Less Honorable Vessels?

It was about 7:30 in the morning that I started fading away. The anesthesiologist said he wanted me to breath pure oxygen through the mask then after about a minute he’d put some “stuff” into my IV and I’d be fast asleep. The nurse placed the mask on my face with such force I could hardly exhale. This freaked me out a bit because I’d just slid over onto the skinny operating table while hospital staff grabbed both of my arms, stretching them out perpendicular to my body, not unlike being in a crucifix position. Even as consciousness was fading, panic started welling up in my soul.

“Help me, Jesus” was all I could say to myself as my hearing slowly closed off and blackness consumed me.

Next memory was groggily looking at the clock in the recovery room. It was about 9:40 AM. “Praise God;” I thought. “It’s over. When can I go home?”

After a short time in the recovery room I was wheeled back into the secondary recovery room where family could come and be with me. Except, of course, I was alone, because as explained last week, Janey was in the ER with a broken foot. In any case, the nurse there, a very kind younger woman, said I should be able to go home by noon; provided, of course, that I could drink water without hurling and that I could…wait for it…pee.

Well, there you go, the gauntlet was thrown down and I was bound and determined to prove that I was fully capable of conquering these requirements post haste. Where’s the water? Where’s the toilet?

The drinking went fine; I was thirsty and the water not only stayed down, but it was hugely refreshing. Now it was time to shuffle off to the bathroom across the hall. The nurse helped me crimp the back of my hospital gown so I didn’t moon anyone and, with a little dizziness and some embarrassment, I made it to the next testing ground—the toilet.

 

Munson falls

Munson Falls, south of Tillamook off of Hwy. 101

“All right,” I thought; “it’s just you and me now.” And guess what? Nothing! Not a drop, nota! The little canister I was to “void” into was as bone dry when the nurse handed it to me. This little exercise went on for hours. I would have water running, I’d be thinking about waterfalls, and about the last time I really had to go. But nothing worked.

 

The surgeon insisted I could not go home until I sufficiently proved that my bladder was working. Evidently, bladders go into deep sleep when under anesthesia and they take longer than a teen-ager in a growth spurt to wake up. Yep, I was being held hostage by, of all things, my bladder. Not my cardiovascular system or my nervous system; but my bladder.  

I don’t think about my bladder much. In fact, I typically take it for granted that it’ll always work fine. But now all the sudden my whole world was zeroed in on my bladder waking up so I could finally go home.   

As mentioned last week, this got me thinking about 1 Corinthians 12:23-24:

And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty; but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having greater honor to the part which lacks it. (NKJV)

Yes, I realize the Apostle Paul is speaking metaphorically about us, the church, being the Body of Christ. He’s teaching that we ought not to laud too highly those gifts that are seen while minimizing or even criticizing those gifts that work unseen or behind the scenes. The teacher in the pulpit is no more important to the Body of Christ than the janitor or parking attendant. All parts of a healthy body work in harmony together to properly worship God and to serve humanity. When something in the Body is out of whack, things don’t run as smoothly.

Same with the physical body. I could not leave to the comfort of my own home while my bladder was out of whack, so I had plenty of time to think. Where do I take others for granted? Or where do I minimize certain functions or roles that are different than my functions or roles? Sadly, I discovered that, yes, I did do my fair share of minimizing. I won’t reveal where but I will state that God used my bladder battle to wake me up to a larger weakness in my own character. I am confident that with this greater awareness steeped in the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit this weakness will be corrected in time.

Oh, and, thankfully, my bladder did eventually start working and my father-in-law was able to take me home at about 3:30 PM. But did I mention that the bowels also go to sleep?  

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Revelation Meets the Great Commission, Part 1

I had the opportunity to preach yesterday (the link is here if you’re curious). Such opportunities are always exciting for me but come with a dose of nerves as well! But no such opportunity would exist except by the grace of God and the freedoms we enjoy in this country which inspires a hearty ‘thank you’ to Veteran’s that have served, are serving and will serve our country.

Revelation 21:1-7 speaks to a wonderful future for those saved in Christ.

‘And God will wipe away every tear; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, no crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. … Behold I make all things new!”

—Verses 3-5

This section of Revelation contains strong aspects of celebration and of destiny. And even though the Book of Revelation belongs to the genres of the prophetic and the apocalyptic, I believe there’s also a sub-text, or an undercurrent, to this section of Scripture. That sub-text is the sense of invitation. This a great party, who are we going to invite to come to it? And how do we invite them?

Recall that Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8b). What we have freely received is the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:9-10). We can’t earn it, or buy it, or barter for it; it is freely given to us through faith because of the accomplished works of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Your'r invitedThis invitational aspect brings two questions to mind. Today, Part 1 will look at the first question, and Part 2 in my next post will look at the second question.

Question 1: “what is the first area in our lives to advance the Kingdom in?” The answer is in the question: the first area is in our lives, in the interior of our souls, the very depths of our being. Another way to phrase this question is asking if the Holy Spirit can move freely in our lives. If not, where are the barriers blocking the Holy Spirit’s movement, how and where are we quenching the Holy Spirit? And why are we quenching His movement?

Question 1, then, is asking us to honestly examine ourselves. But to what standard are we examining ourselves against? The answer is in Galatians.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

—Galatians 5:22-23

Granted, we are all works in progress, so it is highly unlikely that we will see all the fruit of the Spirit working in our lives all the time. But we can explore to discover if certain fruit is missing altogether or “ripens” only rarely in our lives. The Holy Spirit will even guide us in this exploration.

Cultivation

A helpful key in this exploration of building the Kingdom in our lives is intentionally cultivating our relationship with God. Any meaningful relationship, whether with a spouse, or a child, or a friend, takes investment, it takes cultivation. Our relationship with God is no different.

One idea to assist in this cultivation is prayer. But maybe more prayer isn’t the answer as opposed to a new approach to prayer. For instance, if we are “laundry-list” pray-ers, that is we foist a list of requests up to God then move on with our day, we can instead shift our approach to a posture of more being with God in silence. Lists are fine, but there’s more to prayer than just that. We need to learn to listen and to be still before God.

Another idea is Scripture reading. Most of us think we need to read more Scripture daily; and maybe some folks do need this. But I think that sometimes a reading regimen places undo stress into our lives or orients us more toward checking off a to-do box on our daily tasks rather than actually absorbing what we are reading. Another approach for consideration is reading less Scripture daily and thinking about It more. Take small sections but think more deeply about them; meditate over them; perhaps even journal about them.

There are several other ideas as well; these two are merely to get our thinking started.

The Point…

The bottom line, though, is the Holy Spirit is attractive and enables us to be invitational people. But without the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are working in our own power and are not in sync with what God is wanting in our lives or the lives of the people around us.

Question 2: what is the second area in our lives to advance the Kingdom in? We’ll explore this question in the next post.   

Victory and Praise

I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy.

—Psalm 16:8-9, 11

 

What victories this week had! As you may have read last week, I was facing some challenges. I’m grateful to report that those situations needing urgent diplomacy turned out successful in ways undeniably orchestrated by the Lord. Also, even though I didn’t ask for prayer last week, several of you reached out to offer up prayer on my behalf. I am truly humbled by that to the point of tears; I am grateful for your prayers because God moved in ways that brought much blessing and relief in the depths of my soul.

It also reminded me that often when I pray for others, I ask God to make Himself known to the person in ways that are undeniably God’s work. And, yes, I pray the same for myself. I don’t think it’s selfish to desire the observance of God’s work in our lives. Often seeing His active work in our lives brings comfort and affirmation in ways no different than when I as a father seek to bless my own children.

Other times, however, His activity on our behalf is the only thing that will produce positive outcomes. Such was the case this week. Only God could have orchestrated the timing of things that brought such great victory.

Seeing God’s work in our lives does indeed bring rejoicing, rest and hope as we read in Psalm 16. It also produces more of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives such as joy, peace, patience and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). But when God goes to work in ways that bring clear deliverance in otherwise dire straits, our faith is deepened and our confidence in God grows. This, then can become a catalyst for dynamic intercessory prayer for others with less faith that are facing hard times themselves.

The week also revealed that I still succumb periodically to fear when facing tough circumstances. It reminds me of Jesus asking His disciples why they were so fearful in the midst of a great storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:40). He goes on to say, “How is it you no faith?” Then He calms the storm (I blogged on this account a few years ago, but it’s on another web platform, maybe I’ll re-post it in the near future).

When I recognized my fear, I rebuked it and asked Janey to pray for me. Then I blogged about it and even more people prayed for me; now I can stand in the “times of refreshing that may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19) because He bared His mighty right arm on my behalf and moved the mountains that only He could move.

Thank you, Lord. And thank you for your prayers.

Hunkerin’ Down and the Holy Spirit

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes or where it goes…”

—Jesus, John 3:8

A big storm rolled through the Willamette Valley yesterday. It brought heavy rainfall and some significant wind gusts. Knowing the storm was coming I wanted to get my long walk in prior to its hitting us. Nearing the end of my walk, the leading edge of wind gusts swept in. The gusts behind me sounded like cars, almost like city traffic was coming my way. And before the gust actually hit my back a large swirl of fallen leaves came swooping by, clicking their dried edges along the asphalt; it was like they were fleeing to escape the gusty onslaught.

 

Off Balance

I was in mid-stride when the wind hit my back. It was so strong I actually lost my balance.

wind_2016.jpg

Yeah, it’s hard to take a picture of wind! 

It was awesome! I was being physically pushed by a force I could not see. As the gust passed by with its swirl of leaves continuing to flee in advance of the windy wave, debris from the tree-tops started literally raining down on the ground. There were pine needles and pine cones, sticks and twigs of various sizes, and just random bits of other stuff like moss, lichen, and discarded gum wrappers.

I recognize that wind has scientific origins related to atmospheric pressure, gradient temperatures, and other stuff; but I still marvel because the origin of all this scientific stuff is God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. And wind never ceases to remind me of the discussion between Nicodemus and Jesus in John chapter 3. The quote from above ends with Jesus saying

“…so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

 

Wind and the Holy Spirit

That’s a fantastic statement when I stop to consider all the many manifestations of wind. Granted, earthly wind brings destruction, but metaphorically, could it be that Jesus is wanting to impress upon Nicodemus (and us) that a person filled with and being led by the Holy Spirit brings impact?  Wind cleans the air by blowing away pollutants from pollens to smog. A person filled with the Holy Spirit can also bring cleansing by being that “breath of fresh air” in a person’s life. Wind also powers many types of equipment from sail boats to wind turbines. God works his power in us by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And perhaps the wind’s destructive forces are a picture of the eventual triumph over evil found in Christ in the not-so-distant future.

I don’t want to go too far with this metaphor, because most metaphors taken too far become unbiblical and untheological. But suffice it to say that as the wind was blowing me around, I quickly became mindful of my desire for not quenching the Holy Spirit in my life (see Ephesians 5:18b and 1 Thessalonians 5:19). What sort of impact does God want to work in my life? What barriers are in my soul inhibiting the Spirit’s work in my life? What about your life and your barriers?

Next time the wind blows your hair back or rains leaves on your yard, may it be a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in the world around us, and even in our own lives.

Pentecost Today

Living_Waters

Today is Pentecost, a commemoration of one of the most monumental events to hit planet earth; it is the day God poured out His Holy Spirit upon the depraved, broken and lost mass of humanity. From that point forward, through faith in Jesus Christ, we—humanity—became a new creation and the temple of the living God! The mission of Jesus Christ came to full effulgence by way of the now ever-present ministry of the Holy Spirit.

No more priests, no more Holy of Holies, and no more middle of wall of division separated us from God; Jesus had demolished all of these, thereby paving a new pathway of faith in Him, sealed by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our souls. Easter, that is, the resurrection of Jesus, was a pivotal hinge, changing the course of this world, but it was not the final act of God in His cosmic plan for humanity’s redemption; and neither was the Ascension. While these events can truly stand on their own miraculous merits, God wasn’t finished, there was one more hinge pin left in God’s redemption of mankind, sending the Holy Spirit into the very heart of humanity, so that now all those calling upon the name of Jesus Christ would be forever sealed as sons and daughters of the living God!

This is the essence of being saved, believing on the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ to then receive the free gift of salvation via the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are forever snatched out of the gates of hell and the clutches of Satan for an eternal destiny with Jesus forever more, amen!

Let’s hear it for Pentecost and for the living waters of God in our souls through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture references: Acts 2:1-4, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:14 and 1:13, Roman 5:15-18, Matthew 16:18, and John 4:13-14.