Going Deeper: Listen to Your Lawyer!

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On several occasions, I’ve learned that lawyers can be quite helpful and save one a great deal of grief. We had the benefit of a lawyer walking us through the complexities of probate. In my work, I’ve learned that a lawyer can save a great deal of grief for me and our organization by reviewing a contract. Sadly, I’ve sometimes recommended lawyers to friends who needed someone to represent their interests in a divorce, or to help them navigate their way through our country’s labyrinthine immigration laws.

Our message this past Sunday focused on John 15:26-16:11 and this sometimes mysterious person of the Trinity we call “the Holy Spirit”, or in older times “the Holy Ghost.” Sometimes the language suggests this vague, ethereal being. At other times, we are tempted to view the Holy Spirit as a kind of “spiritual battery pack” who charges us up to serve God.

Bob Trube2Instead, Pastor Rich pointed out the word picture of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate. Sometimes paraclete, the word translated in the NIV as “advocate” is translated as “counselor”. Rich pointed out that we can use that language if we think, not of a therapist, but of a legal counselor. In French, the word for lawyer is avocat. The idea is one who stands alongside us when we are on trial, who empowers us by his presence with us rather than some vague spiritual charge. He is also one who advocates on our behalf and does not leave us defenseless.

I can think of all kinds of ways I face “trials” in which I need this kind of counsel, this kind of advocacy:

  • When I face difficult choices and wonder which is the right path to choose
  • When I face a challenging ethical situation and want to do the right thing
  • When I am sharing with a friend and we are talking about faith and my friend raises a difficult objection.
  • When I am overwhelmed by trying circumstances–when everything seems to be going wrong and I alternate between frenzied activity and fearful paralysis.

What Jesus promises is that in this hour of trial, whatever it is, we do not stand alone. There is One who stands alongside us, instructing us as “the Spirit of truth” (15:26). He testifies about Jesus so that we can testify about Jesus and tell and live the truth of who he is.

My greatest challenge is listening to my lawyer! Sometimes, I think the reason I do not listen is because I’m afraid if I do, I won’t hear anything and won’t be helped. So I decide to just do it myself. Yet I can also think of a time when I was facing a great challenge, that had me crying out for the Spirit’s help. And I found that when the need was there, so was the insight of what to do next, step by step. It did not seem that the Holy Spirit showed me the whole game plan, but rather just the next step. And he gave the presence of mind and peace of heart to give calm leadership to others.

What I forget is that the Holy Spirit is not simply my Advocate in extraordinary situations but also in ordinary life. Just as lawyers can help us with the mundane details of a contract or an estate plan, so our Advocate can help us with the “ordinary” matters of our days–caring for children, relating to customers or vendors, devising plans for our work. All of this for the Christian is part of life in the kingdom under Jesus new covenant rule. Everything matters, and it matters so much that our Lord has not left us to stumble about on our own.

One of the ancient prayers of the church is “Veni Sancte Spiritus”, which means “come Holy Spirit”. Maybe one of the simplest steps you and I can take when we are conscious of our need for help is to pray these three words and to invite his counsel. Where do you need to listen to Him today? This week?

Cutting Room Floor: Food & How To Eat It

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Editor’s Note: Sorry for the couple of week hiatus. Got a pretty nasty cold at the beginning of October and it’s been a bit hectic getting things back on track. We’ll have a new post from Bob Trube tomorrow, and for today we have a Cutting Room Floor entry from last week’s sermon. ~BRT

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Based on Matthew 15:1-20

IMG_0715 - Version 2Many of these rules applied to food and how to eat it. This makes sense, of course. What we eat or don’t eat, and why and how send incredibly strong messages to those around us about what we believe about the world.

If you don’t eat like someone, you end up being perceived differently from them. And if you don’t eat what they eat, and can’t prepare the table the way they prepare the table, then you can’t eat with them at all. Separateness is maintained.

Over and over in the New Testament, the Pharisees come after Jesus for breaking those separateness boundaries, for going into unclean situations. What they don’t realize, of course, is that Jesus has reversed the flow of clean and unclean things. Wherever he goes things unclean are made clean; he’s not sullied.

Does all this make sense? There’s a world out there, and it’s going to make it so that you can’t do God’s work, you’ll be “unclean” in a religious sense. And only time and ceremony can get you back to clean; but Jesus, who has the Holy Spirit, carries cleanliness with him.

~Post written by Rich Hagopian

Did the Beatles have it right?

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I am a big fan of the Beatles.  I always have been.  The amount memorabilia I own of the Fab 4 makes me proud.  So this past week I could not help but of think of the words sung by one of my favorite bands when Pastor Rich began preaching a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 which is known as the love chapter.

mattIn the song ‘All you need is Love’, (Lennon-McCartney, 1967) the Beatles famously sang, “All you need is love.  Love is all you need.”   The Beatles sang many songs about love and even continued that theme into their solo work.  John Lennon states in the song ‘Mind Games,’ (Lennon, 1973) “Love is the answer, you know that for sure.”  So did they (the Beatles) have it right?  Sort of…

Love is the answer.  But it must be accompanied by action.

In this chapter Paul is continuing his discussion on the gifts of the Spirit.  Many in the church at Corinth are continuing to argue and be divided over thinking some gifts are better than others. Paul tells them the greatest gift they could ever desire is to love well in everything they do.   It is the best way to live.

“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of angels, and have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol” (1 Cor. 13:1).  Love is not just a feeling, but a behavior.  It should not be just words, but those words need to be acted upon, otherwise they are meaningless.  Love is people in action.

Here is a personal example.  This past Sunday morning I was out scraping the snow off my car and I saw a man walking on the sidewalk.  I could tell he was very cold.  He looked at me, stopped and said, “Do you know how far I need to go to get to CVS at the corner of Sawmill and Hard Road?”  To make a long story short, I told him I was heading in that direction anyway and offered him a ride.  He was so grateful.  Please do not think I am not telling this story to toot my own horn.  I am telling this story to show that at this point this made a choice.  He could have said thank you and left it at that.  But he chose to go a step further.  He decided to put his words into action.  He told me that he cut grass for a living and that if I ever needed my lawn cut to let him know and he would do it for free.  He chose to reciprocate the love that was shown to him.

Jesus gives us the choice to love others unselfishly the way that he loved us.  He gave us His love as a free gift.  We did not earn that love.  Now He gives us the choice to love Him back.  We also have the choice to show this same love people in this world or not.

In a relationship there is a true give and take involved with two people. We can apply this in the context of a marriage or a dating relationship; a relationship between a parent and a child or it may be in the context of a friendship or even someone you don’t know.  You have the choice on how to love others or to love them at all even if it may not be reciprocated at all or in the way you expect it to be.

In what ways can you show love in action today?