You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘faith’ tag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Then they sent to Him some Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words….” Mark 12:13

“Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and they asked him….”  Mark 12:18

“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him…” Mark 12:29

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?”  John 3:4

We sure are a questioning bunch.  We ask such things as: What’s for Dinner?, to What’s the meaning of life?  We ask questions about the future: What’s the weather going to be tomorrow?  We ask questions about the past: Why did we elect or Why didn’t we elect so-and-so?  We often ask questions to get information.  We sometimes ask questions just let out our emotions.  Questions can be a threat.  Questions can be a blessing.

But if you’ll pardoned this question which has an oxymoronic aspect by its very nature:  Should we ever question God?  If my response is no, then end of story, short article and off you go merry clicking away to somewhere else.  If I say yes, certainly, then I’m perhaps placing myself on pretty shaky ground, faith wise.  Yet did not even Christ Jesus, Himself exhort us to:  “Ask and it will be given to us”? (Matthew 7:7)

I believe that the answer for us can be found in the way that Jesus Christ handled questions asked of him, especially by the religious leaders of His day.  You see, what we must understand, take into account is the reason those religious leaders were questioning Jesus in the first place.  Scripture is very clear that the vast majority of the religious leaders did not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah.  Worst yet, the leaders believed that Jesus was not only a charlitain but a dangerous rabble rouser who might, not only upset the Jewish order of things, but bring the might of occupying Roman army down upon them.  Normally they knew how to deal with these people.  In the past they had been easily able to show the falseness and trickery of the false prophets and quickly dispatch them.  However, Jesus was all together different.  Jesus miracles were not some shoddy parlor tricks.  His preaching was not some hollow diatribe of lunatic fringe meanderings.  Hardly, Jesus was performing miracles that had never been done before and could not be explained except as a product of Divine intervention. Secondly, His teaching showed a greater knowledge, an intimate deeper understanding then any of the Jewish leaders, themselves had.  And worse still, the people loved to hear Him, loved to be around Him and watch Him perform miracles and listen to Him preach.  Yet, again for the most part, the Jewish leadership, would not, could not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah.

Thus, because the people followed Jesus so, they needed to find a way to get the people to turn on Jesus.  The Jewish leadership had to show the people who knew more about scripture and about the Kingdom of God.  They had to find a way to trip Jesus up, so the crowds were turn away from Him.  They figured, asking Him questions was just the way.  These were not just any questions; these were loaded questions.  The questions they asked Jesus were posed in such away that Jesus couldn’t answer without getting Himself in trouble with the crowd or with the Roman authorities.  Some questions were asked to try and stump Jesus, so the crowds would see that He was not all-knowing after all.  Anytime the Jewish leadership, and they tried many times with many different representatives, tried to trap Jesus with one of these questions; they failed miserably.  In fact, they failed so many times, they stopped trying, they were so afraid of His answers and how foolish His answers made the leadership seem, they eventually stopped asking Him questions all together.

However, those were not the only questions Jesus received.  In fact, during one exchange, a scribe, who would have been a learned man of that time, was listening in.  He heard the wisdom of Jesus thwart and confound the wisdom of the Jewish leaders.  So the scribe then asked a question:  What is the greatest commandment?”  Yet Jesus did not ridicule this question or he who asked it.  In fact, Jesus used the question to give one of His most powerful answers (see Mark 12:28).  Then there was another man, a Jewish leader, a Pharisee, who came to Jesus by night to see Jesus.  When, Jesus talks about being born again, Nicodemus asked how can a man be born when he is old.   Jesus, at least at that point, did not ridicule Nicodemus or his question but answered it with a great and powerful, spiritual truth (see John 3:5).  But in both of the above questions, the two men asking the questions were doing so out of humility.  In both cases the men declared the special, in fact extraordinary wisdom that Jesus possessed and they were asking to gain wisdom from Jesus, not refute Him.

So, what impact does this have for us?  You might be saying to yourself (or to me), Doug, I would never question God in doubting His Power or as if I knew the answer to try and trick him!  Okay, maybe you or I, don’t ask our questions in such a way to try to trick God, but what about doubting Him?  I confess sometimes my questions are such as:  Why didn’t you do what I asked? or Why did you answer my prayer in this way (again insinuating that I had the better answer)?  Do we ever ask our questions with a doubt that He’s even listening?

That’s not to say we can’t ask God for understanding about why something is happening.  Yet we must be humble in doing so; acknowledging that whatever answer is received is the perfect answer, whether we would agree or not.  We need to see that it is a sure blessing that God wants to be in a relationship with us enough, the He will allow us to ask Him questions.

There’s one other aspect we must consider when asking God a question.  While we can be certain of His hearing the question and equally certain that He will answer the question, we can not have the expectation of our complete and perfect understanding of His answer.  Even with the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are still limited in our ability to truly and completely grasp the infinite wisdom, the God derived logic and thinking which is the basis for the answer.  That is where faith comes in.  We may fathom only a fraction of the unattainable Godly wisdom, behind an answer to our question.  Yet we can have complete faith that God understands all and through His Loving Grace, He will share what He can, but always has what is best for us in His plan.

Yes, let us take Jesus Christ at His Word and is Exhortation to ask that we may be given.  Yet let us also insure that our intent is pure and humble; that we know we are the creation asking of our Creator.  Let us be thrilled and praise filled that Our Creator loves us enough, wants to be in relationship with us enough, to provide His Heavenly answer.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we are eternally thankful and praise Your Most Holy Name that, through Your Loving Grace, You desire to have a relationship with us that allows us to ask questions of You having faith that You will answer.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we ask the question in a way that lacks humility and respect and assumes we know the answer better than You.  Pour Out Your Holy Spirit that will help to show us Your Wisdom although we know we will never completely understand Your Mind.  That in our asking and Your answering we will go forth in lives that bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Editors Note:  If you’re in need of prayer, check out the Prayer Request page on this site.  God bless you. 

“As He went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus..sat by the road begging.”  Mark 10:46

“And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out..’Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!’…Then many warned him to be quiet but he cried all the more….” Mark 10: 47,48

“So Jesus answered..’What do you want me to do for you?’…’that I may receive my sight’..Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go your way, your faith has made you well'”.   Mark 10: 51,52

When this story of Bartimaeus is expounded upon from the Gospel of Mark, often the persistence and faith of Bartimaues is the primary take away of the story.  And while I agree that Bartimaues’ faith and persistence are marvels to behold, I find that the greater scene in its entirety is a microcosm of the interaction of the world, sadly even an aspect of the church at times and the needed determination of people of faith.

This is a time well into Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He is on His way to Jerusalem for the last time to celebrate the Passover; then to be arrested, tried, crucified and resurrected.  Jesus has become well known in this part of the world, at least among the Jews whether they were followers of His or not.

Now they are leaving Jericho and scripture tells us there is Jesus, His disciples, a great multitude with Him and a blind beggar sitting on the side of the road name Bartimaues.  Now when scripture describes that the great multitude was with Jesus as He left Jericho, it does not explicitly mean that they were believers in Jesus as Messiah, the Christ.  Undoubtedly some were, but as I had pointed out, Jesus was a celebrity, known for doing amazing things so some may very well just have been tagging along to see what was going to happen, maybe experience something unusual that they could brag to their friends about being able to personally have witnessed.

Why do I skeptically wonder about the veracity of their belief?  Because Bartimaues starts to cry out to Jesus and instead of seeing his plight and helping to bring his attention to Jesus, who might not have initially heard him due to the throng of the crowd; they tell Bartimaues to be quiet.  There is no compassion for Bartimaues, only contempt.  Now true those who, perhaps, were not followers of Jesus may have been the ones to cruelly snap back at Bartimaues to be quiet.  However, were there no believers close enough to the situation to stand up for Bartimaues, to defend him from those trying to silence him, to be Bartimaues’ champion in bringing him to Jesus?  According to scripture, there was no one.  So Bartimaues is left to just cry out all the louder, all the more desperately.

Then, it is only when Jesus takes notice of him, that Bartimaues becomes important to the crowd.  No longer scorning Bartimaues, they become the voice of encouragement.  “Be of good cheer!”, they call out to Bartimaues, He (Jesus) is calling for you!”

Finally, notice how Jesus handles this.  For Jesus, does not use Bartimaues to shallowly bring glory to Himself, He doesn’t need to do that.  Jesus knows that He is the Christ.  Jesus has never been about being the showboat, needing to be the star of the show.  No, Jesus doesn’t proclaim loudly that He is going to heal Bartimaues.  He asks Bartimaues what he wants Jesus to do for him.  Then Jesus proclaims to Bartimaues that he can go his way, receiving his sight, for it is Bartimaues’ unquestioning faith in Jesus as the Christ.  It is Bartimaues’ faith in not listening to the fickle crowd but believing in the power of Jesus that made the difference.

Thus there are a couple of significant things for us to take from this lesson in the Gospel of Mark.  First thing, is not to be like one of the crowd.  That is that to follow Jesus Christ is not to passively be in the same vicinity as Jesus Christ; not to be hanging around to see what might happen.  We need to be actively following Jesus Christ.  If we see someone who is hurting, we need to be going to them, telling them about Jesus Christ.  Yes we need to be encouraging them, but unlike the crowd’s initial response, we need to be praying with them, crying out with and for them to Jesus Christ, not trying to silence them or shun them away because there is something about their pain or condition which troubles us.

We must also have the courage and conviction of faith to cry out to Jesus Christ.  We must understand that definitely the world, but sadly some believers as well will try to silence us.  There will be some, maybe many who will tell us to keep our faith private, that we have no business crying out in public or on social media expressing our need for or our faith in Jesus Christ.  Stay blind!  Be happy with where you are!  Who are you to believe that Christ can help you!, may very well be the retort of the crowds around us.  Don’t be discouraged or defeated!  Christ will hear you.  Christ will call for you.  Christ will heal you.

One more thing; when Christ calls you, when Christ heals you, do not be tempted to lash out at the crowd or feel superior to them.  No, instead, we should feel pity for the crowd.  We should pray for the crowd.  We should understand how blind the crowd is.  You see the crowd around Bartemeaus, like the crowds today had no understanding, no clue that their very salvation, stood right there in front of them.  The crowd then and the crowd today, doesn’t understand that they are spiritually blind and in desperate need of the healing and restoration of sight that can only come from humbling themselves and having complete faith in Jesus Christ.  It may very well be that the crowd leaving Jericho with Jesus that day was the same one who shouted “Crucify Him” concerning Jesus just a few days later.

I doubt very seriously that Bartemaues was in the crowd shouting for Jesus’ death.  Bartimaues had faith to cry to Jesus against the crowd trying to silence him.  Bartimaues had faith enough in Jesus to believe that Jesus could do the impossible and restore his sight.  May it be for You and I that we are not too proud to cry out to Jesus Christ.  May it be that you and I are not to proud to let the crowd shame us or silence us.  May it be that we have the faith in Jesus Christ that allows Christ to use that faith to heal and restore us.  And having received the healing and restoration from Jesus Christ; may we turn to the crowd and continue, in love and caring, to proclaim to the crowd the praise of Our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, hoping the some in the crowd will find the strength and faith to swim against the worldly current and come to Jesus Christ as well.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You that, through Your Son Jesus Christ, You hear us when we cry out to You.  Through Your Gracious Gift of the Holy Spirit, strengthen us to withstand the voices of the crowd to be quiet and stop publicly proclaiming our faith in You.  Also pour out Your Spirit helping our faith to not waiver, but to truly believe in the total healing power that comes to us through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when we are tempted to be silenced by the crowd or worst yet take up the chant of the crowd in silencing a brother of sister in Christ. Heal our blindness and restore our sight in You that, by Your healing, we can be used as an instrument of praise to bring others to a healing, restorative relationship with You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“…’A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives and in his own house’…..Now He could do no mighty work there….and He marveled because of their unbelief.”  Mark 6:4,5,6

“Jesus said to him: ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes'”.  Mark 9:23

So I should start out with a statement of honest humility as it applies to the title.  For that I would call any of the posts that I have made “an explanation”  or say that they contain an explanation may very well be stretching the definition of the word explanation to incredible limits.  If there are any nuggets of understanding that have come from these pages they are the work of the Holy Spirit and not the wisdom of yours truly.  Yet this particular instance in the bible so profoundly intrigues plus befuddles me to an astounding limit.  Yet the lesson, the observation that we must take from it is vital to the salvation of our very souls.

So let’s begin with a couple of givens:

  1.  It is very clear that Jesus Christ is the one true begotten Son of God.  As such Jesus Christ is God.  God has come down to dwell on earth with His creation.
  2. As God, Jesus Christ is omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect without fault always victorious, never vanquished.

Now let’s set the stage for what happens in Mark (also chronicled in Matthew).  Jesus is well into His ministry.  He has been baptized by John, He has chosen his 12 disciples, He has taught His “Sermon on the Mount”, He has healed countless people throughout the land of Judea.  And now He is returning to His home town, Nazareth to teach and heal.  He starts to preach in the local synagogue, He starts to heal some people and an amazing thing happens.  In so many other places, people marveled at Jesus’ teaching, at the authority that He had.  So often they flocked to Him and brought scores of the sick and demon possessed to be healed by Him.  Plus upon Jesus healing, they gave glory to God for the miracles they were witnessing.

However, all the marveling, the flocking the praising, that doesn’t happen in Nazareth.  No, the people who knew Him best, friends and even some relatives, they took offense  at Jesus.  They thought Jesus was acting too high and mighty, after all they knew Him, they had grown up with Him, played with Him; how now could Jesus be claiming and doing what He was doing?

Now we get to the truly mysterious perplexing part for me; not that people would take offense at Him, I can certainly understand, not condone, but understand their jealousy.  But Scripture tells us, that because of their lack of faith: Jesus could do little in Nazareth.  Note Scripture doesn’t say that Jesus got mad and left, that Jesus decided to turn His back on them.  No, it appears this loving God, Son of the Most High God Almighty, desired to heal and preach the good news of salvation.  Yet, because of their lack of faith; Jesus could do little.  Jesus was prevented from accomplishing the blessings that He wanted to bring, because of their lack of faith.

I would not begin to  assume that I know or understand the Mind of God, that He, the perfect Creator of all things, would plan it so, that His creation can impact His use of power based on whether they believe or not.  And amazingly, when you look at all the aspects of creation, we seem to be the only part of creation with this attribute.  One doesn’t get the sense that the sun can say, I don’t think I’ll shine, or planets, I don’t think I’ll revolve because I don’t believe in you God.  Clouds don’t decide to rain or not based on their concept of God.  Birds or salmon don’t decide to migrate to find food and reproduce based on their agreeing that Jesus is the Son of God.  In some mysterious, yet still perfect attribute of God’s plan; our belief in Jesus Christ is a critical component to the release of God’s power in and through us.

Yet here is the vital observation.  Whether I understand it or not, scripture is very clear: FAITH MATTERS!  And please understand this Dear Sisters and Brothers, it’s not just some faith or as long as we believe in something, it is a very specific faith.  In faith we must first believe that Jesus Christ is the One True, born of a virgin, Son of God.  We must believe that He is our Savior; that He died for us and rose from the dead.   Yes our faith in Jesus Christ not only matters, it is the thing that matters.  Without that faith we can not abide in Jesus Christ and He warned us Himself when He declared:  “Without Me, you can do nothing”.

Yes, faith matters.  Yet I also confess I am too often like the man who cried to Jesus to heal his son by starting the request:  “If you can……”  Jesus replies to the man that he needs to believe that Jesus can do this.  To which the man cries out in desperation: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”  You see the people of Nazareth, did not want to believe, saw no reason to believe.  I on the other hand, want to believe, need to believe, am desperate to believe.  However, because of my fallen nature, because I will allow the devil to influence me, I will most certainly have times of disbelief.  Yet even at those times, Christ is merciful, our Heavenly Father does not desert us.  For we have within us, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will fight and defeat the devil and bring us back into belief.  This is what I have faith in.

Have faith in Jesus Christ Dear Sisters and Brothers.  May we never find ourselves in a place or time where Christ can do little because of our lack of faith.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You are God above all and Creator of all things.  We further testify that we believe that You sent Your Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to dwell with us and to die for us, to be our Salvation.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when our faith falters and we are tempted to rely on our own understanding.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that we would never take offense at Jesus Christ or You.  Bless us with increased faith, that as we abide in Jesus Christ, we may accomplish those things which will bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  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 you believe that I am able to do this?”  Matthew 9:28

“They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord'”.  Matthew 9:28

“Then He touched their eyes, saying ‘ According to your faith, let it be done to you'”.  Matthew 9:29

We are doing some things which, on the face of it, seem pretty miraculous.  We are transplanting organs from one person to another.  We’ve started to attempt to transplant things like limbs and faces.  We’re building bionic replacements for appendages and sending nano, cellular sized robots into bodies to attack tumors.  However, from a financial standpoint these are extremely expensive procedures that few could afford on their own.

Now before I go any further, some might be thinking:  “Oh Oh, here’s another one of those you don’t need medicine, don’t go to doctors because all you need is faith and if something is not cured it was a faith problem”, kind of posts.  No it is not and if you were hoping that it is then I apologize.  While, of course, God is free to work on His own with no outside utilization, I believe that the bible shows us that God often will use human persons in carrying out His will; including doctors.  After all, did not Jesus come to earth to be human to carry out His Fathers plan?

So what is this about?  First, the world tends to look at things from an exchange of fair value, aspect.  The fact that often times, the medical prowess and skills take such a long time and at great expense to acquire; that their utilization should come with significant compensation.  Also, it’s not just medicine that this applies to; in general the sayings go:  “You can’t get nothing for nothing” or “You get what you paid for”.  So imagine that you are blind.  In the passage in Matthew referred to above, we don’t know if they were born that way or became that way due to injury or disease; but it doesn’t matter.  They can’t see.  What would you give or what would you expect to pay to receive your eyesight back?  There are several new treatments in trials involving the use of stem cells and implanting of electrodes to bring back the sense of sight.  Yet currently these trials are very expensive.

Nothing in the biblical account gives us an impression that these two men were men of means or wealth.  Hardly, had they been they would have sent for Jesus to come to them instead of following Him and calling out to Him for help.  Still Jesus comes to them and means to heal them; but first, He asks them a question.  In today’s world some of the first things that happen in the medical process is to check the type of insurance you have or to inquire into your ability to pay.  Jesus does not ask them about their financial standing.  He does not ask them what they do for a living, is their family name a name of wealth or how much money do they have saved.  Jesus cares for none of that.  Jesus simply asks do they believe that He can cure them.  Jesus wants to know if they actually believe that He is capable of returning their sight.  That is the only payment Jesus wants; the only price He demands; simply to believe that Jesus can accomplish it.  When they respond that they do believe that He can do it; Jesus uses their form of payment, their faith as payment in replying:….according to your faith, let it be done to you.  That payment must have been sufficient, for both men’s sight was restored.

So let’s look to today.  I would first note the duality of the “coming to” in this passage.  We hear preached and it is true that Jesus Christ will come to us just as we are.  Jesus traveled to where these two men were.  Yet Jesus did not force Himself upon them.  Jesus did not walk up to these men and declare in a loud voice: “Today I will heal you!”  No, Jesus came to where they were but they also had to come to Jesus.  They had to speak out and make their supplication known.  In that way, we must do the same thing.  We must make our supplications to Jesus Christ.  What payment is Jesus Christ going to exact from us?  The same, in that He is wanting to know the same thing from us.  Do we believe that Jesus Christ is capable of; has the power to:  heal our sicknesses, vanquish our demons, forgive our sins?  And His answer is likely to be similar to the one he gave to those two men:  Let it be done to you according to your faith.

Finally, there are a couple of other brief thoughts.  First, but what if I have some smidgen of doubt some fleeting, momentary waiver of faith; am I doomed?  There’s another time, right after His transfiguration when Jesus asks that same question to man who wanted healing for his son.  The man’s response, in my mind is the most classic response in the entire bible:  I believe, Lord help my unbelief.  The Lord did heal the man’s child.  You see Jesus Christ knows we’re human.  He knows that we have problems with perfect faith.  That is one of the reasons that the Holy Spirit is sent to us to help us strengthen our faith against the onslaught of this world.  Second, one might think:  Wow this is cheap!  All I have to do is say, I believe and poof, my miracle happens.  Not so fast, grasshopper.  Remember Jesus Christ says; let it be done to you according to your faith.  So it’s not what comes out of your mouth but what is in your heart that matters.  Plus if you believe in your heart that He can do this because He is Lord, as those men proclaimed, then you are also going to have to believe in loving your neighbors and even your enemies, turning from lust, anger, pride and desire for earthly wealth and power.  Cheap? I wonder.  But all in all, well worth it.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You that You sent Your Son to live among us, to teach us, to heal us. We thank You that Jesus Christ is willing to meet us where we are.  We thank you that He will listen to our supplications and will heal us in mind, body and spirit.  Forgive us when we bring our desires forward without the belief in the Power of Christ to accomplish what we ask.  Also forgive us when our belief is so limited that we want the healing without paying the price of true belief.  Help us Dear Father to come You, through Christ humbly in ourselves but confident in You that the world might see our faith fulfilled in You and give Glory and Praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

“Why do we and the Pharisees fast often but Your disciples do not fast?”  Matthew 9:14

“Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Matthew 9:11

“But if you had known what this meant: ‘ I desire mercy not sacrifice’ you would not have condemned the guiltless”  Matthew 12:7

“But they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:17

It seems we are going through a confusing and somewhat troubling time for ourselves where the world is watching intently what we say and more importantly do, as to the validity of our message.  I have seen a considerable amount of work; published in media, spoken in the press and even preached from the pulpit concerning the worth of “religion” as well as the viability of the “church”.  I put both religion and church in quotation marks because I find in discussing with people, vastly different definitions and concepts for these two terms.  And I believe that it is precisely the issue that we are dealing with.  Whenever, human beings have tinkered with, tried to improve on Our Heavenly Father’s Plan, we have brought much pain and suffering to ourselves and those around us.

It seems clear to me that the religious leaders during the days that Jesus walked on this earth were very process minded based upon the way they treated the Son of God.  The religious leaders were always challenging Jesus: “He heals on the Sabaoth, He eats with sinners, He doesn’t wash His hands, He doesn’t come from the right place” and on and on.  Through the years they had taken God’s law, a law of mercy and turned it into a law of judgement and punishment.  For God heard His people’s cry and sent them the Prophet Moses to lead them out of bondage.  Yet as our Creator and One who had witnessed our failure in the garden; God knew that His people would sin, even after their miraculous rescue from Egypt.  Thus being full of mercy, wanting to be able to maintain a relationship with us, the law allowed for atonement for our sin with the purpose of reconciliation.  Yet over time, with human interpretation; the law changed from a heavenly instrument of mercy to a human process of judgement. The religious leaders of the day corrupted the law, making into some human made scorecard for judgement.  It was no longer about being righteous that leads to doing righteous; but doing righteous will somehow lead to righteous, with man judging what is righteous and what is not.  That is the world into which Jesus came.  Sadly, to a certain extent, that is a world that, if we are not careful, we are duplicating today.

Why do we do that?  I believe that it has to do with our arrogance of understanding.  We believe with each new day we have a deeper self-taught understanding of every process.  We believe that as we gain understanding about things concerning natural processes; how a seed grows, how lightning works, what a star is made of, that we also obtain all other knowledge, allowing us to attain the level of being masters of our own destinies.  Because we can not comprehend the true Mind of God, His perfect intelligence, instead of having faith in His Intelligence; we substitute our own flawed but understandable logic, intelligence in its place and then act upon it.

Thus Jesus came and crushed every form of human judgement and earthly wisdom.  The wisest and most powerful leaders came against Him with tests and questions and He silenced each and every one of them with His perfect understanding.  He told them and tells us today, those who look to their own processes, that devise their own plans for salvation travel the broad road to doom and eternal separation from God.

And Jesus Christ speaks to us today.  Yet I want to stress something that I believe jesus Christ made abundantly clear.  Churches do matter.  Religion in that it is the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the One and Only True Begotten Son of God, come to earth, crucified for our sins, died and resurrected and now living at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty and that we are to love God with all our being and love each other as we love ourselves, is of utmost importance.  However, as we take the new wineskin of Christ and start to tinker with His message; filter His words and change them based on our understanding, as we take His open invitation and change it into a process, a test to pass, to enter into the kingdom of heaven, we take religion and make it a human-made concept; church becomes a human-made institution.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, I have a limited understanding of the true nature of God’s plan for my salvation.  I do not fully grasp the gravity, the mercy, the unbelievable sacrifice of God coming to earth, taking my sins upon Himself and dying in my place.  Thus I must have faith in the Word of Jesus Christ.  I must grasp hold of, in awe and wonder, the miracle of Jesus Christ and, through the Holy Spirit, replace my limited capacity to understand with His merciful gift of revelation.  We must resist the temptation to imprint our own image on that which should be holy, His church and His religion.  In so doing, we can show the world what true faith is all about.  We will show that we reject the process of human discerned judgement and replace it with Christ designed love and mercy.  Christ is the only process we need.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim to the world there is only one knowledge that is true, only one plan that is perfect, only one judgement that is righteous; that which is Yours and comes from You.  Forgive us when we attempt to substitute our limited knowledge, our own devised plan and our faulty, limited judgement for Yours.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that although limited by our faculties, will still reveal to us the perfect will you have for our lives.  Grant us the strength and faithfulness to align our will to Yours.  That the world would then see our lives as lived in praise to Your Most Holy Name, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“If  you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious about the rest?……O, you of little faith?”  Luke 12:26, 28

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”  Matthew 8:26

I probably don’t need to list the litany of fears that are prevalent in our world as we come into Christmas season and end to 2015.  We have fears concerning terrorism and is it safe to go to a public place or fly?  Some have fear about our own police force and will they intentionally do us harm?  There is fear about economic collapse, fear about our savings be wiped out.  We have rampant fears about our health; what is in our foods, should we have this medical test but not that one.  Which is the right pill to take and will we get sick and die because we can’t afford treatment.  We worry about our relationships.  Is my spouse/significant other being faithful?  Who are my children chatting with on social media and what sites are they visiting?  Whew, I’ve only named but a few.

Thus, especially because of recent horrific events in the Sinai of Egypt, the marketplaces in Beirut and the streets of Paris, we hear the question posed over and over again:  “How are we supposed to live without being afraid? Is living in constant fear, the new normal?”

Jesus came into this world during a time of fear; great fear.  Jerusalem and the people of Israel were under the domination of a dictatorial occupying force who gave little to no rights or thoughts about the people who they subjugated.  The Romans could and did kill at will.  If they wanted to invade a person’s home, they did.  If they wanted to imprison, they did.  If they wanted to take away a person’s livelihood through taxes, they did.  There were also natural issues like storms, droughts, famines, etc.  Even within the Jewish faith, there were worrying factions keeping a wary eye on each other jockeying for power and to knock others out of power; there were the Pharisees, Sadducee’s, Essene’s and Zealot’s, just to name a few.

Yes there was much fear and anxiety which they brought to Jesus and he addressed.  In the first instance, Jesus is giving His life altering and encompassing lessons during his sermon on the mount.  He knows that worry is rampant in the people of faith about a great many things.  Jesus addresses that worry through the biggest fears of sustenance; will I have enough, possessions and status; will I have clothing and will I look good enough, even longevity; when will I die and can I control its happening?  Jesus is very blunt when He explains how misplaced those worries are.  Jesus states that all those things are in His Heavenly Father’s hands.  That we will have enough, whether it be food, clothing and shelter, or our length of life are blessings from the Father which He freely provides abundantly to His creation; whether it be birds or lilies or His very good creation; people.  It is only the people who fret over these things, yet in their fretting they can not change the Father’s plan; can not add “one cubit to their stature”.  In asking where is their faith; Jesus is trying to make three vital points.  First, there is utter futility in worrying about, being in fear concerning the needs that we have.  Second, the fears we have are actually manifestations of our doubts about our Heavenly Father’s power and love for us.  Finally, the reason there is no need to fear is because Our Heavenly Father is all powerful, knows our needs on an individual level and it is His loving nature to bless us an fulfill those needs abundantly.

How can we be sure about that power?  After preaching His sermon to the people He blesses them and sends them away.  He gets into a boat with His disciples and they head out across the sea.  A raging storm blows up and brings crashing waves and terrible winds into their small vessel.  The disciples, some accomplished fisherman, see the peril and become terrified of their impending doom.  Jesus is not experiencing this as He is asleep in the stern of the boat.  When the disciples can stand the terror no longer, they go to the back of the boat and with shouts of terror and pleading awake Jesus from His slumber.  With virtually no drama, no recognition of any danger at all; Jesus, shows the Power of being God on earth.  With three simple words, one command:  “Peace, Be Still” Jesus quiets the storm. Jesus disciples had not truly grasped nor still understand that they are in the presence of Almighty God.  And God, in the person of Jesus Christ, loves them and will let no harm come to them.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; we too are in the presence of Almighty God based on the blessing of the Holy Spirit that has been sent to dwell within us.  The world is going to counsel us to either remove our fear through new laws, medicines, technology, new worldly solutions or worse yet simply succumb to the world and live in mind numbing fear.  The Holy Spirit gives us different counsel.  He counsels us to read and heed scripture.  He counsels us to reject being fearful in the first place based upon the power and love of Our Almighty Father.  He counsels us to stop trying to take responsibility and then the subsequent glory for those things that are heaven sent.  The Holy Spirit counsels us be in remembrance of and take refuge in the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who gave all for us, even His life for us to live in a blessed assurance relationship with our Heavenly Father through Him.  Faith.  Faith in our Heavenly Father quashes worldly generated fear.  That is how we are to live.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You know we live in a world filled with enemy generated fear.  Yet You are very clear that living in that fear is not Hthe plan that You have for us.  We thank and praise You that You do not abandon us to live in the pits of this fear.  We thank You that You gave us Your Son, Jesus Christ, that through His sacrifice we can reject the fear of this world and live confidently in You.  Forgive us when we are overwhelmed with the fearful messages of this world and are tempted to buy into them and their worldly solutions.  Through Your Spirit redeeming nature, bring us back to being faithful followers and people of praise of Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

“Now in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint….because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”  Acts 6:1

“….whom we may appoint over this business, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  Acts 6:3

5,000 new members in a day; WOW, what a membership drive that was.  That is what happened in the early church based on the preaching of Peter.  Thousands were believing in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, being baptized and becoming members of His body.  Again, WOW, what a response, we read in Acts, Chapter 4, that they were selling what they had and giving to each other so that none lacked for anything.

Alas, all that harmony did not completely last.  For even as they were still growing, still excited, still listening to the Word, praising Jesus Name, a dispute arose.  For that group, “the church” started doing things besides just preaching the Word.  First, let me say that it was good for them to do so.  The church saw a need, poor widows who did not have anyone to care for them and the church was meeting that need.  Yet either some were actually or at least seemed to be left out of that distribution.  Understandably, those associated with the widows had a concern with that, which they brought to the Jesus’ Apostles.  Now it was not that the apostles didn’t think this was a matter of some importance, yet they also felt it vital that this dispute should not become a distraction to their praying and ministry of the word.  There answer to the situation was wise, find people filled with the Holy Spirit of good reputation to administer to this need.  Their answer must have worked because the church continued to grow exponentially.  Now also understand that “issues” were not limited to this young church; the Corinthians argued over which spiritual gifts were the most important and the Galatians argued over whose baptism was better.

Why does this matter?  Fast forward to today and church after church, denomination, after denomination seems to be wrestling, some in almost crises mode over what they are supposed to be and what they should be doing?  Some questions they are struggling with; new music versus traditional music, multimedia versus stand in the pulpit preaching, congregation focused versus non-church attendee focused, who can be married, who can preach; these and many more are the weighty issues that churches are dealing with.  Yet seemingly, to me, so many of the questions; what do we do, how do we spend money, how do we get money, how do we worship, where do we worship are fundamentally about the “business” of church.  However, they become the focal point of so many disputes and the focus of so much energy.

To the above questions, I think it is probable that the apostles would have had an opinion.  Yet when you look at Paul’s and Peter’s letters and their “Acts”, it seems clear that the overriding concept, the undeniable truth, the overriding concept that was what really mattered is; as Paul stated to the Corinthians, to preach Christ crucified, Christ the Power of God, Christ the Wisdom of God.  Thus, what should our priorities be?  What should we expect from church, if anything?

As churches are, I believe, vitally important, we should not be considering doing away with churches or their business.  But, is business the primary aim of the church?  Should we be more concerned with the wrapping than what is the Gift?

I claim no wisdom to answer all the business questions, yet it seems to me, first and foremost is the Gospel of Christ proclaimed, the Word of God studied and worshiped, the Love of God received and then reflected to others and the prayers of individuals and the people raised to Our Heavenly Father should be our desire, our expectation.  Should we not have our primary focus on Christ, the Only Begotten Son, Crucified, Died and Rose Again, Jesus Christ the Risen Lord our Savior?  Christ tells us; that , if we abide in Him we produce much fruit.  Perhaps the fruit is where the business resides?  However, most importantly, the fruit only comes once we first, abide in Christ.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, there is much good we can do, there is much peace we can bring, there is much joy that we can have and all of those can be more focused, more fruitful as we do them in fellowship through church.  However, none of those happen in any truth if we are not first in Christ.  Let Christ’s Word and engaging in prayer be our priority of worship.  Let us be humble in putting Christ first and, while we may be diligent in wanting to do the business of the church, let us be more known as disciples of Christ, then business people of Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly and freely admit we complicate what You have made simple.  We strive to put a price on and then pay for that which is priceless, yet You have provided to us for free.  Like Martha, we focus on the doing and mostly disregard the being; being in You.  Forgive Most Merciful Father.  Breath Your Spirit into us that we may only desire the bread of Your Word and the communion of prayer and relationship with You.  Lead us away from the temptation to equate doing with faith and business with worship.  That by abiding in Your Son and reaching up to You through Jesus Christ, we will bear true fruit that really matters and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“…seeing a fig tree….He came to it and found nothing on it…and said ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.”  Matthew 21:19

“Immediately the fig tree withered away….the disciples saw it..and marveled…” Matthew 21:19,20

“….I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also say to this mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, it will be done.” Matthew 21:21

“I am the vine…..every branch that does not bear fruit, He takes away….anyone who does not abide in Me is cast out as a branch and is withered…..John 15:2, 5

I must say that there have been times past, in my walk, where the story of the fig tree has perplexed me.  Not so much in terms of the power of faith, but I have been tempted, wrongly I add, to see Jesus’ actions as those of an impetuous man, taking his hunger and frustration out on an innocent fig tree.

I praise Our Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit who patiently corrects my thoughts and shares two great lessons with me.  Two lessons I want to now share with you.

First, is the direct lesson of faith.  It is true that Jesus is hungry and that is why he approaches the fig tree in the first place.  Finding no figs on the tree, Jesus commands that no fruit ever be found on this tree again.  Jesus power is immediately shown as the tree withers on the spot.  No fruit will ever be found on it again.  I digress for a moment in speaking of the disciples’ reaction.  One might think after having spent nearly three years with Jesus, the impact of His words on the tree would come as no surprise.  After all, they have seen Jesus heal the sick, walk on water, raise the dead; they have been a part of feeding thousands with just a few loaves of bread.  Yet they are astonished by what happens to the fig tree.  The are awestruck in the presence of Jesus and His power.  I sometimes lament that I and perhaps we are not so nearly awestruck as we read and contemplate the power of Our Lord and Savior; but back to the fig tree.

Now Jesus makes a startling statement that is very often quoted.  I have seen this statement used as a wonderfully hopeful promise, as well as an instrument of judgement and derision.  Jesus tells His disciples about the power of faith.  For Jesus tells them if they ask and truly believe and do not doubt, then they can ask for the seemingly impossible, for a mountain to be moved and it will happen.  Those that choose to see this as a wonderful promise, see that it is not based on our strength, talent or worldly wisdom, it is in our faith.  Also it is important to understand the faith is not in ourselves and our power to move the mountain.  It really has nothing to do with the mountain, it is the complete faith in Jesus Christ and the power and wisdom of our Heavenly Father.

Sadly, I have also seen this example used by those who do not believe and sadder still, by those who profess to believe as a process of judgement.  For there will be a situation that a believer will be involved in, which she or he may be praying for.  Unbelievers will chastise in advance about:  “Oh you believe that you can move mountains so why don’t you just pray for this result or that; as if God was some sort of genie, wish fulfill-er.  Yet I have also heard this used by those of faith against others, judging them saying that their faith must weak because of a seemingly different outcome than what was prayed for.  Again remember this Dear Sisters and Brothers, the faith is in the perfection of our Heavenly Father and His will, through Jesus Christ.  Who are we to question the outcome of someone else’s prayer or the strength of their faith?  We must be humble in our thoughts here remembering the man who cried out to Jesus at the healing of his son, I believe, Lord help my unbelief!

So now I come to the second lesson, besides faith, but tied to it, that I believe Jesus is teaching with the fig tree.  You see the fig tree had no fruit.  Jesus, the Son of God, was there at the creation of all things and all things were created through Him.  The fig tree was created through Him.  The fig tree was created to have fruit and it did not.  So the fruitless tree was cast out.  In John’s gospel, Jesus makes that same warning to all of us.  We are to be branches that bear fruit.  We are to be a source of spiritual sustenance for our sisters and brothers plus the greater world so in need of spiritual feeding.  Yet we are just branches.  Our ability to bear fruit only comes from abiding in the vine, in the stalk from where all our power, wisdom, strength and light come from.  That vine is Jesus Christ.  First we must abide in Him and never attempt to rely on our own human capacity.  Second though, we must be willing to bear fruit.  We must be willing to provide our Jesus given talents and energy, not just into growing big ourselves, in becoming the largest most prosperous branch.  We must be willing that our energy goes into growing fruit, whose sole purpose is to be picked from us and to feed others.  It is for others nourishment and not ourselves.  Yet as branches abiding in the vine we must have faith that we will be nourished and blessed beyond all that we would ever want.

Faith to ask and the belief that, in the asking, it will be granted but also understanding that our asking should be based on our desire to bear fruit, not for our own glory, but for the feeding of those in need and to the glory of He who planted us; Our Heavenly Father.  Those are the lessons of the fig tree.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You that You listen to our supplications and grant to us our answers based on Your Perfect Plan and Will.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that our asking be always be in the faithful desire to be worthy branches in Jesus Christ; always striving to bear fruit that nourishes a spirit starved world in need of Your Love.  That in our faithful asking and Your Blessed granting, Your Holy Name will be ever praised.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

%d bloggers like this: