May the day perish on which I was born…May that day be darkness.”  Job 3:3,4

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”  Job 38:4

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”  Matthew 5:5

I have to admit, from a human perspective, at least from my perspective, the Book of Job is a tough book to get my arms, really my spirit around.  It is the basic premise or should I say set up that I find most confusing.  For, from my human perspective, Job seems to be basically a pawn between two spiritual titans; Satan accuses and God then allows.  Job shouldn’t be treated like that.  Job is entitled to better.  Hmmm, maybe I should be treated better? Maybe I’m entitled to not have earthly negative things happen to me?  As difficult as this book can be to understand, to take the time to read through, I can see, at least for me, it has the potential to be, except for the four gospels of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the most powerful book of the bible.  Why would I say that?  For the following reasons:

1.  God is the Supreme Sovereign.  God is over all.  Both in the beginning of Job and toward the end, when God answers Job from the whirlwind, God’s supreme nature, supreme wisdom, supreme power,  are never in question.

2.  God did not bring the harm.  Job’s possessions are destroyed.  Job’s loved ones are killed.  Job’s health is destroyed.  Yet none of those things come by the actual Hand of God.  It is true God allowed them to happen.  It appears, at least to my judgement, that they could not have happened without His allowance.  However, they were not His direct actions.

3.  God does not condemn His own.  Job loses hope.  Job curses his own life.  Though throughout most of the book, Job does not humble himself, Job appears to accuse God of not being fair, Job’s friends seem to feel it is okay to speak for God; God, in His infinite patience and mercy, neither condemns Job, nor his friends.

4.  God restores.  When Job is finally faced with wisdom, the power, the truth, the perfection of God, he freely confesses, he repents, he understands he lacks the wherewithal  to truly grasp and understand the Nature of God.  God in His Grace, restores Job, not only from an earthly nature with things and family, but most importantly spiritually.

The power of the book of Job is in its reflective properties.  This book is a mirror.  This book boldly and without apology exposes the process of human thought, human judgement used against Our Heavenly Father.  In the end, it also shows the folly of that human thought, that judgement as compared to the perfection of God.

What human thought; what human judgement you ask?  Let’s take a look.  First let us consider before the terrible things befell Job.  Job was prosperous.  Job was healthy.  Job was happy.  God, Himself call Job upright.  Now is when our human logic jumps in.  No where, again no where in this book does it say that Job’s prosperity, health and happiness were a direct payment owed to him because of his being upright.  No, what is directly said is that God has blessed the work of his hands.  What Job has is a gift from God.

Then worldly events impact Job.  Horrible things happen to the things he has, his family, even his health.  Once that happens, again human judgement kicks in.  What is left of his family, his wife, deserts him; “Enough with your complaining, curse God and die”, she tells Job.  Job’s “friends” then come; to “comfort” him.  “You get what you deserve,” they tell him in one way or another.  The human logic is, if earthly things are going wrong, then you must have done something wrong.  If things go really bad, you must have become truly evil.  Thus become good and good will happen.  Do good and you will be entitled to good things.  Sounds reasonable.  Sounds fair.  I will go out and do good based upon what I deem is good and how much is good enough.

Then God enters in; and in an interaction to amazing to truly grasp; He doesn’t condemn, He doesn’t destroy, He asks some questions.  Who are you, man to question me?  Did I need to consult you when creating the earth and heavens?  Did you give Me insight into creating the life on earth?  Did we discuss on an equal basis what is good in this life and what is evil?  If none of those things happened; on what grounds do you judge Me about what is fair or not?, God asks Job, God asks each of us.

When faced with God, if we are truly going to believe in God, then we are forced to come to the conclusion Job did.  We utter things about which we do not understand.  God’s things are things too wonderful for us, that we can truly, completely never know.

What is our response then to be?  Jesus Christ told us.  To inherit the earth, we must be meek.  The only way to come into the presence of God is to be humble.  To allow the all powerful Will of God to work within us we must set aside our will and the pride of power that we think we have.  We must understand, what I have is a gift, a blessing from God and not a payment, not an entitlement for my good works.

Job said it: “I am vile.”  Yet understand this; God was not going to leave Job in his vileness.  God had a better plan for Job.  God has a better plan for us.  God does not want to leave us in our earthly thoughts, our earthly judgements, our earthly sins.  In His amazing mercy and love, God longs for, God is desperate for, us to be in His peace and joy and relationship with Him.  How can we know? How can we be sure?  He sent a savior.  God sent His Only Son Jesus Christ to die for us; to wipe away or vileness that we may live anew with and in Him.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we live in a world where the feeling of entitlement is paramount.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we fall victim to that feeling and no longer see Your blessings as gifts but as entitled rewards for our good deeds.  Hear us when we humbly repent, strengthening us to overcome the trials and tribulations of this world.  Provide us with the spirit of meekness that we may see the Power in You and call upon Your Power to change this world.  In Praise and in the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

“So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?'”   Genesis 4:6

“When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath.”  Esther 3:5

“But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”  Matthew 5:39

We must start out with a very basic truth.  He, in the Persons of Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are perfect.  We, none of us, is perfect.  Thus it is our imperfections that will often lead us into times of being reproved as well as conflict.  It is how we respond to those times that will make all the difference.

I confess, to my human, earthly understanding, the story of Cain has its difficulties.  If you remember from Genesis, Cain and his brother Abel bring their offerings to God.  Scripture tells us that Cain, the first born, was a tiller of the soil, while his brother Abel, watched over the flocks.  Cain brings an offering of fruit.  Abel brings an offering of a lamb.  Depending on the translation of scripture, here’s what is said about God’s response to Cain’s offering, it was:  not respected, not accepted, not looked on with favor, etc.  This action from God makes Cain angry.  What was Cain’s ultimate response to God’s action; to kill his brother Abel!  Here’s the thing to remember; God is perfect.  We are not told why God did not respect or accept Cain’s offering.  We do know that God, in that moment was not rejecting Cain, himself.  How do we know that?  God sees Cain’s anger and asks him why he is angry?  Why has his demeanor and behavior become downcast and forlorn?  God still cared about Cain.  God still loved Cain.

There is also the human side of disrespect or rejection.  In the times of the Jewish exile to Babylon, and even greater empire came and conquered Babylon.  The ruler of the Persian empire at this time is a King named Ahasuerus.  This king promotes one of the princes named Haman to be above all other princes.  There is also a lessor man, a servant in the king’s house, who had saved the king from a plot against him.  That man was a Jew named Mordecai.  As one might expect, Haman’s promotion brought him a certain amount of respect from the other princes and people around the king.  They would bow and pay homage to Haman when he passed by.  However, Mordecai did neither of those things toward Haman.  Scripture does not give us an indication that Mordecai went out of his way to show disrespect toward Haman.  In fact Haman did not notice Mordecai’s behavior himself.  No, it only comes to Haman’s attention when he is told by someone else.  But, once it comes to Haman’s attention, he is enraged.  Yet Haman doesn’t just plan to take revenge against Mordecai or maybe Mordecai’s family at this perceived offense.  Haman decides he is going to wipe out the entire Jewish population from the entire kingdom of Persia because of what one man, Mordecai has done!

Herein lies the lesson of these two incidents.  One is a rebuke from the perfect God Almighty.  The other is a perceived insult where none was intended.  Yet it is the response to these situations that leads to such significant tragedy for the figures involved.  For Cain’s response was not to humble himself and inquire of God as to the inadequacy of the offering given.  Cain decided to become angry.  Cain seem to realize he had no recourse against God Almighty so he decided, in his anger to murder his brother instead.  This murder leads to Cain being banished from his family, forced into exile.  For Haman the consequences of his response are even worse.  Haman, in his evil anger plots to destroy all the Jews, not knowing that the king’s favorite queen, Queen Esther is a Jew.  When Haman’s evil plot is uncovered, the king has him hanged on the very gallows that he had planned to have Mordecai hanged on.

Thus we see that it is in our response to situations where we find ourselves reproved by Our Heavenly Father or perhaps rejected by those of this world that makes all the difference.  So what is the appropriate response?  For the answer, we must turn to Jesus Christ.  In scripture, Jesus teaches us that Our Heavenly Father will at times prune us so that we may bear even more fruit.  We will be tempted.  There are times when we will fall short and sin.  There will be consequences for those sins.  We can either become angry and bitter.  We can lash out at those whom did not give in to temptation.  We can lash out at God Almighty.  Or, and this is the correct thing to do, we can humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness as well as guidance on what to do.  Knowing that God reproves and prunes those He dearly loves.  If we feel we’ve been slighted, rejected or disrespected by someone of this world, whether deservedly or not; Jesus teaches us that we are to turn the other cheek.  We are not to retaliate against them, but are to forgive them, knowing that we, ourselves receive much greater forgiveness from Our Heavenly Father.

Dear Sisters and Brothers we live in an age where seemingly no slight should go unchallenged, no insult should go unpunished, no disrespect go unavenged.  It is a world where breaking into line in front of another person can lead to a person taking another’s life.  Those angry responses lead to hate, division and tragedy.  God would not have it so.  Jesus Christ reminds us that even when He was bearing the biggest insult and disrespect of all; hanging on a cross, dying for our sins, He forgave us.  He loved us.  Let our response to these situations mirror Jesus Christ’s response allowing us to live lives of praise and peace to and in the Name of Our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world where slipping into conflict is as easy as taking a breath.  We confess that we, ourselves often choose to become angry and retaliate instead of being like Jesus Christ and becoming humble and forgiving.  Pour Out Your Spirit upon us that we may have the strength to overcome our anger with peace and overcome our hatred with love.  We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“No one is good, except God alone.”  Mark 10:18

“There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God….”  Romans 3:22,23

Okay, first from the title, you may feel that this is going to be a heavy, judgemental post, if you will read through it I’m hoping that you’ll see it is anything but that.  Second, I very purposely used the pronoun “I” in the title.  For I have not the wisdom nor talent for judgement to say anything about anyone else as it applies to the state of their soul.  I assure you, the log in my eye is large enough to keep me busy.

Evil is a tough subject in today’s world.  It is also a word that is very seldom used in the context of overly heinous acts.  So often after terrible deeds are perpetrated on an individual or larger scale, the motivations behind those deeds are explained by mental illness, being in abject poverty, the lack of proper oversight and the like.  Yet in our society we are loathe to acknowledge that evil exists, let alone think that it can be rampant in our society and thus the impacts of it.

Yet Jesus Christ and The Word of God are very clear on the subject.  Evil absolutely exists.  Evil is the very basis of sin which leads to the kinds of behaviors and acts that we are seeing with ever increasing frequency in this world.  I can not escape the conclusion that is stated in the bible.  I am evil.

What is evil?  At it’s very basic nature it is the love of self, the ability to puts one self in front and above all else.  It is the elevation of self to the highest entity leading to the ability to hate any and all others who are not the self.  I must confess that I have that capability within me.  I have to admit that, left to my own devices, I would embrace the me first manifesto which could lead to deeply troubling and disastrous acts.

I am evil.  I was not made for evil.  God did not create me to be evil.  Rather it comes down to my choice, my desire to be connected to, to follow the ways of the Prince of Evil, that is Satan.

If I left the post there it would seem a post of doom.  It would be to leave myself in a place of no hope.  I would be proclaiming my eternal damnation.

Yet this is a post of praise and thanksgiving.  This is actually a post of peace and joy.  This a post designed to uplift the downtrodden, to proclaim good news to those whose ears are filled daily with sadness and woe.

For while there is evil, there is also good.  Please, please understand this; evil and good are not on equal footing.  In comparing the ability to triumph, good is more powerful than evil, as evil is more powerful than me.  That is to say, I can not defeat the devil on my own.  His spiritual power is enough to overwhelm me anytime, especially in my earthly proclivity to desire to follow him.  That is why Our Heavenly Father never wants us to try and defeat evil on our own.

Our Heavenly Father, Our Creator God, is good; that is to say He is perfectly good.  In His perfection, He does not want that we should succumb to evil.  So in His perfect plan, He was not going to leave me alone.  First He would send His Son, Jesus Christ to allow me to come into His presence by washing me clean of sin by His sacrifice.  Yet Our Heavenly Father was not through there.  God knows, on our own, we are too weak to defeat the temptations of the evil one.  Thus, God gave us a helper, a champion.  God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  It is the strength of the Holy Spirit within me that causes the evil one to be defeated.  It is the presence of the Holy Spirit within me, that keeps me and my heart from following after the devil and keeps me from doing evil.

There a couple of aspects for joy in all of this.  First, I am no great or deserving person to receive the Holy Spirit.  Anyone can receive the Holy Spirit, by proclaiming the kingship of and the fact that Jesus Christ was God’s only begotten Son who is now our Savior.  Second, the record of Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is perfect and will always be.  Evil will never be stronger.  Evil can’t practice, can’t workout, can’t call on additional support to somehow build strength enough to defeat good.

Therefore we can go forth in confidence.  We can go forth in peace and joy.  All we need do is humbly call upon Our Heavenly Father for deliverance.  All we need do is turn our hearts toward and over to Our Heavenly Father.  All we need do is love Him, who first loved and continues to completely love us.  Then He who is within us will allow us to do good.  We are transformed by Him for good.

Having done those things then listen to the promise of Jesus Christ! “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will also do and greater works than these he will do because I go to the Father! And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do…” (John 14: 12,13)

That, dear sisters and brothers is the end of the story.  We can do all things in Christ, by the Grace of Our Heavenly Father, through the Holy Spirit who resides within us.  By Our Heavenly Father’s Power and Blessed Mercy, evil is thwarted, the devil is defeated and death itself is overcome.  Thus today we can know peace and joy and we can rest in the Father’s love knowing His love for us will span all the rest of eternity.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we proclaim that You are God and You are perfect.  Yet I also confess that I am not God and I am drawn to do and be evil.  Forgive me when I turn from You and follow the evil desires of my heart.  I thank and praise You that You have not left me to my own devices.  We thank You for the precious gift of salvation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We praise and thank You that You send the Holy Spirit to reside in us, allowing us through His power to overcome our evil nature.  We thank You for Your Love that surpasses all human understanding, that allows us to enter into Your rest with joy and thanksgiving.  We pray these things in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

“Fear Him who, after He has killed, has the power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”  Luke 12:5

” Then God spoke to Israel….I am God, the God of your father, do not fear to go down to Egypt for I will make of you a great nation there.”  Genesis 46:3

Fear is a popular topic with many questions.  Should we fear?  Is fear itself the only thing we have to fear?  Some would say that there is no place for fear in anyone, especially people of faith.  Others would say that fear is a thing that keeps us sharp; it is the fly or fight response that helps keep us safe.

Fear is also something that is very pervasive in our society today.  Seemingly everywhere we turn there is a message or circumstance that should bring about fear if not outright dread.  Terrorism is spreading throughout the world.  Airplanes are falling out of the sky with some never being found.   Climate change is going to cause civilization ending catastrophes. Throughout the world, everyone is trying to steal your identity and leave you in economic ruin.  No place is safe to go where there are not mass shootings.  Most everything you eat causes cancer in someway. Too much sun is deadly.  Not enough sun is deadly.  Understand I am not saying there is not validity to these statements, that is to say these things have not happened.  It is more the messages of fear and seemingly helplessness that these incidents bring about is more my point.

During the time of Jesus, his disciples beheld, if not similar types of incidents at least fear inducing incidents.  They were seemingly trapped in a small boat in a vicious storm.  They were sent out into a hostile environment with a very controversial message, yet with no means to protect themselves, not even any means, like money or shelter, to fend for themselves.  They faced off against angry crowds and hostile leaders.  They left the comfort and safety of homes and families.  One nearly drowned.  Yet during each of these incidents and much more in His greater message; Jesus Christ would ask, somewhat derisively: “Why do you fear?”  Jesus appears to make it plain that to have fear was a lack of faith.  Jesus Christ seems to be telling His disciples in person, as well as the rest of us who believe through His statement to them, that to have fear is wrong.

What are we to make of this?  There are some who would say just that; to have fear, fear of any type is a sin.  They would further submit that any and all fear is a sign of weakness of faith and of spirit.

Hmmmm…and maybe that would be understandable.  Yes understandable with all the times Jesus proclaimed and told us to “fear not!”.  Except, Jesus Christ said there is one whom we should fear.  Jesus declared there is One who is indeed worthy of and it is very appropriate to fear.  For there will be those and unfortunately many who will not spend eternity with Our Heavenly Father.  There will be those that, by their actions and lack of belief will be judged unworthy to be in the presence of Almighty God.  Who has the power to decide that?  Satan will not condemn the unbelieving.  None in this world have the power to make that judgement.  No angel or saint will cast out the damned.  Our Heavenly Father has that power.  As it states in the Book of Proverbs that the Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.

I do understand dear sisters and brothers the paradox, the seeming contradiction, that we have a Loving Heavenly Father, a Father who loves us so much that He would give His only Son for our Salvation, and yet this same Loving Father we are to love in return we should also fear.  That doesn’t make sense does it?  Maybe not from a worldly perspective, but perfect sense from the heavenly perspective.  You see to be separated from God is a terrible thing; well not a terrible, the most terrible thing.  Also, to be separated from God is not our decision to make.  In other words, we don’t have the power to decide that we are worthy or righteous enough on our own to enter into His Kingdom.  No, we are saved by grace, His Grace.  We are saved by His Gift, the gift of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, it is not to us to figure out or ascertain the path to salvation.  We have not the power to save ourselves.  It is then obvious we must be in awe of He who has that power.  We must be completely attentive to what it is He has to say.  We must be in fear of Him and His power, causing us to minimize our reliance on ourselves, our wisdom, our plan our judgement and humble ourselves, calling upon Him to guide us.  That One has that power is fearful.  Thanks be to Him, to God Almighty, that He is perfect.  We never have to fear that He will call on us to be evil, to be hateful, to be spiteful and uncaring.

God has shown us again and again, a thousand times again; that we have nothing to fear of this world.  A small band of herders, on the brink of starvation during a worldwide famine can go to the most powerful nation and expect food and shelter for free?  God says do not fear.  That same band, centuries later can enter a promised land and destroy over 40 kings? God says do not fear.  A man asks to walk on water? God, on earth says, do not fear.

Turn away from God, go on our own, trust on our own desires, deny Jesus Christ, hate all; God says fear.  God says, in His Word, fear Me; for unless you repent, unless you accept my Son Jesus Christ, you will have no part in me.  That is a fearful thing indeed.

Yet even that fear is out of His Love for us.  A love that says fear no earthly power, for I am greater.  God says:  Love me, love my creation, fear being apart from me and what you fear will never come to pass.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, Your Ultimate Wisdom, Your Ultimate Power are humbling, awe inspiring and fearful things indeed.  We thank You, most Merciful Father that You Love us and desire to never be apart from us.  Pour out Your Spirit that we would be appropriately fearful, leading to wise actions in Your sight as well as a repentant humble spirit.  That our confidence would never be in ourselves but always in You.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord.  Amen

“…and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham’s son in his old age.”  Genesis 21:1,2

“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all the Lord had said…”  Joshua 12:1

” But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”  Luke 24:2,3

“Then those who gladly received this word were baptized and that day about three thousand souls were added…”  Acts 2:41

Whew!  Everywhere one turns today, we are confronted with and confounded by failure.  We hear that our institutions like government, schools, police forces, military are failing.  We witness people’s failures of lying, cheating, stealing, killing.  We watch as our worldly society fails to care for those who are in desperate need and fails to keep peace within and amongst nations.  The world would even have us look at ourselves; we are not slim enough, educated enough, rich enough, popular enough, in short we are failures.  Sadly, even our churches are weighed down with the sense of failure.  Where is one to turn to find hope?  Where is one to turn to be certain of success?

Sarah felt like a failure.  She so wanted to give Abraham a child but year after year she failed.  Yet God had told her very plainly that she would conceive and bear a son.  In faith she followed Abraham as God called them to move to a new land.  Sarah did laugh at the thought of having a child such an advanced stage.  Scripture tells us that Abraham was 100 years old when success came.  Sarah conceived and Issac was born.

The people of Israel had been slaves for 400 years.  Then Moses came and by great acts of God, the people of Israel were freed and led toward a promised land.  Yet when it came time initially for them to enter the land they were too afraid.  So for 40 years they wandered in the wilderness until the generation that had feared had now passed away.  Moses has died and a new leader, Joshua, takes his place to lead the people.  There were over 40 kings and kingdoms arrayed against Joshua.  The people of Israel were not the physically strongest, they did not have the best weapons, they did not have the largest numbers.  What they had, who they called on, was God.  After seven years of conquest, the land promised to Israel if they would be faithful to God, belonged to them.

It had been a hard frustrating fight.  The Jewish leaders had tried ignoring Him.  They had tried arguing with Him.  They had tried threatening Him, but nothing seemed to work.  Jesus kept thwarting them at every turn and seemingly growing more powerful with more followers all the time claiming He was the Son of God.  Yet the leaders knew better.  The leaders were smarter.  And finally, finally, they were able to get the people to turn on Jesus, they got the Romans to judge Jesus and the problem was over.  Jesus had been crucified and three days ago He was buried.  However, now the tomb is empty.  The curtain in the temple has been rendered in two.  Prophets have risen from their grave and have been seen in the city.  And there is word that Jesus has been seen.  Jesus has been seen, not as a ghost or phantom apparition, but in flesh and blood. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  The Jewish leaders are defeated.  Satan has lost.

The word is out from the Jewish leaders; do not preach Jesus Christ.  The word is out, do not believe what His rabble rousing followers are saying about Him rising from the dead and ascending to heaven as God’s risen son.  Do not join this heretic movement or you will be banished from the temple and much worse.  The Jewish leaders have imprisoned His followers.  They have publicly beaten them.  Surely this fad of Jesus Christ will pass.  Yet that man Peter keeps preaching and not just a few, not 20 or 30, not even a couple of hundred, but thousands, thousands!; are joining those followers of Jesus Christ every day!

The aforementioned examples are just a very few of Our Heavenly Father’s successes.  Successes that seemed so improbable.  Successes that appeared to be failures at one point.  Successes on personal levels and on societal levels.  Indeed, there is no record of God’s failure.  Why?  Because it can’t happen.  God can’t fail.

It’s not a glass half full, half empty type of argument.  It is a cup runeth over reality.  Dear sisters and brothers, please, please do not let us buy into the world’s words and judgements of failure.  Let us not become mired in the mud of hopelessness and despair.  Yes indeed their is failure.  The world that only relies on the worldly will fail.

Yet you and I belong to God.  Through the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ we have been made clean so that we can come into the presence of God Almighty.  Because we belong to God, we are a part of God’s plan and again I state God will not fail; He has never, is not now, nor will ever, fail.  So rejoice.  Rejoice in Him.  Rejoice in the knowledge of His triumph certain to come.  Rejoice in the hope that is testified within us by the Holy Spirit.  Rejoice in the blessings promised by Jesus Christ.  Let us make our petitions to God Almighty, not in doubt or uncertainty, but in faithful confidence of His Loving Power.  Let us read and rejoice in His Word which holds such promise and examples of His faithfulness.

God will not fail.  Staying faithful to Him, repenting of our sins, loving Him and His creation, studying His word, we will not fail either.  That in our triumph we will humbly give praise to Him should be our response.  All hail His triumph in us and our triumph in Him!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, this world and the prince of this world is full of lies, deceits and words of doom and failure.  Pour out Your Spirit that we might stand strong against those words.  We also ask Your forgiveness when we forget that we are Yours and find ourselves living in dark despair.  Lift us up Dear Father.  Shelter us with Your Love.  Show us Your Divine Will that we might be partakers with You in Your ultimate triumph to the praise of Your most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”  Luke 11:11, 12

“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden and there he put man…..the Lord God made every tree grow that is….good for food.”  Genesis 2:8,9

I want to start out categorically stating that I don’t believe we have the capacity to see Our Heavenly Father as He truly is.  His glory, his very perfect nature is beyond our ability to comprehend.  So this is not about our perception being His reality.  Yet how we see and perhaps how we attempt to see our Heavenly Father, I believe makes the biggest difference in our lives.

Jesus is very clear as He speaks about God and His relationship to Him.  He calls God, His Father.  Jesus also, though, does not stop there.  For in teaching us how to pray, he calls upon us to start out “Our Father”.  In Luke above, Jesus Christ uses the term “your Heavenly Father”.  Jesus could have used the term your Creator or your God, however, seemingly He wanted to communicate a level of relationship.  The relationship of a Father.

On the one hand there is a great blessing involved in Jesus’ words in that He who is the creator of all things; the Alpha and the Omega, desires to have a personally close familial relationship corresponding to the sense of a parent to a child.  On the other hand, we may be tempted to compare that which we can not truly, accurately comprehend; the relationship of Our Heavenly Father to His children, with the earthly relationship most have some familiarity with; our relationship with our earthly fathers.

For a brief moment, let’s take a look at that earthly relationship and let’s say it comes from the standpoint of the most loving, devoted earthly father.  So that earthly father is going to want to provide for his children.  The earthly father is going to want to protect his children.  That earthly father is going to want to see his children grow, physically, mentally and spiritually.  The earthly father is going to want to see his children mature and gain a certain amount of self-sufficiency.  Of course, in this instance the earthly father is going to love his children dearly.  The earthly father knows he will not be on earth forever, so he wants his children to able to live abundantly when he is not there.

So we may have been blessed with a wonderful earthly father or father figure and we might be tempted to look upon, even lovingly, our Heavenly Father based on that earthly example.  To the extent that we do that, is to the extent our vision is skewed and our perception is extremely flawed.

Why?….Well, let’s take a look.  What is crucial to understand is the limitations of one and the complete lack of limitation of the Other.  We must realize that to even attempt a comparison is a very perilous thing to do.  First, earthly fathers have significant limitations at least as it applies to the capabilities of Our Heavenly Father.  While an earthly father may want to protect us; they have little to no power over an earthquake or tornado; earthly father’s can stop a cell from becoming cancerous no matter how much they desire.  Secondly, all earthly fathers have finite resources and power.  Regardless of their wealth and stature, earthly fathers have limited degrees of influence over societal processes like conflict or hatred.  Finally, no earthly father is perfect; his love is going to falter at times.  He will grow weary of doing good for his children or he will expect some return on his investment in his children.

Here’s where our inadequate vision comes into play.  For our Heavenly Father lacks no power to protect us.  All phenomena, all natural processes are under His control.  Second, our Heavenly Father has all resources, all power at His control.  Our Heavenly Father is perfect; His Love is perfect without end.  He will not grow weary or tired, not once of His children.

Finally, there is one huge, overriding difference in the earthly process of being a father and the Heavenly process.  Earthly fathers expect that there will come a time of maturity for their children, where the need of fatherly influence will diminish.  Earthly fathers understand that there will be a time of physical separation at death.

When we look at what Our Heavenly Father intended, it is clear to see that Our Heavenly Father desires that their never be a time that His influence will diminish.  Our Heavenly Father never looks to a time where we do not need Him any longer.  Our Heavenly Father wants nothing to separate us from Him.  At the time prior to the original sin, we were in the garden where, out of love, all was supplied.  Everything was supplied, we were completely safe, the environment was so controlled, so perfect,  that we did not even need clothes.

In a wisdom that I can not comprehend and a plan that I don’t understand, He gave us the ability for self determination.  He gave us the ability to reject Him; and that is exactly what we did.  To our potential eternal doom, we, as earthly children decided to go our own way.  At some point an earthly father would have let us go; would have said goodbye.  Our Heavenly Father instead, gave to us a gift that we could not obtain ourselves.  He gave us salvation, and it cost the life of His Only Begotten Son for us to receive it.

Thus dear sisters and brothers, we should not, we dare not view our Heavenly Father in any aspect of earthly terms.  We must attempt to see Him within the state of Being that He is.  There is only one way that can come about; and oh by the way it doesn’t come from us.  The gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Spirit of God Himself that can dwell within us, is the only way we may gain insight into the true nature of Our Heavenly Father.  With that gift; we can come to the understanding that there is no plan for us to be on our own, there is no desire for separation, that Our Heavenly Father wants to be the all providing, all protecting all loving Father for all time to come.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are awestruck that You want to be Our Eternal Father and the lengths You are willing to go to accomplish that.  We thank you for the sacrifice and salvation of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us Heavenly Father, when we become rebellious children, desiring to reject You for own ways.  Give us the gift of the Holy Spirit who will teach us of Your true nature and guide us back to being Your loving children.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“..when the adversaries of Judah heard the descendants were building the temple of the Lord God….they troubled them in building and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose..”  Ezra 4:1, 4, 5

“Then King Darius issued a decree…..moreover you shall do for the elders of these Jews for the building of the house of God:  Let the cost be paid at the king’s expense……”  Ezra 6:1, 8

Ezra is one of those books in the bible that I must admit (much to my error) I have often overlooked.  Yet in reading the book, thanks be to God and the Holy Spirit for revealing a powerful truth.  There is a great and uplifting truth in this book.  So perhaps you find yourself in a situation where at work or among your friends there are few people of faith.  Maybe it seems that world is arrayed against you, trying to thwart your faith and raising obstacle after obstacle to what you feel is your God given purpose.  If you are feeling that way then take heart and be confident in the Book of Ezra.

In a previous post, I had outlined how, by the plan of God, Cyrus that King of Persia had conquered the Babylonians and decreed that the people of Israel were to return to Jerusalem and furthermore they were to rebuild the temple destroyed by the Babylonians.  As many of us can attest to, Satan is not one to give up easy.  For when the people returned to Jerusalem, even though there was the king’s edict, the people of the surrounding lands had no desire to see a rejuvenated kingdom of Judah.  These were not God fearing people and they remembered how God had loved and protected the people of Judah against them and wanted to stop the rebuilding in anyway possible.  Then they saw their chance.

King Cyrus had died and King Darius ruled in his place.  King Darius was not readily familiar with the edict that his father had made concerning the Jews.  So some local princes and a king of the people arrayed against Judah sent King Darius a letter outlining the rebellious nature of the people of Judah and how allowing them to rebuild the temple will only lead to trouble.  King Darius initially is open to the letter but decides to search back to find out if his father had made a decree and if so, what his father had said.

Finding his father’s, King Cyrus’ edict, that indeed stated that the Jewish people were to be allowed to return to their homeland, allowed to rebuild the temple, and even given back the temple furnishings stolen by the Babylonians, King Darius makes his own decree.  King Darius’ decree is not only in agreement with his father’s but it goes even further.  It says that the taxes of the local kingdoms around Judah are to go to support the rebuilding of the temple.  He further states if anyone is found apposing the Jewish people, that their house is to be torn down and that person is to be hanged on the timbers from his own home.  Again understand, King Darius was not a follower of God Almighty.  Yet that did not stop God from using King Darius as a protection for His people.  King Darius’ decree works, the temple is rebuilt, Jerusalem is rebuilt and the people rejoice.

So what is this book to do with us and what comfort should we take from it? Much indeed.  For King Cyrus and King Darius ruled over the most powerful kingdom of their time.  Yet with all their earthly power, the Power of God Almighty over them, to use them to do His will was exceedingly far greater still.  God had a plan to hear the repentant call of His people from Babylon.  He had a plan to return His people to Jerusalem.  He had a plan to have the temple rebuilt.  And no earthly or spiritual power was going to stop God’s plan.  If God needed a pagan king to be a part in carrying out His plan then that is exactly what was going to happen.

Thus even today, when we see society make decisions that seem to be turning away from God.  When you find yourself at work or in another situation where you are the only believer.  If you find that there are many who seem hell bent on trying to stop you from living out what God has intended for you to do; in faith, be without fear or trepidation.  For non can withstand the Will of God.  His perfect plan will come to fruition.  There is no power that can overcome Him or thwart His plan for you.  His enemies will fail.  His people will triumph.  We must insure that we are humble in that triumph knowing it was not we who brought about the success; it was truly God Almighty.

So let us go forth in confidence and in the faith of God based on the Book of Ezra.  Understanding by this example how Paul can proclaim centuries later in his letter to the Romans; that in all things God works for the good for those who love Him.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we mightily proclaim and are eternally thankful that You are on Your throne and there is none who are above You or more powerful than You.  Thank you that in Your Mercy, You look down upon us in Love sheltering us in Your Arms.  Praise to You that You will use all of Your creation, whether they believe in You or not to see that Your Will is done.  Pour out Your Spirit that we might see Your works manifested in this world and praise Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“…the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus….thus says Cyrus…all the kingdoms of the earth, the Lord God has given me….” Ezra 1:2

“Do not be afraid; only believe”  Mark 5:36

“Immediately the father..cried out and said with tears: ‘Lord I believe, help my unbelief ! ‘” Mark 9:24

Cause and effect, systems thinking, 2+2=4, we have many ways and many constructs to make sense of this baffling world around us.  These constructs seemingly help the world to understand the processes that govern actions and bring order to chaos.  Yet like any construction there can be a limiting factor if we limit ourselves to what we’ve constructed.  Imagine constructing a house from the inside out and not putting in a door; how would experience the greater world? Or not put in windows; how would we be aware of a greater existence beyond our four walls?

Jeremiah writes a letter to the people if Israel telling them because of their unbelief and turning their back on God, they were going to be taken away to Babylon in captivity.  There they would stay for 70 years as punishment, but then they would return.  Indeed the people were taken away.  And while in Babylon, there were those like Danial who repented and prayed for deliverance.  Yet year and year it did not come.  Nebuchadnezzar seemed to become even more powerful.  It sure would have seemed that the people of Israel should plan on permanent residence in Babylon.  Going home wasn’t going to happen.  Enter Cyrus, King of Persia, who conquers Babylon.  Cyrus was not a practicing Jew.  He was not circumcised into the faith.  It makes no difference to God; for God can and will use all things to bring about His plan.  God puts it into the heart of Cyrus to return the people to Jerusalem and have them rebuild the temple.  Thy will be done.

Imagine your child is very sick.  You are a person of means so you’ve called on doctors but to no avail, your daughter is just getting sicker.  None of the earthly means open to you seem to be doing any good.  Your wealth is worthless, your education is of no value, your determination for her to get better is an empty effort.  In desperation you plan to go find a healer that says the He is the Son of God.  But you’re too late.  That’s what happen to Jarius, a wealthy Jew in the time that Jesus was on this earth.  He was a leader of the synagog so surely he should have had the means to make his daughter well.  Yet in everything he tried, there was only failure.  So in desperation, Jarius strikes out to find Jesus.  He finds Jesus and makes his request and it appears that Jesus is going to come to his aid.  Then, he witnesses Jesus heal a lady who has been sick for twelve years, surely his daughter who has been sick for just days can be cured.  Jarius must have been elated! However, the word comes, Jarius daughter is dead.  He is too late.  Nothing can happen.  Nothing stops Jesus Christ, not even death.  Jesus scoffs at the report and says a simple thing to Jarius (simple but not easy), do not be afraid only believe.  Jesus goes to the child and heals her.  Thy will be done.

Another man has a child who has been very ill for a long time.  He has heard about Jesus and brings his child to him; but Jesus is not there.  Jesus’ disciples try in vain to heal the child, but the condition grips the child even right there where the disciples are.  Jesus then arrives and tells the man if he will only believe, his child will be healed.  And the man then cries out in a cry that is so human, so humble; a cry that echoes down through the ages even into my own heart:  “I believe, Lord help my unbelief!” Jesus heals the child.  Thy will be done.

You see dear sisters and brothers, the world has come to a place and time where it believes that there is a human built, human understood solution to anything.  Want to be healthy; follow this diet.  Want to be financially successful, follow this method.  Want to be romantically fulfilled; go to this website.  Want to………all you need do is this.  An inevitably when those systems, those methods, those processes fail, instead of humbly turning to the Perfect God, with All Power and All Wisdom, Every Ability to bless us and by His Grace bring us to the promised land He intended, the world just tries to come up with a new solution on its own.

Jesus made it clear, not only in the samples listed above but in virtually every healing, it is faith, it is believing that comes first.  The world has it backwards when it states: let me see it, then I’ll believe it.  Jesus Christ states, first you must believe in the Creator God.  First you must believe that the ability of God is never constrained by anything.  You must believe that God loves you so much that He would send His One and Only Son to die for you, to wash away your sins so that you may live with Him.  You must believe that there is no can’t when it comes to God’s Will.

Finally, as that father’s excruciating cry tells us, we must have help in our unbelief.  For to rely on our own ability to believe is to fall far short of the doubtless faith needed to connect to God’s omnipotent power.  We must humble ourselves and call upon the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts; to strengthen and infuse our imperfect ability to believe with His assured, perfect belief.  It is through the Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus Christ that we can make our petitions known to our Heavenly Father with the strength of belief that His Will be done.  Let it be that we all pull off those destructive chains of can’t and clothe ourselves in the fear extinguishing faith of His Will.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that You are the All Powerful Creator God.  We not only cry out for but also believe in this day today, Thy will be done.  Forgive us when we believe in worldly processes or worldly solutions instead of coming to You.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit on us to perfect our limited belief into a more perfect life transforming belief. We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

” …having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them….go after the one which is lost until he finds it……”  Luke 15:6

” I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one who repents….. Luke 15:7

“….and not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Do not fear therefore….. Luke 12:6

Are we a numbers driven world or what?  An interesting quirk to mathematics, zero represents nothing or the absence of a thing.  Yet string zeros together and put a number in front of the string and all the sudden those zeros represent very much indeed (as in 1,000,000,000).

It seems that we a numbers obsessed society and normally the larger the better.  We celebrate who has the tallest building in numbers of feet or meters.  We judge who is better at their task or vocation based on the higher numbers they can demand for a salary.  We judge affluence based on the number of possessions; cars, houses, airplanes, amount and value of jewelry, that are owned.  We measure a person’s popularity about how many friends they have on one social media site, followers on another, likes on another.  In fact you can pay someone just so you can increase that number!  Sadly, even in many of our churches we measure success based on the numbers of persons in attendance or how much the weekly intake of money is.

So with all that pressure to measure, to find increase, to go viral, to chase the ever illusive more or higher, of what value is one?  We often hear, the one, marginalized.  What good is my one vote; we ask ourselves?  What can I do; I am only one?  You can’t buy anything with one dollar anymore.

Jesus often found Himself preaching against and fighting this human tendency to judge based on the greater.  It’s not just in our day but back when He was on earth, the great people, even those felt to be more righteous, gave more, had more titles behind their names, had more servants, more possessions, went to the temple more.  Thus the opposite appeared to be true.  Those who were poor, those who owned little, those who begged, those who were measured and found to have little to no power, those overlooked by society were sinners.  Those lowly people should not even be associated with, let alone joined for dinner, healed or preached good news to.

So Jesus, in very plain language, tells those who would overlook anyone, just how important each one is.  There is a flock and of course there is an owner of the flock.  These people would understand this example for during their time, owning flocks and their size was an important determiner of wealth.  Jesus points out that if a sheep is found to be missing, then a frantic search will ensue.  It is not as if the owner will just forgo the one as an acceptable loss without any effort to find it.  No, the owner will leave those who are found and desperately search for the one that is lost.  The owner does not blame the sheep for becoming lost and when the owner finds the sheep he does not beat it or punish for becoming lost.  Hardly, the owner picks the sheep up and brings it back to the flock calling to his neighbors, rejoicing in finding that one lost sheep.  Jesus then makes the most important point; that is how heaven works.  Our Heavenly Father, in fact the entire heavenly host finds the one, the lost one, of supreme importance.  For they rejoice greatly, like the earthly owner, when a lost sheep, in this case a sinner repents and comes to Christ.

Thus dear sisters and brothers we must know several things.  First, you and I are important, are known by name, the hairs on our very head are numbered.  Now, unless we become puffed up by pride, we are known in and because of His Grace, Mercy and Love and not because of our righteousness.  We are sinners and the only reason we are not known as sinners in heaven is because we are cleansed of our sin by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  Yet through and because Our Heavenly Father knows us individually, we can be confident that He has a specific plan, with specific blessings for each of us.  Second, we must know that we are not to judge others based on some earthly measurement of value.  We should understand that they who the world would judge as least in their eyes, is very likely measured as great in God’s eyes.

For example, there is a sin I struggle with, even with this blog.  By the Grace of God, I will write a post.  I will then look, over time, to see how often it is read.  Here’s when the sin of numbers come in.  If I see that a post has been read by a few, one or two, I will tend to be dismissive of that post, feeling that something was amiss with that post.  However, if I see many zeros behind a post, I will feel that it had more value.  So in a way I’m dismissing the one or two who were led to the post and read it.  In a way even with the posts with more readers, I’m devaluing any individual and only seeing value in the group.  That, I confess, is a very great sin, a behavior that can easily lead to pride and vanity.  Instead, know that I am very thankful to Our Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to praise His Name as well am thankful for the every single person, individually, now and in the future who read these words.  In sincere humility, I am blessed by your presence.  Let each one of us, be like Our Heavenly Father and see the value in the one, each one of His wonderful creation, our fellow human beings.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so very thankful that You have desired to know each one of us individually, that you have devised a perfect plan for each of us, that You, in Your Mercy, Love each one of us.  Forgive us when we make judgements based on how this world judges, overlooking those who are seen as having little to no value.  Pour out Your Spirit that we might humbly remember that we are sinners and You sent the One, Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ to be our Savior.  That seeing the value of each one and the One, we would live lives of praise to Your Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“…seeing a fig tree….He came to it and found nothing on it…and said ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.”  Matthew 21:19

“Immediately the fig tree withered away….the disciples saw it..and marveled…” Matthew 21:19,20

“….I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also say to this mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, it will be done.” Matthew 21:21

“I am the vine…..every branch that does not bear fruit, He takes away….anyone who does not abide in Me is cast out as a branch and is withered…..John 15:2, 5

I must say that there have been times past, in my walk, where the story of the fig tree has perplexed me.  Not so much in terms of the power of faith, but I have been tempted, wrongly I add, to see Jesus’ actions as those of an impetuous man, taking his hunger and frustration out on an innocent fig tree.

I praise Our Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit who patiently corrects my thoughts and shares two great lessons with me.  Two lessons I want to now share with you.

First, is the direct lesson of faith.  It is true that Jesus is hungry and that is why he approaches the fig tree in the first place.  Finding no figs on the tree, Jesus commands that no fruit ever be found on this tree again.  Jesus power is immediately shown as the tree withers on the spot.  No fruit will ever be found on it again.  I digress for a moment in speaking of the disciples’ reaction.  One might think after having spent nearly three years with Jesus, the impact of His words on the tree would come as no surprise.  After all, they have seen Jesus heal the sick, walk on water, raise the dead; they have been a part of feeding thousands with just a few loaves of bread.  Yet they are astonished by what happens to the fig tree.  The are awestruck in the presence of Jesus and His power.  I sometimes lament that I and perhaps we are not so nearly awestruck as we read and contemplate the power of Our Lord and Savior; but back to the fig tree.

Now Jesus makes a startling statement that is very often quoted.  I have seen this statement used as a wonderfully hopeful promise, as well as an instrument of judgement and derision.  Jesus tells His disciples about the power of faith.  For Jesus tells them if they ask and truly believe and do not doubt, then they can ask for the seemingly impossible, for a mountain to be moved and it will happen.  Those that choose to see this as a wonderful promise, see that it is not based on our strength, talent or worldly wisdom, it is in our faith.  Also it is important to understand the faith is not in ourselves and our power to move the mountain.  It really has nothing to do with the mountain, it is the complete faith in Jesus Christ and the power and wisdom of our Heavenly Father.

Sadly, I have also seen this example used by those who do not believe and sadder still, by those who profess to believe as a process of judgement.  For there will be a situation that a believer will be involved in, which she or he may be praying for.  Unbelievers will chastise in advance about:  “Oh you believe that you can move mountains so why don’t you just pray for this result or that; as if God was some sort of genie, wish fulfill-er.  Yet I have also heard this used by those of faith against others, judging them saying that their faith must weak because of a seemingly different outcome than what was prayed for.  Again remember this Dear Sisters and Brothers, the faith is in the perfection of our Heavenly Father and His will, through Jesus Christ.  Who are we to question the outcome of someone else’s prayer or the strength of their faith?  We must be humble in our thoughts here remembering the man who cried out to Jesus at the healing of his son, I believe, Lord help my unbelief!

So now I come to the second lesson, besides faith, but tied to it, that I believe Jesus is teaching with the fig tree.  You see the fig tree had no fruit.  Jesus, the Son of God, was there at the creation of all things and all things were created through Him.  The fig tree was created through Him.  The fig tree was created to have fruit and it did not.  So the fruitless tree was cast out.  In John’s gospel, Jesus makes that same warning to all of us.  We are to be branches that bear fruit.  We are to be a source of spiritual sustenance for our sisters and brothers plus the greater world so in need of spiritual feeding.  Yet we are just branches.  Our ability to bear fruit only comes from abiding in the vine, in the stalk from where all our power, wisdom, strength and light come from.  That vine is Jesus Christ.  First we must abide in Him and never attempt to rely on our own human capacity.  Second though, we must be willing to bear fruit.  We must be willing to provide our Jesus given talents and energy, not just into growing big ourselves, in becoming the largest most prosperous branch.  We must be willing that our energy goes into growing fruit, whose sole purpose is to be picked from us and to feed others.  It is for others nourishment and not ourselves.  Yet as branches abiding in the vine we must have faith that we will be nourished and blessed beyond all that we would ever want.

Faith to ask and the belief that, in the asking, it will be granted but also understanding that our asking should be based on our desire to bear fruit, not for our own glory, but for the feeding of those in need and to the glory of He who planted us; Our Heavenly Father.  Those are the lessons of the fig tree.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You that You listen to our supplications and grant to us our answers based on Your Perfect Plan and Will.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that our asking be always be in the faithful desire to be worthy branches in Jesus Christ; always striving to bear fruit that nourishes a spirit starved world in need of Your Love.  That in our faithful asking and Your Blessed granting, Your Holy Name will be ever praised.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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