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“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

“..Named Demetrius a silversmith….he called them together and said: ‘ Men you know we have our prosperity by this trade…..Paul has persuaded and turned away many people….So not only is this trade of ours in danger…but also the temple of the great goddess, Diana..”  Acts 18:24-26

“Paul stood in the midst….Him I proclaim to you; God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands…”  Acts 17:22,24

Demetrius was a silversmith.  It appears in Acts that he was a silversmith of some repute in the city of Ephesus where the temple of Diana (or Artemis in Greek)was located,  which was one of the wonders of the ancient world.  Diana was the goddess of everything from wild animals and the hunt to childbirth and fertility.  So there was much to do, not only with the upkeep of the great temple but in making images to sell to those who would made a pilgrimage to see and worship her.

Paul has been traveling and preaching throughout the Greco-Roman world.  He is starting churches and preaching that there is only One God who resides in no image made from man and no temple made by human hands.  Paul has been preaching that salvation does not come from observing certain festivals or rites, but from believing in and belonging to Jesus Christ who is the only true way to the Heavenly Father.  And Paul’s preaching is working.   Thousands of converts are accepting the Word of Jesus Christ.  They are leaving the worship of false gods and worse yet, for craftsmen like Demetrius, they are no longer purchasing the idols and trinkets that he is making.  Demetrius can not take this lying down.  So he makes a spirited defense to stop Paul.  Yet notice carefully how his defense is crafted.  It is not a defense based solely on the merits of Diana worship and faith in the goddess.  No, Demetrius starts with a defense of the people’s livelihoods.  It’s not about following Paul and His God will lead to spiritual destruction.  No, it is following the One True God will lead to personal financial ruin as well as the degradation of the power of their temple and city.  If you want to get their attention, hit em their pocket books, is an old saying.  When the people of Ephesus hear this, many are fearful and they start a riot.  However, that does not deter Paul in the least from continuing his faithful preaching, converting and church building.

So, what does that have to do with us today?  Much, I think.  You see today we are filled with messages about the building and accumulating of wealth.  One can hardly look at any form of media without being bombarded by questions and suggestions about retirement, saving for college, making money from this action or that trade.  Alas, if only it were a secular concern, we might be able to ignore it.  Yet even within institutions of faith, there are messages about giving so that you can receive and claims that if you will give this amount or do this particular thing, then God will multiply your return on that investment untoldfold amounts for your personal prosperity; as if God was some aspect of a really good investment plan.  I’ll stick with God as long as the return is good.

Yet one has to wonder, what if in Ephesus of Demetruis’s time, Paul had asked Demetrius to start making statues of God.  What if those statues had really started to sell to the converts to Christianity.  Would Demetrius had been so quick to come to defense of Diana?  Or, would he have started to proclaim the truth of God and His Son as he hawked the silver wares he was creating because it was good for business; a good return for his investment.

Please don’t misunderstand me sisters and brothers; for Scripture tells us in Timothy that a worker deserves his wages.  I know that many who follow this blog have a vocation in the ministry of the Lord.  And you can tell by their words and deeds that they are first and foremost about serving faithfully the Lord God Almighty and Jesus Christ and not about the financial gain that might come from it.  Many have made significant worldly sacrifices to follow their calling.  Humbly, in writing these notes, there is no copyright, no place or desire for remuneration, those who want to use them in any way are free to do so with only the prayer and hope that it is for the Praise of God Almighty.  Yet this I also know; I am truly, immeasurably blessed by the connection to the Spirit which I feel in this writing which is so much more valuable than any financial return.  No this is about faith, belief and action in God for who He is and not based on some sense of measurably, positive return we will receive because of it.

Finally I would ask you; look at the faith of Abraham, Joshua, Moses, Ruth, Queen Esther, David, Mary, Peter, Paul and countless others in the bible who stepped out in faith, not knowing or caring about worldly return.  Look at Jesus Christ.  He who was with God from the very beginning, by Whom all things were made.  There was no gain in Him coming to earth; no increase in finances to feel earthly pain; no higher value because He died on the cross.  No by faith in His Heavenly Father, He did what He did.  Now Jesus Christ resides at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty.  So let it be for us; that our worship, our acts, our thoughts be because of faith in God the Father Almighty.  That we don’t try to see some eternal financial ticker that measures our return or gain based on our love for Him.  That in confidence, we understand that the Nature of Our Heavenly Father is to Love Us, to Keep us, to Bless us, in every way that we need, regardless of how the world would measure that return.  That we understand the greatest investment ever made was the investment of Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation.  And that our aim be to return that investment with our love and steadfast devotion.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that the world teaches that we look for and do those things that will be the greatest personal gain back to us.  Please forgive us for those times that we are tempted to act that way.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit who testifies to us of Your Faithful Love and Blessings poured out for us because You are Our Father.  Help us to go forward in steadfast faith in You with no concern for what we will receive in return.  We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, Your Son and Our Lord and Savior.  Amen

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them”  Mark 2:3

“When Jesus saw their faith their faith; He said to the paralyzed man: ‘ Son, your sins are forgiven’.”  Mark 2:5

Have you ever read something that you have, in the past read over and over, and all the sudden something new jumps out at you?  That’s what happened to me recently with the story in the Gospel of Mark verses 1-12.  Here’s what jumped out at me.  Up until this past reading this seemed to be a story of 6 principal characters plus the doubting Jewish leaders; you had Jesus of course, a paralytic man, four people bearing him and a home owner.  The supporting characters were the crowds that so surrounded the house as to block its entrance.

What is different now?  The community around this man.  You see there’s more than just four men supporting this man.  Some men, SOME MEN; you see there were more than four.  And I’m not trying to say that four can’t be a community but with the greater number I see an even greater faith story coming out.

First, someone in that community had to have heard of Jesus; who knows maybe one of them even saw Him, saw Him perform another miracle.  This person, whoever he or she was had to think of the others and set off to find them and tell them about it.  That is a hallmark of a community; the desire to spread good news.

We don’t know if this person was also thinking of the paralytic and that Jesus could heal him or if that idea came from somewhere else in the community.  However, this much is clear, the community believed that Jesus could heal their paralytic friend or they would not have undertaken the journey in the first place.  So four men out of this community pick up their paralytic friend on his mat and off they go.

But now the community encounters a problem; they can’t get in to see Jesus.  One gets the sense that at least one of their party got close enough to verify the Jesus was indeed in the house and that He was preaching; but entry through any normal means was barred. Again the community kicks in; they are not going to take no for an answer.  Again, we don’t know who came up with the idea to climb onto the roof, but the community’s faith had to be strong enough to consider such a radical idea a valid one.

Here again it makes sense that there were more than just four men.  Because for one, to lift the man to the roof it would have been extremely difficult if all four men were not already up there.  Even with the four of them up there; it would take extraordinary concentration and cooperation to make sure they worked together as one unit and did not spill the poor helpless man out.  So if the four were on the roof; who gave them the ropes once they were up there.  One can also easily imagine others staying behind on the ground helping to steady the mat, taking some of the weight burden off the men on the roof and gaurding against any tragic fall of their friends.

Now this part of the story is primarily in the four mens’ hands.  They disassemble the roof (funny you hear no irrate complaints from the homeowner) and they lower the man down.  Jesus seeing their act, understanding the great effort it took the entire community to get the paralyzed man to this point; seeing the act of selfless love; has mercy on the paralytic man and forgives his sins.

So let’s go back for a moment to the rest of the community; those people who are still standing outside.  One can imagine them straining to try and catch a glimpse of what is happening on the roof.  Perhaps they’re calling out to their friends on the roof asking what is happening.  But on their faces are not the expressions of fear, frustration or dread.  No their faces have the expressions of excited anticipation, jubilent expectation, they have the faces of faithful hope.  Jesus knows of their faith too.

So what does this community of faith get for all if its efforts?  The one thing they really, trully wanted.  One again can imagine the jumps (those on the roof having to be very careful) and shouts for joy as the paralytic man, picks up his mat and walks straight out of the home.  What the community of faith receive; afformation.  They received the afformation that Jesus who has come as the Christ; God’s only one begotten Son, noticed their humble act of faith and rewarded them for it.  They knew, some without even seeing Him; that they had been in the presence of the Messiah.  And the Messiah loved them.  Imagine being in that community that night, walking away with one once lame.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we don’t have to imagine.  We too, even today, can be in a powerful community of faith.  We can know that the Messiah; Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will notice our acts of faith and will gladly proclaim to us as well; your sins are forgiven.  We can certainly know the same the afformation that was experienced by that earlier group so many years ago.  Jesus Christ is calling.  Jesus Christ is healing.  Jesus Christ is forgiving sins.  And we can be completely certain of this; there is always a path to be found to the presence of Jesus Christ.  Let us strive to find a community where we can help each other travel that path.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You that You have seen fit to bring other believers into our lives to form a community.  Help us to always be looking out for one another; being strong enough to carry others when needed and humble enough to allow ourselves to be carried when we are in need.  Increase our faith through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we will never stop seeking to be where Jesus Christ is.  That our community may be a beacon of light to a world plunged deep into darkness.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.”  Psalm 19:1

And they said: ‘Come let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens, let us make a name for ourselves…”  Genesis 11:4

It is said that we live in a time of unprecedented discoveries and increase in knowledge (whether those around Leonardo DaVinci or Sir Isaac Newton would agree who knows).  Seemingly every day there is a new astounding picture published from the Hubble space telescope or some new amazing medical breakthrough.  Yet this is also a time of fear.  Some fear the taking over of knowledge and the inventions knowledge inspires, invading and exposing every aspect of our lives.  Some would withhold knowledge from a certain segment of their population in the name of their god.  Some would argue that there is a war on; a war of science against religion, the scientist against God.  What are we to do?

Hmmm?  What did God say?  Is all knowledge wrong?  Wasn’t the original sin gaining knowledge?  Genesis tells us towards the end of chapter 1 that He created man and woman and that they were to have dominion over the fish of the sea, birds of the air and every living thing that moves on earth.  Now (oh by the way while I sight them often I do not get any kickback or such for siting or using them) says that dominion is the power over or control of.  So it would seem that, to have dominion would necessitate a certain amount of knowledge to do so.  But wasn’t the gaining of knowledge the downfall of mankind?  Genesis tells us it was a very specific knowledge, a knowledge of judgement; specifically the knowledge of good and evil (why that knowledge was forbidden would be a topic for another post).

Think of it this way; to build an arc, a tabernacle, a temple, to use a sling, to fight a battle, to build a city, to tend a crop, to herd sheep, to be a carpenter, all takes the gaining of knowledge.  Now when you look a science, it is the systematic pursuit of the gaining of knowledge and a scientist is one who engages in that pursuit.  Yeah!  All science is good and all scientists are fulfilling God’s will!  EEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR (that is supposed to be the sound of screeching car brakes)!  Not so fast pilgrim.  That is not the truth.

There is an interesting aspect of human nature that seems to parallel the gaining of knowledge; the shunning and looking down upon the thoughts of the past.  How could people believe the earth was flat; the earth was the center of the universe and all things rotated around it, or that you could cure baldness by rubbing goose droppings on the bald area (not making that up)?  As we look down on the thoughts and supposed facts of the past; we often times lift ourselves up in the present believing that our new knowledge either does or should make us intrinsically better, wiser more noble.  How many times have you heard recently the phrase: “In the twenty-first century, we should no longer be dealing with……….”  Also after so many tragedies, many solely man made, we hear the refrain: “We must understand this so that it will never happen again!”  There is an arrogance contained in those types of statements that with the correct amount of knowledge we can fix all things.  We can in essence be perfect.  I have heard it said and frequently from some in the scientific community:  “I no longer see a need for God”  We hear that we are on the verge of discovering the God Particle with an inference from some that upon that discovery; we will understand God!

Have you ever heard the phrase: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”?  Why?  Because when we take action based on limited understanding, the results are almost always disastrous.  I took a splinter out of someone’s hand so now I think I prepared to perform surgery.  I’m a ten year old child who has been allowed to drive an old one gear truck on a secluded farm pasture so now I’ll take by father’s sports car out on the interstate.  I’ve learned to read and have read many things that make sense to me but because the bible doesn’t I feel confident in rejecting it and all it’s teaching.  Or equally as dangerous, I have read part of the bible and think I fully understand it so I feel I am as smart as God in judging this thing or that!  It is at those times where the pursuit of knowledge lays the foundation for, and then adds the bricks and mortar for the tower, Our New Age, Virtual (but a tower is a tower even if it is virtual) Tower of Babel.  A tower designed to make us equal with God.

Bottom line brothers and sisters, we are created; which means there is a Creator.  We did not create ourselves.  The Creator fashioned us in His image.  The Creator, God, did not make us replicas or complete copies of Himself.  As the Creator, God has allowed us to gain knowledge.  That knowledge has allowed us to build things, transform things, cure things, reveal things.  In fact, that knowledge can be a wonderful revelation into omnipotent and omniscient nature of God.  It should give us pause and leave us in awe of Him.  Each new discovery should show us just how much more there is that we don’t know and causing us to be truly humble as Our Heavenly Father knows all that is knowable.  We should be content that God’s judgement is perfect and He shares, in love, only that which is for our good.

In this life I will never know or understand fully the nature or mind of God Almighty.  So it is in faith that I come to Him; not as an equal, but as one of His creations.  And I truly believe every scrap of knowledge I’ve obtained to be a gift from Him, revealing the Merciful, Loving, Eternal Father of all.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You are the Creator and knower of all things.  Forgive us when we try to use our limited knowledge to judge ourselves equal to You.  Forgive us when we feel that we’ve gained so much knowledge that You are no longer necessary.  Give us the strength to combat the world’s view that faith is weakness and only what can be proved is valuable.  In the knowledge You so abundantly provide, let us see You revealed in all the discoveries.  That as we learn; we will always praise, Your Most Holy and Perfect Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Consider the ravens for they neither sow nor reap…..” Luke 12:24

“Consider the lilies how they grow they neither toil nor spin…..”  Luke 12:27

“Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Luke 12:32

I would like you to do something for me.  If you are in a place where you can actually look out a window or are outside then that is good (unless you’re in an automobile and need to concentrate on the road).  If not close your eyes and try a visualization for me (again if you’re in a car; keep your eyes open!)  I want you to see a bird.  Look as it hops around or flits from one branch to another.  Next I want you to look for a flower.  Notice the beauty of the different colors and parts that make up the flower.

For this next part it, I want you to use your imagination and it may require you to close your eyes.  I want you to visualize that bird now with a cell phone in one of it’s feet; maybe with a cigarette in it’s beak or a large cup of coffee grasped in its other talon (I know now the image is getting a little weird).   The expression on the bird’s face is concerned with a frown and it is pacing back and forth (if a foot is clear).  Visualize the flower or plant.  Imagine that it is trying to look at all aspects of itself.  It is wondering if its stem looks fat or not.  It wants to make sure that only one side is visible because that is its best side.

I know the portraits painted by the second paragraph are pretty ridiculous for a bird and a flower/plant.  Then we look in the mirror.  For our behavior, the second paragraph is not as much a visualization as it is a memory.  This is how the world says we should act; that should be our perspective.  Like the example of the bird, the world tells us we need to be connected at all times.  We need to be thinking about, more likely worrying about, planning our next steps.  We have to combine as many things at one time as possible.  Let me eat while I surf the web, send a message while I walk outside missing the beauty of the day.  Don’t experience the wonder of flight or the view from the airplane, keep your head buried in your laptop or portable electronic device, stressing over your lack of connectivity.  Like the flower in the second paragraph; what image am I sending out.  Could someone see some characteristic of me that they might think flawed?  How do I hide my perceived imperfections from any prying eyes?

Jesus is never haphazard in His use of language.  He could have said: “Take a look at those ravens or see those lilies over there.”; but He didn’t.  Jesus said consider; and that is exactly what he wants us to do. For Jesus wants us to not only physically observe but to also mentally and spiritually contemplate that which we are observing.  Those ravens, birds, they are going about their business. At some point they are using what God gave them in that wondrous ability to fly.  At other times they are hopping around searching for food.  Ponder that they didn’t do anything in preparation for finding the food.  They did not sew any seed and carefully watch over it as it sprouted.  There was no farmer bird weeding the crop or seeing to its water.  Finally, no flock of birds was hired to go and harvest the grain for its consumption.  Yet God does not punish them for their lack of activity; throwing judgments at them like slacker, stupid or worthless.  No, Jesus reminds us; God feeds them.  Also, consider the lilies or any other flower.  How incredibly beautiful they grow.  Realizing that the beauty is not just singular in nature but a complex mixture of different colors, shapes and textures.  Yet no flower planned its outcome in advance.  No plant spent hours formulating procedures to insure that it would achieve a certain height or position in the field.  No, Jesus reminds us; God decided all aspects of the when, how, what and where and yet it outshines the most exquisite man-made beauty in existence.

Here’s the thing, as much as the gift of sustenance for the birds and the beauty for the plants are gifts from God; of how much more value to Him are we?  Jesus makes it crystal clear.  God knows we also need sustenance.  God knows we also adorn ourselves with clothes and have a desire concerning how they look.  Jesus tells us: “and Your Father knows that you need those things”.  How wonderful would it be only if He supplied those gifts to us freely (which of course He does).  But Jesus tells us, we are of much greater value.  To no bird nor any plant did God give the kingdom.  Yet Jesus Christ tells us directly; the God is pleased; not begrudging, not reluctant, no He is pleased to give us the kingdom.  When Jesus states O you of little faith, it sounds like an admonishment and to a certain extent it is.  Though I also think it is a little of a plea.  A plea to lighten up.  A plea to not be so stressed out.  A plea to not miss the wonders and blessings that God has placed before us because we are too busy trying to achieve the lessor things of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we visualize the reality of Our Heavenly Father’s love for us.  A love that is first and foremost a gift. A gift so unfathomably miraculous that included the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ to bring us into relationship with Him.  May it be that we will consider all these things, then enter peaceably into His Rest.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for the promises that You have made to and for us.  Forgive most Merciful Father, when we neglect the reality of those promises to pursue the fantasy of our self reliance.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would resist the stress of the world and come to embrace the faithful rest that we will find in You.  That in that rest and confidence in You we would live lives that praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the Most Holy Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“I say to you the poor widow has put in more than all…..”  Luke 21:3

“Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature”  Mark 16:15

“Therefore when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you…”  Matthew 6:2

I have spent most of my adult life’s vocation in the business world in some respect.  Each one of the businesses that I have been associated with has had competition for customers.  And in each of those businesses, the mantra for the best sort of positive information that can be spread about your company is “word of mouth.”  Even in this digital age where it seems people “talk” to each other less and less, the word of mouth concept still works.  It is called going viral.  So for the most part, going viral, is about people sharing something they’ve seen, read or heard out to their digital network.

So, you may ask, what does this have to do with the message of Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father?  First, let’s go back to the thought of competition and more specifically, competing messages.  It has been said that bad news sells.  In a Psychology Today article written in 2010, it states:  “Media studies show that bad news far out weights good news by as much as seventeen negative news reports for every one positive news report”.  Christ makes it very clear there is a competitor with a competing message in this world, competing for our earthly lives and our eternal soul.  Part of his message is about the weakness of God based on how terrible the world is.  Why believe in a God that would let such bad things happen?  Where is God’s power when such bad things happen?  God must not care.  Even we people of faith can unwittingly (and sometimes sadly with purpose) fall into this trap as we try equate unfortunate things with God’s judgement on “them” (whoever the popular “them” group happens to be at the time).  So those who have not had an introduction to Christ, have not come into relationship with Our Loving Heavenly Father, can easily find it difficult to find the news and our judgmental interpretation a welcoming invitation to know Jesus better.

Now, let’s talk basic human nature and experience.  Think about the last time you went to a new restaurant, viewed a new television show, left one brand you liked and tried another.  How many times do those and countless other changes occur because you listened to someone’s advice that you trusted.  Yes, you may have seen countless ads for the product, service, music group or show.  But so often what pushes you and I into actually making a change is the positive testimony we get from a friend and/or loved one; the trumping power of word of mouth.  This can even happen with the news we get.  Have you ever heard a negative news report based on a short, truncated news clip and started to feel down and/or complain about it; only to find out from someone you know that there is more to the story and what the “more” is completely changes the context of the story?  You find with the new information you’re not as concerned, depressed or angry any more?  Again word of mouth.  People desperately need to hear that there are good and loving things happening.  And please understand this, it is not good enough that they hear the one story at the end of the news program that happened a world away.  They need to hear about the things that are happening right where they live, to people they know.  That there is still love, generosity, faith, hope.  There is God.

The stories are out there.  But first and foremost you have to be looking for them.  What have I seen?  The stranger who sees a young man sitting on a sidewalk crying.  Others are passing him by but this stranger (and no not a priest) stops to talk with him.  The person seeing a car on fire pulls a protective blanket out and smothers the flames.  The person in the grocery line that realizes they don’t have enough money to cover the basic food their purchasing only to have the difference made up by the stranger behind them all the while asking blessings upon them.

Jesus knew the power of this.  That is why, when He saw the generosity of the poor widow, He made sure others were aware as well.  When He experienced the faithfulness of hated Roman soldier, that He pointed it out for others to follow.  Sure Jesus pointed out hypocrisy, greed and jealousy when He saw them.  He had a right and was right to do so.  After all He was and is God.  Yet Jesus also wanted us to know that even though we were and are fallen on our own.  Through following Him, we are capable of many wonderfully great things.  Ask 5000 well fed people.

Yet there is something else to avoid.  Please do the generous, faithful, loving thing.  Yet be careful how you tell your own tale.  For if it is all about you and your own glory; the tale will have little lasting value.  No, of much more value is the tale that is witnessed and/or perhaps experienced being on the receiving end.  In the telling of those tales, the teller is much less likely to be perceived as a braggart or one who exaggerates.  Leave those tales of your generosity to others to tell.

Where do I start?  Well it takes practice.  First it takes a practiced eye to see them unfold.  Second it takes practice to be comfortable in telling them.  If it helps start by telling them just to your family or close friends.  As you tell the tale I believe you will feel a warmth and feeling of invigoration at the sharing.  In time, you will become more comfortable in sharing to those you know well and those whom you hardly know.  Brothers and sisters, we are blessed people created by a Loving God who yearns to show His Grace by the acts of His people.  It is the tales of those very acts and that associated Grace that this world so needs to hear about.  If we won’t tell them; who will?

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, pour out Your Strength on us that we would testify of the amazing acts of Grace that we have witnessed.  Help us to be beacons shining our lights on the true acts of charity, humility, courage and faith.  Keep us, Most Merciful Father, from falling into the trap of telling the tales that bring glory to ourselves instead of You.  That in those tales we might bring praise to Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“So David restrained his servants with these words and did not allow them to rise against Saul.”  Samuel 24:7

“So they answered and said before the king: ‘That Daniel, who is one of the captives of Judah does not show due regard for you……..but makes his petitions three times a day’.”  Daniel 6:13

“Then Mary said to the angel: ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  Luke 1:34

Three people.  Three people in vastly different times and circumstances.  Three people, in vastly different times and circumstances, but each facing the very real possibility of impending death.  Three people to whom the world would shout:  “Stop You Fool!  If you continue you will be destroyed”.

David was the enemy of the King Saul of Israel.  David had done nothing wrong.  In fact David had won great victories for Saul and had always shown great loyalty to Saul.  However, that did not keep Saul from becoming extremely jealous of David.  The people were shouting praises to David louder than their praises for Saul.  Saul could not stand that, nor allow it to continue.  David must die.  David ran, Saul pursued.  Then it seemed that God had delivered Saul into David’s hands; at least that is what David’s men thought.  For Saul had entered a cave by himself where David and his men were hiding.  It would have been so easy to sneak up and kill Saul, which is exactly what David’s men wanted him to do.  I’m sure they thought David a fool and perhaps themselves fools for following him we he wouldn’t do it.  But Saul was not a king raised up by himself or the people.  Saul had been anointed king by God’s prophet Samuel.  And who God had anointed to be king, David could not destroy.  So he kept hiding, only cutting off a corner of Saul’s robe, while he lie resting, to show that David was no threat to Saul.

Daniel was in trouble.  His enemies, again jealous of his success had made a plot against him.  They tricked the king into making a decree that no one could pray or petition any other god but him for thirty days.  These men knew Daniel and how devout Daniel was to God Almighty.  He would not disobey or act unfaithful to his heavenly King at the orders of an earthly king.  The world would scream: “it’s only 30 days, you can go that long without praying!”  Daniel knew from whence his strength came and knelt in his room, with the doors closed and prayed to God.  He was still discovered and now was to be tossed into a den of hungry lions.

Mary had a choice to make.  She was already engaged.  Engaged to a good man.  The man had a skill, knew a trade.  He would be able to provide for her.  Yet here was an angel saying that she was to become pregnant before ever marrying the man.  And here was the dilemma, you see she would not be able to hide the pregnancy from him.  Her fiance would or at least should suspect that she had been unfaithful.  The punishment in her day was far, far different than how the world looks at that behavior today.  Mary was facing complete and utter banishment at the very least, and quite probably death by stoning.  The world would cry out: “Don’t be a fool, tell the angel, he has the wrong woman!  Find another!”  Mary responds: “let it be according to your word.”

Three people.  In the world’s eyes, three fools.  The world would say that they each needed to have their head examined.  And based on that examination the world would say that there behavior was self destructive and that each was delusional.  The world would have them committed to an institution for their own good.  The world would seem right.  Truth would be though, the world would be completely and utterly wrong.

Destroyed?  Hardly, for in sparing Saul and being faithful to God, David would not only survive but end up being the greatest earthly king Israel was to ever have.  Daniel would survive the lions den when an angel came and shut the big cats mouths.  When the king saw Daniel’s miraculous survival, he ordered Daniel’s accusers cast into the lions den along with their families where they all perished.  Not only that but the king decreed that all his kingdom should honor and live in fear of Almighty God.  Finally, we know that Mary was not banished or killed.  Joseph is told that Mary has not been unfaithful to him with another man and is carrying the Savior of the World.  Mary will be revered as the most blessed woman ever.

The world gives a lot of advice.  Stores are filled with self help books, tapes and videos.  If we are to believe them; they know exactly what we should be doing, thinking and saying, as well as those things we should avoid.  Put our money here, get this degree there, use this vitamin supplement now, wear these clothes for success and this exercise machine will effortlessly make you look fabulous.  Faith in a higher power?  Admitting that I am broken, a sinner in need of a savior?  Follow an obscure person who lived long ago and lasted barely three years?  Sounds foolish to the world.

When we look in the mirror, we can see David or Daniel or Mary looking back at us.  We know that we are being called by God Almighty to do amazing things.  We are ordinary people with whom God wants to accomplish extraordinary things.  The world tells us; don’t do it.   The world advises us to turn Him down.  Following God will only make us look foolish when we inevitably fail.  Thank God we have His resource; the bible.  The bible, where we can see countless times where it is the wisdom of the world that becomes foolish and fools are the ones who follow it.  It is the ones who, through faith, overcome the failure of earthly foolishness to succeed through God’s wisdom.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, the world cries out against You and against Your followers.  The world tells us we are fools to follow You and we will be destroyed.  Give us Your strength, Most Merciful Father, to stand up to the world’s foolishness and faithfully follow where you would have us go.  In that living a life of triumph, through Your blessings, we might truly praise Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

Abraham answered:  God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” and the two of them went on together” Genesis 22:8

“It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice……”  Hebrews 11:17

“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders  and the sin that so easily entangles.” Hebrews 12:1

Hmmm, this can be a hard one.  Miraculous outcome surely, but the premise upsets us.  Using a child as a sacrifice?  Burning a child?  Isn’t that one of the great sins of the people who lived in the promised land prior to the Israelites and one of the reasons they were cast out?  It seems so cruel.  I think I’ll just pass over this section.  Ugh.  But then it is brought up in the New Testament; in Hebrews?  It is brought up as a shining example for us to follow? I.S.M.H. (I shake my head).

I think it goes back to Our Heavenly Father’s perfect understanding about how we, His creation, learn best.  For example, I can read about the concepts of a lever and a fulcrum (a lever bar exerts a force to move a load by turning on a pivot or a fulcrum….yeah right).  However, once I actually pick up a crowbar and pry up a board that has been nailed into something, then I understand.  Or, I can read about combining ingredients together; but, it is not until I actually experience it, that I see how eggs, flour, milk and sugar can become a cake.  In Hebrews, the author is trying to say that is the way it is with faith.  Not only Abraham, but also Moses, Rahab, David, Gideon and many others, he mentions to show examples of people living out their faith and the blessings that came from that.  And the true moral of the story is, if they did and received those blessings, then we should as well.

God knows we use phrases like:  experience is the best teacher, or seeing is believing, God also knows that, although not perfect, there are people who will act in faith upon the promises that God has given them.  Our Father’s hope is, that we will read, not only the concept, but also the living example that goes with it and it will strengthen our faith as well.  God knew Abraham’s faith.  God knew that Isaac was not going to be sacrificed that day.  God knows we need an example.

So here’s a question; definitely for me but I think for you and all believers as well.  Am I willing to be part of that “cloud of witnesses”?  I may be facing some challenging circumstances.  I may have come up against an obstacle, a giant that I don’t think I can overcome.  I may be in a situation, where I have called upon all of my earthly intellect, used up all my earthly strength and can only see defeat.  Do I continue to search for worldly resources?  Do I just give up and surrender?  Or do I drop to my knees and with all the faith I can muster declare:  “God, Himself will provide……….” and then I press on.  I press on “together with God” in the sure belief that He is all powerful and His promise is true.  That the same Heavenly Father who loves me so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, for my redemption, will never forsake or leave me.  I will triumph through Him.  Finally, it is not about bringing glory to me in that triumph.  It is about being a lesson, a blessed lesson, to those who are hurting and lost, for those who have turned everywhere they can think of but up.  To humbly exclaim to all people, look and see what Our Heavenly Father will do for the least of His creation, me; and if He will do for me, He will certainly do for you.  If you will only believe.  We have a choice about how we look at those clouds and how much we try to avoid them.  May it be that we see the Light.  Not just the silver lining, but the Light of Love streaming from that cloud, the Love of Jesus Christ our Savior; the Light of Our Heavenly Father streaming down to and for us.  And may our response be, use me Dear Father.  Use me to praise Your Most Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we pray for You to pour out Your Strength upon us today.  We humbly confess that, in our lack of faith, we feel defeated and abandoned by the challenges we face.  Forgive us Merciful Father and give us the spirit of faith that will allow us to rely completely on You.  Thank you Father for giving us the lessons from the past of how You have blessed the faithful over and over again.  May it be that You will use us to be lesson to others of Your Steadfast Love and Mercy.  That through our faithfulness Your Most Holy Name will be praised.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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