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I was walking our dog yesterday. There was something she saw or smelled across the street and off she started to go. There was nothing wrong or misbehaving in her actions. The only issue was the large Jeep bearing down on where she was starting to walk. I always walk her on a leash so it was no problem to stop her. Here’s the thing, it’s not that she didn’t see the Jeep, she was just incapable of perceiving the danger. To her, her actions seemed appropriate and the goal was worth the action. It took someone else with greater capacity to see the danger and intervene. So? It got me thinking how often do I/we want something, something that seems completely appropriate, something good and off I/we go. We may act. We may pray and act. We may pray and wait, hoping to act. Then we are stopped. We’re not dogs. We’re not God’s pets. We are His thinking creation. If we’re not careful, in our arrogance we may feel we have the perfect perspective. If we are stopped in our tracks, thwarted from our goal, we may conclude God is wrong, that God doesn’t understand, that God has missed something. Instead let us understand that God’s perspective is perfect. We imperfectly know now and can’t see next. God is the God of now as well as next. God loves us and in that love will keep us from walking into the disaster of our own misperception. So should we be allowed to reach our goal, thank God for the blessing. Should we be stopped, thank God in faith for saving us from that disaster we could not perceive. You are loved by a God who always, perfectly knows best.

I! I? Oh the message of the world today. I can do anything! I can be anything! I can have it all! It would seem that “I” is the h “I” ghest concept of all. Enter Jesus Christ and the cross. Consider that the closest letter in the alphabet to the cross, in shape, is the letter “t”. Add the letter t to the phrase I can and you get I can’t. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is crystal clear when He states “apart from Me, you CAN DO NOTHING“. I can sure try but I’ll never thrive. I can sure strive but I will never be successful…..until I become a part of the blessed We. Please, please understand, Jesus Christ is not telling you that You are inconsequential. No, Jesus goes on to promise us; abide in Me and you will do things that are great, even greater things. You see we were never created to be “I” apart from or outside of Jesus Christ. It is in the blessed We, that we we are created to live abundantly. How much does it cost, what is the entrance fee to become part of the blessed We? All you have to do is accept the invitation. All you have to do is knock, seek or ask and Jesus Christ will come and join you. Oh and please understand this, there is a price required to be a part of that relationship. The truth is that Jesus Christ completely paid that price in full with His life. Thus let us leave behind the isolation of the worldly “I” existence and live into the blessed We of Jesus Christ and me.

Good Friday is absolutely the correct title. Yes, the horrific treatment Jesus was going through was terrible and led to a barbaric death. However, at the same time and, in fact the reason for His death was He was becoming sin. He became or took upon Himself our sin. So now when Our Heavenly Father considers and sees us, He sees us as innocent because of what Jesus accomplished. So it is good, very good for us, the sacrifice Jesus made for us today. Only good and not great? The Greater thing comes three days hence with His resurrection. Let us live into that sacrifice and see the greatness of His Good act.

So this Sunday, we’re going to gather together and shout loudly: “He is Risen!”, which is a quite proper thing to do. However, if we shout that simply as a celebration in and a pronouncement of a several thousand year old event, then we tragically miss the greater meaning. You see “He is Risen” is a proclamation of a current blessed reality. Jesus Christ is a very much risen, all powerful, living Savior this very moment! That the world refuses to acknowledge this and instead turns to worldly solutions and actions like war, greed, hate, envy and so many more useless pursuits does not diminish Christ’s power or purpose in the slightest. Christ is living at the Right Hand of God and His Love, Grace, Forgiveness and Mercy are as sustaining now as they ever have been. So while Easter Sunday is the traditional day of celebration, every day is the appropriate day of proclamation of He is Risen with the faithfully living into all the blessings and love that are connected to that truth. May you have a Blessed Easter.

Yes…but. Will the worldly clouds obscure the silver lining of God’s blessings? Today, if you’re open to it, you will be blessed by God. I say open to it because, like any gift, if you never accept it, open it or use it, then there’s little or no value to it. The world and the prince of this world wants to distract you from seeing any blessings or at the very least minimize the blessings to the greatest extent possible. How?, with messages like yes I might have received a blessings but there is suffering over here or there, or yes but the blessing won’t last, tomorrow will be bad, or yes but the blessing could have been bigger/better. It’s not like God doesn’t want you to be empathetic or sympathetic; indeed, He wants you to experience the blessings so that you might share the blessings with others in need so they might know of God’s love. God is a God of infinite resources and power. It’s not like the fact that He blessed you today means He’s running out of blessings to be able to give tomorrow. God knows exactly the correct amount of blessing to give. As too much sugar can ruin a cake, a blessing that is the wrong size too large can bring about more damage then good. Jesus Christ is clear when He said: “In the world you will have tribulation”. Christ was also clear that we can still be of good cheer and expect blessings because Christ has overcome the world by the plan of Our Father. So don’t allow the clouds of the world to obscure the power of the blessing. Instead, do two things today. First, live into the love and blessings from God with thanksgiving. Then, share God’s blessings so that the world may feel some healing and know God’s love. Happy, blessed Monday and week.

The Power of Redemption, the lesson from a gift card. So whether it’s procrastination or a factor of the age for which the gift card celebrated, I finally got around to redeeming a gift card that I had lying around for some time. And at that moment the Holy Spirit taught me something. You see that card had only potential power while it existed unredeemed. Oh sure the card had a monetary figure on it that to some in the world might have seemed big. However, until redemption, that value remained unrealized and the card’s purpose stayed unfulfilled. The Spirit showed me how that same concept applies to us. We are all created with value and purpose by our Heavenly Father. Yet until we are redeemed that value sits stagnant and that purpose unfulfilled. Plus, like a gift card can’t redeem itself, there’s no such thing as self-redemption in that we have no ability to redeem ourselves. We must understand there is only One true Redeemer and He is Jesus Christ. Here’s the major difference that we can’t miss, the gift card has no power in the process of redemption, it must sit there until someone gets around to acting on it. Jesus Christ stands by actively, eagerly waiting to redeem us instantly. It is we who must act. It is we who must not be tardy or ambivalent in asking for our freely given redemption. While our redemption is a free gift of grace from God, it most certainly had a supremely high cost. It costed Jesus Christ His life. Please don’t put off your redemption. The world may tell you, you have great worldly value in your possessions, your achievements, your wealth. The world may declare to you, you have no need of redemption. But, if you’re not redeemed by the precious Blood or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, your true value remains untapped and your purpose is left dormant. Be redeemed simply by asking for it and if you are redeemed then live into that redemption with the purpose and value that our Heavenly Father so abundantly provides and become the gift of love to yourself and the rest of the world that God intended you to be.

Jesus Christ knows it’s not easy…..for us. Especially during this season of Lent, let us stop and truly contemplate that Jesus Christ left perfection and came down to us, for us. Christ came to be salvation because every last one of us needs a Savior. Christ not only died for us but He also taught us what it means to truly live. Now sometimes His teaching could be a bit nuanced but at other times it was completely crystal clear. Sooo? We are seeing our fallen nature on full display at this time. There is a war on. One country has invaded another with no justifiable reason and is reeking havoc and destruction on the innocent. Jesus would agree that praying for the Ukrainians is a right and powerful thing to do. However, if we stop there, if the prayer ended with the Ukrainians, Jesus could and probably would warn us, we weren’t listening. For Jesus knew we would have enemies. Understand, Jesus did not preach that we SHOULD have enemies, He didn’t supply us with a righteous enemies list. No, He knew in our fallen state, that enemies would come. And Jesus taught about what we should do when our enemies attack, how we should treat them (Oh this is so hard). Christ was clear; we should love our enemies, we should do good to those who hate us. Christ not only taught it, He lived it. Remember as He hung dying on the cross; Jesus did not just declare His forgiveness to those who were crucifying Him, He prayed to God: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”. Pray for the Russians? Watching their barbarism, find some sort of love for the Russians? Jesus you ask too much! Maybe I can mumble some meaningless stuff with a Russia thrown in, but can I mean it? Christ knows it’s hard. In fact He knows, on our own, it’s probably impossible. He doesn’t want us to try. Jesus implores us to abide in Him. It is by being in Him and calling upon His name that His strength will allow us to overcome our desire for revenge and hatred. To find the love of Christ we must first look to Christ. With Christ within us we can find the place where we can add the Russians to our prayers of hope, reconciliation, peace and yes even love. In the Blessed Name of Jesus Christ pray for Ukraine and yes, in the Blessed Name of Jesus Christ, pray for Russia.

So there might be many that are saying to God, asking God, pleading with God, demanding of God, even blaming God: “God, why don’t you stop this war!?” “Why aren’t you saving us?” It is an understandable request. But to all I would suggest that we take a step back, take a deep breath, look in the mirror and contemplate this. We are asking God to SAVE US FROM OURSELVES! We are quite accurately describing just who we are. We need to acknowledge that. What’s happening in Ukraine is not some asteroid crashing out of the sky or volcano belching destruction from the depths below. No, through hatred, anger, fear, covetousness, self-glory seeking, despotic tendencies and the list goes on, this is man-made as all wars are. “Oh that’s not me” you respond, that’s only him or her. Jesus Christ would ask us; have we never felt hatred in our hearts towards another? We may not have great armies at our disposal but have not ever lashed out in anger? Have we never blindly and unfairly judged another or sought out our own glory at the expense of another? The worldly motivations are the same. Here’s the thing, God listens and He will save. But we can’t miss this, our salvation starts with a humble request from our brokenness and not our demanding from some false sense of righteousness. It starts with confession, not command. In our humble confession and plea, Jesus Christ will come. And as Jesus lifted Peter up from the storm tossed sea when he was sinking, Jesus will lift us as well. We are sinking in the world tossed storm of lusts, envy, fear anger and hatred. Jesus will lift us, through His power, to a place where His grace reigns and our worldly tendencies are replaced by His overpowering love as long as we reach out to and focus on Him. The end of man’s inhumanity to man will not come from the works of man. The end of that begins with the humble, confessional ask to God.

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

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