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Archive for October, 2009

How the Lord Drew Me Near: One Catholic’s Reflections

“God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24)

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

As fellow pilgrims on our walk with Christ, I wish to share with you the crucial learning experience I had in coming to a spiritual conversion and for the first time understanding why a personal relationship with Jesus is so essential in being able to really experience the worship that the Father desires.

Elevation of the Sacred Host

True Worship

One of the first things I learned, as the Lord opened my Heart to the Love of the Father, is that the true worship of the Father necessarily involves entering into a living relationship with Him.  Without such a relationship we can only approach worship from a distance as from the outer courts of the Temple. The true worship the Father desires of us is through a loving relationship with Him – a relationship that may only be realized through a relationship with Jesus, in whom the fullness of the Godhead resides.

[Note: True worship of the Father requires that we “know” (as in a relationship) whom we are worshiping (John 4:22-23) and Jesus is the only one who can make the Father known to us. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:18) ]

As a (more or less) traditional and cultural Catholic, I was observant of all the church rules, partook of the sacraments and attended mass regularly and assumed that my attendance at mass was de facto worship. The beauty and reverence of the services did help me to reverence God, His Word, and the sacrifice of His Son that brings us to salvation and acceptance as His children. I also believed that during the mass (the Catholic Eucharistic Service) I was a participant in that awesome and magnificent act of God’s Love for humanity and that, by being present, I was, in fact, present at the greatest act of worship ever. However, my personal participation in that worship was limited in that I perceived myself more as a devoted observer than a participant.

One circumstance that limited me was my lack of spiritual awareness through faith. At the intellectual level, I assented theologically to the concept of the mass being a participation in Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father, but in hindsight, I know now that I was not entering the level of awareness of being in communion with Christ during the worship that I ought to have had. I cannot speak for others, but for me, before my conversion experience, I never really comprehended the full meaning of that worship in my spirit. Metaphorically speaking, it was as if I were an observer of the Temple worship from the court of the gentiles but never as an actual participant in that worship in the Holy of Holies as I ought to have been. For that reason I could not, at that period in my life, say I had personally experienced, at the spirit level, the worship that the Father desires, which is, that we worship Him “in Spirit and in Truth”. Now, I must be clear, I did also believe that I received the Body and Blood of Christ at the reception of the Eucharist and I can say that the sustenance of the life of Christ did help me through some difficult times in my life. I am only attempting to state that there was a certain dullness in my spirit that prevented me from receiving the fullness of the graces that flow from the Sacrament of His Love. It was only after my conversion experience, which opened me to a spiritual awareness, that I have been able to experience the fullness of the worship experience at mass, the Eucharistic celebration.

As I later discovered, through the grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there were three major factors casting a veil over my worship experience. These were as follows: (1) my spiritual ignorance, (2) my un-yielded self-will, and (3) the hidden sins of my heart.

Spiritual Ignorance

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge …”   (Hos. 4:6)

My ignorance consisted of not clearly understanding that we humans are endowed by our creator with three levels of awareness: (a) an awareness through our physical senses of our physical self and the material worlds around us, (b) an inward mental awareness of our personal identity and all of our intellectual and our emotional attributes and capabilities (ie. what we sometimes categorize as the “soul”), and (c) the spiritual level of awareness, which we sometimes identify with the human heart or spirit. This latter level of awareness is intuitive, non-conceptual and non-verbal and includes our conscience. It is this latter level of awareness that we sometimes ignore or overlook as a part of our personal assessment. Yet it is at this level of awareness that our Creator intended as the level where He desires to meet with us and establish a personal relationship that brings us into communion with Him. Due to Adam’s act of disobedience (original sin), however, this level of communion with the Holy One was disrupted in Adam and all his generations.

I must add, with great sadness, that my ignorance extended further to the fact that I did not understand that in order for me to connect with the Father in true worship, I had to enter the spiritual level of my spirit, which had been renewed in me through baptism. I also was not aware that, even though baptized, this channel of relationship remained inactive, and needed to be activated through an act of my will – by a sincere, heartfelt repentance and conversion. In my traditional and cultural passivity as a young child, I went through the motions required of me in receiving the sacraments but did not truly understand the level of  heartfelt repentance and commitment needed in giving my heart to Jesus. As a result, although the grace of baptism and confirmation worked in the circumstances of my life, I had not totally yielded my inner self to my Savior, Jesus, thus creating a veil that kept me from a true relationship with the Lover of my soul. Through the grace and mercy of the Father, the Holy Spirit continued working in the circumstances of my life so that as an adult He brought me to the point where I recognized my need to know Him in a personal way, and thus, after a heartfelt repentance, I turned to Him in a conversion of heart, inviting the Lord Jesus into my Heart and thus beginning a personal relationship with Him “in the Spirit”.

My Un-yielded Self-will

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:23-25)

This brings me to the next barrier that hindered me from fully entering the spiritual awareness I needed to truly participate in worship, namely my self-will. You see even though I had come to conversion and repented of my known sins, and turned to the Lord for his forgiveness, I still retained my self-will. That is, I had not fully yielded myself to the Holy One. In my continuing ignorance and, of course, my pride, it had not entered my mind that what the Father desired of me is the total yielding of my self to His reign in me. I incorrectly supposed that, I, in my turning to Him I could now use my self will to serve Him. So the Holy Spirit had to make it clear to me, through His Word, that I had to deny my self will in order for the Lord to rule in my life. I had to yoke my self to Jesus so that, through that yoking, my desires, and my thoughts would become His desires and his thoughts, and thus my actions would be in conformity to his will and thus “walk in the spirit”.

Of course, once I understood my problem, I repented again and I made the decision to surrender my self completely to His reign in me. What this decision did was to begin a process of transformation in me where I now continually come to situations where I have to put down my self will so that He and He alone would reign in me. This tension between my spirit and my flesh is still the cross I have to bear daily but now I am more aware of my self will attempting to creep in, and now, by the grace of God, in Him I have the spiritual strength needed to walk in the spirit and not in the flesh. Praised be His Holy Name!

The Hidden Sins of the Heart

“ Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?    Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.”

(Psalm 24:3-5)

Having yielded my self completely to the Lord, He then began His work of transformation in me to conform me more and more into His image. He began His work in me with a very thorough house cleaning. In this process the Holy Spirit began to reveal to me the secrets of my heart.

Yes, although I had repented of my sins at my conversion, there were secret sins that I harbored in my heart, that were barriers to the fullness of worship. These were sins that I had long ago buried in my subconscious by justifying them as merely human idiosyncrasies.  They were very personal sins, which included things like: bitterness originating from unresolved personal grudges and hurts, an anger and cynicism towards others that came on me for no apparent reason, a prideful and stubborn attitude that always placed my ideas and will above others, and flowing from this, a sulking behavior when I didn’t get my way.  These sins, of course, affected all my relationships but again I was blind to them because they were so deeply hidden in my inner self. Even now I still encounter them attempting to creep back into my life. But now that the Lord has brought them into His Light I am rapidly aware of them and bring them under His Blood in confession. Some of these sins are gone forever as the Lord healed me of my inner hurts and I forgave all who had injured me. Praised be His Holy Name!

Worship Revived Me

As the Lord worked His transformation in me my worship experience continued to deepen. In the beginning, after I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, I experienced a totally heavenly worship at a mass conducted after a spiritual retreat. I literally thought I was before the throne of God, I experienced a sense of communion with the Lord that I had never experienced before, a communion that extended to all who were present in the church as well. Now I began to truly understand that the ideal for the fullness of worship is in a corporate setting. Where we believers as the “Body of Christ” in communion with Him are, in fact, also participating in His Priesthood at His ultimate act of worship as He offers Himself to the Father in compliance with His Merciful will for the salvation and redemption of humankind!

Later the worship experience spilled over even beyond my participation at mass to a personal worship time with Him. I noticed this happening during the daily events in my life. For instance, I sometimes would enter into worship as I was driving to work and I would have to stop until I the experience passed and I was able to drive again. Nowadays, I find myself going into worship during my evening prayer times and when I am exercising in the Gym. Thus is the Glory of the Lord manifested in us!

In Conclusion..

Like the man born blind who received his sight at from the healing hand of Jesus, and having been given new life in Him, I now wish to tell others (whatever their religious upbringing or lack thereof) who are still seeking, about the renewed spirituality that comes with knowing Jesus personally and the more vibrant worship and prayer life that abounds when you put aside your inhibitions and yield your self to the Spirit of the Living God and receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

To Jesus, our Blessed Savior, be Glory and Honor and Praise forever and ever! Amen!

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

PS: For those whose interest has been provoked I refer to the following Links:

Jesus, Revealer of the Father’s Love

Conversion: Our Response to the Father’s Love

I also provide you a copy of my Prayer of Commitment:

Lord Jesus, I believe that you, the Son of the Living God came down from heaven to reveal the Father’s Love to me by suffering and dying for my sins. I believe that through your death and resurrection you have brought redemption and life not only to me but also all else who believe in you. I further believe that it is only through knowing you in a loving personal relationship that I can know the Father.

It is because I have a burning desire to know you and abide in you that I now yield myself completely to you and your love. I open the door to my heart so you can come in and sup with me and thus begin the special relationship with you for which you died and for which I hunger. At this moment I yield myself to your love. Enter in and activate my spirit with your Holy Spirit so that I can go beyond just mere intellectual belief in you to a personal spiritual knowledge of you and the Father.

Lord, cleanse me from my sins and make me a fit vessel for your presence. Permeate my entire being with your life and your love so that I can truly be your instrument in this world. Be my Lord, Be My God, Be my King to rule and to reign in me. In faith and by your grace I receive you and I receive your word. Abide in me just as you abide in the Father and the Father in you! Thank you for giving yourself for me. Amen

Again, May the Lord Bless You … Bartimeus

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By Jorge Madrid Sr. (Posted with author’s permission)

The King within us

The King within us

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20 -21)

In our culturally conditioned religious and pietistic thinking we have a tendency to associate the  New Testament terms “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” with the concept of “Heaven”, the eternal dwelling place of God and hopefully ours if we  accept the salvation provided us in Jesus, His Son. However, strictly speaking, Jesus and the Jewish people of his day used the term in reference to the Messianic Kingdom which had been promised to Israel through the prophets. Their use of the “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of the Heavens” instead of the “Kingdom of God” was done mainly to avoid using the name of God in vain when referring to God’s reign on this earth through His Messiah.

Jesus, without denying the truth of the eschatological nature of the prophetic terminology, amplified its meaning beyond the manner with which the culture of His day interpreted the term. He proclaimed the “Good News” that God, in His all-loving mercy, was providing immediate spiritual access to this Kingdom even though its physical realization in this world was yet to come[1]. Furthermore, by the citation above He was also indicating that access to this spiritual “Kingdom” was through His own person. That is why the term in the scripture cited above is sometimes translated “… the kingdom of God is amongst you”. Since He, the King, was indeed amongst them. For us, in whom Christ lives today, the translation “… the kingdom of God is within you” is certainly applicable as well. For when He abides in us the Kingdom of God is accessible within our spirits.  And when any one of us enters into this Kingdom the reign of God is able to be manifested through our lives in this world.

This is the Kingdom that Jesus preached and by which His works were manifested to the world. This is the Kingdom that He ordained His disciples to preach to the whole world with works following[2]. It is our Lord’s intent that all who come to Him not only become aware of this Kingdom but enter into it. The reason that it is a “mystery” is that this Kingdom is not discernible with our human senses or reason. The “Kingdom” that the Lord has said is “at hand” is within us and as such it is meant to be experienced in our lives through faith and not considered as merely an intellectual abstraction to be “understood” or “explained” in theological terms.

The “Kingdom”, like all things spiritual, is a “Mystery” of faith but God does not mean it to be mysterious. In fact, through our conversion to faith in Jesus we have already been translated into His Kingdom[3].  If we were still in the world we would not have access to this Kingdom but as believers we are inheritors of the Kingdom of God and have every right to function in this Kingdom. Our problem is that many of us are not even aware that this option exists for us much less enter into it!

This happens, first of all, because to some of us, the term, “Kingdom of God”, is a transcendental theological abstraction which we do not expect to have any relevance to our real everyday experience. Because of our confusion about the Kingdom, as I have mentioned previously, we are generally led to believe that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is a term equivalent to “heaven” (i.e., the blessed afterlife) and therefore not to assume that it can be experienced in this life. Secondly, even if some of us have an idea of what the “Kingdom” represents, we tend to approach it from a “religious” viewpoint rather than from a “spiritual” perspective. From this viewpoint the “Kingdom” is sometimes seen as represented by an organizational church structure or by compliance with a specific set of religious rules and order.  This approach  is  sometimes misused by unscrupulous sects or cults to achieve an inordinate control over their adherents. Now, it is true that the church, as the people of God, the Body of Christ, is the instrument through which the Kingdom is manifested at this time in history[4] but we should not place a particular church structure on a pedestal. That place belongs to the head of the church, Jesus Christ Our Lord! The church is here to lead us  to Jesus and keep us in Jesus not to replace Him. The third reason we are not fully aware of our inheritance in the Kingdom is because we are looking for it in the wrong way. This happens because our spiritual sensitivity has not been awakened. Without an activated spirit all our perception is accomplished through the prism of our mind and senses instead of with our spirits. As a result, although well intended, we tend to tend to think that the Kingdom can be experienced through increases in  our  piety and religiosity. The Pharisees and the Sadducees of Jesus’ day were extremely pious and religious but not only were they very far from the “Kingdom” but they also failed to recognize the “King” when He came.

Nicodemus, a member of the religious establishment of his time, was such a person[5]. As a member of the Sanhedrin and a respected teacher in Israel he certainly had the theological credentials and access to the scriptures to have some understanding of the  Kingdom which Jesus was preaching. Yet he was so constrained by the “religious” culture of his time that, he like everyone else, assumed that the promised Kingdom of God to be ushered in by the Messiah was only to be a temporal kingdom that would deliver Israel from her enemies. Confounded by  the teaching and works of power manifested in Jesus’ ministry, he came to Jesus by night to  inquire of Him so that he could reconcile within himself the thoughts he could not express in public. Could Jesus be the Messiah that was promised?  If he was the Messiah what about the Kingdom that was also promised to come with the Messiah? He thought that maybe that by questioning Jesus he could come to some conclusion about who Jesus really was. One thing he knew. He was “a teacher sent from God for no man could do the works that he did if God was not with him”[6].

In responding to Nicodemus’ inquiry, Jesus responded by telling him that if he could recognize that God Himself was working through His ministry, he was already blessed by God because of this awareness. He told him that this type of awareness was a God-given perception that permitted him to “see the Kingdom”, that is, to recognize God’s personal intervention or rule in this world through the works that were manifested in  and through Jesus’ ministry. This sensitivity could only come if God had revived his spirit or, in other words had been “born from above” or “born again”.

Nicodemus’ religious rationalism was offended! He asked how could this be? How could a man “be born again”? Could a man be placed again in his mother’s womb?

Jesus was amazed that Nicodemus, being a teacher of Israel, was not aware of this truth since it was clearly stated by the prophets that God had promised such a renewal of  man’s heart (spirit)[7].  He then gently tried to tell him that this new awareness he had been given was just a door that had been opened by God for further blessings.  Not only could he be aware of the Kingdom but he could go through the door into the Kingdom and be a partner with the Father in what he wanted to accomplish with his Kingdom here on Earth. In other words he could “enter” into the Kingdom. All that was required once you became aware of the Kingdom was to make a decision. A decision to repent and be converted (a decision which culminated in water baptism), and to receive to the anointing of the Holy Spirit (the baptism in the Holy Spirit) required to truly be a channel for God’s supernatural Grace in this world.

Nicodemus still could not understand. “How can this be?” he asked in desperation. Jesus explains to him that only spirit can give birth to spirit and that our natural selves cannot bring forth spiritual life. Spiritual renewal cannot come from our own religious energy or efforts. Only God can renew our spirits. Jesus further tells him that those whose spirits have been renewed by God and have subsequently “entered into  the Kingdom”  have been given a spiritual awareness that enables them to sense the leading of the Holy Spirit. This sensitivity then gives them the ability to respond and cooperate with God’s will in a way that purely religious people like Nicodemus could not even imagine.

In the religious culture in which Nicodemus was embedded, doing God’s will was thought to be accomplished by assiduous compliance to the Law of Moses plus an onerous set of traditions that imposed further regulations on the faithful in order to prevent one from even getting close to breaking the 613 commandments (mitzvoth in Hebrew) encompassed by the Law.  Of course, keeping these commandments perfectly was impossible, so the Lord had mercifully provided a priesthood and ordinances for religious rituals that would assuage the self guilt that would result from the breaking of the Law.

In the New Covenant that Jesus was revealing to those who entered into the Kingdom, adherence to God’s will would come naturally from hearts that had been spiritually renewed[8].  Since their spirits would be in-dwelt by God, compliance would not be done out of obligation but from a truly willing spirit that desired nothing but to please the Father. Thus for us today, when our spirits are awakened we also become keenly aware of God’s desires in our hearts so that we can walk in the Spirit and put to death the desires of the flesh[9]. For we are no longer to be under the Law but under the Spirit[10].

Before the Lord awakened my spirit, I was in a worse situation than Nicodemus. I was not even aware of the work of God all around me – in my life – in my relationships – in my career and business dealings. Because of my religious training, I had some understanding (at an intellectual level)  that God was supposed to be present in my life but in actuality I did not have  an inner (spiritual) awareness of this. In fact, I did not even know that such an inner awareness was available to all Christians. In general, I perceived life as merely a set of random, unrelated challenges and events that I needed to overcome with my wit and my talents. I prayed to God in desperation only when my own efforts were exhausted and I did not know what else to do. My churchgoing was done purely from a sense of tradition, obligation, and perhaps an underlying sense of self-guilt that my religious practice helped me to assuage.

But then, through what I now realize was a clearly pre-determined set of events, the Lord opened my spiritual eyes to so that I began to “see” His Kingdom in the person of Jesus. What I saw opened the hunger of my heart to receive all that he had for me and so I made a full commitment to Him and His salvation, repenting of the hardness of my heart. That day  (May 10, 1975) I walked through the door He had opened to His Kingdom and on  Pentecost Sunday of that year I also entered in, receiving the Baptism of His Holy Spirit and His anointing on my life. Without the Baptism of the Holy Spirit I would not have come to a fully empowered life in the Spirit and an empowered prayer life.

Regarding the testimony that I have just related, amazingly, there are many Christians today that, like Nicodemus, would say, “how can this be?”.  Like myself, there are many who, although living religiously compliant lives yet, through no fault of their own, are still blind to the Kingdom of God. There are also many others who, even though seeing, are afraid to make the decisive commitment required to enter into the Kingdom and receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. To these Jesus would say, “Be not be afraid, only believe and enter in, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”.


[1] From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. (Matt. 11:12, NIV)

[2] Matthew 10:7-8

[3] Colossians 1:13

[4] After the Second Coming, the Kingdom will be materially manifested through a restored nation of Israel.

[5] Read about Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus in the third chapter of John’s Gospel.

[6] John 3:2

[7] Ezekiel 11:19-20

[8] Ezekiel 36:26-27

[9] Romans 8:13

[10] Romans 6:14

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(excerpted with permission from “Thy Kingdom Come” by Jorge Madrid Sr.; © 2003 Madrid Family Trust, all rights reserved)

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