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“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.

“Then they sent to Him some Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words….” Mark 12:13

“Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and they asked him….”  Mark 12:18

“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him…” Mark 12:29

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?”  John 3:4

We sure are a questioning bunch.  We ask such things as: What’s for Dinner?, to What’s the meaning of life?  We ask questions about the future: What’s the weather going to be tomorrow?  We ask questions about the past: Why did we elect or Why didn’t we elect so-and-so?  We often ask questions to get information.  We sometimes ask questions just let out our emotions.  Questions can be a threat.  Questions can be a blessing.

But if you’ll pardoned this question which has an oxymoronic aspect by its very nature:  Should we ever question God?  If my response is no, then end of story, short article and off you go merry clicking away to somewhere else.  If I say yes, certainly, then I’m perhaps placing myself on pretty shaky ground, faith wise.  Yet did not even Christ Jesus, Himself exhort us to:  “Ask and it will be given to us”? (Matthew 7:7)

I believe that the answer for us can be found in the way that Jesus Christ handled questions asked of him, especially by the religious leaders of His day.  You see, what we must understand, take into account is the reason those religious leaders were questioning Jesus in the first place.  Scripture is very clear that the vast majority of the religious leaders did not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah.  Worst yet, the leaders believed that Jesus was not only a charlitain but a dangerous rabble rouser who might, not only upset the Jewish order of things, but bring the might of occupying Roman army down upon them.  Normally they knew how to deal with these people.  In the past they had been easily able to show the falseness and trickery of the false prophets and quickly dispatch them.  However, Jesus was all together different.  Jesus miracles were not some shoddy parlor tricks.  His preaching was not some hollow diatribe of lunatic fringe meanderings.  Hardly, Jesus was performing miracles that had never been done before and could not be explained except as a product of Divine intervention. Secondly, His teaching showed a greater knowledge, an intimate deeper understanding then any of the Jewish leaders, themselves had.  And worse still, the people loved to hear Him, loved to be around Him and watch Him perform miracles and listen to Him preach.  Yet, again for the most part, the Jewish leadership, would not, could not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah.

Thus, because the people followed Jesus so, they needed to find a way to get the people to turn on Jesus.  The Jewish leadership had to show the people who knew more about scripture and about the Kingdom of God.  They had to find a way to trip Jesus up, so the crowds were turn away from Him.  They figured, asking Him questions was just the way.  These were not just any questions; these were loaded questions.  The questions they asked Jesus were posed in such away that Jesus couldn’t answer without getting Himself in trouble with the crowd or with the Roman authorities.  Some questions were asked to try and stump Jesus, so the crowds would see that He was not all-knowing after all.  Anytime the Jewish leadership, and they tried many times with many different representatives, tried to trap Jesus with one of these questions; they failed miserably.  In fact, they failed so many times, they stopped trying, they were so afraid of His answers and how foolish His answers made the leadership seem, they eventually stopped asking Him questions all together.

However, those were not the only questions Jesus received.  In fact, during one exchange, a scribe, who would have been a learned man of that time, was listening in.  He heard the wisdom of Jesus thwart and confound the wisdom of the Jewish leaders.  So the scribe then asked a question:  What is the greatest commandment?”  Yet Jesus did not ridicule this question or he who asked it.  In fact, Jesus used the question to give one of His most powerful answers (see Mark 12:28).  Then there was another man, a Jewish leader, a Pharisee, who came to Jesus by night to see Jesus.  When, Jesus talks about being born again, Nicodemus asked how can a man be born when he is old.   Jesus, at least at that point, did not ridicule Nicodemus or his question but answered it with a great and powerful, spiritual truth (see John 3:5).  But in both of the above questions, the two men asking the questions were doing so out of humility.  In both cases the men declared the special, in fact extraordinary wisdom that Jesus possessed and they were asking to gain wisdom from Jesus, not refute Him.

So, what impact does this have for us?  You might be saying to yourself (or to me), Doug, I would never question God in doubting His Power or as if I knew the answer to try and trick him!  Okay, maybe you or I, don’t ask our questions in such a way to try to trick God, but what about doubting Him?  I confess sometimes my questions are such as:  Why didn’t you do what I asked? or Why did you answer my prayer in this way (again insinuating that I had the better answer)?  Do we ever ask our questions with a doubt that He’s even listening?

That’s not to say we can’t ask God for understanding about why something is happening.  Yet we must be humble in doing so; acknowledging that whatever answer is received is the perfect answer, whether we would agree or not.  We need to see that it is a sure blessing that God wants to be in a relationship with us enough, the He will allow us to ask Him questions.

There’s one other aspect we must consider when asking God a question.  While we can be certain of His hearing the question and equally certain that He will answer the question, we can not have the expectation of our complete and perfect understanding of His answer.  Even with the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are still limited in our ability to truly and completely grasp the infinite wisdom, the God derived logic and thinking which is the basis for the answer.  That is where faith comes in.  We may fathom only a fraction of the unattainable Godly wisdom, behind an answer to our question.  Yet we can have complete faith that God understands all and through His Loving Grace, He will share what He can, but always has what is best for us in His plan.

Yes, let us take Jesus Christ at His Word and is Exhortation to ask that we may be given.  Yet let us also insure that our intent is pure and humble; that we know we are the creation asking of our Creator.  Let us be thrilled and praise filled that Our Creator loves us enough, wants to be in relationship with us enough, to provide His Heavenly answer.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we are eternally thankful and praise Your Most Holy Name that, through Your Loving Grace, You desire to have a relationship with us that allows us to ask questions of You having faith that You will answer.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we ask the question in a way that lacks humility and respect and assumes we know the answer better than You.  Pour Out Your Holy Spirit that will help to show us Your Wisdom although we know we will never completely understand Your Mind.  That in our asking and Your answering we will go forth in lives that bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Editors Note:  If you’re in need of prayer, check out the Prayer Request page on this site.  God bless you. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.”  Psalm 19:1

And they said: ‘Come let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens, let us make a name for ourselves…”  Genesis 11:4

It is said that we live in a time of unprecedented discoveries and increase in knowledge (whether those around Leonardo DaVinci or Sir Isaac Newton would agree who knows).  Seemingly every day there is a new astounding picture published from the Hubble space telescope or some new amazing medical breakthrough.  Yet this is also a time of fear.  Some fear the taking over of knowledge and the inventions knowledge inspires, invading and exposing every aspect of our lives.  Some would withhold knowledge from a certain segment of their population in the name of their god.  Some would argue that there is a war on; a war of science against religion, the scientist against God.  What are we to do?

Hmmm?  What did God say?  Is all knowledge wrong?  Wasn’t the original sin gaining knowledge?  Genesis tells us towards the end of chapter 1 that He created man and woman and that they were to have dominion over the fish of the sea, birds of the air and every living thing that moves on earth.  Now dictionary.com (oh by the way while I sight them often I do not get any kickback or such for siting or using them) says that dominion is the power over or control of.  So it would seem that, to have dominion would necessitate a certain amount of knowledge to do so.  But wasn’t the gaining of knowledge the downfall of mankind?  Genesis tells us it was a very specific knowledge, a knowledge of judgement; specifically the knowledge of good and evil (why that knowledge was forbidden would be a topic for another post).

Think of it this way; to build an arc, a tabernacle, a temple, to use a sling, to fight a battle, to build a city, to tend a crop, to herd sheep, to be a carpenter, all takes the gaining of knowledge.  Now when you look a science, it is the systematic pursuit of the gaining of knowledge and a scientist is one who engages in that pursuit.  Yeah!  All science is good and all scientists are fulfilling God’s will!  EEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR (that is supposed to be the sound of screeching car brakes)!  Not so fast pilgrim.  That is not the truth.

There is an interesting aspect of human nature that seems to parallel the gaining of knowledge; the shunning and looking down upon the thoughts of the past.  How could people believe the earth was flat; the earth was the center of the universe and all things rotated around it, or that you could cure baldness by rubbing goose droppings on the bald area (not making that up)?  As we look down on the thoughts and supposed facts of the past; we often times lift ourselves up in the present believing that our new knowledge either does or should make us intrinsically better, wiser more noble.  How many times have you heard recently the phrase: “In the twenty-first century, we should no longer be dealing with……….”  Also after so many tragedies, many solely man made, we hear the refrain: “We must understand this so that it will never happen again!”  There is an arrogance contained in those types of statements that with the correct amount of knowledge we can fix all things.  We can in essence be perfect.  I have heard it said and frequently from some in the scientific community:  “I no longer see a need for God”  We hear that we are on the verge of discovering the God Particle with an inference from some that upon that discovery; we will understand God!

Have you ever heard the phrase: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”?  Why?  Because when we take action based on limited understanding, the results are almost always disastrous.  I took a splinter out of someone’s hand so now I think I prepared to perform surgery.  I’m a ten year old child who has been allowed to drive an old one gear truck on a secluded farm pasture so now I’ll take by father’s sports car out on the interstate.  I’ve learned to read and have read many things that make sense to me but because the bible doesn’t I feel confident in rejecting it and all it’s teaching.  Or equally as dangerous, I have read part of the bible and think I fully understand it so I feel I am as smart as God in judging this thing or that!  It is at those times where the pursuit of knowledge lays the foundation for, and then adds the bricks and mortar for the tower, Our New Age, Virtual (but a tower is a tower even if it is virtual) Tower of Babel.  A tower designed to make us equal with God.

Bottom line brothers and sisters, we are created; which means there is a Creator.  We did not create ourselves.  The Creator fashioned us in His image.  The Creator, God, did not make us replicas or complete copies of Himself.  As the Creator, God has allowed us to gain knowledge.  That knowledge has allowed us to build things, transform things, cure things, reveal things.  In fact, that knowledge can be a wonderful revelation into omnipotent and omniscient nature of God.  It should give us pause and leave us in awe of Him.  Each new discovery should show us just how much more there is that we don’t know and causing us to be truly humble as Our Heavenly Father knows all that is knowable.  We should be content that God’s judgement is perfect and He shares, in love, only that which is for our good.

In this life I will never know or understand fully the nature or mind of God Almighty.  So it is in faith that I come to Him; not as an equal, but as one of His creations.  And I truly believe every scrap of knowledge I’ve obtained to be a gift from Him, revealing the Merciful, Loving, Eternal Father of all.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You are the Creator and knower of all things.  Forgive us when we try to use our limited knowledge to judge ourselves equal to You.  Forgive us when we feel that we’ve gained so much knowledge that You are no longer necessary.  Give us the strength to combat the world’s view that faith is weakness and only what can be proved is valuable.  In the knowledge You so abundantly provide, let us see You revealed in all the discoveries.  That as we learn; we will always praise, Your Most Holy and Perfect Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them.”  1 Samuel 22:2

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given me out of the world. They were yours and You gave them to Me….”  John 17:6

There are many similarities between David and Jesus.  Of course from a human lineage standpoint, Jesus came from the line of David and his city Bethlehem.  David was described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) as well as a man of God by so many prophets of the bible.  However, David was a man, a human, a creation and not the creator and as such, as are we all, he was a sinner.

Yet the similarity that I want to discuss concerns those who were drawn to them, whom both Jesus and David thought fitting to be in company with and to lead.  For while David became a beloved king of the great nation of Israel, leading legions of great men.  He did not start out that way.  No first there was just a very few trusted young men that accompanied him.  Once he found a relatively safe place to shelter, the cave of Adullam, people started to come to him.  These were not the cream of Jewish society who came to him.  Hardly, for people who became indebted to others were looked down upon and lived a horrid existence.  We’re not told why the others were in distress nor discontented but it was a common belief during that time (and unfortunately still carried out today) that those who were in distress deserved it because they had done something wrong.  They deserved the ill treatment they were receiving.  David could have sent them away.  He could have been afraid of what hanging around these people would do to his reputation and his future standing.  He could have done what the rest of society did; shun them.  Or maybe, David could have used them for his own selfish purposes against Saul, and then discarded them when they were of no further use.  David did none of those things.  David took pity on them.  He brought them together under his protection and served them as their captain, their leader.

Jesus started out alone.  Yet Jesus as God come down from heaven knowing all men, could have had his pick of the wisest, most educated, strongest of society.  Had he desired to use it in that way, none could have resisted His will.  But who did he choose?  And really, choose is the wrong word for Jesus proclaims that His disciples were given to Him, by name, by none other than His Heavenly Father Himself.  Fisherman; uneducated, unsophisticated.  A tax collector; filthy scum.  The others we’re not sure what they did as a vocation but none were known outside their small circle of followers at least at the beginning.  It is hard to believe that the world of that time and/or even today would have chosen any one of the them to be a close confidant, trusted keeper of the word or future anointed leaders of Christ’s church.

Here’s the thing, the world might not have, we might not have;  but God did.  The same way God brought those people to David, God gave to Jesus eleven trusted disciples.  Neither man had to keep them; but they were open to the possibilities that God had in mind with and through them.

So today, we are told to look for those who have many letters behind their name.  We’re told to look for those who have a proven track record by being sports team captains and class presidents.  If I have many to choose from let me choose only the best.  In my time in the corporate world, I have seen it become a common practice to use a person’s credit history as defining measurement of their employ-ability.  Have a mark against you; see you later.

Understand this; I am not anti education; I have a degree.  I have a few letters behind my professional name based on designations I have received.  But does that mean those are the only people I want to associate with?  When I am given a chance to choose people to work with, who am I willing to include on my team?  Who has God almighty told me, through His Son Jesus Christ are the truly blessed ones:  the meek, the poor, those who mourn.  I can’t say that seems to describe many that the world would call A-listers.

I believe God wants us to understand how much more alike we are than different.  Over and over again, through His Word, He shows us just how much He is able to do with those whom the world overlooks.  And if we are open to it, when we decide not to overlook any; how much God will do with and through us as well.  May it be that we have a humble heart and welcoming spirit.  Being truly thankful and praising God for all those, no matter their worldly stature, who He has deemed appropriate to bring together.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that in Your Eyes we are all equal; all fallen.  We are so thankful that You do not see fit to leave us to our own fallen natures; fighting desperately to get ahead in a worldly way.  Help us to live with the openness and love that David showed at the cave and Jesus showed throughout His entire life.  Leaving the judgement of worthiness totally to You and being accepting of all those whom You bring into our lives.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

“So it was….that God gave him another heart and all the signs came to pass that day.”  1 Samuel 10:9

Saul is out looking for his father’s lost donkeys.  It had been three days and he and his companion have had no luck finding the runaway beasts.  Saul and his companion are about to give up when his companion remembers that there is a man of God, a seer, they called him living in the town.  Saul decides to go see him.

The next day, Saul meets Samuel hoping that Samuel will have some divine guidance about the lost donkeys.  Instead, Samuel tells Saul that they are to spend time together eating and he also tells him that all the desire of Israel rests on Saul.  Saul does not know that he is to become the first king of Israel.  He is not a politician or famous for anything so far in Israel.  In fact, in response to Samuel’s greeting (still not knowing of the impending kingship), Saul answers:  “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest tribes of Israel and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?  No, it is very clear to Saul that great things are not in store for him now or in the future.

Saul is a little confounded that Samuel leads him into a great hall and seats him at the place of highest honor.  Also, the best cut of meat is brought and placed before Saul for him to eat.  They spend the rest of the day talking and the next day Saul is planning to return to his father.  In his mind, back to the life that he knew.  Samuel tells Saul of people he will meet and what is going to happen upon their meeting and that these would be signs.  It is then that everything changes for Saul.  He turns to leave Samuel, to go back to his life most assuredly pondering that strange thing that this prophet had said to him.  Then God enters into Saul and gives him a new heart.  It is with that new heart that Saul is now open to what Samuel had said, open to where God was leading him, open to the mission that God had for him.

A new heart.  A heart from God.  Now we begin to see the great lengths that God will go to grant us success and blessings in the tasks He appoints for us.  Whether it is heart of courage and leadership to a man like Moses, the heart to believe that there is a promised land with a son to share it with even to someone as old as Abraham, or the heart to accept bearing the Son of God to a poor peasant virgin, God will supply the heart we need.

Finally, the heart given to Saul and what he does with it, teaches us another great lesson.  For we must be diligent in our prayer and humble in our person to follow that heart.  For Saul started out as a mighty and righteous king, winning many battles for Israel.  Whether or not he forgot that he had been given a new heart or pridefully believed the heart and its strength were only his, Saul disobeys God and his heart and his life become broken.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, may it be that we long for the heart from God.  Samuel told Saul that he must wait patiently for seven days and so for us we must wait upon God to provide.  Though once He provides, we must be ready to let that heart beat strong for us giving us His life’s blood and strength to confidently go out and conquer whatever task God has set before us.  And this is extremely important, once we have conquered, we must humbly give thanks and praise to the One who gave His heart to us allowing us to triumph.

It is when we are the stillest that we can here our heart beating.  God will come to us in that stillness and give us (or perhaps for some the heart has already been transplanted) the heart that we need.  May we it be a heart dedicated to the Love and Praise of Our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we are not sufficient to accomplish that which You have placed before us; alone.  We know and pray that You will give to us a new heart, a heart from You, just like You did Saul.  Help us to be strong and confident in using that new heart, Almighty Father in completing the mission You have for us.  Please, Most Merciful Father, give us a spirit of humility, that in successfully fulfilling that mission we will not turn from You claiming our own glory.  That with Your gift of heart forever beating within us, we will live a life worthy of Your Praise.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

“For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful”  Luke 6:36

 

This is one of those things and one of those arguments that seems, on the surface, to be such a difficult concept to explain or reconcile to an unbelieving world (as if it was up to us or we even could, explain God).  There are seemingly so many evil people, dictators who live in the lap of luxury, while their people starve, gangsters and  gang members who commit many heinous crimes yet seem to seldom face justice and terrorists who plan and carry out attacks and brag about them on videos and successfully sneak away avoiding capture.  How can a Loving God allow that!  To our logic; a troubling question.

AND, if we were equals with Our Heavenly Father; perhaps we would be justified in asking that question.  However, to me, first and foremost, we must understand that we are not creators; we are the created.  No matter how high we want to raise up our own wisdom on this earth, it will never match His.   Also, I/we have to be very careful as we look to point the finger at who is truly evil or unthankful.  Jesus Christ is very clear that is not just the action; but the desire for the action which is the sin.  In the situations that I want to do physical harm to the person:  “Oh I could just (smack, punch, hurt, kill) them!” or that I would lust  “Wow it would be great to sleep with him/her”, it is the initial thought that is the sin.  That our earthly courts would deem me not guilty as long as I don’t carry out the act, is irrelevant in the eyes of our Heavenly Father:  “But I say to you whoever is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment”  or “anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.  So it is incumbent upon me to watch out how I throw the “they” pronoun as it applies to what is evil or who is unthankful.

So is there some recompense, some judgment coming to those who are evil and unthankful?  Surely.  For in Jesus Christ’s discussion of anger in lust, in both cases he speaks of being liable to judgment.  Even as we look with a worldly view, we must be careful not to confuse the fantasy of fiction, with the starkness of reality.  In many shows and movies, the villains are seen in constant revelry, joy and carefree living due to their evil.  Yet, when we strip away the façade and look at the reality, we often see anger and tension, loathing of others and sometimes self and yes we often see fear and paranoia.  Is that truly living the good life?  To those who are unthankful, who believe that they are the only reason they have achieved success and any means necessary is acceptable to achieve, what do we see?  Do we not tend to see those individuals isolated or surrounded by similarly shallow people, parasitical companions who will stay around only as long as their own selfish needs are met?  Do we not see the arrogant often as targets for scandals real or imagined, fitting in to that recent phenomenon of loving to watch the “great”  fall from grace.  And when they do fall, which most inevitably do, they find themselves deserted and alone.  Is that a way we want to live?  Is that the good life?

So what does that drive us to?  A humble, thankful and joyous existence.  Humble; that there but for the Grace of God go I.  I, in my human nature, am completely capable of evil and giving myself the credit instead of being thankful to Our Heavenly Father.  Thankful.  Thankful, that Our Heavenly Father would pour out His Grace upon me.  That His will is to “lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil”  as well as forgiving our trespasses.  Joyous.  Joyous, that our Heavenly Father freely gives his Grace to all.  Those who don’t receive it will have a miserable existence.  In love we are not to gloat about their miserable existence but to have pity, mercy and yes, as tough as it can be to do, love for them as Our Heavenly Father does.  Joyous for us who do receive His Grace, that through the trials and tribulations of this world as well as the attacks by worldly and spiritual foes, we will be victorious!  We will find Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Dear Heavenly Father; in Your Grace, you provide us with so much; even Your Son Jesus Christ to die and rise again that we might have an eternal relationship with You.  May it be that we are humble enough to rely on You to keep us from evil and humble enough to give You the thanksgiving for our blessings that You so justly deserve.  Forgive us, Dear Father, when we are more want to provide judgment to those we deem evil or ungrateful than mercy or forgiveness.  Teach us to be more like You.  That in all things that we do, Your Most Holy Name will be Praised.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.

Amen

“Behold I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart…”  1Kings 3:12

“the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness”  Luke 3:2

There have been many posts on this blog about the Perfect Wisdom and Plans of Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  It is, of course, vital that we recognize and praise the blessings of the wisdom of God.  Yet we most also understand that wisdom does not stop there.  If we do that , then we are quite possibly missing out on one of the greatest gifts and our ability to make truly amazing impacts in the world around us.  For we can be wise or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we can share in that wisdom as well.  And as we share in that wisdom and share that wisdom with others, the benefits for all are immeasurable.

First, understand that God’s imparting of wisdom is not limited to just certain job titles, genders, or nationalities.  Jesus Christ extols the wisdom and faith of a Roman guard.  Queen Esther shows profound wisdom and she saves her people.  David’s wisdom did not start when he became king, it was imparted to him while still a shepherd.  Second, understand that it is not based on the amount and type of education that we have obtained.  There were scholarly institutions of learning even during ancient times of history.  In the time of Jesus, both the Sadducees and the Pharisees would have received education.  Though they had differing viewpoints, they believed that their learning gave them the wisdom to make judgements about the application of the Law.  To the Jews of the time, those interpretations were to be followed.  Yet we see, time after time, how that earthly wisdom, founded on what would seem to be a solid educational foundation, failed them completely when confronted with the wisdom of Jesus Christ.

So please understand this, I am not making an argument against academia, getting an education or getting several degrees.  In fact the pursuit of those things starts out with a humility that we need to have when we contemplate that wisdom of God.  For very few people, take classes or go for a degree in something they already know everything about.  No, we first say, I don’t know (or know enough) about this subject.  Then we decide this subject is important enough for us to invest time and, very often expense, to learn it.  Where the trouble comes into play is what do we do once we’ve learned it?  How do we feel we should be treated if we are the expert?  After many years of education, can it be that someone knows more than we do; especially if they can not show a greater amount of education?  What should be my return on investment for sharing this great amassed body of wisdom that I have accumulated?  What am I owed?  Who do I give credit to for my wisdom; me for all my hard work?  Jesus Christ knows all too well the folly of, not only the people who hold themselves out as the wise answer givers, but also those who come to them seeking the one true answer because they have so much wisdom.  When the man comes with the fundamental question to Jesus and starts by calling the man Jesus, wise:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus (who as the One True Son of God, unequivocally knows the answer) starts out chastising the man for calling Jesus wise.  Why?  Because the man, in his own mind, was asking another man, a question that truly can only be answered by the wisdom of God.

So where do we go for the kind of earth changing wisdom of a Solomon or a John the Baptist?  We of course start with God.  And as Solomon explains in proverbs, we need to understand that in comparison, our wisdom, will never compare to the wisdom of God.  So we have to come humbly; not as equals having an exchange of ideas, but as those who are completely ignorant and in need of his counsel.  We need to always be checking ourselves as to why we desire the wisdom; is it so we can raise ourselves and our own glory up, or is it to help others and Glorify the Name of our Heavenly Father.  Will we share the wisdom freely with others, having received it freely ourselves?  Finally, will we praise ourselves for having learned or Praise Him who taught us?

In one sense, the wisdom of God is very easy to obtain; all we have to do is ask.  On the other hand it is some of the most difficult wisdom to use; because the world wants to have titles behind names before they will listen, names recognizable by fame, give credit, fame and money to individuals who proclaim their own wisdom and so often these days, give the title of the most wise to those who shout the loudest and the longest.

Think about a group of very humble people.  Some fisherman, one a tax collector and the others we’re not really sure what their occupation or level of learning was.  They were called by Jesus, stayed with Jesus, listened to Jesus, understood how great Jesus was, that he was the Christ.  They prayed and received wisdom by the Grace of the Holy Spirit.  They then went out, not in their names, but in the Name of Jesus Christ and in the Name of the Father and they changed not only their world, but their wisdom echoes down to us this very day.  Be of great and wise cheer today.  God wants to impart that same sort of wisdom to each and every one of us.

May we look to their example and humbly ask and humbly use the wisdom, by Grace, that Our heavenly Father so longs to give us.

Amen

 

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