“Then the sons are free.  Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first.”  Matthew 17:26,27

“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to those who are weak.” “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 1 Corinthians 8:9,11

“Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”  Matthew 5:17

I want to start out with a statement about the intent of this post.  For this is not a post about all human actions are acceptable to those who believe or that Jesus Christ in some way has changed the Word or Commandments of God.  Nothing could be further from my intent.  I definitely believe in the statement that Jesus made in Matthew 5:17.

Yet here is the amazing thing to me.  You have God, come to earth.  You have He, who was at creation and through whom all things were created.  This is who Jesus Christ was and is.  Thus if anyone should have cared little about being offensive, of causing any angst in anyone else, Jesus Christ was deserved of that right.  Though deserved or not, He did not partake of that right.  Jesus demonstrated for us an amazing level of humility as example, I believe for us to follow.

Now what is happening in Matthew 17 at this point is a recounting of question posed to Peter by those who received the temple tax.  According to the Interpreter’s Bible, this was not a tax from the Romans as a tribute to Caesar but a tax started back in the time of Exodus.  The Interpreter’s Bible makes the point that Jesus is not saying that the temple should not be supported, far from it.  What He was saying was that as son’s, which believers become, through Jesus Christ, they are free from the law that has been fulfilled in Christ.  The desire to support the temple or church for that matter should not be a “have to” but should be a holy and joyful “desire to”.

However, that is not to me the most astounding thing.  Jesus Christ does not want to cause offense over this issue to the Jewish faithful.  Jesus knows that they would not understand His discussion of son’s being free because they did not see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  So to keep from causing an offense on this point, He has Peter pay the tax.  Yet this was not unusual for Jesus.  Jesus, time and time again showed great restraint, especially given who He knew He was (is), when confronted with misunderstandings and misapplications of His creation, human kind.  He did not utterly destroy the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to dispute with Him.  As they talked and hurled accusations at Him, He did not raise His voice and talk over them and shut them up. When the crowds picked up stones to stone Him, Jesus did not raise a hand against them but walked unharmed, both to Himself and the crowd, right through them.

Please understand this, I am not saying Jesus Christ was not bold; far from it.  He did boldly declare, right there in the temple about the kingdom of heaven, His Father’s Kingdom and that He was the Son.  Yet His boldness was not primarily designed as a judgemental attack as it was the truthful pronouncement of the way of God.  Jesus lived into the blessings that He stated that blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth and blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.

Paul picks up that same theme when he writes to the Corinthians who are having terrible troubles with division in their church.  Paul warns and admonishes those who would use their God given freedom, to cause those who are new or weak to the Way, to stumble.  He tells us we need to look to others to see if and to what extent our actions are causing offense and perhaps driving away the very persons we are desperately trying to lead into and onto the Path of Christ.

Yet we find ourselves in a society today ever more acrimonious when it comes to our interactions with each other.  We often come to a point where, so certain of our rightness (not necessarily righteousness), that we declare if anyone has a problem with us it is their problem only and there is no reason for us to change our actions in any way.  To take into account another person’s perspective, even though more inaccurate, and modify our approach to help instruct or lead them is looked at as totally unnecessary and worse yet a sign of weakness.  Thus in ever louder volume and ever shriller tone, we come off as judgemental and totally closed to the suffering and plight of others.  Jesus Christ would not have it so.

Again, please Dear Sisters and Brothers, I am not saying at all that we should do something like live as the world lives, sin so that we would seem to fit in; nothing of the kind.  What I’m extolling is the virtue of abiding in Christ and thus taking on His example of speaking, of living our lives around those who may not yet be on the path to Christ, are newly on that path, or may be on the path yet have a different perception than we do.  That we deal with them out of Christian love.  Yes, being bold in our proclamation of Christ and Our Heavenly Father, yet humble as a servant in our status in that relationship.  It would do us well to remember the admonition of Jesus Christ, Himself, when He told His disciples not to be concerned ahead of time what to say when called to witness for the Kingdom; that the Holy Spirit would give us what to say at the time needed.

We must ask ourselves; does our speech to others, the way we treat others in and out of the faith, reflect what the Holy Spirit would want us to say and do about the kingdom?  I am asking that we at least consider our actions and what the Holy Spirit would have us do.  There are those in the world who, no matter what will take offense at us and that is the plain truth of it.  What we don’t want to happen is to give those whom are seeking after Christ as well as our Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ a reason to take offense if we can avoid it.  In doing so, we will live lives of praise and glory to God and not to ourselves.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father by Your Son Jesus Christ we are called to be sent into the world but we are not of the world.  We also understand that as the world has hated You and Your Son, it will hate us.  Yet we ask Most Merciful Father that You would give us a spirit of grace and humility as we deal with the world.  That as Your Son, Jesus Christ gave us an example, we will be patient, kind, loving and healing to our fellow person.  That some of the world would take offense at us, we would not make that our goal or aim.  That in being true to You and living in humility and meekness, we would be the peacemakers that You are asking us to be and will bless our attempts.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Example.  Amen

“Now when He said ‘I am He’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”  John 18:6

“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above……From then on Pilate sought to release Him…” John 19:11, 12

The Story of Easter, for me from as early as Christmas, is a story I’ve heard repeated so many times.  Yet it is amazing how the Spirit will bless us with new avenues of learning, of new insights to living, even in the stories that seem so familiar.

Perhaps for me the revelation of how hard Jesus had to work to even get mankind to fulfill their obligation in the Easter process, has to do with the level of mankind’s arrogance I see in the world today.  For over and over again, mankind turns to solely human based solutions to problems in this world as if there was no Creator, or the Creator had no power with which to intervene.

So let’s look at mankind’s dark, humiliating defeat in the time of Easter.  For three years, very long years for the Jewish authority, Jesus had been teaching, preaching and healing.  The Jewish religious authority was the pre-eminate power in their society.  While there was a Jewish King, he was a puppet of the Romans thus hated by the people.  The true leadership was in the religious leaders and they despised Jesus.  In their minds, there was no way Jesus was the Christ.  He was a fraud and had they not feared the Romans, they would have dealt with Him themselves long ago.

However, now they had Him.  The Jewish leaders finally had a man on the inside, Judas Iscariot and their plans and schemes were falling into place.  See their first failure had been that they could not turn the people against Jesus.  They could not convince the people that Jesus could not be the Christ.  They were powerless to explain His miracles and the people would not buy into Jesus being the chief prince of Beelzebub.  They couldn’t arrest Jesus publicly or the people would riot against them and the Romans would then quickly and mercilessly put down the riot.  So they had to arrest Jesus in secret and they now had just the way to do it.

Jesus like to meet with his disciples, away from the crowds at night.  Through Judas they now knew where they could find Him.  This should be easy, Jesus plus eleven men, most not armed, non trained in the art of warfare.  They gave Judas, many men, a detachment of troops, with officers.  These men came armed.  Jesus didn’t stand a chance.

Yet notice what happened.  Sure enough they found the small band in the secluded garden, Just as Judas had promised.  Better still, instead of running and hiding behind His followers, Jesus comes forward and tells them openly that He is who they are seeking.  This should be a tailor made arrest.  Take Him by the arms, bind Him and lead Him away; simple as that.  What happens? Nothing like that.  The gospel doesn’t explicitly explain why; but instead of launching forward, the men are repelled back and drop to the ground.  Why?  I believe that in that very moment; the spirits inside them understood the gravity of the moment.  The created spirits inside them knew that they were not contesting against flesh and blood but against the very Creator, Himself.  They were trying to arrest the true Son of God…..and it terrified them.  They were in such a state of turmoil that Jesus had to ask them again, point out to them that He, Jesus was standing right there and to get on with the arrest without harming any of His disciples.  Finally, at Jesus behest, they take action and arrest Him.

Okay, the soldiers are one thing but the Jewish religious establishment will have their act together more; they’ll triumph easily over Jesus, won’t they?  Hardly.  There needed to be a trial and the Jewish council had quite a long time to plan this but when the time came, the utterly failed.  Jewish law allowed that when two men would agree on testimony against a third, then that was proof enough of the third man’s guilt.  So the council called upon witnesses to testify against Jesus and many rose to give it.  The problem was, no two witnesses agreed.  They all testified something different against Jesus. On the basis of that Jesus could not be condemned, He must be set free.  In exasperation, they turn to Jesus Himself, who could have kept silent and been saved.  Yet that was not the Father’s plan so Jesus tells them plainly, as He had done before, that He was the Son of God.  Then, and only then, could the Chief Priest and the council move forward to condemn Christ.

Whew, well that’s the soldiers and the Jewish religious leaders stumbling, but the Romans, the dominate earthly power will have no problem showing their power and putting Jesus to death. Right?  That should have been the case because the Romans were known for being ruthless in putting subjugated people to death for sometimes petty offenses or just to show their power to do so.  But again, human power, no matter how seemingly indomitable, pales and shrinks back in the presence of God’s Holy Power and Jesus Christ is God on this earth.  Pontius Pilate seemingly pleads with Jesus to give him any shred of evidence, any glimmer of a case of why Jesus should not be condemned to death.  Even when Pilate declares his power over Jesus it is more of a whining whimper than it is a declaration of supreme power.  When Jesus tells Pilate that Pilate has no power except that which has been given to him from above, one might imagine Pilate would be incensed and insulted by that remark and condemn Jesus right then and there.  Instead, although Pilate will not admit it, he knows that it is true and wants desperately to find a way out of being involved in this Man’s death.

Thus across the entire human spectrum, you see the folly, the failure, the utter weakness of human power and how hard Jesus had to work to have His own death happen, to carry out the plan of His and Our Heavenly Father.  Those who would otherwise seem so arrogant, becoming completely impotent in the face of Jesus Christ.

Flash forward a few thousand years and we sadly find that our human arrogance has not diminished.  This world is hell-bent on acting as if human kind is the highest form of existence.  When human or natural calamities strike us we so often turn to our own devices; our intellect, our understanding, our force of arms, our human institutions of government, healthcare, justice and others as the sole and right solution to lift us out of our self imposed chaos.  We have so many who, in their ascendant nature, feel they no longer have “need” for God and look down and put down anyone else who puts their faith in the Almighty.

Jesus Christ will not be crucified again; once was enough.  And as the leaders of a millennia ago did not know what to do with, were completely thwarted by the risen Jesus Christ, today’s leaders, today’s world are not doing any better.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us strive to not fall into the trap of our own arrogance.  Let us not sink to defeat through the reliance on our own devices.  Let us humbly come before the risen, living, triumphant Jesus Christ and call and rely upon His name.  Let us abide in Him letting the truth of the Holy Spirit and the strength of Christ’s love sustain us through any earthly trial.  Let us also learn through the triumph of Christ’s humility not to be arrogant about our life in Christ as if we’ve earned that life through our own righteousness.  Rather let us share the love of Christ as He did to all, even those who rejected and hated Him. These are the lessons of Christ’s victory which the world refuses to learn.  Let us be loving, learning students of Christ allowing Him and Only Him to be the source of our redemption.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are Your creation.  Yet we humbly confess that we are stubborn creation.  We confess that we are often tempted to go our own way, in our own arrogance, leading to our own defeats.  Have mercy on us Heavenly Father and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would return to You and be washed clean and forgiven by the precious blood of Jesus Christ which was given to us for our salvation.  Give us the desire and then the strength to abide in Christ that we may bear living fruit to the praise of Your Most Holy Name.  We pray this in the Name of the victorious lamb, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

“This is My body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me”  Luke 22:19

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”  Matthew 21:29

“To Him who struck Egypt in their first born, for His mercy endures forever.”  Psalm 136:10

Time.  Time can be a challenge for us.  We’ve entered into a time of year, the Season of Lent, where we reflect on as well as prepare ourselves for the commemoration and celebration of, the entering into relationship with Our Living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through His life, death and resurrection.

So how can time become an issue?  It’s not about making time to reflect or prepare.  It can be an issue because of our limited human perspective as it applies to time.  You see we are a species limited to a linear perspective, especially when it comes to time, the passing of time and the language we use to express it.  Let’s look at some examples.  We say Jesus had his “last supper, we say the Christ was arrested, suffered and was crucified and we say that He rose again from the dead.  Now please don’t misunderstand me, I whole heartedly believe that those things actually happened.  The challenge for us is when we consider those things in a historical context; that is to say we commemorate and celebrate that they happened over 2,000 years ago, we may find that we primarily attach importance to them as strictly historical events.  The danger can be that to the extent we celebrate them solely in a historical context, Christ can become primarily a historical figure, like some great past societal leader, sports great, or other celebrity, who although we acknowledge their existence and even their greatness in their time, they have very little relevance to us in today’s world, in the present time.  Worst yet, if Christ has little relevance in today’s world, we can go searching for someone else to who we should pay more attention to, who has more relevance for us today.  Heaven Forbid!

Notice that Christ, Himself, in the way He communicated wanted to make sure that we understood He was the Savior, the King of Kings, for all time.  He tells us He will feast with us again.  He promises us that He is preparing rooms for us in His Father’s House and He will return to bring us back home.  Christ promises us to send, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit to us.  In each of these things, Christ is speaking in the present tense.  He is not speaking about one particular place or people in time.  He is promising this for all who love and follow Him, for all time.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, that Jesus Christ was willing to come to earth for us, teach us, suffer for us, take our sins upon himself and die for us is an act of love and sacrifice beyond measure and understanding.  It is right that we should humbly, with meekness and awe in our hearts, commemorate and celebrate His sacrifice for us.  David also understood the necessity of reminding people of the glorious, miraculous deeds God had done for His people in the past when David reminded the people of the Passover some 400 years after it took place.  However, David did that, not just to revel in some past miracle, but to stress the point that God’s mercy was the exact same mercy in the present as it had been 400 years previous in the time of Moses and freeing of the Jewish people.

Thus, let us make sure, not only during the Season of Easter, but each and every other season of the Christian Calendar as well, to be in an ever present relationship with our living, ever relevant Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ who is as very much alive today, whose love and authority is just as powerful and pertinent today as it was when He uttered these two promises; “for without me you can do nothing,” and “greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father”.   Notice that both of the statements, as well, are in the present tense.  In fact it is imperative that we understand that Christ was telling us, He wanted us to know that today, this very moment and all moments to come we can do nothing without Him, yet abiding in Him we can do greater works then He did on earth.

Let us celebrate that Jesus Christ is alive today.  He has no desire that we should only honor and look longingly back to those things He did in the past.  Jesus Christ makes it clear that He desires to have a vibrant, personal relationship with us this very moment, now and forever more.  A relationship of everlasting love that glorifies the name of Our Heavenly Father and showers us with blessings of peace and joy.  May all have a wonderfully blessed and happy Easter.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so very thankful for the word which You have allowed us to have that teaches us and reveals the lengths that You will go to have a loving relationship with us.  Forgive us Merciful Father when, through our limited ability to comprehend and perceive, we see Your Word, especially as it applies to Your Plan of Salvation through the death and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ as something that happened in the past with little relevance to us today.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit and have Him testify to us, the living nature of Your Promise, through Your eternally living Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to see and experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through which we are able to humbly come, being redeemed by His blood, into your presence.  These things we pray in the name of Him who died once that we who call on His name will have eternal life, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

“Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 16:17

“Get behind Me, Satan!  You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men!”  Matthew 16:23

First off, I’ll admit that I am a person who often reads the bible in small pieces.  Sometimes it may be a chapter but most often it is only a handful of verses within a chapter that make up a single thought or story and sometimes even a single verse.  While that can be appropriate for contemplating and praying for meaning, it can also cause me to miss the context of how messages fit together in the greater scheme of God’s narrative.  Take the two verses above.

Also first, I have to say that I find myself drawn in sympathy, empathy and admiration to Peter.  Why; let’s look at the two verses above.  In Matthew 16, Jesus starts out preaching against wrong teaching.  Some of the very basics of the wrong teaching is that people don’t understand who Jesus is.  So Jesus first asked who the people thought He was, with a string of wrong answers in reply.  Then Jesus asked; who do the disciples say that Jesus is?  Peter replies with the great answer:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, to which Jesus replies with the quote of Peter being blessed.

Just stop and imagine that for a moment and put yourself in Peter’s place.  You are a fisherman with no formal training.  You’ve been around people, learned people who claim that Jesus is a fraud, with others claiming Him to be merely a prophet or perhaps even Elijah.  But you (remember being Peter) step forward and give the answer you truly believe in faith.  Not only does Jesus, the One True Son of God, commend you and tell you you’re right, but goes on to say that you received that from God, Himself and; if that wasn’t good enough, that you will be receiving the keys to the kingdom of heaven!  Now we can’t be sure but one wonders when Jesus turned His back if Peter (and possibly you or I would have) was pointing at himself with both of his thumbs as if to say:  “That’s right you heard it from the Man, I’m the Rock!”

Ah, how fleeting is human fame.  Because the very next verses, the very next thing that is spoken of see’s Peter come crashing down.  The bible does not give us a sense of time between the two happenings.  We can’t say for certain if it was hours, days, or even weeks but it is the very next thing that the Word wants to stress in this gospel.  It is time to start to prepare the disciples for the true mission, the true reason for Jesus the Christ coming to earth; to die as a sacrifice at the hands of His own people and rise again on the third day.  To Peter, this is too much, the Son of God can not die, especially not being killed by the very people He came to save.  So Peter decides he must intervene.  In front of the disciples, Peter pulls Jesus aside and the gospel tells us, started to rebuke Jesus.

Again, please stop and let this sink in.  You’ve very recently declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Only True Son of God.  Now, you are going to pull the Son of God aside and chastise Him, tell Him that He is wrong!  No wonder the reply was as swift as it was devastating.  Peter had gone from being the Rock, to being Satan!  How did that happen?

Here is the lesson of Peter and it doesn’t just happen once.  Peter is blessed by God with the knowledge of Jesus as the Christ.  Then the world and the message of the world seeps in and Peter feels that he knows enough to rebuke Christ.  Christ’s Heavenly Father needs Him to die on the cross.  Peter’s human perspective needs Him to live and be an earthly conquerer and king.  Peter is the only disciple to walk on water.  He challenges Jesus to beckon him to walk on water and Jesus does just that.  Peter steps out and actually walks on water but then world seeps in.  The world, in the guise of winds and waves, causes Peter to fear, take his eyes of Jesus and he starts to sink.  Peter, is the only disciple to come to Jesus’ defense in the garden, standing up to the crowd and striking the slave of the high priest.  Jesus admonishes Peter and ends up arrested and the world crashes in.  The world tries to tie Peter just to knowing Christ let alone fighting for Him, and Peter denies it three times.

Ah Peter, Peter, Peter.  Yet truth in fact how many times could I look in the mirror and call myself or at least see myself as Peter?  How many times have I been blessed by God and instead of being truly humbled, felt that I obtained some sense of greater insight or wisdom.  Then, when I heard some preaching or read something in the gospel that I found different than my understanding, started to rebuke the gospel or disavow the preaching; letting Satan and his perspective seep in?  How many times have I asked for something and in the blessing of God’s granting it, found myself in some new and uncertain place where metaphorical winds and waves are crashing around me and fear tries to drive me away?  How many times have I been tempted to be less than bold in proclaiming my love for and followership of Jesus Christ allowing my silence or timidity to be a rejection?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we can learn so much from Peter yet to do so we must be very frankly honest with ourselves.  But here is the final point I’d like to make and it comes from the Gospel of John.  With all that Peter does, Jesus Christ loves Peter.  Jesus Christ doesn’t judge Peter, He restores Peter.  Jesus Christ knows, not only the failures of Peter, but knows that, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter will be the rock on which Christ’s church will be built.  Peter is not perfect but he is redeemed.  Likewise, Christ knows the plans He has for you and I and, like Peter did, when we humble ourselves and proclaim our love for Christ, He will redeem and restore us in Love, Mercy and Compassion as only Jesus Christ can do.

We must fight against the duality that the world will try to have us adopt.  Yet we can have faith, take strength and find peace, as Peter did, in the redeeming and restorative love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly thank you for the revelatory nature of Your Word.  We equally thank you for the Holy Spirit who You sent to reside in us, to explain to us Your Word and the message of Your Love it has for us.  Forgive us when we allow the message and perspective of the world, of Satan to encroach on us and lessen the impact that Your Word can have in and through us.  As Your Son Jesus Christ did for Peter, restore us when we have fallen allowing us to return to You, Your Love and be feeders of Your sheep.  We pray this in the Name of the One True and Only Begotten Son who came to earth to be our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen Read the rest of this entry »

“Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help”  Psalm 146:3

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.  A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom”  Psalm 45:6

“…the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him….saying ‘You are worthy, O Lord to receive, glory and honor and power'”  Revelation 4:10,11

So I will start out saying I believe in the process of human government and in the process of that government called democracy.  I do believe in the power of people being free to elect their governmental officials and thus they should be informed and engaged to do so.  This is not a post designed to communicate some sense of withdrawal or rejection of that process.

By the same token, I believe that we who call upon Our Almighty Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, need to consider a certain perspective about the impact and gravity of the outcome of earthly elections, regardless who or what party we support.

To a certain extent all elections are a combination of promise and of fear.  The fear is what will happen if the other person is elected as opposed to the promise that comes from electing the person we support.  Yet, having been through decades of election cycles now, this particular election cycle has raised the fear mongering to a significantly higher level than I have experienced in the past.  Opponents within the same country are being categorized as enemies.  Opponents within the same party are being described as disasters to the country should they be nominated or elected.

The vitriolic nature of the discourse of candidates between each other does not concern who is better for a position.  Rather the discourse has sunk to a level of base personal attacks on everything from a candidate’s physical looks, to a candidate’s spiritual beliefs, to, in some cases, whether the candidate is a special type of evil.  Statements designed to stoke frustration, fear and even outright animosity between candidates’ followers are being tossed about without any real concern about the veracity of those statements.

Finally, it appears that the nature of the campaigning has had its desired effect for there is a climate of and discussion about fear that permeates every aspect of the process.  Both sides are well on their way to convincing their constituents that the destruction of the country, the ending of all that is decent and upstanding, our very way of life as we know it will end if the other person were to win the election.  If we are not careful.  Even we, who profess Christ as our King and Savior, can get caught up in this frenzy of fear.

So I think it is time to take a pause, to take a deep breath, turn down or off the shreeking candidates, spokespersons and pundits of the world, and look to the true, eternal perspective.

First, are there good and bad, effective and ineffective, talented and incompetent leaders?  Certainly.  One only has to look at the books of 1 and 2 Kings as well as 1 and 2 Chronicles to find stories of wonderfully blessed, talented and wise leaders as well as evil, ignorant and inept leaders.  In those stories we see how the people of Israel prospered under the wise leaders and yes suffered under the foolish leaders.  Yet understand this, even under the worse leader, God did not allow the people of Israel to be destroyed.  God and His plan never stopped moving to His inexorable conclusion.

Additionally, we must be careful not to inflate the power of any person or their believers into something rivaling the power of Almighty God.  We have to avoid the temptation and the sin of falling into the trap of fearing the rise of someone we vehemently don’t like so much that we delude ourselves into feeling hope is abandoned should that person be elected.

We should understand and take comfort from the fact that God Almighty is on His throne and no power or combination of powers, earthly or otherwise will remove Him from His throne.  We should also understand that God is not a God who abandons us to our own devices.  If that were the case, Jesus Christ would have stayed in heaven and never come down to earth.  We should remember that all realms, including the political are realms that God had control over.  There are times that He has brought leaders up to show His power by bringing blessings as well as there have been times when He has brought up onerous, evil leaders to show His power by defeating them.

Bottom line, Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us not find ourselves in fear or trembling of any earthly leader or party.  Converslely, let us not put too much stock and faith in the goodness of any particular leader or party.  God is quite clear that we should not put our faith in earthly “princes”.  For we are all fallen and all good things, including leaders can only come from God above.

So, be engaged in the electorial process? Sure.  Researching and then supporting a candidate is a fine thing, but don’t hate the other candidate or their supporters.  Hope for blessings to come from the success of your candidate?  Okay, but do not live in fear should your candidate not win the day.  Understand that elections do have consequences and winners wield a certain amount of power?  Alright, but be at peace whoever wins, knowing that the power they wield is miniscule  and temporary as compared to the Eternal Power wielded by Almighty God.

Finally, regardless of the outcome, remember the exhortation of Jesus Christ; blessed are the peacemakers.  We all want to be called sons of God.  While elections may be about disparate candidates with different visions and plans, in the end, once the campaigns are over and the dust settles, for any progress to be made, we need to be able to come together.  Please be at peace this election season and do not let fear rule your heart.  Our Heavenly Father is on His throne and that is the only seat of power which truly matters.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we loudly proclaim with shouts of praise and glory that You are the One King of Kings and that You sit triumphantly on Your Throne.  Furthermore, we declare that You have power over all things.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we become so engaged in earthly processes that we forget about or trivialize Your Power.  Help us to focus on You first this election season allowing us to keep a civility and peace concerning this earthly process.  Remind us that no matter what the outcome, You are in charge and we should know that You will allow no earthly process, party or leader, to separate us from You.  Allow us to be the peacemakers who will bring honor, glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two,  from top to bottom…”  Matthew 27:51

“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  But, the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth…”  John 4:21,23

…that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul’ or ‘I am of Apollos’.. Is Christ divided, was Paul crucified for you…….”  1 Corinthians 1:12,13

There is a sad and troubling irony happening in our world today.  We say that we celebrate diversity; that is we celebrate our differences or that we are different as a way of coming together.  However, what we do is a horrifically wonderful job of describing our differences and why they matter; but a terribly inadequate job of the coming together part, of melding those differences together as one.  What do I mean?  We have all kinds of movements; movements based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and yes, unfortunately, even within Christianity.  We partition ourselves based on our political beliefs, we draw our voting districts in such a way that only one party can dominate.  Too often, whomever populates the boundaries of a particular partition feel so threatened and disenfranchised that they feel they must scream loud and long to be heard but can not risk taking the time to hear the responses.  Our ultimate goal in this process is to make our partition the largest, loudest, most powerful allowing us to rightly, as we judge rightly, rule the world.

While this is not a new phenomenon, I believe Jesus Christ shows us that is not the way it is intended to be.  One of the most pronounced and unbreakable partitions in Jewish practice was the veil that separated the outer chamber and the rest of the temple from the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant, containing the stone tablets of the ten commandments plus the golden container of manna and also where Aaron’s staff that budded were kept.  The only person who could enter the Holy of Holies was the High Priest and then he could only enter once a year and only with the blood of sacrifice.  This was the place where God’s Spirit came to be when He came to the temple. Thus at any one time all were separated from the presence of Almighty God because of their sin except for one human being, the High Priest, who himself could only enter once a year and only then with the sacrifice of blood for the atonement of sins.

Yet in God’s plan, that separation was not to last.  God did not want that for eternity, we would be kept from His presence by our sin.  Our Heavenly Father, in His ultimate mercy, did not want to partition us off.  Though with our sinful nature, how could He possibly allow us into his presence?  He had to have One, whose sacrifice would pay the price for all eternity for every sin.  One, who was so perfect, so unblemished that His blood would forever wash away the stain of the sins of those who believed on Him and wanted to come through Him into the presence of the Father.  Jesus Christ was that One perfect sacrifice.  Thus upon His death, the spilling of His blood, He forever tore the veil, destroyed the partition that separates us from our Heavenly Father.

Jesus Christ also wanted to tear down the partition of coming to the Father for all people, including genders.  That is what He was explaining to the woman from Samaria at the well.  First that Jesus was even speaking to her was breaking down a partition.  Women were not to be spoken to by men especially if no other man was around to supervise the conversation.  Yet Jesus, a Jewish man no less, was stooping low enough to have a conversation with a woman and a Samaritan woman at that!  Her people worshipped on a mountain where a temple had been built in the past, the Jews said the only true place to worship was the temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus takes the time to speak directly to her and teach her as well about what true worship is because He has come into the world to be our living water.  Through Jesus Christ there is no longer the need to have the partition of gender, nor of worship differences like location.  All true believers will worship in spirit and in truth as Our Heavenly Father desires.

Finally, Paul is dealing with a partition that we face within Christendom today.  The partition within our own faith.  Today we call them denominations or such things as nondenominational versus denominational and many more partition exist.  Throughout the first century new churches were being established in different locations and even in the Book of Revelation, Jesus Christ speaks of and to different churches.  So Paul hears concerning the faith in Corinth is starting to fracture, to divide into partitions, some for Paul, some for Apollos.  Paul is very grieved by this and gives a rather scathing rebuke.  He reminds them that there is only one allegiance, only One who sacrificed, only One who brings salvation, that is Jesus Christ.  Thus it is to Jesus Christ and His gospel where our loyalty needs to be above all else.

I belong to a denominational church.  Yet I travel considerably and I find that I find wonderful blessings when I attend other denominational or nondenominational churches when I’m away.  I cringe when I hear one denomination or leader railing against another Christian group, especially over some human made doctrine or point.  Paul winds up the argument in this way; when humans seem wise on their own account, they are foolish and made to seem foolish in the Eyes of God.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are different.  When we combine those differences together under the tent of Jesus Christ and His teachings then our differences combine for a beautiful portrait of togetherness.  We would be wise to remember Christs teaching that while we might be different branches, the only way we thrive, they we don’t wither and die is to be attached to, to grow from the One Vine, who is Jesus Christ, Lord of lord’s and King of kings.  Let us tear down the partitions which divide us and strive to never build any new in their places.  Let us be one in the Father, through the One Son, Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You God are One.  Even in the eternal mystery of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, we know You to Speak with one voice.  As You are One, help us, Your children to be one as well.  Let us look at ways to combine our talents to bring our differences together to uplift each other.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we instead cling to our differences to built partitions to block us from seeing the needs and helping our brothers and sisters.  Pour Out Your Spirit upon us so that it would wash away all partitions between us and bring us together, living through the one and only Living Water which comes from You.  This we pray in the name of He who gave Himself as the One Holy and Sufficient Sacrifice to forever destroy the partition between we the created and You the Creator, Jesus Christ.  Amen

“I am the resurrection and the life….And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”  John 14:25,26

“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”  Matthew 18:11

“The people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.  Matthew 15:8 (Isiah 29:13)

Rejection.  There’s a whole lot of spinning going around of various different things these days; a loss can be turned into a moral victory, a lie can be turned into a misrepresentation of the facts, a sin can be turned into a momentary lapse of judgement.  However, I can’t thing of a time where rejection has been spun into a good or pleasant thing.  There is the pain, the sting, the depression over, the lingering impact  (and many more negative aspects) of rejection.  One reason for this is rejection is often a unilateral action.  One person wants something badly, a job, a relationship, acknowledgement, love and the other person denies, they reject that thing as well as that person.  With rejection there seems to be the immediate sting that comes with its reception and then the lingering pain of its remembrance.

One of the things, one of the knocks on Christians and even Jesus Christ Himself, is seemingly He was so quick to reject.  Satan has convinced much of the world that Jesus Christ was and is a judgemental, vicious, rejecter of humanity and so are His people.  Sadly, we who state we are believers and belong to and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ have been all too quick to reject our fellow person.

Here’s what we have to understand, here’s what is critical grasp, here’s the vital truth; it is we, always we who reject and reject first.  In the initial fall, we were the ones that rejected God’s teaching and commandments, we were the ones that hid from God.  Even then, though there were consequences for our rejection, God did not reject us.  Didn’t Jesus reject the Pharisees and Sadducees?  No, it was the Jewish leaders who rejected Jesus, who said that He could not be the Messiah.  They were the ones who called Him the king of demons.  Ah, but didn’t Jesus reject the rich man?  No, He didn’t.   I think people focus too much on Jesus saying to the young rich man; sell what you have and don’t focus on what Jesus said next; come follow me.  And remember it was the rich man who turned and walked away.  It was the rich man who rejected Jesus and his promise for eternal life, which ironically is what the young man said he was looking for in the first place.

Jesus was very clear; He came to save the world, to find the lost, to heal the sick and the broken.  Did not Jesus talk to and heal Jarius the synagogue leader’s child?  Did not Jesus praise the Roman Centurion and heal his servant?  Did Jesus accept a stealing tax collector to be one of His disciples (Matthew)?  It is clear through these and so many more instances of what He said and did for people that Jesus was not in the rejection business.

Unfortunately the same can not be said for us.  And we must be very clear about what rejection of Jesus Christ looks like, sounds like, acts like.  For there is the outright worldly rejection that says that Our Heavenly Father does not exist so anything associated with Him does not exist.  There is the worldly rejection that although it may be said that God exists, Jesus Christ did not exist, or maybe He did exist but was not the only begotten Son of God, just a really good man.  These are all definitely worldly rejections with their grave consequences of gnashing of teeth and crying.

There is a second more insidious type of rejection, a type of rejection that is even more dangerous because it hides in belief and undermines statements of faith and submission.  It is the rejection of Jesus Christ in the heart.  This type of rejection can be found in the world and within the community of believers as well.  What does this look like?  It looks like when we judge and reject our fellow person when we are sinners ourselves.  Know that we can and should reject the sin; both within ourselves and others.  However, that does not mean we reject the person.  It also looks like when we reject Christ’s teachings and instead accept what the world decrees as just, fair and righteous.  Rejection is when we reject the blessings and treasures of heaven and instead invest our time in building up earthly treasures for our own pleasure.

How do we know if we are in the process of rejecting Jesus Christ?  I know I was there before I accepted Christ into my life and unfortunately have been there afterwards as well.  I believe we should use the gnashing of teeth test.  Gnashing of teeth is often a response to anger, frustration, rage and hopelessness.  Do you feel in your heart that you should be reaching out to someone, but you are not because the world would look badly for you associating with, providing comfort for this person?  When you reject God’s voice, do you find yourself gnashing your teeth? Your heart is telling you to forsake some aspect of your life, smoking, adultery, something else that you are bowing down to, but you reject God’s voice because you are deriving much earthly pleasure from it?  Do you find that you’re gnashing your teeth thinking about it?  Your heart is telling you about a habit, a job, a location, something else that you need to change and you are rejecting that voice and find your jaw locked in a violent teeth gnash?

To those who might be reading this; first, thank you.  Second, if you have never accepted Jesus Christ, know that He has not rejected you.  He is patiently and waiting along with the Heavenly Host to rejoice and welcome you into His presence once you accept Him.  If you are reading this as a person of faith; we must ask ourselves, how are our teeth; are they gnashing or are they at rest.  Neither Jesus Christ, Our Heavenly Father, nor the Holy Spirit are in the business of rejection.  One dwells within us, The other loves us so much that He planned for our salvation, and the other followed His Father’s plan and far from rejecting us, instead died for us that we might live in Him.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You that although in Your righteousness, You can judge and reject us, instead You love us so much that You sent Your Son as a sacrifice to redeem us.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we reject that love and instead act in a worldly manner.  Pour Out Your Spirit upon us that we instead would reject the world and all the evil which is in it and instead return to You Dear Father.  That in doing so the world would see Your redeeming nature and praise Your Holy Name.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“This is a deserted place, and the hour is late.  Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves some food.”  Matthew 14:15

“But Jesus said to them: ‘They do not need to go away, You give them something to eat.'”  Matthew 14:16

“I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall never hunger…” John 6:35

Food is something that we seem to care a great deal about.  That is why I included that clip from the Lord of the Rings.  Doubt our obsession? Then just look at our media, our commercials.  Watch how often food, the intake of food, its elimination, preparation, shedding of excess food, proper ingesting and many, many other related topics are portrayed in media.  I don’t point this out as a critique, just as an observation.

Thus is it any wonder that one of the most easily remembered, oft quoted, enduring and endearing miracles that Jesus Christ performed on this earth dealt with food and feeding; the feeding of the 5,000?  Yet as is so often the case, there is so much more to this miracle than the miraculous event of more than 5,000 people being fed from five loaves of bread and two fish, as if that wasn’t enough.

Let’s start with the context of when this takes place.  Jesus has just learned of a very tragic event; the death of John the Baptist.  Also, it’s not just that John the Baptist had died but that manner of which, the senseless barbarity of the murder, the beheading of John by King Herod, that reaches Jesus ears.  Thus Jesus decides that He needs some time alone.  The gospel does not reveal why Jesus departed to a deserted place; perhaps, in a human way He was frustrated that Jerusalem had, once again, killed a prophet sent to save them.  Perhaps He was mourning the passing of a dear friend.  Maybe, He was contemplating His own end that He knew was going to come with much greater barbarity; again we just don’t know.

What we do know is Jesus plan, the plan for solitude failed.  For Jesus had been preaching, teaching and healing for a while.  Jesus’ notoriety and popularity had grown significantly.  People from the surrounding area heard that Jesus was there and they came, no they flocked, like a herd of sheep, in desperate need of a Shepherd, they flocked to Jesus.  And so it began, Jesus, the Messiah, was moved with compassion and did not flee deeper for His own comfort in isolation, He turned and He ministered to them; He healed their sick.

Let’s stop for a moment to look at the before the feeding time.  For in the Gospel of Mark, we read that Jesus not only healed their sick but He also taught them.  Jesus, first was taking care of their spiritual needs, He first fed their souls with the Good News of His Heavenly Father’s Message.  So, He’s healing their sick and feeding their souls.  Going back to our focus on earthly and tangible things, like food, we often don’t take the time to understand, this aspect of the “miracle” at all.  Thus to go through a crowd like this and find and heal the sick and then teach to them the lessons of the Kingdom does take some time.

Now the hour has become late and in away there are two aspects to the lateness of the hour.  First literally the day is almost spent, night time is approaching.  Second and equally as late and dark, there is a sense that the wonderful spiritual aspect of day is waning and the cold stark truth of the world is returning.  For the world, in the guise of the disciples, comes to Jesus and says, send them away.  Tell them to depart from You, Jesus, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, there is nothing more that You can do for them.  They must take care of their earthly need to eat and for that they must depart from You.  I do not blame the disciples for this thought.  Jesus after all was many things, a healer, teacher, preacher, master, carpenter; however, one thing he certainly was not was a baker, a maker of bread.  They had no reason to expect that Jesus had the wherewithal to provide for this crowd.

This next part I truly love.  For God had miraculously provided food for His people before.  God had brought quail from the sky and formed manna to feed the Israelites in the desert.  So Jesus could have called forth a miracle and all at once food could have appeared from heaven.  Instead, Jesus decides to include the disciples.  Jesus in His infinite wisdom understands the power of working His miracle through the hands of His most trusted followers.  So Jesus says: “You feed them”.

One wonders if the disciples thought Jesus had lost His mind?  Or perhaps Jesus was scolding them or making fun of them.  We can’t be sure what they thought besides being incredulous at the suggestion.  For indeed, what could the disciples do with a mere five loaves and two fish?  Alone, they could do nothing.  But they were not alone.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus Christ needed show His disciples then as well as us today; just what is possible through relying on Jesus Christ. Perhaps reluctantly, we can’t be sure, but the disciples do bring the five loaves and the two fish to Jesus.  They watch Him thank God for the loaves and fish and bless them, then they receive them back, now sanctified and they go out and distribute them.  Then group after group, family after family, open the baskets and partake of bread and fish, filling themselves until they can eat no more.  Far from being barely adequate, the loaves and fish not only satisfy the entire crowd but there is such abundance that there is food left over.  It is only then, that Jesus decides it is now time to release the crowds to return to their homes.

Jesus Christ does not wish to turn anyone away unfed, not then, not now.  Jesus Christ also wants us to be fully fed.  Christ first wants us to be fed by His Body and His Blood as the Bread of Life, spiritually bringing us into eternal life with Him as well as equipping us to be victorious in the spiritual battles of this life.  Sometimes that’s where we want to stop Him; place Him only in the realm of the spiritual.  Yet Jesus Christ shows us through this miracle, that He is King of all realms and wishes us not to be left hungry in the natural world as well.  Yet the natural world will try and tell us to depart from Jesus to take care of our natural needs, food, money, health, love.  Jesus Christ tells us to abide in Him and all things, both the things in the here and now plus things for all eternity, He will provide.

Let us not listen to the world, let us never turn away from Jesus Christ to fulfill whatever the need might be.  Jesus Christ will never send us away from Him unfed.  Plus blessing upon blessing, Jesus Christ might very well use us in the feeding of others.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so very thankful for the care and love You show to us by never sending us away unfed.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when we turn to other than You to meet a need in our lives.  Thank You Father, that You, in Your infinite wisdom, will also bless us by allowing us to be partners in distributing as well as partakers of bounteous blessings You pour out for us.  Through the partnering and partaking may we live lives of praise that bring glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm..”  Deuteronomy 5:15

“Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?”  Matthew 16:10

We have a very human habit of taking an idea that has merit to it and then taking it to an extreme that diminishes if not completely vacates the value of it. Take the aspect of looking to/living in the past.  It is said that we should not dwell in or on the past.  To the extent that is trying to instruct us that, by its very nature, we have no way to impact the past.  Thusly, if we live only in the triumphs of our past; we become stagnant and irrelevant to the present and our future is likewise bleak.  Additionally, if we live in the failures of our past then we approach any aspect of new with fear and trepidation making it difficult to impossible to move forward.  I can definitely see and agree with those points.

Now here’s where I say that we take those thoughts and in taking them to an extreme, go too far and not only negate the value that those concepts have but also end up disregarding the value that learning from the past can teach us.  In the current mantra to “live for the day”, most if not any thought about or analysis of the past is folly and a waste of time.  “The past is past”, so it is said and therefore no value or wisdom can be derived from considering it.  I will admit that while many don’t take this extreme view of looking at the past, there is far less understanding of the rich wisdom and counsel, let alone the spiritual confidence in the future, that can be derived from spiritually remembering the past.

Moses with spiritual insight from God, knew this very well.  The people of Israel had been wondering in the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience from God.  Now a new generation was preparing to go inherit the land promised to the them, the land “flowing with milk and honey”, from God.  So Moses was addressing all the people and recounting to them the Ten Commandments; the sacred law of God.  Yet Moses knew that even this new generation would not take automatically to these laws.  They needed to be reminded of just how powerful and mighty their God was how much He cared for them.  So Moses reminds them about how the people were slaves in Egypt and the mighty power God had shown in freeing them from the Egyptians.

Christ knew that sometimes we need to be reminded about things that have happened very recently in our own lives for us to gain understanding.  Jesus was warning them concerning the wrong doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, about how even mixing a little of their teachings into Jesus teachings can ruin the whole thing.  He uses the example of leaven getting into bread dough and causing the whole loaf to rise.  However, the disciples thought Jesus was speaking literally and was rebuking them for not bringing bread.  In reminding the disciples concerning the very miracles they witnessed, they actually participated in, the feeding of the thousands with a few simple loaves and fish and the fact that there was plenty left over, Jesus was telling them He cares nothing about and can easily provide bread for the stomach as needed.  He’s telling the disciples to instead of fixating on bread, on things of this world, to fixate instead on spiritual things and righteousness.

Through these examples we can see that there can be much wisdom and discernment derived from looking into the past, both our recent past as well as a past more ancient.  In my own life, I can see the blessing of God’s Grace in keeping my physically safe in some very dangerous circumstances, bringing my wife and then children to me.  God has sustained me in times of need and provided abundantly for me as well.  In God’s word I find the only way to true salvation and countless examples of His Love for us His creation.

I will admit that there is a danger in looking to the past.  For we have an enemy and the devil will want to skew and/or disrupt our looking into the past.  He will try to get us to focus on our sins, trying to use guilt to drive a wedge between us and the Lord.  Failing that, Satan will try to have us see past triumphs and victories as our own doing, filling us with pride as well as seeing failures as an absence and abandonment from God.

Thus Dear Sisters and Brothers I implore that we use prayer for accurate spiritual discernment as well as God’s word as a grace filled guide to look for His loving, guiding, protecting hand in our past.  Why?  For one, because then I can move confidently forward today as well as having hope and faith in the future.  That I feel His calling to write, I can change my job from full-time to part-time, which I have done.  You see He has called me to make moves, physical and with jobs before, sometimes resulting in 2/3 cut in pay.  Yet even at those times He graciously and bountifully sustained my family so I can have confidence to step out in faith again.  While the writing has yet to derive sustaining income in and of itself, I can have faithful confidence in His plan and timing to be blessed by answering His call.

Look to your past, look to the past history of the people of God and see the blessed nature and impact of Our Heavenly Father’s love in your life.  In seeing that impact, may we be swift in singing out and long in proclaiming the glory, honor and praise to Our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we prayerfully thank You that You have allowed Your wonderful word to be captured so that we can look back and reflect on Your love for Your people.  Thank you that You allow us to have memories where we can also reflect on the personal ways You have blessedly impacted our lives.  Forgive us when we fail to recall Your mercy, grace and blessings for us or claim credit and praise for Your actions.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that as we reflect on our lives we would see You and Your magnificent plan for us in all its glory and give You all honor and praise.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“And the Lord said to Samuel….they have not rejected you but have rejected me…..forewarn them and show them the behavior of the king…”  1 Samuel 8:7,9

“This will be the behavior of the king……He will take your sons…..He will take your daughters…..He will take the best of you fields…..” 1 Samuel 8:11, 13, 14

“For they bind heavy burdens hard to bear and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they will not move them with one of their fingers.”  Matthew 23:4

“Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme the noble name by which you are called?”  James 2:6,7

There is danger in human strength.  There is personal danger in wanting to obtain human strength.  There is personal and societal danger in looking for, admiring and coveting after and/or following human strength.  Why or what is that danger?

First, we are in the midst of many contests and conflicts in our current time.  There are political contests, business contests and competitions, there are geopolitical contests, some involving the use of arms-in other words wars.  And what I find to be an overarching theme in these contests, in some cases it’s an individual boast, in some cases an overwhelming search to find, in some cases almost a worshipful admiration when found, in some cases a begrudging admission of defeat, is that human strength is the overall arbiter of a successful outcome, thus human strength is the most desired personal or communal strength; that is that someone or something is “strong”.  This is not new.

Samuel was a prophet of Israel.  As such, Samuel spoke with and then passed on God’s words to His people.  At that time, there was no one higher or more powerful in Israel society than the prophet.  Now the prophet was not supposed to take advantage of this or literally “profit” off the people as he carried out his charge from God.  Naturally, this was an unusual governmental in general during that time.  The gentiles, those who were not God’s chosen people, who did not have or were supposed to have, at least, a close personal relationship with God, had a more familiar governmental process, normally revolving around a king.  As time, went on, as Samuel got older, he set his two sons as judges over Israel but they did not walk in the ways of Samuel and the Lord.  So instead of coming to the Lord about this, the people cried out for a king.  They saw that the lands around them had strong armies, seemingly strong prosperous cities and felt they needed someone of earthly, human strength to lead them as well.  God decided to grant them their request but wanted them warned a head of time what the price of having an earthly strong king would be.  He warned them about how a human king, a human person of human strength and power would treat the very people who wanted him king.

Jesus confronted this same earthly strength and power that led to miscarriages of justice in the Jewish, religious leadership in power in His day.  He spoke of how the religious leaders, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others would bind heavy burdens while at the same time getting royal tributes, alms and adulation from the crowds.  Yet they did nothing with what they were receiving to help the burdens they themselves had placed on the people they were supposed to be serving.

There are so many instances great and small throughout history where the seeking for, then following people of strength, allowing them to wield power has led to horrific results.  Remember that the Pharaoh did not enslave the Jews until they had lived in the land for some time.  Think of what Hitler did in Europe, Stalin in Russia, Mao Tse-Tung in China, more recently Pol Pot slaughtering millions in Cambodia and even today, the devastation being wrought by the dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The thing it is so critical for us to remember is that for someone, anyone, to show human strength, they have to enforce their will in whatever brutal form necessary to show that someone else is weaker.  In our rush to embrace human strength, we must understand how often it is that those who face the wrath and consequences of the person of strength are most often first within their own family, organization or society.  So here’s the very ironic thing, those to include you and I, who follow and allow this person of strength to become a person in power, may very well be turned on and turned against if we are believed to be in any way a threat to that person.  How quickly an ally can become an enemy through no fault of their own is exemplified in the story of David having faithfully served under King Saul, only to become hunted with the hope of David’s death at the hands of the king.

So if it is not earthly, human strength we should seeking for ourselves and/or looking for, supporting and/or following in others, what type strength should we be looking for?  For the answer to that, look no further than Jesus Christ.   Remember of course, if anyone had/has claim to power, it is Jesus Christ; for He was fully God, with all that power come to earth.  Yet how did Jesus use His power?  Did Jesus Christ seek out a weak area of society to make an enemy and completely squash?  When Jesus was confronted by an enemy did He call power down from heaven utterly exterminating them?  Hardly, for Jesus didn’t shun the weak or use them as some evil rallying cry.  Jesus met with the weak, He ate with the weak, He used His power not to exterminate them, but to heal them, to teach them, to lift them up.  When He was confronted by enemies within His own people He patiently listened to them and then showed them the error of their ways.  In the end, when He could have called down legions of angels to reek havoc and desolation on those who were planning to kill him, instead Jesus, died for them, He forgave them, as He died for all of us and His blood washes us clean.  That is true strength, true power.

Thus Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us first reflect on ourselves.  Then let us also look to those whom we support, who we look up to to see how they wield strength and view power.  Do we and those we support use strength to lift up and protect the weak instead of crush them?  Do we look to find strength in bringing all together versus only those who think and/or look like we do?  Do we see strength in victory at any cost, no matter how much damage or hurt is caused or do we see strength in sacrifice?  When or if in doubt ask yourself, can I see Jesus Christ doing that; saying that?  Then follow those for whom you would answer yes.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that You are all powerful and the only strength we should seek comes from You.  Forgive us when we forsake You and look to ourselves or other worldly persons to find necessary strength.  Give us the strength to live the example of Christ, using our given strength to help those in need and bring together not separate.  Give us the strength to love like Christ loves.  That the lives lived with that strength will bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

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