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Posts tagged ‘Paying Attention’

Paying Attention

If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if  someone rises from the dead.”  Luke 16:31 (CEB)

I wonder.  If someone rose from the dead – like a relative or friend – I think I would sit up and take notice!  The story of Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol comes to mind when I read this passage.  That story always gives me hope that people can change, wake up, realize that they are on the wrong path, but of course, it is fiction . . .  sigh.

However, that doesn’t mean to give up hope!  Those of us who follow Jesus know that someone DID rise from the dead – he did!  Without that belief, our faith is hopeless.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, there appears to be no hope for Lazarus.  The rich man ignores him, and it would seem that everyone else did, too.  Yet, after death, he is held “in the bosom of Abraham” (as the African American Spiritual goes) and is comforted.

On the other hand, the rich man is thrown into the burning fires of Hades where he suffers and longs for a cooling, soothing touch.  For many of us who read this story, we figure he got his “just rewards.”  He tried in vain to have Abraham send Lazarus to his siblings to warn them, but Abraham told him it wouldn’t work.  They won’t be convinced.  They have to figure it out from those who are teaching and preaching to them.

I wonder sometimes if what I preach really makes a difference in people’s lives.  I don’t often see changes of behavior.  I still hear gossip, see people trying to get things their way, hear criticisms of others, witness hurt feelings without forgiveness, and the list could go on and on.  But then, I need to remember that a change of behavior isn’t up to me because I am only the messenger.  The behavior change is between the individual and God.

We all need to pay attention to the messages that we receive through the scriptures, through prayer, through worshiping together, in Bible studies, and in the living of the saints who teach us about faithful and watchful living.  It is in hearing the message and beginning to apply it to our lives that we will grow into the likeness of Christ.  It’s a lifelong process, but paying attention is the beginning.

What messages from God do you hear?

How do you apply them?

In what ways do you then share that message with others?


Companion on the Journey

The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.”  John 14:23-29 (CEB)

In John 14:23-29, Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure.  I totally confused them, and they didn’t understand much of what he was saying until after his death, resurrection, and ascension.  We often put the pieces of the puzzle together after something has happened, and we don’t always see the blessing in our life events until we look back over the timeline of what happened.

As I think about what Jesus tells the disciples in this passage, I take comfort in his promise to not leave them without a powerful resource for living in his ways.  When I attended seminary, I remember wondering how all the pieces of history, ethics, worship, communication, Bible studies, and a number of other areas would fall into place.

Obviously, I couldn’t take my professors with me throughout the time I have been serving churches, so how was I going to put all this together and serve effectively using what I had learned?  To be honest, there were some courses that I questioned their help in my journey, but as I have moved through the twenty-plus years of ministry, I am discovering that everything really DOES mesh together.

Maybe what I’ve learned the most is that the pieces become a whole here and there.  I truly is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  All of a sudden, a piece fits, and the picture is one step closer to being completed.  Of course, in ministry, let’s face it, the picture is never completed until that day when we see Jesus face to face.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with the disciples on their journey.  The Spirit would help them to remember what he had taught them, and they would also be able to piece together a larger picture of what it meant to carry on his ministry.

So, how do we, as followers of Jesus in this day and age figure out what it is like to have the Holy Spirit as OUR companion on the journey?  Well, when I think about my professors in seminary, I believe that the Holy Spirit worked through them to teach me about Jesus, the Bible, being in ministry, and so forth.  They were outstanding human beings who were dedicated to helping us learn and grow and become all that we could as pastors.

What I try to get across to the congregations that I serve is that the Holy Spirit works through a variety of ways to speak to us:  scriptures, prayer, friends, church folks, and a whole list of other possibilities.  Our job is to be alert and watching for the Spirit to move, to guide us, to lead us, to help us.  We are only a breath away from our Companion and the companions that God has sent to be with us on our life/faith journeys.

So often people figure that this has to be complicated, and that the Spirit will arrive in some fantastic way (like on the Day of Pentecost).  Yet, when we remember that God spoke to Elijah through the sheer silence in a still small voice, we also can be assured that the Spirit will also speak to us in many ways.  Developing or tuning our hearts so that we are receivers of those blessings will lead us in the right direction.

We are never alone.  Thanks be to God!

How do you “hear” the Holy Spirit at work in your life?

Where are some of the unusual places you have experience the Spirit at work?

How will you share that with others?

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