Author Archives: Kim Reisman

The Power To Do by Kimberly Reisman

Scripture Focus:

Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper; he was at dinner when a woman came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the ointment on his head. Some who were there said to one another indignantly, “Why this waste of ointment? Ointment like this could have been sold for over three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor;” and they were angry with her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? What she has done for me is one of the good works. You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what was in her power to do: she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout all the world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.” (Mark 14:3-9, The Jerusalem Bible)

 

Last month we focused on discovering God’s created purpose for our lives – our Kingdom niche. Integral to that process is the issue of power. If we’re to gain a sense of God’s plan, we must also gain a sense of our power. We may not always feel it, but God has given each of us inner power – the ability to achieve purpose. History has shown society’s tendency to try to take aware our sense of power – sometimes by deception, sometimes by sheer force. Yet God has given us a gift of power, and recognizing it is crucial to finding our Kingdom niche.

Discerning our inner power enables us to act boldly in the present as we seek to faithfully follow Jesus. As we exercise our power in the present, we’re also able to worry less about the future, knowing that God is guiding that future. Helen Bruch Pearson describes the connection between our inner power and our daily lives in her reflections about the witness of Scripture. She writes, “The voices of my unnamed sisters from long ago in the Gospel have taught me to be less anxious about tomorrow when I have done what is in my power to do today.” [1]

Do what you have the power to do today. Even after all the years since reading Pearson’s book, that phrase has stuck with me. It comes from the story about the woman who anointed Jesus with oil, our theme Scripture for this month. This woman acted boldly. She entered a gathering to which she had not been invited. She broke the rigid social constraints and protocol that restricted women’s behavior during that time in history. She asserted herself enough to touch and anoint Jesus without asking. She realized somehow that the time to do something for Jesus was quickly passing. If she was to act in any way, she had to act now. But what could she do? She was only a woman, with little or no power of her own. But as Jesus said, she did what was in her power to do; “she poured a senseless amount of precious perfumed ointment of Jesus’ head.” [2]

Each of us – women and men – has the power to do something – something that is uniquely ours to do. We may not be able to do very much, or we may be able to do a great deal. The amount is irrelevant. God asks only that we do what we have the power to do.

The good news is that our power is always magnified by God’s power. Our inner power, which is itself a gift from God, is augmented by God’s own power. When I had been in ministry only a few years, I attended an evangelism conference. It was a powerful experience. I was surrounded by talented people who were doing exciting things for God. The conference closed with dynamic worship that ended in a time of group prayer with people spontaneously offering their prayers aloud.

As more people prayed, I had the intense feeling of God’s presence – not just in the service but within me. I realized what I was currently doing was not all that God had in store for me. As the praying continued the spiritual depth in the room overwhelmed me. I felt completely out of my league and overcome by an intense feeling of unworthiness and inability. I felt utterly ill-equipped to do what I felt God was calling me to do – reach out to non-Christians and nurture the spirits of newcomers to the faith.

In that moment I was ready to abandon the entire thing: I wanted to get out of that room as quickly as I could. But then I felt the full weight of God’s power on me; I couldn’t move. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t budge; I had to sit down.

With people standing and praying all around me, I heard God’s word to me, “None of that matters. You may be ill-equipped. I know you do not have all the ability. But none of that matters. You will do what you are able, and I will do the rest. I am your source of power and strength. It is not you who is working; it is me working through you.”

As time has passed, the power and truth of God’s words have become clear. My ministry has unfolded in ways that have affirmed God’s power to work through me. I am doing what I am able; and God continues to be faithful in doing the rest.

We all have a life purpose, created by God especially for us. God has been crafting it for you since you were born, wiring you in a particular way, giving you special gifts and talents. Following Jesus is about receiving the guidance we need, and doing what we have the power to do. When we’re open to that, we receive God’s power to sustain and strengthen us. In this way we’re able to make strong connections between our faith and our daily lives, act on those connections, and find the niche in the Kingdom that only we can fill.

As you pray and fast this month, remember that the scope of our abilities is always magnified by God’s power. There is always room for God to use us to do great and tremendous things – things that we never thought we could do. Those great things, however, are often composed of many smaller things, things that are in our power to do.

My prayer for you this month is that you would begin to see the way your current activities fit into the larger work of God. That you would come to discover the way God desires to use all the “small” things that comprise your daily life as part of his overall Kingdom plan. And that as you follow Jesus, you would indeed, do what you have the power to do.

 

 

 

[1] Helen Bruch Pearson, Do What You Have the Power to Do: Studies of Six New Testament Women, Upper Room Books, 1992, p12.

[2] Pearson, p46.

Our Kingdom Niche by Kim Reisman

Scripture focus:

The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it! (John 14:12-14, NLT)

 

I believe God has a plan for each of us. Not some sort of cosmic predestination or fate. A uniquely created purpose, an individual destiny, a divine destiny – divine because God created it for us. Our created purpose or destiny is the reason God designed each of us so carefully, with special gifts and talents. Discovering what that created purpose is should be a primary goal as we follow Jesus. Without an understanding of our created purpose, without a sense of why God wired us the way God did and gave us the talents and gifts that God did, we will continually struggle with the connections between our faith and daily lives. We will have no basis for understanding God’s plan in connecting our faith with the activities that go on around us day after day. Jesus promised that we would do greater things even than he did. We will never be able to fully claim that promise for ourselves if we lack an understanding of what our purpose within God’s kingdom actually is. We must discover our Kingdom niche.

An important first step in this process of discovery is to examine the gifts and talents that God has given us. It can sometimes be difficult to identify our particular “gifts,” but be assured, all of us have talents and gifts. What we often miss as we try to identify our gifts is one of the clearest signs – enjoyment. The things we enjoy are frequently connected to the areas in which we have talent.

My experience with writing is an easy example of this. I love to write and am also fairly good at it. Yet, at one time I believed that to be able to use my writing in ministry would be “too good to be true.” One of the tragedies of our current age is that we have lost a sense of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. I certainly missed it when I dismissed my enjoyment of writing rather than recognizing that enjoyment as the working of the Holy Spirit urging me to take something that I did well and use it for God’s purpose. I probably would have been content to privately enjoy my writing if a colleague had not suggested that quite possibly God had blessed me with a love of writing precisely because God wanted me to use it as part of my ministry. What an eye opener that was! Using my writing as part of my ministry had seemed like a luxury, when actually it was a necessary part of the way God intended to use me.

God has blessed each of us with a unique assortment of talents. God has given you a love for something because God desires that you use that something as part of God’s overall Kingdom work. When we develop an understanding of how God has gifted us, we gain insight into our divine destiny – our Kingdom niche. We’re better able to see what needs to be done to exercise those gifts as a deliberate part of our created purpose. For some of us that might mean moving into territory that makes us uncomfortable, or undertaking challenges that enable us to develop our abilities more fully. For all of us though, it never means taking on commitments that do not suit us.

I have a dear friend who wanted to sing in the choir at his church. He came to rehearsals and was warmly welcomed. After a few weeks, however, he realized that he just is not, and probably never will be, a singer. He decided that the choir was probably not a part of his overall Kingdom niche. Now he teaches a high school Sunday school class – something he does very well and really enjoys.

Jesus promised that we would do even greater things than he did. As you pray and fast this month, open yourself to the movement of the Holy Spirit to make you more aware of your gifts and talents. Maybe you need to spend some time thinking about your giftedness. Create a list, beginning with the things you enjoy. Focus on one of the abilities that you have listed. How might you use this gift for God?

Through this process, I pray that you would become more and more aware of your own gifts and talents and open yourself to God’s power to use them. I pray as well that having done that, your faith and your daily life will become intimately connected as God uses you for Kingdom work.

Christ at the Center by Kim Reisman

Scripture focus:

Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light…Let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you. (Romans 13:12, 14, NLT)

 

Last month we focused on the way in which justice undergirds our faith because it is an attribute of God. This month, I want to focus on temperance. Just as biblical justice expands and deepens the classical notion of justice, so it is with the temperance of Scripture. It expands and deepens classical temperance, which the Greeks understood as “nothing overmuch.”

The virtue of temperance has gotten a bad rap over the years, but it is simply the proper ordering of what is good within our natures. Rather than attempting to eliminate our natural inclinations, temperance seeks to order them, thus producing a well-ordered soul, a well-balanced self, and a well-proportioned life.

Plato viewed temperance as a rational ordering of the soul that kept it free.The opposite of temperance then is intemperance or imbalance in which the soul is not free but in bondage to a particular aspect of its nature. This bondage can occur in two ways. Part of the self can rule the whole – we see this in situations of addiction. Or, the whole self can become fragmented, pulled apart by the excess of many things.

Temperance is valuable as we seek to connect our faith to our daily lives. We’re confronted on an almost-daily basis with choices about how we will live our lives and the role faith will play in them. As we make these decisions, temperance protects us from being dominated by only one part of our whole selves. It keeps the drive to succeed in our careers in check and thus avoids excessive conflicts at home. It guards us from believing we need to be everything for our families to find personal fulfillment. Temperance protects us from the excess of many things by enabling us to avoid filling our lives with too many competing demands that can lead to a loss of balance because we can no longer find our center.

Temperate followers of Jesus know themselves. They recognize what’s important and can set priorities and goals. When we’re temperate, we understand the idea of delayed gratification and are willing to make sacrifices for what we want. Temperate people make wise judgements about what to do and not to do as they seek to order their souls.

Biblical temperance is about finding balance within ourselves, but more importantly, it’s about being centered – centered on Christ. Again, there is a deepening of the classical notion. It’s not enough that the soul is well-ordered; it is to be well-ordered toward love – the love of God and the love of our neighbor. The well-ordered soul that results from temperance isn’t for our own benefit, even though we certainly do gain from it. It’s for the sake of God and neighbor. The Workbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit explains it this way:

In classical Greek thinking, the mind conquers all problems; thus, the root of evil is ignorance. Reason is what saves us; therefore, temperance is the rational ordering that comes through the exercise of the mind. Christian temperance is, on the surface, quite similar; but it has a completely different foundation. The biblical notion of temperance asserts that it is not ignorance but sin, that distortion of our heart, that is the root of evil. Reason alone is unable to save us. Reason can fix ignorance, but it cannot fix sin. Only Christ can fix sin. Therefore, it is not reason that produces temperance, but the Holy Spirit that indwells us when we come into relationship with Jesus Christ. Temperance, then, is the living of a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered life. (1)

This is the crucial point when it comes to following Jesus and connecting our faith to our daily lives. As Christians, we claim Christ as the center of our lives. We look to him to provide order for our souls, for “when Christ is the Lord of our lives, nothing else can be; when Christ is not the Lord of our lives, anything and everything else will be.” (2) When Christ is at the center of our lives, we’re able to live temperately, with balance and order within our souls. We’re able to organize our lives toward love of God and neighbor, making decisions that are right for us and connecting our faith in visible and tangible ways to our everyday lives.

As you pray and fast this month, reflect on the ways in which intemperance might be entering your life. Is there an area of your life that is dominating and blocking you from experiencing balance and a well-ordered soul? I pray that as you place Christ more and more at the center of your life, you would be able to live by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit at each turn of your day.

 

 

 

(1) Maxie Dunnam and Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, The Workbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit, Upper Room Books, 1998, p71

(2) TheWorkbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit, p71

Hearing and Doing by Kim Reisman

Scripture focus:

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing. (James 1:22-25, NRSV)

 

Though we rest our faith solidly on God’s gift of grace, in our Scripture for this month, James rightly points out the importance of the way we conduct our lives. Last month, we discussed the concept of bearing fruit because of our relationship with God – fruit that takes the form of action in our lives, the visible ways we live out our faith. The details of that action will vary for each of us, but because we are Christians, there are several foundational elements that should ground the activity of our lives and be common to all of us. Those foundational elements are often referred to as the cardinal virtues. They are wisdom, courage, justice, temperance, faith, hope, and love.

This month, I want to focus on justice. Our world is experiencing a crisis of justice. All over the world, people are hurt or killed because of the color of their skin, the type of religion they practice, or simply because they’re women. People are denied work or even abandoned because they’re old. Children are neglected, poor people are ignored, many of us live with a deep distrust of those who are different from ourselves.

Isaiah understood our situation. Israel was experiencing a similar crisis of justice that prompted Isaiah to cry out:

No wonder we are in darkness when we expected light. No wonder we are walking in the gloom. No wonder we grope like blind people and stumble along. Even at brightest noontime, we fall down as though it were dark … We look for justice, but it is nowhere to be found…Truth falls dead in the streets, and fairness has been outlawed. Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who tries to live a godly life is soon attacked. (Isaiah 59:9-11, 14-15, NLT)

In its classic sense, justice is simply giving each person his or her due. This is the understanding of justice that our modern ideas come from. It begins with the individual and has a very legalistic emphasis. Biblical justice, on the other hand, is much more complex. It connects with how we relate to others, what we value, and the priorities we set. Justice undergirds our faith, not because it’s an important virtue of civil society, but because it is an attribute of God. That’s why it must ground our actions as we live out our faith, because to ignore the cry of those suffering injustice is to ignore the cry of God.

Where classical justice is individualistic and legalistic, biblical justice is relational and intimately connected to righteousness. Righteousness focuses on the power of God that sets things right and heals relationships, communities, nations, and the world:

Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed.” (Isaiah 56:1, NKJV)

Classical justice focuses solely on external factors such as how individuals exist within society. Righteousness goes a step further and adds an internal dimension which emphasizes our relationship with God.

To live in ways that people can see that we understand the true meaning of righteousness, we must always begin with ourselves. The social dimension of righteousness only becomes a reality when people take personal righteousness seriously. When we commit ourselves to certain values and become doers of the Word rather than just hearers, those values emanate outward from us to the world and the power of God’s righteousness works not only in us but also through us – to heal relationships, communities, and the world.

The prophet Amos had an amazing vision where justice will “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24, NRSV) The virtue of justice isn’t meant to be a trickle but an ever-flowing steam. It’s not meant to occur in short bursts but to roll down continuously.

The rolling waters of justice depend on our commitment to personal righteousness. We become the ever-flowing stream when we live out the Ten Commandments, when we treat others the way we want them to treat us, when we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That’s when we become the ever-flowing stream, that God’s righteousness can be seen in our world.

Personal righteousness is at the heart of Amos’s vision of justice. It’s at the heart of following Jesus and growing in our knowledge of God. Proverbs 21:3 says, “The Lord is more pleased when we do what is just and right that when we give him sacrifices.” (NLT) In secular society we often speak about ‘getting justice,’ but the Bible talks about ‘doing justice.’ We ‘do justice’ when we work to set things right or maintain what is already right. That type of activity involves both our personal and our communal lives and enables us to be not only hearers of the Word, but doers also.

As you pray and fast this month, I encourage you to reflect on your understanding of justice. Are you more interesting in getting justice or doing justice? I pray that your pattern of prayer and fasting would lead you to watch for opportunities to do justice and that you would take advantage of those opportunities to act.

Bearing Fruit by Kim Reisman

Scripture focus:

Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants, day and night they think about his law. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3, NLT)

 

I believe that as Christians we can do things that indicate to the world that God is at the center of our lives and that we take the witness of Scripture seriously in the choices that we make and the commitments we undertake. These actions make up our moral life. For Christians, there should be little, if any, difference between our “moral”life and our everyday life. The moral values that ground the Christian faith should permeate every aspect of our lives. The Psalms liken this kind of life to trees planted along a riverbank, bearing fruit year after year. That’s a wonderful metaphor for what our lives look like when God is at the center.

I love to garden. I enjoy flowerbeds and containers filled with blooms. Unfortunately, my prowess with indoor plants lags greatly behind my outdoor capabilities. Thankfully I’ve improved substantially and can now actually keep a plant alive within my home.

I have a friend, Phyllis, who, unlike me, has a wonderful green thumb, particularly when it comes to house plants. At any given time you can enter her home and there will be violets, cactus, and other plants, beautifully healthy, many with scads of blossoms. I recall seeing a lovely Christmas cactus in full bloom in her living room. I was amazed because I had a cactus just like it, but without the blooms. I didn’t even realize it could bloom, because mine had never had a single blossom.

Ever since seeing the beauty of Phyllis’s cactus, I have been disappointed in my own. It’s not that my cactus is unattractive. It’s actually quite pretty – a lovely deep green and very healthy. But it has never truly achieved its purpose – it has never bloomed. And thus, every time I look at it, I feel a sense of disappointment.

We were meant to bear fruit in our spiritual lives – not just interior fruit as our faith deepens, but external fruit, fruit that shows itself in the way that we live. If we develop our faith in such away that we are healthy and our spiritual lives are like my cactus, “not unattractive” but have never born fruit or blossoms, there will always be an underlying sense of disappointment. We will not have achieved our entire purpose. James was pointing us toward this truth when he asked, “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?” (James 1:14, NLT)

We are at our best when we have God’s Word ever before us and live in ways that reflect that. When we “delight in doing everything the Lord wants,” we too become “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail.”

As you pray and fast this month, reflect on the fruit you are bearing as you journey in faith. What actions make your faith visible to others? How might your faith life bear more fruit? What would you have to change to become more fruitful in your spiritual life? I pray that as you reflect, you will discover more and more ways to put your faith into action.

Praying From The Heart by Kim Reisman

Scripture focus:

And so they reached Jericho. Later, as Jesus and his disciples left town, a great crowd was following. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road as Jesus was going by. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus from Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Be quiet!” some of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said, “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “Teacher,” the blind man said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way. Your faith has healed you.” And instantly the blind man could see! Then he followed Jesus down the road. (Mark 10:46-52, NLT)

 

Prayer is a powerful and productive force in our lives. It allows us to join with God in working not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others. The reverse is true as well. Prayer invites God to join with us in the unfolding of our lives and the lives of those around us. Unfortunately, we often overlook prayer as a connection to God and a source of direction and strength. Instead, we operate as though we were on our own.

It’s certainly true that God isn’t some cosmic waiter standing ready to jump at our beck and call. Our relationship with God is not one where we stand with power and look either across or down at God, making demands at every turn of our whim or fancy. Yet, as we appropriately lift our eyes to God, we will find God waiting with loving anticipation for us to pour out our deepest desires and dreams to him. Even more, we will discover that God longs to respond to those desires and dreams as well.

In The Life of Christian Devotion, William Law wrote,

 

All outward power that we exercise in the things about us is but as a shadow in comparison of that inward power that resides in our will, imagination, and desires… Our desire is not only thus powerful and productive of real effects, but it is always alive, always working and creating in us… And here lies the ground of the great efficacy of prayer, which when it is the prayer of the heart, the prayer of faith, has a kindling and creating power, and forms and transforms the soul into every thing that its desires reach after… It opens, extends, and moves that in us which has its being and motion in and with the divine nature, and so brings us into real union and communion with God.*

 

Law’s language can be difficult, but his message is simple. When we are connected to God through prayer, our wills, our imaginations, our desires can have powerful results. Prayer is a creating power that, when in communion with God, forms and transform us. God desires to answer the prayers of our hearts.

The world would have us believe that we are left to our own devices, with little power beyond ourselves. Society encourages us to look within ourselves. The message is that there is no truth outside our own personal experience or opinion and that should be enough to guide us. Social media encourages us to look to popular culture, to influencers and celebrities for answers to life’s difficult questions. They are the ones who can tell us how to manage the competing demands and commitments of daily life or guide us in determining how our faith fits the larger picture of our lives. The reality, however, is that the ultimate power to face all those issues is right before us, quietly waiting to be invited into the discussion.

When Jesus encountered people in his ministry, frequently he ask them, “What do you want?” Only when they responded with the prayer of their heart – “Teacher, I want to see!” – did he act on their desire. Jesus assured us that God knows our needs before we even ask; and yet, that knowledge never preempts the asking process. If we long to know God, we must be willing to tell God exactly that – I want to know you. Only then we will encounter the kindling and creating power of prayer that will not only draw us into communion with God but will also open us to God’s transforming energy in our lives.

As you pray and fast this month, I encourage you to reflect on the prayers of your heart. I pray that you will make those prayers known to God remembering that when we are connected to God through prayer, our wills, our imaginations, and our desires can have powerful results. Channel that power in the coming days.

 

 

 

*William Law, The Life of Christian Devotion, Abingdon; pp 85-86

Creating The Yet To Be by Kim Reisman

Scripture focus:

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it! (John 14:13-14, NLT)

 

Very soon we will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. This transformative, mind-boggling, life-altering event points us to the future that God has planned for us and reminds us that we follow a God who brings dead things back to life and makes all things new.

This is tremendous news on its own, but there’s more! Through prayer, each of us is given the opportunity to participate in this productive, creative work of God. Prayer is the “shaping power of the future” [1] – the force God places at our disposal so that we might join God in creating what is yet to be.

Science has always fascinated me. I don’t always understand, but I’m always in awe of the many mysteries of the universe. One area that I find intriguing is quantum mechanics, the study of subatomic interactions. Researchers in this field theorize and offer evidence that the world does not come into being until a mind interacts with it. They have conducted experiments in which measuring the spin of one subatomic particle has, oddly enough, caused a twin particle miles away to have the opposite spin! It’s as though the observer is creating reality.

An equally mind-blowing finding comes from research in quantum physics where particles have been discovered that take on properties in direct proportion to the expectations of the people watching them. Though I can’t comprehend the full meaning of that discovery, it brings to my mind the image of millions of creative particles floating in our universe, each awaiting our direct instruction.

Years ago, Oscar Osorio was a drug-addicted, violent criminal in Villa Hermosa, Colombia. Oscar had grown up poor, resorting to stealing when he was still a young boy. He graduated to drug dealing, armed robbery, and violence. By the time he was in his late twenties, he had been in and out of jail numerous times, including Bellavista National Jail, which was one of the most dangerous prisons in the world at that time. One day, as he was sleeping off a drug binge that had left him lying on a sheet of cardboard for three days in a semiconscious stupor, he encountered pastor Jairo Chalarca. As Pastor Jairo passed Oscar, he said, “Jesus loves you and he wants to change your life.” Somehow those words penetrated Oscar’s drug-clouded head and he looked up. Chalarca began talking with him about the plans God had for him, plans far greater than sleeping on cardboard on the street, plans that had yet to be. He invited Oscar to church. Surprisingly, Oscar got up and followed him and as he listened to Pastor Jairo preach that day, Oscar wept for the first time in years. He felt himself begin to change. He heard Chalarca say, “Jesus Christ knows you. He knows exactly what condition you are in. If you come to know Christ, he will raise you up. He will change your life. If you want to meet Christ today, come forward and we will pray with you.

Oscar went to the front of the church and told Pastor Jairo he wanted the life he was speaking of, he wanted to know Jesus. Pastor Jairo put his hands on Oscar’s shoulders and began to pray. Afterwards, Oscar had difficulty putting into words what happened to him during that prayer; but he said it was something like feeling that a ton of weight was bearing down on him and he could not get out from under it. The weight was crushing him, suffocating him; but suddenly it was lifted, and he felt buoyant, strong, and free. The freedom he gained from that prayer affected his entire life. He stopped doing drugs. He left his life of crime and violence behind. The plans that had yet to be began to take shape. He got a job, became active in his church, and ultimately began fulltime ministry, preaching the gospel in Bellavista, the jail that had once housed him as an inmate.

Not all of us have stories as dramatic as Oscar Osorio. Yet, though his experience of Jesus Christ made manifest through prayer, he was able to see his future, not as a weight crushing down on him, but as a blank canvas upon which he and God could write.

We are granted the opportunity to experience that as well. Our lives may be complicated and busy. There may be elements that hem us in, weigh us down, and stress us out. But regardless of how difficult our present may be, our future is a blank canvas placed before us. Through prayer we are given the opportunity to participate in the works of God in the world – to join with God in creating what is yet to be – to write with God upon the canvas of our lives. Like the particles hovering in our universe waiting to comply with our expectations, we join with God in creating what is yet to be through the creative power of prayer.

As you fast and pray in this resurrection season, remember that we follow a God who brings dead things back to life and makes all things new. Remember that through your praying, you can tap into that shaping power of the future and join with God in creating what is yet to be.

 

 

[1] Laurie Beth Jones, Jesus in Blue Jeans, p122

Beauty and Brokenness by Kim Reisman

My mother and sister are artists. I am not. I have other gifts (lest anyone worry about my self-esteem), but art isn’t one of them. That’s why I love spending time with my mother and sister. There is something entirely different and inspiring about the creativity God has given them.

Years ago, my sister spent a week with me while her son attended a camp at a nearby university. One of the many reasons I looked forward to that week was because we were planning to undertake an outdoor art project while she was there – something I never would have done on my own.

We had recently finished a kitchen remodel and I had a good deal of tile left over, so we decided to create a tile mural on the side of our deck. I was so excited! Of course, when I thought about a tile mural, I envisioned using the existing square tiles to create something nice, neat, and orderly. Not Kerry. She envisioned a mosaic. Why don’t we just break these tiles up and use the pieces to make something new?

A mosaic? (gulp) Ok….

It was hard work. And fun.

And we were quite pleased with the finished product. It brought beauty to my back yard and a smile to my face every time I looked at it, reminding of my sister, her joy in living, her unboundaried creativity, and willingness to risk doing big things. It was a source of encouragement to me as well. Kerry wasn’t the only bold one! I had stepped out of my neat, orderly box, dared to create a mosaic, and it worked!

But then winter came, one of the most bitter we had seen in years – record lows, snow, ice, more snow. A possible precursor to the record-breaking winter weather we’ve had in more recent years. It seemed that spring would never arrive. But it finally did and when we began to tend to the yard, we discovered that my beloved mosaic hadn’t survived the sub-zero (Fahrenheit, mind you) temperatures.

I was heartbroken. It hadn’t worked after all. My mosaic lay in a crumbled heap.

My husband, John, knew that I would have a hard time throwing any of it away so he swept it all up and put it in a big bucket. Spring gave way to summer and then to fall. The bucket stayed on the deck where John had left it. Winter came once more – another hard one. It lingered like the last one, but finally it was nice enough to get back into the yard. I began clearing beds and getting my pots ready to plant.

And there was the bucket, still sitting there filled with all the broken pieces. I decided I had to do something about the remnants so I sifted through them and came across a big chunk with the various smaller pieces still intact. You could even tell what it was – the head of one of the geckos in the mosaic. His red eyes shone and I realized he was still kind of pretty, even though he was broken. I had recently bought a big candle globe that I had planned to line with rocks, but decided that he would look nice nestled inside. As I began to arrange him in the candle globe, I realized that all those mosaic pieces – even though they were broken – if they were gathered together, all those pieces would look quite lovely inside the candle globe.

That big candle globe filled with the broken mosaic pieces of my beloved project has brought me great joy over these past years. Not in the same way as before, of course. But each time I see it, I’m reminded of my sister, who continues to challenge me with the freedom of her creativity. And I’m still encouraged to be bold and to take creative risks.

But there has always been something different about this new thing that emerged out of the old. Each time I light the candles and watch the light dance and the mosaic pieces glow and shimmer, I’m reminded of the mysterious intermingling of beauty and brokenness, brokenness and beauty.

As I have journeyed in faith, one of the most significant discoveries that has helped move me forward is the recognition that even though the Holy Spirit is always moving within us and around us, we seldom become aware of that presence until we are willing to be honest about the depth of both the beauty and the brokenness within each of us. But once we’re willing to be honest, the Holy Spirit moves within us in ways we could never have anticipated. And the integrity and authenticity of our witness grows in tandem with that honesty.

In this time of Lenten reflection and preparation, I pray you would be willing to open yourself to the presence of the Holy Spirit that comes when we are honest about the depth of both our beauty and our brokenness. And even more importantly, that you would be empowered to share honestly with others about both of those things, so that all can know that nothing is beyond the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, mend, and transform.

Trusting Our Instincts by Kim Reisman

Scripture focus:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. ”Then he asked them, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell with not conquer it. (Matthew 16:13-18, NLT)

 

Ever since he was a little boy, my nephew, Jacob, has been very in tune with his instincts. Frequently when playing with his friends, if things started to get out of hand in some way or move in a risky direction, you could hear him say cautiously, “I don’t know… I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” Throughout Scripture we see stories of persons who were able to trust their instincts as they followed God. They were aware of the ways and dangers of the world; and as they lived out their faith, they trusted their instincts not only as a source of protection but as a signal of how to follow God.

Much to the displeasure of his opponents, Nehemiah dedicated himself to rebuilding the wall. His enemies, Sanballat and Tobiah, made several attempts to get him to stop; but at each turn Nehemiah recognized that “they were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could break our resolved and stop the work. So I prayed for strength to continue the work.” (Nehemiah 6:9, NLT) Finally, under the guise of trying to keep Nehemiah safe, a friend urged him to stop working and go to the safety of the Temple; but Nehemiah’s instinct told him “that God had not spoken to him but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.” (Nehemiah 6:12, NLT)

Jesus had an innate sense of who was trustworthy and who was not. When the Pharisees were questioning in their hearts Jesus’ pronouncements of forgiveness, believing them to be blasphemous, Jesus “perceived in his spirit” their thoughts and confronted them (Mark 2:8, NRSV). When Peter declared him to be the Messiah, Jesus pronounced him the rock on which he would build the church, a profound sign of his trust that Peter would come through for him in the end.

Our inner instincts are a significant source of guidance as our lives unfold. While there remains much to learn about how instinct operates, I believe it is the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit within us. William Law was an 18th-century English clergyman whose writings have been very influential. He described this prompting well when he wrote:

The book of all books is in your own heart, in which are written and engraven the deepest lessons of divine instruction; learn therefore to be deeply attentive to the presence of God in your hearts, who is always speaking, always instructing, always illuminating that heart that is attentive to him.*

Our instincts are the natural means in which God communicates with us about truths we have no other way of comprehending. Learning to trust those instincts, being deeply attentive to the presence of God in our hearts, enables us to make strong connections between our faith and our daily lives. It is a way we become more in tune with our instincts, more attentive to the inner voice of God communicating with us. Prayer, along with other spiritual disciplines is the way we learn to trust the inner promptings we receive as we negotiate the challenges of life.

I find it interesting that our intestines are lined with the same type of tissue that surrounds our brains. In a strange way for me that similarity seems to account for the way our “gut” communicates with us. We must be open to that communication. We must be attentive so that we can hear God speaking to us, instructing us, and illuminating us as we make the connections between our faith and the activity of our lives. In this way we will better hear when God guides us saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21, NRSV)

As you pray and fast this month, reflect on the ways you have trusted your instincts. Recall situations in which trusting your instincts led you in the right direction. As you do this, I pray you will deepen your awareness of what your instincts are telling you and that you will remember that God communicates with us through our “gut,” revealing truths we have no other way of knowing.

 

 

*Joy of the Saints, Templegate, 1988, p90.

A Sweet Gentleness by Kim Reisman

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day Christians all over the world mark the beginning of Lent, many with ashes and prayer and fasting. This is not a day when we usually read the resurrection portion of the gospels, but considering the powerful and visible ways the Holy Spirit has been moving these past few weeks, this may be a good year to do just that.

In the last chapter of Luke’s gospel we are given both a promise and a commission. Jesus promises to send his Holy Spirit and instructs us to take the “message of repentance to all the nations” because “there is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.” (Luke 24:47, NLT)

Repentance. Forgiveness. These are the themes of Lent, and, it seems, the focus of the Holy Spirit’s work in these days – a work that is clearly spreading far beyond its beginnings at Asbury University.

I’ve been moved by what I’ve read about students publicly confessing addictions to pornography, anger at God, bitterness of heart, despair as the result of difficult family situations. It is clear there is pervasive anxiety, depression and deep woundedness. And yet these same students are proclaiming healing, joy, and a deep love of God like they have never before experienced.*

I’ve been amazed at the consistency of the descriptions of what the Holy Spirit is doing. Joy and peace are pervasive. This is clearly a tender and beautiful outpouring of the Spirit, marked by sweet gentleness.*

What a contrast to our world. We are in a thrashing time. A time marked by our breathtaking ability to do violence to each other. We hurt those we love most with our words and our deeds. We let others down by the things we do and the things we don’t do. Our world is filled with greed and indifference, lust and envy, gluttony, anger, and pride. Our lives are marked by anxiety and depression, broken relationships, and damaged hearts.

And amidst all this thrashing, the Holy Spirit is moving with a sweet gentleness. In an age of anxiety and violence, God is reaching out to us with peace.

As we begin this season of Lent, my prayer is that each of us would remember that we are witnesses to an amazing truth: there is forgiveness for all who turn to Jesus Christ. God is searching for each of us, offering us forgiveness, joy, and peace. And God’s goodness and kindness and holiness and grace and presence and creating power and salvation are here now. They are all available to us now. I pray you would experience that reality. That the sweet gentleness of the Holy Spirit would wash over you in a way that heals, redeems, and restores. And that you, in turn, would channel that same Holy Spirit gentleness to those who so badly need a word of peace and joy.

 

 

 

*Suzanne Nicholson – When Streams of Living Water Become a Flood: Revival at Asbury University.