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“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah….saying; ‘Arise, go to Nineveh’….But Jonah arose and fled to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”  Jonah 1:1,2,3

“…I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people….out of Egypt.  But Moses said to God: ‘ Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt”‘.  Exodus 3:10,11

“Do not be afraid Mary….and behold you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His Name Jesus. Then Mary said: ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word'”.  Luke 1:30, 38

Dear Sisters and Brothers; Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and so many other authors’ within the Word of God make it abundantly clear; God’s way is not our way.  And understand this, it is not just that God’s way is different; but that God’s way, being perfect, is far beyond our ability to truly comprehend and appreciate.  As such there is much that is inscrutable in attempting to understand God.  I start with these statements because this post is not some definitive exposition on the concept of free will.  For there is much to be contemplated concerning the concepts of predestination, supremacy of God’s plan, the Creator’s control over His creation and how He employs that control which seem all to fit into the overarching concept of freewill.

Even given that enigmatic aspect of freewill, I do believe God’s Holy Word gives us some truths that we can use to further our faith and improve our lives.  To illustrate those truths, a few well known person’s and their stories come to mind.

Let’s start with Jonah.  Besides the book of the bible that bears his name, Jonah is referenced in the Second Book of Kings where he is named as a prophet.  As a prophet, he is a man of God, required to spread the word of God to the people.  As the Book of Jonah starts, he is given a command by God to go to the city of Nineveh and “cry out against it for their wickedness has come up before me”.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  As a prophet of God, we might think that Jonah would wholeheartedly accept God’s call and strike out for Nineveh.  Jonah indeed does strike out; but not to Nineveh but to Tarshish which is completely on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea!  Yet God is not to be denied and Jonah ends up being carried in a rather uncomfortable means to Nineveh.  Jonah even prays a very anguished prayer of humility to God.  So where does free will come into play?  Throughout the entire story, at every turn; Jonah contends with God.  When the people of Nineveh repent and God is merciful to them, Jonah get’s mad.  When God tries to teach Jonah about the power of mercy when He causes a plant to grow to shelter Jonah and then causes it to die; Jonah gets angry and wants to die.  We don’t get the sense at any point in the Book of Jonah that Jonah uses his free will to accept God’s plan for him or the Ninevehites.

Moving on to Moses, we see a man who also initially flees from his people.  Moses seems to have found his place as a shepherd and family man in the land of Midian.  Yet the people of God in Egypt were in bondage and crying out to God for a deliverer; and God had a person in mind; Moses.  Now initially, Moses, like Jonah before him, tried to dissuade God from using Moses to carry out His plan.  However, Moses, relented and decided to follow God and return to Egypt.  Yes, Moses often found himself contending with the people and even when Moses rashly acted outside the direction and scope of God, He always accepted the Will of God.  So from a free will standpoint, Moses came to a point of acceptance and humility toward God and His plan becoming one of the most powerful and beloved persons in the bible.

Then we come to Mary.  Mary was a humble, believing young girl who has a miraculous encounter with the angel Gabriel.  As any of us might be in the presence of the Angel of the Lord, Mary was initially fearful at even being in the presence of an angel.  She is a virgin so when the angel mentions that she will have a child, she does not dispute with the angel or try to dissuade him from choosing her, but is curious about how it might be that she will bear the Child.  Seemingly, she might have pleaded for someone else to be granted this miracle; maybe someone of noble birth or someone who was a wife of a religious authority or other great man.  Instead her free will was to respond:  “Let it be to me according to your word”.  Thus she became blessed among all women.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, each of these stories have as their basis; a plan, Our Heavenly Father’s plan.  In each of these plans, deliverance, mercy and salvation were at stake.  Additionally, Our Heavenly Father, in His amazing grace and mercy saw fit to include His creation in bringing about His wonderful plan.  Frankly, I don’t know if Jonah, Moses or Mary had the “free will” to respond with a no.  It doesn’t seem so to me that they could thwart the Will of God.  In my mind, our take away should be that God also has a plan specific to you and I.  It may or not may involve saving a nation, but it is perfect and important for each of us.  Will we be more like Mary or Jesus Christ, for that matter, and say with humility and sincerity: Thy will be done? Or we will attempt to run from Our Heavenly Father and His plan for us?  Will we attempt to impose our will over His?  Should we find the carrying out of His plan inevitable in our lives; will we be downcast, depressed, reluctant trying to disengage at every turn?

I believe a significant aspect of our free will is in our humble, grateful, acceptance of His plan.  We can freely use our time in prayer to Him and study of His Word.  We can freely rely on Him forsaking the ways of self or worldly reliance. And as we freely move to align our will with His; we will encounter the freely given Love, Blessings and Salvation God has planned for us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You that You have seen fit to include us, Your creation, in carrying out Your plans.  Forgive us when we try to circumvent Your Will by substituting our will in its place.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would lovingly accept Your Plan for our lives and fully live into it.  That in our reliance upon You and our proclamation of the supremacy of Your Will in our lives, we would be beacons of Your Light and Your Love to this world and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“But he was sad at this word and went away mournful….” Mark 10:22

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”  John 6:66

Encounters with Jesus, the Son of God had many, vastly different outcomes. In some cases miraculous healings transpired.  In some cases mighty leaders were made to look foolish.  At other times little children left having received a great blessing.  Thousands were fed in at least two encounters with the seemingly the meagerest of provisions.  And finally, nearly the final encounter, all of our sins were sacrificed for and thus forgiven as Jesus died on the cross for us and our salvation.

Yet we sadly see in scripture and perhaps even in our own experience with others who are close in our lives or maybe, in our darkest times, with us; that just an encounter with Jesus Christ does not guarantee redemption or salvation.  More is required……..on our part.

Let’s take the passages above.  The first passage is an ending of a very familiar encounter.  A rich man encounters Jesus.  Is as so often the case in scripture, the rich man, like beggars and the lame, the blind, the downtrodden, sought Jesus out.  This man comes to Jesus with a vitally important, for all eternity question:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus takes the time to answer him, in fact answering him twice.  Also, in fact, in the passage from Mark, where this passage is taken, it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him.  However, I don ‘t want to focus on Jesus answer but I want to focus on the rich man’s reaction to the encounter.  He turned away.  Let that sink in; he turned away! The rich man had encountered the One True, Son of God.  He had asked the Son of God a question.  The Son of God, Jesus, answered him; in fact answered him in love.  The Son of God invited this man, asked him to join Jesus and follow him.  And let me repeat again; the rich man turned away and left.

In the second passage above, it was not just a man, it was a group.  Also this was not a group that had happened to one day briefly stumble upon Jesus and give him a brief moment of their time.  No this was a group of His disciples.  Scripture doesn’t give us a specific number or specific amount of time they had been with Jesus, but to called disciples meant there was a significant amount of time and effort involved in their following Jesus.  They had listened to Jesus, agreed with Jesus, gladly followed Jesus; then Jesus went too far and the wheels came off the wagon.  For Jesus spoke of being the bread of life.  If that was not enigmatic enough, Jesus went on to say that only people who truly believed in Him, would eat His flesh and drink His blood and have eternal life!  Jesus had gone too far.  As scripture puts it, the disciples complained that it was a hard saying which could not be understood.  So they turned and walked away.  These disciples who had seen Jesus miraculously heal, they had been there when Jesus fed the 5,000.  They had been in the presence of the True Son of Almighty God.  They encountered Jesus and they walked away.

Why did they walk away?  Why was the encounter with the One Christ, why was that encounter not enough to convince them to stay?  Well in the first case, giving up the world in terms of his rich possessions was too much.  In the second case, the words of Jesus were too hard to understand, too out of the ordinary to comprehend, too vastly different to commit to.  Truth in fact, in both cases, the man and the group, did not see Jesus as the Christ.  A good man? Sure. A wise man, even a prophet from God? Probably.  But the One and Only, Perfect Son of God Almighty……naah.

However, some stayed.  The twelve stayed.  Martha and Mary stayed.  Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus at night and Joseph of Arimathea stayed and some more as well.  Why did they stay?  Out of the words of the disciples themselves:  To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Martha says later, Yes, Lord I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is like so many of the blind and lame that he healed, when He would first ask them:  Do you believe that I can do this for you?  It was the reason that He could do so little in his own home town.  When the people first believed in Him, truly believed in Him as the Son of God, the Christ; then, and only then could they truly follow Him.  Understand, that didn’t mean they completely understood Him; no, far from it.  But their faith allowed the power of Christ to come into to them.  Their faith allowed the power of Christ to defeat the power and wisdom of the world.  Their faith that He is the one true Son of God, King of Kings, Christ the Savior, allowed them to pick up their cross and follow Him.

So first we must ask ourselves:  Have we had an encounter with Jesus Christ?  And if we have, and this is as vital as having the encounter itself; having had that encounter; who do we believe Jesus Christ is?  If He is only a good man, only a very wise human, only an extremely enlightened, spiritual man, we might as well turn away and follow another.  For all those thoughts about Him will bring us no blessings, find us no peace, will not deliver us from our sins.  We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, Holy Spirit conceived, virgin born, all powerful, all knowledgable, perfect, without sin, dying for our sins and our salvation and rising again on the third day.  Now He sits in the greatest place of power; the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty.

It is not just the encounter but the faith that comes from it that makes all the difference.  Yet even here, we are not left simply to our own devices.  For we can call upon Christ and the Holy Spirit to help us to strengthen our faith and have mercy on our weakness.  Please, for your soul’s sake, do not let an encounter be all you have with Your Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim with all our being that Jesus Christ is Your Only Begotten Son, whom You sent to earth to be our Savior.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that each and every day our faith would be strengthened in Jesus Christ, allowing an ever greater relationship to be had with You through Him.  Forgive us when we are tempted to turn from that encounter with Christ to the enticements and ease of the world.  Have Mercy upon us, allowing us to see and receive Christ as our Savior and then partaking in the joy, peace and blessings You, through Your Grace pour out upon us.  That in living into the faith of Jesus Christ as our Savior, we might show and testify to the world concerning the Words of Life of Jesus Christ which bring glory and honor to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we faithfully pray.  Amen

“Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help”  Psalm 146:3

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.  A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom”  Psalm 45:6

“…the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him….saying ‘You are worthy, O Lord to receive, glory and honor and power'”  Revelation 4:10,11

So I will start out saying I believe in the process of human government and in the process of that government called democracy.  I do believe in the power of people being free to elect their governmental officials and thus they should be informed and engaged to do so.  This is not a post designed to communicate some sense of withdrawal or rejection of that process.

By the same token, I believe that we who call upon Our Almighty Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, need to consider a certain perspective about the impact and gravity of the outcome of earthly elections, regardless who or what party we support.

To a certain extent all elections are a combination of promise and of fear.  The fear is what will happen if the other person is elected as opposed to the promise that comes from electing the person we support.  Yet, having been through decades of election cycles now, this particular election cycle has raised the fear mongering to a significantly higher level than I have experienced in the past.  Opponents within the same country are being categorized as enemies.  Opponents within the same party are being described as disasters to the country should they be nominated or elected.

The vitriolic nature of the discourse of candidates between each other does not concern who is better for a position.  Rather the discourse has sunk to a level of base personal attacks on everything from a candidate’s physical looks, to a candidate’s spiritual beliefs, to, in some cases, whether the candidate is a special type of evil.  Statements designed to stoke frustration, fear and even outright animosity between candidates’ followers are being tossed about without any real concern about the veracity of those statements.

Finally, it appears that the nature of the campaigning has had its desired effect for there is a climate of and discussion about fear that permeates every aspect of the process.  Both sides are well on their way to convincing their constituents that the destruction of the country, the ending of all that is decent and upstanding, our very way of life as we know it will end if the other person were to win the election.  If we are not careful.  Even we, who profess Christ as our King and Savior, can get caught up in this frenzy of fear.

So I think it is time to take a pause, to take a deep breath, turn down or off the shreeking candidates, spokespersons and pundits of the world, and look to the true, eternal perspective.

First, are there good and bad, effective and ineffective, talented and incompetent leaders?  Certainly.  One only has to look at the books of 1 and 2 Kings as well as 1 and 2 Chronicles to find stories of wonderfully blessed, talented and wise leaders as well as evil, ignorant and inept leaders.  In those stories we see how the people of Israel prospered under the wise leaders and yes suffered under the foolish leaders.  Yet understand this, even under the worse leader, God did not allow the people of Israel to be destroyed.  God and His plan never stopped moving to His inexorable conclusion.

Additionally, we must be careful not to inflate the power of any person or their believers into something rivaling the power of Almighty God.  We have to avoid the temptation and the sin of falling into the trap of fearing the rise of someone we vehemently don’t like so much that we delude ourselves into feeling hope is abandoned should that person be elected.

We should understand and take comfort from the fact that God Almighty is on His throne and no power or combination of powers, earthly or otherwise will remove Him from His throne.  We should also understand that God is not a God who abandons us to our own devices.  If that were the case, Jesus Christ would have stayed in heaven and never come down to earth.  We should remember that all realms, including the political are realms that God had control over.  There are times that He has brought leaders up to show His power by bringing blessings as well as there have been times when He has brought up onerous, evil leaders to show His power by defeating them.

Bottom line, Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us not find ourselves in fear or trembling of any earthly leader or party.  Converslely, let us not put too much stock and faith in the goodness of any particular leader or party.  God is quite clear that we should not put our faith in earthly “princes”.  For we are all fallen and all good things, including leaders can only come from God above.

So, be engaged in the electorial process? Sure.  Researching and then supporting a candidate is a fine thing, but don’t hate the other candidate or their supporters.  Hope for blessings to come from the success of your candidate?  Okay, but do not live in fear should your candidate not win the day.  Understand that elections do have consequences and winners wield a certain amount of power?  Alright, but be at peace whoever wins, knowing that the power they wield is miniscule  and temporary as compared to the Eternal Power wielded by Almighty God.

Finally, regardless of the outcome, remember the exhortation of Jesus Christ; blessed are the peacemakers.  We all want to be called sons of God.  While elections may be about disparate candidates with different visions and plans, in the end, once the campaigns are over and the dust settles, for any progress to be made, we need to be able to come together.  Please be at peace this election season and do not let fear rule your heart.  Our Heavenly Father is on His throne and that is the only seat of power which truly matters.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we loudly proclaim with shouts of praise and glory that You are the One King of Kings and that You sit triumphantly on Your Throne.  Furthermore, we declare that You have power over all things.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we become so engaged in earthly processes that we forget about or trivialize Your Power.  Help us to focus on You first this election season allowing us to keep a civility and peace concerning this earthly process.  Remind us that no matter what the outcome, You are in charge and we should know that You will allow no earthly process, party or leader, to separate us from You.  Allow us to be the peacemakers who will bring honor, glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”   Exodus 3:14

“….and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with the inscription TO THE UNKNOWN GOD…” Acts 17:23

Definition: the formal statement as to the meaning or significance of a word, phrase, idiom, etc.

We tend to be all about definitions.  We can become greatly concerned about the significance of something; is it important or trivial.  For over a decade now we have been a part of an information revolution that is transforming the way we think and as importantly act based on how we define things.  Our sources of information have become vastly greater while at the same time being less certain of their sources.  Voices are becoming ever louder and more numerous trying to sway our opinions and our efforts because of them.

Yet here is the thing.  When we define something we are much saying what it is not as much as we are saying what it is.  If someone is tall, they can not also be short (of course depending on your point of view).  Wise is not foolish, pretty is not ugly; you get my drift.  So it is that we are constantly engaged in the process of defining our world and those whom we find accompanying ourselves in this journey.

Moses wanted a definition.  He knew that those he was going to would want a definition.  He was being sent to a people who truly did not know him; would not have defined Moses as their leader or champion.  He was being sent by God Almighty, their God.  But Moses was a human being.  He was not going to show up descending on a cloud of glory.  No, he was going to walk into their midst.  They will want to know who sent me; Moses reasoned.  They will ask.  What should I respond?  God replies:  I AM WHO I AM.

Paul is in Greece.  He has been walking in the city and seeing many statues to gods (speaking of information age, I in fact had to go look up some definitions).  He would have likely seen statues to gods  and goddesses like Athena, Apollo, Aries, Aphrodite and many more.  These gods by their names were defined:  Athena the goddess of wise counsel, Aries the god or war and so forth.  And in the midst of these statues and their altars of worship stood an alter to a God with no name.  Having no name, this God, would be hard to pin down, just who was this God and what was He the God of; what was He capable of?  Paul knew.

Thus, today the world finds itself asking the same types of questions and if we are not careful we might find ourselves falling into this same trap.  Who is God?  What is this God thing all about?  Explain Him to me; define Him for me that I might believe in Him.  I Am.  I Am is the answer.  What kind of answer is that?  To a people stubbornly believing they have all the wisdom, all the knowledge necessary to comprehend any and all subjects, it is a fools answer.  To us; it is truly the only answer that does and indeed can fit.

For I AM denotes the fact that we can not come to grasp the fundamental nature, the complexity of His existence, the extent of His power that is God.  Our language is too feeble, our concepts too small, our perceptions to erroneous to capture or define the essence of God.  Try to adequately explain the theory of relativity to a two year old (for that matter it floors me) or the nature of love to your pet.  We don’t have the mutual frame of reference around which we can even start the conversation.

So if we are unable to adequately define Him, then how are we supposed to define ourselves in relationship to Him?  I am righteous as He is?  I am wise as He is? I am loving as He is? I am…………..?  Our definitions for ourselves can become muddled and confused.  We are then left with the only definition that truly matters, the only definition that will carry us above the world and its desires to put categories and limits on things.  I am His.  He created me.  He loves me.  He has a plan for me; personally.  I am His.

The world will tell us that definition isn’t good enough.  The enemy will tell us we must search for a greater meaning.  Yet this is it,   whether tall/ short, college educated/ never been to school, wealthy/poor, man/woman, every gender, every nationality; I am His. To the extent that we can live to that definition; oh what a blessed, joy filled, praise worthy life we will lead.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father we proclaim that You are the Great I Am.  We also humbly confess that so often that is not good enough for us.  That we try to limit You through our own definitions and our own standards.  Forgive us Merciful Father, for our arrogance in trying to define You in our terms.  Pour Out Your Spirit upon us Wonderful Father, writing Your name on our hearts and giving us the true desire to make Your Will our own.  That we would declare with sure knowledge that by the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ, we are Yours and that alone is enough of a description.  That being Yours, we would live a faith filled life worthy of Your Praise we pray.  In the Name of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior.  Amen



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