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“Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying: ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being so old also?'”  Genesis 18:12

“Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord save us! We are perishing!'”  Matthew 8:25

“Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.  But only speak a word and my servant will be healed.”  Matthew 8:8

I heard a fascinating exchange on television today that really crystalized  some thoughts that I wanted to share.  Now the discussion was between a highly educated, historian, businessman and politician (HBP) and a newspaper person(NP).  In retelling the exchange I’m not going to get into details of the discussion itself because what they were discussing is not germane to the epiphany; it was how the interaction was framed that was so enlightening.  It went something like this:

(HBP): Most everyone I talk to says this about that

(NP):  But the data, the facts say that is not true

(HBP):  Well maybe, but that’s not what they feel.  They feel that this is true about that

(NP):  But again, all the data points to that not being true!

(HBP):  Look, I’ll go with how people feel and you can stick with what your data proves…..

Now this is not the first time I’ve come across this sort of interaction.  In my career as an Organizational Behavior/Improvement facilitator, I often come across very strongly held opinions/fears.  Yet when I try to get to the root of the opinion or fear, the actual experience or data that supports them; most often that data or personal experience doesn’t exist.  Yet they feel that the negative risk is out there.  It’s not only toward negative things.  I find that it is not uncommon when people want some change to happen and you start to discuss the potential questionable impacts of the change on the organization based on business or other data; they are often quick to dismiss the data because the change would make them feel better.

What does this have to do with our spiritual life?  Everything, I believe!  You see, we may be studying the Word of God, may be listening to and even agreeing with sound of profound preaching.  In our head, we may know that God is the Creator, that Jesus Christ is His only Son our Savior.  We may acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, sent to help us.  All those things we may acknowledge from a standpoint of knowledge and yet that acknowledgement can be irrelevant to our very lives and salvation if it does not evoke some sort of feeling about it.  I say that because it has been my experience that we much more often behave based on how we feel then what we think, although the two are not mutually exclusive.

The bible is full of examples of this.  Sarah did not doubt that God existed.  She had witnessed His grace to them in their journey to the promised land.  Yet she felt that having a baby in her 90’s and Abraham over 100, was ridiculous so she laughed when the angel of the Lord promised it.  At least some of the disciples had witnessed Jesus baptism and heard God’s proclamation about His Son.  They had witnessed the miracles, heard His preaching, knew He was the Son of God, yet; when the storm arose, that knowledge did not keep them from feeling terror and crying out to Jesus, though none of them expected Him to silence the tempest.  It’s not only lack of feeling or faith, the Roman Centurion felt so confident of Jesus’ power that he humbled himself and told Jesus not to come to his house but just speak the word and the Centurion’s servant would be healed.  David felt so confident in God that he went out to face Goliath, not with sword and armor, but a sling and stones because He was confident in the power of Almighty God.

Thus for us Dear Sisters and Brothers, the question is, not so much what do we know but, how do we feel about God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Now please understand, I’m not trying to disparage reading the bible or taking other steps to learn about God; no far from it.  Yet my questions for you and I are: when we finish reading a scripture passage; how does that make us feel?  When we say “Amen” at the completion of our prayer; what emotion do we have?  As we walk from a church service or bible/spiritual class, do we feel any different?

Dear Sisters and Brothers I feel that it is vital that we feel.  The whole nature of our relationship, the most significant commandment is not about knowing it is about feeling; feeling love, first for Our Heavenly Father and then for each other.  When is it appropriate to feel fear?  What or who should we feel confident in?  Jesus Christ came that we might experience the feeling of His Peace, His Joy.

So a paramount question for you and I, especially when it comes to Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is how/what are we feeling?  A second, follow-up question is; why are we feeling that?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, please feel.  In this world full of data, proof and desired logic; FEEL! Feel the love of God from God and feel a love for God in return.  Feel the love of God for each other.  Feel a sense of confidence in Jesus Christ.  Strive to feel His Peace, His Joy.  Feel those and then act on those feelings.  And should those feeling flee; pray.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you and bring you back into a feeling of close relationship with the One who feels so strongly a love for you and I; that He sacrificed His Son for us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, in Your perfect wisdom, You have granted us the ability to feel; to have emotions, to love.  We thank You for the love that You have for us and ask that, through Your Holy spirit, we may learn to love You completely and share Your perfect love with each other.  Forgive us when we either let feelings of fear or doubt drive us from You, or try to minimize or discount the power of our feelings through the search for knowledge.  That with feelings of confidence, compassion, forgiveness, joy, peace and most of all love; we will act upon those to bring praise to Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  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

“….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)

“And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch……….”   John 10:22

and He sat down and he taught them………” John 8:2

“He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.”  Mark 4:38

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

We sigh.  The world sighs.  In a major US city, 40 people are shot over one weekend.  In another part of the world mass graves are found where men and boys are massacred and Christians are told to convert, leave, pay a fine or  die.  A civilian plane is shot out of the sky.  Hundreds of young women are kidnapped at night, threatened to be sold as slaves just because they were trying to get an education.  Unfortunately, tragically I could go on and on.  The world desperately cries out for peace yet finds it lacking at every turn.  So where is one to turn for peace?

It is my hope that the brief snippets of scripture that I pulled out might portray a picture.  I man walking, a man sitting, a man asleep on a pillow.  A man at peace.   The man is Jesus.  And the man is very much at peace.

So let’s look at this like the world might look at it.  Why might someone feel at peace?  Well maybe that person is physically at a place of tranquility far from any danger or harm.  Perhaps, but in Jesus case, in all three, he is about to be in grave peril.  In the first two, Jesus is being confronted by crowds and Jewish leaders about His teachings.  At the end of both these episodes, the crowds will try to stone Jesus to death.  In the last example where Jesus is asleep, a storm is lashing at the boat threatening to drown them all.  Okay well maybe the person is just ignorant of the of impending doom he is facing.  Again maybe for us, but not in Jesus case.  Remember how he could see into the hearts and intentions of those around Him.  Jesus Christ also knew the future.  He knew that the crowd wanted to kill him.  He knew a storm was brewing.  Okay, maybe they’re a thrill seeker looking to put themselves at the greatest risk for kicks.  Did Jesus not refuse to jump off the temple when tempted by Satan because He said we should not tempt God?  Or maybe, they’ve given up.  They’re suicidal and figure to just get it over with.  The outcomes really don’t support that.  Jesus walks right through the crowd.  Jesus calms the storm.

So how can Jesus be so calm; so at peace?  Jesus knows who He is; whose He is; and the Power of Him who sent Jesus.  Jesus is the Christ; the One True Son of God.  God in Spirit, man in flesh.  No worldly thing can bring Him harm unless He wills it to be.

Well that’s great for Jesus Christ but my spirit is not God’s Spirit.  I am flesh, imperfect, with little personal power against the power of the world.  True.  And if we were left to our own devices we would only be fooling ourselves if we felt an ounce of peace.  Yet we are not left to our own devices.  Jesus steps in.  He gives us a gift.  He gives us His Peace.  A Peace that truly surpasses all understanding.  A Peace that completely overcomes the perils of this world and turns dangers and tragedies into triumphs.  A Peace once accepted that can have Paul calmly proclaim: “For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (he would not die there by the way).  Or for Peter to say: “but rejoice to the extent that you partake in Christ’s sufferings that when His Glory is revealed, you may be glad with exceeding joy”.

Dear brothers and sisters, the prince of this world longs to keep us in turmoil and strives to extinguish any semblance of peace we may have.  How blessed we are to have Our Heavenly Father, Creator God, who sent His only Son to give us what we can never obtain on our own; peace.  And it is important to note how His Peace is obtained.  In the process of this world, and the gods of this world; we would have an enormous price to pay to acquire this kind of peace.  And that payment would be required first.  Yet the Peace of Jesus Christ is a gift; freely given.  Nothing is required up front except acceptance.  In fact the price; a very high price indeed for that Peace has been paid in full; never to be billed again.  That Peace was purchased by the sacrificial blood and body of Jesus Christ Himself.

So be careful for I know how much the world wants to sell its own peace to you and I.  Self help books, medications, meditation, certain miracle foods, groups of every type and size; not to mention illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, and countless perversions all claim to bring about peace and harmony.  Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not against proper medical help for the body or mind nor am I saying that a good diet, reading or even meditation are wrong.  What I want to stress is that no lasting, no true peace comes unless it is the Peace that comes from Jesus Christ.  Our Heavenly Father’s Power manifested through His Son Jesus Christ and testified to us by the Holy Spirit is the only Peace that truly exists.  And we must come to Christ, yes come, just as you and I are to Him, and He will gladly pour out His Peace upon us.

Our Most Graciously Heavenly Father, we cry out to You as we witness the strife, desolation, cruelty and death which this world so callously doles out upon itself.  We come to You knowing that we are unable to find peace and joy by our own devices.  We pray for the gift of the Peace of Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when we turn to worldly pursuits in attempts to find fleeting peace.  Testify to us through the Holy Spirit that there is only one place, one person from whom we can obtain a lasting, perfect peace.  That place is Your Kingdom and that person is Your Son, Jesus Christ.  All praise, honor and glory be to You, through Your Son Jesus Christ.  We pray in His Most Holy Name.  Amen

 

 

Come for all things are now ready”  Luke 14:16

“I have bought a piece of ground and I must go and see it…….I have bought five oxen and I am going to test them…..I have married and therefore I can not come”  Luke 14:18-20

“For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper”  Luke 14:24

There has been much work done in preparation.  Food is gathered and prepared, dining utensils and place settings are all arranged, the banquet hall is decorated that dining tables decorated, and the Master of the hall then sends his invitation.  At first He sends the invitations out to those whom he feels are close friends, those whom he loves and expects, love him in return.  The responses start to come in; please excuse me……sorry would love to but………wow, sorry, you’ve caught me at a really bad time, the Master is spurned.  What was it that He wanted?  Was this a potluck, where the guests would have to go out of their way to bring something?  Was this some flashy masquerade ball where they would have to get into some wild costume?  No.  He just wanted to share with them; share His time, His bounty, His good will.  Maybe some other time was their response.  They probably didn’t realize that there was to be no chance for an other time.

Obviously, our Heavenly Father is the Master of the Hall.  The table is set, all the provisions are ready; in this case there is even a guest of honor; His Son Jesus Christ, who is there.  In a very real sense; they would love to see us there.  If we are not careful, we are full of excuses.  I do not have time for you because I have my………fill in the blank; job, hobby, family, trip, this and that.  In essence we are replying, God, sorry, I just don’t have time for you right now.  I’ll get around to it.  Maybe when I know I’m dying, I’ll come to you.  Maybe, when my world is crashing down around me, I’ll decide to make the time for you.  Some will never make the time.

The invitation stands open for you and me.  It reads:  Come as you are.  BYOB:  Bring Your Own Body.  I will supply everything else.  What is on the agenda?  Love, fellowship, peace, joy, blessings.  It is amazing that I would ever find an excuse to turn down an invitation like that.  Oh but wait, I bet this is a fund raising kind of dinner.  I bet the price to get in is really steep!  Relax, our Guest of Honor says, I am Jesus Christ and I have already paid your fee in full.  May it be that we all hear the invitation this very day, and have the wisdom to accept it.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, as was said in the psalms, truly who are we that You would see fit to invite us into Your presence.  Yet through Your immeasurable mercy, You are calling for us today to come in to Your presence and dine with You.  The bounty that You have laid out for us, is beyond our imagination, Dear Father.  We humbly ask, Gracious Lord, that you give us the strength to overcome the enemy who strives to keep us from Your table.  Deliver us, Dear Father, from the worries and cares of this world that block us from coming to You.  We give thanks and praised that, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our savior, You have seen fit to pay the price of admittance that we owe.  That we may, starting today, have eternal fellowship in Love with You we pray.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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