Thanks for taking time to read this series of posts “55 for 55: Passages of Scripture that mean a lot to me.” Below are the passages that continue in this series. Thanks again and may God bless you as He has done so with me by conveying His love and wisdom to me through the Bible.
46. John 14:26 and Acts 2: 1-4: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Acts 2:1-4: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
The Holy Spirit fills many roles and has multiple functions in our lives, of which some include Him being an Advocate, Counselor, Encourager, Teacher, Comforter and Guide. He’s the One that I hope people see the most when they visit the “crucible” called my office, where He is welcomed and requested to help me in my effort to deliver therapeutic care as facilitated by Him.
At times, people will ask “How can you do your job? It has to be challenging, overwhelming, discouraging and heartbreaking.” You know what? At times, they’re right. But I realize that if left to operate on my own power I’m sure I wouldn’t last a month. And thats being very generous.
I find that I’m able to do what I do because the pressure is off me and is on God to produce the outcome that He wants to produce in the counseling hour and in the life of the person that He’s invited to comfort, counsel or encourage. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be competent in my effort to deliver sound clinical care (see #50 below), but I also know that the Holy Spirit is the one who whispers insights, provides metaphors, images and “word pictures” to clarify ideas and He also instructs me regarding when to be silent and when to speak about damaging processes that He’d like to correct, should the person or couple have an ear to hear Him.
I see my office but more importantly my role and responsibility as a Believer in Jesus to thoughtfully, carefully and therapeutically work in the “garden of the heart.” When I do this, and because the Holy Spirit is involved, its almost as if I expect “a return” (some would call it a harvest) because of the goal(s) and growth that Jesus wants to effect in His children: Fruitfulness. Its an awesome responsibility that I don’t take lightly and I’m glad to be a conduit of the Holy Spirit!
47. John 9:4: “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”
From the moment that I sat down in that High School Bible study on November 10, 1977 and was visited by the presence of the Holy Spirit, I knew my life wouldn’t be the same. So today, a few years removed from that night, I realize that I was called to do a job and that I still have a job to do.
This verse sums up for me my daily responsibility to my God, my family, my counseling practice and to others about what I’m to do with each day that’s gifted and given to me. I soberly (but not morbidly) think that one day, my life on this Earth will be over and my work on this side of eternity will be finished and complete.
Whatever “work” I leave behind will be a reflection of how I used my energy during my “daylight” hours. I encourage you to reflect on how you’re spending your days as well, so that when the night comes in your life, you’ll be at peace as you reflect on the fruit of your labor.
48. Mark 4:14-20: “The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (ESV)
So what’s in my job description? When invited, to plant the Truth of God’s love into the garden of the heart of others. But in addition to the planting, I’m also called to water, pull weeds, build in support for the plant(s) and if I’m lucky, to partake in the harvest also (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
This verse reveals a practical but also a clinical truism: If the heart and mind of a person isn’t open to receive some new information, whether its conviction that comes through the conscience, feedback from one’s spouse, partner or family, or insights from your friend, sponsor, pastor, counselor or therapist, then its going to be difficult to bear a 30, 60 or 100 fold return of fruitfulness. How could we expect to produce the fruit of change if our hearts aren’t vulnerable to receive the seeds of change?
Usually, when someone comes into my office, they’re in a “broken,” open, vulnerable or receptive state. I’ve noticed its not too difficult for the Spirit (or me) to pass along a word or two that provides insight, direction, reassurance, comfort or understanding, which tend to function like a healing balm thats rubbed on an open and painful wound (Proverbs 15:23).
At other times, I realize that the Spirit (and sometimes me) will have to “jackhammer” through a layer or two of hardness, callousness, insensitivity or denial in order to get down to the soil in the heart in order to plant a value or a truism, which could become the catalyst for change. I have a heart and passion (like Jesus and the Holy Spirit does) for “thorny” people with thorny soil because God knows I can identify with them! Since He didn’t give up on me, I’m not giving up on them either!
Finally, what could be lost in this passage is that it speaks about a process of change, healing and growth. I know that in my addiction, I wanted to feel the effect of the mind-altering chemical or behavior immediately. That’s called “instant gratification.”
Sometimes in recovery, the expectation is the same; the change we want will (or needs) to occur just as fast; instantaneously or quickly. I suppose if God wanted to work outside of the natural order and process of growth that He created, He could, which would reveal a “super-natural” change.
But its been my experience that most of the time, He wants us to engage in the natural process of growth, which tends to produce beautiful outcomes if we’re intentional, deliberate, patient and consistent in our effort to work to create something edifying and beautiful in our personal or relational garden.
Regarding consistency, the growth that eventually produces fruit may consist of your engagement in growth practices over and over again, which may resemble you planting and practicing specific and positive values in the soil of your mind over and over again; like when you’re planting seeds in the soil every 6 to 9 inches for the length of that row in the garden.
Regarding time frames to harvest something very beautiful, think about the beautiful and fruitful miracle thats produced 9 months after one’s “seed” goes into the “soil” of a woman. I’ve encouraged some to plant a lot of Patience first, because being patient with your growth and being patient with the growth process of others will serve you well!
49. Acts 27:23-24 and Acts 28: 1-10: “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’”
Acts 28:1-10: “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. 7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”
Every now and then you’ll have to “shake the snake into the fire.” Paul did it. I’ve done so and you will too. If God called you to accomplish something big or small, He’s going to equip you for the journey, but along the way you’ll probably encounter (and will need to overcome) some adverse experiences or situations, and sometimes troublesome relationships with others.
What follows are my thoughts about this passage from a previous post called “Purpose”:
“This passage of scripture has been a favorite for a while. I’m encouraged by it because I realize that Paul knew his purpose and he was not going to allow anything to deter him from accomplishing it, not even a snakebite, nor a shipwreck (Acts 27:27), nor the threat of being murdered (Acts 27:42), nor hunger (Acts 27:34), nor fear (27:29), nor hubris (28:6).
Nothing was going to separate him from the job he had been given, and the purpose he knew he was called to achieve. Paul had his orders, he knew his mission, and he was in the process of carrying it out, without interruption. Paul knew that a snakebite nor any other obstacle was going to take him out, so when others saw peril, he simply remembered his purpose, which led him to shake the snake into the fire.
So the question is, what’s your purpose, and what is the “snake” that you may have to shake into the fire so that you’re successful in accomplishing it? What are you sold out to, focused to achieve and wholeheartedly convinced about doing, so that nothing separates you from achieving your resolve? Paul knew that he was created to make a difference and called to make a change in the world. Do you believe that your life has purpose and what difference are you called to make, one day at a time?
When faced with the perils of life, and they will come, I encourage you to focus on the Savior versus the snake, and to not let momentary challenges nor insurmountable odds deter you from accomplishing your purpose(s), as revealed to you by God.”
50. Matthew 25:14-29: “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” (NASV).
This is a long passage but the simple truism that I take from it is that I’ve always wanted to be a “two – to – five” talent person. As I’ve lived my life, I’ve realized with God giving me a decent enough brain and the ability to think, along with the deposit of the Holy Spirit into my life, the opportunity to receive a college education and acquire multiple degrees along with rich eye opening life experiences meant that God has blessed me for a purpose.
Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48 (“to whom much is given, much is expected”) surfaced in my mind from time to time, usually when I’ve taken a personal inventory and realized I wasn’t living up to my potential and was underutilizing the gifts He’s blessed me with.
Those were low moments because I could definitely identify with the guy in the story I least wanted to be like…the one talent person!
At times I was motivated by fear that I was going to get the consequence of the one talent person, but most of the time what got me in gear was penitent prayer, remembering my first love, confession and experiencing the prompting, love and guidance by the Holy Spirit to “shape up.”
Today, I want to be a “2 to 4” and a “5 to 10” talent guy. God has given me so much and I pray that by my efforts empowered by Him, that He produces a lot of fruit through me for the glory of the Kingdom. Join me in being “that guy” who’s devoted (#10) to his purpose and who tastes some of the blessings of eternity now with more soon to come!
You could find the next 5 passages of scripture (#51-55) in this “55 for 55” series by clicking here.
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