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“‘You have done a foolish thing’, Samuel Said. ‘You have not kept the command the Lord Your God Gave You; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time‘”. 1 Samuel 13:13

“Therefore Jesus told them, ‘My time has not yet come…..'” John 7:6

“After Jesus said this, He looked to heaven and prayed, ‘Father the hour has come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son may glorify You.'”. John 17:1

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him..” Psalm 42:5

Patience is a…..virtue?, burden? overrated? obstacle? in short supply? (Note: “Patience is a virtue”; is not a quote from the bible, it is attributed to Cato the Elder)

Are we running out of patience? Is patience keeping us from action?

So let’s start; what is there to be patient about? There is a lot happening these days; what with, wars and pandemics, mass shootings, bombings, hate crimes, climate change and the list goes on. Especially, when these types of events impacted numerous people, it has been a mainstay to offer and exhort the offering of “thoughts and PRAYERS as a way of facilitating comfort and restoration.

Here’s why I want to ponder patience in connection with these happenings and offering of “thoughts and prayers”. It seems that recently, while there is still a very common and sincere desire to offer and exhort the offering of prayers for comfort, there is a, perhaps small but perhaps growing pushback concerning that sentiment, that “thoughts and prayers” have little to no value. Seemingly in some way, that praying is some cop out for not doing any real substantive, effective action. There seems to be a sense that we can’t afford to wait on some future response to some offered prayer, that may or may not match what we feel is the needed solution. What we need is action NOW! And if God is not going to act as we’d like, it then becomes up to us! Also, perhaps, out action is just as good as God’s!

Dear Sisters and Brothers, one of the greatest blessings of the Bible is the teaching it can give us about living. You see Saul had a pretty dire situation. There were enemy troops on Israel’s border and more were coming every day. As King, Saul felt responsible for the defense of Israel. Saul also felt that he needed to take immediate action to defeat the enemy. As more enemy troops arrived, Saul’s own troops were getting scared and less motivated to fight. There was one major problem. Saul was a king, appointed by the Will of God. As such, he wanted to honor God by sacrificing to Him before going into battle; to not have a sacrifice would be a grave blunder and put victory in certain jeopardy. Yet by law, God’s law, there were only a few, a priest or prophet who could appropriately offer sacrifices to God. Unfortunately there were none available to King Saul at the moment. He believed the Prophet Samuel was on his way, but time was wasting and the threat was growing. So Saul lost his patience with the delay. Saul felt that action, any action was warranted over doing what was right. Saul offered his own sacrifice which was just ending as Samuel arrived. It is said it is better to beg forgiveness versus waiting to ask permission. King Saul might disagree. Because of his impatience and subsequent rash action King Saul was advised by Samuel that the kingdom would be stripped from him; which it was indeed done later.

Now please understand, this is not a diatribe against action or even immediate action to relieve pain and suffering; far from it. It is a reflection on the possible discounting and devaluation of putting our Heavenly Father at the center of our actions even it there is time needed for discernment, versus taking what we believe to be equally valuable and effective human action sans prayers or thoughts of the Almighty.

Jesus Christ knew about timing and patience during His earthly ministry (and of course still does today). On several occasions the Gospels give accounts where mobs were going to either stone Him or throw Him off a cliff and they did not succeed. Not because Jesus would never die at the hands of men, but that the appointed time and circumstances for that death had not come. When the time came, a small, scared, weak mob was able to arrest, try, convict and kill Jesus. Jesus had the patience to put the Father’s plan first and patiently live into it. Thus Jesus Christ lives and lives at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty.

So what is it that you or someone you know is struggling with today? To you or them, this struggle may be as completely overwhelming and tragic as the most horrendous mass shooting or act of hatred. The world may be screaming at you to act and act now. Additionally the world may be warning you that to include prayers, to include time for calling out to and awaiting an answer is a fool’s errand and an extremely dangerous delay. The world may be proclaiming to you that either you yourself, or the world has all the plans and resources necessary to solve all your problems; you should look no further. If you are feeling tempted in that way; I encourage you to remember King Saul.

The Holy Spirit that resides in you is exhorting you to be like Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ prayed to God throughout His life here on earth. Even during the stress and despondency of Jesus’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus reached out in prayer. And God always answered. Jesus Christ knew to be patient. Jesus Christ knew God’s plan, including timing is perfect. Jesus Christ was at peace in and because of His interaction with God. We can be too.

Let the world rail against prayer as a waste of time. Let us make it a priority to put prayer first, even when we act; having complete faith in the perfection of our Heavenly Father’s answer both in its solution and its timing. Patience in God is a virtue indeed.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we understand that we live in times where speed is a primary measure of effectiveness. The faster the better. Forgive us when we are tempted to apply that worldly standard to You and Your Plans. Forgive us when we are tempted to and actually go with our own actions, foregoing Your counsel, because we are impatient to wait upon You. Strengthen our spirit of patience in You that we might faithfully reach out to You in all things and be supplied with strength enough to wait for Your perfect reply. That being in peace and alignment with Your Plan and Will, we will live confident lives that bring praise to Your Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. Isaiah 40:31

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick tempered displays folly” Proverbs 14:29

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

…Love is patient….. 1 Corinthians 13:4

I was prompted to write this post because of an interaction I had a short time ago. Hours after the workday had ended, a thought occurred to me that not only impacted me but two of my colleagues as well. What did I do? Did I wait until the next day to “call” them? Of course not, I pulled out my trusty smart phone (note the phone being smart does not imply the same for it’s owner/user) and texted away.

Here’s the thing; I’m a definite baby-boomer, both in age and in technical acuity. More often than not my preference is to talk to people. Also, I often go to my grown children, but also did when they were much younger to explain technical processes and troubleshoot issues.

Now, again it’s past work hours and before smart phones and accompanying technology, I would not have picked up a phone at that hour and called them. This was not an emergency. Additionally, I was not looking for or even expecting necessarily an answer that night, I just wanted to put the issue out there. However, an answer did come back from both of my colleagues in a very short order and a digital conversation ensued.

Where am I going with this and what does it have to do with prayer? Good question. You see we have so many different ways to communicate today; face-2-face, email, phone, text, video chat, and, and…. One aspect that has also changed or expanded is how we can reply when engaged in the various communication channels. If I ask you a question in person, depending on the question I might expect an immediate reply. Perhaps I expect some aspect of immediacy on a phone call or video chat. Yet what about the other channels, do I expect an immediate answer or at least acknowledgement of receipt? How patient am I for you to return my communication/inquiry with some acknowledgement or answer. How often do we find ourselves watching the moments tick by on a clock with slightly or perhaps more so, elevated blood pressure or frustration when the minutes are passing without some returned communication is some way. It seems to me, both in personal experience as well as watching greater society function; there is an expectation of imminent if not immediate response to our inquiries or some required explanation for delay. Rarely do I hear “patience is a virtue” either spoken or especially practiced.

What I wonder is, to what extent that worldly expectation, creeps its way into communication and relationship with Our Heavenly Father; especially in our spiritual practice of prayer? “Hello God?….are you there?……..I prayed this request yesterday……..You’re a God of infinite power, wisdom and say You have a plan…………..let’s get with it…I’m busy….I need Your answer”. While those specific words may never actually be or even contemplated to be prayed; but the question is, what is in our heart?

It seems that in the world, a quick response is a desired, perhaps even accepted response. The longer a response takes for us to receive; the more we tend to ask the question: What is wrong? or What is the explanation for the delay? We tend to fear that other than an immediate positive reply is a rejection. Additionally, if we’re not careful, we will be tempted, like the example of King Saul, to act impetuously, not waiting for the Lord’s reply but striking out on our own, with our own wisdom, causing destruction to ourselves and potentially those around us.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, our Heavenly Father declared in Isaiah: “Neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Yet Our Heavenly Father’s ways, to include His plans, which includes His timing are perfect. So we must resist the world’s pace and demands for answers and have patient faith in God. It is not that He might have us wait as some kind of power play or ploy to show who’s the boss. He doesn’t need that. However, we do need His timing.

So please, ask. Jesus tells us we should go forth and ask. We should ask having faith that we are heard. Jesus also is clear. We are loved by our Father. Jesus asks us to consider that if we who are fallen can still give good gifts to our children, how much more will our perfect, loving Father respond with blessings. Yet we should have and if we’re lacking in, we should pray for help in responding in faith, patient faith. Paul tells us that love is patient, which also means that having patience is an act of love.

Let it be that in our petitions to our Heavenly Father as well as in our faithful, patient expectation of His blessed response; we will live lives of thanksgiving and praise to His Almighty Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we are so thankful that You have seen fit to allow us to make requests of You. Yet Gracious Father, you know we live in a world that is increasingly impatient with any gap between question and answer. Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we are tempted to apply worldly standards to Your relationship with us. Keep us from being tempted to stray from patiently waiting upon Your perfect response to go our own way based on our own minimal wisdom. Give us the strength to resist impatience and instead remain in peace and faith, confident in Your perfect timing. We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And some were persuaded by the things that were spoken and some disbelieved…..”  Acts 28:24

“…..the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.”  Acts 28:28

Beware which Garden moment you choose.  I’ll explain this later.

We seem to love a good debate don’t we?  For they are everywhere.  We debate things of substance; politics, wars, what is justice, what should be our path to follow.  We also debate things of seemingly less importance; best sports teams, best sports players, who should be voted off the island, what is the best social media site.

Even the term debate is used to describe many different human discourses.  There is the formal academic debate with its strictly define rules of argument and specific point-counterpoint style.  But then there is the sit across from each other, talk at each other, interrupt each other, shout louder than the other, insult each other, threaten each other and then get up and walk away from each other style of debate.  It seems like the latter makes for better television.

But these two styles are nothing new.  Plato’s Republic seems to be in the style of the first.  Obviously we have no visual evidence but the writing seems to be that of two and sometimes more parties, dispassionately and logically putting forth arguments on many different subjects.

Then you have the first century listeners.  In Acts we have many stories of people who were first introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then what happened after they heard it.  I don’t say it was always the Jews because there were also groups in Greece and Macedonia.  It is interesting that the Apostle Paul is called the Apostle of the Gentiles but if you read the Book of Acts, Paul almost always starts of, in any town he visits, seeking out the Jews in the town or going to their temple and preaching there first.  Often times some believe but most reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ so Paul goes on to preach to the Gentiles.  For many the doctrine of Jesus Christ is just too new, too strange, too controversial to believe.  So they debate.

Alas, debating is not just a thing of the first century church.  Some would say there should be no debate, no differences of opinion in a faithful church.  I’m not sure that I would go that far.  For there are many things the church is dealing with today; what is marriage and who should be allowed to, who do we embrace/include, who do we exclude, are denominations a dying thing, why are we losing people, what should we do about money woes.  All of these topics and many more are facing the church and there are many different opinions on how a Christian should approach these things.

Yet here’s the question for today; after the debate, then what?  One outcome of our debate is that we may come to an agreement, a consensus about what to do.  If so, then our course is set and off we go.  But what if we don’t agree?  What if our argument doesn’t sway the group?  What if we don’t get our way?  Do we turn our backs on the one particular church?  Do we turn out backs on all the churches?  Do we turn our back on God and Jesus Christ?

And now I come to the “Garden” choices.  You see, to debate is to have differing opinions; different judgements, come to different conclusions.  But because there are differences, doesn’t mean that the basic foundation is something that can’t be agreed on; like, God, our Heavenly Father, is the perfect Creator of all things and His Son Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son, Our Savior.  With that as our basis, then we can work through our other differences.  With faith in Our Heavenly Father, if we come across something that doesn’t make sense to us, that we might find ourselves inclined to argue with Him or doubt Him about, we can humbly come before Him and ask for His Mercy and Understanding.  In short we can have the pre-temptation Garden moment, where our longing is to be in the presence of Our Creator God; Heavenly Father.  To walk with Him in His beauty and splendor.

However, if our logic, our learning, our understanding is what we’ve built our foundation on, then our Garden moment may very well be tragically different.  When faced with something that we don’t agree with or that we don’t understand from Our Heavenly Father, we may have a post temptation Garden moment.  That is, we may run from God, we may hide from Him.  We may believe that our understanding, like for example we shouldn’t be naked before Him, trumps His desire to be with us, so we turn from Him.  We believe in the end (and that end is tragic) that we know best.

But dear sisters and brothers in Christ; here is where the amazing praise and blessing comes in; either way God is waiting for us.  God does not give up on us, even if we turn from Him.  God does not abandon us even if we try to argue with Him.  How do I know?  Jesus Christ told me (and you too).  Jesus is speaking about redemption.  Jesus is speaking about mercy.  Jesus is speaking about His Father’s Love and Patience.  Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son.  The son’s logic, the son’s understanding, the son’s argument tells him to leave.  While the Father does not agree, He does not disown the son, does not turn His back.  No, through patience, through mercy, through love, He waits for the son, looks for the son, rejoices at the son’s return and forgives the son.  So we may find ourselves at a point of estrangement.  We might have arguments with our church, or like Job, we may have even tried arguing with God, Himself.  Don’t let the debate be the last thing.  Know the Redeemer God will always be there for us.  If we will only humble ourselves to Him, He will lift us back up to a place where, In Him, there is no more reason for contention or dispute.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You know that we live in a world full of contention and striving against itself.  Through Jesus Christ, You warned us that a divided house will not stand.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we either attempt to contend with You or allow our disagreements with others cloud our relationship with You.  We thank You and praise You for Your steadfast Love and Patience with us, always willing to forgive and welcome us back.  We pray that You would help us to always remain humble before You striving to build that lasting, perfect relationship.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“And the Lord said to Joshua…You shall march around the city…This you shall do for six days. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times……all the people shall shout with a great shout then the wall of the city will fall flat.”  Joshua 6: 4,5

“And he said to the people…..You shall not shout or make or make any noise with your voice, not shall a word proceed out of your mouth until the day I say to you shout!”  Joshua 6:10

There are two famous sayings by two people who are prized for their wisdom in these modern times.  First, reportedly Albert Einstein said:  “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” (I say reportedly because there is quite a bit of discussion about whether or not Einstein actually said this or not).  Second, Thomas Edison is reported to have said: “I have not failed, I have found 1000 ways that don’t work.” (Again some renditions are 5,000 or even 10,000 attempts until he was able to finally invent the light bulb).

So which one is correct?  Which one describes how I am to be?  I do what seems to be the same thing again and again, hoping for success but it doesn’t seem to come; am I not insane to keep trying?  But what if I’m giving up too soon?  Would I be now typing in the dark or at best by candlelight if Edison had stopped at number 500?  For Benjamin Franklin said:  “Energy and persistence conquer all things”

Imagine you’re one of the Israelites.  You have just come from the wilderness.  The older generation, the one that first left Egypt has passed away before coming to the promised land.  Why? They wouldn’t obey God.  But you’ve heard about God.  You’ve also heard about Joshua.  He was Moses right hand man.  So now you’ve come into the promised land; the land dripping with milk and honey, the land that God has sworn to give to you and what stands before you?  A huge obstacle.  A mighty fortress city whose walls are six to eight feet thick and they have several layers of walls.  You can’t settle in the promised land with that fortress blocking your way.

Now back to Joshua.  Moses has died and been buried.  That means Joshua is in charge.  Joshua will have a plan.  Yes Joshua! Let’s hear your plan.  Right! We’re going to storm the city; right?  We’re going to lay siege to the city for months and starve them, right?

March?  March around the city?  March around the city and then sneak attack, right?  March around the city as a diversion while some sneak over the walls, then we attack; right?  Go home? Go Home!!!!  We march around the city and then come back to camp?????

But this is Joshua; so you can imagine the first day; people are probably completely behind him.  “If Joshua says go; WE GO!” shout the Israelites; except they can’t shout or make a sound around the city.  Tromp, tromp, tromp, go all the people.  “Are they looking down on us from the walls?” some think.  “Bet their quaking in their sandals !”, others think.  Then back to camp.  “Well that was different!”, some think to themselves. But this is Joshua; he knows what he’s doing.

Day two:  Now we attack, right?  They’re in trouble now, right?  March? Again? Silently?  Are you sure; Joshua?  But hey this is Joshua, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Day three – six:  What?!?!?! March Again!?!?!?!  Did Joshua get hit on the head???? This is crazy!!!!???? Can’t we get Moses back or someone else?  Same thing day after day is nuts!!!!  I can imagine these could have been thoughts that some would have had following Joshua; especially with our society’s demand for instant action.

Day seven:  Let me guess; we get to March!!!!!  Oh and seven times around today; Oh JOY!!!!  But today is not the same and there is another difference besides the number of times they go around the city.  At the end of the seventh time, Joshua will give a signal.  Mighty horns will blast and all the people will shout as loud as they can.  Imagine the dismay inside and outside the city; as the walls came crashing down.

One can imagine that on day three through six some thought that what they were doing was insane.  They could not see how the marching around was making any impact.  In the book of Joshua, chapter 6, there is no indication that Joshua told the entire plan to the people ahead of time.  Might there have been some frustration?  Might there have been a feeling like we’re just wasting time?  I feel like I’m hitting my head against the wall (or at least wish I were because then I’d be doing something). And if there was not any grumbling or complaining the reason there was not is they knew they were not executing Joshua’s plan.  They were executing God’s plan.

You and I have been praying.  Maybe we have felt a calling.  Maybe we feel that we have been told that we’re heading for a “promised land” but today seems frustratingly just like yesterday and the day before.  We think we’re going insane because we’re doing the same thing and praying for a different outcome.  The first, days, months, years, maybe even more; we had that sense of persistence.  We say to ourselves:  “Well it may have been 300 days but that just brings us one day closer!”  But we’re tired.  The world wants us to quit.  If we don’t quit, the world calls us crazy.

If it’s our plan alone, our family’s plan, our boss’s plan, any human plan; maybe we need to rethink.  So we pray in the Name of Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit will reveal to us whether the calling is God’s or our own.  If it be Our Heavenly Father’s, dear brothers and sisters, be patient, be persistent, know that you and I are not crazy.  We are led.  We are chosen.  We are blessed.  And we are Loved by the Creator of the Universe; the omnipotent and omniscient God.  Through Him, we will destroy all walls the world puts in our path.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we admit we live in a world that wants instant answers, immediate return for our actions.  Yet You have shown us again and again how faithful patience and persistence will lead us along the path that You have chosen for us as well as to the destination You have in store.  Please pour out Your Strength upon us so that we can resist the temptation to turn from Your Plan to go after our own.  Through the Holy Spirit, give us peace in our souls to rely upon You and You only.  That in our persistence and patience, we will live lives of praise to Your Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“When I saw that the people were scattered from me and that you did not come within the days appointed…….Therefore I felt compelled and offered a burnt offering.”  1 Samuel 13:11, 12

“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people talked of stoning him…….Then David said to Abiathar the priest: ‘Please bring the ephod to me.  So David inquired of the Lord…”  1 Samuel 30:6,8

It is said: “Patience is a virtue.” and in trying to  give credit to the origin of that exact phrase, there is much debate about where and by whom it was first used.  Nevertheless,   clearly in the Psalms we are told to “wait on the Lord”. (Psalm 27:14)  It can be easier said then done as we see in the two examples in Samuel.

Saul had been king for over a year.  Samuel had specifically told Saul that he was chosen king by God.  God had already given Saul a great victory as king over the Ammonites.  So Saul had ample evidence that God was with him  God had also given Saul, as well as the people of Israel, other resources for success.  The law which stipulated who was to perform such spiritual things as giving sacrifices and a prophet (in this case Samuel) to give them specific instructions.  Yet Saul was in an earthly pickle.  A major army was coming against him and the people of Israel, the dreaded Philistines.  Saul had called out men of Israel to be his army and when they saw the size and weapons of the Philistine Army, we are told they became distressed and started to run away.  Saul feared he was losing control.  He felt that if he lost his men then the Philistines would attack and destroy him.  Being a good leader, Saul figured he needed to act.  Worldly leadership concepts would applaud this.  In his mind, Saul was not completely forsaking God, because he at least offered a sacrifice before going into battle.  Only one problem, God’s edict, His law clearly prescribed who was worthy to give a sacrifice and it was not the king.  Saul knew it and, out of fear, completely disregarded it.

David is in a pickle.  He had been chased by Saul for many months all across the country.  He has been forced to leave the lands of Israel and live with Philistines.  Even then, David had acted with honor and in humble service to the leaders of the Philistines.  Yet they spurned David, they told him they don’t trust him and sent him back to his city; when they decided to do battle with Israel.  Worst than that, when David returns to the city, he finds that another people have attacked, burned the city and carried off all his men’s family as captives as well as their possessions.  David’s men are so angry at him, they are planning to stone him.  Again, David has been told by Samuel that he has been chosen king by God.  God has already given David great military victories and blessings at this point.  David’s men are demanding immediate action.  Who could blame David for acting impulsively and striking out after his enemy?  But David won’t do so.  No, David takes the time to call upon the priest.  Takes time to ask of God and wait upon His answer.

The outcome of these two situations clearly show the consequences of these two men’s behavior.  Saul shows God by his behavior that given circumstances between the demands of people and the demands of God, Saul can not be trusted to rely on the Perfect, Righteous demands of God.  The kingdom is eventually ripped from Saul’s hands and he is killed in battle.  On the other hand, David shows by his behavior that he will resist the demands of the world and first reach out to and then wait upon the Lord God Almighty to answer; which God does swiftly.  God instructs David to pursue his enemy and God will deliver the enemy into his hand.  David then goes forth in pursuit and is victorious, just as God promised.

Dear brothers and sisters there is no doubt we are facing challenges, even crises in the world today.  We are also faced with a world that rewards action over almost everything else.  Don’t just stand there do something; anything!  More and more the world demands action now and tries to swiftly punish those who will not fit into its way of doing things.  However, Jesus teaches us to act differently than the world.  Jesus tells us to first and foremost, always call upon the Name of God.  Jesus reminds us that God is the Omnipotent God of all things whose power can not be overcome.  Jesus asks us to be patient and wait upon God to respond and to act.  Jesus promises us that nothing worldly will separate us from the God who created each of us, knows and loves us by name.  God will answer us.  God will keep us.  The world screams at us that if we wait upon God, it will be too late.  We will be destroyed.  God’s word shows us clearly the consequences of destruction that come by listening and acting like the world, versus the blessings and victory that come when we wait upon and then act in concert with Him.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we know that You are Creator and All Powerful God.  Yet we also confess and ask forgiveness when, in response to the world, we act first without coming to You.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us, Most Merciful Father, that we would have the patience and strength to resist the temptation to act impulsively on our own and come first into Your Presence with our petition for help.  That we would have the faith that proclaims all victory comes to those who will wait upon You, All Loving Father.  In the Name of Jesus Chris we pray.  Amen

“…I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor, if there is dew on the fleece only and it is dry on the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand”  Judges 6:37

“And it was so.” Judges 6:38

…Do not be angry with me but let me speak just once more:  Let me test I pray……” Judges 6:39

You have to love the way we use the English language (unless you are a very young person or a person from another country trying to learn it).  We use idioms which are words or phrases in which the meaning is not crystal clear by its use.  I grew up with words like:  groovy, bad (meaning good) and phrases like “far out”.  And we continue to come up with them constantly.  Most of the latest ones I have no clue about.  I recently told a story that I thought was good (or cool in my vernacular) and the person responded that it was “sick.”  I apologized, much to the listener’s confusion (he was trying to tell me it was a good story).  So why start out like this?  Because a word we are using now to convey a sense of disbelief, a sense that no person would actually do or say something, that their actions are beyond defense; is the word really.  It is used in the form of a one word question.  Really? (normally accompanied by a facial expression of disapproval and body language of frustration).  Really?  Tell me you did not just say that I am overweight.  Really?  Tell me you didn’t go out and buy a big new TV when I just sent you out for bread!

So why might we have a sense of disbelief at Gideon in his story in the book of Judges.  Well first an angel of the Lord, physically appeared to him, not in a dream, but actually sitting under a terebinth tree.  He told Gideon to do something and that “the Lord was with him.”  Gideon even then asks for a sign which to which the angel obliges.  Gideon destroys the altar of Baal, the people want to kill him but Gideon is saved.  One might think that is proof enough.  This time the “Spirit of the Lord” comes to Gideon and tells Gideon that he is going to deliver Israel from their oppressors.  Now Gideon is not a soldier by trade and he is a little “ify” on  being the leader to save Israel.  In Gideon’s mind this was astronomically larger than just tearing down an alter.  So he asks for another sign which would be miraculous enough to convince him that the Lord was indeed with him.  Gideon would lay down a wool fleece and overnight dew would come.  It would cover the whole floor, except for the fleece which would stay bone dry.  The Lord fulfills Gideon’s test.  So here is where the “really” comes into play.  The Lord has passed two tests.  He has delivered Gideon once already.  Gideon has previously acknowledged that the Lord is He who saved Israel and led them out of Egypt.  But Gideon requests another test!!!  Gideon knows he’s on thin ice because he starts the request with “do not be angry.”  The test is for the next day, the ground to be bone dry but the fleece only will be drenched with dew.  The next day, Gideon squeezes a bowl full of water out of the fleece while everything else is parched and dry.

To me it’s not necessarily Really Gideon; but Really God?  We humans would have probably handled it quite differently.  We would not have been against the first test when we showed up under the tree.  But once we proved ourselves, we probably would have been annoyed and somewhat perturbed when we showed up again and Gideon wanted to test us.  But, after granting the second test and now Gideon doesn’t trust us enough to follow us and asks for another test, most of us would have kicked him out of our presence and started looking for someone else.

Praise be to Our Heavenly Father who has infinite patience and mercy.  Here’s the thing for us.  Our spiritual enemy would tell us we are never to doubt God.  That we are totally worthless to God if we even think of trying to test Him.  The enemy tries to convince us that God is so judgemental that only the perfect should try to connect with Him in any way.  For the rest of us, we need to turn away and flee from His presence and trust only ourselves.  Am I trying to say what Gideon did was correct?  No.  I know that Jesus in His temptation said that “we are not to put God to a test.”  Though I also know that God knows, we are not Jesus Christ.  God knows that our faith is not perfect.  We will come into His presence trembling.  Not just trembling because the awesomeness of God, but because we are uncertain that God can and will do what we ask or fulfill our needs.  And I will freely and humbly admit that I have longed for a dry fleece or the sun to actually turn back one hour in the sky.  I have prayed the bargain prayer:  “God if you will do this, I will believe and do that…”  I will tell you the response most often is not the bargain I was trying to make, but the response is also not one of judgement or anger.  We have the bible for the very reason to show us, not only God’s capabilities, but God’s wonderful love.  Jesus Christ embodies the all-encompassing capability in His Life, His Death and His Resurrection.  No test we can devise could ever prove more than that.  This story plus those of Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul and so many others show how far God is willing to go for us; when we come to Him, even with our doubts.  Really God, You’d Love even me, just as I am?  Really?  Yes comes His reply.  Really!

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we lack the perfect faith that we should have in You.  We do repent of trying to put You to the test to prove You are with us.  We thank and praise You, most Merciful and Patient God, that you have given us Your Word to show how faithfully You have dealt with Your Children and the promise to always do so.  Pour out Your Spirit on us, Wonderful Father, that we might come closer to the true faith and relationship so perfectly shown by Your Son Jesus Christ.  That our lives would show to the world, lives of praise and adoration.  In Jesus Christ’s Name we pray.  Amen

“Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well”  Luke 8:50

So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was……. John 11:6

Panic; and understandably so.  A man’s daughter is laying on her death-bed and no one has been able to help her.  Two sisters are watching their brother die, before their eyes and again the end seems inevitable.  In both cases they run to Jesus.  Both come to Jesus, initially in an act of faith.  Two of the gospels quote Jarius as initially stating that he believed, if Jesus would just lay His hands on His daughter, she would be made well.  In the case of Lazarus, Jesus was informed of his illness by two sisters, whom knew and were known well by Jesus.  They also believed that Jesus had the ability to heal their brother from his otherwise terminal condition.

Then, in both cases, Jesus was delayed.  In the case of Jarius, it seemed to be an unplanned delay.  Jesus was on His way to Jarius’ house.  Then He stopped.  Someone had touched Him and Jesus asks who it was that touched him.  We don’t know what Jarius’ reaction to Jesus stopping was.  We can imagine that there might have been some frustration and increased fear.  We do know, that at Jesus’ question about who had touched him, some of his disciples felt the situation and question was ridiculous.  “Master, the multitudes, throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ”  Luke 8:45.  Yet Jesus was undeterred.  It was vital for the woman who was healed to know that, it was not just Jesus touch, but her faith in coming to Jesus, that had made her well.  And in that delay, disaster for Jarius struck.  They come and tell him to trouble Jesus no more; his child is dead.  It is not Jarius who declares:  “No, I know that Jesus can still save her!”.  We can only imagine that he is inconsolable in grief.  It is Jesus, hearing the declaration, knowing that He had stopped on the way, who, if He were using today’s language might start off:  Trouble?, It is no trouble at all but do not be afraid………”  Jesus knew that His delay with the woman was going to have no impact on the eventual outcome with Jarius daughter what so ever.

In the case of Lazarus, Jesus delay is not unplanned, it was intentional.  He knew Lazurus was sick and dying and stayed put for two whole days.  It is interesting when Jesus does arrive and Lazurus has been dead for days, that there is no anamosity in the sisters’ discussion with Jesus.  They state that they know that Jesus could have saved their brother and it would seem that because Jesus waited he intentionally let him die.  Yet one of the sisters, Martha makes a declaration: “but even now I know whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”  John 11:21

The end of both of these cases is the same; Jesus restores life.  In both cases, Jesus had a perfect reason for delaying His response to the initial cry for help.  In both cases the delay made no difference in the eventual outcome.  Also, in both cases, Jesus makes the declaration to lay aside the doubts and the certainties of this world (for we here one of the two certainties of this world are death and taxes) and to believe in Him.  I would be remiss at this point, I think, if I didn’t add a clarification that I am not trying to make the case for the fact that no one should have a physical death, if they just pray or believe enough.  Conversely, if someone has a physical death, it is because there was a lack of belief somewhere.  Jesus tells us that the Father has each of our hairs numbered and for those that confess Jesus is the Christ on earth, Jesus will confess to Our Father.  So it seems to me that there is a transition plan for each of us; from this life to the next and we can be a peace knowing that plan exists.

So, we should know this.  As believers, when we call upon Jesus Christ; He will come!  He will come, in His own time and that timing is perfect.  His coming may take many forms.  It may take the form of healing.  Or, as He promised, it may take the form of other blessings, as in, Blessed are that they mourn, for they shall be comforted.  What does Jesus Christ ask?  Only that we believe on Him.

We live in a world that cries out for instantaneous solutions.  If we don’t get an immediate result, we are to try something else until we achieve the result we are looking for.  We are taught, in the end, it us up to us to get what we want.  Finally, we are also taught, in this world, to seek to blame those responsible for standing in the way of getting those results.  Jesus Christ teaches something totally different.  Jesus teaches that, it is not only acceptable to ask, but preferrable to ask of Our Heavenly Father, in Jesus Name.  Jesus Christ teaches that, in the asking, believe that Our Heavenly Father will respond.  Finally, believe that Our Heavenly Father’s response is perfect.

Dear Heavenly Father; teach us to believe, to ask and to be patient in our waiting; in full knowledge that You will hear us and respond to us in Your Perfect Time.  Also knowing that at all times; You Love us.  That in this knowledge, we will live a life of praise to Your Holy Name; in Jesus Christ we pray.



“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” Luke 10:36

Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”  Matthew 21:40

I have been an instructor with adult students for over 30 years.  Classical platform (lecture) instruction has always gone something like; tell them you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them that you told them.  Then ask are there any questions.  More up to date instruction theory finds limited effectiveness with that form of instruction.  Especially the asking for the students to come up with the questions at the end.  The thought is that if no one has a question then everyone must understand the material.   You’ve been there; the instructor is coming to the end of his/her lecture, finally stands there and in a very authoritarian voice asks: “Are there any questions?”  And the room is so quiet that if you were outside you could hear the crickets chirping.  Why doesn’t anyone ask a question?  Normally for two reasons, one of which is not that everyone understands.  The two reasons they don’t ask questions is, one, they are in a hurry to get the heck out of there or two, they do not wish to appear ignorant in front of the other students.  So the walk away with questions and the instructor is thinking: “Great they got the materia!” (though actually the instructor knows they didn’t but just shrugs and says oh well I gave them their chance).

Yet a wise instructor tries not to leave it to chance.  If he/she doesn’t get any questions, they will ask a question back to the students to gauge their understanding.  And that is exactly what Jesus does.  In the start of both of the instances quoted, Jesus is asked a question.  In one case: “Who is my neighbor”, and in the other case: “By what authority are you doing these things?”  So Jesus, as was His way, teaches them a lesson with a parable.  In the first instance, it was the parable of the good Samaritan.  Yet Jesus does not leave it to chance that the person asking the question and the people around get that the, in their culture, hated filthy horrible Samaritan was the one who was actually acting like the neighbor.  When Jesus asks the question about which of the three………, the person answers:  “He who showed mercy”.  In that way, the person shows that he understood the story and its lesson.  So Jesus can then take that understanding and apply His last admonition: “Then go and do likewise.”  The person who answered correctly can not really turn around and say I don’t understand what you mean.  It is the same in the second case.  A just owner of a vineyard is cheated by his renters and finally has His Son killed by them.  So when Jesus asks:  “Therefore, when the owner……….., they answer “He will destroy those wicked men miserably……”  When Jesus then quotes Psalm 118, they realize that they are the evil renters.

So what are we to take from this in our own lives.  For one, to think how wonderful it is that the Son of God, who is perfectly wise, has the patience to ask questions to check the understanding of His listeners.  You might wonder why He really cares if they (or we) get it or not.  Chances are if we don’t get it, it is because we weren’t really listening in the first place or we think we are in a place to be able to argue back with our limited intelligence.  But Jesus loves us.  He knows that the more we have a since of understanding, we are so much more likely to follow Him.  And our following allows Him to lead us to His(Our) Father in Heaven.  Second thing to consider, is once a person shows by their answer that they do understand, then the next step is to use that understanding to execute what has been learned.  In the cases above, don’t reject Jesus or do not judge people simply by their nationality, race or some other arbitrary label.

Jesus Christ gives us an example of wisdom, patience and love.  As we are working with others let us strive to do the same.  Let us strive to insure people have an understanding of what we are trying to get across.  If their answer shows they don’t understand, let us be patient in trying to bring them to that understanding.  And once they do understand, then we can lead them to new behavior which will be beneficial for them.  In that way, we can be more like Jesus Christ and live in a way that praises His Holy Name.


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