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It is hard. It is hard to watch and exponentially harder to experience the evil that is happening today. Evil exists. Evil hates. Evil destroys. In former, calmer days we might have come to doubt evil’s very existence and destructive power until it comes raging in. BUT evil never wins no matter how hard it tries. There is a Higher power who will always triumph. Today a man believes he is the highest power; bombing where he wants, destroying the innocent. We watch with frustration and may feel a sense of despair. Just like those who were at the site of the cross, despairing as they watched the evil Pharisees gloat about their evil actions against Jesus. As Jesus died, the Pharisees thought their power was supreme, they were sure they’d won. Three days later they found out just how wrong, how weak they really were. Today’s evil will be defeated too. Also, let’s not overlook the tremendous love that is bringing different peoples together; striving to serve with love, mercy and grace, the hurting and downtrodden. Again, this evil will lose. Yet going forward, in the calmer times ahead, let us not be lulled into some false sense of security that evil has disappeared or been banished by some human effort. Instead, let us cling to the Higher power, Jesus Christ, who will come again and bring a final end to evil for all time. Pray for the Ukrainians.

Which?

This food is enough

These clothes are enough

This place is enough

This relationship is enough

These things are enough

This God is enough

This day is enough

or

I want more. I need more. I want what you have. I need what you have. I will take some or all of what you have. And God quite literally knows: I don’t care.

Love, generosity, contentment, peace, life

or

Anger, hatred, frustration, violence, war, death

Which today?

The choice is yours and mine and no one else’s

I know that it can be easy to look at these dark images of the day and fret and be fearful. It is understandable and accurate to be saddened at how often we humans resort to violence and wholesale destruction especially targeting the weaker and more vulnerable among us. It is at times like these that God’s Word can be both instructing and reassuring. You see Moses and God’s people faced an enemy. In the minds of the people, that enemy was much more powerful; maybe the ultimate power, even greater than God’s power. They feared, lost their faith and failed to follow God. Because of that, they saw no victory. But, please, please don’t miss this, the victory came. A remnant of the people believed God, followed Him and God’s might won the victory for them. Today we truly have terrible weapons of destruction. Some are using them and threatening they will use ultimate weapons of mass destruction to achieve their world glory way. We can have peace knowing that no human power has ever been, is now or will ever be the ultimate power. God is the ultimate power. Let us then turn to Him in humble prayer for His power to reign and with it peace. Let us pray that His Spirit can bring about reconciliation when the hearts of men seek only divisive destruction. Please don’t lose faith in the One True Almighty Power and He, our Heavenly Father will bring us through this.

“..Jesus….saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth, ‘Follow me’, He told him and Matthew got up and followed him.‘” Matthew 9:9

“When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'” Matthew 9:11

“…Jesus said: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” Matthew 9:12-13

“I tell you in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7

In Part I of looking at why our Heavenly Father allows evil to exist, we looked at the Parable of the Weeds. In it we saw the mercy, steadfast patience and love of God, that He is not willing to damage any portion of His beloved grain, which He planted, in rooting out the evil amongst it. God knows the unintended consequences/damages that can happen to us because we let (maybe even invite at times) evil to come so close to us, if God were to mercilessly destroy that evil. However, two things are clear; God doesn’t bring the evil and evil will be judged and cast out from God, when He chooses to do so.

In Part II we look at the concept of weeds and grain using Jesus’s call of Matthew. We see it plainly stated in scripture, that Matthew was a tax collector. Now I’m not sure if there has ever been a time in any history when tax collectors have been showered with praise or looked on particularly favorably. But definitely in the time of Jesus, Jewish tax collectors were a pariah of society. The hated Romans had many taxes required of their conquered foes. Additionally, King Herod had taxes he required for the upkeep of his lifestyle and other municipal reasons. Finally, many tax collectors (and there is every indication Matthew would have fallen into this) added a few extra shekels to the take to line their pockets as well.

It is not hidden to Jesus that Matthew is a tax collector. He sees Matthew sitting at the tax collecting table and approaches him. Jesus calls for Matthew to: “Follow Me”, and Matthew immediately responds and follows Jesus. The first place Matthew “follows” Jesus to is Matthew’s home where he holds a large dinner for Jesus, the disciples, the Jewish Religious aristocracy and many of Matthew’s friends which happen to be other tax collectors and assorted sinners.

It would surely appear that Matthew is a weed amongst a group of weeds. The Pharisees see this and comment on it. It would seem in their minds that these sinners should be at the very least shunned and, if Jesus was the real Mesiah, potentially destroyed as the vile weeds they are.

Notice that Jesus does not respond by excusing the evil that the tax collector does as somewhat understandable. Jesus doesn’t declare that sin is “no big deal”; far from it. However, what Jesus sees is people who are sick; sin-sick. Jesus does not see people who need to do something first to show their righteousness like sacrificing. No, Jesus sees people who are in need of a merciful Healer. Jesus sees the need for a Saving Doctor and knows that He is the only Doctor who has the cure.

We might find ourselves as judges of the world declaring who it is who are weeds and who is grain. There be some Dear Sisters and Brothers who feel that they have been righteous from birth or at least their infant baptism and never had anything to do with “weedy” behavior. There may be those of us who are well aware of our time of spiritual sickness, when we were away from the presence of Jesus and more hell-bent than heaven-focused.

It is clear in the call of Matthew as well as many different examples of Jesus’s life; He does not ascribe to a “once a weed, always a weed” theology. When Jesus calls out: “Come unto me”; there is an assumption that there are some/many who are away from Him.

The call of Matthew shows the loving, power of Jesus Christ. By the healing power of Jesus Christ, Matthew did answer the call and come unto Jesus. Matthew did repent and leave his sin focused life behind allowing him to become one of the 11 Apostles.

There are two other things we should note here. Matthew followed Jesus but even then he didn’t become perfect. Remember the disciples were quarreling with each other, seeking their own glory by arguing whom among them was the greatest. Matthew, with the other 11, abandoned Jesus, in the garden when He was confronted and arrested by the mob. Yet at no time did Jesus, even in rebuking His 11 disciples, judge them or cast them out. The love of Jesus Christ is about mercy and saving the lost.

Additionally, please, please do not lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ came to Matthew. Jesus Christ did not demand that Matthew change anything first, to be worthy to be in the presence of Jesus. Also, it is the Power of Jesus Christ, that changed Matthew. Matthew went on to write an inspired Gospel that teaches so much to us down to this very day. Matthew journeyed far to teach and spread the word of Jesus Christ throughout the first century world. Matthew did all of that by being in Jesus Christ; receiving Christ’s love and spreading it to the greater needy world.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, both the Old and New Testaments are clear; we are a fallen people. We are a people in need of salvation, beyond our own capacity. Left to our own devices and power, we will do evil. We will be angry with others, covet from others, we will see others in need and callously avoid or neglect them. We will judge others wrongly and seek our own glory at the expense of others. We will do weedy things. Yet Our Heavenly Father in His loving mercy does not want to bundle us, in those moments and cast us out to burned forever. Indeed, our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ to take our condemnation upon Himself so that we could be restored to righteousness, only through Him.

Praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for His loving plan of salvation for us. Let us then turn to Jesus Christ who comes to us and calls out: “Follow Me!” Let us humbly confess our sins and call upon the Spirit to dwell within us to strengthen us against temptation and keep us from doing evil. Let us rejoice in the opportunity freely given to us to live with and in Jesus Christ, becoming the grain of His Love and allowing Him to let us grow so that we can be a part of His nourishing plan to spread His love to all. That in answering the call of Jesus Christ we would live the blessed lives planned for us by our Heavenly Father bringing praise and Glory to His most Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we are sinners. We repent of those sins and ask for Your blessed mercy and forgiveness. We sing songs and pray prayers of thanksgiving for Your plan for our salvation through the gift of the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you, Jesus that You, who we were created through, are willing to come to us no matter what our conditions and/or circumstances. That You don’t require of us any preconditions for Your unconditional love. Fill us with Your Spirit, most blessed Father, that will give us the strength to abide in Your Son, Jesus Christ and thus fulfill the call that You have for us. That we may live lives that bring praise and glory to You, Heavenly Father and to Your Son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“…a man who sowed good seed in his field…..his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat…” Matthew 13:24,25

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:28

“No, he answered, “Because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. …I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” Matthew 13:29,30

The why referenced in the title is the “why?” of evil. Now this subject has been covered by brilliant theologians and philosophers down through the ages and I do not count myself anywhere close to their wisdom. However, the Good Lord has put it in my heart to write this and I hope there might be some comfort in its reading.

Jesus taught in parables. Jesus had many reasons for this but one of the declarations that He made was that: “No one knows the Father but the Son”. (Matthew 11:27) Jesus also stated that He wanted to reveal His Father to those whom He wished to. Thus the parable of the weeds is the second parable that Jesus uses and it comes write after the parable of the sower and the different soils (See The Servant Sower and the Soils Parts 1-3 March 2021).

While there were different lessons and motives for different parables, several Jesus started off with: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like……”. So again we see that Jesus is looking to reveal as best as our limited capacity to understand would allow, insights into Our Heavenly Father and His Kingdom. In this case, there is a man, a landowner who desires to grow a crop and starts the process by sowing good seed. Now to begin with it is vital that we understand that the only seed the landowner has is good. In no way shape or form do the weeds come from the landowner. If there was only the landowner, then only a wonderful crop would be produced by his efforts.

Yet, sadly, the landowner is not the only person with seeds. You see the landowner has an enemy. The enemy is going to attack the landowner by going after his crop that comes from the good seeds. The enemy seeds weeds into the landowner’s good crop. I don’t want to dwell on the enemy but notice that, in the parable, Jesus states, after sowing the weeds by night, the enemy leaves. You see the enemy has no care for the weeds. He has no desire to help the weeds grow or flourish. The only motive the enemy has is destruction; destruction of everything, the landowner, the landowner’s crop, even the weeds, no matter. The enemy is truly evil and sows evil.

Suddenly, in this field of good grain, sprouts weeds. Now the enemy may have worked in secret but his fruits, the weeds, are they for all to see; and they’re growing. Both the landowner and the landowner’s servants see the weeds. However, the servants don’t know how the weeds came to be in the field. Is it possible that there was some defect in the landowner’s seed or plan? No, the landowner explains the work of the evil one.

It is clear that the servants are not happy that the weeds are in the fields, find them harmful and want to get rid of them right then and there. In a way, they are as focused on the weeds and wanting to stop their growth and infiltration in the field, because they ask whether they should go and pull them up.

However, and please don’t miss the landowner’s focus and love, the landowner has a different focus. The landowner sees the weeds out in his good soil and in and amongst his good grain as well. He knows the weeds are feasting off the fine fertilized soil and will drink in the water that is provided. The landowner knows for a time, that the weeds will grow and survive.

Why wouldn’t the landowner order is servants to go out and rid his precious field of these horrible, evil weeds by yanking them out, complete roots and all? Because the landowner is focused on every single stalk of his precious good grain. The landowner is not willing to sacrifice a single precious plant of grain to the process of removing the weeds. The landowner is keenly aware how closely the weeds and grain are together with the weeds attempting to intertwine their roots with the grain.

The landowner loves the grain. Note this in the story; the grain continues to grow. The landowner deeply cares for the grain, will ensure that it is fertilized, watered and grows to its destined glorious maturity. While the landowner, for a time to keep from damaging in the slightest his grain, will tolerate the weeds, the landowner will not let the weeds takeover and destroy any of his good crop.

Finally, and don’t miss this, the end is not good for the weeds. Harvest time is coming. The landowner is in charge and his harvesters are talented enough to separate out every last weed, bundle them together and cast them out to be burned. Also, note where the power is. The enemy does not come back to fight for his weeds. The enemy has no control over the harvest time or the destruction of his weeds. The power for mercy and judgement rests completely with the landowner.

Why does evil exist? Well it doesn’t come from God in any way, shape or form. There is an enemy who is evil and wants to sow his evil against God and His creation at any moment he can. God knows this. Notice that it is only the good grain that is allowed in the landowner’s barn. God will not tolerate evil in His Kingdom in Heaven. Why does He tolerate it at all and not just purge it the instant the enemy tries to sow it?

Jesus Christ gives us an insight into the Father’s mercy, patience and love. The Father knows of our fallenness and how intertwined we can let evil be with us because of sin. The Father didn’t plant us so that we could be ruthlessly ripped out and destroyed when we allow evil to get close to us. We sometimes want to be hasty and judgmental when we see evil, wanting to strike out against it. How often do we look at the bigger picture of how our attack against evil might have unintended, destructive consequences to the good. If God’s focus was simply the immediate ridding of evil, would you be comfortable accepting the risk of being the collateral damage of God’s purge of evil?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus Christ makes it very clear. God planted us, God loves us. God is not willing to see us harmed in the process of rooting out evil. You may feel surrounded by evil weeds, but know this. You are the grain of God and He will nourish and strengthen you in His word, protect You by His power and water and sustain you with His love. Also, evil’s day of judgement is coming. God will not let evil slide. Evil will be thwarted, gathered up, tossed away and burned in an eternal fire. Our Heavenly Father went so far as to sacrifice His only Son that you and I would be rooted in the soil of His salvation. Take heart, be at peace and grow in the light and warmth of His all-encompassing love.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we see that this world has much evil in it. We confess, Father, that we, at times are tempted to become intertwined in that evil. Forgive us and protect us from the evil, most Merciful Father, keeping it from taking root in us and turning us to weed. By Your Spirit, remind us that we are Your creation, planted by You, nurtured by You, to be harvested by You and to dwell in Your Kingdom forever. Also restrain us, when we impatiently strike out against evil on our own, risking damaging others of Your crop with our impatience. Creator God, may it be that we would stand firmly rooted in the soil of love and salvation laid down by the sacrifice of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may grow to be the harvest that praises and brings praise to Your Most Holy Name. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

“But he said to them: ‘Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe'” John 20:25

“Then He said to Thomas: ‘Put your finger here; see may hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'” John 20:27

“Then Jesus told him: ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” John 20:29

SHOW ME THE DATA!! FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!! GIVE ME THE PROOF, THEN I WILL BELIEVE YOU!!!! These kinds of statements and many more like them are being bandied about, shouted at one another, used as a pretext for non-actions and the justification for other actions.

In a way it is not surprising in this instant Wiki-info world, where “facts” and data are just a few key strokes away, that the general public is less inclined to take declaratory statements at their face value. The fact that you’re reading this on some device means that you’ve also probably used that device to search for some recipe, some process like how to get your device working again or better, some aspect about that reoccurring pain in your body or some historical event you and someone are having a disagreement about. Why should I completely trust you if I can so easily look up the information myself. As a part of an “older” generation; it is not uncommon for us to look down on or speak disapprovingly of “younger” generations. However, I’m not so sure that our “higher” level of trust and respect of and for experts had as much to do with some virtue as it did the difficulty and time involved in researching all but the most obvious topics (i.e. needing a dictionary, encyclopedia or even library).

However, needing proof to accept and believe in something is not a new phenomena. Let’s take the disciple Thomas for example. Now understand that Thomas was not someone who had come to experience Jesus, briefly before Jesus’s death and resurrection. Thomas had been with Jesus throughout His ministry. Thomas had seen Jesus heal the sick, feed thousands, quiet the storm and even raise Lazarus from the grave. Thomas was the disciple who said to the rest of the disciples that they should accompany Jesus and die with Him when Jesus declared He was going to back to Judea (John 11:16)

Thomas had been through incredible times with Jesus and his brethren disciples. Thomas had been told by Mary, that Jesus had indeed risen from the grave and was alive, the third day after His crucifiction (although to be fair to Thomas, the other disciples didn’t believe Mary, at that time either). Now Thomas was confronted with testimony from 10 of his closest companions, that Jesus had risen from the dead; is not just some spirit but an actual, living in the flesh, being. And yet, Thomas did not believe them. Thomas needed proof. Testimony, no matter how credible; wasn’t going to cut it. For Thomas, seeing, touching was the only proof that would bring about his belief.

Now please Sisters and Brothers understand, this is not some sort of bad-Thomas, judgement story. As stated above, none of the disciples believed Mary, even after John and Peter found the tomb empty; until Jesus appeared in their midst (sans Thomas). Would Nathanial or James believed if either or both of them had also been missing? AND, I’m not so sure I’d been jumping up and down hallelujahing versus being mighty skeptical had I missed the glorious meeting.

Now let’s cut to the chase. It’s several thousand years later; dear Sisters and Brothers, is Jesus Christ alive today? Am I living, behaving, praising, praying and most importantly loving, as if Jesus Christ is as present here at this time as He was in Galilei? Jesus Christ declared that He would rise and indeed did rise from the grave. Through scripture we are told that Jesus Christ now resides at the Right Hand or Our Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit is sent to us to testify to the current, vital life of Jesus Christ and the blessings that come from it. Do we believe? If we question, what proof do we need? What do I need to see, hear or touch?

I can hear you: “Come On! We’ve got wars every where we turn, pandemics, hatred, famines! From what I see, hear and experience, how can I be certain that if alive, that Jesus Christ’s being alive really maters?” Jesus Christ warned us; there would be manmade disasters (wars and such) and natural disasters. Yet Jesus also told us that; because of Him and His being alive, we can have peace in Him. Jesus declared as He has overcome the world, that should we believe and abide in Him, He will never forsake us and allow us to great things, even greater than He did.

I also hear you when you say and ask: ” I believe Jesus Christ lives. But, what am I supposed to say, supposed to do, to answer to others who don’t believe and require proof of God and Jesus? How do I prove it to them?” Jesus had/has an answer there too. He told us not to be afraid or worry about what we are to say when asked to defend our faith. Jesus told us the Holy Spirit will supply us with what to say. Additionally, Jesus made it clear; we’re not to be in the business of proving His existence. We are to live lives of love, proclaiming the risen Lord and that is enough.

Finally, something to consider. Jesus Christ did come to Thomas. When Jesus came to Thomas, He didn’t curse Thomas or cast him away for his unbelief. Hardly, instead Jesus, in mercy, allowed the proof that Thomas needed. And Thomas did end up believing and serving.

Jesus Christ is alive. Let it be that you and I Dear Sisters and Brothers find ourselves among those who Jesus declared blessed; that we do truly believe in the earthly life, death, resurrection and continued life of Jesus Christ, even though we have yet to see Him. And in that blessing, live lives that bring praise and glory to the Name of Our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we understand that we live in a world where now most everything is open to debate and requests for proof to believe are everywhere, even proof of Your existence and that of Your Son Jesus Christ. Forgive us Merciful Father when we too find ourselves questioning our faith and Your relevance/power in this world. Through Your Holy Spirit, Dear Father, fill us, strengthen us, calm us; allow us to abide in Your Living Son, that there we might find that certain confident faith. Through Jesus Christ, let us be beacons of Your light, hope and love that will show others the path that leads to belief and life in You. We thank You, Creator God for Your patient mercy with us, Your creation, that You would fill us with Your steadfast love which is all the proof that will ever be needed. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

This is an apolitical or universally political post; it applies to all. If you read in some leaning toward one position/candidate; that is your perception, not my intent. I write this today so we might contemplate our reaction ahead of next week’s (or how ever long it takes) results. First, there is only One Savior and that doesn’t change next week. Jesus is clear in Mark 10:18, there is only one who is good and that is God. The winner next week never has been, isn’t nor will ever become a or your savior. DO NOT put that expectation/responsibility/faith on them. Additionally, how should we respond to the other side whether we win or not; take up arms, plan our revenge? In some other post we can consider the wisdom of, but what if you see the opposing side as your enemy. Jesus, our true Savior, our Ultimate Commander; warns us, there is only one appropriate response. LOVE! Really? Yes, Jesus teaches us; we are to love our enemies. Can we be ready to do that? Finally, your side loses. You look out and perhaps find yourself despondent, fearful and depressed. Why? Next week God will be on His throne just as He is today. Both and Old Testament are crystal clear; evil doesn’t win. Evil will never be triumphant. So if you’ve put your faith in anything/one other than God; stop and return your faith to the One and Only One who truly deserves it. Take a deep breath; pray for peace and may the Spirit of God and His peace and joy guide and sustain you through this time. Also, if you haven’t done so, vote.

“I tell you the truth, 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.” John 14:12

….but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ , walk. Acts 3:6

“He must become greater, I must become less.” John 3:30

Boy, I don’t know that it can be argued; Jesus did some great things while here on earth. I mean He, healed the sick, fed the thousands with a few meager loaves and two fish, completely quieted a ranging storm, walked on water and, and. How did John end His gospel? “…Jesus did many other things…if everyone written down….the whole world would not have room for the books…” (John 21:25)

Of course we might say or think to ourselves: “Sure He did great things He was and is God”. Soooo it might surprise us when Jesus says that we can do greater things than He did. Now we might be forgiven for thinking this might only apply to the disciples. After all, they spent so much time in direct contact with the Messiah. Forgiven or not, we would be in error, for Jesus proclaims that anyone can accomplish these greater things.

Well, I’m definitely a part of anyone, I do believe in Christ so look out here comes the great things I’m going to do; which, oh by the way, will obviously make me great as well! Fame, maybe a little fortune as well will be coming my way, with these great things I will accomplish. This is a ministry I can get behind. I’m great and I do great!!!!

Hmm, who’s great? Let’s look at the example of Peter in Acts. Peter and the disciples had received the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus Christ, and started to preach about Jesus as Savior. Many were believing but many were still skeptical. One day, just outside the temple, in the midst of a large crowd of people, Peter encounters a lame beggar. The man asks Peter and John for money. This would be the perfect time to make a spectacle. It could have been “show time” where Peter puts on a performance proclaiming the greatness of Peter’s power and how great he had become. Yet Peter does not fall for that trap. First Peter declares, he is just as humble in worldly wealth as the beggar, he has no gold or silver to give the man. But Peter has been given a great power and as it has been given to Peter, Peter will in turn give to the man. Peter declares, that in the Name of Jesus Christ, the man is healed and can walk again. The end result is that the man leaps to his feet walks and jumps in the temple and who does he praise for his healing? The man doesn’t praise Peter, the man praises God.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, Peter was following the example of Jesus Christ. For Jesus many times declared He was not doing things of His own accord but through the Plan and Will of His Father in Heaven. Even as God, Christ was not about bringing glory to Himself, but humbled Himself to bring glory to the Father.

Thus, we too must remember, it is not about being known as great that is the goal here. Yes, we want to heal, to feed, to bring peace; I think, personally it would be cool to walk on water, but any and all of these things we do by the power of Jesus Christ is to bring glory and praise to our Heavenly Father.

The paradox is this, as we might do ever greater things; we desire that our own credit, glory, greatness would be ever diminishing so that the Father is glorified in us. It is similar to John the Baptist. When Jesus came and started His ministry, which was far superior to John’s, John’s influence and ministry waned as Jesus’s following and ministry grew. John was not chagrined or chastened by this; but praised and proclaimed this as the good and proper process as well.

In having this conversation with a wise person, they pointed out to me that, in terms of Peter and the healing, Peter did need to act. Peter did not just sit back and state, if Jesus wants him healed, then Jesus will do it. No, Peter came to the lame man, as a man and called upon the power of Jesus Christ through Peter, to heal him. If this were a sentence, Peter might be the subject. Yet when Peter states “I give you”, it’s as if the “I” is a lower case i with an all caps JESUS CHRIST(my teacher wife would not be pleased with my grammar). You see Peter would not use a capital I, in conjunction with Christ for that would be making them both in some way equal. Peter sees no equality with Christ and neither should we, even if we are being allowed to use His power to do great things. Christ’s power in and through us does not make us equal to Christ.

So, abiding in Christ which is the only way His power can be manifested in us, let us go out and do great things. Let us be bold in our thoughts, words and faith; so that we may do even greater things. Yet let us not strive to be known as great by the great gifts we are given. Instead let us strive to be humble bringing glory and praise to our Heavenly Father through our great deeds who is never stingy in showering us with His blessings and sharing His glory.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, who are we that You would see fit to share Your power with us that we might do great things? We thank You that as Your Son has returned to You, Your plan for our salvation has granted us the power to do even greater things than He did. Forgive us, we pray most Merciful Father, when we strive to bring glory to ourselves, to be known as great, by the power You have granted to us. Pour out Your Spirit upon us, that we might remember to be humble in Your presence and in carrying out Your plan. That in the works we do in Your Name, we would strive to be a blessing to others while bringing praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

“to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4: 22-24

Finally, Brothers and Sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

Jesus Christ was unambiguous in His reply.  This question was being posed by, in the day and time when Jesus walked the earth, a learned man, a man considered wise and perhaps holy; a scribe.  This question came at the height of Jesus’s popularity during His time on earth.  He had come humbly but triumphantly into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  The crowds had cheered Him and the leadership had jeered Him.  The religious leadership had been peppering Jesus with question after question trying to trick or confuse Him.  Jesus confounded them at every turn. In Matthew it was an evil question meant to hopefully trap Jesus in some faulty answer.  In Mark the scribe asked the question to Jesus after hearing Him clearly outwit a gathering of religious leaders.  Either way, Jesus was and His message for us today is very clear. Which is the greatest commandment?

Now, for a moment, it might add some clarity to understand the scope of the question.  Was the scribe talking about which of the 10 Commandments, given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai?  Was the scribe asking concerning the greatest commandment of the roughly 613 commandments which were passed down, derived through the 10 Commandments? There were a tremendous amount of commandments to choose from.  Which one or two would Jesus choose?

Understand this, neither the question nor the answer were new.  Loving God with all that you have; heart, body, soul and mind was the first commandment that Moses gave to the people in Deuteronomy when the people of Israel thought they were about to cross over into the promised land.  Moses was explaining, how it was that they would be able to stay in the favor of God Almighty if they lived by these precious precepts and did not turn away from them or forget them. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, a man answered a question posed by Jesus by quoting these two same commandments.  The man went on to ask Jesus:  “Who is my neighbor?” , and Jesus proceeded to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan.

They lived in a fractured world back in the time of Jesus’s walk on this earth.  Jew and gentile, Pharisee and Sadducee, freeman and slave, Roman and the rest of the world; were only some of divisions which existed in the land of that time.

Now fast forward some 2020 years later.  Ho Boy, do we have divisions.  As this blog is read around the world, I would mention just some in my country; conservatives and liberals, migrants and native citizens, man and woman, gender specific and gender flexible, and..and…and. We have a lot of division in our country and our world.  So here’s the challenge; not so much that those differences exist, but the way we treat those who believe differently; as wrong, as evil, as hated, that drives differences into divisions, which destroys groups as small as families and as large as nations.

Notice, neither in the Old Testament or with Jesus, Himself, was it declared, you will love those who believe like you do, who look or act like you do or who vote like you do.  Jesus Christ makes it clear, both in His teaching and His living, talking with a Samaritan – a woman no less – or healing a Roman Centurion’s servant, that neighbor has a very broad and universal meeting.  A neighbor can be a person who has lived next to you for 30 years or a stranger standing next to you in a shopping line.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus makes it clear, love; love toward our neighbor, whomever they might be should be our default position.  There is only one greater commandment; to Love our Heavenly Father. Why? The power of love.  As we love our neighbor, we’re not likely trying to harm them.  Our blood pressure or anger doesn’t go through the roof as we love our neighbor.  A loving neighbor carries no brick, no molatov cocktail, no semi-automatic weapon to use against their neighbor. Love is the Power of God.  Loving like Him allows us to share in that power.

Okay, okay, you say, then I’m going to go out and do it.  Today I’m going to start loving all my neighbors, just you wait.  In some cases it may be tough love, maybe, I’m going to be loving them while I smack some sense into them but I can do this, I’m going to love them.

If we’re going to have a shot at this at all, we have to understand a few things.  First to become this way takes a transformation.  The world and those of the world will never be able to find it within themselves to love thy neighbor as Jesus describes.  As Jesus explained to Nicodemus it takes being born again.  It takes taking off the old self and putting on the new self.  The only way to truly accomplish that is to be in Christ Jesus.

Abiding in Christ, experiencing Christ’s love and His power to change us allows us then, to exemplify Christ in our love for our neighbor. As written in Ephesians, only by putting on the whole armor of God can we combat the evil of this world to see clearly a better, more loving path forward.

Each day we’re likely to come in contact with many neighbors.  Some of those neighbors will be in person, some virtually.  Some will be neighbors we’ve known for decades, some will be strangers who cross our paths. Let us not look to world power; the power of distrusting and hating those neighbors who seem different, wanting for and maybe taking part in their destruction.  Instead let us embrace the Power of God Almighty and His second most important commandment to love that neighbor, even if the love is not returned.  Knowing that the Power of God and His love can never be defeated and by loving in Him we bring praise to His Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You are God and along, with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, the only True God.  Thus You are right and just to have commandments.  We thank you Most Merciful Father that Your greatest commandments are to love; first You, then our neighbors as ourselves.  Forgive us when we neglect these commandments or try and narrow our definition of neighbor to exclude those we decide are not worth our love.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that we might resist the worldly definition of love and neighbor to, instead accept Your definition and the power that goes along with that definition.  Allow us to be beacons of Your love to all our neighbors that we might be peacemakers and healers to this world and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

 

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe I am who I am”. John 13:19

“But Joseph replied: ‘Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this – to preserve the lives of many people.'”  Genesis 50 19,20

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28.

So I realize that the title and subsequent concept flies into the face of the current thinking concerning there being any value in looking back behind us; looking into the past.  Indeed there are many slogans today like:  “There’s a reason your rearview mirror is so small and your windshield so large, where you’re going is so much more important than where you’ve been” (Authors note:  when driving I agree more time needs to be spent looking at where you’re going). Or, “Looking back isn’t’ going to help you. Moving forward is the thing you need to do”.

Now yes, I do understand and agree with certain aspects about not being able to change the past, so constantly dwelling on a past mistake or situation can be detrimental. Similarly, maybe your past is where a particular triumph was and you’d rather bask in the glow and stay focused on that past success instead of trying to be impactful in the present.

Yet Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament as well as Jesus, Himself, want to show us how the past can be amazingly helpful in revealing truths about the present and features of the future.  So let us explore them.

It was a tumultuous time for the disciples, but Jesus knew it was going to increase in intensity by leaps and bounds.  Most of the disciples had been with Him for close to three years.  They had seen Him heal, quiet storms and walk on water.  Earlier in the week, Jesus had entered triumphantly into Jerusalem to the wild cheers of the crowd.  Throughout the week, the religious establishment had tried to trick and trip up Jesus and He had triumphed over them each and every time.  Now they were eating the blessed Passover dinner.  The disciples had no idea what was coming.  But Jesus, being God, knew the entire plan and knew what would soon befall Him.  Jesus started to give the disciples and inkling of what was to come with a message that one of their intimate group was going to betray Jesus.  Then Jesus explains to them why He is telling them this ahead of time.  What’s going to befall Jesus, being arrested, being tortured and then being killed by crucifixion was going to be a horrible experience.  It was going to be an experience that none of the disciples would share in or even have an expectation was going to happen.  It was crucial to Jesus that the disciples understand that this was all a part of His Father’s blessed plan of salvation.  So Jesus’s plan was to tell them ahead of time of what was to happen, with the expressed desire that upon the actual happening itself, the disciples would look back and remember that Jesus had foretold all that was going to happen.  Without Jesus doing this, the disciples might have thought that earthly powers had overcome heavenly powers or perhaps Jesus wasn’t really who He said He was after all.  Instead, after the event of the betrayal happened, the disciples could look back and remember that Jesus had foretold this and thus, the betrayal and the other happenings were not out of heavenly control but were actually happening because of heavenly control.  Their belief in Jesus would become even stronger.

Now, let’s take the example of Joseph.  It appears from scripture, Joseph might have been somewhat an obnoxious younger brother.  He was his father’s favorite and whether intentionally or unintentionally, he reminded his brothers of that fact.  However, nothing of Joseph’s behavior warranted death; which the brothers initially schemed to make happen or selling him to caravan as a slave.  But that is exactly what the brothers did. So you know what happens, eventually by staying faithful and serving the Pharaoh, Joseph is ultimately promoted to the second highest ruler, only the Pharaoh being higher, in all of Egypt.  Enter a famine.  The famine was so widespread that the family of Jacob (Joseph’s father) would have starved without help.  Due to Joseph’s wise planning and stewardship, the only place that had any food during the famine was Egypt.  So Jacob sent his remaining sons to ask for help.  At first the brothers have no idea that they are asking for help from the very same brother they sold to slavery oh those many years ago.  What is Joseph to do; chop off their heads, slow torture them to death? No; Joseph feeds them and invites the entire family to come and live in Egypt.  Jacob, Joseph, his brothers; no one knew that a famine was coming.  God did.  Would it be likely in the midst of the famine that Egypt would be willing to share their precious, scarce grain with a bunch of stranger, outsiders? Not unless someone was in charge who knew these outsiders and wanted to help them; enter Joseph.  So when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he does so with the insight of looking back.  He can see that, while his brothers meant evil, God, who didn’t cause the evil deeds, still used those evil deeds ultimately for the good of not only Joseph, but Jacob’s entire family.  Plus because God knows all things for all times, He knew that eventually the Egyptians would turn on Jacob’s ancestors which would bring about Moses and the salvation of the Israel nation.

Okay, biblical accounts are fine but does that relate to today? Well for me, my blessings of wife and family came because God gave me a heart condition.  Huh?  You see I was in the Air Force and on flight status.  To maintain that status I had to pass an exhaustive physical. Early in my career, I had gone through three of the physicals from three different highly trained specialists called flight surgeons.  Each time I passed with (pardon the pun) flying colors.  Now training was over and it was time to go to my new duty station and time for another physical. This time the flight surgeon listened to my heart for just a few moments; stopped and asked me if I knew I had a heart murmur. This was/is a condition that could disqualify me from flying.  He asked me if I had rheumatic fever as a child or some other significant illness which normally is what causes the condition. I not only told him that I hadn’t (which was true) but that it had not come up in any of my three recent flight physicals.  That caught him very much by surprise but he let me listen to my heart and once he told me what to listen for, sure enough, there was that heart murmur.

To continue flying and probably even stay in the Air Force, I was going to have to receive a waiver.  I arrived at my new duty station and we began the waiver process.  However, I couldn’t fly during that time so I was assigned some additional duties working for an officer I normally would not have for about two months.  The waiver comes through and I’m back on flight status.  Six months later a training position comes open under the officer I had previously worked under.  There were more senior/experienced officers for the position but because the officer and I had worked so well together he chose me.  Both myself and the other officer worked for an officer who happened to have a daughter, roughly my same age.  You guessed it, the senior officer introduced us and 34 years later, I am still the most blessed man alive with the wonderful relationship with her and two children.  When I was first diagnosed with the heart murmur and facing dismissal from the Air Force, I was praying for God’s help, but not seeing any big picture aspect to the situation.  It was only later, when I looked back, could I see all the steps God put in place, steps that were out of my control, that brought about the blessed union which was God’s perfect plan.

Here’s the thing, that was not an isolated incident. Over and over again I could enumerate (but you can breath a sigh of relief, I won’t) the times that a seemingly random or even negative circumstance in my life turned out, by the Grace of God to be a great blessing.

So now I come to my point (finally); circumstances continue to happen.  Things continue to happen to and around me that I did not expect, would not have planned and in general would not have wanted.  Not all circumstances are this way but when the ones that are unsettling arise, if I only looking forward, I might do so with fear and trepidation that this circumstance is the one that spells my doom.  However, by looking at the lessons in the bible and applying them to my past events, (I think that sequence; bible first, then reflections, is key) I can face the uncertain circumstances with much greater confidence, even positivity and with God given peace. My past through God is informing my present and future.

Thus Dear Sister and Brother in Christ, these seem to be societal and perhaps for you personal, uncertain times.  The world may be seeming you to come at you with significant, overwhelming threats.  So especially, if you find that you are filled with fear and dread, I encourage you to look back in your life to times of uncertain circumstances.  Look through your eyes of faith, to see God and His support for you.  If the vision is difficult to come by do not hesitate to pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to God’s faithful Grace and Deliverance in times past.

What you may very well find is a treasure chest of revelations concerning the power of our Heavenly Father for you and ways He has displayed His power in Your life.  Then pray for the strength of spirit to use that revelation about your past to bring about faithful confidence and peace as you trust in our Heavenly Father to always be with you; now and in the future regardless of circumstances.  The goal; whether past, present or into the future is that we see and live into the Grace and Love of our Heavenly Father, His Blessed Son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, in a way that we do not understand we proclaim that You are a God of past, present and future, consisting in those realms all at the same time. Thus Your plan of us is uniquely perfect as You connect all the times together for our blessing.  Forgive us we pray when we fail to see Your power in our past lives and find ourselves fearful about today and tomorrow.  Through the Holy Spirit, open our eyes to how You have always accompanied and delivered us in the past so that our faith will be magnified and a peace be realized in all circumstances.  That it be our goal at all times to live lives that bring praise to Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

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