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“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse……… because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.'” Mark 5:26, 28

“Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him,……Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.'”  Luke 18:39-40, 42

“Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; ‘” John 11: 24,25

In my previous full time work, I’ve undertaken significant research and developed several programs concerning organizational and personal improvement.  There is considerable research in many arenas, including Dr. Peter Senge from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that has determined teams are the primary element for productive improvement and accurate decision making.  I have found that to be often  the case but the purpose of this post is not to delve into the reasons that might be the case.

The purpose of this post is, given the power of teams, to discuss the pros and cons, the impacts positive and negative, of our decisions about what teams we feel are our primary resource for living and how we approach them.  Of course, by its very nature a team requires more than one so we might often use the pronoun “we” in discussing our team.  I further submit that there are two broad types of we; the “w”e is the we made up only members of secular world with a secular outlook.  The other “we” is the “W”e which has as its primary member, Jesus Christ, plus one or more human members.

Now while I started out talking about my background in business the “w”e teams come from all over society:  man&wife, families, friends, clubs, churches, sports teams, business teams and many other types of gatherings.  It is not my intention, nor my belief to state that all these types of “w”e teams are evil or completely ineffective.  Yet my belief is that any and all “w”e teams by their very make up lack the power and the impact of the “W”e team and to the extent we rely solely or primarily on “w”e teams, we will find our plans and outcomes to be less than optimal.

For example, in the first scripture reference above, I don’t necessarily believe that the “w”e team of doctors and others who had tried to help the woman had been evil and just trying to steal her money.  It is very possible that they tried to the extent of their limited medical education of the time to solve her problem.  However, even with their best efforts the “w”e team had failed.

Now to the extent that a crowd or other impromptu gathering can be a “w”e, then their intentions may not be the best for all the members.  In the second scripture example, there was a member of the group who was in need.  However, the way the man was trying to get his need met was an irritant to the rest of the group, the greater “w”e.  Maybe the man was always yelling out at inopportune times or had some other obnoxious, disruptive tendencies.  Whatever the reason was, the group decided when they saw the man’s initial call to Jesus was not responded to, instead of trying to help his plea reach Jesus, they instead, wanted to silence the man and end his irritating (at least to them) behavior.   Had that “w”e group gotten their way, the man would have stayed silent and more importantly blind.

Here’s the bottom line with “w”e groups; they are limited.  The “w”e groups have limited resources, limited intelligence, limited strength just to mention some of their limitations.  Thus to the extent we rely solely or primarily on these groups, our outcomes will necessarily be limited as well.

Then there is the “W”e groups.  In this case it is a group who not only includes, but places as it Highest Member, Jesus Christ.  The woman with the long term medical condition decided to forego anymore “w”e, earthly groups and instead, humbly act to bring Jesus into a group of He and her with the hopes or being healed.  The outcome of that “W”e team did not disappoint her.  Additionally, a “W”e team can have an impact on a “w”e team.  Jesus ended up hearing the blind man calling to Him and ordered the blind man be brought to Him.  Once Jesus got involved, the “w”e team that had been ostracizing man for calling out, changed their tune and told him to be of good cheer.  In the final example, Martha’s brother Lazarus has died.  As Martha ponders the “W”e team or group of Jesus, as the Messiah, Martha, Lazarus, she still doesn’t understand the full power of Jesus as Christ.  When Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, Martha believes that Jesus is talking about an end time of a mass resurrection.  Yet Jesus instructs her that He is the resurrection for this and all time and proceeds to raise Lazarus from the grave.

The last example illustrates a key characteristic of the “W”e team versus the “w”e team.  In the “w”e team, all the team members maybe equals, peers, where they are free to feel they have an equivalent say or power.  In the “W”e team we will be sorely incorrect if we believe that the team members are equal.  The true power of the “W”e team comes from the fact that Jesus Christ is omnipotent, omniscient and only through His magnificent Grace, are we allowed to be part of the “W”e.  Yet that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility in being part of the “W”e.  First we have to believe in the He of the “W”e; in other words we have to believe in Jesus as Christ, the only Begotten Son of God.  As the lady and the blind man did; we have to approach or call out to Christ, to have a true desire to be on the “W”e team.  Finally the “W”e team shouldn’t be a haphazard membership sort of thing.  The “W”e team should be our primary resource.

One more thing, the “W”e team doesn’t just have to consist of two members

; Christ and you.  A husband and wife, a family, a church, even a work group, any or all of these can be “W”e teams.  All it takes is, regardless of the number of members, is that Christ is the head and the rest of the team is committed to serving Christ and each other.  Who puts in more of the effort?  Who is it who has taken all of our sins upon Him, died as a sacrifice in our place and rose again to be our Advocate with the Father?  As you read this may it be that in some sense we become a member of the “W”e team, plugging into His power, striving to bring about His plan and living a life that brings praise to Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You that You would be so grace filled and merciful that You sent Your Son that we might be able to abide in Him and be a part of His team.  Forgive us when we disregard You and instead want to rely on our earthly teams.  Pour out Your Spirit that we might be strengthened to focus on being constantly on Your Team with its blessings and promise of ultimate victory.  That in living that life we would bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.  Or at least believe because of the work you have seen Me do. John 14:11

“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

Seeing is BELIEVING! I believe this to be true.  Yet too often we emphasize the seeing, believing that it is in the seeing that the true believing happens.  Sadly that is not always or even most often the case.

Yet before we get there; let’s quickly discuss the emphasis on seeing in our culture and how the visual permeates our society.  While it is true that a few people can always seem to make their written opinions command attention; especially through applications like Twitter.  The vast majority of written posts are barely read by those have clicked a follow button, let alone been seen by the masses.  Now, you take an ice bucket and dump it on your head, jump out of a moving car and start dancing along side it, be a societal figure known for rigidity but lip sync to some hot new song, wear a wookie mask and start laughing hysterically or find a cute kitten or puppy  scene and you capture it on VIDEO, you may very well find yourself being an instant media sensation.  Why?  Because we get to see it and seeing it means everything. Hey, and I admit, I love a cute, kitten, puppy, baby goat jumping around video as much as anyone.

Yet as fun as some of those things can be; it is the believing concerning what we are seeing or how what we are seeing is shaped by and in turn shapes our subsequent beliefs that is fundamentally important.  Yet today, in our Computer Generated Imagery, anyone with software can manipulate almost any image, Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump receives a Congressional Medal of Honor from President Johnson and it looks real and we have deceased stars still acting in our movies after their death, kind of world; we often have to question just what it is we’re seeing.  For example, I was watching a commercial (for what I don’t remember…age thing) where two dogs flanked a little girl and they were doing something extraordinary but not physically impossible (not speaking words in English).  Now I could have been in awe of the trainer who was able to get the dogs to sit like that and cross their legs, oooorrrrrrrrr, I could just pass it off as really effective CGI.

However, once we can come to the readily accepted conclusion that what we’re seeing is a real happening; then seeing is believing?  I will grant that, yet the truth is that doesn’t mean that we will all believe the same thing from the same image.  Most watch the moon landings with awe and appreciation, where a few watch the exact same images and see fraud and forgery.  Very recently I’ve witnessed the reaction of people to body camera video from police officer involved shootings.  Remember these cameras were put in place to try to quell disputes over the actions of officers.  Yet I’ve watched people watch the exact same video and come to the passionately fervent conclusion that the officer was at fault and others that the person being detained was at fault.  They watched the SAME EXACT VIDEO.

What to take from this.  First, understand that the saying is not seeing is proving or seeing provides indisputable conclusions.  No seeing is believing and what we believe we see is what is going to lead to our conclusions……….and our actions.

Jesus Christ knew this well.  Jesus was not about being a showman, making a spectacle out of Himself or His actions.  Many of His miracles; the raising of the religious leader’s daughter, walking on water, healing the man at the tombs were witnessed by a very few.  Yet He did feed over 5,000 at one sitting and healed a man with a withered hand in the middle of the temple. Yet in the end, with so many having heard and many actually witnessing the miracles that Jesus performed, they still demanded a sign.  And in the end, they still shouted for Jesus to be crucified.

One has to wonder about the Pharisees and other religious leaders who were standing around mocking Jesus as He hung, dying in agony, on the cross.  They proclaimed that if Jesus would only save Himself and come down from the cross, then they would believe He was the Messiah.  I wonder, if Jesus had come down from the cross and confronted them; would the religious leaders bowed and cowered in penitent, sorrowful, repentance for their sins against Jesus?  Or would they have marched over to the Romans and derided and chastised them for screwing up the Crucifixion and allowing Jesus to escape?

Jesus knew and knows that belief doesn’t come from seeing.  Too often we only see what we want to see; what fits neatly into our preconceived idea of the truth and all else is discarded.

There is something else of great importance that we should ponder from this.  What are we looking for?  What are we demanding to see?  Are we longing for some visual sign to strengthen our faith or solidify our belief?  We must see the error and danger in those type of demands.  First we must understand; we are in no position, have no right, as the created to demand any sort of proof or vision from our Creator.  We are not equals to God and our belief or lack thereof, has no bearing or impact on the success of God’s Perfect Plan.  It is by His Grace and Mercy that He goes to the lengths that He has, including the sacrifice of His only Begotten Son, to prove His love for us. Additionally what filters are we using to analyze the things we do see around us?  12 young soccer players and their coach survive for weeks in a flooded cave and are all rescued; a toddler dangles helplessly off a balcony and a man climbs four stories without any help to save the child, an airliner crashes and all 103 people on board survive.  Miracles? Hand of God? Luck? Fate?

The love in the eyes of your child, your spouse, mother, father, brother, friend; just a chemical reaction in the brain? Or is it the blessing of our Almighty Father?  Or what about that spectacular sunrise/sunset; simply meteorology or cosmic blessing?

Jesus Christ asks us to believe.  Believe in God the Father.  Believe also in Jesus Christ, His only Son.  Believe that the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father.  Believe Jesus Christ came to earth, died, was resurrected and lives today; all for love.  Jesus Christ asks us to use the phrase; Believing is Seeing.  Faithfully believing opens our eyes to see the blessings, mercy, peace and most importantly love; that our Heavenly Father wishes to show us, to have us see, each and every day.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim and praise You that You have seen fit to show Yourself to us.  That through Your Son Jesus Christ, You want us to witness and then be testifiers to the unending mercy and love You have for us.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit that we would truly see Dear Father.  We also confess that we often do not look to You through eyes of faithful belief but through eyes of worldly skepticism and doubt.  Forgive us Dear Father when we are blind to you and do not allow us to be led astray.  Pour out Your Light that we may truly see You and follow You in the path that leads to praise and glory to Your Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“For it as when a man, going into another country, called his servants and delivered unto them his goods.  And he that received five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: lo, I have gained five other talents.  His Lord said unto him:  Well done my good and faithful servant:  thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things, enter into thou the joy of thy lord.”  Matthew 25:  14-19

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”  Matthew 7:11

I probably watch too much television these days but I find a prevalence of several different types of commercials:  medicine adds, car adds, lawyer adds and one more type.  This last type deals with savings and breaks down into several types.  Some are for investment companies whose main pitch is a pitch concerning fear that at some time in the future, especially during retirement, if you don’t go with them, you’ll run out of money.  Another frequent saving commercial is from banks who discuss saving for college, cars, homes etc.  Either way, the idea is we have our hard earned money which we’ve earned based on our talents and how to keep as much as possible. On many occasions I have stressed that I am not a biblical scholar, so likewise, for this particular discussion, I am also not a professional or especially skilled financial planner and appropriate financial planning or giving, even monetary giving to the church is not the focus of this post.

This post is actually broader than the aspect of how we save or give money.  The focus of this post is Jesus Christ’s illustration of our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom and Its impact on our lives.  The focus of this post deals with our intentions as we use the things God has entrusted us with.  So let’s get started.

There are many different biblical translations and some translations are very definitive here saying that the lord or master gave the servants bags of silver or gold and/or specifically use the term “money”. I am drawn to the word “talent”.  Now it is factually accurate that a “talent” was a rather large sum of money during Jesus’ time and it is very probable, that in the understanding of the day, hearers of this parable believed Jesus using talent in the vernacular of the day to refer to money.  Yet we’ve seen Jesus use certain specific items to reflect broader concepts as when He used “seeds” to illustrate the Word of God in the parable of the sower (See Matthew 13 1-23).  So here I believe it is appropriate to see talents as greater than just money and to, indeed, see them as the talents that God so richly blesses us with; for example, speaking, writing, preaching, teaching, leading, stewardship, healing, etc., just to name a few.

Let us now have a clear understanding about these “talents”; they come for God Almighty.  Notice at the start of this parable, when the master calls his servants to him; they have no talents.  The talents are the master’s and he supplies them to the servants. One aspect of this concept is when the master supplies the talents they are not going to be talents for cheating, lying, stealing, being an adulterer or the like. Again in stressing that these are God’s talents is to understand that these are not things that we have either acquired or would have acquired on our own.  These are God’s talents which He has been gracious enough to share with us; with the following expectation.

Now let us focus on the relationship of the giver to the receiver. In the parable, the person who is the giver is the Lord, the master of the establishment and the property.  That means he is in charge and has authority.  The receivers are not peers, they’re not family members, they are servants.  They understand that their duty is in service of the master/lord.  With service being a verb, in this case, there is an expectation that something will be done with the given talents to serve the master/lord. This was not a: “I’ve got more important things to do or the heck with the master’s talents, I’m going to focus on what I think is important”, kind of relationship.  The master was to be served.

So next notice what happens upon the master’s return.  The servants come forward to give their accounting of what they’ve done with the talents.  Notice the first two servants; they’ve basically doubled the master’s talents, his money.  They’ve invested the money, worked in someways to increase it; then they give it all back to him.  They don’t tell the master I’ve made an additional 4.5 talents (keeping .5 talent for myself) for you or I made 5 talents and with a reasonable return I’m giving you 9 talents.  No, it was the master’s talents to begin with, so the only thing to do was to give the master all the talents, original and gain, back upon his return.  Even the punished servant who did nothing with the talent given to him by the master at least gave him the one talent back.

Okay, Doug, great for a parable but come on, what am I expected to do after hearing it? Is this some sort of guilt trip about coughing up more dough or joining a Sunday school class?  No, not really; I hope that this post would have an empowering, reflective and peace adding aspect to it.

First, our Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is, including you and I, omnipotent and omniscient, has seen fit to share some of His divine essence with you and I in the form of talents.  These talents are meant to bring glory to Him, to spread His Kingdom far and wide and to be a true blessing to those who receive the talents as well as those who are recipients of the outcome of those who practice their God given talents. And please understand this, God knows you and I so well that He knows just what talent will fit with you and I and will give us all we need to succeed beyond what we can imagine in practicing that talent.  Jesus Christ declares that when we are in alignment and abiding in Him, we will use our talents to do even greater things than Jesus did because of God’s power in us.

Thus let us reflect on the daily activities we engage in.  First, do we feel that we are moved in our spirit to do a particular thing; do we seem to be given multiple opportunities in a certain way to bring glory to God, to help people around us and bring increase to our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom? Do we ignore that movement? Do we avoid those opportunities?  Are we hesitant to use those talents out of a fear of failure or they will lead us somewhere we do not feel comfortable with? Are we burying those talents in the ground, purposefully focusing on what we deem as important or necessary?

Another reflection on our daily activities centers around our returns to God on the basis of the talents He has so richly blessed us with.  As we utilize our talents, do we do so with the intent of returning 100% to our Heavenly Father? To illustrate what I mean by that question; let’s take me as an writer.  Now some might have a strong argument that my writing “skills” such as they are,  might not be a talent from God but for the sake of argument let’s say that they are.  I could use those skills to write blogs, stories and in any other way I can to further His Kingdom and bring glory to His name.  Now I could do that every time I write, with that focus in mind.  However, I could say that I want to win more recognition for myself and get financial rewards so I’m going to write things which might even be Kingdom denying but worldly successful but I’ll only do some of the time.  Let’s say I’ll use my God given talents 90% of the time for God’s purposes and 10% for my own purposes; that’s fair isn’t it? Perhaps from a worldly perspective.  Yet when we realize that Jesus Christ took all of our sins, not 50%, 75% or 99.9% but all of our sins upon Himself for our salvation and then sacrificed Himself for us; we realize that God is and has always been all in 100% of the time for us.  As His servants should we be anythings less?

There are two primary reasons, that we might not want to give 100% to God.  One is we see the talents we’re using as “our” talents and as such we are entitled to receiving a portion of the glory for utilizing them.  The second reason we might want to hold back some is out of fear.  Will God really take care of me if my sole and soul focus is on Him?  Doesn’t it make sense for me to focus part of my talents and my gain purely on myself so that I can be sure about my Return on Investment? I certainly don’t want to be left with looking like a fool with nothing to show for utilizing these talents with God as my focus.

Jesus Christ, through His teachings, His healing actions and His sacrifice tries to tell and show us of the wonderful, all need fulfilling, all powerful, based only on love blessings our Heavenly Father longs to shower upon us.  Even in this parable, we see the rewards as immediate and overwhelming.  First the Lord praises the servant, then the Lord rewards the servant with immediate increase being set over many things and finally the servant is beckoned in to receive the joy of the Lord.  Is there any greater return on our investment of His talents than that?

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You and thank You that, through Your Grace, You have seen fit to share Your talents with us.  Through the Holy Spirit, guide and focus us that these talents would be revealed to us as well as Your plan for how we are to utilize these talents.  Forgive us when we either; utilize these talents not in accordance with Your plan or neglect to utilize our God given talents at all.  In the utilizing of our God given talents in accordance with Your plan, we ask that You would bless not only us but those whom we serve in Your name.  That in the receiving and using of our God given talents we would bring glory, honor and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. God spoke to Cain: ‘Why this tantrum? Why this sulking?'”  Genesis 4:5,6

“Their plan was to turn west into Asia province but the Holy Spirit blocked their route. So they went to Mysia and tried to Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there. ….we walked from there to Philippi…..was to be a prayer meeting…we talked with them….As she listened…she believed!”  Acts 16: 6, 8, 12-14

The above two experiences are centuries apart.  One happened reasonably shortly after creation, the other reasonably shortly after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The first involved Cain, one of Adam’s sons and the other, the apostle Paul.  Yet in both cases, the Will of God, thwarted the plans of men, without a significant amount of explanation.  The reactions of the two men were exceedingly different, impacting not only their lives but the lives of those around them.

Let’s start with Cain.  Besides being one of Adam’s sons, we know precious little about Cain at this point in scripture.  The bible tells us that Cain was the older of the two sons.  As one would expect for that time, both made their livings so to speak, “off the land”.  Seemingly, both also intended to honor God; for both decided to bring their offerings before God.  Abel brought produce from his farm and scripture also tells us that Cain brought an offering from his first born animal, choice cuts of meat.  God liked Abel’s offering but did not approve of Cain’s offering.

I want to pause for a moment here, because here’s where I think we, like Cain can stumble.  Scripture does not tell us why God did not approve of Cain’s offering.  We are generations before Moses received very detailed instructions on the mountain concerning proper sacrifices.  I’ve heard many reasons put forth as to why Cain missed the mark.  Seemingly, without that understanding, we seem to feel that Cain was unfairly treated and had every right to get mad.  However, dear Sisters and Brothers, we’re talking about God, the Creator of all things, having perfect Knowledge and a perfect Plan. Is it really His responsibility to, are we His creation, owed an explanation from Him?

Here’s a vital point that I think gets glossed over, too often left out and rarely stressed enough.  The story seems to go, after the disapproval, Cain goes out, gets in a fight with his brother and then kills him; only to have his sin uncovered subsequently by God after that famous utterance by Cain “am I my brother’s keeper?”.  We get the sense that Cain was left all alone in his despair, which then boiled over in his lashing out at the injustice and smiting his brother.  But please, please, please do not overlook the intervening action from God between the offering’s disapproval and the committing of murder.  God saw that Cain was troubled.  Instead of turning His back on Cain, or banishing him right there and then; God came to Cain to try and help him.  God let Cain know that this offering was not a one and you’re done failure.  God advised Cain that he could improve and if he set his sights on improving, on doing well, then Cain would be accepted just like his brother had been.  God also warned Cain that his anger was dangerous in that it could lead to sin, which of course it tragically ended up doing.

Then there is the Apostle Paul.  One gets the sense in reading many of the letters that Paul wrote as well as his actions, detailed in the Book of Acts, that Paul was a determined individual; that in today’s vernacular we’d say he had a “strong personality”.  When Paul felt strongly about something, he did not mince words about saying exactly how he felt.  Similarly, Paul was not afraid to confront those he disagreed with including the likes of Peter, the one who Christ named the rock. Both in the letters and in Acts we learn that there were places that Paul definitely wanted to travel to; Asia for one and desperately in fact, Rome for another.  Paul mentions that he has plans and those plans, several times, get thwarted.  Paul also leaves no doubt as to who he blames for his plans not happening; the Spirit; whether that be the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ, it is a divine Spirit that prevents him. There are times in Paul’s letters where it is easy to read a sense of frustration, exasperation or even desperation at being stopped at that particular time.

Here’s the thing dear Sisters and Brothers; Paul could have become angry, he could have sulked, he could have stopped and said:  “That’s it, no Rome, no more preaching from me!”.  But Paul didn’t do that.  Instead, Paul accepted, however reluctantly so, the blocking from God and moved to where he was led.  In one case, Paul received a message from God in a dream about where to go, although again, it was not where Paul had said he wanted to go; but he went.  And because Paul went, so many knew faith communities were started, Paul received so many blessings traveling the path, God chose for him to travel.

What does that mean for us today? Think of what the world is telling us today; the worldly mantra:  I can be anything, do anything I want as long as I want it bad enough and will work tirelessly to get it.  Look at how many “I”s are in that statement. Maybe there’s some passing nod at God because some would suggest that God is the one that puts the specific “anything” in my heart so I’m okay in my single minded pursuit. Yet make no mistake, our Heavenly Father is the Creator, He has a plan, a perfect plan. My “anything” no matter how much I want it, strive for it, live for it; does not trump His plan.  So let’s say that my “anything”, that I’m striving for is aligned with His plan; is my timing aligned with His timing; is my “anything” for His glory, am I willing to implement my “anything” based on His plan?

Finally, what is my reaction going to be to God implementing His Will in my life?  If, at the moment it is different than what I had planned; so I get angry, go off sulking and do something sinful in response; the results will be disastrous both for me and those around me.  If, on the other hand, through humble, faithful prayer and study, I submit myself to God’s perfect plan, that I may have no idea where it’s leading; then I may reap untold blessings and yes even bounty that I never conceived would come my way.  Let us ask for help through the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ to have the appropriate response.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we freely accept and declare that You are the Creator of all things, including us and have a perfect plan for all things.  We are so grateful that in Your Mercy and Grace, You have seen fit to provide us with tools, such as Your Word and prayer to allow us to align our will to Your Will.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we stubbornly attempt to impose our will or reject the imposition of Your Will into our life or plan.  Through the Holy Spirit, teach us to be humbly obedient to the path You have chosen for us, knowing that it will be filled with Your love and blessings. That in living a life aligned to Your Plan for us, it will be a life of praise and glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

“Give me an understanding heart that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.”  1 Kings 3:9

“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you.”  John 14:25

“For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

I have stated before and this post is not meant to in any way shape or form be anti-science, anti-academic, or anti-intellectual.  Science and medicine and those who are well versed in those topics and subjects have done great personal feats for me and I give thanks to God for them.  This post has more to do with our mindset as we pursue greater intellectual knowledge and how we think about the process of attaining it as well as how we feel about ourselves once we’ve attained it.

Prizing education and academic learning is nothing new and seemingly today the demand for it, those seeking to obtain it, the costs associated with attaining it and the thoughts about those who don’t have it are ever more in the forefront of our societal consciousness.  Academic institutions, especially those for profit and their marketing are a significant presence in all of our media today.  The having of a degree, several degrees, advanced degree or degrees is more frequently a requirement or at least preferred characteristic that many employers are seeking out for their organizations.

While none of those current societal trends are troubling or secular in themselves, I believe we have to be very careful about how we see ourselves both in the process of attaining “higher” education and once the degree or certification has been obtained.  For the way that it is too often portrayed is that the attaining of higher level of learning is a testament to our own talents, desires, “work ethic” or vision.  Also, once we’ve attained the higher degree, we are somehow more worthy, entitled to some greater reward for our efforts, should be sought out and listened to more.  In a word we are “better”; not only better than we were before attaining the degree but also “better” than those who don’t have our level of learning.  It is all too easy for our pride to swell through the process and attainment of higher education.

Let’s take a look at this for a moment starting with the process of attaining higher learning.  Isn’t the process a testament to my desire for self improvement an accolade to my diligence and self motivation, proof of my desire for self fulfillment? As I take my classes, isn’t this a compliment concerning my tenacity?  Aren’t the grades I receive, truly and solely, “my grades” worthy of acknowledgement and glorification?  Here are some self-reflection questions I might need to ask and answer to validate those opinions.  At what point during my development in the womb did I decide and take steps to insure that my brain would function in such a way to allow me the understanding and capacity to seek this higher learning? As an infant or a toddler, what plan did I conceive and implement that allowed me to have sufficient prerequisite learning to continue into an advance state? Let me review my complete plan of all the parents, educators, administrators, mentors and many others that I perfectly put in place that led to my successfully being able to further my education.

Upon completion of this increased education, I am entitled to some or much personal glory, perhaps depending on the level I’ve achieved.  I am deserving; deserving of higher pay, greater promotions, more plush offices.  I deserve to not only be sought out for my opinion, also listened to with less questioning and my opinion should always be given greater weight than those lessors who have not achieved the education that I have.

Yes these are the fruits of “my” singular labor.  Woe to those who are not willing to give me my dues.

Solomon, known biblically and in even general lexicon (i.e. many speak of “The wisdom of Solomon) as one of the wisest living persons knew about the need for wisdom/learning and his lack of it.  His Father David was one of the greatest kings of Israel and upon his death, wanted Solomon (as was God’s plan as well) to reign after him.  The challenge was that Solomon was very young.  He knew he didn’t have the knowledge to satisfactorily govern such a vast and powerful kingdom.  So when God asked Solomon what he wanted from God, Solomon could have asked for riches, a long life, many excellent wives and children; Solomon asked for a wise heart.  He asked for knowledge to lead God’s people well, knowing good from evil.  God was very pleased with Solomon’s request and granted it to him.

Jesus Christ had been extremely diligent in teaching His disciples.  Yet at the last supper, He knew that His disciples still lacked the critical understanding that they would need to carry Christ’s message into the world.  So Jesus promised to send a “Friend”, a “Helper”, the Holy Spirit who would provide all the necessary knowledge and insight needed to carry forth the Gospel of Christ.  Jesus went on to say the Holy Spirit was not just for the disciples but for all who would come to Christ and, through Him, seek the wisdom of the Father.  The world, otherwise could never receive the Holy Spirit because they would not believe that Christ asked for Him to be sent.

Thus it would seem that, while we may indeed know, understand and desire the attainment for a greater knowledge, a higher degree, the fulfillment of that desire is more of a gift of Grace from God, than it is solely a result of our own efforts. I do not contend that it does not take effort, yet that effort builds on God given talents.  Even to have the opportunity is a blessing from God. It may take some humility to come to that understanding but it will align us more accurately with He who provided us the talents in the first place and Whose plan our gaining in wisdom is fulfilling.

Also, having attained some greater learning/education, we need to understand that it is not about being served as a reward for that attainment but finding a way to serve with the gained knowledge.  We need to remember what Christ stated that to one who has much given, much is required.

So, if we are so led, let us go and learn.  Let us strive and achieve.  Always being mindful of as well as thankful for, the blessing and gift that there is in the opportunity for and acquiring of, greater knowledge.  Let us give glory to the Name of Him where all glory, honor and knowledge resides, living a life of loving, sharing and serving to our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we affirm and declare that all knowledge and wisdom resides in You.  We are so very thankful that in Your Mercy, You have seen fit to share some of Your knowledge and wisdom with us.  We pray, as Solomon did, that You would guide us to use that wisdom and knowledge in Your service as a blessing to this world.  We also ask Your forgiveness when we see the achievement and wisdom in a prideful way, seeking our own glory.  Guide us we pray and allow us to use the wisdom You so freely provide in a way that will be praise to Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, …..how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Luke 13:34

“A certain man was preparing a banquet, at the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come for everything is now ready’. But they all alike began to make excuses….” Luke 14: 16-18

“Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her”. Luke 10:41,42

I HAD NO CHOICE!!!!  That is a phrase that seems to gain more and more traction in today’s world.  There are several reasons for it.  One of the reasons revolves around the two edge sword that is science and scientific discoveries.  Now understand this, having lost two parents and several other relatives to cancer in the past, the fact that the Lord has allowed medical science to progress in that my wife is now cancer free for many years is a true blessing to behold.  We are constantly finding out new and wonderful things about the creation that is a human being and the wonderful processes at work within us.  Yet at the same time, those discoveries can be misconstrued and taken out of a greater; mental, physical and spiritual context allowing for certain behaviors and/or human challenges to be dismissed as “I was born this way”.  Yes it appears to be true that genes are foundational physiological building blocks that definitely impact biological processes.  Though now, we often seem to rush to find a genetic reason for something including do I eat too much, drink too much, can’t control my anger and so many more.  And if some genetic connection can be found, then the answer is all too often; then I’m not responsible because I’m not responsible for my genetic makeup.  The genes made me do it.

However, there are more than just genetic aspects of the “I had no choice” rationale. In the socioeconomic realm, we so often see this reason use to excuse either committing or being a victim of egregious behavior.  To get, keep, get promoted in my job, I was required to endure the actions of or perhaps I was forced to commit certain actions of (fill in the blank with some horrific action or behavior). In today’s society, it is one thing when a child understandably claims that they were powerless to thwart or escape the actions of an adult who was responsible for them.  However, it is different for a fully functional adult to make the same claim as often as we do.

Then there are the process reasons for not making a decision like:  No one ever asked me or I didn’t have a chance to make an input or the every popular, Everyone else was doing it so i was forced to go along.

Jesus, during His ministry is constantly talking about first making and then the ramifications of making certain decisions.  Jesus talks about the decision to enter through the narrow door that leads to salvation versus the wide door that leads to destruction.  He cries out in sorrow as He laments how often He has tried to gather His chosen people together, to protect and guide them, like a hen does for her chicks, but it was not the wind or some outside force that drove the chicks, the people from Jesus; it was their own decision not to be led by Him.  Jesus tells a story that is analogous to great feast in the Kingdom of Heaven when He tells of the man who was throwing a great banquet and first invited all His friends and those He truly felt worthy to attend.  The day of banquet came and imagine the anticipation the man had to see his banquet hall filled with appreciative, joy filled guests.  Then the decisions started happening.  We don’t know why the invited guests started making excuses: “Nope got to go see some land”, “Unh, unh, I got to go see my new ox”, “OOOO bad timing, I just got married; sorry can’t make it”.  However, one by one, all the invited guests decided not to come and made excuses as to why.  The consequences of those decisions?  The chosen invitees were never going to be let in or be invited again.

Jesus Christ knows how the world can skew our conceptions and distort our reality to cause us to make unwise decisions.  Jesus Christ, the true Son of God had come to the house of Martha and Mary; and He was not alone.  Scripture tells us that at least the disciples were with Him and perhaps more.  The world of that day (as well as today) required certain behaviors from the host; something to eat and drink and the inevitable cleaning that comes after that.  Jesus was speaking, again the Son of God was speaking and scripture tells us that Mary is sitting listening.  Martha is diligently trying to fulfill the requirements of a hostess but without the help of her sister and Martha is upset.  Perhaps in Martha’s eyes, Mary had chosen to be lazy.  Jesus, patiently, gracefully and softly corrects Martha and her perception.  The Son of God doesn’t visit your house every day, and when He takes the time to speak, listening to Him, focusing on Him is the correct decision to make; regardless of how the world would think otherwise.

So again, Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is clear that our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom has given us the ability to choose.  Perhaps in some ways had it been our decision we would have left off that capability from our creation in that it allowed us to decide to partake of the fruit that led to our initial fallen nature and all the wars and evils we have partaken in since then.  Yet having choice allows us to have faith, allows us to choose love, mercy and forgiveness.  Jesus Christ is calling upon us to choose.  Although even in that call, Jesus Christ is not leaving us to our own meager devices in attempting to choose the righteous path.  For Jesus Christ has articulated His Father’s plan that They would grant the Holy Spirit come and instruct and lead us to the decisions that will lead us to redemption and salvation.  However, we do not dare cede these careful decisions to the world and its ways.  We dare not try to excuse ourselves from deciding because we feel forced to go a different path.

Thus as Joshua proclaimed let us also decide; as for me and my house, we will serve the lord.  Let us be wise as Mary to sit at the feet of the Lord.  Let us not decide to refuse the invitation of our Heavenly Father to attend His eternal banquet feast.  Let us come to the protecting wing of Jesus Christ allowing ourselves to be gathered in to Him, living lives of glory, honor and praise in and to the name of our Father in Heaven.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we freely proclaim that You have given us the faculties and the responsibilities to make choices.  Yet we also humbly confess that too often we turn from the resources that You provide and rely on our own means that lead to poor and disastrous decisions.  Hear us and forgive us when we call out to You when we stray that You, in Your loving mercy, would gather us back together in You.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us to guide us in the way, making the decisions that will align us to Your Most Perfect Will and bring everlasting Glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am He’, said Jesus, ‘And you will see the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'”. Mark 14:62

“But I tell you the truth it is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

And when I turned  I saw among the lamp stands was someone like the Son of Man…When I saw Him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said ‘ Do not be afraid, I am the First One and The Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever'”.  Revelation 1: 12, 17,18

We have a crucial question that we must ask ourselves: Is Jesus Christ a figure to us?

So let me explain what I mean by a figure and why that question is so important to every aspect of our life; physical, mental and especially spiritual.  In this case I’m speaking of a figure as personage of importance.  We have many figures around us and some are non-individualistic representations of persons or people; for example, the Pope could refer to the current person in that position or the position in general.  We obviously have individual historic figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandi and Mother Teresa for examples. I could go on citing examples of different types of figures but I think you get the drift.

So why is it important for us to consider whether we are placing Jesus Christ in the category of figure, even if it’s a separate category above all the rest?  Because rarely do I ever enter into a relationship with “a figure”.  In truth, I didn’t have a relationship with the parental figure classified as my father; I had the relationship with Henry A. Huggins. I may know the name of, certain characteristics and happenings about, view the person of our President of the United States, but that really in no way shape or form would constitute a relationship.  If we carry that line of thinking further into the aspect of historical figures, it is impossible to be in a relationship with George Washington, Harriet Tubman or Plato for example.  Thus we must be certain that we don’t see Jesus Christ as simply a figure.  That we don’t categorize Jesus Christ as some, albeit great, aspect of history and/or the Son of God as simply a title, devoid of a very much alive, personally relevant to every aspect of our life, real, individual Being?

Now as it applies to being in a relationship with Jesus Christ, our very nature causes challenges there as well.  For one, we are not God come to earth as Jesus Christ was.  We were created by God, who then breathed His breath of life into us.  Being created of this earth makes us corporeal in nature.  That is we tend to experience things through the physicality of our human senses versus the revelations of our spirit.  In fact there would be some who would discount that there is even such a thing as a “spirit”.  Yet it is in fact that spiritual realm where we encounter the Living Risen Jesus Christ.  That is not to say that Jesus Christ has no power over, or impact on the physical world, He most certainly does.  Yet His ability to be present with us in all circumstances and at all times is based on His ability as spiritual being.  As I type this please understand, it is not like I completely understand the Spiritual aspect and working of Christ for it is far above my ability to comprehend.

Also, besides the spiritual aspect of being in relationship with Christ, another challenge that we have is that we are time-linear beings.  That is to say we see things in a progression of time, there was something that happened, there is something happening now, and there will be something that happens later; the past, present and future.  John, tells us that Christ existed from the beginning.  However, we see the physical person of Christ as being a person who lived on this earth for approximately 33 years, some roughly two thousand years ago.  Because Christ became corporeal, we have challenges not relegating His existence to the time He was here on earth.

One additional challenge we have currently is also how we’re redefining our concepts of relationships.  With social media I can have “friends” who, I’ve not only never physically met, but who I only have contact with based upon the scantest and highly filtered information they allow to be “posted”.  Based on 147 characters, I have thousands of “followers” who can’t really have a clear idea of what they’re “following” based on barely enough input to build two sentences; let alone a developed dossier.

So Jesus Christ wanted, then for His disciples and followers, as well as for us today and all who will come to Him in the future, to truly understand, He is alive.  He was very clear to both those who believed and loved Him as well as those who rejected and hatted Him, that no matter what the earthly outcome of His life seemed to be, i.e. the crucifixion, that He was going to continue to live and not just live, but sit at the right hand of His Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ tried to make clear to His disciples that His returning to heaven was a blessing to them for He would then send the Holy Spirit to them to make all things clear.  We see how loving Jesus Christ continues to be in His loving comfort to John in the Revelation.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus Christ is not only very much alive, in every sense of the word, this very moment; He also wants to have a living, constant, intimate relationship with you and I.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus wants to reveal His endless love and mercy for us, bringing salvation to us as He leads us to throne of His Father in Heaven. As Christ spoke longingly wanting to gather and protect the people of Israel like a hen does for her chicks; in the same way, Christ wants to gather and protect us, to be in a daily, deep, loving relationship with us.

To overcome the challenges we have in entering into that relationship there a several things we can so.  First, pray.  Pray diligently and constantly.  Pray with purpose to Christ, understanding no one willingly prays to someone or something that is dead.  No we pray to one whom we truly believe is alive and able to hear our petitions.  Second, study the word of Jesus Christ.  In the gospels, Jesus, blessedly gives us such wonderful insight into the unique individual that Jesus is.  This intimate knowledge of the thoughts and personality of Jesus Christ allows us a personage to grasp hold of and bond to.  Let us strive to move past any static, impersonal figure of Jesus, to be in a personal, constant, loving and relying on relationship with the real, living for now and evermore, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are awestruck with amazement that You would send Your Son, Jesus Christ, to live, die and be raised for us and our salvation.  We’re equally amazed and thankful that Jesus Christ longs to be in a loving personal relationship with us where He reveals Your true nature.  Forgive our limitations that cause us to see Jesus Christ as some figure of the past with little relevancy to what is happening in our lives today.  Send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and teach us about the blessings of and how to come into a full relationship with Jesus Christ.  That through that relationship in Christ we might live lives that bare much fruit and bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Well done, my good servant, his master replied, because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of 10 cities.” Luke 19:17

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ, Jesus”  1 Thessalonians 4:16

I start with a disclaimer in a way about the title.  The “Perhaps as God Sees them?” is not to infer that I believe that I have the wisdom, insight or righteousness to speak to how God sees things.  It is meant more as an aspect of potential difference between earthly and heavenly vision.

Blessings!  We may often times proclaim that we are blessed, but what do we mean by that?  We ask for and indeed are encouraged to ask for blessings.  Yet what constitutes a blessing and upon receipt of one or many; what is an appropriate reaction?  Do blessings shift based upon the eye of the beholder?

The third entry on the site Dictionary.com defines blessing as “invoking of God’s favor upon a person”.  In the bible blessings could come in the form of speaking words over a person as well as actual actions like healings, etc. Thus as we look at our lives, do we see God’s favor being invoked on our behalf?  Is the overall action of Grace in our lives the constant blessing versus individual acts?

There are two aspects that I want to look at when we think about the topic of blessing; first is there concept of size and how much does that matter.  Second is the knowledge and anticipation of blessing and how that effects its receipt.

First let’s explore size and our measurement of size.  For example, a healing from cancer, the full recovery from a stroke, the successful transplant of a major organ, would definitely seem to fit into the category of blessings to me.  God’s favor is being invoked by these medical triumphs.  But is good health a blessing?  Is going through this day, getting a clean bill of health on the annual physical, not coming down with the sickness that’s going around; are all those mainly because of the way I diet, my exercise regimen, getting enough rest etc.?  Does it take more energy or more favor from God to cure me then it does to keep my healthy in the first place?  Let’s say you and I are praying to become debt free.  If Publisher’s Clearinghouse came to our door with an enormous check that would allow us in one fell swoop to pay off all our debt, we might declare that an amazing blessing.  Yet what if we get some small work done and the person decides not to charge us to either keep us from going further into debt or utilizing some of what we would have used on that job to pay off some debt.  Is that a blessing?  Is it as big a blessing as the Publisher’s Clearinghouse? A personal example of mine is that I’m a published author who prays that his writing might have a relatively measurable level of success (perhaps landing on a bestseller list).  Now if some famous person happened to see, read and recommend my book causing it to end up on the New York Times best seller list, I would call that a blessing.  I would feel the favor of the Lord in that.  But what about the two people who purchased books recently?  Is that a blessing?  Do I discount a purchase here or there because I can’t pay the bills with that level of purchases? Is there no blessing in those small purchases, really?

Jesus teaches a parable where, depending on the translation a master or powerful king gives a small token of his monetary wealth to some servants; telling them to put the money to work while he is away on a trip.  Two out of the three servants do what they can with the money, they invest it which does have some risk associated with it and they gain some money for the king.  Yet one servant is not willing to take any risk with what is given to him, to afraid to utilize it at all, he buries it so that he knows at least he can’t lose the money.  The king has an interesting reaction to the servant’s efforts.  The two servants who took what was given to them and put it to work, although there might be some risk, were rewarded.  The one servant who buried what was given to him and didn’t allow it to provide any benefit was stripped of his money and left out in the cold.  If the king had started out saying, if you do good I’m going to put you in charge of cities, then all three servants might have worked hard seeing a large reward.  However, the gain of the two servants was not great in comparison to the master’s overall wealth, but because they were faithful in the small amounts that they had, the master figured they would be faithful enough to entrust with a much more significant amount.  In the same way, are we only looking for the “big” blessings?  Can we see God’s favor in the short rain shower when its been dry for weeks or does it have to be an all day soaker?  Can we find appreciation when we’re asking for a new car but the old car passes inspection without costing us anything?  We desperately want the promotion to manager but we’re given a new assignment that, at this points, gives us some more money and responsibility; is their God’s favor in that?  If we’re not appreciative of or can not see the favor of God unless there is a monumental happening in our life skipping over the day to day blessings that are showered down upon us; can we really be trusted to be faithfully, appropriately, appreciative at those big times?

So now that we’ve talked a little about size of blessing, what about the timing of the blessing(s)?  I know for myself, there have been times when I’ve thought or said to myself:  “Man if I only knew!”  In this case what I mean is perhaps I was in a place of consternation or uncertain expectation about some future situation.  Once the situation unfolds or the outcome happens and I clearly see the blessing that God poured out, I think how easier my life would have been if I knew that particular blessing was coming.  Yet the reality is would it really have been easier if I knew?  One example we can use is the Israelites as they left Egypt.  God had promised they were heading for the promised land; a land dripping with milk and honey.  God was physically with them at times, in a pillar of smoke during the day, and pillar of fire at night.  However that did not keep them from being fearful and complaining about starving or dying of thirst.  So if God were to lay everything out in front of me, in His plan about the future blessings to come; would that make my today better?  Would I be so impatient for that future date that I would become frustrated and downtrodden at what was happening today?  Would I be so focused on the future blessings that I would totally miss the blessing and love that God poured out on me each day leading up to the blessings?  Would I grumble at God, at His length of time to fulfill His plan or would I be praising each day?  I’m humble enough to realize my failings and my potential ungratefulness.

Bottom line is that God does bless.  I don’t remember an aspect in scripture concerning the measurement of blessings or the importance of them based on size.  Not only is God’s plan perfect, His blessings are more than sufficient for us. Also how much He communicates about His plans and future blessings is perfect as well.  Let us strive to see and receive in full appreciation and praise the favor of God that is poured out on us by His Graceful Blessings we constantly receive.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we are so thankful Lord for Your constant and merciful grace that manifests itself in countless blessings that we receive.  Forgive us when we are quick to overlook Your blessings because they don’t seem impactful enough or have not come when we think that they should.  Help us to pray for Your Spirit that will allow us to be faithfully patient, confident in Your Plan, including its timing.  That in our acknowledgement and praise we would be living lives that bring glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven'”  Matthew 18:3

“He said to them: ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'”  Mark 10:14

“Which of  you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?”  Luke 11:11,12

Jesus must have felt that having a childlike quality is pretty important.  This lesson is found in three of the four gospels.  It was one of the times that He found Himself being upset with His disciples; because they were trying to keep the children from coming to Jesus as Jesus had more important things to do.  What is Jesus getting at?  Is Jesus wanting us to act childish? Are there a bunch of brats in heaven?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus goes on to talk about the humility of a child.  In other places, Jesus talks about the faith to move mountains.  What Jesus seems to be expressing in the example of children, the characteristics that will find the kingdom of heaven, are faith, humility and obedience.

What sort of faith are we talking about? I think a story that happened with one of my children might help illustrate this.  We were driving along with my daughter, dutifully, safely strapped into her car seat.  When I was growing up, I’m not sure that car seats were even a thing, but whether they were or not we didn’t use them.  We were free to roam across the back seat because in those days, seat belts were only upfront.  However, for a time I flew for a living and we had to strap ourselves in very tightly before we took off.  What always amazed me was how similarly confining the car seats seemed for these little kids.  Okay back to the story.  As I say my daughter was in the car seat and the sun was streaming through the back window hitting her right in the face.  Without a second thought, she made the following request to her mother:  “Mom, the sun is in my eyes will you please turn it off?”  Mom, please turn off the sun; that didn’t seem an outlandish request to my daughter.  Also, I truly believe that my daughter would have been in no way surprised if my wife had reached outside the car and somehow turned off the sun (of course everyone else would have had a canipshin fit).  What I’m saying is that my daughter had complete faith in her mother to ask her anything.  Sadly, our children soon learn the limitations of their earthly parents.  They grow out of the belief that their parents can do everything (sometimes that they can do anything).  Sadly, we also transfer that same “growth” in our perception of our Heavenly Father.  As we learn about natural laws and man made processes; we start to fit our Heavenly Father, into our own perceptions of possible.  That is why Jesus so often asks about people’s faith in His ability to heal them; and praises so emphatically the Roman Centurion who has no shred of doubt that Jesus could heal his servant with just an utterance of a word.

Quite often, early on, there is a real humility to a child.  I know it may not seem like it and again it is something that can quickly change with age, but little children so often ask permission.  It is not uncommon to hear:  “May I………”  Little children want to hold hands, they don’t tend to desire go their own way.  They wanted to be connected to the bigger thing than themselves which is the family.   It is true if we’re not careful about how we respond we can teach them that they are the center of all things and that it is their right to get what they want.

Again, you may ask me if I’m off my rocker, but young children can and will be obedient.  They can learn that there is someone of greater power than themselves, namely their parents, and that their parents have certain conditions which determine what is right and what is wrong.  While children will test those boundaries, often they will still feel that their parents are a higher power, and both respect and also in a way even fear that power, yet still be in love with their parents.  Again as the child grows, often that sense of “higher power” falls away as the child feels that they are becoming equal if not superior to their parents (right around the teenager time).

Here’s where I think the challenge comes in.  We do age.  We watch a progression with our children that as they age, they become more self sufficient, more independent.  They absolutely may very well love us the same or even greater.  Yet we teach them in formal and informal ways not to rely on us as much and to rely more on themselves.  They become that wonderfully, stand on their own adult, and we are proud of them for that.  From a human perspective there is no problem with that.  Yet Jesus Christ tells us, if we use the human progression model as our template for interacting with God, to the extent we “grow” into self sufficient, self reliant, no longer seeing a need to be obedient persons, we will fail to enter into the Kingdom of God.

We find value in calling ourselves “children of God” and it is right to do so.  You will not find anywhere an admonition to be called “adults of God”. We are to always continue to look at our relationship with God as a young child; that is to say with humility, knowing that God the Father is and always will be much greater than ourselves.  With faith, that Our Father God is perfect and has a perfect plan for us.  With obedience, that we are to submit and subordinate our will and our desires, to God’s will and His commandments for us.

Let’s use one more imperfect human comparison to illustrate how important this is.  Let’s say you are one of the wealthiest, most powerful, educated parent on earth.  You have the ability and desire to many great things for your child.  However, if your child should declare that they are turning their back on you, that they will not acknowledge you as their parent and will accept nothing from you or listen to anything you have to same to them because they don’t need you.  It would be extremely difficult, with your wealth, power, intelligence and best intentions to do anything for that child.

But, Doug, you say, my heavenly Father doesn’t do the good things for me that I need or that I want him too!  We have probably all had that thought at some point.  We know best what we need and He’s not giving it.  Let’s use the you’re the very wealthy, powerful, intelligent, loving parent example again.  If your child was abusing alcohol, let’s say, and they pleaded:  “All I want from you is more alcohol.  If you loved me you would give it to me and if you won’t give it to me then I reject you”.  A loving parent would know better and would not relent and give their child more alcohol.  They would stand ready to give the much needed help, but would not give into demands they know would hurt the child.

But human parents aren’t our Heavenly Father.  We get tired, we can get selfish, our patience and mercy can be strained.  Our resources aren’t unlimited, our plan and intelligence is not perfect.  Sometimes we have no idea what to do.  Our Heavenly Father has none of the failings or restrictions.

Our Heavenly Father is all about loving His children.  He even sent His Only Begotten as a sacrifice to save the rest of us.  His Son, who now calls us friends tells us, for that relationship to work, its not that God needs but we need to humble ourselves to be His loving, faithful, humble and obedient children through which it is Our Heavenly Father’s grace filled plan to share His kingdom and all of its blessings, this day and for eternity with we, His children He so loves.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are filled with awe and amazement that You, the creator of all things, would desire to be the Heavenly Father to each of us.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would but accept that relationship as a grateful, humble, loving and obedient child.  That in receiving the blessings of a Child of God, we would live into a right relationship with You as Our Heavenly Father that share Your Light and Love with this world and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“And He said to them: ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses'”.  Luke 12:15

But O Lord of Hosts, You who judge righteously, testing the mind and the heart…..” Jeremiah 11:20

Father, the hour has come, Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You….”  John 17:1

In looking at the definition covetousness it states:  one aspect is to show a strong desire especially for material things – implying an inordinate desire for another’s possessions.

In looking at the definition of motivation it states:  the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

There is a commercial out now for a financial trading company where it shows a rich person doing outrageously outlandish, over-the-top excesses with their wealth and the tag line comes on:  “Don’t get mad get (name of the company). Now from a worldly sense, the add is cute and has a powerful message.  That message being if you see something the rich has and you want it, not to resent the rich; but come to us and we can get it for you.

Over the past few years I have been on a journey of transition in my professional life from that of being a member of the corporate world, to that of an entrepreneur.  While in that transition, it has been interesting to see the different aspects of motivation that exist is those two different worlds.

Within the corporate world, there is a general sense of getting ahead, whether it is all the way to the top leadership or not.  Getting ahead or “climbing the corporate ladder” often infers rewards of more money, more power and responsibility and greater prestige.

Within the world of the entrepreneur the motivations can be more diverse.  They can range from fulfilling a dream, to having greater freedom, to having more control, to sharing less of the proceeds with others; just to mention a few.  One of the interesting things that I found with entrepreneurs is that they almost always have an example to go by.  There is almost always someone that they know personally or someone whose story they’ve heard about that they want to emulate.  Even if the goal of the business or organization seems to be altruistic in nature; I have often found the person still has someone that they aspire to “be like”; to have the success that they have or the life that they live.

Thus we get to the heart of covetousness.  I want what they have, I want to live like them, I want to BE them.  There are some significant hazards and pitfalls we must be very careful about when we have those desires or motivations.  Now wait a second, Doug, you say to me; I don’t want to be like someone rich or powerful, heck I want to be like Mother Theresa ( a wonderful, beautiful person to be sure).

Before we get to the spiritual aspect, one glaring practical thing we have to understand; RARELY do we actually REALLY KNOW WHAT THEIR LIFE IS LIKE!  Please reread that sentence again.  So often we’re judging someone’s life, even the positive aspects, based on very limited information.  Even for those people whom we may know, are in our sphere of acquaintances or work colleagues; often what we are allowed to glimpse of their lives is  purely what they are going to want us to see, allow us insights about.  The true impact of their decisions whether business or life, is primarily known only to them, perhaps a trusted confidant/family member and therapist!  Additionally, to the extent that they are honest with us about all facets of their lives, we are still filtering those aspects based on our own experiences, values and assumptions.  Sadly, sometimes tragically we find out how skewed and erroneous those assumptions are when we try to replicate someone else’s life in our own.  Thus when I find myself motivated by trying attain what it is that “they have”, I often don’t even have an accurate clue about actually what “they have” and the true impact of having it is.

Well okay, okay I may not really completely know what “they have” but what I do know is if, I had what I think they have, I’d handle it in such a way that it would be good, no great for me!  I confess to you that I have been known, on rare occasions to play the lottery, normally when the jackpots are ginormous.  Now of course I’ve read the biblical admonitions and warnings about wealth, especially extreme wealth.  Therefore I am open to the idea that even my playing the lottery is tottering on temptation and sin.  Yet I tell myself; if that infinitesimally long shot thing were to happen, I COULD HANDLE IT.  And in fact it would be God’s will if it did!  I will at least say I don’t really count on it and am not disappointed when God has decided not to place the burden of winning on me.  The moral or at least question is:  given what God and Christ has warned about vast riches, how much am I fooling myself to say I could handle it and that I would be humbly obedient to God’s plan for the use of those gains.

So let’s start to wrap this up by now looking at this from a spiritual perspective.  After Jesus gives this warning about covetousness, He tells a parable about a foolish farmer who wants more.  Even once the farmer gets “more”, he wants to keep even more and goes through great lengths to secure it.  Once the farmer goes through all the effort and sacrifice to get the total more that he finally thinks he needs and is now ready to sit back an enjoy that more; the farmer dies that night.  In its basic tenant, coveting is mostly about getting more!  On that rare occasion we look at someone who has less, let’s say a less time consuming job, or less clients to be responsible for, or smaller house to take care of; we covet what they have because we want more, maybe more time for ourselves, more peace in our lives, more simplicity.

Jesus Christ stresses over and over and over again; Our Heavenly Father knows and will supply all that we need and that is blessedly beneficial to us.  Yet it is not a sin to want, because if it were, Jesus would not have implored that we can ask in His name, in the name of Christ to our Heavenly Father and the Father will hear and answer.  Now our Heavenly Father will reply with what is best for us, which may be different than the request that we made.

Finally, Jesus Christ teaches us, why should we be asking for, whatever it is that we’re asking for, in the first place.  When Jesus prays in the presence of His disciples and asks for His, that is Jesus’ name to be glorified, it is so that ultimately the Father’s name will be glorified.  Is what motivates us the glory of our Heavenly Father.  Is the desire that we have for the new (fill in the blank, car, house, promotion, job, retirement, etc, etc, ) to use that to glorify the name of Our Heavenly Father?  Is that where our desire rests?  It did for Jesus and Our Heavenly Father did glorify the Name of Jesus Christ above all other names.

Yet I am not Jesus Christ and I know that the fallen nature within me does not naturally tend toward the glorification of the Father but rather to my own self gratification.  So I believe I and we must pray to receive the strength to put aside our own covetousness desires and gain the true motivation to abide in Christ and glorify the Father.  It is with that motivation we can have the confidence that we will live ultimately rich, fulfilled, blessed lives in praise to our Heavenly Father’s most Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim and praise Your Gracious Generosity to fulfill all our needs whether we know of the need or not.  We also confess that we too often look to others in the world and desire what they have for our own gain and purposes.  Forgive us when we covet what our neighbor has and give us the strength to resist that temptation, asking for those things which would bring glory to Your Most Holy Name and blessed peace and joy to our lives.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

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