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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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Shall we then continue in sin that Grace may abound? (Rom. 6:15)

God forbid! (cf., Rom, 3:31; 6:2; 6:15; 7:7; KJV)

The King within us

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2Tim. 4:1-3)

Brothers and Sisters,

The signs of the times clearly indicate that we are indeed in the “Days of Noah” and the “Days of Lot” as indicated by Jesus in the Gospels (cf., Luke 17:16-28 ) and also in the “perilous times” as indicated by St. Paul to Timothy:

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.” (2 Tim. 3:1-9)

false_prophets_2I am posting this article because we all need to be made aware of the many false teachers and preachers in our midst who are twisting the Word of God to peddle their “gospels” of permissiveness, self-indulgenece, and prosperity as being  “enlightened” forms of understanding scripture.

Recognizing False “Gospels” Regarding Grace”

Amongst the many false deceptive messages being delivered today is that of a libertine form of “Grace” (a licentious grace) that teaches that, because of Christ’s atoning work on the Cross we are no longer under “law” and can live pretty much as we wish and be assured of our salvation. Since all of our sins have been paid for and since we have all been reconclled with God through Christ, the moral law, declared by God for all humanity is of no more consequence to us who consider ourselves to be “under Grace”.

This devious, anti-nomian concept (lawlessness) is attractive to many in today’s world because it is in line with the ego-centric, self-centered, free-wheeling spirit of the current generation, who abhors any constraint on their ability to live as they please and who are in the process of being conformed to the “world”.  It comes from a religious spirit that wants to put a fig leaf over their moral nakedness so that they may continue dabbling in the world system with it’s enticements, lusts, greed, and carnal excesses, without exacting any feelings of guilt. The intent of what is being taught is, of course, to attract uninstructed youth to fall into their snare by attempting to appease their consciences using selectively misinterpreted scriptures, out of context, telling them that “God’s Grace” has freed them to do whatever pleases them without losing their salvation – while all the while they are being used to satisfy the pride and greed of the false teachers, whose own spiritual lives are in tatters.

In the attempt to justify themselves the proponents of this deviation from the true purpose of Grace in our lives, teach that since God has reconciled us to himself in Christ it would be an act of unbelief to “repent” of our sins, since our sins have already been forgiven at the cross. In a previous post, “Be Reconciled to God” I provided a scriptural argument against this  erroneous position. In that article I point out that it is the apostle Paul, himself, who, after having proclaimed that God has “reconciled us to Himself”, is, in this same letter, he then exhorts the Colossian beleivers to “be reconciled to God” (Col.1: 21-23). Clearly indicating to us, that we, whom God has reconciled, also need to respond to His infinite act of Reconciling Love by an act of faith that activates in our renewed spirit the reconciliation He offers.  This act being our repentance.

Now that act of faith, is in effect, an act or word on our part, that acknowledges our godly sorrow, our need for reconciliation, and our willingness to receive God’s forgiveness – an act that, directly or indirectly, expresses repentance, on our part. Being keenly aware, that this act of faith is incited by God’s Grace and Love, as an act of gratitude and is NOT deemed by us as somehow earning a grace or favor that was freely provided to all humanity while we were yet sinners more than two millenia past.

Jesus:  Regarding the Gospel of Repentance

After His resurrection. Jesus gathered his disciples at an unscheduled prayer beakfast and tried to explain to them that what had happened in Jerusalem during His Passion was all contained in the scriptures, saying to them …

“…This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)

Quickly bring  a robe and put it on him ...In the parable of the prodigal son (cf.,Luke 15:11-32), Jesus, portrays very clearly how  the Grace of Reconciliation is received through a sincere act of repentance. Namely, when the son who has left the father’s house to “do his own thing” in a far-off land finds himself in a famine with nothing to eat and feeding pigs instead of himself, he, because of his circumstances, “comes to his senses” and says to himself “I will return to my father’s house”. And the father, who, holding nothing against him, has been lovingly waiting for his son, such that when sees him approaching he runs to him and embraces him, telling his servants to provide the son with a family robe and sandals while he places the ring of family authority on his finger.

In this parable,Jesus paints  an allegorical picture about how grace and repentance relate to one another! It is provided to us through scripture for our instruction to let us know how we are loved by the Father, without condemnation, and how we, in returning to Him, should respond to the unmerited Grace he showers upon us by accepting his embrace and the symbols of His love for us: the Robe, the sandals and the ring he places upon us,as unworthy as we are. But the story also tells us that when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and, although sensitive of our own unworthiness, we need to freely turn to the Lord without fear of condemnation, because we know in our hearts that He loves us and  will accept us as we are. (see also my article on “The Prodigals Amongst Us”)

Branches Bearing FruitIn another allegory, Jesus tells us that our relationship (fellowship) with Him should be like the branches to the Vine, that is,   in our attachment to Jesus. And, just like the branches, if we are to function and bring forth fruit, we must remain attached to the Vine. Otherwise, if we become detached (lose our  fellowship with Him) we risk being like dried up branches that must be cut off and burned (John 15:1-8). Our fellowship with Jesus is, of course, is the outcome or the purpose for the Grace of Reconciliation and implies  that this Grace, that comes through the Vine, must continuously  flow in our lives in order for us to remain attached to the Vine and  bear fruit for the Kingdom and the Glory of the Father. (see also my article on “Bearing Fruit Through Prayer”)

Through Jesus parables like these and through the teaching of the apostles in scripture, the case can be clearly established that this Grace of Reconciliation through Repentance is freely provided to us believers, not only to enter into fellowship with the Divine, but also in order to continue in and maintain that fellowship throughout our lives so that we may bear fruit!

The Apostle John; Regarding Fellowship, Sin, and Confession

John the Evangelist affirms this thesis when he says in His first epistle…

“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by 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, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1John 1:6-10)

And, in order to ease our discomfort, when we do sin, he says…

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.  (1John 2:1-6)

The Apostle Paul: Regarding Putting on the New Self after our Justification

The apostle Paul also make some clear statements regarding how to carry out our responsibility to “walk as Jesus walked’, in our loving response to the Grace of Reconciliation and Fellowship which we freely receive at our justification. Now, it must be clearly  understood, that this ability to maintain fellowship also emanates from the Grace of Reconciliation and reflects the work of the Holy Spiirt in us in conforming us to the Image of Christ. (Rom. 8:29)

From all of this, It is should be clear to us that when we sin by living by the flesh rather than the Spirit we begin to break out of our fellowship relationship with the Divine and the Holy Spirit, who is in us, works in us to help us recognize our failings, so that through the on going Grace of Reconciliation, we may be brought back into full fellowship with the Divine.

I challenge you to take seriously, these statements from the apostle Paul, who is sometimes misunderstood or misquoted on the subject of being “under Grace and not under law”…

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

CrossBy no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2)

Here also for your discernment, is  his exhortation to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:17-32) regarding the sin problem amongst (apparently) justified believers, and what Paul proposes they do …

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

To this, Paul, adds an important statement indicating that the intent of living a holy life after justifications is not to claim any gain on our part for His Magnificent and free provision of Grace, but to lovingly yield ourselves to Him in acknowledgment  and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of His Son for our salvation.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph 5:1-14)

What then is to be our response?

In conclusion brethren, in light of what I have just presented and in light of the darkness that is coming over this world, I think we all need to pray and meditate on these scriptures and, in discerning God’s will, we should ask ourselves:

<>”Have I arisen with Christ?” or am I just sliding along in life with one foot in the “world’ and the other foot in “church”?

<>”Have I truly awakened to the light of Christ and the Resurrection Life He brings us, or am I still stumbling along in the spiritual darkness of the world and its enticements?

<>Let us then awake and rise up, understanding that the full intent Grace that God provides is not merely  to “justify” us so that we can go to heaven, but to also give us the opportunity to yield ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit so that He may initiate the process of conforming our lives to the image of our master, Jesus. So that, being under His anointing for service, we may be filled with His Light and become envoys of His Light to this fallen world in which we live, for the Glory of His Name and for His Kingdom!

May God, our Father who loves us, and His Son who saved us, be praised for ever and ever. Amen!

Your Brother In Christ and Fellow Pilgrim … Bartimaeus

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

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Monstrance

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ ”. (1 peter 1: 13-16)

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  ( Romans 8:28-29)

My dear fellow Pilgrims,

Having trouble understanding and responding to our call to be Holy as He is Holy?

There are many challenges we lay Christians face if we want to grow spiritually
in our walk with Jesus. The first and foremost of these being, living out  the Holiness  to which we have been called. The only way given us is by yielding ourselves in obedience to the Holy Spirit and rendering Him our full cooperation so that “the Grace that is brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ” may be manifested in our lives.

Many of us, for instance, do not even understand what the “at revelation of Jesus Christ” refers to since most of us have never experienced such an occurrence. And if we do not comprehend this point how can we proceed to respond to our call to holiness?

jesus-along-the-sea-of-galilee-GoodSalt-pppas0009

Do not be anxious ….

Let us begin by attempting to understand the term “at the revelation of Jesus Christ” by recounting the revelation that Peter experienced in His walk with Christ, when Jesus asked His disciples, including Peter, “ … who do men say that I am?”

“… they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  “But what about you? Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”

… Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

… And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon  , because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  (Matt. 16:14-17)

Note that Jesus’ asked first asked them what the people in their religious culture thought about who He was.  He did this because, all of us, even today, initially base our assessment of Jesus on human understanding and tradition about who Jesus is, and NOT on what the Spirit of God is revealing personally to us. That is why, by asking the first question, Jesus was opening  their spirits to answer the next question: “… but who do YOU say that I am”?

In order to bring us to the same point, He asks us the same question. He wants us to meditate on His Word and go into our inner selves and assess the nature of who WE really think Jesus is? He wants us to distinguish beyond what the world or our culture thinks and what the Father in the Spirit is revealing to us, through His Word, about the divinity of His Son. And not only that, He wants us to testify in faith to the revelation about Jesus we find He has placed in us.

Yes! That is why when Peter proclaimed  that Jesus was “the Anointed one of God”, that Jesus told Him that the only way he could honestly make this statement was if it had been divinely revealed to him by the Father. And yes, it is the Father’s desire for us also — to reveal the person of His Son to us so that we may not only know about Him but KNOW Him personally was Our Lord and Savior and manifest our faith by verbally testifying to His Divinity.

Remember, also, what happened when the Samaritan woman at the well testified to her village that she had encountered the Messiah (cf., John 4:4-42). They believed her witness and believed in Jesus, but not from their own personal experience, but by her testimony. That is where most of us laity are with regards to “knowing” Jesus – indirect believers based on the witness of true believers who have received the grace of His revelation.

Nonetheless, second-hand faith is very important as it initiates our entry into the Kingdom. But its importance rests on what we do with this faith we with which we initially believe..

Notice that the Samaritan believers took that initial faith and sought Jesus for themselves. So that when they found Him they told the woman …“It is no longer because of your words that we believe,  for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4-42)

or, in our modern idiom the villagers response to the Samaritan Woman might be something like this …

“… now that we have encountered Him personally, we believe in our hearts not just because of your testimony but, mainly,  because we have heard His Word directed to each of us personally and directly so that now I KNOW spiritually that Jesus is not only the Savior of the world but that He is MY savior and MY Lord!”

That is what the Father desires for each of us – that we take the initial faith in the Good News that has been proclaimed to us in the Church and seek out Jesus personally so that we meet our Shepherd and experience Him and His  Word directly revealed in our spirits to the Glory of His Name. Praised be His Holy Name!

Holy-Spirit-Dove-small copy

The Light Shone in the Darkness

Understanding this, we are then better able to understand that our Holiness comes from the transformation that comes from “knowing” Jesus personally and our yielding completely to Him and His Lordship. And, doing so thus permits the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us that we  may be conformed to His Image, the image of His Holiness (Rom. 8:28-29)

And, of course, this transformation is based from our union with the Spirit of Christ that is in us from our conversion and Baptism. “Christ in us the Hope of Glory!”

But knowing this, you might now ask, how then do we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He might work in us to bring us to this Holiness in Him?

The answer is simple …

<> First, seek to know the Spirit of Jesus that is in you – “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”! (Colossians 1:26-28)

…’Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD… (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’  (Matt. 7:7)

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37)

“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

“Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.To the one who is victorious, I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne…”  (Revelation 3:19-21)

<> Then, you set yourself apart exclusively for the Father’s Work – that is, consecrate yourself, (offer yourself as a living Sacrifice) to the Father.

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

<> Finally, live out your life placing al your faith and trust in Him, and His Holiness will be made manifest in your lives for His Glory!

“So if 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 hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” (Col. 3:1-10)

<> And do not be afraid that your load is too heavy, for He Himself will be your Help.

OXEN-YOKE

Sweet Yoke of Love

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

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painting-picture-image-jesus-christ-love copyI urge you brothers and sisters, that, especially, this Lenten season, you turn your heart to Jesus and seek a personal communion with Him asking to grow deeper in your relationship with Him. Open the door to your hearts and let Him sup with you – then yield yourself fully to the Grace that flows from Him, the Living Water that will bring you a holy, renewed, and empowered Life In  Him! Praised be His Holy Name!

May the Lord Bless You in all that you dedicate to do In His Name!

Your Brother  and Fellow Pilgrim In Christ … Bartimaeus

Related Links

Behold, I stand at the Door and Knock

Sweet Yoke of Love

Dedicating our lives to Christ

Avoiding False Mysticism

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

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Our Father: It all begins with relationship

Our Father who art in Heaven

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

(Matt.6:7-13)

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My dear fellow pilgrims,

It all begins with relationship.

Only when we enter into the awareness that we are truly The Father’s Spiritual Children in Christ Jesus and enter into a personal relationship with the Divine can we begin to fully understand our inheritance in His Kingdom (cf., § Becoming Children of God). And that, through that understanding and the Divine Wisdom that comes with it, we may find our place and role in the here and now so that, through us, His Kingdom may indeed be manifested here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

For just like children of the flesh in this world who mature to fill distinct and varying roles and positions of responsibility, so too, we, God’s Spiritual Children, are purposed by Him to be His Arms of Love extended to the world – the world He created and redeemed so that He could manifest His Kingdom in their midst.

In His loving will He also has determined where and how are to serve Him and the spiritual gifts we will need to accomplish His will in this world.  That is why it is so important that we discern our individual calling and ask for His Holy Spirit to empower us to carry out that calling. But we cannot do this outside of a relationship with Jesus and the Father.

Lest we let this concept of being His instruments incorrectly exalt us, we must also be aware that this work is not to be accomplished by us, but by the Son of God who lives in us and works through us. He, and He alone, is the author and source of the work of the Kingdom. The only way we may participate in this work is through our complete surrender to Him and His Love. This surrender is not easy and is termed by Jesus as “ carrying your Cross”.  Believe me it is a difficult cup to drink from because requires us to die our own self-sufficient mentality and enter into a God-centered mentality – where we acknowledge to ourselves that, “without Him we can do nothing” (Jn.15:5)!

The Foundational Prayer for Discipleship  – The “Our Father”

That is why the prayer form that Jesus taught His disciples (cf., Matt.6:7-13) begins with the acknowledgement that God is “Our Father” and that we, as His Children, are totally dependent on Him and His Glory and power. A recognition that, although His Name, that is His Character and Person, is Holy and beyond the reach of any human rapprochement, He, through His Son, has breached the gap of holiness that separated us, so that we enter into a full and true relationship with him through His Son!

The prayer further states that, it is only through this relationship of obedience and love with Him, as Father, our source of life, provider, and sustainer, that we can be His instruments in bringing His Reign (Kingdom) into full manifestation in this world.

But of course, before we can be channels of His Love, His Reign must begin in us through our full surrender to Him and His Holy Spirit so that He might begin the work of His Kingdom in us!  The work of His Kingdom in us begins by His Spirit working in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son! Blessed be His Holy Name!

Recognizing that it is His work that must be accomplished, we ask for His daily sustenance and provision.  Although most of us take this request to mean “food for the table”, the reality is, that it is a request for His continual and daily spiritual empowerment, the infilling of His Spirit, to be able to carry out His Will. For us today, it refers to the living spiritual strength that is derived from communion with Christ in the Eucharist.

In the prayer we also recognize that our human failings against Love are a major impediment to the fulfillment of His Will and therefore ask for His forgiveness, in accord with our forgiveness of those who trespass against us.  In doing this we clear out anything in us that would impede His Will from being accomplished.

Recognizing, also, that the enemy will come against us through temptations to impede the Father’s Will from being completed, we also petition that He not permit any testing that goes beyond our ability to resist.

The reason this prayer, which we term “The Our Father”, is so important is because it is foundational to establishing the appropriate spiritual attitude of faith which underlies our ability to serve Him as His Children and fully committed disciples. That is why many have stated that this prayer really ought to have been named “The Disciples Prayer”.

If the problems of your life situation are creating impediments to your progress as a disciple, always keep in mind the admonition Jesus gave His disciples,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? … [S]eek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”.  (cf., Mat. t6:25,33)

Or, put in today’s modern dialect, “ Do not let the worries and concerns of everyday life deter you … your first priority must be to let God reign in your life so that you are always faithful to accomplish His Righteous Will, then you will find that the worldly concerns in your life will be resolved appropriately”.

The Necessity of Prayer

Once, when through faith in His Word and Prayer, you have entered into an intimate relationship with the Father through Jesus and deeply desire to follow Jesus in discipleship, you will find that your need for a deeper continuing prayer life increases.  Just as Jesus, spent most of his evenings or early mornings in prayer, so to we who are following Him, must do the same.  We will do so, not so much as an imposed devotional practice, but instead to fill our awareness of the increased spiritual need for His presence in our renewed lives.

As we go deeper into discipleship we will find that we will not be able to adequately deal with the events and situations which we are called to handle without our daily prayer encounters with Jesus and the Father. Once we begin our prayer encounters and see the results in our everyday lives, we will willingly seek out these payer times on our own – for we begin to understand that our continuous need to tap into the source of LIFE without which we cannot function spiritually.

First of all we need to remember, that it is only through the intimacy of prayer that we receive from Him the wisdom, knowledge, empowerment, and Love we will need in preparation for the next day’s events. Secondly, it is through meditative  prayer in union with His Inspired Word, that we continue to be taught by the Holy Spirit in order to be formed and grow spiritually and learn from our experiences. St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that “…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.”

Once we have entered into true discipleship we will find that we can no more do without daily prayer than we can do without food or water.

The Need for Discernment

One of the problems we face as Lay Disciples of Jesus, is that the modern church is not structured to properly assist lay people, who are not part of the “religious establishment”, to follow the personal path of discipleship the Lord is calling them to follow.  The modern church establishment does not expect lay people to enter into such individual callings.  The establishment expects that any one who has such a call to either enter a seminary to become a priest, deacon, or minister or to join some religious order. It is difficult to overcome the prejudices of the past that have placed lay Christians as passive , un-empowered, servants of the clergy, having no understanding of things spiritual.

As a result, until the Lord works to change the situation we must seek the Lord intensely for personal discernment and guidance for what the Lord wants of us each day– a discernment that goes beyond that of our calling – a discernment that leads us to hear the voice of the Head Shepherd, Jesus Our Lord! (Cf., § Hearing and Obeying His Voice)

It is only through hearing and living His Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit that we will be able to distinguish between our fleshly-driven instincts and the spiritual directives and revelations from Our Heavenly Shepherd. Praised be His Holy name!

Now, I don’t discount our need of our earthly shepherds because they are still the dispensers of the sacraments, especially those of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. It is just that some of them cannot fully comprehend where we Charismatics are, spiritually, making it difficult for them to provide in-depth spiritual guidance for us when they themselves have never experienced the fullness and spiritual gifts of the Spirit and, in many cases, even resist them.

I try to maintain good relations with all members of the clergy, but I usually feel them out before going into spiritual issues until I sense they are on the same page with me and with the Holy Spirit. I know its not their fault, its just that the depth of their spirituality varies depending on their seminary and life experiences especially if they have not been introduced to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

By the way, I expect that this spiritual lethargy that is still evident with some of our clergy will all be changing in the church of the new era we are entering, where the Spirit of God will overwhelm all Christians with His Glory and many of those who are now holding back will be surprisingly renewed in the Spirit. It will be a very difficult era for Christians and He is preparing us for those times when we will need to draw upon His power and strength to manifest His Kingdom on this Earth!

I must also mention that If you are struggling with discerning the Lord’s Will in your life, obedience to the Father is of the essence. If you yoke yourself to the Lord He will bring you though the times when you are being tested because of the fleshly baggage we all have to contend with.

Even the very smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion, and spending all of our time thinking about it will still never make it clear. Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment. This is humiliating; because when we are confused we know that the reason lies in the uncertain state of our mind. But when our natural power of sight is devoted and submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the very power by which we perceive God’s will, and our entire life is kept in simplicity.

Relationship is Everything

Finally brethren, in order to make clear the importance of our relationship with Jesus and the Father, let us recall the words of  Our Teacher when he told His disciples to …

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’  “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’  “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’  (Luke 13:24)

Yes, we also may claim a mundane familiarity with Him through your religious practice and even have worked signs and wonders in His name, but unless you personally “KNOW” Him, He will tell you when you come to His door: “depart from me you workers of iniquity, I do not KNOW you”.

Relationship, then, is everything, and without it our works for God become meaningless for entry into the Kingdom.

I pray brethren that the preceding discussion has been of help in encouraging you to move through the “narrow door” into a personal and private discipleship relationship with the Father through Jesus.  If you have that desire in your heart then you can be sure that the Holy Spirit placed it there. Pay heed, then, to that desire and seek the face of the Lord in prayer. If He placed it there He will confirm it and bring you to the open door to the Kingdom!

Baruch Ha Shem! Blessed be the Name!

Your Brother In Christ Jesus …. Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

Related Links

<> Sweet Yoke of Love

<> Husbands Love your Wives

<> Walking the Walk

<> Discerning the Spirit’s Call 

<>  Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying It

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Christ in Us is Our Hope of Glory  (… His Glory – Not ours)

CrossSt. Paul in exhorting the Colossians says: “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature [complete] in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.”  (Colossians 1:24-29 )*

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

true_repentanceOne of the obstacles we encounter within ourselves that hinders our spiritual growth is that of a spiritual inferiority complex – a weakness which derives from our lack of depth in truly understanding what God’s word tells us of what the Father has destined for us His adopted Children.  Namely, that He sent His Son not only to die for our sins and save us from eternal punishment, but foremost to recreate us spiritually so that each believer may be transformed inwardly into the likeness of Christ and act as His “agent” in our every day lives to bring forth the Glory of His Kingdom in this world.

It is as Paul says, that by Spirit-inspired preaching and teaching the Word of God he may present every man “complete in Christ’. This brethren, is what the Father desires for us, so that Jesus may be the first of many brethren, thus permitting us to act in His stead in bringing God’s Kingdom to manifestation in this world.

Here is what Jesus said regarding this matter:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13-16 )*

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His Kingdom is Near

Is it not clear then,that we are envisioned by God to be a city on a hill and a light to the nations, that we are to be spiritually transformed beings only awaiting  the stirring of our faith in order to begin our transformation to be molded into the image of Christ. Should we not then, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, rise to the occasion?  Why then do we hold back?

When I say we, I mean people like me, regular everyday “Lay People”. Now, it is my assumption that this topic is not news to those in religious orders or the priesthood. But knowing myself and other lay people like me, I can say that we have never been taught that all believers are included in Father’s desires to form us into the image of His Son, and that we all need to do is cooperate with God’s Spirit and surrender to Jesus completely, not only as savior, but as Lord, yielding our person completely to Him so the Spirit can begin conforming us into His image! Praised be His Holy Name!

Yes, I can understand why we are hindered, because I am in the same boat as all of you. I am a sinner and since encountering the Lord I have become extremely aware of my weaknesses and failures that move me to sin against God and my neighbor. It is this awareness that holds me back – with the question im my mind:”how can God use me”? Yet, because of Scripture, it is obvious that most of the people God Chose were certainly “not worthy”, nonetheless, because they yielded to Him and the Holy Spirit He not only used them but molded them to fulfill the assignments they were given. So it will be with me, as long as I obediently abide in Him in Faith and His Word abides in me! praised be His Holy Name!

In my case, because of my conversion experience and sincere repentance, I, by the grace of God have been strengthened in my will more and more to remove myself from my sinful responses and turn more and more of my life over to Jesus, my Lord and Savior, who intercedes with the Father for me and leads me along the path He desires for me. This happens because, as He told us, that since He overcame the World, when we surrender to His Spirit in us,we too, by his strength and inspiration can also overcome the World (if we remain in Him)!

One might ask, what is the scriptural basis for the assertion that “Christ in Us” is the doorway to “our “Hope of Glory”.

<> First of all, it is St. Paul that clarifies that out “hope” is in  God permitting our sharing in His Glory.

Results of Justification : Our Hope is in Sharing the Glory of God
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
(Romans 5:1-2 )

<> It is  also clear that only through our becoming a New Creation in Christ that we can have access to that sharing.

We who believe are a New Creation
So if anyone is in Christ, [he/she] is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17 )

Being a New Creation is what matters in order to be conformed to Christ
For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!  (Galatians 6:15 )

<> And how do we become a New Creation? – Through the Living and  Enduring Word God!

Obedience to God’s Word Brings you to the New Birth ( a New Creation)
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.  [ For] You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For
“All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
 … but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
[and] That word is the good news that was announced to you.
(1 Peter 1:22-25)

<> As His new creation we are predetermined to be Conformed to our Redeemer.

The Spirit then uses all the circumstances of our lives to transform us.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn of many brethren.” [… of those having His spiritual DNA]
(Romans 8:28-29 )

I don’t know how the Father’s purpose for us could be made clearer  than what is stated in the scriptures above, that is, that He plans for us to become spiritual descendants of His Son, and therefore also His Sons and Daughters in the the spirit.

When we commit ourselves to walk along the path of Discipleship to our Lord and Master, Jesus, we must always keep in mind that, as disciples, we are all predestined to be conformed unto Him so that He may be the Firstborn of many brethren. This means that in order to permit the Holy Spirit to continue His transforming work in us to form us into true, Spiritual “Brethren” of Jesus, we must willingly cooperate with God’s Grace by emptying ourselves of our self-willed approach to living for Christ and, instead, die to our own self-will and begin to permit the Spirit of Christ that is in us to operate sovereignly through us so that it is His Will and NOT ours is what is accomplished through us.  Or, as John the Baptist would say, the “I” in me must decrease so that the “HE” in me may increase.

Getting Started: Decide to Be His Disciple

The first step we must take in order to cooperate with God’s Grace is to “yoke” ourselves to Christ by making a free and sincere commitment of our will to take on his yoke by yielding to Him as “Lord” and “Master” of our lives. in so doing, we surrender our right to ourselves so that every aspect of our lives is placed under His Reign. This is the “cross” that Jesus said anyone who wishes to be His disciple must carry daily.

Of course, such a transition does not take place immediately, and without God’s Grace it would be a tortuous and seemingly impossible challenge. But, because of God’s mercy He provides us the Grace and strength to fulfill our commitment by being yoked to Jesus who submitted Himself to the Father. Remember what he told us, … “my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matt, 11:30) .

In case you may have not understood scripture properly, this is the same commitment that Jesus asked His disciples to make when the taught them the “Disciple’s Prayer,” (or what we call the “Lord’s Prayer) where the commitment part of it may be understood as, “… may you as my King, Reign In Me and Through Me, so that Your Will May be done today in this Earth as it is In Heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

I pray, brethren, that the words I have shared with you may cause you pray about them and ask the Lord to  indicate you what action, if any, He would like of you that you may strengthen  you walk with Him. Praised be His Holy Name!!

Your Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus.

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

PS:  The following are some additional items that may help you in making your decision:

<> A Quote from St.Ignatius:
“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.”

<> A prayer of personal commitment:
“Lord Jesus, I am deeply aware that my sins have separated me from you and from the eternal life which you have promised to those who believe. I also acknowledge that these sins impede me from fulfilling the Father’s purposes for me. I, therefore, repent of my sins and turn to you in faith for the salvation and forgiveness you won for me on the cross through the shedding of your blood even when I was yet a sinner and without merit before God.

In addition, I abandon my life to you totally, body soul, and spirit as a Living Sacrifice So that Your Spirit in me may be the driving force to let your Love work through me.  Come into my heart, be the Lord of my Life, as well as my Savior and my King.  Live in me and through me so that I can truly represent you in my service to others in your Name.” Amen.

<> Related Links                                                                                                                                                        Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart?

Cast Your Net on the Other Side!

Jesus, The Source of Living Water and Us!

<>*Note: all scriptural quotes are taken from the “New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition”.

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Concerning Spiritual Gifts

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

Opened Your Gifts Yet?

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed …”       (1 Cor 12: 1-3)


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In order for us, as believers, to cooperate with God’s Grace it is important to be informed about the “Spiritual Gifts” because it is through His Gifts that we are conformed into His Image to be channels of His Love.

In order to be properly informed, it must be noted that the Spiritual Gifts mentioned  by St. Paul in the letter to the Corinthians cited at the beginning of this post were in reference to the “gifts” that were manifested at “Pentecost” and recorded in the Book of Acts,

Acts 2: 1 “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”

The Empowerment Gifts: The Promise of the Father

These “gifts” which all 120 persons initially received at Pentecost are those which Jesus termed, “ the Promise of the Father”. A Promise that was made to Israel by the Prophet Joel … (cf., Joel 2:28-31).

This is the “Promise Of the Father” that Jesus referred to just before His Ascension, when He instructed His disciples as follows:

Acts 1: 4 “While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the Promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; “

The “Promise” manifested itself as spiritual gifts that could be observed and noted by the community and the outside world in which they were embedded.  It was the Lord’s purpose at the initiation of the Church to empower “all” its members to fulfill Jesus’ mission for evangelization of the world (ie.,the Great Commission) – a mission that could be accomplished only if each member received a share in the anointing  that was on Jesus.  That is the reason these gifts are sometimes termed “the Empowerment Gifts”.

Acts 1: “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus receives the Anointing

Jesus Baptized in the Spirit

The Gifts were basically the same spiritual gifts manifested by Jesus during His Ministry and they were the gifts passed on to His Church by Jesus, when, at His Ascension He told the disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit whom He will send to empower them to continue to carry out His mission to evangelize the world through them as His empowered representatives.

Here is what Peter told the crowd of 3000 regarding what had just happened at the Pentecost gathering, when they were amazed ay what was happening:

Peter Proclaims and Explains the Gifts

Beginning at Acts 2: 14 … “But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

This scripture then, refers to the foundational Spiritual Gifts that were manifested to 120 disciples, including the apostles and the initial 3000 converts at the Pentecost celebration described in the Book of Acts.

There are many levels of these gifts, but…
the foundational nine gifts of the Spirit are listed by Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter Twelve…

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
5 and there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord;
6 and there are varieties of manifestations,
           but it is the same God who empowers all of them in everyone.
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and
to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Now, in the scripture cited in the preface to this article, Paul was exhorting the Corinthian Christians , who were recent baptized converts from paganism. to be informed about the nature of these gifts of the Spirit, in order that the community could grow and function appropriately to fulfill God’s purposes for them. It is for this same reason, we also need to be properly informed of these Spiritual Gifts today. That is why in our study of  Scripture we should put appropriate emphasis on St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians as well as those to the Romans, Colossians, and Ephesians.

How The Sanctifying Gifts Relate to the Empowerment Gifts

Besides these foundational “Empowering Gifts” it must be emphasized that there are also another set of Spiritual Gifts that are termed, the “Sanctifying Gifts of the Spirit”. These gifts are the spiritual character and gifts of the Messiah as indicated by the verses in Isaiah 11…
1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The gifts mentioned in this scripture are sometimes termed, the “Sanctifying Gifts”, because they are qualities of character and virtue to which we are called to attain as the Holy Spirit sets us apart to be conformed to the Image of Christ, that is to sanctify us as we progress in our spiritual life in this world.

As you might well imagine, these also are NOT our gifts but, rather the graces and spiritual character of Christ Himself. These are the character traits that characterize our progress in being conformed to His image by the Holy Spirit. These set of graces is in accord to the statement made by John the Baptist ,,, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). That is, in order for “me” to grow spiritually into His image, the “I” in me must decrease through my “dying to self” so that His Inner Virtues and Character Traits may gradually grow and be manifested in me and through me.

Although the Sanctifying Gifts are not explicitly called out in the New Testament as “gifts”, they are alluded to indirectly as challenges we need to attain to in the growth of our inner man.  St. Paul does list some the “fruit” of these gifts on our personal character in his epistles, but one citation we remember especially is the one to the Galatians…

Gal 5:22 “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”

While the “Sanctifying Gifts” are clearly indicated by today’s church as being those gifts dealing with the spiritual growth of the individual person in the process of being conformed to the inner Spirit of Christ (cf., Rom 8:29) the “Empowerment Gifts” we described prior to this section are the gifts that are manifested by believers outwardly for the benefit of the community, and are those gifts which were received at Pentecost and termed, “the Promise of the Father”.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his treatise, “Summa Theologica”, clarifies the distinction between these two categories of Grace, namely, Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace. The Empowerment Gifts clearly pertaining to the latter. This distinction not only helps us to understand the Spiritual Gifts but also how they are to be manifested in our spiritually active Christian lives.

Another concept that helps us in our understanding is how these Gifts, which are really  Christ’s Gifts relate to the Image of “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”.

In being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), the first thing that must happen is that, as we proceed in the process, His self increases in us in proportion as we die to “self”. This is the process of Sanctification that begins to form our inner self into His Inner Self.

Think of it this way, just as he identified Himself with us and our sins at His baptism, so also we are identified with His Spirit at our conversion and baptism and thus acquire access to His Inner Spiritual Gifts or Sanctifying Gifts to permit us to be conformed into His Image. For if we are NOT “in Christ” none of this applies and we are still in our sins.

Also note that after Jesus accepted His commission at water baptism and identified Himself with us to bear our sins, then the Holy Spirit came upon Him so that He could be anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out His calling. Here is what Jesus testified of that process when He returned to His home town of Nazareth  …

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me...

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,  (Luke 4:18)

Thus in order for us who are baptized to share in His commission (ie., His Empowerment) with us, we must similarly receive our share of His anointing in order to carry out the role or purposes of the Father for us, who respond to His calling. This is why access to the Sacrament of Confirmation (ie., strengthening or empowerment) is provided us after our baptism. The only reason most of us don’t receive the Empowerment Gifts allocated to us, being that we are not properly informed about our access to them and thus our faith for these gifts remains dormant.

Before concluding, one of the final points that need to be clarified for us, as we proceed to enter into further study,  is that , in order for us to receive the Empowerment Gifts which are the gifts which enable us to function as envoys of Christ, under His anointing, the Sanctifying Gifts are a prerequisite.  And that satisfy that prerequisite, we must first identify spiritually with Christ and have His Spirit abide in us. For, as He told his disciples (and us), “… without me you can do Nothing”.

That Identification and New life by Abiding in Christ only comes when the Word of God leads us, through faith, to a sincere repentance and conversion leading to a reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, for as scripture says … “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  … So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6: 3,10 )

The reason we must be identified with Christ is that both sets of  Spiritual Gifts are NOT our gifts but a delegation of Christ’s spiritual gifts to us so that HE is the one that operates in us and through us bring us closer to His image, so that all the Glory is His and we are but channels of His Love and Mercy.

In Conclusion

I believe by now we have come to understand in distinguishing the two sets of gifts, that the Sanctifying Gifts are mainly demonstrated in our inner and personal character traits and the fruit of those traits, while the Empowerment gifts are designated to be manifested outwardly though us with the power of the Holy Spirit for the benefit and growth of the community.

This is why Paul, with the intent of building up the community, exhorts the already baptized  Corinthians to continue their growth in Christ by striving for the Empowerment Gifts .…“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the up the church” (1 Cor.14: 1-4 )

Praised Be His Holy Name!     Amen and Amen!

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My Brothers and sisters NOW is the time to act on the WORD and receive all that the Lord has provided for those who believe! May He reveal His Presence in you and may His Word burn in your hearts forever!

Baruch Ha Shem! Blessed be the Name!

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

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Related and Pertinent Links

Has Jesus Arisen In your Heart ? (Part 2)

Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart? (Part 3)

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

Cast Your Net on the Other Side!

The Promise of the Father (Part 2)

Jesus, The Source of Living Water and Us!

 

 

 

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Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart? 

 —- Are You Being Conformed into His Image ? (Part 1)

He Is Risen!

He Is Risen!

“… those whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom.8:29-30)

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We have just celebrated the solemnity of the Resurrection of Christ – a feast which, along with His crucifixion an burial are the keystones of the Christian Faith. However, in the practice of our faith, some of us tend to overlook the fact that the Resurrection took place on the Jewish feast of Firstfruits and that Jesus was indeed the first fruits of a new creation. You see, Jesus not only died to pay for the sins of humanity but also so that He might be the first among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). So that He, living in us and through us beleivers, might continue the work of bringing the Good News of God’s Kingdom here amongst the people of the world. He was leaving, but He was passing His anointing unto us so that we might continue His work.

In order to fulfill this, our role in this world, we need to be conformed to His image by the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:29) and yield ourselves to His rule so that we can be empowered to be His instruments in bring in forth the Kingdom. However, this cannot happen unless we, of our own free will, permit the Son of God to “arise in our hearts” so that we can experience His resurrection presence in us – only then can we be His partners in being instruments of the Father’s Will here on this earth!

Because the Father will not impose Himself on us, our salvation is NOT contingent on our decision to become His bondservants – it must be a free will decision of “agape” Love to give ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Father, in Jesus’ Name! (Rom. 12:1). Our decision will then allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to renew our minds and empower us for the work of the Kingdom and for the final transition to union with Him!

To begin this spiritual transformation the Holy Spirit begins by first awakening our spirits to His leadings – an awakening that can only be accomplished by Him, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus (a leader of the Sanhedrin). In essence, our spirits have to be re-born from above so that the Spirit of Christ may come into us. This, the Arising of Jesus in our hearts, is the first step in being conformed to His Image.

jesus_nicodemusNow there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn. 1:1-8)

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We ended this Lenten season with the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior from the dead and as the harbinger of our own spiritual transition that begins with our transition from unbelief to a Living Faith and a renewed Life in the spirit as Children of God – a renewed awareness, which permits you to sense the “wind” of the Spirit.

In this series of articles I will be discussing the various levels of transitions we must all go through in our journey to spiritual maturity as the Spirit Conforms us to the Image of Christ. Besides laying the groundwork for an understanding of the nature of these transformative stages, the first stage I will be discussing will be our coming to the awakening of our spirit. If you can sense the “wind” of the spirit then you have an awakened spirit and are beyond this first stage. If not, then you need to ask God to send His Holy Spirit to renew you.

We cannot live in this world without undergoing transitions – in fact, natural life, itself, is a process in which transitions are of the essence. What we don’t realize or sometimes take for granted is that the development of our spiritual life itself requires a series of transitions in order to mature our spiritual nature sufficiently so that we may enter into a true and fulfilling intimate living relationship with the Divine through Christ Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

We all are tripartite beings composed of body, soul, and spirit (1Thess. 5-23). Our body and soul are designed to permit us to interact with our natural and time constrained environment in order to be able to subsist and procreate to thus fulfill our natural role in this world. Our spirit, is, essentially, our inner sanctuary, designed to permit us to interact with our creator so that He may partner with us in the living out of our our lives, and thus be His instruments in bringing forth His will into this creation in our God-intended role for us.

However, as natural descendants of Adam, and victims of his rebellion against being ruled by God, we are born with an inactive spiritual connection to the Father – with an empty and desecrated sanctuary, so to speak. In this, our natural state, we are, of necessity, controlled by the physical and emotional necessities of the world around us as well as the forces of darkness which utilize our weakened state to foil the Father’s true purpose for the human race and, essentially, attempt to bring us to a final destruction.

Jesus, the Father’s Only Begotten Son, was sent not only to save us from our sins by satisfying God’s justice but to restore our spiritual nature to its original state before sin entered into human nature and thus reconnect us to the Father via the Holy Spirit and His Word. Because of sin, our human body is destined to return from the dust from which it came. But our soul and spirit are destined for a recreated body at the resurrection of the dead when Jesus returns – no longer as just our savior, but to judge the living and the dead, to determine where we will spend eternity.

Before that day comes, we who have believed in the Christ and the Good News of Salvation must pass through a series of spiritual transformations or transitions, not only to be saved but also so that we may be His instruments in bringing the same Good News to this fallen world. These transitions begin with the first stage: the re-birth of our spirits, just as Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born of water and the spirit” in order to enter into this stage of spiritual renewal.

From the scriptures we can identify at least three major stages of this transformation. The Holy Spirit whom the Father sent to us at the behest of His Son is God’s Agent of Grace and His Word to bring us through this process. I propose that the main stages where Grace intervenes in our spiritual formation to be as follows:

Stage 1 – Unbelief to a Living Faith and Spiritual Awakening

Stage 2 – Spiritual Awakening to Spiritual Empowerment and Consecration

Stage 3 – Spiritual Consecration to Spiritual Union With Christ

If the naming of these major stages surprises you, don’t worry, most people brought up in our traditional religious culture, as I was, would not be familiar with these terms. They are unfamiliar because our religious culture uses other terminology to express them. The reason is that our culture of “intellectual enlightenment” tends to avoid using the terms, “spirit” and “spiritual” – which are considered to be too theologically abstract for the common man.

For instance, in our cultural thinking the term “conversion” is considered as merely coming to a different intellectual understanding or assessment of certain philosophical or cultural tenets and the realignment of our lives to that renewed understanding. It cannot even conceive that the term, as used in scripture, refers NOT to an intellectual change of mind but of our response to hearing the Word of God in our “heart” or “spirit” thus evoking an understanding in us that tells us that we are not walking in harmony with God’s Spirit – a level of “spiritual awareness” that brings a deep desire in our hearts to repent and turn to follow His leading so that we can be in alignment to His will.

Now, About Stage 1

When Jesus told the crowds that “…. unless you are converted and turn [repent] you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5) He was not speaking about them accepting a new philosophy or theology but about something that had to occur in their “spirits”, not their minds through the Word preached to them – a spiritual impartation that would cause them to accept the Good News of Salvation that the Father was offering them through Jesus’ preaching and teaching.

It is true that sometimes a true conversion or “turning to God”” is preceded by an intellectual reassessment of what we believe, but that happens because our intellectual preconceptions are blocking what the Holy Spirit is telling our hearts or our spirit

Jesus Offers Living Water

Jesus Offers Living Water

As an example of this take the instance where Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman who came to the well to draw water, asking her to give Him a drink. She was taken aback that a Jewish man, especially a rabbi, would ask a foreign woman for a drink…

So Jesus [said to] her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (Jn 3:10)

The woman, of course, did not understand what Jesus was saying about “living water” in a “spiritual” way so she responded, just as we would, in a natural way, asking Jesus, “how are you going to get this water? You don’t have anything to draw water with?”

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn:3-13-14)

Now, the woman’s spiritual ears perked up and, sensing that what Jesus was referring to was “spiritual”. she said, … “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (Jn 3:15)

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (jn 3:16-18)

She now recognized “in her spirit” that Jesus was speaking from His spirit as a prophet of God and so, sensing an opportunity, tried to get Jesus to tell her about where God intended men to worship. But Jesus answered her:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know [from tradition] that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”(Jn 3:21-26)

Here Jesus, by direct revelation, makes it clear exactly who He is and that the Father desires for us to come before Him “in [a renewed] spirit and in truth”. Jesus came just so that we could have a reborn spirit so we could worship the Father as He desires to be worshipped. How many of us can say that we “know” that our worship is “in the spirit”? I, before my spirit awakened, a compliant baptized Christian, did not even know what being “in the spirit” was!

Now, for the Samaritan woman, the transition from unbelief to belief was completed when she understood “in her spirit” who Jesus was, so she immediately got up and went to give her witness to the villagers and…

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (Jn.3:39)

It is important to note the significance that, once awakened, the woman’s witness of her faith had on the villagers. Yes! Her faith was contagious! And, yes, the faith of the villagers was also connected them to the person of Jesus and who He was. However, their initial level of belief was still at the “human” initiation stage, a stage that was calling them to go further in their faith. It was an intermediate state that was inciting them to seek out Jesus for themselves. The Holy Spirit was drawing them to go further and experience and hear Jesus for themselves. In their curiosity the Holy Spirit drew them to seek Him personally and, when they did He preached and taught the Word of God to them and them several days. It is, at this point, after they had heard the WORD directly from Jesus …

They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (Jn3:42)

Just as the Word had to be heard directly from Jesus to be able to be received spiritually to activate their spirits, so also we who have heard the testimony of “tradition” must spiritually seek out Jesus for ourselves and hear the Word directly from Him in order to complete the first stage of transition from unbelief to belief an have the Risen Jesus present in our hearts (spirits). Praised be His Holy Name!!

In living out our faith however, we get stuck at the intermediate stage,” the testimony of tradition”, and never seek out Jesus for ourselves to activate our spiritual awareness. We don’t do it because we cannot comprehend that, “in faith” we can transcend our human circumstances and reach out to Him “in the spirit”- our reborn spirit that is NOT bound by the natural circumstances in which our physical self is embedded!

One of the reasons we don’t even try is because our religious culture is very cautious in teaching us about our newly awakened spiritual nature and what our spiritual legacy in Christ really is! And that legacy is that we now abide in HIM and HE in us in our spirits and that because of this we can take the next step in faith into spiritual waters and actually experience His presence and Hear His Voice in the here and now! Again, let us give praise to His Holy Name!

Remember the two disciples who, depressed by the circumstances of Jesus’ death, were on their way to a village called “Emmaus” when they encountered Jesus (without recognizing Him). In conversing with them He chided them, saying,

O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?” And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Lk 24:25-27)

As the day was ending they said to Him …

Unless you eat of my flesh and drink my blood...

Unless you eat of my flesh and drink my blood…

“… Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent”. And he went in to abide with them. And it came to pass, when he had sat down with them to meat, he took the bread and blessed; and breaking it he gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, “Was not our heart burning within us, while he spoke to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk 24:29-32)

Our religious initiation, again, tends to major in the doctrinal portion of catechesis and glosses over the “spiritual” portion also required so that, although new initiates are given the basic teachings as the church’s testimony of the necessary tenets of the Faith, they are not usually given any spiritual direction or incentive to seek out Jesus, personally, “in the spirit”, so that they too may recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, confirming His Word in their hearts and thus truly letting the Holy Spirit awaken their spirits through the Word.

Listen to what the Apostle Peter says to the church:

“… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you…”  (1 Ptr 1:14-25)

Here, Peter clearly indicates that it is the anointed preaching of the Good News, the Word of God, which awakens our spirit and brings it to a new life in Christ.

For those of you who have been baptized and have not yet completed this stage of your transition to a full awakening of your spirit, all you need to do is ….

“… ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

Once you have sincerely asked, in prayer, then partake of the Word in faith and it will be opened to you so that you also may hear the Word of the Good News with your “spiritual” ears and if you respond to that Word you will receive the grace of God for a ‘spiritual” awareness of His Presence in you – the beginning of an intimate personal relationship with Him!

Just as Jesus said, blessed are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 11:27-28)

My Brothers and sisters NOW is the time to act on the WORD and receive all that the Lord has provided for those who believe! May He reveal His Presence in you and may His Word burn in your hearts forever!

Baruch Ha Shem! Blessed be the Name!

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2016])

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Related and Pertinent Links

Has Jesus Arisen In your Heart ? (Part 2)

Has Jesus Arisen in Your Heart? (Part 3)

Praying Through the Passion of Christ

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

Cast Your Net on the Other Side!

Jesus, The Source of Living Water and Us!

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