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“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

At this time when we find a requirement of physical distance, let us come spiritually together by praying this prayer together.  Click on the prayer and let us pray

“I have told you these things so that you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let your hearts not be troubled, neither let them be afraid”  John 14:27

“Come unto Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Tribulations; they come in all shapes and sizes.  And Jesus makes it very clear, in the world they will come.  They don’t come by or because of God; but they do come.  Sometimes we fail to realize that they do come in different manners and impacts.  Sometimes they are individual, centering around depression, anxiety or addiction. Sometimes they are a larger scale, entailing an entire group like a family, a business or even a church.  Sometimes their scale is very grand encompassing an entire globe, as in a pandemic.  What we must understand is whatever the scale, to those going through them, they can be as gut wrenchingly traumatic as the largest natural disaster.

Yet now we are in the midst of a tribulation, a pandemic which is truly global in nature.  The virus cares not for borders or ideologies.  It strikes the richest and poorest. All nations, languages and creeds are feeling its effects.  Surely God has left us.  Surely God has turned His back on His creation to let us fend for ourselves.  Where is God?

Jesus Christ is very clear where God is.  God is with those who find themselves mourning.  He will bless them. He is with those who are finding themselves at this point with food or other resources left over that they can’t use, who are then donating to those  in need and those who are reaching out to help; those who are showing mercy and He will give them mercy. He is there with those who are putting themselves at risk, even risk of death; declaring no greater gift, no greater love is there than when a person will lay down their life for another.   God is there in each of those and so many more.

Jesus Christ is also very clear, God is here.  Jesus Christ is God.  Jesus Christ declared to us there would be tribulation. He explained that tribulation comes in and from the world. However, He also promised, He proclaimed, He lovingly assured us, we can be at peace.  We can live without fear.  We can bring our burdens to Him and have peace.  Jesus Christ declares, He is with us.  He declares He has overcome the world.  God’s covenant with each of us through Jesus Christ is pronounced by Jesus as He affirms that we can do greater works than Christ, if we stay in Christ because He is at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty. Jesus Christ is right there with you at this very moment and all moments.

“This too will pass”; is not a quote from the bible, but it is truth concerning this pandemic. It is also a truth that you can apply that statement to the personal tribulations you are facing.  What will not “pass” is the fact that God is here with you. What does not “pass” is declared by Paul in his letter to the Romans that: “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us look to Christ, not just at this time but especially at this time.  Let us cling to His love and peace yet not be selfish with His love and peace.  Let us be swift to spread that peace and love, especially at this time to all around us, regardless of their beliefs or circumstances, knowing we are all creations of our Heavenly Father. That, we might glorify and praise the Name of God in the midst of every tribulation.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we find ourselves in the midst of a “global pandemic”.  We know that You are aware of the situation.  We also know that You have not abandoned us, continue to Love us and pledge to be with us.  Help us to turn to You during this time and to continue to turn to You at all times.  Help us to call upon Your Son, Jesus Christ and the multiple promises that He declared to us that we may find peace and strength during this and all times. Give us eyes to see the needs of others at this time and spirit to reach out to help. That in this and all circumstances we may bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

” You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen….”  John 3: 10,11

“For being ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to the righteousness of God.”  Romans 10:3

“Therefore dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless…..but grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 3: 17

So I came across a story the other day that is already impacting thousands of people and its ramifications go even further.  While the story was about the unintended consequences of genetically designed crops, the story itself is not the basis/inspiration for this post. (For those who will be driven crazy if they can’t reference the story, here’s the link:  https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2020/02/06/800397488/pesticide-police-overwhelmed-by-dicamba-complaints-ask-epa-for-help)

The purpose of this post is how I came across this article and what it says about “information” and “being informed” in this information age. I don’t constantly watch news outlets or read internet news, but my current situation in life allows me to partake of news from many different outlets, sources and media. And I admit that I do partake of that media multiple times throughout the day. Yet the only reason I heard of this particular story is that I was traveling cross country, alone in a car and searching through various radio stations out of boredom.  As I was listening a somewhat startling realization dawned on me.

Another aspect of the story that I was listening to was that the situation had been going on for years and, as stated above, has a very real potential to impact our entire country in many ways going forward. Yet, in all my different sources and opportunities to partake of news, over those same years, the only way I heard about this important story was because of some random search on a lonely stretch of Louisiana highway.

This is the information age! The depth and breadth of our knowledge based on the increased size and channels of  information is supposed to make us supremely wiser and more in tune with the greater world around us.  Perhaps that is a potential that is yet to see fulfillment.

For you see, it seems that what the “information age” has become or at least evolving into by our utilization of it, is the “hyper-informed” information age. That is to say, if I care about a change of venue for a Duke and Duchess, who’s been voted off a show or even something more serious like an impeachment process, I can find a seemingly endless stream of information, opinions, news (even fake) and history about that topic. What I can then spend my limited time on is delving into those topics in such excruciating detail that I have little time for intrusions of other topics, relevant and important as they may be, into my consciousness.  Ironically over time, the search engines and sites I use pick up on my preferences and feed me more and more of only similar articles to the exclusion of most else. Thus in that process I become “hyper-informed” in a little, while being uninformed in a great many things.

Okay you say, that may be all well in good but what the heck does that have to do with my spiritual life and what this blog is all about? Great question, thanks for asking. The reality is, what we do in one area of our secular lives, often gets carried over to and/or influences our spiritual lives as well.

For instance, Jesus talked about love, the power of love, the need for love, God’s love for us; love, love, love.  You might really like that aspect.  And while it is true Jesus spoke often and powerfully about love, do you know that Jesus also preached about the destructive power of Satan and the very real danger of evil? “Oh, but I don’t want to hear about that, the concept of the devil and hell is for ‘bible thumpers or charismatics”, some might say. Or, Jesus preached on the power we have in prayer, we can ask for anything in His name and we will be greatly blessed by our belief.  Again, very true, but He also preached about the power of being humble, turning the other cheek and loving our enemies. But wait, those other things seem too weak to focus on.  I can’t see any blessings there or studying that.

You see when we take God’s word and teaching and become laser focused, “hyper-informed” in just one area, we can become dangerously uniformed, ignorant, in other areas of God’s wisdom and plan. That very lack of obtaining  broader information on our part can lead to our destruction as Paul warned about in his letter to the Romans and Peter warned about as he closed out his second letter.

But you may ask: The books of Kings and Chronicles in the bible, really? Yes! Though the names and places can be tough and the dates obscure, we can read of the ramifications of turning our backs on God.  Additionally, we can learn of God’s unconditional love, unending patience and redemptive grace that happens when we repent and return to God.  All that is captured and informs us in the books of Kings and Chronicles.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us strive, using the resource of the Holy Spirit within us, to be informed in all facets of God’s perfect message and plan.  Let us resist the temptation to focus on only those areas with which we feel a sense of agreement, comfort and understanding. Let us diligently dive into those things which we might find obscure or worldly distasteful, that we allow nothing to darken or diminish the full Light of God, informed through His word, that can shine through us to an uninformed, dark world.  That in shining His informed light through our lives, we might bring praise and glory to His most holy name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise and thank You that You have seen fit to give us the ability to take in information, to become wiser and to know You more completely.  Yet we also understand that the ability You’ve given us can be abused in our choice to only know a limited amount about You or turn to worldly information and become more and more uninformed about You. Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we neglect knowledge of You with our own preferences.  Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, give us a passion for knowing You as completely as humanly possible and then passing that knowledge and information to others who desperately need Your information. Grant us humility to see blessings in all Your teachings and the strength to integrate all those teachings into our everyday lives.  That, through You, we may be a beacon of wholly and Holy informed light to a dark world so in need of Your illumination.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

 

“The stone the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.  Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed”  Matthew 21: 42,44

“Then He Said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'”  Luke 9:23

So I arrive at church to be the liturgist for a service we’re holding in our larger hall.  One aspect that is different in this venue is where the cross is placed.  So as I confer with Pastor Beth about any changes brought about by our change of venue, the one she mentions is to be sure, when I go up to the stage to present my reading, to make sure I:  “don’t trip on the cross”.  You see the cross, which is about 10 feet high with a large wooden base, was positioned right at the head of the stairs and as such might be a tripping hazard if not careful.  Yet the words had barely left her mouth when we both had an immediate revelation that her warning, could and should have a much grander application then just the one brief moment and movement in that one service.

Thus let us delve deeper into our journey with Christ and the hazard and yes, even blessing tripping on or over the cross may be.  First let’s understand “tripping”.  Tripping is the process by which we are moving along a path in a purposeful, definite direction and method.  Yet that movement is suddenly impinged upon by some force or object that momentarily halts some aspect of that movement (your foot is moving forward for a step but gets stopped by a tree root sticking up).  Yet even though one part of the movement is halted, the rest of the body continues its forward momentum but is now out of balance.  The result can be anything from a momentary stumble to a catastrophic, life threatening, fall.

Okay, so how does this trip happen?  Besides slap-stick comedians, for the rest of us, a trip happens by accident.  We don’t purposely decide to stumble or fall.  Second, a trip happens often because we loose focus or suffer a temporary loss of situational awareness of our surroundings. If we see the tree root, we step over it.  If we’re focusing on the depth of the steps, we step down/up with sufficient space.

So we’ve looked at the what’s and why’s of tripping, what the heck does that have to do with Jesus Christ, the cross and our spiritual journey? Well for one, our life is about movement both physically, mentally and especially, spiritually.  We may feel that the movement is going very purposefully along a path that is smooth with few hazards.  Then, with little to no warning, we stumble.  Maybe it’s a slight skip, stutter, perhaps a stubbed toe.  But maybe, it’s a full blown, head over heals, life altering crash.  What just happened?

If the answer is:  I tripped on something, then our understanding/healing process begins.  Let’s go back to physical tripping; what’s the first thing you do after a trip?  I know, if you’re like me you look around to see if anyone else saw it, come on you know you do.  However, almost immediately you look around to see what caused you to trip.  Hopefully you do the same thing when you experience tripping along the pathway of your life.  When that stumble happens you look around to see what caused it.  Will it be possible that what you see is the cross of Jesus Christ?

Why would the cross of Christ cause me to trip?  In a way Jesus told us when He stated we must take up our cross daily and follow Him if we are to be His disciple.  To take something up and to follow Someone requires we are focused on it.  Once we lose that focus, it can become a tripping hazard.  Think about tripping on your shoelaces. This world and its leader is always trying to put up distractions to cause us to lose focus on our true path and He who we should be following on it.  It can be pains, regrets and sin.  It can be joys, triumphs and sin.  Either way, whatever the world can do to cause us to focus on something other then Christ and the cross, it will attempt. And understand this, the greater, the deeper, the more time consuming the distraction becomes, the more risk there is that we will diverge off the path, our Heavenly Father has planned for us and the more perilous our journey will become.

Thus the tripping over the cross can very well be a blessing!  Now it is true that the longer we have lost our focus on Christ and the cross, the more drastic that trip and fall might need to be to force us to focus back on the cross.

Here in lies the great risk that Jesus Christ warned about.  For you see we may stumble and fall or we may look on the path of the cross and Jesus through worldly eyes, where we see the path to fraught with obstacles and hazards and reject that path altogether.  In rejecting the path, we reject the Builder.  When we reject the Builder and go on our own path, we will eventually come upon the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  In rejection, whether we fall upon the Cornerstone, or the Cornerstone falls upon us, the same result will ensue; disaster.  Not because the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, is vengeful and wants that, but because of our rejection of Him.

One final aspect of our focus on carrying our cross and following Jesus Christ.  Do not look upon the cross as purely a symbol of death and punishment.  It is meant to be a symbol of death, but that is only death of and to sin.  For the cross is empty.  Sin died with Jesus on the cross, but Christ rose again and lives to this very day.  The cross is a symbol of hope and redemption, a sign of living free through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  The cross is not so much a weight/burden to be crushed by as a compass that keeps us on the path to blessings in this world and eternal salvation.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are not perfect travelers.  We will forget to pick up our cross occasionally and/or be distracted and lose focus on following Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, we can strive to make those times as few as possible.  Yet when they do happen, Jesus Christ does not just continue forward, calling out:  “If you can’t keep up, to bad so sad, I guess you miss out!”. No, Jesus Christ is right there with us.  He will pick us up, brush us off, remind us that we’re not soiled by the stumble, but we are washed clean through the sacrifice of His blood.  In focusing on Jesus Christ and carrying instead of tripping over our or The cross, may your path today be smooth and your journey blessed.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to give us a blessed reminder in the symbol of the cross of the miraculous gift of salvation we have in Jesus Christ. We humbly confess that we get distracted by the world and forget to carry that symbol and follow Your Son.  Forgive us when we stumble and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would refocus on taking up our cross and following Jesus.  We thank You for Your Mercy and Love which we can see and feel even in our stumbles.  That as we stand again in the Power of Jesus Christ, we will continue upon the path You have perfectly laid before us, living lives that bring honor and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother who has sinned against me? Up to seven times?  Jesus answered, ‘I tell you not just seven times, seventy-seven times.'”  Matthew 18:21,22

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. Matthew 5:28

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

“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 and praiseworthy- think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Why seventy-seven times?  In another translation, it reads that Jesus Christ responds seventy times seven times (I’m running out of finger and toes to get up that high).  Think about how many times Jesus talked about, not only He being a servant, but how important it was that the disciples think of themselves as humble servants as well.

On the sermon on the mount, Jesus Christ warns it not just about committing the actual act, murder or adultery, it about contemplating the act or working up toward the act, in the case of anger, that is an equal danger.  Why?

Throughout the letters that the apostles sent to the early churches and new beginners, they urged thought on things from above and abolish thoughts and acts of earthly or worldly things.  Why pray without ceasing?

I am not one who finds a conflict between thoughts of science and thoughts of spirituality.  Oh sure, there are some within the realm of science who ascribe to the idea that science has disproved the existence of God.  But it’s not science fault that some would use it incorrectly the same way it is not Christ’s fault that some have done unspeakable evil in His name.

We are creations of God, including Jesus Christ so thus, our Creator knows us and how we work intimately.  He knows how our brains function (or dysfunction at least at times in my case).

So why seventy-seven times or 140 times?  Scientists studying the brain have discovered a process in its operation called neural plasticity.  Now please understand, as I am no theologian, I am also not a brain surgeon or scientist.  Yet I’ve always been fascinated about how the brain operates and how amazingly complex it is.  Well in the concept of neural plasticity, with my limited understanding, it is the idea that as we have thoughts, and/or as we take actions; we are producing connections within the brain.  These connections become pathways.  Additionally, these pathways are not destroyed after one thought or action.  As we have the same or very similar thoughts or actions, those pathways get stronger, more easily accessible.

Now here’s the thing, if we deem those thoughts or actions to be positive, helpful or pleasurable, then we are more likely to go back to them over and over again.  Each time we go back, the pathway gets stronger.  Think of it (no pun intended) this way, your brain is like a forest.  Quite often if you’re walking through the woods/forest, you look for a trail that’s been cleared out that makes it easier, more pleasurable to walk.  While overly simplistic, that is an aspect of this concept of neural plasticity and its impact on our thoughts and behavior.

So let’s take forgiveness.  It may not be all that easy or natural of a thing to do.  Someone does us wrong.  Should we think or act on taking revenge or getting even with them, we’re creating a pathway.  If that thought or action feels good, we’ll tend to think or act that way more and that pathway gets strengthened.  Jesus Christ knows this.  Again He is our creator.  So Jesus declares we’re to forgive and keep on forgiving.  It may not feel comfortable or good at first, but as we keep doing it, five times, 10 times, 77 times, 140 times and more, we’re building and strengthening that path.  Before you know it, voila, that path becomes strong enough, that we find ourselves thinking and acting that way.

Additionally, that’s why Jesus Christ and later the Apostles, warn against the underlying thought and not just the action.  Indeed, it truly is the thought that counts.  For it is the looking in lust, the being angry and thinking of harm or killing that starts the pathway.  To the extent we tell ourselves, there’s no harm in looking or only thinking; neural plasticity would say that we’re wrong.  There is a credible harm, a changing of our brain just in the thinking.

Yet, I’ve heard folks tell me:  “Well maybe so for some, but that wouldn’t be me” or “that doesn’t apply to me”.  I’m not wise or omniscient enough to tell anyone that they’re wrong in what they know about themselves.  All I do is point out the real danger in the aspect of thinking:  I’ll try that drug just once, I can quit that website anytime I want, I wouldn’t have done it – I was only thinking it and other justifications we give ourselves for risky and/or destructive behavior.

Thus dear Sisters and Brothers, once again science reinforces a basic concept to positive living that Jesus Christ laid out thousands of years ago.  In the end it is best just not to go there.  Try to keep your brain from building those connections that concern the debasing, destructive aspects to life.  To the extent that the pathways may exist, stop using them.

In the articles that I’ve read about neural plasticity, seldom used pathways, fade in their importance.  New pathways can be forged based upon the thoughts that we have and the subsequent actions we take based on those thoughts.

Finally, we’re not left on our own.  The world has a whole lot of demeaning, destructive pathways it wants to build in our brains.  Jesus Christ instructs us to connect to our Heavenly Father through prayer to Him and study of His word.  In that Heavenly connection, through His power, we can be victorious over the worldly thoughts and pathways which want to lead us to our downfall.  Jesus Christ promises the Holy Spirit will come to us and empower and embolden us to keep us thinking as we should and lead us back should we stray.

Ironically, being on the straight and narrow path is not just a completely allegorical concept.  There are literal brain paths that, if we commit to relying on Jesus Christ to show them to us and empower us to stay on them, then we can live powerful lives of peace and joy that bring praise and honor to our Heavenly Father as well as us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, if we are open to it, we praise how our understanding of science reveals Your underlying truths to us.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that we would be receptive to Your revelation and obedient to Your instructions for us as given by Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when, in our arrogance, we believe that we can go our own way and that our power is sufficient to keep us from harm and evil.  Lead us back to Your path, strengthening the correct path and obliterating the wrong path.  That in thinking about and then walking the right path, we might live lives of praise and thanksgiving to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the work themselves”. John 14:11

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  Luke 18:17

It is said that we live in an information age and I would agree with that.  Of course, as with any concept or slogan, we have to define terms.  Is it that there is more information out there?  Is it that we have more access to the information in ever increasing speedier avenues?  The short answer is yes; yes to both.  Let’s define information.  Is information, facts, statistics, opinions, perspectives, data, impressions?  Again, yes.

I’ve been reading some books that, among, other things detail the development of the internet.  One of the interesting aspects of the majority of early designers and developers of the internet was their vision for its use.  Many of those people felt that the internet would become a tool where the freer flow of ever greater amounts of information would allow a greater connectivity between users.  The end goal of the increased connectivity and greater sharing of larger amounts of information, was to enhance decision making.  The internet pioneers saw decision makers having more and better information at their disposal, allowing them to, not only see, but purposely analyze and incorporate the varied information into a vastly more accurate and positive decision outcome.  Hmmm.  I’ve also read some recent articles from some of those very same designers who have become quite discouraged about how the internet has actually being used and what passes for information being distributed.

Now understand this is not a critique of the internet or even having more information.  It is in gathering and subsequently sharing information that many advances have come to pass.  With a dear, cherished loved one now being cancer free for many years, I’m very grateful for the breakthroughs that come with greater knowledge attainment and dissemination.

No, this is a cautionary post on the peril there is when we rely on human-centered knowledge and worldly experience as the highest arbiter of truth and wisdom. You see, if we’re not careful, we start to fall into the worldly trap of only believing in or on things which we feel can be proven.  There is an ever growing societal sense that, with the enhanced and advanced tools available to us, we can gain enough information to confidently know and understand everything.  We don’t find the idea preposterous, that has been put forward, that there is a provable “theory of everything.  A theory that explains how all processes work and that we can understand it.  We declare we’ve found the “God” particle, the Higgs boson, which is what started creation.  There was an article based on a study that came out in 2016 that appeared to identify the part of the brain where lying takes place and what happens physiologically when we lie.  When the study was announced there was speculation that lying may be a chemical process, which may allow us to one day manipulate and even terminate people’s ability to lie through some sort of brain manipulation.

So a fundamental question can become, if all is knowable, everything can be eventually proven and thus understood, then should I only believe that which is proven or at least seems provable?  Conversely, is it foolish to have faith in something that seems, at the very least, bewildering, or worse yet forever incomprehensible? Do we discard as fantasy, that which baffles, instead searching for that which appears concrete?

Throughout the Old Testament, God as the Heavenly Father, and in the New Testament, God as Jesus Christ (along with the Father) is very clear about the primacy of, the virtue of and the overwhelming need for; faith.  Abraham relied on faith to leave Ur and travel to the promised land.  The people of Israel needed faith to follow Moses from Egypt.  Jesus described the power of faith in being able to move mountains.  It was imperative that the disciples believe/have faith that Jesus was the true Son of God.  He implored them to believe His words or believe He was the Son of God based on the miracles they had experienced.

Jesus was also quite clear about the sin and destruction would come from requiring a sign.  He spoke of the faithless generation that would only believe in a statement if proof could be shone. Jesus prophesized the impending destruction, both temporal as well as spiritually eternal, that would come upon the generation who would not believe in Him without human understood and agreed with, proof.

Additionally notice how Jesus often dealt with those whom He healed.  He did not ask the blind man, do you understand how I will restore your sight.  When speaking to the woman who just touched his cloak and was healed, Jesus did not ask her to explain how she had been healed.  Like the Roman Centurion whose servant Jesus saved, in all these cases, Jesus lauded the faith the people had shown in coming to Him; their steadfast belief, in the face of all evidence at that time, that Jesus could perform the miracles He did.

Ah, Doug, you say; that was back then and they were ignorant and superstitious.  There is so much we can do today.  We can, in some cases, restore sight.  We have weapons that can move mountains.  We know about genes now and will soon be able to fix and maybe even design our offspring before they are born, heal all manner of diseases and even stop the aging process.  Do I really need faith any more?  Besides, God gave us our brains; aren’t we supposed to use them? With all that we’ve learned, aren’t concepts like good and evil outdated?

For those asking those questions; I would ask you to look around.  Are we acting more civil toward each other through our greater knowledge?  Has our human wisdom allowed us to understand how to prevent wars and threats of war? Where is the theory that lays out the cure for our ever increasing rates of depression as well as increased suicides? Where is our lasting example of our human utopia? Where is the logic in our self centered, self indulgent, self destructive tendencies? Are they any less now then, years, decades, centuries past?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is not that God in the forms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are playing some capricious game of holding back the good/complete information from us to keep in some type of servitude.  As Their creations, They know we are not capable of understanding the Mind of God in Its entirety.  We don’t have a common enough experience/frame work with which to pass information across effectively.  But God loves us and is not willing that we should perish in our willful ignorance.  God has sacrificed everything, in the form of Jesus Christ coming to earth and dying for us so that we might be redeemed and have an eternal loving existence with Him.

Do I understand it; can we understand it fully? I don’t believe we can but our lack of understanding is both irrelevant as well as it does not negate the truth of God’s lovingly perfect plan for our life here and eternally with Him. To have that life starts with one thing; FAITH!

Let us be humble, not resting on our understanding, but kneeling in faith before our Father.  In faith let us call upon the promise of Jesus Christ and receive the peace from God that yes, surpasses all understanding.  By faith let us be open to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who will bring about the limited understanding we need to live into God’s perfect plan.  Use prayer and reading of scripture to have an informed faith; not looking for or relying on proof, but being open to the faithful hope that will reveal all things needed in time.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we freely admit that Your Ways are above all our ways and Your Mind is as inscrutable as defining the beauty of a rose or baby’s laugh. Yet we also confess that we are all too often willing to rely on our own ways and own understanding instead of putting our faith in You.  Forgive us most merciful Heavenly Father and guide us back to a faithfully fulfilling relationship in and with You. Strengthen us to withstand the logic of the world and the demand for a proof or sign.  Fill us with the Holy Spirit who will give us what we can take in revelation of You.  Let us seek through prayer with You and study of Your Word a humble spirit of faithful obedience.  That in living out our faith in You, Heavenly Father, we would spread Your Love, Forgiveness and Mercy that will bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

 


“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Matthew 11:25

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

“……and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27

So just what is the importance of human understanding? In the work I do in organizational behavior, many a dysfunctional workplace and interpersonal conflict comes from human’s misunderstanding.

In the concept of Emotional Intelligence, a great amount of emphasis is placed on our ability to feel empathy, which is the ability to “step into another person’s shoes” so that you can better understand where they’re coming from. People with low EQ are said to lack that ability.

In discussions with non-believers, probably the number one reason for their disbelief is the idea that they can’t understand why God or Jesus would act the way the Bible purports that they do. They “just don’t get it”. They say it just doesn’t make any sense so they can’t believe it.

And, what about we who proclaim we believe; do we believe we have a complete understanding? Do the ways of God make complete sense to us? Are there biblical concepts or proclamations that we skip over or pass by because we don’t understand them? We believe our God wouldn’t work that way?

Well, when Jesus came to earth, there was a group that should have embraced Him wholeheartedly; would have been the ones that the people then would have looked to, to welcome the Messiah. The Pharisees, Sadducees and the Scribes were deeply versed in the Mosaic law and the prophets and should have easily recognized Jesus, welcoming and worshiping Him. However, they didn’t understand. They didn’t get it. Whether or not it was willful, from a fear of losing power/control, or a simple mistake of misreading scripture, the religious leaders and scholars of the day, completely missed Jesus. Thus, learning and study is not a guarantee of understanding and recognizing Christ.

The uneducated initially flocked to Christ. They were more open to His message and more believing in His ability to accomplish miracles. Yet, it was mostly just 11 uneducated followers that followed Him to the end. Yet even they did not truly understand what Jesus was trying to accomplish, at least while He was with them on this earth.

Again today, are we so sure in our knowledge, so arrogant in our own wisdom that we believe we truly understanding the workings of our Heavenly Father, let alone the nature of the Heavenly Trinity? If we don’t why is it so hard?

These next two examples are not completely representative but they give some idea. There comes a time for many parents when, although they promised with all their heart they would never utter this phrase, they find themselves, in exasperation, stating: “Because I said so!”. Often times this will come after, the plaintive, sincere; but in a whining voice, exclamation from the child for the umpteenth time: “Why?” We may have tried, as a loving parent, to simplify some complex concept down to language and some basic idea that the child can grasp. However, because we don’t have a shared level of experience and understanding of language, we can’t bring about clarity to our confused child’s mind. Similarly, if you’ve ever tried talking to your dog. It may be some simple command to “get this” or “stop that”. The dog may simply sits there tilting its head a few times as they listen, then returns to the same act you were trying to stop them from.

For me, Dear Sisters and Brothers, I get very worried when I feel my confidence growing in comprehending the true and complete nature of God. He declares in the old testament “I AM WHO I AM” because we have no better language or equality of experience basis to classify God any more accurately.

The very miracle of God coming to earth in the form of Jesus Christ (fully God, yet fully human a concept I can’t fully grasp) can give us a false sense capability to know God. If Jesus was human (which He was) and can know God, then I, who believe in Jesus Christ, can attain that same understanding too.

Yet Jesus is very clear. No one knows the Father except the Son. Should the Son decide to reveal the nature of the Father to others, Jesus still has to do so within the scope of experience of a human being who has never experienced any spiritual realm like heaven or has no real idea about the concept of omniscience and eternity.

Christ advises that those who are accepting, believing and humble, like a child are the ones who will be saved. Not always of course, but children tend to be more accepting and when the answer does come down to: “Because I said so”; they are more likely to accept that then adults are. All too often adults, believers and nonbelievers alike, are too quick to rely on their own “take” of things and behave, not as Christ would have us behave, but based on their own perception of what Christian behavior is.

Thus, more often then not, when someone asks me to explain, I tell them I cannot. When they ask me how I can believe when I can’t explain, I advise them I don’t know how atoms or even my own darn computer works, but that doesn’t stop me from believing in one and using the other. My understanding is not the basis of truth.

Finally, I advise them, and me and you, that should we have questions of understanding; go to the source. Our Heavenly Father, through the grace of His Son, Jesus Christ, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, will provide enough of an answer. Plus those Three will bless the sincere act of the seeking, the asking, the knocking. No, I often don’t get it. But thanks be to God, the Father Almighty, that His love is with me regardless of my understanding. Thanks be to God, He doesn’t turn His back on me because of my lack of understanding. May His Name be eternally praised that His Love, Mercy and Grace toward me (and you as well), even in this state endures forever. I am truly at peace, with no frustration in that.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise you that you have given us mental faculties to gain knowledge and a certain level of understanding both about this world and about even You. Forgive us Dear Father, when we arrogantly demand a greater understanding from You and threaten to turn out backs on You should we not receive it. Additionally forgive us when, in our arrogance we believe we’ve attained equal and complete understanding about the nature of all things especially about You. Send Your Holy Spirit to answer our questions to the extent that we can understand. That in a greater understanding of You we would strive to more align our limited will to Your Perfect Will, living lives that will bring praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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