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“‘You have done a foolish thing’, Samuel Said. ‘You have not kept the command the Lord Your God Gave You; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time‘”. 1 Samuel 13:13

“Therefore Jesus told them, ‘My time has not yet come…..'” John 7:6

“After Jesus said this, He looked to heaven and prayed, ‘Father the hour has come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son may glorify You.'”. John 17:1

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him..” Psalm 42:5

Patience is a…..virtue?, burden? overrated? obstacle? in short supply? (Note: “Patience is a virtue”; is not a quote from the bible, it is attributed to Cato the Elder)

Are we running out of patience? Is patience keeping us from action?

So let’s start; what is there to be patient about? There is a lot happening these days; what with, wars and pandemics, mass shootings, bombings, hate crimes, climate change and the list goes on. Especially, when these types of events impacted numerous people, it has been a mainstay to offer and exhort the offering of “thoughts and PRAYERS as a way of facilitating comfort and restoration.

Here’s why I want to ponder patience in connection with these happenings and offering of “thoughts and prayers”. It seems that recently, while there is still a very common and sincere desire to offer and exhort the offering of prayers for comfort, there is a, perhaps small but perhaps growing pushback concerning that sentiment, that “thoughts and prayers” have little to no value. Seemingly in some way, that praying is some cop out for not doing any real substantive, effective action. There seems to be a sense that we can’t afford to wait on some future response to some offered prayer, that may or may not match what we feel is the needed solution. What we need is action NOW! And if God is not going to act as we’d like, it then becomes up to us! Also, perhaps, out action is just as good as God’s!

Dear Sisters and Brothers, one of the greatest blessings of the Bible is the teaching it can give us about living. You see Saul had a pretty dire situation. There were enemy troops on Israel’s border and more were coming every day. As King, Saul felt responsible for the defense of Israel. Saul also felt that he needed to take immediate action to defeat the enemy. As more enemy troops arrived, Saul’s own troops were getting scared and less motivated to fight. There was one major problem. Saul was a king, appointed by the Will of God. As such, he wanted to honor God by sacrificing to Him before going into battle; to not have a sacrifice would be a grave blunder and put victory in certain jeopardy. Yet by law, God’s law, there were only a few, a priest or prophet who could appropriately offer sacrifices to God. Unfortunately there were none available to King Saul at the moment. He believed the Prophet Samuel was on his way, but time was wasting and the threat was growing. So Saul lost his patience with the delay. Saul felt that action, any action was warranted over doing what was right. Saul offered his own sacrifice which was just ending as Samuel arrived. It is said it is better to beg forgiveness versus waiting to ask permission. King Saul might disagree. Because of his impatience and subsequent rash action King Saul was advised by Samuel that the kingdom would be stripped from him; which it was indeed done later.

Now please understand, this is not a diatribe against action or even immediate action to relieve pain and suffering; far from it. It is a reflection on the possible discounting and devaluation of putting our Heavenly Father at the center of our actions even it there is time needed for discernment, versus taking what we believe to be equally valuable and effective human action sans prayers or thoughts of the Almighty.

Jesus Christ knew about timing and patience during His earthly ministry (and of course still does today). On several occasions the Gospels give accounts where mobs were going to either stone Him or throw Him off a cliff and they did not succeed. Not because Jesus would never die at the hands of men, but that the appointed time and circumstances for that death had not come. When the time came, a small, scared, weak mob was able to arrest, try, convict and kill Jesus. Jesus had the patience to put the Father’s plan first and patiently live into it. Thus Jesus Christ lives and lives at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty.

So what is it that you or someone you know is struggling with today? To you or them, this struggle may be as completely overwhelming and tragic as the most horrendous mass shooting or act of hatred. The world may be screaming at you to act and act now. Additionally the world may be warning you that to include prayers, to include time for calling out to and awaiting an answer is a fool’s errand and an extremely dangerous delay. The world may be proclaiming to you that either you yourself, or the world has all the plans and resources necessary to solve all your problems; you should look no further. If you are feeling tempted in that way; I encourage you to remember King Saul.

The Holy Spirit that resides in you is exhorting you to be like Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ prayed to God throughout His life here on earth. Even during the stress and despondency of Jesus’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus reached out in prayer. And God always answered. Jesus Christ knew to be patient. Jesus Christ knew God’s plan, including timing is perfect. Jesus Christ was at peace in and because of His interaction with God. We can be too.

Let the world rail against prayer as a waste of time. Let us make it a priority to put prayer first, even when we act; having complete faith in the perfection of our Heavenly Father’s answer both in its solution and its timing. Patience in God is a virtue indeed.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we understand that we live in times where speed is a primary measure of effectiveness. The faster the better. Forgive us when we are tempted to apply that worldly standard to You and Your Plans. Forgive us when we are tempted to and actually go with our own actions, foregoing Your counsel, because we are impatient to wait upon You. Strengthen our spirit of patience in You that we might faithfully reach out to You in all things and be supplied with strength enough to wait for Your perfect reply. That being in peace and alignment with Your Plan and Will, we will live confident lives that bring praise to Your Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. ‘Never, Lord’, he said. ‘This shall never happen to You!'” Matthew 16:22

“‘Lord if it is You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.'” Matthew 14:28

“So Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask Him which one He means.'” John 13:24

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting of his ear.” John 18:10

“But he began to call down curses and he swore, ‘I don’t know this man you are talking about!'” Mark 14:71

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold, I do not have, but what I do have, I give you. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.'” Acts 3:6

Again, as in Part I, we are taking a look at Peter, one of Jesus’s closest disciples and leader of the group in all his humaneness. Additionally as stated in the last post, this is not about judging Peter by his actions, but seeing ways and learning from aspects of Peter and his actions and how they impact our spiritual journey with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Taking Action With the Best of Intentions – It has been said: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”; according to Google first printed in Handbook of Proverbs published in 1855 by Henry G. Bohn. In Peter’s case, just a few hours earlier; Peter had declared that, even if the rest of the disciples deserted Jesus, he was ready to fight and die for Jesus. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was time to put his words to the test. The mob, led by Judas had come to arrest Jesus. In the melee that ensued in taking Jesus, Peter draws his sword to defend Jesus and strikes the High Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear. Peter was doing exactly what he said he would do. Peter is acting with the best of intentions. Peter is not seeking glory for himself, nor does he have some private grievance with the servant that he is trying to get even about. Peter is defending Jesus, hoping to keep Jesus from being arrested. The only problem was, God’s perfect plan called for Jesus to be arrested. Peter was seeing things from only his perspective. Even though Jesus had stated to them, on several occasions, that He was to be turned over to His enemies and killed. For Peter, no matter what had been said, the arrest of Jesus was wrong and come HELL or high water, Peter was going to stop it. Again there is no judgement of Peter here. In a very real sense, this was very brave. Yet Peter is acting against the Will of God and Jesus lets him know it, in no uncertain terms. What we can learn from this is that we all have our own perspective and judgement as well. We may diligently read the bible, listen to our pastor or maybe even visit a blog 😊. What we have to be open to is, even with all our efforts, we may still get it wrong. We may be acting in a way that is contrary to God’s Will. When that happens, again if we’re open to it, God will let us know. First if we are acting in misalignment to God’s Will, our actions will not lead to the outcomes we were expecting or hoping for. Additionally, when our actions are out of alignment with God’s Will, He will tell us through our spirit. Even though we think our actions are justified and righteous, within our spirit there will be no peace from His Spirit. We will feel conflicted and feel led in a different direction. To fulfill God’s plan and scripture; Jesus had to be arrested and all the disciples needed to flee. And that’s exactly what happened. Today, let us be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we think, say and do, seeking out the peace that will come from knowing we’re abiding in Christ and in alignment with God.

Failure – We just covered how we can find ourselves doing things for what we believe to be righteous intentions but the acts are indeed wrong. However, sometimes we have no doubt; what we are doing is wrong for the wrong reasons. Peter had claimed that he would die for Jesus Christ. Peter had acted to try and defend Jesus Christ. Then Peter finds himself in a lonely dangerous situation. If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could be arrested by mere men and hauled off for judgement; what power did Peter have against a same or worse fate. Peter had fled, but whether it was curiosity to see what was going to happen to Jesus or love of Jesus or some of both, Peter couldn’t stay away. He followed the mob to the High Priest’s house, where they were interrogating Jesus to see what would happen. Peter was staying outside in the courtyard, gathered with others around a fire to stay warm. Suddenly, the situation turns. Peter is found out, a servant girl recognizes Peter as having been a close follower of Jesus and points that out to the other bystanders. Peter is caught off guard. Peter wanted to know what was going to happen to Jesus, but he knew if he declared he was a follower of Jesus, he could be in great peril; so Peter denies knowing Jesus. Peter knows it is wrong, knows it is a betrayal to claim not to know Jesus, but he does it anyway. Yet Peter is given the opportunity to make amends. For the servant girl brushes off Peter’s denial and again accuses Peter of being a follower of Jesus. More people are taking notice; Peter still doesn’t want to leave but doesn’t want to put himself in the danger that would come from acknowledging his relationship with Jesus; thus Peter denies Him a second time. But this second denial doesn’t end the torment. Now others are openly suspicious of Peter, one noting that Peter must be a follower of Jesus because Peter is a fellow Galilean and that is why Peter must be there to help a fellow Galilean Jesus. This is too much for Peter, the danger is too high; Peter starts to call down curses upon himself and the group to cause his denial to have more validity. Suddenly a rooster crows and the harsh light of truth and reality hit Peter square on in the cold light of truth. He; Peter, the man who claimed he would die with and for Jesus, had just knowingly and with purpose, three times denied he even knew his master Jesus. Peter now leaves, weeping bitterly. Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are told, we all sin. We all give into temptation and become sinners. Sometimes our sins are born our of fear of the world, sometimes they are born out of desires of the world. But we know what we are doing, and know what we are doing is wrong. Those times should affect us. We are acting against God. We shouldn’t be of a mind, well Christ died for my sins so no big deal. Actually they are a big deal. They should cause us the kind of sorrow and pain as they did Peter that brings us to confess and repent of the sin. Yet there is a bigger deal. Jesus Christ knows of our sins, just as he knew Peter would deny Him three times. Jesus Christ died for our sins, paying the price so we do not have to die for our sins. Sin should matter enough, to try to avoid it at all costs. But when we fail (not if), what should matter more is Grace, Forgiveness, Mercy and Love provided in Jesus Christ that leads to our ultimate restoration and reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.

Humility and where our True Power Comes From – This is a trait of humaneness I wish I would use much more myself and see much more around me. Jesus Christ has forgiven and restored Peter, after Peter’s denial of Him. Peter and the other disciples (except Judas) have been given the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, the following of Jesus Christ is growing by literally thousands daily, thanks in part to Peter’s leadership. People are selling all their possessions and giving them to the disciples to administer. On the other hand, Peter is being threatened, arrested, beaten and worse by the religious leaders because of his preaching of Jesus Christ, risen from the grave. Their ill treatment doesn’t stop Peter one moment. Then Peter comes across a lame beggar. Now, while Peter may not have had any money on him at the time, Peter may very well have had the resources from donations to help this man out. Peter might have told a follower to go back to where they were staying and get some money to support this man with. But Peter doesn’t look to earthly riches to share with the man; Peter has something more valuable, more powerful, Peter has Jesus Christ. Peter tells the man he has no silver of gold to share. However, Peter is not content to leave this man empty handed. Peter has the Power of Jesus Christ within him and he knows it. Peter does not call great attention to himself as some righteous, wonderful miracle worker. No, Peter is very clear, the Power of the gift comes from Jesus Christ and this is the power to heal the man. Peter commands the man to walk and the man does just that. For Peter, it is not about his greatness, but about bringing the Power of the gift of Jesus Christ to all who are in need, that Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father might be praised and worshiped. It’s not just Peter, Jesus Christ declared that all who believe in Him and abide in Him have His Power to do great things. Yet, like Peter we must understand, it is not our greatness that allows us to have this Power. The Power comes as a precious gift, of much greater value than any earthly gift, given freely by and through the Grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, looking at Peter’s life is not about trying to copy him or be like him. Jesus Christ was also clear when He met Peter and the other disciples on a beach for breakfast after His resurrection. Christ took Peter aside and was foretelling him what an aspect of his life would be like. Peter feels the need to ask Christ, if these things were going to be happening to Peter, what was John’s life going to be like. To which Christ responds; what does that have to do with you. In essence Christ is letting us all know, we have an individual plan with our Heavenly Father. We were not created to be identical. We are created to be equal but not identical. Thus, it is learning about Peter and aspects of Peter’s life and his interactions with Christ and the outcomes that we can use to reflect on our interactions, on our behaviors and their motivations; to learn from the challenges and triumphs to aid us in our journey. By the Grace of God, I hope to meet Peter some day and hear about the so many amazing aspects of his journey that no chapter or book could adequately capture.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that, after creating us, You have not abandoned us to try and figure out how to live and how to interact with You on our own. We are so thankful for the Your Word and the people who populate it which give us such wonderfully constructive lessons on how to receive Your Love and Blessings, You so long to give. Forgive us we pray when we are tempted, or worse yet actually act out on our own without considering Your lessons for us. Through Your Spirit, guide us back to You and how to stay abiding in You so that our lives can lessons for others which brings praise to Your Glorious Name. We pray in the Name of our Great Teacher and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. ‘Never, Lord’, he said. ‘This shall never happen to You!'” Matthew 16:22

“‘Lord if it is You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.'” Matthew 14:28

“So Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask Him which one He means.'” John 13:24

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting of his ear.” John 18:10

“But he began to call down curses and he swore, ‘I don’t know this man you are talking about!'” Mark 14:71

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold, I do not have, but what I do have, I give you. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.'” Acts 3:6

Peter and his story, his walk with Jesus and his leadership in the faith after Christ’s resurrection is such a fascinating and enlightening one. For it seems to me that we see Peter’s humaneness in great detail and if we can be open to it, see our own humaneness as well and can learn from it.

Leadership – Much is made today about the need for leaders and the value of leadership. It seems to be one of the hallmark traits for greatness. When a situation arises that calls for it, a leader will step in and take charge, no matter the situation, even if it involves a superior. That’s what Peter felt called to do. Jesus, who is the Messiah, who had performed so many miracles, brought about so much good; started talking crazy. Jesus was talking about suffering horribly, even being killed and by His own people, no less. Jesus’s talking could definitely hurt the organization of the disciples and derail their mission. That talk must be stopped. So Peter, the leader, acted. He rebuked Jesus for the good of Jesus and the organization. That’s what a good leader does. And, if we’re talking a human organization then that might be appropriate. Jesus was and is God. Peter was rebuking God! Who rebukes God or stands against God? Satan does. Here’s something for us to reflect on. Have we ever told God He’s wrong? Have we looked at our circumstances in our life, experienced an unexpected answer to a prayer and thought or even in essence prayed to God saying or at least inferring, God I think you got this one wrong? There is no dual leadership with God and us. God is in charge. God is the leader, PERIOD. If we challenge that leadership, we may also receive a similar response, out of love, for our own good.

Risk Taking – Risk taking is another attribute that is often lauded today. Don’t be afraid to fail, take the risk, the greater the risk the greater the reward. Peter took a risk. To start with the situation was dicey. Night, in a small boat, far from shore, with a storm kicking up, the disciples were in a deteriorating situation. Then, they see what must be a spirit, a ghost. Nothing physical, no person can walk on water. Yet here comes what seems to be just that; a man walking on water. Jesus called out a reassurance to them not to be afraid for it was Him. Who’s the risk taker in the group? Peter. How does a man walk on water? If this is really Jesus doing this then He should be able to allow me to do it as well; Peter thinks. So he asks Jesus to allow Peter to walk on water as well. Probably, much to Peter’s surprise, Jesus agrees and calls Peter out of the boat. Talk about a reward! Peter is walking on water! Then humaneness rears its ugly head. The storm is still there. The wind is still blowing, the waves still crashing. The world takes Peter’s attention of Jesus and Peter starts to sink. We may pray for great things in our lives, things that are truly outside our comfort zone. We may believe that we are ready to fulfill them if God will only allow it. However, what about the world? What will happen when the world either through threats of storms or perhaps the glory of successes; attempts to have us take our eyes, our concentration off of God and His plan? The peace comes from knowing, because of what happened to Peter; that Jesus Christ will never let us drown should we take our concentration off Him and start to sink into the sea of worldliness.

Fear and Hesitancy – The disciples had been around Jesus enough to know; if He said it was going to happen, it was going to happen. If Jesus said 5,000 can be fed with five loaves of bread and two fish, they can. If Jesus says to a girl who is dead; arise, she will. If Jesus tells the lame to walk, the blind to see, the lepers to be healed; they are. Jesus is now saying that one of His disciples; one of His most trusted friends, is going to betray Him. Dread comes over the group. Maybe in earlier times, the disciples would have protested that Jesus was wrong; that they would never do such a thing. This night, there was only fear. It was also interesting that it was not a fear that led to finger pointing or accusations: “I bet it is Thomas or I know it is Andrew, that is something he would do”. No, each discipled feared, that because Jesus did not name the traitor, it could be any one of them. If Jesus said it, it will happen. The hesitancy comes into play with Peter in that he dearly wants to know who it is or at least that it is not him. Yet, he is hesitant to ask Jesus directly. Why? We can’t be sure. Maybe Peter thinks he won’t get an answer. Maybe Peter is afraid of another rebuke. Maybe Peter believes John is more likely to pry the answer out of Jesus than Peter is. Maybe it is that old adage: “Never ask a question you can’t stand the answer to”. In one respect, the fear the disciples feel comes from being confronted with the truth of and from Jesus. Jesus Christ is God. Therefore, what Jesus Christ says is it, period, exclamation point. We may not want to hear it, we may want to deny it, but the power of God will always win out. It is only accurate to have a fearful respect in being in the presence of that kind of power. Yet, the Power of God is always used in righteousness, justice and love. It is a power we can’t truly comprehend, but it is a power always used for the perfect good. In the face of such power, we may become hesitant to ask or even interact. If God is so powerful, what does He care about the singular me? I can’t matter to Him, so why ask. I would agree with that assessment from a human point of view, except that Jesus Christ specifically calls on us to ask. He tells us that each of us, even our hairs are numbered and important to God. Our Creator God, Father in Heaven, loves us and will answer us and will never abandon us; even if the question, let alone the answer seems scary.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, in looking at Peter and his humaneness, it is most certainly not to judge Peter. As for me, I don’t know if I would have had the strength or courage to do any of these things let a lone not make the errors that Peter did. No, we look at Peter to reflect on Peter, to learn through Peter. We look at Peter to ask ourselves about our own humaneness and how it is impacting our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is to also understand the Great Grace and Miracle that our Savior knows about humaneness because He came to this earth and became completely human as well as completely God. That Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of our humaneness that we might come and abide in Him, through His perfection. Praise be to God and thanksgiving for Peter, for what we can learn from him and that God has a plan for each of us, just as He did for Peter.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful, for Your word and how it teaches us about Your Loving, Perfect Nature. We give thanks for servants, past and present, like Peter who answered Your call and gave so much of themselves, even with their humaneness and frailties that we all share. Forgive us when we allow our human traits to take our focus off You and supersede Your direction for us with our own. Like with Peter, instruct us, save us, answer us and moreover love us that in Your Mercy, we can always return to You. That in Your instructing, saving, answering and loving us, we may become servants who share Your Love with this needy world and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“This is the covenant that I will make….I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another Know the Lord, because they will all know Me.” Jeremiah 31:33,34

“So Moses thought: ‘I will go over and see this strange site – why the bush does not burn up.’ When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from the bush.” Exodus 3:3,4

“But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.” John 16:13,15

Whew, we have so much stuff to contend with today. We have so many options to choose from. We have so many voices telling us what is right and wrong, which way to go to be happy and successful. Even within the church, we have this was this but now this is that and now this is who Christ is and this is the path we must tread.

What should I do for work? Who is proper to fall in love with? Can this person really be a Christian? Should I only eat this and skip that? What if my child asks me this question, or wants to be this person; how do I answer them? I just went to 10 different Christian internet sites and they told me 10 completely different things. Wow, I sure could use a burning bush; right? It sure would help for me to hear the booming voice of God come from a pillar of smoke or fire; then, I’d know what to do, think or say. And by God you know I would do it!

Ok, so first of all, we do need teachers of the Word. The New Testament is clear, that there will be those who spread the word; who “Feed my Sheep”, as Christ called upon Peter to do. It may even be possible that a blog post, like this one, might be of some slight value. So I’m not about everyone going their own way in some individualistic faith sort of way.

Yet there are times, not infrequently, when I speak with fellow travelers of faith who are facing choices in life, different possible paths to walk down, especially if the choice is a momentous or agonizing one; that they long for and are at times frustrated by a seemingly lack of guidance from the Lord. Their frustration often is cited in terms of God did this or that sort of thing, burning bush, pillar of fire, loud thundering voice and/or sending angels with answers in the past. Why is God leaving me twisting in the wind today? Oh, if He would only come and speak to me in some dramatic way; I’d listen and obey. Instead I’m left on my own.

First Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is crucial we understand the difference in circumstances and times. We must realize it is not that God loves us less or that we are somehow less deserving; in fact, we have a circumstance that not even Moses had. When Moses, Abraham, Noah, David, Jeremiah, David and all those other persons in the Word who heard directly, in person, from God, Jesus Christ had not come to earth.

Jesus Christ’s coming to earth, dying for our sins and being resurrected, is the seminal act in our present relationship with our Heavenly Father. No longer is our access to God through a covenant that requires another human being in the person of Prophet or High Priest. Upon His death, the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn asunder, forever ending the forced separation from God to All His people.

Jeremiah, one of those Prophets, prophesied his own obsolescence, when he spoke of a new covenant. The new covenant, where each of us would have the “law” of God written on our hearts allowing us direct access to God. A new covenant where the internet of all things would not be our go to answer place, but the Creator of Things will show us the way.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, it is not a burning bush we need to hear from, but the burning Holy Spirit that is within our own hearts, who will make, “all things clear”. That Spirit speaks of the things of Jesus Christ who is one in the Father.

Yet to come to the Father, through the Son given Spirit takes several things. First, it takes a humble faith. It is the opposite of humility to arrogantly demand that God put on a show for us in answering our appeal. If You, God don’t show up in some dramatic way then I won’t, I can’t believe. No, we have to faithfully humble ourselves, acknowledging the Spirit we have within us and asking for, not only for that Spirit to speak in us, but also that we will have the strength to faithfully move in the direction that Spirit guides us to go.

Another factor which aids in the discernment of Spirit leading, is to have a more common language and core thought process. That language and process comes from taking time to delve deep into God’s Word. The Spirit’s answers are going to be rooted in the Love and Being of our Heavenly Father. To have a concept of that loving nature is gleaned from time spent studying the resource God, Himself has given to us for just that purpose.

Finally, it is virtually impossible to have a true relationship with someone through a third party. It would be the height of error for me to believe or proclaim that I know Tiger Woods, or some other celebrity well, because I spoke to someone who knows them well. Yes, speak to a pastor for help certainly, read a blog (he says humbly). However, don’t let those discussions or readings supplant or replace the direct contact that we all have available to us through prayer.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us turn from looking outside, for signs and wonders or turning to and relying on the opinions of others. Instead, let us turn inward, to where the Spirit resides, going directly to the source on a regular, daily basis asking our most pressing questions and being fully, faithfully anticipating of receiving the perfect response.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that the Perfect Creator has seen fit to, not only even take notice of His creation and our imperfections, but to go the furthest mile to sacrifice everything to place a part of You in us through the Holy Spirit. Forgive us when we either demand of You some sort of additional sign or worse yet turn to human wisdom and institutions to provide us the guidance You freely offer to supply. Through Your Spirit, help us to be humble and build our faith that we would come to You with our life’s most pressing issues. Through the Spirit provide us with clarity of action and peace of spirit that will allow us to joyfully carry out Your Will in our lives. That following the brightness and burning of Your Spirit within us, we might bring love to a needful world and praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest” Luke 12:16

“This is what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.” Luke 12:18,19

“But God said to him: ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” Luke 12:20

So as we look at the final installment of the Servant Sower and Soil, I ask your indulgence. For in the past two posts, I’ve used the parable of the Sower in the Gospels of Mark and Luke (Matthew also chronicles the parable). However to finish our reflection I’ve brought in another parable which I think is also particularly applicable; the parable called the The Rich Fool.

We’ve looked at the need for, the responsibilities of, along with as well as the blessings associated with being the sower. Next we contemplated the states of the four soils and how they may change over time. Yet a sower sowers and when a soil accepts the seed, there is an expectation of produce. We saw how we can play the role of the sower, also that we may find ourselves in the state of one of the soils, additionally we’ll discuss here how we interact with the produce that comes with the process. For remember the “good” soil does produce, some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.

Thus Jesus tells a parable concerning a person whose soil has produced abundantly and how important it is that we handle that abundance appropriately. Forgive me as I mix the parables somewhat. For in this case, Jesus is not starting out by saying that this particular abundance was produced by the seed which is the Word of God. However, Jesus makes clear in his teaching that all blessed abundance is a gift from God.

In this case, the person receiving the abundant harvest is already rich. The fact that this rich man already has barns to store his harvest shows us that this is not his first time sowing, growing and harvesting. Seemingly, he has already done well in this regard. Yet still he receives an even greater abundance in a harvest. He thinks, I have not enough room to store this greater abundant harvest; what should I do? I already have barns. Those barns already have a capacity to store, but not enough. His answer; I will tear down those existing barns which have been adequate for me to become as rich as I am so I can build even bigger ones to become that much richer. Then I can use all that wealth for myself to have a life of self indulgent leisure. What the man doesn’t know about, what none of us know about is the timing of God calling us to leave this life. For all his effort, the rich man never gets to experience the fruits of his inward focused plan. Jesus declares that God calls this man “You Fool!”

But wait! What was the man to do? After all he was already successful and knew how to become that way. This was his land, his soil. He had decided to sow the seed. He had seen to the harvest. Wasn’t he entitled to keep the harvest? What if “someday” a famine came? In the telling of the parable, Jesus doesn’t seem to imply that the man cheated in getting the harvest or treated those who would do the demolition and rebuilding of the new barns wickedly. Wouldn’t we want to keep the abundance that God might be so gracious to bless us with? Wouldn’t we want to enjoy it perhaps believing we deserved the “better” life the abundance provided? The world would have a retort to God. The world would say the man was not a fool but was wise. The world would say God was in the wrong for having this man’s life end. The fault is not with the man, but with God would be the claim.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, going back to the Parable of the Sower, we may indeed find ourselves blessed in the sowing. We may also find ourselves, by the Grace of God, being able to receive the seed of His Word and finding that it brings about an abundant produce in us, thirty, sixty or even a hundred fold. We may find that abundance in an aspect of being able to love with great abundance, to forgive unconditionally, we may have abundant talents of speaking, writing and/or listening. The grace of our soil may even allow material abundance of money or certain possessions. The question for us, as it was for the rich man in the parable, is what to do with that abundance? Is the abundance just for us to use as we see fit?

Am I anti-saving? No. When God warned of a devastating famine that was going to affect much of the middle eastern world, He had raised Joseph to the exalted position of high advisor to the Pharaoh of Egypt just so that Joseph could store the God given abundance of harvests in advance of the harvest. When the famine struck, God’s chosen people traveled to Egypt and were saved by God’s plan. Later, when the Jews left Egypt and were crossing the wilderness, God gave them mana and quail to eat. God required that the people collect enough mana and quail on the day before the Sabbath for two days, so they could rest from their labor on Sabbath and keep it holy. It might be wise to note that some tried to store up several days of mana and quail on other days than God commanded and that extra mana rotted before it could be consumed. When God says save; he supplies the abundance to be able to save with.

Yet in the above parable, there was no warning of impending famine. The man was already rich. Yet when faced with even greater abundance; his first thought, his only thought was that of his own selfish, greedy pleasure. Isn’t it very possible, that there were others that were not as fortunate where that excess grain could have gone? Is there any indication that the man thought beyond himself and his own comfort?

Again Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, let us go back to the Parable of the Sower. Remember, out of the four soils, three of them are hindered in producing with two probably not producing at all. That’s a tremendous amount of non production. In the so oft quoted and wonderfully supportive statement of Jesus Christ in John 3:16, Jesus doesn’t say: for God so loved only the Jews, or for God so loved only those who first love Him, or for God so loved the righteous, that He sent His Only Begotten Son. No, Jesus proclaims: “For God so loved THE WORLD.. If so much of the world is not, can not produce; how might God be able to still show His love for them, provide in some way for them. Maybe, just maybe, God will be looking for that “good soil” producing such an abundance that not only is there enough for that “good soil” but plenty left over to share with those who are struggling and trying to find their way to God. Perhaps by God using this good soil to spread His abundance in a nonjudgmental manner, He can show them how His Grace and Welcoming love works.

As we sow, let us remember it is by the Grace of God that we are called to do so and it is His Word which we are spreading. Let us pray for His Generous Grace that we might find ourselves in the position of being a “good soil” of abundant produce. Finally, let us look beyond ourselves, looking especially to Him, that should we come into abundance, whatever it might be, that we look to others, especially the lost and down trodden as a place to spread that abundance. That in the Spirit of Christ, we look out, not in some hesitant, guilt driven way, but in the joy and desire in helping way. That being the selfless, generous sharers of abundance, we would feel His declaration of “well done by good and faithful servant”, bringing praise to His Most Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim and are thankful for that all blessed abundance comes from Your wonderful Grace. We thank you for the many frequent times You have seen fit to allow Your Seed to produce fruitfully in us. Forgive us when we stray into the prideful, selfish realm of believing the abundance is based on our talents and should only be used for us as we see fit. Pour out Your Spirit upon us allowing us to have a generous, joyous giving nature, that we would seek out those in need to share our God given abundance with. That abiding in Your Son Jesus Christ, we would be sowers, be the good soil which produces and sharers of Your abundant love bringing glory to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

“Seed along the path…….Satan comes and takes away” Mark 4:15

“Seed sown in rocky places…..when trouble and persecution comes because of the world, they quickly fall away” Mark 4:16

“Sown among thorns……worries of this life, deceitfulness of wealth and desires for other things, choke the word” Mark 4:18-19

Sown on good soil….hear the word and accept it, produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown” Mark 4:20

As we continue to reflect on Jesus’s first parable; the Parable of the Sower, in the past post we concentrated on the sower of the seed. In this post we are going to reflect on the four soils. Jesus, as He so perfectly does, being God, explains the nature of the differences of the four soils and I would not be able to illuminate any further the individual characteristics of the four soils. Where I think there is value is to to reflect on some of the overall characteristics and lessons of all the soils together.

Let’s start out by pondering the idea of these soil conditions over time. In Jesus’s parable the farmer goes out to sow the seed and at that particular time of sowing, he finds four soil conditions, hard path, rocky, thorn filled and good/productive. Yet a farmer sows seed more than just one time, there is often more than just one season. So does the farmer skip the other soils in future and only sow the seed in a quarter of the soils? Can the soils ever change? Can the good soil become diminished?

To answer those questions, let’s look at two biblical examples. First let’s look at a young man named Saul. Now here we’re talking about the Saul of the New Testament, of the Book of Acts and beyond, not the Israelite King Saul. This young Saul lived at the time of Jesus Christ. He heard the Word of Jesus, if not personally preached by Jesus, at least by Jesus’s disciples. How do we know? Because Saul was there when Stephen, who was chosen to replace Judas was martyred by the crowd for preaching the life, death and ressurection of Jesus Christ. Saul helped to support Stephen’s stoning by looking after the perpetrators’ belongings as they carried out their deed. The word Saul heard, the seed Saul received would have appeared to land on a very hard path, immediately taken away by Satan. Saul would go on to become a leader in persecuting Christ’s followers in the very early period.

If Saul’s soil was not able to change, we might only know him as a lessor actor in opposition of Christ in the guise of Caiaphas or Pontius Pilot. However, on the way to Damascus, Saul’s soil was obviously changed by an encounter by non other than Jesus Christ, Himself. By the Power and Grace of Jesus Christ, the Seed/Word was able to travel deep into Saul. Thus Saul who became Paul went on to be one of the most prolific producer’s for early Christian churches and theology in history. So it is evident that soils can change. What does that mean for us who might be sowers? It means we should not be judges of the condition of “a soil”, of a person’s perceived receptiveness to the word. We can not truly know what is in another’s heart and thus should be faithful to Christ in sowing the Word and let Christ’s Grace abound.

Let’s take a look at a “generating soil”. King David, of the Old Testament surely seemed to be a producing soil. Being zealous about faithfulness to God versus worried about personal safety, he slew the great warrior Goliath with just a sling and stones. David won great battles with his faith in God and increased amazing power for the Israelites and their treasured city Jerusalem. Yet David was King and a man. He let the earthly power of an earthly man-king grow thorns in his field. He saw a lovely woman who was a bride of another, bathing and he wanted her. David took another man’s wife and then hatched a plan to have the man killed when it appeared that David’s misdeed would come to light. The lust of someone forbidden, the fear of having a crime found out; they seem to be aspects of thorns which grew into David’s productive soil. Understand this is not some holier-than-thou judgement about David, it is a cautionary example to all of us that the thorns of life can come at us from so many different directions at a time we least expect and our soil can become diminished and or production limited if not stopped altogether. At times the thorns may come from a tragic event or energy, sometimes it’s from the pride of success and achievement.

One last element I would like for us to consider. In three of the four states of the soil, their lack of production is a direct result of the activity of the enemy. In the first soil mentioned, Satan is identified by name as the one who takes the seed. Yet in the second soil, persecution is a tactic of the enemy. It is the act of attacking the people of God by those arrayed against God, or the enemy. Finally, the thorns discussed in relation to the third soil are worldly cares and circumstances. The prince of the worldly aspects of life is the enemy. Why is this important? Because, and this may be largely my perception, there is a real, purposeful inclination; not only in society, but sadly in some of our modern theology, to dismiss the concept that Satan even exists and/or too the extent that he does, he has no power against us in any state.

I’ve spent a great part of my life, both in the active duty military as well as supporting it. One of the keystones to a victorious strategy is if I can convince an enemy that I am no threat, that I have no power, that they should look everywhere but at me when considering a needed defense. To the extent I can get the enemy convinced of those things; they are woefully unprepared for my attack and much more easily conquered. Now please don’t misread me hear. Jesus Christ will never be conquered or defeated by Satan. However, it is Jesus in His life and teachings, that shows just how powerful Satan is and how we are no match alone against him. The man in the tombs could not dislodge the power of enemy from himself nor could the combined resources of the local townspeople. It was only by the power of Jesus Christ that the enemy was vanguished.

Dear Sisters and Brothers understand that I am not one who believes that we should spend our time completely dwelling our focus or our preaching on hell and Satan. However, we also don’t want to be dwelling in hell with Satan either. We have to fight the arrogant tendency to accept the power of God but then elevate ourselves as the next all powerful force in existence. Jesus Christ is clear; apart from Him we can do nothing; that includes defeating the enemy. It is only by abiding in Christ can our soil be gracefully blessed to overcome the attacks of the enemy and produce a blessed bounty. On our own, we will not be victorious. Thanks be to God Almighty, there is never a time He desires us rely on ourselves.

There is seed being sowed to us constantly. If we are to be the productive soil we must be watered and nurtured by the cleansing water of the blood of Jesus Christ. All soil needs some sort of replenishing fertilizer. Let us take in the sustaining, nutrient rich, restorative love of Heavenly Father, through the Word of Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is then that our soil might be truly productive, being able to bless a world of challenged soils and bring glory the name of Him in whom all things, including soils are created.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we proclaim that You have created in us soil with Your desire that it be abundantly productive. Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we depart from You and allow are soils to become ineffective and unproductive. Through Your Spirit, bring us back that we might abide in Your Son Jesus Christ, relying on the restorative grace filled gifts of love, forgiveness and peace. Through Jesus, allow us to be producers of blessed bounty for all, showing all soils that they too may become good soils of produce in You. That in our taking in the Seed of Your Word and producing through You, we would be bringing praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed or lay my hand on him; for He is the anointed of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 24

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:6,8,9

“And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:40,41

Wow, this one’s tough. In the world today, this flies in the face of almost all conventional wisdom and experience of the worldly successful and winning. I don’t take things lying down. If you come at me, I’ll come back at you with as much if not greater strength than your attack. Disagree openly against me or seemingly demean me in some way and I must destroy you. Strength is the way of the world. Strength is the way of winning. After all, aren’t I using my God given strength in the first place? Why would He give me any power if I’m not intended to use it against my enemies or even potential enemies (who at one point might have even been friends)?

Okay, I know Jesus taught and even lived turn the other cheek. But hey, let’s face it, that was God’s cheek that was getting turned. It was easy for Him. He can’t expect it from a mere human can He?

Let’s look at an example.

David, King David. He’s looked at as one of the heroes and pillars in the bible. Even in the world David is the symbol of the underdog winning. David triumphing over Goliath is used as an allegory of the triumph of good over evil, the pure over the corrupt, the small over the large.

King David wouldn’t be one to suffer a slight. King David would most certainly quash any detractor or threat against him just like he did Goliath. Well, not so fast with those assumptions.

First a little backstory. David was not your typical Hollywood casting choice to be king of Israel. David was not the tallest, most handsome, most intelligent of his family. When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint a new and future King of Israel, Samuel chose every son of Jesse’s family except David. David was the youngest. David was also the runt. What Samuel dismissed because he couldn’t see; God treasured because He could see. David’s heart was aligned with and humble to God.

David was anointed to be future king. Future King because Israel already had a King named Saul who rejected God and was thus rejected by God. Yet David enters the service of King Saul; and David flourishes. David not only kills the giant warrior Goliath but goes on to route the enemy Philistines. In fact David’s exploits are so amazing, his fame is greater than King Saul’s. It is important to note that David is not claiming his own glory, it is the people who are singing his praise.

King Saul get’s jealous of David. Not just a little irritated, but vein popping, red faced, eye bulging enraged type of jealous at David. King Saul comes to the conclusion that David must die and tries on multiple occasions to bring this to pass. Saul sends his army out to track down David and kill him and David is forced to flee with a very small band of loyal compatriots.

Now we come to it. You see, David had been punched at. David had endured multiple attempts against his life as well as baseless, ugly accusations about his treasonous ambitions. So, David and his band is hiding in a cave. King Saul is in fruitless, frustrated pursuit. On this day, Saul needs to relieve himself and, there not being public bathrooms spread around the wilderness in those days, he leaves his men to go to a cave for some privacy. Yes, you guessed it, the same cave where David was hiding. What an opportunity! What a fortuitous gift of circumstances for David to strike back to even the slate, to show his strength. David’s men call on David to strike and kill the king.

What does David do? He doesn’t follow His men. He doesn’t do what the world would have had him do. No; David follows his heart that is aligned with God’s. David feels there is no justification for him to strike down God’s, then anointed King, just because David has issues with him. By getting close enough to Saul, David is able to cut off a part of Saul’s clothing and then prove to Saul that David was no threat to Saul. He declares to Saul that he could have killed Saul but instead spared his life. For a short time Saul relents on killing David, but alas Saul’s jealously returns and he tries again and David spares Saul again.

Fast forward a few thousand years. We have a lot of issues, disagreements, conflicts with each other. These differences are sometimes as large as between countries, but they are also, very frequently, within countries, communities, even families and churches. Not that humans have not always had disagreements but the vehemence at which we pursue those disagreements seems ever increasing. We have “stand your ground” laws, we have narratives that reward the person who retaliates and castigates the person who disengages or tries to mitigate a conflict or difference.

It would be hard, in today’s world, to see David praised for his restraint. Conversely, it would be much easier to see David rebuked for his weakness, most likely having most of his followers abandon him unless or until he was ready to show “strength”. That is the world’s way.

Is there any reward for David’s restraint. Well, Saul is not successful and David lives. Additionally, Saul ends up taking his own life during a failed battle which God told Saul not to wage. David ends up, then becoming King David. Also, David is not ruthlessly attacked by any of Saul’s followers or distant relatives because they had no reason to. Following, most certainly not perfectly, but attempting to follow God’s presence in his heart, David goes on to be one of the most revered persons in the bible.

Jesus also turned the other cheek, over and over again. What is His reward? Where is Jesus now? Jesus is the Christ. Jesus stands at the very Right Hand of God the Father and is the only One. Jesus Christ is there, not just because He is the Son of God, but because He is the Lamb, worthy by His obedience to God to stand next to Him.

One thing Dear Sisters and Brothers, we can’t do this on our own. We don’t have the righteous strength of character to resist the worldly temptation to strike back and seek revenge for perceived or real slights or attacks on our own. When those attacks come, and they will come; we must turn to Jesus Christ for help. We must pray for the strength of Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit to be in our heart and guide us to a path of peacemaker and forgiver. We must pray for the strength to resist and overcome the worldly criticism and even condemnation for our actions of meekness as weakness.

Finally, God is not weak. Our Heavenly Father does not suffer evil and evil doers to thrive and succeed. God may even use us as an instrument in His triumph over evil. Whether we will be used in God’s plan to thwart evil or not; we will be blessed for looking to Him before we act to know if our actions are justified. Jesus promises that. How do we know if we’re acting like David being an instrument of God versus Goliath? Through the Holy Spirit we will know in our heart if our actions are based on God’s glory or for our own.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are surrounded with messages of striking back, getting even, getting revenge. We have reverted to an eye for an eye mentality. We are thankful that, through Your Son Jesus Christ, You have taught us a better way. Forgive us. most Merciful Father, when we lash out at our attackers or detractors wishing to see our glory raised and praised. Pour out Your Strength on us that we might be aligned in You allowing us to become peacemakers whose pure heart and meekness will be bring healing and peace to this world and glory to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

This is an apolitical or universally political post; it applies to all. If you read in some leaning toward one position/candidate; that is your perception, not my intent. I write this today so we might contemplate our reaction ahead of next week’s (or how ever long it takes) results. First, there is only One Savior and that doesn’t change next week. Jesus is clear in Mark 10:18, there is only one who is good and that is God. The winner next week never has been, isn’t nor will ever become a or your savior. DO NOT put that expectation/responsibility/faith on them. Additionally, how should we respond to the other side whether we win or not; take up arms, plan our revenge? In some other post we can consider the wisdom of, but what if you see the opposing side as your enemy. Jesus, our true Savior, our Ultimate Commander; warns us, there is only one appropriate response. LOVE! Really? Yes, Jesus teaches us; we are to love our enemies. Can we be ready to do that? Finally, your side loses. You look out and perhaps find yourself despondent, fearful and depressed. Why? Next week God will be on His throne just as He is today. Both and Old Testament are crystal clear; evil doesn’t win. Evil will never be triumphant. So if you’ve put your faith in anything/one other than God; stop and return your faith to the One and Only One who truly deserves it. Take a deep breath; pray for peace and may the Spirit of God and His peace and joy guide and sustain you through this time. Also, if you haven’t done so, vote.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” John 14:12

….but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ , walk. Acts 3:6

“He must become greater, I must become less.” John 3:30

Boy, I don’t know that it can be argued; Jesus did some great things while here on earth. I mean He, healed the sick, fed the thousands with a few meager loaves and two fish, completely quieted a ranging storm, walked on water and, and. How did John end His gospel? “…Jesus did many other things…if everyone written down….the whole world would not have room for the books…” (John 21:25)

Of course we might say or think to ourselves: “Sure He did great things He was and is God”. Soooo it might surprise us when Jesus says that we can do greater things than He did. Now we might be forgiven for thinking this might only apply to the disciples. After all, they spent so much time in direct contact with the Messiah. Forgiven or not, we would be in error, for Jesus proclaims that anyone can accomplish these greater things.

Well, I’m definitely a part of anyone, I do believe in Christ so look out here comes the great things I’m going to do; which, oh by the way, will obviously make me great as well! Fame, maybe a little fortune as well will be coming my way, with these great things I will accomplish. This is a ministry I can get behind. I’m great and I do great!!!!

Hmm, who’s great? Let’s look at the example of Peter in Acts. Peter and the disciples had received the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus Christ, and started to preach about Jesus as Savior. Many were believing but many were still skeptical. One day, just outside the temple, in the midst of a large crowd of people, Peter encounters a lame beggar. The man asks Peter and John for money. This would be the perfect time to make a spectacle. It could have been “show time” where Peter puts on a performance proclaiming the greatness of Peter’s power and how great he had become. Yet Peter does not fall for that trap. First Peter declares, he is just as humble in worldly wealth as the beggar, he has no gold or silver to give the man. But Peter has been given a great power and as it has been given to Peter, Peter will in turn give to the man. Peter declares, that in the Name of Jesus Christ, the man is healed and can walk again. The end result is that the man leaps to his feet walks and jumps in the temple and who does he praise for his healing? The man doesn’t praise Peter, the man praises God.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, Peter was following the example of Jesus Christ. For Jesus many times declared He was not doing things of His own accord but through the Plan and Will of His Father in Heaven. Even as God, Christ was not about bringing glory to Himself, but humbled Himself to bring glory to the Father.

Thus, we too must remember, it is not about being known as great that is the goal here. Yes, we want to heal, to feed, to bring peace; I think, personally it would be cool to walk on water, but any and all of these things we do by the power of Jesus Christ is to bring glory and praise to our Heavenly Father.

The paradox is this, as we might do ever greater things; we desire that our own credit, glory, greatness would be ever diminishing so that the Father is glorified in us. It is similar to John the Baptist. When Jesus came and started His ministry, which was far superior to John’s, John’s influence and ministry waned as Jesus’s following and ministry grew. John was not chagrined or chastened by this; but praised and proclaimed this as the good and proper process as well.

In having this conversation with a wise person, they pointed out to me that, in terms of Peter and the healing, Peter did need to act. Peter did not just sit back and state, if Jesus wants him healed, then Jesus will do it. No, Peter came to the lame man, as a man and called upon the power of Jesus Christ through Peter, to heal him. If this were a sentence, Peter might be the subject. Yet when Peter states “I give you”, it’s as if the “I” is a lower case i with an all caps JESUS CHRIST(my teacher wife would not be pleased with my grammar). You see Peter would not use a capital I, in conjunction with Christ for that would be making them both in some way equal. Peter sees no equality with Christ and neither should we, even if we are being allowed to use His power to do great things. Christ’s power in and through us does not make us equal to Christ.

So, abiding in Christ which is the only way His power can be manifested in us, let us go out and do great things. Let us be bold in our thoughts, words and faith; so that we may do even greater things. Yet let us not strive to be known as great by the great gifts we are given. Instead let us strive to be humble bringing glory and praise to our Heavenly Father through our great deeds who is never stingy in showering us with His blessings and sharing His glory.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, who are we that You would see fit to share Your power with us that we might do great things? We thank You that as Your Son has returned to You, Your plan for our salvation has granted us the power to do even greater things than He did. Forgive us, we pray most Merciful Father, when we strive to bring glory to ourselves, to be known as great, by the power You have granted to us. Pour out Your Spirit upon us, that we might remember to be humble in Your presence and in carrying out Your plan. That in the works we do in Your Name, we would strive to be a blessing to others while bringing praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

“to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4: 22-24

Finally, Brothers and Sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

Jesus Christ was unambiguous in His reply.  This question was being posed by, in the day and time when Jesus walked the earth, a learned man, a man considered wise and perhaps holy; a scribe.  This question came at the height of Jesus’s popularity during His time on earth.  He had come humbly but triumphantly into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  The crowds had cheered Him and the leadership had jeered Him.  The religious leadership had been peppering Jesus with question after question trying to trick or confuse Him.  Jesus confounded them at every turn. In Matthew it was an evil question meant to hopefully trap Jesus in some faulty answer.  In Mark the scribe asked the question to Jesus after hearing Him clearly outwit a gathering of religious leaders.  Either way, Jesus was and His message for us today is very clear. Which is the greatest commandment?

Now, for a moment, it might add some clarity to understand the scope of the question.  Was the scribe talking about which of the 10 Commandments, given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai?  Was the scribe asking concerning the greatest commandment of the roughly 613 commandments which were passed down, derived through the 10 Commandments? There were a tremendous amount of commandments to choose from.  Which one or two would Jesus choose?

Understand this, neither the question nor the answer were new.  Loving God with all that you have; heart, body, soul and mind was the first commandment that Moses gave to the people in Deuteronomy when the people of Israel thought they were about to cross over into the promised land.  Moses was explaining, how it was that they would be able to stay in the favor of God Almighty if they lived by these precious precepts and did not turn away from them or forget them. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, a man answered a question posed by Jesus by quoting these two same commandments.  The man went on to ask Jesus:  “Who is my neighbor?” , and Jesus proceeded to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan.

They lived in a fractured world back in the time of Jesus’s walk on this earth.  Jew and gentile, Pharisee and Sadducee, freeman and slave, Roman and the rest of the world; were only some of divisions which existed in the land of that time.

Now fast forward some 2020 years later.  Ho Boy, do we have divisions.  As this blog is read around the world, I would mention just some in my country; conservatives and liberals, migrants and native citizens, man and woman, gender specific and gender flexible, and..and…and. We have a lot of division in our country and our world.  So here’s the challenge; not so much that those differences exist, but the way we treat those who believe differently; as wrong, as evil, as hated, that drives differences into divisions, which destroys groups as small as families and as large as nations.

Notice, neither in the Old Testament or with Jesus, Himself, was it declared, you will love those who believe like you do, who look or act like you do or who vote like you do.  Jesus Christ makes it clear, both in His teaching and His living, talking with a Samaritan – a woman no less – or healing a Roman Centurion’s servant, that neighbor has a very broad and universal meeting.  A neighbor can be a person who has lived next to you for 30 years or a stranger standing next to you in a shopping line.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus makes it clear, love; love toward our neighbor, whomever they might be should be our default position.  There is only one greater commandment; to Love our Heavenly Father. Why? The power of love.  As we love our neighbor, we’re not likely trying to harm them.  Our blood pressure or anger doesn’t go through the roof as we love our neighbor.  A loving neighbor carries no brick, no molatov cocktail, no semi-automatic weapon to use against their neighbor. Love is the Power of God.  Loving like Him allows us to share in that power.

Okay, okay, you say, then I’m going to go out and do it.  Today I’m going to start loving all my neighbors, just you wait.  In some cases it may be tough love, maybe, I’m going to be loving them while I smack some sense into them but I can do this, I’m going to love them.

If we’re going to have a shot at this at all, we have to understand a few things.  First to become this way takes a transformation.  The world and those of the world will never be able to find it within themselves to love thy neighbor as Jesus describes.  As Jesus explained to Nicodemus it takes being born again.  It takes taking off the old self and putting on the new self.  The only way to truly accomplish that is to be in Christ Jesus.

Abiding in Christ, experiencing Christ’s love and His power to change us allows us then, to exemplify Christ in our love for our neighbor. As written in Ephesians, only by putting on the whole armor of God can we combat the evil of this world to see clearly a better, more loving path forward.

Each day we’re likely to come in contact with many neighbors.  Some of those neighbors will be in person, some virtually.  Some will be neighbors we’ve known for decades, some will be strangers who cross our paths. Let us not look to world power; the power of distrusting and hating those neighbors who seem different, wanting for and maybe taking part in their destruction.  Instead let us embrace the Power of God Almighty and His second most important commandment to love that neighbor, even if the love is not returned.  Knowing that the Power of God and His love can never be defeated and by loving in Him we bring praise to His Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You are God and along, with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, the only True God.  Thus You are right and just to have commandments.  We thank you Most Merciful Father that Your greatest commandments are to love; first You, then our neighbors as ourselves.  Forgive us when we neglect these commandments or try and narrow our definition of neighbor to exclude those we decide are not worth our love.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that we might resist the worldly definition of love and neighbor to, instead accept Your definition and the power that goes along with that definition.  Allow us to be beacons of Your love to all our neighbors that we might be peacemakers and healers to this world and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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