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“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed or lay my hand on him; for He is the anointed of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 24

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:6,8,9

“And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:40,41

Wow, this one’s tough. In the world today, this flies in the face of almost all conventional wisdom and experience of the worldly successful and winning. I don’t take things lying down. If you come at me, I’ll come back at you with as much if not greater strength than your attack. Disagree openly against me or seemingly demean me in some way and I must destroy you. Strength is the way of the world. Strength is the way of winning. After all, aren’t I using my God given strength in the first place? Why would He give me any power if I’m not intended to use it against my enemies or even potential enemies (who at one point might have even been friends)?

Okay, I know Jesus taught and even lived turn the other cheek. But hey, let’s face it, that was God’s cheek that was getting turned. It was easy for Him. He can’t expect it from a mere human can He?

Let’s look at an example.

David, King David. He’s looked at as one of the heroes and pillars in the bible. Even in the world David is the symbol of the underdog winning. David triumphing over Goliath is used as an allegory of the triumph of good over evil, the pure over the corrupt, the small over the large.

King David wouldn’t be one to suffer a slight. King David would most certainly quash any detractor or threat against him just like he did Goliath. Well, not so fast with those assumptions.

First a little backstory. David was not your typical Hollywood casting choice to be king of Israel. David was not the tallest, most handsome, most intelligent of his family. When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint a new and future King of Israel, Samuel chose every son of Jesse’s family except David. David was the youngest. David was also the runt. What Samuel dismissed because he couldn’t see; God treasured because He could see. David’s heart was aligned with and humble to God.

David was anointed to be future king. Future King because Israel already had a King named Saul who rejected God and was thus rejected by God. Yet David enters the service of King Saul; and David flourishes. David not only kills the giant warrior Goliath but goes on to route the enemy Philistines. In fact David’s exploits are so amazing, his fame is greater than King Saul’s. It is important to note that David is not claiming his own glory, it is the people who are singing his praise.

King Saul get’s jealous of David. Not just a little irritated, but vein popping, red faced, eye bulging enraged type of jealous at David. King Saul comes to the conclusion that David must die and tries on multiple occasions to bring this to pass. Saul sends his army out to track down David and kill him and David is forced to flee with a very small band of loyal compatriots.

Now we come to it. You see, David had been punched at. David had endured multiple attempts against his life as well as baseless, ugly accusations about his treasonous ambitions. So, David and his band is hiding in a cave. King Saul is in fruitless, frustrated pursuit. On this day, Saul needs to relieve himself and, there not being public bathrooms spread around the wilderness in those days, he leaves his men to go to a cave for some privacy. Yes, you guessed it, the same cave where David was hiding. What an opportunity! What a fortuitous gift of circumstances for David to strike back to even the slate, to show his strength. David’s men call on David to strike and kill the king.

What does David do? He doesn’t follow His men. He doesn’t do what the world would have had him do. No; David follows his heart that is aligned with God’s. David feels there is no justification for him to strike down God’s, then anointed King, just because David has issues with him. By getting close enough to Saul, David is able to cut off a part of Saul’s clothing and then prove to Saul that David was no threat to Saul. He declares to Saul that he could have killed Saul but instead spared his life. For a short time Saul relents on killing David, but alas Saul’s jealously returns and he tries again and David spares Saul again.

Fast forward a few thousand years. We have a lot of issues, disagreements, conflicts with each other. These differences are sometimes as large as between countries, but they are also, very frequently, within countries, communities, even families and churches. Not that humans have not always had disagreements but the vehemence at which we pursue those disagreements seems ever increasing. We have “stand your ground” laws, we have narratives that reward the person who retaliates and castigates the person who disengages or tries to mitigate a conflict or difference.

It would be hard, in today’s world, to see David praised for his restraint. Conversely, it would be much easier to see David rebuked for his weakness, most likely having most of his followers abandon him unless or until he was ready to show “strength”. That is the world’s way.

Is there any reward for David’s restraint. Well, Saul is not successful and David lives. Additionally, Saul ends up taking his own life during a failed battle which God told Saul not to wage. David ends up, then becoming King David. Also, David is not ruthlessly attacked by any of Saul’s followers or distant relatives because they had no reason to. Following, most certainly not perfectly, but attempting to follow God’s presence in his heart, David goes on to be one of the most revered persons in the bible.

Jesus also turned the other cheek, over and over again. What is His reward? Where is Jesus now? Jesus is the Christ. Jesus stands at the very Right Hand of God the Father and is the only One. Jesus Christ is there, not just because He is the Son of God, but because He is the Lamb, worthy by His obedience to God to stand next to Him.

One thing Dear Sisters and Brothers, we can’t do this on our own. We don’t have the righteous strength of character to resist the worldly temptation to strike back and seek revenge for perceived or real slights or attacks on our own. When those attacks come, and they will come; we must turn to Jesus Christ for help. We must pray for the strength of Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit to be in our heart and guide us to a path of peacemaker and forgiver. We must pray for the strength to resist and overcome the worldly criticism and even condemnation for our actions of meekness as weakness.

Finally, God is not weak. Our Heavenly Father does not suffer evil and evil doers to thrive and succeed. God may even use us as an instrument in His triumph over evil. Whether we will be used in God’s plan to thwart evil or not; we will be blessed for looking to Him before we act to know if our actions are justified. Jesus promises that. How do we know if we’re acting like David being an instrument of God versus Goliath? Through the Holy Spirit we will know in our heart if our actions are based on God’s glory or for our own.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are surrounded with messages of striking back, getting even, getting revenge. We have reverted to an eye for an eye mentality. We are thankful that, through Your Son Jesus Christ, You have taught us a better way. Forgive us. most Merciful Father, when we lash out at our attackers or detractors wishing to see our glory raised and praised. Pour out Your Strength on us that we might be aligned in You allowing us to become peacemakers whose pure heart and meekness will be bring healing and peace to this world and glory to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. 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. 

 

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. Isaiah 40:31

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick tempered displays folly” Proverbs 14:29

“…how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

…Love is patient….. 1 Corinthians 13:4

I was prompted to write this post because of an interaction I had a short time ago. Hours after the workday had ended, a thought occurred to me that not only impacted me but two of my colleagues as well. What did I do? Did I wait until the next day to “call” them? Of course not, I pulled out my trusty smart phone (note the phone being smart does not imply the same for it’s owner/user) and texted away.

Here’s the thing; I’m a definite baby-boomer, both in age and in technical acuity. More often than not my preference is to talk to people. Also, I often go to my grown children, but also did when they were much younger to explain technical processes and troubleshoot issues.

Now, again it’s past work hours and before smart phones and accompanying technology, I would not have picked up a phone at that hour and called them. This was not an emergency. Additionally, I was not looking for or even expecting necessarily an answer that night, I just wanted to put the issue out there. However, an answer did come back from both of my colleagues in a very short order and a digital conversation ensued.

Where am I going with this and what does it have to do with prayer? Good question. You see we have so many different ways to communicate today; face-2-face, email, phone, text, video chat, and, and…. One aspect that has also changed or expanded is how we can reply when engaged in the various communication channels. If I ask you a question in person, depending on the question I might expect an immediate reply. Perhaps I expect some aspect of immediacy on a phone call or video chat. Yet what about the other channels, do I expect an immediate answer or at least acknowledgement of receipt? How patient am I for you to return my communication/inquiry with some acknowledgement or answer. How often do we find ourselves watching the moments tick by on a clock with slightly or perhaps more so, elevated blood pressure or frustration when the minutes are passing without some returned communication is some way. It seems to me, both in personal experience as well as watching greater society function; there is an expectation of imminent if not immediate response to our inquiries or some required explanation for delay. Rarely do I hear “patience is a virtue” either spoken or especially practiced.

What I wonder is, to what extent that worldly expectation, creeps its way into communication and relationship with Our Heavenly Father; especially in our spiritual practice of prayer? “Hello God?….are you there?……..I prayed this request yesterday……..You’re a God of infinite power, wisdom and say You have a plan……..so……..let’s get with it…I’m busy….I need Your answer”. While those specific words may never actually be or even contemplated to be prayed; but the question is, what is in our heart?

It seems that in the world, a quick response is a desired, perhaps even accepted response. The longer a response takes for us to receive; the more we tend to ask the question: What is wrong? or What is the explanation for the delay? We tend to fear that other than an immediate positive reply is a rejection. Additionally, if we’re not careful, we will be tempted, like the example of King Saul, to act impetuously, not waiting for the Lord’s reply but striking out on our own, with our own wisdom, causing destruction to ourselves and potentially those around us.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, our Heavenly Father declared in Isaiah: “Neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Yet Our Heavenly Father’s ways, to include His plans, which includes His timing are perfect. So we must resist the world’s pace and demands for answers and have patient faith in God. It is not that He might have us wait as some kind of power play or ploy to show who’s the boss. He doesn’t need that. However, we do need His timing.

So please, ask. Jesus tells us we should go forth and ask. We should ask having faith that we are heard. Jesus also is clear. We are loved by our Father. Jesus asks us to consider that if we who are fallen can still give good gifts to our children, how much more will our perfect, loving Father respond with blessings. Yet we should have and if we’re lacking in, we should pray for help in responding in faith, patient faith. Paul tells us that love is patient, which also means that having patience is an act of love.

Let it be that in our petitions to our Heavenly Father as well as in our faithful, patient expectation of His blessed response; we will live lives of thanksgiving and praise to His Almighty Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we are so thankful that You have seen fit to allow us to make requests of You. Yet Gracious Father, you know we live in a world that is increasingly impatient with any gap between question and answer. Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we are tempted to apply worldly standards to Your relationship with us. Keep us from being tempted to stray from patiently waiting upon Your perfect response to go our own way based on our own minimal wisdom. Give us the strength to resist impatience and instead remain in peace and faith, confident in Your perfect timing. We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heavens. Ecclesiastes 1:13

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13

Author’s Note: 3 things First, while I love to read the bible, not all the books make the same impact at the same time. I find the Gospels, Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs and most of the New Testament letters very impactful. Other books not so much. Secondly, I’m not a biblical scholar, so even in the reading of those familiar books and those less so, I claim no expertise. Finally, it is amazing to me how the Spirit, provides enlightenment at different times using different books; like Ecclesiastes. Let’s get started

We have a lot of questions. We have questions about our purpose in life, what constitutes a good life, how do I find the purpose and many, many more. Today we also have a plethora of answers. Find what you love to do and do it, surround yourself with these people but not those, get married, stay single, eat this but not that, weigh this, drink that, be mindful, be belligerent are just some of the answers. Plus, throw in a pandemic and you have stay this distance away, take this, wear this, don’t do this. It can seem maddening.

And of course, just what we need, we have this marvel of technological achievement called the internet to supply us with all the nauseatingly vast amount of any information we could ever want (as well as a considerable amount we don’t) to answer our inquiries. Now this is not a new question or new search. In fact, some roughly 2800 years ago there was a man who wanted to know the same things: What’s the meaning of it all? What makes up a good life? Now this man had some extremely unique and powerful resources that should have allowed him to answer this question if anyone could. His name was Solomon and here’s what he found out.

First, some back story to Solomon. Solomon was the son of King David in Israel. As King David was dying, there was a brief power struggle to see who would succeed him between Solomon and his half brother Adonijah. Solomon won and became king. Solomon became king at the ripe old age of 12. The Bible tells us God came to Solomon and asked Solomon what gift God could grant to him. Solomon realized that he was in way over his head at 12 years old to be king, so he asks God for wisdom. God was so pleased that Solomon didn’t ask for riches, or long life or destruction of his enemies that God not only granted him unparalleled wisdom but great riches, health and peace as well.

With that backstory in mind let’s fast forward to Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was having a great reign; there was peace in the land and his wealth and wisdom were so famous that great kings and queens were coming to him for his counsel. Yet, seemingly, that life still lacked something for Solomon. It seemed to lack the answer to the question of why; what does life really matter. So he sets out to answer that question and then writes about it. Remember, King Solomon starts this quest with amazing resources of wealth, power, wisdom, knowledge at his disposal. See if you have found yourself following any of the paths he followed.

First, as chronicled in Chapter 2, Solomon says it must be pleasure that defines and is the purpose of life. And boy does he go all out in the pleasure realm. He got ragingly drunk, many times. He surrounded himself with fun people. He did not bother with inhibitions when it came to women. In Ecclesiastes, he says he denied nothing that his eyes desired and he had the resources to make it happen. What was his conclusion about going after pleasure? “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done……everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…..” Ecclesiastes 2:11

Then Solomon moves on to knowledge and wisdom. If not chasing pleasure, surely meaning is found in gaining knowledge and wisdom. Oops, at least for Solomon. For he finds that just acquiring knowledge and wisdom doesn’t guarantee that the knowledge and wisdom can actually be utilized to improve anything. He comes to the conclusion: “What do I gain from being wise? Then I said to myself, this too is meaningless”. Ecclesiastes 2:15

Well okay, pleasure is out, wisdom and knowledge – not really; then it must be work. My occupation, doing great work must be and bring meaning to life, Solomon says to himself. Nope, wrong again, Solomon finds. He says: so I hated my life, because the work that is done under sun was grievous to me. Ecclesiastes 2:17

Finally Solomon starts to have a realization. It starts later in verse 2 when he declares: A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, IS FROM THE HAND OF GOD, for without Him who can eat and find enjoyment. Finally, as Solomon finishes up this manuscript, he advises that God, the fear of God and keeping God’s commandments are the first and foremost aspect to life.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, when I read Ecclesiastes, because of some of the language Solomon uses, I thought it was a really downer book. To me the best part of the book used to be the verses in Chapter 3 that the Bryds used in their wonderful classic rock song; Turn, Turn Turn. However, with age, I’ve changed my outlook on the tenor of the message. Solomon does communicate frustration that none of the worldly pursuits he attempted led him to the answer of a fulfilled, meaningful life. However, Solomon did eventually find the answer. The answer is GOD! God first, God paramount. God will grant the meaning. God will grant the purpose. Thus the focus is rightly, solely and souly on God. I no longer take it as a depressing message.

Thus Solomon did us a great service. Because of the question he asked, the nearly boundless energy and massive scope he utilized to try and find an answer as well as the final answer he found; we do not have to replicate that same search. Solomon told us what he looked at and why it was lacking in giving purpose.

As we approach our lives today, we should reflect on to what extent we are in the same desperate search for meaning in our existence. What resources are we using in that search? To what extent are we looking to the world in any aspect to provide the answer and the meaning? Are we looking within for the answer the Holy Spirit is longing to give us; that we should be abiding in the Son, Jesus Christ, relying on the plan of salvation for each of us devised by our Father in Heaven?

Rest from your quest to find meaning. Our Heavenly Father has and is the meaning, as the Creator, of and for our lives. That plan is love. That plan is perfect. And as we live out that plan, we will bring glory to His Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to provide us with guidance in the form of Your Word to the questions of this life. Forgive us and have mercy on us when we fail to use Your resources and strike out on our own to find meaning to our lives. Protect us from the world and worldly who would attempt to lead us a astray in finding meaning in purely earthly pursuits. Send Your answer through Your Spirit to our hearts that we might look no further than You, You the Father, You the Son, You the Holy Spirit to find all our answers. Then grant us the power to go forth with Your answer, in love, to lead others who are desperately seeking meaning, to Your same answer. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

Postscript – Now if the Holy Spirit can help me find meaning in the Book of Numbers. 🙂

“Otherwise his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people he has been raised from the dead. The last deception will be worse than the first”. Matthew 27:64

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to tomb”……”Why do you look for the living among the dead?  Remember how he told you, ….’The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and then on the third day be raised again.'” Luke 24: 1,5,7

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you'”. John 20: 19

Jesus is dead.  Just the day before Jesus was tortured and then crucified, dying horribly on the cross.  His body is taken down and laid in a new tomb in a garden; a tomb hewn out of solid rock.  The disciples knew where the tomb was.  The Jewish leaders knew where the tomb was.  What they weren’t sure of, is what would be in the tomb.  A body was placed there, but would it stay there?

The Jewish leaders desperately feared that the tomb would be found empty after three days.  However, they did not fear this out of some dread that they had been in error when they killed the man who claimed to be the Son of God. The Jewish leaders had no doubt that they had rid themselves of a nuisance, possibly deranged man, who was upsetting the people and leading them astray. No, their fear was a purely human, earthly fear.  The tomb would be found empty, not by the hand of God, but at the nefarious hands of Jesus’s disciples.  They seemed to remember what the disciples did not, that Jesus claimed that He would rise from the grave after three days.  The Jewish leaders were afraid that the disciples would indeed remember Jesus’s claim and make it seem to come to pass by stealing the dead body and claiming Jesus had indeed risen.  They feared this deception would be an even greater lie than Jesus had told while alive and convince even more gullible, ignorant people of the truth of Jesus.  With their guards they took all the steps they could, to see that lie didn’t happen.

The disciples were in shock and fear.  The maddening events of the last few hours and their contrast to the triumph of the last few days had left them drained and stunned. Jesus had been cheered, hailed as He who comes in the Name of God; by the crowds.  Then, just a few days later, those same crowds were screaming; “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”. Perhaps worse yet, one of their own cherished group, one who had been with Him many years, Judas Iscariot, had been His betrayer.  They had witnessed so many miraculous things that Jesus did.  To see Him broken, nailed to a cross, slowly, agonizingly die was beyond their comprehension.  Yet He did die.  They saw it.  They heard that Joseph of Arimathea had taken the lifeless body and buried it in a tomb.  They knew were the tomb was, they knew where the body was.  There was no expectation on their part or Mary Magdalene’s, that the body would not be there to be properly anointed for a proper burial.

Two reactions; the world fearing an empty tomb, made empty by purely earthly, human means. The disciples not grasping how that tomb, how in fact any tomb, any circumstances could have led to the murder of their Master, whom they believed to be the Son of God, and His body, devoid of life being in need of a tomb.  In their understandable, shock and profound grief, they had forgotten the prophesy, the promise Jesus had made to return.

Today, much of the world rejects the truth of the empty tomb.  The rejection comes in many different shapes and sizes; Jesus is just a fable of a make believe character, Jesus was a good man, even a wise man, but only a man, the resurrection never happened. God does not exist, ergo it is impossible that any Son exists. There is still an underlying fear and hatred. Those who do believe in Jesus are delusional.  Those who do believe are racist and haters of anyone who does not believe, wanting to force all to accept their dogma or be totally shunned. They can look to history to see very real examples of when Jesus’s believers have not acted in the faith and love that Jesus asked of them and us.

How about we believers? How do we see the empty tomb? Does the shock, worry and desperation concerning daily, earthly events, rob us of impact of the gloriously empty tomb?  Do our endless pursuits of earthly gain or simple existence leave us too exhausted to grasp the importance of the very living, resurrected Jesus Chris?. Does the overwhelming cacophony of earthly noise drown out the precious greeting that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives to us this very day: “Peace be with you.”?

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, we have a benefit today, that the disciples and Mary did not have, that day after Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.  It came to them a few days later.  Because Jesus Christ returned to His and our Heavenly Father, we also have that benefit without waiting; the Holy Spirit.  You see once the Holy Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost, He taught the disciples about the true meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.  With that deep understanding, the disciples went out, in the Power and Grace of God, spread the word and changed the world.

That same Holy Spirit resides in us.  The difference is, we don’t have to wait for a Pentecost moment.  We don’t have to have a time where we have a relationship with Jesus, He is ripped away and we have to wait for His resurrection. The living, loving Jesus Christ is always with us and the Holy Spirit is right here to guide us and show us the way.

The tomb is empty.  Death and sin have been defeated for all time.  Jesus Christ lives! How do we show that we believe that? Jesus taught us.  The world will know that we believe in Jesus Christ when they see that we love Jesus Christ and love one another. That we love one another; the another not just being the few who are our friends or who we share worship with; but the another like Jesus loves.  The another who the world rejects, the another who is hurting, hungry and/or oppressed, the another who does not know the Lord but needs to, these are all the anothers we need to love.

May you have a blessed Easter.  He is Risen! Jesus Christ lives!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, may our thanksgiving be endless and our shouts of praise overwhelming.  Thank you for Your Son Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who seeks to bring understanding and truth to our beings.  Forgive us when we fail to live into the glory that the empty tomb represents, instead living as if the empty tomb doesn’t matter at all.  Through Your Grace, lift us above the darkness of earthly matters that we might share Your Light of Love to Your creation so desperately in need of Your Light. That into the promise of the empty tomb and the ever present life of Jesus Christ, we may bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Remember, it’s not the end but part of His plan leading to a new glorious beginning!

No matter your situation during this time, may you look to the blessed meal and covenant with Jesus Christ and have a blessed Maundy Thursday

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