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Stories of my relationship with God

MickLinux (579158) writes | more than 5 years ago

User Journal 17

These are stories of my relationship with God. Leading comments are the story (title included). Further comments should be placed underneath the leading comments.These are stories of my relationship with God. Leading comments are the story (title included). Further comments should be placed underneath the leading comments.

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The Story of my repentance (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28188255)

Note: This story is not for everyone to read. If you have any questions about whether you should read it, don't read it. It may not be for anyone to read. It records some of my sin in detail - not as confession, but as a statement of fact. You can't tell about repentance, without telling about the sin.

So...

When I was young, I wanted to be a priest. As I grew older, a few things happened that got in the way of that.

One was that I began to rebel against my Mom.

Perhaps because I was weakened by that rebellion, or perhaps for some other reason (perhaps just with my age, and biology), I was susceptible to another event. I was that as I was walking home from Dad's office on Chesapeake Ave, I crossed a stream just north of R.S. Monger's Lumberyard. As I often would do, I looked down at the stream. There, all laid out on the ground, was page after page of pornography. It caught me. After that time, my mind would drift in that direction. I also began to look at the women's magazines, looking for suggestive photos. I also started to enjoy fiction that contained pornographic elements. Admittedly, most science fiction does contain such things. But my mind was seeking that which is not holy. I also watched movies that, while mainstream, are not something that is going to make it into heaven. Nine-and-a-half weeks may be mainstream, but it is nonetheless pornographic in every regard..

I didn't take it to confession, as far as I remember, and the problem grew with time.

When I was in college, I mentally wore myself out the first year, and took a hiatus for the first semester of my second year. My Dad could not see paying for me to not learn, so he said that I'd have to take a job and pay my own way. I took one at Burger King.

At the time, I was interested in a girl in Aerospace Engineering, and as it turned out another girl by the same name asked me out. I at first thought it was the one I was interested in, but then found out it was a girl who worked at Burger King with me. I accepted. But she made it clear that she was very interested in me, and the combination of my perversion and the desire led me into the next stage after pornography - masturbation. At that, when she offered herself, I still chose not to have sex with her, and was proud of myself for having resisted that, not yet admitting that I had fallen in so many other ways. When I turned down sexual relations with her, the relationship ended. But my sin didn't.

I changed apartments, and got two new roommates. One of them was a born-again Charismatic Christian named Tom. Early on, he told how he had had (as it turns out) the same entrapping sin, and how at a Charismatic meeting, God spoke to him, saying "Confess your sin." He said that he thought, I can't do that. God then spoke again, saying, "Do you want to be free of this?" He immediately replied, "Yes, absolutely I do." God then said, "Confess your sin." So he confessed it, and was immediately freed.

I have to believe that he told us this story, because God told him to tell us.

When I heard it, I thought, "I have to confess my own sin, too." For a Catholic, you take your confession to the Rite of Reconciliation. Yet I was too afraid and embarrassed to confess it to the priests I knew. So when I rode my bike from Harrisonburg to Blacksburg, I stopped at Staunton, and went to confession. It had been seven years that I had been entrapped in sin of pornography, and perhaps three that I had been entrapped in masturbation. After that, I confessed regularly - perhaps every third month.

Unlike Tom's story, I wasn't freed instantly. I had been entrapped - but willingly so - for seven years. For the next seven years, I fought my sin, named it, confessed it. But about seven years after that - some two or three years after I got married, God took the sin away. I don't intend to return to it ever.

I think that God sometimes makes us fight our sin and lose, so that we will hate it as He hates it.

Anyhow, I want also to say that as long as I was not confessing my sin, God was still in relationship with me, and calling me into life. But I wasn't in relationship with God. It is only after I began confessing my sin, that God started answering my prayers, probably because it was only after I began confessing my sin, that I was willing to be real with God.

One prayer was whether I should become a priest. The answer to that was a resounding no. I then later prayed and asked God to find for me a wife who would lead me to Him, and whom I would lead to Him. Within a month, I ran into Laura, just as her boyfriend was dumping her "because he wanted to be a university dean, and she wouldn't make a proper dean's wife." Say what? As far as I can tell, her boyfriend was dumping her because God was making room for her and me to come together and be married.

But when we met, one of the first things she asked was, "So you're Catholic - I understand that the Catholic Church is the first Christian Church. Can you teach me more about it?" So I pointed her to Deacon Michael Renninger, and thus began both her entrance into the Church and a much fuller Christian life, and our courtship. I, in turn, had reason to try to lead her in Christianity, and that made me start looking at my own life, as well. Now, that is not to say that my relationship with her was pure. It was during this time that I was fighting a losing battle to my pornographic nature. Yet God was leading me out of my sin, and was working with two of his creatures that matched each other, and yet were coming to Him.

It is not in our victory that we come to God -- for no man is to say "I chose Him". But rather, it is despite our failure and sin and losses that every person must come to God, so that God can say the He chose us. Because of that, let no person think that it is hypocritical of them to be apart from God when things are going well, and then to run to God when they are struck down. That is the *only* way we come to God -- it is encoded in the nature of who we are, and of who He is.

My dream of Psalm 23 (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28188289)

I was living in Newport News at the time I had this dream.

In any case, in my dream I found myself in a cave, sitting at a desk much like a school desk. As I looked around me, I saw many people whom I did not recognize, and some whom I did recognize. One in particular I recognized as a classmate from elementary school who was also named "Michael" like me.

For the longest time, nothing happened. There was a general feeling of waiting. Occasionally, I would get up and visit those around me, but not particularly to talk. In my dream, I slowly came to realize that I had died, and that I and others were waiting for judgement - either the judgement of heaven, or that of hell.

After a time, a door opened in the side of the cave, and an angel came in from outside. He commanded us to get up, and come outside, and learn to walk. As we moved outside, we found the air was tremendously cold, and ice covered everything. Some were afraid to go out, but I was among those who did go. Immediately, I slipped on the ice and fell. It was painful, and I was afraid to try again, until I realized that I was already dead, and couldn't die again. I tried scooting around, and found that I could do it. Then I tried to walk, and eventually learned how. I was terribly engrossed in my newfound skills. While I was practicing, the angel grouped everyone together, to lead them to heaven. I got into line, but then practiced sliding and scooting, and suddenly looked up, and discovered that they were gone.
I felt devestated. For a while I looked for them, or any sign of which way they had gone, but there was none.

But then I thought, "I can pray to God, and ask Him to help me." So I prayed, and confessed that I had missed the angel's leading, and asked God to help me. Almost immediately, a giant hand lifted me, and set me on a road somewhere far away, saying "You are a motorcycle; be a motorcycle, and follow the road."

I started following the road, and discovered that I could go very fast indeed. I watched the countryside go by, and tried swooping left and right as I drove on up the road. After a while of swooping, I found that I could fly; and I tried following the road as an eagle, but then realized "no, I was told to be a motorcycle, not an eagle." So I continued as a motorcycle.
The road led up and up, as if it were Rt. 64 approaching Afton Mountain from the East. Eventually, it started winding around a mountain, and finally came out on a parking lot similar to that at Reddish Knob. I concluded that this must be the entrance to heaven, and started looking for the gates.

I saw nothing.

Then I tried praying, "Okay, God, I'm here."

Still, I saw nothing, and received no answer.

Finally, I looked around more, and discovered that there was another road on the other side, leading away. I thought, "silly me. I must need to go farther." So I started down the other side, and watched the mountain pass behind me.

After a time, I started to notice that the rocks loomed near the road, and there were shadows behind them. Looking more closely - and now proceeding quite cautiously - it seemed to me that there were monsters behind some of them.

I began to recite the 23rd psalm.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green [1] pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

I took courage, and continued down, reciting the rest of the psalm as I went. Now, I saw that I was proceeding down the road, into a cave.

As I went forward, I saw that there were rooms on each side. Looking in one, I saw people in torment. I realized that this was hell, and concluded that this may be where I would spend eternity. But the rooms that I saw did not apply to me, so I continued on.
I came to a room filled with liars. I thought about it - I have lied in the past. Yet this was not my worst sin. So I continued on.

One room had abortion doctors, surrounded by the parts of dead babies. Another had those who had not honored their parents. Yet in each case, I judged myself either as not guilty of that sin, or as being guilty of worse sins. So I went on.

At last I came down to where the road ended at a single, last room. I went in.
There, at the bottom, in a dismal, very dark room, I saw Christ crucified, dead on a cross. Others were there, too. I stood there, thinking, "this is where I belong. This is my worst sin, for it was because of my willful sin that He died."

So I prepared my heart to spend eternity there.

After a time, I thought "yes, He is dead. But He is still my God. I am a Christian, so I ought to worship Him." So I knelt down, bowed my head, and then looked up at Him.
He moved. He looked up, and smiled, and said "I came here to be with you, because I love you."
Suddenly, the room seemed bright to me. I looked around, and saw that others were also worshipping Him. Then I realized that even if you are at the bottom of Hell, if your god is God, and He loves you and is there with you, then that is Heaven.

In my dream, the feast of Heaven began.

The story of God's promises to us in Lithuania (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28188831)

First, let me note that when we were in America, I had an issue with the social security system, that prevented me from working for pay for a time. Despite that, Laura ended up deciding to marry me, and for a time she worked in the shipyard, and I worked on helping out a prepublishing business that she and two others owned. That said, the business had been formed with 10% of the proceeds going to a fund for widows, orphans, and foreigners: we intended it to be God's business first.

The time came when the shipyard was shutting down its commercial work, and the business was still only making $17000 a year. I took our situation to our pastor, Michael McCarron. He advised us that (1) my problem with the SSA was a thing of fear, and God does not give us a spirit of fear (2) that nonetheless, the business seemed to him to be a thing of love, and we probably should continue that, and (3) that to find God's direction, it would be useful to pray, and fast, and ask God to lead us, and trust Him in that. In line with that, I fasted and prayed and asked God to close all the doors except the one He wanted open.

What opened up was an opportunity to go to Lithuania to teach for $3000 a year. The Lithuanian government also required foreigners to by medical exit insurance at a price of: $3000 a year. But in Lithuania, the cost of living was a quarter of what it was in America (nominally, anyhow.) So $17k would be like $68k -- enough to live on. So Laura, Gaudeor, and I packed up our stuff, stored it with my Mom, and moved to Lithuania.

When we got there, we found that the beggar situation is pretty bad there. There aren't too many such people, but among what is there, are harmless older men, but also parents who will addict their kids to drugs (or beat them, or force them to beg, etc) in order to make them more effective beggars. Because of this, we told the parents "no", but said that whenever the kids came without their parents, that we would feed them. Also because of this, the Roman Catholic Church there does not do much in the way of charity to such beggars, or any that I know of.

The situation stabilized with us feeding one good sized meal, split up among however many kids came in the first wave, once per day. As such, we helped the situation some, but not a lot.

Once we were there, the demands of our publisher increased greatly -- we had to hire three others to help with the work, and the pay rose up to $25k-$37k per year. However, the pay only happened once the product was delivered. So it got to the point that we were living on our credit cards.

Now, a friend of ours had stressed, "well, you have to feed your family first, because the Bible says that if you don't take care of your family, you're worse than pagans." I couldn't find that in the Bible, but I talked it over with Laura, and we decided around April to ask the kids not to come back for food until August, when the contracts would pay off. They respected that, and did not show up.

Eventually I found the verse -- that if you are in need, turn first to your family, for if they won't help you, they are worse than pagans. After that, if you are still in need, you can come to the Church. But this new understanding did not completely overrule the old logic. Yet I was uncomfortable with our position, for the children should have food, regardless of parentage. Indeed, those with worse parents should be helped more.

In any case, the time came one day about two months later, when I was playing with the Fourier Transform, and discovered a new way of visualizing it. (To see what it was, look here [wikibooks.org] and look under "Visualization of the Discrete Fourier Transform".) It was a Saturday, and I got tired, so I went to bed. The next day, Laura was quite tired and took a nap. So I pulled my notes out, and started working on it. Understand, that I do believe it is wrong to work on Sunday. But I convinced myself that it really wasn't work... that I was simply playing with math... that... well, anyhow, it was what it was.

But it became time for me to start getting ready for church, so I put everything away, and went to take a shower. As I was in the shower, a thought occurred to me: "That was wrong: you know you do not believe that it is okay to work on Sunday." I thought, in response "no, that wasn't work, that was playing with math. I do such things for entertainment all the time." In answer, came the reply: "But you believe it will pay off." I replied back again, "Who knows if it will pay off?" "But you believe it will." "If it does, it won't be for several years at least." "But you are working on it, hoping that it will." Faster and faster, I started making excuses, and faster and faster the answers were flying back at me, until this answer came: "You are making excuses as fast as you can think them." My response was, "Yes, so what?" "THEN WHO IS ANSWERING YOU?"

That stunned me. I asked, "God?" and the answer was "YES." My reply then was in tears -- and in losing me feet and sitting down, "If God accuses me, then I am completely guilty." And I sat there, overwhelmed by the presence of God. But then, the thought occurred to me: if God is here, then I can tell him about my problems. So I then prayed, "God, two things have really been bothering me. The first is these kids. Sense tells us that we shouldn't be feeding them while we are living on credit cards -- but we do have enough. So if you want us to feed them, send them to my door, and I will again feed them. Also, it is true that I was working on Sunday. The reason that I was working on Sunday is that the demands of our publisher continually are more and more, and what they offer for the work is less and less. It worries me. So please..." And I was about to ask Him to bless our business. But then I think the Holy Spirit brought me something better. For the thought occurred to me: "every time I have asked God for something, He has given it. The problem is not that He doesn't take care of us, but that during hard times, it is hard to remember that fact. So this time, God, please don't give us anything at all. But please remind us that you remember us, love us, and will take care of us."

The presence of God lifted, and I stood up and finished me shower, and got dressed. The moment I was dressed, the doorbell rang. I looked out the peep hole, and saw: It was four of the kids. I said, "damn damn damn damn damn", because I really didn't want it to be them. Then I thought, "I was caught red-handed to day once. Let it not be twice." So I opened the door, and told them that God wanted us to let them come back and feed them as before; and I fed them a fairly large meal of chicken and stuffing. I let them out, and then went to wake up Laura. I told her what had happened; she accepted it, and we went to church.

We came back, and she and Gaudy were still tired. So they went straight to bed. I went and downloaded my personal email (not business; no, definitely not business), hoping to have an email from my brother Joe. Instead, it was an email from my pastor in America (the one who had advised me before.) "Do we need to send you some money?" I had to say, "no, because we should turn first to family, and my brother Joe would help us out if we needed it. But thank you for asking, because looking at your email, you were writing this email to me the same hour that I was asking God for such a reminder. And I told him the story.

Two weeks later, after mass, the Lithuanian pastor came to me, with words and hand gestures that I didn't know. He seemed quite agitated, and I thought, "He's scandalized that we're feeding the kids." But I asked an altar boy who was an English student of mine (Egidus) over to translate for us. I asked him what the pastor was saying, and the altar boy said, "I don't want to tell you." I asked again, saying "I'm afraid the pastor is scandalized because we are feeding the kids." The altar boy lowered his face, and said, "No, it's nothing like that. He's asking you if you need any money." Again, I had to laugh, and say "thank you, but no thank you... here's why."

When I calculate the odds of all this, I get a couple trillion to one against, or better. In other words, this wasn't random chance. This was the presence of God. That being the case, I have taken what He said as a promise.

The story of our return to America (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28189125)

Sometimes, it's easier just to copy in an email that came out. Here is a reply from Neil Rhodes of Times Square Church, in response to an email of mine that tells the next story. I should note that his reply was right on.

Thank you for your email addressed to Brother Dave Wilkerson. Unfortunately he is unable to answer you personally, but I am replying on his behalf.

Michael, love is a fruit of the Spirit, and it comes forth from a Spirit filled life, yielded to the Lord, as in John 15:4-5, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." We cannot forgive or love in our own strength or efforts, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and His love is certainly poured into our hearts by the Spirit. This principle of the Spirit filled life flowing through us to victory is found in Romans chapters 7 & 8, and is so well penned in Brother Dave's book entitled, "The New Covenant Unveiled", which is obtainable from our Texas office at World Challenge Inc., PO Box 260, Lindale, TX 75771.

We have read through your letter, and would like to invite you to visit our websites at www.worldchallenge.org, and www.timessquarechurch.org, where you can read and listen to many inspiring sermons by the brethren at Times Square Church. We also recommend the pulpit series by Brother Dave entitled, "Believing The Love Of God", "Keeping Yourself In The Love of God", and "The Importance Of Loving Your Enemies" which should bless and encourage you. Alternatively, you may send to our Texas office for complementary copies. Be assured, the staff at World Challenge has prayed very earnestly for you.

Sincerely,

Pastor Neil Rhodes

em

Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2004 21:02:21 -0700 (PDT)
From: Michael Rudmin
Subject: To David and Gary
To: texas@worldchallenge.org

Dear Mr. Wilkerson,

                  I am one of those who, though I have not taken a vow of a nazirite, have progressively given everything to God. I have also seen God's hand in action in my life; and at this time, I think I should be bearing fruit; yet I find myself at an impasse.

                  I don't know if you might have scripture for me, or explanation, or advice - maybe, only prayers. But I thought I should write to you with my problem, and as
well tell what has happened in my life (in the Lusaka "Nazarite" sermon, Gary asked for news. Maybe this might be related.)

                  First my problem. God has moved us to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and in my prayers and reading of the Bible, it seemed to me that he was promising that I would bear fruit. Indeed, it has already begun, it seems, for I have helped strengthen one Christian whom
I feel is very strong in the Holy Spirit, and have preached repentance to another, who subsequently attended a revival. Would that he does more, by the action of Christ's blood.

                  But I find myself also a bit like a noisy gong, for two reasons. One, the most major, is that I find it difficult or impossible to love my mother in law and others, though I bear with her, listen and do not speak out in wrath, and repent and overturn myself
when God's spirit, in prayer, tells me to do so. But though I know it to be a sin, I have an accusing heart, and though I repent it and ask for forgiveness for that sin of the heart (Ps 50, you accuse your brother and keep silence), and subsequently for help in not accusing, God so far has seen fit to allow me to experience that sin. Now, I've had sins before that God has let me fight without taking it away for some time (such as, as a young man, masturbation), and
yet God has eventually healed me of them. I understand that God does that so that we will truly
hate our sin, and not return to it. But with these two combined sins, I seem to have no power to even begin to fight it.

                  The second reason that I find myself to be a noisy gong is that I have an inability to pray properly against my sins. What I mean, is that I have prayed well in the past, over other things. But I hear how you would weep for your sins, and weep for the salvation of those around you; and though my heart tells me that this should be, my heart is not in my prayer. Yes, I wept once not too long ago (less than a week ago), and prayed in the spirit, lifting my
hands to heaven, but for the most part my heart is cold. I know that sin is grievous to God, and should be worth weeping over; yet I don't feel it. I am sorry on an intellectual level; I know it is wrong, and I know the damage it can do, and I don't want to do that damage. But my heart is hard to my sin.

                  My heart is cold. These two problems are related. Maybe based upon the same sin, or maybe there is something else wrong, but my heart is cold.

                  This problem is also serious. I do pray for the salvation of my family. (I also pray for the salvation of my mother in law, who is in the same household as us.) Yet the greatest barrier to my son's salvation and to my wife's salvation are that they harden their hearts; and I sense that their sin comes partially out of my own. As for my son Gaudeor, he asks me to play with him, and sometimes I do - usually I spend an hour or so with him, but sometimes I can't. Indeed, right now he is asking me to play with him, but I think seeking help for the
root problem is more important. By God's grace he is being patient right now, but often he gets upset (during home school lessons), and disobeys, and hardens his heart. Later, I ask him what he had been thinking about at the time, and he says either "I don't know", or something like "playing". But I fear for him, that his hardening his heart will draw him away from Christ. My wife Laura, likewise, has similar problems, though her hardening of her heart is
usually against Gaudeor when he is doing something disordered. I, too, harden my heart too often, mostly against my mother in law Roberta as she asks for more than I should give, or against her or others when they are unjust [though I have a specific promise from God
that He would take care of us, and He has fulfilled it profoundly]. In other words, though God has promised that He will cover any shortfall, I still have problems following the second half of James 5, when faced against someone who violates the first half of James 5. My mother in law, as far as I can tell, has long had a hard heart out of consumerism.

                  So there are hard hearts everywhere, and too little or no love, and I see no way through this. There are the things I do out of obedience to Christ, and they
are inherently loving, but my heart is too often hard and cold, and often even poisons what good I do.

                  At the very least, please pray to God for me. I fear that I am going to bear no more fruit until this problem or sin is solved. But like David, I don't see all my sin clearly, especially not whatever root false god I may have.

But maybe you will understand something better than me, and also be able to tell me about it.

                  Now, with all that, I suppose you won't believe that I've offered everything to God, except that you'll remember that it's not all offered at once, but piece by piece. So here goes a lot of the background, and the story of where I am right now.

                  As a young child I was a liar and a bully and a bullied kid, though my mother also raised us within Christianity and active Christianity (including charity towards the poor, inviting homeless to our home for meals with us, taking in refugees, and such).
  We were also moderately poor. So that worked in my favor. But two other things stood out. One was a dream, in which I was shown Christ and Christians following him, and offered the opportunity to do the same. But then I was shown the Antichrist, and which point I rolled out of bed and awoke with a flash and a bang. The dream may have been a coincidence, or an
act of God, or both. To my way of thinking, a miracle is a finesse; a Divine miracle is God showing Divine finesse. To explain how a miracle happened does not, in my mind, invalidate it, any more than pointing out that the phone Nicky Cruz used was an AT&T phone. To explain how is just to give the circumstances. What a miracle is, goes beyond how it happens. Anyhow, the
dream scared me, but it also put a fear of God in me that I never completely lost. The other was reading a comic version of "The Cross and the Switchblade", which gave me hope. Hope and a fear of God seem to be two very strong weapons of evangelism.

                  Skip forward past fighting with my mother, past skipping church in early college years. I had had one sortof girlfriend in high school, who had dumped me for lying to her, and occasional other dates. I was grimacing over that fact to a roommate of mine (we're both Catholic), and he said "Why don't you pray to Raphael, the archangel, to find you a spouse? He's
the patron of marriages, from the book of Tobit (Septuagint Bible)." Well, I had a problem with
praying to the angel, but I did instead think about it, and finally prayed to God, "God, please send Raphael to find for me a wife who will lead me to You, and whom I will lead to You." Within the month, I met a girl whose boyfriend had just dumped her as "not dean's wife material, and I just decided I want to be a dean". She asked me about Catholic Christianity, and I pointed her to a deacon in my church, and said "ask him". Yet we talked about it and read the Bible together a lot, too. She started to become interested in it, and we started to become interested in each other. In short, God answered my prayer and gave us to each other. I am ashamed to say that we were not completely chaste, though we remained virgins without
having oral sex or sexual intercourse. I had asked a priest what was okay, and he gave a weasel answer, and it did not strengthen me enough against what sin there was. That grieved us later, but not as badly as if we had had sexual intercourse. But God doesn't instantly make us Christians; he leads us there.

                  My senior year of college, I had hyper allergies from a plastics exposure, and the doctor put me on Prednisone without telling me that 1/10 of patients have psychosis as a withdrawal symptom. More about that later. I graduated without a job, and took up taxi driving in Norfolk, where my girlfriend was living. She lived with her grandmother; I lived in the slums. Things got harder, and I went to live with my brother about the same time as I started suffering a 6-month bout with paranoia. During this entire time, though (from the senior year of college on), I began to notice similarities between the number of the beast mentioned in Revelations, and the social security number that we all need to work for pay.

Please do not take this as an addition to Revelations - but it did bother me, and I began to research whether there was anything morally wrong with the SSN. There are some things wrong; one of them is that it is used to oppress the foreigner, and God condemns that. Moreover, shortly after I had gone through this analysis, a Mexican committed a very public suicide
over that oppression, within a mile of my home. In the end, I decided that I could not in good conscience continue to use the SSN, or work a normal job. After much prayer and consideration, I told my girlfriend this, and she was shattered. She said, "Michael, if you cannot work a normal job, I can't marry you. I won't see you. Please reconsider, and call me in a couple days." I did reconsider, and prayed about it, and decided, "if God gave her to me, I have to be able to offer her back to God, or she isn't mine and I am not His." So I called her to say "I cannot go back on this," but she, having read her Bible and prayed, said upon hearing me, "Michael, I was wrong and I'm sorry. I don't see how we can ever marry, but I will act in
hope and remain your girlfriend." Within three years, we were married, but that was my first offering to God.

                  I took up some prepublishing work, directing the money to my brother, just to help me be sane. During that time, I was attacked and badly beaten, and started having post-traumatic stress syndrome, making me want to attack, hurt, or kill the people who had done this. This got worse, until I realized that I had to offer to Christ my complete forgiveness of the
attackers, and offer up any further violence, even in self defense. I'd have to turn the other cheek. That was my second offering to God.

                  My wife and I married, and prayed for both a spirit of poverty, and poverty. That was our third offering. So far, God has given this to us, though we both have engineering degrees, and have owned our own business. Indeed, I should note that even while we were in a 2nd world country, we were poor by their standards, though it was not obvious to them. We asked for poverty as the finest of the gold, that we might depend on God.

                  The prepublishing work was enough that we had Laura incorporate with my brother, and I did the work. We set 10% of the income to go into a fund for widows, orphans and foreigners, and I as an owner's spouse, was able to legally work for free for the company.
                  But there was one other thing that really bothered us, and it will come into play later. My wife's parents were very foolishly consumerist, and hated the facts that (1) I, Laura's husband, was Catholic (2) I was very fundamentalist (3) we hated debt, since we
were poor, and would not live in a lifestyle that was boastworthy. We wanted to be free to choose to do what was right, and that precluded debt. They, meanwhile, were living beyond their means, and that scared us. Moreover, we saw that our nation was fallen, and were looking for another country to move to, and they were of the "old family" persuasion, meaning that it angered them that we should not be nearby. So there was no small animosity between us.
My wife's mother counseled divorce to Laura; she rejected it, but it gave me great distrust, and on and on...

                  My wife's nonmilitary job evaporated, as the shipyard where she worked changed over to being a pure military operation. In considering how our country has used its military, she decided she couldn't do this. She also wanted to be home for our first son, and I didn't know what to do since the income from our business was not enough to live on, in America. However, my
church's pastor (Rev. Michael McCarron) had shown great signs of being strong in the Holy Spirit,
himself, converting 100s each year, and convicting us of sin so that we would repent. Therefore, I went to him with our problem. His counsel was that my fear of the SSN vs Revelations was a thing of fear, and therefore not a thing of God; I should give up my
fears. However, the company we had formed was a thing of love, and he felt we should continue it. I then decided that I should put this up to God - should Laura get another job? Should I get a job? Or should we go to another country, fleeing America's punishment by God, and expanding the business? So I then went to a family friend (also Catholic, but pentecostal) who
had been healed of one leg being shorter than the other as an adult. I asked her, how do prayers get answered, and she replied "Healing comes through faith, and faith through hearing the word of God. Go through the Bible and find all the verses that relate
to your problem. Then think about it and decide whether God can, and will, do what you ask. Then pray." I did this, and then fasted and prayed for guidance. I specifically asked God to close all the doors except the one he wanted open. I then applied to every job I could. I got one positive answer: in Lithuania I could teach English and Information Science for $3000 per year, and build the business.

At the end of Aug 2000, we flew, though to the great surprise, shock, and anger of my wife's parents. We had not told them, because of a spoken threat to take our son away if we moved somewhere else. I was relieved to be flying, though. The sins of our country were building a storm, and though everyone said "no storm is coming" or "don't tell me about that, I don't want to hear", I knew better. The storm was already there.

                  Well, to make a long story longer, God knew what he was doing. I had built up anger against all those who were deliberately blind, and God took me away from that to take my rage away, lest it turn to wrath and lead me to sin. Our time there was mostly wonderful, and it did heal me of that. While we were there, we fed beggar children who would come to our door. The
rule was 1 meal, divided between as many children as came. It wasn't a lot, but it helped; and there were 10000 other homes in the 3 mile-by-2 mile city. They didn't have to depend only on us. We went to church at the local Catholic Church, read the readings to our son, and later took him to the Baptist Church for Sunday school with the American missionaries there.

However, Lithuania had taken on American immigration law, but the police messed up our visa applications in a way that made us illegal aliens. So on 9-11-01 we flew back to JFK to reapply. We were stunned, saddened, but not surprised by what happened. We visited the relatives, and then returned to Lithuania in February again. Again, my wife's parents were
angry that we were going, though 9-11 had shown that it was wise, in a way. But Al-Qaiada had threatened all expatriate Americans, and they based their argument upon that. Also, my wife's father's cancer returned within the next 2 months, and they were concerned that they'd never see their grandson again.

                  We got back to work, both with prepublishing and school, but the prepublishing was what paid for our living. The school's $3000 covered only the state-mandated insurance, so there was nothing left over. Unfortunately, the prepublishing work paid at the end of a year-long contract, and the trip to America had drained us of our savings. So we were living on credit cards until August, when a single large payment would come in. Still, we were worried.
A friend had mentioned to us that the Bible said "he who does not provide for his family is worse than a pagan", and after thinking about it, we decided that living on credit cards really wasn't providing for one's own family. We talked it over, and then in April 2002 told the children (Ingrida, Viktoria, Maximillas, Alexandra, Viktoria, and a few others who
occasionally came) "don't come back until August, when our contract will pay off." They respected our wishes and did not come back, though they and we would wave when we saw them on the street.

                  One Saturday in May 2002, I stumbled on a different way of doing a certain common mathematical function.

It seemed better and faster than anything that existed. The following Sunday, my wife was tired and took a nap at the same time as our son. I started playing around with the algorithm.

                  Of course, playing isn't the right word. I was working - but I told myself it was play. You see, to honor God, and also because I find that people make stupid mistakes who don't take 1 day a week off, I don't work on Sunday. Well, not except when I'm a hypocrite, but I'll get to that. At 4:00, I stopped work to take a shower in preparation for church. I
began my shower, and prayed a little, and then had a thought. "You hypocrite. You were working on Sunday." "Oh no", I replied to myself, "that wasn't work. It wasn't for pay." "But you think it will pay off." "Not for several years, at least"; and so on. But as I started making excuses faster and faster, the negations of my arguments came faster and faster, until I was thinking of excuses as fast as I can think.

                  I do a lot of thinking. I know how fast I can think. My conscience pointed that out. "You're making excuses as fast as you can think." I agreed, but didn't see what that had to do with anything. "So who's making the accusations?" That literally floored me.

                  If I was making excuses as fast as I could think, then the accusation of hypocrisy was not coming from me. It was coming from God. From the floor of the shower, my head between my knees, I said, "I am accused by God, and I am guilty. I am sorry", and I wept.

                  But then I had another thought. "If God is here, then I can tell Him my problems!" So I then prayed, "God, my first problem is this. I don't think we should be feeding the children right now, but my conscience is not at rest with that. So if you want me to feed them, then send them to my door and I will." "My next problem is the real reason I was working on Sunday. God, I'm worried about the contracts. The publisher we work for keeps squeezing us harder and harder for more and more work, and griping about paying. I don't know how we can keep going. However, every time I've asked you for something, you've given it to me; but it's easy to
forget that in times of trial. This time, don't give me anything. Just remind me that you remember us, love us, and will take care of us."

                  Then I got up, finished my shower, and got dressed. The doorbell rang. I looked out, and then said "damn, damn", except about 10 times more. The children were there. I had promised God. I opened the door, and told them, "Labas. Ash manau kad Dievas nori man
duoti maisto jums. Todel, jus galite pagrizhti kaip priesh. Prashome, laukyk chia." "Hello I think that God wants me to give of foodstuff to you. Therefore, you can return as before. Please, wait here." I then prepared a slightly large meal, and brought it out to them. When my wife awoke, I told her what had happened. She said, "okay," and that was that. We went to Mass (a recent discovery my father made: the word Mass predates the use of "to send" in Latin, and
is actually related to the Persian word Math, and means "order", as in the order Christ gave, for the meal of His Body and Blood). Afterwards, my wife and son were both very tired, and again slept. I went to read my email.

                  I got an email from my pastor back in Newport News, VA, the one who was so affected by the Holy Spirit. "Do you need us to send you any money?" I was stunned. I replied "No, though thank you very much for the request. II Tim 11 says that I should look to my brother first if I am in need, and truly my brother would help us out." But then I told him about the
prayer. It turns out, though, my pastor's email was sent at the same time as I was praying to God for a reminder that He would take care of us: 4:30, Lithuanian time. Two weeks later, the Lithuanian priest, speaking no English, came to us (the rich Americans), saying something we couldn't understand.

I called a student over and asked him, "what is he saying?" The student got very embarrassed, and said, "well, the pastor is asking if you need any money." The Catholic Church in Lithuania has no social outreach. I am convinced that God spoke to both of them, and one acted quickly.

                  But that is a promise I have held onto.

                  Unfortunately, we still messed up with the kids, in the end - but perhaps God's will is in that, too. I hope so, anyhow. The kids were coming too often, and taking up all our time. Most of the problem was that we had a tiny little kitchen, and cleanup was also taking forever. I wanted to ask Laura if we could pray that God would give us a greater space so that
the kids could come, but also help clean up. The kids came at this time, and I asked them if they could return later, because Laura was sleeping and I wanted to speak to her before I had them in. The leader of the group made a sarcastic remark about me wanting to have sex with Laura, which was very disrespectful. In response, I told her that she could not come or have
food from us, for a week. She violated that in a sneaky manner, so we made it two weeks. Then she and the other kids conspired to violate it together, and we made it general for all the gang. Then they came a few days early, just to show that they needn't be bound by our rules... ... in the end, we had banned them for a few months.

  During that time, they met up with a person whom I believe was a member of a US gang, the Crips/Bloods. I think he may have been recruiting them. If we had listened to God instead of our own sense, maybe they would have been immune to recruiting. Or maybe God has something like Psalm 107 in store for them. I really don't know.

                  Another time, I was coming out of a back room, and my wife leaned out of the window, screaming, "Stok! Jis pakoiyah zmona. Stok DABAR!" (stop! He's make-legging the woman. Stop it now!". I stepped over to the window and saw this young heavily built, lean man
kicking the head of a woman about the same age. I immediately thought "you can't let a person drag another to their death." So I ran out of the house, terrified, knocking on the neighbor's apartment doors as I ran, calling "Skambek Policia! (call the police)". I ran over, and the woman was already unconscious. I said "You can't do that" in Lithuanian; he responded by picking her up by her hair, and explaining in a calm, rational voice, why she really needed to be beaten to a pulp. I responded by saying, "You still can't hurt a person."

Meanwhile, we were moving a little ways away, and a relative of the girl started coming up to her, and asking if she was all right. The young man then turned around and said "this is pointless. Come with me!" and went to drag her away, presumably to finish the job. Meanwhile, another neighbor had begun to call the police. I went up to him and tried to separate him from the girl. He turned and slammed a left into my temple, and knocked me back, but then went and squared off against me. The girl's relative, meanwhile, began to lead her away.

                  The reason I was so terrified, was that I was remembering that I could not lift a hand, even in self defense. How, then, could I defend another, though I had to? But as he came with a series of roundhouse kicks, I placed my arms in the sign of the cross, and looking up at the window, thought 'I don't want Laura to see me fall'. Not fall, physically, but fall spiritually. A roundhouse kick caught me in the side; another caught me on the arms and threw me back about 8 feet. With that 8 feet, I then thought "this doesn't look like a cross; it looks too much like a vampire story." So I stopped that, and instead took my hand and made the sign of blessing kind of a cross (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), saying "God bless you". He stopped, looked at me twice, and then looked over at the two women walking away, and started
jogging after them, calling over his shoulder, "I am a Russian soldier!" in Lithuanian. I replied, "I am a man of God". He replied an epithet in English (the only English of the whole thing).

I followed them at a distance, to be sure that he did not begin again; eventually the police came and waited at a respectful distance until he ran away; they then requested information about what had happened.

    But in this, I discovered that the sign of Christ's cross can also protect His followers who do His will. Not just the sign of Christ's cross, though. When you have God's promise, you can depend on it.

                  Some time after that, maybe March '03, Laura handed me a book on the Holy Spirit. ("The Wonderful Spirit filled life", I believe). I was reading it, when it occurred to me, "You're holding your business back from God." I didn't wait to consult Laura, though
later it turned out she had been sensing the same. I decided, "I want the business to be God's. If I'm holding back from you, God, then please, either take it and take it away, or take it, bless it, and give it back to us. But a shepherd should not eat his sheep,
and we have 3 employees/partners. I am their shepherd. Therefore, if you are going to take away
the business, please do three things. First, take away our employees before you take away the business.

Second, I don't know what you want me to do instead, so please again close all doors except for the one you want me to take. Third, that's going to be scary. So please give us the faith to do this without fear."

The next day, our director/partner called us to say "I want to go to another country for an internship. I'm out as of two months from now, May '03." Two days later, our full employee said, "Germany just gave us permission to immigrate. I'm giving notice for September '03. The 2nd partner/employee said immediately "if you need me to help shut down the business, I can do it." Please, by the way, add him to your prayers: Aleksandras Urbonas of Silute. He's
honorable, but slightly confused and is mostly atheist. I've tried to evangelize, and I've prayed for him. Anyhow, the business did close. We shipped our last book, and had no other contract coming, so I suggested that we do a proposal. The proposal, though good, was rejected out of hand. The day before we were done, the landlord of our office came to us, asking us to request that the rental agreement be shortened to "terminated immediately" instead of in December, because he had another use for it. So everything shut down neatly, with no extra expenses.

                  We had two months without work to pack, and then I read one of your sermons about praying, fasting, and reading the Bible. I brought it to Laura, and said "Let's do this. Let's spend one hour a day; we will each pick a random chapter of the Bible to read out loud; and then we will pray based upon what we read, and keep a journal that touches on what we prayed about." We did this, and during this time our prayers first revealed to us our sin; we repented and asked
for forgiveness, but after that our prayers revealed to us: (1) that God destroys a nation only when there is nothing worth saving, as a final act of love so that people will not be born into damnation. (2) that even if God takes away everything, life is still good (3) that those who are saved will not see death, even in small. They may see self-sacrifice, but will see life despite that (4) that God was going to place me in a desert, and I was not to pull myself out and move myself to a stream, but was to instead dig deep for God's grace, the river under the desert. Also that God was preparing me to bear fruit. (5) that God has a firm hand in manipulating peoples to make room for what He wants to do next, and when He punishes them,
He tells them exactly what they did wrong. There were other things, but these are typical and fairly important.

Maybe the most important, or profound thing, though, was when I read Christ's statement about faith the size of a mustard seed. All of a sudden, I understood, for I had a single promise that I could hold onto; and it was giving me the faith to do other things; but it hadn't germinated until (1) I had the promise; (2) I had the promise of what I could do with
God's promise, and (3) I understood it. That made me weep, and indeed makes me weep just remembering it.

That in that prayer, God multiplied his promise a thousand fold, because He gave me the ability to use it.

                  Still, it's hard for me to completely reconcile the loss of the business. It definitely was by the hand of God that the business failed. Likewise, our poverty is entirely in line with our prayer for poverty. Yet at the same time these things were also through the injustice of man. Each year we produced a million-dollar sales book, their top money maker;
their people called us the best at what they do, and when I compare our work with other competing products, I have to agree. We were far and away the best. Yet they paid us less than $30000 for 3 man-years of labor, and in the end even that was too high. The authors themselves were also handsomely compensated; one is a multimillionaire, and they did not stand up
for us either. That bothers us, especially in the light of one of our readings, which was James 5, in combination with Ez. 3 (if I remember correctly), about how if God tells you to warn someone, and you don't, you are guilty of their blood. I did speak this to the authors, but got no positive answer. But this kind of injustice is one of the things that I find hard to let go of, despite the fact that God has promised he will take care of us, and has actively shown His word to be true. How do you deal with it, when God gives His good will, through the actions of a
person's evil? Are you thankful to the person? If so, I can't imagine it. For me, even forgiveness is hard, though in the end I pray "I forgive, help my unforgiveness", or "I forgive by the grace of Christ; I will not hold it against them. Now help hold me to that, Christ". But later, still, I find that accusations against them can surface within my heart
"what you did was wrong/evil/greedy etc." I then have to repent them, or they will extend even beyond truth and justice.

But back to the story...

                  I also was applying for jobs left and right. We decided that since God said He would take care of us and we had no assets, the minimum "real offer" would be one that paid a family wage, enough to live on. Despite that, I had no job offers, but about a month before our Nov. 1 plane tickets, Laura's parents said that if we had nowhere else to live we could come and
be their guests. By the time we flew, we were going from something to nothing, but rejoicing.

                  A week before we flew, Laura's father Allen relapsed, though we did not learn of it until later. We visited my parents briefly, arrived at Laura's parents' house Nov. 8, and discovered very quickly that I had to help take care of him. I took care of him through the
cancer and diabetes until he died on Dec. 28. My wife and I were with him at his death, and urged him to look towards Christ; I also had read him from the book of psalms about a week before his death. He didn't want to talk about religion, but he did accept me
reading the psalms. All this time, I still applied for jobs, some of which seemed like a perfect match, and still had no job offers. Once he died, though, I thought "Okay, that job is done; now we can go on." I was a bit relieved, because despite the fact that we
were guests helping out, there was still no small animosity from Laura's mother Roberta, and it was (naturally, given the stresses) worse than ever. I therefore prayed, asking what God wanted us to do. But reading the Bible, I got James 1: true religion is to take care of widows in their need, listen much, talk little, and get angry even less, because the wrath of man does not work God's glory. Within 2 days, we both got offers of work to substitute teach.
The nominal salary, if we both worked every day, would be about $9000 per year; in reality, it came to about $7500 each. We did teach, and helped out with the bills, enough that in the end Laura's mother got by a really tight situation: Laura's father hadn't been able to afford his term life insurance just before he died, and so died technically destitute. Her mother
was scrapping together jobs, but the social security wouldn't kick in for another 6 months, the house was fully mortgaged, they had still been living beyond their means, and things were looking scary.

We also spoke about her job situation to other teachers there; she and the other older teachers had been pressured out of her school in Norfolk, and she had left thinking she'd get a job closer to home. That hadn't happened for three years, and her pension would pay off around 10% unless she got another state job. However, upon hearing the story, one department
head did hire her full time. At the same time, in prayer God let me know that He wanted me to shut down the business completely, and request the members to give the entire remaining unused WOF fund, about $5000, to her, despite the fact that we had set it up to be unavailable to family of the business owners.

With 100% owner agreement, anything can be done, so they agreed, and that was that. In other words, that problem was solved.

Meanwhile Laura, who before now had always been saying "it still isn't the right time to have another child", suddenly said 'I have the faith that God will take care of us. If you want, we can have another child'. So we conceived in November. But just before she became too pregnant to work, I got a job with a preformed concrete company for a nominal $18000, and (considering the number of hours we get) in reality $15000. In other words, just enough to live on
before, and just enough to live on afterwards. God keeps His word, and it is enough.

When I got to my new job, I found that my foreman was a man who would take his Bible and read and pray, but he was struggling with past sin, as well as with the problem of hypocrisy within the churches. We spent many hours, when there was no work, talking and reading the Bible. He said, "You say God sent you here; I think God sent you here just for me," because I was explaining the scriptures to him, and showing him how Christ's forgiveness leads to justification
and righteousness. I responded that a miracle is a finesse, kindof like a miracle hail-mary-at-the-buzzer shot in basketball. But God's miracles are simply the ultimate finesse, and that I was sent there specifically just for me, and specifically just for my family, and specifically just for my mother-in-law, and specifically just for him, possibly. Now that said, I have to say that I think he is more graced in the spirit than I. He was raised from complete
godlessness and hopelessness to the glory of following Christ, and his gratitude towards God and openness towards God is huge. I pray for my foreman, Terry Robinson, each day, as he requested: that he might have the humility to be open to God's Spirit, to accept all that God offers him whether it seems good or bad, to stay in the right path, and to be obedient
to God's will. You might pray for him as well.

Also, while there, some coworkers put "poon" on my helmet, a euphamism for a woman's genitals. I prayed about that, and got back "you shall put "Holy to the Lord" on your tools." Therefore, I erased the slang, and put this with a cross on the back of my helmet.

It was, in a way, embarrassing, but in response to questions I explained exactly what my prayer had yielded. In turn, first, the coworkers had enough respect for God that they did not erase what I had written; second, though, it opened conversations. In specific, there was one who said that his girlfriend had left him, and would I pray for him? I talked more with him, and showed him how living in sin is still against God's plan. I then asked him if he had ever
gone to church. He, in turn, said that he had - but he had left the church when, one day, he had walked in on a baptism, and had started to shake. He said people turned and looked at him, and he felt strange, and ran and didn't come back. I replied to him, that that was the Holy Spirit, and this is what happens when you are in sin and face God. Instead of running
away, I said, that church was a church to go back to, and give up his sin. It turns out that this church was also my foreman's church; and eventually he did return for one day of a revival. You might pray for him as well, that God's Spirit will continue to
convict and call him. His name is Kareem.

Anyhow, I feel that God is yielding me fruit; but I feel also that it is held back by a lack of love. I don't know how to get where I need to go. I am sure that there must be something I am holding back from God, but I don't know what it is. I read about the importance of love, and yet after trying to raise my family, and helping out where I can, and facing unjust
wrath or other forms of injustice, there's no room for love there.

That isn't right. The Bible doesn't say love, except under duress.

If God's spirit tells you anything about this, please let me know (unless it is that you should keep silent). Or if you know of Bible verses that apply (I'll have seen them before, but maybe not understood the import of some more obscure ones, perhaps) a mention of those might be helpful. But whether He says anything or not, please pray for me, and with me for these others I describe.

On moving to Portsmouth (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28189383)

When I was come to Bayshore Cape Charles, I had prayed over whether to take the job, and the answer I got back was "take the job, but be loyal and do not try to rise high."

I was hired on as a surveyor, and worked under Terry Robinson. We finished up the segmental bridge project, and there were many layoffs -- perhaps 150. Rather than have us be laid off, Terry chose to take a demotion.

Meanwhile, I started getting a call to fast and pray again. I did attempt it, but almost "fell out" (fainted), and gave it up, deciding that if God wanted me to fast and pray, He could move me to a job that I could perform while doing so. Shortly after that, our department was abolished, and I was moved to turning a batch-plant conveyor belt on -- and off -- and on again, as needed. So I took up fasting and praying.

One day, I was in the middle of prayer, and God spoke to me again: "Get your things together. I am moving you." I looked up, and saw a foreman I didn't recognize, 100 yards off, walk up to another foreman I didn't recognize, and speak for a moment, and then head off. The second foreman headed off in the opposite direction, but neither headed towards me -- and then he turned and came my way. By this time, I had my things together -- a notebook that I had used to help keep records and improve my performance, my back pack, and some other stuff.

He came up and said, "Could you come to the plant manager Bob Venom's office?" I said, "I've got everything together." He said "Oh, it's just a quick thing-- you don't need that." I said "I do, but that's okay. I can come right now." So I went up, and walked in. Bob Venom started talking about teamwork, accomplishments... I interrupted him. "This is a layoff, right?" He said "Well, we don't like to call it that... but we have another plant that we'd like you to look at. Perhaps you'd like to take a job there." It was a layoff of one.

But I did check the other job out. I also calculated that I couldn't live in Chesapeake on less than $14/hr. They were offering $11. I insisted "$14, and a company car". They laughed. But they offered $12 initially, with evaluation after a month and a raise up to $13. I ended up taking it. But I was driving 3 hrs a day, with a bridge toll of $17/day, and I was burning up all my income. Working 8-10 hrs a day, plus the 3 hrs of driving, plus the work of helping feed and water the horses (carrying the water) was also wearing me out physically. I vowed that I wouldn't stay at Roberta's house for 3 months like that, yet in prayer God was saying "I want you to do that for 3 months and more." So I found myself driving those 3 hours and more.

The time came when I ran into Fr. McCarron, and spoke with him. He again advised fasting and praying, but asked me to tell him what I got out of it before I did anything. Well, it didn't work out like that. But for the rest I should perhaps refer to my email to him (later).

Father McCarron,

    Here is what has happened since I met with you that
one Wednesday evening.

    First of all, I should note that I did not have a problem with anger, as you supposed, not because there was nothing to be angry about, but because I did each time stop everything to pray and offer it to God, to let Him deal with it. I felt that this was true at the time, and still feel that this was true.

    Nonetheless, I talked with Laura, asking that we should fast as you suggested, with dual purposes. First, that God would lead us where He wanted us, if that was within His will; and second, that if we were in fact asking the wrong question, that he would tell us what it was, and give us a sureness of that fact. In line with the second, we also agreed to place
everything before God.
    With me, I have to say that placing everything before God was a difficult matter. Two things
bothered me: one, the fear that we would get hurt; and two, the fact that in this continual series of 12-15 hour days (8-10 hours work, 3 hrs driving, and 1-2 hrs of various forms of preparation), was wearing me out. I couldn't imagine God having me continue as before.
    Yet to place everything before God, meant that I had to also put this before Him too. If He wanted it, it was His. Still, I'm not so sure how effective I was at this.

    The fasting did open me up to one concept, though. God has promised that He'd take care of us; that being the case, I decided that I would rather be sruck by God, than recieve every kind of goodness from people. That is, I am more confident that if God strikes me, it is for a good purpose and a long term benefit to me.

    Second, there was a day during the fast in which Roberta wanted something that was not right for her to ask, and I said that that was not hers to demand. She turned around and said that we were only living there on her charity. I replied "Roberta, you have it exactly backwards".
    This was true on two counts -- for what we have given her has included and been far above what a renter would give her. However, more than that, charity is God's love first and foremost, that then has physical reflections. She blew up at that, and said "well, I can demand that you leave by MArch 15th. No. March fifteenth for Laura and Gaudeor and the baby. You can leave right now."
    I should note that at no time did I get angry; yet at the same time, Laura felt that my statement was unfortunate, in that there is no way that Roberta could understand what charity really means; to her it is undeserved freebees. And with her mental accounting, it is her charity that we are living on.
    More to the point, she tends to say whatever is at the top of her head, and she did not entirely mean that; however, I did take this seriously, and discussed this with Laura, that it seemed to me that we should move out. We had already started to apply to two apartments that had said they had immediate openings, but we had agreed that though we would apply, we would not sign on anything, until the 10 day fast had passed.

    However, they called us and approved us, but said that the openings had been taken, and nothing was available until June.

    However, there was also a mobile home that we had been looking at.
    One Saturday in February I had heard that there was work scheduled, so I came in.
    However, nobody was out in the field, so I went to the bank, and then prayed "what do you want me to do now?" Then I had started to drive home. However, as I got to the entrance to 64, a rush of traffic blocked me from my entrance. I thanked God, and took the next entrance, going the opposite way (towards Suffolk).

A traffic jam directed me down Dominion Blvd. Interest took me down Cedar, again towards Suffolk, and I recorded what houses I saw there, for sale. But I quickly found that I was near an advertised mobile home, and I had gone to look for it. But after that, I had trouble getting in touch with the owner. Anyhow, just as we were in the middle of the 10-day fast, I had called this mobile home, had gotten the daughter of the house, and she had said "sorry, the mobile home is sold."

    But as the apartments became impossibly delayed, this home appeared in the paper again. I called, and it was the same one. We had our money available by now, and I decided "well, I might be burned, but God is the master of the large and small. Yet the fasting (as I mentioned above) had also opened my heart to the idea that it is better to be punished by
God than to be praised and rewarded by men. So I prayed "God, if you want me to lose even this credit card-based $7000, then please let your will be done. Only, if it is for some kind of a punishment, give me the grace to understand it and learn from it." So we did buy the home. It ended up being slightly cheaper than before. [A real estate investor had bought it at bluebook value, then turned and sold it to us at market value... almost the same asking price as the
original seller had asked.]

So then I started to set up this home. During this week, I had two small accidents, but they were directly related to my physical stress of so many long days, one after another. As the Bible says, God knows what our limits are, and he won't test us beyond them. In this case, the limits were physical. Up to that point, yes -- but He is now giving us a rest.

Yet Roberta was still fighting this, and when we went to move, she threatened Laura with burning everything that we didn't get out of her house instantly [again, something she didn't really mean, just heat of the moment]. Yet Laura was afraid that we would lose what little we had here. She said, "well, maybe she'll let the dogs in our room [to chew and mark and
poop on stuff], and they'll destroy everything", and said so to me. I replied that God could stop the lion's mouths, and surely could stop the dogs' mouths and butts, and that was sure that the dogs wouldn't destroy anything without God's sayso. She still was upset, so I suggested that she pray, while I loaded the car. I took a load down, and came back up. From her face, I could see she still was upset. I sat down to talk, and the voice of God spoke in my heart, saying "Go to My Word". So I took a Bible, and opened it up to 2nd Esdras (apocrypha, as it turns out, for Roman Catholics, though it is in the Coptic canon), where Esdras has just seen the vision of the forlorn woman who was the new Jerusalem, and is lying as one dead [which Laura was doing], and says to the angel "do as you will, only don't forsake me, lest I die, for I do not understand what I am seeing." I asked Laura, "do you think this applies? Do you think
you should make this your prayer to God?" And when I read this, Laura laughed, but still was unsure. So I asked her, "can any man just upen up a Bible, and read, and it apply? I can't. Yet God does do this for us, sometimes, when we need it. Do you doubt that God is with us, then?" So she thought, and said no, and that I should go. So I went.

It was this day, that I had the 2nd accident (the first having been a yard accident, low speed backing up). It was a case of two conflicting traffic patterns, and no road signs. Anyhow, we pulled over to exchange insurance. The police were coming, and I went to my under-seat
compartment for the insurance information. Instead, I found a Bible, and immediately thought "this is not what I wanted." Yet then I thought "no, thank you Lord, for this, for this is what I needed." So I stopped and opened it up, and read Paul, "remember, in cases of law the facts are determined by the testimony of 2 to 3 witnesses." I thought, "God, this one is corny." Yet that is what happened. We each said what happened from our own points of view; the
police officer went and looked at the situation, and came back, concluding "One of the two of you got out of your lane. If I knew which one it was, I'd have to write him a ticket. But I can't tell which it was, so I'm going to write this up as a no-fault insurance exchange."

It was about then that I began to understand that the reason we were leaving was that I was too worn out to stay and labor further. Yet there is more.

This Triduum Saturday, Gaudeor asked me to read the Bible during breakfast, so I did. I read Samuel, God saying "It isn't you they are rejecting; it is me." I thought about it, and discussed it with Laura, that it is clear from the Bible that the sons were taking
bribes, but in the peoples' minds, it probably was Samuel they were rejecting, though they made it out to be that they were rejecting his sons. In reality, though, it was God they were rejecting, for if they truly followed God then there would be no opportunity for justice to be corrupted. But it bothered me, causing me to wonder "was our leaving kindof like that?"

    I also read Pslams, where David writes "You have rewarded me for the cleanness of my hands." I
discussed with Laura how it seemed pretty clear that David was writing shortly after his series of events with Abigail and her first husband.
      It seemed clear that David knew that his heart was not clean.
      Now this is an issue for me, for I know that my heart is not clean. Unclean thoughts all the time come into my mind, though I do not desire them, and pray for forgiveness, and put them from me.
    But the week before Triduum Saturday, we had been moving, and Laura's mother had been fighting against it, and she was saying how I should do all the moving, slowly, until everything was set up, and pay rent meanwhile (which we would not be able to afford ... rent plus payments), and let Laura stay and take care of the horses, and so on. Then Laura had told her about how the March 15th had been weighing in our decision to find a place sooner rather than later.
So she said no, it had been April 15th, not March 15 which she had said.
    I came in, and she asked me, "you know, don't you, that it was April 15th I said?" Now this was a week after the fasting, but this did make me angry, for I hate being asked to lie.
    So instead I said "No, I know that you said March 15th, but I also know that you say a lot of things when you are enraged."
    And that was too much, and I went out and sat by my car, and prayed, and apologized to God, and prayed some more, and read the Bible, and prayed, and what I got out of all this was that I was not wrong to be angry at being asked to lie, but I was still required
to love her. So I prayed, and said "yeah, but how."

And the answer came back, "wait on me." So I waited, and got no more answer, so I asked, "wait how long?" And the answer came back, "no, go and keep loading the car, but wait for me to tell you." So I did so. But after an hour more, as I was passing Roberta, I got a sudden sureness that Roberta was afraid we were cutting ties. Justly, because of her behavior, but unjustly, because she is still Laura's mother. Yet cutting ties had been the farthest thing from my mind,
though it is something that my mother had done to her own mother-in-law for supporting and
encouraging divorce, and Roberta knew about it. I also got a sudden sureness that that was it. So I had said, "Roberta, we aren't cutting ties. We are moving because it is too wearing for me to run 12 to 15 hour days." She replied that that was life, and therefore she didn't have a lot of sympathy, but she also visibly relaxed.

        It still wasn't enough. Easter Vigil Saturday, we were again at Roberta's packing and cleaning (though we'd been living in the mobile home for a week). God had to tell me a few times, "Don't be so hard hearted with her." I did allow myself to be turned around on
these issues. But she also wanted to come to our place, and see where it was. So while she
was there, I unloaded our vehicles, and then came in. It was then that God again spoke to me, and said "give her a key." So I did, and asked her, "sometime over the next month. make a copy, and then give it back to us so that when we visit my parents, we can give it to them, and they can make a copy too." Thus, Roberta had a physical sign that we were not cutting ties.
        You don't give a key to someone whom you're cutting out of your life.

        So back to Easter Vigil. When all was done, we started to go to OLMC, and Gaudeor was sleeping, Peter was tired, and I wondered whether it was a bad idea. So I asked God, "which is it?", for I had wanted to take Gaudeor and Laura there, in the hope that exposure to the reflection of the glory of God would help each of them over certain hurdles in their life.
But all that came to my mind was "blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord", and I thought how the psalm lamented that people don't call upon God, and ask Him to fight their battles, and how I had done so, asking Him to help Laura and Gaudeor in their current problems. I realized that I was coming to mass in God's name, and I therefore hoped it would go
well. It did go well for both of them. But it also went well for me.

        While I was there, the two readings from the morning occurred to me, and God explained how they applied to me. David had known his heart wasn't clean, but God kept David's hands clean, and then rewarded David for what He Himself had done.
        Isn't that strange? We normally reward a person for what they did -- not what we did. But God rewards us for what He does for us. And in the same way, God said, "See, I kept your hands clean. Throughout all this, you did not incur guilt, because I held you back from it. It wasn't you yourself who earned this reward. I earned it, and I give it to you, and I will reward you for what I have done for you."

        And then He explained the other verse as it applied to me.
        He said, "when the Israelites rejected me over Samuel, I still told them, "follow Me, and I will bless you." In the same way, I tell you, whether your going to a mobile home was rejecting Me or not, does not matter. Follow Me, and I will bless you and make you mine." I thought about it more, and I understood that we may well have been given the mobile home and taken from Roberta's not for any merit of mine, but for my weakness -- that I was too weak to do
what God would want me to do, while I was there. In the same way, the Israelites may well have been too weak to live under the judgement of Samuel's sons.
        But in the end, it doesn't matter. It isn't about what we deserve, or how good we are. It's about us facing God, and God taking us from where we are, and about God's divine will being the best for everyone involved, impossible though it may seem.

        ====

        As to the offhand statement about wickedness, when we met, there is a similar explanation, something that happened around January. I had been reading Jeremiah, and read the part where he said "Ask the Lord, and He will reveal to you mysteries that you did not understand. " And I thought,"God, that would be awesome. Please do do that, by all means." So that night, as I was saying bedtime prayers with Laura and Gaudeor, God spoke in my heart, saying, "Pray against
the office gossip." So I prayed, "God, please convict my coworkers, that gossip is wrong", for they had been doing so. And then God spoke immediately in my heart, again. "Pray against yourself, too. You listened." Ouch.
        But I obeyed, and continued, "Please convict me, too, that I might not listen to gossip." That was that.

        But the next morning, as I was getting dressed, a Bible verse occurred to me. "No rest to the wicked, says the Lord." I thought about that. I knew that this is because the wicked know that the day of the Lord is coming, and that they will be destroyed on that day. Therefore, they must constantly build higher and higher defenses. Yet, something bothered me. "God, who are the wicked? Am I not understanding something here?" I was pretty sure I knew some people
who were wicked, but I still didn't really have a grasp on it.

        An answer came back immediately. "Well, it's like this. On the 7th day, God rested." I thought about that. No rest to the wicked, but God does rest. And suddenly, something clicked. In every case of the Bible mentioning wickedness, that I have seen, the wicked are trying to be little gods. They want to be bowed to (Haman), they want to be obeyed, they want to determine good and evil, they want to exact vengeance. In short, wickedness is trying to be a god. It is comitting the same sin of heart that Eve committed before she ate the apple, and the same one that Lucifer committed that caused his fall from grace. I also realized that out of this comes our conflicting desires that cause bickering (James 2), whereas Christ's constant desire was the will of God. Out of this comes our sin and death. Out of this, too, comes such verses as the one at Easter Vigil, "let the wicked forsake his thoughts" (Is 55). But this desire to be a little god to ourselves and others also is tied up in the mystery of iniquity -- why we prefer our own wills to God's will.
        In short, what the Bible calls wickedness, our church calls original sin, and it is -- in the end -- the one basic attribute that must be done away with, if we are to thrive in God's heaven. Gossip is wickedness ("look at me"); willfulness is wickedness ("do it my way, because"), impatience is wickedness ("I come first. Remember that.") As a matter of
fact, even focusing on another person's wickedness, is in itself a form of wickedness.

        Anyhow, when I understood this, I also understood why obedience is so important to us, in God's law. I understood that I have to start praying for forgiveness long before I sin obviously, but when I find my mind making plans of how to defend myself ("blessed is he who trusts in God"/"cursed is the warrior who trusts in himself".) or how to exact
justice as I see it, or any of a number of ways that I find myself deifying myself instead of Christ, saying "my will be done" instead of "thy will be done".

        But the understanding of this also had impressed itself upon me, so that I have stopped seeing sins as individually present, but instead have more and more started to see sins in their origins, when they are still in the stage of desire. My offhand comment came out of that -- that the source of a particular sin was actually wickedness.

        Anyhow, you had asked me to write to you and tell you what I thought God's answer was in my fast and prayer, so that you could check it. As far as I can tell, the answer was simple: that God did lead us out, but that I had to soften what blow there was with a graced act here, and there.
          I apologize that I had not been able to write to you before, and indeed had forgotten about it [both are true], yet God did resolve things in a way that was clear, but not complete, until Holy Saturday, and the clearness did demand me to follow it.

- Mike

PS... I do not consider this a confession, that the seal of the confessional should apply, even though there are a couple offhand mentions of some sins of my own. This is a statement of what happened, and would qualify more as "testimony" than anything. As such, you may discuss it if it seems right to you. I don't expect it likely will, but if it seems right to you, feel free to talk of it.

Another telling of learning about wickedness (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28212971)

Note: Dad has suggested that I should write down my thoughts on the Bible. I have started doing that by email, and filing it in my email under "Sermons". Yeah, I'm not a preacher, but that word is about as accurate as I can get. Nonetheless, most of what I preach is primarily targeted at myself. I am a firm believer that the best guidance we can get is directly from God, and that God through the Holy Spirit does speak directly to a Christian's heart. If that is so, then every sermon should be heard first and foremost by the person who is giving it. For all others, it is optional.

Aside from that, one other caveat. All of these things are not proper approved church teaching. Nor, though I believe that the Holy Spirit does lead me, can I claim that *this is from God, and anyone has to believe it*. In other words, take everything I say in these with a grain of salt.

John, I haven't really included you in these before now. If you ask me to drop you, I will. But it occurred to me that I shouldn't automatically exclude you, either.

Oh... and one other caveat. I am telling this story as best I remember. It was a while ago. Perhaps I already have this written down somewhere else. So if there is any disagreement between this one and another version, go with the other, older, version. My memory is not all that great. Yet the story I tell is basically true, and Laura should be able to affirm that.

  - Mike

Back when I had been working at Bayshore/Chesapeake for only a few months, I was driving home from work, and what I think is a bible verse occurred to me, though I'm not sure where in the Bible it is, right now. The verse was "ask the Lord, and He will show you a new thing." I remember thinking how David said in response to God's promise to build him a house, (II Sam 7:25-26) "And now, O LORD God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said. And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee. "

Then, in response I said the same in my heart -- "Let it be so." And that was all I got out of that prayer, for the moment.

At home, when it was time to say nighttime prayers with Gaudeor, the Holy Spirit spoke in my heart: "Pray against the gossip and work." So I prayed, "Lord Jesus, please convict my coworkers of gossiping." And when I had finished, the Holy Spirit again spoke in my heart: "Pray against yourself, too -- you listened." So -- still out loud, still in front of Gaudeor and Laura, I prayed -- "Lord, please convict me too, for listening, for that too is a sin." And again, it stopped there.

I went to bed, and got up the next day. Again, as I was getting dressed, the Holy Spirit spoke in my heart. "Here is how it is for the wicked man. He knows the day of the Lord is coming, and he attempts to stave it off. But everything He does draws the day of the Lord closer and brings it upon, for he is not God." I thought it over, and asked God, "then is the wicked man trying to be a God?" And God led me to look through the Bible, to see if it was so. Indeed, as far as I can tell, it is so.

The wicked man attempts to take glory, raising himself up and casting his neighbor down -- thus the gossip. The wicked man attempts to develop himself (Eve, for example). The wicked man attempts to defend himself. Indeed, in I Sam. 25, David very nearly attempts to defend his just cause against Nabal, and Abigail warns him off saying "Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant." And David thanks her, saying "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. For indeed, as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hastened and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!"

David recognizes that defending his own, just, cause -- would have been a grievious sin before God. Why? Because it is wickedness to do so, when David should be depending instead upon God to defend him.

So then, recognizing wickedness, I came to learn what God expects of us: to look to Him, and let Him be God, and allow ourselves to be His creatures.

On Faith (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28189413)

When we were getting ready to leave Lithuania, Virginija came and asked me to give a talk on faith to a group of girls in her Sunday School class.

Now, in reality, what she later said she actually wanted most was to have an American to talk to her class -- but I did my best to give such a talk.

It was at this time, that I knew we were leaving Lithuania, that God had called us out, and I didn't know what we were going to.

What I did know, at the time, was that Laura had handed me a book "The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life", and as I read it, God spoke in my heart: "You are holding your business back from me." So I had immediately prayed, "God, we intended for this business to be Yours first and foremost. So please either take it and take it away, or take it and bless it and give it back to us. But either way, let it be Yours, not mine." Then I had stopped, and thought, the shepherd should never eat his sheep. So I prayed "But if you are going to take the business away, please first take away our employees, so that they are not hurt by our leaving." Then I thought, if God takes our business away, I have no idea of what he wants me to do instead. So I prayed, "If you take our business away, please again close all the doors except the one you want open, for I have know idea what you want us doing." And then I again thought... ooh oh, that's going to be scary. So I again had prayed, "please also give us the faith to go in rejoicing, not fear." After all this, I told Laura, and she said that she had heard the same small voice, saying the same thing, as she read the book. Well, the next day, we got a call from Jonas Siaulys, giving notice as of the end of May. Then two days later, Ricardas turned and said ," Good news, Germany has given us permission to immigrate. So as of September I'm out." And Aleksandras turned, in response, and said " if you need me to help shut down the business, I can do so." So I knew God was bringing us out of Lithuania.

I also knew that in prayer He had told me that He loved us, remembered us, and would take care of us.

I also knew that He had been answering our prayer for a trip in faith and rejoicing, and that He had given us a time of fasting, reading His Word, and praying. During this time, He was revealing many things to us, all of which are written in our prayer journals, stored in our BB&T lockbox.

So I did have an idea of faith, and I did my best to convey it. It is this: that we are like the dog whose eye is on his Master. Faith is best displayed by our dogs.

The dog knows that his normal time for a walk is about 3:00 PM. But he doesn't trust himself to determine when his walk is. Rather, his eye is on his master's hand. When his master starts to close the book that he is reading, immediately the dog gets up, to move with his master. And if, perchance, the master --knowing that the dog is looking to him, decides "let me play with him on this..." and he stretches, and then picks up the book again, the dog doesn't assume that the master is wrong. Rather, the dog assumes that he misread the cues. But always, his eye is on the master's hand, and he trusts the hand of his master more than he trusts himself.

That is how it is with faith. We don't trust ourselves. If we think God has promised something, and it doesn't work out, it isn't that we were wrong to trust God. It is that we didn't figure out what God is doing, successfully, that time. But we are looking to God, and what we see Him doing, we move to do as well. Christ said, "the Son does nothing by himself, but only what He sees the Father doing." Likewise, He said "Apart from me, you can do nothing." We are to do nothing by ourselves, but only what we see Christ doing.

We then act in accordance with what we see Christ doing.

And that is faith. It isn't just trust -- it is both complete trust and action, rolled into one. It isn't just belief; faith is belief and action. It is being faithful.

Thus, we can understand it better when the centurion said "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come into my house. But only say the word, and it shall be so. Am I not a man in authority, and under authority? My superior says to me "go", and I go. And I say to this one "come", and he comes. Christ, in response, said "Truly, I have not seen this faith in all Israel." He was saying that he did not see that combined trust and obedience out of the whole history of Israel to that point.

Again, James wrote "(2: 14) What good does it do, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but does not prove it with actions? This kind of faith cannot save him, can it? 15 Suppose a brother or sister does not have any clothes or daily food 16 and one of you tells them, "Go in peace! Stay warm and eat heartily." If you do not provide for their bodily needs, what good does it do? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead. 18 But someone may say, "You have faith, and I have actions." Show me your faith without any actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions. 19 You believe that there is one God. That's fine! Even the demons believe that and tremble with fear. 20 Do you want proof, you foolish person, that faith without actions is worthless? 21 Our ancestor Abraham was justified by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar, wasn't he? 22 You[g] see that his faith worked together with what he did, and his actions his faith was made complete. "

So faith is about our trusting God so much, that we respond in action to his movement.

My take on certain Bible verses (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28212809)

Every so often I gain an understanding of certain Bible verses -- some of which are decidedly standard, and some of which are decidedly nonstandard. Even though I am not authorized to teach these as teachings, I still feel that there is something of value in them.

In some cases, such as my understanding of Isaiah 28, I didn't understand it, until I prayed and asked God to explain it to me... and then over the next few weeks came to an understanding of it. Other understandings (such as that of Isaiah 6 actually being part of the introduction of Isaiah) are based upon my understanding of the linguistics and numberology of Hebrew.

But for everything below this post, this is not teaching -- this is simply what I get out of it.

The Centurion's slave, and Isaiah 56 (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28212921)

Recently, Peter asked me to read from the Bible. So I opened up my bible, and read Isaiah 56. He asked me to read more, so I decided to take him to the New Testament. I read Luke 7.

These two go together so well, that I decided to put them together.

All Bible quotes below are used under fair use, from the New American Standard Bible ©; however, any translation may do.

((Isaiah 56))
1 Thus says the LORD,
"Preserve justice and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed.
2 "How blessed is the man who does this,

Considering that in Hebrew, the language does not show phrase and sentence punctuation, I prefer to break it here, because the Son of Man is a specific person other than the man who does this (who could be anyone).

And the son of man who takes hold of it;
Who keeps from profaning the sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil."
3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
"The LORD will surely separate me from His people."
Nor let the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree."

In other words, the Son of man will not let the foreigner say "The Lord will separate me from His people" if he does these things.

4 For thus says the LORD,
"To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,
5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.
6 "Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."
8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,
"Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered."

Now let us look at Luke 6:46 to 7:10.

6:46 "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47 "Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 "But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."

Here, Jesus is saying that it isn't enough just to call Him Lord; you have to give a sacrifice of obedience to go with it. And immediately after saying this, he finds an explicit example of this, in a foreigner.

7:1 When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum.
2 And a centurion's slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, "He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue."

In other words, the centurion is a foreigner who has joined himself to God's people, to be a servant of God, and loves the name of the Lord. In other words, he is the very person that Isaiah is talking about.

6 Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 "For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it."

With this, the centurion offers a sacrifice of obedience. God says that to Him, mercy is better than sacrifice, and obedience is better than a burnt offering. Now the centurion offers both. More than that, he says that the slave whom he wants healed is also obedient.

9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith."
  In other words, Israel typically does not obey. Their faith is not mixed with obedience. Yet this man's faith is mixed with obedience.
  10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
  So the Son of Man, who takes hold or righteousness, will not let the foreigner who serves God say "The Lord will keep me separate from His people." No, this foreigner, from this day forward, knows that He is Christ's, and is pleasing in God's sight.
  And thus, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, as regards foreigners in Isaiah 56.

On Christ dividing the sheep from the goats (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28212987)

I was thinking about the explanation of judgement day, when Christ divides the peoples as a shepherd divides sheep from goats (Matt 25), and how some will have worked miracles in His name but will still be condemned (Matt 7).

Matt 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'

        Matt 25:31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44 "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

These two descriptions of judgement day seem to me to go hand in hand.

But what I notice, is that for those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and so on, Christ counts these things as being done by Christians for Him. Yet, according to Matt 7, He does not count the works of power as being done by Christians for Him.

In other words, the works of power are done by Christ, for Christians. But the powerless works of mercy are done by Christians, for Christ. Now, also significant is his statement, "Depart from me, for I never knew you."

When we do something for someone else, we don't come to know them. Rather, they come to know us. As such, when Christ performs a miracle for us, we come to know Him better, but He does not come to know us any better. Indeed, we don't come to know ourselves better. Nor does the person we are helping come to know us better. It is Christ they come to know better.

And indeed, there is a place for this. Christ desires to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32), and to do this He reveals Himself to men.

But if we want access to heaven -- if we want the Son of Man himself to put on an apron and serve us through all eternity, we'd better be someone He knows. We become someone He knows, by serving Him, and obeying Him. That means that we must feed the hungry -- remembering that it is Christ we feed. We must clothe the naked -- remembering that it is Christ we clothe. We must give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, visit the sick and the prisoners. We must do all the things He has commanded us, and not just when it is easy. We must do it when it is hard, when it costs us, for this is what defines who we are. This is what gives us a face for Christ to recognize. Suffering with others, serving others in our need, is painful -- but necessary if we are to be known by Him.

As long as we solely experience the wonders of God's universe, we are but a faceless observer, who has no place in that universe of His. But if we start giving of ourselves to serve our Creator and Redeemer, then we begin to chisel out our face. It is not just that our face is unknown to Jesus if we do not invest ourselves. Jesus knows everyone and everything, for He is God. Rather, it is that we do not have a face to be known.

On our long suffering God, and our own suffering (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28213025)

Caveat: The following is something which I have thought on, but is not necessarily Catholic doctrine, or true doctrine, or both.

I recently attended a Wed. night lecture on Mary. Needless to say, a lot of what they said was that the Church's doctrines on Mary came out of the Church's doctrines on Christ. These, in turn, largely came out of the Councils of Ephesus and Nicea, in response to difficulty that people were having in reconciling the concept of a perfect, unchanging, unsuffering God, with God the Son, who suffered very much.

This caused me a major pause. Say what?!?

So I asked the priest who was speaking, "who ever said that God doesn't suffer? My understanding was that God does suffer, for God is Love, and Love suffers." He replied that God suffers anguish in light of mankind's fall, but except for the fallen condition of Man, God in His perfection would not suffer.

Let's set aside the point that God *did* create man, and since God is eternal man's fall is always present to God and always was (man isn't eternal, but through all eternity God is aware of my sin).

Even so, the Bible says that Christ said "Suffer the little children to come to me." I pointed this out to the priest, and said that suffering isn't just pain. Suffering is accepting the imposition of others. And God the Father in His love does not just give Love, but recieves Love from the Son and the Spirit. Therefore, He also accepts the imposition of the Son and the Spirit. That is, God by His Divine nature -- suffers. In the context of the Trinity, it is purely a positive experience. In the context of sin, it is an experience of anguish. In the context of physical frailty, it involves pain. But suffering is part of God's perfection.

And indeed, the Bible says that God is long-suffering. He puts up with our weaknesses, our sins, our failures, and still loves us. To me, I think of it as Eternally suffering.

When I stated it like this, the priest said that with that kind of understanding of the word "suffer", it is acceptable to say that God in His nature suffers.

But this completely blew me away, for I began to realize that when Christ said "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect", Christ was calling us to suffering. That is, He was calling us to share in a special part of the divine nature, as a way of learning more about Him and partaking in communion with Him.

Alleluia! Our God, the God who made heaven and Earth, the God made us and loves us and who desires us to know Him better, is a suffering God. Moreover, He calls us into communion with His suffering, as well, as a way of coming to know Him better. Thus, let us not fear the suffering that may come our way, but embrace it, offering it to Christ as a gift, saying "thus I can come to know You and Your love better, and offer it up to you in Love, as Divine as I can accept."

Indeed, let us recognize this part of the Divine character of God, and see in our own sufferings a part of the Divine Nature, which is a blessing of our salvation.
 

Psalm 84 (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28213109)

Psalm 84:
1 How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Close to Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
4 How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. Selah

In this first verse, the psalmist marvels at how good it is to be close to God's altar. Indeed, he notes how even the swallows who nest near God's altar are forever praising God.

5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!

Let me try another translation here, from my Hebrew Tanach: How blessed is the man whose refuge is You, whose mind is set on the highways! What this is saying, is that the man who is fleeing to God, not a little at a time, but the fastest he can go - that man is extremely blessed.

6 Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.

Here, I will skip to the New English translation: "If he passes through the Valley of thirst, the Lord provides him springs of water." In other words, the man who is fleeing to the Lord, does not see the thirst - he only sees the blessings God gives him.

7 They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.

I like best what my Hebrew Tanach says here: They go from rampart to rampart (strength to strength), and appear before God in Zion. In other words, if there are ten valleys between the man who is fleeing to God, and God Himself, the man never touches the valleys. For him, God is just a hop, a skip, and a jump away. But there's more to it, because this concept is reflected also in II Cor. 3:18, in the phrase "from glory to glory". The man whose heart is so focused on God, that he keeps to the highway to God, literally goes from glory to glory. For him, there is no valley, no thirst - just the blessed approach to the House of God, and almost immediately he is there before God's throne.

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
9 Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.

Now, some people say that Selah means "think on this." Some people say it is more like "refrain." For the moment, let's take "Selah" as "think on this." I like to put 84:8 and 84:9 together: Oh Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer - and think on this: See my Shield, Oh Lord, for He is Your Own Anointed, Jesus Christ. That is, that my prayer is this: that you don't see me, Lord God, so much as you see Your own anointed one, Jesus, my shield.

10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Now for this, I prefer my Hebrew Tanach again: Because a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else], I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of God, then dwell in the tents of wickedness.

In other words, if you are so impure, and so filled with sin, that you cannot enter the house of God, then go and stand as close as you can, at the very edge of His altar, and wait there! For all goodness comes from God, and it won't be long before he gives you the goodness of grace (healing, and cleaning) and glory (a return to holiness). For he gives goodness to those who are righteous. Who are those who are righteous? They are those who trust in God. In other words, if you can't come before the Lord because of your sin, come before Him anyways, and wait on His goodness to heal you, and draw you out of your sin!.

The righteous are those who trust in God, not themselves. So trust Him, and go up close to Him, as close as the swallows, and you will not want for any good thing.

Suffering with the lack in Christ's afflictions (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28213205)

In Col 1:24, Paul says,
  "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking 14 in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past."

How could there be anything lacking in the sufferings of Christ? It almost seems heretical.

Let us turn back to Isaiah 5, and look at him approaching the city gates, the center of city life. He says "Woe to you who join house to house, who connect field with field, Till no room remains, and you are left to dwell alone in the midst of the land!" Then, "Woe to those who party into the night, but do not see the works of the Lord...", "Woe to those who pull at sin as with cart ropes," "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil," "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes," "Woe to those who pervert justice".

Six woes. Six, the number of incompletion, and a woe being sorrow, or repentance.
Six woes, for incomplete repentence.

And out of that, Isaiah says that trouble is coming.

Do you know, I don't think a single person heard him, really heard him. Oh, they heard and probably agreed when he said "woe" to any of the others. But if you walk up to a real-estate magnate, and tell him "Woe to you for buying up real estate", you aren't going to pierce his ears. At best, he's going to look at you, and say "have a good day," while thinking "get out of my way." And that is exactly what we all too often do, and that is exactly the result we get.

But let us, with Isaiah, stop and think "why are we saying 'woe' to others?" Is it not because we are not where we want to be? And we see the others as partly responsible. Indeed, they often are partly responsible, and it makes them, to some extent, our enemies. But that isn't the whole picture. The whole picture comes to us only when we come to the throne of God, and see Him. We need to contemplate God on His throne as it is - and I'll come to that later, just noting here that Saint Catherine of Sienna spent three years contemplating God on his throne; so did many others.

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah comes to that throne of God, at least close enough to see God. He says, "in the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord." Now Uzziah was the king who returned Israel to the worship of the Lord, but then invaded the temple, defying the authority God had set in place to offer sacrifice. In a rage he fought the priests who resisted, and was struck with leprosy. For the rest of his life, he had to live in a separate house outside the city, covering his upper lip, and calling out "unclean" when anyone approached. So when Isaiah sees the Lord, and says "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, of a people of unclean lips", he is saying that he has suddenly seen himself as disease ridden, unapproachable, and forever outside of the presence of God. Yet, considering that he sees God for whom He is, Isaiah also sees himself for whom he is: a man who was made to be in the presence of God, who needed to be in the presence of God.

So out of that conflict, that he must be in God's presence, and could never be in God's presence, came the sudden, overwhelming cry, "Woe is me!"

But this woe, "woe is me", is unlike all the other woes. It cuts straight to the heart of the hearer. Moreover, it cuts straight to the heart of God. It is not the accusation, the pointing finger; it is the cry for help. This woe is the seventh woe; and in Hebrew numerology, it is the woe of perfection, and the cry of it cuts through the heavens to the creator of the one in trouble; and out of it comes God's answer: healing.

But because the healing makes Isaiah whole, it also necessarily makes him as he should be. In other words, it makes him to some extent more like Christ (I John 3:2). So now, I want you to look at Christ enthroned.

Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I shall draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). That is the image of God on his throne. Look again, and see your God enthroned, with his crown of thorns, with a centurion standing by, saying "Surely, this was the Son of God." . In the end, this is who Isaiah was seeing. He may not have understood it at the time, or he may -- Isaiah's purity and clarity of vision of God was remarkable. But God enthroned is Christ on the cross. God is enthroned by His perfect Love, and that Love is best displayed for us in the cross of Christ. I tell you, that Christ Crucified is Christ Enthroned. There are not two ways about it, only one. When I say that Catherine of Sienna contemplated Christ Enthroned, it was in her coming to understand that the Son of God was the same as Christ on the Cross. The glory of the Lord is His astoundingly wondrous love, and His love comes to us in the form of the suffering of the Cross. That understanding profoundly changed her life, and empowered her to be one of the great peacemakers of her time, though it cost her much suffering to do so.

Look at the Gospel according to Mark. When the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked Jesus to set her two sons at his left and right, He asked "can you drink of the cup I drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I shall be baptized?" (Mark 10:38), and they said "We can". Jesus then said, "You shall. But to sit at my right hand and my left hand is not mine to give: but for whom it is prepared." For whom was this prepared? The answer is given in Mark 15:26: "And the superscription of his accusation was written above, 'The King of the Jews'. And with him they crucified two thieves: one at his right hand, and one at his left." Two thieves, one in glory, and the other in shame. One who looked at Jesus and saw Him for the king He was, and asked to be remembered - the other who saw only one accursed by the law, hanging on the cross. It is clear that Mark intended this to be understood when he wrote his gospel, pairing the king with his courtiers at his right and left, first in chapter 10, and then at the crucifixion.

Or again, look at the life of Paul. When he simply understood "one who hangs upon a tree is accursed by the law", it was not difficult for him to persecute Christians. But it is clear that when Paul came to understand that the one accursed by the law was the King in Glory, that he necessarily would see that the cross and the throne are the same. The cross is the throne of mercy.

Some charge Catholics with recrucifying Jesus for the depicting the savior hanging on a cross. Now, there is such a thing as recrucifying Jesus, if - having lived in the Spirit - we abandon the cross for the world (Heb. 6:6). But if we depict Jesus hanging on the cross, we are not recrucifying him. There was but one crucifixion unto salvation. Rather, we are indicating that we understand that the throne of mercy is the cross, and the throne is not more important than the one who sits upon it. When we approach the throne of mercy, we do not pray to the throne: we pray to Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David, Prince of Peace. We pray to Christ the King. Indeed, we preach Christ Crucified, for Christ Crucified is Christ Enthroned. The crucifix helps us remember, meditate on Christ the King, and come to know Him and His love as it is.

Christ Crucified is Christ Enthroned.

Now, understanding that the Cross is the Throne of Mercy, understand why he went to the Cross. It was not simply in order to be obedient to his Father - though that was true. It was not simply because the way of the cross was the way to the throne, though that was true too. It was because Christ, and God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, looked at us - yes, looked at us lepers, ridden with wickedness and sin - and loved us, and said "it is good." And because they saw that their creation of man was good, and yet saw that sin would destroy us, they determined to save us by their own suffering. And that suffering was complete.

I say again, that suffering was complete. It was all that was necessary to effect our salvation, if we are to be saved.

But what is the evidence of our salvation? It is that we are drawn to Christ. We are made like Him as He is. How are we remade? We are remade to love his creation with a divine love, even to the point of suffering, and if and when the time comes, even to the point of death.

When the apostles came to know Christ crucified as the Son of God, when they desired to be remade in His image, then they had to be willing to suffer for His beloved creation, as He suffered. The same is true today.

Again, Christ says, "take up your cross, and follow me." (Mark 8:34) He means this literally. We are to be crucified with him, if we are to share his crown of glory. In our baptism, we accept that we must die with Christ, if we are to rise with Him. We must and will suffer for His creation, if we are to be like Him, for He suffered for His creation, becoming like us in all things except sin. Moreover, we will want to suffer with Him, for that cross is the throne of God. Like the Sons of Zebedee, if we desire to be with Him, we will also desire to be there at the throne with Him. Not only that, but we will be willing to suffer even for our enemies, as Christ suffered for us when we were his enemies (Rom. 5:6-10). How much more, then, will we rejoice to suffer on behalf of Christ's body, the Church?

Isaiah, when it came time for him to be sawn in half (according to tradition, and the pseudoepigraphical "martyrdom of Isaiah"), was unwilling to give up that martyrdom, and have the already evil Manasseh put to death instead. He wanted to give to God, in love, the gift of accepting the sufferings God had ordained for him. Peter and Paul both ended up embracing their deaths, so that they could return in love a part of what Jesus had done for them. Of course, not all suffering is to the death. The forms of the crosses that Christians must carry, and upon which Christians must be crucified, are as myriad as the Christians who carry them. But the suffering is the response to the love of Christ. The suffering is and must be Christ's suffering. Thus we are made one with Christ.

So what is lacking in Christ's sufferings? It is our response to Christ, our move to become one with Him in all that He does. With all of his sufferings, if we will not respond, then we will not be saved. If we will respond, then we will be brought to the point at which we will willingly suffer for others, and as Paul writes, we will make up in our bodies the sufferings that are lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Our suffering, then, while not a precondition for salvation, is required by what must gloriously follow salvation: the growth in holiness. It is integral to both stewardship and God's plan of salvation.

In the end, when Paul writes of making up what is lacking in Christ's sufferings, Paul is saying that he suffers as a vital and necessary part of the conclusion of his own salvation, and that it is a joy to do so, and that his sufferings are also a part of laboring for the salvation of others.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking 14 in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past."

Let us then approach suffering, not as something to be avoided - but as something to embrace with Christ. Let us approach suffering as to the throne of God, and show that Divine Love is victorious over all.

Isaiah: Song of woe, song of salvation, and more (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28213475)

This one writing requires better formatting than is available on Slashdot.
So I published it as a google docs webpage, and am referencing it from here.

It includes my notes on what I get out of Isaiah's song of woe (his initial vision), Isaiah's Song of Salvation (also known as the apocalypse of Isaiah), and then the continuation of his prophecies about the objections of the Pharisees to Christ's ministry (Is. 28), the crucifixion of Christ (Is. 29), and the early church (Is 30 and on).

Note that before I knew that the Apocalypse of Isaiah was a unitary document according to scholars, I had discovered in it a simple, direct, unified parable. Yet all the glosses in different Bibles indicated very disjointed understandings of the verses. One gloss in particular, stands out: that the mention of Moab seems out of place. Yet for me, Moab was exactly what fit in, for according to Genesis, Moab means "the son of the father." So when Moab spreads his hands as a swimmer, it is depicting Christ hanging on the cross. And when "every blow of his hands shall break down their pride", it is saying that when we see that his wounds were for our sakes, we will have no room for pride left.

Anyhow, I then searched out whether anyone else felt that this was a single unified story. The answer is that the scholars do recognize it as a single unified work, because of the writing style. But they don't understand it as a single unified work. I do. Therefore, I tend to think that there is value in my interpretation.

Anyhow, here's the link:

  http://docs.google.com/View?id=dgkmpcbf_05jkxdx4w [google.com]

The Redemption of Peter (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28213605)

I had some thoughts on John 21:15-18.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, "You will all desert me, for scripture says 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.'". But Peter said, "Lord, even if everyone else deserts you, I will not." Initially, it appears that Peter's words are true, for Peter raises a sword in Jesus' defense. Yet Jesus tells him to put the sword away, and in the end, the trial proves too much for Peter. After Peter's triple denial of Jesus, the cock crows, and Jesus looks at Peter, who bitterly weeps as he runs away. When Jesus then rises from the dead, he gives a message to Mary Magdalene, "tell the disciples, and especially Peter, that I will go ahead of them to Galilee."

But Peter probably remembered Christ's words, "He who denies me before men, him will I deny before the Father." So thinking "yes, I knew Him, and I loved Him, but something went wrong and that's over", Peter goes back to his old job, fishing, with some of the other disciples; but they have no luck. But Jesus sits on the shore, and prepares breakfast, and then directs them to a huge catch. Peter recognizes the signature of Jesus - and though he has denied Jesus three times (in Hebrew, this is significant as denying Him forever and always), he cannot help himself.

Crying out "It is the Lord", he swims to shore ahead of the boat.

Jesus serves them breakfast, and then takes Peter aside, and asks him a question.
(I have taken the New American translation, but I have substituted the word "like" for philo, a brotherly love, leaving agape, a godly love, as "love".)

John 21:15-21:18
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I like You." He said to him, "Tend My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I like You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you like Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you like Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I like You." Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep. "

See what grieves Peter - Jesus asks him if indeed it had been true that Peter's love for Jesus was greater than that of all others. Was it indeed true that Peter had been able to stand by Jesus through everything? Yet Peter's answer is yes, desperately yes, he loves Jesus. But he is also acknowledging that his love has no strength. He is saying, "I'm Peter, not God. I walked away from you. I couldn't help it." So Jesus asks again, "but do you love me with agape, Godly love?" And Peter has to say, "Jesus, you know how much I love you, with a brotherly love... but I don't have the agape love in me." So finally Jesus asks, "is that what it is, brotherly love? And that breaks Peter down - "Yes Lord, you know exactly how what it is, and how much, and what my limits are. I love you, but I have no strength in that love."

Jesus' next response to Peter shows the depth of his mercy and love and forgiveness, for he says,

18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you once strengthened yourself and walked, as you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and Another will strengthen you, and carry you where you do not wish." 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!"

Now, I took a little bit of liberty with this translation. The Greek says "gird", to strap a belt on you. However, Jesus would have been speaking in the Aramaic. In Aramaic, gird also means to strengthen, and is inherently tied to the meaning of strengthening.

So what Jesus was saying here was in direct response to Peter's brokenhearted acknowledgement of his weakness. Jesus was saying, "Peter, before the crucifixion, you did everything you could to be strong in your own power, and yet in the end you did what you wanted to do: you walked away. Yet when you are old, I will send the Holy Spirit upon you, and He will strengthen you, indeed He will carry you; and you will do what you could not do before. You will indeed follow me into the very death you fear.

By what kind of death would he glorify God? By a faith filled, Spirit filled death. In other words, Jesus was saying "Yes, Peter, you are weak. But God's grace is overflowing, and I will give you all the strength you need. Only, feed my lambs and my sheep."

And indeed, it seems that this came to be. According to tradition, the emperor Nero was celebrating his tenth anniversary, and as part of the grand fete, wished to crucify both Paul and Peter. Paul was already under house arrest, but apparently word got out to Peter before his arrest, and he fled Rome. Yet on the way out of Rome, Peter had a vision of our Lord going into Rome. And Peter asked, "Lord, where do you go?" Jesus said, "I go to Rome, to be crucified again." Perhaps Peter understood that if Nero didn't have Peter, he might go even more after other Christians. But Peter the coward, Peter the one who flees, turned around, and went back to Rome, and faced martyrdom - crucifixion.

In the end, Christ's words proved true: that under the another's strength (that is, that of the Holy Spirit), Peter would go exactly where he did not wish to go. Moreover, Jesus specified that when Peter had to go through this, the Holy Spirit would carry him -- that is, he would not need to go through it alone and without help. But Jesus also showed great encouragement and mercy to Peter, in acknowledging Peter's fault, and yet not condemning Peter for it. Rather, Jesus said "in the end, my grace will be enough for you, and you will find that the power of My name is more than enough. Yes, you denied me. But now follow me and serve my sheep and lambs, and in the end I will provide all that you need."

On Elijah and hope (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28322229)

Three things that last

I was thinking about hope today, and it occured to me that I don't know the true, eternal shape of hope.

The Bible tells us, "There are three things that last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love." If something lasts in this sense, though, then it is eternal; and if it is eternal, then we will have it in heaven.

But in heaven, we too will be eternal; we will see all that is, was, and will be. So what purpose, then, will hope serve? Or to ask it another way, what is hope worth, if you can already see what will be? Indeed, what is faith worth, when you can see all that is, was, and will be?

Yet, if hope and faith are eternal, then we will have them and use them in heaven. Indeed, our hope and faith are imperfect now, and we use them imperfectly; in heaven, we will therefore use them far more than we do here. When I was thinking this through, it occurred to me that therefore heaven is bound to not only be good; it is bound to be better than I can imagine, for I cannot imagine the shape of hope, but it will be vital and more useful to us then, than now. Indeed, I couldn't tell whether we will eat it, or breathe it, or use it as energy, but hope is bound to be something that we need more, not less; and it is bound to be very, very good.

Now, I can see the shape of eternal love, reflected in the love of a husband and wife; or in the love of a father for his son. But I cannot see the shape of eternal hope. Or can I?

Looking at the Bible, I see the story of Elijah the prophet. After all he had gone through, he saw his hopes fulfilled - and what did he do? Elijah told his servant, "Go and look towards the west." The servant came back, reporting that he saw nothing. Elijah said, "Go and look towards the west again." Again, the servant saw nothing, so Elijah sent him back again. Finally, the servant returned, reporting that he saw a cloud no bigger than a man's fist. Elijah then told the servant, "Tell Ahab to leave now, or his chariot will be bogged down." And then Elijah ran ahead of the chariot, all the way back to the city.

Think how fast that was, that he stayed ahead of the chariot. That was Elijah, with his hopes fulfilled. Perhaps, from that story, we do know something of the shape of hope in eternity. But there is another way to see hope, as well.

There are three things that last -- faith, hope, and love. But if by lasting, we mean that they are eternal, and indeed would have to be inherently eternal, then that tells us that they yield a clue about the nature of God; for only God is eternal, and he is of three persons. We could say, perhaps, that there are three persons that last -- God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Father; the greatest of these is God the Father.

I say that especially in this order and way, because I see a symmetry. We say that God is Love, but we typically are referring to God the Father. Likewise, if we were to characterise God the Son, He would be not just as the Word of God -- though He is that -- for God says in the Bible that His Word shall be like the rain, going out from Him, and not returning until it has accomplished His will. Thus, God the Son is for us the incarnation of divine and eternal faithfulness. Now, the third person of God, the Holy Spirit, eminates from the Father and the Son; and we know that the Holy Spirit gives us hope. Yet it seems to me that Hope is more than that; that the incarnation of the Holy Spirit, here on Earth, is Hope itself, for
prayer is the voicing of hope. Again, the Church tells us that Hope is the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the gift of God to us is God Himself. So Hope is directly tied to the nature of the Holy Spirit.

So if our vision of God the Father is Love, and of God the Son is Faith, and of God the Holy Spirit is Hope, then we could say that Love loves Faith, with Hope; and that Faith prays to Love with Hope; and that the essence of the Love between them is Hope. But there is more.

When I told the story of Elijah, there was one part I left out; I did so in order to introduce it here. Elijah didn't just run ahead of the chariot. Rather, if you go back and look, the Bible says that Elijah then was filled with the Spirit of the Lord, and he ran back to the city ahead of the king's chariot. What is it that gave Elijah the incarnation of hope fulfilled? It was the Holy Spirit. As an aside, Elijah must have been incredibly pure in heart, for not only did he see God; he saw God the Father, in the cave; he saw God the Son during the transfiguration, and he was filled, completely filled, by God the Spirit, when he ran back before the king, and just before the rain. More than that, throughout the Bible you will see that when people were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were also filled with Divine Hope.

Now, what I have written I think can be self-evident from the Bible; but there is still one question that comes to mind -- what exactly, will Divine Faith, Hope, and Love be to us, when we are in heaven? I still must say that I do not know, but perhaps I have an idea. Divine Faith, from God the Son -- do we not partake, and eat of Him at each Mass? Thus, I think that Faith will be our food in heaven. Indeed, Christ at the well in Samaria said to the disciples, "I have food of which you know not; doing the will of my Father." Similarly, if prayer gives voice to hope, then Hope is what we breathe out; and would be to us as air, or the spirit of our breath, is to us today. Finally, the Bible tells us that the city of God will be lit by the Glory of God, and that we will not need further light; thus, Love will be to us as light. So our light, our food, and our breath will still be provided by God, and will perhaps be God, so that we can partake of Him more fully.

On books worth reading, and more (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28220215)

Okay, here are some books that I find worth reading:

(1) The Bible. However, you do need to enter this prayerfully, and with your heart turned over to God.
(2) Almost anything by John Bunyan. Pilgrim's Progress is quite good; also extremely good is his spiritual biography.
(3) Wigglesworth: A man who walked with God
(4) Helps to Holiness
(5) The wonderful spirit-filled life

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