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“Now, behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.”  Luke 24:13

“Simon Peter, Thomas, called the twin, Nathanael of Cana, the sons of Zebedee and two others of His disciples were together.   Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing’. They said to him, ‘We are going with you'”.  John 21:2,3

Post Easter life?  I’m posting this in late September, about 6 months away from when we last celebrated Easter.  What’s up with that?  Of course if you consider it, really consider it; while we celebrate and commemorate Easter ever year it’s by many estimates approximately 1,986 years since the actual Easter events took place.  Where am I going with this?

On one level, let’s say the historical, 30,000 foot level, there can be little dispute of the impact of Easter and what happened afterward.  Not only is the the personal salvation of all who believe in Jesus Christ as the One True Son of God, who died and rose again from the dead, who believe and call upon His name for our salvation a blessed outcome.  There was also the spreading of His Word and the starting of faith communities that have become powerful, powerful churches, a process that continues down through this very day.

Yet I think we need to reflect on a different level, in my case about the 6 foot 3 inch level or whatever height you happen to be.  What about the personal, life altering, faith affirming, joy living, devil defeating impact of Easter?  What about our post Easter life?

In turning to scripture for an example, we might think that all who followed Jesus, upon hearing that He had risen, immediately went out with the mission of spreading His gospel.  Yet scripture tells us something different.

In one instance two followers, who although not of the 11 remaining disciples were still close enough to the disciples to have heard about Jesus having risen from the dead about the same time as the disciples,  decided to leave Jerusalem on that very day.  We’re not sure what business they had in Emmaus, but 7 miles is a significant journey on foot.  And while yes, they were discussing the happenings of the past weeks, one gets the sense they were talking about in terms of a tragic memory versus an event that was motivating them to action.  They were going on their way.

Okay, but obviously the disciples handled it differently.  Obviously upon hearing that Jesus Christ had risen and seeing the empty tomb; they made immediate and profound plans of action.  Well scripture does tell us that they did meet together in an upper room.  Though again we’re told this was out of fear of what might happen to them.  In an another instance in John; many of the group decide to go fishing.  Not going fishing to be “fishers of men”; but going fishing to be fishers of fish…..for dinner.

Okay now Doug, you’re forgetting one critical thing, you might be saying to me; you’re forgetting Pentecost.  No, not really.  I realize that Pentecost had not happened yet and I absolutely agree about the power that filled them when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them in grace and blessing.  In fact, it is an important aspect to my thesis here.

You see when Jesus Christ was praying after the “Last Supper” and before He was arrested in the garden; He not only prayed for Himself and then His disciples, but then He prayed for you and I too.  He prayed for all us who would hear about Jesus Christ and believe.  He prayed that we would be One in Him, just like the disciples.  Pentecost happened.  The Holy Spirit came and the Word spread.

So now back to the 6 foot 3 inch level.  Often there is a glow to Post Easter and Post Christmas for that matter.  Especially with Easter and its location in Spring, we see the renewal of the earth and it speaks; nay, it shouts to us of the old becoming new, of God’s promise of abundant life and salvation, of a promise of rejuvenation and restoration.  But then the months drag on; Spring becomes Summer and Summer, Fall.  And if we’re not careful, Easter becomes a memory, a pleasant one, but a memory all the same.

Why?  The world and the prince of this world tries to intervene.  The enemy throws worldly life at us; there are careers to be focused on, children to be raised, bills to pay, vacations to take.  There are things to buy and things to fix.  Alas, even in our houses or worship, the year progresses.  There is the current budget to fret over and next year’s budget to plan for.  We have to fill all those upcoming committee vacancies and hopefully come up with a “bless their socks off, Christmas pageant.

Are we walking to Emmaus?  Are we going fishing?  What I love, so totally love is Jesus Christ’s response in these two situations.  He doesn’t get angry and berate them for not being focused on Him with grand plans for spreading the kingdom.  He doesn’t threaten them with eternal damnation if they don’t get their act together!  Instead, He feeds them.  In both the two men walking to Emmaus and the disciples fishing; Jesus Christ, Creator come to Earth, God, sits down and feeds them.  Jesus Christ not only feeds them physically, taking care of their physical needs; but feeds them spiritually as well.

Jesus Christ longs to fellowship and feed us as well.  He knows that we have the grace filled blessing of the Spirit within us.  Because of His experience on this earth, He also blessedly knows the temptations we face, the struggles that we hold to ourselves instead of sharing with Him.  He knows how hungry, how famished we are; even if we do not.

Easter matters.  Easter matters in Fall, just as much as it does in Spring.  Easter is love.  Easter is an expression of love, grace and salvation which surpasses all understanding which we dare not turn away from.  Jesus Christ died for You and I that we might have life.  Let us turn to, let us fellowship with, let us feast upon the salvation, the grace, the love which is truly meant to be our Post Easter Life.  In the Name of Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we can not praise enough, proclaim enough, be thankful enough for Your Plan of Salvation that transpired at Easter.  Forgive us when we neglect any effort, any attempt to try.  Turn us back through the Holy Spirit to focus on abundant life You have in store by abiding in Jesus Christ.  Let it be that we strive to lead lives that tell a distraught and downtrodden world that Easter matters, that their salvation is at hand.  That through our lives, the Spirit would beckon those whom You are calling to follow You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord.  Amen

 

“Then Judas, His betrayer,….was remorseful…saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’  And they said ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’  Then he departed and went and hanged himself”  Matthew 27: 4,5

“Woe to you…For you load men with burdens hard to bear and you, yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”  Luke 11:46

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

You’ve made your bed, now you’re going to have to sleep in it!  Those responsible should have to pay!  There’s a commercial out from an insurance company that has “rate suckers” that is people who’s bad driving record drives up everyone else’s rates!  Over and over again there seems to be a desperate cry in today’s society to differentiate the blamed, separate out the wrong doers, isolate and punish the responsible.  There is a moaning and groaning taking place all throughout society concerning the lack of accountability; the lack of condemnation for wrongdoing, the need for harsher judgement.  Even in the church, too often we seek to want to divide out the “wicked” based on our definition and cast them from our midst.

I think if I listen hard enough, I can hear the groaning that might be happening as you are reading this post (if you haven’t already clicked off).  Yet I’d ask you to understand this; I am not “anti-casting”.  That is so say, I believe that there is evil and wickedness and that we should not sugar coat its existence nor try to justify it in some way.  Also understand, scripture is very clear; Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh, the priests of Baal, King Saul, Ananias plus Sapphira his wife in the Book of Acts and yes Judas were all held accountable; were all destroyed.  However, notice Who destroyed them; Who passed judgement on them; Who it was, Who had the unstoppable judgement of condemnation; Our Heavenly Father.

Yes, the world has much wickedness in it, much hatred and pain.  Yet here’s the question for us Dear Sisters and Brothers:  What’s that got to do with us?  We, who have found a peace and joy, in the midst of trouble, that surpasses all understanding; What have we to do with this unbelieving world?  I believe Jesus Christ would answer to us: Everything.  You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, one of the things that strikes me about the account in Matthew 27 about Judas, is that Matthew says that Judas was remorseful.  Now whether it was true repentance or the attempt of some earthly dodge I can’t say.  Yet in some sense Judas was sorry for what he had done.  So where was Judas to turn?  Where would someone go who wanted to find forgiveness and/or some aspect of redemption?  Would they not, at that time had gone to the synagogue?  Would they not today come to our church; or at least seek out a believer?

But what if our response is like the response of the leaders of the synagogue: “What is that to us? You see to it.” What if we were to either outright say to them or at the very least imply; you got yourself into this so it’s up to you to get yourself out of it?  What if we gave them the impression that we were a group of saved, righteous people who can only be joined by other already saved, righteous people?  I don’t believe Jesus Christ would be pleased.  I believe He might address us by saying “Woe to you………!”  I believe He’d be likely to include us with the Pharisees, Sadducees and lawyers of the time He was on earth, calling them and us hypocrites.  Explaining to us that we were piling burdens on the hurting, shutting up the kingdom against them, yet by our own actions not entering in ourselves either.

What has it to do with us?  Everything!  Why?  First because, to any extent that we might call ourselves or be called righteous, it is a gift of Grace from Almighty God.  We have not earned our salvation.  Our salvation was a gift freely given by Jesus Christ to us while we were yet sinners as well.  God’s Grace, not our innate goodness, is the only difference between us and the world.  Second, Jesus did it.  We must remember that so much of, if not the majority of Jesus’ time on earth was spent in the company of sinners.  I imagine that we think that those were rather harmless sinners, maybe a few lies, some petty thefts, but from the intense reaction of revulsion that the Jewish leaders had, I think there were some people we’d put in the “pretty disgusting” category.  While we hardly scoff at adultery today as a society, back then it was a capital offense, yet Jesus forgave it; did not trivialize it, but forgave it.

So where are the hurting to turn today?  Where are the remorseful to go?  How would those who are mad at God or who, today, are against any and all precepts of God ever get any sense that they have not burned all bridges with God? Where might they be able to look to, to see that God still loves them today; still longs to forgive them and have a loving relationship with them?  Would it not start with the very people who say they are children of God?  Would it not start with you and I, desiring nothing more than to be like Christ, earnestly attempting all we can to bring love and peace into their lives?

Finally, Dear Sisters and Brothers, do not think that this is either easy or able to be accomplished solely (or souly) on our own.  Should we try to have the love of Christ, the forgiveness and grace of Christ without abiding in Christ; we will fall back to our worldly judging ways.  Yet we have a Heavenly Father who does not want us to fail in this.  We have a Heavenly Father who is willing to send us a wise counselor of infinite strength; the Holy Spirit to reside in us and through Jesus Christ accomplish the love, even and especially for our enemies, that He desires us to have.  If you have ever had the experience of going on a service mission trip as I have, you’ll experience and witness the pain of people hurting.  Yet even then, the joy and peace of being able to share the Love of Jesus Christ with them will so surpass the sense of worldly hurt that you see around you.  What has this to do with us?  By and in the Grace of our Heavenly Father; everything.

Our most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that it is only through Your Grace that we are saved and have come to know You.  Forgive us when we believe in our own righteousness and turn our backs on those we deem to be less worthy.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would have the strength to love our enemies, help those who are hurting even if they do not follow you, risking persecution and ridicule in this world.  Bless us with Your Favor as we try to be beacons of Your Light, shining on this dark world.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“Then the sons are free.  Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first.”  Matthew 17:26,27

“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to those who are weak.” “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 1 Corinthians 8:9,11

“Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”  Matthew 5:17

I want to start out with a statement about the intent of this post.  For this is not a post about all human actions are acceptable to those who believe or that Jesus Christ in some way has changed the Word or Commandments of God.  Nothing could be further from my intent.  I definitely believe in the statement that Jesus made in Matthew 5:17.

Yet here is the amazing thing to me.  You have God, come to earth.  You have He, who was at creation and through whom all things were created.  This is who Jesus Christ was and is.  Thus if anyone should have cared little about being offensive, of causing any angst in anyone else, Jesus Christ was deserved of that right.  Though deserved or not, He did not partake of that right.  Jesus demonstrated for us an amazing level of humility as example, I believe for us to follow.

Now what is happening in Matthew 17 at this point is a recounting of question posed to Peter by those who received the temple tax.  According to the Interpreter’s Bible, this was not a tax from the Romans as a tribute to Caesar but a tax started back in the time of Exodus.  The Interpreter’s Bible makes the point that Jesus is not saying that the temple should not be supported, far from it.  What He was saying was that as son’s, which believers become, through Jesus Christ, they are free from the law that has been fulfilled in Christ.  The desire to support the temple or church for that matter should not be a “have to” but should be a holy and joyful “desire to”.

However, that is not to me the most astounding thing.  Jesus Christ does not want to cause offense over this issue to the Jewish faithful.  Jesus knows that they would not understand His discussion of son’s being free because they did not see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  So to keep from causing an offense on this point, He has Peter pay the tax.  Yet this was not unusual for Jesus.  Jesus, time and time again showed great restraint, especially given who He knew He was (is), when confronted with misunderstandings and misapplications of His creation, human kind.  He did not utterly destroy the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to dispute with Him.  As they talked and hurled accusations at Him, He did not raise His voice and talk over them and shut them up. When the crowds picked up stones to stone Him, Jesus did not raise a hand against them but walked unharmed, both to Himself and the crowd, right through them.

Please understand this, I am not saying Jesus Christ was not bold; far from it.  He did boldly declare, right there in the temple about the kingdom of heaven, His Father’s Kingdom and that He was the Son.  Yet His boldness was not primarily designed as a judgemental attack as it was the truthful pronouncement of the way of God.  Jesus lived into the blessings that He stated that blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth and blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.

Paul picks up that same theme when he writes to the Corinthians who are having terrible troubles with division in their church.  Paul warns and admonishes those who would use their God given freedom, to cause those who are new or weak to the Way, to stumble.  He tells us we need to look to others to see if and to what extent our actions are causing offense and perhaps driving away the very persons we are desperately trying to lead into and onto the Path of Christ.

Yet we find ourselves in a society today ever more acrimonious when it comes to our interactions with each other.  We often come to a point where, so certain of our rightness (not necessarily righteousness), that we declare if anyone has a problem with us it is their problem only and there is no reason for us to change our actions in any way.  To take into account another person’s perspective, even though more inaccurate, and modify our approach to help instruct or lead them is looked at as totally unnecessary and worse yet a sign of weakness.  Thus in ever louder volume and ever shriller tone, we come off as judgemental and totally closed to the suffering and plight of others.  Jesus Christ would not have it so.

Again, please Dear Sisters and Brothers, I am not saying at all that we should do something like live as the world lives, sin so that we would seem to fit in; nothing of the kind.  What I’m extolling is the virtue of abiding in Christ and thus taking on His example of speaking, of living our lives around those who may not yet be on the path to Christ, are newly on that path, or may be on the path yet have a different perception than we do.  That we deal with them out of Christian love.  Yes, being bold in our proclamation of Christ and Our Heavenly Father, yet humble as a servant in our status in that relationship.  It would do us well to remember the admonition of Jesus Christ, Himself, when He told His disciples not to be concerned ahead of time what to say when called to witness for the Kingdom; that the Holy Spirit would give us what to say at the time needed.

We must ask ourselves; does our speech to others, the way we treat others in and out of the faith, reflect what the Holy Spirit would want us to say and do about the kingdom?  I am asking that we at least consider our actions and what the Holy Spirit would have us do.  There are those in the world who, no matter what will take offense at us and that is the plain truth of it.  What we don’t want to happen is to give those whom are seeking after Christ as well as our Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ a reason to take offense if we can avoid it.  In doing so, we will live lives of praise and glory to God and not to ourselves.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father by Your Son Jesus Christ we are called to be sent into the world but we are not of the world.  We also understand that as the world has hated You and Your Son, it will hate us.  Yet we ask Most Merciful Father that You would give us a spirit of grace and humility as we deal with the world.  That as Your Son, Jesus Christ gave us an example, we will be patient, kind, loving and healing to our fellow person.  That some of the world would take offense at us, we would not make that our goal or aim.  That in being true to You and living in humility and meekness, we would be the peacemakers that You are asking us to be and will bless our attempts.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Example.  Amen

“….if your son asks for bread will give him a stone?”  Matthew 7:9

“…how much more will your Father, who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  Matthew 7:11

Our Father in Heaven is the perfect parent.  That may seem obvious to say, but then, what should we do with that?  Here’s the challenge with this post.  First, I have not the perspective nor wisdom to truly, adequately describe the perfection of Our Heavenly Father.  Second, in using comparisons of earthly parents, there is a flaw for the comparison has some apple to orange aspects to it.  Having said that, I still believe there is value in looking deep into this concept that will allow us to step out further in peace, confidence and joy in faith in Our Heavenly Father.

All of us have been children.  That means we all had parents.  Some of us are parents.  What that allows is for us to attempt to grasp the concepts of parenting whether we are parents or not and regardless of how effective our parents were with us.

First concept:  Parents provide.   That is to say that children can not provide for themselves.  No little child can adequately go out and find food, clothing and shelter for themselves.  Good parents want to provide for their children.  Yet from an earthly aspect there are struggles.  Human parents have finite resources.  There is only so much time, money and for us even love to be shared.  A human parent often finds themselves in a conflict with distractions.  If I purchase or give this now, what will I have to give up?  If I spend time here what about my occupation?  Where is the time for me?  Our Heavenly Father has no such restrictions or distractions.  Our Heavenly Father has all things at his disposal.  He created all things.  He is not limited to a certain time or space.  He is everywhere at once.  His ability to provide is limitless and His plan to provide is perfect.

Parents protect.  That is to say that good parents want to keep their children from harm.  To the children it may seem a lot of can’ts, don’ts and no’s.  Why do good parents do this?  They do it to keep from harm.  What good earthly parent would let a child put their hand on a red hot burner, or let their child go out and play on a busy street?  Satan would have us believe that Our Heavenly Father’s restrictions are about keeping us from what we deserve or just to show His power out of meanness.  Our Heavenly Father’s Wisdom is perfect.  What He restricts us from are things that will lead to our harm and destruction.  We know a small child might be drawn to a bright bottle with a liquid in it and want to take a drink.  But would we really let them take a drink of drain cleaner?

Parents teach.  That is to say a good parent gives instruction on what is good and proper and then allows their children to attempt it.  Sometimes the children fail.  A good parent will sometimes even let the child feel some of the consequences of that failure but at no time will abandon the child.  The good parent will also forgive the child, especially if the child sincerely asks for it.  Our Heavenly Father has gone to great lengths to teach us what is good and proper.  Again please don’t get caught up in thou shalt and thou shalt nots.  What has our Heavenly Father tought us is good and proper?  Two things: first, love Him with heart, mind, body and soul.  Secondly, love one another as we love ourselves.  That’s it; Love.  And please understand this; we can not out love Our Heavenly Father.  He asks this of us, His children because of the Perfect Love He has for us.  It is when we love that we don’t murder, steal, covet or bare false witness.  It is when we love that we are generous to those in need, forgiving to those who’ve hurt us and kind to those who are hurting.

Bottom line:  Parents Love.  As I said earlier, the challenge is with earthly parents, no matter how good, we fall short in this area.  However, our Heavenly Father has an endless supply of perfect love.  It is His very nature to provide, not to get anything in return but because that’s who He is.  It is Our Heavenly Father’s nature to protect us.  He sees the troubles ahead that we can not.  He sees the evil planned against us that we never know about.  He longs to steer us clear of all of that or, as long as we are focused on Him, easily allow us to pass through it.  Our Heavenly Father wants us to learn.  With immeasurable mercy and patience, He allows us to try things our own way, turn from His instruction, yet He is always ready and willing to forgive our failings.

There is one more significant difference.  As earthly parents there is an expectation that, although we will always love them, earthly children will stand on their own with little to no assistance from us.  There is a huge difference with Our Heavenly Father.  We are always to be His Children, relying on Him to provide, relying on Him to protect and relying on Him to teach.  Yes, I know as an earthly parent I have let my children down.  I have been selfish and unwise as I have dealt with them at times.  If they or any of us were to judge our Heavenly Father by the standards of our earthly parents, no matter how good, we would be horrendously short changing Our Heavenly Father.  Dear sisters and brothers, Our Heavenly Father longs to be our personal Father, ready, willing and able to supply all things and save us from all things.  How do we know this?  Did He not send His Son to be our Savior?  Did Jesus Christ not love us enough to sacrifice all for us?  Let us accept Him as our Heavenly Father knowing that in His Perfection, He is more than up to the task.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You are Our Heavenly Father whose abundant providing, merciful protection and perfect teaching are all that we need.  Forgive us when we, as disobedient children, turn from you and desire to go our own way.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would see the errors of our ways and humbly come back to you in repentance.  That as living as Your Children, we would know Your Love and spread Your Love to a world in such desperate need.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

(Author’s note:  Dear readers I need your help.  If, and only if, you have read this post or others and see value in it/them, I humbly ask that you pass that on.  I know that these are longs posts so I’m not asking that they be necessarily “shared” on your blog or social media sites.  No, I merely ask that if the conversation ever comes round to spiritual topics, and as you see fit, that you might mention this page.  In the end not about me, but may it be that His Holy Name be praised.  Knowing that there are many wonderfully uplifting posts that I follow, know that I do and will continue to do the same.  Blessings to You in the Name of the Father. Amen)

“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but debt….

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness”  Romans 4: 4-5

When I receive, which I do, we all do; on what basis do I (we) measure that value of what I have received?  Do I count what I’ve received as what is my due for the efforts that I have made, the things I have accomplished?  Or….do I count what I’ve received as a gift, as a token gesture dished out by some other party based, not on my deserving, but on their generosity?

Wages, adequate wages, disparity of wages, inequality of wages, deficiency of wages are all topics of conversation around the globe in our present time.  And I will grant that many of those discussions are of a necessary nature; but this is not the forum in which I want to elaborate on any or all of those in detail.

No; while there is a sense of human justice and fairness which those discussions need to explore we can run afoul of that mindset if we try to apply it outside the realm of human focused vocations.  That is to say; should we come to a way of thinking where our salvation is owed to us, is based on our good works; is something that God better not hold back.  Should we succumb to that sort of thinking; we do so at great personal, spiritual and eternal peril.

Religion has, for almost its entire existence, been about the idea of doing.  Mind you I am not saying that this is correct, but it is how humankind has looked at it.  In pagan religions I do, that is I hold specific rites, I sacrifice, even to the extent of human beings, even to the extent of some in my own family, and then these god’s may look down upon me and give me some response.  But I must do first.

It was not just pagan religions, the early Christian Church was struggling with doing.  Specifically in this case, the doing was about keeping the rites and requirements of the Jewish traditions; for example, should all Christians be circumcised, should all Christians strictly follow the Jewish laws and commandments.  Paul is addressing those questions as to what should be our expectations  from God based on our actions, on our behavior.  If we feel that we receive from God because of our own good behavior, Paul argues, then we’re receiving due wages and grace is of no consequence.  If that were the case; Paul also argues, then the law would have been sufficient for salvation.  But as Paul goes on to argue, since no one is able to faithfully and perfectly follow the law; then what we receive is a free gift from God by Grace and our imperfect works are nothing for which we can boast or rely on.

And Dear Sisters and Brothers, it was not just the early church that had such struggles.  Sadly, there are many struggles around this same question today.  There are many Christian denominations where specifically this has to be done or this can’t be done and if those can’s and can’ts, the thou shalt and shalt nots are accomplished then salvation is assured.  There is another similar but different message out there that states that who we are and thus what we do is basically good.  We are fundamentally good people and when we do wrong it is only due to circumstances outside of our control.  Thus, we are owed salvation because of our basic goodness. I believe these messages to be the outcomes of targeted attacks by the prince of this world; on God’s message to us.  These are messages filled with peril and ultimately doom.

But this is not meant to be a downer message.  Some see this truth preached as messages of guilt and defeat.  If you are feeling this, please read on for the truth of the message is joy, confidence, liberation and love.  For Our Heavenly Father tells us that He will freely give us what we are incapable of being able to earn.  Our Creator God tells us that we have no reason or right to feel guilty when our sins have been washed clean; completely forgiven, completely forgotten.  Dear Sisters and Brothers it is not about our doing, which is inadequate, but about His Being which is completely, perfectly adequate.

How can we be so sure of this; Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  Think about it, Christ did not take the works of good people upon His shoulders.  Christ did become righteous as He was on the cross.  No, Christ became sin, taking the sins of you and I upon Himself.  His sacrifice, His Grace, allowed for us to be counted as righteous.  The same way Abraham was counted as righteous after God called upon him; not before.

Now do watch out for this.  Some would conclude: “Then what I do, doesn’t matter.  I can continue to hurt, destroy, do evil and sin willfully and I’m forgiven.”  Well it goes back, not to doing, but to being.  If we are in Christ; if we are being what God has created us to be; then love is our guide. Love is our commandment.  Love first for God and then love for each other as ourselves.

Bottom line, we are sinners.  The wages of sin is death.  But Grace trumps that equation where we’re concerned.  Because death was paid; for us and not by us.  Jesus Christ paid our price by His Graceful Gift.  Let it be that we are willing to receive that gift.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, ever since creation itself, ever since the garden, You have generously, mercifully, patiently, graciously poured out Your Gifts upon us.  Forgive us Dear Father whether we have failed to receive those gifts or looked upon them as payment due us instead of gifts freely given.  Help us Most Merciful Father to conquer that part of ourselves who would rather try to work our way to righteousness than accept the blessings You have supplied.  That in our humble recognition and praise to You; we would rise higher than our own works could ever take us we proclaim.  In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray.  Amen

And some were persuaded by the things that were spoken and some disbelieved…..”  Acts 28:24

“…..the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.”  Acts 28:28

Beware which Garden moment you choose.  I’ll explain this later.

We seem to love a good debate don’t we?  For they are everywhere.  We debate things of substance; politics, wars, what is justice, what should be our path to follow.  We also debate things of seemingly less importance; best sports teams, best sports players, who should be voted off the island, what is the best social media site.

Even the term debate is used to describe many different human discourses.  There is the formal academic debate with its strictly define rules of argument and specific point-counterpoint style.  But then there is the sit across from each other, talk at each other, interrupt each other, shout louder than the other, insult each other, threaten each other and then get up and walk away from each other style of debate.  It seems like the latter makes for better television.

But these two styles are nothing new.  Plato’s Republic seems to be in the style of the first.  Obviously we have no visual evidence but the writing seems to be that of two and sometimes more parties, dispassionately and logically putting forth arguments on many different subjects.

Then you have the first century listeners.  In Acts we have many stories of people who were first introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then what happened after they heard it.  I don’t say it was always the Jews because there were also groups in Greece and Macedonia.  It is interesting that the Apostle Paul is called the Apostle of the Gentiles but if you read the Book of Acts, Paul almost always starts of, in any town he visits, seeking out the Jews in the town or going to their temple and preaching there first.  Often times some believe but most reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ so Paul goes on to preach to the Gentiles.  For many the doctrine of Jesus Christ is just too new, too strange, too controversial to believe.  So they debate.

Alas, debating is not just a thing of the first century church.  Some would say there should be no debate, no differences of opinion in a faithful church.  I’m not sure that I would go that far.  For there are many things the church is dealing with today; what is marriage and who should be allowed to, who do we embrace/include, who do we exclude, are denominations a dying thing, why are we losing people, what should we do about money woes.  All of these topics and many more are facing the church and there are many different opinions on how a Christian should approach these things.

Yet here’s the question for today; after the debate, then what?  One outcome of our debate is that we may come to an agreement, a consensus about what to do.  If so, then our course is set and off we go.  But what if we don’t agree?  What if our argument doesn’t sway the group?  What if we don’t get our way?  Do we turn our backs on the one particular church?  Do we turn out backs on all the churches?  Do we turn our back on God and Jesus Christ?

And now I come to the “Garden” choices.  You see, to debate is to have differing opinions; different judgements, come to different conclusions.  But because there are differences, doesn’t mean that the basic foundation is something that can’t be agreed on; like, God, our Heavenly Father, is the perfect Creator of all things and His Son Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son, Our Savior.  With that as our basis, then we can work through our other differences.  With faith in Our Heavenly Father, if we come across something that doesn’t make sense to us, that we might find ourselves inclined to argue with Him or doubt Him about, we can humbly come before Him and ask for His Mercy and Understanding.  In short we can have the pre-temptation Garden moment, where our longing is to be in the presence of Our Creator God; Heavenly Father.  To walk with Him in His beauty and splendor.

However, if our logic, our learning, our understanding is what we’ve built our foundation on, then our Garden moment may very well be tragically different.  When faced with something that we don’t agree with or that we don’t understand from Our Heavenly Father, we may have a post temptation Garden moment.  That is, we may run from God, we may hide from Him.  We may believe that our understanding, like for example we shouldn’t be naked before Him, trumps His desire to be with us, so we turn from Him.  We believe in the end (and that end is tragic) that we know best.

But dear sisters and brothers in Christ; here is where the amazing praise and blessing comes in; either way God is waiting for us.  God does not give up on us, even if we turn from Him.  God does not abandon us even if we try to argue with Him.  How do I know?  Jesus Christ told me (and you too).  Jesus is speaking about redemption.  Jesus is speaking about mercy.  Jesus is speaking about His Father’s Love and Patience.  Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son.  The son’s logic, the son’s understanding, the son’s argument tells him to leave.  While the Father does not agree, He does not disown the son, does not turn His back.  No, through patience, through mercy, through love, He waits for the son, looks for the son, rejoices at the son’s return and forgives the son.  So we may find ourselves at a point of estrangement.  We might have arguments with our church, or like Job, we may have even tried arguing with God, Himself.  Don’t let the debate be the last thing.  Know the Redeemer God will always be there for us.  If we will only humble ourselves to Him, He will lift us back up to a place where, In Him, there is no more reason for contention or dispute.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You know that we live in a world full of contention and striving against itself.  Through Jesus Christ, You warned us that a divided house will not stand.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we either attempt to contend with You or allow our disagreements with others cloud our relationship with You.  We thank You and praise You for Your steadfast Love and Patience with us, always willing to forgive and welcome us back.  We pray that You would help us to always remain humble before You striving to build that lasting, perfect relationship.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“….the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the word……And those who were of  the circumcision…..were astonished…..because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”  Acts 10:45

“Then Peter answered: ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  Act 10:47

I am saved!  I am forgiven!  I’m going to glory!  I don’t dance!  I do dance, to the Lord!  I don’t do this or that!  I pray!  I pray to the Saints! I don’t pray to the Saints! I…….I………I’M SPECIAL!!!!!  Aren’t I?

Peter had every reason to feel special.  And he and those who traveled with him, had a behavior about what was special and what was not.  Peter was a Jew; not only by birth but by the covenant of circumcision.  Jesus was a Jew.  And while the Risen Jesus Christ had told them to go and preach to all the world; Jesus himself, during his time on earth had stayed, taught and preached mainly to the Jewish people.

For the most part, the early church in Jerusalem was made up primarily of Jews.  When the church was being persecuted and many disciples were dispersed, they went to Jewish Synagogues in the outlying towns.  That’s where Saul (later to become Paul) was going to was the Jewish Synagogue in Damascus to arrest the disciples who were spreading the Gospel there.

Special.  Special people with special food.  Peter’s awakening to Our Heavenly Father’s grander plan starts with a vision that he has.  God shows Peter a great sheet filled with unclean animals which devout Jews were not to eat.  Peter was hungry and the voice of God came to Peter and instructed him to kill and eat from the sheet.  Peter at first refuses saying he will not eat anything unclean.  Yet God responds telling Peter that whatever God has cleansed is no longer unclean.  Peter would soon learn that God was talking about more than just food.

For there was a man named Cornelius, a Roman Centurion.  Normally a man like that would have been the sworn enemy, a vile and disgusting, low life less than human person to a Jew.  To even meet with that person or go into his house would make a Jew unclean.  Except Cornelius was different.  Unbeknownst to Cornelius, by the Grace of God, through the Holy Spirit, Cornelius had heard about God, prayed to God, gave alms to God.  I say unbeknownst to Cornelius because the salvation through Jesus Christ had not been preached to him.  So God told Cornelius to send for Peter and Peter would instruct him on what to do.

So here we go; Peter going to meet with a gentile; a Roman Centurion at that.  This can’t go well.  But God had told Peter before hand to go to Cornelius.  And what Peter found in Cornelius was a devout and humble man.  A man who, along with his entire household, revered and feared God.  So Peter gladly preached the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Son of God, all mankind’s Savior.  When Peter completed his preaching an amazing thing happened.  The Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his family and they began speaking in tongues.  This greatly perplexed the Jews who had traveled with Peter because they thought the Holy Spirit would only come to those who were of the first covenant, circumcision.  So both Peter and those with him saw the Power of God to save all who believed on Him and were born again, baptized in the Spirit and professing Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

We live in a world today where people strive to differentiate themselves in someway to show that they are special.  Maybe it is by a degree that they have, an obstacle they have overcome, a position or title they’ve obtained, an amount of wealth they have acquired and on and on; to be special is to be worthy.  It is one thing to say you are special but truly you should have some way; show some deed, some measure of why you have earned the distinction of special.

According to a 2012 article in the Washington Times, 84% of the world says they follow some religion but only 1/3 say they are Christian.  So right there we might start to think there is something special or unique about us.  Yet the world tells me, if I’m going to claim that I’m special, I must show that I’ve done something to earn that title.  And should I buy into that theory, then I can be justifiably proud of claiming to be a disciple of Christ.  And I can look down upon all the others who are not as special.

But God knows different.  By His mysterious and all encompassing Grace, while I was yet a sinner, God came to me.  Completely destroyed in my sin, Jesus Christ lifted me up and said: I died for you that you may live in fellowship with Me in My Father’s Kingdom.  The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon me that He might dwell in me so that I might gain a level of understanding.

Special? You bet.  But not of my doing, not of your achievement.  So let us live out our special nature, in humility, in joyous praise to Him, in total love to Him and to all of His creation.  Not calling any person common or unclean.  Knowing that God’s Special Nature can and will come to those whom He chooses.  That we are chosen, out of His Divine Mercy, is something very special indeed!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that we are not worthy of the Gift of Salvation that you have bestowed upon us.  We praise Your Most Holy Name for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when we try to lift ourselves up as worthy of this gift and perhaps look down upon others who have not received it.  Help us to see all of your human creation as someone to love that they might see through that love, the Love you have for them.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Who am I, O Lord God?  And what is my house, that You have brought me thus far?”  2 Samuel 7:18

“For Your sake and according to Your heart, You have done all these great things……..”  2 Samuel 7:21

Accountability, a word and a concept that is thrown a round quite a bit these days.  Some bemoan that there is no accountability left in our societies today.  That the opposite of accountability, we try to shirk responsibility and blame any and everyone else for our failings and/or poor behavior.  In another sense there is an entitlement aspect to accountability as well.  Should  I accomplish this or successfully complete that; if I obtain some degree of mastery to some subject or have some high degree of talent, then I am entitled to hold you accountable to see that I am properly rewarded.

David was the youngest of his brothers.  In the hierarchical tradition of his day, David stood to inherit the least from his family.  David was a shepherd.  Being a shepherd was among the lowliest of professions in David’s day.  We learn in 1 Samuel that David was not the strongest, most hansom, or wisest of his family.  Looking through human eyes and using human judgement, Samuel was not predisposed to choose David for anything, let alone the next (and greatest earthly) king of Israel.

So one day a man of God shows up named Samuel and picks the most unlikely of the family to anointed as the next king of Israel.  David is told that he is God’s choice.  After that David’s life takes one turn after another.  He slays the giant Goliath, wins battle after battle, avoids being killed by Saul the current king of Israel, becomes king after Saul’s death, has even more victories and triumphantly brings the Ark of God into the capital, Jerusalem to wild cheers and adoring subjects, where he comes to live in a great palace and become very wealthy.  Quite a whirlwind tour for the young man.

Now David might have been tempted to look around and feel very self justified.  He may have felt that his victories were all because of his great cunning.  He may have judged that he was worthy of being king because of his great bravery.  David might have felt that he was entitled to the adoration of the people because of how he had defended the kingdom and the victories he achieved.

We don’t know if the temptation was there, but if it was, David did not yield to it.  For having been made king, received the blessings and bounties of that position and heard the promise of God for a prosperous life; David’s first question is one of awe and humility.  “Who am I Lord?”; David asks.  Why would you shower me with such blessings and abundance?

How rare is that kind of humility today.  More often we hear things like:  Because I live in such and such a place I deserve this; or Because I have the title CEO or President I’m entitled to …., or maybe something like, Because I was drafted number 1 or scored this many points, had this many victories, I’m entitled to this amount of money!  The examples go on and on.  It is not just those whom we consider rich that have that mentality.  No, we find that kind of thinking in all spectrums of society; old and young, male and female, rich and poor, ignorant and highly educated.  I am deserving of.  You owe me!

David answers his own question but we get the sense that the wisdom of the answer comes from One far wiser, far Above him.  It is not because David is so great.  It is not because the people of Israel are so deserving.  It is not because of those things that God is compelled to bring blessings to them.  God’s favor is not a repayment for lives perfectly lived.  No, David knows it is the nature of God, it is the Goodness of God, it is God showing to all that He is a God of Love, that God has seen fit lift up those who are lowly.  God has taken pity on the pitiless, shown that He is merciful even to the undeserving.  It is the Heart of God, not the righteousness of man, that compels Him to be generous, loving and to lead His people to greatness.

As we live in the culture of today; the question that David asked is not a popular one.  This is a world that is about claiming the right.  We are owed this and entitled to that.  How dare anyone question the correctness or deservedness of the achievements that I’ve made and the bounty that I have.  The answer that David comes up with is even more unpopular; it is downright scandalous.  You see I don’t deserve it.  My blessings are a gift from God based on His generosity versus a just payment for service well rendered.  Horrors of horrors my service is so lacking that instead of reward; my payment entitles me to one thing and one thing only, if I were truly being held appropriately accountable:  death! (and oh by the way, that is true of all of our service).

If death is the only thing I’m entitled to, what hope is there for me?  None, is the answer, at least from myself.  Enter Jesus Christ.  He was entitled to life.  He was entitled to Love and Adoration.  He was entitled to an eternal existence at the side of God His Father.  Jesus left what He was entitled to.  He left love and perfection to come to hate and error.  Who did He do that for???? Me! (and you).  So truly that brings us back to the beginning question; God, who am I that You would bless me so?  May mine and your eternal answer be: I am yours Oh God.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that often we try to build ourselves up; thinking ourselves worthy by our righteousness to receive the blessings You shower down upon us.  Forgive us these prideful thoughts Most Merciful Father.  For we repent of those evil thoughts and proclaim that we are unworthy for anything but condemnation from You.  Yet we also praise You, that in Your Infinite Wisdom, instead of judgement, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ as our salvation.  May it be that we humbly accept that Salvation, living lives of Praise and Adoration to Your Most Holy Name.  In Jesus Christ Name we pray.  Amen

“And the Lord said to David: ‘Go and attack the Philistines…..’ 1 Samuel 23:2

“But David’s men said: “Look, we are afraid……….then David inquired of the Lord once again’ ! Samuel 23 3,4

“And Lord answered him and said……..For I will deliver the Philistines in your hand ”  1 Samuel 4

There is scene from a movie called Taxi Driver where the main character is playing out in his mind how he will react if he is approached or questioned by the “bad guys”.  Sever times he repeats the line: “Are you talking to me? Are you talking to ME!?”, in a tone of increasing anger.  He then plans to bring great violence upon those who would dare to question him.  To a certain extent there is much in our current culture that glorifies or at least validates that type of response as appropriate.

After all, if you question something I’ve said aren’t you questioning my authority?  Are you not doubting my wisdom?  If I am in a position of power or authority; aren’t I justified in reigning down contempt and punishment on you for your brazen acts of disrespect?  Am I not weak if I don’t do so?

David is not yet king but he has already built a relationship with Our Heavenly Father.  Samuel has already anointed David as the future king.  David has already called on the Name of God Almighty in slaying the giant Philistine Goliath.  God has also already saved David and his men lives as they flee from Saul who has turned from God and is trying to kill David.  As David is hiding, he is told that the hated Philistines are attacking the city of Keilah.  David does not act rashly nor cowardly.  He does not take matters into his own hands, basing his current decision and behavior on past successes.  Yet David also has no fear of the Philistines.  He will go and attack, even with his small band of men (and here is the most important part) only after inquiring about what he should do from God.

Here, to me, is where it gets interesting, especially because of the humaneness of it.  David expects an answer, although he doesn’t know if it will be stay or go.  And God answers David.  Go attack the Philistines.  At this point it is crystal clear to David what his next action is and he prepares to go out and smite the Philistines.  Then the world, in the guise of his men, intervene.  David is not afraid but his men are.  He and his men are in Judah and even in that somewhat safe place, David’s men are afraid.  They argue if we leave this place of relative safety to fight for the city of Keilah we will be in much greater danger.

David has several choices in responding to his men’s reluctance.  One, he could berate his men as cowards and haters of God for questioning David.  Or, David could be swayed by his men’s argument and conclude that God is wrong.  Finally, David could do what he ended up doing, going back to God and asking him the exact same question over again; in essence, God are You really sure about this?

If David’s behavior is interesting, God’s response is amazing; especially in His Mercy, Patience and Understanding of His creation’s needs and limitations.  Really David, Really?  You’re going to question the command of the One and Only God Almighty.  Prepare to sweep the ashes of David up after the lightning bolt hits.  In fact it won’t be just David but his entire crew whom God will destroy. We might be tempted to do that.  Or we might be tempted to reply something like: “Fine, you don’t trust me Mr. I take my men’s fears over Your Power David, then do what you want.  But you’re on you’re own mister!”  God did neither of those.

God knew David’s heart.  God knew that David, although faithful, had human limitations to that faith and needed support and clarity.  God was building a relationship with David.  So God answered David, not with threats, not with retribution, but with an even more supportive, definitive answer: “I will deliver the Philistines into your hands”.  With this second answer in hand, David and his men do not hesitate but go and carry out God’s plan and are completely successful.

God knows yours and my heart.  God wants to build a relationship with us.  God knows that we have limitations.  You and I are facing situations that have choices.   Hopefully we feel we’ve been given direction by Our Heavenly Father.  But most of the time, it doesn’t end there.  The enemy in this world does not want us to succeed.  He will try his hardest bring about our questioning of God’s plan.  He will try to find resources to tell us that the plan is wrong and our destruction is at hand if we follow it.  It is true we should resist and disregard the world’s counsel when against God’s.  Yet we are human, we are imperfect, we are fallen.

Brothers and sisters, please don’t take the path of listening to the world enough that you turn from God’s plan to follow the world’s. If need be, ask The Father again.  He has shown, through scripture, time and time again, that He is patient, merciful and long suffering.  God will answer.  God will support.  In our asking, we must be willing to truly follow the answer we receive.  Yet, In His Love, we will receive The way forward.

It is true, at some point, we will have to stop reasking the exact same question and step out in faith with God’s response.  Though know this, should you and I ask a second time, in Love and Grace, not rebuke and scorn, we will be answered.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we thank you for the Mercy and Patience You show to us.  Please forgive us when we seem to hesitate or disregard Your answer, Your will, when we are confronted by the world.  Pour out Your Spirit of discernment on us as well as a spirit of obedience, that we will be faithful and confident in doing Your Will in our lives.  That we would know that Your Plans are perfect for us, bringing about lives of Praise to You.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.   Amen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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