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GoodShepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…” (John 10:14-15)

As astounding as it might appear, Jesus desires that we (His sheep) know him in the same way that the Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father.  More astounding yet is how few of us know that this is the level of deep relationship to which we, as Christians, are called.

All who call themselves Christians have received and believed the “Good News” that the Eternal Holy One, who created us, loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us that we might come into a relationship with Him as “Our Father”. What we sometimes have a hard time understanding and experiencing is that He also wants that relationship to be one that involves more than just believing that he is our Father but actually coming to such a personal relationship with Him that we actually “KNOW” Him as  Father.

Because of His transcendence, the person of God is by definition unknowable by us in our human state.  For this reason, God in demonstrating His magnificent love for us became flesh in the person of His Son so that through Jesus we might obtain the unachievable, namely a knowledge of Himself  through a relationship with His Son.

Once when challenged by the Pharisees as to His Father, Jesus answered, “…if you had known me you would have known my Father” (John 8:19)

Sincerely believing in Christ brings us to eternal life; knowing Him transforms us  through the concomitant personal self-denying relationship with Him. All this is not due to our efforts; it is accomplished by God’s grace – by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit moving in us through conversion and prayer. This is the essence and foundation for discipleship because it is only through such a sincere giving of ourselves in a loving relationship with Jesus that the Holy Spirit can mold us into the image of Christ to continue the works of Christ here on this Earth. All that is required is for us to unreservedly give ourselves over to Him.

Unfortunately not many of us expect to enter into such intimacy of relationship mainly because we never bridge the gap between ‘believing” and “knowing”. One of the main reasons is that our faith has not taken us beyond the intellectual confidence in what we believe to the next step which is an experiential “knowledge” of the person of Jesus through a living and personal relationship with Him through prayer.

Even Jesus’ disciples had trouble understanding that relationship with the Master was the doorway to a relationship with His Father. Phillip was speaking for the twelve when he asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, Show us the Father?” (John 14: 8-9) [emphasis mine].

He told them however that He would soon be leaving this world but that he would not leave them (or us) as orphans and that He would come to them by revealing himself to them in a new way – a way through which they would “know” He was in the Father and they in Him.  By this He was telling them that the relationship he wanted with them (and us through their testimony) was a relationship of such depth and intimacy that it would be like they were part of His person and He part of their persons in the same way as the abiding relationship He had with His Father! Now that is intimacy!

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also.  In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14: 19-20) [emphasis mine; notice the use of the  word “know” not just “believe”]

This new way of experiencing Jesus was not evident to Judas (not Judas Iscariot) who then asked how it is that He would reveal Himself to them but not to the world. Jesus indicated that the world would not be able to receive this revelation because it involved a love-derived obedience, which only those who believe in Him would receive.

If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:22-23) [emphasis mine]

Now here comes the hard part.  Many of us, including myself, tend to judge that relationship with Jesus and the Father by the depth of our devotional life However, John in His first epistle asks his readers to really test the effectiveness of that relationship to determine if they really KNOW the Father through the Son. That test goes beyond the devotional life of an individual.  It should not surprise us that the test is how well we express God’s Love through our daily lives. Listen to what John is saying:

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. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (1 John 2:3-11) [emphasis mine]

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (1 John 3:19)

Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1John 3:24)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1John 4:8)

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1John 4:13)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (1John 4:16)

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (1John 5:2)

After our initial conversion, our devotional life is important because it is through  the intimacy of prayer that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring the Father’s Kingdom of Love into this world. But if we do not act on the Love that the Holy Spirit infuses in us through the Word and prayer, we cannot bear fruit. And the tree that does not bear fruit is cut down[1]. The ultimate test of the effectiveness of God’s abiding presence in us is the fruit of love that we bear by being channels of His Love (John 15:1-8)[2].

Another hard fact we have to bear is that when we sin, and we all do, we break this fellowship, this intimacy of love, we have with the Father and the Son.  In fact, if we are truly in relationship with Him we feel this loss at once in our consciences and our souls are saddened with guilt and shame.  Everything in us calls out to be restored to fellowship with the Lord.   John also addresses this problem in his epistle. With respect to getting right with God he says:

“We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 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. 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.” (1 John 1:4- 2:2)

The good news for us is that not only has God the Father provided for the forgiveness of our sins after our initial conversion through confession and the continuing application of Jesus’ atonement, as indicated above, but He has also provided for reconciliation, the restoration of the intimate fellowship with Himself through the person of His Son.  I believe that, after repentance and confession, the Lord may move in us to this restoration in many ways, sometimes though the reconciliation in our personal relationships, sometimes through the pastoral care we receive in our churches, and sometimes through the counsel of the Holy Spirit in our devotional life. Whatever the case, our loving Father, looking at the sincerity of our repentance will always lead us to the place where the reconciliation with Him, already secured by the blood of Jesus, can be affirmed in us through faith.

In my reflections on His Word I have also come to believe that the main means He established for this spiritual restoration was through the ordinance of Holy Communion.  It is through this ordinance that Jesus told us that we are restored to the intimacy of His Abiding Presence in us.

‘Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:53-60)

And it is indeed, to some of us, a hard teaching, even today. However, I urge you not to reject it out of hand. Rather, in your personal fellowship time ask the Lord Himself as to what He meant by His own words. After all we have already heard that “… We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” and certainly this is one of His commands!

It is important that you hear it from Jesus directly so that you “know” in your heart the truth of His Words – not as something that you may question as coming from the traditions of man but as from the Word of God quickened in your hearts by the Holy Spirit!  It is a Word you need to act on in faith – and acting on this Word in faith will bring results!  I can attest to that!

One of my most memorable transforming experiences occurred on the last day of the spiritual retreat where I surrendered my life to Jesus and asked to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (May 10, 1975). This memorable event occurred as I participated in Holy Communion with my co-retreatants and His Words about His Flesh and His Blood resounded in my mind and in my spirit.

This worship and communion service was like none other I had ever experienced. Not because there was any significant external difference in the proceedings but because with my just-renewed spirit I was open to God’s Spirit, His Word, and His Presence in the worshipping community and in the reception of the communion elements (The Body and Blood of Jesus).

As a cradle liturgical Christian I was no stranger to the communion table. But what made this service so special was that I not only did I sense the stirring of God’s Spirit in me but I actually experienced “Holy Communion” itself.  In my renewed spirit I sensed that I was indeed in union not only with the Lord Himself but also with all those present as they their hearts in praise and worship before the Throne of Glory. Above all was the deep communion I sensed with the Spirit of Jesus as I, in faith, received the elements of bread and wine as His Body and His Blood!

It was a communion experience that lifted my spirit to a point that I thought I was indeed in heaven and before the Holy Presence.  From that point on in my life participation in the Eucharistic Ordinance changed from one of an obligatory and rote participation in what had become, for me, an overly familiar ritual to an opportunity to encounter Jesus anew, to renew and strengthen the presence of His Spirit within me, and to re-dedicate myself to truly serve others in His Name and with His Spirit.

It was an Emmaus experience[3] that I was graced with that day. For like those two disciples, it was in the breaking of the Bread that I became aware of His Presence in my life. An awareness that remains to this very day, as my heart burns within me every time I meditate on His Word.

It was the opening of a door to my spiritual journey into intimacy with the Lord. A journey where I would find out just how sinful and weak a person I really was, but with the consolation that my Redeemer was at my side, conversing with me, forgiving me, lifting me after every fall, covering me with His compassion and love; a journey where I learned from every experience (however good or bad) how to walk closer and closer to the Lord.  The Holy Spirit teaching and strengthening me as I stumbled on!  It is a journey I do not hope to complete in this life – a journey that will continue on to the next life – in His Presence!  Praised Be His Holy Name!

My usual meditation upon receiving the sacred elements is as follows:

Lord Jesus I thank you for giving yourself to us in this manner;

For opening the door to Abiding  Intimacy with You and the Father,

For being broken  for my wholeness and shedding your blood in a sacrificial death

so that I, in turn,  might become truly alive in You.

In receiving the Bread of Life I receive wholeness from Your brokenness.

And I dedicate this wholeness of body, soul, and spirit to you, Lord, so that through this gift

I may truly be an able servant to all to whom you have given me to serve..

In receiving Your Precious Blood Lord, I receive Your Spirit,

so that Your Life may permeate my being entirely – body, soul, and spirit,

so that everything  I say and do and think emanates from your presence within me.

O Lord, as I receive You, abide in me, Be my Lord, be my King, and be my God

so that I may truly serve others in Your Name, and for Your Glory.

May this be so, In Your holy Name!  Amen!

Your Brother In Christ … Bartimeaus

Recommended Link:

https://quietplace4prayer.wordpress.com/2009/09/06/jesus-the-source-of-living-water-and-us/

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-20019].


[1] It is not my intent to imply by this statement that our salvation depends on our works but that our ability to be God’s instruments in this world is greatly impeded when we do not act on the personally activated Word of God (rhema) that has been placed in our hearts. (see Matt 7:19)[2] See John 15:1-8

[3] Luke 24:30-32

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The Gospel of the Kingdom: Living Out The Word! 

          (In other words, Letting Christ Live Through us!)

We are Heirs to the Kingdom

(The Psalmist says:) “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee”. ( Ps 119:9-11)

“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word.” (Ps. 119:104-107)

 (Jesus says:) “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  (Matt. 7:24-27)

“As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  (Luke 11:27-28)

My Fellow Pilgrims in Christ,

It should be evident to you by now in your walk with the Lord just how essential the Word of Life is to your calling to follow Him.  Jesus told His Disciples: “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn..15:5) – and, since Jesus IS THE LIVING WORD of God made flesh, this truth may also be stated as: “Without  the Word of God you can do nothing (of spiritual value“).

Unfortunately, many who call themselves ‘Christians” today, are not faithful to that truth and have watered down the Word or deviate from it entirely in order to please our modern “politically correct ” society.  However, we who still honor the Word of God as it needs to be honored, must do more than merely state our position about the TRUTH of the WORD – we must “live it out” daily!  If we do not live out the Word in our lives we are building our “houses” on sand and, as Jesus said, The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

shipwreck-lying-on-the-rocks-in-the-breakers

We cannot, in fact, call ourselves Disciples of Christ, without living out the Word of God in every moment of our lives. Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me (John 8:28 ).

As His disciples we must also be able to sincerely state, ” I do nothing of myself, I only do what the Father, through the Holy Spirit, tells me to do”. In order to be, at this stage of discipleship, we must be in a day-to-day personal relationship with Jesus and guided by the Word every minute of our lives. The moment we start to deviate from what Jesus or the Father tells us through His Word we will stumble in our walk with Him and open ourselves to the deception and destruction of our souls by the enemy of our souls  – Satan, the Father of Lies.

When we do stumble, for we all do, and we are yoked to Jesus, He will quickly pick us up and help us recover with minimal impact (1 Jn. 1:9).  What we need to understand is that as fallible human beings we cannot attempt to accomplish this level commitment to “Live Out the Word” on our own. If we are truly yoked to Jesus, then, It is only through His Spirit in us that He accomplishes this, in us and through us. It is not of ourselves, so that no man may boast but rather it is of Grace through Faith in the Spirit of Christ that is in us!

Girls can do anything!

What obstacles, then, still hinder us?  Why is do we find it so difficult to live out the Word in our lives and thus truly be His disciples?

Sadly, my brethren, the answer is that the human “self” in us is the major obstacle to true discipleship. Even when we “try” to follow Him, without realizing it, we are doing the very opposite — just because it is our “self” that is doing the “trying”.  Now, don’t condemn yourself. Jesus did not come to condemn us He came to set us free from these foibles of ours. He came to bring us to the “Truth”, so that through understanding the Truth, in the Spirit, we could be set free to follow Him as a New Creation in Him and through Him!. His inspired Word is the “Truth” for He is the Word made flesh – and He and He alone can set us free so that the will of the Father may be accomplished through our lives – the only condition being, that we must deny our “old selves” and thus take up our cross DAILY in order to follow Him (Matt. 16:24).

Now, here is the hard part to understand. All of our lives we have been trained and taught to accomplish things in life out of our own self-directed efforts. In the world around us we are taught from early youth that we can do anything we set our sights on “through performance, ambition and hard work”. It is in fact the primary driving factor in most of the developing world and beyond. Because of this cultural conditioning we all grew up in, we injected these same ideals into the practice of our religion. It was thus natural for us to think that the best way we could honor God is by doing something “for” Him “through performance, ambition and hard work”. The problem is that when we enter into this type of self-directed effort we diminish its spiritual value because we derive our own personal glory from what we are doing, even though it is for a noble cause.

The “Good News of the Kingdom” or “Gospel” that Jesus proclaimed, however, was a Heaven-shaking pronouncement that was essentially telling all mankind that the Father was introducing to us a new way of living our humanity that would truly bring Him the Honor and Glory He desires from us, His children. Jesus termed this New Way of Living out our lives as, “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven”.  He further told us that our entry into this “Kingdom” was to begin in the “heart” of each of those who believed in Him and His proclamation, He further said, that what God, the Father wanted was for us to enter into a relationship with Him, through belief in Jesus, so that we could be filled with His Spirit and, that through that infilling, His Spirit would work in us and through us to accomplish His will here on earth as it is in Heaven by living out His Word!  In this way by, yielding to Him and His Spirit, it would be that He, the Godhead, would work through us to bring forth His Kingdom, instead of us trying to do “for” Him, that which, as humans, is really out of our reach.

The  “Good News of the Kingdom” Jesus proclaimed, was essentially telling us that the Father, being aware of our human incapacity to fully satisfy His desires to bring Him Honor and Worship, was bringing forth, through the sacrifice of His Son, a new epoch for Humanity wherein He Himself, in the person of His Son, would enter into us so that as His partners He would work in us and through us to bring forth His Kingdom in this world! Praised be His Holy Name!

That is why when His disciples asked Him about how to pray, He told them that the foundational prayer of discipleship (the “Our Father”) is to first acknowledge the Father for who He is and then to submit to Him by asking for Him to Reign over us so that through our obedience to Him (and His Word) His Will would be done by us and through us in this world (as it is in Heaven).

All that is required of us is to submit to “His Kingdom” or “His Reign” over us and to believe the Gospel, repenting in Faith, and yielding our “old selves” totally to Him so that He could give us a  “New Self” through which His Spirit could operate in this world. In this way, the impediment of the “old self”  “trying to do things for God” would be taken out of the way and a “New self”, conformed to the image of Christ would be placed in us, empowering us to do His Will, and only His Will, here on earth (as it is in Heaven).

Of course, yielding to Him, as King, involves yoking ourselves, spiritually, to Christ (Matt.11:28-30), so that the Spirit of Christ in us would bring all Honor and Glory to the Father through living out His Word in our lives. This is what the process of “discipleship” is intended to accomplish in us, so that, through obedience to His Word the renewal of our mind to be conformed to the mind of Christ (Rom. 8:29) would proceed and so that we become truly single-minded in devoting our all to Christ as a living sacrifice to the Father for the Glory of His Name!

Return to Jerusalem

Our problem as “Christians” today, is that, although we are all called to be Christ’s disciples, we have not all been fully successful in yielding to the Spirit and denying our “old selves” so that the Spirit of Christ can be released in us.  Instead we live out our lives with one foot in the flesh and the other in the spirit. This is what St. James termed, a “dual-minded man” (James. 1:7; 4:8). Yes, the “Good News” is sometimes not fully realized by us because it is “bad news” for our “old man” in the flesh, who doesn’t want to hear it. That is why the call to discipleship is being made again to all believing Christians – so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit we can truly assess whether we are being conformed to the world or to Christ. We are either in one state or the other – we cannot do both and be His disciples!

At The Cross

Remember, our “old man has been crucified with Christ and no longer has any power over us but it is up to us to affirm the freedom from sin that Christ won for us on the cross – it is up to us to renounce sin, which no longer has power over us and to put on the “New Man” in Christ so that He and He alone may live in us and through us so that yielded to Him in this manner He may bring forth His Kingdom in us and through us to the Glory of the Father!

This, brethren, is the Gospel of the Kingdom that Christ asked us to preach and which I, again, proclaim to you today so that you may assess your walk with Him.  Examine yourselves and crucify, therefore, your “old man” of the flesh and put on the “New Man” you are in Christ Jesus by surrendering yourself to Him as your King, Your Lord, and your Savior; obeying His Word and following the leadings of His Spirit!  Praised be His Holy Name!

Here are Paul the Apostle’s words exhorting us regarding this matter:

“…do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life [right now, in this world]. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him [and, indeed, are alive in Him], knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  (Rom 6:3-11)

Ask yourself now: Am I ready to strive for spiritual growth in Christ to the level that the apostle Paul set for himself?

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Also understand just what this striving entails as depicted by Paul’s exhortation to the Romans:

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  You, however, are controlled, not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom. 8:5-11)

“For the love of Christ urges us on (controls us), because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” (2Cor. 5:14-15)

Are you ready, no longer to live for yourself but for Him who died and was raised for you?  Pray about it.

If you would like to ask the Holy Spirit to help you rededicate yourself to Jesus so that you may be truly live out the inspired Word in faithfulness to the Gospel of the Kingdom, I refer you to the “Prayer Of Commitment” (see link  below).

If your motives are sincere, you CAN BE SURE that the Holy Spirit will work in you to bring you fully into the Kingdom, where Jesus will comfort and strengthen you personally and you will continue in His Rest!

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!

Your Fellow Pilgrim in Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019])

Recommended Links…

The Prayer of Commitment

Cast Your Net on the Other Side!

Sweet Yoke of Love

Regarding Spiritual Growth

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Praying in the Spirit

Praying In the Spirit

“… if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also. “ (1Cor.14:14 -15)

My Fellow Pilgrims,

There are several sayings of the Apostle Paul regarding “praying in the spirit” that I could quote to initiate the discussion on this subject, but I chose this one because it goes directly to the point – a point many of us would try to avoid. That is, that “praying in the spirit” involves praying in tongues and that when we pray in the spirit it is our “spirit” that is involved and that it is distinct from “praying with our minds”, that is, our soul. This distinction between soul and spirit is one many moderns seek to avoid.

Speaking or praying in tongues is one of the more controversial gifts of the Holy Spirit (as per, 1Cor. 12 ff) because many see praying in a language you don’t understand as a demeaning of our persons – especially our intellect. After all how can it be prayer at all if you don’t know what you are saying? How can spouting what appears to be a bunch of gibberish be called prayer? This mystery can only be understood if we properly understand that man has been endowed with a capability to transcend the natural – that capability is embedded in what scripture calls the “spirit” of man.

The main reason for our lack of understanding of this gift is that most of us Christians don’t believe or understand that God created us as a tri-partite being consisting of body, soul, and spirit. For most of us, the only levels of awareness we normally experience is at the body and soul level.  That is the awareness that come through our senses, our physical body and our intellect, thoughts, emotions, feelings and self-identity, that is, our soul. However there is within us, at the very center of our being a sense of awareness that is non-conceptual and non-verbal. This center of our beings is the where our conscience and our innermost unexpressed desires are formed and reside, it is what we might call “our secret place”, or what Jesus termed “our closet” in his sermon on the Mount. Paul also refers to it as our “inner man”. It is this place of inner awareness that the scriptures term “the heart of man” or “the spirit” of man (eg., Is. 57:15, Ezek. 18:31, Ezek. 36:26,  Ps.51:10, Heb. 4:12). It is at this level of awareness that we are enabled, by God to communicate with Him ”in the spirit”. This spiritual capability is there by God’s design so that He could, through this intimate sense of awareness, maintain a personal relationship with every individual human person. Because God is “spirit” it is only at this spirit-to-spirit level that we can commune with God. That is why Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that…

“… the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, however, this spirit-to-spirit connection with the Divine was broken, not only for them but for all their descendants, that is, humankind. So while we are still born with a spiritual sensitivity, that sensitivity is NOT attuned to the Divine, because our fallen nature is only attuned to the world and our own self-will and NOT to God’s will. So, it is in this sense that our spirit is termed “dead to God” and, thus, may only be revived by God Himself, because, ”only Spirit can beget spirit” (John 3:6).  For this reason, because of the Father’s love for us, His creation, He sent His beloved Son, Jesus, to pay the price for Adam’s sin and the sins of all humankind so that our spirits could be regenerated (1Ptr.1:23), thus enabling us to be restored to the relationship with the Divine for which we had originally been created, that is, to be His Children, to be formed into the image of His Son.

Without a renewed spirit to enable communion with the Father, not only is the sincerity of our worship hampered but our prayer life as well. That is why on several occasions Jesus rebuked the Scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in their observance of prayer and worship, saying to them …

“ You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, ….’” (Matt. 15:7-9)

Now, in order to function as a true child of God in the image of Christ, enabled for communion with the Father, we not only need a regenerated spirit but an empowered spirit as well. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus that …

“ … “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:5)

That is, that one needs to be converted and baptized in water in order to have a revived spirit and then you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to be empowered to share in Jesus’ ministry in this world. Jesus himself, although He was sinless, models this pathway for us in His baptism with water by John and His subsequent empowerment by the Holy Spirit. For our benefit, John the Baptist tells the seekers of his day that, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt:3:11)

In another place and in another setting, Jesus put it this way…

“Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matt. 9: 17)

So it is, brothers and sisters, that before we can be filled with the  Holy Spirit’s empowerment we need to have “new wineskins” – a renewed spirit in Christ.  Then, and only then, can we receive and hold “the New Wine”, the infilling of the Holy Spirit and His empowering gifts within us.

The empowerment with the Holy Spirit is what we receive with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This empowerment is manifested through the Spiritual Gifts summarized in 1Cor. 12. Among the gifts we receive, is the gift of praying in tongues or speaking in other tongues. This gift is what enables us to “pray in the spirit”

This spiritual empowerment is absolutely necessary for the church to carry on the ministry of Jesus. That is why he told His disciples, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49)

This empowerment by the Holy Spirit is the Promise of the Father (Acts 1:4) that was given to the Messiah and was than imparted by Him to His disciples at Pentecost and to all believers who have converted and been baptized in water. This is testified to us in the book of Acts when Peter preached to the astounded crowd after the Spirit had fallen upon them.  When they were convicted in heart by the message, they asked, “what then shall we do?”.  He told them: “… repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and [then] you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

In a later post I will go into more detail on all of the Empowerment Gifts of the Spirit (as distinguished form the Sanctifying Gifts on which I have already posted some articles). Right now the emphasis of this article is to advise you as to the importance of “praying in the spirit” and why there is such a need to accept and exercise this gift for our personal edification and for the good for the community.

Now the Apostle Paul said that he would prefer that everyone would prophesy as opposed to speaking in tongues.

“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 up-building and encouragement and consolation.

Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” ( 1 Cor 14;1-5)

The reason that he said this is because prophecy works directly to the building up of the Body of Christ and that was a more urgent objective to him, at that time, than the building up of the individual. However, in our modern culture today, If we neglect the spiritual growth of the individual, the community will also suffer because that neglected individual will not be able to contribute to the community if his or her spiritual growth and thus, the maturity of their gifts, is not at the stage where they can contribute meaningfully to the growth of the community.  In fact they may become a drag on the community because they may require more personal ministry than those who have matured and are better able to minister to others.

One of the reasons we lose many of our youth to the world today is exactly because their spirits have not been activated through praying in the spirit and, thus, sensing a spiritual emptiness in the rote expression of their religious traditions, they wander off into the world in a vain attempt to fill that vacuum in their spirits.

Much of this could be avoided if we introduced our children to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at an early age, especially the gift of “praying in the spirit”. For you see this gift continues the infilling process of the Holy Spirit in us, The more we pray in the spirit the more of the spirit we imbibe, bringing us to a greater spiritual maturity. This spiritual maturity begins to provide the infilling our spirit is seeking turning us closer and closer to the Divine.  It also permits us to enter into worship in a way that we could never experience at the soul level alone. For instance, John the Revelator was in alone in a cave on the island of Patmos on the Lord’s day worshipping “in the spirit” when he was caught up into Heaven and into the Sanctuary of God (Rev. 1:10)

Praying in the Spirit is usually manifested in a person’s private prayer closet but it may also come up in some of the smaller more cohesive prayer groups where the members all participate in prayer simultaneously as led by the Spirit and where the prayer in tongues (in the spirit) spontaneously erupts into singing in the spirit in praise of the Divine.  In such cases the gift also helps build up the community. The fruit of this type of prayer is the wisdom and love needed to appropriately exercise the other gifts within a community.

Now, speaking in tongues may manifest not only in personal prayer but it may also be the media whereby the Lord wishes to express a word of prophecy to the community. In such cases it is necessary that there be someone in the community to interpret so that it can be of benefit to all.  One is also free to ask the Holy Spirit to interpret their prayer language when praying in private.

One of the main reasons that individuals resist accepting this gift is the erroneous concept that you are going to be controlled by the Holy Spirit like a puppet. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Holy Spirit values your freedom even more than you do. You see the true agape Love He desires in you can only be derived from a free spirit – otherwise it is not agape Love. What the Holy Spirit is seeking is your freely given cooperation, in Love, so that He may inspire you to freely open yourself to what He is giving you. When you do, He gives you an uplift in your spirit that brings you a joy and peace that is beyond understanding and you also experience the intimacy of the presence of God in your hearts. It is this, His presence in you, which fills you and satisfies the longing of your spirit, for this, the purpose for which we were created.

If you really want to know what you are praying in the spirit, just ask the Holy Spirit for understanding. St, Paul, in fact, tells us that we can be praying in our understanding at the same time as we are praying in the spirit (1Cor. 14:14-15).  When you begin praying in the spirit you will find that you do not lose the capability to pray in the understanding at the same time. In fact, this should indicate to you that our spirit and our intellect are two distinct faculties that can operate independently.

Prayer, true prayer that reaches the heart of God, must come from the depths of a pure and sincere heart – a heart that resonates with the Love and Compassion that is in the Father’s Heart, The closer our prayer is to the desires of the Father’s heart the closer that prayer is to being answered. And, because, our access to the heart of God is through His Spirit that is in us, it is, when we pray in the spirit, that is, out of the depths of our heart, the sanctuary of His Spirit, that our innermost desires become one with His and our prayer is, de facto, “according to His Will”. Of course, if you are NOT “in Christ” you have no access to the throne of God or His sanctuary and need to get in Christ as quickly as possible, through confession, repentance, and conversion ( see Related Links).

Praying in the Spirit is the gift that permits us to enter into that sanctuary and where we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that our prayers are inspired by His Desires – The desires of the Living God.  In order to express these desires through our prayers in the purity they deserve, the Holy Spirit speaks through us in an unknown tongue so that our own intellect and human motives will not taint the pure prayer that comes from the heart of God through us.

The is why the Apostle says that those who speak in other tongues are not speaking so that other people may understand but they are speaking mysteries (praying secretly) to God (who does understand) (1Cor. 14:1-5).

The exercise of this gift permits the Holy Spirit to use us as His agents, through prayer, to ask for those things the Father desires to achieve in us and through us so that His will might be accomplished and His Kingdom might be manifested in this world.

Now, it is possible for us, using our human abilities, to pray the same prayer with our understanding, but because of our limitations it would take many hours of meditative prayer to get to the depths of our prayer needed to obtain the same level of purity and harmony with the Lord’s desires that praying in the spirit can achieve (see the article on St. Theresa and the Four Levels of Prayer in the related Links).

Thus, from its operation in us, we see that this gift is a supernatural tool that the Holy Spirit uses to permit our very common and otherwise very limited human nature to participate in bringing forth God’s Kingdom without requiring the human effort and prayer talent required to achieve the same level of prayer and communion with the Father’s heart.

We also understand from experience that the practice of this gift increases our spiritual awareness to the Father’s will and desires so that our own spiritual growth is enhanced through the continuous practice of this gift. Our increased maturity, in turn, will assist the community through the increased wisdom and love that flows through our service to others.

And, of course, we must never forget the Apostle’s admonition that, unless we practice the spiritual gifts out of unconditional, selfless agape love, it gains us nothing.

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13.1-3)

I pray brethren that this has been of benefit to you and an encouragement to receive and practice the gift of praying in the spirit!

May the Lord richly bless you as He takes you deeper in prayer through the gifts of His Holy Spirit!

Your brother in Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019])

RELATED LINKS

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

The Double Portion Anointing

The Kingdom of God: Our Inheritance

St. Theresa: Regarding Prayer

Releasing the Spirit

The Key Of Knowledge

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Jesus said “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.

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Abide in Me to Bear Fruit

He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)

My Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

One of the basic spiritual principles we everyday Christians tend to misunderstand God is how we think He wants us to serve Him. In our human way of thinking we think that we ought to serve Him by exhibiting the utmost of our earthly zeal and talents under His Command so that we, through our efforts, can produce the Fruit He wants for His Kingdom.

Wrong!

We Must Act In Jesus’ Name – Not ours!
The Father’s desire is that all of His creative purpose for His Kingdom be manifested through His Beloved Son, Jesus His Anointed One! And that is why He in his Loving Kindness determined that those who believe in His Son are given a New Life in His Spirit, so that we, his creatures, can be formed into His image and be true channels of His Love and blessings to this world, in HIS Name! Not ours!

Understanding this, that Jesus alone in the source of God’s grace to form His Kingdom. By transforming each of us into the image of His Son, we become branches of the Vine, His Son, through whom the Fruit of His Kingdom will manifest. As branches we act as extensions of Jesus himself.

That is why It is the Father’s intent that we be formed into such a relational and spiritual unity with His Son so that He will dwell in us in such a way that all we do for His Kingdom flows from Him and For Him, and so that His and His Alone is the Glory and Power, Forever and Ever. Amen

We can see then why the Father’s driving purposes for us is not only that we be conformed to the image of His Son but, foremost, His main purpose is that He wants us to be His spiritual partners in manifesting His Kingdom through bearing forth fruit through Christ Jesus. That is why He created us and predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son (cf., Rom. 8:28-30). All of what we call “Spiritual Growth” in our lives needs to be centered in this principle.

Becoming Fruitful Branches
Now, it is clear why most of us shy away from this understanding. We know we that although we are all sinners saved by grace, nonetheless we haven’t been taught too well what it takes to reach this ideal spiritual union with Christ so that we can become fruitful branches.

His Disciples did not understand this either. And that is why Jesus told them that in order to proceed to being a branch to the Vine you must reach a point in the heart-to heart relationship with Him that He terms “abiding in Him” in the same way that “He abides in you”.

Can you imagine the disciples really understanding what this meant. In fact, most of us today don’t either. Using the model of the vine we can begin to understand that we must have more than an earthly relationship with Him we must have a “spirit-to-spirit” relationship with Jesus in order to become as branch to Him. Also Jesus tells them that in order to enter into such a relationship you must be spiritually reborn and spiritually cleansed.

Here is what He told them:
“You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5)

Then, in order that it might be clear to them what the “mutual abiding” term meant He went further indicating that the intimate unity needed for the relationship must be based on “agape” Love (ie., a self denying, divinely inspired Love). A Love that was manifested through loving obedience to divine directives.

Here are His Words to them:
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

So from this we understand the KEY virtue of “Loving Obedience” through which the Holy Spirit works in us to form our mutually abiding union with Christ , namely, if you obey His directives just as He obeyed the Father’s directives then you can consider yourself as “abiding” in Him.

Then He also gave them the ultimate directive that would affirm their “Abiding in Him” …
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

Of course this transforming process that the Holy Spirit uses to conform us to the image of the Son begins in this life and continues through eternity. But “entry” requires us to give ourselves to Him as an act of our free will – sacrificing ourselves totally to Him (cf.,Rom. 12:1-2) out of Love for what He has done for us! As our relationship and union with Jesus grows we also come to know Him spiritually more and more such that we become more and more like Him and our will is brought into harmony with His will in us and for us!

The following excerpt from a book by Brian O’Leary SJ indicates how this virtue of Mutual Knowing endows our formation into His image:

Growing In Christ is Knowing Each Other More
All relationships that have any depth involve mutuality. As we desire that Jesus reveal himself to us, so too we reveal ourselves to Jesus. We share with him our own lives, our struggles and successes, the darkness of our doubts and the brightness of our hopes. We allow him to get to know us, to have an interior knowledge of us at the same time as we receive an interior knowledge of him. Our human need to be known by the other – or the divine Other – lies very deeply within us. It complements our desire to know the other, or the divine Other. This mutuality brings a wholeness to the loving relationship that we long for with God in Christ. As Ignatius wrote towards the end of the Spiritual Exercises: Love consists in a mutual communication between the two persons. That is, the one who loves gives and communicates to the beloved what he or she has, or a part of what the person has or can have; and the beloved in return does the same to the lover… Each shares with the other.
Excerpted from a book By Brian O’Leary SJ: GOD EVER GREATER: Exploring Ignatian Spirituality (p.129. )

Then, Jesus tells His Disciples, and us, how we are to relate to Him in our transformed mutual relationship as His Friends. (c.f., Ephesians 1:4 and Romans 8:29)
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” (John 15:14-17)

From Friends to Disciples
From this you can see, all believers are called to be Jesus’ friends and not only friends but disciples as well. As lay person we sometimes do not fully comprehend is what the call to discipleship entails. In our diminished view of ourselves, we think that one can only be a “disciple” if one enters into a religious vocation like a priest, brother or nun. We don’t understand that there is nothing keeping us from being “lay disciples” except our lack of knowledge of what the term “discipleship” means.

In fact it only takes prayer of sincere consecration to enter into discipleship even if you are married and have a job. St. Paul tells his congregation about how marriage itself can be enters as a form of discipleship. Here is what Paul told the Ephesians, “… Husbands Love your wives as Jesus Loved His Church and gave himself for Her” (Eph. 5:25). Thus if, as a husband, you give yourself to Christ and let Him rule over your married Life through His Love, you can truly enter into a form of discipleship that will truly bring forth fruit.

Now Jesus indicated to His disciples that before they entered into any commitment as disciples they needed to wait in Jerusalem for the “promise of the Father” (the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) before acting on their calling (Acts 1:4-5) . He also told them, “… not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:4-5)

So, also, if any desire to respond to our calling as “lay disciples” we need to first “wait” and meditate on the Word and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit to affirm our calling before taking action. Since the Lord told us that without Him we can do Nothing, we must understand that without His Empowerment, through the Holy Spirit we dare not enter into any spiritual commitment.

However, since Pentecost is near, this would be an excellent time to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit so that we might ask for His Consecration of our commitment at this time! Praised be His Holy Name!

Consecration
My Dear Pilgrims if in reading this posting you feel moved to make a commitment, I refer you first to another citation from the Apostle Paul that you should meditate on in order to affirm your call. In this exhortation Paul emphasizes the seriousness of our commitment, to offer our very life to the Father in loving response to the Sacrifice of His Son for our salvation, that he may anoint us as messengers of His Love to act in His Will and for His Glory, In Jesus Name!

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

In Conclusion
As we have put on the New Man in Christ, let us then continue in St. Paul’s advice …

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. (Col. 3:1-4)

(But for Now ..)
“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. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (Col. 3:5-11)

(In your new self …)
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

“And let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:12-17)

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May the Holy Spirit guide you as you act on your faith in the Name of Jesus, so that all you do to is dedicated to bring forth the Kingdom for the Glory of the Father.
Praised be the Name of Jesus!

Your Fellow Pilgrim, in Christ… Bartimaeus
© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

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Related Links…
Prayer of Commitment
Husbands Love Your Wives
Letter by Bishop Regarding Lay Missionary Discipleship                                                              Cast Your Net on the Other Side

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The Word of God Tells us that, “… they who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Is 40:31)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Col. 4:16-18)

Dear Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,
Sometimes we don’t fully understand the depth of Promises of God that are presented in scripture. For example the promise in the Word from Isaiah 40 quoted above includes the condition: “Those who wait upon the Lord…” that is sometimes misunderstood by casual readers to include everyone who has Faith in the Lord.

I wish that were true. I believe the Word that Isaiah proclaimed would be better understood if the translation were stated as…

“Those who rely totally in Faith upon the Lord…”

or, more fully expressed …

“Those who are spiritually sustained by faith in the Lord and place their total trust in His plans for their lives…”

Of course I am not a scripture scholar, I am just sharing with you how that scripture inspired me in after my conversion and yielding myself totally to the Lord. Yes, my life was transformed by Him entirely, but the circumstances of the world I was living in tried to overwhelm me and negate all that the Lord was doing in me. The charismatic community in which I was embedded came to my assistance immediately and supported me in prayer and the Word, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

It was they that proclaimed the Word that Jesus used to raise the faith of His disciples, “…take courage; I have overcome the world!” (Jn. 14:33). Since He was in me, through conversion and baptism, I needed to stand in faith, in that Word of encouragement in order for me to see the results of His Victory in my life. That was what the Word “waiting on the Lord” meant to me!

By God’s Grace I stood in steadfast obedience in my relationship with Him and Faith in His Word, and by His empowerment and Grace, over time, I received the graces and strength to overcome the circumstances in my life that were threatening to overpower me. Praised be his Holy Name!

It was Just like the scriptures stated…
“He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.” (Is. 40: 29-31)

And that is why Paul’s word of exhortation to the Corinthians also means so much to me and why I recommend it to those, who like me, are also “waiting on the Lord” to bring His Victory into their lives!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Col. 4:16-18)

In conclusion Brethren, I leave with you St. Paul’s blessing for his Colossian congregation… “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:11-14)

May the Holy Spirit guide you as you act on your faith in the Name of Jesus, so that all you do to is dedicated to bring forth the Kingdom for the Glory of the Father.

Praised be the Name of Jesus! … Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

Recommended Links
Responding to the Spirit’s Call
Regarding Spiritual Freedom
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Cost of Discipleship
Putting on God’s Armor

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Jesus therefore said to them,  “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him,  “No.”  And He said to them,  “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch.” They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter,  “It is the Lord.” And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish. (John 21:5-8)

My fellow Pilgrims,

Today Jesus is asking us, his aspiring disciples-in-training: “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”.

Putting the question to ourselves in today’s vernacular:  “Do you consider that, as a follower of Christ, you are being successful in reaching people for Christ and bringing them nearer to Him?

And, like the disciples, your answer, like most of us aspiring disciples, is also probably “No”, or “Not many”.

Now, in the incident after Jesus’ crucifixion and death cited above,  Peter was still so distressed, that it took John to remind Him that it was the Lord who was hailing them from the shore. And when He realized that it was truly the Lord calling He jumped out of the boat in response to His call.

John, realized it was the Lord because he remembered that when they first met Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he also told Peter, after a day of fruitless fishing, to do out to the deep and cast their nets on the other side and the net were so full of fish they could not draw them into the boat (Luke 5:4-11). When reminded by John, Peter came out of his depression and swam to shore to be with Jesus, whom he had denied, which is what was probably augmenting his state of depression.

So also for us today, we, who are attempting to serve the Lord with the intent of being His disciples, sometimes feel somewhat depressed when our wholehearted efforts are not producing results for His Kingdom and we don’t seem to understand why.  While in this state we also, like Peter, may not be listening to Jesus’ call and need to be nudged into hearing His call – His call, telling us to “fish on the other side of our boat”. “Our boat”  being our basic human nature.

About the Other Side of Our “Boat”

Yes, there are two sides to our human nature, our soulish, fleshly, self-centered side and our spiritual or God-centered side.  Before we are born of the Spirit, as mentioned in Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel, the only side we are aware of is our soulish or fleshly side. For, as Jesus tells Nicodemus (Jn.3), unless one is born again (spiritually revived), one cannot be sensitive to the Spirit of God. And I might add, from my own experience, even if you are born again, if you are not walking in the spirit, you will automatically revert back to the fleshly side of yourself.

For those of us in this state, the story cited gives a lesson that, because, when we are in service to the Lord, we always need be walking in the Spirit or be part of a discipleship team that will nudge us back to the Spirit side when we find ourselves drifting back to the fleshly side of our human boat.  When we attempt to serve the Lord from our fleshly side you may be sure that your efforts will not produce lasting spiritual results, no matter how well motivated you are. The Lord has told us that … “without Me you can do nothing [of spiritual value]” (John 15:5). Yes our self-willed service may produce earthly results that lift up our ego, but we cannot reach men’s hearts without the anointing of His Holy Spirit.

For this reason, as we begin our walk in discipleship, it is extremely important that we not only accept Christ as our Lord and Savior but also be Baptized in the Holy Spirit so that, through the Spirit and personal prayer we may learn to be fully sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit and thus permit Jesus to work in us and through us as we minister in His Name. In fact, that is what it means to minister “in His Name”!

All too often we get so carried away by the drive to “do something for God” on our own human initiative that we forget what the Lord wants is for us to yield ourselves to Him and be empowered by His Spirit so that He can work in us and through us, even in our moments of weakness, to bring forth His Purposes from our efforts. That is what is meant by learning to “cast our nets on the other side”.  He wants us to be His partners in bringing forth His Kingdom, while we in our human pride, mainly want to provide our services for the exaltation of our own egos rather than for His Glory.

Lay Discipleship  Today

The problem we, as lay disciples, have is that the Christian churches, as they are structured today, tend to ignore the need to train or make lay disciples at the spiritual depth needed for us to really function as disciples. It is my belief that the reason for this is that our modern Christian culture has downplayed the role of lay discipleship. The main emphasis for training has been placed on the education and training of clergy to minister and lead our churches and to send as missionaries to the world. Discipleship for the laity, if taught at all, is merely taught as an extension of the stewardship responsibilities and methods for “spiritualizing” our service to the community.

Yes, we lay people are taught about accountability to one another, and to live moral lives in accord with scripture and tradition but there is little training on spiritual discernment and how to totally yoke ourselves to Jesus so that we may faithfully follow Him in every situation in our lives. We also are lacking teaching on how to hear His Voice in our inner man, and how to sense and follow the leadings of the Spirit so that we can truly be obedient to the callings of God on our lives so that we may truly be His partners in bringing forth His Kingdom in this World.

In entering a path of discipleship, we the laity, need to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit in order to move forward in our spiritual growth. We need to do this even if our churches and parishes are not providing instruction at the depth of spirituality needed to be continuously in touch with the Spirit of God whose guidance we need in order to function as a disciple.

Formation of Disciples

It is my belief the primary reason the formation of intentional lay disciples is not  usually supported at most parishes/churches is the lack of resources and trained personnel to get these programs started (see my addendum on such resources). However, once  a lay discipleship program is started it can usually sustain itself – for that is part of the discipleship mission.

Another factor, in this lack of discipleship formation amongst the laity in some communities, may be due to the structure of our modern Christian culture, which has created an imagined division between clergy and laity that blandly assumes that a deep spiritual intimacy with the Godhead is beyond the capacity or need of the un-ordained, thus, unwittingly relegating us, laity, to some kind of second-class citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

Paul, in His letters to the Corinthians asks the question, “Can the Body of Christ be divided? Yet, today, we are not only divided into denominations but also into the false distinctions between religious professionals (clergy) and laity.  We need to understand that, although we all have distinct roles within the Body, we are all attached to one another and to the Head of the Body Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master. We, each of us, has received through our conversion and Baptism, the same capacity to interact with the Head as any other part of the Body. And, with the Baptism in the Spirit we are all given the spiritual gifts needed for us individually and in groups to contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ in this world. Without the empowerment gifts (charisms) promised by the Father and provided to all the believers at Pentecost, we cannot fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) to make disciples until, we, like the apostles, are empowered to be His witnesses, wherever we are throughout the world (Acts 1:4-8).

In addition, our current modern intellectually-based Christian culture impedes the laity from truly being formed as deeply spiritual disciples because of its emphasis that all our thoughts and actions be solely based on our “natural” capabilities and with disregard to anything involving the “supernatural”, that is, anything beyond our ability to experience with our senses or rationally contemplate with our minds. This places a constraint on believers such that we look askance at anything in the practice of our “Faith” that is beyond our “normal” human traits and abilities. For that reason many churches avoid attempting to teach on the empowering spiritual gifts (cf.,1Cor. 12) or charisms received by believers at Pentecost and beyond. Spiritual Gifts, which go well beyond our “natural” capabilities and involve a direct interaction with the Persons of the Godhead.

Because of these attitudes, it also becomes difficult for the teachers in our Christian culture to teach on how the Holy Spirit communicates with us since the a majority of the culture does not recognize that we have been created with a “spirit” component as well as with a “soul” and “body”. Our “spirit” component being the channel by which we may interact with the Divine, not only to receive direction but also to receive the power of the Divine in our very selves to be used for His Glory. Now, since, it is difficult to deny that there are and have been persons who have exhibited such supernatural traits, it was only natural that the culture, again, creates a separation that “defines” such people as “mystics”, who have been given such traits because of their “holiness”, so that it is made clear that such traits are out of the scope of normal and should not be sought by the “unholy” laity.

Since we are all embedded in such a culture it is not difficult to understand why the reception of the “empowerment gifts” (cf. 1 Cor. 12)) is not promulgated or celebrated on the feast of Pentecost and why formation of lay intentional disciples, who require training in the use of these gifts in order to be fully effective, is something that our churches are not very anxious to take up.

What Can be Done?

As a result, we laity must also realize that we also have contributed to our own disenfranchisement by accepting and taking a passive role in acceding to our cultural impediments and not seeking the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual charisms to which we are entitled, regardless of our ordained status or lack thereof. Once we begin to understand the Word of God that promises all believers the empowerment to be His witnesses and we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39), then, and only then, will He begin to work in us to realize the true discipleship potential of every believer by fully conforming us to the image of Christ so that we can begin to truly be of service to the Father for the building up of His Kingdom. Praised  be His Holy Name!

So,  if you hear the Spirit calling you to follow Jesus as an intentional disciple, do not hesitate, commit yourself to Jesus right where you are and, in prayer,  ask Him to lead you along the narrow path. Pray that the Holy Spirit inspire the Word of God so that it will enter your heart and  open its meaning and its truth to your spirit. Do not let any of your circumstances or other persons prevent you. He is Knocking at the Door, open the door to your heart and let Him In to sup with you.  If you do this He will begin to work in your circumstances and your relationships so  that you can begin your discipleship right then and there.  He will lead you and  instruct you step by step and if you stumble he will pick you up and take you to the next step. Place yourself entirely in His Hands; He will mold you and take you to where He wants you, where you will partner with Him in bringing forth is Kingdom,. He is, after all not only your Teacher, but also your Master, your Shepherd, your Savior, Your King and your God … and, above all, your Friend! Praised be His Holy Name!

Initially, when we set out on our own private formation as intentional disciples, we may be loners, who in attempting to use our gifts in a community that has not yet experienced the power of the Spirit, will experience some form of rejection or distancing from the community – a rejection that may seem at first painful – but a rejection that, because we are acting in obedience to Jesus’ calling in our lives, our efforts will eventually be redeemed and bring forth fruit for the Glory of His Name!. Blessed be the Name!

Of course, I would hope we all have come to a personal encounter with Jesus, but how many of us have yet to encounter the person of the Holy Spirit and received His empowering charisms, without which we literally cannot fully function as God’s emissaries to our families, to our community, and to the world? And, even more important, how many of us have entered into the deep, intimate prayer relationship with the Father, that we need to really worship Him in Spirit and in Truth? In order to be true disciples of the Lord and walk in the spirit it essential that learn how to release the Holy Spiirt in us so that we may truly operate at these levels of intimacy with Our Shepherd and His Father.

Always keep in mind that a large part of our problems as laity stem from the fact that, to some degree or other, we are all afraid of yielding to the Holy Spirit in our lives.  A basically misplaced fear, that emanates from the fact that most of our churches do not place a high priority on teaching us about interacting with the person of the Holy Spirit, His desire to fill us with His Love, the Empowerment Gifts He provides to work through us, His gentle approach to working with us, and, how through our cooperation with His Grace we can bring His Blessings to the entire Body.

In saying all this, I am not trying to place blame on our church leaders because I understand that they are in the same “human” boat as we are, and, that since many of them, though devoted to Christ, have not yet experienced the person and power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives, we should, therefore, not expect them to be able to teach us about the leading of the Spirit and the charisms. Instead, as part of our discipleship, we need to lift them and our churches in prayer to God for an all-encompassing spiritual revival among us all, and, at the same time, turn to our Head Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, to lead us and guide us until such a time as our churches catch up to where the Spirit is leading all those of us who have opened their hearts to “cast our nets on the other side” of our human boats.

Listen to what the Apostle John wrote regarding the inner anointing we have received through the Holy Spirit to teach us individually as we walk along the way of the Spirit:

“And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”  (1 John 2:27)

In closing, let me conclude with this exhortation by our fellow pilgrim, St. Paul, regarding walking on “the other side”, that is, in the Spirit!

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”        (Gal 5: 24-25)

May the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you do to bring forth the Kingdom for the Glory of the Father.

Praised be the Name of Jesus! …   Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

(For your benefit I have referenced a Siena Institiute Blog that will provide more information about Sherry Weddell, her books on “Intentional Discipleship” and the Siena Institute)

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Disciple-Making Resources For Catholics:

In order to inform you, I bring to your attention, a discipleship movement in the Catholic Church that I am sure will assist you in furthering your calling into a deeper discipleship relationship with Jesus and, as result receive the empowerment, you need to serve your local parish or diocese. Sherry Anne Weddel and Fr. Michael Sweeny, O.P. initiated this movement, represented by the Catherine of Siena Institute for the purpose of promoting the formation of “Intentional Disciples” within the parish structure. Their Mission Statement follows:

“The Catherine of Siena Institute (CSI) is an affiliated ministry of the Western Dominican Province dedicated to equipping parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics for the sake of their mission to the world. The Institute provides innovative resources and programming that are faithful to the teaching of the Church and will enable parishes to become lively and dynamic centers of evangelization and formation.   Since our founding in 1997, we have worked with over 65,000 lay, religious, and ordained Catholics in hundreds of parishes in 100 (arch)dioceses on 5 continents.

“The Church clearly teaches that all of the baptized are called by Christ to proclaim his Gospel in the world. Although the Church teaches that “Formation is not the privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all.” (Christifideles Laici, 63) parishes rarely attempt or are equipped to provide a formation that prepares Catholics for so great a mission. We seek to bridge the gap between the Church’s vision for the laity and the reality of the current evangelization and formation practices and structures in our parishes, which are the only contact that 98% of Catholics have with the Church.”    (http://www.centerforrenewal.org/Catherine_of_Siena.html)

Sherry Weddel’s Latest Book: Forming Intentional Disciples”

(see Our Sunday Visitor Books at:  https://search.catholiccompany.com/search?w=Sherry%20Weddel)

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Recommended Articles for Aspiring Disciples:

Releasing the Spirit 


Responding to the Spirit’s Call


The Kingdom of God: Our Spiritual Inheritance


Reclaiming Our Legacy In Christ


Hearing God’s Voice, and Obeying It


The Promise of the Father (Part 1)


The Promise of the Father (Part 2)


Sanctifying Gifts (Part 1)


Sanctifying Gifts (Part 2)


The Empowerment Gifts (Part 1)


The Empowerment Gifts (Part 2)

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Jesus_carrying_the_cross

The Way of True Discipleship

Losing Your Life for His sake…

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?… (Matt:16:24-26)

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

My Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

One of the greatest obstacles we christians face in living the true christian life is our own “persona” or “soul”. Yes, even the most dedicated and devoted believer has to struggle with his or her “persona” every day of their lives because our persona is essentially more responsive to our “flesh” than to the Spirit, and it is the “flesh” that keeps us from truly “walking” in the Spirit. This is the “cross” that we as disciples of Christ must carry daily. And especially during Lent.

With the help and graces of the Holy Spirit we can usually come to a level of self control that permits us to grow spiritually step by step in our walk with Jesus. This is the process of transformation the Holy Spirit uses to gradually conform us to the image of “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”.

“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.…” (Rom. 8: 28-30)

It must be said, however, that cooperating with the Holy Spirit in our transformation is a continuous struggle throughout or lives. Our main problem is that our fleshly persona is drawn completely to the ways of the world from our very beginnings. The Church attempts to provide us, through our priests and our parents, the ambience of holiness and grace, derived from the Word, the sacraments and devotions, needed by families to draw us away from the temptations of the “world, the flesh and the devil”. But alas not all of us are open to respond or receive the graces provided and thus become conformed to the world and NOT to Jesus, Our Lord!

The Season of Lent evolved in the Church specifically to provide its members with a structured approach to strengthening its members spiritually to not only resist the “World the Flesh and the Devil”, but to restore the integrity and union of our spirits with that of Christ himself. For without His Spirit empowering us to holiness we can accomplish nothing spiritual out of our own zeal and energy. (see John 15:4-6).

In order to fully cooperate with the Spirit of God in our spiritual renewal it must be based on a full free will offering of ourselves to Almighty God.

The Apostle Paul who also went through a severe struggle with his own persona exhorts us as to the type of consecration required of us to cooperate with the Spirit of God in His desire to conform us to the Spirit of His Divine Son, who already dwells in us through Baptism.

Seek the Spirtual Renewal of Our Minds

Finding our True Self

This is what Paul proclaims to the new Roman Christians the path to consecrating ourselves to God’s Plan for us:

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

As you read about Paul’s life in the New Testament writings you see that, as Saul (Paul’s original name) pursued Jesus’ followers to Damascus the Lord took him off his “high” horse and brought him to conversion at the hands of Ananias in Damascus. Saul was so impacted by his encounter with Jesus that he immediately began to preach and proclaim the Gospel in the Damascus area. However, because of his own “persona” he was basically operating under his own religious zeal (now converted). As a result he caused such a tumult in Damascus that the Christians there had to rescue him and take him out of the city for his own safety! (see Acts 9:9-23).

For this reason, as Paul later explains the Lord took him on a long “retreat” to Arabia (see Gal.1:15-17) where the Holy Spirit brought his conversion to a conclusion and gave him the revelations he needed to wholly surrender his hyper-self to Jesus and let Him be His Lord and His God! That is why Paul was later able say: “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me and through me” (Gal.2:20).

The same happens to some of us in order become fully Christian – we have to take retreat and empty ourselves of our old “persona” behind and let the Spirit fill us with the Spirit of Jesus through our consecration to Him.

It is as John the Baptist said, “I must decrease [so that] He may increase” (John 3:30). That is why in lent our main intent should be that through prayer and fasting we depose the control of our fleshly persona and ask the Spirit of Christ to take dominion of our hearts so that He may conform us to His Spirit.

Now some modernists place psychological objections to the terminology “denying our self” or losing our self”. What we believers need to understand is that we are NOT diminishing our mental health by denying our selves but, on the contrary, we are replacing our “old self” or “old man” with the “New Man” we are in Christ Jesus.

In Conclusion Brethren …

I leave you with the hope that this Lenten Season you heed St. Paul’s exhortation to the Romans to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in His Spirit and with the strength of character which He alone can provide”!

“11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13: 11-14)

May the Lord Bless you as you turn to Him for wisdom and strength …

Your Fellow Pilgrim In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2019]

Related Links that will assist you…
as you turn to Him in Repentance & Faith this Lent….

<> A Heart Rending Experience

<> A Litany of Humility

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