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“..Jesus….saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth, ‘Follow me’, He told him and Matthew got up and followed him.‘” Matthew 9:9

“When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'” Matthew 9:11

“…Jesus said: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” Matthew 9:12-13

“I tell you in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7

In Part I of looking at why our Heavenly Father allows evil to exist, we looked at the Parable of the Weeds. In it we saw the mercy, steadfast patience and love of God, that He is not willing to damage any portion of His beloved grain, which He planted, in rooting out the evil amongst it. God knows the unintended consequences/damages that can happen to us because we let (maybe even invite at times) evil to come so close to us, if God were to mercilessly destroy that evil. However, two things are clear; God doesn’t bring the evil and evil will be judged and cast out from God, when He chooses to do so.

In Part II we look at the concept of weeds and grain using Jesus’s call of Matthew. We see it plainly stated in scripture, that Matthew was a tax collector. Now I’m not sure if there has ever been a time in any history when tax collectors have been showered with praise or looked on particularly favorably. But definitely in the time of Jesus, Jewish tax collectors were a pariah of society. The hated Romans had many taxes required of their conquered foes. Additionally, King Herod had taxes he required for the upkeep of his lifestyle and other municipal reasons. Finally, many tax collectors (and there is every indication Matthew would have fallen into this) added a few extra shekels to the take to line their pockets as well.

It is not hidden to Jesus that Matthew is a tax collector. He sees Matthew sitting at the tax collecting table and approaches him. Jesus calls for Matthew to: “Follow Me”, and Matthew immediately responds and follows Jesus. The first place Matthew “follows” Jesus to is Matthew’s home where he holds a large dinner for Jesus, the disciples, the Jewish Religious aristocracy and many of Matthew’s friends which happen to be other tax collectors and assorted sinners.

It would surely appear that Matthew is a weed amongst a group of weeds. The Pharisees see this and comment on it. It would seem in their minds that these sinners should be at the very least shunned and, if Jesus was the real Mesiah, potentially destroyed as the vile weeds they are.

Notice that Jesus does not respond by excusing the evil that the tax collector does as somewhat understandable. Jesus doesn’t declare that sin is “no big deal”; far from it. However, what Jesus sees is people who are sick; sin-sick. Jesus does not see people who need to do something first to show their righteousness like sacrificing. No, Jesus sees people who are in need of a merciful Healer. Jesus sees the need for a Saving Doctor and knows that He is the only Doctor who has the cure.

We might find ourselves as judges of the world declaring who it is who are weeds and who is grain. There be some Dear Sisters and Brothers who feel that they have been righteous from birth or at least their infant baptism and never had anything to do with “weedy” behavior. There may be those of us who are well aware of our time of spiritual sickness, when we were away from the presence of Jesus and more hell-bent than heaven-focused.

It is clear in the call of Matthew as well as many different examples of Jesus’s life; He does not ascribe to a “once a weed, always a weed” theology. When Jesus calls out: “Come unto me”; there is an assumption that there are some/many who are away from Him.

The call of Matthew shows the loving, power of Jesus Christ. By the healing power of Jesus Christ, Matthew did answer the call and come unto Jesus. Matthew did repent and leave his sin focused life behind allowing him to become one of the 11 Apostles.

There are two other things we should note here. Matthew followed Jesus but even then he didn’t become perfect. Remember the disciples were quarreling with each other, seeking their own glory by arguing whom among them was the greatest. Matthew, with the other 11, abandoned Jesus, in the garden when He was confronted and arrested by the mob. Yet at no time did Jesus, even in rebuking His 11 disciples, judge them or cast them out. The love of Jesus Christ is about mercy and saving the lost.

Additionally, please, please do not lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ came to Matthew. Jesus Christ did not demand that Matthew change anything first, to be worthy to be in the presence of Jesus. Also, it is the Power of Jesus Christ, that changed Matthew. Matthew went on to write an inspired Gospel that teaches so much to us down to this very day. Matthew journeyed far to teach and spread the word of Jesus Christ throughout the first century world. Matthew did all of that by being in Jesus Christ; receiving Christ’s love and spreading it to the greater needy world.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, both the Old and New Testaments are clear; we are a fallen people. We are a people in need of salvation, beyond our own capacity. Left to our own devices and power, we will do evil. We will be angry with others, covet from others, we will see others in need and callously avoid or neglect them. We will judge others wrongly and seek our own glory at the expense of others. We will do weedy things. Yet Our Heavenly Father in His loving mercy does not want to bundle us, in those moments and cast us out to burned forever. Indeed, our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ to take our condemnation upon Himself so that we could be restored to righteousness, only through Him.

Praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for His loving plan of salvation for us. Let us then turn to Jesus Christ who comes to us and calls out: “Follow Me!” Let us humbly confess our sins and call upon the Spirit to dwell within us to strengthen us against temptation and keep us from doing evil. Let us rejoice in the opportunity freely given to us to live with and in Jesus Christ, becoming the grain of His Love and allowing Him to let us grow so that we can be a part of His nourishing plan to spread His love to all. That in answering the call of Jesus Christ we would live the blessed lives planned for us by our Heavenly Father bringing praise and Glory to His most Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we are sinners. We repent of those sins and ask for Your blessed mercy and forgiveness. We sing songs and pray prayers of thanksgiving for Your plan for our salvation through the gift of the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you, Jesus that You, who we were created through, are willing to come to us no matter what our conditions and/or circumstances. That You don’t require of us any preconditions for Your unconditional love. Fill us with Your Spirit, most blessed Father, that will give us the strength to abide in Your Son, Jesus Christ and thus fulfill the call that You have for us. That we may live lives that bring praise and glory to You, Heavenly Father and to Your Son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“But he said to them: ‘Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe'” John 20:25

“Then He said to Thomas: ‘Put your finger here; see may hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'” John 20:27

“Then Jesus told him: ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” John 20:29

SHOW ME THE DATA!! FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!! GIVE ME THE PROOF, THEN I WILL BELIEVE YOU!!!! These kinds of statements and many more like them are being bandied about, shouted at one another, used as a pretext for non-actions and the justification for other actions.

In a way it is not surprising in this instant Wiki-info world, where “facts” and data are just a few key strokes away, that the general public is less inclined to take declaratory statements at their face value. The fact that you’re reading this on some device means that you’ve also probably used that device to search for some recipe, some process like how to get your device working again or better, some aspect about that reoccurring pain in your body or some historical event you and someone are having a disagreement about. Why should I completely trust you if I can so easily look up the information myself. As a part of an “older” generation; it is not uncommon for us to look down on or speak disapprovingly of “younger” generations. However, I’m not so sure that our “higher” level of trust and respect of and for experts had as much to do with some virtue as it did the difficulty and time involved in researching all but the most obvious topics (i.e. needing a dictionary, encyclopedia or even library).

However, needing proof to accept and believe in something is not a new phenomena. Let’s take the disciple Thomas for example. Now understand that Thomas was not someone who had come to experience Jesus, briefly before Jesus’s death and resurrection. Thomas had been with Jesus throughout His ministry. Thomas had seen Jesus heal the sick, feed thousands, quiet the storm and even raise Lazarus from the grave. Thomas was the disciple who said to the rest of the disciples that they should accompany Jesus and die with Him when Jesus declared He was going to back to Judea (John 11:16)

Thomas had been through incredible times with Jesus and his brethren disciples. Thomas had been told by Mary, that Jesus had indeed risen from the grave and was alive, the third day after His crucifiction (although to be fair to Thomas, the other disciples didn’t believe Mary, at that time either). Now Thomas was confronted with testimony from 10 of his closest companions, that Jesus had risen from the dead; is not just some spirit but an actual, living in the flesh, being. And yet, Thomas did not believe them. Thomas needed proof. Testimony, no matter how credible; wasn’t going to cut it. For Thomas, seeing, touching was the only proof that would bring about his belief.

Now please Sisters and Brothers understand, this is not some sort of bad-Thomas, judgement story. As stated above, none of the disciples believed Mary, even after John and Peter found the tomb empty; until Jesus appeared in their midst (sans Thomas). Would Nathanial or James believed if either or both of them had also been missing? AND, I’m not so sure I’d been jumping up and down hallelujahing versus being mighty skeptical had I missed the glorious meeting.

Now let’s cut to the chase. It’s several thousand years later; dear Sisters and Brothers, is Jesus Christ alive today? Am I living, behaving, praising, praying and most importantly loving, as if Jesus Christ is as present here at this time as He was in Galilei? Jesus Christ declared that He would rise and indeed did rise from the grave. Through scripture we are told that Jesus Christ now resides at the Right Hand or Our Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit is sent to us to testify to the current, vital life of Jesus Christ and the blessings that come from it. Do we believe? If we question, what proof do we need? What do I need to see, hear or touch?

I can hear you: “Come On! We’ve got wars every where we turn, pandemics, hatred, famines! From what I see, hear and experience, how can I be certain that if alive, that Jesus Christ’s being alive really maters?” Jesus Christ warned us; there would be manmade disasters (wars and such) and natural disasters. Yet Jesus also told us that; because of Him and His being alive, we can have peace in Him. Jesus declared as He has overcome the world, that should we believe and abide in Him, He will never forsake us and allow us to great things, even greater than He did.

I also hear you when you say and ask: ” I believe Jesus Christ lives. But, what am I supposed to say, supposed to do, to answer to others who don’t believe and require proof of God and Jesus? How do I prove it to them?” Jesus had/has an answer there too. He told us not to be afraid or worry about what we are to say when asked to defend our faith. Jesus told us the Holy Spirit will supply us with what to say. Additionally, Jesus made it clear; we’re not to be in the business of proving His existence. We are to live lives of love, proclaiming the risen Lord and that is enough.

Finally, something to consider. Jesus Christ did come to Thomas. When Jesus came to Thomas, He didn’t curse Thomas or cast him away for his unbelief. Hardly, instead Jesus, in mercy, allowed the proof that Thomas needed. And Thomas did end up believing and serving.

Jesus Christ is alive. Let it be that you and I Dear Sisters and Brothers find ourselves among those who Jesus declared blessed; that we do truly believe in the earthly life, death, resurrection and continued life of Jesus Christ, even though we have yet to see Him. And in that blessing, live lives that bring praise and glory to the Name of Our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we understand that we live in a world where now most everything is open to debate and requests for proof to believe are everywhere, even proof of Your existence and that of Your Son Jesus Christ. Forgive us Merciful Father when we too find ourselves questioning our faith and Your relevance/power in this world. Through Your Holy Spirit, Dear Father, fill us, strengthen us, calm us; allow us to abide in Your Living Son, that there we might find that certain confident faith. Through Jesus Christ, let us be beacons of Your light, hope and love that will show others the path that leads to belief and life in You. We thank You, Creator God for Your patient mercy with us, Your creation, that You would fill us with Your steadfast love which is all the proof that will ever be needed. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The Power of Christ’s love; lessons from a snow covered limb. We don’t often get snow in Virginia Beach but recently we’ve had two storms which put a lot of snow on our Cedar tree out back. The limbs were bowed low under the weight of snow and ice. Here’s the interesting part that I observed, the temperatures remained below freezing throughout several days but the sun came out very brilliant and even with the sub freezing temperatures, the snow and ice melted. The sun was more powerful than the air. You might be finding yourself bowed low by the cold and ice of this world; maybe it’s a physical issue or perhaps spiritual/mental or even a foreboding about the current times. It may be that wherever you look or turn to in the world, you find more darkness, more frigidity bowing your branches lower and lower. Take heart, there is a source of relief, a source of blessed melting and restoration. Please turn to the SON; Jesus Christ. The power and light of Christ’s love will pierce the deepest darkness. There is no temperature low enough, no circumstances so frigid that Christ’s warming presence and grace will not overcome. And all He asks of you to receive His mercy and power is to simply ask of Him for it. Oh and one more vital thing. Our sun sets every day leaving us in a period of darkness. The Son of God, Jesus Christ will never set on you, never abandon you to face the worldly freeze alone. So ask Him this moment and feel the healing warmth which will not only restore you but lift you to a greater strength that you ever thought possible.

“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.

“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.

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe I am who I am”. John 13:19

“But Joseph replied: ‘Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this – to preserve the lives of many people.'”  Genesis 50 19,20

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28.

So I realize that the title and subsequent concept flies into the face of the current thinking concerning there being any value in looking back behind us; looking into the past.  Indeed there are many slogans today like:  “There’s a reason your rearview mirror is so small and your windshield so large, where you’re going is so much more important than where you’ve been” (Authors note:  when driving I agree more time needs to be spent looking at where you’re going). Or, “Looking back isn’t’ going to help you. Moving forward is the thing you need to do”.

Now yes, I do understand and agree with certain aspects about not being able to change the past, so constantly dwelling on a past mistake or situation can be detrimental. Similarly, maybe your past is where a particular triumph was and you’d rather bask in the glow and stay focused on that past success instead of trying to be impactful in the present.

Yet Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament as well as Jesus, Himself, want to show us how the past can be amazingly helpful in revealing truths about the present and features of the future.  So let us explore them.

It was a tumultuous time for the disciples, but Jesus knew it was going to increase in intensity by leaps and bounds.  Most of the disciples had been with Him for close to three years.  They had seen Him heal, quiet storms and walk on water.  Earlier in the week, Jesus had entered triumphantly into Jerusalem to the wild cheers of the crowd.  Throughout the week, the religious establishment had tried to trick and trip up Jesus and He had triumphed over them each and every time.  Now they were eating the blessed Passover dinner.  The disciples had no idea what was coming.  But Jesus, being God, knew the entire plan and knew what would soon befall Him.  Jesus started to give the disciples and inkling of what was to come with a message that one of their intimate group was going to betray Jesus.  Then Jesus explains to them why He is telling them this ahead of time.  What’s going to befall Jesus, being arrested, being tortured and then being killed by crucifixion was going to be a horrible experience.  It was going to be an experience that none of the disciples would share in or even have an expectation was going to happen.  It was crucial to Jesus that the disciples understand that this was all a part of His Father’s blessed plan of salvation.  So Jesus’s plan was to tell them ahead of time of what was to happen, with the expressed desire that upon the actual happening itself, the disciples would look back and remember that Jesus had foretold all that was going to happen.  Without Jesus doing this, the disciples might have thought that earthly powers had overcome heavenly powers or perhaps Jesus wasn’t really who He said He was after all.  Instead, after the event of the betrayal happened, the disciples could look back and remember that Jesus had foretold this and thus, the betrayal and the other happenings were not out of heavenly control but were actually happening because of heavenly control.  Their belief in Jesus would become even stronger.

Now, let’s take the example of Joseph.  It appears from scripture, Joseph might have been somewhat an obnoxious younger brother.  He was his father’s favorite and whether intentionally or unintentionally, he reminded his brothers of that fact.  However, nothing of Joseph’s behavior warranted death; which the brothers initially schemed to make happen or selling him to caravan as a slave.  But that is exactly what the brothers did. So you know what happens, eventually by staying faithful and serving the Pharaoh, Joseph is ultimately promoted to the second highest ruler, only the Pharaoh being higher, in all of Egypt.  Enter a famine.  The famine was so widespread that the family of Jacob (Joseph’s father) would have starved without help.  Due to Joseph’s wise planning and stewardship, the only place that had any food during the famine was Egypt.  So Jacob sent his remaining sons to ask for help.  At first the brothers have no idea that they are asking for help from the very same brother they sold to slavery oh those many years ago.  What is Joseph to do; chop off their heads, slow torture them to death? No; Joseph feeds them and invites the entire family to come and live in Egypt.  Jacob, Joseph, his brothers; no one knew that a famine was coming.  God did.  Would it be likely in the midst of the famine that Egypt would be willing to share their precious, scarce grain with a bunch of stranger, outsiders? Not unless someone was in charge who knew these outsiders and wanted to help them; enter Joseph.  So when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he does so with the insight of looking back.  He can see that, while his brothers meant evil, God, who didn’t cause the evil deeds, still used those evil deeds ultimately for the good of not only Joseph, but Jacob’s entire family.  Plus because God knows all things for all times, He knew that eventually the Egyptians would turn on Jacob’s ancestors which would bring about Moses and the salvation of the Israel nation.

Okay, biblical accounts are fine but does that relate to today? Well for me, my blessings of wife and family came because God gave me a heart condition.  Huh?  You see I was in the Air Force and on flight status.  To maintain that status I had to pass an exhaustive physical. Early in my career, I had gone through three of the physicals from three different highly trained specialists called flight surgeons.  Each time I passed with (pardon the pun) flying colors.  Now training was over and it was time to go to my new duty station and time for another physical. This time the flight surgeon listened to my heart for just a few moments; stopped and asked me if I knew I had a heart murmur. This was/is a condition that could disqualify me from flying.  He asked me if I had rheumatic fever as a child or some other significant illness which normally is what causes the condition. I not only told him that I hadn’t (which was true) but that it had not come up in any of my three recent flight physicals.  That caught him very much by surprise but he let me listen to my heart and once he told me what to listen for, sure enough, there was that heart murmur.

To continue flying and probably even stay in the Air Force, I was going to have to receive a waiver.  I arrived at my new duty station and we began the waiver process.  However, I couldn’t fly during that time so I was assigned some additional duties working for an officer I normally would not have for about two months.  The waiver comes through and I’m back on flight status.  Six months later a training position comes open under the officer I had previously worked under.  There were more senior/experienced officers for the position but because the officer and I had worked so well together he chose me.  Both myself and the other officer worked for an officer who happened to have a daughter, roughly my same age.  You guessed it, the senior officer introduced us and 34 years later, I am still the most blessed man alive with the wonderful relationship with her and two children.  When I was first diagnosed with the heart murmur and facing dismissal from the Air Force, I was praying for God’s help, but not seeing any big picture aspect to the situation.  It was only later, when I looked back, could I see all the steps God put in place, steps that were out of my control, that brought about the blessed union which was God’s perfect plan.

Here’s the thing, that was not an isolated incident. Over and over again I could enumerate (but you can breath a sigh of relief, I won’t) the times that a seemingly random or even negative circumstance in my life turned out, by the Grace of God to be a great blessing.

So now I come to my point (finally); circumstances continue to happen.  Things continue to happen to and around me that I did not expect, would not have planned and in general would not have wanted.  Not all circumstances are this way but when the ones that are unsettling arise, if I only looking forward, I might do so with fear and trepidation that this circumstance is the one that spells my doom.  However, by looking at the lessons in the bible and applying them to my past events, (I think that sequence; bible first, then reflections, is key) I can face the uncertain circumstances with much greater confidence, even positivity and with God given peace. My past through God is informing my present and future.

Thus Dear Sister and Brother in Christ, these seem to be societal and perhaps for you personal, uncertain times.  The world may be seeming you to come at you with significant, overwhelming threats.  So especially, if you find that you are filled with fear and dread, I encourage you to look back in your life to times of uncertain circumstances.  Look through your eyes of faith, to see God and His support for you.  If the vision is difficult to come by do not hesitate to pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to God’s faithful Grace and Deliverance in times past.

What you may very well find is a treasure chest of revelations concerning the power of our Heavenly Father for you and ways He has displayed His power in Your life.  Then pray for the strength of spirit to use that revelation about your past to bring about faithful confidence and peace as you trust in our Heavenly Father to always be with you; now and in the future regardless of circumstances.  The goal; whether past, present or into the future is that we see and live into the Grace and Love of our Heavenly Father, His Blessed Son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, in a way that we do not understand we proclaim that You are a God of past, present and future, consisting in those realms all at the same time. Thus Your plan of us is uniquely perfect as You connect all the times together for our blessing.  Forgive us we pray when we fail to see Your power in our past lives and find ourselves fearful about today and tomorrow.  Through the Holy Spirit, open our eyes to how You have always accompanied and delivered us in the past so that our faith will be magnified and a peace be realized in all circumstances.  That it be our goal at all times to live lives that bring praise to Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

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