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Have we noticed how many Prodigals we have among us?

Just read the news.

Have we read the scripture about how God changed the desires of a prodigal son and he decided to return to his father?

Let us pray, as a community, that God will work in the prodigal youth among us that they also may return to Our Heavenly Father and His Son!

When he [the prodigal son] had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ (Luke 15:14-19)

 

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15: 20 -21)

 

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.  (Luke 15: 22-24)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we grow older and experience more of the evils that this fallen world throws at us, we will all without doubt, encounter those whom we would classify as “prodigals”. That is, someone who has deserted his/her Christian roots in their futile and misdirected attempt to find “fulfillment” in the enticements that the fallen world system offers.

The “Classical”  Prodigals

Of course the term “prodigal” is best understood by the allegorical tale that Jesus told about a young man, one of two heirs to his fathers’ estate, who decided to seek independence from his father and take his share of the estate to “become his own man”, so to speak, and make a future for himself in the world system. What he found in the world was not the freedom and independence he envisioned but rather an enslavement to the world and its vices and evils. Instead of fulfillment he experienced spiritual hunger and desolation; instead of being fed he found himself feeding the pigs of his own fallen nature. It was through this experience and disillusionment with the world, that he finally “came to his senses” and said to himself, “I will return to my father’s house, maybe he will take me on as a servant…”.  His father, who had been expectantly waiting for his return was waiting for him and when he saw him on the way he ran to meet him, lovingly embraced him, and fully restored him as a “son” and not as a servant. (Read the story for yourselves: Luke 15:11-32)

In his day Jesus told his disciples this story to illustrate that the Love the Heavenly Father had for His sons was not dependent on their mere performance of their family duties but because they were under covenant relationship; they were legitimate heirs and truly his “sons” – sons, because of how they were related to Him by covenant and birth, NOT by how they performed their duties. The implied condition is that both brothers had a personal covenant relationship with the father to start with, and the story deals with how one of the sons, while still under covenant, distanced himself from the father, and how upon his sincere repentance was accepted back into his covenant relationship with the father because of the father’s unconditional and loving acceptance of his son’s act of repentance. Repentance is critical to the prodigal’s acceptance. Of course, his act of returning to his father was THE demonstration of his repentance and that was the only thing the father was waiting for – it was all that mattered, and that is why on-going repentance (through confession) is critical to us!

In telling the story, Jesus especially wanted to point out to the Pharisees who were present in the audience that tax collectors, prostitutes, and other outcasts remained part of the old testament religious covenant system relationship to the Father, and, were as much God’s children as those who legalistically followed the religious requirements of the Mosaic Law. He wanted to make it clear that God  was just as eager to receive them back into covenant relations as His children as those who remained compliant to the Law, if not more so.

The story also points out, that the Father longs to reach out to those who, although being His sons and daughters, leave His care to seek their own way in life. He lovingly waits for them, so that they, through their mistaken dip into the world of sin, would realize their error and return to Him in repentance so that He might envelop them and restore them in His Love. Because He loves them He does not interfere with their choices using their own free will, but rather, waits until they taste what the world offers (and what it does not) so they can experience for themselves that the Father is the only one who can satisfy their spiritual hunger and discover their true self in Him. And, so as a result of coming to their spiritual senses, they will freely repent and return to Him once they have realized their error, appreciating all the more what they left behind in their Father’s house.

Of course, when we come across such “prodigals’ in our day-to-day experiences, it is not for us to judge them, but rather, pray that the Holy Spirit would hover over them so that, by whatever means, He, the Holy Spirit, may “bring them to their senses”, permitting them to repent and return to the arms of the Father.  Normally, this type of intercession requires spiritual warfare because the reason many of our brothers and sisters depart from our Christian religious traditions is not only to erroneously seek self-fulfillment but also because they have been deceived by the lies of the enemy and/or hurt and abused in our families, in our fellowships, and in our churches, for which we also need to repent so that we are not impediments to their return

The “Hidden” Prodigals

More importantly, we need to realize that the story of the “prodigal” may also be our story, although, this realization may have been, until now, hidden from our hearts. Yes, “hidden”, because in our self-righteousness, as the other brother in the story, we did not think of ourselves as separated from the Father because we had been faithful in the performance of our religious obligations, but not in the desires of our “hearts”. That is, in regard to our spirits (hearts) we, in fact, were as far from the Father as the other brother. Yes, we considered ourselves as religiously compliant but were doing it with the wrong motives. We were obedient for what we could get out of our religious performance rather than as a result of manifesting our love for the Father Himself  – for who He is, our Creator, Our Father, and Our Savior. He is the HOLY ONE, the lover of our souls.

He freely embraces us with His Love because He desires to Love us as His Children of Covenant and not because of our insincere religious acts and devotions! While we were yet sinners He loved us and sent His Son to die for us as the ultimate manifestation of His Love! Thus, through our impure motives, we, like the Prodigal, also distance ourselves from a true relationship with the Father – a relationship to which he is now urging us to return.

So, before we pray for what I call the “classical Prodigals”, we need to examine ourselves as to where we stand in our relationship to God. Are we merely paying  “lip service” to God by practicing our religion because it is culturally of intellectually comfortable for us, or have we come to a true conversion in our lives where we have personally encountered the Father through Jesus, who is the Way to the Father? Are we using compliance with religious rules and regulations as a fig leaf to cover our spiritual nakedness?

Or, on the other hand, have we come to the point in our lives where our spirits have been revived to where we can truly say that we can worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, as Jesus asked of the Samaritan woman (John 4:23-24)? Can we truly say that we discern the move and leadings of the Holy Spirit in our lives John 3:6-8)?  And, in loving obedience to His call, do we have a steady personal spiritual prayer relationship with the Godhead? If not, then I think that we should consider the possibility that we may in fact be “hidden Prodigals” ourselves and the Lord is calling you right now to turn back to Him in repentance with a sincere and faithful heart! Remember! He is waiting, just waiting for you to say to yourself, “I have been deceiving myself long enough, I will return to my father’s house …”. He is waiting with open arms to embrace you and restore you as a SON, how can you refuse?

Now, brothers and sisters, I am making this plea, not as someone apart from you all. No, in fact, it is from my own fig-leaf experience as a “hidden prodigal” that I speak.  Yes, I am one of you, an elder brother who, in the past, justified himself by saying, “ I have served Him all these years… “

I was like the prodigal’s brother. Who didn’t want to enter the party that the father had thrown for his younger brother when he returned home. I speak as a cultural religionist who thought that I was living the “Christian” life, who kept all the rules (well, at least so I thought). I was married to a wonderful Christian woman and we parented two wonderful children who we were sending through the Catholic school system. My uncle was a Jesuit priest and I was in the Catholic educational system through my first years at University. I attended worship services weekly with my family and did all that was required of us in the Church community.

However, I was a prodigal and didn’t know it. Without realizing it, I had given my heart to another master, another god who ruled my life and my desires. This “god” was My career! My profession!  My personal ambitions and pride! (notice how often I use the term “MY”) . Yes, in all appearance, I was doing all that my religion required but I was very far from the Father! I was seeking my own self-fulfillment in what I was doing and achieving. My heart was dedicated to intellectual pride in what my achievements in the engineering profession offered, I was serving an evil master and spiritually I was far removed from the Father who was calling and waiting for me. I was feeding the pigs of my own ambition and getting nowhere fast!

Then, the Lord in His compassion, through the excesses I was putting my mind and my body through, permitted me to come down with walking pneumonia. I was hospitalized and then ordered to medication and bed rest for two weeks. It was during this time the Lord began to speak to my heart. First of all through the loving care my wife provided and then through some leaflets she placed at my bedside regarding a priest who was giving a series of lectures on the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church.

Since I had very little to do as I lay in bed, I began to read these leaflets and, catching my interest, I asked my wife to bring me the Bible my dad had given to me upon graduation from High School. A bible I kept as a memento but had never read.  But now, every word and every chapter of the Gospels and the Book of Acts leapt out to my spirit as I tried to reconcile what the leaflets and scripture were saying with respect to Jesus, the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and Eternal Life.  The more I read from the Bible the more the Spirit spoke to my heart and I became spiritually hungry, very hungry, not only for the WORD but for the Promise of the Spirit and a closer more intimate relation to the Father, through His Son, Jesus.

Again, the Lord used my wife, she suggested upon my recovery that we attend a spiritual retreat being given by the same priest who had spoken at our parish. Because the Lord was already working in me, I somehow sensed this meeting would lead me to the spiritual uplift I was sensing I needed. I was not wrong. It was toward the end of this retreat, inspired by the teaching and preaching of the Word that I repented, asking and receiving Jesus into my heart as my Lord and My savior. In asking to receive the Baptism of the Spirit, I received a word indicating that such would be forthcoming but I needed further inner preparation. Indeed two week later on Pentecost Sunday night my wife heard of a group that was meeting for the very purpose of receiving the Promise of the Spirit. Again the Lord permitted me to be Baptized in the Spirit and to begin speaking in other tongues and given other charismatic gifts to share with the community.

Spiritually, I began a new Life, I experienced some very intimate times with my Lord Jesus in prayer and was given some very personal consolations and revelations that turned my whole life upside down. I was indeed a new creature in Christ Jesus and He introduced me to the Father, so that I could truly experience Him as a SON! Blessed be His Name forever!

The first few months were extremely extraordinary. So much so, that I have not sufficient words to express myself, the most I can do is to share with you a poem that came to me during this period (see below). I pray that my witness to His Love will encourage you other hidden prodigals to follow me and answer His Call to return Home to the Father. He is waiting for you too!

Your Brother and Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus ….. Bartimaeus

+~+~+~+~+~+~+

< As One From a Dream Awakens >

As one from a dream awakens,

So the day I came to the light of life.

As the whirlwind of the Spirit entered,

The door to my soul opened wide.

It broke through the shell of self, erected

To defend the self against the embrace of Love,

…. That Eternal Love for which my soul was made.

 

Oh ! I built my defenses well!

In my narcissist enclave all was to justify the Self.

All I said and did was well under the control

Of reason and science and intellectual disdain,

Of a measured theology and attitude profane,

But sorely wanting of the very thing from which I fled,

…. That Eternal Love for which my soul was made.

 

But then as if from nowhere, I heard …

A word that pierced and shook me to my very depths

A word that revealed the sham that I was living

A word that deflated my ego and my pride

It told me that nothing in me was worthy

But that He who Loves me, died that I might have

…. That Eternal Love for which my soul was made.

 

As into my heart His Word descended,

I was overcome by the intensity of His Love.

As His Love called out to me and sought me,

Willingly, I ceded self to its manifold embrace,

Basking in the warmth of His Compassion, the Mercy of His Grace,

Asking only that He renew and restore me, to receive more of

…. That Eternal Love for which my soul was made.

Bartimaeus

© Bartimaeus, BRTimeo and quietplace4prayer, [2008-2018].

Recommended Links:

Praying for Prodigals

Prayer: Our Response to His Call

True Spirituality

A Prayer to receive the Holy Spirit

A Pprayer of Dedication

Releasing the Spirit

Hearing God’s Voice …. And obeying it!

Jesus, the Source of Living Water, and us

A History of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

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jesus-cleanses-the-templeCleansing Our Temple
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:13-22)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

The scripture cited above brings up a question that we must all, at sometime or other, ask ourselves, and that is, are we aware that the cleansing of our spiritual temple is also required. It is our problem of lack oi spiritual awareness that I wish to address in this post.

The Apostle Paul sometimes used very pointed questions to critique his evangelized communities’ lack of awareness or spiritual sensitivity. For instance, he asked the Corinthian believers  several questions, beginning with, “do you not know…?”,

When he used such question indicated that he was trying to exhort them regarding their lack of awareness to certain particular spiritual articles of faith that were affecting their ability to truly live a totally pure and obedient life committed to our God and Savior, Jesus our Lord!

The primary question was … “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. (1 Cor. 6 :18-20)

This question is also relevant for us today, in that many of us Christians do not appear to really have a truly spiritual awareness (knowledge) of the presence of “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”(Col. 1:27).  For those of us who are mainly “cultural” Christians, we treat the concept of the persons of the Trinity as a theological term beyond our realm of experience. You can understand then, why we have so much trouble in understanding how we can be aware of the Spirit of God in us.

Theologically speaking we acknowledge a God and Creator who loves us but whom we cannot approach because of our sinful nature. It is hard for us to realize that “in Christ”, the Spirit of God truly indwells in us through faith, and that, because of this, we have a responsibility as His stewards to maintain the Holiness of the Temple Of God in us!

Now, Paul in attempting to bring the Corinthians to acknowledge their lack of the true spiritual awareness needed to be a participant in God’s Heavenly Kingdom, further rebuked them by continuing with another of this soul-searching questions, namely …

“… do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

The reason I bring this up for us today is not to condemn anyone of being anything like these Corinthians who Paul was trying to reach, but to make us aware that as temples of the Spirit of God in us, we also have to be aware that, like the Jews in Jesus’ time, the bringing the ways of the world to the entrance of the temple of the Spirit of God, that is in us, we also compromise the Holiness needed to place God at the forefront of our spiritual lives.

By the ways of that world, I mean our business and secular affairs, our personal ambitions, our troubled family relationships, our fears, jealousy, and envy (and so on). These may not be sins to the level of the Corinthians but unless they are also attended to they block our entrance to communion with the Spirit of God that dwells in us –  a communion that is essential to maintaining our intimate relationship to the Father, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

That is why we must be as scrupulous as Jesus in cleansing our inner man from the entrance to our spiritual temple. I use the metaphor of Jesus cleansing the temple as the opening scripture to emphasize our need to regularly perform a cleansing of our inner temple, especially in examining ourselves prior to worship and communion.

As we approach the lenten season this is the approach we need to take in preparing our hearts for Jesus to enter in. Of course, confessing and repenting our sins in confession takes precedence in our cleansing, but sometimes we forget to cleanse our consciences from the inroads the world and its minions have made into our minds and hearts – the entrance to our temple.

It is not difficult enter into the awareness of His spiritual Kingdom and unite ourselves with His Holiness. Jesus himself tells us…

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt 7:7-11)

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt, 7:13-14)

In strengthening our faith for our inner cleansing  remember St.Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians and know that it also applies to us as we walk the narrow way towards union with Jesus in faith …

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen “          (Ephesians 3: 14-21)

Your Brother In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2018])

Recommended Links
Sweet Yoke of Love
Responding to the Spitit’s Call
The Kingdom of God: Our Spiritual Inheritance
Reclaiming Our Legacy In Christ
Hearing God’s Voice, and Obeying It
Pentecost and the Promise of the Father
The Empowerment Gifts (Part 1)
The Empowerment Gifts (Part 2)

Building our Spiritual Life on the Rock

 

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In Relating the Birth of Messiah to our own spiritual re-birthing and growth. Let us begin by understanding and contemplating on the pertinent scriptures:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

(Luke 2:8-14)

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we approach the celebration of the birth of Messiah, the Christ, Let us prepare our hearts by humbling ourselves in the knowledge of whom it is we are coming to worship and our own unworthiness before Him.  For it is only in approaching Him in humility and repentance that we can fully experience His presence in our hearts, for it is to the poor in spirit that He reveals Himself and invites into His Kingdom.

The first persons invited to celebrate the birth of the Messiah were not those from the elite classes of Judea, certainly not its king or its princes or magistrates. Nor was it anyone from the religious class, the Priests and Sanhedrin, or the Pharisees and Sadducees. No, it was a group of poor shepherds tending their sheep who were called as first witnesses to the birth that changed destiny of humanity for all time – the birth of its savior-redeemer, indeed its King! Even the wise men, magi, or Kings from the east were strangers to Israel, but they came days or months later – it was this group of poor humble shepherds that were granted the privilege of being the first to honor the Messiah and be Blessed by His Presence – to be the first to see the Light of the World manifested in human form.

As it was then, so it is today, regarding our ability to come into the presence of the King of the Universe. Those who are considered last by human society, and consequently by themselves, are to be the first and those who are considered first by human society because of their status, whether religious, secular or political, will be last in coming to a renewed spiritual awareness of His Person, not because their status itself prevents them, but because their status puffs up their human pride and self-esteem to the point that it takes them longer open their hearts to be receptive to God’s grace and, thus, transition to the level of humility required to receive the spiritual awareness needed to come into His presence.

Unfortunately, the materialistic manner with which we celebrate the Christmas holidays works against us – for our social customs places the emphasis on the gifts (to each other) rather than on the Giver (of Himself for our salvation). Instead of leading us an awareness of our own unworthiness, our worldly traditions lead us to think more highly of ourselves than we really ought, thus blinding us to our individual need for salvation and diminishing the infinite value of the Father’s Gift of His only son for our redemption.

Note that the Father did not select any one from the esteemed classes of the time, Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds were from the poor and needy class which scripture terms the “Anawim” (Zeph.3:12).  “Anawim” is a Hebrew term meaning “poor,” “humble,” or “afflicted.” Some scholars note that, it came to mean those who, because of their condition, could not rely upon their own strength but had to rely completely upon God. These same scholars speculate that, because of their simple faith and piety, most of the early believers in Messiah were from the Anawim, the poor and needy class and composed their own Jewish-Christian canticles of praise for God’s salvation in Jesus.

Listen to what the Old Testament had to say regarding the Anawim:

“Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing city! It has listened to no voice; it has accepted no correction. It has not trusted in the LORD; it has not drawn near to its God.

At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, my scattered ones, shall bring my offering. On that day you shall not be put to shame because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.

For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD, the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.”   (Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13)

With this scripture in mind Let us briefly review the list of the participants at the Birth of Messiah:

Joseph, was from a branch of the Davidic lineage (Jeconiah a descendant of Jehoiakim, cf. Jeremiah 36:1-32) that was under a curse, a divine curse that stated that no one from this lineage would succeed to the throne of David and would not prosper.

Mary, although a descendant of David, through Nathan, herself was under a cloud of shame because, to the uninformed, she became pregnant out of wedlock and thus was under a possible judgment of stoning.

Those who tended the sheep were from the lowest classes in Judea – they were usually uneducated, simple people living day-to-day in the most meager of circumstances, not being sure where their next meal would be coming from, relying totally on their trust in God.

Jesus, then, came from this class of disenfranchised people, the son of a carpenter, who offended His hometown residents when He claimed that God had anointed him. Essentially, they said to Him, “Who do you think you are? You are nothing but the son of a carpenter, you don’t have any religious training and we know all your relatives and they are also of no consequence, and here you are claiming to be God’s Messiah” (Luke 4:16-30).

Jesus’ disciples were no better, they were fishermen, tax collectors, political rebels, and people of no reputation. This, then, is the class of people the Lord calls to Himself, the disenfranchised, the despised, the poor in spirit. These are the ones the scriptures refer to as “my Hidden Ones”. These are the ones that the Lord told the despairing Elijah, that “… I have Seven Thousand who have not bowed the Knee to Baal” (Rom. 11:1-6).

This, my brothers and sisters is what we need to remind ourselves when the Lord calls us to discipleship. It is the grace to be formed and united to this class of people that we need to ask of the Lord as we approach Him on this the celebration of His Birth. Here is what the Apostle Paul says indirectly to us regarding our attitude in coming to Christ:

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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. 2:4-8)

It is only when we permit the Holy Spirit to purify us of our pride and self-centeredness, and begins to form us into the image of Christ, that we can approach the Babe in the manger of Bethlehem and present Him our gifts. Yes my bothers and sisters, I said “our gifts”, for you see, the gift He wants from us is our very selves, and only when we have stripped our selves of our attachments to this world and become poor in spirit that we are able to open and offer our presents before Him for the Glory of His Name!  Baruch ha Shem! Amen and Amen!

Keep in mind what Our Lord Jesus said to His disciples:

“…Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matt. 19:23-29)

I confess to you my brethren that, I, myself  am struggling to be one of those who are poor in spirit and thus join myself spiritually to the Anawim, In this struggle I am having trouble in detaching myself from the affairs of this world and giving myself totally to the Lord.  I pray daily for the grace to draw closer and closer to Him and to the Anawim of old. Will you not join me, then my brothers and sisters, in this, my pilgrim quest, as I “… follow the Bright and Morning Star to the dawning of the Day, to the revelation of the Christ as He in His cradle Lay”? And, As you travel on your way, remember what our Master had to say..,”

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. (John 15:18-21)

“… ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes [anawim?]. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him’ ”. (Matt. 11: 25-27)

As you approach His presence in the hay, give yourself to Him today – become one of the Anawim and let Him reveal Himself to you this Christmas day !

With this said, I take leave for now, that I may go to worship the King on the day of His appearing. May the Lord richly bless you and your loved ones during this wonderful Christmas Season.

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimeaus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

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Being Conformed into Christ’s Image —  is how we come to Spiritual Maturity in our Walk with Christ

scroll2“Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:23-29)

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “abba! Father! (Gal. 4:6)

”My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you… (Gal. 4 :19)

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Rom. 8:29)

My Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatian community begins with the statement indicating that, “ … in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God”, yet in the next part of his letter he indicates he is perplexed by their current behavior and that because of that behavior they indicate to him that, although sons, they are not yet fully formed into Christ. So much so that he is still in travailing prayer for them – for they are essentially still in the womb as far as understanding the graces, freedom and responsibility we have in Christ Jesus.

About the Transformation Process

This problem of a delay in maturing in Christ is still with us today. I know because was just like the Galatians. I was a baptized, confirmed and a compliant cradle Christian. But like the Galatians, was still in the spiritual womb of “mother” Church. I had not yet awakened to who I, as a person, was in Jesus Christ and had not yet come out of the womb crying “daddy” or “abba” to my Father in Heaven. And, I had not yet met with my brother, Jesus, although I knew about Him. I also did not know that it was the Father’s purpose in conceiving me in Christ to conform me into His image! It was just beyond my imagination!

Are you being Conformed to Christ's Image?

Are you being Conformed to Christ’s Image?

I now, by His Grace, understand it is the Father’s clearly stated purpose that all those who are baptized into Christ be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). I now believe, in consequence, that our maturity in Christ and subsequent spiritual growth also needs be assessed in accordance to the progress we are making, after submitting our will to His, and in cooperating with His Transforming Spirit in us.

It should be expressly noted that our transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit in us – as Jesus says, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Our only contribution to God’s work in us and through us is our cooperation, in faith, for He will not violate our free will. The Father always gives us the opportunity to yield ourselves to His will and purpose before He initiates any creative work of the Spirit in us.

Listen to how the Virgin Mary responded to the Angel Gabriel when told that she had been selected to conceive and bear a son by the Holy Spirit – a son that was to be the Father’s anointed Messiah, not only for Israel but also for the all humankind!

”And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 38)

That, my brothers and sisters is the manner in which He expects us to respond when the Good News of salvation is presented to us. The Good News that the Father not only wishes to save us but that He also wishes to birth His Son in us and conform us to His image us so that He might be the firstborn of many brethren. (Rom. 8:29)

Yes, the appropriate response, is an act of our will, inspired by faith, to repent, believe, and to open the door to our heart to His Person as Our Lord and Savior saying to Him, “Lord save me, let your Spirit, be born in me … be it done to me according to your Word”. It is only such a response that will bring us to a true spiritual birth in Jesus and subsequent transformation into His Image. Praised be His Holy Name!

With this said, let us, then, discuss this transforming process for this Conformation. For, indeed, it is through that process which we have initiated with our declaration whereby we begin to grow in spiritual maturity by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

We are all aware of the demarcation points in our physical lives in this world, namely, our birth, our entering school, our graduations, our military service (if any), our wedding day, the birth of our children, our profession, etc. . As important as these events in our earthly lives are in indicating our maturity and progress in our earthly lives, we need to ask ourselves: what are the similar key events in our religious/spiritual lives and what is their value to us in assessing our growth and maturity in living for God?

Of course, our first attempt at listing these stages in our religious lives these events could possibly be like this: our birth, our baptism and confirmation, our first communion, our marriage, our ordination, our entry into service to the church, etc.

Today I am proposing that we take a distinct and more mystical view at assessing our progress in the spiritual life. I am thinking that maybe we should look at the metaphors used in the New Testament used by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament as a more spiritual way of understanding the stages of our spiritual growth to maturity in Christ Jesus. Some of these metaphors include, spiritual travail, spiritual rebirth, being as babes in Christ, and the subsequent process in coming to maturity in spiritual wisdom an knowledge in Him.

From Conception to a New Life

Let us consider, for instance, that when we are spiritually conceived in Christ at baptism we are held within a spiritual womb, within our parents and the church. While in this womb we are taught, nurtured and fed spiritual milk from the Word and Sacraments. Eventually, as our spiritual fetus matures on the Word, we act on that Word declaring Jesus as our Savior and thus reach out to the eternal life and relationship with Jesus that He offers us as a gift.

This act of cooperation with God’s grace brings us out of the womb and into a new awareness, a spiritual awareness of the presence on the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus in us! An awareness that tells us that we are out of the womb and that we are now Living Children of the Living God here in this world and we KNOW it, not theologically, but experientially, because the Holy Spirit confirms it in our spirits. This, being an awareness that we are a new Creation or, a re-born man as the Apostle Peter expresses it when he states:

“Forasmuch as ye KNOW that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever.“   (1 Peter 1:18-23)

Some call our coming to this stage where we know, that we know that we have a “daddy’ and have personally encountered our brother, Jesus, as an “encounter” with the Divine or as a “conversion”. The terms are somewhat irrelevant to those of us who enter into a new spiritual awareness of life in Christ, because, for us, there is NO DOUBT in our souls that we have entered into a new stage in our spiritual lives and it doesn’t matter to us what you call it! Now, we are able to live in this new life and are made aware by the Holy Spirit that we are, indeed, Sons of the Most High and able to commune with Him in the Spirit! Praised Be His Holy Name!

From Conversion to Putting On the New Man

After this first stage in our transformation, the Holy Spirit leads us deeper into the Word, teaching us , Not in our minds but in our spirits, so that we might be led of the Spirit as Jesus was led. The events and circumstances of each day being provided our hearts and our spirits are brought into alignment with the thoughts and desires of Jesus Himself. We learn to pray as Jesus prayed, to Love as Jesus Loved, to as a means of testing the principles and spirit of faith that the Holy Spirit is infusing in us as we grow more and more closer to Christ!

We also pass through a phase of growth where we are essentially babes in Christ. Paul refers to this phase when writing to some of his early communities, such as the Corinthians to whom he exhorts as follows … Brothers, I couldn’t speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to babies in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for you weren’t yet ready. Indeed, not even now are you ready, for you are still fleshly. For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren’t you fleshly, and don’t you walk in the ways of men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul’, and another, ‘I follow Apollos’, aren’t you fleshly? (1 Cor. 3:1-4)

In this phase of growth we can barely find evidence of spiritual growth, yet with continued persistence and teaching from the word we begin to produce fruit, and it is by this fruit that others will assess your progress. In his epistle to the Galatians Paul lists the characteristic fruit of living in divine, “agape”, Love. He clearly says … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). Our growth in this area is gradual but constant as long as we maintain our fellowship with Christ.

If we do stumble and fall (as we all do), the results will also be plainly evident. “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. (Gal. 5:19-21)

In exhorting the Galatians on this matter, Paul tells them “…. [Although,] you were called to freedom, brethren; … do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.” (Gal.5: 13-18)

Remember, that acknowledging and repenting of our sin is extremely important in maintaining our fellowship with Him, and, as the Apostle John tells us:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

“… write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”     

( 1 John 1:5-10; 2:1-2)

In entering the more mature stage, the Holy Spirit uses the circumstances of our lives to bring us the point where we dedicate ourselves to the Lord totally, renouncing the flesh and seeking only that God’s will and purpose be accomplished in our lives through the “New Man”, that is the “New Spiritual Nature” we have in Christ.

By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, ‘the obedience of faith’ (CCC 143).” Obedience of faith is a willed act of love for God who loved us first.

Paul puts it in this way:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator”

(Col. 3:1-10).

Putting on the New Man Until our Conformance to Christ Is Complete

Now, putting to death our Old Man, that is, our old nature, is not something we accomplish by ourselves. Again, it is something we must do in cooperation with God’s Grace and the Holy Spirit. It begins when we place our old self on the altar as a living sacrifice. Here again we turn to Paul to explain it to us…

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.”

(Rom 12:1-3)

Yes, brethren, when we make a decision to dedicate ourselves totally to the service of God and we present our old self a s a sacrifice, the Lord Himself will work in our lives to burn out the old nature and begin the renewal of our minds so that all that we say, and do, and think will be renewed by the Spirit of Christ in us.

Do not think this will be easy. It will be painful because we are, in fact crucifying our old nature and severing our old attachments and desires will be difficult. But the Lord will help us in our weakness so that the nature of his Son may be manifested in us – not for our glory, but for His. Praised be His Holy Name!

This process will last a lifetime and will not be completed until we receive our new spiritual bodies at the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, our King! Again, Paul summarizes this process with Spirit-inspired words …

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose [i.e., to become His adopted Sons]. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified”

(Rom. 8:18-29).

Our “glorification” comes at Jesus’ Return when we receive our glorified bodies as the concluding act of God in conforming us to the image of His Son.

But even while we are here in this world, as incomplete as our conformation may be we still share in the inheritance of Christ and in the anointing He received to accomplish His appointed Role in bringing forth the Kingdom. For, after all we are not only His brethren, but also His chosen disciples to carry on His work.

What I am saying, brethren, is that our conformance to Christ also includes our share in His empowerment with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. For Just as we are baptized in water as He was, so also we need to be anointed with the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, just as He was. For, in order to be like Him and minister the Gifts like Him, we also need to have the Holy Spirit come upon us so we can truly minister to the body of Christ in His Name.

Listen to what Jesus said about His empowerment …

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

(Luke 4: 18-19)

In like manner it must be understood that we cannot truly carry out our roles of the “Great Commission” to “proclaim the gospel to the whole world” and “make disciples” without a commensurate anointing of God’s Spirit on us who believe.

That is why he said to his disciples to wait at Jerusalem before going out minster so they would also be anointed by the Holy Spirit, whom He termed … “The Promise” of the Father”. This “promise” is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Peter also preached to the crowds at Pentecost saying …

Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and [then] ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For [this] the “promise” is [also] unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.”

(Acts 2:38-39)

In continuing our walk to maturity in Christ in this world it is important that we also receive the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”. If we are to take our part in building up the body of Christ we need to be empowered by the Spirit because this is the way He has chosen to manifest himself through us is in spiritual service to His Body the Church. In the wisdom of God that come with your maturity, therefore, ask for the impartation of the Gifts that you need to partner with Him in bringing forth His Kingdom.

As we go forth to serve the Lord, my brothers and sisters, let us take to heart the words that St. Ignatius of Loyola gave to his disciples, namely ….

“There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace”.

St. Ignatius’ Prayer Yielding Himself to the Lord 

(from Spiritual Exercises No. 234)

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory,

my understanding,

and my entire will,

all that I have and possess.

You gave it all to me;

to you, Lord, I give it all back.

All is yours,

dispose of it entirely according to your will.

Give me the grace to love you,

for that is enough for me.

May the Lord, in His Name, work in you and through you as you proceed onward to spiritual maturity, so that all that you think and say and do in this world may be for His Glory and NOT for yours. Amen

Your brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

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 Are you “Seeking First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness” as He has indicated?

Sacred Heart

“O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:30-34)

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Sometimes when we read the Gospels a little too rapidly we go right past some very deeply important spiritual precepts that we need to live a truly Christian life, faithful to the Spirit of Christ in us.

For instance, when we read the introductory statement (cited above) that Jesus spoke to his disciples, we understand He was trying to warn them about being distracted from following the Holy Spirit’s directives as they walked “the narrow path” in the midst of what was going on in the world around them. This, of course, is a concern all we Christians should have and therefore, his exhortation to the disciples is also of utmost importance to us believers as well.

The essence of His directive to them, was that, in their walk with Him, it is essential that if they are to maintain themselves within the Holy Spirit’s guidance to fulfill God’s purposes for their lives, they must always follow the spiritual precept to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness”.

This statement, was probably clear to the his disciples, who as persons of that epoch and place, understood what the idiom of the “kingdom” meant. For us, in today’s world, however, the way the statement is worded becomes somewhat ambiguous.
For instance we might ask: what does it mean to “seek the Kingdom”? And how do I do that that? And, why would “seeking the Kingdom” be more important than looking for a boat that they needed to take them to their destination across the Sea of Galilee in the morning?

After thinking slowly about the term “the Kingdom” you begin to realize that Jesus is not talking about seeking some apocalyptic kingdom to come. No, the Kingdom that Jesus is referring to is the Reign of God that the Father has placed in the hearts of all believers. It is here, in us where, through our spiritual relationship with Him, we may determine His Will for us in all that we do. This permits us to trust that, as long as we are responding to His Will, He will provide everything that is needed to fulfill His purposes for us!
Of course this affirms the importance of having a personal relationship to the Father, through Jesus. For it is only through such a living, active relationship that we can discern the Father’s Will for us in our everyday circumstances and thus keep us under the cover of His Righteousness in all that we do in Jesus’ Name.

For, you see, His Kingdom, is the Kingdom of His Love, and it is only through a relationship with Him through Jesus that that true “agape” Love can manifest itself in our being.

Using the same analysis we see that it also helps us to better understand the phrase in the “our Father” prayer where it says, “… Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt. 6:9-10).

Here, again, the “Kingdom”. Jesus is referring to the Father’s reign in our hearts and thus the statement in the prayer might best be read as, “ … [Father, let] your Kingdom [of Love] come [to reign in me, so that ] your Will may be done on earth as to is in heaven.”  Understanding this, we can see why it is said that this prayer that was given to the Jesus’ disciples (and us) might be better called “the Disciples Prayer”. As it really is a prayer of commitment that is the key to entering in to Discipleship with Jesus.

Now, from all the thoughts presented, I think we can begin to see what “seeking the Kingdom” really means. It certainly begins by offering our lives totally to the Father so that our continuing desire is yield ourselves to be transformed to the Spirit of Christ in us and thus become channels of His Love here in this world!

Here is what the Apostle Paul has to say regarding this matter,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Well, brethren, I pray that after reading this article, I believe you should give the scripture cited some thought and prayer so you can begin to realize the concept Jesus was trying to convey to His Disciples and us about seeking the Kingdom. And, of course, if you decide to offer your self as a Living Sacrifice to Him you will also experience living in His Righteousness though Love, keeping in mind Paul’s continuing exhortation regarding Living out the Kingdom in our lives:

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:9-19)

Praised Be His Holy Name, and May His Holy Spirit guide you in not only in seeking His Kingdom but entering it as well and thus become true disciple of Christ!

Your Brother in Christ Jesus …. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

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Reviewing Our Call to a Deeper Walk With Jesus

Return to Jerusalem

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?”  (Jn.14:26-28)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I think it is very important that we have a clear understanding of what it means to be a “Disciple of Jesus Christ”. It is important, because it is in God’s purpose that all believers in Christ be aware of and understand, His call to enter into a discipleship relationship in Jesus His Son.  In order to do so I believe that we must first understand what Jesus meant when He used the term “disciple”. I say this because if we really feel called to a true discipleship relationship with Jesus, that is where we have to start.

In general, the term “to be a disciple” meant and still means is to submit to being taught through a specific discipline. In Aramaic, it referred to the training/discipline you receive as an apprentice, where you learn by observing and doing what your master/teacher does.

What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

All Christian believers are expected to be “disciples” in that our lives should model the Love that motivated Jesus in every respect.  If practiced according to New Testament scripture, it is not based on our effort to be good and loving, but the process whereby the Holy Spirit works in us to “conform us to the image of Christ” (Rom.8:29) so that our becoming is the result of His indwelling presence in us. It is a process that begins when we yoke ourselves to Christ so that He can do the Father’s works through us! But it requires a decision on our part, a decision beyond accepting the free gift of salvation in Jesus as savior.

Discipleship involves a Transformation

The Holy Spirit can only begin His work in us to conform us to the image of Christ, when we explicitly and freely yield to Him for that purpose. This decision involving the giving of ourselves for this purpose is very emphatically stated in Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

Seek the Spirtual Renewal of Our Minds

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)

God uses our offering of ourselves to mold us in to the image of Christ so that that point on in our lives, the Spirit of Jesus will be manifested in us and though us! This is what is meant when Paul states: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom:8-29)

Now, we know from the Gospels that Jesus said He never did anything of His own will but according to the will of the Father, He also said that He only did what He saw the Father doing and said what the Father told Him to say. If he healed the sick and cast out demons, it was because He was accomplishing the Father’s purposes for Him in His ministry to others.

Discipleship Entails Carrying Our Cross Daily

So too, if we are being conformed to Jesus, the process will involve being His apprentices (disciples) and yielding ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit so He can work in us and through us in doing nothing but what the Father wants us to do in fulfilling His purposes for us. In doing so we have to follow Him in the Spirit, die to our own self-will, carrying our cross of self-denial daily in order to truly be a disciple of Jesus, in the way that Jesus used the term.

We enter this level of discipleship only when we willingly, out of Love, offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Rom.12:1), emptying ourselves of our own self-will so that He may Increase in us as His Will is done through us! The purpose of a disciple, then, is not so much “bringing people to Christ” but rather “bringing Christ to people” by letting His Kingdom of Love manifest through us.

Many are Called but Few are Chosen

I think we are all aware that in today’s world, we apply the term “disciple” or “discipleship” in a much looser framework. Many Christians use the term in alluding to their service in the church. We use this term to describe the time we give to ministry,   even when we are usually serving our own ambitions by doing religious work for Him rather than listening and doing what He really wants to do through us.

Others, like myself use the term “disciple” as a synonym to “believer” (although I have now, personally, relented from doing so). Even in the New testament, apart from Jesus’ declarations, we see the term used with a variety of connotations in reference to believers. For instance Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are referred to as “disciples” in John’s Gospel, even though they did not actually  follow Jesus and did not declare themselves openly because “they were afraid of the Jews”.

I point this out because I just want to make it clear that the term “discipleship” that will be under discussion in this posting is with regard to what Jesus originally meant by the term, not what it later came to mean. The scripture quoted in the header is an example of what Jesus meant by a “disciple”.

The first hurdle we have to cross in coming to a clear understanding is that, while all disciples are believers, not all believers are disciples. A believer receives the free gift of salvation and reconciliation with the Father at the cost of Jesus’ giving of His life for us when he/she accepts Jesus as their personal Savior and repents of their sins in a sincere conversion and subsequent baptism. However, although the new believer also receives a calling to be a disciple of Christ as part of the graces at baptism, not all believers respond to the call to discipleship – essentially, to yield to the Holy Spirit to conform us to Christ and be yoked to Him so as to be His partners in bringing forth the Kingdom.

All believers are called to discipleship but not all, for a variety of reasons, respond to the call. The main reason being, that we are not taught clearly about what discipleship really entails and so we mainly follow traditional thinking that the call to discipleship is merely the call to full time ministry, which is not the case at all, it is a call to yield full control of our lives to Jesus so that HE may continue HIS service to humanity through us!

Discipleship is a Life Consecrated to Jesus

Besides receiving their calling as adopted sons of the Father,  all Christians are also called to be disciples. However accepting this call is left as a free choice to every believer.  To be a disciple is not compulsory to receiving salvation or adoption as children of God.

It is a free choice because it must be a decision that is made out of the deepest love for God.  A decision to yield oneself entirely to  Him so that He, and He alone, may  reign in us! A decision to give up our right to ourselves so that God Himself, through His Spirit, can work in us and through us to accomplish his purpose for us in this world!  And His purpose for us in this world is to bring His Kingdom into manifestation through His Love which he has poured into us by His Holy Spirit!  It is volunteering to be a worker in His Harvest regardless of the cost.

The purpose (or calling) of a disciple is to be a stand-in for Jesus and act in Jesus’ name and in His Spirit to continue Jesus’ ministry to the world – that is, to proclaim and LIVE the Good news of the Kingdom with signs following and to make disciples. This is called the Great Commission. It is the call for workers for the Harvest. But, contrary to popular opinion, it is not necessarily a call to full time ministry – one can fulfill this  calling as whatever state in life you currently are. The Spirit of Jesus in you will then lead you to where He wants you – and it may be in the very same state where you received your calling or He may tell you to go into full time ministry. But it must be His call not yours.

Most of our religious traditions emphasize that “the Great  Commission”  is for all Christians, presuming that all are Christians have accepted their call to discipleship.  In reality, however most Christians, don’t even realize that discipleship does not  automatically ensue from our baptism. Living in discipleship means accepting being Yoked to Christ so He can live in you and through you.

You cannot freely make that decision until you are fully aware of the cost of that decision in that you are surrendering control of your life and placing it in Jesus’ hands. It is a decision to walk by the spirit and not by the flesh. It is a decision to yield to the Holy Spirit to form us into the Image of Christ and empower us for His Service. It is a decision to be empowered by the Holy Spirit with ALL the Spiritual Gifts that are needed to accomplish the task we are assigned. We cannot just pick and choose those gifts we are comfortable with or exercise those gifts wherever we want – we have to follow the leading of the Spirit of God in  all that we say or do.  Everything we say or do must be the Father’s will and not our own.

It must be stated that many of our religious traditions do make the conditions for discipleship VERY clear to those who choose to be ordained or enter into the consecrated religious Life. However, there is need to also reach out to us lay people so that it is clearly understood that  a discipleship relationship with Jesus is available to ALL Christians not just the ordained, religious or ministerial staff.

And the entry point to this “unofficial” type of discipleship for lay people is through prayer. Not just the superficial type of supplication prayer most lay people are accustomed to but a spiritually intimate, contemplative, mode of prayer such as the “Lectio Divina” mentioned in my previous posting. Without an intimate prayer life, it would be extremely difficult to discern the Fathers directives for your life and His specific will for those to whom you are ministering. You need to Hear His Voice in order to Obey!

This type of discipleship may be entered wherever you are in your life – it begins with a sincere prayer of repentance and a re-dedication of your life from that point on to the Lord!  The Lord can use you as a disciple wherever you are. He can use you a as a husband and father, He can use you as a wife and mother, He can use you as a single person and as a student still in school!

He will lead you and guide you using the circumstances of your life, because He will be your partner in the circumstances of your life or, rather, you will be His partner as He works in you and through you!  But you have to let Him In! You have to ask to be YOKED to Him!  And you have to put the Word of God into action in your life and the lives of those around you, so that you too, like Jesus can say: “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon me , because he has appointed me to proclaim the Good News ..” (Luke 4:18 )   through the life you will then live in His Name!

This how you become Jesus’ apprentice – because that is what true discipleship entails!

Here are the major principles to remember:

<>  The Word of  God

— Jesus is the WORD so if you are to Live like Jesus you have to live out the Word in your  life!

— The study and meditation on God’s Word is the Foundation on which the Holy Spirit will build…

—  It must be an integral part of your life as a disciple – HIS WORD is a lamp unto our feet a light unto our path!

— The Word is the most powerful defense and offense we have against the powers of darkness,. It is the Sword of the Spirit that you will need to put off these forces that will come against you when you make your decision.

<>  Prayer

— Prayer is essential to discipleship – but it is only part of the process

— It is through Prayer that we explicitly yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He may conform us to the image of Christ,

— It enables s a deep spirit-to-spirit dialogue with our Teacher to enable us to understand the WORD of  God, and the Father’s Will and His purposes for us so that we can be His instrument in bringing forth the   Kingdom through our lives.

— It provides us the spiritual basis and strength we need to persevere in the faith of our calling.

— It provides us the spiritual insight and empowerment we need to put the Word full into practice.

<>  Discipleship

— Discipleship is apprenticeship – and apprenticeship involves taking action in faith.

— Apprenticeship goes beyond merely learning the principles of the Kingdom and discerning the Fathers will…it is the living out of those principles in our lives so that the Kingdom will be made manifest through us as the Spirit leads;

–Acting on principles of the Kingdom of the Kingdom is not following a lot of religious rules or projects – it is an emptying out of ourselves so that God can fill us with His Spirit and work in us and through us;

— It is NOT us doing something for God BUT letting God do something through us.

–When we thus yield ourselves to the Spirit everything we do or say will always be within  the moral code established by God  because the Spirit of Jesus in us will  NEVER do something outside the Father’s will.

— If we do not put the principles of the kingdom into practice through the Spirit that is in us, we cannot bear fruit for the Kingdom and all our effort at growing spiritually will be for naught.

— If we attempt to take action to carry out the Kingdom  principles on our own we will utterly fail – for  our walk must be in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

<>  Spiritual Sustenance and Restoration

—  In order to sustain us as we “let His Kingdom Come” we also need Our “Daily Bread” – His Body and Blood as presented to us in Holy Communion. If possible,    received on a daily basis.

— As Jesus told His Disciples: – “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;  or my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” ( Jn. 6:53-56)

— And since we ought not partake unless we are in a repentant state (1 Cor. 11:23-27)), we also need the: graces offered in the Sacrament (ordinance) of Reconciliation.

<> The Challenge 

The Challenge, for those who sense the Lord is calling them and whose spirit has been incited by this article, is to come to the point of making a decision in faith and carrying out that decision in their lives. To that end the next article will deal with the specific items that we all face in stepping out into a discipleship relationship with Jesus, namely …

— Assessing the Cost

— Making the Decision (and  the commitment)

—  Living out our discipleship within the circumstances of our lives with humility, perseverance and faith.

In going forward only remember this… “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1Cor. 1:26-31)

Praised Be His Holy Name!!

May the Lord Bless you all and may His Spirit enable you to respond to His call!

Your brother and fellow pilgrim in Christ Jesus…. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

RELATED LINKS

•  Yielding to the Kingdom Anointing

•  Living In the Kingdom NOW!

• Overcoming the World

• Releasing the Spirit

• Praying In the Spirit

• Renewal of our Minds

• Hearing God’s Voice … and Obeying It!

• The Crucified Life

•  The Cost of Discipleship

• The Sweet Yoke of Love

• Husbands Love your Wives

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

The Double Portion Anointing

The Kingdom of God: Our Inheritance

• Awakening to the Father’s Love (Part 1)

• Awakening to the Father’s Love (Part 2)

St. Theresa: Regarding Prayer

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§ Are You at Hand For the Kingdom of Heaven?

Our Father who art in Heaven

Our Father who art in Heaven

The Message that John the Baptist proclaimed before Jesus was baptized was:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2)

The Message that Jesus proclaimed at the beginning of His Ministry was:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)

The directive He gave to the twelve disciples as He sent them out during His Ministry was:
“And as you go, preach saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:7-6)

Dear fellow pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

The Gospels make it clear that the theme for evangelizing by John the Baptist, Jesus, and His Disciples was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And that the works that followed were miraculous confirmation of the Word that was preached. We understand that the term “Kingdom is at Hand” is used in these scriptures referring to the accessibilty of entry to the Kingdom for those in the audiences who came seeking belief in Jesus, as the Christ

However, for us who have believed and are baptized the term no longer applies. For, according to Paul the Apostle, at our coming to Faith in Jesus the Christ we have already been translated to “The Kingdom of the Son” (see Col.1:9-14). Therefore for us the more appropriate question we might ask ourselves is “are we aware of the presence of the Kingdom in us?” And, subsequently, and more importantly, the question we need most to understand is… “are we at hand to the Kingdom of God that is in us?” That is, have we committed ourselves to be available to be at the service of the King in every aspect for our lives in the Kingdom?

Before continuing, it should be clear to us who have accepted Christ that what Jesus was proclaiming was NOT a material kingdom in this space-time continuum, but rather a Spiritual Kingdom under Christ and that, as a Spiritual Kingdom, every person who believes and repents becomes a participant in this Kingdom and under the Reign of the King.

It is also clear that from the citations and other scriptures that “repentance” is the main key to being received into the Kingdom. Repentance is not a “human work” in the traditional sense, indeed, it consists of Spirit-inspired words and action by the believer affirming their faith in the “promise” preached, to the extent that they renounce sin and turn their lives over to God. Of course, the “promise” refers to “The Word Of God”, the “Good News” of the Redemption and Forgiveness offered to those who turn from their worldly lives and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice and resurrection.

True repentance is also NOT intended to be a one-time occurrence but an on-going practice in our lives. This is because although the forgiveness and redemption we receive is eternally complete in Jesus, our repentance, in order to be sincere, is limited to our past and present sins – sins that we can only honestly acknowledge after we commit them. We cannot repent of sins we have not yet committed. That is why the Church through the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist provides us the means to maintain, throughout our lives, the state of grace we obtain at our reception of the sacrament of Baptism.

Belief and Repentance are therefore, not only the Keys to the Kingdom. but are also the Keys that permit us to remain in the Kingdom of God let us yield ourselves to Him so that His Spirit may function in us for Glory of His Kingdom!

This then brings us to a better understanding as to why we need to ask ourselves the question … “are we at hand to the Kingdom of God that is in us?”

Because, if we cannot answer that question positively, then we need to determine how we can move in our spiritual lives so that the “Kingdom”, that is, The King and His Love will reign in us in everything we do in our lives? And I mean everything … relationships, words, thoughts, emotions, intents and actions. That, my friends is what it truly means to “be at hand for the Kingdom of God”!

Now Jesus’ disciples faced the same problems we do. So even as they followed Jesus He noticed from their conversation and worldly concerns that they yet had to learn how to focus on HIM and His Word and leave their anxieties behind. So here is the direction He gave them … “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these other things will be resolved for you.” (cf., Matt. 6:33)

The question they (and us) might yet ask would probably be … “Lord I hear your directive but how do I seek the Kingdom?”

The main answer the Lord gave them is a prayer. In fact it is a prayer we now call the Lord’s prayer but, in reality, it should really be called “the disciples” prayer because it is the exact prayer need by the disciples to the Father asking for access to the Kingdom (the Kingdom of His Love) that they were seeking.

Here is the text of that prayer:
“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
[may] ‘Your kingdom come. [into us and through us]
[so that] Your will may be done [by us],
On earth as it is in heaven. [and, to sustain us in your Kingdom]
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matt. 6:9-15)

As disciples, this prayer then, should also be our prayer also. It is a prayer that is also our prayer of commitment to the Father and our yielding to Him and the Kingdom of His Love in our lives.

It should also be clear to us from the above citations and other scriptures that the main God-Given mission of the Church, and all believers is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, not only through words but also by the way we live out the Kingdom in faith.

In the citation below notice how Paul prays that the Colossian converts live out their lives in accord with the spiritual Kingdom that is in them (ie., Christ in us, the Hope of Glory). This prayer by Paul indicates how the Father places the Spirit of His Kingdom in us so that the Holy Spirit, working through our willing cooperation will see that … “His will may be done on this Earth as it is in Heaven”. (see underlined portion in the citation below)

“ For this reason also, since the day we heard of it (your faith in Christ), we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (By this you will see how by your abiding in loving obedience to Him…) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1: 9-14)

In conclusion brethren, I also pray that the Lord guide you and led you through His Spirit that we may all be one as we live out our lives in His Kingdom so that His Love may be made manifest through our unity in Christ Jesus. Amen and Amen.

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

Related Links …
# Prayer to receive the Holy Spirit

Reclaiming Our Legacy In Christ

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The Kingdom of God: Our Spiritual Inheritance

Sweet Yoke of Love

Be Reconciled with God

Releasing the Spirit Releasing the Spirit


( B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2017])

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