Have To or Get To ?

“Get to” or “Have to” This is connected in a way to the previous “Life is…..” post. So as you go through this day, how many activities do you “have to” do versus activities you “get to” do? For the purpose of this post, “have to” activities are those which you feel required to do but if you had your choice you wouldn’t be doing them and would be doing something else. On the other hand “get to” activities are those you do and want to be doing as well. Now understand I don’t think this is an academic question. We hear about a world where people feel they are under ever increasing pressure leading to high levels of stress, addictions and unfortunately suicides. It seems that people feel bombarded with “have to” things keeping them from ever being able to obtain the opportunity for any “get to” activities. Do we ever stop to think that our perspective is the thing that might need changing versus the activity? This week, in the midst of the hottest, most humid stretch of days so far this summer our air conditioning system broke. So I knew I would “have to” call a repair person and would “have to” pay him; which I did. Yet in the midst of my sweating it occurred to many how many places there are where it’s even hotter and more uncomfortable and where air conditioning is only a dream of a luxury they will never come to close to being obtained. The truth is I “get to” have my air conditioning fixed because I’m blessed to have it in the first place; same activity two vastly different perspectives and feelings. Some are reading this and saying this is a load of rose colored glasses, polyanna garbage or even more colorful language. This is a “have to” world so just accept it. Well I don’t choose to look to the world for my perspective. Jesus was very clear, He did not “have to” come to our world. No, He said it over and over again, it was His privilege to “get to” carry out His Father’s plan for our salvation. He was glad to “get to” heal the broken, bring peace to the troubled and be good news to the entire world for all time. Where did that perspective take Him. Jesus Christ now “gets to” sit at the Right Hand of our Heavenly Father being placed above all things. I would say His perspective worked and works. I’m blessed to “get to” share these messages and pray you see and are able to participate in many blessed “get to” activities this day.

Life is ………… What?

Life is…. Now by the very nature of the fact that you’re reading this, you’re alive. Yet we seem to be unique in the animal kingdom in that we not only have the choice to do something like read a post but furthermore have the ability to judge the merit of the choice we made. We are not just about survival behaviors but can traverse beyond those needs to a more profound existence. That is, if we choose to. So life is……what? Is life simply a process of survival to be accomplished daily, ending in sleep to be repeated again day after day? Is life a cosmic opportunity with which we have the freedom to live completely as we see fit? Is life a thrust upon experience of responsibility requiring a never ending quest for personal and societal improvement? Is life a gift, meant by the Giver to primarily forge a loving, living relationships with Him and each other? What’s the answer? What should the answer be? Well, don’t ask me? In fact I would be wary of relying on any other human being claiming to have that answer for you and how you should live. Thus first, do you ever stop in this break neck paced world to ever ask yourself that question; let alone take the additional time to contemplate its answer? Do you understand that how you see and value life is a principle determinate of the actions you will take? For me, it can be a struggle at times to see life as a gift, which I believe it is meant to be. But that is not a function of lack from the Creator God who lovingly gives my life to me. It is from my loss of focus on His answer of what life is. So I hope you will take the time to finish your sentence; Life is…….. I hope you find love and peace in your answer. However, especially if the answer is difficult to come by or you find the answer disquieting or discomforting or should the answer be any other than life is a gift, I encourage you to be open to turning to the Great and Loving Giver of Life, our Heavenly Father, who will reveal His blessed loving ending to that most important statement: Life is…….

“Thy Will Be Done” is Not a Request to be Made Lightly 

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, is a bold, humbling and potentially fearful petition. It is bold in that it starts by our proclamation of our steadfast belief that God is the One true God of Heaven and there His Will reigns supreme. Plus it is our sincere desire that His Will also would reign on earth in our lives. It is humbling because I do not wish for any part of “my” will be done. I don’t ask that this be a partnership, a combination to make it “our” wills. No, I understand there is only One perfect Will and I want to be wholly and holy subject to that Will. The fearful part is His Will in its totality is beyond my understanding. I have desires and plans but they may be completely contradictory to the Will God has for me in His plan. Therefore, I must put my faith and total trust in Him that His Will for me is the perfect Will and must supersede my will in all things. So please don’t make the petition lightly or robotically. Though if we do ask in faithful confidence, walking forth in the light of His loving plan for us, then we will be given the blessed fruits of receiving His answer through His Will to our boldly, humble request.

A God Lesson From a Baby Bird

Your every hair is numbered. Over the past month we’ve been blessed with a pair of bluebirds nesting in our yard. We watched them build the nest. We watched as the eggs hatched and the pair carried out their tireless duties of feeding and caring for the chicks. Yesterday the first fledge left the nest. It could barely fly and with its plaintive cheeps, it seemed so vulnerable. So then the questions started. What if a neighborhood cat gets it or a crow? What if a violent storm drenches it or it flies into the pool? What if……. Then a verse came into my head. Jesus Christ taught: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside the Father’s care,”. Jesus was teaching about worry and faith. Now please understand, I don’t take that scripture to mean that these bluebird babies will survive. Jesus wasn’t promising that. So how do I find any comfort in that statement? Jesus is telling us that, this God, our Heavenly Father is of such power, omnipotence and omnipresence that He plans down to the last detail. Right now these bluebirds are in His plan. He knows them and, if they fall, His plan called for that. And oh by the way, His plan is perfect. Notice that Jesus characterizes the Father as caring. How do we know? Because that same Father sent His Son to save us. He didn’t come to help the righteous but to save sinners. That is a love and caring that brings true peace. The world really couldn’t care less about these two little birds. but they are in God’s eye right now. You may feel that you are vulnerable, outside anyone’s caring about you. If that’s the case then listen to and be comforted by Jesus’s next statement: “So don’t be afraid, you are worth many sparrows,”. Finally, so far, the now two fledglings are doing just fine.

The Risk of Living an I Want It All and I want It Now Kind of Life

“I want it all and I want it now”, might make for an amusing commercial, but I fear it is becoming an all to real desire in today’s world. What’s wrong with wanting it all; who wouldn’t want it all? You’d be crazy not to! And yes, not only do I want it all, but I want it NOW!! Hmmm. Well what if my all conflicts with your all? At the very least that makes us competitors; but, does it make us also potential enemies? Is my message, I’ll help you, but only to the extent that you will help me back to an equal or greater amount? Oh by the way, have you or I really stopped to consider the consequences if we ever actually  achieved it all; could we handle it? Would it turn out that we would end up being controlled by our all instead of us being in control? Would we live in perpetual fear of losing even some piece of our all? There was an article yesterday that stated that deaths from suicide, alcohol and drug abuse has reached an all time high. Could some of that be attributed to the frustration and exhaustion that comes from the constant exhaustive, draining efforts to achieve all and continually coming up short? Jesus Christ never promised obtaining earthly all; far from it. In fact, He warned about the real danger of losing our soul even in the pursuit of obtaining earthly all. Jesus explained that there is an eternal all, coupled with an earthly, abundant, enough. He also made it clear that the achieving of that state is not obtained through the quality and quantity of our efforts, but through the Grace of God’s love and our faith in Him . It’s that love that Christ urges us to reach for, to make our all. Plus, as we receive that all sustaining love, then in turn, share it freely with all.

What Should the Chain Do Concerning Its Weakest Link?

So it is said, with much truth, that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. So here’s the question; what to do about the weak link? You see in human chains, depending on the task at hand, we’re all going to have different talents, varied capabilities and individual levels of motivation. Depending on those factors, we’ll provide varying levels of strength. So what to do with the weakest link? We could ignore the weakness, crossing our fingers that the weak link will somehow strengthen itself or their weakness won’t have a negative impact, basically hoping for the best. We could simply discard the link altogether. We could take steps to strengthen the link. What should we do; what would Jesus want us to do? To ignore the weakness is to knowingly and purposefully put the entire chain at risk. We might be showing we have no caring for any of the links. So let’s just get rid of the link, cut them out of the chain. This option saves time and resources. Yet with a shorter chain we have less flexibility in different circumstances which calls for its use. Additionally, with a shorter chain, more stress is added to each remaining link which could build until the rest of the links fail. Also, discarding the weakest link communicates to the rest of the chain that there is little caring for individual links and at any sign of weakness anyone can be gone. Finally we could commit time and other resources in an attempt to strengthen the link. If successful, our chain maintains its length, the links are stronger and the links know they are cared about. That’s what Jesus did; He purposely went to the weakest links in society, the links the rest just wanted to be gone. Jesus taught them, fed them, healed them and yes, died for them as well as us. Some didn’t change. However, some; like Matthew, did change, did repent, did strengthen to become one of the 11 strong links who spread Christ’s message to the world. Thus we are all links in this chain of society. Do we ignore the challenges and obstacles of others, hoping it won’t cause the chain harm? Do we look to marginalize, to dismiss and, as much as possible send away those we judge weak? Or do we extend the helping resources to those who are struggling knowing that the outcome is uncertain but the effort is worthy? Let us strive not to break up our chains but to build and strengthen them.

Becoming Proactive to Prevent the Tragedies that Require Us to be Reactive

Proactive and reactive togetherness. In the past few days we’ve seen some stark, powerful and different scale examples of coming together. One example is the laying aside of political, social and the other differences to come together as one community in support of the mass shooting victims and the city of Virginia Beach in the wake of the horrific mass shooting. On Thursday, we saw a commemoration of a coming together on a massive scale as nations and militaries united to attack and liberate Europe from the evil Nazi regime on June 6th, 1944. So we see that whether it is a mass shooting, an evil, killing, world empire wannabe or a natural disaster, we are wonderfully motivated and swift to come together to support and help. That is a great thing. But it’s also reactive. We’ve seen and heard it lamented how we seemed so together as a nation after 9/11 and are so fractured today. The question, then, we must ask ourselves is can we find a way to be proactive in our coming together? Is there a way that we can come to understand that our caring and supporting of each other, as a norm, will actually prevent some if not many of our manmade disasters in the first place? When you hear from the veterans, first responders and people who reach out to help, a word you often hear is duty, as in I felt it was my duty to respond. And even though the circumstances can be grim, tragic and even life threatening, you hear a sense of satisfaction and even a certain peace from those people in that they fulfilled that duty. Can we find a way to make the showing of support, caring and respect for all, even those we disagree with, who are different, maybe vastly different than we are, a duty to be fulfilled? It is most definitely possible that the more proactive we are in our support, caring and coming together, the less often we will find ourselves forced to witness the manmade tragedies that require our reactive response. So today; start small, do something supportive and caring at work, school and/or your neighborhood. How does it feel? Tomorrow do something else; then the next day and the next, that’s how a habit gets formed. With a shared habit like that, that’s how cultures change.

Is the Life We’re Leading Matching the Legacy We Want to Leave

I listen to the life stories; so filled with beauty and giving, being told about the 12 victims of the horrific mass shooting in Virginia Beach and two things seem abundantly clear. First, we truly have little to no control over the when, where and how of our transition from this life to the next. It is true that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. However, if this truth was contemplated much by these 12 wonderful people, their lives did not show it by being filled with worry and fear. But an equally, if not more powerful truth that is exemplified by these 12 souls, is that we have great control how we live our daily lives which, in turn, drives how we are seen and what our legacy will be. So many of the victims have been characterized by their giving, loving and caring nature. Over and over again stories of generosity and selflessness flow forth from the lips of coworkers, family and friends. Note how we, not only just in Virginia Beach, but in our state, our country and even beyond are being exhorted to follow, in our lives, the living examples of these wonderful people in terms of our caring and respecting each other. Without the worrying about an uncertain end over which we have no control, let us reflect on whether we are living lives which might garner memories of warmth and praise when our time of transition comes. Now is the time to be charitable, respectful, uplifting, forgiving, positive and above all loving. In that way, the life we live matches and builds the legacy we wish to leave.

Christ Declares Clearly That Comfort Will Come to Those Who Mourn

There were times when Jesus, God on earth, taught using parables. For some, who didn’t have the blessing of Jesus’s later explanation, the lesson might have been obscure or even missed. However, there were other times when Jesus did not mince words. He was and is crystal clear. One of those times is when He declared that mourners are blessed; for they will be comforted. In times of national or personal tragedy, that proclamation may seem strange, dismissive of someone’s pain and even harmful. Well, one might ask, what form will that comfort take? How can someone who lost a child or other dear cherished family member or friend ever be comforted? My short answer is I don’t know. I don’t know because I am not all knowing or all powerful to have the insight into what is comforting to each individual. Here’s what I do know. Jesus declared He would die and rise again in three days and He did it. Jesus declared that He would heal and restore life and He did. Jesus ordered thousands to be seated so they could be fully and freely fed using 7 loaves and a few fish and the crowds ate their fill. So when Jesus declares that those in mourning will be comforted, He can and will do that as well. Now it is true that, at the time, the only ones to receive those words were those who had sought to hear Jesus and were open to His teaching. Am I insinuating that non-believers won’t or can’t receive His comfort? Absolutely not, because Jesus does not declare that. Who, when, where and how people who are in mourning will receive comfort is above my spiritual paygrade and I should not attempt to take on those answers. Though what I need to do, what is within my paygrade is to be open to being a source of that comfort should Jesus choose to use me in that way. Jesus made another unambiguous statement. He gives to us His peace; a peace that is not fleeting, sporadic and piecemeal like the world’s peace is. No, Jesus’s peace is the peace of the One who has overcome the world and all the evil in it. Today, let us seek to be comforted and then go forth to bring comfort to others. Let us receive Christ’s peace then go out and spread it. And remember, when Jesus Christ says it, He will do it.

Understanding the Power in Sending Prayers

Thoughts and prayers. Lately, at least in some aspects of society, there as been a vocal questioning and at times derision about the power of sending thoughts and prayers in times of loss and tragedy. To reflect on those thoughts and make a case for prayer, I humbly offer an analogy of jumping your vehicle when the battery has died. You go out to your vehicle, turn the key (I know how old fashioned) or hit a button and unexpectedly, nothing happens. You try everything within your power, you turn off all electrical equipment, you check and maybe even take off and reconnect the battery cables. Still, nothing. Suddenly this huge, powerful vehicle pulls up next to you. It has so much energy spewing out of it, it is practically shooting out lightning bolts. It pulls up so close to your vehicle they are practically touching. With a shout of hurrah, you jump into your vehicle turn the key/push the button and…..nothing, dead as a door nail. Why? There’s no connection. You never attached the jumper cables. You see prayer is that needed connection, the spiritual jumper cables that is vital to channeling the flow of God’s energy. But surely that big truck has the power on Its own to act? The truck certainly does have all the necessary power but if It/He were to do it all alone, where would that leave you? You’d still be stuck dead, sitting on the side of the road. That’s the last thing God wants. He doesn’t need our prayers, we are the ones with the need. Why? We need that connection to fully live. We need to understand the uniqueness of that connection. You see I never pray to my parents, friends, bosses or even my wife. Oh sure we might discuss or I may ask them for something, but I don’t pray to them. Why? Because we’re basically equal (sorry dear). Prayer is a purposeful humbling connection where I reach out to say I am not powerful enough, I can’t do this or do this on my own. I need You, I believe in You and yes, I love You. Even a prayer of thanksgiving is a humble acknowledgement of our weakness in comparison to His strength. Yes the Large Truck, God sends out reviving energy to start us moving again. However, be careful, you pray for comfort for someone and God sends you the energy to be their comforter. You pray for peace and God sends you the energy to be a peacemaker. You might reply; but I was going to use the energy for work or to go to the ball game. But know this, the power God gives you to help others will always be accompanied with overflowing power for you too. Finally, the flaw in my analogy is that, on earth, after we get our vehicles started, we break the connection by disconnecting the jumper cables and the two vehicles go their separate ways. God will never break the connection and He never leaves your side. So yes, please pray for Virginia Beach. Please pray for the flood victims in OK, TX, MO and AR. If you need a prayer please send a reply or message and I’d be humbly blessed to include your prayer request. Don’t let your battery die or if you’re already sitting on the side of the road of life with your hood up, get out and connect those jumper cables of prayer and connect with the All Powerful God. He is right beside you waiting to light up your world.

Judging Our Use of Power in Terms of God’s  Perfect Plan

Power and judgement. No this not about the power to judge but judging the use of power. Put in another way; have you ever wanted something really badly and either, had the complete power to make it happen, worked desperately to obtain the power and/or lamented the lack of power to make it happen? Whether you have the power or just want it; have you ever taken the time to reflect on, to judge the wisdom of using that power for you and those around you? Do you reflect on previous times you’ve used your power and the ultimate results, to include unintended consequences? You see power is, and I use this term literally, intoxicating. And like a person once intoxicated, they often want more and more. Think about this, we have laws to prevent people from doing things, like driving, while intoxicated. In most places, being intoxicated in public is a crime. Why? Because our judgement is so impaired when we’re intoxicated. Often really tragic outcomes happen when we take actions while intoxicated. That same judgement impairment can happen when we’re intoxicated with power. Sadly, there is no legal limit, no .08, when it comes to power. So the next time you have the power to, are desperately seeking the power to, or depressed over the lack of power to pull the trigger on some action, you might stop and ask yourself some questions. Am I certain this is a good thing to do? Why am I so confident my judgement is not impaired? Am I truly looking for and seeing the big picture? I ask myself one more question. Is my use of power aligned with the One who is all powerful and has perfect judgement? It is upon answering those questions that I/we can be the most confidence in either pulling the trigger on or holstering the power at my/our disposal.

Our “New Normal” is Not New to God

Perhaps something new has entered your life. Perhaps it’s an exciting new opportunity, person, situation or chapter. However, perhaps it is a new challenge, struggle, set back perceived obstacle or tragedy. Whether for good or ill, we may find ourselves declaring; this is our “new normal”. Yet to fully and clearly see where we are; to capitalize and sustain the positive as well as overcome and move past the negative, we need to understand that where we are, our new, is not “new” to God. Where we are is where God is. And though He did not cause the evil that has come against us, He stands willing and most certainly able to bring His all powerful strength to our rescue. He did bring the blessing and stands ready to multiply it, desiring only that we believe He is the One who brought it. Love, strength, mercy, forgiveness and grace; those are the God normal. Let us strive to live into His normal and the abnormally powerful grace, joy and everlasting peace that comes with it.

Let Love  be Our Response to the Sacrifice We’ve Benefited From as We Celebrate Memorial Day

What is the basis for this day? What is it all about? Some might say loss, others sacrifice, others service, or some might say death, still others celebration. Are there elements of all these things in Memorial Day? Absolutely. Though the basis for me is love. It is the love Jesus Christ proclaimed when He declared that there is No greater that a person has than they give their life for a fellow person. So, so many have demonstrated that selfless love to and for you and I over the years. Thus what should our response be? Remember and honor them, most certainly. Yet I feel the greatest response is to love. Yes love them and love the families they left behind. But we shouldn’t stop there. We need to practice love as often as we can to an ever widening swath of people. We need to make love as widespread as possible, to even include our enemies. Let our goal be to honor them in love and being love, that there might come a time when the type of loving sacrifice they gave is a type of sacrifice no longer required. May you have a blessed and loving Memorial Day.

Good Knowledge and Experience

Should we obtain the knowledge of what is good without ever experiencing the actions of carrying out that good, then that knowledge is of little meaningful good to/for us and those around us.

Being Still Through the Knowledge  of God

God says: “Be still and know that I am God”. This comes to us from Psalm 46. Why state it as a command; why not a more polite request or suggestion? Because our Creator knows us, His creation, all too well. Sometimes we have a sense of responsibility; I caused this problem or it’s my wonderful blessing so I owe it to God to step in and help Him out. That’s what any good follower would do. Sometimes it’s both an arrogance and lack of trust that we believe requires our action. I know how the solution should look, I have a plan that should be implemented and/or I’m not quite sure God will get it right without me. Sometimes it may be the thought, well if I am “still” through all of this, how can I claim any glory? We are absolutely sure Jesus is addressing the storm when He commands: “Peace, be still!”. But I wonder if part of that command was for the disciples as well for they were quite agitated and crying out in fear. They absolutely experienced the power of God in that boat. How we can be still comes from the second half of the command “and know that I am God”. It is in that knowing that we can conquer our arrogance and become humbly, patiently still. It is by that knowledge that we can vanquish our fear and rest in His peace knowing we are in the loving care of the One True God. Thus, in faithful, loving humility; make your petition known to God, then still yourself in the certain knowledge that God has heard your prayer and His perfect, loving, grace filled plan will triumph with no necessary assistance or guidance from anyone, not even you.

Why Our Perspective Concerning Acts of God is So Important

Acts of God. An interesting phrase for an interesting concept. Interesting in the idea that the phrase is most often associated with large scale or even personal natural catastrophes. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes would all fall into what are often referred to as acts of God. Then there are things like getting cancer, or a disease like Alzheimer’s, or having a miscarriage are all deeply personal events or catastrophes that may or may not be termed acts of God but are also often described as being the Will of God. Now I don’t want to debate the theology of those concepts as much as I want to point out what I believe to be an amazing irony. Today, many people will be promoted, get a pay raise, graduate or see their children graduate or receive high grades, win a game, win a championship and many more positive things. Yet rarely do those triumphs get included in the idea of or phrased in terms of an act of God. Instead, more often, those positive things are attributed to a person’s talents, hard work and great work ethic, tireless practice, hard study, great parenting skills and even good genes among many other things. How we see “acts of God” is vitally important in so many ways. Take, for example, the message we want to spread for and about the Kingdom of God. If we communicate through our words and deeds, whether intentionally or unintentionally that we are responsible for our own successes, but God primarily interacts with us in large and small ways by means of catastrophes and disasters, who, in their right mind, would want to follow a God like that, let alone love Him. We would be helping to communicate the worldly message that, if God exists at all, He is a judging vengeful, unmerciful tyrant more likely to hate and lie about it then love us. As importantly from a personal standpoint, God is not helped by our appreciation, He doesn’t need to hear our praise and thanksgiving for His sake. God needs to see in us an aspect that, as He provides abundantly for us, as He blesses us with success, we are not allowing our own worldly arrogance to turn that abundance and success into a wedge or an obstacle in our relationship with Him. You see, if acts of God were all about judgement, punishment and destruction, Jesus Christ would have never come to earth and there would be no scars on His hands and feet. Our Heavenly Father is a God of love who in the words of Paul, works all things together for good for those who love Him. Our God is not a God who acts in random, occasional ways with some blessings and some tragedies. He is a God who is always acting in our lives through His love, grace and mercy. Thus let us ask ourselves, what acts of God are we experiencing in our lives today.

Paul Made It To Rome! There’s a Blessed Lesson For All of Us In This Fact

Paul made it to Rome. It’s important that we realize this. Paul made it to Rome. Paul continually prayed to go to Rome. Yet for many years Paul was thwarted in making it to Rome. Why did Paul want so fiercely to go to Rome? There were Christians there. These Christians had heard of the Way of Christ, but no Apostle had been there to provide the in-depth knowledge and support that would sustain them. This was the mission Paul felt he had been put on this earth to fulfill. Two other aspects; first, Paul had not always felt this way. As Saul the last thing he wanted to do was to go to the home of the hated Roman Empire, let alone preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet when the time came, he listened to Christ and changed. Second, Paul did not sit around sulking or doing nothing during the time when the advance to Rome was not happening. No, although Paul deeply desired to go to Rome, each day he awoke not in Rome, he asked himself; what can I do today to further what God wants me to do, even while I pray to go to Rome. He was not bitter toward or abandon his faith in God or eventually making it to Rome. So what desperate desire is on your heart today? Have you prayed about it? Do you continue to pray about it even if it doesn’t seem to be happening? More than once Jesus taught about the appropriateness and power of persistent prayer. What is your attitude toward God even if your petition has not been granted? Can you still serve Him enthusiastically? We need to also understand that Paul’s desire to go to Rome was not about Paul achieving some aspect of fame, fortune or self-glory. Paul believed Rome was where he could be an effective servant and powerful resource for God’s people. Does your heart’s desire align with fulfilling your Heavenly Father’s mission for you? If so, don’t lose hope. Keep in faith. Keep in prayer. And remember, in God’s blessed, perfect timing, Paul made it to Rome.

The How, What and the Power of Us in Our Prayer

A curious or perhaps interesting thing for us to reflect on. The disciples had experienced the way Jesus prayed. Then Jesus taught the crowd to pray the way He did. That is, Jesus said to go somewhere and pray to our Heavenly Father in private and our Father who hears everything will hear and reward. After that, the disciples asked and Jesus not only taught them, but the crowds and through the record down to us, what to pray as He gave us the wonderful Lord’s prayer. So here’s the interesting part to note and consider; we’re by ourselves, praying the prayer we’ve been taught to pray and what’s the first word our of our mouths? OUR! In fact, every pronoun within the prayer is a plural pronoun: “us our daily bread….”, “we forgive….”. I of course would never make a declaration that I know the Mind of God and what He is thinking other than what’s clearly stated in the Bible. So I ask the question; is it possible, even in that intimate time of personal, isolated prayer with our Heavenly Father, that we are to be thinking about, concerned about the welfare of others as well as ourselves? That it’s not solely or souly about my bread, my forgiveness, me not being led into temptation and being delivered from evil? When it comes to speaking of only one thing it is “thy” that is, the Father’s Kingdom, Will, Power and Glory. Thus it appears clear in Christ’s teaching, we are in this together. As we pray, it’s not just about me, I need to be intentional and care about us and we. In addition, as much as I should be thankful for the blessings to me, I should be thankful to God for others being fed, forgiven, led away from temptation and delivered from evil. It is a prayer of hope and love. As Jesus Christ taught in the two greatest commandments; the love of God is first, then in EQUAL parts, love of myself and others. Let us go forth in prayer and then in our behaviors to be about us, not me, love out and not primarily in, understand that Christ deeply loves me which is a life sustaining, peace fulfilling, joy enhancing truth; and He loves you in the exact same, intimate way and that’s a great thing. We are in this together as we should and need to be.

Let Us Insure We Are Carrying the Right Cross

Jesus Christ instructs us to take up our cross and follow Him. Yet when we contemplate the experience of Christ and His cross, baring a cross can seem to be a frightful, overpowering feat indeed. So don’t be confused. Christ doesn’t want you to, knows you aren’t designed for and can’t begin to carry His cross. For on Christ’s cross rests all or our sins for all time. We can’t begin to carry that cross and should never try. Note two things; first, in declaring that we must carry our cross, Christ first declares we must deny ourselves. Thus to follow Christ, we must not be first but put Him first. Then, we pick up our cross and FOLLOW Him. This cross we pick up is not the cross of Christ, that is the same cross Christ bore, our cross IS Christ , our faith in Him, our focus on Him, our obedience to Him. Remember, in Christ’s own words, He beckons us who have heavy burdens to come to Him and we will find rest from those burdens. He then tells us the yoke He wants us to carry is gentle and will bring rest for our souls. Christ does not want to add to our burdens or replace our burdens with an even greater one. So if you’re trying to carry the same cross as Jesus Christ carried, put it down. Instead let us pick up the only cross we are meant to carry which is having Christ in our lives for all to see. In that way, we may show others Who it is who can ease their burdens and bring them rest now and for all eternity.

The Vital Importance of Where We Place Our Focus

Focus-to bring into clarity. Focus-to bring intense energy to while avoiding the distractions from the environment around it. Focus-to assign a sense of importance. From the Bible, Steven had a focus of bringing the message, vision, purpose and blessing of Jesus Christ to those who didn’t understand. Ruth had the focus of serving and protecting and old widow who was alone in the world. For Steven the environment around him was violent and hostile. Ruth’s environment was filled with poverty and constant, draining labor. Yet neither were deterred. Then there’s Kendrick Castillo a young man, 18 years old, who richly deserves to be named in the same breath as biblical heroes. For Kendrick’s focus was helping those around him, whether at charity events with his father or fellow students in his high school. He wanted to help others no matter what the cost. So when two shooters entered his classroom focused on hatred, destruction and death, Kendrick did not let their focus distract or deter him from acting on his focus. Kendrick leapt into action, tackling one of the shooters, sacrificing his own life, that his fellow students might live and they did live. What is the common basis for the focus of Kendrick, Ruth and Steven. Jesus told us when he declared no greater LOVE is there than a person laying down their own life for another. Each of these people focused on love. And here’s a thing about their focus. Love wasn’t just the focus of that instant but their entire lives. We get the sense from the Bible but know in Kendrick’s case that the focus on love served him well. Kendrick was described as a person of peace and good humor, a selfless person who was a joy to be around. Each of those three people were victorious in and with their focus. Additionally, Jesus Christ is not willing to let Kendrick’s family and friends twist and suffer in their sorrow. For Christ declares they who mourn will be comforted. So for you and I; what will be our focus today? If we focus on the chaos, dysfunction and destruction around us we may become fearful and withdrawn. If we focus only on ourselves and our self interest we may become coveting, vengeful, prideful and bitter. Either of these two can lead to hatred and destruction. Instead, let us focus on love. We can love ourselves but equal focus should be on loving others; all others. That focus leads to service, giving, charity, forgiveness, peace and inner joy not dependent on the vagaries of the chaotic world around us.

Jesus Christ Lives and the Way He is Living Truly Matters

Jesus Christ lives! He is very much alive! It is vital or, should be vital, to our lives that we understand this. He is not just was, but IS! Why is this so vital? Why does it make a difference? First, we must understand the difference in the “was” and the “is” and why that is crucial. Jesus Christ was, is and ever shall be, God. However, when Jesus was, that is living on the earth, He knew/committed no sin. Yet right at the end, He took upon Himself all our sin. As He lives now, He is our redeemer, having sacrificed Himself, He paid our price, has taken our guilt upon Himself so that He now presents us guiltless before God. Thereby, through the Living Christ, we are able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. How do we know this? Because the Living Jesus Christ sends God, who is the Holy Spirit, to dwell in us, teach us, show us, the love, peace and purpose of Jesus Christ. Hold on a second, you say. If Jesus Christ is God and He is alive, why do we live in such a screwed up world of evil, hatred, dysfunction and misery. Jesus Christ answered this when He was on earth and it makes sense. The simple and tragic news for the world is, to receive the Love and Blessings of Christ, it has to believe in and except Jesus Christ as their living savior. The tragedy is so many in the world refuse to believe. Think of it this way, let’s say someone was to tell me they love me. If I don’t believe they exist or don’t believe them capable of love, their love has no impact regardless of how sincere it is. If the city I live in reveals they have a plan for perfect peace; but I refuse to listen and, instead, go my own way, their plan, no matter how perfect has little relevance to me. So for those who believe in Jesus Christ, are we living into the risen King of Kings, or more just a historical figure? For those reading this who have not accepted or believe in Jesus Christ, is the world loving you unconditionally right where you are today? Is the peace of the world lasting for you? Finally, how should believers interact with non-believers; in judgement, condemnation, wishing to isolate or shun them? No! In fact heaven forbid. In the Name of Jesus Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we should love all, just as Jesus Christ does. Jesus Christ is alive today. Jesus Christ loves you today and wants to bring peace and mercy to you. Believe it.

It’s Not About the Ritual but the Faithful Intention Behind It!

Rituals can be good things but we must be careful. Take for instance the ritual of giving something up for Lent. As you know that ritual is about the sacrificial giving up of something of seemingly daily importance to us both to honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ but also to substitute a purposeful intention of drawing closer to Christ in its place. Now we’ve celebrated Easter and it’s time to go back; go back to the eating of this or drinking of that, to go back to watching that show, playing that game or going to that social media site. In short, time to go back to the old life before Lent. One can imagine Christ asking: Really? Jesus makes it clear, there is no going back. It’s all about how we go forward. Christ instructs and warns us there should be no aspect of our life that should be separated from Him and His influence. So as we start doing again what we gave up, are we focused on Christ as we do it? Do we live into Jesus Christ’s two declarations; abide in Me and we will do great things, apart from Me we can do nothing? Thus we can take up again what we had temporarily given up. Yet in taking it up again, we can do so with an earnest attempt and effort to focus on Jesus Christ while doing it. We can do it with the ultimate goal of glorifying the name of our Heavenly Father in all we do. That is the way forward. Happy day after Easter

In an Age of Blessed Abundance, Why Do We Often Feel Left Wanting?

Lessons from the backyard. I was watching two squirrels happily devouring seed that I had, in their minds, mistakenly put out for the birds to eat. Then in an interesting twist, one squirrel became aware of the other squirrel eating and stopped eating to chase the other squirrel away. For the next several minutes (yes I have too much time on my hands) I watched as neither squirrel ate at all as they were too busy trying to chase the other off. The irony is that several feeders were full and I’m not going to stop filling them so there was easily enough for both. Yet the fear of the other getting any, caused them both to get none of what was right there in front of them as they took time to chase the other away in hopes of having it all! By most historical standards we live in an era of amazing abundance and choices. We produce more things, are living in a time of unprecedented global peace. Strangely though, stress related illnesses and impacts like suicides and addictions, hypertension and depression are at all time highs. Statistics show a significant rise in hate and bigoted speech and acts. Why? Could it be that our mantra of “I can have it all” has unintended consequences? If you and I want, feel we deserve, the same all; do we then have to fear the other achieving their all for then I can’t get mine? Maybe I feel you don’t deserve to get your all and I hate you for even trying to achieve it. Do I become so consumed with the singular struggle for my all, plus the fear of losing it once achieved, that I lose any sense of peace, fulfillment and enjoyment with the real abundance I actually have been blessed with? Am I smarter than a squirrel? One of the most overlooked commandments is about not coveting. One might think that it is to protect the person who is being coveted against. However, in reality it is to protect the coveter. For God realizes that coveting leads to fear, selfishness, frustration, anger, hatred, greed, violence and war. Instead the commandment is to love. Love first the Father who will give us all, abundantly we need, not even withholding the life of His Son. Then love your fellow person. For where love abounds, coveting can ‘t exist. Today, through love, let us strive to keep our squirlleshness in check.

I’m Sorry But I Have No Choice! But is That Really the Case?

“I’m sorry I have to do this, but I HAVE NO CHOICE”. I wonder how many times you and I have heard those words said to us or have used them ourselves before taking some negative action. If being used honestly, what this statement acknowledges is there is some process in place or established procedure. Further, it infers that we don’t believe that process or procedure rightly applies in a case but we are unwilling to take the action to countermand that process or procedure. Jesus could have used that same justification saying; I’d love to talk to you but Jewish men don’t talk to Samaritan women, when He met the woman at the well. Or, I’d love to spare your life from the unjust, corrupt mob, but we have this procedure to stone adulterers, so my hands are tied. Jesus could have said the process for handling people who condemn and then execute an innocent man is to be mercilessly destroyed and damned for all time. Yet Jesus did none of those things. The woman needed talking to, teaching, so Jesus did it. The woman needed forgiving and the crowd needed instructing so Jesus gave it. The people who condemned Jesus needed forgiving so Jesus forgave them. It is not easy but we need to understand that those processes and procedures we cling so tightly to and yes, even hide behind sometimes, are primarily of own conception and fashioning. It is our BELIEF in our powerlessness versus the fact of it, that blocks our thoughts and actions concerning finding alternative more appropriate solutions. We have all been given the gift of judgement for the expressed purpose that we will actually use it! So the next time you feel tempted to use the statement, truly meaning it; I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do, ask yourself, did you even attempt to do anything different, anything more just, more right? Are we truly as powerless as we make ourselves out to be?

What’s Truly In A Threat?

What’s in a threat? Why doesn’t Jesus Christ act? I’m a faithful believer in Christ so why is this situation allowed to happen? These questions may have never crossed your mind but I know they have occurred to me before, sometimes in real frustration. Now I cannot in anyway answer for Jesus Christ but think we can gain some insight by His words and behavior here on earth. Did and/or does Christ lack the power to act? Don’t tell that to the storms or the crowds who wanted to stone Him or throw Him off a cliff. For Jesus effortlessly quieted the storms and walked, untouched through the angry mobs until it was His time. Maybe, Jesus doesn’t care about our petty, insignificant problems. Didn’t He teach us that each of our very hairs are numbered; thus, God knows and cares about the smallest details. Yes, Christ faced many earthly “threats” and hatred. Christ could have responded in His power of righteous judgement and wiped all who attempted to threaten Him off the face of the earth and into eternal damnation. But He didn’t. Instead Christ responded in love. Christ said I will listen to you, teach you, correct and, yes, even rebuke you, but always in love. And should you come to Me, regardless of your past transgressions, I will forgive you and welcome you. You see none of these earthly challenges Jesus ever really considered a threat; even death! The world and the enemy want us to fixate and concentrate on worldly threats, real or imagined. The world and the enemy want fear, hatred and revenge to be our overriding responses to threats. That is why Jesus called His peace, the same peace He freely pours out upon us as not like the world’s. It is a peace that states that no earthly threat can be victorious over those who abide and put their faith in Jesus Christ. You and I may find ourselves in a worldly threatening situation today. That is why Christ beckons us to come unto Him. For He declares: “take heart for I have overcome the world”, assuring us that in Him, we will overcome the world as well.

 

It Is Not About This, It’s About You

Jesus Christ doesn’t what you to know so much that I’ve got “this” as much as He wants to make it perfectly clear and for you to never doubt that I (as in Jesus Christ) have you! I have you in all My Love, Power and Strength. You see the “this” is not what Christ is concerned with. He is concerned with you. Most of the time, the “this” is worldly stuff. Jesus says I’m not going to focus on the “this” and I don’t want you to either. I am focused on you so please focus on Me. Rest assured My Power will always defeat whatever “this’s” come against you. Christ asks us: Focus on Me as I am focused on you and there will be no room to focus on or fear “this”. Jesus Christ wants you to know; as this very moment and for all eternity: I have you.

Silencing the Shrill Voice of the Enemy

Let’s take a deep breath. And then another one, deeply filling our lungs with life giving air and slowly, peacefully releasing that air to bring a state of calm. There are many, so many shrill, almost deafening voices screaming: “WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!”. The “we” they speak of can be any segment of society: a gender, a race, a political party, a religion, a marriage stance. Sometimes it’s more personal, I’m under attack, by family, friends and/or coworkers and I don’t know why. First I’m here to say that there is an attack going on and it’s against all of us no matter which segment of society we are. This enemy wants us to strike back and out mindlessly, if struck and better yet, to strike first at any perceived threat or offense. This enemy wants all love, forgiveness, patience and desire for understanding purged as contemptible weaknesses to be supplanted with desires for hate, revenge and destruction of any and all others who are different. Jesus Christ met this enemy and defeated him at every turn. Yet notice this, Christ’s followers, after His resurrection, were attacked, hated and persecuted mercilessly, yet being in Christ, they never preached revenge. They never called upon Christ’s followers to take on hate, revenge and the destruction of those who were against them. In Jesus Christ let us silence the shrill voices in our own head. Then, also in Jesus Christ, let us not be an enabler of the other shrill voices outside of us but instead, let love be the answer, forgiveness our focus and service our desire. Take a moment to breathe in a very deep breath of Jesus Christ and expel the hate of the enemy.

 

Lesson From the Backyard The Power of the Sun and the Son

Lesson from the backyard. Yesterday was cold, the temperature hovered around freezing the entire day. Then, when you walked outside, the strong wind hit you like a brick wall of cold. It made it difficult to stay outside. Yet and interesting thing, when out of the wind, the sun was so bright, the light and the heat so strong, that even with the cold temperature it was comfortable enough to be outside without even a coat on. The comfort from the sun completely overcame the discomfort of the coldness of the air. You probably know where I’m going with this but as we enter this season of Lent, it would be good for us to reflect on the power of the Son, Jesus Christ who came down to us and lives today as the Light who overcomes any and all earthly darkness and frigidness. Though here’s where the comparison ends. For you know the sun is on the outside and thus its effects are not constant. In fact the world gets in the way many hours of a day leaving us in darkness. However, the Light and Power of Jesus Christ comes from the inside and thus never leaves us and can never be blocked or diminished by earthly means. Jesus Christ said and meant it literally when He said He is the Light of the world. Let us seek out that Light, live into that Light and share that Light with the world.

Never Experience a “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” Moment

Have you ever been in the presence of someone who really loves you? I mean someone who loves you for just being you? It could be a parent, child or other relative, a spouse, a partner, or a close friend. Think to those moments and the incredibly uplifting power that comes from them. Think about how those moments impacted your entire being and perception. Reflect on how you so wanted to return that love and wish all could experience and live that way. Sadly within the human and earthly realm, those moments are all too fleeting. Yet our Heavenly Father wants us to know that, with Him those moments don’t have to be fleeting at all. With Him, His love is constant, never changing and unconditional. His power to uplift is never distracted by the cares or obstacles of this world. How do we tap into that never ending, all powerful, completely sustaining gift of love? One way is through prayer. Jesus taught that we should find a place of isolation and quiet to pray so that we can experience the flow of God’s love to the fullest extent possible, away from the distractions and competition of worldly matters. In those moments, God’s love washes over and through us, washing away sin, doubt, fear and frustration, replacing them with love, peace, calm and power to carry on. From those times of prayer, if we’re open to the Spirit who dwells within us, the power of God’s love does not leave us but grows within us; lifting us up, carrying us to a deeper more lasting relationship with Him and those around us. So let us not neglect prayer and the love, power and relationship it brings.

 

What it Takes to Hear “Well Done You Good and Faithful Servant”

Hear this good news; when our Heavenly Father beckons someone to come and join Him, proclaiming they have been a good and faithful servant, it is not because they are the richest, smartest, most physically attractive, strongest, have achieved some great feat, in short have reached some worldly milestone only a few can ever attain. NO, God will make this proclamation, offer this invitation, to any and everyone who faithfully follow Him and use their God given gifts to serve their fellow person and further the Kingdom of God. So let’s ask ourselves, how are we using His gifts today; are we burying them, keeping them to ourselves or are we generously sharing them with any and all in need? May you have a blessed, giving day.

Who’s Right? Judgement in an Age of Diversity

So who’s right? Are you a _____ or a_____? I’m a ______ and that means I’m this or that. Yet whatever I am, I am right and that makes you_______? Think of this current paradox; in business, schools, military, churches, all across society there is the mantra about the need to include and “celebrate” diversity. And you would think that would be especially easy today because of the almost seemingly infinite different classifications we claim for ourselves. Yet we no sooner proclaim our own classification then we start to judge all the other classifications. We seem to judge those classifications closest to ourselves more favorably and those furthest from ourselves most harshly. Enter Jesus who warns through declaring to us; do not judge. And please, please don’t miss this; Jesus doesn’t declare: Don’t judge other believers but go ahead and judge the heck out of everyone who doesn’t believe. No, it’s simple, don’t judge anyone. Why? Because we are so horribly bad at it and will never be good at it. But certainly there must be someone I’m justified in condemning, some group I’m justified in hating!? I’m no biblical scholar but I can’t find them and I see no value in looking. Jesus is clear, whether believed or not, we’re all our Heavenly Father’s creation. He loves us all even though we’re sinners so we should do the same. Leave all the judging, even the smallest to He who has the only true wisdom to do so accurately, Jesus Christ. Who, it may also be worth noting declared, He didn’t come to judge the world but to save it. So we might want to rethink our steadfast, only human justified belief, that they (whoever they might be) are worthy of our negative judgements.

The Blessing In Our Corner

One of the challenging aspects of life is that sometimes we can’t really tell who and how many are in and the power that is in our corner until we are backed into it. We like to be in control and be able to handle things. However, when the power of the world overwhelms our individual ability to respond, it can be a true, extreme blessing to see who and the power of them who come to our aid. Finally, the One we should never forget, who is always in our corner is our Heavenly Father. In faith, we can actually have an inner peace that His power is unmatched and His plan for our way forward is perfect even if we can’t see all the steps right now. So if you find yourself in that corner today, try not to solely or souly focus on the power and threats arrayed against you. Instead, rest on and be thankful for the power and those wielding it, especially from above, who are riding swiftly and in ultimate power to your rescue and restoration.

Become Divided and Be Conquered Unify in Christ and Be Victorious

Christ said it and it echoes down through the years to this very day: A divided house will not, indeed cannot stand. And today there are so many voices trying, and if we’re not extremely careful, succeeding in dividing us. But they’re so stupid, so unjust, a bully and I’m better than they are and shouldn’t have to put up with them….and them and them. Each them we target, isolates us more, makes us more vulnerable. From my days in the military we knew this; to defeat an enemy, even one of seemingly great power, the key was to divide, isolate and then defeat and conquer. Jesus got angry. Jesus felt pain. Yet Jesus never let the pain and anger divide Him from us. Jesus never stopped or stops loving. Jesus never stopped or stops forgiving. We are not Jesus. We cannot do the things of Jesus, the loving and forgiving, without committing to and joining with Him first. Don’t let any circumstances divide you from Christ, no matter how the world looks or you feel treated by it. It is in the power, His power that comes from being in unity with Him, that we can, in turn, have the power to love and forgive, thus seeking to come together as the victorious creation He means us to be.

Can You Hear the Knocking?

Do you hear the knocking? In Luke, Jesus Christ invites us to knock and the door, His Door to salvation and the Heavenly Kingdom will be opened. Yet Jesus is not one to stand idly by, for in Revelation, Christ proclaims: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with them and they with Me”. Right now a knock is happening. You may be at home, school or work. You may be driving down the road or may be at a church conference. You may be the one doing the knocking; but if not, listen, Christ is knocking. The message is clear, there is a door that needs opening and that opening starts with a knock. So can you hear it? Are you at the door? Are you raising your hand to either knock or respond to Christ’s knocking? Please let’s get the door open to Him.

I Desperately Want to See

You don’t need a telescope, microscope or horoscope to view the way you should live. Look inside first. Look to see, if you can see Christ within you. Do you see Christ’s love and the light of Christ’s Spirit within you? If the answer is no don’t fret but take immediate action. Believe and ask and Christ will be swift and allow nothing to deter Him from coming to save you. If the answer is yes, then be thankful and go forth in the Christ’s Spirit and Light, sharing His Love to all who He places in your path.

It’s Not Just History

It’s not just history. If Jesus Christ was not as alive today as He was over 2000 years ago, then the stories of His miraculous deeds would just have historical significance. However, He is alive and He beckons you, as He did to Peter, come out of your boat, focus on Me and I will allow you to walk above any troubled water without harm. Or as with 5,000 people, Jesus Christ promises, come, sit and be taught by me and I will freely feed you. For Jesus Christ declares and fulfills that He is the Bread of Life and will meet all spiritual, mental and physical needs, even if the resources seem scarce. That Jesus Christ is alive today as He was then, His invitation to us to join Him, abide in Him with His mercy, power and grace, is just as real and alive today. Let us always be accepting of that invitation; thus, by living through the love, power and grace of Christ, see the blessed history we will make together.

In the Name of Christ, Go Be Awesome!

You were created awesome in the Name of and by the Power of Jesus Christ before you did a thing. That means by being in Jesus Christ you are meant to be awesome. Now don’t make the mistake of judging awesome by worldly measures. At times Jesus just healed one person. At times Jesus taught a few people, once just one person, a woman at a well. The world might not have judged those to be awesome events; but, to the people involved in those events, they were truly awesome indeed. So go out, being in Jesus Christ and do awesome. How will you know it’s awesome? Jesus Christ will let you know in your spirit and that’s all the proof you need. In the Name of Jesus Christ, may you have an awesome day.

How’s the View From Where You Are?

Through the eyes of………    Christ could have viewed the world through eyes of privilege, instead he chose the view of seeing all including the lowest to bring healing peace and light to them. Christ could have viewed the world through eyes of power, justice, retribution and revenge, devastatingly destroying any who spoke a word against Him. Instead, Christ viewed the world through grace, mercy and forgiveness, even to those who put Him there as He hung dying on the cross. Christ could have decided not to view the world at all seeing the decrepit state of human fallenness, leaving us to our own destruction.  Instead Christ viewed and views us in love, humbling Himself to come and be a sacrifice for our salvation, plus healing us from our ills and iniquities. So are we going to take time to see Christ? As we view Him; will we see the awe inspiring nature of His eternal majesty or see Him as just some old story? Are we going to strive to gain His vision and see others as He would have us see them, with love, forgiveness, mercy and generosity?  We must ask ourselves whose vision is the basis for our actions; is it our earthly, worldly view or His eternal All powerful view?  Here’s looking at you……….   through His eyes.

We Can Work It Out!

There seems to be a lot of “I” out there today. I am bold. I am beautiful. I can do anything. I CAN HAVE IT ALL! But have I ever stopped to ask: If I do get it all; what are you left with? Do I even care? There is a song that states “One is the loneliest number”. How does all of this “I” fit into that? Jesus Christ came to this earth and lives today to teach us how to be “we” people; about how blessed being we truly is. It starts with connecting to the Holy They; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Once so connected, I, through They become a We that reaches out to All around me. Yes we reach out to family, friends, co-workers, but the power of We doesn’t stop there. Through the power of the Holy They, we reach out to strangers and yes, even our enemies. We are no longer about singular triumph and the destruction of others. We are about love. We are about receiving the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and then spreading it as far as We can. Let us be people of the We. Where We will be loved and show love. We will be triumphant. And, in the lyrics of another song: We can work it out.

TOMORROW! TOMORROW! TOMORROW! ………. today?

There are 644 tomorrows until the next presidential election. There are 20 tomorrows until another potential government shutdown. There are two tomorrows until the coming of an arctic blast; until, until…… Today someone will give you a smile. Today some will desperately need a smile from you. Today someone will be kind to you. Today someone will desperately need your kindness. Today you will receive love. Today someone will desperately need to receive your love. However, truth be told, we will miss all of those receives and needs if our focus is on our tomorrows. God gives you and I today. God pleads with us not to waste it. God promises that He will give to us today. God wants us to share His gifts to us, with those in need around us. God also knows all tomorrows. He knows also to the extent you and I have an earthly tomorrow. And, in His perfect plan, He is the only One who controls how many of our tomorrows, He will turn into todays. Jesus taught us to let tomorrow have tomorrow; we are to be people of today. So today, which is the only day that truly matters, live like it matters. First receive from God, His blessings and love which will surely come abundantly. Then, in turn, share those blessings and love with those around you. This is the day the Lord hath made!

The Peace of Christ in the Midst of Earthly Testing

Christ says: “Peace be with you”. Yet we might answer there is little peace for world puts these arbitrary tests to us with ever changing rules and outcomes and says that’s where our value lies. Christ responds: I understand for they tried to do the same to me. Christ further states: If you belonged to the world then what the world values and these tests would matter. But don’t forget, YOU ARE MINE and I value you for you, as I created you and that’s all that matters and will not change. Take heart for I will see you through all tests. I know your true value and will bless you regardless of what earthly tests measure. The only test I have for you is that you believe that I am the true Son of God, came to earth, died for your sins and now live at the Right Hand of God. So indeed, be at peace, have my freely given, all encompassing peace. For if you pass my test of belief and I stand ready to help you with that, no earthly test matters.

Judging What’s the Intent of a Wave?

“Judge not lest we be judged”. Okay this is likely to be a little more crass than some of my other posts, so I apologize. You see I walk our dog in the morning. I also like to to send a wave and smile to folks that pass by. My hope is, perhaps, with being acknowledged and smiled at, even by a stranger, might bring some small aspect of brightness into their day. Yet my dog will also have bodily functions which I also clean up and carry with me until I can dispose of it at home. From whence comes my dilemma. For with my hand so encumbered, I can still wave but; to some, I am waving a bag of poop at them which is hardly a friendly or brightness bringing gesture. My point? I can know my intentions for an action but I can’t control another person’s reaction to that action. Thus today we may have an encounter with someone whose intention may have some ambiguity associated with it. In my judging I can choose to interpret it and react negatively to it. Or, I can choose to be open to the possibility they’re trying to be positive with the only tools (including words, time, gestures, etc.) they have available to them at the time. If that’s the case then our reaction is likely to be quite different. Finally our ultimate striving is to react as Jesus Christ would react; in love. Whether friend or enemy, positive or negative, Jesus reacted in love, grace and forgiveness. Though we are not Christ and the only way to get there is to pray that His Spirit would abide in us as we abide in Him.

 

Priorities In the New Year of 2019

Priorities. Okay so it’s 2019. This is not so much about New Year’s resolutions or changes that we think we want to make. It’s more about the why of what we do, whether old or new and how we can tell if we’re really doing what we tell ourselves we want to be doing. It’s about our priorities; what we say is important. It’s also about realizing what we “say” is important is rather meaningless when it comes to our priorities. For it’s what we “do” that really defines, in truth, what are priorities are. Thus it is not the beginning of the day which reveals our priorities; but, as we reflect at the end of the day on what we actually did in that day, that we will have defining proof of what we found most important. For example, what would Jesus find at the end of a day He had on earth. He would see that He was carrying out His Father’s plan. He would see how much He loved us through the healing, teaching, feeding, forgiving and leading He had done. In short He would find that His actions showed that He prioritized practicing what He preached. So maybe as we start this new year we’ve said we’re going to make being kinder, loving more, making time for friends and loved ones, being more generous, more forgiving, praying etc., our priorities. Do know that to the extent your priority is directly or indirectly to be more like Christ, the enemy will use the world and its evil to try and prevent that, to put many obstacles in your path. However, take heart, Christ lives and stands ready to bless, give you the power to overcome the worldly obstacles and have you be successful in fulfilling those priorities aligned with His. Starting this night, before you close your eyes to sleep, think back on what you’ve done this day and ask: Do my actions of the day match the priorities I’ve said that I intend to have? And don’t forget to pray for His power and thanks for His support. Happy New Year!

Is the Season of Giving Over?

Perhaps the glow is fading. You received much of what you wanted and gave with amazing generosity. Yet the presents are unwrapped and the process seems over. Time to return to the humdrum routine of the every day. But is the season over; is it ever truly over? The idea of a present is twofold; first, it is something we need/want and additionally there is an aspect of surprise and revealing as well. He who came as a baby and now lives as our Risen Savior stands ready to bless you today. He knows what your most pressing needs and deepest desires are and will bless you with those things that are aligned to His/our Heavenly Father’s plans for you. Often those blessings, His gifts, come in surprisingly, unexpected ways. What we must be ready to do is receive them. A gift that remains unwrapped never achieves its entire goal or purpose. Second, as we receive we should feel the motivation to give. We should give gratitude and glory to our Heavenly Father for the gift and also give the love to others which always accompanies the blessings from Jesus Christ. The season of giving and receiving is over? Don’t you believe it! Don’t you live like it is.

Be in Awe! Live in Awe!

Be in awe. Live in awe. The shepherds saw and left in awe. The wisemen came and worshiped in awe. Herod heard and feared in awe. Some have come to Christ and seen Him as an equal and all those eventually turned away, unfazed and unsaved. But those who come and experience God come to earth as Christ are awed, blessed, loved by and saved by Him. Therefore let us show the impact of our coming into the presence of the all knowing, all powerful, all loving, eternally living Jesus Christ by living in awe of His majesty and receiving from Him and then sharing His love to the world. Merry Christmas!!!

A Peace Beyond All Understanding – His Peace

May you be at peace. Be at peace?! Now I know you are delusional. For where is the peace when person is pitted against person with lies and vile names, when spouse murders spouse and sometimes children, where thieves steal brazenly from our very door steps; where is the peace? The peace comes from Him whose season we celebrate. Peace comes from His presence. For in His presence an enemy Roman soldier humbled himself and pleaded for a healing. In His presence the condemned found peaceful redemption In His presence quarreling disciples turned to love each other. Christ promises His peace to all who will believe in Him. Christ promises His permanent perfect peace which is far different, far better than the fleeting, temporary, shallow earthly peace. May it be that in Christ through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, you find yourself in the Perfect Peace of Christ this and every season.

Rejoice Again Rejoice

Rejoice! Rejoice! Why? What examples do we have? We have heavenly beings who have a special insight into the actions of the Heavenly Trinity. Those beings are the angels and how they rejoiced not only at the coming of Christ but also for human beings who now have salvation given to them. We also have the esteemed and the humble of humanity rejoicing. We have both the shepherds and the kingly wisemen who came to see and then rejoiced at seeing God come to earth. The earthly would declare we’re crazy to be rejoicing, with shutdowns, conflicts, hardships and drama in the world. When Jesus Christ came to earth, He did not promise to end all earthly drama. Christ promises that He has overcome the earthly tribulations and because He is our risen, living Savior; He promises us that if we live in Him we will overcome all of them as well. So may this season find you blessed and rejoicing in our raised and living Savior, Jesus Christ.

Make That Impact

In your actions this and every day, try to be that person that will bring someone else, perhaps even a stranger, to pray “Thank God, You put this person in my life”

The Gospel of John and the Christmas Story

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. This is how John starts his gospel concerning Jesus Christ and as such would seem to leave the Christmas story to others. Yet in a way, I read the heart of the Christmas story right here. You see John is stating that Christ was and is God with all the power of God. John then goes on to chronicle how God was on this earth as a human being; to the eyes of the world a rather ordinary human being. Just for a moment, stop and consider the humility of this act. He with all power, through which all things were created, came to earth in the meekness of His creation. To be a human He must have started out as a child, a humble baby in fact. Now He could have come down in the glory, majesty and power of the Heavenly God which is how He will be upon His return. However, to fulfill His Father’s loving plan of salvation for each of us, Christ needed to be a human which meant he felt hunger, pain, sorrow, loneliness, rejection, needing sleep, just as we do. Thus let us ask ourselves, can we be that humble? Is there some task that needs completing, some societally cast off person who needs our help; yet we find ourselves saying that the task or that person is beneath us? With the example of Christ’s humility; how is our arrogance justified? Finally, we must not attempt, on our own, to out humble Christ. We will fail. The only way to be truly humble like Christ is to abide in Christ, then ask for His help to bring about true humility. Fortunately, that is exactly why Christ, in perfect love, came to earth. That through His sacrifice, we might now be able to be in relationship with Him where we are strengthened and enabled to be more like Him in humility and love.

Celebrate the Christ Child and Live Into the Living Christ Savior

During this season when we celebrate the coming of God to earth in the person of a baby, it is vital that we remember we serve and are served by a risen, living, all powerful Savior. In need of healing; think of the physical, mental and spiritual healing Christ blessed any and all who believed on Him with. In a place of danger; consider how Christ, not only passed unscathed through hostile, murderous crowds until His time of sacrifice came, but also kept His disciples unscathed as well. A natural danger; turn to Him who quieted the wind and calmed the stormiest of seas. Have a material need; reach out to the One who turned ordinary water into extraordinary wine or who fed thousands with a few loaves and two tiny fish. In need of love; as we all are, receive from Him who, out of love for you, gave His life for your salvation, a love of immeasurable blessing. Yes indeed, celebrate the coming of the Christ Child but live into the salvation of the living Savior, Jesus Christ is now.

A Scripture Passage, An Event and A Season – How They All Fit Together

The juxtaposition of an event, a season and a scripture passage. According to scripture, upon receiving a invitation from Jesus to come follow Him, a man replied: “Lord first let me go and bury my father”, to which Jesus replied: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God”. In the past I felt this was an overly harsh and heartless rebuke, especially coming from the Son of God. But by the blessed revealing of the Holy Spirit, I’ve come to understand that this is actually a very blessed expansion and explanation of His invitation. For in following Christ, death is defeated and though the functioning of our earthly, flesh existence may cease, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the life of spirit, the true life of who we are, continues without ceasing! This day we acknowledge the transition of George H.W. Bush from one level of existence to another. Yet we need to be very careful in saying he is dead. In truth the earthly vessel which housed his spirit has ceased; however, through Jesus Christ, he is still very much alive. That is what Christmas and this season is all about. Yes it is appropriate that those loved ones who had close reoccurring contact with him will mourn the loss of that contact. Yet Christ promises comfort to them which comes in part by the assurance their loved one lives and there will be a wondrous reuniting one day. Again, that is at the heart of this season. God so loves us that He came down in the form of His Son to live an earthly existence as we do. He died, taking upon our sins but then He was resurrected into a perfect existence and promises that the same can and will happen for us if we will but faithfully believe in Him. You may be mourning the loss of someone this Christmas season but please take heart in this certain knowledge. In the coming to earth of Jesus Christ, your loved one lives. Thus you are justified in continuing to love them as well as feeling the love they most certainly continue to have for you. May all have a blessed Christmas season.

From Whence Comes My Salvation?

Starting in Acts 21 we read how the Apostle Paul is in a real, mortal mess. He is over a thousand miles from where he desperately wants to be, feels called to be. Worst yet he is surrounded by those who despise him; who want to to reverse his life’s work and utterly wipe Paul of the face of the earth. The few friends Paul has in Jerusalem have virtually no power against the powerful Jewish leadership arrayed against him. A plot was hatched that would most certainly bring about Paul’s death and most likely completely destroy his work. Except Paul belongs to God. Paul is a fervent believer in and follower of Jesus Christ. So God steps in to thwart the evil. And who does God use? The Romans! Yes, the Romans who didn’t believe in God. Yes the Romans who believed that Jesus Christ was some obscure, fantastically idiotic story of a few delusional Jews. None of that mattered to God. Under God’s perfect plan, the Roman’s step in and completely quash the Jew’s attempt to destroy Paul and his work. They also give Paul passage to the place he so desperately wanted to go; Rome. What are we to make of this? You may be or feel you are in the place where Paul was. You are surrounded by haters and you are so far from where you want to be; where you feel God wants you to be. Don’t lose hope. Have faith. God can and will move heaven and earth to see His perfect plan and your blessing fulfilled. He will often bring that salvation through wholly and holy unexpected means, maybe even an enemy. Nothing is too difficult for God. As unexpected as God coming to His creation as a blessed, humble baby, later sacrificing Himself to wipe away our sins and bring about our salvation. Take heart He is with you.

Being In Relationship With God Through Prayer

Yes here we are again. A mass tragedy, a mass shooting has happened. There have been requests for prayers, statements of support in prayer and some questioning the power of prayer and why pray. However, to fully understand prayer and its power, we have to remember what it is. It is a conversation, a relationship with the All Powerful Creator God. At the heart of this relationship is the love God so wants to pour out for and on us. Would and will God pour out His love out for the victims of Pittsburgh without our prayers? Unequivocally yes. So do we really need to pray? YES! First, there is no reason to pray except that we are acknowledging the existence of God. Second there is no reason to pray with acknowledging the Power of God. And God answers. God, in that answering shares His perfection with us, He shares His power and His love. That perfection and that power blesses and empowers us to be His blessing for and to the world. So pray PLEASE Pray and not just during tragedies. Have a need? Pray. See someone in need? Pray for them now. Have something good that happened? Pray a prayer of thanksgiving. See something good happening for someone else, say a prayer of thanksgiving for their experience. Be in relationship with God and let it be started and strengthened in prayer.

We All Need to Change

Jesus Christ told those whom He taught when He was on this earth and tell us today; we need to change. In fact we all need to change. Jesus did not say the poor had it right but the rich had it wrong or the religious leaders were wrong but the regular religious worshipers were right, or even the Jews were right and the Romans wrong. So today we have a situation where, seemingly a section of society is being targeted by a bomber. Listening to both sides, they are saying we have a toxic, divisive discourse in society. Here’s the thing, at least in my opinion, each side is completely blaming the other for the toxicity. They say “we” need to change and be more civil and then they point their finger at the other side and say You have to change. I’ve heard neither side, or at least their TV media champions, acknowledge any aspect of change needed on their own side or any sense of shared responsibility for the current level of civility or lack there of. The one person who didn’t need to change was/is Jesus Christ. Why? He is perfect. Are we so sure of our position, our behavior, that we rise to that same level of perfection? Is there some aspect of change that we ALL are required to make, that there is a shared responsibility? (not for the bomber or bombs, the bomber bares that responsibility and does not get a pass) If I say you are the only one responsible and I have no reason to change and you say and believe the exact same thing about me, NOTHING will change. Is that what “we” really want?

What Emotions are You Waking Up With Today?

I truly hope you are not waking up with these emotions today; disappointment, envy and/or hatred. Why might that happen? Because there was one top prize winning lottery ticket sold in SC and it probably wasn’t yours. You may have prayed and prayed hard with a true sense of desperation. You may feel you were not listened to. You may feel God let you down or worse yet God doesn’t care about you or love you. You may feel mad at Him and envious of the one who won. If that is you in any way, please understand this; God did hear you. God does love you. A young child may desperately believe they need and ask for a loaded, real gun. But we would know it is better for that child not to give him/her that gun. Understand this, God knows best. God didn’t have you win because, regardless of your judgement and desires, He knew it would be harmful to you. Also 1.6 billion is nothing to the God of all creation. He has more than enough to insure all who call upon Him will be winners by God’s eternal standards. He will pour out His love, blessings and all material things you need. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you are an ultimate winner in God’s eyes.

Be Careful What You Wish or Even Pray For

Woooweee there are some pretty big lottery jackpots out there. So here’s some questions for each of us to ponder whether we play or not. In your heart, mind, body and soul; would you, in all sincerity and truthfulness, be able to say to God and mean it: I need You as much today, even with winning the lottery then I did yesterday before I won? Could you say to God and mean it: The life you provided for me before the win, was just as good as the life you’re providing me after the win? Could you say to God and the world; I am still as poor in spirit today, after the win, then I was before? Just how much does that amount of money mean to you? Why did I include those who don’t play in these questions? Because do you envy those who play, a least the winners? Depending on the answers what might seem a blessed win could actually be a disastrous loss.

Advocacy Versus Scarcity

Advocacy versus Scarcity. This morning I came across a couple of stories of advocacy; a news article about patient advocacy and story about student advocacy about individual student’s learning desires being promoted. It brought to mind just how much the principle of advocacy is being practiced these days for so many things. Yet I thought about another concept I first learned in high school and was reinforced in some college classes and that is the law of scarcity. That law states that while the scope of human wants is unlimited, the resources with which to fulfill those wants are limited. So I got to wondering, as you and I go about our day, advocating for our individual or group wants, do we do so with any sense of this basic understanding? First, lets say I get what I want, you may be advocating for something slightly or significantly different. Do I even consider that my fulfillment leaves less for you? Do I even care? Do I contemplate that you feel as passionately about your fulfillment as I do mine? Do I even consider for a moment the impossibility of all diverse desires being able to be fulfilled? Ah, you say, but with God all things are possible. True, however, God’s knowledge and judgement are perfect. He knows we have wants that if fulfilled, would be highly damaging to us and/or those around us. Thus as we advocate for ourselves today, let us do so with a touch of humility, understanding in the human realm there is only so much to go around and others need some too. Plus in the Heavenly Father’s realm, His fulfillment is based on what’s best for us versus just acquiescing to our desires. Perhaps as the song goes: We just might find, we get what we need.

Why Do _____________things happen to ___________________people?

Why do _______________things happen to ___________people?  Now really the question often gets asked by believers and non-believers alike as:  “Why does God allow “bad” things to happen to “good” people?  While it’s a natural question, if we are honest with ourselves, it is a question from a rather worldly point of view.  For that question assumes that we are adequate judges of who is good or bad as well as having the wisdom to discern what is ultimately a good or a bad thing.  However, history shows us that we might not be the wise, discerning judges that we think we are.  There was a man Ted Bundy who was looked at as a warm, generous, kind, polite young man.  That portrait of him lasted right up to the time he was caught and convicted as one of our country’s worse, sadistic mass murderers.  Hitler was very well thought of by many, including the likes of Charles Lyndburg.  Conversely, mold was looked at as a primarily wasteful and destructive thing, but then the wonder drug penicillin was discovered from it.  A man’s encounter with Jesus Christ shows our lack of ability to judge accurately when, instead of seeing Jesus as the Messiah, the true Son of God, came to Him and called Him merely a “good” man.  Good people, who deserve good things?  Jesus is clear, we are sinners and, if simple justice was to be served, we should be found guilty for our sins and punished.  But God’s way is not our way thankfully.  For instead of punishment, God has given us His Grace.  Within that Grace is such an amazing sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ taking all our sins upon Himself and dying for them, so that we might be forgiven and restored.  We receive God’s endless, boundless love.  Then let us be humble, not falling into the trap that when we find ourselves blessed by God, it is actually a just reward for our righteousness and not a free, undeserved gift of His Grace.  Further let us not be judgmental where when we see that some tough circumstance has come to someone else it is obviously a punishment for some wrong they have committed.  Let us more accurately see God as the architect and builder of His perfect plan for our lives.  In that building process there may be some bricks of plenty and some bricks of lean.  Whichever, the case, the Builder is perfect and with a foundation based on Jesus Christ, the building which is our lives, will withstand any and all storms which may come against it.

Who or What Do We Depend On and What Difference Does it Make? 

Jesus Christ makes it abundantly clear. We will not be spiritually successful, it will not be well with our souls as long as we are worldly dependent. How might we find ourselves dependent on the world? One way is to measure ourselves by worldly standards; I am worldly successful based on a job title, size of bank account, prestige received, power wielded, education attained, number of friends, worldly happy family are just a few of the worldly measure traps. Another way we can show our dependence is by our reliance on the world and our fear of worldly lack. I just need a few dollars more, I just need this car, I can not live without this relationship with this person, and, if I can only get this (whatever the worldly “this” is) then I will be whole. I’ll be happy because my life is complete. Jesus called many to come and follow him and many answered; okay, but wait a minute, let me take of this worldly thing, then I’ll be ready follow. Some of the reasons seemed fairly legitimate like let me bury my father first. Yet Christ warns us, the enemy will use any worldly reason, even seemingly important, legitimate ones to keep us from salvation. The minute we ask Jesus to wait for before we commit to Him is the one minute we may not have. The worldly is just an instant, the spiritual is for eternity. Don’t risk eternal life and salvation on wasted worldly determination.

What Is So Important About Today That We Should Focus On It?

Jesus Christ is very clear; today is the day that matters. Now it’s true that when Jesus preached this specifically, He was doing so in the context of why we shouldn’t worry. As such, He said that don’t worry about tomorrow’s trouble as today will have enough trouble of its own. However it is not “trouble” that Jesus and His ministry is primarily focused on. What is involved and the basis of the two greatest commandments? How did Jesus say that His followers would be recognized by the world. Why did God send Jesus to us in the first place? At the heart of all of these, the focus that God has towards us; was, is and will continue to be, LOVE. And not just any love, a deep, personal, give everything kind of love. God doesn’t want you to miss out on receiving and feeling that love, missing it because you’re focused on, consumed with and/or can only see tomorrow. You are loved today! You are loved by none other than Our Heavenly Father AND Jesus Christ AND the Holy Spirit. If they were not enough, there are followers of Them who want to love you today as well. One more important thing, there are those who are in need of your love today that might not be able to wait to receive it tomorrow. Again, you are loved today! God wants to bless you today. God wants you to be a blessing for others today. Please don’t miss out on that uplifting, healing, restorative, redeeming love, not seeing/feeling it today because you’re focused on tomorrow.

Glory Glory Glory

Glory. Let’s consider glory for a moment and the impact of it. The world seeks self glorification, that is for me, my group, my gender, my country, my, my, my……. Think for a moment what that causes. Consider the anger, frustration, hurt, hatred, war and so many other negative things that comes when we as individuals believe we have not been given the glory we’re due, someone else is getting more glory which should be coming to us, and/or worse of all, someone is attempting to steal our hard earned glory. Being God, if anyone was entitled to glory in His own right, it was Jesus Christ. Yet Jesus made it abundantly clear, He did not seek His own glory and if He had, it would have been wrong to do so. No, all Jesus did, He did to bring glory to His Heavenly Father. Jesus would have us do the same for two reasons. First, in seeking glory for the Father versus ourselves, it takes away the constant self absorption concerning our glory or lack thereof and the negative feelings accompanying that. As long as our focus is on glorifying God, that others might not be doing so is no threat to us. Secondly, unlike those consumed with attaining worldly glory, God does not horde His Glory. He has no need to. No one can either take or surpass His Glory. Instead, God freely shares His Glory with those who love and follow Him. Also, unlike earthly glory which is so extremely fleeting, God’s Glory is eternal. Thus let us shake of the chains of the pursuit of self glorification and rather focus on the liberating process of giving and receiving Glory from our Heavenly Father.

The Blessing Of and the Need To Know and Be Known

To know and be known. In several different lessons and parables, Jesus Christ stresses the importance of this concept. Jesus warns us it is not enough to speak words of Christ, to “declare” we are Christians, to have a cross on my key chain or a bible on my table. Christ is clear what is important is whether we live in a manner where He and His/Our Heavenly Father actually make a difference in our daily lives. Do we know of the Father’s love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, generosity, salvation and blessings. Plus, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, does that knowledge transfer into action? Do we live as though God and His principles actually matter, actually impact our lives? Christ is unambiguous, there are those who will define for themselves what is good and righteous, generous and merciful, forgiving and loving. Having defined those things for themselves or using worldly definitions, they will attempt to live a “good” life. They may even succeed by their limited definition. Sadly though, they will come to Christ expecting eternal rest in the Kingdom and Christ will turn them away; saying: “Depart I never knew you”. Christ wants to be in a personal relationship with each of us. Being in that relationship requires that we know about Him and are known by Him. It is through that relationship that we humble ourselves to want Christ’s ways and Christ’s decisions to be our ways and our decisions. Thus going through this day we need to look at ourselves; asking the question, does our knowing Christ make any difference in what we do, think and feel? Will Christ welcomingly know us by how we attempt to live? Do we live in the desire to have Christ declare: “Come on in, I know you”?

Blessed Are The Meek and Self Esteem; How Do They Fit Together

Esteem and blessed are the meek; how do these two concepts fit together? “Blessed are the meek” is the third beatitude taught by Christ. Toward the end of last century and continuing on into this century, we’ve seemed to hear the virtues extolled more vehemently concerning gaining a “healthy” or having a strong sense of self esteem, especially starting in childhood. Some themes that seem to be entailed in this are: that I matter, what I say matters, I have the right to think the way I want to and further more, act upon what I think. Now to the extent, for children, that this self esteem equips them to not except abuse, speak out about being abused and that we listen to them is a valuable thing. Yet we must be careful whether child or adult that the concept of self esteem does not morph into a sense of SELFISH esteem. That is to say that who I am, what I think, what I do becomes of paramount importance making be the arbiter of what is right and righteous. Let’s remember the humility of Jesus Christ. He washed His disciples feet. He endured the insults and lies of others without it causing Him to doubt Himself or what He was doing or lashing out at His tormentors. Remember the power of Jesus in the storm and what He did to the fig tree. Jesus could have easily and terribly destroyed anyone uttering a syllable against, yet He chose to remain meek. Let us remember that when God created you, He called it good. God loves you and sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for you. However, also remember He did the same things for me and all others. The world sets us against each other in its judging of who is worthy of the greatest earthly esteem and shunning most others. Christ teaches us there is only One whom we should esteem as greatest, Our Heavenly Father and the rest we should treat equally. Should we find we are esteeming ourselves this day, is that at the sake of our esteem for others? In esteeming He who is worthy of all our praise and esteem, let us reject esteeming ourselves more than we should.

Hope, Belief and Hope Fulfilled

Hope. Hope fulfilled. The blind men hoped to see again and believed Jesus could restore their sight and their hope was fulfilled. The lame men hoped to walk again and believed Jesus could restore their legs and their hope was fulfilled. The woman hoped that her condition of 12 years could be healed and believed Jesus could bring it about. Just one touch of His cloak and her hope was fulfilled. The Jewish Leadership hoped for the coming Messiah. They did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They died never seeing their hope fulfilled. What are you hoping for this day? Going beyond what the world might hope for, what deep fulfilling hope has God placed in your heart? Do you realize that there is Someone who can fulfill that hope; bring that God led thing to fruition? Believe in and on Jesus Christ. Come just as you are today. You don’t have to go to church first or read through the entire bible. No, Jesus Christ asks, almost pleads: Come as you are, hungry, perhaps broken, in need great or small and BELIEVE. Christ asks you to Believe that He loves you and stands ready and able to fulfill your God given hope and restore you to the triumphant life in Christ you were created to have today and for all eternity. Hope! Hope in and on Jesus Christ!

There is Only One Place Where Righteous Anger is Right

Wow, there is a lot of anger out there. There seems to be a feeling on all sides that to rise to this level of anger is justified by the circumstances at hand. Maybe it would be wise to take a step back and see/read what the Word has to say about anger. First, the only aspect of “righteous anger” alluded to in scripture is God being angry. Jesus goes as far as to warn us that our becoming angry can lead us down the pathway to hell. We are told that anger is something not to hold onto; that, should it happen, to quickly deal with it and put it away, to not let the sun go down while we are still angry. We are warned that continuous anger is an opening for the enemy to come into our lives. We must go back to the truth that, though we may be different with different ideas, we are equal and equally created in the eyes of God. And while we may be disappointed at different actions of an individual or group, God has not delegated the right of judgement and anger from Himself to us. And just because someone is angry with us does not justify a response in kind. We do have a resource to help us deal with and get past our anger. We are freely given the Holy Spirit, who is more powerful than our spirit, who dwells within us and who can overcome and overwhelm the anger we might have. Let us call upon Him at those times that we feel anger welling up within us or has burst open from us, to calm our thoughts and quench the flames that threaten to consume us. Let us grasp hold of the truth that while anger leads to destructive defeat, love truly conquers all.

What is Truth?

“What is truth?” A question hotly debated these days, especially on this day. In the previous quoted question; a man, Pontius Pilate is asking this of God, Jesus Christ. The man’s truth was he had power over Jesus. The man’s truth was the man and his government were the ultimate power. In three days God proved what the real truth was. For Christ rose from the grave showing His ultimate power over all things including death. The truth is, upon rising from the grave, Christ did not lash out at His accusers and torturers, He had already forgiven them. The truth is Christ tells us the greatest thing we can do is love. The truth is Christ asks us not to judge, not to condemn, not to hate. The truth is Christ promises to be with us, helping us, protecting us, saving us, loving us, each moment for all eternity. The world’s truth, especially lately is couched in anger, accusation, judgement, borders on hatred and seems to change wildly based on the whim of the day. What is truth? Or perhaps another question is which truth are we going to live into; the world’s truth or the truth of Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ is Seeking Out All Who are Hurting, Burdened and Heavy Laden 

You find yourself in a situation, maybe a dark place, perhaps it’s physical, mental, spiritual or a combination of some or all. It could have been going on for a while, maybe 38 years. You ask: Does anyone see me? Does anyone care? You watch as others receive help and healing using a process that is so close to you but just out of your reach. Does anyone see me? Does anyone care? You find yourself in the same place each day, doing the same thing, with ever diminishing hope. Does anyone see me? Does anyone care? Enter Jesus Christ, He asks you do you want to be well? You answer based on the history of the worldly process where you desperately hope for a way out but can’t see any solution working for you. Christ responds: “I’m all you need” and heals you, not only restoring you but surpassing your greatest expectations. Can that really happen? Read Chapter 5 in the Gospel of John concerning the healing at the pool. But this is not some one time thing. Jesus searched for this man after healing him to assure the man that Jesus was still with him and that the man needed to stay in Jesus Christ to continue to be well. Jesus Christ is searching for the hurting today. He will go to the ends of the earth, He even went to the cross, to find, heal and restore all, including you and I. So if you’re hurting, cry out and reach up to Him. If you’re not raise up a shout of praise and thanksgiving for His blessings. Either way, let us be in Him, where He wants us to be and where we are created to be,

Difference and Divisiveness Are Not The Same Thing

Difference is not the same as divisiveness. The world would have our differences, divide us; different nationalities, different ethnicity, different genders, different body types, different parts of the country, different generations, different political affiliations, different economic levels, different academic achievements, different faiths. In as many different ways as we can be different, the world would have us judge between those differences as to who’s better and who’s worse. Jesus Christ knew His disciples were different. He didn’t try to make them all identical copies of each other. However, Jesus knew the damning, damaging power, of division. That is why one of His very last acts on this earth before His crucifixion was to pray for His disciples. What did He pray for? Jesus prayed that His Heavenly Father would guard them as they pursued their life in Christ. To guard them against the Evil One and the hatred and divisions he can bring. Jesus asked that they and all who would come after them, which includes you and I, be of one mind and one heart. He prayed that one mind and heart would be the same heart and mind that Christ and God share. We can be different. We were created different/unique. Yet we can be together and not divided as The Father and Son are different but are of One mind. and heart. That is a mind of grace and a heart of love for all no matter how different. May we follow Jesus Christ’s example and call on God’s loving protection and power. That through Him we might live into the universal Oneness, mind and heart we were created to be.

The Bright Path Forward

The blessed words below were written by the Apostle Paul to the believers in Rome, yet the call out to each of us today and lay out the bright path forward to all who are waiting.  In some cases those who are waiting are in time of strife or despondency.  Yet these words are comfort for us all allowing us to build our faith in hope in Jesus Christ.  Paul writes:  “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. 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.” May you find comfort through the Holy Spirit, in the light of Jesus Christ as you journey the path of God’s perfect purpose for you, this day.

To and Day, Using the Light of the Son to Guide Our Path Today

“To” A preposition used to express motion or direction toward a point, person or place.  “Day” The interval of light between two successive nights; the time between sunrise and sunset.  With a spouse who’s a teacher, she would rightly point out that the word “today” is a noun.  Yet if we look closer at, take time to contemplate its constituent parts, we see it is significantly about motion.  Thus where “toward” are you moving this period of light? In what direction have you chosen to point as you move toward some person, place or thing?  Is your choice of destination truly worth your efforts? What light are using to guide your journey; only the light of the sun, or primarily the light of the Son.  One of those lights, the sun, will fade leaving you and I in darkness that may confuse our direction and hinder our motions.  However, the other light, the Son’s light, will never cease, never fail to guide us, never fail to protect us from the enemies of the Light, hiding in darkness. May your motion be guided by His light this and every day leading you to the blessed destination He has in store.

What Should We Be Focusing On In Responding to the Storms in Life

Storms are powerful. Sometimes we want to focus on the damage and potential damage of the storm as the message. Yet there is something more powerful, God’s love and its manifestation in the love we show one another during the storm and its aftermath. For it is during those times of catastrophe  that we don’t ask or care about; who did you vote for, what color is your skin, what gender do you date, how much money do you have or virtually any other category. No, what we care about is do you need help, I’m here to lend a hand. And sometimes I’ll come hundreds of miles if not further to lend it. God maybe asking us, why does it take a storm to show that unconditional love.  Finally, people are going through storms all over this day, maybe some right next to you and I.  The geographic scope of the storm maybe less but the intensity of their storm may match the most powerful category 5 storm ever measured.  If that is you, know God loves you and has all the resources available to bring you through it. Can we be cognoscente of their storms and reach out to them in the same unconditional loving, selfless way?

We’ve Been Shown and Told In So Many Ways, It is All We Need

God tells us it is at the heart of the two greatest commandments. Jesus told us it was why God sent Him to us because how He feels about us. Paul tells us it is greater than faith and hope. The Beatles told us it’s all we need.  The singer Jackie DeShannon told us it’s what the world needs now.  What I’m talking about, of course, is love. So yes we need love. Now understand it is not that God needs to love us more.  The amount of His love as shown in His mercy, grace, forgiveness, healing, blessings and so much more is beyond measure. His love is especially shown by the gift of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ for us.  So what I (and perhaps we) need is to be more open to receiving it, actually looking for it and upon receiving it, I need to be focused and diligent in sharing it.  In the present situation with the storm, it is not as if it doesn’t exist or that I should ignore it.  What God’s love means is that I don’t need to fear it, knowing that His love will see us through it. Then I need to spread that love and message of comfort to others.  For God truly loves us all. And that is all we truly need.

Words of Comfort in any Storm

From the Word of God:  “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and He brought them out of their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107). “You have been a refuge…a shelter from the storm” Isiah 25:4  “Be still and know that I am the Lord….the Lord of hosts is with us”  Psalm 46.  Our Heavenly Father is on His throne and His Power is absolute, His love is abundant, sufficient and everlasting.  May we seek shelter, find comfort and feel peace in Him.

Effective Preparation for All of Life’s Storms

We are told about and are watching a storm that is coming. There is wisdom in heeding the information and making plans. Yet there is also wisdom in including the spiritual and making it a priority in those plans. When the disciples faced a ranging storm, it would be good to remember Who it was that had and still has the ultimate power to see us through and quiet the most powerful of storms. It can be comforting, in the face of uncertainty, to remember Christ’s pronouncement that should we be wise and lay our life’s and faith’s foundation on Him, that though storms may beat against us, His foundation will see us through. As we prepare for the storm, Christ would also have us not just look to ourselves as far as being safe and prepared is concerned, but what about our neighbors.  Is there someone due to age or some other condition who needs some help to be and feel safe? In the rush and possible anxiety of the preparations let us remember prayer. The world has recently been more dismissive of and scoffing at the power of prayer. Yet Christ not only taught about, but also took the time to practice a focused, robust prayer life, especially during His darkest time in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Storms will pass and I pray that the power of God protects, sustains and brings calm and peace to you whatever storm you may be facing.

Why and How Harmony Works

From Paul in the letter to the Romans we read these wonderful exhortations about how to live together in peace. “Therefore let us stop passing judgement on each other”.  “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”. “Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”. The amazing thing about musical harmony is it is different voices doing slightly different things yet having the focus and desire to blend so well together that the result of their blending is far superior to any of their individual results. May it be that we have the same desire and focus to bring harmony to the lives of those around us resulting in bringing about that which is so much greater than we could achieve on our own.

When Being Down & Out is a Good Thing

Down and out is not necessarily a bad thing. Please understand I’m not speaking of the perils of depression or mental illness. No, I’m speaking of down time and a place out, away from chaos. There were big cities and chaotic times when Jesus walked the earth. He would go there when the plan called for it.  Yet He didn’t stay there. He always found the time to get out of those places for some down time. Today we are bombarded by and seem slightly addicted to the energy and adrenaline that comes from never ending chaos and its associated drama.  Our interactions are relegated to sound bites and our communication to a minimally measured number of characters. When Jesus’s disciples came back from an arduous mission of teaching and healing, Jesus knew they needed rest for restoration and led them away to a secluded area. To get out today may mean a walk around the block and to find that down time is an experience away from these intrusive electronic devices (the irony is not lost on me that I’m using one for this note). To find a time to be down and a place to be out, away from the chaos is to be in a place where we more readily feel the Holy Spirit wash over and through us, testifying to God’s messages of love, peace and salvation. Let us strive to find that time of down and that place of out where we can feel lifted up to and be in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

From Our Shoulders to His Hands

As you face this day with its tasks, requests and perhaps burdens the world is going to tell you, press upon you, demand of you that you feel it’s all yours. The world says you and you alone are responsible, that you bare the yoke of all success and potential failure singularly on your shoulders. Jesus Christ stands ready to relieve you of and asks you to take those cares, burdens and perhaps fears off your shoulders and place them and you in His hands. He easily has the strength to carry them and you. He tells us that the only yoke we should carry is His which is gentle and will bring rest. Will Jesus Christ really do that for us? Remember to look at His hands, He has the scars to prove just how far He’ll go and how much love He has for you and I.

Labor of Love or Love of Labor

As we celebrate Labor Day today let us consider the difference between labors of love and love of labor.  Love of labor you ask; can and does that really happen?  Yes, what we love is what we tend to focus on: sometimes to the exclusion of almost everything else.  Do I put my work ahead of my family and friends? To what extent is my primary energy reserved for my daily occupation leaving just leftovers for anyone or anything else? Is my sense of value dependent on my level of success in my business or trade? If the answer to any or all of these is yes; how is that impacting my overall life?  Conversely, do we work at love? Whether with family, with friends, and/or at my place of work is my focus on bringing love into that interaction? Jesus’s labors were and continue to be all about love. Even when Jesus was being critical of others, out of love He wanted them to change their self or other destructive ways and come into the blessed Kingdom life. Finally, notice Jesus wasn’t about loving preaching, teaching, feeding or healing.  He loved those who received those actions.  It was not that He loved what He did as much as He loved who He did it for, with and Who sent Him. May it be we labor in love in the manner of Christ.

What and Why, Which Question We Decide to Live By Truly Matters

What and Why; two extremely important questions. Seemingly we’re becoming an ever more “what” focused society. What did I win, what is my success level, what do I look like, what are they saying about me, what is my bank account level, what is my prestige in the world and many more whats.  These kind of whats are focused primarily on outcomes with an ever lessening concern about how they’re achieved.  Jesus Christ sees it differently.  Christ lives (and do so when on the earth), teaches and wants us to live lives where why is the predominant question. Jesus knows “why” is the foundation of good and evil. Let’s take giving to the poor for an example.  Let’s say a rich person gives an exorbitant amount of money to the poor.  Furthermore, let’s say the why behind the gift was to bring glory and fame to him or herself or to create a tax write off. In a “what” dominated society we’d ask what difference does it make, the poor are being helped.  Christ indeed loves the poor and wants them helped, but Christ also loves the rich person. Christ understands that those who want to rely on themselves, bring glory primarily to themselves are putting their souls in eternal jeopardy.  The why is what truly matters for salvation. Thus let us be people of the right whys; the why of love, of generosity, of mercy, of selflessness and service, of forbearance and  forgiveness, humility and most importantly of faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Finally, Christ promises us this, when the why is right our Heavenly Father has the power and stands ready to bring about an abundantly blessed what.

Fear and the Blessed Third Response to It

Fear.  Fear and the way we choose to respond to it.  First, we seem to be ever increasingly bombarded with messages of fear large and small.  We’re going to get really sick, there’s a threat of getting shot everywhere we go, this person is going to take all my rights away, my house will soon be under water, I;m not good looking or hip enough, I’ll never have enough money, even if I order a package it will be stolen off my front porch and so many more are the messages we receive constantly. The world tells us there are two responses to fear, to fly or fight. However, both of those processes can be fear inducing in themselves while being executed. Jesus Christ offers a third, most blessed response:  PEACE! His peace that surpasses all understanding. You see it’s not that a raging storm wasn’t happening to the boat, but Jesus was more powerful than the storm.  The people were blind, lame and even dead, but Jesus was more powerful than their physical condition when he healed them.  People made threats and tried to harm Jesus and His disciples and Jesus walked right past them.  It is literally the Gospel truth that Jesus Christ declares He has not lost one single person given to Him by the Father (besides Judas to fulfill salvation). Jesus Christ is not about to allow that record to be broken by losing you or I. Today the world will try to scare us.  It will try to use fear to drive a wedge between Jesus Christ and us as well as between each other.  But the peace of Jesus Christ is stronger.  Let us choose the third option of His peace in response.

Judging What Constitutes Birds of a Feather and Its Inherent Dangers

So I was out on my morning jaunt with my puppy dog when I happened to look up and spy an eagle, who frequents our area, perched in a tree. As I gazed at him/her admiringly, the Spirit gave me a thought. You see we have vultures in our area too (we are avian blessed) and, being only able to see the eagle’s silhouette in the morning sun, how similar the eagle and the vulture look perched in a tree. Additionally, while  an eagle certainly looks majestic soaring in the sky, is a vulture any less so? Yet if I call you an, or compared you to an eagle, you would probably believe I meant that positively.  If I called you a vulture, you might not take it so kindly.  The difference; simply what they eat.  We take one characteristic and make a holistic value judgment based on it. If we’re not careful we do the same thing with each other. A strange hair style or color, a piercing or tattoo can cause us to completely shun someone who otherwise might become our closest friend. Worse yet, we let the color of someone’s skin or the arrangement of their body parts determine in our judgment their value and worthiness.  Jesus was correct to warn us against the dangers of our judging. Bottom line is we stink at it. Thus let’s today strive to avoid our judging, instead living into the equality of our creation. Let us leave the judging to He who, in His perfect grace and mercy as the Creator of all things, is uniquely equipped and qualified to judge, forgive and restore.

The Aim That Our Gain Would Be Blessed

It is quite possible, even probable that you and I will gain today.  While that sounds good; the balance of things presupposes that we may lose something in the gaining as well. For example, we may gain fame and notoriety today.  However, if that gain comes from stepping on or stabbing our coworkers and/or friends in the back, we may lose needed friendship and allies. We may gain wealth.  Yet if we had to break rules or laws to obtain it we may lose our self respect or even our freedom. We may gain the world and lose our souls. But not all loss is bad.  We may gain an appreciation for exercise and lose some pounds. 😀 We may gain a knowledge of God’s power and desire to use it for our good and lose our fear of life and the future.  We may gain the understanding of the total love Christ has for us without judgment and lose our self centered, judgmental ways. Thus what is going to be the aim of our gain today? Will it be a short term, worldly, ultimately losing gain? Or will it be a life fulfilling, today enhancing, eternal gain? I pray you gain a properly prosperous day this day.

You Are Needed and Through Jesus Christ You Have What is Needed to Help

Understand this, you are needed. You can and will do good. You have what is needed. When on earth, Jesus Christ realized He was not going to physically get to all the towns and villages he wanted to.  So He sent pairs of messengers to preach the Good News of God’s Kingdom and heal their sick.  These were not messengers steeped in great learning and intellect. but they were messengers who had and spoke faith. Jesus Christ needs you and I today to be His messengers to those discouraged, downtrodden and feeling abandoned in this world. And like the messengers of old, we don’t need to be scholars or feel inordinately wise.  We just need to have faith that Jesus Christ will provide. Finally, if today you are one who finds yourself in need, in a dark place; reach up and out to Christ.  He will come. He will send a message and messenger of hope, healing and restoration no matter your circumstances.  Whether giver or receiver, you matter to Him.

When Life’s Tests Come, the Answer for a Passing Grade is God

With the most important test it’s not cheating to already have the answer.  With, and in our faith journey, there will be tests.  When Abraham was called by God to go to the promised land, he went having faith God was with him. But he was so scared of being murdered by a king who desired his beautiful wife that he told the king his wife was his sister.  Does that sound like faith? Jonah, when called by God, tried to runaway as far as he could.  Does that sound like faith? Yet with these two and so many other faith examples in the bible, they didn’t turn from God, eventually called out to God and were forgiven and restored by God. There was another man who had some belief in that he believed in eternal life given by God.  He was also rich. So he came to Jesus, not as the Messiah but just as a good man. He asked Jesus a question and when he didn’t get the answer he wanted, he turned his back on Jesus, actually rejecting God on earth and walked away. He failed. Yes our tests may get messy with missteps, fears and even tears, but as long as we understand that the answer to the test is God and through His Grace and our faith, call out to Him, He will see to it that we pass and  pass through all of life’s tests.

A Back to School Prayer

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You that You have created us with the faculties to be able to learn. We pray therefore during this time, when so many of Your human creation are returning to that process of learning. We pray that You would send Your angels to surround the schools, buses, athletic fields, homes: wherever instruction is taking place to protect all lives and thwart any evil devised against them. Pour out a spirit of curiosity and respect upon the learners of all ages that they would yearn to learn and have a respect for their teachers, other students and themselves. Pour out Your Spirit of strength, patience and mercy on all teachers lifting them up and testifying to them of Your great pleasure in their service and sacrifices even if they aren’t recognized by others. Pour out a spirit of support and teamwork on all education staff allowing for a giving spirit of mutual support. Pour out a spirit of peace and patience on parents and guardians that they would see themselves as a willing, necessary, positive partner in the education process. We pray that as various subjects are taught and life fulfilling experiences happen, that You would daily bless all and keep all in Your loving arms. That all learning might lead to a closer walk with You, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Looking Forward In Our Lives Through the Eyes of Christ

Here’s a challenging truth that for some, just because they feel they have nothing to look forward to does not keep them from continuing to look forward.  Unfortunately, when they do so, they see only darkness and despair which can lead to negative and even tragic consequences.  That is why we pray for all of us that Jesus Christ would pour out His Spirit upon us washing away any dark foreboding fears with His Light of hope and love.  As His precious blood has cleansed us of our sins, let It fill us with His promise of internal and eternal peace and victory. In Him may we go forth reaching out to those who despair and feel lost showing them through our love that there is a positive path forward and that they are never so lost, never in a place so dark that the Person of Jesus Christ will not find them and His love will not save, heal and sustain them.

What We Focus On Matters!  Focus on the Good News

Is it any wonder?  I was going to use the word “enjoy” but think actually important is a more accurate term as in; I think it is important to keep abreast of current events, “news” if you will.  So, virtually regardless of the media or channel what greets me?  Murder, not just local occurrences but one from 2000 miles away, corrupt and inept politicians and government, disasters from around the globe, negativity and despair scream out from every venue.  Now please understand this isn’t about going around with rose colored glasses or sticking my head in the sand.  This is about our proclivity or desire to seek out the negative and focus on the chaos and drama.  It’s a daily, most of the day occurrence.  Is it any wonder we have the levels of stress, anxiety, mistrust, addiction and hopelessness in our society.  Understand, cures are happening, amazing generosity takes place, great things are being achieved and beauty abounds. Finally, there is the greatest of good news for us every day that lasts for eternity. Jesus Christ’s coming was proclaimed, rightly so, as good news of great joy.  He declared that His preaching was delivering the good news of the Kingdom of God which we can all freely partake in. The news of love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, strength to resist and defeat evil and the promise of eternal life.  If we’re not careful, we reflect in our lives and behavior what we watch and focus on. It may not be easy in this world but let us focus on the good news of Jesus Christ and witness how that changes our outlook.

Learning a Most Valuable Lesson

Oh to learn as Paul did as he wrote in Philippians:  “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”.  The truth is we will all go through many situations in our life and our path is not always straight.  That we will know times of plenty and times of lean is not necessarily a function of a mistake or reward in our life.  It may be based on the Perfect Plan which is designed to perfect our faith and bring us closer to Christ.  Finally, Paul tells us who he gives the credit to and who he relies on for his learning and subsequent living.  For Paul declares:  “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength”.  Let us, like Paul, look to Christ to find our strength to learn and strength to be content in all things.

The Wisdom of Asking For and the Promise of Receiving Help

From the first chapter of the Book of Nahum we read:  “God is good, a hiding place in tough times.  He recognizes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble”.  The world’s message is often, if in trouble, true strength is getting out of it yourself; often by any means necessary. It is weak to ask for help and much admired are they who do it alone; do it their way.  God declares to us, in a way pleads with us that going it alone is not His way.  To leave us solely or worse yet souly to our own devices is to abandon the True, All Wise, All Powerful Help and Love that are the only things which will completely heal, restore and sustain us.  Let us then humble ourselves this day and ask for His help.  Knowing that the God of all Goodness has promised He will recognize all who do so and not be slow to come to our aid.

Connections; Real Personal Connections Truly Matter

Jesus Christ has always been about making connections and not just with Himself.  When He healed the man who lived alone among the tombs, Jesus connected him back with the town he came from.  When Jesus went to the home of the hated tax collector Zacchaues, Jesus’ presence caused Zacchaues to repent of his sins, repaying fourfold anyone he had cheated and giving half of his possessions back to the poor allowing him to reconnect to his community. The truth is we are all sorely in need of real connections. We have recently witnessed several tragic instances of violence and death perpetrated against others and themselves, by people who felt little to no meaningful connection to others. Thus let us strive to be connected to He who is much greater than ourselves; allowing that connection to strengthen our resolve to connect to those around us, especially the downtrodden, neglected and outcast of our society.

Why the Treasure We Choose Matters

When Jesus warns us not to store up earthly treasures He also tell us why; those treasures never last. Yet Jesus Christ, like His Father is not anti-treasure. There is Kingdom treasure and the best part of that treasure is, besides being eternally available, it allows us to be truly wealthy and peaceful on earth as well. Things rust, crack and tear; bank accounts diminish and that which seems precious tarnishes and fades. Thus is how it goes with earthly treasures. Yet love grows when used, generosity often leads to more generosity, mercy and forgiveness lead to more peace and togetherness. Thus are the benefits of Kingdom treasures. Finally Christ is very clear; while we are focusing on the Kingdom treasures, our Heavenly Father knows we need earthly things and will provide abundantly. Let us focus our hearts on the True Lasting Kingdom Treasure, freely provided by our Heavenly Father.

The True Victory That is the Moral Victory

Jesus Christ asks us: What good is it to gain the whole world but lose your soul? This comes to mind for me because of hearing about and how we use the phrase or concept: to have a moral victory. So often that phrase is used to describe an outcome that was less than desired but either close or the effort was laudable. People will often say “at least they had” or “at least they can claim” a moral victory. The problem with that sentiment is that somehow a “moral” victory is of lesser value than an outright victory. It’s only results that matter without any thought to values. Jesus Christ would both remind and warn us that any victory that does not uplift and strengthen the soul or worse yet damages or diminishes the soul is actually a defeat and a potentially catastrophic defeat at that! Let us elevate the concept that the only true victory that exists is one based on morals regardless of how the world might judge it. With that mindset we align ourselves with our Savior and the victorious blessings He has planned for us.

Choose Living Over Just Existing

To experience life, true life requires a certain openness to it. On the other hand, to exist during life can be accomplished while be completely closed to it. The openness requires a certain humility and vulnerability that allows life to penetrate into our deepest being, our soul. It is in that openness that love can enter and rein, that peace can be experienced and embraced and the beauty of God’s grand creation will be witnessed. To be closed is to forego any blessing while trying to insure no hurt can enter or be felt. We can close ourselves off through outside means like alcohol, drugs, abandonment or other means of escape. Likewise we can close ourselves of internally through indifference and even hate. To openly live does contain risks. Therefore, it is up to us to decide if the rewards received for living outweigh the “feeling” of safety we may receive through just existing. I pray you choose living, embracing the light and love of our Creator, having faith also in His protective redeeming power.

What Might Jesus Christ’s Take Be On All This Drama

As we seem, at the very least so fixated on drama and seeking the dramatic, such that we seem to reward and celebrate those producing drama, it might be worthy to think about how undramatic Jesus Christ was.

– He could have spoke curses, but instead spoke forgiveness and blessings

– He could have brought vengeance and reprisals, but instead brought healing and forgiveness

– He might have demanded self glory, personal fame and constant tribute, but instead gave mercy, was humble and longed to serve

– He could have brought war, but instead preached peace

– He could have been all about the self, but instead He was all about us, the others

Perhaps like and through Him, we might desire less drama and move our focus from the dramatic?

There Is No Sin in Asking for Help!  In Fact Jesus Christ Praised It!

Hmm Today we seem if not carried away with, at least focused on the achievement and the power of the individual. The self-made person is celebrated. Even in a team, the highest paid person is the most important. I am encouraged the follow “my” dreams. There’s seemingly an underpinning of this mantra in the entrepreneurial spirit. For the entrepreneur gets to be their own boss, make their own decisions, set their own schedule. Are their any unintended consequences to this focus? Could it be that one consequence is admitting the need for help or actually asking for help is an action that is looked upon or deemed an action of weakness or failure? Is the seemingly unprecedented rise in the number of suicides across the societal spectrum, be an indication? Might the addiction epidemic be an indication of trying to find refuge from the physical, mental and spiritual pains on our own? Let’s look at who Jesus Christ praised, at what acts He celebrated. Over and over again Jesus Christ praised and celebrated acts of faith. Most often those were acts when people who came forward and asked for help. A woman with decades of suffering from an incurable disease, a group or men trying to get help for their crippled friend, even someone who should have been a sworn enemy, a Roman Centurion with a critically ill servant, were all examples of faithful people who asked for help and were praised and helped by Christ. We hear today about the stigma concerning mental illness; yet perhaps there’s a greater, more insidious stigma which involves admitting the need and asking for help in general. That to do that is to admit to and be branded as a failure. It is true that in the Book of Acts; Paul states the Lord said it is more blessed to give than to receive. Yet note Jesus Christ did not say the receivers are somehow not blessed or that asking for help was a sin! Jesus implores us to humble ourselves and to ask, to rely on the One who has conquered all, even death. That in seeing the power of receiving His help, we may be generous and nonjudgmental in giving ours.

You Are Loved!  Have a Blessed Memorial Day

You are loved. I’ve posted before of the love you have from our Heavenly Father, His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ and the great comforter, the Holy Spirit. Yet on this day, being Memorial Day, understand that you are and have been loved by so many more. For Jesus Christ proclaimed that no greater love has one person that they would lay down their life for another. So understand this, they may not have known you by name, but those brave men and women in the military who died in the service, loved you. They loved you as a citizen of this country making you worthy of giving their last full measure of devotion. Also understand this, there are still many, who out of love, are putting their lives in extreme danger, facing that same ultimate sacrifice. So being so extremely loved, by the Triune God and by our brother and sister citizens in military service who have sacrificed all for us, let our response be to spread that love to all, showing the world that their sacrifice is honored and acted. Have a blessed Memorial Day.

Receive the Power of Their Love and be at Peace

We humans do things for a wide variety of reasons.  At times we act out of fear, frustration, pride, selfishness, arrogance or even hate, among others.  Now it is also true that we act out of caring, humility, bravery, generosity, selflessness and yes, love. Unfortunately with human actions, you may be facing or receiving all of these is some form today.  However, there is from One place, three Entities where, this and every day, the only thing we receive is Their love. For these Three have only one overriding motivation; whether our Heavenly Father, His Son our Savior Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, and that motivation is love.  You and I are individually, equally and unconditionally loved.  There is no “good cop/bad” interaction here, only “loving cop”. We may need correcting, we may need to be guided, even sometimes forcefully so, to a new path; yet They always blessedly do it for our good and out of love for us. So which is stronger?  The hatred filled, lying, dark powers of this world wanted and attempted to silence and destroy God’s plan for our salvation and His Son using every power at their disposal.  Instead, God’s love triumphed as Jesus Christ took on every sin, in love He willingly sacrificed Himself, dying in our place.  Then, in overwhelming power, He rose again and continues to live and love each of us this and every day for all eternity. Receive, in faithful belief in They who give it, that love this day with the peace and the power it provides.  That love will thwart every evil this world might attempt to bring against you.

Being Led Away From Temptation

“Lead us not into temptation”, “And do not bring us into temptation”, “And keep us from being tempted”; you might recognize these, based on the translation of the bible that you read as a section of the Lord’s prayer dealing with temptation.  I think that it is worthy to note that Jesus, Himself was tempted.  In fact some translations say he was “led” into the wilderness and then was tempted.  However, Jesus being God, He did not yield to the temptations and sin.  So note what He wants us to pray and have happen because of our petition. He does not have us pray; keep us from yielding to temptation, or let us be triumphant over our temptations.  No, Jesus Christ understands the dangerous power of temptation leading to sin and thus we should pray to be led away from any temptation.  So what might lead us TO temptation; perhaps that TV show, that second or subsequent, beer, wine or other, what about that internet site, or reading and responding to those postings, or, or, or….  I do know there are times and places where I don’t feel tempted; taking a walk in God’s wonderful nature, reading God’s word and/or the writing of some of his saints, being in the cherished fellowship of my dear wife, children and/or other family members and focusing on them.  There seem to be three key concepts here. First, temptation is not something to be willfully entered into and then to be conquered, it is to be avoided. Second, we are often led into temptation so we must be careful who or what we are following.  Finally, this is part of a prayer, probably one of the most famous and recited prayers, straight from our Savior’s mouth.  It is a request for help from none other than our Father in Heaven to lead us away from temptation.  That means it is not something we are meant to accomplish on our own.  Dear Heavenly Father, may it be You, in Your great mercy, will lead us and keep us from being tempted this day.

Why A Child of God Instead of An Adult of God

There is a reason that the phrase is being a “child of God” versus an “adult of God”. When Christ talks about becoming an example of a person who will enter God’s Kingdom; He doesn’t pull an adult, not even John or Peter over to say: “be like this”. No, Jesus pulled a child over. Why? For one a child tends to have a natural faith in their parents/father. They’re very much inclined to believe what their parents tell them, often without question. Additionally, when a parent/father reaches down, offering their hand, the child’s natural inclination is to accept the hand and the safe relationship the hand represents. The danger comes if the child rejects the hand dashes off on their own. Furthermore, a child is also more often than not receptive to and wants to hear that the parent/father loves them with their natural response that they love the parent/father in return. Finally a loving, faithful, in relationship child, is obedient to the parent/father. In the human world, often those childlike characteristics diminish with the earthly parents as the child grows up and in some respects understandably so. For earthly parents aren’t perfect, but our Heavenly Father is. Human children may grow to become equal to or even surpass their earthly parents/fathers. However we will never be equal to, let alone surpass our Heavenly Father. Thus let us ask ourselves when we look at or others see our behavior: do we/they see someone who would be characterized as a child of God?

In Prayer Focusing More on Value of Who it is With

Jesus Christ prayed. And in His prayers, Jesus practiced what He preached/taught, for He went to quiet, secluded places where His praying would be between His Heavenly Father and Himself. A few examples we have of prayers Jesus actually prayed were the prayers for His disciples and the rest of us at the end of His last supper and the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Yet one gets the sense in scripture that in Jesus prayer practice that it was something He truly felt he needed, truly wanted to do versus some compulsory, ritualistic practice commanded from above. Jesus Christ truly valued prayer. Today I find myself, as maybe others do, having to “make time” to pray; fitting it in as a “one of many” things to get accomplished. I’ve looked at things like praying at the same time each day until it becomes a “habit”. Okay, but isn’t a habit something which becomes habitual, which we do without much thought or intent behind it? I wonder when Jesus prayed, was it more about the what of the action/practice or the Who with which the practice connected? If a consistent, prioritized prayer life is a challenge then perhaps the focus needs to shift from the act to the Primary Actor, who is God. God welcomes us, urges us to connect with Him regularly. Through that connection God promises us, insight, strength, peace and most importantly, the outpouring of blessed love. Let us cling to and make that connection an ever present priority in our lives, reaping His light and love that comes from it.

Jesus Christ’s Warning About Gain Becoming Tragic Loss

Call it a warning, an admonition or maybe even a plea, one of the most powerful, straight to the heart of life and its purpose, sort of statements Jesus Christ made on this earth is when He asked: “What good will it be to gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”. I believe it is crucial that we look at the context of this question.  For we might think He was asking this to Pontius Pilot before the crucifixion, the Pharisees or some wealthy person.  However, in Matthew 16:26 we see that He was asking this to Peter who was definitely not rich or powerful at least in any earthly measurement. So why ask this to Peter? Because Peter had just gotten finished trying to rebuke Jesus for Jesus saying that He was going to be crucified. Let that sink in for a moment….a mere mortal man, one of many who were created, was attempting to tell God, the Creator of all things; HE WAS WRONG!  Jesus, while harshly but still in love, admonished Peter so all the disciples could see, hear and learn this great truth. For the sake of our souls we must know that we are not even close to being equal to, let alone wiser than God.  To think in Peter’s way is to think in the ways of the enemy. The world may even reward that thinking but our soul is imperil and in danger of being lost for all eternity. The lesson for us to understand, the self-reflection this should drive is first to understand anyone at any station of life can find themselves in this peril.  Additionally to what extent do we think, act and/or even pray and worship like we are coequal with, know more, or are wiser than God? When we look at today’s plan or our life’s plan do we see God as just one among many resources we can tap as we see fit, maybe somewhere down the list as a “Sunday” thing as we decide our own definition of success? Jesus Christ is unequivocally clear in where we should see ourselves in the “who’s wisest” pecking order and what our humble, reverent relationship with our Heavenly Father should be. We would be wise to understand that the world doesn’t last and can’t truly love.  It would be tragically sad to give up our soul for it.  Through God’s Great Grace, Mercy, Hope and Love, I pray that will never happen.

War Versus Peace and the Victory Through Christ

War and Peace, not only a classic novel but also an apt description of our earthly existence or perhaps even more accurate war versus peace.  The war this note focuses on is not the catastrophic geopolitical kind but the equally catastrophic interpersonal kind which in today’s parlance we call “drama”. We seem to be addicted to drama in this world.  We seem to celebrate it in our fiction and our media, consuming it show after show and story after story, even going so far as to calls those who really practice it drama “kings” and “queens”.  If drama remained there it would have little overall impact; but sadly we’ve allowed drama to infiltrate every aspect of society from our work, government, to schools, plus our families and yes, even our churches. There are an ever increasing number of resources; books, seminars, classes, meditations, etc. about how to deal with this “drama”. Jesus Christ knew and knows about this “drama” as He experienced first hand while on this earth. Christ even warned, not only His disciples, but all of us in turn that in this world we will face tribulations (drama).  Then He gives us a great comforting statement/promise:  but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.  How is this a statement/promise of comfort versus a bragging self-glorification? Because Jesus Christ invites us, almost pleads with us to abide in Him so that He can share His power.  He warms us, if we choose to be “of” this world living by worldly standards, loving as the world loves, judging as the world judges we will never escape the drama and find true peace. The only way to find true, lasting Peace is to be “of” Christ, that is to abide in Him. Only then, through His grace, can we overcome the drama of the world, loving unconditionally, leaving the judging to God and entering into an eternal peace that surpasses all understanding.  Not only do we have the promise of experiencing this peace for ourselves but we can be an example of this peace for a defeated by drama, weary world.  War/Drama versus Peace, where is it we want to be?

Where We See Only Endings, God Sees Blessed Continuation

 Where we can see only failed endings, God sees and can bring about, blessed continuation. In 1 Kings 17, we read of a widow in a city. This widow had a son and where she lived, the city had been racked by years of severe drought and a crushing famine. Using all her meager resources, she had tried to eke out a life; but as we meet her, she is, she thinks, at the end. Enter a man sent from God, the Prophet Elijah. God sent Elijah to this city and this widow, stating that she would provide food for Elijah. However, when Elijah meets her and asks for some food, she responds that she has only the barest handful of flower and little oil with which she is going to cook a small cake to feed to her son and herself and then they will die. She was certain, even with all her efforts and plans to the contrary, she was at the end. Elijah though tells her this is not the end. Trust in God and you will have plenty for yourself, your son and me and you will not starve to death. In faith, the widow complied and found the blessing just as Elijah had promised, So today, we may find ourselves at our wits end. We may have tried everything we can think of and turned to every earthly resource for guidance. We may feel completely dejected and alone thinking we are at an or the end. However, take heart and call upon God, being open to the All Powerful resource capable of overcoming any and all earthly obstacles. Jesus Christ asked many times: Do you believe in Me and My power and then proclaimed: As you believe may it be done unto you. Finally do not try to hem God in by trying to prescribe how He must bring about the successful blessing. Rather, faithfully be open to His processes, maybe feeding a stranger that will bring about His blessed continuance
 

Who is the Best and What do We do About it?

There seems to be a societal focus, almost an obsession to be known as “the best”.  Mind you this is not as much about self improvement as it is about worldly acknowledgement. To be known as “the best” invariably means I have to be better than you.  Unfortunately, this drives a culture of constant competition, conflict and self promotion/absorption. Jesus Christ didn’t see it that way, who’s the best disciple? Wrong, who’s humble and will serve the most.  I want to be king or a powerful, entitled ruler; then you will only have an earthly, temporary reward and even that will be filled with strife. I need to best my enemy.  No, you/we need to love our enemies.  You see Jesus Christ knew/knows there has always been only One True Best, both on earth and in heaven and that is God, our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ does want us to strive to be better, but that is in a better, closer, more loving relationship with the One Best.  Thus let us throw off the confining, isolating and exhaustive pursuit of earthly, personal glory, instead following the One True Best, who promises to make us better than we could ever make ourselves, in His perfect way, now and for all eternity.

Whether Physical, Mental and/or Spiritual, Christ is the Cure for Whatever Ails Us

Let’s take a look at healing through Christ. Quite often when we think healing we focus on the physical, let the operation be successful, heal the disease, let me recover from the injury and it is accurate for us to think this way. Jesus Christ has all the power necessary and has proven His willingness to use it to heal us physically. But let’s take the healing of Matthew as another example of healing. Matthew was a tax collector and before meeting Jesus, he was also a greedy, thief and a cheat in his tax collecting duties. While Matthew may have been whole physically, it is easy to see he had a malady of the mind and spirit in his life. Yet in just one meeting, just by being in the presence of and being open to Jesus’ power, Matthew’s mind and spirit were healed. He went from a greedy, lying, stealing, fearing person to a repentant, generous, loving person. Thus we can be confident that whatever ails us today, Jesus Christ has and is the cure. He calls to us, beckons to us, will make housecalls to us, to ask for His healing power. And best of all, Jesus Christ charges nothing to us for His healing of us. All He asks is that we believe He can heal us. So come on, physical, mental and/or spiritual; what’s ailing you today? Come to Jesus Christ and be certain of healing.

Is Fear Truly the Only Thing to Fear?

“Fear” in our world today is a complex and, at times, contradictory concept. On the one hand we see fear as a debilitating emotion that keeps us from reaching out, or attempting something; that keeps us from following dreams in the face of some perceived opposition or fighting for justice. Yet we want to insure that we are so totally fearful of the impact of nuclear weapons that we never use them, that the devastation on the mind and body of illicit drugs like methamphetamines and heroine is so fear invoking that they’re never attempted. Then there’s God. God exists. The bible is also clear; that everything else exists is because God exists and created it. Finally, the bible states some other things unequivocally; the first of the 10 commandments and Jesus Christ’s proclamation of the greatest commandment states that God should be first in our lives. The wise Solomon states that fearing God is the foundation of wisdom. Yet that concept seems to be fading, not only in the world but sadly even in our faith communities. We don’t want to conceive that there might be some aspect of fearfulness in a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Is He loving? Absolutely. Forgiving? No doubt. Merciful to the point of long suffering? Completely. Yet He does exist and He did create us. Nothing can be hid from Him. He knows and tells us what is best for us and wants us to understand; that to disregard His counsel, to live as if our will and desires are equal to His, or worst of all, to live as if He doesn’t even exist has hugely negative, devastating consequences for us that we should greatly fear. Thus let us be fearful enough, knowing God will allow us to travel the many godless paths leading to our current and eternal ruin, that we, in faith, love and yes appropriate fear, keep traveling the One path of Christ, that leads to the Father.

Is Getting Angry Really the Solution?

Is anger the solution? Is becoming angry the way to fix our problems? You name it mass shootings/gun control, immigration, taxes, politics, abuse; anger seems to be the preferred communication method and attitude. There is even a sense that it is the anger that finally drives success and thwarts the “other side”. I believe we would be very wise to heed Jesus Christ’s very clear, unequivocal warning about anger and becoming angry. “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgement! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matthew 5:22) Jesus does not mince words here. He, being God, is very clear. Is anger successful? No, and here’s why. First, it is extremely damaging to the body, bringing on high levels of stress that negatively impact many of the body’s systems. Second, anger is not sustainable. Because it takes so much energy, it can’t be sustained over time and often morphs into dejection and depression. Why also Christ’s warning? Anger leads down the path to hate and even greater conflict. Behavior that is manifested from anger is difficult to walk back from and the damage is long lasting. Finally and most frightening, if anger works, if it is the solution then we should use it more and more; the angrier the better.  Is that the world we really want to live in?  Let us be very careful about the words we choose, the posts we put out the thoughts we have about those we disagree with, even vehemently, Let us object and disagree with conviction yet leaving out the convection.  Let us rule over and control our emotions instead of allowing them control over us.  And if you disagree, I truly hope this doesn’t tick anyone off.

A “Cost”, “Value” Analysis

Jesus Christ discusses and wants us to understand there is a “cost” when we decide to follow Christ, that there are responsibilities and changes. Yet throughout His life, Jesus Christ spoke of, lived out, and sacrificed His life for the “payment” we receive for following Christ and that is His and Our Heavenly Father’s unconditional, never ceasing love. What we need to understand in a culture of almost constant fun and enjoyment is that we can find deep love and fulfillment in listening to and being there for a grieving person though it may not be “fun”. It probably doesn’t top the list of enjoyment to visit someone in jail, a sick person in a hospital, or clean and repair a stranger’s storm ravaged home. Yet there is deep, fulfilling and uplifting love in each of these services and many others that uplifts the provider as much, if not more so than the receiver. Let us not be fearful of, neither turned away by considering the cost of following, but be more so focused on the overwhelmingly greater sustaining value we receive in the Love of Christ and our Heavenly Father and in service to Them.

An Observation:  Just How Perfect Am I and My Ideas?

An observation, it is amazing to me, on so many vital, impactful, necessary topics; we are so quick about and so definitely certain about what will not work. Because we are so completely sure of our determination, we will not listen to or simply listen to refute any idea not exactly aligned with our own. Thus so much vital time and mental energy is spent attempting to destroy a different idea and those promoting it. In fact the terminology we use promotes this process as we call the idea a conflicting or opposing idea engendering the sense that the other idea must be beaten down, must lose. Thus I think about trying to get things done, whether it be building a bookcase, taking a trip, teaching a class just for a few examples. To complete those and virtually any other task I undertake, I have to rely on other’s ideas and inputs to be successful. I have to absolutely admit to my imperfection and the limitations of my intellect to successfully accomplish my goals. Can we find the humility to listen, not just to refute or destroy, but listen with the openness to seek value? How different would our discussions/posts sound, how different, sustainable, plus quickly derived would our solutions be if we were open to modifying our perspectives? Just an observations

Now More Than Ever Love is What We Need.  Love is the Answer. Love is the Way Forward.

Jesus tells us it started and starts with love, that is why our Heavenly Father sent Him. In the middle, Jesus told us it about love, love the Father and love each other. At the end, Jesus said it is about love, no greater love is there than to sacrifice and to be followers of Christ is to love each other. This morning we may be angry, we might be distraught, we may feel frustration building up wanting to lash out. This morning we we may feel that love has lost, love is weak and we should try something else. Christ tells us, Christ pleads with us, Christ lived out, that love is more necessary now than ever. Love heals where hate and anger destroys. Hate pulls the trigger on the innocent, love stands up to protect the innocent. Evil hopes today we will turn our backs on love.  God knows and has sacrificed His Only Son to save us and show the ultimate power of love. Finally God does not just demand you love and stand ready to punish you if you don’t. You are not alone. God is right next to you, loving you first and only after loving you first, also willing to show you how to love others.

In the Beginning and the End

We read in the Gospel of John:  “In the beginning was the Word…”  Later as Jesus is in the world he several times declares:…”My time has not come…Jesus tells us it started and starts with love, that is why our Heavenly Father sent Him. In the middle, Jesus told us it about love, love the Father and love each other. At the end, Jesus said it is about love, no greater love is there than to sacrifice and to be followers of Christ is to love each other. This morning we may be angry, we might be distraught, we may feel frustration building up wanting to lash out. This morning we we may feel that love has lost, love is weak and we should try something else. Christ tells us, Christ pleads with us, Christ lived out, that love is more necessary now than ever. Love heals where hate and anger destroys. Hate pulls the trigger on the innocent, love stands up to protect the innocent. Evil hopes today we will turn our backs on love.  God knows and has sacrificed His Only Son to save us and show the ultimate power of love. Finally God does not just demand you love and stand ready to punish you if you don’t. You are not alone. God is right next to you, loving you first and only after loving you first, also willing to show you how to love others..”  Finally, on the cross, Jesus Christ declares:  “it is finished!”  You see I don’t control, nor do I believe any human controls the time of their own beginning nor knows the time of their end.  However, just because I don’t know it, doesn’t mean it is not known. Christ knows it and He knows it is part of the Father’s perfect plan. Since I don’t know and can’t discern the beginning and the end what does Christ want me to know?  LOVE! His and the Father’s love. That I and yes you as well are loved, individually and unconditionally. That we are saved. That this terrestrial life will one day cease but that is not the end to life or love. Even now we are a part of eternity so let us willingly accept the love and humbly submit ourselves to the One who knows and controls the beginnings and endings and wants to be a constant blessing to the in-betweens.

Confession and Our Contemporary World

Confession good for the soul? There seemingly has been a lot of confessing and “I’m sorrys” going on out there lately, yet here’s some of what I’ve heard being said:  “I’m sorry, I did wrong but it was consensual, I was wrong but I was just doing what everyone else was doing to win, I was wrong but they made me so mad I had to do something, I was wrong but I didn’t really do the things they are saying about me, I was wrong but………”. Now please understand, I’m not the judge or arbiter of what is or is not a confession. So turning to John the Baptist we hear him warn that saying sorry is not enough when he declares: “prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God”. Thus, that we add the clarifying “but” and what comes after it may give us some insight about do we really think change is necessary and do we really plan to do it.  The gospels are clear, at least to me, that I am a sinner and I am in need of confession and repentance. By the Grace and freely given sacrifice of Jesus Christ my sins are forgiven.  Yet the free and blessed life comes when I confess my sins and decide to no longer live into them.  Let us be careful with our “but” that we’re not trying to have our forgiveness (the cake) and continue in that same sin at the same time (eating it too).

The Truth to Seek That Will Truly Bring us Freedom

Freedom! Freedom is a word that is bandied about so often today. It is a word that represents a concept so fundamentally important that people are willing to fight for it. A concept so dear that many brave men and women put their lives on the line and have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend. Yet Jesus Christ combines that extremely important word/concept with an equally important word/concept: TRUTH! This is recorded in John’s Gospel when Jesus declares: “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. How ironic it is later in John, that the human being who condemns Christ to death first asks him: “What is truth?”, So I wonder, are we open to truly asking that same question today: “What is truth?” Or do we believe we are all knowing, all wise, that we can come up with our own truth, based on our own opinions and perceptions and there can be no other truth except that which we agree with? Do we ever ponder if the truth that we are holding onto so tightly allows us the feeling of freedom we seek? What is truth, real freeing truth? Jesus Christ makes it clear that truth doesn’t come from, doesn’t originate with who’s the loudest, who happens to be in power at the time. Having more money doesn’t buy truth. Some worldly title, fame or prestige doesn’t endow a person with truth. Truth is not derived from hate, selfishness, greed or manipulation. The foundations of truth are love for all, serving others, generosity of spirit, gratitude and seeking that which is best for all. Is that a truth we can handle? Is that a truth that can provide the freedom from the seemingly endless conflicts, division, fear and hatred that so plagues our earthly existence? Let us be seeking that truth, the real truth of how we are to live in peace, with justice and love for all that will set us free indeed.

We Would Be Wise to Define the Game Before We Worry About the Rules

Before we get too all consumed with learning the rules to go by, we must first determine what “game” we’re going to be playing!  I put “game” in quotation marks because this isn’t about just a game but about the true essence of our very lives.  There is the “golden rule” of the world. That rule states that they who own the most gold make the rules.  If playing that game, living that life, the more gold we can acquire the better. Jesus Christ saw this type of living and rules that accompanied it during His time on earth. The world felt if you were rich, healthy, powerful, successful then you were blessed and more righteous, closer to God than others.  Then along comes Jesus with His message; blessed are the poor, if you are sick or disabled that is not a punishment for being a greater sinner.  Beware of even having the desire to obtain great worldly power for it so often leads to corruption.  And finally, love and faith are the most valuable, powerful commodities of all.  Those same differences that Jesus saw in society when He walk the earth, to a great extent still exist today. Thus we must decide first how we want to frame or “play” our game of life before we decide on the rules that will govern how we play. A life in Jesus Christ can’t be won by playing by the worldly rules. Perhaps it is bad to use so many sports analogies but what the hey. We’d be wise to remember that our time here is just a few short innings, quarters, periods, laps etc. of the total game. Let us insure we don’t doom our victory by playing by the wrong set of rules.

The Power of God and the Destruction That Comes From Not Following Him

I would encourage you to read Jeremiah Chapter 50. As you do, understand it is a testament to the Power of God, His ability to use His Creation to bring about His plan and the dire consequences that happen by not following Him. For God allowed the Babylonian Kingdom to become strong solely so it could carry out His plan.  But they didn’t understand from where their increase and power came from and didn’t turn to believe in God and stop their wickedness and in Chapter 50 we learn of their approaching doom and destruction. Likewise Jesus Christ tells us clearly He is the Truth, the Light and the Pathway to God. Christ implores us not to chase after some other person, organization, country or especially religion or version of religion just because they seem worldly successful or powerful in the moment. Both Old and New Testaments are clear concerning the blessings that come from faithfully following the plan of God and the destruction that comes from either devising our own plan, trying to modify His plan to suit ourselves or following someone else’s plan instead of God’s because that person seems successful in the near term.

Jesus Christ’s Words for Joyful Abundant Life Are Out There.  Are We Listening? 

First comes the hearing, which requires we are listening. Often quoted is the house built on rock versus sand scripture with an emphasis on the building. Yet Jesus starts the lesson with the power and importance of His words and hearing them. In John Chapter 6, Jesus stresses that anyone who is listening to the Father will come to and believe in the Son.  The question for us is:  Are we listening?  This has to be a purposeful, focused listening. For there is much noise and so many voices and channels that the world and the enemy throw at us to confuse us or attempt to drown out the Word of the Lord. So what should we focus on? First we have Christ’s own words in the Bible. In addition we have the blessing of the God, Himself promised resource to speak to us and guide us; who is the Holy Spirit. To the extent those resources are the foundation of teaching, our churches are another source. All of these are the only resources we need.  However, again, we must be focused. Don’t expect overwhelming volume and/or over zealous words.  Remember that Jesus rarely raised His voice and was not known for shouting down or talking over His detractors. He didn’t need to. The power of His Father given words silenced all His adversaries. There are some who are reading this that say that I’m leaving out the doing and yes doing is important. But there is a suggestion that one gender always wants to do without first reading the instructions leading to mixed if not bad results. It’s the same (although not gender based) here. For if we think about doing on the basis of our own thoughts and intellect or some other worldly foundation and neglect the instruction of Jesus Christ then our doing will only result in our ruin.  Thus it all starts with listening.  Jesus Christ is asking:  “Can you hear me now?”.

Paul Made it to Rome

Paul made it to Rome. We should understand that Paul eventually made it to Rome.  What the Book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Roman believers clearly communicates to us is that Paul really wanted to visit Rome. Paul wanted to visit and support the Roman believers in Jesus Christ. Paul’s communication also reveals that Paul felt led, felt he was called to visit Rome. But when Paul wrote the letter to the Romans he also makes clear that he believes the reason he had not been able to make it to Rome yet was God’s plan. While God’s plan did not keep Paul from feeling frustrated, Paul didn’t allow his frustration to stop him from carrying out God’s plan or question the value of his faith in Jesus Christ or in God. What can we learn from this? First, today, you or I may feel strongly led to do something, accomplish something and that we’ve received that as a calling from God.  Through prayer, study and the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we may be right. But also today, something happens that seems to thwart that plan, thus we find ourselves frustrated, maybe even disheartened. We must resist the temptation to doubt God and His power. We must not conclude that the world can negate or is more powerful than God. Instead let us be open to not understanding the specifics of God’s plan while still having faith in it. Let us be open to God’s leading that we’re fulfilling our purpose as Paul did in starting and supporting new faith communities although they were far from Rome. Also let us not give up. Let us not be quick to dismiss the leading the Holy Spirit has given us.  Paul didn’t. And again, don’t forget, in the fullness and perfection of God’s plan, Paul made it to Rome.

It May Be Past Christmas But Do You Still Feel the Love of Jesus Christ?

Do you still feel it? I know it’s been a couple of weeks since Christmas. I know we may have slipped back into our routines. I know the weather may have been colder and nastier lately. And yes the news continues to be filled with dire and disappointing things. But do you still feel the love of Christmas; the love of Christ?  You see Christ came in love, He lived in love, He sacrificed Himself and was resurrected in love.  Finally Jesus Christ continues to live and offer His love to us this very day.  He did not mean for His love to only be felt at a certain time of year, around some certain event.  It is for each day, each hour.  Thus, if you don’t feel HIs love then seek His love.  Seek His love through prayer and the Word. If you do feel His love then please share it.  Share it with a world so intensely in need of Christ’s love; don’t keep it to yourself.  May the light of Christ’s love shine on you this day.

Finding the Peace of Christ

Obtaining the peace of Christ. I unfortunately am a media, mainly TV complainer, sometimes yeller and that’s not a good thing. Most often it happens when I’m watching the news and some story comes on and/or the anchor makes some comment that I find outrageous or flawed (based on my opinion) then I can feel my frustration and blood pressure rise until, like a boiling tea kettle, I have to spout off. However, lately I’ve been wondering if that is the response I, and/or more importantly Christ, think I should have. You see Christ was faced with some of the most outrageous claims and acts imaginable. They wanted to stone a woman to death just to test Him. They called His healing bad and spread the word that He was a prince of the devil. Plus of course, there was His crucifixion. Yet Jesus Christ never let it cause Him to lose control. It never robbed Him of His peace. It wasn’t that He didn’t care or that He just ignored them. No, Jesus would definitely rebuke them and silence their silly utterances; He just didn’t fly into a rage to do it. But Jesus was God on earth and I and you aren’t. Yet look at how Paul, Peter and James handled disputes both internal and external. Through the Holy Spirit and relying on Christ, they were very bold in their speech and confronting evil without becoming hysterical, abusive or to use some more contemporary vernacular, “wigging out”. Christ stated that He was giving us His peace. He went on to explain that His peace was nothing like the world’s peace. World and worldly peace often comes from hearing or seeing things I/we agree with and/or totally ignoring that with which we don’t agree. Christ implores us to not turn our backs on or neglect the hurting or suffering of the world. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ beckons us to come, abide and rest in Him were we can see the world through His eyes, a world in need of peace and love where we can be ambassadors of those feelings by first letting Him reign in us. Let my (and perhaps our) yelling cease.