Monthly Archives: May 2020

Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit (Part 58)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at or visit his website at:
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT


“I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, for I am God, and not man.” Hosea xi. 9.

How close to unbelievable is that? More than seven chapters (4—10) in which God scathes Israel for its life of crass betrayal in their running after other gods and then what do we get? We get Hosea 11:9! We would have expected the opposite!  “Enough! Who do they think I am? I understand they’re sinners but this nation has gone too far and for too long! I’ll obliterate it! Instead of that, we have the dumbfounding conclusion. The wind has risen to a deafening roar and all of a sudden: silence. That’s Hosea 11:9 (I can’t source right now who offered that great image, jmcg.)

That God will not pour out His finally destructive wrath is confounding enough but look how God vindicates His decision not to destroy such a willful people: “I’m God! Not a man!” What has He said here? “If I were a man I would utterly obliterate them!” But I’m not a man—I’m God! This is not any old God. This is the Holy One of Israel. This is the God who said, “You be holy for I am holy!” Since that’s true how did Hosea 11.9 get to be in the Bible? Did God cease to be the Holy One at this point Did He become soft on Sin? Or have we missed the richness of Godlike “holiness”?

Had I been a man I would have ended Israel for their addiction to treachery, said God who knows all things. My own life has proven, at least to me, that there are those who are very like God and who forgave great wrongs and in that respect were not like “a man”. The prophet who spoke from God and about God knew better than I had ever reason to know, how to forgive a very great wrong (didn’t he marry Gomer who lost her way and became adulterous and didn’t he go looking for her, found her and brought her home (Hosea 1)? I also know that there are many who are very like a “man” while professing to be Godlike and to be a friend of God.

There was an older brother who wouldn’t forgive a wayward brother for this sinful behavior and attitude. Nor woulde he forgive his father for forgiving the selfish brother and rejoicing when the earlier selfish brat, ‘dead in his sin’ and ‘lost,’ away from a loving father who always wanted him back. All this father wanted from the older son was the right to be happy that the younger son was home—he wanted the right of a loving father to love his son.

And this is the point of the three parables in Luke 15. The parables entail a lot of related truths but the truth focused on is this: the worst kind of Pharisee had they been friends of God they would have been able to rejoice at what Jesus in the name of God was doing. The woman fully expected her friends to rejoice with her finding her lost treasure. The shepherd fully expected his friends to rejoice that he had found his unhappy lost sheep and the prodigal’s father fully expected his older son to rejoice with him. “He’s your brother, for pity’s sake! He’s my son; how can you not understand that? Rejoice with him and with me. God throws a party in heaven; it’s right that we should throw a party on earth.”

I do understand that there are complexities I’m not dealing with here. I know that the speech of Jesus to the worst kind of Pharisee seems to go against His teaching in Luke 15. But it doesn’t. We need to remember that the most scathingly sustained piece of Scripture perhaps in the entire Bible is spoken by Jesus in Matthew 23; it doesn’t end scathingly but profound sadness. “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” But it was ceaselessly the policy of Jesus to throw his weight in on the side of the vulnerable against hard-hearted people with power for God is a great lover of the oppressed and downtrodden and He has appointed a day when that will be made clear to the world! Acts 17.31

Wasn’t it Coffin who said something like, “Not to choose sides is in effect to take the side of the predatory powerful.”

(I don’t know how to frame the prayer Holy Father.I know I need Christ-likeness that combines wisdom and tenderness. I know I’m asking for that in the Savior’s name.)

Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit (Part 57)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at or visit his website at:
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT

In Sam’s Office

Mark Twain once remarked that there are two important days in a person’s life. The day they are born and the day they discover why they were born

Sam was leaning back into a comfortable chair in his office, unable to keep his mind on the business papers scattered on the desk. For a long time he’d been thinking about his life, about God and Jesus Christ. His life was fine. His health was good, he enjoyed his work, earned a good wage; he found pleasure in good music, literature, movies, in the company of his friends, good food and his comfortable house and good neighbors. He should have been content but there was a hunger in him as was in many others he knew. He came to sense that he was made for more than a ‘fine life’ that ends in Death. He thought it interesting that it was Mark Twain’s aphorism that made his office work more frequently more tedious than it used to be.  He thought how strange life can be when a phrase could rivet his mind to thoughts of Christ. It hadn’t dawned on him yet that God was earnestly and lovingly pursuing him.

That was the afternoon when Jesus walked into his office and sat down. The man was stunned; he didn’t know how he knew but he knew who the visitor was. Jesus let him gain his composure and speak the first words.

“You’ve been on my mind a lot for quite a while now. I’ve known about you for years, of course, but more recently I’ve been doing some serious thinking.”

I know, that’s why I’m here. Serious thinking is good. But it has its limits. It can never be a substitute for doing what must be done and you know what needs to be done. So, are you coming?

He twisted in his chair,  thought for a moment before asking, “Where to?”

And He said, Where to is a good question—What to works better right now.

Okay, What to?

The grandest of all adventures!

And that is?

To save a world that needs saving!

“I’m not up to a job like that,” he said.

“I know that, but I am, and I still want your help in doing it.”

There was something compelling about Him, a blend of authority and appeal. “Count me in,” Sam said.

He took his word for it, smiled and said, “Welcome. Glad you said yes.”

“I know it isn’t just you and me, but are there many of us?”

“Yes, countless. But you know you don’t all live at the same time or in the same places. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re alone but at other times you’ll sense you’re part of a movement that can’t be numbered.”

“Will I suffer a lot?”

“You thinking you might have to reconsider your commitment?”

“No, not at all. You had me when you asked, ‘ You coming?’ I suppose I’m just counting the cost.”

“That’s a good thing,” Jesus said, “And yes. It’ll cost you in various ways and it may cost you a lot. But you need to understand; whether you sign on with Me or not, in this life you’ll suffer. It’s that kind of world.  Most of what you suffer you will suffer because you’re a human in a world that has alienated itself from My Father. I don’t offer My followers exemption from loss and the anguish countless people endure in this life from their birth till their death. I came into this world and My Father didn’t exempt Me. Of course, I never wanted it or asked for it!”

“So why did you come when you knew what you were in for in such a world?”

A big sigh and, “Because I couldn’t stand to see so many of you suffering alone. Lovers don’t have a choice. You’ve seen that truth demonstrated over and over again in your life, haven’t you! “

“But you suffered so much more than anyone else could have suffered. Is that not true?” Sam asked.

“If you’re talking about physical suffering I think we need to get something clear. I never suffered to the same degree that millions suffered in the Nazi camps or the Gulag or any other such hell-hole. I never made that claim nor did any one of My special witness that I sent out to proclaim and teach my Father’s purpose revealed in Me. But my suffering didn’t begin in that Passion Week or the hours leading to the cross and the hours I hung there. I suffered in ways others couldn’t suffer. My prolonged anguish was heartache and finally heartbreak because of what I saw and heard and knew what was coming. It never was about the quantity of physical pain. My agony could only be matched by My Father. No one ever loved anyone more than He did. With His Spirit as my companion and sustainer I entered into a lover’s pain to a degree that no others could. So, did I suffer more than anyone else? Yes, but not physically. That should never be the stress. The hurt my Father and the Spirit and I felt began a long time before I came from God to embody and make His loving purpose known—a purpose that defies all you can imagine.”

This piece is part of a little book I working with. I purpose to develop it, God enabling me..

The Moon Doesn’t Care About You!

We need to get this straight: The sun doesn’t care for us nor does the rain! The moon has absolutely no interest in our romance, the stars don’t care whether you’re devastatingly lonely or your senses are filled at the thought of someone who loves you. The fire that welcomes and warms you on a bitterly cold evening will burn and destroy you and all those you love more than you love yourself and the water that marvelously quenches your thirst when your throat has turned to dust will ruin everything you’ve built or suffocate all you love.

It is living self-conscious beings that invest these mindless, purposeless things with ‘meaning’ and loveliness, making them sources of joy, comfort and life and they can only do that because….

Jesus in Matthew 5, with His own agenda, makes it known that the sun and the rain are God’s gifts to the human family. Paul in Acts 14:16-17 follows the Lord Jesus. In Matthew 11:25 Christ claims the endless dark passages of space, the massive quasar clusters, the supernovas, the immense galaxies and numberless stars—the entire mindless universe belongs to His Father who is the Lord of it all. It is God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who gives meaning and purpose to everything—including humankind.

Humankind rejected God and began to worship these created things and finally came to worship humans—the humans God gifted with healing skill, creative capacity, intellectual brilliance and the sources of joy and gladness (Romans 1:18-32; Acts 14.16-17; 17:24-31).

It would thankless insolence to dismiss all those humans (Christians and non-Christians) who devote themselves to the blessing of fellow-humans (an insult to God and to those devoted people) but no one! nothing! is to be worshiped but God whose self-revelation and purpose is seen in the Person of the immortal and glorified Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who shows us what God has purposed for all who will trust themselves to Him. (See Revelation 19:10; 22:9)

On a coming day, the creation will be glorified, and freed from the futility to which it has been subjected. The jury is still out on what precisely that will mean (1 John 3:1-2; Philippians 3:20-21; Romans 8:18-22) and it will be the home of glorified, deathless humans who will live in ceaseless adventure, joy righteousness as God’s companions.

A new world and a new humanity is coming and Jesus is the model and assurance of that as both the Son of God and the Son of humankind.

It Is Enough!

It is not well that I should walk always
on life’s easy street
How should my feet not bleed for love;
Love’s feet bled for me
And His love is sweet.
I follow, though the thorns and brambles tear
And the rocky track is sharp and rough,
Why should I complain if a cross I bear
Christ went that way, It is enough.

Norman Gale, (slightly adapted)

A Faint Star Flames & Falls

O SOMEWHERE, somewhere, God unknown,
Exist and be!
I am dying; I am all alone;
I must have Thee!
God! God! my sense, my soul, my all
Dies in the cry:
Sawest thou the faint star flame and fall?
Ah! It was I.
A tormented soul (Frederick Myers) wrote that many years ago.
Paul says Christians war against principalities and powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual hosts of wickedness in invisible realms and are in dire need of protection by God (Ephesians 6). He himself in that section confesses a desperate need for prayers on his behalf, armored or not.
And what of those who have not accepted God’s full protection? Those of whom our Blessed Savior said: “They don’t know what they’re doing”?
What can, what will, we do for them…for them?


“The Flesh Profits Nothing.”

Jesus said of those who trusted themselves to Him: “ As I live by the Father… they also shall live by Me.” There lies the secret of life that is LIFE.

It’s profoundly important that we openly, without apology, happily, joyfully insist on the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. God did not become a ‘God-man’. A hybrid. God became a man. Jesus of Nazareth was not God being God—He was/is always God always being a man!

It is equally important that we remember and insist, just as happily, just as joyfully and without apology that the man Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 2:22, passim) ceaselessly pointed to God as the source of everything He was and is! God sent Him, God empowered Him, God gave Him the words He taught, the thoughts He thought and the promises He made. The life Jesus of Nazareth enjoyed had its source in God, Jesus said.
His life is reflected in the lives of believers who are parts of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 6:14-15, 17). We do not “live” apart from the Lord Jesus (John 5.26 and entire context).  That we live even if we reject God is true (Acts 17:25, 27-28) and for millions of us it is a fine life with blessings of all kinds (Acts 14:16-17). But there is “life” now and ahead that is brimful of life; lovelier, fuller, in which all that is honorable, noble, adventure-filled and freedom is the order of every day; a life in which nothing that has been gracious, gallant or life-promoting is forgotten but is taken up into the fabric of that ultimate abundant life in a new creation.

Jesus not only died in the flesh, He died to it, died to all its limits and has been given a name that is above every name, not only in this world but beyond. He’s Alive! And all who are embraced in His redeeming work of loving commitment will experience that life they now taste in completeness in a coming day. In the meantime of that life Paul had this to say in Colossians 2:12: “Buried with Him in baptism in which [in baptism—jmcg]  you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead.”
This text is very strong—stronger even that Romans 6:4-5. Here we have believers co-buried and co-raised with Christ. No word here about “likeness” to Christ’s death and resurrection though of course that’s true. Believers are viewed as buried and raised with Christ. That is, by faith In Christ’s dying they died and in His rising they rose (see Ephesians 2:5-6).

Then in Col. 3:1-3 he comes back to this truth that in Christ believers were raised with Christ. Once more, he doesn’t say baptism is like Christ’s death and rising out of it is like Christ’s resurrection. He says believers are co-buried (one word) and co-raised (one word] in the death and resurrection of the Lord.. But he says of that life, that resurrection life, “You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” We don’t bodily experience or ‘see’ that full-resurrection life right now but that resurrection life personally experienced by Christ—is ours though not yet seen. (See Hebrews 2:8-9.)

He “gives” His flesh and blood for the world (John 6.51) for the life of the world. He speaks here of surrendering the life He then lived in the world as a human like every other human in order to take it again. He gives it, lays it down as ‘flesh”—humanness as it belongs to this phase of human life— that He might take it up again in spirit and power (John 10:17; 1 Peter 3.18; 2 Corinthians 13.4)—that is, in a mode of Being that transcends this phase of human life limited by mortality. 1 John says we do not yet know what we shall be but we know that we will be like Him in whom is the secret of life that is life.

It is in this sense that He said, “the flesh profits nothing” (John 6.63 with 6:27). He doesn’t despise human life. They were seeing Him as someone who could make life “in the flesh” easier and finer (hardly a bad thing) but that was of no lasting effect—and especially in comparison to what He was offering. To deliver them from national oppression or from physical hunger (as food does from death) as He had done the day before (6:22) wouldn’t defeat Death and bring the life God sent Him to give. He meant to kill Death and did it by rising to life beyond Death. They had eaten but they would die as ancient Israelites under Moses had done. Had He gave them the kind of bread Moses gave and the kind of deliverance Moses brought it would profit them nothing, ultimately, for Death would come. Deliverance from Rome was not deliverance from mortality and God sent Jesus to offer deliverance from Death itself in delivering them from their personal and national Sin (Romans 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:55-56).

Deliverance from predatory nations in war is not triumph over Death itself. But who would fault joyous dancing in the streets in 1945? Who would fault Jonah if he had lived long enough to see God bring down savage Nineveh, the capital of the most brutal of all the ancient empires that tormented a world on its way to doom—who would have complained if he had lived long enough to see that empire structure obliterated and ran everywhere shouting his joy and proclaiming his ‘gospel’? But Death would come to him and he would stop proclaiming the good news about Assyria’s perdition. Deliverance from the C-virus can hardly be a bad thing. But Death will come and no vaccines or other wise responses will save us from it. Christians will be compassionate as well as careful but Christians will be more than that. Won’t they? They will gospel without swaggering, gospel without bullying. Whatever else they will speak of they will speak of the Lord Jesus, the Death Destroyer and the Life Giver.

Jesus “in the flesh” (that is, a human—John1.14; Romans 8:3) could not give, never intended just to give but intended to gain for us (Romans 4.25) and exhibit and embody the fullness of life God always meant for His beloved creation—now alienated from Him. Jesus Christ IS the fullness of life. “I am the Life…” He said (John 14). Within God’s sovereign and altogether gracious purpose He sent Jesus in whom He offered reconciliation to the world (see John 6:51; 2 Cor 5:18-20).

[Holy Father, who can we believe these days? More and more we come to admire  the One whose ‘yes’ was ‘yes’ and ‘no’ was ‘no’.  The One who said, “If that isn’t true I would have told you. Trust Me—I am the Truth.” Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. This prayer in the name of the  One called, “Faithful & True”].


This foreigner dares to approach this Jewish Messiah (Matthew 15:21-28). How do we explain the broad spectrum of people that dared—facing one obstacle or another—to approach and speak to Jesus?
The worst kind of Pharisee was gutted by Jesus hanging around the ‘unholy’ instead of around them. What never struck them as strange was that ‘the unholy’ loved to hang around Him and not them.
A commander in the conqueror’s army. A woman in public, part of a hostile people and religion a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, a “bad” Samaritan in John 4 or this Sidonian (a Greek also) woman with a severely troubled child. All of them experiencing great turmoil and trouble and yet all believing they could speak to him. There was some rivalry between the disciples of John and Jesus and John’s disciples were jealous of Jesus’ success (John 3:26, with context) yet when John is killed his disciples go and tell Jesus (Matthew 14.12). What was it about Him that led the high and low to feel they could speak to Him?
It’s said of Albert Düerer that he sharpened the wit and talent of all he met. He brought the best out in them. You’ve met people I hope, who made you feel you had something worth saying, an opinion worth hearing or an insight that added light to the matter under consideration or a need that that needed expressed. Don’t you love such people?! The way they carry themselves, the way they treat people; the very way they look at people as they listen to them—all of that enables us to dare to speak to them and this is especially true if we’re the shy or easily intimidated kind–too afraid to take up the time of the great woman or man or too afraid to have everyone looking at or listening to us while we’re doing it . (That kind of fear, that painful shyness, the anguish of a profound sense of unworthiness, is often thought to be humility when the sufferer knows it isn’t that and even that being misunderstood adds agony on top of agony.)
The beauty of these “liberators” (and that’s what they are) is that they don’t have to know our particular needs—God has been at work in them (whether they know that or not; whether they know Him or not—and they have that love of people and don’t swagger because they are (in this) our betters. Jesus was the most unselfconscious lover of God and people that ever lived. He didn’t have to psycho-analyze them in order to act toward them—He acted out what He was within.
Though I never had the privilege of being around him much, on those rare occasions when I got to listen to his lectures and was part of a group he chatted with afterward I always experienced that sense of things in Everett Ferguson, a noted Church Historian. I always believed he listened to us as though he believed our opinions were worth expressing and worth hearing. But in addition to that he took an interest in people’s daily lives. (I have a friend who some years back couldn’t wait to tell me about his exhilarating experience with Ferguson.) There is no pretense on his part, no feigned humility, he was ‘ordinary’; he just possessed a gracious openness to others. There’s something immensely liberating in that and we thank God for such people. And linked to all that that is what cannot exist without it, there is humility. How difficult I would think it to be when you know you are more advanced, mature, (or whatever word I should be using here)—how difficult I would think that must be and yet there are those beautiful people who obviously carry it off with ease and without being conscious of it. Reminds me of Moses when he had been with God up the mountain, came down and his face shone and he didn’t know it (Exodus 34:29). Someone, at this moment I can’t remember who, nicely said that when you meet such people you don’t ask if they have been with God, you just ask, “What did He say?”
I watched a documentary on Pavarotti, one of the world’s leading tenors. The camera followed him here and there in company with several of his acquaintances and they ended up in a little restaurant that hosted singers. One of them was a tenor who was obviously very capable but whom I (who am utterly ignorant of all the marks of what constitutes skill in this area) thought was “not bad” but not much better. Imagine my delight to hear Pavarotti speak to his companions about the club-singer’s interpretation of the song he sang, and P. speaking about different ways of interpreting. He expressed his own way of rendering the song but admitted that the club-singer’s way may be better than his own. I liked the man Pavarotti better having heard him speak that way. Here, perhaps the world’s most popular tenor, expressing his view of this man whose name I can never remember. You can imagine that this ‘unknown’ gentleman would have got hold of the DVD and watched it again and again and been lifted by it. A gracious, generous word that isn’t too sugary, is water to a parched soul and a shadow of a great rock in the blistering heat.
And what has all this to do with Jesus Christ? Everything! The spirit of Jesus Christ (and His Spirit) is abroad in the world. He had and has embodied and exemplified all that is best in humankind and continues to shape the world. I don’t have to tell you He is beyond all we can say about Him but, still. He is “the Son of Man”—a human—more than that but not less and He admired and admires loveliness in humans (in part) because He is the author and sustainer of it.

This Sidonian-Greek woman had heard of Israel’s Messiah, the son of David, and the stories she heard about him were such that she followed him and his group calling out to him for pity and help. Do you suppose that would have happened to Hitler or Stalin?
“And what made you so daring that you just kept following and calling over and over and over again? Why would you not be intimidated into desperate silence?” Had we asked her that she probably would have said. “It was the stories I heard about Him. They all had a number of things in common and one of them was that he really liked people like me and wanted to help us so though it seemed He was ignoring me. I knew it couldn’t be true!”
God’s blessing on those that help to free us from crushing shyness or a crippling, paralyzing sense of unworthiness. God bless all those that make us believe our concerns matter to them or that our words are welcome even if we know we aren’t in their league or feel we have little to offer.