Can We Possess God?

On the day of his resurrection when Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, he told her, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.” (John 20:17) Notice the possessive form of the personal pronoun, “your.”

Jesus was declaring that the God of all creation, who is responsible for bringing into existence all that is, was not just his God and Father, but our God and Father as well. This God and Father, though creator of the universe, is personal and allows himself to be possessed by us – an extreme act of humility! His becoming one of us in the person of Jesus was also an extreme act of humility. Submitting his human life to torture and death for our sake was an extreme act of love!

Jesus tells us that we can possess this extremely humble and loving God if we open the door to our hearts and accept his offer to dwell in us. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”(Rev. 3:20) If anyone will love Jesus and obey his teaching, he says, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23) Think of it – Jesus and the Father taking up residence in us through the power of the Holy Spirit!

Story: For several years Joe operated his dry cleaning business without much thought or concern for his customers or employees. As Joe observed, “I used to lie to my employees and they would steal from me.” His home life wasn’t much better. “I wasn’t really there for my wife and kids.

One day one of Joe’s customers invited him to a breakfast meeting of Christians in Commerce. “At first I felt strange,” Joe said, “but I was moved by what I saw in the men who attended. They were so genuine and supportive of each other and so free to praise God. Through these men, I realized that God was calling me to change.” At a subsequent weekend retreat, Joe said, “I experienced true forgiveness and acceptance, along with a great release of guilt.”

“The Lord has blessed me so much since then,” Joe continues. “He gave me a desire to love and serve my customers and to train and spend time with my employees. My customers say, ‘You’ve changed!’ Through a survey by the Southwest Dry Cleaners Association, my business was rated number one in customer service.

“One of the greatest blessings is my new relationship with my wife and kids. I am home every night now. My wife and I play games with our kids and spend a lot of time with each other. There is a new love in our family,” says Joe. (From Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You)

Joe opened his heart to Jesus Christ and now the God of all creation is Joe’s God and Father.

Would you like the God of all creation to be your God and Father?

Blog Name Change Today

Dear Follower of the billdalgetty.com blog,

Last week I sent you a note that I was changing the name and administration of my weekly blog at billdalgetty.com to Christ in Life and Work (www.christinlifeandwork.com). Since then, you should have received an e-mail saying, “Please confirm your subscription for Christ in Life and Work.”

Today, we are going live with the blog under the new name. If you want to continue to receive this blog, you can either confirm your intention to follow in the e-mail notice you recently received or you can go to www.christinlifeandwork.com and sign up to follow. Blogs will no longer be posted at billdalgetty.com.

Thanks again for your past readership. I hope you will continue to follow these weekly reflections under Christ in Life and Work.

Blessings,

Bill Dalgetty

Blog Name Change

Dear Friend,

I want to thank you for subscribing to this blog at billdalgetty.com.  Your readership and occasional comments are very much appreciated, and have been a blessing as I share thoughts and words from my daily prayer time.

Beginning this week, I am changing the name of the blog from billdalgetty.com to Christ in Life and Work. The content will continue to support the overall theme of Helping Christians Expand their Vision of Life and Work, and be similar to what has been shared in the past including various insights from scripture illustrated by an occasional story and other thoughts.

So if you see an e-mail show up in your inbox with the new URL of www.christinlifeandwork.com, do not delete or cast it off into your spam file. It is just me, trying to share with you some scripture and its application to our lives.

In the next couple of days you will be receiving an invite to subscribe to the new blog, and will have to verify your email address for that purpose. I hope you will continue your readership.

Blessings to you, your family and your work,

Bill Dalgetty

Lift up the Gates of Your Heart

Does the Spirit of God reside in you?  

At the time of Moses, God would reside in the Tent of Meeting. (Exodus 33:7-11) Later, the Israelites built a temple for him in Jerusalem. In Psalm 24, we read, “Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:9-10)

The psalmist was declaring that the gates of the city be opened so that the people could experience God’s visitation and presence. A millennium later, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 23) He would also declare that the “the Kingdom [of God] is within you.” (Luke 17:21) St. Paul would add, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

God’s desire is not to reside in a Temple of bricks and mortar, but in the temple of our hearts.

Beverly who is an oncology nurse in Gilroy, California, says to her patients as she begins an IV, “Let’s pray that this IV will be painless.” At some point she will ask her patients if she can pray with them. They always say okay. At a time when medical care can become quite impersonal, Beverly says, “We get very close to many of our patients. I went to Pat’s house to help her out before she died. We’ll go to the hospital and pray with patients, even in a coma. People tell me, ‘You shouldn’t get so close to your patients,’ but I tell them that ‘this is my God job.’”

Beverly is bringing God’s presence to the patients that come to her clinic. She cares for them; she intercedes for them; as a Gospel singer and concert violinist, she sings and plays for them – she loves them just as Jesus would love them if he were physically present. He is present to them through Beverly. Read more in Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, p. 37, www.zacchaeuspublications.com.

When we open the gates of our heart to his presence, God shares his own Holy Spirit with us. The Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and empower us to do the same things that Jesus did and even greater things. God’s love becomes our love, his strength becomes our strength and his word becomes our word – all for the purpose of bringing about his Kingdom through us to the people and circumstances of our lives.

Lift up the gates of my heart, O Lord that the love and mercy of your presence may be manifest to all whom you place in my path – my wife and family, friends, colleagues, bosses, subordinates, customers, suppliers and strangers.

Amazing!

The High Cost of Lies

It takes a lot of effort to support a lie. Can you remember a time when a little “white lie” led to another lie and then another?

The chief priests and elders of Jesus’ day did not know how to deal with an empty tomb and the possibility that Jesus, whom they crucified, was raised from the dead. Most everything that Jesus said and did was outside their paradigm for a Messiah. His resurrection was untenable to them. So, they devised a lie and paid those who were guarding his tomb a large sum of money to testify to the lie.

Matthew reports, “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep. So the soldiers took the money and did as they were told.’” (Mt. 28:12-13, 15)

Providing cover for a lie can get complicated, taking time, creating anxiety and exacting an emotional toll. How often have we seen a public figure pay a high price for living a lie, sometimes costing them their marriage, family, career and, like the chief priests, even hush money?

In Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, www.zacchaeuspublications.com), there is the story of Pat who had struggled to get a job after completing her master’s degree. She obtained temporary work at a small university to write a report about the effectiveness of a federal grant for a media center to improve teaching methods. When her report included survey data about the lack of use of the media center by the faculty, she was asked by the department chair to alter the data so that he and the university would not look bad. He implied that a permanent job would be in the offering if she acceded to his request, but probably not if she refused. Pat refused to go along with the lie. The job was not offered. But Pat’s conscience was clear, and her response helped her get a better job elsewhere several months later.

Truth is less complicated than a lie. It is liberating. It is cleansing. The lack of truth is an obstacle to the Holy Spirit acting in our lives, while its presence testifies to the power of God. Truth is the pearl “of great value.” (Mt. 13:46) Paul says love rejoices in the truth. (1 Cor.13:6)

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) “If you hold to my teaching…then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

How much do we value the truth? How much is a lie costing us? Let us pray for the courage not to exchange the truth of God for a lie. (Romans 1:25)

Do You See the Risen Jesus?

Jesus was dead. They saw him die, and they saw the tomb where he was buried. The trauma was indelibly printed on their minds and would not be easily removed.

Now he was appearing before them, but they did not recognize him. Mary Magdalene did not recognize him until he said her name, “Mary.” The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize him though he walked with them until nearly dark. Only at the breaking of the bread as they began to eat were their eyes opened.

To overcome the trauma of seeing Jesus’ torturous death they needed proof to confirm what their eyes were now seeing. After offering them his peace, Jesus “showed them his hands and side.” (John 20:20) Later he eats fish to show that he is not just spirit but also flesh. (Luke 24:42-43) On another occasion, he confirms his presence with a miracle catch of 153 fish. (John 21)

Overcoming our paradigm of death and its irreversible nature is no small matter. It was true for the disciples and it is true for us. Yet, that is exactly the hope that God offers on Easter morning in the person of his son, Jesus. God became one of us to show that life does not end with our physical death. Who we are has less to do with our physical nature than with our soul and spirit, which are a created by God and mysteriously joined with our physical nature at conception.

Jesus bequeathed to both the disciples and us something to take the place of his physical presence – the Holy Spirit, which he described as giving us the power to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit enables the words of Jesus to become a reality in our lives — he is in us and we in him just as the Father is in him and he is in the Father. He says the result is that, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:12-13)

With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience Jesus’ personal presence in our daily lives. For me, it first happened on an October evening many years ago when I met him in a personal way and he took the sin and disorder from my life. We now meet for coffee and prayer every morning. I also see him every day in the big bright smile of our daughter with Down syndrome whose many hugs reflect her natural inclination to love.

I see him in the love of my wife and all or our children and grandchildren as they respond to his love for them. I see him in the inmates of the local jail who accept the humility of their present circumstance and seek the sacrament of reconciliation. I see him in the teenagers and college students we know who postpone career decisions to serve him on college campuses and impoverished areas.

Where do you see the risen Jesus?

A Life Pleasing to the Crowd

Who do we seek to please – the crowd or God?

After questioning Jesus, Pontius Pilate concluded that he had committed no crime and offered to release him in accordance with the custom to release one prisoner at the feast of the Passover. The chief priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of an insurrectionist named Barabbas instead of Jesus and have Jesus crucified. Pilate resisted at first, but then Mark reports, “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas…He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:15)

The crowd seldom gets it right. How often do we see conventional wisdom that is not wise, popular opinion that does not reflect the truth, and consensus that leads to the wrong result?

Cynthia Cooper, the vice president of Internal Audit for WorldCom who discovered the massive fraudulent accounting in 2002, says in her book, Extraordinary Circumstances, “Most of the people who participated in the WorldCom fraud were ordinary, middle-class Americans. They had no prior criminal records and never imagined they would be confronted with such life-altering choices. They were mothers and fathers who went to work to support their families, spent weekends going to their children’s activities and church, and were respected within their communities.” In speculating on the motivation of the mid-level employees who participated in the fraud, she said they simply “felt pressured and afraid that they would lose their jobs if they didn’t go along.” (See Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, p. 11, www.zacchaeuspublications.com)

One of the few things Jesus did say when questioned by Pilate was that he had come into the world to testify to the truth. Ironically, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” though the embodiment of all truth was standing before him in the person of Jesus. (John 18:37-38)

Like Jesus, our decisions and actions should testify to the truth. Unlike Pilate, we should not be governed by what the crowd or others want, but rather should be seeking the truth which is what God wants.

The crowd yelled, “Crucify him!” But the crowd got it wrong. God redeemed the wrong and took the cross, a symbol of Roman cruelty and oppression, and transformed it into a symbol of love, sacrifice and hope.

How Do You Deal with Temptation?

How often do we choose sleep instead of prayer at the beginning of our day? After Jesus and the disciples retired to the Mount of Olives following their celebration of the Passover meal, Jesus said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:40) He then withdrew to pray about his impending passion. Even he was tempted to ask God to free him from the trial he was about to undergo, but then submitted to God’s will.

Meanwhile, the disciples were not praying as he suggested, but had fallen asleep. He chastises them for sleeping and not praying, saying again, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” We know what happened next; they succumbed to the temptation of fear, and all of them scattered, abandoning Jesus at his arrest.

Jesus’ antidote for temptation is not complicated. It is simply prayer. In his suggested prayer to his disciples and to us, his concluding petition is, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Mt. 6:13)

Jesus invites us to pray just as he did the disciples. He invites us to begin our day with him and the Father. He knows from his personal experience that we will not be able to withstand the temptations we face each day without prayer. Prayer nurtures our relationship with Jesus and the Father. The temptations we face are many and varied — telling the boss what he wants to hear instead of the truth; getting angry when things don’t go our way; engaging in negative humor at the expense of others; flirting with a co-worker; overstating an item on an expense account; getting short with our spouse; or not spending time with our children at the end of a busy day.

One of my more frequent temptations is to get impatient with a store clerk or the person on a help desk when their response seems to take too long or is off the mark. When I don’t pray, my pride’s expectations are often disproportionate to the problem at hand.

With each temptation that Satan threw at Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus countered with a scripture that refuted Satan’s premise for the temptation. Prayer and scripture are weapons Jesus gives us against temptation and the wiles of Satan. St. Paul describes them as the armor of God and adds to them truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 6:13-18) To these, the Church adds the sacraments of reconciliation and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

“Why are you sleeping?” Jesus asks. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

“Yet Not My Will, But Yours”

How often do we ask God to free us from a difficult burden? It may be a serious illness, dealing with a rebellious child, satisfying a demanding boss, overcoming a hurt from a family member, or wanting to avoid the consequences of our own wrongful conduct.

Getting free of the burden is usually our first priority. Even if we take the matter to prayer, our first prayer is likely that the burden be lifted. Even Jesus, in a demonstration of how real his humanity was, asked God before his arrest to take the cup of his impending trial, torture and execution, along with the crushing weight of taking onto himself all the sins of humankind.

But after pleading that the cup be taken, Jesus laid down his will to God’s will. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

In Hope for the Workplace – Christ in you (www.zacchaeuspublications.com), there is the story of Bob, an insurance broker who made a substantial investment in a new company providing specialized insurance products, and then lost the entire investment due to the unethical practices of a partner operating the venture. A few years later, Bob read in the newspaper that the partner had been convicted of embezzlement in another business venture and sent to prison. Bob said, “I begin to sense that the Lord wanted me to go visit him in prison. My first reaction was, ‘No way!’ I was still angry with him for what he had done.” Yet, Bob was willing to let go of his will and submit to the Lord’s will, and make the visit.

Bob said, “When I walked into the visitor’s area, he was shocked to see me. Tears started to well up in his eyes. He couldn’t believe that someone whom he previously hurt would come to visit him. He was a different man. He had been attending a Bible study and was open to talk about spiritual matters. I visited him a couple more times and we would read scripture and pray.”

When he was released from prison, Bob gave him a Bible, invited him to a Christians in Commerce breakfast and continued to encourage him in re-establishing his life.

When Bob submitted his will to God’s will, God transformed his unforgiving heart, and then used him to support his former colleague’s new life.

Jesus said, “My food [sustenance] is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) We worry and carry on about so many things in life. Yet, seeking God’s will in all matters might sustain us above all else.

“Then Satan Entered Judas”

How do we explain evil, which is a bit of a mystery to most of us? We see its effects and deplore its presence. We wonder why some people seem to exhibit it more than others. Like St. Paul, we see tendencies in ourselves toward evil that we lament. (Rom. 7:19)

In all four Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus announces that one of the disciples will betray him. Luke reports that the chief priests were looking for a way to get rid of Jesus. “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.” (Luke 22:3) Judas goes to the chief priests and agrees to take money in return for betraying Jesus.

As one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas had traveled with him, listened to his teachings, and saw him perform numerous miracles. What caused him to want to betray Jesus? Was he a loyal disciple one moment and then suddenly a betrayer? What caused Satan to enter him? John suggests that he was a thief who, as keeper of the money, regularly helped himself. (John 12:6)

Since our physical nature is so closely tied to what our physical senses can perceive in the physical reality around us, it may be hard to get our minds around the non-physical or spiritual reality that also surrounds us. Yet we can observe the demonstrable effects of good and evil. While we may not be able to physically see the Holy Spirit and Satan, we can readily observe the fruit of their presence. With the Holy Spirit we see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness and self-control. With Satan we see idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, sexual immorality, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and the like. (See Galatians 5:19-24)

What makes us vulnerable to Satan’s attack? Peter says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8)  Like all predators, Satan attacks our weaknesses, bad habits and self-indulgences, inclining us to serve first ourselves instead of others. He inspires hurt that leads to anger and unforgiveness. His goal is to separate us from God whom he hates.

The antidote to Satan and the putrid fruit he dispenses is accepting God’s offer to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit and embracing his example of death to self – the cross. This is impossible for us without God’s presence and grace. But as Jesus says, “With God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26) Many years ago, I met Jesus one evening and asked him to take the present sin and disorder in my life…and he did! It was truly a life-changing moment.

James says it well when he exhorts us to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:7) Sin begets more sin. Grace begets more grace.