Tag Archives: soul

Fourth Sunday of Easter

My Sheep Hear My Voice

Sheep have a tendency to go off in any direction without know the consequences. They also have little ability to protect themselves from danger. Sheep need a shepherd.

Scripture tells us that we are like sheep. Reading from Isaiah:

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Fortunately we have a shepherd. We have the Good Shepherd. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.   (Psalm 23:1-3)

For this shepherd to take care of us we must listen to him and follow him. The rulers of Judaism during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry were not prepard to do so. Reading from John’s Gospel:

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.   (John 10:22-28)

Jesus is able to promise eternal life because he purchased that life for us with his blood on a cruel cross:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.   (John 10:11)

The Apostle Peter, paraphrasing Isaiah, wrote this about Jesus:

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.   (1 Peter 2:23-25)

We have been set free from sin, but we must still listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. We must still follow our shepherd. The enemy will do everything to distract us. He will tempt us with promises of worldly wealth and influence. And he is able to make good on his promises up to a point, provided we are willing to pay with our souls.

There is another aspect to our listening to the Good Shepherd. The Apostle John had a vision of a multiple people in heaven. Scholars may differ over exactly who these people are. This much we know, they have experienced a great ordeal in their lives:

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.   (Revelation 7:13-14)

We may experience ordeals in our lives that not only distract us, but put our faith in Christ under a severe test. I remember interring seminary my first year. A met a graduating student who said the seminary experience had totally destroyed his faith.

The people John’s vision had one thing in common. They continued to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow his direction. They were doing so even in heaven:

For this reason they are before the throne of God,
    and worship him day and night within his temple,
    and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
    the sun will not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”   (Revelation 7:15-17)

Jesus guides us to springs of the water of life. He promises us eternal life. He tells us that we will not want.. We will not lack anything. He leads us on the right path. He continually revives our souls. He does all of this for us, but we must stay in tune with his voice.

God allows our faith to be tested. He knows our hearts. We must must listen to the voice he has placed within us. The voice is his voice. He leads us to his glory and life eternal with the one who laid down his life for us.

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Third Sunday in Lent

The Heart of God

Moses encountered God at the burning bush that would not consume. There he was given an assignment by God, a very big assignment: Reading from Exodus:

The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”   (Exodus 3:9-12)

Moses was reluctant. Then he became impatient with God’s plan due to the way the children of Israel were responding. We remember the numerous plagues God brought against Pharaoh and Egypt, the many signs and wonders he performed through Moses.

Moses learned to trust and be patient. God’s timing is not always our timing. But his timing is perfect. He brought a great victory. He delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and brought everyone out safely while their enemy was destroyed.

How did they respond. The Apostle Paul writes:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.   (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

Israel had seen more signs and wonders of God than anyoney. How could so many of them rebel against God? They misjudged the character and heart of God. For them, God had become the cause of all their problems. How do we relate to the Israel in the wilderness?

At times we find ourselves in our own wilderness? When things do not go the way we wanted, we may grow impatient with God. God’s timing is perfect. His plans for us may be better than our plans.

Let us look a little deeper. What might be the first words out of our mouths when, suddenly, an unanticipated attack or offense comes our way?  Do we blame God? We may say “no” but our initial words may have sounded life a “yes.” The enemy wants to make us believe that the evil deeds he is doing is God’s evil.

Reading from Today’s Gospel:

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”   (Luke 13:1-5)

The question must have grieved Jesus. He responded by going directly to the heart of the matter: repentance. Imagine how God fells when we blame him for all the tragedies in this world. That may far surpass taking God’s name in vain.

The psalmist wrote:

You are good and do good;
    teach me your statutes.   (Psalm 119:68)

Is it loving God’s desire to destroy the ones he has made in his own image for eternal companionship? Do we really think that?

God does allow our faith to be tested:

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.   ( 1 Corinthians 10:13)

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.   (1 Peter 5:10)

If we misunderstand God and become angry at him, then it is a good indication that we need emotional healing. We may have been wounded in our souls. God wants to heal us, and he will if we allow him.

There is a limit on how many times one rejects God. Jesus told this parable about a fig tree:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”   (Luke 13:6-9)

The fig tree stood for Israel. It also stands for us. Do we wish God’s tender care in order that we may bear fruit?

God wants to heal us and forgive us. Repentance is the key. When we find ourselves hating God and blaming him for every tragedy and atrocity that we see, we need his healing and deliverance from the lies of the enemy. Here is the good news:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-17)

This should establish our love relationship with God. He loves us enough to give of his all.

Today, Jesus i9s calling us to his altar:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   (Matthew 11:28-29)

He wants to make us whole in him.

See Healing the Soul.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Spirit Is the One that Testifies

We get our news from many sources today. Which one is telling the truth is another matter. We need a source that always tell the truth. I  can think of only one. The Apostle John rights in his First Epistle:

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.   (1 John 5:1-6)

John says the Holy Spirit is the truth. That should give us great comfort, The Spirit is always truthful. And it is the Spirit that testifies concerning Jesus. What incredibly important news the Spirit is tasked to tell, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To truly understand the Word of God and the Commandments of God, and especially the Gospel, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. This was true for the early apostles as well, as we shall see. Reading from the Book of Acts:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.   (Acts 10:44-48)

Peter had been taught directly by Jesus. He had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. He was the leader of the Early Church. Yet, Peter was missing an understanding of the Gospel. For him it was still a set of rules.

When the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, and his assembled gathering, something happened. They began speaking in tongues and extolling God. Peter was not prepared for this. The Holy Spirit had fallen on Gentiles. The Spirit let Peter know that the Gospel was for everyone.  The Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. It is the Spirit that testifies to the truth.

What was missing in Peter? Perhaps this question could apply to some of us. Could it be that we misunderstand the love of God. When Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment of God, he answered:

“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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.’   (Mark 12:29-30)

Do we know, by our entire being, that Jesus loves us? Head knowledge is not enough. We must also exercise our heart, soul, and even our strength to fully understand the love of God. God’s love knows no bounds. It is not tied up in a set of rules. Perhaps we need to drop some of our rules. The Spirit has been know to break some rules. Peter must have wondered, for a moment, if the Spirit had broken even God’s rules.

Jesus spoke to his disciples concerning the Spirit:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.   (John 16:13-14)

The Spirit testifies to the truth. And what is that truth? In today’s Gospel reading Jesus said:

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”   (John 15:9-17)

God’s love is the entire truth. If we love Jesus, then we must accept and love everyone as Jesus does. Only then can we testify to the Gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.   (Galatians 5:22-23)

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