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“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

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us for the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  Romans 9:38-39.

Stop a second.  Take a deep breath; more than likely it will become a heavy sigh.  It has been tough recently.  Evil and tragedy seem to abound.  Grieving is widespread and fear is palpable.  For some, there is a sense that two horrible things have happened, and bad things always come in three, so something else horrific is still to come.  For others in this world, today is another day, likes the days, months, even years that have preceded it,  filled with explosions, death, war and fear that seemingly will never end.

Some will say that it is the end of things, some will say that they are at their personal wits end; most of us wish that the tragedies would end.  There was a place where the day became dark, the gospel tells us it was dark over all the earth.  To those witnessing, it was not just a single event of tragedy, but culmination of tragic event after tragic event.  And they weren’t just impersonal witnesses to what was happening to One, it could also easily be a portent of what was going to happen to each of them.  Once the death happened and hasty burial took place, the witnesses left in mourning, fear and uncertainty of what would come next.

And what came next was amazing; though not in a tragic way, but in an unbelievably wondrous way.  What came next was the outcome of the power of love.  What came next was the triumph of good over evil, comfort over tragedy, love over hate.  Jesus Christ had risen.  He was alive and IS ALIVE TODAY!

No matter how you are effected, whether it be by the horrific things that are being revealed in the news, or your own personal tragedy or horror; know this.  You are loved.  Your individual name, is spoken in love by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and it known and held close by The Creator of All, Our Heavenly Father.  As Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit so eloquently described, there is nothing in earth nor in heaven, that will take away or interrupt that flow of His Love to you and me.  Feel that love today.  Feel that love today and to the extent that you are able, share that love today.

Dear Heavenly Father be with us we pray.  There is not one of us who do not need You though some aren’t aware of that need.  Please, Passionate Father, pour out Your Mercy, Love, Strength, Healing and Restoration to us.  Lift us Most Gracious Father as we are pushed down on our knees.  That we may find the strength and spirit to Praise Your Name, In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

 

Then the whole of the region of Garasenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with a great fear.  And he got into the boat and returned.  Luke 8:37

Whom shall I fear?  Who would I just assume would leave me alone?  I fear the doctor for he may bring me bad news for which I have to change.  I fear my boss coming around for he may tell me to do something different.  I fear the teacher who has the power to say whether I have passed or failed.  There are many people in this life that I may fear and thus want to have as little contact with as possible.

Jesus comes to the region of Garasenes.  He does not come with an army and it seems from what is said in the bible, many don’t realize that He is even there.  However, there are some that are there.  And there is one who knows Jesus; or at least because of his circumstances, knows that the Son of God has come.  It is not sure if the other locals there heard him call Jesus the “Son of the Most High God.”, but even if they did hear him, they would have brushed it off.  For this man was a mad man; living naked, outside, among tombs.  Demon filled, we can imagine that most of what he said, up to this point, was full of hate, lies and treacherous sayings.  Jesus hears the demon possessed man and, the irony never escapes me that the demons are compelled to pronounce the truth of Jesus Christ, where man so often will not, commands the demons to be silent.   And here is where the story even turns more ironic, at least for me.  For my natural reaction, if I had the ultimate power that Jesus has, would be to cast the demons out to the worst place imaginable.  Yet Christ hears the demons frantic plea and He even grants it.  Christ’s concern is with the possessed man and if the demons want to go to a herd of swine, Christ allows it.  Seemingly being merciful.  The man is now cleansed, cured as it were and the swine rush down into the water to their death.

And the irony doesn’t stop there.  Scripture tells us, that the mad man was known in the area.  The people had tried to deal with them on their own, but had failed miserably each time.  Scripture also tells us there were a few locals who saw the whole interaction between Jesus and the mad man take place and they rushed off to spread the news.  So now, many come out to see for themselves what has happened.  And, upon seeing the results of Jesus being in their region, a man with whom they had so much trouble with for so long, is now sitting, clothed, no longer screaming obscenities and blasphemies, but talking in a normal way.  There is a dead herd of swine in the water.  Scripture does not tell us much about the swine.  Mark says that the men who witnessed the acts of Jesus were there to feed the swine, so we might assume that they were owned by someone.  It is interesting that the people who come out don’t seem to be angry about the swine, but they are in dreadful fear of Jesus because of what He did for the man.  And in their dread, the ask, no they beg Jesus to leave.

What is Jesus’ response to their request?  This is the Son of God, The Creator, with God from the Beginning, King of Kings!; He most certainly could have forced His way in.  Jesus honors their request and leaves.

What were they afraid of?  Could it be that their greatest fear concerned, if this man Jesus could change this horrible man who was so completely out or our control, what could He do to me?  A man with that kind of power can not be trusted?  I am nothing compared to this man and if I let him in what will become of me?

Think about what their fear caused them to miss out on.  Those who were sick, were not healed.  Those who were living in the darkness of Satan in this world, did not see the Light of Christ.  Those who were in anguish, did not have the Peace of Christ, preached to them (although Christ did command the healed man to go back and tell them his story).  No, their decision was; we are better off with what we know and are today, versus what me might learn and become if we let this man in.  And Jesus Christ never being the one to do to someone, that is against their will,  but always wanting to do with someone, that is along with their will and faith, acquiesces to their request and leaves.

Remember, the doctor may give us a good report.  The boss may want to tell us about the raise or promotion, the teacher the A.  Jesus Christ is all powerful.  He greatly desires to dwell with us.  And in dwelling with us, He will change us.  And it is true that, that kind of power is worthy of “fear.”

The question is what type of fear.  The type of fear that cries, depart from me, I don’t want to change; I’m good enough as I am?  Or the fear that says; Your power is so great, I am overwhelmed and in awe of it?  The latter fear allows me to still ask for a relationship.  A relationship built on the Love of and for Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father.  A relationship that is not only open to, but actively requests to be changed; improved.  Jesus Christ is willing to abide by both of those requests.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we ask that You would be with us and give us the strength to come to You.  Keep in us a righteous fear, stemming from the realization of Your Greatness, which will keep us humbly open to Your plans and guidance for us.  Thwart the demon who would have us turn from You in fear, to travel our own path alone.  Through the Light of Jesus Christ, change us; allowing us to become the creation You desire us to be.  That in our changes we would live a life of and that Praises Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of He, who desires to be with us and not just do to us, Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

There we saw giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants) and we were like grasshoppers in our own site, and so we were in their sight.  Numbers 13:33

Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims?  Numbers 14:3

With men it was impossible; but not with God, for with God all things are possible.  Mark 10:27

Fear, probably one of the most paradoxical concepts that we will ever deal with.  Roosevelt, famously said that “All we have to fear is fear itself.”  Is it really as simple as that?  Doesn’t our culture exalt the person who is termed “fearless”?  Yet don’t we also have thrill seekers who are completely untrained, who leap into the habitats of wild animals and get mauled to death.  And much more common and tragic, are those who do not fear texting while driving and become involved in horrendous car accidents?

Fear!  Can it stand in our way?  Sure.  The Israelites had seen the plagues wrought on Egypt by God and they had been spared.  They watched as God destroyed the Egyptian Army.  They watched God provide for all their needs day and night in the wilderness.  And now on the brink of ending their epic sojourn and crossing into the promised land, and lest we forget the land promised was promised by God, they stop in their tracks.  Why?  A few men.  In their eyes the report of a few good men.  For the spies, Moses had commanded to go and look at the promised land and report back, gave a good report of the land.  It was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey.  And at first they were ready to go in and possess the land as God had intended.  Then came the but……. But there are strong men and strong cities their….Giants.  We can’t go in there because they will squash us.  Joshua, one of the spies tries to change their minds.  Yes, we saw mighty people but no people is mightier than God, He will give us this land.  Do not fear!  And as we know, they didn’t listen to Joshua.

So we see that fear can keep us from acting.  Yet there is a story in Samuel, where King Saul acts because of fear.  He was facing a great battle and Samuel was nowhere to be found.  Saul was not supposed to be the one to actually offer sacrifices to the Lord, but because he could not wait, Saul did so anyway.  Samuel does arrive and hears Saul’s explanation for disobeying God’s commandment.  He was more afraid of the immediate threat of the Philistine Army, than God’s commandment, so he acted.  As a consequence, Samuel advises that the kingship will be taken from him and given to another (that other was David).

So there you have it; to fear or not to fear, to act or not to act.  Should I feel no fear whatsoever or should I face each new thing with fear and trembling?  If we look to men/our society for the answer, we will find very numerous and very contradictory answers.  Yet when we look at the universal reference for answers; they are few and they are consistent.  Proverbs tells us that to fear the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Jesus tells us that with God all things are possible.

Okay, I can hear the big question out there:  If God is a loving God why should I fear him?  It is very hard (at least for me) to find words adequate enough to thorougly explain (and also please understand, I do not presume to say that my understanding is truly adequate).  But if you have ever found yourself in a situation where the circumstances were completely out of your ability to control (it could be a natural event like a hurricane or maybe even slowly riding up to the top of a crest of a tall roller coaster) and seeing or experiencing the power and awe of that circumstance is but a glimpse in the concept of the fear of the Lord.  I believe we have not the ability to accurately grasp the concept of God’s power; even His power of love.  God; through His Love has graciously decided to enter into a relationship with us.  But He does not just share a tiny portion with us that we can handle; He is in it 100 percent.  And that power, the wisdom, the omnipresence, that…….perfection, should instill great awe and yes fear in comparison.

So, each day we are faced with decisions.  Where are we to go?  In this or that circumstance, what are we to do?  In the words of a rock and roll tune:  “Should I stay or should I go!”.  And often enough, it is not that we don’t have the answers; it is that we have too many answers and they conflict.  The world will tell us you would be a fool to fill in the blank; take the job, not take the job, pack up and move, stay where you are, pass up this opportunity, marry that person, invest in, on and on and on.

Dear Heavenly Father, through Your Son Jesus Christ, we were told that should we ask it will be given to us.  We know that this world will give us conflicting answers, conflicting wisdom.  So we do ask that, when are faced with decisions, that You will impart Your wisdom, such that we can handle, to us.  In addition we ask, that once You have imparted that wisdom, that You will give us the courage to overcome our earthly fears, and carry out the plan, the Perfect Plan, you have in store for us.  That our appropriate fear of You, will lead us to obedience and through that obedience the abundant blessings You have laid up for us.  That Praises of You be ever on our lips we pray, in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Amen

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