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“I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…..that He would grant you….to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith……that you may be able to comprehend….what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ….that you may be filled with the fullness of God!”  Ephesians 3: 14-19

The church at Ephesus had its work cut out for it.  For Ephesus was reputed to be the fourth greatest city of the ancient Roman empire behind Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.  It had a population of 300,000 and was home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple of Artemis.  The city was filled with countless pagan worshipers and festivals.

Into this den of iniquity steps Paul.  First preaching in the local synagogue, when he is rejected there, he moves to the school of Tyrannus and preaches to the gentiles.  Some, hear his message with joy and convert.  Others see his message as a threat to their way of life in worshiping and paying money for the upkeep of the temple of Artemis and try to have Paul arrested.

After three years of preaching in Ephesus, Paul had to move on.  The church, while established was still nowhere near the size of the other more established religions of the city and surrounding area.  It would seem that it would have been easy for that church to wither and die once Paul had left.  How did they have the strength to withstand the hostility, the belittling, the derision that came from them from all sides?

As a single religion, according to a Pew research study printed in 2010, Christianity is the world’s largest religion with 31.5% of the world’s population.  Yet even there, it means two-thirds of the world, does not believe, with some with an outright hostility to the message of Christ.  So while we might not be able to quite say we’re the little, just starting church like Ephesus in the first century, it does not mean that the basic message of Jesus Christ is not under attack.

For in many places around the world, any display of Christian symbols can warrant a death sentence.  Though even in places where seemingly the environment is one of more tolerance, it does not mean that Christ’s message is any more welcome. In how many places is Christ’s message concerning our falleness and need for redemption, along with His teachings of universal love, non judgement and equality for all met with a sense of derision; a sense of an antiquated message only good for the feeble-minded and uninformed?

Christ and those who call upon Christ are often mocked and ridiculed.  Christian symbols and Christian sensibilities are to be compartmentalized and segregated away from mainstream, into niche places called churches and only then on certain days of the week.  Instead we are bombarded with the messages concerning the accumulation of wealth, the glorification of sex, that almost all is acceptable as long as you don’t get caught.  Relationships and responsibilities are to only last as long as they serve some good purpose for me and then to be cast off when they get in the way of my self-possessed interest.

Where is our strength to come from to combat the messages of the world and do battle with the evil that is desired by the Prince of this world.  What exercise does it take, where do we purchase the lessons from or where do we get the degree?  What device can we buy to guide us to the place where we are to find that strength?  It is said that strength, true strength comes from within; comes from the heart.  Yet Paul makes it clear until we look without, that is to say outside of ourselves, even that inward look will be futile and only discover weakness.

Where then do we look?  Where then does our strength come from?  You know Dear Sisters and Brothers it comes from God.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul does such a wonderful job of describing it.  It starts with the connection of God’s Spirit to our spirit; the “inner man”. It is through the gift of God’s Spirit that Christ can come and dwell with us and in us in love.  That love that surpasses all knowledge gives us a sense of the entire dimensions; depth, height, width and length of Christ’s love.  Then we may be filled with the fullness of God.  A fullness more powerful than any earthly or spiritual foe.

Please note this; Dear Sisters and Brothers.  This does not come by us spending some exorbitant amount.  It does not come after years of intense academic study.  It does not come through miles and miles of arduous journey.  No, it comes simply through faith.  Through the believing in the One True God, in believing in His Son Jesus Christ and accepting that we are sinners and that He is our Savior.  In the metaphor of spiritual armor, Paul goes on to describe later in Ephesians how this strength is to be worn and used.  Yet for now, let us just revel in the mystery.  Let us rejoice in the gift of strength from the Creator of all things to His creation.  Let us, like Paul, fall on our knees and ask for the strength of God and give thanks for His faithful reply.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are in need of Your strength.  Pour out Your Spirit into our hearts that through Your Spirit we may come to understand and rely on the Love of Christ and be filled with Your Fullness.  That so filled, Dear Father, we would go forth in the strength of the Love of Jesus Christ ever ready to withstand and defeat the forces of evil arrayed against Your People we pray.  In the Name of Your Most Precious Son Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man and he said to Nathan: ‘ As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!”  2 Samuel 12:5

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged……”  Matthew 7:1

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” so the old saying goes.  If I’m willing to take my own medicine, am I not justified in forcing that medicine onto another I judge to be diseased or evil?  Let’s take a moment to look at this in a real life.

As we have read earlier, David is a king.  Great in victories, great in wealth, great in wisdom, great in popularity; loving of and loved by God.  He has it all; well…………..not exactly.  What he does not have is Bathsheba who he sees bathing next door.  He takes her, sleeps with her, impregnates her and to cover all that up, has her husband, in every respect a good and decent man, killed.

So now David should be feeling really terrible about himself.  David should have judged himself unworthy; confessed his crime which would have surely meant giving up the throne and most probably being stoned to death.  David, I’m sure you will judge rightly and do the honorable thing.  Hmmm, David?  Hello David? This not exactly what David does.

Scripture tells us that after Bathsheba’s husband is killed in battle (murdered, set up secretly by David), she goes through the mourning period and then David brings her into his palace to be his queen; seemingly as if nothing nefarious had happened.  But remember, God sees what others don’t.  God sees the heart.  God will not let this sin go.  There is a prophet in Israel named Nathan.  God sends Nathan to David.  Nathan has a plan.  Nathan does not come directly out and confront King David with his evil deeds.  No, Nathan wants King David himself to see and understand the disgusting treachery which he has committed against an innocent man.

Here’s where the judgement, and the danger of judging others comes into play.  For Nathan tells King David a story of two of his subjects.  One is meek, poor, innocent but a good man.  The other is a rich, vile, greedy, powerful man.  What’s interesting in the story is that the rich man did not kill the poor man.  But the rich man, who had flocks and flocks of wonderful sheep, takes the one lamb that the poor man has and kills and eats it instead of taking one from his own flock.  King David is outraged at the rich man’s greed, insensitivity and arrogant behavior against the poor man.  He pronounces the judgement, even invoking the Lord’s name within it:  This man shall die!

Nathan then springs the trap.  “David, you are that rich man!” Nathan tells him.  You are the one with riches and many lambs; in this case wives.  You saw a wife of another, a good man who had only one but who loved her dearly and you took her.  If that was not bad enough, you killed the husband to have her.  At least we can say this about David; when the veil is removed and it is shown to him, how evil he has acted, David does not try to bluff, bargain or excuse his way out of it.  David’s response?  “I have sinned against the Lord!”

Here’s the lesson for you and I, dear brothers and sisters.  David was so willing to judge the story of the two men.  He was so quickly ready to rein down devastation in righteous indignation to the rich man who had abused the poor man.  King David, who had many wives himself, but saw no real problem in killing to get just one more, who was not overwhelmed by guilt but continued on in his kingship, this same King David felt completely righteous in condemning another to the ultimate penalty for an offense lessor than his own.

David was far removed from being able to apply the same judgement to himself, that he would easily apply to others.  Wise was Jesus in talking about the planks of wood in our own eyes, versus the splinters in other people’s eyes. Wise was Our Savior in extolling us to first look to ourselves and leave the judging to the Only One who is perfect, who has nothing blocking His Vision in judgement.

Perhaps a final question you might ask is:  Are you saying that I should at least be judging myself?  Should I not be pronouncing a sentence of condemnation upon my own head for my own deeds?  Having sinned, should I not go through life under a cloud of judgement?  The devil might tell us to.  Yet Paul, through the Holy Spirit, answers us totally different.  We, who by the Grace of God, believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are saved from condemnation and death by the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  If I am not and have no right to judge others; then I also have no right to judge even myself.  God has the right.  Our Heavenly Father has seen fit to be merciful as on He can.  Saving us from judgement to life ever lasting. Amen

So let it be that in response; we live a life in the spirit; attempting with all of our being not to sin.  Yet understand we are imperfect flesh and imperfect spirit and we will sin.  Others will sin.  Let us truly repent and urge others to do likewise.  Yet let us refrain from pronouncing any sort of judgement on others or ourselves.  Let love be our guide.  Let the Love, Mercy and Forgiveness, Our Heavenly Father shows to us daily, be the example we strive to live to each other.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You that You have seen fit to respond to our sins’; our evil thoughts, words and deeds with mercy and forgiveness instead of the Judgement we deserve.  Thank you for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ, that we may come blameless into Your Presence.  Give us the strength to avoid the temptation of judging whether it be others or ourselves.  That each day, by Your Example, we may live a life closer to sinless perfection.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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