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“About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice: ‘Eli, Eli lema sabachthani ?’, which means, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?'” Matthew 27:46

“God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God. John 1:1

Pondering the aspects of this post is enough to make my head and my spirit hurt. In my 60+ years, I will admit for many of those years, the via dolorosa, the trail of tears through Old Jerusalem which Jesus trudged to hill of Golgotha was depicted rather meekly. Then came Mel Gibson’s movie the Passion of Christ. And although the depiction of Christ’s suffering was extremely more graphic, no dramatization could adequately capture the utter brutality and physical suffering Jesus endured.

Yet since that movie came out, I’ve have experienced in many churches a desire to focus in a very primary way on the human suffering of Christ. That in some way, the stressing of the physical horrors is bringing about some greater honesty and primary truth to Jesus’s sacrifice.

I find that my spirit is troubled in seeing Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross primarily or even majorly focused on through the lens of physical suffering to be potentially misplaced. In the discussion that follows, words truly fail to adequately express the wonder, awe and outright ignorant confusion as well as total lack of complete understanding of Jesus’s sacrifice.

Let’s start with John and the beginning. And from the beginning Jesus, the Word, was with His Father God and indeed was God. Jesus, Himself stated no one knows the Father except the Son and Jesus certainly knew the Father. Jesus knew (and knows) the Father so well and trusts so completely, that He humbled Himself to leave the Father and come to us to fulfill His Father’s plan for our salvation.

Jesus is carrying out the Father’s plan. Yet Jesus is also completely God, thus He is perfect and knows no sin. Jesus being human is tempted but being God is able to resist that temptation perfectly. While here on this planet, experiencing our existence, Jesus is still communicating with, praying to and being with the Father.

The Father, being perfect cannot abide sin. Jesus Christ is God and does not sin. We humans are not God. We humans are broken, are fallen and we do sin. We humans cannot exist in the presence of God in our sinful nature. But our Heavenly Father, in His perfect mercy and grace, will not allow us to be separated from Him, by our own devices. God has a device, a plan, to cleanse us of our sin by having the perfect sacrifice take our sins upon Him, to pay our debt.

A quick sidetrack here to say that in writing this post I did research through the writings of the likes of Billy Graham, Joseph Prince, John Hagee and others.

Thus Jesus must take upon Himself, who knew no sin, all our sins. Don’t ask me how or at what point or anything like that. I can type the words but not truly grasp the gravity. Taking upon Himself our sins, Jesus became sin and thus must pay the price for sin. Pay our price for sin. Jesus must die. AND in that death have the Father, Son relationship broken.

Jesus takes on our sin and in doing so, willingly, mercifully, as sin sacrifices Himself for us and in that instant for whatever instant that might be, experiences the braking of the relationship with the Father. This was (and is today) a relationship from the beginning of time. There would not have been an instant up to that point where Jesus and the Father would not have known that intimate perfect relationship! Take a moment to try, just try and imagine that loss, that separation. Again I must admit, my mind, my spirit cannot fathom it.

I believe that separation, is the greatest sacrifice, even with the tremendous physical suffering. What we can at least attempt to grasp or at least acknowledge is the immeasurable love that it took from the Father to have the plan that would allow the sacrifice of His Son and the unfathomable humility, obedience and love for both the Father and for us His creation, to carry out the Father’s plan for our salvation by Jesus Christ.

As I say, I find that my spirit can become truly troubled, shouldn’t I be riddled with guilt, shouldn’t I run away in shame, there must be some terrible price that I must pay because of this sacrifice. Praise God for the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit testifies that what is desired from this sacrifice is LOVE. Love, plain and simple. Love for the Father, who first loves us. Love for the Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us and our salvation. Love for the Holy Spirit who resides in us and guides us. Love for ourselves who are His creation as well as equal love for others who are also His creation. Love is the response. Love is the answer. His love and abiding in Christ’s love is what can lead us away from sin to the glorious life our Father intended for us. A life now and eternal, our Father planned our salvation for. A life that Jesus Christ gave His life to save. May you have a blessed Good Friday.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, as we ponder the height and depth of Your love and the lengths You will go to bring about our salvation; we are left totally in awe, totally dumbfounded. We thank and praise You for Your Son Jesus Christ and the perfect and immeasurable sacrifice He made for us and our salvation. Forgive us Father when we narrow the sacrifice to earthly realms in some misguided attempt to understand that which cannot be understood. Thank you for the Holy Spirit which testifies to the all powerful, all sustaining love You have for us. Help us to live into the Jesus’s sacrifice and abide in Him that we might live lives that bring glory to Your Most Holy Name. In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

As they were eating at the table, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here, will betray me.‘” Mark 14:18

Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, ‘Am I the one Lord?'” Matthew 26:22

When we usually think about humility and the Last Supper, the meal of Jesus with his disciples just before He was arrested; we think about the humility of Jesus Christ. And it is correct for us to do so as we ponder Jesus’s washing of His disciples feet; even Judas’s feet, the betrayer. Or the humility involved in the New Covenant where Jesus would sacrifice Himself for us and our sins, providing for our salvation.

Yet I want to look at another act or acts of humility. Acts which fly in the face of how we would probably find ourselves acting today. Think about a time where you’ve been in a meeting, it could be work related, a meeting of a volunteer group, perhaps a church or even a family meeting where some impending catastrophe is discussed. Should the meeting devolve into some aspect of responsibility for the impending disaster, how often do the participants, or at least some of them, start pointing fingers at others as the problem or blaming some aspect of outside circumstances? If we are honest with ourselves, how often to we openly reflect on whether we are partially or maybe, primarily responsible?

Let’s look at the Last Supper. It is the meal celebrating the Passover; the miraculous rescue of the Jews from Egyptian slavery many generations before. We’ve already noted the preceding act of the meal, where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and the teaching that went along with it. It was a lesson in service and humility. Though there is no specific reference to the meal time itself, there is no reason to believe it was not a pleasant gathering.

Then the pleasant, reverent mood of the evening is broken. Jesus becomes troubled and makes the proclamation that one of His beloved 12, His closest friends, His disciples given to Him by His Father was going to betray Him. Jesus knew at that moment what the disciples did not. That betrayal was going to lead to Jesus’s crucifixion.

Now please understand, this was not a historically, outstandingly humble group. More than once they had argued about who was the greatest among them. They had wanted call fire down on a Samaritan village that had rejected Jesus. Two of them had asked to be granted the place of glory of being placed at the Right Hand of Jesus in Heaven. Peter had even rebuked Jesus earlier, when he thought Jesus was wrong.

Yet now they had been with Jesus long enough to know; when Jesus said something was going to happen; it was going to happen. One of the 12 among them, was going to do one of the most heinous, despicable things you could do to someone; betray them. Thinking about how we might act today; one could imagine that an immediate blame/accusal-fest would have commenced. One could imagine Matthew being accused as he was the past tax collector and never really one of the group. Maybe it was Simon the Zealot who was trying to force Jesus’s hand in proclaiming Himself the King of Kings. Maybe Andrew was accused of being jealous of Peter and Jesus’s close relationship and wanted to bring the whole thing down. Finally, maybe Peter was still smarting from being called Satan and wanted revenge.

Yet, in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, Who is complete Truth and Light, all the disciples were humbled. All the disciples unquestioning believed in the statement that Jesus had made; plus the fact that Jesus had not named the perpetrator. In a moment of the starkest, most honest reflection, each of the disciples reflected on themselves and saw their fallenness. They each understood; they were cable of such a thing. So instead of accusing any of the others; instead of blaming the Jewish Council or the hated Romans, they humbly, with a trembling heart and voice asked: “Is it I Lord?”

Jesus Christ is alive today. Jesus Christ is the Messiah and Savior. Jesus Christ knows all too well of our weakness and fallenness. He went to the Cross to take our fallenness in sin upon Himself so that we might be redeemed by His blood. In His presence can we find the same humility? Can we turn from accusing and judging our neighbors for all sorts of imagined or even real sins as we sit high on our self aggrandizing, self righteous judgement seat?

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ; as we look to Maundy Thursday, let us reflect on our state of humility. Let us understand our broken nature, which is capable of so many horrendous acts if not for the Grace and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord. Let the Holy Spirit reign in us that we will find humility in ourselves and forgiveness toward others. Let us seek to Glorify the Father instead of seeking glory for ourselves. If Christ can be humble, if the disciples can be humble, then we; abiding in the love and presence of Jesus Christ can find our humility as well and live lives that Glorify the name of our Heavenly Father.

Our most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that far too often we find ourselves accusing others and making excuses for ourselves. Please forgive us, most merciful Father and pour out Your Spirit upon us. That living into the example of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, we might too humble ourselves, understanding our broken nature and the immeasurable gift of Grace that You gave us through His sacrifice and resurrection. That in living in humility, we rely on You to lift us up to Glory of Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. ‘Never, Lord’, he said. ‘This shall never happen to You!'” Matthew 16:22

“‘Lord if it is You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.'” Matthew 14:28

“So Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask Him which one He means.'” John 13:24

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting of his ear.” John 18:10

“But he began to call down curses and he swore, ‘I don’t know this man you are talking about!'” Mark 14:71

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold, I do not have, but what I do have, I give you. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.'” Acts 3:6

Again, as in Part I, we are taking a look at Peter, one of Jesus’s closest disciples and leader of the group in all his humaneness. Additionally as stated in the last post, this is not about judging Peter by his actions, but seeing ways and learning from aspects of Peter and his actions and how they impact our spiritual journey with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Taking Action With the Best of Intentions – It has been said: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”; according to Google first printed in Handbook of Proverbs published in 1855 by Henry G. Bohn. In Peter’s case, just a few hours earlier; Peter had declared that, even if the rest of the disciples deserted Jesus, he was ready to fight and die for Jesus. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was time to put his words to the test. The mob, led by Judas had come to arrest Jesus. In the melee that ensued in taking Jesus, Peter draws his sword to defend Jesus and strikes the High Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear. Peter was doing exactly what he said he would do. Peter is acting with the best of intentions. Peter is not seeking glory for himself, nor does he have some private grievance with the servant that he is trying to get even about. Peter is defending Jesus, hoping to keep Jesus from being arrested. The only problem was, God’s perfect plan called for Jesus to be arrested. Peter was seeing things from only his perspective. Even though Jesus had stated to them, on several occasions, that He was to be turned over to His enemies and killed. For Peter, no matter what had been said, the arrest of Jesus was wrong and come HELL or high water, Peter was going to stop it. Again there is no judgement of Peter here. In a very real sense, this was very brave. Yet Peter is acting against the Will of God and Jesus lets him know it, in no uncertain terms. What we can learn from this is that we all have our own perspective and judgement as well. We may diligently read the bible, listen to our pastor or maybe even visit a blog ūüėä. What we have to be open to is, even with all our efforts, we may still get it wrong. We may be acting in a way that is contrary to God’s Will. When that happens, again if we’re open to it, God will let us know. First if we are acting in misalignment to God’s Will, our actions will not lead to the outcomes we were expecting or hoping for. Additionally, when our actions are out of alignment with God’s Will, He will tell us through our spirit. Even though we think our actions are justified and righteous, within our spirit there will be no peace from His Spirit. We will feel conflicted and feel led in a different direction. To fulfill God’s plan and scripture; Jesus had to be arrested and all the disciples needed to flee. And that’s exactly what happened. Today, let us be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we think, say and do, seeking out the peace that will come from knowing we’re abiding in Christ and in alignment with God.

Failure – We just covered how we can find ourselves doing things for what we believe to be righteous intentions but the acts are indeed wrong. However, sometimes we have no doubt; what we are doing is wrong for the wrong reasons. Peter had claimed that he would die for Jesus Christ. Peter had acted to try and defend Jesus Christ. Then Peter finds himself in a lonely dangerous situation. If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could be arrested by mere men and hauled off for judgement; what power did Peter have against a same or worse fate. Peter had fled, but whether it was curiosity to see what was going to happen to Jesus or love of Jesus or some of both, Peter couldn’t stay away. He followed the mob to the High Priest’s house, where they were interrogating Jesus to see what would happen. Peter was staying outside in the courtyard, gathered with others around a fire to stay warm. Suddenly, the situation turns. Peter is found out, a servant girl recognizes Peter as having been a close follower of Jesus and points that out to the other bystanders. Peter is caught off guard. Peter wanted to know what was going to happen to Jesus, but he knew if he declared he was a follower of Jesus, he could be in great peril; so Peter denies knowing Jesus. Peter knows it is wrong, knows it is a betrayal to claim not to know Jesus, but he does it anyway. Yet Peter is given the opportunity to make amends. For the servant girl brushes off Peter’s denial and again accuses Peter of being a follower of Jesus. More people are taking notice; Peter still doesn’t want to leave but doesn’t want to put himself in the danger that would come from acknowledging his relationship with Jesus; thus Peter denies Him a second time. But this second denial doesn’t end the torment. Now others are openly suspicious of Peter, one noting that Peter must be a follower of Jesus because Peter is a fellow Galilean and that is why Peter must be there to help a fellow Galilean Jesus. This is too much for Peter, the danger is too high; Peter starts to call down curses upon himself and the group to cause his denial to have more validity. Suddenly a rooster crows and the harsh light of truth and reality hit Peter square on in the cold light of truth. He; Peter, the man who claimed he would die with and for Jesus, had just knowingly and with purpose, three times denied he even knew his master Jesus. Peter now leaves, weeping bitterly. Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are told, we all sin. We all give into temptation and become sinners. Sometimes our sins are born our of fear of the world, sometimes they are born out of desires of the world. But we know what we are doing, and know what we are doing is wrong. Those times should affect us. We are acting against God. We shouldn’t be of a mind, well Christ died for my sins so no big deal. Actually they are a big deal. They should cause us the kind of sorrow and pain as they did Peter that brings us to confess and repent of the sin. Yet there is a bigger deal. Jesus Christ knows of our sins, just as he knew Peter would deny Him three times. Jesus Christ died for our sins, paying the price so we do not have to die for our sins. Sin should matter enough, to try to avoid it at all costs. But when we fail (not if), what should matter more is Grace, Forgiveness, Mercy and Love provided in Jesus Christ that leads to our ultimate restoration and reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.

Humility and where our True Power Comes From – This is a trait of humaneness I wish I would use much more myself and see much more around me. Jesus Christ has forgiven and restored Peter, after Peter’s denial of Him. Peter and the other disciples (except Judas) have been given the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, the following of Jesus Christ is growing by literally thousands daily, thanks in part to Peter’s leadership. People are selling all their possessions and giving them to the disciples to administer. On the other hand, Peter is being threatened, arrested, beaten and worse by the religious leaders because of his preaching of Jesus Christ, risen from the grave. Their ill treatment doesn’t stop Peter one moment. Then Peter comes across a lame beggar. Now, while Peter may not have had any money on him at the time, Peter may very well have had the resources from donations to help this man out. Peter might have told a follower to go back to where they were staying and get some money to support this man with. But Peter doesn’t look to earthly riches to share with the man; Peter has something more valuable, more powerful, Peter has Jesus Christ. Peter tells the man he has no silver of gold to share. However, Peter is not content to leave this man empty handed. Peter has the Power of Jesus Christ within him and he knows it. Peter does not call great attention to himself as some righteous, wonderful miracle worker. No, Peter is very clear, the Power of the gift comes from Jesus Christ and this is the power to heal the man. Peter commands the man to walk and the man does just that. For Peter, it is not about his greatness, but about bringing the Power of the gift of Jesus Christ to all who are in need, that Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father might be praised and worshiped. It’s not just Peter, Jesus Christ declared that all who believe in Him and abide in Him have His Power to do great things. Yet, like Peter we must understand, it is not our greatness that allows us to have this Power. The Power comes as a precious gift, of much greater value than any earthly gift, given freely by and through the Grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, looking at Peter’s life is not about trying to copy him or be like him. Jesus Christ was also clear when He met Peter and the other disciples on a beach for breakfast after His resurrection. Christ took Peter aside and was foretelling him what an aspect of his life would be like. Peter feels the need to ask Christ, if these things were going to be happening to Peter, what was John’s life going to be like. To which Christ responds; what does that have to do with you. In essence Christ is letting us all know, we have an individual plan with our Heavenly Father. We were not created to be identical. We are created to be equal but not identical. Thus, it is learning about Peter and aspects of Peter’s life and his interactions with Christ and the outcomes that we can use to reflect on our interactions, on our behaviors and their motivations; to learn from the challenges and triumphs to aid us in our journey. By the Grace of God, I hope to meet Peter some day and hear about the so many amazing aspects of his journey that no chapter or book could adequately capture.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that, after creating us, You have not abandoned us to try and figure out how to live and how to interact with You on our own. We are so thankful for the Your Word and the people who populate it which give us such wonderfully constructive lessons on how to receive Your Love and Blessings, You so long to give. Forgive us we pray when we are tempted, or worse yet actually act out on our own without considering Your lessons for us. Through Your Spirit, guide us back to You and how to stay abiding in You so that our lives can lessons for others which brings praise to Your Glorious Name. We pray in the Name of our Great Teacher and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“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

“And not one of them falls to the ground apart from Your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered”¬† Matthew 10:29,30

“When you pray say…..Your will be done….Give us day by day our daily bread…”¬† Luke 11:2,3

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”¬† Romans 8:28

Life!¬† We often here many descriptions or characteristics concerning it and the things that happen in it; such as:¬† Stuff (or a different word) happens, Don’t sweat the small stuff, Everything happens for a reason, Life’s too short, and I could continue ad nauseam.

Yet obviously life and living is, and thus things do happen as we go about the process of living.  Some things may seem small, others are exceedingly large and impactful.  Some things are wondrously joyous while others are distressingly tragic (or seem that way).  The age old question but just as relevant today is; where is God in each and all of this; and how do we know?

Alas, in a few score of words or many pages (don’t worry this will not be the case) of dissertation, I have neither the depth of wisdom nor skill of articulation to¬†completely answer such a far reaching conundrum.¬† Yet I¬†do believe that there is a place we can look and along with prayer and faithfulness receive an answer through revelation worthy of bringing us peace and blessing as we go through life’s journey.

So let’s start with the conceptual question about¬†whether God is some sort of¬†all powerful but aloof and distant God who starts things in motion and¬†then stands back and passively sees where it goes.¬† Or is He a God who is constantly with us at each moment, looking to guide and nurture us? Which is he?¬† I can think of no better place to start, reference to use then scripture and the words of Christ.¬† When Jesus teaches us about prayer I focus¬†in first on the request for daily bread.¬† The prayer and its petition make it clear that God is supplying our day by day request.¬†¬†It would also appear that lends context to the point that we’re to be forgiving others constantly, to include daily and that we want Our Father’s will to be done on a continuous basis.¬† Additionally, as Jesus is teaching about worry, He points out that the Father¬†knows of our specific needs and He will supply them.¬† He uses the illustration of how God provides food constantly for the birds of the air.¬† Therefore, we should not be concerned about tomorrow.¬† Jesus makes it very clear that¬†Our Heavenly Father is the God of¬†this day and every day down to the very moment.

Okay, what about big stuff versus small stuff; what does God care about?¬† Again, let’s look at scripture.¬† Now mind you, to another sparrow, a sparrow may be an important valuable bird but back in Jesus’ day as in ours, the sparrow is not particularly regarded as a rare or immensely valuable bird.¬† Yet Jesus declares that each sparrow is known by the Father and not one will fall to the ground unless the Father wills it.¬† That’s when Jesus goes on to further say that each one of our hairs¬†is numbered again seeming to illustrate that there is not an aspect of His creation, you and I, that is outside of His knowledge or His plan (I do wish He’d decide to keep a few more of my numbered hairs on my head but that of course is up to Him).

Sure, God is with us daily and nothing about me is too small to be of His consideration.¬† So what do I do with that, you may ask.¬† Great question.¬† For I’ve heard two competing extremes as I ponder the things that happen in my life.¬† For example, let’s say that my car breaks down.¬† There are some who would say, that is a completely earthly happening and God has really nothing to do with that.¬† On the other hand there are those would say that God not only planned that, but because I was in the process of searching for a house to buy and the car broke down right in front of house for sale; that God obviously is telling me that this is the house He has planned for me so I better go make an offer on it and start measuring for curtains.¬† What should my faithful response be?¬† I think we can look to a couple of examples for our answer.

Jesus Christ was completely human and completely God in the same person, the same existence.¬† So in His garden of Gethsemane experience the Spirit knew¬†what God’s plan was but the flesh was¬†weak in wanting to carry it out.¬† So Jesus prayed.¬† And His prayer was twofold; please¬†don’t make me go through this if you can, but more than that¬†Thy will be done.¬† Now He prayed that once and returned to the disciples, one wonders from the flesh aspect if He, not seeing in soldiers, wanted to say, yup God must¬†be letting me go;¬†let’s get the heck outta hear.¬† But being perfect in obedience and faith, Jesus stayed and prayed again until the Father’s will was known by the betrayal of Judas and Jesus’ arrest.¬† Likewise, Paul had written about how long he had¬†desired to visit the believers in Rome and minister unto them, yet he had been prevented.¬† The prevention was not man’s doing, but it was not the¬†Will of God that Paul go.¬†¬†Paul acknowledges¬†that his finally being able to visit¬†Rome was because it was the Will of God that he do so at that particular time.

So in the earlier example, is my car breaking down an aspect of God’s plan?¬† In faith I would definitely believe so.¬†¬†However, like Jesus in the garden and Paul wanting to visit Rome, I first have to be open to the Will of God and not jump to my own conclusions about why my car broke down where it did.¬† It may be God’s will that I meet the wrecker driver who is contemplating suicide and we talk and I pray for him, helping¬†him to feel love.¬† Maybe¬†breaking down there kept me from the person who ran the¬†stop sign in the next intersection who would have done me great harm.¬† Maybe I am destined to own the house which I broke down in front of.¬† But if I¬†am not humble and believe I can discern God’s¬†Will perfectly and that it is that I am to buy that house.¬† I may march up to the door wanting to make an offer on the house only to find that¬†the house is already under contract to be sold to someone else.¬† I may demand that the contract be broken because God has ordained that the house be sold to me.¬† I may scream that even louder as the police officers forcibly remove from the property.¬† What I don’t realize I have done is¬†supplanted my will in place of God’s Will.

Thus in¬†faith let us understand that daily, hourly, in fact every moment; God has a plan for¬†us and that plan¬†is perfect.¬† Yet let us equally understand that it is His plan and we must be humble in subordinating our will to His Will.¬† As Jesus showed us, we¬†can make requests but¬†a part of that request must be the understanding that we want¬†our Heavenly Father’s Will to be done because it is indeed better for us and for all¬†when His Will is accomplished.¬† Our peace and joy comes from not merely the specific revelation of what that will is but the true fact that He will part¬†the deepest¬†sea; crumble any¬†fortress, defeat any army,¬†overcome any and every obstacle to bring that plan to its and our blessed fruition.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are thankful and humbled that You, the Creator of all things would love us enough to devise a perfect plan for our lives and make it Your Will to carry it out.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we live as if no plan exists or try to substitute our will for Yours.  Pour out Your Spirit of Strength and Peace on us to give us the strength to perfectly believe and be patient upon You and the peace to know You will act and Your plan and actions are perfect.  That in seeing our experience through the eyes of faith, we may give constant praise and glory 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.¬†

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them…..Then God saw everything He had made and indeed it was very good”¬† Genesis 1:27,31

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.'”¬† Exodus 3:14

God is the Creator.¬† God is the only Creator!¬† Please do this for me; look up.¬† What do you see?¬† God created that.¬† Now, look to your left and look to your right.¬† What do you see?¬† God created that.¬† Now, look down (I know, you know what’s coming next but I’m going to ask it anyway). What do you see?¬† God created that.¬† Okay, about this time some of you may be wanting to push back saying: Now Doug, when you tell me to look all around I’m seeing things I built, that I “created” or at least were created by another person.¬† So while I completely acknowledge that it may be true that you or some human being manipulated God’s initial creation to reform it, to build it into something different, that does not alter the fact that God created the initial components of it.¬† So now that we’ve established the precept that God is the Creator, take a¬† moment just to be silent and contemplate that all things, visible and invisible, God created………..¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† (okay times up)

Where am I going with this? First, God created some amazing, stunning, powerful beautiful things to be sure.¬† Yet of all the countless things, stars, flowers, waterfalls; and on and on, only one thing did He declare, upon its creation, that He created in His own image.¬† Again, stop and really ponder this for a moment.¬† Of all creation, we are the only things, you and I, that were created based upon God’s image

Next, and this may seem particularly obvious, God is talented at what He does.¬† Not only is He talented at it, but scripture tells us in Genesis, that God was happy with His creation.¬† That five out of six days of His creation, He saw what He had created and pronounced it “good” (and when God says something is good you can take it to the bank).¬† Yet after creating You and I on the sixth day, He, God that is, pronounced something different.¬† He looked at what He had created in His own image and didn’t just pronounce it good; He pronounced it, that is You and I, very good!

So I’m going to slightly deviate off topic for a moment to cover an aspect, sadly at least for me, which seems to come up within some people of faith when we discuss the creation story.¬† This particular aspect is that, really only¬†man, that is the male was created in God’s image and the female was created in man’s image so, in some way she is an inferior creation to the male creation.¬† Or perhaps the male is more “very gooder” (I earnestly and deeply apologize to all English teachers out there) than the female.¬† However, scripture seems very clear in the passage quoted directly out of Genesis; ….male and female He created them.¬† It was only after creating them both, did He pronounce their creation, very good.

Now let’s get down to the crux of this posting.¬† You may be feeling insignificant.¬† The world may be telling you, you don’t matter.¬† You may have people tell you that, to make a difference, to be important, you must dress a certain way, act a certain way, step all over your fellow person, have more, be more, make more.¬† If you don’t fit into the world’s more; you are of little to no value.¬† You are inconsequential.¬† Don’t you believe it!¬† You and I are the only things created in the image of God and proclaimed to be very good.¬†¬† ¬†Also, that Image we are created¬†in did not include big houses, fancy cars, fine clothing or expensive jewelry.¬† Hardly, in fact we were created nude, with the provisions of God to take care of us.

Yet before we get too high on ourselves and too vain concerning our existence, we must remember; an image is not the same, is not equivalent to the original thing.¬† You and I are not God.¬† We are not the Creator.¬† We are not equal to the Creator.¬† You and I are not as wise, as powerful, as loving, in short; we are not perfect like the I AM, Our Father in Heaven, God Almighty.¬† Tragically, we sometimes fall victim to the temptation to believe that the image is as good as the real thing.¬† Jesus Christ warned of that when He replied to the rich young man who came to ask Him a question and called Him a “good teacher”.¬† Jesus rebuked the young man telling him that no earthly man is good; only God in Heaven is truly Good.

So the paradox of being the only thing created in the image of God is this; we can be confidently humble.  Confident that God sees value in us.  How do we know?  Because God saw so much value in us that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, do die for us and take away our sin.  Humble in that, we are not God.  We can not defeat the power of Satan on our own.  Our plans, our judgements our knowledge, our ability to love is not perfect and, unless we abide in Jesus Christ we can do nothing.  Conversely though, we are promised, and may be the only thing in creation to have this promise, that if we abide in Christ, we can do all things.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; scripture tells us that God created us.¬† That upon seeing us, He declared His creation very good.¬† That God loves us and will never abandon us and His Grace will be there for us regardless of what we do.¬† However, we must also be humble in our understanding that we are not God.¬† We are fallen and do sin.¬† That we must have Jesus Christ as our Savior to accomplish anything.¬† That we are only the image of the I AM, yet even that is enough to find peace and joy and bring praise to the Creator’s Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are humbled and thankful that You saw fit to create us in Your image and pronounce that creation, very good.  Forgive us when we forget that, although created in Your image, we are not You or equal to You.  Also forgive us when we count Your image to be nothing and value the images of this world more.  Pour out Your Spirit of Truth upon us, testifying of Your Love for us and Your desire to be with us every moment of our existence.  Give us the power to resist the temptation of this world to seek after our own image and instead abide in Yours.  That, in living into Your image, we would bring about Your will for us and the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord and in His Most Holy Name we pray.  Amen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him for you are a youth and he is a man of war from his youth.” ¬†¬†1 Samuel 17:33

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. ¬†1 Samuel 17:37

“I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them. So David took them off” ¬†1 Samuel 17:39

All’s well that ends well. ¬†Life is what you make of it. ¬†The more things change, the more the more they stay the same. ¬†Conventional wisdom; besides the previous sayings I’m sure there are many that you can list as well. ¬†They do sound good and I wouldn’t argue that there is the potential for wisdom in any of those statements. ¬†Yet as best as I can tell, at least through the internet, each of these sayings is from a human source. ¬†Thus each of these sayings can have a disabling liability to them as well.

David was the youngest of eight sons. ¬†Tradition, sometimes another name for conventional wisdom, of that day was the oldest son(s) had certain greater responsibilities that could lead to greater family glory. ¬†One of those responsibilities was going to war when called upon by the nation. ¬†So David’s three eldest brothers had gone to meet the hated Philistines when they had come up to threaten Israel.

All war is costly but especially back in those times, there were very few standing armies of professional soldiers. ¬†Therefore, an outright fight of two armies might kill so many men vital to the day to day existence of their respective societies that neither the winner nor the loser would be able to continue to function. ¬†So, often each side would put forth a champion to battle to the death and the winner’s side would then be able to enforce their terms on the loser’s side but both would have the remaining manpower that their societies could continue. ¬†Goliath was the champion of the Philistines.

Goliath was certainly a human champion’s champion. ¬†Not only was he more physically massive and imposing in every way, stronger than any number of men let alone just one; but Goliath was one of the rare professional soldiers. ¬†All he did was battle and train for battle. ¬†Conventional wisdom was that Goliath was unbeatable. ¬†So the Army of Israel cowered in fear to a man. ¬†There was not one single warrior in all of King Saul’s Army who would rise up against Goliath. ¬†No one that is, until David arrived.

David knew his place. ¬†He knew he was the youngest and obediently carried out the orders of his father Jesse in bringing refreshment to his older brothers at the front. ¬†Yet when David heard Goliath’s challenge to the Jewish Army, when David heard the insults of the hated Philistine, the wisdom that stirred in him was not conventional. ¬†David did not see an imposing, unbeatable giant, he saw a lowly human being trying to stand up to the might and power of Almighty God. ¬†David’s spiritual wisdom told him that this was not a battle between two purely human armies. ¬†No, this was a battle between an unbelieving, evil creation trying to thwart the will of the All Powerful Creator. ¬†In David’s wisdom this can not be allowed to continue.

First, David’oldest brother, Eliab, then even King Saul had a conventionally wise response. ¬†David is too young, has no experience with which to go up against one so fierce as Goliath. ¬†Conventional wisdom would say that David loses ever time and with his loss, all of Israel would lose as well. ¬†However, David confronts their conventional wisdom with his spiritual wisdom. ¬†Giving Glory to God, David recounts how he has killed both lion and bear by hand and if God will do that for David, God will deliver this gentile blasphemer into his hands. ¬†Saul relents and allows David to become the champion of the Israel Army.

Now notice how “conventional wisdom” is not done yet. ¬†Conventional wisdom says, if David is going to be the champion and go out against Goliath, he must have the best armor and heavy sword. ¬†Also note that David does not initially reject the conventional wisdom. ¬†He allows them to put all the armor on him. ¬†Yet David does not allow conventional wisdom to sway his spiritual wisdom. ¬†David knows he can’t defeat Goliath relying on the trappings of human power and might. ¬†He rejects the conventional wisdom, takes his sling and stones from the stream and utterly destroys Goliath and with him, the Philistine Army.

So what are you and I fighting today?  What tests are there that conventional wisdom is telling us are too big for us to pass, challenges to imposing for us to attempt overcome, successes too large for us to even dream of achieving?  Even more so, where is the name and the word of God being impugned, where is justice being trampled and mercy being thwarted in the name of human judgement?  What is it that you believe in your soul that you are being called to do that the world would say is impossible or foolish?  When faced with the overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom; what will you or I decide to do?

David had it right for two reasons. ¬†First, David was not striving for victory for his own glory. ¬†David’s decision to act was not so that he could show up his older brothers or make a great name for himself. ¬†No, the name that David wanted to glorify was God’s. ¬†Secondly, he first listened to, and then relied on the spiritual wisdom given to him to overcome the argument of conventional wisdom and then go on to victory using that wisdom.

God, through His Son Jesus Christ has promised us that same spiritual wisdom.  Jesus promised that He would pray and that God would send the Holy Spirit to all who call believe on and call upon the name of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit, with His wisdom resides within each of us.  Let us lay conventional wisdom aside, rely on that spiritual wisdom and fully experience the victories God has in store for each of us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly admit that we lack the wisdom to make righteous and just decisions on our own.  We thank you Most Merciful Father that generously supply us with The Holy Spirit to guide us to the correct courses of action.  Forgive us when we reject Your Spiritual Wisdom, relying on our human-made conventional wisdom.  Strengthen us Dear Father to resist the temptation to go our own way and be like David, fully trusting in the Spiritual Wisdom You freely supply.  We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them…..” Mark 9:14

“Then one of the crowd answered and said: ‘ Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit…..So I spoke to Your disciples that they should cast it out, but they could not.'” ¬†Mark 9:17,18

“When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit saying: ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you come out of him and enter him no more!……Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and he arose.” ¬†Mark 9:25, 27

Nine disciples are standing at the foot of a mountain. ¬†Jesus is not there with them. ¬†He has gone up into the mountain with Peter, John and James. ¬†The remaining disciples do not know why Jesus has gone up into the mountain or exactly when He’ll return. ¬†However, at least at this time, having been with Jesus for close to three years, they know that He sometimes goes away on His own.

Jesus and His disciples are also known to the people.  There are at least some of the people who know Jesus for the miraculous healings that He has performed.  There are also some who seem to know that Jesus disciples also have amazing power.  Maybe it was when Jesus sent them out, two-by-two and gave them the power to heal and cast out demons, that some had heard of.  So, for whatever reason, people would come to the disciples and they had high expectations when they did.

That’s what is going on here in the Gospel of Mark. ¬†A man has heard that Jesus is in the area. The man takes his son and sets off to find Jesus. ¬†The man’s son can not hear or speak and often has convulsive fits. ¬†The man’s son has a demon. ¬†The man finds Jesus disciples and at least tells the disciples of his troubled son. ¬†We know that the man must have felt that the disciples had power as well as Jesus, for when the man does not find Jesus with His disciples, the man asks the disciples to heal his son.

So let’s put ourselves in the shoes (or sandals) of the disciples for a moment. ¬†They have been with Jesus. ¬†They have seen Jesus heal. ¬†They have actually been given the power to heal themselves. ¬†They have rejoiced at being successful in casting out demons even when Jesus was not in their presence. ¬†So of course when this man brings his possessed child to them, they are confident that they will be able to cast out the demon and heal the child. ¬†Perhaps they even confidently proclaim their abilities to the father of the stricken boy. ¬†Imagine then, their initial confusion, turning to bewilderment, then frustration and even perhaps fear as either one-by-one and then maybe as a group, they try in vain to cast out the demon.

Then Jesus arrives unexpectedly. ¬†He asks what is happening. ¬†When he hears the story, Jesus seems frustrated at the whole situation, calling all assembled a “faithless generation”. ¬†He takes the child aside and with seeming ease, vanquishes the demon and returns the child, whole and well, to his father.

Now please, Dear Sisters and Brothers, do not misread my intent here. ¬†I am not blaming nor judging the disciples for their attempt and subsequent failure to heal the boy. ¬†What I’m pointing out is that we are very blessed to experience many things in our lives through the Power of Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him. ¬†We may have the privilege of Jesus Christ using us to help others in need. ¬†As our relationship with Christ grows, it may be that we are used more and more. ¬†Yet we must remember with these successes, who it is, who is the true source of our power to help. ¬†We must also be very aware of who it is and the power that they have who is arrayed against us as our enemy. ¬†I am not claiming that the nine disciples were either boastful, in this case, or not being humble and that is why they could not defeat the demon. ¬†But the fact of the matter is, they had come up against an enemy that they and I’m absolutely sure me, if I was there, could not defeat on their own. ¬†The fact is, we are not Jesus Christ. ¬†We have limitations. ¬†I believe it is essential that we remain mindful of those limitations and allow them to keep us humble in the face of trials and tribulations; whether ours or others of those we are trying to help.

Then Jesus comes!  Jesus Christ is not limited.  No power can defeat Him, not even death.  Jesus Christ will come and in His presence, all things are possible.  We must also keep this fact in the forethought of our minds.  For we live in a world that celebrates individual achievement.  There is even the old saying: God helps those who help themselves (which by the way is not a quote from the bible).  This saying can leave us with the sense that God plays the role of partner or perhaps coach, but the primary responsibility is ours.  I believe the bible expresses much the opposite view.  God is no mere partner.  Jesus Christ is not just a wise life coach.  Our Heavenly Father is the creator of all things; all powerful, all knowledgable.  Jesus Christ is the King of all kings.  It is by Their unfathomable Mercy and Love that They decide to interact with us the way they do.  However, it is not because we somehow deserve it.

We must resist the temptation to be prideful; to believe what the world would have us believe, that as people of faith, we are somehow intrinsically better than the world.  We must remain humble knowing that nothing can happen outside the Will and Presence of Jesus Christ and with the Presence of Jesus Christ; yours and my victory is for certain.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, the world teaches us to be proud, to stand tall, to look down on those we judge to be inferior, to take credit for those things we would call our achievements.  Help us Dear Father to resist the temptation of pride and instead; humbly call upon and rely on Your Presence to be our power.  Be with us when we cry out to You, Merciful Father, that the world would see Your Power manifested in the answer to our supplications.  That through our personal humility and Your Power poured out upon us; we would live lives that praise Your Most Holy Name.  In Jesus Christ our Lord we pray.  Amen

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