Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

All Shall Be Well

Juliana of Norwich was a 14th century anchorite and spiritual writer and the first female author published in English. She was not formally a nun, but lived most of her life in a small room, receiving daily food through a window and dedicating herself to prayer. Her best-known book is Revelations of Divine Love. Her infatuation with God and desire for others to know divine love and grace influenced thousands in her day and millions of readers over the past centuries. She shared her hope and love in a world full of plagues and wars (that make COVID-19 seem tame), ecclesial disputes, and social unrest. Why was she so happy?

Juliana experienced deep intimacy with Christ, both as the Crucified Savior and Risen Lord. She knew the entire biblical narrative and the final chapters of the Book of Revelation spoke to her as she reminded her suffering friends, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” The hope of the resurrection and the beautiful visions of eternity detailed in Scripture informed her optimism in the midst of so much degradation and tragedy.

We need Mother Juliana’s hope in our world. Easter reminds us that death does not have the final word and our current afflictions are working new affections of compassion and endurance in our souls. Injustice and underserved pain, the selfishness of the powerful, and our own self-inflicted wounds all conspire toward fatalism and hopelessness. But Easter has come and our mourning turns to joy as our tears are dried by the nail-scarred hands of Christ!

It was the Holy Spirit that gave Juliana of Norwich her revelations of divine love and hope. The same Holy Spirit lives in every believer and in the church opening our hearts and minds toward courage and wisdom, and loving service. The same Holy Spirit will empower the sharing of the Gospel as we invite others to experience forgiveness, healing, and foretastes of eternal delight.

While we contend for truth, work for justice, and engage in all domains of our culture, we will have defeats and victories, tragic reversals and miraculous advances. In the midst of it all, our Risen Lord reminds us, “All shall be well.”

Our Stories Are Not Finished Yet

The Lenten Season is a period of self-reflection and sacrifice as followers of Christ ponder the obedience of Jesus that led to a Cross and Resurrection, bringing hope and reconciling grace to our weary world. The story of Jesus includes his humble beginnings. It features family life in an artisan’s home. There is a Bar Mitzvah that astounded some learned religious leaders. And then there were quiet years running a business until his early 30s. If the narrative stopped here, it would have been one more story of an anonymous Jewish family in the early first century.

But the full story continues as Jesus begins his public ministry. For more than three years this Rabbi delivers and heals, forgives and reconciles, teaches and demonstrates the love, grace, and truth of God’s kingdom. For his trouble, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, subject to multiple (mis)trials, scourged, crucified, and buried in a borrowed tomb with a 24-hour Roman guard. If the story had ended here, Jesus would have been one more zealous Rabbi and wonder-worker and perhaps classified as a good teacher by some and a pernicious influence by others. (Oh wait…isn’t that how many still see him?)

But the story is only complete on Easter morning as the Lord is raised from the dead in a transformed body still bearing the scars of his atoning death while revealing the ultimate future of all who believe. Easter is not only a promise of eternity, it is a present reality as followers of Jesus receive the Holy Spirit and walk in his pathway of love and humility, offering the same deliverance and healing, forgiveness and reconciliation to all.

And Easter means that all of OUR stories are still being written. Starting right now, our future can be different as we listen more deeply to our Lord, align our hearts and minds with his commands, and join Jesus in his mission. Yes, we may bear the consequences and scars of previous traumas or our own sins. No, we cannot be “anything” we imagine – that is nonsense. But starting today, we can become the best version of the person God created us to be and start doing the good works he designed in advance for us to do. We were created to enjoy God’s presence and fulfill his purpose. As we worship and work, and allow the Lord to refine our character and define our charisms, a better future opens to us – and to the world.

Our stories are not finished until our mortal journeys have ended. And even then, they continue in a new creation. Be encouraged today! Jettison the fatalism and the fantasies, and embrace the Cross. In humility and service, we discover our purpose and find great strength.

Why I Have Hope

Someone asked why I am hopeful when so much anger and chaos swirls around us. One answer: Jesus. He is forever one of us through the Incarnation. He is the compassionate one in his maturation and mission. He is our Crucified Savior atoning for our sin and bearing our sorrows, sufferings, and unanswered questions. And now he is the Risen, Ascended and Coming King who is making all things new. He is with us by Holy Spirit is, offering foretastes of the future.

“Nice words, Dr. Self. But I live in the real world and so much is collapsing around me…how does any of this apply to my everyday life? I see moral decay and economic distress, social media meanness, and I wonder what world there will be for the next generations. I get your eternal hope. But what does all this mean for NOW?”

God’s mission of restoring all things has real-life application today – if we trust the revelation and obey his principles in response to grace. Here are some immediate paths forward:

  • We can receive healing from our past and real hope for the future from the inside out as we agree with Scripture that we are NOW “new creations” in Christ. As we accept our identity in Christ as primary, we are able to affirm the best of our cultures and ideas while letting go of unneeded emotional and ideological baggage.
  • The Holy Spirit empowers foretastes of the future: a future with joy and justice, worship and meaningful work, all in a transformed community. With these thoughts in mind, we can apply our energies and skills in our work to make our communities safer, sustainable, and beautiful.
  • We now have the ability for critical thinking free from a critical spirit. Put simply, we can evaluate ideas and evidences, policies and programs while showing love and respect to all – even those that oppose all we stand for.
  • We can forge alliances with people of conscience of all faiths or none that care about a better future. Leaving the anger behind and the untethered from grasping for power, creativity and innovation become possible.

There is much more that Christian hope brings to the world. Humble confidence and hopeful realism infuse our daily lives. We can labor with love for God and our neighbors, knowing that are efforts have meaning and will serve generations yet unborn.

Two Prayers for America

America is not a chosen nation, but she has many chosen people praying and living with integrity that have helped her be a blessing to the world. Our story also includes horrific compromise of our highest ideals, especially our treatment of the indigenous peoples and African Americans. We can love our land and lament our sins. We can improve our nation without destroying her ideals. And prayer must be underneath the laments and longings for justice.

Prayer is God’s invitation to participate in his divine mission to reconcile and redeem, renew and restore all things. Our almighty, sovereign Lord has decided that our humble petitions, compassionate intercessions, and persevering supplications matter in fulfilling his will on earth as it is in heaven.

Here are two short prayers for our nation. There is no pretense here that just the right words will somehow manipulate God – that would be pagan superstition. Instead, our prayers, in alignment with Holy Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit, become a force for good in a world enmeshed in evil. In these days of pandemic and polarization, political passions and personal animosities, humble prayer may make the difference between mercy and judgment for our land.

Prayer for Peace of Mind and Divine Presence in Our Land

O God, you are transcendent and immanent. You are totally other; totally different from us. But you are also Immanuel, God with us. You were delighted to dwell among us in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ. What grace! You are the God who comes close. Lord, come close to our national leaders. Come close to the justices that sit on the Supreme Court. Come close to those in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Come close to our local leaders – our police departments, mayors, and governors. Come close, dear Master, to those in laboratories that are feverishly developing a vaccine for this virus. Come close, Dear God, to peaceful protestors, the abused, the hungry, the bewildered, the outraged, the motherless, the fatherless, the dying, the mourning, the widow, the disabled, the oppressed, and the immigrant. Lord, come close to us, in cul-de-sacs, hamlets, towns, rural areas, cities, and suburbs.  Come close, dear Lord, to those who are easing back into the workplace with trepidation. Omnipresent Lord, please share your closeness with all of us, everyone on the face of this globe. In Jesus’ majestic and mighty name, Amen.

Prayer for Humility and Wisdom

O Lord, you are infinite and intimate, and the Source of all that is good. You promised wisdom for the humble who seek you and search for truth. You promised wisdom as we pray and trust you. Your wisdom is pure, peaceable, and leads to peacemaking and righteousness. Lord, we need your wisdom as we confront the injustices all around us and the unrighteousness in our own hearts. We need wisdom to lament and repent well. We need your wisdom to cultivate new relationships across all the barriers in our world. We need wisdom to reform social structures that keep millions from flourishing. We need wisdom for our businesses, churches, families, communities, cities, and nation. We humbly plead that you will grant wisdom. We also accept your wisdom from the mouths of the marginalized and oppressed, the voices of history, and the prophets calling us to holiness. And we thank you in advance for your generosity toward us, even when it means surgery in our souls. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Americans, indigenous , African Americans, justice, Holy Spirit, mission, nation, prayer, Senate, House of Representatives, virus, police, wisdom

History is Made and the World Changes Forever

Easter. Bunnies and chocolate, egg hunts and beautiful dresses.
Easter. A time of renewal as spring is fully here.
Easter. Family feasting.

Easter includes all of these cultural expressions, some rooted in ancient spring rituals that antedate Christianity. The word itself originates with fertility deities celebrating new life. Other practices are the creations of brilliant marketeers.

For billions throughout history and around the world, however, Easter is about the most important event in human history: the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. His crucifixion on Good Friday is a mere martyrdom without this divine affirmation of triumph over death. In First Corinthians, chapter 15, the Apostle Paul, himself a former persecutor of the church, declares that without the resurrection of Jesus, the entirety of the Christian faith is in vain and founded on a lie. Without the resurrection, there is no hope in our future or present as we confront evil and suffering – we might as well, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (a famous Epicurean saying rooted in the denial of life after death).

Amidst all the chocolate and flowers, billions of Christians will declare, “He is Risen!” and respond with, “He is Risen, indeed!” this confession is at the core of the faith and ultimately, this belief is what splits history into BCE and CE or BC and AD…before Christ and “in the year of our Lord” (or “before the common era and the common era).

The resurrection declares that Jesus’ death is full of meaning: the forgiveness and sins and bearing of sicknesses, sorrows and undeserved suffering. Justice and love meet perfectly as the Incarnate One bears the penalty and shame for all human sin. But death does not win! The resurrection is also the preview of our human future as we see our destiny when the world is fully restored. Such hope, empowered by the Holy Spirit, inspires our acts of love and justice today. 

Please enjoy Easter in all its expressions…and remember that the essence of Easter is hope in Christ and an invitation to new life that is not mere pagan celebration, but spiritual transformation.