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“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

“Peter answered and said to Him:  ‘You are the Christ'” Mark 8:29

“And likewise the chief priests also mocked…..’He saved others; Himself, He cannot save…..'”  Mark 15:31

A situation came up this week that granted some insight about the time between Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and His rising from the dead.  So I called my wife’s cell phone and left a message.  A little while later she called me back stating that she saw that she missed my call and asking me what I needed?  Being somewhat a smart alack, I asked her did she listen to my message.  To which she replied no. (Hang in there I’m getting to the point).  Later, looking at her phone she announced in a playfully derisive tone that I had not even left a message because she had no message on her phone.  To which I replied that I most certainly had. (Again point is coming)  Thus it would seem that we’re at an impasse; I knew I left a message, yet indeed her phone had no record of it; true opposed truths but whose right?

It is the day after the crucifixion and there are two competing messages.  One message, from a small but very faithfully believing group, was that Jesus was/is the Christ.  The second message from the masses is that this “savior” was no savior at all because He could not save Himself and was in fact now dead.  Which message was/is correct?

In the case of my wife and myself, once she shut down her phone and restarted it and found that she had not only missed my message for earlier that day, but also missed 6 or more other messages that never showed.  In the case of Jesus Christ, it was true that He was dead, but not because he could not save himself but because his sacrifice of death was the only way to become the True Savior He had proclaimed Himself to be.  The disciples were right the He was (and is) the Christ, yet until the coming of the Holy Spirit they did not truly grasp the aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice and redemption.

This is not just some academic discussion to mull over.  For today there seems to be several different competing messages out there that sadly are even espoused in some churches.  One is that Jesus is the Christ and Savior but is really only interested in certain nebulous aspects of our existence dealing with spiritual “Sunday” things and our afterlife.  There is a message that Jesus is the Christ and wanting to be a part of all we do but there are things we need to think, say or do first before Jesus Christ will work with us.

Yet, I believe Jesus Christ shared a greater message than these limiting ones.  For Jesus Christ came down from heaven and existed as we exist.  While He never failed, He lived among those who did fail.  While He never gave into temptation, He knew what it was to be tempted.  Jesus Christ came to us, He met us right where we are; in our sinful condition.  Jesus Christ loved and loves us however He finds us.  He does care about our spirit, but he also cares about our flesh and our mind.  He is the Lord of the Sabbath but also the King of the rest of the days as well.  All judgement has been given to Him, yet instead of condemning us, He died for us that we might live.

Dear Sisters and Brothers it is imperative for ourselves and our salvation that we follow the correct and accurate message.  It is important that we invest the time in diligent study of His word and prayer seeking understanding and spiritual wisdom.  It is critical that we don’t rely on our own perceived strengths and fortitude to navigate the treacherous currents of this world; lest we be swept against the rocks of prideful elevation or inconsolable despair.

The complete height, depth or breadth of the Truth of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, His Salvation and His and Our Heavenly Father’s Love for us are too great for us to entirely comprehend.  Yet that should not deter is in our quest for deeper understanding, deeper love, deeper service in loving response to the greatest gift we have or will be ever given.  Let it always be, the Message of Jesus Christ is all the truth we will ever need.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are bombarded daily with so many conflicting messages about You and Your Son Jesus Christ.  We must admit that it can be confusing as to which message to follow.  Grant us the Holy Spirit who will impart guiding truth and wisdom for us.  Do not allow the tempter of this world to lead us astray with false messages of our own prowess or desolation.  That in reliance on Your Message of Love and Salvation, we will be able to live lives of praise to Your Most Holy name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A Blessed Easter to all.


” Why do your disciples transgress the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread?”  Matthew 15:2

“…whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated.  But things which proceed out of mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.”  Matthew 15:17,18

It was clear that Jesus was dealing with, competing with a very formulaic religious aristocracy.  In one sense it can be understandable.  For Moses had given to the people the laws from God and, if not careful, focusing on the laws and not He who gave them could bring about a very structured, self-centered culture.  Self-centered? Yes, self-centered in a way that, if I do these certain things at least to the level that I think is acceptable, then I deserve a reward.  I can and will proclaim my own righteousness as well as judging you according to my own standards.

Think about how many times Jesus was confronted about the shall and shall nots of this world.  You can not heal on the sabbath, what about paying taxes, what about forgiving people, don’t pick grain on the sabbath, don’t eat with sinners, what about divorce, feel free to judge and condemn to death others; were all questions and actions that Jesus had to deal with.

It seems rather summed up in the interaction that Jesus had with the rich young man.  That man wanted to be justified; wanted to be told he was good and going to heaven.  In Jesus response about the law, he is in essence asking the man for his impression, his formula for bringing about salvation.  The man replied that he had kept to the formula, he did not transgress against the laws.  However, like with the Pharisees above in Matthew, Jesus revealed how much he knows about our hearts.  For Jesus was clear that it is not about what we do, whether washing hands or following commandments, but why we do; in other words, what is in our hearts.  Jesus makes it clear that none of the outward things will lead us to a deeper relationship with God.  How can we hope to impress the all powerful, perfect Creator of everything with our actions?  No, it is what is in our heart that matters to our Heavenly Father. Love or hate, judgement or mercy, pride or humility, anger or peace; these are the things that come from within, that come from our heart that truly matter to Our Heaven Father.

Why is this so important for us today to remember Dear Sisters and Brothers?  Because we live in a world that has a formula for every type of success.  You want to have the right appearance; eat this, don’t eat that, wear this but not that, exercise this amount.  You want to be successful in love; go to this site, read this book, say these things, purchase this fragrance, give this jewelry.  You want to be successful in life; get this job, work this many hours, go to this vacation spot, meet these people, save this amount, spend this amount and for as many, “do these things”, there are a corresponding amount of “don’t do these things”.  Even in the church, want salvation; read this, pray this, give this amount, be on this committee, don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t listen to loud music…do this…..don’t do this……

Thus if we’re not very careful we find ourselves chasing formulas.  We find ourselves living lives of equations where the sum, the outcome of the equation is solely dependent on the outwardly, worldly actions that we take.  Take the right actions equals good life of which we are entitled to.  You can’t argue with the math.  Have something negative happen, then somehow our equation was in error.

Jesus Christ teaches us, Our Heavenly Father cares about what’s inside.  Not how we act but why we act.  Abraham, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Ruth, John, Stephen, Timothy and many, many others were held up as examples in the bible, first and foremost for having hearts that searched after and wanted to be like God’s Heart.  It was that inward striving that led to the wonderful works that they performed and not the other way around.  Likewise, King Saul, King Joash, Caiaphas, Judas, had outward acts of power and seeming success but because their hearts were not with God, they were ultimately destroyed.

Finally, understand, there is a formula, there is a plan.  The reality is that it is not our formula, nor is it our plan.  It is our Heavenly Father’s plan.  The great thing about it not being our plan but His plan is that we can be certain it is perfect.  Our part in it, our piece of the equation is in our heart.  Not what are we striving for but why are we striving?  The formula that has us striving for our selves will never have an accurate answer.  The formula which has us connecting to the Loving Equation of Our Heavenly Father, the equation where God is the answer, that embraces the principle that Our Heavenly Father is first and that the components of heart should be those of love, mercy, humility, joy and peace through Him, complete faith in Him, those will be the components that lead to the correct actions, that lead to the successful life here and a life eternal in His presence.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly admit that we far too often look to the wisdom of this world, rely on the formulas of this world to determine what actions we should take.  We far too often look to the outside instead of considering the inside; what is in our hearts.  Forgive us most Merciful Father as we repent and turn to You for our answer.  Fill our hearts with Your Spirit that we may feel and know the love, grace, mercy, peace and joy that are beyond our understanding.  That with hearts, first and foremost searching for and linked to Yours, that will lead to the truly successful lives that You have planned for us to lead.  We pray this in the Name of Our Teacher and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Then the Spirit of God came upon Zachariah….He stood before the people and said….Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands?  But they plotted against him and by order of the king they stoned him…….said as he lay dying, ‘May the Lord see this and call you to account'”   2 Chronicles 24:20,21,22

“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth…..all rushed at him dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…..Then he fell on his knees and cried out ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them'”  Acts 7:54, 58, 60

Let me start this post with the comment that I in no way shape or form mean this post to be any comment of judgement on the act of Zachariah.  He was a man of God called to testify to the people of Judah for which he paid with his life.  He was faithful to the end and, as such, should be greatly admired.

Zachariah lived during a time when the people of Israel were split into two kingdoms; the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.  Unfortunately for both kingdoms, some of their kings strayed from following the Word of God, unlike what King David had done.  Joash was one of those evil kings.  There was a mighty prophet during the time of Joash named Jehoiada.  While Jehoiada was alive, he was able to lead King Joash to follow in the ways of God.  Together, but mainly at Jehoiada’s leading, the temple was repaired.  Also, all the other temples to Baal and other gods were torn down.  However, when Jehoiada died, King Joash quickly forsook the Lord and started to worship other, local gods.  So the Spirit of God entered into Zachariah, Jehoiada’s son.  God is not one to leave his people leaderless when it comes to the desires of God.  God longs not to punish, but to lead to repentance and a right relationship.  But instead of repenting, King Joash orders Zachariah stoned to death.  As the sentence is being carried out, Zachariah calls upon the Lord to take note of the evil nature of those killing him and wants them to be called to account.

Now jump forward a little over 300 years and you come to the time of Acts.  In Our Heavenly Father’s perfect plan and timing, Jesus Christ has come to earth, lived, preached, healed, died for our sins and has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.  We are told that Stephen is among the first of the believers to be added to the church.  He was a person filled with God’s grace and power in that he preached boldly and did miraculous signs in front of the people.  Stephen was seized by the Jewish leadership out of fear and jealously that Stephen was preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.  Stephen gives an impassioned defense of the Gospel.  But the Jewish leaders thought they had taken care of the problem when they crucified Jesus, so to have some still speaking so passionately and bringing people to Christ was more than they could stand.  They therefore order Stephen stoned.  Yet Stephen does not ask for deliverance, he does not ask for vengeance on those killing him.  No, Stephen asks God to forgive them.

Why the difference in these two absolutely Godly men?  I believe it boils down to two things; first, is  Jesus Christ and second is the Holy Spirit the resides in the heart of believers and testifies concerning Jesus Christ.  Jesus himself, in the Gospel of Matthew declares that many prophets had longed to see what the people of Jesus time were seeing, that is Jesus Christ, and they did not see Him.  You see Zachariah did not have the opportunity, during his time, to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Zachariah did not have the Pentecost experience.  Steven did.  So  because of the teaching and example  of Jesus Christ to love your enemies as well as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with Stephen, he was able to ask God to forgive his executioners.

So what is the lesson for you and I, Dear Sisters and Brothers?  To be born again, we proclaim that we believe in Jesus Christ, that He is the Only Son of God.  We proclaim that He died for our sins and was raised again.  We understand that through the Grace of Our Heavenly Father the Holy Spirit has been given to us to live in our hearts to teach us the real and total truth of Love.  We believe that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Thus, having knowledge of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, let us strive to be like Stephen.  When adversity strikes, when the world comes up against us, when we are reviled and persecuted for our beliefs, let us not lash out in contempt, let us not call out to Our Heavenly Father to damn or condemn.  With and in the example of Jesus Christ and His Love, let us seek to forgive those against us. Let us be a beacon of mercy and light.  We are told that Stephen, even in the midst of his despair looked up and saw the Glory of our Heavenly Father as well as Jesus Christ standing at His Right Hand.  Let us likewise keep our gaze focused on Jesus Christ knowing that as we do so we will receive the strength by the Holy Spirit to become more like Him.  Though understand this, becoming more like Christ is not based on our own righteousness but starts and ends with Christ; who makes all the difference.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the power that we are able to receive through the salvation of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Help us to use that power in love and forgiveness to all, especially those who would persecute and act against us.  That in so doing we may prove to be an example that would help to lead the lost to You and Praise Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of His cloak.  She said to herself: ‘If I only touch His cloak I will be healed.” Matthew 9:20

“For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds….”  Matthew 7:8

The woman, being oh so very desperate, felt that she had one shot.  It wasn’t that she wanted to be in the same town as Jesus.  It was not that she wanted to go and hear him preach.  The woman needed much more than that and her need drove her to extraordinary lengths.  She was sick.  She had been sick for a very long time; twelve years.  Doctors she had gone to; many, many times.  Yet to no avail for there seemed that there was no earthly cure for her.

Then she heard about Jesus.  Scripture does not tell us how she came to know about Jesus.  So we can’t be sure if she had actually witnessed another healing accomplished by Jesus or just heard about His power to miraculously heal.  However, one thing is extremely certain; she believed.  She believed so emphatically that it drove her to a plan.  She must have been certain that Jesus was a man of God; perhaps even convinced He was the messiah.  But being within seeing distance or hearing distance was not going to be good enough.  No, she would need to get so close to Jesus Christ, she could touch him.  Her faith was so strong and so pure that she didn’t feel that she needed a blessing, a laying on of hands or even a prayer from Jesus.  His power was so overwhelming that even His cloak, because it was His cloak, touching His Holy body, was enough to transfer healing to her.  And she was right.  So right in fact that Jesus had to stop when she touched Him.  Her faith was so significant to Him that He needed to make sure that she truly understood what her faith in Jesus Christ had brought about.  Her faith in His power, her faith that brought her to the point of reaching out and touching Him had not only cured her body of the curse of the bleeding; more importantly His power had cured her  soul of sin.  He needed all pressed around him to understand the power of that woman’s faith and what her seeking Him out had done for her.

What, Dear Sisters and Brothers are you and I afflicted with?  How many years have we suffered with some physical pain, mental anguish or spiritual darkness?  How often have we sought out worldly cures or fixes only to have them fall flat or short of bringing about true healing.  Jesus Christ is calling to us.  He is calling to us to have faith in Him.  He is calling to us to come to Him.  But this time is different; for we don’t have to go searching in some far off town or travel out to the foot of some mountain.  Because Jesus Christ has risen back to Heaven and is in spirit sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, in spirit He is also right here with you and me.  We are not seeking a physical place as much as we are seeking a spiritual place.  A place that we can find when we fall on our knees and ask Jesus Christ to be right here with us.  We can lift up our hands both in praise and supplication knowing that Christ is right there to reach out in love and touch us.  Like He proclaimed to that woman of old, He will also proclaim to you and I:  “Take heart daughter (or son), your faith has healed you.” (Matthew 9:22)

To be healed, we believe that Jesus Christ is the One True Son of God with all the power needed to heal us of every affliction.  To be healed, we must seek Jesus Christ out.  We must come to him humbly in trembling, knowing that we are sinners and that He is our perfect savior.  Yet even in our humility we can be confident.  Confident that Jesus Christ is right here beside us, ready not just to let his cloak brush passed us, but to extend His nail scarred hands to us in a warm loving embrace.

The mystery and the blessing is that Jesus Christ is always near.  He is always near enough to hear our prayer.  He is always near enough to reach out and heal us.  May we, in faith, find ourselves seeking Him out today, knowing He is our one true salvation for now and all eternity.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are afflicted.  We are afflicted with physical ailments.  We are afflicted with mental ailments.  We are sorely afflicted with spiritual ailments and these spiritual ailments mostly come from our sinfulness.  Move us Dear Father to cry out to Jesus Christ, our savior for healing of these ailments; being sure of the promise He gave, that if we seek in faith, we will find Him and in finding Him, we will be healed.  We pray this in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ to the Glory and praise of Your Most Holy Name.  Amen

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”  Luke 2:1

“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”  John 19:11

Power.  The world’s power.  It can surely seem that world is powerful; powerful in the extreme.  It may feel that today you are being swept along in the grasp of the power of the world.  You may feel that you have no power, no influence, no control concerning what is happening in your life.  Maybe it’s a government power, maybe your work or your boss, maybe it is family members or some other power or combination of powers that feels like a flood, sweeping you to a place where you will be lost.

It certainly could have seemed like that for the Israelites during the time of Caesar Augustus when Rome occupied their land.  They had to pay taxes to Rome.  While they could still keep their religious practices, that freedom existed only to the extent that it did not question or threaten the total authority of the Roman leadership over every aspect of their lives.  As an example, a leader over 1400 miles away decides that he wants to know just how many people are under his control; this may have been for taxation purposes or just to boost an ego, a feeling of power.  So it one was one thing if someone was going to come by and count you but no, there was more.  For some reason, you had to go back to your ancestral city, perhaps to keep from being counted twice.  And now we come to the crucial piece; Joseph’s ancestral city; the city he was from, the city he would need to go back to was Bethlehem.

Fast forward 33 years.  In the Roman’s mind, there was a rabble-rouser, a trouble maker, a disturber of the peace; at least that’s what they were hearing from the Jewish leadership.  The Romans were no strangers to conquered troublemakers.  They knew how to deal with these types.  They also had the power to do what ever the wished.  Pontius Pilot tells Jesus just that when he asks Him;  “Do you not realize that I have the power to release you or have you crucified?”.  One wonders if a slight smirk, perhaps a small sad smile did not come upon Jesus’ face at the absurdity of Pilot’s comment.  Here was one of the creation, saying to his creator:  I have the ultimate power to destroy you.  That I need to die and how I will die is far from your control; Jesus is telling Pilot in response.

So here’s the thing Dear Sisters and Brothers.  In each of these cases; the world felt it had the upper hand.  The world and the leaders of the world felt they had they were exercising supreme power.  But wait there is more to the story; and that more shows just how much more powerful Our Heavenly Father is and/or how weak, worldly powers are depending on how you view it.  For you see, 700 years before the birth of Christ, when Rome had hardly even begun, Isiah the prophet was prophesying that a virgin would give birth to The Savior, Immanuel.  One hundred years after that, centuries before Rome thought of conquering the Jews, Micah was predicting that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers; Mary and Joseph needed to be in Bethlehem.  Our Heavenly Father was going to be sure that His Son, to fulfill His own divine prophesy, was born in the City of David.  For all their seemingly worldly power; the Romans were just carrying out the Will of a higher, The Highest Power.  They just had no clue.  Likewise, Pontius Pilot, believes he is the greatest power there in Jerusalem.  He has the power over life and death itself.  In fact, he is a weak, puny man.  Even in the world, he can’t make up his own mind whether to free an obviously innocent man, or placate a hateful, spiteful crowd, with one man’s death.  The decision is not in his hands.  God’s Will be done.

You may feel that you’re being swept along by the powers of this world today.  You may feel that you are powerless.  You may even fear that there is no power to withstand the onslaught of the power of this world.  Yet be open to this.  It may not be the world pushing you somewhere as it is Our Heavenly Father, calling, directing you somewhere that you need to be.  He may be using the world to bring about your change, but He is never leaving you subject to the power of this world.  In bringing you to your Bethlehem destination; where God will richly bless you, will bring about your salvation, He will never forsake you.

You might ask, if I’m being brought to a Bethlehem moment; does that also mean there is a Golgotha moment, a horrible death for my sin moment as well?  No! Never!  For the truest blessing, the most merciful miracle, is that only One could bring about salvation by experiencing death at Calvary.  Only the Perfect, Sinless, Son of God’s death, could and can cleanse our sin from us.  Only through the power of God, is Jesus Christ raised up and by his sacrifice, we are raised up with Him as well.  So in prayer and supplication, if you are feeling swept away by the power of the world; call upon Jesus Christ to give you, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the understanding that no earthly power has dominion over you.  It is not so much about trying to fight the power of the world as it is receiving and moving toward the calling of Bethlehem, knowing that Our Heavenly Father uses all things; whether they know it or not, to see His Will be done.  He loves you.  He is with you.  He will keep you.  Merry Christmas.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father.  We confess that we can become bewildered, confused and even fearful at the strength and power of this world.  Forgive us when doubt Your Power to overcome the world.  Pour out Your Spirit of discernment that will help us to realize that You can and will use all things to bring about Your Will.  Comfort us when we feel overwhelmed or swept away by this world; testifying to us that You are bringing us to our Bethlehem moment; where You have authored our salvation.  That in the midst of all things we would find the joy and peace to praise Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name fo Jesus Christ.  Amen

“For there is born to you this day, in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”  Luke 2:11

You is one of those amazing words in the English language (Sie – German, Anata – Japanese, Wewe – Swahili, Usted – Spanish, and on and on, please take no offense if I did not include your language).  For at least in english, you can be singular as in: “You, Doug” (which can mean only Doug), or plural “You out there” (which means all who are out there).  Yet here is the interesting thing, If I’m talking to three people and I say “you” as I’m pointing to all three then the context is both plural and singular.  That is, it applies to all three, but not just when all three are together.  It applies to each as individual as well as the three together.  That is the Christmas Blessing for You (and me) to this very day.

We know the story.  Shepherds watching their flocks by night.  In some cases people see them cold, shivering by a fire, clouds of breath steaming from their mouths.  That kind of detail we don’t have.  But here’s what we do know; they were separated.  Their flocks would not have been let into Bethlehem at night.  Sheep can be smelly, dirty animals so, until they were needed in some respect, they would have been kept at a discrete distance.  So to protect them, the shepherds would have been isolated as well.  Whatever was happening in Bethlehem, no matter how important, would go unnoticed by them.  Nor would the town-folk be much obliged to run out and let them know what was going on if some big event happened.  No, the shepherds were on their own.

But the shepherds were not separated from God Almighty.  Something big, huge, Miracle of Miracles, was happening in Bethlehem and God wanted to make sure, everyone, even the least heard about it.  The Messiah was being born!  The Savior of the world was coming down to His people.  And the Angel of the Lord proclaims it: “born to you this day, a Savior…”  So let’s be clear about this; the Angel of Lord did not say: “You Shepherds, You, people of Israel, You people living in 1 B.C., You……”  No the Angel of the Lord, simply, powerfully and blessedly said “you”.

That “you” for us, Dear Sisters and Brothers, is the most merciful, most blessed, most joyous kind of you.  For it is both the singular: You Pat, You Reverend Lumwira, You Rodrigo, You ____________ (put your name in that blank), as well as  the entirety of You, the whole world You.  The you of the Angel of the Lord, is not only a 1 B.C. “you”, but also a 2014 “you” and a 2100 or until the end of time “you”.  We are all connected by that “you”.  We can never claim that Jesus Christ didn’t come for you or you, but only for me.

Yet sadly, although He came as a Savior for you, there are some, many in fact within that population of “you”, that never receive Him.  They reject the notion that He ever came, or even that they are in need of Him in the first place.  Why?  For some it was and is the method.  A Savior, a King of Kings, does not come as baby of peasants.  A Messiah does not grow up a carpenter’s son.  The Son of God on earth is a conqueror, a triumphant figure who destroys any and all enemies and lifts His believers along with Him into a life of luxury, painless, constant fun and enjoyment.  Alas, others feel they are so inwardly good, that they have no need of saving in the first place.

In both of those cases, we know better.  You see what if Christ had come as the worldly destroyer of enemies, conquering all the nations of the time, utterly wiping the Romans off the map and elevating the Israelites and those others who believed in Him, along with Him to world domination.  Even if that would happened, upon death, each of those people would have been lost.  For as Christ would have been perfect, His followers would have still been under the condemnation of sin.  If Christ would have lived in worldly glory and returned to heaven without death, our death, our eternal separation would have remained.  In a mystery far too deep to truly understand, in a sacrifice too great to truly grasp hold of, Jesus Christ, the One True Son of God, Jesus Christ, to become our Savior, had to die in our place.  He had to die a terrible, humiliating, becoming sin, separated from God, kind of death.  Then and only then, did He become the Savior of us all.

Please Sisters and Brothers, Our Heavenly Father meant you.  He included you.  His Son died for you.  He loves you!  Accept that love.  Be that you, that saved you, in Him.  Reach out in love to all the other yous that are included in that you proclamation. He did it for you.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we can not begin to fathom the enormity of the gift which is Your Son Jesus Christ as our Savior.  Because it is almost beyond contemplation, we find ourselves at times, taking the gift for granted, living as if the gift didn’t matter or worse, turning away from the gift altogether.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father.  Pour out Your Spirit in us that we might be humbly grateful and rejoicing like the heavenly host at the proclamation of our Savior’s birth.  Help us to live as saved people in a world filled with so many lost.  That in and through our lives we would be proclaimers of and partakers in the merciful, blessed gift of Your salvation.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“….if your son asks for bread will give him a stone?”  Matthew 7:9

“…how much more will your Father, who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  Matthew 7:11

Our Father in Heaven is the perfect parent.  That may seem obvious to say, but then, what should we do with that?  Here’s the challenge with this post.  First, I have not the perspective nor wisdom to truly, adequately describe the perfection of Our Heavenly Father.  Second, in using comparisons of earthly parents, there is a flaw for the comparison has some apple to orange aspects to it.  Having said that, I still believe there is value in looking deep into this concept that will allow us to step out further in peace, confidence and joy in faith in Our Heavenly Father.

All of us have been children.  That means we all had parents.  Some of us are parents.  What that allows is for us to attempt to grasp the concepts of parenting whether we are parents or not and regardless of how effective our parents were with us.

First concept:  Parents provide.   That is to say that children can not provide for themselves.  No little child can adequately go out and find food, clothing and shelter for themselves.  Good parents want to provide for their children.  Yet from an earthly aspect there are struggles.  Human parents have finite resources.  There is only so much time, money and for us even love to be shared.  A human parent often finds themselves in a conflict with distractions.  If I purchase or give this now, what will I have to give up?  If I spend time here what about my occupation?  Where is the time for me?  Our Heavenly Father has no such restrictions or distractions.  Our Heavenly Father has all things at his disposal.  He created all things.  He is not limited to a certain time or space.  He is everywhere at once.  His ability to provide is limitless and His plan to provide is perfect.

Parents protect.  That is to say that good parents want to keep their children from harm.  To the children it may seem a lot of can’ts, don’ts and no’s.  Why do good parents do this?  They do it to keep from harm.  What good earthly parent would let a child put their hand on a red hot burner, or let their child go out and play on a busy street?  Satan would have us believe that Our Heavenly Father’s restrictions are about keeping us from what we deserve or just to show His power out of meanness.  Our Heavenly Father’s Wisdom is perfect.  What He restricts us from are things that will lead to our harm and destruction.  We know a small child might be drawn to a bright bottle with a liquid in it and want to take a drink.  But would we really let them take a drink of drain cleaner?

Parents teach.  That is to say a good parent gives instruction on what is good and proper and then allows their children to attempt it.  Sometimes the children fail.  A good parent will sometimes even let the child feel some of the consequences of that failure but at no time will abandon the child.  The good parent will also forgive the child, especially if the child sincerely asks for it.  Our Heavenly Father has gone to great lengths to teach us what is good and proper.  Again please don’t get caught up in thou shalt and thou shalt nots.  What has our Heavenly Father tought us is good and proper?  Two things: first, love Him with heart, mind, body and soul.  Secondly, love one another as we love ourselves.  That’s it; Love.  And please understand this; we can not out love Our Heavenly Father.  He asks this of us, His children because of the Perfect Love He has for us.  It is when we love that we don’t murder, steal, covet or bare false witness.  It is when we love that we are generous to those in need, forgiving to those who’ve hurt us and kind to those who are hurting.

Bottom line:  Parents Love.  As I said earlier, the challenge is with earthly parents, no matter how good, we fall short in this area.  However, our Heavenly Father has an endless supply of perfect love.  It is His very nature to provide, not to get anything in return but because that’s who He is.  It is Our Heavenly Father’s nature to protect us.  He sees the troubles ahead that we can not.  He sees the evil planned against us that we never know about.  He longs to steer us clear of all of that or, as long as we are focused on Him, easily allow us to pass through it.  Our Heavenly Father wants us to learn.  With immeasurable mercy and patience, He allows us to try things our own way, turn from His instruction, yet He is always ready and willing to forgive our failings.

There is one more significant difference.  As earthly parents there is an expectation that, although we will always love them, earthly children will stand on their own with little to no assistance from us.  There is a huge difference with Our Heavenly Father.  We are always to be His Children, relying on Him to provide, relying on Him to protect and relying on Him to teach.  Yes, I know as an earthly parent I have let my children down.  I have been selfish and unwise as I have dealt with them at times.  If they or any of us were to judge our Heavenly Father by the standards of our earthly parents, no matter how good, we would be horrendously short changing Our Heavenly Father.  Dear sisters and brothers, Our Heavenly Father longs to be our personal Father, ready, willing and able to supply all things and save us from all things.  How do we know this?  Did He not send His Son to be our Savior?  Did Jesus Christ not love us enough to sacrifice all for us?  Let us accept Him as our Heavenly Father knowing that in His Perfection, He is more than up to the task.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You are Our Heavenly Father whose abundant providing, merciful protection and perfect teaching are all that we need.  Forgive us when we, as disobedient children, turn from you and desire to go our own way.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would see the errors of our ways and humbly come back to you in repentance.  That as living as Your Children, we would know Your Love and spread Your Love to a world in such desperate need.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

(Author’s note:  Dear readers I need your help.  If, and only if, you have read this post or others and see value in it/them, I humbly ask that you pass that on.  I know that these are longs posts so I’m not asking that they be necessarily “shared” on your blog or social media sites.  No, I merely ask that if the conversation ever comes round to spiritual topics, and as you see fit, that you might mention this page.  In the end not about me, but may it be that His Holy Name be praised.  Knowing that there are many wonderfully uplifting posts that I follow, know that I do and will continue to do the same.  Blessings to You in the Name of the Father. Amen)

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