“If  you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious about the rest?……O, you of little faith?”  Luke 12:26, 28

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”  Matthew 8:26

I probably don’t need to list the litany of fears that are prevalent in our world as we come into Christmas season and end to 2015.  We have fears concerning terrorism and is it safe to go to a public place or fly?  Some have fear about our own police force and will they intentionally do us harm?  There is fear about economic collapse, fear about our savings be wiped out.  We have rampant fears about our health; what is in our foods, should we have this medical test but not that one.  Which is the right pill to take and will we get sick and die because we can’t afford treatment.  We worry about our relationships.  Is my spouse/significant other being faithful?  Who are my children chatting with on social media and what sites are they visiting?  Whew, I’ve only named but a few.

Thus, especially because of recent horrific events in the Sinai of Egypt, the marketplaces in Beirut and the streets of Paris, we hear the question posed over and over again:  “How are we supposed to live without being afraid? Is living in constant fear, the new normal?”

Jesus came into this world during a time of fear; great fear.  Jerusalem and the people of Israel were under the domination of a dictatorial occupying force who gave little to no rights or thoughts about the people who they subjugated.  The Romans could and did kill at will.  If they wanted to invade a person’s home, they did.  If they wanted to imprison, they did.  If they wanted to take away a person’s livelihood through taxes, they did.  There were also natural issues like storms, droughts, famines, etc.  Even within the Jewish faith, there were worrying factions keeping a wary eye on each other jockeying for power and to knock others out of power; there were the Pharisees, Sadducee’s, Essene’s and Zealot’s, just to name a few.

Yes there was much fear and anxiety which they brought to Jesus and he addressed.  In the first instance, Jesus is giving His life altering and encompassing lessons during his sermon on the mount.  He knows that worry is rampant in the people of faith about a great many things.  Jesus addresses that worry through the biggest fears of sustenance; will I have enough, possessions and status; will I have clothing and will I look good enough, even longevity; when will I die and can I control its happening?  Jesus is very blunt when He explains how misplaced those worries are.  Jesus states that all those things are in His Heavenly Father’s hands.  That we will have enough, whether it be food, clothing and shelter, or our length of life are blessings from the Father which He freely provides abundantly to His creation; whether it be birds or lilies or His very good creation; people.  It is only the people who fret over these things, yet in their fretting they can not change the Father’s plan; can not add “one cubit to their stature”.  In asking where is their faith; Jesus is trying to make three vital points.  First, there is utter futility in worrying about, being in fear concerning the needs that we have.  Second, the fears we have are actually manifestations of our doubts about our Heavenly Father’s power and love for us.  Finally, the reason there is no need to fear is because Our Heavenly Father is all powerful, knows our needs on an individual level and it is His loving nature to bless us an fulfill those needs abundantly.

How can we be sure about that power?  After preaching His sermon to the people He blesses them and sends them away.  He gets into a boat with His disciples and they head out across the sea.  A raging storm blows up and brings crashing waves and terrible winds into their small vessel.  The disciples, some accomplished fisherman, see the peril and become terrified of their impending doom.  Jesus is not experiencing this as He is asleep in the stern of the boat.  When the disciples can stand the terror no longer, they go to the back of the boat and with shouts of terror and pleading awake Jesus from His slumber.  With virtually no drama, no recognition of any danger at all; Jesus, shows the Power of being God on earth.  With three simple words, one command:  “Peace, Be Still” Jesus quiets the storm. Jesus disciples had not truly grasped nor still understand that they are in the presence of Almighty God.  And God, in the person of Jesus Christ, loves them and will let no harm come to them.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; we too are in the presence of Almighty God based on the blessing of the Holy Spirit that has been sent to dwell within us.  The world is going to counsel us to either remove our fear through new laws, medicines, technology, new worldly solutions or worse yet simply succumb to the world and live in mind numbing fear.  The Holy Spirit gives us different counsel.  He counsels us to read and heed scripture.  He counsels us to reject being fearful in the first place based upon the power and love of Our Almighty Father.  He counsels us to stop trying to take responsibility and then the subsequent glory for those things that are heaven sent.  The Holy Spirit counsels us be in remembrance of and take refuge in the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who gave all for us, even His life for us to live in a blessed assurance relationship with our Heavenly Father through Him.  Faith.  Faith in our Heavenly Father quashes worldly generated fear.  That is how we are to live.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You know we live in a world filled with enemy generated fear.  Yet You are very clear that living in that fear is not Hthe plan that You have for us.  We thank and praise You that You do not abandon us to live in the pits of this fear.  We thank You that You gave us Your Son, Jesus Christ, that through His sacrifice we can reject the fear of this world and live confidently in You.  Forgive us when we are overwhelmed with the fearful messages of this world and are tempted to buy into them and their worldly solutions.  Through Your Spirit redeeming nature, bring us back to being faithful followers and people of praise of Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

“And from the roof he saw a woman bathing and the woman was very beautiful to behold…..” 2nd Samuel 11:2

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry….and put to death all the male children…… Matthew 2:15

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

“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times……And He said to me, ‘My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness'”  2 Corinthians 12:21

David was by any earthly measure, successful.  He was King of Israel and had great personal wealth.  He lived in the grandest structure in the city of Jerusalem (as the temple had not been built yet).  He was so powerful and important, when a besieging army came against one of the cities of Israel, he sent his chiefs and army out to fight but he, the king, stayed in Jerusalem.  It was a warm evening.  This is the same David that was so fervent for the Lord that he slew Goliath, this is the same David who prayed so fervently to be delivered from the hands of King Saul.  So tonight one might have expected David to be kneeling in prayer for his army.  Or one might think David would be praying thanksgiving to God for the blessings bestowed.  Except, neither was happening.  Instead, David was looking out over his city.  His success had allowed him to be atop the tallest building and his eyes spotted another man’s wife.  David’s roving eye would lead to first, adultery and then murder.

Herod was successful.  He was king of the Jews.  Now granted his path was different than King David’s.  Herod was chosen by the Romans to be the leader in Jerusalem and there appears to be little to no evidence that he was ever a faithful follower of God.  Even though he was successful, he always feared the uprising that might bring his position of power to an end.  This threat might either come from the outside or from within, by his own people.  His desperate yearning to stay in power would even lead him to want to destroy the Messiah, the Savior of his people.  Seemingly, in his success, he had no fear even of God, Himself.

Look who Jesus says will inherit the earth; the meek.  Now in and of itself, He does not say, nor do I that the meek can not be someone who is successful.  However, in the definition of meek, one who is humbly patient, docile, this does not tend to fit into our picture of the person who is significantly successful in today’s world.

What is the point?  Time after time in God’s Word; the times we hear people cry out is when they are in serious trouble, serious danger, have suffered a significant setback or seem lost.  Also, quite frequently, it is when God’s people achieve a certain amount of success, especially success over time, they find themselves, not turning even more toward God with thanksgiving and humble praise; quite the opposite, they tend to turn away.   They start to act as if they are the basis for their own success and are deservedly entitled to whatever selfish and evil actions they feel like inflicting on others.

Sadly, that is a trait not limited to historical figures in the bible.  In today’s society we most often hear about prayer when we are asked to pray for people impacted by crime, war or some natural event.  We are asked to pray for those who have an illness, lost a job or have fallen on some other type of hard times.  Please, don’t misunderstand me in using these examples because it is a very good thing to do, to show our love and support in this way.

Yet how often do we find the very successful in the world acting meekly?  How often do we hear the famous speak of praying to God not only in thanksgiving but also in acknowledgement that their very success comes from Above.  There are some exceptions, especially in sports who will give praise to the Father for their good fortune and athletic prowess.  Yet, all too often, soon after they are demanding higher salaries for the talent they see as theirs and theirs alone.

Also understand that this is not about the splinters of others, missing the log in my own eye.  I humbly confess that my prayer life suffers significantly over time during times of sustained and increasing success.  I lose focus on Who it is who has brought me that success as I’m too busy, on the one hand reveling in it and on the other hand trying to insure that it continues.  I start to buy into the sin of believing my success is because of my own hard work and is a reward for the goodness of my being.  I find myself trying to find ways to enrich my life because of my success as something that is owed to me.

Then, like Paul, a thorn comes, there is some aspect, perhaps physical or mental, some circumstance that may be a result of my actions or may have come from something completely outside of my control.  Perhaps it is something that deals only with me or perhaps it is something that impacts me and other loved ones.  Then, by the grace of God, I see my error.  I am forced to become meek and humble, confessing my weakness to Almighty God and asking for His intervention.

So, let’s you and I understand this Dear Sisters and Brothers.  Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be successful which can very well bring with it blessings of abundance.  Yet God also knows the only true way that we can be successful is in relationship with Him.  And God is very clear in His Word that He is not going sit idly by as we drift away from Him and find ourselves on a path to our self destruction.  He loves us too much for that.  Though we might see it as punishment, God is desperate to find a way to bring us back to a deeper, less destructively self reliant relationship, which is the only true path to meaningful success.  And that might very well mean taking away the trappings of earthly success.

Our task, is to find away to still be humble in our success.  To be as needy for God in success as we were before we achieved it.  To not just understand but also behave in a manor that shows that we know that God is the author, the one and only true author of our success and thus daily walk meekly in that relationship with Him.  As the earth sees us rise, paradoxically, let it also see us fall, at the same time on our knees in thanksgiving and praise.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we praise and thank you for the blessings of success that you shower down upon us.  We also humbly confess that we too often see that success as something of our own doing and seek to glorify ourselves because of it.  We are then, also thankful, for those times that you intervene and show us again Your Power even when it shows us and others the extent of our weakness.  Help us to remain in close relationship with you regardless of our circumstances.   That we would live lives of praise and honor to Your Mostly Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

“You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him for you are a youth and he is a man of war from his youth.”   1 Samuel 17:33

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.  1 Samuel 17:37

“I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them. So David took them off”  1 Samuel 17:39

All’s well that ends well.  Life is what you make of it.  The more things change, the more the more they stay the same.  Conventional wisdom; besides the previous sayings I’m sure there are many that you can list as well.  They do sound good and I wouldn’t argue that there is the potential for wisdom in any of those statements.  Yet as best as I can tell, at least through the internet, each of these sayings is from a human source.  Thus each of these sayings can have a disabling liability to them as well.

David was the youngest of eight sons.  Tradition, sometimes another name for conventional wisdom, of that day was the oldest son(s) had certain greater responsibilities that could lead to greater family glory.  One of those responsibilities was going to war when called upon by the nation.  So David’s three eldest brothers had gone to meet the hated Philistines when they had come up to threaten Israel.

All war is costly but especially back in those times, there were very few standing armies of professional soldiers.  Therefore, an outright fight of two armies might kill so many men vital to the day to day existence of their respective societies that neither the winner nor the loser would be able to continue to function.  So, often each side would put forth a champion to battle to the death and the winner’s side would then be able to enforce their terms on the loser’s side but both would have the remaining manpower that their societies could continue.  Goliath was the champion of the Philistines.

Goliath was certainly a human champion’s champion.  Not only was he more physically massive and imposing in every way, stronger than any number of men let alone just one; but Goliath was one of the rare professional soldiers.  All he did was battle and train for battle.  Conventional wisdom was that Goliath was unbeatable.  So the Army of Israel cowered in fear to a man.  There was not one single warrior in all of King Saul’s Army who would rise up against Goliath.  No one that is, until David arrived.

David knew his place.  He knew he was the youngest and obediently carried out the orders of his father Jesse in bringing refreshment to his older brothers at the front.  Yet when David heard Goliath’s challenge to the Jewish Army, when David heard the insults of the hated Philistine, the wisdom that stirred in him was not conventional.  David did not see an imposing, unbeatable giant, he saw a lowly human being trying to stand up to the might and power of Almighty God.  David’s spiritual wisdom told him that this was not a battle between two purely human armies.  No, this was a battle between an unbelieving, evil creation trying to thwart the will of the All Powerful Creator.  In David’s wisdom this can not be allowed to continue.

First, David’oldest brother, Eliab, then even King Saul had a conventionally wise response.  David is too young, has no experience with which to go up against one so fierce as Goliath.  Conventional wisdom would say that David loses ever time and with his loss, all of Israel would lose as well.  However, David confronts their conventional wisdom with his spiritual wisdom.  Giving Glory to God, David recounts how he has killed both lion and bear by hand and if God will do that for David, God will deliver this gentile blasphemer into his hands.  Saul relents and allows David to become the champion of the Israel Army.

Now notice how “conventional wisdom” is not done yet.  Conventional wisdom says, if David is going to be the champion and go out against Goliath, he must have the best armor and heavy sword.  Also note that David does not initially reject the conventional wisdom.  He allows them to put all the armor on him.  Yet David does not allow conventional wisdom to sway his spiritual wisdom.  David knows he can’t defeat Goliath relying on the trappings of human power and might.  He rejects the conventional wisdom, takes his sling and stones from the stream and utterly destroys Goliath and with him, the Philistine Army.

So what are you and I fighting today?  What tests are there that conventional wisdom is telling us are too big for us to pass, challenges to imposing for us to attempt overcome, successes too large for us to even dream of achieving?  Even more so, where is the name and the word of God being impugned, where is justice being trampled and mercy being thwarted in the name of human judgement?  What is it that you believe in your soul that you are being called to do that the world would say is impossible or foolish?  When faced with the overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom; what will you or I decide to do?

David had it right for two reasons.  First, David was not striving for victory for his own glory.  David’s decision to act was not so that he could show up his older brothers or make a great name for himself.  No, the name that David wanted to glorify was God’s.  Secondly, he first listened to, and then relied on the spiritual wisdom given to him to overcome the argument of conventional wisdom and then go on to victory using that wisdom.

God, through His Son Jesus Christ has promised us that same spiritual wisdom.  Jesus promised that He would pray and that God would send the Holy Spirit to all who call believe on and call upon the name of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit, with His wisdom resides within each of us.  Let us lay conventional wisdom aside, rely on that spiritual wisdom and fully experience the victories God has in store for each of us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly admit that we lack the wisdom to make righteous and just decisions on our own.  We thank you Most Merciful Father that generously supply us with The Holy Spirit to guide us to the correct courses of action.  Forgive us when we reject Your Spiritual Wisdom, relying on our human-made conventional wisdom.  Strengthen us Dear Father to resist the temptation to go our own way and be like David, fully trusting in the Spiritual Wisdom You freely supply.  We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Give us this day………”  Matthew 6:11

“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Matthew 6:34

Do you have enough money set aside for retirement?  There’s a storm coming in five days.  Who will win the debate that is coming in two days?  I’m worried about who is going to be the next President.  Will the stock I purchased today go up or down?  I better get the job I want because I’m going to college and working hard on my degree.  Are we leaving a better tomorrow for our children?

We (or at least I) think a lot about the future.  We make detailed plans about what we are going to do and/or even sometimes say, in the future.  Sometimes the future we’re considering is a day from now; sometimes, the future we’re planning for is decades from now.  We often predicate our actions today based on a desired future outcome.  Children now a days are being told to pick the sport that they want to excel in during high school or college and start to train and strive for when they are as young as 10 years old!

So is the gist of this that I’m anti-plan?  Am I inferring that to think about tomorrow is some sort of sin?  Hardly.  Jesus is in the midst of giving some of His most important teachings about how we’re to live.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew is recording Jesus’ sermon on the mount.  Jesus has given the blessed beatitudes, taught about salt and light, anger, giving, lust and many more things.  Then He comes to prayer and shortly after that, worry.  So it is that Jesus Christ’s words reach out across the ages and come directly to us; to our hearts.  What His teachings also tell us today, is that the fundamental struggle that people have, has not and probably will not change over time.  They are as true today, as they were then and will be later.

My intention in this post is to point out how our fixation on time periods, like yesterday and especially tomorrow, are so impactful, often quite negatively so on the reality of today and what Our Heavenly Father is attempting to show us, bless us with, protect us from in the here and now.  For example, today I eat less, I forsake a desert and I do some extra exercising with the specific expectation that I will see a result tomorrow or the next day.  I even keep this up for a week or so, yet day after day, I see the exact same number on the scale after a week or two.  Because my expectation is not met, because my desire goes unfulfilled, I make judgement about the fairness of this world, I become fearful that the scale will never move.  What is happening today becomes some meaningless exercise in futility because my expectation, days ago of what the future tomorrow should be, doesn’t match the today I am actually experiencing.  In the above example, there would be some who would argue that the problem is not that I had an expectation but that my expectation was not accurate or reasonable.  And while I would grant a certain human logic to their argument for that example only, it seems to me that Jesus is warning us about judging the result of today versus our expectation for today in the first place; especially when it causes us fear and worry.

Yes Jesus did think about the future.  Yes Jesus did plan.  He told His disciples that He would die and rise again.  He told His disciples of His plan to go to Jerusalem to observe the Passover.  One must remember however, in a miracle to great to comprehend; Jesus Christ was God on earth and He knew the future.  We do not.

In writing about this it is not to say I don’t struggle with it.  I’ve written two books (if you’re thinking “Oh this whole post is just a sly way of marketing his books, please trust and understand that’s not the case :) ).  I would like them to be a commercial success, although that is not my main reason for writing them.  So I do things.  I go to book events, I use social media, I have a website, I on and on…  Yet the books are not a commercial success, perhaps yet.  So am I to worry about them, be scared that nothing will come of them?  Being Christian themed, should I go back and change them to have a more worldly audience?  Whose will be done?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, it sure seems of course, Jesus had it right that he taught about prayer first and then worry.  In our prayer to our Heavenly Father, it certainly appears that today and primarily today is the time frame that matters.  Today our Father is in Heaven and I want His will to be done.  Today I have needs that require fulfillment.  Today I will need His forgiveness as well as to forgive others.  Today I will need to be turned away from temptation and delivered from evil.  Today Our Heavenly Father, who loves us, who created us, will see to us and our blessing.

Planning in and of itself is not a sin.  Plan to pray everyday.  Plan to love everyday.  Plan to ask Our Heavenly Father for things every day.  Even pray about tomorrow.  Yet know that tomorrow belongs to Our Heavenly Father who is already there.  The basic truth is, we can only ever be in today.  No matter how much we want to change something that has already happened; we can’t be there to do it.  No matter how much we believe that something should happen in the future, we can not go there to insure it happens.  You and I will always be only in today.  So remember Who it is that created today.  Let us strive to have our primary focus be today; His love that He is showering upon us today; His strength that He is pouring out upon us today; His mercy that He is forgiving us with today; His blessings that He has in store for us today.  I don’t know about you, but that is a day I want to be in.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly admit that we can be in only one day, that is today; but that You created and are thus in control of all days.  Help us Most Merciful Father to focus on today and ways that we might abide in Your Son Jesus Christ to have this day be a blessing for us and that we might bless others.  Forgive us when we let worries of the future and regrets of the past distract us from what You would have us focus on today.  That in focusing on You this day and all of our “todays” we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”   Matthew 10:28

“Now he did not say this on his own authority…..”  John 11:51

“You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe and tremble.”  2:19

First, let me proclaim, through the Grace of Almighty God, Good does and will always continue to ultimately triumph over evil.  Our Almighty Father is on His throne and will see to that.  If you read no further, make sure that you leave with that assurance.

There is a struggle going on.  It has been going on since the dawn of time, is ongoing today and will continue until Jesus Christ, in all His Glory comes again at the hour appointed by His Father.  That hour we do not nor can not know.

Yet the struggle is fundamental.  The struggle is taking place at the core of our being.  It is evil attempting to overcome good.  I purposely place these two terms, these two concepts in this order evil versus good for a reason.  You see, although it can be very hard to realize as we look at the world or at least what is brought to us by secular society, but good, as compared to evil, is by far the more powerful of the two fundamental states.  Love is exceedingly more impactful than hate.  The light triumphs over the darkness.  As God is the only consistantly True Good, His design was that good would be the desired fundamental state to be in.

Thus, here’s where the versus comes in.  Evil cannot survive along side good.  Evil does not want to exist in some subservient level to good.  So evil lashes out against good and this lashing out, this competition, this ultimate conflict manifests itself in many ways.  Individually, it is the attempted self destruction of the mind, body and soul, through giving into temptations of thoughts and deeds leading to tragic contemplations and outcomes.  Collectively, it can be the actions of one against many as in a mass murderer.  Societally, it can take the form of one nation striking out against a segment of its own population or striking out at other nations to enforce its evil designs upon those nations around it.

So understand, evil knows of good’s existence and wants nothing more than good’s total annihilation.  Therefore, evil is most often the aggressor.  Evil is the state that drives the person to overdose with pills.  Evil is the state that drives the gunman to walk into the classroom and start shooting.  Evil is the state that says one country will gas its own citizens to death or invade and subjugate its neighbor.  What is one of the most stark ways that we come to know this?  Think back to one of the earliest incidents of this in our country with the Columbine High School, mass murder.  The two individuals made it a point to ask to at least some of their victims, if they were Christian and then to single them out to be killed.  Time and time again, these outbreaks of maniacal violence have targeted the good, the innocent among us.  And while in not every case can it be shown that Christians were singled out, what is clear in each case, evil is attempting to destroy the good.  It may even seem at times that evil triumphs.  That is until we shift our focus from the perpetrators to the responders.  Whether, it is the first responders or heroes in the midst of the tragedy who selflessly lay down their lives or risk having their lives taken to confront the evil.  Or the countless others who come to help in the wake of tragedy, the evil is swallowed up by the good.

Why bring this up?  Two reasons, first; again, as I started out with, do not despair with what is going on in the world.  We must hold on to our faith; knowing the omnipotent power of Our Heavenly Father and that His plan will be triumphant.  Also, second, as evil knows and acknowledges good’s existence as the demons did when confronted by Jesus Christ, we must also understand and acknowledge that evil exists.  We must not fall into the trap of thinking these acts of violence are merely symptoms of some man-made error or circumstance solely or our own making.  That if we somehow eliminated poverty, educated everyone, removed weapons from people, gave everyone access to mental health resources, that these monstrous acts would be eliminated.  Even with all those things, evil would still exist, would still fight for control over us.

Bottom line, evil is not a creation of mankind and will not be solved by mankind.  Evil, in the power of the devil, exists and is eternal.  In reading God’s Word, especially the Book of Revelation, which is an enigmatic book to be sure, one thing that seems clear, is that, while God will destroy evil’s influence over His New World, His New Creation, those who have followed evil will have an eternal condemnation.  I do not declare this of my own knowledge or wisdom, I humbly refer to His word.

Then finally, there is One who is Good, there is One who has the power to defeat all evil when it attacks; which it will.  He is God the Father, and The Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Again, please don’t misunderstand me as I’ve said in the past, yes, we should help the poor, teach the ignorant, help the sick, all those things it is right to do.  Yet understand for those things to be “good”, they must be done in the Name of Our Heavenly Father.  As we are told in the teachings of the Gospel and the admonishments of the likes of Peter, Paul and the other’s who wrote the epistles, the only way for us to overcome evil in ourselves and in the world is by relying on God, The Father through Jesus Christ.  They have the power to overcome and triumph and see to it that we do the same.  It is ironic that evil, in the guise of demons and even the devil understand that Good exists and even fear it.  Would it be that we understand that evil exists and that the only way for us to defeat it, is by first calling out to and then relying on the strength and the power, that is God Almighty.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world where evil attempts to thwart good in any way it kind.  We also live in a world that often denies that evil even exists.  So it is that we come to You today, calling on You to protect us from evil that preys on us constantly.  Surround us with Your Love and Power that we might resist evil and seek Your good.  Besides protecting us, as we abide in Your Son, make us agents for good that we might be Your instruments in triumphing over evil.  That in that triumph we will not seek to glorify ourselves but will turn and give You all the Glory and Praise.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Now in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint….because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”  Acts 6:1

“….whom we may appoint over this business, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  Acts 6:3

5,000 new members in a day; WOW, what a membership drive that was.  That is what happened in the early church based on the preaching of Peter.  Thousands were believing in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, being baptized and becoming members of His body.  Again, WOW, what a response, we read in Acts, Chapter 4, that they were selling what they had and giving to each other so that none lacked for anything.

Alas, all that harmony did not completely last.  For even as they were still growing, still excited, still listening to the Word, praising Jesus Name, a dispute arose.  For that group, “the church” started doing things besides just preaching the Word.  First, let me say that it was good for them to do so.  The church saw a need, poor widows who did not have anyone to care for them and the church was meeting that need.  Yet either some were actually or at least seemed to be left out of that distribution.  Understandably, those associated with the widows had a concern with that, which they brought to the Jesus’ Apostles.  Now it was not that the apostles didn’t think this was a matter of some importance, yet they also felt it vital that this dispute should not become a distraction to their praying and ministry of the word.  There answer to the situation was wise, find people filled with the Holy Spirit of good reputation to administer to this need.  Their answer must have worked because the church continued to grow exponentially.  Now also understand that “issues” were not limited to this young church; the Corinthians argued over which spiritual gifts were the most important and the Galatians argued over whose baptism was better.

Why does this matter?  Fast forward to today and church after church, denomination, after denomination seems to be wrestling, some in almost crises mode over what they are supposed to be and what they should be doing?  Some questions they are struggling with; new music versus traditional music, multimedia versus stand in the pulpit preaching, congregation focused versus non-church attendee focused, who can be married, who can preach; these and many more are the weighty issues that churches are dealing with.  Yet seemingly, to me, so many of the questions; what do we do, how do we spend money, how do we get money, how do we worship, where do we worship are fundamentally about the “business” of church.  However, they become the focal point of so many disputes and the focus of so much energy.

To the above questions, I think it is probable that the apostles would have had an opinion.  Yet when you look at Paul’s and Peter’s letters and their “Acts”, it seems clear that the overriding concept, the undeniable truth, the overriding concept that was what really mattered is; as Paul stated to the Corinthians, to preach Christ crucified, Christ the Power of God, Christ the Wisdom of God.  Thus, what should our priorities be?  What should we expect from church, if anything?

As churches are, I believe, vitally important, we should not be considering doing away with churches or their business.  But, is business the primary aim of the church?  Should we be more concerned with the wrapping than what is the Gift?

I claim no wisdom to answer all the business questions, yet it seems to me, first and foremost is the Gospel of Christ proclaimed, the Word of God studied and worshiped, the Love of God received and then reflected to others and the prayers of individuals and the people raised to Our Heavenly Father should be our desire, our expectation.  Should we not have our primary focus on Christ, the Only Begotten Son, Crucified, Died and Rose Again, Jesus Christ the Risen Lord our Savior?  Christ tells us; that , if we abide in Him we produce much fruit.  Perhaps the fruit is where the business resides?  However, most importantly, the fruit only comes once we first, abide in Christ.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, there is much good we can do, there is much peace we can bring, there is much joy that we can have and all of those can be more focused, more fruitful as we do them in fellowship through church.  However, none of those happen in any truth if we are not first in Christ.  Let Christ’s Word and engaging in prayer be our priority of worship.  Let us be humble in putting Christ first and, while we may be diligent in wanting to do the business of the church, let us be more known as disciples of Christ, then business people of Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly and freely admit we complicate what You have made simple.  We strive to put a price on and then pay for that which is priceless, yet You have provided to us for free.  Like Martha, we focus on the doing and mostly disregard the being; being in You.  Forgive Most Merciful Father.  Breath Your Spirit into us that we may only desire the bread of Your Word and the communion of prayer and relationship with You.  Lead us away from the temptation to equate doing with faith and business with worship.  That by abiding in Your Son and reaching up to You through Jesus Christ, we will bear true fruit that really matters and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“….a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil…….”  Mark 14:3

“Why do you trouble her?  She has done a good work for me.”  Mark 14:16

“……they had asked from the Egyptian articles of silver, articles of gold…..and the Lord had given the people favor….so they granted them what they requested…”  Exodus 12:35,36

I think that it is prudent to start out saying what this post is not about.  I am not a believer in the message that an individual’s prosperity is a measure of their faith and thus the more wealth a person has is some indication of a greater righteousness.  I can find nothing biblical or from Christ that would lead me to find the legitimacy of that message.   Although again I have to freely admit I am not a biblical scholar so what I find or do not find, I will grant, may not be of much importance.

So what is this about.  It seems to me that Jesus Christ is telling us that the gaining or not gaining of wealth is not the seminal aspect of the concern about wealth; but it is the intent around the gaining or not that is of extreme, ever overwhelming importance.

Let’s look at the anointing of Jesus Christ as an example.  First, there is an element of wealth involved.  Jesus does not correct those present and say that the oil that is being used to anoint Him is not costly.  Jesus does not proclaim that the oil was some heavenly gift.  The oil had to be purchased.  It is true we don’t know who purchased the oil concerning the amount of wealth that they had.  What Jesus does stress is it is the intent of the use of the oil which is the thing that matters most and that is why the assembled people’s judgement was wrong.  Jesus was not being anointed out of vanity or privilege.  Jesus was being anointed in preparation for His death.  Jesus stresses that doing for the poor is something that is good and noble to do and should be done.  Yet the use of this money for the service of Christ is not only also a good thing, but will be proclaimed whenever and wherever the gospel is preached.

Let’s look at another time where God caused His people to be wealthy in earthly terms.  I think we often have a vision of the Israelites leaving their captivity as a somewhat ragtag, destitute group streaming out into the desert.  However, the book of Exodus tells us something different.  God put it into the hearts of His people to ask of the Egyptians for gold and silver to take with them; and God, in His almighty power, put it into the hearts of the Egyptians, the captors and masters of the Israelites, to generously give of their possessions to them.  Was this to punish the Egyptians?  Was this so the Israelites would see themselves as rich?  I believe that it was because God Almighty had the plan for His tabernacle of worship and knew that His people would need gold, silver, copper to build the tabernacle in the design God had for it.  Indeed later, when called upon, the Israelite people did freely give of their gold, silver and copper to the building of the tabernacle, so much in fact that the builders had to go to Moses and ask him to tell the people to stop donating their gold and silver.  Also, understand, God demanded that the people should not be forced to give, that only the freely given donations should be used in the construction of the tabernacle.

However, we unfortunately do not always follow the intents and purposes of Almighty God, including our use of wealth.  Again let’s use the above example of some of the Israelite people.  When Moses was upon Mount Sinai receiving the laws of God, some of the Israelite people used their gold to make their own god, a graven image and then bowed down to the gold of their own creation.  The use of gold as a god to be worshiped lead to their ultimate destruction.

Seemingly to me then, the amount of wealth, the accumulation of wealth is of no value in and of itself.  For people of faith, those having wealth are no more blessed than any other.  In fact, for believers, there may be an even greater temptation as wealth is accumulated to fall into the trap of the world where the accumulation of wealth is a sign of value of the person as well as a primary indication of the goodness of life.  This can happen to an individual and it can happen to an institution like a church who sees greater financial status as an indicator of the purity of their message and service.

Dear sisters and brothers we are called, as Paul stated, to see our situation in terms of God’s loving plan.  In abiding in Christ, we can be content in a place of scarcity as well as a place of plenty for they both come from God.  Should you or I find ourselves accumulating wealth, we need to understand that God has a plan for that wealth which is not going to be based on our accumulation of “bigger barns”, that is our own comfort.  We are not to look at our wealth as some reward for a greater amount of righteousness or closeness to God.  We are to be a conduit of that wealth to others who are in need as the wise servant used his given talents versus the foolish who buried his talents away.  Conversely, if we find ourselves in a place of worldly scarcity, where the world would call us poor; first, we should not be envious or covetousness of the wealth of others.  For trials, tribulations, fear and hatred plague those who rely on the riches of this world.  He who has control over all knows of our needs and will fulfill abundantly.

Understand that regardless of the size of any earthly financial account, we are called to be rich in love, generous in mercy, wealthy in forgiving and full of faith.  These are the accounts, that as we fill them with ever greater amounts, lead to our peace and true joy and bring praise to the Holy Name of Our Father in Heaven.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly declare that You and not we are Author of our prosperity.  We pray that You would put it on our hearts to use any prosperity from You for the betterment of those in need.  Forgive us, Merciful Father, when we put our trust in things and wealth and judge others by their affluence or lack thereof.  Put Your Spirit on our hearts that we would be rich in charity, humility, mercy, forgiveness and most importantly love.  That the building of spiritual wealth, would be our aim so in to live lives of praise to You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly in heart…….for My yoke is easy and My burden light”  Matthew 11:29,30

“For this people’s heart has become calloused………otherwise they might….understand with their hearts and turn and I would heal them.”  Matthew 13:15

Be hard or be soft?  Judge or forgive?  Mercy or punishment? How much does the character of my dwelling reflect what it is built upon?

First and foremost, Jesus Christ wants us to build and He wants us to build wisely.  Thus Jesus admonishes us to build, to do, to become what has said that we were meant to become.  To not only hear His words, but then act upon them.  In that way, we are laying our foundation on His words which are immovable and everlasting, much like stone is.

Yet if we are not careful, we may misinterpret the solidity of the foundation for the overall hardness of the structure and its occupant(s).  I happened to live in a place where granite was not very deep beneath the soil and as such structures were often built on this stone.  I now live where sand is the predominate sediment on which things are built.  I’ve found an interesting paradox with these two situations.  In most cases, you have to be more flexible, more adaptable with your structure built on stone than on sand.  You see when a big granite boulder or shelf is there, it will take extreme measures to move or modify.  It is much easier to change or adapt the design of the house than it is to change the stone which it is built upon.  Whereas in sand, I can plan virtually any type of structure and move the sand around to accommodate my structure.  Similarly, if I am building my actions to reflect the truth of Christ, I am going to have to adapt to Him.  If I do not care if my actions reflect Him, then I can go any which way I want to building upon the sand of my own desires; to my own destruction.

So now I’m doing the “building” that is I am taking actions; what sort of character are those actions to take?  If my foundation is hard; are my actions to take on those characteristics as well?  What would those hard characteristics look like?  Will I be judgmental?  Will I look to condemn every wrong I think I observe or pronounce a sentence of doom on those I believe to have sinned?  Will I be legalistic?  Will I attempt to use the teachings of Christ as some sort of checklist of do’s and don’ts by which I measure the worthiness of my fellow person?  Will I see mercy and forgiveness as weakness? Will I require punishment for all infractions?  If I do those things I will be in extreme danger of exchanging Jesus as the Rock of my foundation for the stumbling block upon which I am broken?

Think of those to whom scripture has said had a hard heart:  the Pharaoh of Egypt, King of Babylon, those Pharisees who wanted to put away wives with a certificate of divorce, among others.  These are not any examples that would listed among those who faithfully followed Jesus Christ or His and our Heavenly Father.  In fact Jesus warns that it is the calloused heart which keeps one from turning and being healed.

Conversely, Jesus describes the types of acts, the characteristic of a heart that is built on His solid foundation.  These are acts which should not levy a heavy burden.  These are acts of healing, mercy, forgiveness, humility and most importantly love.  We are not meant to create acts that show our power over others, but engage in acts of service and charity to one another.  We are not meant to proclaim or make pronouncements of judgement against each other, but strive to be examples of patience and long suffering.  Based upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, when the world brings tempests against us; these are the actions that will show our strength in times of trouble and our ability to withstand the onslaught and not fall.

Dear sisters and brothers may it be that in constructing the structure of our lives that we build upon the rock of Jesus Christ, a structure of light, a structure of openness, a structure not designed to keep things locked within it but a structure where love and charity abides.  Let the structure that you and I build be a structure not to glorify ourselves but a structure of personal humility with the aim of service and praise to Almighty God.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we pray prayers of thanksgiving that You have seen fit to provide us with the Foundation of Jesus Christ who is our redeemer upon which to build our lives whose strength will save us from any worldly tempest.  Forgive us when we seek to build our lives based on our own desires and judgments instead of Your teachings.  Provide Your Spirit that we may build lives of love, mercy, charity forgiveness and humility which will show to the world from whom the design of our lives has come and to whom we look to provide us with the building materials for those lives.  That our lives built upon the Rock of Your Son, would be lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last…….What you see write in a book and send to the seven churches…….”  Revelation 1:11

“The mystery of seven stars….and the seven golden lampstands….the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”  Revelation 1:20

So let’s set the scene here.  There is a follower of Christ named John (there is some discussion over whether or not this was the Apostle John or not) who has been exiled to an island named Patmos for his belief and preaching of Jesus Christ.  At this point, among so many countless things Jesus Christ has accomplished, He has taught about His Father and His Father’s Kingdom.  He has willing died for us becoming the perfect sacrifice for our redemption.  He has risen from the dead and in all power, has asked for the Holy Spirit to be sent to us so that those who believe and are baptized may receive Him.  There has been time for Christ’s apostles to spread out and begin churches.  Now Christ wants to reveal to His people, that which is to come.

Notice where, very early on, Christ’s emphasis lies.  He makes sure that John knows who exactly it is who is giving him, His revelation.  Second, Christ wants to make sure that John sends this information out….to the churches.  In fact when John first sees Jesus Christ, He is standing in and amongst the lampstands.  Notice also that, besides a lampstand, each church has an angel.

Jesus Christ wants to send a message to all the churches, yet each church has a different part.  Here are couple things that seem important to me.  First, while there are seven churches based on seven different physical locations; they are all Christ’s.  Second, even at this time, even as short a period of time as it has been since Christ walked the earth, the evils of man had infected many of these churches.  These were not perfect places of worship.

So what is Jesus Christ to do?  He could have pronounced the church a failed institution and decided some other form of institution is necessary.  Christ could have warned all of his believers to flee from churches or any institution similar to them.  Neither of these things does Christ do.  No, it is abundantly clear that Christ cares for, Christ loves these churches, even with their imperfections.  Certainly Christ rebukes the churches, in some cases quite harshly.  Yet even then in most cases, He is able to find something redeeming about the church and offers the churches hope.  Yes, it seems very clear that Jesus Christ sees great importance in the churches and the need that they repent of their waywardness and come into the glory for which they were intended.

Why is this so important?  This is vital, because churches are under such devastating attacks both from the outside secular world as well as within their own ranks.  It is true that there have been churches that have committed great evil against the world and even their own members.  It is true that some churches, far from being the welcoming beacons of light; have spread a message of exclusiveness and hatred.  I have even heard from within churches themselves, doubts about the relevance and necessity of churches in the 21st century world.

Where are we to turn?  Are we to strike out on our own?  Let’s return to Jesus and see what He has to say.  Remember, Jesus preached that a house divided can not stand.  While, in the context of the discussion, He was discussing Satan, He did not say Satan’s divided house can not stand.  No, it is clear He admonition was for all.  The church is a place where we come together.  The church is the place where we partake of fellowship in some of the most sacred acts that Christ taught about; The Lord’s Supper and The baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Churches have the mission of being a place were we come to a sanctuary of love, healing, joy, praise and worship.

The enemy would love to see us break up and try it on our own.  The enemy would love to see those in pain, those tired, those physically and spiritually hungry, those unloved and persecuted have no where to turn.  The enemy would love each believer left alone to struggle with interpreting the Word of God on their own.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; church matters.  Yes, I confess there are divisions.  Yes it is true that we have many of the same struggles that Jesus Christ laid out in the book of Revelation to the early seven churches.  Yet that is no reason to give up and try to go it alone.  Diligently seek a church that preaches Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior.  If you are in such a church be open and loving to those who enter your doors.  In a world obsessed with the latest and greatest, hold fast to the Rock of Christ.  Should your church stumble; love it, support it, help it.  Should one church become so corrupted that it no longer preaches the true gospel of Christ, then leave it, but find another church.  They are definitely out there.

Let us not relegate an institution that Jesus Christ finds so important to a relic of the past.  Christ knows that the church is not for Him and His need, it is for us.  Let us, abiding in Christ, be worthy of our lampstand.  And may the light, His Light, shine forth from our lamp, the church, as a beacon of love, peace and light, to a world ever growing darker.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Your plan has in it our ability to gather in Your Church.  We pray that, although there be many buildings in many different locations, that we would worship You as one.  Let the Glory of the Groom, Jesus Christ, fill the bride, the church, with love, mercy and thanksgiving.  Forgive us when we try to fashion the church in our image instead of Yours.  That the church may be an avenue for Your Will to be carried out on this earth.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“He turns rivers into wilderness and the watersprings into dry ground…..He turns wilderness into pools of water and dry land into water spring……He also blesses them and they multiply…”  Psalm 107:  33, 35, 38

“Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness….Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of  the people”  Psalm 107 31, 32

I will try not to compartmentalized too much and stay on topic.  Yet one does not have to look too far in the world and see not only a lot of compartmentalization going on in general, but especially compartmentalization going on about God in the world.

It is sadly true that Our Heavenly Father, God Almighty is referred to less and less in mainstream society in terms of having any relevent impact on it.  Not wanting to enforce a “state religion” in the United States, the founding leaders designed a separation of church and government.  That concept, much to the delight of the devil, has morphed into a much broader concept of separation of church and society.  It is no longer a correct and in some cases an allowable exercise to discuss our faith in conjunction with our vocation or outside of solely religious gatherings.

Yet there is one place where calling upon God is still considered a morally correct and admirable thing to do; when people are struck with extreme personal tragedy, often involving health or loved ones’ death.  In the aftermath of significant natural disasters with large loss of life or property, in the wake of a mass shooting or terrorist attack, speaker after speaker stands before the public and pleads with the public to remember these people and their families in our prayers.  Please don’t misunderstand me; I am glad even for that mention of God and His power to heal, comfort and restore.

So here’s an example of compartmentalization recently.  There are horrible wildfires happening in our western and northwestern states.  There has been a lack of rain for significant periods of time and much of the vegetation had dried up over time leading to readily volatile fire conditions.  Various reasons for this period of drought and what to do about it have been offered.  It is man-made climate change.  It is climate change that has nothing to do with man.  It is man’s mismanagement of resources for not storing water when he could.  In short it is man or strictly a natural process with no other influence discussed or possible.  So the fires happen and very sadly, several, brave firefighters have lost their lives.  Then it happens; in talking about the firefighters’ death, we are encouraged to pray for them.  In fact first and foremost that is what speaker after speaker, and these are secular speakers, governors, mayors, fire captains, news reports, even the president, feel completely at ease calling upon you and I to pray to God for these people (and that is again a good thing).

So I have to ask myself and would ask them if I had the chance; why is it correct to pray for these individuals and not the greater circumstances where these people and we ourselves find ourselves?  Are you or we saying that God has only power in helping people in dire or after dire circumstances but has no power in any other aspect of the world we live in?  Of course I’d hate that in, asking that question, their answer would be to stop calling on God altogether.

King David, in Psalm 107 is referring to the power of God Almighty and how He uses that power to bless and yes, withhold blessing.  Yet there is no ambiguity in God’s omnipotence in every aspect of creation.  Now please don’t infer by my example that I am judging areas of our country or saying that the fires are God’s judgement for this act or that.  I do not know the mind of God nor am in any place to be a spokesperson of His judgement; He is all too capable to do that for Himself.  What I am saying with complete conviction is that God is the Creator and has power in all things.  I also proclaim that He is a God of love who longs to hear the prayers of His creation and bless them (us) abundantly.  I also believe, based upon scripture, that God will withhold His blessings when we fail to reach out to Him and act based on our own earthly and evil judgement.  Yet God in His Mercy and Patience will do all that He can do to bring us back.  To show us, not only His Power, but His Love as well.  He will go as far as to sacrifice His only Son to redeem us from our sin and show us His Power by raising Him from the dead, to show us how we can come to live in His presence again.  In fact that very comforting nature of God that is why we are asked to pray for those so significantly hurting.

What I am saying, asking for, cajoling, pleading for is for you and I not to compartmentalized our requests to God.  To understand that God wants to be a part of and then allow Him to come into our lives and be a part of, every aspect of our lives.  I am asking that we understand, there is nothing outside of God’s control so let’s pray for rain and relief of drought and famine, knowing that God has that power.  Pray for a promotion, pray for a grade, pray for a relationship, pray for your finances with the firm faith of God’s intervening power.  He is faithful to answer.  He is faithful to bless.  It may not be in the same time or way that we were thinking but He will make it all the better, all the richer.

One final thing David asks us to do.  For example I have two friends who have recently done exactly what David speaks of.  One friend miraculously survived a horrific automobile accident and his recovery has had physical pain and there are things he can no longer do.  Yet he is unceasing in his praise of Power of God in the recovery his doctors say is nothing short of miraculous.  Another friend and husband were going through financial, health and spiritual troubles that shook them to their very souls thinking, at times there might be no way out other than to bring about their own end.  Yet they did not completely lose their faith and God powerfully intervened and they sing His praises constantly.  We need to tell of God’s blessings.  We need to declare God’s answered prayers.  Many will scoff, but some will hear and be transformed and end their compartmentalization and open all to God.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly and loudly declare You are the Creator God and over all things.  We pray to You in all aspects of our lives to include we pray for rain in our western states to put out the fires.  We pray for drought and famine relief in Saharan Africa.  Show us that You want to us to pray, in love and faith, for specific things and in all aspects of our life.  Forgive us, when we compartmentalized our lives trying to exclude you from some part.  We praise You for the blessings and love you pour down upon us.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen


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