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

“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)

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