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. This way, if I hit a dry patch in one section, I can usually get something out of another. Innumerable plans are available. This year I am using the One Year Bible.
Read in an easy-to-understand translation. Some may disagree, but a paraphrase is fine for Bible reading (not study). The key is to use a translation that helps you to understand what you are reading. I usually read in a different translation each year, just so the text doesn’t become so familiar I stop paying attention.
Highlight or underline as you read. Maybe the thought of marking in a Bible scandalizes you. I hope not. It helps me focus my attention and get back to those passages that I find particularly meaningful. I read on a Kindle, so I also have access to those highlights in the cloud and in Evernote.
Identify at least one key take away. Personally, my goal in Bible reading is not merely to increase my knowledge; I want to change my life (see James 1: 22–25). This begins by paying attention to what I am reading and marking those passages that seem particularly relevant to my current circumstances. When I am finished reading, I go back over my highlights and pick one to record in my journal, along with my response to it.
Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. This is difficult for me. I am a recovering achiever and a perfectionist. But it is essential if you are going to make progress. The truth is you are going to miss some days. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Just pick up the next day and keep moving.
The key, I think, is to keep the process simple. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t get hung up on what you don’t understand.

Like Mark Twain once said, “It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
See: http://michaelhyatt.com/read-the-bible.html

Note: If there are some passages that puzzle or disturb you go along and see your Pastor or Priest, I am sure they will be able to help you.

What is the Bible?

Friday, 6 May 2016

A true story about healing

I remember so well praying for a baby called Craig. I had been asked to visit a woman in the Brompton Hospital. Vivienne had three children and was pregnant with a fourth. Her third child, who was only months old, had Down’s syndrome. He had a hole in his heart that had been operated on. The operation had not been a success and, not unnaturally, the medical staff wanted to turn the machines off. Three times they asked Vivienne if they could turn the machines off and let the baby die. She said no, as she wanted to try one last thing. She wanted someone to pray for him. So I went.

Craig had tubes all over his little body that was bruised and swollen. She said that the doctors had indicated that even if he recovered he would have brain damage because his heart had stopped for such a long time. She told me she didn’t believe in God but she said, ‘Will you pray?’

I prayed in the name of Jesus for God to heal him. Then I explained to her how she could give her life to Jesus Christ and she did that. I left, but returned two days later. Vivienne came running out the moment she saw me. She said, ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of you; something amazing has happened. The night after you prayed he completely turned the corner. He has recovered.’ Within a few days Craig had gone home.

Vivienne went around all her relatives and friends saying, ‘I didn’t believe, but now I do believe.’

That was twenty-eight years ago. I’m still in touch with the family. Craig still has Down’s syndrome but he is fit and well and is the glue in that family. His healing was not autosuggestion; he was a baby at the time. It was not positive thinking. It was not the placebo effect. It was a God-sized answer to a God-sized prayer.
Nicky Gumbel

Prayer Resources - 1

The following are some ideas about how to pray for others from the 'Thy Kingdom Come' website:

Praying for Five Friends
Praying for others to know Jesus is one of the most powerful things we can do; persistent prayer for others brings transformation to their lives.

Consistently praying for others takes discipline, and there are many ways that
we can build up habits that will help us to pray for our friends and family.

Choose five people you would regularly like to pray for and write their names
down onto a list. If you’re not sure who to pray for, ask God to guide you as you
choose. Once you have settled on 5 names, commit to praying for them regularly.

Here are five easy ways to pray for five people regularly. Choose the one that suits
you best:
1. piece of string
Take a piece of string or cord, and tie five knots in it to represent each of the five
people you have committed to pray for. You could carry the knotted string in your
pocket, tie it round your wrist or place it somewhere that you’ll see it regularly.
Use the knots to remind you to pray for each person on your list of five.

2. small stones
Find five small stones (light coloured ones are best) and write each of the people on
your list onto each of the stones. Place them on your desk, bedside table or fireplace
as a reminder to pray. Alternatively, you could place each stone in a different room of
your home and pray for each person as you enter or leave the room.

3. business prayer card or bookmark
Grab a piece of card that will easily fit inside your wallet, purse or book. Write your
list of five names onto the card before putting it in your wallet or book. Use this card
as a daily reminder to pray for them.

4. prayer alerts
Add your list of five people to the alerts section of your phone and set reminders to
pray for them. You could choose one name per day, or pray for all five across your day.
Remember to set alerts for a suitable time where you can stop to pray for your list.

5. post-it notes
Use five post-it notes and write one name onto each. Stick them onto your mirror,
above your bed or somewhere that you’ll see them regularly and will be reminded
to pray.

You might like to use the following prayers as you pray
for others:

Loving Lord,
Please work in me so I can share your love, life and message with…
Reveal your love to them, that they might know, follow and witness to you,
For Your Glory
Amen.

Loving Father,
Send your Holy Spirit so I can share your love, life and message with…
Reveal Jesus to them, that they might know, follow and love him,
For Your Glory
Amen.

You build your church through the power of your Spirit.
By the same Spirit enable me to witness to… your love, beauty and grace.
That they may come to the fellowship of the faithful
For Your Glory
Amen.

Lord,
I pray that you will lead… to you.
Thank you that you love them and I pray that you would break into their life and
show them your love, grace and peace.
For Your Glory
Amen.

Or
Using the BLESS acrostic can help us to focus on all of the felt needs of those we praying for:
— Body – health, protection, energy
— Labour – employment/unemployment, retirement, adequate income
— Emotional – inner peace, joy, wisdom, insight, patience
— Social – healthy relationships between spouses, parents, children, friends;

RECONCILIATION; LOVE
— Spiritual – repentance, salvation, obedience, faith

My house shall be called a house of prayer

Praying for five friends

Thy Kingdom Come

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

The previous post gives you access to all the videos that accompany Francis Chan's excellent book "Crazy Love" recommended on St. James' newsletter and available in the Parish Library.

Each video ends with a series of questions to help you think about the material and is ideal for group study.

In my review I wrote the following:

"Chan was born in San Francisco to native Chinese parents. His mother died giving birth to him. Chan's father remarried when Chan was about 7 years old. Then, his stepmother died in a car accident when he was 9 years old. His father remarried again when he was 10. His father then died of cancer when Chan was 12 years old. He did not get along well with his father growing up, but says that his fear of his father has helped him understand a level of fear of God. He also stated he didn't understand the love of God well until he became a father himself.

This book talks about the crazy and wonderful understanding of how the God of the Universe loves us and how Christianity is not about a bunch do’s and don’ts but a “falling in love with God.” It’s a great book and has sold over a million copies. Read it and find out why."

Crazy Love - Francis Chan

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The resurrection changes everything

John 2:1-11

John writes his gospel very carefully and loves the use of symbolism and metaphor. So every sentence or paragraph in full of hidden meanings which go beyond the story he tells. This account of the miracle at Cana is a wonderful example of that. Here he begins his account of Jesus' miracle by noting that "On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee." John makes a point of noting that it was on the third day that Jesus performed his miracle of turning water into wine and sees in it tremendous significance. Because it was on the third day that Jesus rose again from the dead. And so the reference to the third day is a reference to the resurrection which was yet to come.

He then goes on to tell the story of how Jesus turned the water into wine. Water is a symbol of ordinary fallen human life. It is tasteless and has no effect on us except to maintain our physical existence. Win on the other hand is a symbol of divinity - the life of God. Drinking it gives joy. As the proverb goes "Wine makes glad the heart of man." So when Jesus turns water into wine 'on the third day' John sees it as a foretaste of what Jesus wants to accomplish in us, through his resurrection on the third, by changing the water of our fallen human nature into the wine of a new and eternal quality of life. This can only happen through Jesus' resurrection from the dead, which we participate in by faith in Jesus. When we do that we are "born from above" into a new kind of life and, using Peter's phrase form his second letter, become participants "in the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4.

This occurs when we present to him ourselves, our souls and bodies - the vessels filled with water - and trust in Jesus to change and transform us through his resurrection power.

Madam Guyon and the Bible

Madame Guyon was a French mystic from the late 17th and early 18th century known for her writings on the spiritual life. She once wrote:

"If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar."

Dallas Willard writes:
"You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this be reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each tear and you may congratulate yourself on your accomplishment. But will you thereby be one more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?

It is a proven fact that many who read the Bible in this way, like taking medicine or exercising on a schedule, do not advance spiritually. Better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than yo have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes. Remember as always that "the letter killers, but the spirit givers life" (2 Corinthians 3:6). We read to open ourselves to the Spirit."
In Search of Guidance page 174

Union with Christ and the Bible

"The aim of the Christian life is union with Christ (Phil 1:21; Galatians 2:20) and one of the ways to achieve this is familiarity with and constant reading and meditation of the scriptures. But how are we to read it? Here is Dallas Willard:

"We will be spiritually safe in our use of the Bible if we follow a simple rule: read in a repentant manner. That is, read with readiness to surrender all we are, all our plans, opinions, possessions, positions. Study as intelligently as possible, with all available means, but never ever merely to find the truth and still less merely to prove anything. Subordinate your desire to find the truth, and your desire to have others do the truth, to your desire to DO IT YOURSELF.

Those who wish to hear the Word and know the truth often are not prompted by their desire to DO it. The light such people find frequently proves to be their own snare and condemnation."
In search of guidance - Willard page 172-3

Willard refers to the writings of William Law:

"Therefore the Scriptures should only be read in an attitude of prayer, trusting to the inward working of the Holy Spirit to make their truths a living reality within us."

Willard continues:

"there is a simple technique or routine that all believers, no matter how trained or untrained, can follow with assurance that the very bread of life will be spread for them on the pages of the Scriptures. It is a practice very similar to one encouraged by Madame Guyon in her little book, SHORT AND VERY EASY WAY OF PRAYER, first published in 1688 in Lyons, France (republished under the title Experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ)....

When you come to the Scriptures as a part of our conscious strategy to cooperate with God for full redemption of our life, we must desire that his will in all things revealed should be true for us. Next, we begin with those parts of the Scripture with which we have some familiarity, such as the Twenty third Psalm, the Lord's Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, or Romans 8.

Remember these words of Thomas a Kempis, it will help you:

"Of what use it is to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy, but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you know the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and the love of God?"

Your aim must be only to nourish your soul on God's word to you. Hence, go to those parts you already know, and count on your later growth and study to lead you to other parts that will be useful.
Ibid page 174

An inlet of power

"A great sorrow has come into the heart of God. Let it be told only in hushed voice—one of His worlds is a prodigal! Hush your voice yet more—ours is that prodigal world. Let your voice soften down still more—we have consented to the prodigal part of the story. But, in softest tones yet, He has won some of us back with His strong tender love. And now let the voice ring out with great gladness—we won ones may be the pathway back to God for the others. That is His earnest desire. That should be our dominant ambition. For that purpose He has endowed us with peculiar power. There is one inlet of power in the life—anybody’s life—any kind of power: just one inlet—the Holy Spirit. He is power. He is in every one who opens his door to God. He eagerly enters every open door. He
comes in by our invitation and consent. His presence within is the vital thing. But with many of us while He is in, He is not in control: in as guest; not as host. That is to say He is hindered in His natural movements; tied up, so that He cannot do what He would. And so we are not conscious or only partially conscious of His presence. And others are still less so. But to yield to His mastery, to cultivate His friendship, to give Him full swing—that will result in what is called power. One inlet of power—the Holy Spirit in control."
Quiet Talks on Prayer: S.D.Gordon