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“Now, behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.”  Luke 24:13

“Simon Peter, Thomas, called the twin, Nathanael of Cana, the sons of Zebedee and two others of His disciples were together.   Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing’. They said to him, ‘We are going with you'”.  John 21:2,3

Post Easter life?  I’m posting this in late September, about 6 months away from when we last celebrated Easter.  What’s up with that?  Of course if you consider it, really consider it; while we celebrate and commemorate Easter ever year it’s by many estimates approximately 1,986 years since the actual Easter events took place.  Where am I going with this?

On one level, let’s say the historical, 30,000 foot level, there can be little dispute of the impact of Easter and what happened afterward.  Not only is the the personal salvation of all who believe in Jesus Christ as the One True Son of God, who died and rose again from the dead, who believe and call upon His name for our salvation a blessed outcome.  There was also the spreading of His Word and the starting of faith communities that have become powerful, powerful churches, a process that continues down through this very day.

Yet I think we need to reflect on a different level, in my case about the 6 foot 3 inch level or whatever height you happen to be.  What about the personal, life altering, faith affirming, joy living, devil defeating impact of Easter?  What about our post Easter life?

In turning to scripture for an example, we might think that all who followed Jesus, upon hearing that He had risen, immediately went out with the mission of spreading His gospel.  Yet scripture tells us something different.

In one instance two followers, who although not of the 11 remaining disciples were still close enough to the disciples to have heard about Jesus having risen from the dead about the same time as the disciples,  decided to leave Jerusalem on that very day.  We’re not sure what business they had in Emmaus, but 7 miles is a significant journey on foot.  And while yes, they were discussing the happenings of the past weeks, one gets the sense they were talking about in terms of a tragic memory versus an event that was motivating them to action.  They were going on their way.

Okay, but obviously the disciples handled it differently.  Obviously upon hearing that Jesus Christ had risen and seeing the empty tomb; they made immediate and profound plans of action.  Well scripture does tell us that they did meet together in an upper room.  Though again we’re told this was out of fear of what might happen to them.  In an another instance in John; many of the group decide to go fishing.  Not going fishing to be “fishers of men”; but going fishing to be fishers of fish…..for dinner.

Okay now Doug, you’re forgetting one critical thing, you might be saying to me; you’re forgetting Pentecost.  No, not really.  I realize that Pentecost had not happened yet and I absolutely agree about the power that filled them when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them in grace and blessing.  In fact, it is an important aspect to my thesis here.

You see when Jesus Christ was praying after the “Last Supper” and before He was arrested in the garden; He not only prayed for Himself and then His disciples, but then He prayed for you and I too.  He prayed for all us who would hear about Jesus Christ and believe.  He prayed that we would be One in Him, just like the disciples.  Pentecost happened.  The Holy Spirit came and the Word spread.

So now back to the 6 foot 3 inch level.  Often there is a glow to Post Easter and Post Christmas for that matter.  Especially with Easter and its location in Spring, we see the renewal of the earth and it speaks; nay, it shouts to us of the old becoming new, of God’s promise of abundant life and salvation, of a promise of rejuvenation and restoration.  But then the months drag on; Spring becomes Summer and Summer, Fall.  And if we’re not careful, Easter becomes a memory, a pleasant one, but a memory all the same.

Why?  The world and the prince of this world tries to intervene.  The enemy throws worldly life at us; there are careers to be focused on, children to be raised, bills to pay, vacations to take.  There are things to buy and things to fix.  Alas, even in our houses or worship, the year progresses.  There is the current budget to fret over and next year’s budget to plan for.  We have to fill all those upcoming committee vacancies and hopefully come up with a “bless their socks off, Christmas pageant.

Are we walking to Emmaus?  Are we going fishing?  What I love, so totally love is Jesus Christ’s response in these two situations.  He doesn’t get angry and berate them for not being focused on Him with grand plans for spreading the kingdom.  He doesn’t threaten them with eternal damnation if they don’t get their act together!  Instead, He feeds them.  In both the two men walking to Emmaus and the disciples fishing; Jesus Christ, Creator come to Earth, God, sits down and feeds them.  Jesus Christ not only feeds them physically, taking care of their physical needs; but feeds them spiritually as well.

Jesus Christ longs to fellowship and feed us as well.  He knows that we have the grace filled blessing of the Spirit within us.  Because of His experience on this earth, He also blessedly knows the temptations we face, the struggles that we hold to ourselves instead of sharing with Him.  He knows how hungry, how famished we are; even if we do not.

Easter matters.  Easter matters in Fall, just as much as it does in Spring.  Easter is love.  Easter is an expression of love, grace and salvation which surpasses all understanding which we dare not turn away from.  Jesus Christ died for You and I that we might have life.  Let us turn to, let us fellowship with, let us feast upon the salvation, the grace, the love which is truly meant to be our Post Easter Life.  In the Name of Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we can not praise enough, proclaim enough, be thankful enough for Your Plan of Salvation that transpired at Easter.  Forgive us when we neglect any effort, any attempt to try.  Turn us back through the Holy Spirit to focus on abundant life You have in store by abiding in Jesus Christ.  Let it be that we strive to lead lives that tell a distraught and downtrodden world that Easter matters, that their salvation is at hand.  That through our lives, the Spirit would beckon those whom You are calling to follow You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord.  Amen

 

“Then Judas, His betrayer,….was remorseful…saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’  And they said ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’  Then he departed and went and hanged himself”  Matthew 27: 4,5

“Woe to you…For you load men with burdens hard to bear and you, yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”  Luke 11:46

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

You’ve made your bed, now you’re going to have to sleep in it!  Those responsible should have to pay!  There’s a commercial out from an insurance company that has “rate suckers” that is people who’s bad driving record drives up everyone else’s rates!  Over and over again there seems to be a desperate cry in today’s society to differentiate the blamed, separate out the wrong doers, isolate and punish the responsible.  There is a moaning and groaning taking place all throughout society concerning the lack of accountability; the lack of condemnation for wrongdoing, the need for harsher judgement.  Even in the church, too often we seek to want to divide out the “wicked” based on our definition and cast them from our midst.

I think if I listen hard enough, I can hear the groaning that might be happening as you are reading this post (if you haven’t already clicked off).  Yet I’d ask you to understand this; I am not “anti-casting”.  That is so say, I believe that there is evil and wickedness and that we should not sugar coat its existence nor try to justify it in some way.  Also understand, scripture is very clear; Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh, the priests of Baal, King Saul, Ananias plus Sapphira his wife in the Book of Acts and yes Judas were all held accountable; were all destroyed.  However, notice Who destroyed them; Who passed judgement on them; Who it was, Who had the unstoppable judgement of condemnation; Our Heavenly Father.

Yes, the world has much wickedness in it, much hatred and pain.  Yet here’s the question for us Dear Sisters and Brothers:  What’s that got to do with us?  We, who have found a peace and joy, in the midst of trouble, that surpasses all understanding; What have we to do with this unbelieving world?  I believe Jesus Christ would answer to us: Everything.  You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, one of the things that strikes me about the account in Matthew 27 about Judas, is that Matthew says that Judas was remorseful.  Now whether it was true repentance or the attempt of some earthly dodge I can’t say.  Yet in some sense Judas was sorry for what he had done.  So where was Judas to turn?  Where would someone go who wanted to find forgiveness and/or some aspect of redemption?  Would they not, at that time had gone to the synagogue?  Would they not today come to our church; or at least seek out a believer?

But what if our response is like the response of the leaders of the synagogue: “What is that to us? You see to it.” What if we were to either outright say to them or at the very least imply; you got yourself into this so it’s up to you to get yourself out of it?  What if we gave them the impression that we were a group of saved, righteous people who can only be joined by other already saved, righteous people?  I don’t believe Jesus Christ would be pleased.  I believe He might address us by saying “Woe to you………!”  I believe He’d be likely to include us with the Pharisees, Sadducees and lawyers of the time He was on earth, calling them and us hypocrites.  Explaining to us that we were piling burdens on the hurting, shutting up the kingdom against them, yet by our own actions not entering in ourselves either.

What has it to do with us?  Everything!  Why?  First because, to any extent that we might call ourselves or be called righteous, it is a gift of Grace from Almighty God.  We have not earned our salvation.  Our salvation was a gift freely given by Jesus Christ to us while we were yet sinners as well.  God’s Grace, not our innate goodness, is the only difference between us and the world.  Second, Jesus did it.  We must remember that so much of, if not the majority of Jesus’ time on earth was spent in the company of sinners.  I imagine that we think that those were rather harmless sinners, maybe a few lies, some petty thefts, but from the intense reaction of revulsion that the Jewish leaders had, I think there were some people we’d put in the “pretty disgusting” category.  While we hardly scoff at adultery today as a society, back then it was a capital offense, yet Jesus forgave it; did not trivialize it, but forgave it.

So where are the hurting to turn today?  Where are the remorseful to go?  How would those who are mad at God or who, today, are against any and all precepts of God ever get any sense that they have not burned all bridges with God? Where might they be able to look to, to see that God still loves them today; still longs to forgive them and have a loving relationship with them?  Would it not start with the very people who say they are children of God?  Would it not start with you and I, desiring nothing more than to be like Christ, earnestly attempting all we can to bring love and peace into their lives?

Finally, Dear Sisters and Brothers, do not think that this is either easy or able to be accomplished solely (or souly) on our own.  Should we try to have the love of Christ, the forgiveness and grace of Christ without abiding in Christ; we will fall back to our worldly judging ways.  Yet we have a Heavenly Father who does not want us to fail in this.  We have a Heavenly Father who is willing to send us a wise counselor of infinite strength; the Holy Spirit to reside in us and through Jesus Christ accomplish the love, even and especially for our enemies, that He desires us to have.  If you have ever had the experience of going on a service mission trip as I have, you’ll experience and witness the pain of people hurting.  Yet even then, the joy and peace of being able to share the Love of Jesus Christ with them will so surpass the sense of worldly hurt that you see around you.  What has this to do with us?  By and in the Grace of our Heavenly Father; everything.

Our most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that it is only through Your Grace that we are saved and have come to know You.  Forgive us when we believe in our own righteousness and turn our backs on those we deem to be less worthy.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would have the strength to love our enemies, help those who are hurting even if they do not follow you, risking persecution and ridicule in this world.  Bless us with Your Favor as we try to be beacons of Your Light, shining on this dark world.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And the Lord said to Samuel….they have not rejected you but have rejected me…..forewarn them and show them the behavior of the king…”  1 Samuel 8:7,9

“This will be the behavior of the king……He will take your sons…..He will take your daughters…..He will take the best of you fields…..” 1 Samuel 8:11, 13, 14

“For they bind heavy burdens hard to bear and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they will not move them with one of their fingers.”  Matthew 23:4

“Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme the noble name by which you are called?”  James 2:6,7

There is danger in human strength.  There is personal danger in wanting to obtain human strength.  There is personal and societal danger in looking for, admiring and coveting after and/or following human strength.  Why or what is that danger?

First, we are in the midst of many contests and conflicts in our current time.  There are political contests, business contests and competitions, there are geopolitical contests, some involving the use of arms-in other words wars.  And what I find to be an overarching theme in these contests, in some cases it’s an individual boast, in some cases an overwhelming search to find, in some cases almost a worshipful admiration when found, in some cases a begrudging admission of defeat, is that human strength is the overall arbiter of a successful outcome, thus human strength is the most desired personal or communal strength; that is that someone or something is “strong”.  This is not new.

Samuel was a prophet of Israel.  As such, Samuel spoke with and then passed on God’s words to His people.  At that time, there was no one higher or more powerful in Israel society than the prophet.  Now the prophet was not supposed to take advantage of this or literally “profit” off the people as he carried out his charge from God.  Naturally, this was an unusual governmental in general during that time.  The gentiles, those who were not God’s chosen people, who did not have or were supposed to have, at least, a close personal relationship with God, had a more familiar governmental process, normally revolving around a king.  As time, went on, as Samuel got older, he set his two sons as judges over Israel but they did not walk in the ways of Samuel and the Lord.  So instead of coming to the Lord about this, the people cried out for a king.  They saw that the lands around them had strong armies, seemingly strong prosperous cities and felt they needed someone of earthly, human strength to lead them as well.  God decided to grant them their request but wanted them warned a head of time what the price of having an earthly strong king would be.  He warned them about how a human king, a human person of human strength and power would treat the very people who wanted him king.

Jesus confronted this same earthly strength and power that led to miscarriages of justice in the Jewish, religious leadership in power in His day.  He spoke of how the religious leaders, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others would bind heavy burdens while at the same time getting royal tributes, alms and adulation from the crowds.  Yet they did nothing with what they were receiving to help the burdens they themselves had placed on the people they were supposed to be serving.

There are so many instances great and small throughout history where the seeking for, then following people of strength, allowing them to wield power has led to horrific results.  Remember that the Pharaoh did not enslave the Jews until they had lived in the land for some time.  Think of what Hitler did in Europe, Stalin in Russia, Mao Tse-Tung in China, more recently Pol Pot slaughtering millions in Cambodia and even today, the devastation being wrought by the dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The thing it is so critical for us to remember is that for someone, anyone, to show human strength, they have to enforce their will in whatever brutal form necessary to show that someone else is weaker.  In our rush to embrace human strength, we must understand how often it is that those who face the wrath and consequences of the person of strength are most often first within their own family, organization or society.  So here’s the very ironic thing, those to include you and I, who follow and allow this person of strength to become a person in power, may very well be turned on and turned against if we are believed to be in any way a threat to that person.  How quickly an ally can become an enemy through no fault of their own is exemplified in the story of David having faithfully served under King Saul, only to become hunted with the hope of David’s death at the hands of the king.

So if it is not earthly, human strength we should seeking for ourselves and/or looking for, supporting and/or following in others, what type strength should we be looking for?  For the answer to that, look no further than Jesus Christ.   Remember of course, if anyone had/has claim to power, it is Jesus Christ; for He was fully God, with all that power come to earth.  Yet how did Jesus use His power?  Did Jesus Christ seek out a weak area of society to make an enemy and completely squash?  When Jesus was confronted by an enemy did He call power down from heaven utterly exterminating them?  Hardly, for Jesus didn’t shun the weak or use them as some evil rallying cry.  Jesus met with the weak, He ate with the weak, He used His power not to exterminate them, but to heal them, to teach them, to lift them up.  When He was confronted by enemies within His own people He patiently listened to them and then showed them the error of their ways.  In the end, when He could have called down legions of angels to reek havoc and desolation on those who were planning to kill him, instead Jesus, died for them, He forgave them, as He died for all of us and His blood washes us clean.  That is true strength, true power.

Thus Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us first reflect on ourselves.  Then let us also look to those whom we support, who we look up to to see how they wield strength and view power.  Do we and those we support use strength to lift up and protect the weak instead of crush them?  Do we look to find strength in bringing all together versus only those who think and/or look like we do?  Do we see strength in victory at any cost, no matter how much damage or hurt is caused or do we see strength in sacrifice?  When or if in doubt ask yourself, can I see Jesus Christ doing that; saying that?  Then follow those for whom you would answer yes.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that You are all powerful and the only strength we should seek comes from You.  Forgive us when we forsake You and look to ourselves or other worldly persons to find necessary strength.  Give us the strength to live the example of Christ, using our given strength to help those in need and bring together not separate.  Give us the strength to love like Christ loves.  That the lives lived with that strength will bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed…..his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat…” Matthew 13:24

“The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them up?'”  Matthew 13:28

“But he said, ‘No lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.”  Matthew 13:29

This parable comes amongst the most powerful of Jesus’ teachings and when He first starts to use parables in His ministry.  Jesus has cast out a demon and been accused by the Pharisees of being the prince of demons.  Jesus rebukes them for their thoughts speaking of the fall of a house divided.  Jesus teaches His first parable: The Parable of the Four Soils.  Next, He tells this parable about the tares.

I must admit, having felt such power in the parable and explanation of the four soils, in essence explaining how it is that The Word does not resonate with, does not live within each person equally, that I’ve often overlooked the message of power and mercy in this second parable concerning the tares or weeds.  It had always been for me like:  “Yeah, Yeah, wheat good, weeds bad, wheat ends up in heaven and burn the weeds; got it, moving on.

Yet thanks to Holy Spirit as I was reading the parable again, the true impact of the overwhelming mercy and power came upon me.  First, we understand that God is the sower of the good seed.  Nothing from God can be evil, thus the only thing that can come from Him are seeds that will produce good.

Next, there is evil and an enemy who does evil.  In fact nothing good comes from this enemy.  The only thing the enemy sows is tares or weeds.  Looking into various definitions of the word tares, it appears that this is not just some random dandelion or crab grass; this is a very noxious and poisonous weed which actually looks extremely similar to wheat until it is full grown and you can see the head on it.

So God plants in the world and Satan plants along side.  Wheat comes up from God and tares come up from Satan.  Over time it becomes apparent that not all is right in the field.  There is something else besides wheat growing out there, something that can be distinguished as bad, as weeds.

This where it gets real interesting.  For the way the world would handle it as demonstrated by the servants is to go out and yank out the weeds, the tares.  Remembering that the wheat is growing side by side with the tares, that their roots are probably interwoven together, that taring out the weeds would cause the loss to some wheat.  I was in the military and within each one of our operational plans was an aspect of what we would term “acceptable losses”.  We knew that in doing battle with the enemy, we would more than likely suffer some casualties and as long as the mission was accomplished without completely decimating our forces, those casualties would be acceptable.  That’s how the world would handle the few stalks of wheat, sacrificed for the defeat of the horrible enemy, the weeds.  But God is not the world and does not see acceptable losses in that way.

God is so merciful that He is not willing that one stalk of wheat be lost no matter how many stalks of weeds would be destroyed.  No, God is patient.  He will nurture the wheat and if that means that the tares will also exist for a time, so be it.  The tares will not destroy the wheat.

God is also all powerful.  Notice who is doing the harvesting, God is.  It’s not like Satan comes back to do battle to protect the tares.  No the parable states very clearly, Satan sows the bad seed and then gets the heck out of Dodge.  So God in His Power harvests all.  Remember in His Mercy, He did not allow one stalk of wheat to be uprooted before the allotted time of the harvest.  Now God’s final power is witnessed.  The wheat, the good, are bundled together and brought into the kingdom “into My barn”.  The tares, the weeds are gathered together and burned outside.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we may often find ourselves dismayed by the evil in this world.  We get asked so often, and in our weaker moments may find ourselves asking as well:  “Where is God in all the evil that is happening?  Why is He allowing it?”  This parable cautions us not to doubt or question.  God is watching out for each and every one of us.  He is not willing to sacrifice even one of us to destroy that evil that is residing amongst us. Yet He is in ultimate control.  He will deal righteously and permanently with evil.  He will spare nothing, to protect until that time as well.

In the end the most amazingly merciful part is what He is willing to sacrifice that we might count ourselves among the wheat instead of the tares.  You see He is not willing to sacrifice us, who are deserving by our sins to be counted amongst the tares.  Instead, He has healed us, transformed us into wheat because He was willing to sacrifice His Only Son that He might not lose a single one of us who call upon the Name of Jesus Christ.

Yes there is much power and mercy in this parable.  There is a call for us to be patient, a call to leave the judgement of time and harvest to God.  To understand the power of God to rightly judge between the good -wheat and the evil-tares.  Finally, there is the mercy which so great that it cost the life of His Only Son, Jesus Christ, which desires that each and every one of us who call upon His name would be counted among the wheat.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for the coming to earth, the teaching and the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  We are also so very thankful for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who reveals to us Your Wisdom, Your Power, Your Mercy. Forgive us we pray, when we are impatient and want to take judgement and action into our own hands.  Keep us we pray, from the evil one, allowing us, by the blood of Your Son Jesus Christ, to be counted among the good seed, the wheat, that we might be brought into Your dwelling.  We pray this in the Name of He who brought us these great teachings; Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He turns rivers into wilderness and the watersprings into dry ground…..He turns wilderness into pools of water and dry land into water spring……He also blesses them and they multiply…”  Psalm 107:  33, 35, 38

“Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness….Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of  the people”  Psalm 107 31, 32

I will try not to compartmentalized too much and stay on topic.  Yet one does not have to look too far in the world and see not only a lot of compartmentalization going on in general, but especially compartmentalization going on about God in the world.

It is sadly true that Our Heavenly Father, God Almighty is referred to less and less in mainstream society in terms of having any relevent impact on it.  Not wanting to enforce a “state religion” in the United States, the founding leaders designed a separation of church and government.  That concept, much to the delight of the devil, has morphed into a much broader concept of separation of church and society.  It is no longer a correct and in some cases an allowable exercise to discuss our faith in conjunction with our vocation or outside of solely religious gatherings.

Yet there is one place where calling upon God is still considered a morally correct and admirable thing to do; when people are struck with extreme personal tragedy, often involving health or loved ones’ death.  In the aftermath of significant natural disasters with large loss of life or property, in the wake of a mass shooting or terrorist attack, speaker after speaker stands before the public and pleads with the public to remember these people and their families in our prayers.  Please don’t misunderstand me; I am glad even for that mention of God and His power to heal, comfort and restore.

So here’s an example of compartmentalization recently.  There are horrible wildfires happening in our western and northwestern states.  There has been a lack of rain for significant periods of time and much of the vegetation had dried up over time leading to readily volatile fire conditions.  Various reasons for this period of drought and what to do about it have been offered.  It is man-made climate change.  It is climate change that has nothing to do with man.  It is man’s mismanagement of resources for not storing water when he could.  In short it is man or strictly a natural process with no other influence discussed or possible.  So the fires happen and very sadly, several, brave firefighters have lost their lives.  Then it happens; in talking about the firefighters’ death, we are encouraged to pray for them.  In fact first and foremost that is what speaker after speaker, and these are secular speakers, governors, mayors, fire captains, news reports, even the president, feel completely at ease calling upon you and I to pray to God for these people (and that is again a good thing).

So I have to ask myself and would ask them if I had the chance; why is it correct to pray for these individuals and not the greater circumstances where these people and we ourselves find ourselves?  Are you or we saying that God has only power in helping people in dire or after dire circumstances but has no power in any other aspect of the world we live in?  Of course I’d hate that in, asking that question, their answer would be to stop calling on God altogether.

King David, in Psalm 107 is referring to the power of God Almighty and how He uses that power to bless and yes, withhold blessing.  Yet there is no ambiguity in God’s omnipotence in every aspect of creation.  Now please don’t infer by my example that I am judging areas of our country or saying that the fires are God’s judgement for this act or that.  I do not know the mind of God nor am in any place to be a spokesperson of His judgement; He is all too capable to do that for Himself.  What I am saying with complete conviction is that God is the Creator and has power in all things.  I also proclaim that He is a God of love who longs to hear the prayers of His creation and bless them (us) abundantly.  I also believe, based upon scripture, that God will withhold His blessings when we fail to reach out to Him and act based on our own earthly and evil judgement.  Yet God in His Mercy and Patience will do all that He can do to bring us back.  To show us, not only His Power, but His Love as well.  He will go as far as to sacrifice His only Son to redeem us from our sin and show us His Power by raising Him from the dead, to show us how we can come to live in His presence again.  In fact that very comforting nature of God that is why we are asked to pray for those so significantly hurting.

What I am saying, asking for, cajoling, pleading for is for you and I not to compartmentalized our requests to God.  To understand that God wants to be a part of and then allow Him to come into our lives and be a part of, every aspect of our lives.  I am asking that we understand, there is nothing outside of God’s control so let’s pray for rain and relief of drought and famine, knowing that God has that power.  Pray for a promotion, pray for a grade, pray for a relationship, pray for your finances with the firm faith of God’s intervening power.  He is faithful to answer.  He is faithful to bless.  It may not be in the same time or way that we were thinking but He will make it all the better, all the richer.

One final thing David asks us to do.  For example I have two friends who have recently done exactly what David speaks of.  One friend miraculously survived a horrific automobile accident and his recovery has had physical pain and there are things he can no longer do.  Yet he is unceasing in his praise of Power of God in the recovery his doctors say is nothing short of miraculous.  Another friend and husband were going through financial, health and spiritual troubles that shook them to their very souls thinking, at times there might be no way out other than to bring about their own end.  Yet they did not completely lose their faith and God powerfully intervened and they sing His praises constantly.  We need to tell of God’s blessings.  We need to declare God’s answered prayers.  Many will scoff, but some will hear and be transformed and end their compartmentalization and open all to God.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly and loudly declare You are the Creator God and over all things.  We pray to You in all aspects of our lives to include we pray for rain in our western states to put out the fires.  We pray for drought and famine relief in Saharan Africa.  Show us that You want to us to pray, in love and faith, for specific things and in all aspects of our life.  Forgive us, when we compartmentalized our lives trying to exclude you from some part.  We praise You for the blessings and love you pour down upon us.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Then Peter….said: ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  Jesus said to him: ‘ I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”  Matthew 18:21, 22

” A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; as I have loved you. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34, 35

Full disclosure: the I did not make up this title but it comes from a song by the same name written by Peter Scholtes.

Jesus is preparing His disciples for a time that he is not physically with them.  He is preparing them for a time when they will be going forward, into the world, in His Name.  Jesus knows that the world will have considerable doubt about these men.  Even those who might be inclined to believe in Jesus will want to know that these men come with the authentic message of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Jesus lays it out simply.  Jesus tells them:  “if you love Me then keep my commandments”.  You see the hearers were not going to just decide to follow Jesus based on what they heard from these men, but what they saw also.

What did Jesus want the people to see in His disciples.  Jesus wanted people to see love.  Jesus wanted the people to see the disciples loving and serving each other; but not just each other.  Jesus wanted the disciples to be showing His love to the world.  How would that love be shown?  The love of Jesus Christ would be shown through loving forgiveness, not just once but as often as necessary.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church is not a stranger to hatred.  The church has been burnt down and seen its members threatened and even beaten before.  Yet the church was and is seen as a beacon of openness and sanctuary of hope.  Throughout their history, when they could have lashed out in hatred, given up and moved to a place where they would feel more safe, they instead, forgave and stayed put to continue to show forth Christ’s love.

On the evening of Wednesday June 17th, hatred came to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  A blind hatred much the same as that hurled against the Savior, Himself, as He hung on that tree.  Nine beautiful saints died that night.  What’s a Christian to do? The world would want a hate spewed, violence filled, catastrophic response.  What’s a Christian to do who wants to show that He or She is a disciple of Christ?

Disciples came to Emanuel AME church, that Wednesday night and have been coming ever since.  The disciples came not with weapons in their hands, not with chants of “burn it down!”not with menacing in their souls.  The disciples came with love, with song, with tears and prayers.  The young man so filled with evil hatred, who perpetrated this horrific crime was caught.  He was brought in front of a magistrate and families of the slain victims were in the courtroom.  The judge allowed them to speak.  Those who spoke could have cried out for vengeance, for lynching, for eternal damnation of this boy’s soul.  Instead, most spoke of pain, the awful pain this young man had inflicted and then they forgave him.

Other disciples in the community of Charleston SC could have taken to the street with malevolent anger in their hearts wanting to strike out in frustration and to destroy.  Was their anger and confusion; sure, yet expressed not in violence but in somber reflection of how this type of hate still exists.  There was sorrow and grieving yet also in the midst of this despair there was also love and unbelievably, at least to the world, hope.

Other disciples in other cities and towns across the nation and even across the world could have struck out in anger hoping to divide and devastate.  Yes people did come together, and they marched.  But they didn’t march to the chants of violence, flanked on their sides by rows of police officers in riot gear, with the sting and choking smell of tear gas in the air.  No, they marched to the sweet sounds of hymns being sung, walking hand in hand, all races, all genders and even various faiths.

How do we know that these were disciples of Christ; by their love.  Jesus Christ is calling to each of us, whether touched by this tragedy or some other attack against us.  Do not look to gouge out the eye in return, don’t look to knock out the tooth, instead; follow Jesus Christ.  Follow Jesus Christ in forgiving they that come against you.  Follow Jesus Christ in loving others; yes to be sure your fellow disciples, your fellow travelers on the road with and to Christ.  Yet Jesus asks more of us.  Jesus Christ asks us to follow His example of, when He was hanging on the cross, innocent yet so hated, wronged by those He so wanted to help.  Jesus Christ forgave them.  Jesus Christ forgave His tormentors.  Jesus Christ showed He loved His enemies.  That is a very, very difficult thing to do.  In fact I don’t believe it is possible unless Jesus Christ resides in our hearts.  However, I do believe with Jesus Christ it is possible to do.  Just look at the Christians of Emanuel AME Church, look at the Christians of Charleston SC, look at the Christian response across the nation to this terrible act.  With the love they are showing, I know that they are Christians.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we so thank You Father, that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to us to show us the true meaning of love and how to live it.  Help us to be like Christ and show to the world the power of true love and the healing power of forgiveness.  Be with those grieving families and members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, comforting them as You have promised to do.  Let the world see the power of this kind of love and know that it comes not from us as good human beings, but comes freely for all, just as they are, from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  Mark 16:16

I do not pray for these alone but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one..”  John 17:20

“To the pilgrims in dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia…”  1 Peter 1:1

It is approximately 30+ years sense Jesus Christ was crucified, resurrected and returned to heaven.  At the beginning, there were eleven disciples left.  These were not learned men.  These were not men revered as leaders in the local Jewish or greater Roman communities.  These were not men who decided to separate themselves and go through a long, arduous training or study program.

Christ had been very simple and His commandment, His Great Commission to them; was to go and preach the gospel to the ends of the earth; to “every creature”.  Christ gave them no commandment concerning the physical properties of a church, its dimensions or furnishings (in contrast to the very specific details of the tabernacle and the temple).  Christ gave them no commandment about what music or even if music should be sung.  Christ did not give them goals of the size of church membership, the amount in a church treasury.  Christ spent no time discussing church government structure.  Preach the gospel, He told them.

And they did.  First in Jerusalem and shortly after, during the dispersion of believers and the conversion of Saul; they preached the gospel to the known world.  In Mark, we hear that they are to preach the gospel.  In Luke we read that what should be preached that Christ, the Son of God died and rose on the third day and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.

And, did it work?  Did they preach and did it have any effect?  Yes and Heaven (versus that other place which often gets put in front of words to add emphasis) Yes! In acts we are told, in the area of Jerusalem, the early preaching had 3,000 joining in a day.  Some 30 plus years later, when Peter is writing this epistle, it is estimated by some, that the population that this was being written to, Jewish and Gentile believers was over 300,000!  I think it is also important to point out that Peter was not the one who started all these churches.  He wasn’t just writing to ones to which he had preached to.  No many of these churches had been started by Paul, some by Apollos so there wasn’t a sense of factionalism here.  According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010 there were 2.18 billion Christians in the world; nearly a third of the then world’s population.

Why is this important?  Why bring this up in a post?  Because, in local churches that I’ve been a part of; larger regional governing bodies, books and multimedia presentations in much of America if not the western world; there is much angst and fear.  The fear comes from what is perceived as well as a probably also real decline in the influence of the “traditional” church and Christian denominations in the greater society.  This is primarily measured in two ways; the size of individual church membership and the amount of money given.  I again am not saying that indeed the traditional church and what have been called “Traditional Christian Values” have not seen a decline in influence and impact on our daily society; in some cases much to the detriment of our society.  What concerns me most is our response to that decline.

Jesus Christ seemed very clear on the message; the Gospel, that should be the focal point of everything preached and the preaching and living out of that gospel is our primary task and goal.  Yet all too often, in the church leadership councils that I’ve been a part of there has been a tragic loss of focus on that task and goal.  I have seen more and more that the focus shifts to things concerning the physical space provided, the presentation of the message bringing about divisions of “traditional versus contemporary”.  Much planning goes into the bringing in of new members through things like sports programs, church schools; whatever it takes to appeal to people today.  Finally and most tragically of all, I have seen in some cases a feeling that the Gospel message itself is no longer relevant and must be “updated”, tweaked or changed in someway to make it more palatable to today’s world.

We must be extremely, extremely careful in this.  First, Christ seemed very clear when He was on this earth that during that time and beyond; not everyone is going to believe in Him, period.  In fact His questions seems to resonate greatly today when He asked:  “what good is it for someone to gain the world but loose their soul?”.  The Gospel is as powerful and sufficient today as it when it was first spoken.  The Gospel, the simple Gospel; Christ the Son of God, died and resurrected, His commandment to love Him and each other; is the message that brings peace in times of strife, confidence in times of angst and joy in times of tribulation.  It is the “believers” in that Gospel who Christ, Himself, was praying for.

That message may seem too dull to a world in need of flashy.  That message may seem too simple in a world which thrives on complexity.  That message may seem too confining to a world hell bent on having the freedom to do whatever it wants.  Yet, Dear Sisters and Brothers; that is the only True Message.  That is the only message that provides true life.  That is the only message that provide true salvation.  That is the message with true power and that message still works, as it did yesterday, it does today and will for all tomorrows.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that You have seen fit to give us Your Gospel, Your message for us in this world.  Forgive us when we are tempted to either minimize it or modify it to make it more popular in our current age.  Forgive us should we lose site of proclaiming Christ’s message as the world clamors for a different one.  Embolden us with Your Spirit as You promised that through the Holy Spirit; we would proclaim only the truth.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…”  John 14:27

We just finished celebrating Easter so it might seem strange that a Christmas story; in reality Charles Dickens’ classic: A Christmas Carol would come to mind in pondering Easter, or more accurately, our response to Easter.

“What right have you to be merry?   What reason have have you to be merry? You’re poor enough”, said Scrooge.

“What right have you to be dismal?  What reason have to you be morose?  You’re rich enough”, returned the nephew.

This exchange comes from the main character; Scrooge, truly a man of the world where wealth and the security it brings is the only thing, and Fred, Scrooge’s not nearly as successful nephew.  The focal point of the their exchange is Christmas and whether or not it could or should be merry.  Scrooge finds no merriment in the concept of Christmas because wealth is spent with no guarantee of any return.  Fred sees Christmas as a time not to be concerned about return on investment or any other matter of wealth accumulation but of charity and forgiveness.  Scrooge, man of the world, demands that his nephew depart and take his foolish thoughts with him.

Okay, Doug, fine story you say, but what has that to do with Easter?  Great question.  You see it all comes down to this premise; what is my response, my behavior based on the acts of Easter and why do I have the right to behave in that manor?  It is the conflict of two perspectives.

Let’s take the world’s perspective for a moment.  Before last Easter Sunday and after last Easter Sunday, there was war, where human beings  were and are doing unspeakable things to each other on a disastrously grand scale.  There were and are famines and droughts, plagues and natural disasters, swindlers and thieves and troubles of ever size and kind.  The logical, natural and right responses to these circumstances would be one of despair and woe, feelings of anger and perhaps fear.  One might very well expect for their to be widespread angst, depression, worry and gloom.

Then along comes a person of faith.  That person is cheerful maybe even joyful, with a smile on their face and a heart full of love and yes even hope.  They have a confidence about life.  And while they will mourn with those that are hurting, there is a deep sense of peace and faith in a rightful outcome.  The man of this world might say to them, cry out to them, scream in their face: “What right have you to be joyful, peaceful, full of bliss!?”.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, we must be careful about our behavior.  We must look to see if the concerns, worries, cares and fears of this world are causing us to behave in a way of despair and giving up.  We must ask ourselves: “What right have we to act in a manner of hopelessness, of worldly fear and human rage and judgement?”  Jesus Christ described our description in His prayer to Our Father when he said:  ” As you sent Me into the world; I also have sent them into the world, “.  Yet He also declared in that same prayer that:  “….they are not of the world just as I am not of the world.”. (John 17: 18 & 14)  The world is always trying to pull us down to its level.  The world does not want us to see us as any different than it is.  On the one hand it is true that we are not different.  That is to say that we are not more deserving, more inherently righteous than the world.

What right have we to be joyous?  What right have we to be at peace?  What right do we have to act confident in our faith?  We have the right and we have the duty to act in this way, in and through Jesus Christ.  The gift of Easter gave us that right.  In the end, world knew and knows death.  Death was and is the outcome of all things worldly.  If we are of the world, we are very correct to fear death and all things associated with it.  But Jesus Christ conquered death; once and for all!  Let that last part sink in….once and for all.  That means that no one other than Christ ever need die in sin again.  Jesus Christ took all of our sin upon Him.  Also, Jesus Christ died for us all.  Jesus just didn’t die for the chosen people of Israel, or the people who go to church on Sunday, or the people that give a certain amount, sing a certain song, go to a certain church.  No He died for us all.

Sadly, not everyone responds to the sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation from our Heavenly Father.  Bewilderingly, they would rather stay in the world, stay in worry, stay in hopelessness and die in fear.

Let us not follow them.  Let us give everlasting thanks and live joyously and confidently in the knowledge of the love our Heavenly Father has for us by His gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Through the gift of understanding through the Holy Spirit, let us live right lives in love, mercy, charity and forgiveness.  If and when asked what right do we have to live this way; let us not claim it as our right but more accurately claim it as His Right, the right to live in Jesus Christ who came to live, to teach, to heal, yes to die and yes to save through His resurrection, which is the only right life indeed.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for the loving sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ, coming to live among us and die for us.  Fill us with Your Spirit of Joy, Confidence, Forgiveness and most of all Love, that our lives may shine as beacons to Your Name.  Forgive us when we fall into the temptation to live as the world lives, in fear, hopelessness and dread.  Restore us in faith, we pray, that the way in which we live our lives will entice others to call upon and praise Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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