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“I am the vine you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

“When Saul saw the Philistine Army he was afraid…….’Find me a woman who is a medium so I may go and inquire of her'”  1 Samuel 28:5,6

“If you want something done right, you’ll have to do it yourself.”

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”

“God helps them who help themselves.”

All popular sayings extolling the virtues of self reliance.  I felt the urging of the Spirit to choose the title that’s written although I believe that will turn some away from going any further and perhaps might spark disagreement with others that venture further.  As I have stated, before I claim no extraordinary scholarship in the Word so upon finishing this post if you have a different view, I would sincerely urge you to leave a comment with your view.

Yet it seems to me that we are in a world that increasingly celebrates and I would dare to use the word glorifies the self and its accomplishments.  It seems that the level of my success depends greatly on my level of self respect and self confidence. My ultimate goal is to achieve my dream.  I am told that I can achieve anything as long as I believe and yes work hard enough. I can and should rely on my judgement in all things and if I don’t understand or don’t agree, then I am perfectly right to disregard it and go my own way.

Yet here’s the problem; over and over again in both the Old and New Testament, we are taught about those people, often educated, sometimes wealthy people, pillars of society, deciding to go their own way either neglecting to consult God or rejecting His counsel, always with disastrous consequences.

Jesus Christ especially wants to stress this to His disciples as they were eating the last supper and soon Jesus would be taken from them.  As they transitioned from a Jesus in the flesh on earth, to Jesus Christ, resurrected and risen to heaven, sitting on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, Jesus wanted them to understand that they had to stay in Jesus Christ to accomplish any and everything.  Jesus Christ was clear to them and it still applies to us today:  …apart from Me you can do NOTHING!  Jesus makes no exception for strong effort or good thinking or generous behavior or anything.  When in Christ we can do great works, even greater than when Christ was on this earth; but anything we do, any effort exerted not in Christ will amount to nothing; PERIOD!

Take King Saul, now please understand this was not the Saul, who would become Paul of the New Testament.  This is King Saul who was from the smallest tribe of Israel, initially a humble man, selected by God to be the first king of Israel, although God was not happy with the nation’s request to have an earthly king.  King Saul had already shown his proclivity to be self reliant when he became impatient and offered sacrifices before battle which only the prophet Samuel and the Levite’s were allowed to do. Now an enemy the Philistines are at Israel’s door and King Saul is trying to get an answer from God about should they go into battle.  When an answer doesn’t seem to be coming, King Saul relies on his own judgement to go out and find a woman fortune teller to get his answer.

The interesting aspect of King Saul was he did not start out relying on himself.  He started out going to ask, then listening to and even following the direction of God through the Prophet Samuel.  It was during times of crises, like impending battle or later when he wrongly believed that David was trying to take his kingship away, that he forsook the counsel of God and instead, relied on his own judgement.  After all God had made him King hadn’t he?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, King Saul is a cautionary tale for all of us.  At what point or in what circumstances are we willing to forgo the counsel of God, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, what activities do we feel Jesus Christ has no part in and it is in our best interest to rely on our self, our intellect, our power?

I can hear some now saying; that’s the problem with that thought process and the faith in general; Jesus Christ doesn’t want to be in my golf game, or with me as I watch TV and/or will go to a party with me; so I guess I have to give that all up!  Not at all.  Remember that Jesus attended weddings and even supplied wine.  Jesus, that I can find, never gave a commandment against recreation.  It is possible to participate in those activities and be in Christ.  How?  First by seeing those activities as a blessing from Christ.  To walk out in His creation on a golf course (and the way I play I see a lot of His creation in a lot of out of way places on the course).  You can also fellowship and support someone in need while playing.  In every activity you can ask yourself, is there and how can Jesus Christ use this with me?

Though understand this; just because you mention Jesus Christ in something doesn’t mean you are in Him during the actual action.  Going to a party and getting so drunk that you attempt to sleep with another person’s spouse, will never be something that is done in Jesus Christ.  Deciding to cheat or steal something at work will never be something that can be achieved in Jesus Christ.

It is clear that Jesus Christ does not want any aspect of our existence to be a part from Him.  He does not want us to have our efforts amount to nothing.  Jesus Christ knows that the enemy is always trying to drive a wedge between Christ and ourselves, starting in the garden; trying to convince us the appropriateness and reward there is if we will do our own thing.  The truly grace filled amazing thing, is that Jesus Christ wants us in Him right now; just as we are.  Christ does not demand that we become perfect and then and only then can we join into Him.  Christ knows that if perfection is required first; none of us will ever be able to abide in Him.  No, Jesus Christ promises us that the more we are able to be in Him the closerto perfection He will empower us to be.  What we need to be is in constant prayer, as well as not neglecting the Word, so we will grow ever closer, our constant striving will to be ever more often, in Jesus Christ.  That through the power of the Holy Spirit, leading us in the pathways of being in Jesus Christ, we will achieve lives that are a true blessing to ourselves and others as well as bringing praise to the name of our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father. we are eternally thankful that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to us and that He not only allows us but beckons us to live our lives in Him.  Grant us through the Holy Spirit, to resist the temptation of the evil one, to rely on ourselves, turning from You and Christ and traveling down the path to our self destruction.  As we strive to live ever closer to a complete life in Jesus Christ, allow us to bare fruit that will be a blessing to both ourselves and others.  That all the world might see the wisdom and value in being in Jesus Christ and bring praise to our Father in Heaven.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ”  John 1:1

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made”  John 1:3

“Jesus is the reason for the season;” and “Put Christ back into Christmas”.  We’ve heard these statements, one of which I think is more accurately described as a plea.  It is truly understandable with the news stories of an ever expanding shopping season and fights breaking out over buying material gifts, that we point out how little that behavior has to do with the coming into our world of our Savior.  I, for one, whole heartedly agree with both the statements as well as the meaning behind them.

And putting Jesus in this season may actually not be as difficult as it might sound.  Babies are beloved things.  In almost all babies we sense a sweetness and innocence to which we are drawn.  Plus we also love the story of the triumphant underdog.  You couldn’t choose two more meek and seemingly down on their luck people, then a poor carpenter and his pregnant wife just trying to make it in the cruel Roman controlled world.  And we love a good angel story.  Two very popular television shows were:  Highway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel; both shows about earthly interaction with angels.  As well as, we love the beloved angel in training: Clarence, in the now holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Though here’s the thing, January is coming, with it’s dark, cold, dreary days, in the northern hemisphere and perhaps sweltering hot, dry scorching days far to the south.  In a few months time another holiday, another time for Christian focus will come as we turn to Easter.  For those who decide to celebrate or commemorate that specific holiday, there is not as much of a secular celebration that gets in the way.

So we have the star for Christmas and the cross for Easter.  What is Christian symbol jumps out for late May, early July or mid September.  This world greatly values diversification and compartmentalization.  Every thing in its place and a place for everything.  It is not wise to put all of our eggs into one basket.  These are all platitudes that the world spews out about not focusing too much on one thing or place.  The world might agree that it is exceedingly correct to focus on Jesus during this Christmas time as well as Easter.  But June Sunday’s are made for golf and Monday through Friday belong to my work; family and home on Saturday and church on Sunday.

John, with great eloquence and illumination puts it into the proper perspective for us.  Jesus, the person, the flesh came to earth.  As God on this earth; He had a beginning (Christmas) and a death (Easter).  That Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth is a glorious and wonderful thing.  It is the ultimate example of God’s and Christ’s love for us, that He would come to this existence with the end plan to die for us, taking upon Himself, all our sins.  To pay our price.  Yet Christ has, is, and always will be with us.  I can remember being physically upset when I would hear religious scholars say B.C.E (Before the Common Era) instead of B.C. (before Christ).  But it now occurs to me how wrong the term Before Christ is.  When the Egyptians were building the pyramids; Christ is.  When David slays Goliath; Christ is.  When man first walked on the moon; Christ is.  When everything began; Christ is.

Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover.  Jesus Christ went to the temple and taught on the Sabbath.  Yet I find nowhere where Jesus said there was a time alloted; a season appropriate to not worship and glorify Our Heavenly Father.  That we have 24/7, 365, 12 months all came from and thus belong to Jesus Christ.  May it be that we can come to the realization that “the most wonderful time of the year” is any and every time we are in Him.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we praise You and are eternally thankful for the gift of Christ’s coming into our world in the person of Jesus.  Forgive us Heavenly Father and Jesus when we try to minimize our celebration of Your gift and sacrifice to certain times of the year.  May it be that we are filled with Your Love and Joy each moment of our lives understanding that all those moments come from You.  That in every time and ever season we may strive to live a life of praise to You.  In the Name of the One who Was, Is and Is to Come, Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

I send you out as lambs among wolves.  ……..  Luke 10:3

He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts…and not to put on two tunics.  Matthew 6:8

…returned with joy saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.   Luke 10:17

“I thank You, Father of heaven and earth that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.”  Luke 10:21

Wisdom is greatly extolled in the bible, especially in Proverbs, so understand I am not trying to speak against all wisdom per se.  Although even in the book of Proverbs it states that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  It is the conflict of our earthly wisdom, when it comes up against Christ’s and Our Heavenly Father’s dictates where the problems arise.

Our earthly wisdom is so often built around calculations.  We weigh the pros and cons and look for return on investment.  Before we get started, can we see the end and is that vision something we want to be a part of.  If so, we are all in, if not we say no thanks.  Jesus sends his disciples out to go before Him into the villages where He is going to be travelling to.  Maybe this was to give practice to His disciples, maybe as well it was to give credibility to their message, giving them the power to heal and cast out demons.  And as they proclaimed that the Son of God was coming to them; Jesus did come.  The bible does not give the exact reason, but it does clearly spell out Jesus’ directions to them as well as the environment that they were entering.

This is where earthly wisdom would kick in.  Hmmm, we’re to be sheep among wolves; sounds dangerous.  If that is the case, it would be good to have extra provisions.  The wolves won’t be feeding us so we better take extra food and something to carry it in……do not carry a bag, no bread.   I bet we’re going to need some money along the way, wolves are not going to take us in……do not carry copper.  I bet we’re going to need some extra clothes for protection……do not wear two tunics.  Really??? Really???  That is how you expect me to go out?  AND  you expect me to be successful in that journey???  I don’t think so.  Let’s negotiate.  Listen to me, because, based on my experience, I think I have a better idea.  Jesus, I don’t really think you have thought the journey through.

That, of course is not what happened.  Those whom he sent…..went.  And they came back rejoicing, seemingly incredulous at how great their journey had been.  They recounted how they were able to heal and even cast out demons, adding most importantly, that they accomplished these things in Jesus Name.  Jesus responds to them:  “blessed are the eyes that have seen what you have seen…….” .  Just think at what those who refused the journey would have missed out on because they thought the journey a fools errand, destined for failure.

I was eight maybe ten years old.  At that time I was getting into springboard diving because my older brother was an accomplished diver.  I had just successfully completed doing a flip, when my earthly dad said; “Try a one and a half.”  Without a second thought, I got out of the water and jumped off the board and did one.  If he said do it, he must think that I could so why should I doubt him and not try?  Had I been many years older, closer to an adult, my reaction would have probably been very different (I can tell you it would greatly be today).  What are the chances that I am going to fall flat on my face?  Will it hurt if I fail?  Will I look foolish in trying?  What is my reward if I succeed?  Is it worth the risk?  Naah better not.

In a example with many more far reaching and dire consequences, I have, not infrequently, found myself in discussions about the bible and faith.  I have had people ridicule my beliefs or try to sway them based on their facts that what the bible says about a certain thing can’t be that way, because a “Loving Father, wouldn’t do that sort of thing.”  I am not too proud to say that I have, in the past, sometimes briefly been swayed by some of those arguments causing me to question my faith and what is said in the scriptures.  What now keeps my grounded is the fact that what Our Heavenly Father asked of His Son and what Jesus Christ obediently carried out makes no “earthly” sense.  In what earthly plan, would You send Your Son to people who You knew would hate Him AND ask Him to die, as a completely innocent person, taking on the crimes of us guilty people that deserve judgment; especially when You have the power to completely wipe them out and start over?

Thank God that He is not confined to act within our earthly wisdom.  For I know that I would be condemned if He did.  What was Jesus Christ’s reward for dying for us?  He is now at the right hand of God, receiving the Glory as the King of Kings.  I would be only to happy to be truly counted as being a fool for Christ; following Him unquestionably with whatever I am asked, by Him to accomplish.  We should have faith, that He will be with us, both in what we are tasked to do and will receive us joyously into Heaven to bring before Our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, please give me the strength to discount earthly wisdom along with the faith to completely follow You.  Make me a babe when it comes to completely following You and not questioning the wisdom of Your Plan. That I might be confident of receiving the reward of blessings in this life and the eternal reward of an existence with You forever.  In Jesus Christ name we pray.

Amen

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will be no means enter it.  Mark 10:15

I want to first say to those who read this who live in a part of the world where there is much snowfall and many difficult tasks because of it, I do not want to minimize or trivialize the difficulty of those situations.

So I live in a place where it does not snow often.  On the few times a year that it does snow, most often it is looked at as a significant inconvenience to an outright danger.  It is true that things get closed and accidents happen.  Driveways and sidewalks have to be cleared, walking can become treacherous.  It is cold.

Yet whether here or when you see news reports concerning snow almost anywhere in the world, you see a very different reaction from children.  Children see snow as a wonder.  They see it as a gift.  A gift that is almost magical.  It is not rain which keeps them inside.  It’s not sunshine that is something that happens most everyday.  It is a wonderful transformation of their world into something that they can slide on, they can build things with, yes; in fun they can pack together and throw.  I saw this as I walked around my neighborhood recently when it snowed.  I was trudging slowly through the snow hoping not to slip and fall on the sidewalk, bemoaning the cold in my toes and fingers.  Yet at the same time I was hearing squeals of delight from children who gladly abandoned their indoor electronic games to explore and find blissful excitement in this winter wonderland.  I also noticed a marked difference in the response of adults.  Adults like myself, who were outside trying to cope with the inconvenience of the snow, did not display any joy in the moment.  Adults who were outside with their children were playing and building and seeing the gift of the moment through the eyes of their children.  The cynical would say the children’s joy only comes from the day off from school.  I might have tended to agree with that assessment had it not been for the fact that it was a Saturday.

And this is the rub.  We adults say to ourselves:  “They will grow out of it”.  And sadly they probably will.  Children will mature and will be taught by us adults the true aspects of life.  Life is hard and it is the hard who become successful.  To take the time to look for the good in a situation is only looking at things with “rose colored glasses” and as such is a waste of time.  Be suspicious of things you don’t understand and challenge people to prove it, before you believe it.  Expect that everything and everyone will let you down so guard your trust and withhold your faith.  The really good things in life cost a lot.

Jesus Christ sighs.  Surrounded by adults who are trying to block children from coming to Him, even some of His closest disciples, Jesus rebukes them and pulls the children close, to a place of honor right in front of Him and He imparts a priceless lesson.  When it comes to Our Heavenly Father and believing in Him, be like a child.

For many of us, there was a time when we believed that our parents were all powerful.  There was a time that no request of a parent seemed silly or impossible.  There was a faith that our parents would provide for every need that we had.  That our parents were the ultimate repository of knowledge and wisdom, able to correctly answer any question, no matter how many whys attached.  As we grow, we learn the human limitations of our earthly parents.

As Christ uses examples of nature, lilies and sparrows to illustrate the great lengths our Heavenly Father goes to support His creation, He extols us to understand how much more valuable we are in Our Father’s Eyes and how much more He desires, through a loving relationship, to provide for us and keep us safe.  As adults we would say (as the Jewish leaders said to Christ) prove it and then I’ll believe. Christ says that we can ask anything of the Father, to include moving mountains, and if we believe, it will happen.  Adults reply: “Be real, that can’t happen” scoffing at the concept, relying on ourselves and becoming mute to asking of and communing with Our Father.

We often use words like magical to describe that time of life we call childhood.  And then because we don’t believe in magic we dismiss that time as a time of whimsy and fantasy with little to no lasting impact.  Christ sighs.  Being One with the Father and a human being, Christ understands.  He understands that eventually we will ask things of an earthly father, they can’t answer or can’t supply.  Yet even more, Christ understands that, with the Heavenly Father, there is no request too large for the Creator of everything in the universe or too trivial for a Father who knows us each by name for He formed us in the womb.

May it be that we will be like a child with Our Heavenly Father, knowing with all certainty that He will supply all things perfectly.  May it be that we believe, whether we understand or not, that the Father’s plan is perfect and the more that we can be obedient to that plan the better it will be for us.  May we look at God’s creation with the excitement and wonderment of a child, being ever ready to squeal with excitement and ever flowing with thanksgiving and praise.  May we be open to His Love, seeing that He holds nothing back, even the life of His Precious Son Jesus Christ, to bring us into a loving relationship with him.

Amen

Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by………..  Mark 6:46

Jesus Christ, walking on water; a miracle to be sure.  A miracle to us who read about it.  A miracle to the disciples who were struggling against the wind and saw him walking on the water.  They thought they were seeing a spirit and were very afraid.  Yet it was not a miracle to Jesus Christ.  It was just another stroll.

Jesus had just experienced quite a few hours.  He had crowds follow him to a remote place.  He had spent some time teaching them, realizing that they would have become physically hungry, as they had also been spiritually hungry to follow him.  Starting with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus fed 5000 people with twelve baskets left over.  He dismissed the crowd, told his disciples to go across the lake.  Jesus then went up into the hills to pray to His Heavenly Father.  As they set out in their boat, I am sure that the disciples had thought that Jesus would find another boat to take him across or maybe even have to go around.  So how amazed they were to see, what they thought was an apparition, strolling across the water.

I also think that it is interesting that, according to Mark, Jesus did not plan to come to the disciples.  He was going to pass right by them, seemingly oblivious to the wind that was holding up the disciples, arriving at the other side before them.  Did he plan, like he had in the gospel of John, to have breakfast ready for them when they arrived?  We’ll never know, for the disciples called out to him in fear.  In Matthew’s gospel, Peter asks Jesus to command him to walk on the water as well to come to Jesus.  After saving Peter, Jesus gets into the boat with the disciples, the wind stops and Jesus asks: “Why were you scared?”  Obviously to Jesus, this was no big deal.

So what can we take from this?  First, Jesus was not about bringing attention to himself.  He did not proclaim to the crowd that He was going to do a great work by feeding all of them with such meager provisions.  Indeed, besides the disciples, none of the rest of the crowd was aware of the miracle.  He did not declare to the disciples that I will come to you walking on water.  Jesus did not declare as he approached the boat “Look at me I am walking on water!”.  No, Jesus had planned to just walk by as if he was walking past them on dry land.  These actions were as natural to Jesus as it was to pray to His Father.

And again, Jesus Christ’s actions were not for His benefit, but for ours.  We are the ones who are fed.  We are the ones that are healed.  We are the ones, that should he ever call us to go somewhere, will be right there with us to catch us if we find ourselves in a period of weakness needing His strength to lift us.

What does Jesus Christ ask of us?  Just that we believe.  That we believe and have faith that what is impossible for us is just another walk in the park or more accurately a stroll on the lake to him.  It is natural. So let it be that we will not be afraid to take a stroll with Jesus Christ, wherever he beckons us to go.  That we know He will never leave us and that nothing we encounter will be beyond His power to see us through.

We often hear a phrase “Hear the good news…………” followed by Jesus Christ is risen or Jesus Christ came to save our souls.  You may also hear that the good news is proclaimed in the bible.  If you have read parts of the bible you may think to yourself; this is no longer news.  I’ve heard or read it before.

I would ask you think about what is news based upon what we see and read in today’s media.  If you think about it; there is nothing really new.  Natural disasters have happened before, wars have happened, people have done unspeakable things to each other, fraud etc.  Even good news, people have won the lottery, or done brave things; people have been elected again etc.  What is new perhaps is that it is happening to a new place or someone different though alas sometimes the news is that it is happening in the same place over again.

So how does the bible and what it says about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit be new?  It is new in the context that we have changed.  That our circumstances change daily; sometimes in small ways, sometimes in very large ways.  While God is consistent; the same loving God today, as yesterday and tomorrow.  Our ability to see His consistent Love, Grace and Mercy in our lives is what is new and news worthy.

Thus, read the bible with fresh eyes.  Pray with the expectation of new

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