Archive for March 3rd, 2013

Spiritual Growth and the Wilderness Experience

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness  to be tempted by the devil.”  (Matt. 3:16-17, 4:1))

Wilderness Strip

My dear fellow pilgrims and brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we participate in the Lenten devotions this year it would be well for us, to keep in mind that one of the objectives of the Lenten tradition is to assist us in cooperating with the Holy Spirit as He works in us to conform us more and more to the image of Christ (Rom: 8:29).  The process of conforming us to Jesus is a transformation that begins with our conversion and also involves being led by the Holy Spirit into a “wilderness” or “desert Place” where the Almighty may interact with us and begin to enact the changes He wants in us.

Why we should expect a “widerness” experience

Since we Christians are being modeled after Jesus, by implication, we also may be led by the Spirit into a “wilderness experience”. This term “wilderness” is used metaphorically to represent a crucial situation in life, that the Father uses with those He loves the most to bring them to a place where they have to be totally dependent and focused on His Person in order to survive – an initially forced intimacy –  so that he may reveal His Face towards them without the distractions of the flesh and the world in which we are all embedded..

Regarding Israel whom the Father loves, but who, at the time of this prophecy, has betrayed Him by continuing to follow their Baals, He says “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” (Hos.2:14)

Jesus, who was without sin, but was identified with us through His baptism, was led into the wilderness to prepare him for His role as the sacrificial lamb of God. And it is probably no coincidence that Jesus, at His Transfiguration, shares His experience with Moses and Elijah (Matt.17:1-3), who also had their own “wilderness” experiences in being prepared for their callings through  a season of intimacy with the Father.

So, it may be, for those of us in the midst of some traumatic situation in our lives, that the Lord may use this Lenten Season to approach you, in the desolation you are experiencing, to Present His Face towards you, In  Christ, and draw you into His intimate embrace, bringing you the consolation and renewal of spirit you have been seeking in Him. For remember that in baptism we not only are united with  Christ in His Passion and death but also joined with Him in the newness of His Resurrected Life (cf., Rom.6:3-11)! Our primary purpose and destiny is to be conformed to Christ in all things so that He may bring forth fruit through us to the Glory of the Father!

For all of us, this “conformance to Christ” is a discrete ongoing process in our spirits that requires our cooperation with the Spirit in order for the transformation to take effect. We have to open the door to our hearts in order for Him to enter in; that is why it is so important that we go beyond the mere superficiality of the events of the Lenten tradition and truly ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to His Word during this period so we can hear His voice in us. Lent provides the opportunity to be led of the Spirit into a deeper attitude of cooperation and willingness by to dying to self and permitting ourselves to be yoked to Christ so that He may move in us and through us to cleanse us and prepare us to fulfill the Father’s purpose for our lives.

Jesus tempted ...

Jesus tempted …

If we make a decision to fully cooperate with the Holy Spirit during Lent, then the Spirit may guide us, like Jesus, into a “spiritual wilderness” where He assists us in separating ourselves from the world and its influences and, so that we may focus on His Word and the changes the Lord wishes to work in our innermost selves based on His Word. In this way the Character of Christ and His Virtues will begin to come to the surface in our lives to bring forth fruit for His Glory. All this is accomplished, in Faith, by the Spirit of Christ that is in us and NOT by our own zeal or outward effort in the performance of pietistic works.  For, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus that to participate in His Ministry one must be born again of the Spirit because “… the flesh cannot beget that which is spiritual, only the Spirit of God can beget that which is spiritual” (cf., John 3:6).

My First “Wilderness Experience”

What I am about to share with your is based my own experience with a “wilderness” experience and not from mere speculation or my own interpretation of the scriptures regarding this matter.  This experience led to my own conversion and my entry on the path to discipleship.

Of course I have had other types of wilderness experiences thereafter but this was the first one that I recognized afterward, that  was truly something the Lord permitted in my life to bring me to conversion and deliver me from my own egocentric and self-centered  flesh.

Here is my story –

As a young Christian man, married to the love of my life, a wonderful Christian lady, and with two lovely children, the Lord was opening for me an exciting set of doors to a wonderful career as an aerospace engineer. However, I was so enthused by the career I was entering into that I began to lose my spiritual balance. I was so totally controlled by my ambitions, my place at work, my on-going studies in science, engineering and astronautics, that I was completely neglecting my wife and my family. But more significantly I was neglecting my relationship to God. I had made my career and profession my god without my realizing my error and the spiritual darkness into which I was entering!

Now, at this point, outwardly, I was a baptized, compliant, practicing catholic; but inwardly, I was spiritually dead.  I was dead because all the religiously motivated actions that I took in my life, to that point, were done out of mere cultural habit, tradition and training – not from my heart, with faith. I did not have a personal relationship with Christ, so my religious performance was merely the “fig leaf” I used to keep my conscience from continuing to accuse me. I was in fact, in a “wilderness”, dying of spiritual thirst, but did not know it, because the world system had inured me from that awareness and blinded me to the Word of God and the reality of the spiritual life in Christ. Yes, I was a believer in Christ, intellectually, but I did not “know” Christ in my heart!

I did not even know what it meant to have a “personal relationship” to Christ and experience His Living Water flowing through me. Likewise, because, I was spiritually dead, I also did not know that I was depriving myself of the “Living Water” that would bring me to life and thus was taking no action to remedy the situation! It may surprise you, but during this period I observed may “Lents” with my family yet not one of these observances awakened me to my desperate condition. Not because of the pietistic devotions themselves, but because my own spiritual blindness and lack of faith in God’s Word kept me from the redeeming work of Christ that needed to take place in me.

It was God, in response to my wife’s prayers that came to my rescue – oddly enough, by permitting me to come down with “walking” pneumonia, right after Easter!  This illness stopped me cold in my tracks. I was treated and assigned by my doctor to medications and total bed rest at home for at least two weeks. It was during this time of forced quiet and desperation (my wilderness) that the Holy Spirit worked in me to bring me to an awareness of my spiritual deprivation. He did this by working through my wife who, at the time was going through a spiritual renewal herself. As she ministered to me in my bedroom she brought in scriptural pamphlets and teachings on “the New Pentecost” from sessions she was attending given by a charismatic priest of our catholic tradition.

As I read through these materials, the Holy Spirit began opening my heart to the Word of God – so much so that I asked my wife to bring me an old Bible that was given to me at high school graduation and which I had hardly ever opened. My initial motive for reading the Bible was to verify the statements made in the pamphlets that God was working anew in His church and bring the faithful to a New Pentecost experience where one was made alive in Christ to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the ensuing powers bestowed on the believers! I continued to read the Word, but now with a new enthusiasm and resolve to open my heart to Jesus and drink of the Living Waters that He offers to all who come to Him to satisfy their thirst!

After my recovery, and before I stated back to work, my wife invited me to a weekend retreat being offered by this same priest I just mentioned. The Word of God preached by this priest during the retreat reached the depths of my heart in such a way, that at the end of the retreat I repented of my waywardness and my sins, inviting Jesus into my heart. I then asked to be baptized in the Holy Spirit at a meeting that was to be held later that month, on the Feast ofd Pentecost! By the Grace of God, and only by His Grace, I advanced spiritually, into the arms of my Savior and was consoled by the Spirit of Grace in my heart! Praised be His Holy Name!

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!

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!

Can This Happen to Everyone?

Approach the Throne as a Child

Jesus receives all who come to Him …

Such experiences are common amongst the Charismatic Renewal – and some are even more dramatic than my own. If this happened to me, an average person with many faults, it can happen to every Christian because God is not a discriminator of persons and the whole reason He sent His Son to die for all Humanity was to bring all of us to this point – to draw us to Himself and fill us with His Spirit so we can be His instruments in bringing forth His Kingdom in this world!

However, I need to add, that you MUST NEVER focus in on the experience itself. Your desire to be right with God and enter into a relationship with Him through Faith in Jesus, His Son, who died for our sins and was resurrected unto Life for us MUST BE the ONLY REASON you turn to Him and NOT for any emotions or consolation you might or might not receive!

I also need to tell you that the Lord may lead us into such wilderness experiences for many other reasons than our conversion. These type of experiences usually occur at each stage of our spiritual growth and are used by God to draw us out of one stage to another, when we have become too comfortable with the stage we are currently at. When we get into a spiritual rut the Lord sometimes uses such experiences to test our faith and pull us out of the spiritually inactive state in which we find ourselves stranded and move us to where He wants us to be, Not where we want to be!

The Lenten observance is tailored around the Life and Passion of Jesus exactly for us to yield ourselves to His Spirit and, through His guidance, discern our progress in being conformed to the image of Christ in us. It also gives us the opportunity to perform, without guilt, the self-assessment needed to determine if we are in a spiritual rut and cry out to the Lord for His help in moving forward in our spiritual journey. Praised Be His Holy name! I say, “without guilt” because “… there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); all we are doing is bringing all of our sinful baggage to the foot of the Cross, where the price was paid for all of our sins!

This Lent, If you really want to move forward spiritually to be more like Jesus, just yield yourself to the Holy Spirit, asking for His guidance while keeping in mind this admonition from the Apostle Paul about the need to die to self and become a servant through hearing His Voice and Obeying it!!

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!”  (Phil.2:5-8)

May the Lord strengthen you in your walk with Him! 

Baruch Ha Shem, Blessed Be The Name!

Your Fellow Pilgrim in Christ …. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2013])

<> Here is a Worship Music Video that will open up your spirit …

<> Here are some related Links that you may also find helpful for Lent:

Prodigals Amongst us

Be Reconciled with God

Rend your Hearts – Not Your Garments

The Crucified Life

The Cost Of Discipleship

The Renewal of Our Minds

Discerning The Lord’s Call

Praying as Jesus Prayed (Part 1)

Praying as Jesus Prayed (Part 2)

I Stand at the Door and Knock

Receiving The Holy Spirit

Growing in The Spirit

Jesus the Source of Living water and Us

Christ In Us The Hope of Glory

<>Viernes Santo PPS Download  (in Spanish):

Viernes Santo (Sp.) Good Friday.pps   — 1.8 meg

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