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“No one is good, except God alone.”  Mark 10:18

“There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God….”  Romans 3:22,23

Okay, first from the title, you may feel that this is going to be a heavy, judgemental post, if you will read through it I’m hoping that you’ll see it is anything but that.  Second, I very purposely used the pronoun “I” in the title.  For I have not the wisdom nor talent for judgement to say anything about anyone else as it applies to the state of their soul.  I assure you, the log in my eye is large enough to keep me busy.

Evil is a tough subject in today’s world.  It is also a word that is very seldom used in the context of overly heinous acts.  So often after terrible deeds are perpetrated on an individual or larger scale, the motivations behind those deeds are explained by mental illness, being in abject poverty, the lack of proper oversight and the like.  Yet in our society we are loathe to acknowledge that evil exists, let alone think that it can be rampant in our society and thus the impacts of it.

Yet Jesus Christ and The Word of God are very clear on the subject.  Evil absolutely exists.  Evil is the very basis of sin which leads to the kinds of behaviors and acts that we are seeing with ever increasing frequency in this world.  I can not escape the conclusion that is stated in the bible.  I am evil.

What is evil?  At it’s very basic nature it is the love of self, the ability to puts one self in front and above all else.  It is the elevation of self to the highest entity leading to the ability to hate any and all others who are not the self.  I must confess that I have that capability within me.  I have to admit that, left to my own devices, I would embrace the me first manifesto which could lead to deeply troubling and disastrous acts.

I am evil.  I was not made for evil.  God did not create me to be evil.  Rather it comes down to my choice, my desire to be connected to, to follow the ways of the Prince of Evil, that is Satan.

If I left the post there it would seem a post of doom.  It would be to leave myself in a place of no hope.  I would be proclaiming my eternal damnation.

Yet this is a post of praise and thanksgiving.  This is actually a post of peace and joy.  This a post designed to uplift the downtrodden, to proclaim good news to those whose ears are filled daily with sadness and woe.

For while there is evil, there is also good.  Please, please understand this; evil and good are not on equal footing.  In comparing the ability to triumph, good is more powerful than evil, as evil is more powerful than me.  That is to say, I can not defeat the devil on my own.  His spiritual power is enough to overwhelm me anytime, especially in my earthly proclivity to desire to follow him.  That is why Our Heavenly Father never wants us to try and defeat evil on our own.

Our Heavenly Father, Our Creator God, is good; that is to say He is perfectly good.  In His perfection, He does not want that we should succumb to evil.  So in His perfect plan, He was not going to leave me alone.  First He would send His Son, Jesus Christ to allow me to come into His presence by washing me clean of sin by His sacrifice.  Yet Our Heavenly Father was not through there.  God knows, on our own, we are too weak to defeat the temptations of the evil one.  Thus, God gave us a helper, a champion.  God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  It is the strength of the Holy Spirit within me that causes the evil one to be defeated.  It is the presence of the Holy Spirit within me, that keeps me and my heart from following after the devil and keeps me from doing evil.

There a couple of aspects for joy in all of this.  First, I am no great or deserving person to receive the Holy Spirit.  Anyone can receive the Holy Spirit, by proclaiming the kingship of and the fact that Jesus Christ was God’s only begotten Son who is now our Savior.  Second, the record of Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is perfect and will always be.  Evil will never be stronger.  Evil can’t practice, can’t workout, can’t call on additional support to somehow build strength enough to defeat good.

Therefore we can go forth in confidence.  We can go forth in peace and joy.  All we need do is humbly call upon Our Heavenly Father for deliverance.  All we need do is turn our hearts toward and over to Our Heavenly Father.  All we need do is love Him, who first loved and continues to completely love us.  Then He who is within us will allow us to do good.  We are transformed by Him for good.

Having done those things then listen to the promise of Jesus Christ! “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will also do and greater works than these he will do because I go to the Father! And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do…” (John 14: 12,13)

That, dear sisters and brothers is the end of the story.  We can do all things in Christ, by the Grace of Our Heavenly Father, through the Holy Spirit who resides within us.  By Our Heavenly Father’s Power and Blessed Mercy, evil is thwarted, the devil is defeated and death itself is overcome.  Thus today we can know peace and joy and we can rest in the Father’s love knowing His love for us will span all the rest of eternity.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we proclaim that You are God and You are perfect.  Yet I also confess that I am not God and I am drawn to do and be evil.  Forgive me when I turn from You and follow the evil desires of my heart.  I thank and praise You that You have not left me to my own devices.  We thank You for the precious gift of salvation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We praise and thank You that You send the Holy Spirit to reside in us, allowing us through His power to overcome our evil nature.  We thank You for Your Love that surpasses all human understanding, that allows us to enter into Your rest with joy and thanksgiving.  We pray these things in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

“And from the roof he saw a woman bathing and the woman was very beautiful………”  2 Samuel 11:2

“Then David sent messengers, and took her and she came to him and he lay with her……”  2 Samuel 11:4

STOP!  If you do not plan to read this post all the way through then I ask you to not go beyond here.  It is my hope that at the end this message will be uplifting and very positive.  However, if you stop part way through you may come to a completely different and unintended conclusion.

David, a brief recap to this point.  Youngest son of Jesse, he is said to possess a heart that belongs to God.  Time and time again David calls on God and praises God.  David, defeats Goliath, survives King Saul’s murder attempts, wins victory after victory, brings the Ark of God into the city of Jerusalem dancing widely in the streets.  David has many wives and is adored by the people.  A man that seems truly after God and what God wants.  Seemingly he can do no wrong.

David, it was spring.  David got up one warm night when others were normally resting.  He was on his splendid roof of a palace that he has earlier declared comes from a blessing from God.  David saw a woman; Bathsheba.  She is bathing.  It was not that she was being immodest but that from David’s vantage point he could see many things.  We are told that she is very beautiful.  David wants her.  David is so smitten with her that he does not wait.  He immediately inquires and finds out two things; who she is and that she is married.  David, King of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, a man who has received so many blessings from God; this same David, does not care.  He can’t even wait until the next day.  David immediately sends for her and then sleeps with her.  His sin produces a son which will cause David to eventually have Bathsheba’s husband killed to try and cover up his crime.  There can be no doubt.  David is Evil.

“Hold on just a second Doug!”: the world exclaims (and perhaps you).  It’s not his fault.  It is a result of the stress of battle.  It was the bullying of the Philistines.  It was really Bathsheba’s fault; she lured him into it!  Some others are reacting smugly.  Darn right David is evil.  No good kings, you can’t trust anyone one in power.  Some are saying: “If I had been David, I would not have done that!”  So two worldly responses; one, that evil doesn’t really exist.  The other response, yes there’s evil but it is always the other guy who does it, I’m certainly not evil.

God sighs.  For the bible is very clear; evil does exist.  And the bible is equally clear, we all succumb to it.  We all think and do evilly (remember please don’t stop at this point).  The world blasts back: “Not true! Not true!”  Let’s take a look.  In so many parts of the world; that a person is a woman means it is acceptable to perform horrible mutilations on her body.  To stop people from having basic freedoms it is acceptable to slaughter hundreds of thousands.  “Not in my country!” You say.  All over the world, children are killing children, senseless acts of violence are perpetrated over sporting events. Neighbor prays upon neighbor.  “Not me, I’ve never done that!” is the last vestige of our argument.  Jesus asks: “In your mind, have you ever been angry?, have you ever wanted someone or something that wasn’t yours?, have you ever passed by someone in need of help and completely disregarded them?, never once?” Well…….maybe.  Sadly, we are all fallen.  As in David, even the seeming best of us are capable of terrible things.

Wow Doug, way to go, really uplifting.  But wait here it comes.  If nothing else please, I implore you, let these next two statements sink in.  Our Heavenly Father knows me.  Our Heavenly Father loves me; just as I am.  Say those two statements out loud and take a moment or so then to be silent and let them soak in.  My Heavenly Father knows me.  My Heavenly Father loves me; just as I am.

You mean even in my evil state, with my fallen nature; My Heavenly Father loves me? Yes! A hundred thousand times yes!  How do we know?  How can you say that?  Look at the bible.  It’s not just David; Abraham lied, Peter denied, John pridefully argued about being great, Moses stumbled.  On and on, each person committed some evil.

What was God’s response?  “I have a plan.” He said.  “I will make you my people and give you laws about how you should treat one another to live in harmony.”  His plan was not a failure in that He knew and He spoke through His prophets that we as humans would not be able to follow them.  So what is Our Heavenly Father to do?  After a while people would turn throw up their hands, turn their backs and frustratingly exclaim: “I’m done with them!”

Our Heavenly Father instead said: “I love them so much, they are so important to me, that I will do for them what they can not do for themselves.  I will lay down something so precious, that it will once and for all remove the evil that they will do from my sight.”  So a star rose in the east and a virgin gave birth.  Our Heavenly Father calls out to us proclaiming:  “Out of love for you; yes you: (insert your name here) My Son Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,  God, Perfect, came down to die for you.  So that I will see your sin no more, your evil will no longer separate us.”  And if that is not joyously reaffirming enough He adds: “What do I want in return?  Simply that you believe.  That you believe that I love you and that I sent my son Jesus Christ to die for You and having been resurrected, He is now here with me.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in the end it is no downer.  The world is evil and yes without Christ we would be left to the world and its evil.  Yet Christ proclaims that we while we may be in the world we are not of the world!  We are new in him.  We are loved and in our best attempts we will try to live in that love but we will fail.  We will do evil.  We are imperfect.  But be of great cheer, He who is perfect has taken our punishment for us freely and out of love.  We have a sure promise of redemption and eternal relationship through the flesh and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We shall go forth in Joy, Peace and Confidence loudly proclaiming we are not better in and of ourselves, but we are saved in the Name of Jesus Christ!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, hear this simple prayer.  Give us the strength to carry forward the message of Your Love, Your Redemption, Your Salvation, Your eternal victory over evil, to all people.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Hypocrites!  You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you can not discern this time?  Luke 12:56

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork, Day unto day utters speech and night unto night reveals knowledge”  Psalm 19:1-2

Is science evil?  Are scientists Satan’s ambassadors?  As we peer into the tiniest spaces of matter or out to the farthest and most gigantic regions of space, what conclusions to we draw?  As our medical understanding grows to the extent that we can map the building blocks of an individual and grow new organs from scratch; how does that make us feel?

Jesus used an illustration of people’s understanding of weather.  The term meteorology goes back to 350 BC.  Yet there is evidence that trying to discern patterns in heat and cold, rain and drought go back much further.  Why?  Because the harnessing of that information was so important to survival.  The proper time to plant crops or move flocks, what changes caused large herd animals, required for food, to move to and fro, when would the rains and the floods that went with them, happen; these are all questions that could and did impact the rise and fall of civilizations.  On the one hand Jesus gave them some credit.  He acknowledged that they had a degree of accuracy when it came to reading natural conditions and predicting outcomes.  On the other hand, He asked them what good was having that limited knowledge in the eternal scheme of things?  For that knowledge did not drive them to an awe inspiring acknowledgement of He who is in control of all things.  They did not use those same observational skills to search through the scriptures to find the conditions that predicted the coming and nature of the Messiah.  And whether or not they got the weather correct was inconsequential compared to missing the fact that the promised Messiah was in their midst.

Both my parents left this earthly existence due to cancer from which they never recovered.  My wife is a cancer survivor.  I am very grateful for the advances in medicine.  Those advancements have human names attached to their discoveries.  However, I believe that the source and the blessings come from Our Heavenly Father.  As in the way that the disciples were humans used to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and Salvation, Our Heavenly Father as seen fit to use human beings to carry out His Will and His Plan.  I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for those doctors, scientists and others who, having been used by God (whether they understand or acknowledge God’s hand) in the progress in treating cancer.

Science, by its very nature evil?  No.  The same way that wood carving is not evil by its nature.  But carve a block of wood into an image, cover it in gold and bow down and worship it, then you have a hideous evil.  As in all things, money, alcohol, physical relations, any human endeavor, what is the intent is what matters.  Because we have a greater understanding of our physical bodies and greater abilities to impact its health, does that mean that we feel that we are increasing toward a time of equality with Him that created it?  When we are able to see the great vistas of space and see great insights into our past in that place that we call, the heavens and don’t discover a unmistakable abode of God; do we then conclude He doesn’t exist?  Or as we are allowed to see and grasp some understanding of the amazing complexity of the creation we are and all around us, does that understanding compel us to realize the Power, Intelligence, Perfection, of He who created it and bring us to our knees in humble thanksgiving and worship?  

Jesus Christ is clear, if we know all of the terrestrial, but remain ignorant of the eternal, we are doomed.  Let it be that what knowledge we glean about our world, leads us to the awe and worship of He who created all and shares that creation out of Love.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we praise You for the knowledge that You have seen fit for us to have.  May it be that we use that knowledge in Your service and to further Your Plan and Your Will.  Keep us from the temptation of believing that an increase in knowledge should lead in a decrease in faith in You.  That in our knowledge, our actions and our love, they are all used in Your Worship and in Praise of Your Most Holy Name.  Amen.

“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark, will be heard in the light and what you have spoken in the inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.  Luke 12:2-3

It’s been said that we’ve become a connected world such that has never been seen before in history.  With social media I can see things that my “friends” are doing, today, when they are half way around the world.  I can read people’s opinions, great and small, on virtually any topic.  I can get information in real time, with much less filtering from government or traditional information outlets (for example news organizations).  I can comment AND, and this is a very important aspect, I don’t have to give my name out or anything about me when I do.  AND, I can go searching for sites and places, and because I don’t physically have to show up, no one really knows what I’ve done………Do they?

Jesus accepts an invitation to dine with some Pharisees and other leaders.  Some might think He was not being a good guest, but His hosts start to criticize Him for not washing before He ate.  So Jesus responds.  His response is not just about the physical act of washing, it is about the humble need for cleansing.  He chides the Pharisees about being much more interested in appearances of actions versus the inward proper motivation for actions.  He chides the lawyers for not using their learning to truly help others versus, using their learning as way to keep others ignorant and dependent on them.

Then Jesus goes out and speaks to the multitudes and in that way He is speaking to us.  He tells us, don’t think we can hide our hypocrisy behind the shield of seemingly good acts or social position.  Don’t put your faith your ability to be sneaky or conniving.  You will be found out.  The extent of your daytime piety or generosity mean little if your actions at night are of greed and depravity.  And what happens at night, what you think is being kept secret, what has transpired in the backroom, will be known.

How many times have we seen that today?  A person says, well more than that, they swear, that they did not do something; and then the exact opposite comes out.  How many times have we seen the video gone viral of somebody doing something shocking and seemingly so out of their public persona?  It is pretty amazing that people feel, these days, that they can send something electronic and that it will remain secret.  I’ve heard it said, and it seems to be true, in the world of electronic communication, there truly is no delete key.

So as we contemplate our sin, our evil and we spend our efforts and resources thinking about whether we will get caught.  The short answer is yes.  How does that happen?  It happens because God knows our hearts.  And as Jesus said in Matthew and Mark, it is in our hearts where the struggle between good and evil resides.  How do we not get caught?  We don’t go there in the first place.  We understand that truly, there is no place to hide.  When evil raises up its ugly head, and understand, evil is going to try to invade our very hearts, we must cry out to the One who has the power to overcome that evil, because He did it before.  On the cross.  Let it truly be that what is heard from our heart in those dark times is not the desire, then plan and finally action to accomplish evil, but the desperate cry of help to our Abba Father.  That the blaring light of truth that is shown on us is the Light of  His True Love.  Let that be what we get caught in.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we pray to You Dear Father, humbly confessing that we often devise plans of evil and wickedness in our heart.  That we think we can hide our thoughts and deeds from you and the world.  So it is that we truly pray for Your Strength and Your Mercy so that we can overcome the temptation to do evil.  Cleanse our hearts, Dear Father that we can live in the confidence of Your Love not fearing what might be uncovered or shown in the light of day.  That through that cleansing, we may become vessels of Love, Light and Truth, which will bring Praise to Your Holy Name and good to Your people on this earth.   In the name of the One sent to Save us from evil, Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? Luke 11:12

“….for without me, you can do nothing…..” John 15:5

” ….and have put on the new man who is renewed in the knowledge and according to the image of Him who created him…. Colossians 3:10

I get the sense as I read the bible (again no claim to scholarship)  that Jesus choses His words carefully.  While Jesus teaches in parables that for the people of the time were hard to understand, and if it were not for the explanations captured in the gospel by his disciples, equally as difficult for us today, He did not seem prone to exaggeration or arbitrary vagueness.  Once we understand the context of his message, we understand that we are “to be born again”, or how in faith and obedience, we need to “become as a child”.  So when Jesus uses the word evil, I don’t think he is speaking metaphorically or with a sense of ambiguity.

I get it, you may think, Christ was talking to the dreaded Pharisees or, even worse yet, that despicable, Herod.  Well not exactly.  This passage comes within the context of Jesus teaching.  In Luke, it says that He had been answering a question brought by His disciples about how to pray.  He had taught them the “Lord’s Prayer” (in quotation marks because He did not call it that in the gospels) and went on to add about asking Our Heavenly Father for things (this is the wonderfully comforting passage about seek and you will find).  So in the Luke passage, He is talking to some His closest here on earth and he calls them………….EVIL   My reaction to that in  more contemporary language (although my kids would advise me this is not very contemporary anymore) is “Wow, what a bummer.”

For if Jesus Christ says this about those earthly men closest to him, what does that mean about me?  Exactly!  Well maybe I can feel better if I try to rethink it.  So maybe what He was really trying to do was say was Our Heavenly Father is perfect (I get that) and that I’m not so perfect (again, no argument) so every once in awhile I do some evil, but  I’m still basically and okay person (whew, I can go with that).  But, and it is a huge, unmistakable, unequivocal, but; that is not what Jesus said.  Jesus  did not mince words, did not describe just what we do, but who we are, and He purposely used the word……evil (ugh).  Hey wait just a darn minute!, I respond.  Before I was saved, I didn’t beat my dog, or anyone in my family.  I gave to charities like the American Cancer Society.  I did not tell lies (well only some little white ones).  Jesus says we may do some things which can be classified as “good” but fundamentally we are evil.  Left on our own and to our own desires, we will always have a spirit that is selfish, stubborn, unwilling to help, quick to hurt, quick to do damage to others.  Oh at times we may, actually do something nice, but that will be because we want something in return, or only to someone we know and not to a stranger or because we love them today, until they wrong us and tomorrow we will spitefully deal with them when they hurt us.

Evil, heavy sigh.  This is a downer, Jesus.  The devil would have you think so.  In fact he wants us to think we are so evil that we should not even attempt to have anything to do with a Perfect God.  Who are you to ask from God?  He does not hear the likes of you!  You are a sinner!  He hates you!  Be scared to go to Him.  He will destroy you!  Lies from the father of lies.

What am I to do?  Jesus answers, why do You think I came, to judge you?  To call you evil, then destroy you?  No!  I know full well who you are, and in spite of that I Love You and have come to SAVE YOU.  You are Evil, I am not.  You sin, I have not.  Your sins deserve judgement and death……I WILL PAY THAT PRICE.  Do you want to be good?  Abide in me.  You want to be a new creation?  Believe in me, the One sent from The Father.  Do you want to overcome your evil self, be a branch on My Vine.  I will keep you.  I will change you.  I did not die, so that evil would have power over Me, I rose again to show My Power over evil for all who will come to me.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we praise You, that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to earth for us.  We know that He always spoke the truth.  We humbly testify that His truth is often hard for us to hear.  We pray dear Father, that you would show us that we are poor in spirit so that we can feel the blessings of comfort in Your Spirit that Jesus promised.  Let it be that I honestly see and confess my sins, knowing that in Christ’s Sacrifice, they are forgiven.  Help me, Dear Father to always abide in Jesus Christ, so that I can become the new creation that will live in a more perfect love and find that I can become truly good in You.  That in my transformed self, I will live a life of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  I pray in the name of the one who is truly good, Jesus Christ.

Amen

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