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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Matthew 11:25

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

“……and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27

So just what is the importance of human understanding? In the work I do in organizational behavior, many a dysfunctional workplace and interpersonal conflict comes from human’s misunderstanding.

In the concept of Emotional Intelligence, a great amount of emphasis is placed on our ability to feel empathy, which is the ability to “step into another person’s shoes” so that you can better understand where they’re coming from. People with low EQ are said to lack that ability.

In discussions with non-believers, probably the number one reason for their disbelief is the idea that they can’t understand why God or Jesus would act the way the Bible purports that they do. They “just don’t get it”. They say it just doesn’t make any sense so they can’t believe it.

And, what about we who proclaim we believe; do we believe we have a complete understanding? Do the ways of God make complete sense to us? Are there biblical concepts or proclamations that we skip over or pass by because we don’t understand them? We believe our God wouldn’t work that way?

Well, when Jesus came to earth, there was a group that should have embraced Him wholeheartedly; would have been the ones that the people then would have looked to, to welcome the Messiah. The Pharisees, Sadducees and the Scribes were deeply versed in the Mosaic law and the prophets and should have easily recognized Jesus, welcoming and worshiping Him. However, they didn’t understand. They didn’t get it. Whether or not it was willful, from a fear of losing power/control, or a simple mistake of misreading scripture, the religious leaders and scholars of the day, completely missed Jesus. Thus, learning and study is not a guarantee of understanding and recognizing Christ.

The uneducated initially flocked to Christ. They were more open to His message and more believing in His ability to accomplish miracles. Yet, it was mostly just 11 uneducated followers that followed Him to the end. Yet even they did not truly understand what Jesus was trying to accomplish, at least while He was with them on this earth.

Again today, are we so sure in our knowledge, so arrogant in our own wisdom that we believe we truly understanding the workings of our Heavenly Father, let alone the nature of the Heavenly Trinity? If we don’t why is it so hard?

These next two examples are not completely representative but they give some idea. There comes a time for many parents when, although they promised with all their heart they would never utter this phrase, they find themselves, in exasperation, stating: “Because I said so!”. Often times this will come after, the plaintive, sincere; but in a whining voice, exclamation from the child for the umpteenth time: “Why?” We may have tried, as a loving parent, to simplify some complex concept down to language and some basic idea that the child can grasp. However, because we don’t have a shared level of experience and understanding of language, we can’t bring about clarity to our confused child’s mind. Similarly, if you’ve ever tried talking to your dog. It may be some simple command to “get this” or “stop that”. The dog may simply sits there tilting its head a few times as they listen, then returns to the same act you were trying to stop them from.

For me, Dear Sisters and Brothers, I get very worried when I feel my confidence growing in comprehending the true and complete nature of God. He declares in the old testament “I AM WHO I AM” because we have no better language or equality of experience basis to classify God any more accurately.

The very miracle of God coming to earth in the form of Jesus Christ (fully God, yet fully human a concept I can’t fully grasp) can give us a false sense capability to know God. If Jesus was human (which He was) and can know God, then I, who believe in Jesus Christ, can attain that same understanding too.

Yet Jesus is very clear. No one knows the Father except the Son. Should the Son decide to reveal the nature of the Father to others, Jesus still has to do so within the scope of experience of a human being who has never experienced any spiritual realm like heaven or has no real idea about the concept of omniscience and eternity.

Christ advises that those who are accepting, believing and humble, like a child are the ones who will be saved. Not always of course, but children tend to be more accepting and when the answer does come down to: “Because I said so”; they are more likely to accept that then adults are. All too often adults, believers and nonbelievers alike, are too quick to rely on their own “take” of things and behave, not as Christ would have us behave, but based on their own perception of what Christian behavior is.

Thus, more often then not, when someone asks me to explain, I tell them I cannot. When they ask me how I can believe when I can’t explain, I advise them I don’t know how atoms or even my own darn computer works, but that doesn’t stop me from believing in one and using the other. My understanding is not the basis of truth.

Finally, I advise them, and me and you, that should we have questions of understanding; go to the source. Our Heavenly Father, through the grace of His Son, Jesus Christ, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, will provide enough of an answer. Plus those Three will bless the sincere act of the seeking, the asking, the knocking. No, I often don’t get it. But thanks be to God, the Father Almighty, that His love is with me regardless of my understanding. Thanks be to God, He doesn’t turn His back on me because of my lack of understanding. May His Name be eternally praised that His Love, Mercy and Grace toward me (and you as well), even in this state endures forever. I am truly at peace, with no frustration in that.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise you that you have given us mental faculties to gain knowledge and a certain level of understanding both about this world and about even You. Forgive us Dear Father, when we arrogantly demand a greater understanding from You and threaten to turn out backs on You should we not receive it. Additionally forgive us when, in our arrogance we believe we’ve attained equal and complete understanding about the nature of all things especially about You. Send Your Holy Spirit to answer our questions to the extent that we can understand. That in a greater understanding of You we would strive to more align our limited will to Your Perfect Will, living lives that will bring praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

“Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.”  Psalm 25:20

“Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Mark 13

“Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”  Mark 13:11

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9

October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States.  There is also an international Stand Up to Bullying Day, which is normally held in February with the next one being February 22, 2019. With the emphasis on bullying and bullied in mind is there something to be gleaned from scripture concerning it?

I’ve heard a couple of paramount themes in the recent years as it concerns bullying, especially with my wife being a fifth grade teacher.  First, while bullying has always been around, today it is much more widespread, virulent, with ever greater damaging results. There is a second, more whispered, hidden yet strongly felt belief that there’s not more bullying; we’ve just become too soft.  That if we’d only stick to the mantra, “suck it up, buttercup”, then we wouldn’t have so much of a problem.

So while few would argue that bullying is some sort of new phenomenon or behavior; some recent statistics provide a rather stark assessment of the impact of bullying in today’s culture, especially among youth.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third largest killer of young people in the United States.  A Yale University study found students who were bullied were 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide. A study in Britain found up to half of the suicides committed there by young people were due to bullying.

In my experience, one of the major differences and impact of growth in bullying has to do with social media.  Because bullying has always had a stigma associated with it, the behavior was most often carried out outside of public observation or scrutiny. The bully or bullies would find the private place, behind the school, in the restroom or some other out of the way place to execute their nefarious deeds.  If the bullying was by communication only, it was done by whispers in small groups or closely guarded notes. The bully wanted to exert their power without being caught by an authority who could and would bring an end to their practices.

Yet our social media culture makes the initiation and spread of bullying easier as well as the ability for piling on ever more hurtful expressions as simple as a few keystrokes and a click.  With the plethora of social media platforms, a vicious rumor, unkind picture or personal attack can be initiated and spread through literally hundreds of people and countless locations in an amazingly short period of time. What might have been limited to a few dubious people in a classroom or an office, can zoom around at the literal speed of light to multiple social media addresses and platforms.

But what about the old “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, response to bullying.  Well that can be all well and good when the “words” used to come from one or two people.  However, now when it seems that most if not the entire office, team, school or group may be in on or at least sharing those words, those words become more devastatingly impactfull.  That can be especially true when someone’sz privacy has been betrayed and some intimate detail is paraded out and around.

So what are we to do? Where are we to turn? What is an amazing truth is that God knows about bullying.  Now being all powerful and all knowing, you might think that His only knowledge would be that of the bully.  After all, can you really bully God?  Well, we sure tried.

You see, God became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus and when He did, He became the subject of an amazing amount of bullying.  Jesus was bullied from all quarters; family and friends, the government and many a stranger who never really heard of Him.  Yet it was not just Jesus, David was bullied by Goliath and his own family for being the youngest, the smallest and not being all that attractive.  Mary, Jesus’s mother, was at an extremely high risk or bullying, becoming pregnant before she was married.  The apostle Paul was bullied significantly because, when his name was Saul, he mistakenly persecuted the early church, sending people to jail and worse.  When Saul converted and became Paul, he was subject to bullying from others who did not believe in his conversion.  There are many more examples throughout the bible.

Yet please understand this, in all cases, God is on His throne.  God will be and is refuge enough against the fiercest of bullying.  God does not allow the bully or the evil of bullying to last or to prosper.  Think of some of histories most notorious bullies; Roman Emperor Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Saddam Huessein for some examples.  While there was a time they seemed to be at the pinnacle of power and perhaps popularity; their evil deeds did not go unpunished leading to ultimate ruin.  That is what awaits all unrepentant bullies to some extent.  God does not suffer the innocent to be oppressed for long and evil doers to go unpunished.

Thus if you’re in the circumstance of being bullied, reach up and out to God.  Ask Him for His help and deliverance and know He will be right by your side.  The bullying of Goliath and his brothers didn’t stop David.  God sent angels to protect Mary from any harm.  Jesus Christ intervened on behalf of Paul.

If you’re being bullied or seeing another bullied, be careful about seeking retribution on your own or for the sake of someone else.  Jesus Christ could have utterly and easily crushed those who tried to bully Him but chose mercy and forgiveness instead.  Through Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy, God declares “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay…….”  Wait upon the Lord and He will act.  It may be that you might be called to be an instrument in the Lord’s Will but wait upon the Spirit to lead versus making that assumption.  God is able, remember what happened to the bullying chariots of Pharaoh when they were going to attack the Israelites on the shore of the Red Sea.  God will prevail.

Additionally, don’t become the bully, either in response to a bully or in some mistaken sense of righteousness.  Do not believe that we have the right to act in some judgmental, hurtful manner to stop some transgression.  Remember how Christ chastised the bullies who wanted to judge and then stone the woman caught in adultery.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, whether being the recipient of or witness to an act of bullying, do become lost in a sea of disillusionment or despair; even if that bullying should come from a religious institution, leader or person.  Call upon, have confidence and find peace in the Comforting Arms of our Heavenly Father. He will be your refuge and protector as well as seeing to the demise of the evil at hand.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world where so often, there is an attempt by the seemingly powerful to unjustly wield that power upon the innocent. You did not create this world to be that way and for us to treat each other so.  We pray that You would be swift to come to the aid of those oppressed by bullies, shielding them from the injustice and abuse of the evil perpetrated against them.  We also ask that You would enter into the heart of the perpetrator, the bully, to turn it away from evil designs and actions.  Yet let Your justice come against the unrepentant that refuse Your mercy and desire to continue their destructive ways.  That in protecting and restoring the innocent, turning the perpetrator from evil or bringing Your perfect justice down upon them; we would bring unceasing praise to Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen  

 

 

“Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?'” Mark 4:38

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” Matthew 14:30

“He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.'”  Matthew 15:26

Just wait a second, Doug; you may start out to respond to the title of this post.  Did Jesus not feed over 5,000 once and over 4,000 another time?  Didn’t Jesus heal the sick and bring sight to the blind?  Didn’t Jesus go into the houses of the outcast and be seen with lepers?  How can I ask this?

Well isn’t possible that Jesus’ miracles were just things that he did?  Things so very easy for God here on earth that they came with hardly any thought?  Maybe for Him it’s the same as when we mindlessly say:  “How’s it going?” to a colleague as we pass in the hallway or likewise say “Have a nice day.”

After all wasn’t Jesus sleeping as a storm raged, threatening to pitch the disciples out of their boat and into a tempest of sure doom?  Didn’t he care about the disciples?  Or what about Peter; didn’t Jesus, who knows everything, know that Peter was going to get scared walking on the water and start to sink?  Why would He let that happen?  And what about the poor lady whose child was suffering terribly, Jesus at first refused to help her making a statement that compared her to being a dog?  None of those show a caring, engaged Savior do they?

Cold and callousness seem to be very human traits that so often rear their ugly heads, especially in our contemporary society.  Sometimes we blame lack of time, sometimes we blame the fact that we “didn’t know”, yet the reality is that all too often we flat just don’t care about our fellow person; especially enough to actually act. Jesus Christ became human so maybe he had that trait as well?

Absolutely, positively NOT! In no way was Jesus being cold or uncaring in any of these situations or other situations that might be brought up.  For indeed Jesus declared that He had come to save the world and we would learn just how far He would have to go to accomplish that task.

Jesus didn’t care that the disciples were going to drown?  It looked that way from the disciples point of view.  What they did not understand at that point was they were never in any slightest danger to begin with.  The creation, in this case rain, wind and waves, can never threaten or endanger the Creator.  Jesus was able to sleep peacefully because He knew that there was no peril that could ever come against Him.  Jesus was well aware of His omnipotent nature and demonstrated His power effortlessly.  The disciples were equally as safe, though they had little to no power over the storm at all because they were with Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ cared so much to make sure that they were all, even Judas Iscariot who would betray Him with Him and therefore would be totally safe from harm.

Okay, but Jesus didn’t really care about Peter did He?  In another instance with water, Jesus called Peter out of the safe boat to attempt the incredibly risky, virtually impossible feat of walking on water.  Sure enough after a few steps, Peter got scared, started to sink and Jesus then saved him.  Why did Jesus call Peter out in the first place?  Seemingly it was not Jesus plan to have Peter walk on water.  For Jesus to walk on water was no big thing.  Again, the Creator of all things can manipulate the created to allow for any action He deems necessary.  After teaching a great group of people, over 5,000 and, oh by the way, miraculously feeding them, Jesus had told His disciples to get into a boat and go across the lake while he dismissed the crowd and went off to pray.  Jesus would catch up to them later.  That’s exactly what happened.  Walking on water, even in the midst of strong wind and significant waves, Jesus walked near the boat.  In one translation it says Jesus was going to pass by the boat and keep going to the other side.  Yet again, this was almost too much for the disciples.  Men, even great men simply do not walk on water.  This must not be flesh and blood but a ghost or spirit of some kind.  When Jesus called out, the disciples seemed to recognize His voice but still could not wrap their heads around the idea of Him walking on the water.  So Peter decides to put Jesus to the test.  If the apparition walking on the water really is their Master, Jesus, then He should be able to call Peter out of the boat and allow Peter to walk on the water too.  Instead of rebuking Peter, Jesus rewards his risky but semi-faith filled request, with an invitation to join Him out on the water.  Peter, again showing some significant faith, believes Jesus, steps out of the boat and actually starts to walk on water.  Jesus is showing His power, not only to Peter but to the rest of the disciples as well.  Jesus is showing that His power is not just for Jesus, but through Jesus, the disciples can do miraculous things as well.  If they will completely believe in Jesus and follow Him, even out onto the waves.  Walking on water ugh, waves ugh, and Oh My Gosh the wind!; ugh, I can’t believe I’m doing this! Peter thinks.  I shouldn’t be able to do this, Peter thinks and when he takes his focus and eyes off of Jesus, Peter starts to sink.  Yet Jesus has no intention of letting the least harm come to Peter; the “rock” upon which He plans to build His church.  Jesus wants to show the amazing accomplishments that can happen, the unbelievable requests that will be granted, through faithful obedience to Jesus as Christ.  However, the world will attack that faith and should it waiver, then disastrous consequences can occur.  Yet even if our faith does ebb and, in our doubting, we start to fall or sink; Jesus Christ is right there to lift us up to safety.

Thirdly, displaying faith can often be difficult requiring determination and perseverance, where we should realize we may find obstacles placed in our way by the very organizations, like the church, who should be making it easy.  A woman has a child in trouble.  The woman wants to see Jesus for His help.  She believes that Jesus can cure her child.  There’s just one problem, she’s the wrong nationality.  This woman was a Canaanite, a vilely hated group by the Jews.  Jesus did not immediately acknowledge or reply to the woman.  Seemingly immediately the prejudice and bias of the disciples kicks in asking Jesus to send the woman away (without helping her).  Jesus appears to acquiesce to the disciples command, comparing the woman’s request for His help, to giving precious food meant for a child (the Jews of which Jesus belonged) to a mere dog. That would be a waste.  The woman could have at the point, been stung by the rebuke, turned and walked away.  Today, she probably would have screamed ugly responses to Him while pulling out a cell phone to video record the whole thing.  Instead, the woman still has faith.  Okay she reasons, I’m not a Jew, I know I am counted less by the Jews, but I have the faith that this Jesus has the power to help, so I will humble myself, acknowledge my lowly state and still ask for His mercy.  Jesus doesn’t just annoyingly send her away, or sneak off to grant her request where no can see Him interact with her. No, instead for all around, especially His disciples to hear; Jesus compliments the woman’s great faith and heals her stricken daughter.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus Christ cares.  Jesus Christ promises that should we abide in Him, though storms toss us and the situation seems lost; we will never perish for He has the power over all storms.  Likewise, through the power of Christ, we are allowed to ask for incredible things, seemingly impossible things, like walking on water; which, if we stay in faith Jesus Christ can easily make happen.  Also, should our faith falter, Jesus Christ’s mercy will not and He will catch us.  Finally, practicing our faith may take risks, may be uncomfortable.  Some may tell us we don’t look right, think right, act right, love right, believe right.  They may try to dismiss us and turn us away.  Sadly some who do so might be members or leaders in Christ’s church.  Do not be discouraged but have faith.  What the world may say no to; Christ may declare; “Your faith is great so let it be as you asked”.   Jesus Christ cares.  He took all our sins upon Himself and died in our place.  And now He lives, in caring love to see us come to our full fruition in Him.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so very thankful and praise Your Holy Name for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ.  We are in awe of the caring that He, the Creator of the Universe, with You, have for us.  Forgive us, when in times of darkness or despair we may be tempted to doubt the caring and love of Jesus Christ.  Grant to us the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith, keeping us abiding in Christ and living lives that bring honor and praise to Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen 

 

 

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham! Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. …….Do not lay a hand on the boy Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son……and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”  Genesis 22:1,2,18

“The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him.”  Matthew 4:1

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him…” Matthew 22:35

There are some who are reading this they may actually enjoy being tested.  Some enjoy it because they love the thrill of the challenge and thrive under pressure.  Some enjoy testing because they are supremely confident in the outcome and look forward to the reward and adulation of a high achieving score.  I fall into to neither of those categories or any other rationale that would find tests enjoyable.  In some instances I would say that I go as far as to get text anxiety.

There is a school of thought that says, we as Christians, will never face testing, at least not from God.  I can’t say that I am one that follows that particular theology.  I do believe that it is plainly written that God, Himself will not bring about temptations to sin.  Those temptations come from the enemy.  Yet temptation and tests are not the same thing.

It is not that I am speaking for God (heaven forbid); but simply referring to God’s own revealed Word in the bible.  It is plainly stated that God tested Abraham in Genesis.  It was Satan who tempted Jesus in the wilderness, but the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to face the test of temptation.  Then there are the worldly tests that we throw at each other and even sometimes at God, which is what a lawyer did to Christ.

Let’s look at the context of Abraham’s testing.  God had promised Abraham, he would be a father of nations.  God was leading Abraham to the promised land.  While, Abraham did not have an heir by his wife, he had prospered in many different ways.  Finally, in a miraculous event; Sarah, Abraham’s wife conceived and bore Abraham a son and heir when she was older than 90 years old; Isaac.  Thus now Abraham had all the blessings he had been promised by God and was exceedingly successful.  Plus, God still planned to keep His covenant with Abraham to be the father of the chosen people of Israel.  But, would Abraham stay true to the covenant?  God knew the hearts of men and knew that often, once exceedingly successful, men will turn from God to follow their own ways and seek their own glory.  Would Abraham turn?  God tested Abraham and Abraham passed.

It appears obvious that God, in His spiritual form can not be tempted.  Yet God did not stay in a purely spiritual form as He allowed Himself to be begotten of a mortal woman and be born of true flesh and blood as Jesus Christ; God’s Son.  Hence, God being flesh, experienced things like hunger, exhaustion, human emotions and yes, so that He could truly experience the human condition, temptation.  The only difference is Jesus Christ overcame all temptation which can not be said for any solely or souly human.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that we have an advocate who is not unfamiliar or has not been tempted.  What a grace filled plan that God would allow Himself to be in a situation where He would be tempted by Satan, just to have the human experience of it.

Finally in the third referenced test above; it is solely human in nature.  Humans test for many reasons; most of which are justifiable in nature, such as to measure a person’s understanding or level of mastery.  Yet we can also test for illegitimate, nefarious reasons, hoping and even planning for the test taker to fail so we can unleash a harsh judgmental punishment.  That is what the lawyer attempted to do to Jesus and was abruptly and completely silenced.

So we have the how’s and whys of testing; let’s talk briefly about taking the tests.  Again starting with Abraham, notice that he did not have the answer to the test within him.  He knew God promised him a child and Isaac was that child.  God had said that Abraham was going to be the father of a great nation but how could that be if Abraham had to sacrifice his only child?  Was this some clever riddle to be solved?  If so, Abraham possessed not the wits to solve it.  Even when Isaac pointed out, as they started their trek, that they had no animal for the sacrifice, Abraham’s only answer was “God will provide”. Not only was that the only answer it was the right answer as well.  Abraham didn’t try to bargain with God or runaway from God with Isaac, he didn’t try to substitute some other young man hoping God wouldn’t notice.  Abraham relied completely in God in faith and passed the test and was rewarded with the continuing covenant.

In Jesus’ case, remember He was God and human.  Jesus had the power of God and would often times use that power to overcome demons. Yet, to thwart the temptation of the devil, Jesus didn’t use His own words, but the words of His Father; “man does not live by bread alone”, “you shall worship God only” and “do not put the Lord your God to the test”. The great power in these replies is that we have access to those same exact words.  Those words weren’t just for Jesus but for all of us.  God, through His immeasurable grace, has given us the same tools that His Son used to defeat the devil.

However, we are not God on earth.  What that means is that, unlike Jesus Christ, we will fail a test or tests at some point.  All human beings are fallen except Christ.  So we fail, we don’t faithfully wait on God; we are not only tempted but give into the temptation and sin, now what?  Once we have failed we are open to and will rightly receive the full judgement and wrath from our Just Heavenly Father! Is that right?

Well maybe that is what would seem to be the right outcome to have.  Maybe that’s how we would want to handle other people’s failures for tests we implement.  Yet the one who was tested and did not fail, freely took upon Himself every single one of our failures.  Jesus Christ, takes upon Himself all our test failures and washes them away, erases them by the blood of His Perfect Sacrifice.  Grade book closed.

The enemy would have us believe we are tested because God hates us and wants to judge and condemn us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God wants us to learn.  God wants us to rely on Him and see how through faith in Him we can overcome any test.  The enemy wants us to believe that when we fail, we are separated from God for all time to come.  The risen Jesus Christ testifies to us that we are eternally cleansed and forgiven for all failures and He stands ready to bring us through any test we may face.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father help us to understand that it is in Your wisdom that we are tested to allow us to learn how to rely on You and Your Word in all tests.  Forgive us when we lack the faith to turn to You and try to pass the tests on our own or worse yet are perfectly content and/or relish in our failures.  We praise the name of our Savior, Your Son, Jesus Christ, that He freely takes upon Himself our sins, that our failures are wiped clean by the blood of His sacrifice.  That in the testing we may grow ever stronger and prosperous, living lives that bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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