“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

 

 

“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

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children. how much more will Your Father. who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”  Matthew 7:11

As we explore this topic, perhaps we should first come to some consensus concerning what exactly a gift is.  If you’ve read any of my other posts (and a sincere thank you if you have), you know I tend to jump right on dictionary.com to look for standard definitions.  So some of the concepts they choose in their definition of gift are voluntary, no expectation of a return gesture, freely given.

I take the Wednesday paper.   That I go out in the morning and it is there is not a gift.  I expect it in return for the payment that I make and there is a requirement that it be there.  I go out on Thursday and there is the morning paper.  This I didn’t request.  This I didn’t pay for (nor am later subsequently billed for), freely given.  If it continued day after day, I would say it was a mistake; maybe a new delivery person, but it does not.  It is a gift.

I have a dog.  We take walks together.  Given the size and power of the dog I am not going to make a claim concerning who exactly walks who.  It’s kind of a mutual determination kind of thing.  Anyway, as we walk a person down the street who I’m not acquainted with other than a wave now and then is mowing his yard next to the sidewalk.  My neighbor would not know this, but my dog is not all that fond of machinery or at least the loud sound of lawn mower.  So I can either move across the street in adequate distance ahead of time, be drug across the street if I wait too long, or come to a complete halt no matter what I try until the lawn mower leaves.  But none of that happens.  My neighbor not only stops mowing the strip between the sidewalk and the curb but completely shuts off the lawn mower.  My dog and I quickly and serenely pass by with a thank you for his gesture; his gift.

My point?  Well for one, both of these are small things I know, but I would submit to you that they happen more often than we think; the cup of coffee purchased by a coworker, the stranger that let’s us in line in front of them, the person who stops to help us pick up some dropped papers etc.  Ironically, sometimes we avoid or feel bad about accepting these gifts.  Can I trust the person?  Why would they do that?  I don’t want to owe anyone, anything.

Additionally, often these “gifts” come from people we know; family members, coworkers, friends.  And that is why we sometimes miss the fact that they even happened.  “Oh, that’s just the way so and so is.”, we tell ourselves after they’ve given up their seat for us the thousandth time or given us their last piece of gum.  Somehow it turns from a gift to an expectation.

Jesus is trying to make a point.  He has been teaching the multitudes in His famous sermon on the mount.  It started out with the beatitudes and has now come to the point about approaching God.  Some would have said that you can’t approach God directly.  Some would have said that you have to go through someone else; a Pharisee or other leader in the temple. Still others would say you have to be good first; rich, powerful, famous, then you can approach God.  Jesus has just finished exhorting everyone; all you need to do is knock, ask and/or seek and there will be opening, granting, finding.  Christ goes on to make an illustration that drives the point home.  You and I can be evil.  You and I can decide to be selfish, stingy, hurtful people.  Yet even You and I can sometimes be generous.  You and I can help a loved one when they are in need.  If You and I, who can be evil, still know how to give good gifts, do good deeds for one another; how much more will our Heavenly Father, who knows no evil, who’s very nature is only Love and Generosity shower us with blessings if we will only approach Him and ask.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ tells us Our Heavenly Father is waiting.  He is waiting patiently.  Why is He waiting you might ask?  Why not shower His gifts upon us right now?  For one, I believe it is pure wisdom.  You see in waiting for us to ask, and in our asking, we have to acknowledge that that we believe in Him, we acknowledge His existence and power.  If we didn’t believe in Him; we’d never ask in the first place.  How quick we might be to misguidedly attribute God’s blessings to fate, luck or our own abilities if we didn’t first humbly come to Him and ask.

It’s not my words; it’s His.  It is not my promise; but His.  Our Heavenly Father never says what He doesn’t mean; never makes a promise He won’t keep.  Seek Him and His Gifts.  Go to Him in prayer, both seeking and praising.  He is Good.  His gifts are Good. He is waiting to give.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; thank you that You open Yourself and Your abundance to us, asking only that we will come to You, in faith and ask.  Give us the spirit of humility that we come to You and ask; not out of a sense of deserving, but out of the sense of lost without You.  Forgive our doubting nature, believing as we do that there must be a catch.  Fill us with a desire to rightly praise Your Most Holy Name for the abundance, generosity and perfection of Your gifts freely given.  We pray this in the Name of the Greatest Gift of all, Your Son Jesus Christ, given to us for our salvation.  Amen

“Now, Oh Lord my God, You have made your servant king……but I am a little child…..Therefore give to your servant an understanding heart to judge.”  1 Kings 3:5,7,9

“Then God said to him: ‘Because you have asked for this thing…..have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold I have done according to your words…..”  1 Kings 10,11,12

“You do not have because you do not ask; You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss…… James 4:2,3

Can I….? Would it be alright if I……?  Could you see fit for me to……? Is it okay if I……….? How about letting me……..?  Asking?  Asking.  We seem to have some issues where asking is concerned.  First, as adults, to ask can communicate a certain amount of weakness.  I shouldn’t have to ask.  I should demand!  I have the right to have…….!  I don’t need to ask anyone for anything!  Aren’t I given up a certain amount of power, a certain amount of prestige, don’t I have to be just a little humble to ask someone else for something?

It has been said that it never hurts to ask.  We’ll never know until we ask.  What’s the worse they can say….no?  But even if we decide to ask; how do we do it with the greatest percentage of chance that our request will be granted?  That the answer will be yes?

Solomon’s story in 1 Kings has some interesting elements in it.  First, Solomon’s request comes after God’s question to him.  God appears to Solomon and point blank asks Solomon:  “What shall I give you?”  Wow!  Didn’t expect that.  I might expect that the All Powerful God would shove something down my throat and tell this is what I need; but not ask me what I want.  So at first, Solomon is confronted with a blank check:  riches, power, women, glory; all those things were out there just waiting for Solomon to ask for.  Solomon asks for wisdom.  Really???!!!  And note this, not wisdom in money or wisdom in war and conquering or even wisdom in women!  No, Solomon as for wisdom in judgement and discernment.  Ugh.  Okay, God replies:  “You’ve got it.”

So here’s the key.  First, this was not Solomon’s first encounter with God.  Solomon was the king and knew he was king solely because God put him there; like his father before him.  Second, Solomon knew what was required of him.  Solomon explained to God that he knew he was going to be required to lead God’s chosen people.  Finally, Solomon knew his limitations.  Solomon was young.  He had not had near the life experiences that his father, David, had when David arose to the thrown.  Solomon was ill equipped to lead his people on his own.  His people would need his help to stay a great nation and Solomon knew he would need God’s help to meet his people’s needs.  So he asks for God’s help.  God is pleased to grant Solomon’s’ request.  Oh and by the way, God tells Solomon because he didn’t selfishly ask for riches, power, glory for himself; that God was going to shower down blessings of wealth, power and long life for Solomon.

Fast forward right around 1000 years in the future.  Jesus Christ has come, died and been resurrected.  The disciples are taking His word and preaching it to the world.  Jesus’ earthly brother James is a disciple preaching the Good News of the Gospel.  There is strife in the new church and in the world.  James is very straightforward in where that strife comes from: envy.  People were envying what other people had.  Why didn’t they have it?  They didn’t ask.  If they did ask and didn’t receive; why?  They asked wrongly; only for themselves.  Jesus Christ is very clear and Solomon learns about Our Heavenly Father’s amazing generosity and blessings poured out upon those who will ask and ask appropriately.

Okay, what now?  What about us?  Well first, faith.  Do you and I truly believe that there is One whom we should be asking?  Do we believe that there is Our Father in Heaven capable of doing what we ask?  Second, what is the context and circumstances surrounding our request?  Am I where or at least moving toward where God wants me to be?  Am I humble in my asking?  Is my petition more like a demand versus a cry for help?  Finally, who am I asking for?  Am I asking only for my gain, my pleasure, my glory?  For example; let’s say that I want this posting to be read by thousands all over the world and I ask God for that.  Am I writing this because I believe it is God’s intention that I do so?  Do I want the readers to think me wise and give my glory or some sort or personal reward from reading this?  Shouldn’t I expect a reward because of my time and great wisdom? (please don’t choke on the last one if you had some food in your mouth)  If those are my parameters, I doubt that he’ll see fit for anyone to find it.  But if I’m trying to do His will; hoping that this will help a reader, hoping to bring glory to the Father’s Name.  Well I have faith about what will happen.

Dear brothers and sisters; God is All Powerful.  There is no request outside of His ability to fulfill.  Jesus Christ was very clear on God’s desire for us to make petitions to God in the Name of Jesus Christ.   The world most desperately needs the healing, grace and blessings that Our Heavenly Father longs to give through us.  Please Ask.  Ask like Solomon.  Ask in the Name of Christ.  And watch as His Will be done.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that You have seen fit to listen to us, Your Creation.  Thank you for sending Your Son as an advocate for us, allowing us to pray in His Name.  Give us the wisdom and humility of spirit and heart to ask not for ourselves and our prosperity but to be the means by which You bring blessings, healing and prosperity to the world around us.  That by our asking, but most of all Your Granting, that Your Most Holy Name will be praised.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

“….the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the word……And those who were of  the circumcision…..were astonished…..because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”  Acts 10:45

“Then Peter answered: ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  Act 10:47

I am saved!  I am forgiven!  I’m going to glory!  I don’t dance!  I do dance, to the Lord!  I don’t do this or that!  I pray!  I pray to the Saints! I don’t pray to the Saints! I…….I………I’M SPECIAL!!!!!  Aren’t I?

Peter had every reason to feel special.  And he and those who traveled with him, had a behavior about what was special and what was not.  Peter was a Jew; not only by birth but by the covenant of circumcision.  Jesus was a Jew.  And while the Risen Jesus Christ had told them to go and preach to all the world; Jesus himself, during his time on earth had stayed, taught and preached mainly to the Jewish people.

For the most part, the early church in Jerusalem was made up primarily of Jews.  When the church was being persecuted and many disciples were dispersed, they went to Jewish Synagogues in the outlying towns.  That’s where Saul (later to become Paul) was going to was the Jewish Synagogue in Damascus to arrest the disciples who were spreading the Gospel there.

Special.  Special people with special food.  Peter’s awakening to Our Heavenly Father’s grander plan starts with a vision that he has.  God shows Peter a great sheet filled with unclean animals which devout Jews were not to eat.  Peter was hungry and the voice of God came to Peter and instructed him to kill and eat from the sheet.  Peter at first refuses saying he will not eat anything unclean.  Yet God responds telling Peter that whatever God has cleansed is no longer unclean.  Peter would soon learn that God was talking about more than just food.

For there was a man named Cornelius, a Roman Centurion.  Normally a man like that would have been the sworn enemy, a vile and disgusting, low life less than human person to a Jew.  To even meet with that person or go into his house would make a Jew unclean.  Except Cornelius was different.  Unbeknownst to Cornelius, by the Grace of God, through the Holy Spirit, Cornelius had heard about God, prayed to God, gave alms to God.  I say unbeknownst to Cornelius because the salvation through Jesus Christ had not been preached to him.  So God told Cornelius to send for Peter and Peter would instruct him on what to do.

So here we go; Peter going to meet with a gentile; a Roman Centurion at that.  This can’t go well.  But God had told Peter before hand to go to Cornelius.  And what Peter found in Cornelius was a devout and humble man.  A man who, along with his entire household, revered and feared God.  So Peter gladly preached the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Son of God, all mankind’s Savior.  When Peter completed his preaching an amazing thing happened.  The Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his family and they began speaking in tongues.  This greatly perplexed the Jews who had traveled with Peter because they thought the Holy Spirit would only come to those who were of the first covenant, circumcision.  So both Peter and those with him saw the Power of God to save all who believed on Him and were born again, baptized in the Spirit and professing Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

We live in a world today where people strive to differentiate themselves in someway to show that they are special.  Maybe it is by a degree that they have, an obstacle they have overcome, a position or title they’ve obtained, an amount of wealth they have acquired and on and on; to be special is to be worthy.  It is one thing to say you are special but truly you should have some way; show some deed, some measure of why you have earned the distinction of special.

According to a 2012 article in the Washington Times, 84% of the world says they follow some religion but only 1/3 say they are Christian.  So right there we might start to think there is something special or unique about us.  Yet the world tells me, if I’m going to claim that I’m special, I must show that I’ve done something to earn that title.  And should I buy into that theory, then I can be justifiably proud of claiming to be a disciple of Christ.  And I can look down upon all the others who are not as special.

But God knows different.  By His mysterious and all encompassing Grace, while I was yet a sinner, God came to me.  Completely destroyed in my sin, Jesus Christ lifted me up and said: I died for you that you may live in fellowship with Me in My Father’s Kingdom.  The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon me that He might dwell in me so that I might gain a level of understanding.

Special? You bet.  But not of my doing, not of your achievement.  So let us live out our special nature, in humility, in joyous praise to Him, in total love to Him and to all of His creation.  Not calling any person common or unclean.  Knowing that God’s Special Nature can and will come to those whom He chooses.  That we are chosen, out of His Divine Mercy, is something very special indeed!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that we are not worthy of the Gift of Salvation that you have bestowed upon us.  We praise Your Most Holy Name for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when we try to lift ourselves up as worthy of this gift and perhaps look down upon others who have not received it.  Help us to see all of your human creation as someone to love that they might see through that love, the Love you have for them.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“he walked on the water…..But when he saw the wind was boisterous he was afraid and beginning to sink he cried out…….”  Matthew 14:29

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes the word……”  Matthew 13:22

Power!  Power, it is not the fact that winds and thorns exist that is troublesome, it is the power that they exert on us.  And dear brothers and sisters this is what is crucial for us to understand; the power does not effect Jesus Christ nor the Word.  No, it is us who are impacted by this power.

The disciples and Peter are in a boat and see Jesus walking on water.  Seafaring folks would have many tales of strange happenings and spirits on the water.  So that is what they, including Peter thought Jesus was.  But Jesus corrects and attempts to calm them by telling them He is no spectral apparition, no He is their Master, Teacher and Friend, Jesus.  Peter is still not certain so he challenges Jesus:  “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water!” And Jesus does just that.  Please, please let this sink in; Jesus presented Himself, Peter asked for a miracle, Jesus granted it and Peter was living it!  Peter was walking on water!!!!!

Why would a sower sow seed (by the way say those three words fast ten times :) ).  Well duh, Doug, you reply obviously to grow something; something desirable.  That something desirable can come from the seed, makes the seed of significant value as well.  The seed is the word; the Word of God.  So we see the seed is very valuable indeed.  Yet a seeds value really comes from what it can produce and for that the soil is of importance too.  Sadly in some places there is no soil, others it is far to shallow for the seed to take hold.  Ah but the third soil is potentially good soil.  The third soil has depth, the third soil can grow things.  There is a chance to get a great crop from the third soil!

Alas, Peter does not stay on top of the water.  Alas, the third soil produces no good crop.  Why?  Power.  The power that there is in the wind; the power that there is in thorns.  Again please understand we are not talking natural processes of weather and botany.  No the power hear is not natural, it is supernatural, it is worldly, it is evil and it is extremely destructive.  Peter is on top of the water, walking with Jesus.  It is so hard for me to imagine how amazing that experience must have been.  The world did not want Peter to have that experience, so it raised a fierce wind.  A wind that had the power to distract Peter, to convince him that he couldn’t really be doing what he found himself doing!  And Peter, being distracted by that power, started to sink.

The soil was good.  The seed landed and started to take root.  But then something else started to grow.  Something that distracted the soil from producing the good harvest.  The thorns of the world arose and tried to block the Water of Love from getting to the Word filled soil.  Its branches filled with lures of gain, wealth, fear and concerns blocked the Light of Truth from the Word.  The third soil did not produce.

Dear brothers and sisters; we are Peter, we are the soil.  This is very personal for me for I can not claim I have actually walked on water but I know I have felt the Power of fear of the wind, as well as the Power of distraction of the cares, desires and fears of the thorns.  And I have sunk and been unfruitful.  And understand this is the Power of our enemy, the prince of this world; Satan.  It is a power we, in and of ourselves, are not equipped to defeat.

What then are we to do?  First, understand where the Greater Power resides.  The Greater Power is in Jesus Christ, is in the Sower.  We need to first see Jesus Christ.  We know that the Sower is sowing the Word and has the Powerful Plan for the growth of that Word.  You and I each have God Given talents, so we ask, like Peter did, to use those talents…..to walk……to grow our crop.  Then we must know that the world is going to try as hard as he possibly can with all devious, evil tricks he can use, with all power at his disposal, to sink us; to choke out our growth.  It is then that we must realize the True Power.  Jesus Christ is right there with us.  Jesus Christ stands on top of the water.  Satan has no power that can prevail against Jesus Christ.  Christ has the power to keep us on top.

Likewise, the Sower is there.  The Sower has the Power as we saw when Jesus Christ cursed the barren fig tree, Jesus can destroy the thorns which attempt to choke out the word.

In summation, it is The Power, His Power; the Power of the Father, given to the Son, testified to by the Holy Spirit.  It is through His power that we can confidently walk the path He has chosen, regardless of what the world throws at us.  It is through His Power that His Word grows in us yielding a crop ten-fold, a hundred-fold based on His Planted Seed.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we boldly proclaim that You are All Powerful.  We also humbly admit that we are not and have not the power on our own to defeat the enemy.  So like Peter, we call out to You, praying for You to Pour out Your Power upon us.  Lift us up above all winds of fear and destruction.  Uproot all thorns of worldly cares, selfish desires, fears that are sowed to choke out Your Word.  That by relying completely on Your Power we can defeat the enemy and live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

(Editor’s note: If you need a quick uplifting prayer or scripture reference, please go to the Youtube channel Hisnamebepraised, to see the short segments on that channel.  Blessings to you in His Name)

“Then Adonijah the son of  Haggath exalted himself, saying ‘I will be king’ and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen…….”  1 Kings 1:6

“And Adonijah sacrificed sheep and oxen and fattened cattle……but he did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, the mighty men or Solomon, his brother.”  1 Kings 9,10

Today, we very often celebrate those who are bold and lift up boldness as a virtue.  “Reach out and take it!” ; we exclaim.  It is the bold whose video’s go viral.  It is the bold who grab our attention and sometimes our admiration; who get their 15 minutes of fame.  The bold are beautiful.

Adonijah was bold.  He was the son of the great King David.  King David, who had been bold himself, was now old.  He was of such advanced age and sickly that he could not leave the palace.  There was a vacuum of leadership in Israel.  Enter Adonijah the bold.

It was most certainly not uncommon for new kings to come from the ranks of the sons of sitting kings.  So Adonijah surely felt entitled to step in and proclaim himself king.  No body else was making the claim.  King David had not publicly proclaimed who would succeed him.  So Adonijah took the bull by horns, became bold and proclaimed himself king!  Problem? Big Problem.

First, Adonijah, while following in the title of his father King David, he was not following in his footsteps.  From the time David was anointed by Samuel, David’s mission had been about service; service to God, service to his people.  David was not perfect but he was able to maintain this vision throughout most of his life.  David also was about mercy and inclusiveness.  He could have killed his arch enemy, the one who wanted him dead, King Saul, twice but he spared his life.  When King Saul and his son Jonathon were killed in battle and David became king, he could have had all of Saul’s descendants killed, which was often the custom back then.  But instead, David had the only remaining son of Jonathon, Mephibosheth come to live and eat with him in his own palace.

Adonijah started out much differently.  He did not look to include all in his declaration of kingship.  He excluded many of men who had served so faithfully with his father King David.  He also excluded the prophet Nathan as well as his own half brother Solomon.

Yet even more troubling for Adonijah, he started his bold move without consulting or praying to God Almighty.  In fact by excluding Nathan the prophet and Zadok the priest, it is fairly clear to see that God’s guidance was not the foremost thought, if even a thought at all, concerning if or how he should reign.  To be balanced, Adonijah did find a priest to follow him, Abiathar, but there is no evidence that Adonijah ever asked Abiathar for spiritual guidance.  Adonijah was bold.  He was bold in the name of Adonijah and for Adonijah and because of that his downfall was swift.  The great King David was aroused.  He proclaimed that Solomon, not Adonijah was to reign after him.  The people followed Solomon and Adonijah was left to meekly flee.

So what are we to make of this tale?  Is it wrong to step into a leadership vacuum?  Should we never desire or take steps to acquire positions of leadership?  God knows we need effective leaders today.  And it is exactly that; God knows.

Brothers and sisters from whence does our boldness come?  For whom do we desire to be bold?  The world would tell us there is only one reason to be bold; there should only be one good outcome for our boldness; our glory, our fame, our fortune.  That is Adonijah boldness.

Contrast that with Jesus Christ boldness.  How often did Jesus proclaim that He did not come seeking His own glory, but the glory of His Father, who sent him?  Biblical examples like Moses, David, Esther, Mary and Jesus all boldly sought to serve without seeking to increase their own name, their own fame.  Of course their name and fame did increase.

Boldness is not a bad thing.  The bible teaches us that boldness is very often needed.  It is the process by which we decide or better yet feel led or called to be bold that is the most important factor.  Do we act impetuously and rashly or do we go to God first in humble prayer and supplication, asking if it is His Will that we act?  Having received the call to act boldly, do we act in our name, seeking our glory or do we act in and give the glory to the one to whom actually deserves it; Our Heavenly Father?  Do we look for the approval of and the adulation from the world or the blessings that come from Our Father in Heaven?

Dear brothers and sisters, let us plan to be bold.  Let us pray and rely on the Spirit who will tell us where, when and what to speak and do.  Let us give praise to our Heavenly Father who emboldens us to act in His righteousness.  That in that correct boldness we may be true disciples of, living into our inheritance in, the Glorious Kingdom of Our Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that You are the Author of all boldly correct words and actions.  Help us, Most Merciful Father, to come to you first before we take action, even action we think appropriate to you.  Through the Holy Spirit fill us with boldness to speak and act in a way that brings glory to Your Name.  Protect us from the threats and backlash of the world which would seek to silence us as well as our own pride which seeks to glorify us.  That we would long to bask in the light of the only true and right glory; which is the Glory of Your Name and Your Kingdom.  Praise ever be to Your Name we pray in the Name of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from where it goes…”  John 3:8

“Are you a teacher of Israel and do not know these things?”  John 3:9

I am fascinated by weather; kind of a weather geek.  While I do not have a meteorological degree, I have worked in an Air Force weather station and know a little of isobars and pressure gradients, occluded fronts and cloud patterns.  So the other day I’m sitting outside and I felt a very nice breeze blowing.  And for some reason it occurred to me how little I knew about this breeze.  It was moving from the north to the south and was about five knots but besides that I didn’t know why it was blowing.  I didn’t know how far from the north it had traveled and how much further to the south it would continue.  Yes, I could feel it and I could hear its passing, but how much did I truly understand about this particular breeze; even with my greater than average meteorological knowledge?

Nicodemus is a man of understanding in his land.  He is a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews.  Who’s Who in the Bible tells us that the Pharisees were the most powerful religious group among the Jews during Jesus time.  They were known for their observance of the Mosaic Law, although Jesus often rebuked them for being proud in their in outward “living” of the law but being spiritually dead to the law by lacking faith and understanding in God’s purpose for the law.

Nicodemus has questions.  So he came to Jesus.  Why Jesus?  Because Nicodemus had heard Jesus speak, he had seen the miracles that Jesus had performed and he starts off the encounter by telling Jesus that he knows that Jesus is a Rabbi (a teacher) come from God.  While Nicodemus has questions, he also believes in his depth of spiritual understanding and it is this that gets tested in Jesus’ response to Nicodemus.

For Jesus starts out with the foundational underlying truth:  “Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3)  Nicodemus, in all of his wisdom and understanding, doesn’t understand or even try to understand what Jesus is talking about.  For he starts to refute Jesus by taking His words literally.  He questions how someone can reenter their mother’s womb to be “reborn”.  That is when Jesus uses the example of the wind, a very literal worldly experience to illustrate that if Nicodemus could not understand something as mundane and daily as the working of the wind, how could he possibly understand the holy and miraculous working of the spirit.

Okay, fair enough you say, but how does that effect me?  Great question.  You see brothers and sisters, in believing in Jesus Christ, most feel and can even point to, a time and place where they were born again.  A time and place where they made that fundamental profession of faith that has led to a grand awakening of blessings and faith.

But their can be a challenge/danger concerning how we think we understand how that conversion, the process of being born again works.  For instance let’s say that as I ponder my rebirth and I say “I know and understand how it came about.  Here’s what happened:

  1. I heard someone preaching the Word of God; Jesus Christ the Son and salvation through Him
  2. I believed on what I heard
  3. I asked Jesus to come into my life
  4. I was born again

Some might say, hey that’s how it happened for me too.  So what about my friend down the street whom I know who is not a believer?  I happen to know that he has heard the word preached as I have.  But he has not believed as I have.  He has not asked Jesus to come into his life.  He is not born again.  That must make me a person of greater understanding doesn’t it?  I am wiser aren’t I?  Bottom line, I am a better person aren’t I? I have the right to look down on him or her?  Hmmmmmmmm.

Is my understanding really accurate?  Was I responsible that the person I heard preach decided to take up that profession or that he was preaching that particular day?  Was it I who reached up to God first or God who reached down to me first? Why me God?  Why did You allow my spirit to be touched by Your Holy Spirit?  Isn’t the truth that I was (and am) a sinner like the rest? Hmmmmmmm.

If we are not careful, we will allow our “understanding” to lead us astray.  We may come to the conclusion that we are somehow responsible and deserving of our own salvation.  That it is not about His Grace but our greatness that has brought us to becoming born again.

But if I don’t have my understanding to fall back on; what is their?  Faith.  Faith that surpasses all understanding.  You see dear brothers and sisters; I do believe that God is my Heavenly Father.  I do believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Holy Son, my Redeemer, my Savior.  I do believe that I have been born again.  I do not understand the particulars of how it came about for me.  I do not understand why I was given the grace to believe in God’s Word and Promise.  I have no personal pride or boast in my conversion for, in faith, I believe it was all in and through God Almighty, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  But I am more thankful for God’s gift of salvation than I can ever express.  The same way I am very thankful for that morning breeze.

Our most Gracious Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that Your Wisdom, Your Perfect Actions, Your Merciful Grace toward us is far beyond our ability to understand.  Yet Dear Father, we humbly bow before You on our knees, praising Your Holy Name for Your Blessings poured out upon us.  Forgive us Merciful Father, we pray, when we rely on our own limited understanding and boast in our knowledge, our salvation as a reward for our own self-righteousness.  Give to us a right spirit of humility that we would accurately see our salvation as Your Gracious Gift.  So in response to that gift, we would live lives in praise and honor to Your most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

 

“And we know that all things work together for go to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was in Jerusalem…..and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria….” Acts 8:1

“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”  Acts 8:4

Romans 8:28 is a very powerful and comforting statement.  It states the omnipotent aspect of Our Heavenly Father.  To be comforting, it is often used when a person or people are going through difficult times or facing a particularly challenging trial.  Sadly though, it can lose some of its impact and feel like just some “feel good” platitude without connecting it to a real example.  Thankfully there are many examples in the bible and I want to discuss just one.

So put yourself in the place of a new believer in Jerusalem just after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  You’ve come to believe in Jesus Christ and have been baptized.  You happen to be following the apostles and watch one miracle healing after another.  You hear that some of the apostles are arrested but they are miraculously freed from prison and have boldly gone back to the temple to preach the Name of Jesus.  Your spirit has been so enlightened that you look for any in need and you sell your things and watch joyously as the poor and widows are made whole.  You can’t stop praising Almighty God and can’t wait to see what the next day is going to bring.  There is no other place you’d rather be.  In fact, although it has been said that the gospel needs to be preached to all lands, you can’t imagine being anywhere else but right there in Jerusalem; right there with the apostles.

But the elders and temple leadership keep trying to squash the message.  They keep trying to arrest and sometimes beat those who are preaching Jesus Name.  All the sudden, one of the leaders, one of the newly elected is arrested for blasphemy.  His name is Stephen and he gives an angelic, powerful and spirit filled defense of the gospel.  This time though, he doesn’t escape.  No, Stephen is stoned to death by a crowd whipped into a frenzy by the Jewish leadership.  All the sudden the enemy is emboldened.  One of their leaders; Saul, is going house to house arresting anyone who confesses Jesus is the Christ, the Savior Son of God.  What is one to do?  You flee!  You are forced from the wonderful side of the apostles.  Your world is turned upside down.  Why is this happening?  Why to me? Why now?

Again, you can imagine that those who were scattered were feeling pretty frightened, maybe lost.  But noticed what happened.  I’m sure people were asking them about why they had come?  What was the matter?  Who was after them and why?  How did those who were scattered respond?  They preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  They spread the Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God and forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of God’s Only Son, Jesus.  Remember the great commission?  Remember about making disciples and the Gospel being preached to the ends of the earth?  Scripture tells us, that during the initial persecution and scattering of believers in Jerusalem, the apostles stayed in the city.  Someone had to spread the word.  Later the apostles traveled as well.

So a couple of things for us; dear brothers and sisters.  First, being persecuted, being threatened with arrest, being scattered away from home was no easy thing.  Some perhaps many may have been praising God in these circumstances, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t experiencing real, significant hardship.  They very well might not have felt like disciples.  They were just believers talking to other potential believers; they were nothing special.  Being caught up in the stress of the moment, they may not have seen the “good” in the circumstance they were going through.  Second, it is easy for us to see that this was part of God’s Plan.  The Gospel needed to be spread.  The eleven remaining apostles were not going to be sufficient to preach the Word to all who needed to hear it.  Finally though, whether they understood or not; they believed.  They believed in the message of Jesus Christ and they were chosen by God the Father Almighty to carry that message.  They needed a reason to leave the sanctuary of Jerusalem, the comfort of daily fellowship with the apostles.  They needed to be scattered.  God accomplished that.

So for You and I; we believe.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Savior who lived, died and was raised on the third day.  We are also called.  There is His Plan and we have a part in its completion.  So because we believe and we are called; good will come.  It can be very hard to see but good will come.  It is His Promise.  He has shown over and over again how He keeps every promise.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You that You have seen fit to call upon us who believe to help implement Your Plan.  We also acknowledge that carrying out that calling may involve difficulty.  So we call upon You to pour out Your Spirit upon us that we will feel Your Peace, Comfort and Strength knowing that good will always be the outcome of Your calling.

“You are my brethren, you are my bone and my flesh.  Why then are you the last to bring back the king?”  2 Samuel 19:12

“Shall any man be put to death today in Israel?  Therefore the king said to Shimel, ‘You shall not die.'”  2 Samuel 19:22,23

Recap:  David, the great king of Israel has been tossed off his thrown.  It was God’s will for David’s sin with Bathsheba.  If you remember, David saw Bathsheba, coveted her, committed adultery with her, got her pregnant and then had her husband, a faithful leader of David’s army, killed to cover up the king’s sin.  Through Nathan, God told David that he would lose his kingship and be forced to flee but would not die.  And through the mercy of God, David would be restored to the kingdom.  So it came to pass that David’s own son Absalom, rose up and overthrew his father and became king.  David had to flee Jerusalem.  However, David was not killed and through a battle where Absalom was not only defeated but killed (much to the sorrow of David), David is now about to reenter Jerusalem as king.

However, David’s entry is not quite the triumphant, all glorious spectacle that we might think.  First, David is across the Jordan River and Absalom has been killed and the people know it.  Yet the elders who are in the city have not called upon David to return.  They have not given a clear indication that they are going to accept David back as king or follow him should he return.  David had the army available to storm back into Jerusalem and take back his thrown by force.  But David has been humbled.  David is tired of the destruction of war.  David knows that his sin is the event that started this.  So David inquires:  what is your plan?  What are your desires?  You who are my brothers; do you want me back or not?  They do want David back and he returns.

David is crossing the Jordan River which is symbolic in his return to the promised land; similar to Gen. Douglas MacArthur wading ashore in the Philippines saying I have returned.  The first to meet David is a man named Shimel.  Now Shimel had two choices based on David’s return; flee from him as far as he could, or come to David and beg mercy.  For you see, when David was down, when he was fleeing Jerusalem in disgrace, Shimel came out and cursed and insulted David.  Shimel had been from the house of Saul, the previous king who, by the Will of God, David replaced.  David could have killed Shimel right then and there but he new his disgrace was at the hand of God.  Now David is returning in power; surely this is the time to take his revenge on this measly, wormy enemy.  David’s captain asks David to allow him to strike this man down.  David says no.  David knows it is by the Will of God that he is returning as king and he is not going to tarnish God’s Will by taking revenge.

Okay, the sticks and stones thing, but what about treason; surely there should be a just punishment for that.  Saul, had one surviving son, Mephibosheth.   Mephibosheth was lame and when David became king the first time, he sent for Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth naturally assumed David was going to have him killed.  That’s what you did back then to a potential enemy/rival.  Instead David told him that he would live in David’s palace and be treated like one of David’s own sons.  Quite a gift.  Well when David was forced out, Mephiboseth did not accompany David.  He stayed in the palace.  David was told that Mephibosheth stayed behind because he was glad David was deposed and felt that the kingdom of Israel was going to be rightly restored to him; sounds treasonous to me.  Mephibosheth goes out to meet the returning king and King David asks him why he didn’t leave when David left.  Mephibosheth answers that his servant tricked him and lied to David.  Being lame, Mephibosheth could not make it to a donkey himself to follow David and his servant would not help him.  It was the same servant who told David of Mephibosheth’s treachery.  Still, Mephibosheth says to David that he will understand if David decides to have him killed.  He is still after all, his dead enemy’s son.  David tells him to speak of being killed no more and restores his former place.

Yeah! Good for King David.  Why bring these things up; what have they to do with us today?  David’s story is a cautionary story and very relevant for us today.  You see dear brothers and sisters, we have been, are and will be blessed by God.  While we may not become a king or queen, God has many blessings in store for us.  Through those blessings when we feel ourselves ascending, we may find ourselves sorely tempted by that success by Satan.  Notice it was after Jesus Christ’s baptism, the revelation that He is God’s Son, that Satan took Him aside to tempt Him.  But unlike Christ, David and you and I might give in to the temptation.  While God will forgive us for our sin, that doesn’t mean, like in the case of David, there will not be consequences.  There will be those when we are feeling those consequences, when we may be at a low point, who will insult us, treat us horribly, gloat over our troubles; some may be strangers, sadly some will be close friends even family members.

Yet, like David, Our Heavenly Father will restore us.  God will have mercy on us and bring us back.  And……..we may find ourselves tempted again.  This time the temptation might be in the form of taking revenge or we might even think enacting justice on those who kicked us when we were down.  David’s example shows us how we should respond.  We should tell Satan to get behind us; resist him in the Name of Jesus Christ so that he will flee.  We need to remember the mercy that Our Heavenly Father is having with us and return that same mercy to those who have done us wrong; whether they repent to us or not.

Jesus Christ tells a parable illustrating David’s humble response.  He tells of the wicked servant; who owed his master a great debt.  When the master demanded repayment, the servant pleaded with the master for mercy because he could not repay.  The master relented and forgave the servant the entire debt.  However, one of the servant’s fellow servant owed the first servant a debt.  When the first servant demanded repayment, the second servant asked for mercy because he could not repay.  Of course the first servant would show the same mercy to the second servant that the master had shown to him.  Well he’s not called evil for nothing.  For the first servant not only does not forgive the debt but throws the second servant into prison until he can repay the debt.  But evil gets his due for being evil.  For the master hears of the treachery of the forgiven servant, calls him to come before the master, reinstates the debt and tosses the first servant in prison.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise Your Most Holy Name for the mercy that you show us instead of the judgement we deserve.  Thank you for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to take our deserved punishment.  Intercede with Your Spirit when we are tempted to pass judgement or take revenge on others whom we feel have wronged us.  That in being merciful we are living a life closer to You and living Praise to Your Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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