“Lead me in Your Truth and teach me for You are the God of my salvation”  Psalm 25:5

“He said to them…..’but go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice” Matthew 9:12

Really; is one of those words whose meaning can morph over time based on the cultural context and tone that it is used in.  At least in my part of the United States, when someone says “really” in a very questioning tone, it is an expression of disbelief and normally derision at some act or statement on some other person’s part; as in “I can’t believe you did or said that”.

So if you will indulge me a little with a quick (hopefully) story about how God taught me to rethink my really to His Really or better yet His Reality.  My wife got a dog years ago which has now become my walking companion.  And while I will tease her (my wife that is) about her dog becoming my responsibility, it is in truth a blessing because God so often uses those walking times as a great teaching classroom.  So this particular day as I’m walking the dog a group of people; a parent, two children approximately 12-14 and one child approx 8-10, come out of their house.  As I walked by, their attire made it seem they may also be about getting some exercise and sure enough, they start to walk several yards behind me.

Now here’s the thing; my dog is easily distracted.  Especially when someone is behind him, he wants to often stop and check out where they are.  If I wanted to think nice thoughts it is because he wants to be sure if my safety.  More likely, he is thinking, I know I can outrun my master so they’ll get him first (but I digress).  And thus my steady, leisurely walk gets turned into a constant stopping, looking and restarting exercise.

Now some of you may be thinking: Really?? “You don’t own the sidewalk, it’s a free country”, and that’s true.  So I wasn’t really annoyed and in fact I thought I might be blocking them from starting a run so I moved over in case they wanted to start their run.  Alas, they continued to walk behind me.

So, in wanting to get back to my non-stopping and starting, leisurely walk, I decided to take a path I thought less traveled that would allow them to go a different direction and all would be happy.  However, as you might guess, even after a couple of turns; there they were right behind me.  Again, free sidewalk, free country they have ever right to be there.  But the dog kept stopping and now I was a little annoyed.  “Couldn’t they see that the dog was concerned about them being back there; couldn’t they have decided to go a different way?” I thought to myself.  This continued for most of the block, understand these people, while talking to each other were not being loud or obnoxious in any way.  Finally I moved completely across the street, I stopped to let them go by.  We exchanged pleasantries, although I’m thinking: “move on so I can get back to my peace”.  And then it happened.

I stood there.  I was waiting for them to get far enough ahead that my dog would pay no more attention to them. I was somewhat disinterestedly observing them.   The group had come to an intersection.  There was a brief discussion amongst most and then the two older children crossed the road.  But the youngest child did something different.  The youngest child pointed a different direction, leaned in that direction was pulling his mother that way.  His mother gently, lovingly bent over and talked with him.  The child was still pointing that way but slowly stepped into the street with his mother to follow the other two children.  The child saw a coin laying in the street, stopped suddenly calling out excitedly to his mother to stop and look.  Again lovingly, not yanking hard or yelling at him, coaxed the boy back to the sidewalk as traffic was starting to come down the street.  This young boy was a special needs child.  What that need was I can’t be certain; but his behavior, all their behavior showed that to be true.

And God reached down.  He reached down with His Godly Merciful, Loved filled fingers and He gave me a flick right on my forehead.  You see, I have always felt such compassion for special needs children and the families that care for them.  And as much as just a few seconds earlier I was annoyed with this group; now I felt such a strong admiration and respect for them.  And God asked me: “Do you get it?”  “Do you understand?” And with a heavy sigh, I answered:  “Yes I think so. Thank you Father”

What did I get?  What do I hope you might get?  The choice that I made and the choices I make about how to see things matter.  You see that family didn’t change throughout that entire walk.  What changed, profoundly changed, was how I chose to view them.  Initially I chose to view them in a way that caused me irritation.  Let that sink in for a moment.  They didn’t cause the irritation to me, I did it to myself.  Had I taken a moment to see them through God’s eyes.  Had I been open to looking beyond myself, then those waisted moments of frustration would never have happened.  God’s Eyes saw something completely different in them; as well as me, then I was seeing….until God opened my eyes.

Dear sisters and brothers, the next time you find yourself either thinking to yourself about a situation or maybe even questioning God about that situation; asking Him: “Really God?”  Be open to, be expecting, prayerfully ask Him to open your eyes to show you His Really.  For it is only in His Really, that real truth, blessing, mercy and love reside.

Our most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so very thankful that You have included us in Your Reality and are willing in patience and mercy to teach us about it.  Forgive us when we jump to our own conclusions, using the thoughts of this world to judge.  Open our eyes that we may see as You do, in love and mercy.  That then going forth in Your Vision, we would live lives that praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be made blind.”  John 9:41

“Therefore the king (Jeroboam)….made two calves of gold and said to the people, ‘…..Here are your gods, O Israel…..”  1 Kings 12:28

“But he (Rehoboam) rejected the advice which the elders had given him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him…….” 1 Kings 12:8

Two kings of Israel.  One king was the son of the great King Solomon; grandson of King David.  The other king was a servant in Solomon’s own house.  They would have seen Solomon’s reign.  They would have seen the blessings of Solomon’s wisdom.  From scripture we can’t be sure but they may even seen the greatest Jewish King; King David.  They certainly would have seen the Power of God.  How that power rained down blessings on those who believed and kept His word as well as destruction on those who did not follow Him.  Yet having seen, having been a witness to God’s power; they still lost that sight, became blind in their own lives.

How did that happen?  Spiritual blindness is rarely a sudden occurence, some tragic accident like some sharp or fast moving object striking the physical eye causing physical blindness.  No spiritual blindness comes from a wilful act or acts over time to purposely disregard the vision of God and supplant it with our own vision.

In the case above, it actually started with Solomon.  Solomon, the son of King David who was a man (David not Solomon) described as having a heart seeking after the Heart of God Himself; started off with a strong vision of God.  But over time, that vision faded.  Solomon who had asked not for riches or fame, but for wisdom was blessed above all kings with wisdom, fame and riches from God.  The beauty of and desire for his foreign wives, led Solomon to allow the worship of foreign gods and idols to happen in Israel.  God had warned Solomon, but Solomon still lost his vision and thus God declared that most of Israel would not be ruled by his family.

Enter, Rehoboam, son of Solomon, grandson of King David.  It was God’s plan that Rehoboam remain king of at least part of Israel.  Having seen how God had blessed but also dealt with Solomon’s sin, Rehoboam could have set his sights on God; doing God’s will, seeing God’s vision.  Solomon had taxed the people to build the temple and other splendid buildings in Jerusalem.  When Solomon died and Rehoboam is proclaimed king, the people ask for relief, to have less taxes.  Rehoboam was young and seemingly in wisdom he asks for advice.  The wise men of Israel counsel him to relent and lessen the taxes.  Rehoboam does not see it that way.  He rejects their wise counsel and instead turns to be friends as equally young, impetuous and unwise as he is for advice.  They tell him to not only keep, but increase the taxes significantly.  Rehoboam loses sight about what being a servant king is about and burdens the people even more.  They rebel.

Enter Jeroboam (boam seems to be a popular syllable for king names of the time).  God has seen fit to give him part of the kingdom of Israel due to the sins of Solomon and his son Rehoboam.  Given this great blessing, one might think that Jeroboam’s sight would have a laser focus on what God wanted to see happen.  Again, he was a living witness to the past decades of God’s direct, inescapable power.  But Jeroboam is afraid.  Clearly he is not afraid of God, but of worldly things.  First he’s afraid of losing his power; his kingship.  You see Rehoboam still had a small part of the kingdom to rule over because God was keeping His promise that the line of David would always sit on the throne; but it was a very small slice of Israel.  But that slice included Jerusalem.  And Jeroboam thought, if I allow the people to go worship God in Jerusalem, they will go back to Rehoboam and I will lose my kingship.  Secondly, if I’m no longer king, I will be killed.  So Jeroboam decides to set up his own god, a god of two gold calves and now he can control the people.  The kingdom suffers.

So what does this have to do with us today? How can we make sure our that our vision is not lost; that we are not blind?  First we must understand the vision God has put smack dab in front of us.  That is the vision of Jesus Christ.  And that vision has two parts to it.  First, is the vision of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Jesus Christ who died for our sins and our salvation.  The second aspect of the vision God has for us is Jesus Christ the risen Lord.  Jesus Christ who is King above all kings, sitting at the place of Honor, the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty.  But understand this, the world is trying to block that vision with all the power it can muster.  The world wants us to see personal power, wealth and status as the proper points to focus on.  If the world can not get us to covet worldly things then it wants us to focus in on fear; fear of rejection, of not fitting in, of abandonment, of no hope, of being utterly alone.

The smoke of the world is deep and dark.  So much so that we can not overcome it on our own.  What are we to do?  “I am the Light of the World!” Jesus Christ declares.  His Light will easily penetrate any and all darkness the world can throw at us.  Dear Sisters and Brothers we, if we will focus on the Light of Jesus Christ, will never know blindness.  When we momentarily stumble in the darkness of this world; the Light of Christ’s Love for us will lead us back on the path to Our Heavenly Father.  Christ’s Light is shining boldly and brightly for you and I today.  A Light which no amount of darkness will ever extinguish.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, Your Precious Son declared to us that the lamp of our body is the eye.  We confess, Dear Father, that the vision of our eyes sometimes stray from You and Your Vision.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when our eye turns longingly to the things of this world.  Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, bring us back to the One and Only True Vision that Saves; Jesus Christ.  That our eyes would be filled Your Light and that we in turn would shine Your Light of Love into the world.  This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“For your Father knows that things that you need…….Give us this day our daily bread……”  Matthew 6:8,11

“Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you………”   Exodus 16:4

“Give us this day our daily bread…….”; let that phrase sink in for a moment.  Say it over again: “Give us this day our daily bread” Hmm seems a little lacking doesn’t it?  In today’s world, by today’s standards, is that really an appropriate request?  I mean why only a day’s bread?  I think I would feel much safer if you gave me a week’s, or maybe a month’s; heck I’ve got room, let’s make it a quarter’s bread.  And bread?  Just bread?  Even you, Jesus, said we don’t live by bread alone, so I think I need to add more to that; what about mortgage payment or rent, and clothes and oh yes my car is about worn out!  That’s the way we would look at a proper request today isn’t it?

So let’s take a look at a well known instance of the Our Heavenly Father supplying bread.  The Israelites have been in bondage for generations in Egypt.   They cry out to God and He sends a leader in the person of Moses to lead them out.  As you know through a series of signs and plagues, God shows His power to not only the Egyptians but also the Israelites.  Pharaoh is convinced to let the Israeli people go and off into the wilderness they head.  Now a little ways into their journey they enter into the Wilderness of Sin (you have to love the irony of that place) and start to complain about the desolate nature of the place and that they are afraid of starving to death.  In fact they go as far as to say they wish they were back in Egypt as slaves.

So the story is set.  These people; these people who have seen all the great works of God, who time and time again have been saved by the sheer power, mercy and grace of God start to complain against Him.  If He were you and I, we’d probably let them starve at least until they stopped complaining.  At the very least if we supplied them with something, we’d make sure it tasted nasty and we gave them a very little bit to teach them a lesson.  Our perhaps finally, if we decided to feed them, we’d make sure they had to go far and jump through many hoops to collect it.  God, in His amazing mercy and patience handles it differently.

God appears to them in a cloud and declares He has heard their complaining.  Instead of punishing them, He declares that He is going to feed them; succulent meat in the evening and bread in the morning.  This bread is going to appear right outside their camp and all they have to do is pick it up.  He tells them to only gather enough for the day.  Those that try to gather more, the extra they gather turns moldy and smells; can’t be eaten.  Only on the sixth day will they collect two days worth of bread to allow for rest on the sabbath (God is consistent in His Commandments).  And just like He promised, the next morning bread appears; not some stale, tasteless bread but it was very special bread with a taste like it was made from honey.

Now if there are those that think this is somewhat a minimalist response, let’s look at this in a greater context of what the people of Israel needed at that time.  Remember first, God had already freed them from bondage.  But weren’t they a poor, desolate people scrounging across the desert? Hardly, scripture tells us that the Egyptian people so wanted the Jews gone that they showered them with gold, silver, clothes and many other possessions and animals just to get them out of there.  So you see, the Jews did not want for material things.  But in the wilderness you can’t eat gold or silver.  There riches were useless for they had no place to go and purchase any food.  Okay so they had things; but they were lost weren’t they?  After all they were in a wilderness.  Again, scripture tells us that God had every step planned.  They were not lost.  In fact God let them know that He was building them into a Holy Nation that would inherit a land flowing with milk and honey.  God knew what they needed at the very time:  food.  And even while they seemed spitefully ungrateful; He supplied their needs, out of Love and Compassion.

The God of Israel’s wilderness is the very same God of today, tomorrow, for eternity.  Dear sisters and brothers, Our Heavenly Father has a plan and in that plan every step of ours is accounted for.  His plan is perfect and we can be absolutely sure that its destination is our promised land.  And like the Jews leaving Egypt; He will equip us generously to meet every need.  Yet we have an enemy; Satan, who will try to convince us, His enough is not enough.  Jesus tells the parable of the never satisfied man.  He fills his barns, that should be good enough, right? No he tears down his barns, builds bigger barns and then fills them; satisfied now, right? Not this guy; down come the barns up and filled come the bigger ones.  Now he is satisfied and ready to live his satisfied life.  That very night, the man dies.

Scripture tells us that Jews ate what God had given them and were completely satisfied.  Sisters and brothers; His supplied daily bread is enough.  Not just barely enough, not just some eking out of existence; completely enough, completely satisfying, all that we need.  And He promises, that daily bread will come, daily.  Every today will have the bread we need so there is no need to be concerned about or feel responsible for tomorrow.  Let each of us strive to count upon, be satisfied with and grateful for His daily bread.  God knows, it is all we will ever need.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You that You have seen fit to allow us to come to You with our supplications, requiring nothing of us first.  Forgive us when we feel that, knowing more about our needs than You, we are not satisfied with the abundance You have supplied to us.  Help us to have a loving relationship with You that causes us to be confident in our reliance on You and to reject the world’s measurements on what should be satisfaction.  That we would live lives of contentment that show the world Your true nature of Mercy, Generosity and Love.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

 

 

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

“But you shall walk in the way the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you.”  Deuteronomy 5:33

Do a couple of things for me (actually they are for yourself) as they apply to walking.  First, when you’re out somewhere where people walk, watch them.  Unless it happens to be a very rocky, uneven, slippery or otherwise treacherous path, note how they take their steps without much planning or forethought.  Notice how they are able to walk and talk, or text or yes, even chew gum at the same time.  Now for you and I.  When you’re walking somewhere, note where your focus tends to be.  Again, unless somehow treacherous, notice how you place each foot down without nary a thought to how and where you are placing it.

And that lack of focused thought is a good thing.  Imagine how difficult it would be to get anywhere if before each step, you had to consciously go through the steps to take a step (couldn’t resist the alliteration); if we had to think: “Okay lift foot, focus on the place where the intended step will be placed, shift weight forward, place foot in exactly the intended spot, shift weight back to the middle; repeat as necessary.  Sheesh! It would take a near miracle for us to walk across a room let alone around the block (my dog would be very disappointed).  Imagine what we would miss if the location of our focus was down at our feet or at most just a few feet ahead of us.

Understand this, if you’ve ever stepped in a hole or had your foot slip off the edge of something and twisted your ankle, it’s not like taking a misstep can’t be painful or harmful.  But even if we’ve experienced those kind of incidents; note how quickly we return to the act of walking without much of a thought.

Why?  It comes down to trust; a trust that comes from the familiarity of taking steps.  We start taking steps very early in our lives and it doesn’t take long until it becomes as easy as…..well as easy as walking.  We find that we can trust our motor skills to not stretch out our foot too far or have it cross over in front of the other foot to trip us up.  We find that the shifting of our balance becomes an automatic thing, taking no preparation or conscious thought to perform.  And while it is true that every once in a great while, we won’t have lifted our foot quite high enough to miss the step on the sidewalk or our foot slips because we didn’t see the water on the tiled floor; those few missteps are not enough to shake our trust in our ability.

So where am I going with this?  In the book of Proverbs, a man with wisdom given by God Himself, tells us we may come up with plans, but the  Lord has the final say in the outcome.  It is the Lord who determines our steps.  Regardless of our plans; God is in control.  Yet here is the salient factor; here is the point that determines the smoothness of our journey.  Do we trust those steps?  Having the revelation of God’s Word, through the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, testified to us by the Holy Spirit; how comfortable are we in stepping forth?  How confident are we in the steps that God has determined we should take?  Why should I follow the Lord’s Way?

The enemy of this world would have us see the Lord’s way as fundamentally different than the way we should go. Satan would tell us that our trust should be placed squarely and solely on what we think should be our own path.  Granted as we follow that Satan directed path we fall; often, we trip; constantly, we slip; incessantly.  And if nothing else; if he can’t convince us to go a different way; Satan will at least try to convince us that God’s path is too hard, too treacherous, too arduous for us to ever attempt to start down it.

How are we to ever going to get the strength, the courage, the trust to be able to walk confidently in the steps God has planned?  He gave us the Way; Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ tells us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  As “the Way”, we can trust that Jesus, Himself will keep our steps on the right path.  “Trust in God and trust in me also….”, Jesus tells his disciples in John.

What does that trust look like?  Get up from reading this and walk across the room and back. (Are you back?)  Notice again in that short journey how effortless, how trusting your steps were.  Sisters and brothers let us strive to have our faith walk with Our Heavenly Father be the same way.  Strengthening our spiritual legs and feet with the study of His Word; improving our spiritual balance through incessant, meaningful, intimate prayer, and stepping forth in faith with the encouragement of being a part of a community of believers; we will see our standing still turn into small steps, our small steps turn into mighty strides, our mighty strides turn into the way the leads to a life blessed by God; a life that goes well.  May it be that those steps; following in the blessed steps of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, become ever more the most natural, trust filled, determined steps; we ever take.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we testify that You have striven to show us how to walk through Your Holy Word.  We further declare that You humanly showed how those steps could be taken through sending Your Son Jesus Christ to walk with us in human form.  We confess, Merciful Father, that we often do not fully trust the path You have laid out for us and wish to stop or worst yet go our own way, the wrong way.  So we pray for Your illumination of our path for us, pouring out Your strength that we may focus solely on the path You have chosen for us and that we would boldly step out in trust in You.  That in walking that path; we would bring praise to Your most Holy Name we pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  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

That you do not despise any of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 18:10

“Those who accepted his message and were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”   Acts 2:41

Tychicus, Zenas, Lucias, Jason, Priscilla, these are all names mentioned in the bible but their not exactly the John, Peter, James, Abraham, Moses, Noah names that jump out at us.  And sometimes it’s not even names, David had his 500 men, 4000 and then 5,000 were fed by Jesus.  3,000 heard Peter preach about the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ and were baptised and numbered as part of the early church.

I just got back from vacation.  (As this blog is read in many different places around the world, I apologize if some of the references I am about to make may not be easy to follow.  If it helps think to your own country’s history and those who are thought of as the great leaders.  But not only those but to the countless others who worked along side)  This vacation the family went to two places steeped in tradition as among the vital places where our country was founded: Philadelphia Pennsylvania and Boston Massachusetts.  I am fascinated by history in so much that the more I look into it, the story is always far greater, far richer, then the assorted myths and legends that are widely known.

For instance, we have a story about a man, Paul Revere, who was a patriot and undertook a daring nighttime ride to warn his fellow patriots that an enemy army was approaching to confiscate their weapons.  There is a famous poem that was written about the ride that many American school children have heard.  The problem is that it was written over 100 years after the fact and while great prose, leaves a considerable amount out concerning the actual events.  So here’s the thing, depending on the sources you look at, anywhere from 2 additional, to 60 additional riders had some involvement in spreading the word that night.  For the most part, Paul Revere gets the credit.  Because of the warning, 77 men came out to do battle with the intruders at a town called Lexington.  Later that same day, 4,000 had come out to attempt to drive the intruders back to Boston.  Virtually none of those 77, let alone the 4,000 are names that we, in our country know well today.

Okay Doug, your saying, what’s the point you’re getting at here?  Thanks for hanging in there with me for there are several points.  One point is about our fixation in the modern world on fame and the need for our 15 minutes of it.  Another point is the understanding of the impact of everyone, whether named or not.  Finally and most importantly, the third point is whether the world will ever know your name or not; God does.

We live in an age now where viral is the thing.  What can I do, where can I go, what can I say, that will cause people to know me; to remember my name.  Marketing is everything.  For a time it would be best if my name was attached to a good and noble thing.  Now, it is getting equally important that my name gets out there; whether for a good thing, or maybe a really ignorant thing, or maybe even for a crime or evil thing.  Bottom line, if I can become famous for whatever the reason, I can, more than likely, profit from it.

Second, in the historical story referenced above; we in America remember Paul Revere.  But Mr. Revere did not fight that night or the next day.  In fact he was detained, questioned and forced to walk back to Boston after they took his horse.  No, it was the initial 77, then 150, swelling up to 4,000 who took up arms.  Who faced the guns of the impending threat.  Who fought and in some cases died that day, that sparked what would become known as the revolution.  Yet so many of their names are lost to antiquity.  Each and every one of those people were equally as important to the success of the revolution as Paul Revere was.  Had they decided not to show up, would there be a United States of America today?

So along with that second point, Peter preached.  Jesus Christ had risen and commanded that His Gospel be preached to the ends of the earth.  Peter preached.  But Peter was not the movement.  Peter was not the first church.  The 3,000 who heard Peter; the 3,000 who asked to be baptized, the 3,000 who received the Spirit that day, became the church.  And that church flourished, nurtured, sacrificed, motivated and grew into a world changing force.  The names of those 3,000 are lost to antiquity.

Finally and bottom line, sisters and brothers, you may find yourself asking yourself today; who am I?  In this big world with its huge problems; who am I?  In this world of reality TV shows, virtual reality, photo shopped celebrities, who am I?   Who knows, who will ever know, who would ever care; about me?  God does!  God knows you!  God knows you, not just as a placeholder amongst the billions and billions who have ever lived, but He knows you personally, by name.  You are one of “the little ones” that Jesus spoke about whose angel stands before and beholds the face of Almighty God, incessantly.

Worldly fame is fleeting.  Just ask anyone or any team that played for a world championship and lost.  Few remember them.  But the world is also fleeting.  God is eternal.  God is forever.  God is to the world as a year is to a second (and even more so).  So whether the world recognizes you is of extremely little importance.  We, sisters and brothers are known, personally, intimately, by name, by God.  And most importantly, we are loved, personally, intimately, by name, by God.  His knowledge of you and I, His love of you and I will last a lot longer than any 15 minutes.  It will last forever.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that we live in a world that does not proclaim You or Your Fame.  It is sad that this world strives to uplift the creation far above the Creator.  Forgive us when we are tempted to chase after the world’s recognition, especially doubting that You recognize us or that Your recognition is not enough.  Give us the strength to proclaim and praise You in all things knowing that as we praise, proclaim and acknowledge You on earth.  We will be acknowledged in heaven.  We thank and praise You for Your love, mercy and sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ for our life and our salvation.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

“In the beginning…….So God created man, in the image of God.  He created him; male and female.  He created them.”  Genesis 1:1, 1:27,28

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”  John 3:16

Authors note: Depending on your circumstances today, you may skip the first part which I write for context.  But whether you skip it or not, please, please read the ending part.

The world.  As Jesus Christ uses that term it is not a singularly physical place.  The ruler of it is not flesh and blood.  The world is the dominion of darkness and its ruler is Satan.  And the world hates you.  The leader of the world despises you.  Satan wants to make your life like his; a living hell.  Why?  You and I are a creation of God’s.  We are made in God’s image.  We were created from and for Love; for eternal life. Satan rejected that love and now hates all who call upon and rely on it.

Sorry to be dark but for understanding we must understand, we must go here.  Satan will use all his considerable power to defeat you and I.  He will use outside fear and threat.  He will bring hate against you and I from every conceivable corner he controls.  Worse yet, he will attack our inner spirit.  He will attempt to have us be selfish, jealous, spiteful, lustful, greedy and hateful.  If he cannot get us to turn from God, he will try to convince us that God has turned from us.  That we are utterly alone.  That all hope is lost.  He will try to convince us the only hope is to turn to the world; chemicals, alcohol, perversions to dull the pain and when that is not enough; when life is so full of total despair and void of hope, that life itself should cease.  (Again please do not stop here).

(Start here if you skipped the first two paragraphs)

God, Our Heavenly Father knows all about the struggle.  God is not ignorant to the plans and schemes of Satan.  Through the Holy Spirit, Paul clearly states the type of battle we’re engaged in, in the book of Ephesians: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness…” (Ephesians 6:12)

So dear sisters and brothers no matter where you are today, but especially if you find yourself in the dark morass of the struggle against the powers of darkness where light seems absent and hope seems lost.  No matter what your thoughts to God, God’s thought and feeling to you is: LOVE!  You are loved!  Personally, deeply, completely You are Loved!  Say it!  Repeat it! You are loved.

How do I know?  How can we be so confidently sure?  He, Our Heavenly Father told us. Very plainly, very succinctly, He told us.  God is Love so being Love, He told us that He created us in His image.  Thus we must also have been created in the image of Love.  We are His creation and, again through the Holy Spirit, Paul runs through an entire list, death, life, powers, depth, height shall not separate us from the Love of God. (Romans 8:37)

How do I know?  Look to the lengths God was willing to go to save us!  To bring us back to him!  God was in heaven.  God was and is perfect.  His existence was one of perfection.  God could feel no hunger, no pain, no weariness.  God left that existence.  God, in the Being of Jesus Christ, came to earth; became a man.  God felt pain, became physically tired and dirty, felt hunger, felt anguish, felt temptation.  God cried…..for us.  And God died…..for you and me.  It is truly correct in John 3:16 to use the term “world” so that it would describe the inclusiveness of Our Heavenly Father’s Plan and the extent of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.  But if we are not careful the personal aspect of that sacrifice can be lost on you and I in a personal sense.  That is why the next sentence uses whosoever.  You and I are whosoever.  Fill in the blank:  For Love’s sake Jesus Christ died for (your name)! Say it out Loud:  God loves me, (your name) so much that He died for me!

Please, Please, know this dear sisters and brothers, no matter what you are facing today.  No matter what the world is saying about there being no hope.  You are not alone.  The Creator of the Universe, His Only Begotten Son, The Holy Spirit of All Truth and Light, are right there with you and I.  Our victory is assured, the battle, nay not just the battle but the war is won.  Paul tells us we have armor, spiritual armor forged by God Himself out of Love, to protect us.  Feel His Love.  Embrace His Love.  Let His Love and Strength Pour over you like a mighty river washing away all despair and dejection.  You and I are His.  He is Love.  And He will never let us go.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, the world is waging war against us.  We humbly declare that we are incapable of waging the battle, let alone winning on our own.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we turn to earthly implements and strategies to fight the powers of darkness.  Send Your Light like a mighty flash of lightning to penetrate the gloomiest darkness to show us Your way.  Let Your voice blast out like the sound of thunder to silence the voices of doom, hatred and hopelessness rising around us.  Thank you Dear Father.  Thank You for Your Love.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.  Give us Your desire to love; in all circumstances, to love.  In the Name of the One in whose Love we are victorious Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

“Then those who heard it……went out one by one. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”  John 8:9

The forgiving of the woman caught in adultery; there are so many rich lessons to be learned by this act.  Of course there is Jesus’ love and mercy as well as his rebuke of the those who want to hastily judge others and not look to themselves.  Let us not forget the meekness that Jesus showed throughout the encounter.

And while it is wise to focus on Jesus in this encounter, I find that there might be some value in looking to the reaction of the crowd and even that of the woman when they are faced with the power of the Son of God.  For make no mistake, Jesus might have seemed meek, he might have quietly bent down and wrote in the sand; nonetheless His power was very much on display.  You see that woman, guilty or not was not going to die that day.  Some other day they might have surrounded her with her back against a wall and let loose their granite projectiles of ignorance and hate.  But if that was their plan, they made the mistake of bringing her to Jesus.  More probably they hoped to have two stonings.  First the woman and then, hopefully, Jesus himself due to some blasphemy or gross breach of the law.  But fortunately for the woman, they had no grasp of the Power of this Man from Galilee.

For the very moment they rounded the corner and thrust the woman into Jesus presence, she was safe, she was forgiven, she had met her salvation.  Regardless of the sheer number of the crowd, the vehemence of their anger or self-righteousness of their argument, Jesus was going to prevail.  God was in that courtyard and man had no chance of victory.

So how did Jesus show that great power?  Did He call a league of angels to come and kill all in the crowd?  Did He command lightning to come down and destroy all, except the woman, where they stood?  No, Jesus knew better than that.  He knew what button to push.  He knew that He could convict them in their own actions.  Since each had a conscience, Jesus spoke straight to it:  “Cast the stone in your hand if you’re free of sin.”  The stones dropped to the ground like rain.

Their reaction now is what get’s really interesting.  They were so certain of course.  The law was clear.  The law was on their side.  With the righteousness of justice, a woman would die and messiah pretender would be unmasked.  Power was on their side.  15 words, no long oratory, no long defense, no long reading or preaching from the Torah; 15 words and their faces contorted with confusion and their fingers relinquished their grip.  And now comes the truly sad part; they turn away.  They just had the most amazing experience of personally witnessing the power of the Son of God.  They just had a personal encounter with the only true Son of Man.  They could have stayed.  They could have bowed down.  They could have pleaded to hear more.  They could have fallen on their knees and worshiped.  Instead the slowly turned their back on their Savior, The One True Light, and purposely returned to utter darkness.

The self-righteous were lost.  What about the sinner?  What about the woman caught in the very act?  As soon as she saw the perplexed looks on their faces, as soon as the stones began to fall from their hands, she could have booked out of there.  Who would have blamed her?  “I’m not staying around to let them change their minds!”; she might have thought to herself.  However, she didn’t.  Why?  She was feeling the power of Jesus too.  She had never met this man before but she knew that He was different.  Even if she had run, she knew that there was nowhere she could flee that would He would not be able to find her.  She knew, Jesus had the power.  She knew Jesus could still condemn.  She stayed.  He loved.  He forgave.  She, the only acknowledged sinner, received the Light, received salvation.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, we may find ourselves standing in front of Jesus Christ.  Hopefully not, but we may be playing the role of the self-righteous judge declaring something unfair or someone due punishment.  Jesus may stop for moment just to let us think about what we are doing and then gently but firmly rebuke us.  He may push the button of our conscience revealing to us the sinfulness of our ways.  What then?  Are we to turn from Him?  Are we to walk away simply because we did not get our evil way?  Will we run back to the darkness from whence we came, fleeing the Light of Life?  I pray that we would not!

What if we are the sinner (and of course we are).  At the first sign of forgiveness, will we run away hardly thankful for our reprieve and all to ready to jump right back into our sinful ways?  Or will we stay.  Will we be awestruck by the mercy and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Will we filled compelled to drop to our knees in His presence and repent of our sins and praise His most Holy Name, giving thanks to God above.  I pray that we would.

Jesus Christ, has in the past, does now and will continue into the future to display the Power of His Love.  The question for us is; how do we respond?  Do we turn toward Him?  Or do we turn away?

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we thank you for Your Perfect Plan of Salvation that brought Your Son Jesus Christ down to live among us on this earth.  Praise be to Jesus Christ that He displays His awesome Power by way of Love and Mercy versus the judgement and punishment we deserve.  Empower us through The Holy Spirit that when we experience the Power of Jesus Christ that we will not turn away from Him, but come to Him, humbly, lovingly singing praises to His and Your Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  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

 

 

“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

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