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“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. 

“Then the multitudes who went before and those that followed cried out:  ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” Matthew 21:9

“Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Matthew 26:66

Let’s take a moment to ponder Easter week from the disciples perspective.  What a way it started out.  Much of the last year of Jesus’ ministry had been filled with both miracles but also strife.  As Jesus became more well know, He was attacked more and more by the religious establishment.  His fame concerning healing and miracles had reached such a significant level that He found it difficult to stay in the towns and cities due to the crowds.  Now Jesus had decided to go to Jerusalem to observe the passover.  The disciples had trepidation over this.  Some tried to dissuade Jesus believing He might be killed and they along with Him for even trying to enter the city.  Still, all decided to accompany Him, no matter the risk.

Yet, now Jesus was entering the city of cities; Jerusalem.  And far from being ostracized or condemned by the crowds, Jesus was being hailed and praised by the crowds.  The Jewish authorities who wanted Him silenced were no match for the jubilant outpouring from the crowd.  What an unexpected turn of events that must have been for the disciples.  For there was Jesus being praised and glorified by the crowds and because they were His disciples, they strode in triumphant as well.  Later that same week we are told that many, some powerful were coming to the disciples seeking an audience with Jesus.  Every time a detractor or accuser came to question or verbally attack Jesus, he was completely thwarted and turned away by Jesus; much to the marvel of the crowd.  This must have filled the disciples with such confidence and elation.

Then, in a few short days it all turned around.  It started with the feast of the Passover; the last supper.  What would seem to be a solemn but joyful event quickly turns anything but when Jesus declares that one of His closest, one from this beloved group, would betray Jesus.  Then Jesus starts to talk in detail about His departing and coming again.  Jesus leads them out to a garden where He does something they have never seen before; Jesus becomes sorrowful, almost seemingly fearful, though most don’t witness it because they have fallen asleep.

Finally the unthinkable happens; Jesus is arrested.  Jesus is put on trial and in a matter of a few short days the disciples witness the very same people who cheered Jesus as the Son of David, coming in the Name of Lord, jeer Jesus and demand that He be crucified!  They watch as He is led off condemned and some even watch Him die.  They must have wondered to themselves can it get any worse than this?

It seems that in barely the length of a week’s time, the disciples have witnessed and experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.   They have watched the world revere, cheer and seemingly love them.  However, so very quickly, they have watched the world, chastise, belittle and even condemn them.  How is one to react to that?  How would you and I react to that?

If one is not to find oneself being driven crazy by the capriciousness and duality of this world, it would seem that we would have to remember and keep focused, not on the world but on Jesus Christ.  For if we look to the example of Jesus Christ, He did not get swept up in the heady, glory filled days of the beginning of the week.  He completely realized what was coming and how the world can be so fickle as to praise in one moment and condemn the next.  Yet even in His lowest of low moments, when it seemed all had deserted Him in the garden, He knew His Father was there.  Jesus knew the love of His Father and knew that love would see Him through.

So likewise for us, if we find ourselves in a place or circumstance of triumph, we must resists the temptation to be swept up in the adoration and become proud and feeling deserving.  Let us instead humbly give thanks for our good fortune to the One who has blessed us with it, knowing that He, Our Heavenly Father is always faithful where the world is anything but.

Also, should we find ourselves in a place of abject disillusionment and despair with seemingly no place to turn; no hope of survival, let us, like Jesus, remember we are never alone, we are never without hope.  For we serve and have the love of the Creator of the Universe, the All Powerful and All Knowing God Almighty.  We have His solemn promise that He will never forsake us nor abandon us.

No doubt about it, we live in a tumultuous world.  Should we decide to be worldly, we will find ourselves catapulted to relatively fictitious highs and rocked by devastating lows.  In either of those situations love, true love will be hard to come by.  Thus, let us leave the roller coaster of the world behind and instead strive to become one with He who promises a peace and joy surpassing all worldly understanding.  His high is the only one worth shooting for.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world of extremes where we can go from triumphant highs to tragic lows.  Pour out Your Spirit Upon us, Merciful Father, that would not be tempted to be swept up in the prideful adulation or led to self destruction in the tragedy.  May it be that in all circumstances we would be reliant and focused on You and Your Love knowing that is the only true sustainment that we need or should desire.  That Your blessings are the reason for our triumphs and Your mercy will see us through our tragedies.  That in all things and at all times we would strive to bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might……that you might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers and against the rulers of darkness.”  Ephesians 6: 10,12

“He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

One only has to turn on an electronic device that receives news reports or open a paper to read to see that this is a dangerous world.  There are natural dangers; which society uses the phrase acts of God, floods, storms, earthquakes and the like.  Then there are the man made dangers, there are wars, there are crimes, there are unspeakable acts of depravity, meanness and selfishness.

Yet with both natural and man-made dangers what I find particularly troubling, especially with man-made dangers is the almost total lack of the spiritual in any discussion.  Especially with incredibly dark acts of heinous brutality, whether it be the mass shooting of children, or the mass beheading or executing of innocent civilians, society for some reason is loathe to use the “e” word in describing the root of the problem.

No, it seems that society wants to explain terrible human behavior in terms of people living in a bad environment where they can’t assimilate.  Or that the real problem with a mass murderer is an undiagnosed mental defect that if caught in time would have completely eliminated the chance of the act occurring.  Now please understand, I have had to deal in a very personal way with mental issues so I definitely believe that they exist and can be helped.  However, here is the bottom line, if human society believes that all maladies are either mental or physical, that all solutions are within human capacity to solve, then humanity is in desperate, disastrous trouble.

For as much as we may try to heal and strengthen the body; no matter how much we try to treat and improve the mind, scripture makes it clear that the real power lies within the spirit.  Even within the spirit, the real power does not come from our spirit; the only way we win, the only way we can be victorious is by connecting to and relying upon His Spirit; the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus Christ and sent to us by Our Heavenly Father.

It makes absolutely no difference whether we acknowledge evil and the prince of evil; Satan.  We might not see air and therefore deny its existence.  However, that does not change the fact that air exists and of course we need it for our very survival.  So it is with the spirit.  Satan would be very happy for us to deny his existence.  Satan would be very happy for us to delude ourselves in thinking that evil is a function of simple human issues and thus can be easily overcome.

Jesus Christ was also very clear.  We must completely abide in Christ.  The only hope that we have to defeat evil, is to do so spiritually.  It is through the power of the Spirit that we’re able to be generous to our enemies.  It is through the power of the Spirit that we’re able to forgive our enemies.  It is through the power of the Spirit that we can come up against the power of evil, and completely, totally be victorious over it.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, the reality is that Satan and evil exist.  However, we should not face that reality with fear or trembling.  For while they may be able to easily defeat us on our own; we are never left on our own.  Our Heavenly Father promises us, that those who believe in Jesus Christ will never be forsaken.  Those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ will have access to all the strength and armor of God Almighty; a strength that has never nor will ever know defeat.  So let it be that the first thing we look to is the spiritual.  Let our first reaction to adversity, to coming up against evil, be to fall on our knees and pray for the strength of Our Heavenly Father to be poured out upon us.  Then let us go forth in confidence and courage knowing that, as we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us; we will overcome evil in all its various appearances.  Knowing that with the Holy Spirit within us, He will insure that our mind is clear enough, our body sound enough, to overcome any and all evil.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we must surely acknowledge that evil and Satan exist.  And if we are to have any hope in victory we must acknowledge that we are no match for the Devil on our own.  We are so thankful to you Most Merciful Heavenly Father, that You have promised to never leave us on our own to fight against Satan.  Grant that we would not rely on our own power but call upon the Name of Your Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ when we are faced with evil; knowing that by abiding in him; no evil will overpower us; the devil will not defeat us.  This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”  Luke 2:1

“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”  John 19:11

Power.  The world’s power.  It can surely seem that world is powerful; powerful in the extreme.  It may feel that today you are being swept along in the grasp of the power of the world.  You may feel that you have no power, no influence, no control concerning what is happening in your life.  Maybe it’s a government power, maybe your work or your boss, maybe it is family members or some other power or combination of powers that feels like a flood, sweeping you to a place where you will be lost.

It certainly could have seemed like that for the Israelites during the time of Caesar Augustus when Rome occupied their land.  They had to pay taxes to Rome.  While they could still keep their religious practices, that freedom existed only to the extent that it did not question or threaten the total authority of the Roman leadership over every aspect of their lives.  As an example, a leader over 1400 miles away decides that he wants to know just how many people are under his control; this may have been for taxation purposes or just to boost an ego, a feeling of power.  So it one was one thing if someone was going to come by and count you but no, there was more.  For some reason, you had to go back to your ancestral city, perhaps to keep from being counted twice.  And now we come to the crucial piece; Joseph’s ancestral city; the city he was from, the city he would need to go back to was Bethlehem.

Fast forward 33 years.  In the Roman’s mind, there was a rabble-rouser, a trouble maker, a disturber of the peace; at least that’s what they were hearing from the Jewish leadership.  The Romans were no strangers to conquered troublemakers.  They knew how to deal with these types.  They also had the power to do what ever the wished.  Pontius Pilot tells Jesus just that when he asks Him;  “Do you not realize that I have the power to release you or have you crucified?”.  One wonders if a slight smirk, perhaps a small sad smile did not come upon Jesus’ face at the absurdity of Pilot’s comment.  Here was one of the creation, saying to his creator:  I have the ultimate power to destroy you.  That I need to die and how I will die is far from your control; Jesus is telling Pilot in response.

So here’s the thing Dear Sisters and Brothers.  In each of these cases; the world felt it had the upper hand.  The world and the leaders of the world felt they had they were exercising supreme power.  But wait there is more to the story; and that more shows just how much more powerful Our Heavenly Father is and/or how weak, worldly powers are depending on how you view it.  For you see, 700 years before the birth of Christ, when Rome had hardly even begun, Isiah the prophet was prophesying that a virgin would give birth to The Savior, Immanuel.  One hundred years after that, centuries before Rome thought of conquering the Jews, Micah was predicting that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers; Mary and Joseph needed to be in Bethlehem.  Our Heavenly Father was going to be sure that His Son, to fulfill His own divine prophesy, was born in the City of David.  For all their seemingly worldly power; the Romans were just carrying out the Will of a higher, The Highest Power.  They just had no clue.  Likewise, Pontius Pilot, believes he is the greatest power there in Jerusalem.  He has the power over life and death itself.  In fact, he is a weak, puny man.  Even in the world, he can’t make up his own mind whether to free an obviously innocent man, or placate a hateful, spiteful crowd, with one man’s death.  The decision is not in his hands.  God’s Will be done.

You may feel that you’re being swept along by the powers of this world today.  You may feel that you are powerless.  You may even fear that there is no power to withstand the onslaught of the power of this world.  Yet be open to this.  It may not be the world pushing you somewhere as it is Our Heavenly Father, calling, directing you somewhere that you need to be.  He may be using the world to bring about your change, but He is never leaving you subject to the power of this world.  In bringing you to your Bethlehem destination; where God will richly bless you, will bring about your salvation, He will never forsake you.

You might ask, if I’m being brought to a Bethlehem moment; does that also mean there is a Golgotha moment, a horrible death for my sin moment as well?  No! Never!  For the truest blessing, the most merciful miracle, is that only One could bring about salvation by experiencing death at Calvary.  Only the Perfect, Sinless, Son of God’s death, could and can cleanse our sin from us.  Only through the power of God, is Jesus Christ raised up and by his sacrifice, we are raised up with Him as well.  So in prayer and supplication, if you are feeling swept away by the power of the world; call upon Jesus Christ to give you, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the understanding that no earthly power has dominion over you.  It is not so much about trying to fight the power of the world as it is receiving and moving toward the calling of Bethlehem, knowing that Our Heavenly Father uses all things; whether they know it or not, to see His Will be done.  He loves you.  He is with you.  He will keep you.  Merry Christmas.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father.  We confess that we can become bewildered, confused and even fearful at the strength and power of this world.  Forgive us when doubt Your Power to overcome the world.  Pour out Your Spirit of discernment that will help us to realize that You can and will use all things to bring about Your Will.  Comfort us when we feel overwhelmed or swept away by this world; testifying to us that You are bringing us to our Bethlehem moment; where You have authored our salvation.  That in the midst of all things we would find the joy and peace to praise Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name fo Jesus Christ.  Amen

“But He said to them: ‘You give them something to eat”.  Luke 9:13

“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you,  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk  Acts 3:6

It is possible that if you have clicked on a link, it is bringing you to this specific post.  If so, you see “Part 2” in the title and if you go back to the home page you can scroll down and read “Part 1”.  However, the themes are connected but you don’t have to read that post first.  Part 1 (like this one) uses the feeding of the 5000 to show how Jesus can use what the world would say is the most meager of resources to bring us to complete satisfaction.  Starting with five loaves and two small fish, Jesus fed 5000 with each eating enough to be completely satisfied.

Now on to Part 2.  In this world we will see need.  And, in this world, we will, sometimes, on our own want to meet the need, as well as sometimes, we will be asked by others to meet the need.  The disciples saw a need.  They saw five thousand people.  These are people who had followed Jesus a significant way into the wilderness.  They had spent most of the day listening to Jesus.  The disciples were concerned that if Jesus did not send them away soon, back to the local villages to get something to eat, some would pass out along the way from hunger.  Being compassionate men, they did not want to see that happen.

But what to do?  The next sequence of events runs the gamete of human solutions.  First, leave it up to them to solve.  That is, the people got themselves into their fix, it’s up to them to get out of it.  They need to get up and go find food.  It is the disciples responsibility to point out the need and get them on their way (strike one).  Jesus also understands that there is a need.  However, Jesus will not allow the people to be sent away hungry.  Jesus looks to His disciples and states matter of factly:  “You feed them”.

But what to do? Okay, Jesus will not allow us to send them away hungry; the disciples ponder.  So they do the next humanly natural thing, they start to take stock of their resources.  What is the first resource we humans tend to turn to when it comes to meeting needs?  Money.  One of disciples makes a quick calculation of the cost and he asks incredulously about buying 200 denarii  worth of bread.  And oh by the way, that would have been equivalent of $14,500 dollars.  There is no indication that the disciples had that sum of money available even if there would have been some place to make that sizable purchase. So money was not going to work (strike two).

But what to do?  Okay, we can’t send them away and we don’t have enough money to buy the bread we need.  Finally, we tend to look at what are the resources that we can bring to bear.  It doesn’t appear that the disciples had any food with them to share.  But looking around, they find a young boy who has some food.  Let’s see five loaves of bread and two small fish.  One can imagine the scowls on the faces of the disciples at this meager amount.  There is no possible way that their resources on hand can meet the need identified.  And possibly if they tried, they might end up with a riot on their hands as the paltry amount runs out with the first few people. (strike three).  The disciples have run through all their earthly options and have struck out.  There is no way to come close to meeting the need let alone satisfying the need.  They have run out of options.  They can’t see where to turn.

We might be tempted to shake our heads a little and say: tisk tisk you poor disciples, do you not know who you are sitting with?  I know for me, if I become tempted to look down upon them, I better be ready to see my own face in that crowd.  Thus, we have to ask ourselves, how often do we meet challenges by first and sometimes only looking at what we can do within the realm of worldly resources?   How often have we felt a spiritual leading to do something only to be stymied or stopped by our own calculations of inadequacy or failure?  Not only have I experienced this in my personal life but have also experienced in churches I have been a part of.  I have heard reasons for inaction including:  “We don’t have enough people.  We don’t have enough money.  We can’t afford……People won’t understand…..People will leave the church”, just to mention a few.  So in my personal life; I don’t.  The churches I’ve seen; don’t try.  The need remains.

Enter Jesus Christ.  With His disciples, He knew what was going to happen, what the solution was going to be.  He could have just started out that way but He had a better plan.  Let the disciples grapple with and experience the utter futility in trying to meet the crowd’s need with their own devices, their own wisdom.  Then and truly only then, could they truly experience the power, the true capability of Jesus Christ.  When later, Jesus would tell them, greater things than these will you do because you are in me; they would have confidence.  And that confidence would not be in themselves alone, but in themselves through Jesus Christ.  The confidence that Peter would use to heal a paralytic beggar at a gate of Jerusalem.

So today, we see needs.  Today we find ourselves, sometimes desperately trying to meet needs.  Today we may find ourselves being asked by others to meet some need.  We must fight the temptation (and I use that word purposely) to turn to our own resources, devices, wisdom to satisfy those needs.  Even if we think we’re successful on our own (which is probably not the case) we will be tempted to give ourselves the credit.  Our ability to truly satisfy others’ needs requires us to first turn to Jesus Christ.  It is only by turning to Christ that we can truly be confident that there is no need too great, no resource provided to me too small,  that He can’t use them and me to meet those needs.  May it be that my first words are: “Jesus I need you……..”

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, the sin is not that we have needs but how often we use only the world to try and meet them.  We find ourselves tempted to be frustrated or prideful depending on the earthly outcome.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that we would always turn first to You, knowing that You already have the solution in hand.  Give to us also the strength to withstand the temptation to take credit for the successes instead of praising Your Most Holy Name.  That we might do the great things You have intended for us.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“…And on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!”  Luke 2:14

In this world you will have tribulations…….”  John 16:33

“My help comes from the Lord; the maker of heaven and earth”  Psalm 121:2

On – so as to be or supported by       From – used to specify a starting point

Okay, strange title and no I have not been imbibing in too much holiday adult beverages.   The idea for this post came from a couple of different observations/inspirations.  First came from the wonderful Casting Crowns Christmas Song:  I heard the bells on Christmas Day and along with that the juxtaposition of the feeling of the season with the reality of our days.

On earth, peace goodwill to men is a very basic desire, yet it is not the only one.  We also desire equality, respect, dignity.  It is an almost universal desire that evil would be vanquished, the poor and downtrodden supported.  We desire a sense of joy and contentment.  We greatly desire those things so as to be; to be on.  We hear preached that is why Jesus Christ came, so as to be located here, with us.

In the song:  I heard the bells on Christmas Day, the singer, after he has heard the bells ring out a message of peace on earth, hangs his head in despair because he sees no peace on earth.  And that is a tragically ironic reality we find ourselves in.  For during this season; a season we so hope will be filled with light, joy, peace and overflowing love, we see our species waging war on itself all over the globe.  We have children walking into schools shooting other children.  Homeless die laying out in the frigid cold.  I could go on but you get the message which for some drives them to depression and others to doubt the existence for the Reason for the season.

And so we get to from – the specific starting point.  If you and I start from this world as our starting point and look from there, we will see many things.  We will see that money and gain are the bottom line for all things.  We will see the conflict is a natural way to enforce one’s will over another.  We will see the physically beautiful are to be adored and the unattractive, by this world’s measure, should be shunned.  We will see humor in other’s failure and to lie is only bad if you’re caught.  In this world the ends justify all means.

That’s why the angels sang out; On earth, instead of From earth.  Dear brothers and sisters the simplest of reality can be the most difficult for you and I to grasp.  The so as to be, the on, that we so truly desire, as well as the only one that will truly work for us, can only have One place to be its specific point of origin, the from:  God.

Jesus came on to this world, He did not come from it.  That we are able to truly love, on this earth, comes from the fact that we first find our ability to love, from God above.  In a little bit of paraphrase we are told that we are to live on this world; but not get our ability to live from it.  We know the strife that the world will throw at us, but at times it will even try to supply our desires for joy, meaning, love and peace, but those times are just self centered traps masquerading as the genuine articles.  They will not, nay cannot last.

If our from is from the Lord, we have the gift of having our so as to be an eternal presence with Him.  It is critical that you and I prayerfully, diligently focus our sight on Him who has brought about our Salvation.  From the perspective that Jesus Christ is on our side; we have no reason to hang our head in despair.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, seemingly, at this time, greater than at any time before, we are constantly bombarded by the world’s message.  Every where we turn and at all hours of the day and night we see the images of despair and strife as well as those of greed and avarice.  The world is trying to drown out Your message of what is right and how it is that we are to live.  Let Your Message Thunder, All Powerful Father that we might not be tempted to take the world’s message over Yours.  Pour out Your Mercy, Love and Grace on a world which can generate none of those on its own.  Be with us, Your children, each day. teaching us to look to You.  That our lives would show in praise to You, that we proclaim to all that we know from whence comes our Salvation; even our very lives.  On and In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed, the Christ, the Savior of the World.”  John 4:42

How did you hear about Jesus Christ?  They don’t call this the information age for nothing.  There are television networks devoted to the Christian message and teaching of Jesus.  There are radio stations like K-Love, who’s mission it is to play songs praising Jesus and calling the lost.  The bible is the best selling book in all of history and the online store Amazon has 231, 421 books concerning Jesus.  Now for the piece de resistance, the internet;  in .18 of a second, Google had 196,000,000 hits for Jesus Christ.  We have yet to mention the long standing traditional venues; hearing about Jesus Christ from relatives or friends, hearing Him preached by a pastor at church.  Seemingly with all this information, there should be no excuse for there being ignorance about Jesus Christ.   Then having knowledge, there again should be no reason why He is not the all excepted, every tongue proclaimed, King of kings and Lord of lords.  Hmmm, sadly that is far from universally the truth.

A woman stumbled upon Jesus at a well.  The initial conversation did not go all that well (sorry no pun intended).  Jesus asks her to draw him a drink.  She scoffs at His request because she is a Samaritan and knows that the Jews, of which Jesus was one, clearly thought the Samaritans were second class people.  But as the woman interacts with Jesus, has an experience with Him, she comes to the realization that He is a prophet and once Jesus tells her plainly that He is Christ, she goes to tell others.

The bible tells us that she returned to her nearby city and started telling people about Jesus and telling them that He might be the Christ.  So because of her testimony, more people are intrigued enough and think there is a possibility that the Christ is in their midst that they come out to see Him.  However, they don’t immediately come haling Him as Christ the King.  It is once they have their experience with Christ that they now boldly proclaim:  He is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World.

So it would appear that information, even miraculous information is not enough.  Testimony is important and sharing our testimony with others can be among the most powerful and loving things that we can do.  Yet it is not our words or our testimony that will save them.  In the same way, it is not our hearing about, watching images of or digitally searching for Jesus Christ that will bring about our salvation.  No it seems clear that the only way we will come to the certain knowledge, as the Samaritans did.  The only way for us to sincerely proclaim our conviction to Jesus Christ, is to come into His presence; to have an actual experience with Him.

But Jesus Christ is the King of kings, the Salvation for all human kind, the price we must pay for an audience with Him must be too terribly high.  To a certain extent, the price was too terribly high for us.  To deserve to come into His presence cost more than we could ever be willing to pay.  By all rights, Jesus Christ should have turned from us and walked away.  Instead, He paid the price, we could never pay.  He took the punishment that we could never endure.  To become King, He humbled himself to become a servant.  And now as a King, He opens his arms wide to us, beckoning us to come into His presence; to experience His Perfect Love, Mercy and Forgiveness that only He can provide.  May we strive to live in that experience.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we have heard that experience is the greatest teacher.  So it is that we pray most fervently that You would grant us the experience of gaining a relationship with You through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Pour out Your Spirit on us Most Merciful Father, that we would experience Your Loving Kindness and Your Peaceful Joy.  Give us the strength and courage to proclaim Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior to a world in so much need of the message, yet who closes itself off from receiving it.  That in our lives and our proclamations, Your Most Holy Name will be forever praised.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and hasten to go down for about a whole day.  And there has been no day like that, before it or after it.”  Joshua 10:14

Abracadabra!  The magician calls out and then, having everyone’s attention, completes his amazing feat of magic.  But it’s not just about a magician or a star.  There was a time when I was running my own business (besides writing I am now at least part time back in the corporate world so that gives you a sense about how successful I was) and one of the most consistent mantras for success was about marketing your brand.  You needed that thing that would set yourself apart, that video that would go viral with an enormous amount of hits, that thing that would cause people to beat down your door trying to get your business.  The vast majority of unsolicited business offerings I receive are about how to successfully market myself.

The sun stands still for an entire day.  We are not talking here about being at the north pole during summer when the sun does not set.  This is a city and its surroundings called Gibeon which was in the ancient land of Canaan, which is now modern day Israel.  The sun sets there; every day.  Well, except for this one day.  Joshua had brought the people of Israel across the Jordon River and, at God’s direction, were conquering the peoples living there.  A people who Joshua made a treaty with are being attacked because they made that treaty and they plead with Joshua for help.  His enemy is a collection of kings with a great army.  Believing in God’s promise to him and the Israelites, Joshua doesn’t hesitate.  He attacks and the Israelites are being spectacularly successful but there is a problem.  This was long before the time of night vision goggles or even flashlights and torches are not going to illuminate the battlefield enough to continue to wage the battle.  Some might escape in the darkness.  So Joshua calls upon God.  He petitions God that to carry out God’s plan, to complete the destruction of His enemies, that the light will not fail, the sun will not set.  God hears Joshua’s petition and grants it.  And Joshua carries out God’s plan.

Think about 1400 years later.  God is walking the earth in the form of Jesus Christ and He’s performing miracles.  Yet again, never do you hear Christ shouting out, come one come all, to see me.  While He sends his disciples out, it is not so that they can drum business for Him or spread His fame.  So often when Jesus performs His miracles, He specifically instructs the recipients to not tell about Him.  When He does complete a miracle within a crowd, like in a temple, it is to instruct those, so much in need of instruction, about the qualities of mercy and forgiveness.  Those whom He heals are not just props in some cosmic grand show.  No, these are people deeply loved, who are deeply in trouble, beyond doing for themselves and God steps in.

God needs no marketing plan.  As the Psalmist declares in Psalm 19:  The heavens declare the Glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  So why the miracles, if not for Him?  We need them.  They come for us.  Sometimes it is to bring about a healing or change in physical circumstances that are completely beyond our control.  Sadly, sometimes it is to demonstrate His power because we loose our way and believe our power equal to His.  But always, they are out of love for us.  God yearns for us to understand just how much He loves us, how important we are to Him.  We are important, not because what we can do for Him, no far from it.  God needs nothing from us.  But important because He created us.  He created us out of love for a loving relationship and no miracle is too tough to demonstrate that love.  Even the miracle of leaving perfection (heaven) and coming down to lawlessness, depravity and evil (earth). Even the perfection of living amongst us and end the end, dying for us.  Can there be any greater miracle?

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You created all things and are still in control of all things.  We also humbly acknowledge that we turn away from You to things that this world markets to us as better alternatives.  We thank You Blessed Father, that You do not turn from us but will bring all Your Heavenly Power to bear for us to save us.  We praise You as the God of miracles and the God of love.  We pray for Your help to keep us in the spirit of humble knowledge of Your Great Power and Your Great Mercy.  And we come to You with Praise and Thanksgiving for Your Miraculous Gift or Your Son Jesus Christ for our lives and our salvation.  Help us, when we pray for miracles, for those miracles to be not just about us, but about Your will in and with us.  That all miracles would be used to Praise Your Most Holy Name we pray.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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