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“Then He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat’. And they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish…..for all these people'”  Luke 9:13

So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.”  Luke 9:17

Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also, and greater works than these he will do because I go to My Father in Heaven”  John 14:12

I want to take a moment to dwell on the “feeding of the five thousand” and a way we can join in.  As you recall this all starts out with wanting to get away to rest.  Jesus had sent the disciples out to preach, teach and heal in the surrounding Jewish towns and villages that Jesus was himself not going to be able to visit.  The disciples come back with stories of healing and wonderment.  Jesus leads them away to “a deserted place” so that they could rest.  However, scripture tells us that the multitude knew of it and followed Jesus and the disciples there.  Jesus, never being one to turn people away, received them there and spoke of the Kingdom of God and healed their sick.

This was a great throng, some 5,000 men, even more when you count the families who accompanied them.  Scripture goes on to say that the hour was getting late and the disciples came to Jesus because they were concerned that they were far away from any town or place and the people had been with Jesus all day.  They were worried that the people would be hungry and in fact so hungry that some would faint from hunger as they tried to return to their homes.  It would take a miracle for them to be fed out in this wilderness!

What I so love about what Jesus did is how He include the disciples in His actions.  Remember the manna that the Israelites ate when they were out deep in the wilderness and how God had caused a great wind to also blow in quail to provide for the weary travelers.  Jesus, as God, surely had this power.  Purely by His own power and devices He could have fed the 5,000 gathered listeners.  Yet in His Mercy and Perfect Wisdom, He included more than just Himself.  For this was not about some over-the-top, grandiose display of raw Divine power.

First, Jesus acknowledges that the assembled people will need to eat and then suggests to the disciples, it is up to them to feed the enormous crowd.  This disturbed the disciples, for the disciples had barely enough rations, five loaves of bread and two small fish, to spread amongst themselves let alone to try to stretch across such a vast need.  Also they did not have enough money to go and buy provisions for this great gathering.  Thus what Jesus establishes is that there is no human devised solution to feeding this throng accept to send them away and leave them to their own devices.

At this point truly try to put yourself into the shoes….or, ah sandals, of the disciples.  First Jesus tells you to tell the people to have a seat in small groups.  He is the Master and you do as you’re instructed but you have not the vaguest clue as to what Jesus has planned.  Next, Jesus asks for the five loaves and two fish to be brought to Him and He gives thanks to His and your Heavenly Father for them.  Again, you’re not surprised that He gives thanksgiving for food, no matter how meager because that is what Jesus always does.

However, now it starts to get worrisome.  There are 12 baskets there, that means one basket for each disciple (even Judas). Then, to your surprise, Jesus starts tearing pieces of the bread and putting it into each basked and breaking the two fish apart and placing just a small piece in each basket.

Your curiosity as a disciple turns to shock and some dread as Jesus hands you each a basket and tells you to go to the crowd and give the basket to each group and do not take the basket away from the group until they have eaten their fill and are satisfied.  Again, think about your hesitant steps as you approach the first small group.  Maybe there’s enough in the basket for this one group to each have something, but eat their fill? Until their satisfied?  You pick out the smallest group with the fewest men and smallest children; they won’t take too much you tell yourself.  You hand the basket to the first person and invite them to take and eat but stress that the basket needs to be passed to everyone hoping that you communicate the message not to be too greedy and grab too much out for yourself.  Perhaps you anxiously watch as each person takes from the basket, puts the lid back on as they pass to the person next to them and you’re somewhat surprised how far the food has gone in this group.  Perhaps also you’re glancing around noticing that, of all your brethren disciples, none of them have run out of food….YET.

However, now the last person has pulled food out, put the lid back on the basket and handed back to you.  You don’t dare look inside to see the sheer emptiness that must reside now in the basket.  You glance back over at the Master, Jesus, somewhat shocked to see He is staring right at you and with a nod of His head and an ever so slight smile, He directs you to continue to the next group.  You slowly approach the group, you have a lump in your throat as you ask yourself: “Are they going to be mad about how empty the basket is?  Are they going to attack me or the Master?”  You look around and notice that your brethren are all getting to their second groups and they all seem to have the same hesitation.  “This could get real ugly real quick”; you think to yourself.

You start about by excusing yourself and begging the forgiveness of the group and hoping they can scrape a little of what must be some scraps of bread and slivers of fish at bottom of the basket.  As you hand it to the first man in the group, before the man has taken the lid off, he gives you a slightly aggravated look concerning the apology you just gave.  The man lifts the lid and then his look of aggravation changes to surprise and bewilderment as he turns the basket so that you can see that it is filled to the brim with choice bread and many pieces of succulent fish.  The man is surprised by the expression of pure shock on your face at seeing the contents of the basket.  You immediately look up to see and are met with very similar looks of astonishment of the faces of your fellow disciples as they watch their second groups feast on the basket.  You then slowly turn to face Him; the Master, Jesus Christ.  No longer is there a slight grin on His face, but now it is a full blown smile!  He holds out his hands gesturing for you to continue and at that moment you understand, not the how of any of it, but you know the food will not run out.

You are now excited to move from one group to another, you are laughing, the groups laughing.  All are being fed.  The groups are thanking you for your generosity.  Although you accept their thanks, you are compelled and it easy to respond to them that they need to give thanks to their Father in Heaven for His Son who is in their midst Jesus.

Can you imagine it?  Can you place yourself in the before and after of being a part of it?  Now let me remind you, these were not highly educated men, these disciples.  They were not the crème of Jewish crop.  They were ordinary, very common men, called to be extraordinary by and through Jesus Christ.

However, that was so long ago.  The disciples are long gone and the age of miracles has passed.  Really?  You see dear Sisters and Brothers, this would all be just history, if it weren’t for the fact that Jesus Christ lives today.  The same Jesus Christ who urged His disciples:  “You give them something to eat”, sees a hungry world today and urges the same thing for us.  This is a world, yes hungry for food; but also hungry for light, truth, mercy and most of all LOVE.  Jesus Christ proclaims to us that should we but believe in Him, have true faith in Him, then we can do His works and even greater because He now is with The Father.  Please, please let us not turn from the invitation to be part of the feeding.  Let us not shy away from doing His bidding.  For Jesus Christ has the power to do it on His own, the wonderful, merciful blessing is that He wants to include us in the helping.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ and Your Plan that, through Him we might not only have our salvation but also be a part in bringing Your will to fruition in this life.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that we might have the confidence, faith and love to go forth and be providers through Jesus Christ to meet the needs and spread the word of salvation to the world in such desperate need of both.  That in being allowed to partner in the completion of Your Most Perfect Plan, we would lead lives that always bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They have no wine…….Whatever He says to do, do it”  John 2: 3,5

“Fill the waterpots with water….Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast”. John 2:8

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit…..”  John 15:5

Often called “the first miracle” and indeed it is Jesus’ first recorded miracle, I find there is so much happening here in addition to the miraculous changing of the water into wine.  So let’s get started.

First, because I think it is a foundational value to virtually every aspect of our lives and our relationship with our Heavenly Father and Son, Jesus Christ; let’s start with faith.  We see a tremendous amount of faith demonstrated in this story.  Who demonstrated tremendous faith?  Let’s take a look at Mary, Jesus Mother.  After Jesus’ birth, we know very little about His childhood.  We know that he minded His earthly father and mother.  We also know that Mary experienced many miracles associated with Jesus’ birth.  What we don’t have any record of or idea about is whether Jesus performed any miracles growing up.  Yet here they were at a wedding feast and an urgent need had arisen.  We don’t know how Mary became aware that the wine had run out.  We don’t know why she had a sense of urgency to rescue the bride groom from the embarrassment of having a wedding feast that had not prepared to have enough wine.  However, she became aware and felt compelled to act.  It is clear that Mary had faith in her Son.  It is also clear that she had a deep knowledge of the special nature of her Son.  We know that because, upon learning of the critical shortage of wine, she first turned to her Son for a solution.  Please take careful note of how she approaches Jesus and the way she makes the request.  Now a mother of an earthly child, might tell that child to go to a merchant and purchase some more wine.  If she wasn’t sure of how to fix the problem; she might communicate some high anxiety about the situation.  Mary does neither.  First she comes, in faith, to make the need known to her Son.  Second, although not knowing specifically how Jesus was going to correct the situation; she has no doubt, she has perfect faith that indeed Jesus is going to act to salvage the wedding feast.  She commands those servants standing by; to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.  She has complete faith that Jesus will act and that whatever action He comes up with, it will solve the problem; perfect faith.

Now we might expect her to have that faith; after all she knew how Jesus came to be in her womb and the sacred aspect of Him.  Yet we also see faith on the part of the servants.  Mind you, these are not Jesus’ or Mary’s servants; they are the wedding grooms servants.  We’re not told how much they’re clued into the urgent nature of the situation, so initially how anxiety filled they might be.  So there are these large waterpots sitting by, large enough to hold 20-30 gallons. But they were empty at the time and Jesus tells the servants to fill them with water.  One figures they might be puzzling to themselves: “Okay this is a little strange but maybe we’re washing them out for some reason”.  However, Jesus then tells them to dip a cup into one of the waterpots and take it to the master of the feast!  Now take a step back for a moment.  Jesus had not told them to take a sip of the water, now turned into wine.  He had not told them that he had changed the water into wine.  He simply told them to dip a cup into the waterpot and take it to the master of the feast.  You need to understand, the master of the feast was like a modern day wedding planner on steroids.  You see these wedding feasts were extremely important affairs that could last for a week and have every important person in the entire area show up.  So the master of the feast had significant responsibility and thus significant power.  And now these poor servants are walking up to the master, who might already be severely peeved at this point, with this cup of water?  One imagines they might have been extremely hesitant and perhaps trembling; but scripture tells us they obeyed Jesus and in faith took the cup to the master.  Imagine the surprise all around as they watched the expression on the master’s face as he tasted this most perfect wine and being so amazed at its perfection, grilled the bride groom about where it had come from and why it was only being served now instead of at the beginning of the feast where it belonged!

I also want to touch on humility and humble service.  In this case the example of perfect humility is perpetrated by none other than Jesus Himself.  Remember, this is God come to earth; the only Begotten Son of His Father God, Creator of all things.  This is the Messiah, Savior for all time.  By Jesus’ reaction to His mother’s request, we glean a sense that Jesus was not expecting to perform a miracle that day.  Yet Jesus knew His Father’s laws.  Jesus knew that to obey His Father’s laws and His will; to honor His Mother, was the only right thing to do.  So instead of telling her to see to fixing the problem herself; Jesus humbles himself and carries out His mother’s wishes.

So what do we take from this?  How does this impact us if we’re not at a wedding feast?  Much indeed.  First, Jesus was there.  Jesus excepted the invitation to be in fellowship at that wedding feast.  Jesus is willing and ready, to come wherever He’s invited.  He wants you and I to invite Him into wherever we find ourselves today.  He will show up.

Second, our worldly resources will fail us.  Again understand these wedding feasts weren’t spur of the moment gatherings.  They took lengthy and meticulous planning.  Yet with all their planning and preparation; they still ran out of wine.  Today, we plan, we store, we strive, we learn, yet with all we do, it will not be enough; something will happen, we will fall short.  Jesus Christ invites us to come to Him in faith.  Jesus Christ promises us that, as we come to Him in faith; He will supply.  In fact Jesus Christ wants something different.  He doesn’t want us to never rely on our earthly plans, resources, intelligence, ingenuity, power, physical attributes, none of that.  Jesus Christ wants us to rely solely and souly on Him as branches, rely on the vine for all their sustenance.

Additionally we must understand this blessing; what Jesus Christ supplies far exceeds whatever we can find for ourselves.  The new wine that Jesus supplied to the wedding feast was far superior to anything worldly the master of feast had ever tasted.  Also understand this;  Jesus supplied wine in this case, something physical and tangible.  Jesus Christ by His Love and Grace will save our souls, but He will also supply our physical and intellectual needs and the blessings that He supplies in these areas are far more precious, more perfect than we can obtain without Him

Finally, there’s the wine.   Too much earthly wine is not a healthy thing.  It clouds our judgement and too often causes us to loose control in harmful ways.  Yet, there is never such a thing of having too much of the wine of Jesus Christ.  As we partake of Jesus Christ’s wine, we not only will, but should loose our control, humbling ourselves to coming under Christ’s control.  So Dear Sisters and Brothers the lesson for us is to drink in faithfully, completely and often the wine of Jesus Christ and experience the wonders and blessings that we will experience as a result.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You for the amazing, grace filled Gift of salvation which is Your Son Jesus Christ.  We thank You that Jesus Christ will accept our invitation, no matter our circumstances to come to us and fulfill our urgent needs.  Help us to become the branches of His vine that we might drink in deeply and daily, being washed clean by His most precious blood and bear glorious fruit for You that brings praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

“But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea….”  Jonah 1:4

“Immediately he arose, took up his bed and went out in the presence of them all so that they were amazed and glorified God……”  Mark 2:12

“..He arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm…..and they feared exceedingly and said ‘Who can this be that even the wind and sea obey Him!'”  Mark 39,41

So, have you ever been in a situation where you’re responsible for getting a message across to a group and they are not paying attention?  Now this could be your family, or a business group, or church group, but it is a message of vital importance and when you start to speak to them, they seem oblivious to your presence?  Think of what you’ve done to get their attention.  Maybe, you talked loudly and if that didn’t work raised your volume progressively until you were shouting.  Maybe you tried to make a loud noise to shock them and snap them into listening to you.  Maybe, especially if you were dealing with a younger group, you promised them some treat or present if they paid you some heed.

Now imagine that you’re God and you’re trying to get the attention of your creation.  Jonah tried ignoring God, disregarding Him, running away from speaking with God.  God caused a great tempest to arise to show Jonah, He meant business.

What about Jesus Christ; He is God, was God even when He walked the earth; when He started His ministry it was not as if He was getting much notice or many followers.  Scripture tells us that it wasn’t until people witnessed the miraculous healing He accomplished that His fame spread throughout the land.  Even in witnessing those healings, His disciples didn’t understand the complete totality of His power until they witnessed Him calm a raging sea and wind with just a few simple words.  Without the healing, had their been no storm to calm; how much notice would He have garnered?

What’s my point?  First let me state categorically that I do not know the mind or speak for the acts of God, in any one situation.  That is to say that I make no claim that I know God’s purpose for any cataclysmic event or can definitively explain the rationale for some specific healing or blessing.  I can not!

Yet I have observed this, having gone through some major storms of nature in my life; I find it typical that the reaction; whether before, during or after in general by the public is one of; focus on the storm, a sense of powerlessness concerning the storm and a sense of awe concerning the impact of the storm after it has passed.  Likewise, my wife is a cancer survivor. She has gone past the time when, just decades before, the vast majority of patients didn’t survive.  Both with cancer and other diseases we are hearing phrases like “miracle drug, miracle treatment or miracle cure”, thrown around.

Yet the storms do pass.  If cured, life continues with a sense of new normalcy.  And therein lies the challenge:  Is God in our normal?  Not only “in”, is God at the head, is He the priority of our normal?

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, God absolutely knows the danger, the devastation, the personal and eternal destruction that comes from a life, attempted to be lived without relying completely on Him.  He knows there is an enemy out there, literally hell-bent on our eternal death and destruction.  The enemy, Satan, could care less if we believe in Satan or not; as long as we don’t care about, give attention to, have any worship for, let alone love, our Creator, Almighty Father, God in Heaven.

Now here’s the thing, I don’t know about you, but I can and do fall into that trap.  It’s not as if I consciously reject or state hatred for God, no; but I get so focused on some aspect of earthly life, vocation, relationship, recreation, economic, that I lose all focus on God and live and make decisions as if I was the person in charge, I was the one ultimately responsible and with ultimate power.  Sometimes this comes in the depth of trials, but also, it can come at prolonged periods of success as well.

I praise God and am so thankful that, at those times, when I neglect Him, living my life without recognition of Him or reliance on Him, that He does not turn His back on me or leave me to travel the pathway to certain doom and destruction.  No, there is many a time that God has reached out in some way and gotten my attention; returned my focus to Him, sometime through a healing or blessing and sometimes through a storm.

So it would behoove us to ask frequently, unceasingly, with humility and utmost honesty, does Our Heavenly Father have our full attention?  Are our thoughts a product of a focus on Him and His teachings?  Do our acts reflect a connection, a relationship of love, first with Him and then with each other?  Are we seeking, knocking and asking?

Again, praise be to God Almighty that He gives us tools to help us focus on Him.  He gives us the ability to communicate and fellowship with Him through prayer.  He has striven to leave us lessons to guide us, that we can live by in His Words of Scripture.  He has blessed us with fellowship gatherings of our peers; where He has promised to with us as we gather in worship services.

Finally, Our Heavenly Father, gave His Only Begotten Son, to die in our place; that we may be able to be in relationship and live with Him, now and forever.  If that’s not enough to get and keep our attention then heaven help us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we declare that You are God alone, the author of our salvation and through You all blessings, peace, joy and especially love come.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when we are tempted to live our lives on our own terms, while ignoring Your presence.  We thank You, that You do not abandon us, but take measure to retrieve our attention and bring us back to You.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that through study of Your word and regular prayer, we may keep our focus on You and Your desires for our lives.  That by focusing on You and abiding in Jesus Christ, we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last…….What you see write in a book and send to the seven churches…….”  Revelation 1:11

“The mystery of seven stars….and the seven golden lampstands….the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”  Revelation 1:20

So let’s set the scene here.  There is a follower of Christ named John (there is some discussion over whether or not this was the Apostle John or not) who has been exiled to an island named Patmos for his belief and preaching of Jesus Christ.  At this point, among so many countless things Jesus Christ has accomplished, He has taught about His Father and His Father’s Kingdom.  He has willing died for us becoming the perfect sacrifice for our redemption.  He has risen from the dead and in all power, has asked for the Holy Spirit to be sent to us so that those who believe and are baptized may receive Him.  There has been time for Christ’s apostles to spread out and begin churches.  Now Christ wants to reveal to His people, that which is to come.

Notice where, very early on, Christ’s emphasis lies.  He makes sure that John knows who exactly it is who is giving him, His revelation.  Second, Christ wants to make sure that John sends this information out….to the churches.  In fact when John first sees Jesus Christ, He is standing in and amongst the lampstands.  Notice also that, besides a lampstand, each church has an angel.

Jesus Christ wants to send a message to all the churches, yet each church has a different part.  Here are couple things that seem important to me.  First, while there are seven churches based on seven different physical locations; they are all Christ’s.  Second, even at this time, even as short a period of time as it has been since Christ walked the earth, the evils of man had infected many of these churches.  These were not perfect places of worship.

So what is Jesus Christ to do?  He could have pronounced the church a failed institution and decided some other form of institution is necessary.  Christ could have warned all of his believers to flee from churches or any institution similar to them.  Neither of these things does Christ do.  No, it is abundantly clear that Christ cares for, Christ loves these churches, even with their imperfections.  Certainly Christ rebukes the churches, in some cases quite harshly.  Yet even then in most cases, He is able to find something redeeming about the church and offers the churches hope.  Yes, it seems very clear that Jesus Christ sees great importance in the churches and the need that they repent of their waywardness and come into the glory for which they were intended.

Why is this so important?  This is vital, because churches are under such devastating attacks both from the outside secular world as well as within their own ranks.  It is true that there have been churches that have committed great evil against the world and even their own members.  It is true that some churches, far from being the welcoming beacons of light; have spread a message of exclusiveness and hatred.  I have even heard from within churches themselves, doubts about the relevance and necessity of churches in the 21st century world.

Where are we to turn?  Are we to strike out on our own?  Let’s return to Jesus and see what He has to say.  Remember, Jesus preached that a house divided can not stand.  While, in the context of the discussion, He was discussing Satan, He did not say Satan’s divided house can not stand.  No, it is clear He admonition was for all.  The church is a place where we come together.  The church is the place where we partake of fellowship in some of the most sacred acts that Christ taught about; The Lord’s Supper and The baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Churches have the mission of being a place were we come to a sanctuary of love, healing, joy, praise and worship.

The enemy would love to see us break up and try it on our own.  The enemy would love to see those in pain, those tired, those physically and spiritually hungry, those unloved and persecuted have no where to turn.  The enemy would love each believer left alone to struggle with interpreting the Word of God on their own.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; church matters.  Yes, I confess there are divisions.  Yes it is true that we have many of the same struggles that Jesus Christ laid out in the book of Revelation to the early seven churches.  Yet that is no reason to give up and try to go it alone.  Diligently seek a church that preaches Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior.  If you are in such a church be open and loving to those who enter your doors.  In a world obsessed with the latest and greatest, hold fast to the Rock of Christ.  Should your church stumble; love it, support it, help it.  Should one church become so corrupted that it no longer preaches the true gospel of Christ, then leave it, but find another church.  They are definitely out there.

Let us not relegate an institution that Jesus Christ finds so important to a relic of the past.  Christ knows that the church is not for Him and His need, it is for us.  Let us, abiding in Christ, be worthy of our lampstand.  And may the light, His Light, shine forth from our lamp, the church, as a beacon of love, peace and light, to a world ever growing darker.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Your plan has in it our ability to gather in Your Church.  We pray that, although there be many buildings in many different locations, that we would worship You as one.  Let the Glory of the Groom, Jesus Christ, fill the bride, the church, with love, mercy and thanksgiving.  Forgive us when we try to fashion the church in our image instead of Yours.  That the church may be an avenue for Your Will to be carried out on this earth.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Oh give thanks to the Lord,  for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.”  1 Chronicles 16:34

“And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks….”  Mark 8:6

Giving thanks.  Two disparately different situations, yet leading to the same action, to the same One. These two examples are at the heart of giving thanks.

David has been crowned king.  Many years have led up to this point, it started when David was anointed king by the prophet Samuel.  But there would be a long time in between that anointing and David being placed on the throne.  During that in between time would come the confrontation with Goliath, becoming Saul’s favorite, having Saul become jealous of David and trying to kill him and David’s time fleeing Saul in the wilderness.  So now Saul is gone, the people of Israel have all agreed and David is triumphantly installed as ruler of all Israel.  David’s heart is filled with the Spirit of God and yearns to do what God desires.  This is shown by one of his first acts as king.  David brings that ark of the covenant to its rightful place, Jerusalem.  David is so ecstatic to bring the ark home that he dances and leaps for joy as it is being brought into the city.  When it is placed in the place of worship, the tabernacle, David breaks into a long song of thanksgiving.  He cries out to all the people to give thanks to the Lord.  David is triumphant.  David had conquered.  David was rich in material wealth, in many houses, in many wifes and children.  In his triumphant, blessed state, David turns naturally to thanking Him from which his blessings have come, the Lord.

Jesus, has not been crowned king.  He appears to be a preacher.  A very talented, gifted preacher both in word and, with the miracles He performs, in deed as well.  Yet Jesus is rejected by the authorities and most of the people He has come to serve and save.  He does not live in a palace nor have material wealth.  He travels and often stays outside the main cities.  People don’t flock to see him in the high places of the temple or tabernacles.  No Jesus often preaches, teaches and heals right where the people are; in fields, on the side of hills, in the poor sections of town.  Now He finds Himself in a very daunting situation.  He has been preaching to over 4000 people and they’ve been intently listening.  But the hour has become late and there is no place close by for this large a number of people to go to eat.  Some might become ill, might pass out if they are not given something to eat before they start their journey back home.  Jesus resources are very meek, very humble.  He has only 12 disciples to try and help to serve the crowd.  Worse yet, the food he has to work with is devastatingly meager; seven loaves of bread.  His disciples wonder incredulously what is seven loaves of bread to do when there is so much need.  Jesus doesn’t hesitate.  His portion may seem humble, may seem woefully inadequate for such a great need; but Jesus is thankful for what He has.  The first thing He does is to give thanks for those seven loaves.

Seemingly two people at opposite ends of the spectrum.  One is rich, worldly powerful, one who has made it; yet David completely understands where his abundance, his power, his blessings come from.  One of David’s first acts and an act he will repeat over and over again, is to give thanks.  He does not believe that he has earned the right to be king, but it is the Lord’s mercy that has led him there.  Jesus is in very humble surroundings.  His situation seems dire.  We know that He is the Son of God come to earth.  He could have stood up and proclaimed in His own power what a great miracle He was about to perform.  But Jesus doesn’t do that.  No, the first thing that Jesus does is to give thanks.  To give thanks for the seven loaves and what they are about to do.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, you and I may find ourselves in a place of great triumphant or a place of great humility.  We may have all our needs and most of our desires met or we may be at a place where we can not even contemplate how the most simplest of our basic needs will be met.  One situation seems to be easy to give thanks for and the other one seems as if there is not one thing for which one could find a reason for thanks.  What is paradoxical in this world of ours in how seldom we find the materially wealthy person give thanks to the Lord and how often the poor will give thanks.

What seems clear is that giving thanks is the behavior which unleashes such great power and mercy from our Heavenly Father.  For those who are well off, giving thanks helps keep them grounded.  It proclaims a humble thought that the blessings and wealth are not a reward for outstanding intelligence, talent, drive or even righteousness.  It is an acknowledgement that Our Heavenly Father has seen fit to bless us, even in our lowly state, His mercy is being poured out upon us.  Likewise, for the person in the humble, downtrodden, desperate state, giving thanks to the Lord is a triumphantly proclamation that the Lord is on His throne.  It states an understanding that all things are possible to those who believe and call upon the Lord.  It is a confident testimony that the Lord hears our prayers, supplications and thanksgiving and will lift us up from whatever trial we may find ourselves in.  His mercy endures forever.

So in whatever, whenever and wherever state we may find ourselves in today, give thanks.  Give thanks knowing that Our Heavenly Father knows us, He loves us, He has not, is not now, nor ever will forsake us and leave us alone.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we give You thanks dear Father with all our heart, mind and soul.  Thanksgiving is a response and we declare we have such abundance from you to rightly give thanks for.  Even if we are in a worldly state of poverty, we are rich in Your Love, Your Mercy, Your willingness to provide for us in any state.  No matter our state in this world, let us never forget to constantly give thanks to You.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ”  John 1:1

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made”  John 1:3

“Jesus is the reason for the season;” and “Put Christ back into Christmas”.  We’ve heard these statements, one of which I think is more accurately described as a plea.  It is truly understandable with the news stories of an ever expanding shopping season and fights breaking out over buying material gifts, that we point out how little that behavior has to do with the coming into our world of our Savior.  I, for one, whole heartedly agree with both the statements as well as the meaning behind them.

And putting Jesus in this season may actually not be as difficult as it might sound.  Babies are beloved things.  In almost all babies we sense a sweetness and innocence to which we are drawn.  Plus we also love the story of the triumphant underdog.  You couldn’t choose two more meek and seemingly down on their luck people, then a poor carpenter and his pregnant wife just trying to make it in the cruel Roman controlled world.  And we love a good angel story.  Two very popular television shows were:  Highway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel; both shows about earthly interaction with angels.  As well as, we love the beloved angel in training: Clarence, in the now holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Though here’s the thing, January is coming, with it’s dark, cold, dreary days, in the northern hemisphere and perhaps sweltering hot, dry scorching days far to the south.  In a few months time another holiday, another time for Christian focus will come as we turn to Easter.  For those who decide to celebrate or commemorate that specific holiday, there is not as much of a secular celebration that gets in the way.

So we have the star for Christmas and the cross for Easter.  What is Christian symbol jumps out for late May, early July or mid September.  This world greatly values diversification and compartmentalization.  Every thing in its place and a place for everything.  It is not wise to put all of our eggs into one basket.  These are all platitudes that the world spews out about not focusing too much on one thing or place.  The world might agree that it is exceedingly correct to focus on Jesus during this Christmas time as well as Easter.  But June Sunday’s are made for golf and Monday through Friday belong to my work; family and home on Saturday and church on Sunday.

John, with great eloquence and illumination puts it into the proper perspective for us.  Jesus, the person, the flesh came to earth.  As God on this earth; He had a beginning (Christmas) and a death (Easter).  That Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth is a glorious and wonderful thing.  It is the ultimate example of God’s and Christ’s love for us, that He would come to this existence with the end plan to die for us, taking upon Himself, all our sins.  To pay our price.  Yet Christ has, is, and always will be with us.  I can remember being physically upset when I would hear religious scholars say B.C.E (Before the Common Era) instead of B.C. (before Christ).  But it now occurs to me how wrong the term Before Christ is.  When the Egyptians were building the pyramids; Christ is.  When David slays Goliath; Christ is.  When man first walked on the moon; Christ is.  When everything began; Christ is.

Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover.  Jesus Christ went to the temple and taught on the Sabbath.  Yet I find nowhere where Jesus said there was a time alloted; a season appropriate to not worship and glorify Our Heavenly Father.  That we have 24/7, 365, 12 months all came from and thus belong to Jesus Christ.  May it be that we can come to the realization that “the most wonderful time of the year” is any and every time we are in Him.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we praise You and are eternally thankful for the gift of Christ’s coming into our world in the person of Jesus.  Forgive us Heavenly Father and Jesus when we try to minimize our celebration of Your gift and sacrifice to certain times of the year.  May it be that we are filled with Your Love and Joy each moment of our lives understanding that all those moments come from You.  That in every time and ever season we may strive to live a life of praise to You.  In the Name of the One who Was, Is and Is to Come, Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.  And Joshua did so”.  Joshua 5:15

“…His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily….”  Luke 18:7-8

Joshua has just led the Israelites across the Jordon, into the promised land.  Moses is not leading him, because he has died.  In fact all who left Egypt with Moses, have died.  They rebelled against God, not just once but over and over again.  Yet God did not wipe them off the face of the earth.  When they forsook God’s commandment and had no faith in Him and would not enter into the promised land because they were afraid, God held them accountable and would not let them ever enter.  But He still remained with them and instead of leaving them and their children alone to perish; God was now bringing their children into the promised land.  Few realize that, just like God used Moses to part the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians, God used the priests of the Ark, to part the Jordon for His people to cross over into the promised land.  And like using the burning bush and the sacred ground around it to speak to Moses before he was sent to Egypt, God sent a holy messenger to speak to Joshua as he led God’s people into the promised land.  After all that the people of Israel had done against God, He did not give up on them.

Jesus tells the story of a judge who gives into the requests of a woman for justice, simply because she keeps nagging him over and over again.  Jesus says if an earthly judge who has no regard for God and men will come to a person’s aid just because she keeps asking and asking; how much quicker will God come to the aid of those who believe and cry to him.  However, do not overlook, I think, an extremely important part  “….though He bears long with them.  God’s elect are not perfect people.  They (or in today’s time I) may very well cry out to him today and totally forget Him tomorrow.  They (I) may very well cry out for justice for me, while I treat someone else equally unfairly.  They (I) may cry out to be avenged, and then when God graciously answers, they (I) may take all the credit as if they (I) were the one solely responsible for my deliverance.

I find it ironic, in a sad sort of way, that God is so often portrayed in a judgmental, harsh, unforgiving way.  They point to the judgment in a story like Sodom and Gomorrah while forgetting about the mercy giving to Nineveh.  They forget that even with S&G, the Lord told Abraham, if He could find as few as 10 just men, in the entire city, He would spare it.  For every story of God carrying out righteous judgment with destruction, there are countless more of Him mercifully sparing those who erred, giving them another chance to change their ways.

God blessed Joshua and he led the Israelites into the promised land.  Alas, they would rebel again.  There would be destruction and being carried away into exile, but God never stopped loving them and protecting them.  And, when the time was right, God said I will bring about my greatest plan of sacrifice, mercy and redemption.  I will send my Only Son, Jesus Christ to pay the ultimate, final atonement for the sins of My beloved creation.  Why would God do that?  Because He says, I have too much Love for them to see them eternally condemned and kept apart from Me.  Jesus Christ echoed that love, not just in His death, but in His request for forgiveness for those who were murdering him.  spoken while hanging on the very instrument of His death, the cross.

Brothers and sisters, we will sin.  The enemy, the prince of this world, will try and convince us that God is a vengeful, judgmental God who wants nothing to do with us because we sin.  But if we look, we will see Jesus Christ, with scarred hands and feet, reaching out to us and saying; See what My Father has done for you.  See the love that He and I have for you.  Come, believe in Me, Christ says, and know that in Me, you will find no condemnation.  Jesus Christ declares, I have taken your sins upon me, promising to you that though you may stray, you are never truly lost to My Father.  May it be that we find strength, reassurance and comfort from knowing that God will never give up on us.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for the blessings that You pour out upon us, chief among those being Your Mercy.  Thank you for sparing us from the judgment that we deserve for our actions against our brothers and sisters and against You.  We are eternally grateful for the gift of Salvation that You have made available to us through the life, death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us Dear Father, to live with the sure knowledge of that forgiveness and give us a spirit of forgiveness with others.  Give us the strength to resist temptation as well as the humbleness to repent when we succumb to the lure of temptation and sin.  These things we pray in the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

 

Because narrow is the gate and difficult the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Matthew 7:14

This is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root within himself but endures only or a while.  For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Matthew 13: 20-21

It is the Wednesday after the Tuesday of the election and some believers are forlorn.  For some it was the actual outcome of who was elected in some races.  For some it was some of the ballot initiatives that passed.  For me it was hearing pundits say that studies show that 51% of US adults have no religious affiliation.  (I might note that I went to the Pew study of Nov 2012 and could not find that statistic.  It showed the 74% of US adults consider themselves Christian).  Also hearing and inference (and I might be overly sensitive here) about “Christians” especially “Evangelical Christians” being out of step with the modern country.  Seemingly around the world Christians are being killed for their beliefs or at the very least having to be deep in hiding.  And in this country it can feel as if we’re being shunned or at least relegated to irrelevant in a country that no longer needs Christianity.  We may see this portrayed in the media or it may be right where we work and live, where coworkers or neighbors don’t understand why you don’t go golfing with them on Sunday morning or party in a certain way they do.  Or maybe even within yourself or your own family, where other families might have more to do with because they don’t “have to” give to a church.  Heavy Sigh

So looking at this now and wondering if it is a slope leading to an unseen cliff that this great nation is sliding towards, what is our response?  What should we be doing?  Should we be surprised?  We could withdraw from society or at least those areas we feel are unChristian.  I will have nothing to do with my non-believing neighbor or coworker.  We can strike back.  There have been some who have turned to violence in bombings and killings calling themselves Christian warriors.  We can conform.  If this is where society is going and we are a part of society then we need to change our views to embrace the views of others.  For me I think about Jesus and His life and times.

Jesus was fully aware of the straying of His nation and His people.  Yet Jesus didn’t leave them and go somewhere else or try to avoid them.  When He traveled away from the cities it was often because the crowds were too large to be accommodated in the small towns or cities of the day.  In Luke, when Jesus, on the way to Jerusalem went to a village and was not received there, his disciples asked if they should call fire down from heaven to consume the town.  They or at least Jesus had the power to do so.  Jesus replied to them:  You do not know the manner of spirit you are of:  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.  And when to save His very life, all Jesus would have had to do was to conform to the religious leaders of the day, Jesus spoke the truth.

So the way forward for us seems clear.  We are not to separate ourselves physically from the world for they so desperately need to see how we live and hear why we live that way.  We are not to be angry or destructive in our dealings with the world for we like they are God’s creations.  We like they are sinners.  Yet by the Grace of God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we have come to know a better way.  A way of real truth leading to a richness unmatched by any worldly wealth.  And finally, most importantly I think, the most difficult I also think, we are to love.  Love all.  That neighbor or coworker who doesn’t understand me and may have any ridiculed me and my faith is now in trouble.  I could get in his or her face and say I told you so.  Or I could go to them and offer to help.  Help pick up the debris after the storm.  Listen to the tale of anguish that there life has become, without judging them.  Jesus looked down on his tormentors and asked the Father to forgive them, and Jesus stayed on the cross until death.

It is not easy and it is not the way of this world. Yet in John, Jesus gives us these amazingly comfortable words…..that you may have peace……….but be of Good Cheer.  I have overcome the world.

Prayers of Peace, Strength and most importantly Love to you, from Our Heavenly Father, through the most Holy Name of His Son Jesus Christ.  Amen

Do not test the Lord Your God Deuteronomy 6:16

Satan chides Jesus:  if you are the Son of God throw yourself off the temple and God will send His angels to protect you less you bruise even your heel.

Jesus replies quoting the scripture from Deuteronomy. 

Why do we put people to a test?  Is it so we can see if they can really do what they promise?  Is it to see if they have the knowledge that we think they should have?  Is it to put them under some sort of stress to see how they will perform?  As someone who has been a trainer for more than 30 years with some of those in the military and I can answer yes to all those questions for why we put people to a test.    It always in some way shape or form comes down to the test taker’s ability to perform.  And we who are giving the test are then put in the position of judging the level of performance to see if the grade is passing.

And therein lies the rub when we put God to the test.  God you said you loved me and promised me and said all I have to do is knock and it will be answered; seek and I will find, ask and it will be granted unto me; so I tell you what, here is what I’m asking for, seeking to get and the door I want you to open when I knock.  And I’ll decide if you came through or not.  Do we not at times trying to put ourselves into the judgement seat, throwing out a challenge to God and demanding that He fulfill our wishes to our standard?

Jesus knew (knows) God better than any other living creature in existence.  He absolutely knows God’s faithfulness to His promises and knew that should he have jumped off that temple, God would not have let any part of him be injured in the slightest.  So why not answer Satan’s challenge and show Satan just how powerful God is?  Quite simply because if we truly believe with unquestioning faith that God will do what He promises, then there is no need for a demonstration. 

And finally, who is there who can adequately score the test that we would give God:  God the one and only creator of the universe?  God I know you created the heavens and those galaxies are amazing feats of creation but I’m only going to give you a B+ on meeting  the prayer and the steps that I laid out for you.  You were a little late.  I would hope that we can all see the absurdity in that! 

Our enemy Satan loves the phrase: If You really _______ then You’ll___________  how ever you fill in the blank.  God sighs.  For it is the height of arrogance for us the created to believe we have the wisdom to judge the actions of the Creator.  That we can give to Our Heavenly Father a grade concerning His plan for us.

It was and is right and true that Jesus Christ was called Teacher.  In fact, the greatest teacher of all time.  Our Heavenly Father also gave Jesus the title of “Grader”, that is judge of this world.  So let us learn from our teacher’s example.  Let us not put God to the test, rather let us strive to be the pupils that we should be; learning love, humility, mercy and worship.  That in the end we would hear the wonderful praise that bestows upon us the wonderful graduation:  well done you good and faithful servant.

Amen

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