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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at an example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“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. 

 

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. Isaiah 40:31

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick tempered displays folly” Proverbs 14:29

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

…Love is patient….. 1 Corinthians 13:4

I was prompted to write this post because of an interaction I had a short time ago. Hours after the workday had ended, a thought occurred to me that not only impacted me but two of my colleagues as well. What did I do? Did I wait until the next day to “call” them? Of course not, I pulled out my trusty smart phone (note the phone being smart does not imply the same for it’s owner/user) and texted away.

Here’s the thing; I’m a definite baby-boomer, both in age and in technical acuity. More often than not my preference is to talk to people. Also, I often go to my grown children, but also did when they were much younger to explain technical processes and troubleshoot issues.

Now, again it’s past work hours and before smart phones and accompanying technology, I would not have picked up a phone at that hour and called them. This was not an emergency. Additionally, I was not looking for or even expecting necessarily an answer that night, I just wanted to put the issue out there. However, an answer did come back from both of my colleagues in a very short order and a digital conversation ensued.

Where am I going with this and what does it have to do with prayer? Good question. You see we have so many different ways to communicate today; face-2-face, email, phone, text, video chat, and, and…. One aspect that has also changed or expanded is how we can reply when engaged in the various communication channels. If I ask you a question in person, depending on the question I might expect an immediate reply. Perhaps I expect some aspect of immediacy on a phone call or video chat. Yet what about the other channels, do I expect an immediate answer or at least acknowledgement of receipt? How patient am I for you to return my communication/inquiry with some acknowledgement or answer. How often do we find ourselves watching the moments tick by on a clock with slightly or perhaps more so, elevated blood pressure or frustration when the minutes are passing without some returned communication is some way. It seems to me, both in personal experience as well as watching greater society function; there is an expectation of imminent if not immediate response to our inquiries or some required explanation for delay. Rarely do I hear “patience is a virtue” either spoken or especially practiced.

What I wonder is, to what extent that worldly expectation, creeps its way into communication and relationship with Our Heavenly Father; especially in our spiritual practice of prayer? “Hello God?….are you there?……..I prayed this request yesterday……..You’re a God of infinite power, wisdom and say You have a plan……..so……..let’s get with it…I’m busy….I need Your answer”. While those specific words may never actually be or even contemplated to be prayed; but the question is, what is in our heart?

It seems that in the world, a quick response is a desired, perhaps even accepted response. The longer a response takes for us to receive; the more we tend to ask the question: What is wrong? or What is the explanation for the delay? We tend to fear that other than an immediate positive reply is a rejection. Additionally, if we’re not careful, we will be tempted, like the example of King Saul, to act impetuously, not waiting for the Lord’s reply but striking out on our own, with our own wisdom, causing destruction to ourselves and potentially those around us.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, our Heavenly Father declared in Isaiah: “Neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Yet Our Heavenly Father’s ways, to include His plans, which includes His timing are perfect. So we must resist the world’s pace and demands for answers and have patient faith in God. It is not that He might have us wait as some kind of power play or ploy to show who’s the boss. He doesn’t need that. However, we do need His timing.

So please, ask. Jesus tells us we should go forth and ask. We should ask having faith that we are heard. Jesus also is clear. We are loved by our Father. Jesus asks us to consider that if we who are fallen can still give good gifts to our children, how much more will our perfect, loving Father respond with blessings. Yet we should have and if we’re lacking in, we should pray for help in responding in faith, patient faith. Paul tells us that love is patient, which also means that having patience is an act of love.

Let it be that in our petitions to our Heavenly Father as well as in our faithful, patient expectation of His blessed response; we will live lives of thanksgiving and praise to His Almighty Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we are so thankful that You have seen fit to allow us to make requests of You. Yet Gracious Father, you know we live in a world that is increasingly impatient with any gap between question and answer. Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we are tempted to apply worldly standards to Your relationship with us. Keep us from being tempted to stray from patiently waiting upon Your perfect response to go our own way based on our own minimal wisdom. Give us the strength to resist impatience and instead remain in peace and faith, confident in Your perfect timing. We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heavens. Ecclesiastes 1:13

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13

Author’s Note: 3 things First, while I love to read the bible, not all the books make the same impact at the same time. I find the Gospels, Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs and most of the New Testament letters very impactful. Other books not so much. Secondly, I’m not a biblical scholar, so even in the reading of those familiar books and those less so, I claim no expertise. Finally, it is amazing to me how the Spirit, provides enlightenment at different times using different books; like Ecclesiastes. Let’s get started

We have a lot of questions. We have questions about our purpose in life, what constitutes a good life, how do I find the purpose and many, many more. Today we also have a plethora of answers. Find what you love to do and do it, surround yourself with these people but not those, get married, stay single, eat this but not that, weigh this, drink that, be mindful, be belligerent are just some of the answers. Plus, throw in a pandemic and you have stay this distance away, take this, wear this, don’t do this. It can seem maddening.

And of course, just what we need, we have this marvel of technological achievement called the internet to supply us with all the nauseatingly vast amount of any information we could ever want (as well as a considerable amount we don’t) to answer our inquiries. Now this is not a new question or new search. In fact, some roughly 2800 years ago there was a man who wanted to know the same things: What’s the meaning of it all? What makes up a good life? Now this man had some extremely unique and powerful resources that should have allowed him to answer this question if anyone could. His name was Solomon and here’s what he found out.

First, some back story to Solomon. Solomon was the son of King David in Israel. As King David was dying, there was a brief power struggle to see who would succeed him between Solomon and his half brother Adonijah. Solomon won and became king. Solomon became king at the ripe old age of 12. The Bible tells us God came to Solomon and asked Solomon what gift God could grant to him. Solomon realized that he was in way over his head at 12 years old to be king, so he asks God for wisdom. God was so pleased that Solomon didn’t ask for riches, or long life or destruction of his enemies that God not only granted him unparalleled wisdom but great riches, health and peace as well.

With that backstory in mind let’s fast forward to Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was having a great reign; there was peace in the land and his wealth and wisdom were so famous that great kings and queens were coming to him for his counsel. Yet, seemingly, that life still lacked something for Solomon. It seemed to lack the answer to the question of why; what does life really matter. So he sets out to answer that question and then writes about it. Remember, King Solomon starts this quest with amazing resources of wealth, power, wisdom, knowledge at his disposal. See if you have found yourself following any of the paths he followed.

First, as chronicled in Chapter 2, Solomon says it must be pleasure that defines and is the purpose of life. And boy does he go all out in the pleasure realm. He got ragingly drunk, many times. He surrounded himself with fun people. He did not bother with inhibitions when it came to women. In Ecclesiastes, he says he denied nothing that his eyes desired and he had the resources to make it happen. What was his conclusion about going after pleasure? “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done……everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…..” Ecclesiastes 2:11

Then Solomon moves on to knowledge and wisdom. If not chasing pleasure, surely meaning is found in gaining knowledge and wisdom. Oops, at least for Solomon. For he finds that just acquiring knowledge and wisdom doesn’t guarantee that the knowledge and wisdom can actually be utilized to improve anything. He comes to the conclusion: “What do I gain from being wise? Then I said to myself, this too is meaningless”. Ecclesiastes 2:15

Well okay, pleasure is out, wisdom and knowledge – not really; then it must be work. My occupation, doing great work must be and bring meaning to life, Solomon says to himself. Nope, wrong again, Solomon finds. He says: so I hated my life, because the work that is done under sun was grievous to me. Ecclesiastes 2:17

Finally Solomon starts to have a realization. It starts later in verse 2 when he declares: A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, IS FROM THE HAND OF GOD, for without Him who can eat and find enjoyment. Finally, as Solomon finishes up this manuscript, he advises that God, the fear of God and keeping God’s commandments are the first and foremost aspect to life.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, when I read Ecclesiastes, because of some of the language Solomon uses, I thought it was a really downer book. To me the best part of the book used to be the verses in Chapter 3 that the Bryds used in their wonderful classic rock song; Turn, Turn Turn. However, with age, I’ve changed my outlook on the tenor of the message. Solomon does communicate frustration that none of the worldly pursuits he attempted led him to the answer of a fulfilled, meaningful life. However, Solomon did eventually find the answer. The answer is GOD! God first, God paramount. God will grant the meaning. God will grant the purpose. Thus the focus is rightly, solely and souly on God. I no longer take it as a depressing message.

Thus Solomon did us a great service. Because of the question he asked, the nearly boundless energy and massive scope he utilized to try and find an answer as well as the final answer he found; we do not have to replicate that same search. Solomon told us what he looked at and why it was lacking in giving purpose.

As we approach our lives today, we should reflect on to what extent we are in the same desperate search for meaning in our existence. What resources are we using in that search? To what extent are we looking to the world in any aspect to provide the answer and the meaning? Are we looking within for the answer the Holy Spirit is longing to give us; that we should be abiding in the Son, Jesus Christ, relying on the plan of salvation for each of us devised by our Father in Heaven?

Rest from your quest to find meaning. Our Heavenly Father has and is the meaning, as the Creator, of and for our lives. That plan is love. That plan is perfect. And as we live out that plan, we will bring glory to His Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to provide us with guidance in the form of Your Word to the questions of this life. Forgive us and have mercy on us when we fail to use Your resources and strike out on our own to find meaning to our lives. Protect us from the world and worldly who would attempt to lead us a astray in finding meaning in purely earthly pursuits. Send Your answer through Your Spirit to our hearts that we might look no further than You, You the Father, You the Son, You the Holy Spirit to find all our answers. Then grant us the power to go forth with Your answer, in love, to lead others who are desperately seeking meaning, to Your same answer. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

Postscript – Now if the Holy Spirit can help me find meaning in the Book of Numbers. 🙂

” You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen….”  John 3: 10,11

“For being ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to the righteousness of God.”  Romans 10:3

“Therefore dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless…..but grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 3: 17

So I came across a story the other day that is already impacting thousands of people and its ramifications go even further.  While the story was about the unintended consequences of genetically designed crops, the story itself is not the basis/inspiration for this post. (For those who will be driven crazy if they can’t reference the story, here’s the link:  https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2020/02/06/800397488/pesticide-police-overwhelmed-by-dicamba-complaints-ask-epa-for-help)

The purpose of this post is how I came across this article and what it says about “information” and “being informed” in this information age. I don’t constantly watch news outlets or read internet news, but my current situation in life allows me to partake of news from many different outlets, sources and media. And I admit that I do partake of that media multiple times throughout the day. Yet the only reason I heard of this particular story is that I was traveling cross country, alone in a car and searching through various radio stations out of boredom.  As I was listening a somewhat startling realization dawned on me.

Another aspect of the story that I was listening to was that the situation had been going on for years and, as stated above, has a very real potential to impact our entire country in many ways going forward. Yet, in all my different sources and opportunities to partake of news, over those same years, the only way I heard about this important story was because of some random search on a lonely stretch of Louisiana highway.

This is the information age! The depth and breadth of our knowledge based on the increased size and channels of  information is supposed to make us supremely wiser and more in tune with the greater world around us.  Perhaps that is a potential that is yet to see fulfillment.

For you see, it seems that what the “information age” has become or at least evolving into by our utilization of it, is the “hyper-informed” information age. That is to say, if I care about a change of venue for a Duke and Duchess, who’s been voted off a show or even something more serious like an impeachment process, I can find a seemingly endless stream of information, opinions, news (even fake) and history about that topic. What I can then spend my limited time on is delving into those topics in such excruciating detail that I have little time for intrusions of other topics, relevant and important as they may be, into my consciousness.  Ironically over time, the search engines and sites I use pick up on my preferences and feed me more and more of only similar articles to the exclusion of most else. Thus in that process I become “hyper-informed” in a little, while being uninformed in a great many things.

Okay you say, that may be all well in good but what the heck does that have to do with my spiritual life and what this blog is all about? Great question, thanks for asking. The reality is, what we do in one area of our secular lives, often gets carried over to and/or influences our spiritual lives as well.

For instance, Jesus talked about love, the power of love, the need for love, God’s love for us; love, love, love.  You might really like that aspect.  And while it is true Jesus spoke often and powerfully about love, do you know that Jesus also preached about the destructive power of Satan and the very real danger of evil? “Oh, but I don’t want to hear about that, the concept of the devil and hell is for ‘bible thumpers or charismatics”, some might say. Or, Jesus preached on the power we have in prayer, we can ask for anything in His name and we will be greatly blessed by our belief.  Again, very true, but He also preached about the power of being humble, turning the other cheek and loving our enemies. But wait, those other things seem too weak to focus on.  I can’t see any blessings there or studying that.

You see when we take God’s word and teaching and become laser focused, “hyper-informed” in just one area, we can become dangerously uniformed, ignorant, in other areas of God’s wisdom and plan. That very lack of obtaining  broader information on our part can lead to our destruction as Paul warned about in his letter to the Romans and Peter warned about as he closed out his second letter.

But you may ask: The books of Kings and Chronicles in the bible, really? Yes! Though the names and places can be tough and the dates obscure, we can read of the ramifications of turning our backs on God.  Additionally, we can learn of God’s unconditional love, unending patience and redemptive grace that happens when we repent and return to God.  All that is captured and informs us in the books of Kings and Chronicles.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us strive, using the resource of the Holy Spirit within us, to be informed in all facets of God’s perfect message and plan.  Let us resist the temptation to focus on only those areas with which we feel a sense of agreement, comfort and understanding. Let us diligently dive into those things which we might find obscure or worldly distasteful, that we allow nothing to darken or diminish the full Light of God, informed through His word, that can shine through us to an uninformed, dark world.  That in shining His informed light through our lives, we might bring praise and glory to His most holy name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise and thank You that You have seen fit to give us the ability to take in information, to become wiser and to know You more completely.  Yet we also understand that the ability You’ve given us can be abused in our choice to only know a limited amount about You or turn to worldly information and become more and more uninformed about You. Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we neglect knowledge of You with our own preferences.  Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, give us a passion for knowing You as completely as humanly possible and then passing that knowledge and information to others who desperately need Your information. Grant us humility to see blessings in all Your teachings and the strength to integrate all those teachings into our everyday lives.  That, through You, we may be a beacon of wholly and Holy informed light to a dark world so in need of Your illumination.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

 

“The stone the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.  Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed”  Matthew 21: 42,44

“Then He Said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'”  Luke 9:23

So I arrive at church to be the liturgist for a service we’re holding in our larger hall.  One aspect that is different in this venue is where the cross is placed.  So as I confer with Pastor Beth about any changes brought about by our change of venue, the one she mentions is to be sure, when I go up to the stage to present my reading, to make sure I:  “don’t trip on the cross”.  You see the cross, which is about 10 feet high with a large wooden base, was positioned right at the head of the stairs and as such might be a tripping hazard if not careful.  Yet the words had barely left her mouth when we both had an immediate revelation that her warning, could and should have a much grander application then just the one brief moment and movement in that one service.

Thus let us delve deeper into our journey with Christ and the hazard and yes, even blessing tripping on or over the cross may be.  First let’s understand “tripping”.  Tripping is the process by which we are moving along a path in a purposeful, definite direction and method.  Yet that movement is suddenly impinged upon by some force or object that momentarily halts some aspect of that movement (your foot is moving forward for a step but gets stopped by a tree root sticking up).  Yet even though one part of the movement is halted, the rest of the body continues its forward momentum but is now out of balance.  The result can be anything from a momentary stumble to a catastrophic, life threatening, fall.

Okay, so how does this trip happen?  Besides slap-stick comedians, for the rest of us, a trip happens by accident.  We don’t purposely decide to stumble or fall.  Second, a trip happens often because we loose focus or suffer a temporary loss of situational awareness of our surroundings. If we see the tree root, we step over it.  If we’re focusing on the depth of the steps, we step down/up with sufficient space.

So we’ve looked at the what’s and why’s of tripping, what the heck does that have to do with Jesus Christ, the cross and our spiritual journey? Well for one, our life is about movement both physically, mentally and especially, spiritually.  We may feel that the movement is going very purposefully along a path that is smooth with few hazards.  Then, with little to no warning, we stumble.  Maybe it’s a slight skip, stutter, perhaps a stubbed toe.  But maybe, it’s a full blown, head over heals, life altering crash.  What just happened?

If the answer is:  I tripped on something, then our understanding/healing process begins.  Let’s go back to physical tripping; what’s the first thing you do after a trip?  I know, if you’re like me you look around to see if anyone else saw it, come on you know you do.  However, almost immediately you look around to see what caused you to trip.  Hopefully you do the same thing when you experience tripping along the pathway of your life.  When that stumble happens you look around to see what caused it.  Will it be possible that what you see is the cross of Jesus Christ?

Why would the cross of Christ cause me to trip?  In a way Jesus told us when He stated we must take up our cross daily and follow Him if we are to be His disciple.  To take something up and to follow Someone requires we are focused on it.  Once we lose that focus, it can become a tripping hazard.  Think about tripping on your shoelaces. This world and its leader is always trying to put up distractions to cause us to lose focus on our true path and He who we should be following on it.  It can be pains, regrets and sin.  It can be joys, triumphs and sin.  Either way, whatever the world can do to cause us to focus on something other then Christ and the cross, it will attempt. And understand this, the greater, the deeper, the more time consuming the distraction becomes, the more risk there is that we will diverge off the path, our Heavenly Father has planned for us and the more perilous our journey will become.

Thus the tripping over the cross can very well be a blessing!  Now it is true that the longer we have lost our focus on Christ and the cross, the more drastic that trip and fall might need to be to force us to focus back on the cross.

Here in lies the great risk that Jesus Christ warned about.  For you see we may stumble and fall or we may look on the path of the cross and Jesus through worldly eyes, where we see the path to fraught with obstacles and hazards and reject that path altogether.  In rejecting the path, we reject the Builder.  When we reject the Builder and go on our own path, we will eventually come upon the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  In rejection, whether we fall upon the Cornerstone, or the Cornerstone falls upon us, the same result will ensue; disaster.  Not because the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, is vengeful and wants that, but because of our rejection of Him.

One final aspect of our focus on carrying our cross and following Jesus Christ.  Do not look upon the cross as purely a symbol of death and punishment.  It is meant to be a symbol of death, but that is only death of and to sin.  For the cross is empty.  Sin died with Jesus on the cross, but Christ rose again and lives to this very day.  The cross is a symbol of hope and redemption, a sign of living free through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  The cross is not so much a weight/burden to be crushed by as a compass that keeps us on the path to blessings in this world and eternal salvation.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are not perfect travelers.  We will forget to pick up our cross occasionally and/or be distracted and lose focus on following Jesus Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, we can strive to make those times as few as possible.  Yet when they do happen, Jesus Christ does not just continue forward, calling out:  “If you can’t keep up, to bad so sad, I guess you miss out!”. No, Jesus Christ is right there with us.  He will pick us up, brush us off, remind us that we’re not soiled by the stumble, but we are washed clean through the sacrifice of His blood.  In focusing on Jesus Christ and carrying instead of tripping over our or The cross, may your path today be smooth and your journey blessed.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to give us a blessed reminder in the symbol of the cross of the miraculous gift of salvation we have in Jesus Christ. We humbly confess that we get distracted by the world and forget to carry that symbol and follow Your Son.  Forgive us when we stumble and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would refocus on taking up our cross and following Jesus.  We thank You for Your Mercy and Love which we can see and feel even in our stumbles.  That as we stand again in the Power of Jesus Christ, we will continue upon the path You have perfectly laid before us, living lives that bring honor and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother who has sinned against me? Up to seven times?  Jesus answered, ‘I tell you not just seven times, seventy-seven times.'”  Matthew 18:21,22

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. Matthew 5:28

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent and praiseworthy- think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Why seventy-seven times?  In another translation, it reads that Jesus Christ responds seventy times seven times (I’m running out of finger and toes to get up that high).  Think about how many times Jesus talked about, not only He being a servant, but how important it was that the disciples think of themselves as humble servants as well.

On the sermon on the mount, Jesus Christ warns it not just about committing the actual act, murder or adultery, it about contemplating the act or working up toward the act, in the case of anger, that is an equal danger.  Why?

Throughout the letters that the apostles sent to the early churches and new beginners, they urged thought on things from above and abolish thoughts and acts of earthly or worldly things.  Why pray without ceasing?

I am not one who finds a conflict between thoughts of science and thoughts of spirituality.  Oh sure, there are some within the realm of science who ascribe to the idea that science has disproved the existence of God.  But it’s not science fault that some would use it incorrectly the same way it is not Christ’s fault that some have done unspeakable evil in His name.

We are creations of God, including Jesus Christ so thus, our Creator knows us and how we work intimately.  He knows how our brains function (or dysfunction at least at times in my case).

So why seventy-seven times or 140 times?  Scientists studying the brain have discovered a process in its operation called neural plasticity.  Now please understand, as I am no theologian, I am also not a brain surgeon or scientist.  Yet I’ve always been fascinated about how the brain operates and how amazingly complex it is.  Well in the concept of neural plasticity, with my limited understanding, it is the idea that as we have thoughts, and/or as we take actions; we are producing connections within the brain.  These connections become pathways.  Additionally, these pathways are not destroyed after one thought or action.  As we have the same or very similar thoughts or actions, those pathways get stronger, more easily accessible.

Now here’s the thing, if we deem those thoughts or actions to be positive, helpful or pleasurable, then we are more likely to go back to them over and over again.  Each time we go back, the pathway gets stronger.  Think of it (no pun intended) this way, your brain is like a forest.  Quite often if you’re walking through the woods/forest, you look for a trail that’s been cleared out that makes it easier, more pleasurable to walk.  While overly simplistic, that is an aspect of this concept of neural plasticity and its impact on our thoughts and behavior.

So let’s take forgiveness.  It may not be all that easy or natural of a thing to do.  Someone does us wrong.  Should we think or act on taking revenge or getting even with them, we’re creating a pathway.  If that thought or action feels good, we’ll tend to think or act that way more and that pathway gets strengthened.  Jesus Christ knows this.  Again He is our creator.  So Jesus declares we’re to forgive and keep on forgiving.  It may not feel comfortable or good at first, but as we keep doing it, five times, 10 times, 77 times, 140 times and more, we’re building and strengthening that path.  Before you know it, voila, that path becomes strong enough, that we find ourselves thinking and acting that way.

Additionally, that’s why Jesus Christ and later the Apostles, warn against the underlying thought and not just the action.  Indeed, it truly is the thought that counts.  For it is the looking in lust, the being angry and thinking of harm or killing that starts the pathway.  To the extent we tell ourselves, there’s no harm in looking or only thinking; neural plasticity would say that we’re wrong.  There is a credible harm, a changing of our brain just in the thinking.

Yet, I’ve heard folks tell me:  “Well maybe so for some, but that wouldn’t be me” or “that doesn’t apply to me”.  I’m not wise or omniscient enough to tell anyone that they’re wrong in what they know about themselves.  All I do is point out the real danger in the aspect of thinking:  I’ll try that drug just once, I can quit that website anytime I want, I wouldn’t have done it – I was only thinking it and other justifications we give ourselves for risky and/or destructive behavior.

Thus dear Sisters and Brothers, once again science reinforces a basic concept to positive living that Jesus Christ laid out thousands of years ago.  In the end it is best just not to go there.  Try to keep your brain from building those connections that concern the debasing, destructive aspects to life.  To the extent that the pathways may exist, stop using them.

In the articles that I’ve read about neural plasticity, seldom used pathways, fade in their importance.  New pathways can be forged based upon the thoughts that we have and the subsequent actions we take based on those thoughts.

Finally, we’re not left on our own.  The world has a whole lot of demeaning, destructive pathways it wants to build in our brains.  Jesus Christ instructs us to connect to our Heavenly Father through prayer to Him and study of His word.  In that Heavenly connection, through His power, we can be victorious over the worldly thoughts and pathways which want to lead us to our downfall.  Jesus Christ promises the Holy Spirit will come to us and empower and embolden us to keep us thinking as we should and lead us back should we stray.

Ironically, being on the straight and narrow path is not just a completely allegorical concept.  There are literal brain paths that, if we commit to relying on Jesus Christ to show them to us and empower us to stay on them, then we can live powerful lives of peace and joy that bring praise and honor to our Heavenly Father as well as us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, if we are open to it, we praise how our understanding of science reveals Your underlying truths to us.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that we would be receptive to Your revelation and obedient to Your instructions for us as given by Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when, in our arrogance, we believe that we can go our own way and that our power is sufficient to keep us from harm and evil.  Lead us back to Your path, strengthening the correct path and obliterating the wrong path.  That in thinking about and then walking the right path, we might live lives of praise and thanksgiving to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the work themselves”. John 14:11

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  Luke 18:17

It is said that we live in an information age and I would agree with that.  Of course, as with any concept or slogan, we have to define terms.  Is it that there is more information out there?  Is it that we have more access to the information in ever increasing speedier avenues?  The short answer is yes; yes to both.  Let’s define information.  Is information, facts, statistics, opinions, perspectives, data, impressions?  Again, yes.

I’ve been reading some books that, among, other things detail the development of the internet.  One of the interesting aspects of the majority of early designers and developers of the internet was their vision for its use.  Many of those people felt that the internet would become a tool where the freer flow of ever greater amounts of information would allow a greater connectivity between users.  The end goal of the increased connectivity and greater sharing of larger amounts of information, was to enhance decision making.  The internet pioneers saw decision makers having more and better information at their disposal, allowing them to, not only see, but purposely analyze and incorporate the varied information into a vastly more accurate and positive decision outcome.  Hmmm.  I’ve also read some recent articles from some of those very same designers who have become quite discouraged about how the internet has actually being used and what passes for information being distributed.

Now understand this is not a critique of the internet or even having more information.  It is in gathering and subsequently sharing information that many advances have come to pass.  With a dear, cherished loved one now being cancer free for many years, I’m very grateful for the breakthroughs that come with greater knowledge attainment and dissemination.

No, this is a cautionary post on the peril there is when we rely on human-centered knowledge and worldly experience as the highest arbiter of truth and wisdom. You see, if we’re not careful, we start to fall into the worldly trap of only believing in or on things which we feel can be proven.  There is an ever growing societal sense that, with the enhanced and advanced tools available to us, we can gain enough information to confidently know and understand everything.  We don’t find the idea preposterous, that has been put forward, that there is a provable “theory of everything.  A theory that explains how all processes work and that we can understand it.  We declare we’ve found the “God” particle, the Higgs boson, which is what started creation.  There was an article based on a study that came out in 2016 that appeared to identify the part of the brain where lying takes place and what happens physiologically when we lie.  When the study was announced there was speculation that lying may be a chemical process, which may allow us to one day manipulate and even terminate people’s ability to lie through some sort of brain manipulation.

So a fundamental question can become, if all is knowable, everything can be eventually proven and thus understood, then should I only believe that which is proven or at least seems provable?  Conversely, is it foolish to have faith in something that seems, at the very least, bewildering, or worse yet forever incomprehensible? Do we discard as fantasy, that which baffles, instead searching for that which appears concrete?

Throughout the Old Testament, God as the Heavenly Father, and in the New Testament, God as Jesus Christ (along with the Father) is very clear about the primacy of, the virtue of and the overwhelming need for; faith.  Abraham relied on faith to leave Ur and travel to the promised land.  The people of Israel needed faith to follow Moses from Egypt.  Jesus described the power of faith in being able to move mountains.  It was imperative that the disciples believe/have faith that Jesus was the true Son of God.  He implored them to believe His words or believe He was the Son of God based on the miracles they had experienced.

Jesus was also quite clear about the sin and destruction would come from requiring a sign.  He spoke of the faithless generation that would only believe in a statement if proof could be shone. Jesus prophesized the impending destruction, both temporal as well as spiritually eternal, that would come upon the generation who would not believe in Him without human understood and agreed with, proof.

Additionally notice how Jesus often dealt with those whom He healed.  He did not ask the blind man, do you understand how I will restore your sight.  When speaking to the woman who just touched his cloak and was healed, Jesus did not ask her to explain how she had been healed.  Like the Roman Centurion whose servant Jesus saved, in all these cases, Jesus lauded the faith the people had shown in coming to Him; their steadfast belief, in the face of all evidence at that time, that Jesus could perform the miracles He did.

Ah, Doug, you say; that was back then and they were ignorant and superstitious.  There is so much we can do today.  We can, in some cases, restore sight.  We have weapons that can move mountains.  We know about genes now and will soon be able to fix and maybe even design our offspring before they are born, heal all manner of diseases and even stop the aging process.  Do I really need faith any more?  Besides, God gave us our brains; aren’t we supposed to use them? With all that we’ve learned, aren’t concepts like good and evil outdated?

For those asking those questions; I would ask you to look around.  Are we acting more civil toward each other through our greater knowledge?  Has our human wisdom allowed us to understand how to prevent wars and threats of war? Where is the theory that lays out the cure for our ever increasing rates of depression as well as increased suicides? Where is our lasting example of our human utopia? Where is the logic in our self centered, self indulgent, self destructive tendencies? Are they any less now then, years, decades, centuries past?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is not that God in the forms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are playing some capricious game of holding back the good/complete information from us to keep in some type of servitude.  As Their creations, They know we are not capable of understanding the Mind of God in Its entirety.  We don’t have a common enough experience/frame work with which to pass information across effectively.  But God loves us and is not willing that we should perish in our willful ignorance.  God has sacrificed everything, in the form of Jesus Christ coming to earth and dying for us so that we might be redeemed and have an eternal loving existence with Him.

Do I understand it; can we understand it fully? I don’t believe we can but our lack of understanding is both irrelevant as well as it does not negate the truth of God’s lovingly perfect plan for our life here and eternally with Him. To have that life starts with one thing; FAITH!

Let us be humble, not resting on our understanding, but kneeling in faith before our Father.  In faith let us call upon the promise of Jesus Christ and receive the peace from God that yes, surpasses all understanding.  By faith let us be open to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who will bring about the limited understanding we need to live into God’s perfect plan.  Use prayer and reading of scripture to have an informed faith; not looking for or relying on proof, but being open to the faithful hope that will reveal all things needed in time.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we freely admit that Your Ways are above all our ways and Your Mind is as inscrutable as defining the beauty of a rose or baby’s laugh. Yet we also confess that we are all too often willing to rely on our own ways and own understanding instead of putting our faith in You.  Forgive us most merciful Heavenly Father and guide us back to a faithfully fulfilling relationship in and with You. Strengthen us to withstand the logic of the world and the demand for a proof or sign.  Fill us with the Holy Spirit who will give us what we can take in revelation of You.  Let us seek through prayer with You and study of Your Word a humble spirit of faithful obedience.  That in living out our faith in You, Heavenly Father, we would spread Your Love, Forgiveness and Mercy that will bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

 

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