“For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.”  1 Thessalonians 2:9

“But God said to him; Fool! This night your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared; whose will they be?”  Luke 12:20

“Do not lay for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy”  Matthew 6:19

By the time Paul visits the city of Thessalonica, he has already finished one missionary journey and started several churches.  Jesus Christ, Himself had told his disciples, when He sent them out two-by-two, that it was perfectly fine for them to accept gifts of meals and lodging as a recompense for the work they were doing spreading Christ’s message.  Yet the people he came to at Thessalonica, who listened to Paul and received the message of Christ, were not the richest of the city but among poorer and did not have much of anything to spare.  Paul could have taken up a collection to pay for his expenses in staying at Thessalonica and preaching the gospel.  Yet Paul did not want anything to get in the way or burden the Thessalonians or cause obstacles to the establishing of the new church.  So Paul, a tent maker by trade, labored day and night to provide for his own needs.  What Paul was not doing was trying to enrich himself or spread his business to some new locations.  No, although Paul’s tents were not just for the church or follower’s of Christ, His desire was to honor Christ through the use of his secular work.  And Paul’s work lasted as far as the Gospel was concerned.  The church in Thessalonica did last and grew as well and continues to this very day.

Conversely, you have the parable of the foolish rich farmer.  Jesus tells us that the ground of this rich farmer yielded a plentiful harvest.  Understand, at the start of the story, the man was already wealthy.  Even so, when he received an extremely bountiful crop, the rich man did not have enough space to store it.  Now the man, already being rich, could have decided to be generous and give the extra harvest that couldn’t be stored away.  That he did not do; instead, he tore down his barn and built a larger one.  Thus now the man becomes even richer.  Yet good fortune is not done with this man, for he receives an even bigger harvest that will not entirely fit in his new, larger barn.  Now surely he is rich enough to distribute the extra that he has this time.  But, if you’re not aware of the parable, you might still have guessed by the “foolish” in the title of the parable, the man does not.  He again tears down his new larger, barn and builds an even bigger one in which he stores all his bountiful harvest and decides that he now no longer needs to work or worry about anything for he is rich enough to last the rest of his life.  In that sense he is absolutely correct, for God comes to him that very night and informs him that his life is over and all he had struggled for, will go to another.

So as we look at this, both men; Paul and the farmer labored.  The first one, Paul, labored not only in terms of preaching the gospel but also in terms of in a secular way, building tents.  Obviously, in the preaching, Paul was working for and with Christ in mind.  Yet even in the tent making, Paul’s desire was to honor Christ by using the pay he received, for himself.  Yet that alleviated the burden of poor Thessalonians having to contribute to Paul’s welfare and perhaps distracting them from Christ’s message.

In the second instance, the rich man was laboring only for himself.  Even after the man had become wealthy, his wealth was no longer sufficient.  The man felt that with each increasing gain, he must find ways of keeping that gain all to himself.  The motivation for his labor was completely self centered.  One gets the sense that as the rich man was tearing down and rebuilding his barns, he still wasn’t taking time to enjoy the fruits of his labor even as rich as he was.  Finally, after much labor and much gain, he finally believes it is time to enjoy what should be a very lavish, leisurely life style.  It would appear he might have been able to do that for all of one day.

What are we to make of this for us and our time?  Most of us have a vocation.  Most of us work.  I dare say most of us work, yours truly included, in something other than the explicit being a professional preacher of  Christ’s word.  But even if we’re not a preacher, can we see a connection to Christ in our work?  Is it possible through our work, we can either financially or in some other respect relieve a burden from those around us.  In what we do, how we do it, the gain that comes from it, can we maintain a focus on Christ in each of those processes?  Or……is work simply for us?  Is work something we do with which Christ has no meaning or impact.  Is what we do, how we do it and what comes from our work, only for our own consumption and gratification?

It is most probably, the work we do, if only for ourselves will see the material gain not enriching us or our lives for any significant length of time.  We are most likely to find much futility and frustration in self absorbed, self focused effort.

It is equally as likely that should Christ be the focus of our work, what we do, how we do it, what we do with the gain.  We will find significant immediate blessings and success in those endeavors and effects of that work will last a lifetime and longer; probably an eternity.  That would be only fitting as Christ, lived, worked, loved and died for us that we should strive to reflect that effort.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that we often see work as a singularly or mostly secular task that fulfills many worldly needs that is often separated from a focus on You.  Yet Lord, You have made it clear that any part of our life that we attempt to keep from You and Your influence will turn disastrous.  So, Most Merciful Father, we pray that You would pour our Your Spirit upon us that will allow us to seek Your influence in all we do including our work.  That You, Dear Father,  would provide us with the insight to see the work You provide us with as an opportunity to serve You. That in dedicating our work life to You, we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1

“Now the next day….He was hungry…”  Mark 11:12

“Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled…Jesus wept”  John 11:35,36

“Simon Peter answered and said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’. Jesus answered and said to him” ‘Blessed are you…for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven'”. Matthew 16::17

My vocation for many a year before and also at least part time while writing has been as an instructor of adults.  Most often, I am an unknown quantity when I start off a class that I am teaching.  Sometimes the question is asked outright but if not, it is almost always written in the facial expressions of some in the classroom:  “Why should I be listening to you?”  In other words what credibility do I have that allows me to stand before them and teach certain aspects of whatever lesson it is that I am presenting.  Often, if I am not able to demonstrate my credibility in the subject I am teaching, I will lose a significant portion of my audience.

Well enough about me and I only started with that illustration to introduce and illustrate the topic of credibility.  For it seemed that would be question that would dog Jesus, the entire time He was here on earth as well as to a certain extent even today.  Why should we listen to Jesus Christ?

To the Jewish leadership, the main problem with credibility was Jesus Himself.  Jesus was a man and a seemingly fairly nondescript, common sort of man.  He seemed to come from Galilee which seemed to have no scriptural credibility for sending forth a Messiah.  Second, this man, this Jesus was so meek.  This surely didn’t seem to be the king who was going to oust the cursed Roman Army and lift the Jewish state to the pinnacle of all the world’s nations.  Okay, granted Jesus seemed to do a lot of miracles but there had to be some trick or maybe Jesus was really playing for the other side, the real bad guys.  Maybe that’s why Jesus had so much power over demons the Jewish leadership proposed.

Greatly because of the Jewish leadership’s skepticism and outright hostility to Jesus, the common people of Israel did not know what to make of Jesus either.  Scripture tells us they listened gladly but would often turn away, sometimes even becoming violent toward Jesus, when He questioned their motives and their human devised traditions.

Now’s here the flip side of the credibility argument I from time to time come across as to what Jesus taught and how He lived.  It goes something like this; “turn the other cheek, love your enemies, don’t be afraid, don’t worry, don’t get angry, don’t lust” and so many other things are easy when you’re God.  But Jesus being Christ doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t and can’t even understand what I’m going through for two reasons; he lived so long ago and, again HE’S GOD!  Now because Jesus Christ really doesn’t understand then His teachings don’t quite really apply.  I mean, sure, they’re well and good for Him as God, but they don’t really apply directly to me and my good ole, bad ole human nature.

Yet Dear Sisters and Brothers, here’s the most amazing, unique thing in all of existence.  Again this is something, because scripture tells it and the Holy Spirit testifies to it, that I truly, wholeheartedly believe but I can’t begin to truly grasp or understand; Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human.  Just ponder that for a moment and try to come to grips with how wonderful a gift that is.  Prior to being human, Jesus Christ knew no hunger, knew no sorrow, knew no anger; He didn’t have to sleep, didn’t have to stop and rest, no physical pain ever afflicted Him.  Yet Jesus Christ gave all that up so that He could nearly fully experience the existance of human with the one exception being, Jesus never sinned.

Jesus Christ knows anguish.  He knows hunger.  He has experienced frustration.  From a flesh perspective He tells us in the garden, He knows how the flesh can be weak.  And here’s the other amazingly, grace filled outcome of Jesus experience; He knows what to do about it.  Because He is God, Jesus knows that we are not capable, on our own of accomplishing the teachings He laid out for us.  Jesus Christ knows that on our own or even in human groups, we will fail and fail miserably.  That is why Jesus doesn’t want us to even try!  That is why Jesus said and knew by His own experience that humans, apart from God would never prevail.  That is why He extols us, He pleads with us to come to Him, to trust and have faith in Him, to call upon Him, to abide in Him.  With and through Him, all things are possible.

Is Jesus Christ credible?  Was Jesus Christ human?  Was Jesus Christ God?  Well as to human, Jesus Christ has been there, done that and has the nail scarred hands and feet to prove it.  As to God, Jesus Christ defeated death and rose again and ascended into heaven, no human has ever done that.  There is no question as to Jesus Christ’s credibility.  Then the only remaining question is; will we accept His credibility and thus live into the rich life, He sacrificed so much for us to have?

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are indeed mystified and must humbly confess that we can not grasp the true enormity of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made in leaving the heavenly realm to become fully human.  Yet we also boldly confess that we believe that Jesus Christ was fully God at the same time.  We are filled with praise and gratitude that Jesus Christ would come to share our existence with its human induced pain and suffering.  We are even more grateful that He, being blameless would do what no human could do and take upon Himself our sin and our blame so that we in turn, could come redeemed into Your presence.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we are tempted to trivialize the sacrifice of Jesus becoming human or worst yet, doubt that He was fully God.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that, through the indwelling of the Spirit, we will answer the invitation to abide in Christ which is the only way to achieve our true, desired destiny.  That in abiding in Your One and Only Truly Begotten Son, we would live lives that bring praise to Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“For behold, I bring you good news of great joy…….for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord”  Luke 2:10,11

“Joy to the world, no more let sin and sorrows grow”.  “I bring you good news of great joy”  Joy?  Really?  Have you seen the world today?  Have you seen my life?  Where do I start with what’s going wrong!  Joy?  Really?  This is more like a time of depression and despair instead of joy.  Maybe there was joy back then but joy? Today?  Really?  I often I see these type of sentiments expressed in many different forums in today’s world. Thus what should be our reaction to the reason for the season.

Yes joy, really, absolutely.  So do understand, I do know depression for I have battled it.  I know disappointment, even and especially at this time of year.  From and where and why should I or do I have any right to have joy when I look at the state of the world or the state of my life?

We’ve heard an aspect or narrative of Christmas being under attack.  From the outside, it can be considered insensitive to those of other faiths or no faith, to use the words Merry Christmas.  Religious symbols should not be shown in conjunction with government or even public places.  Santa Clause is okay but Jesus Christ is not.  Yes I will admit that the worldly want nothing to do with the Christ in Christmas.

Yet I’ve also seen a trend of late in houses of faith that I believe is rooted in a proper intent but that can also minimize or, in fact, leave out the message of joy altogether.  I’m talking about the desire to strip away the colorful “mythology” that has grown around our Savior’s birth and stress the “factual reality” of the occasion.  True, the bible has no drummer boy.  We read nowhere of animals talking at midnight at the birth of Christ.  Yes the shepherds would have been looked down by most of the society at the time.  However, the very real challenge of wanting to dig into and focus on the “factual” nature of world of the time is to minimize the otherworldly, virtually incomprehensible, utterly immeasurable, joyous event and gift that took place on that day.

Joy?  Why joy?  Quite simply because God came to earth!  God came to earth!  Well Doug, you might ask, hadn’t God been to earth before?  Yes, there are brief instances where God came to earth, but only momentarily and also He came as God of Heaven, in heavenly form.  God came in a form that no person could behold and live.  Moses, one so close to God and such a wonderful servant of God, could only glimpse God’s back in passing or Moses would have been destroyed.  Now God was again coming to earth.  But now He was also coming in human form; and not just some shell or likeness of human.  No in some miracle too wonderful to fully understand; Jesus Christ was full human and fully God in one being.

Joy? Joy really?  In other religions, did’t their gods come down to earth and take human form?  Yes in the worldly religions there are stories of gods coming to earth, but more often it was for selfish or even sinister reasons.  The One True Son of God came down, not to trick, not to get revenge, not to dupe some unwitting soul; no, Jesus Christ came down for one reason and one reason only.  Jesus Christ came to save you and I.  He came for our salvation.  The only way Jesus Christ could do that was to take our place.  To suffer the judgement we so deserve and He never did.

Jesus Christ came that through Him, we might live in relationship now and forever with our Father in Heaven; to live a life of abundance, knowing a peace and yes, joy that surpasses all understanding.  Joy, absolutely Joy.

Also understand this; this was defeat for the enemy.  When Jesus Christ came, the enemy lost the war.  Yet, even though defeated the enemy still has not stopped fighting.  That is one of the reasons that this time of year can be such a fraught filled time.  The enemy will throw everything he can at this time to try to rob us of joy.  He will try guilt, sorrow, worldly desires, worldly distractions, misdirection; whatever he can do for us to lose focus and turn away from Jesus Christ and the celebration and joy that should be natural from His gift of salvation.

Not only for us, but the enemy wants to show the world, believers acting without joy at this time of year.  Why should people who don’t know Christ, feel positively toward seeking Christ if his own followers can’t or won’t feel and express joy at this time of year.

Thus Dear Sisters and Brothers, reject the world and its temptation toward darkness especially at this time of year.  While our joy can and should be triumphant, it should not be separating or prideful.  That is to say, we deserve the joy and you, unbelievers do not because we are better.  No, instead let our joy be infectious and inviting.  Let it be a shining light placed on the proverbial hill for all to see; people of faith or not.  Let the joy be humble, acknowledging that it comes solely and souly from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through the plan of our Heavenly Father, revealed to us by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Joy?  Yes Joy!  Joy to the world!  And in that more recent song written and sung a few millennia Joy to you and me!  May you have a joyous Merry Christmas as well as joy filled next year.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, that we cannot adequately express our profound gratitude at the gift of sacrifice of Jesus Christ should not keep us from trying.  We thank You that Your plan for Christ was that of salvation and not judgement.  Through Your Spirit, reveal to us the true joy and peace that we should be feeling and expressing at the coming of Jesus Christ.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when allow the despair of the world to rob us of the joy You so desire us to have.  Through Your Mercy and Power, restore us to a sense of joy, peace and reverent worship, that will be inviting to those who don’t You and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

“…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  Matthew 7:11

“….for the Father, Himself loves you because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.”  John 16:27

I struggled a little with the title of this post and almost added; “and Some Would Say Unnatural”……after the word unique.  Why?  It started with a conversation that I had with a friend of mine about my same age.  This person has grown children and they and this person felt that they had reached a point where the children were “on their own”.  This person stated to me that (and meant from a primarily parental decision and responsibility standpoint) this person’s job was done.  Now please, please understand; I don’t want to insinuate in the least that this person lacked any sense of loving or caring for their children.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Yet what it seemed that this person was expressing was some progression had happened, some point had been passed, some level of autonomy reached where the children were the, almost exclusively, ones responsible for their lives.

So I continued to think about this progression of children/offspring.  There does seem to be an aspect in nature of the sending away of offspring.  Many higher level animals either send away all offspring after a time or in some cases, only a gender, as in the males are driven off.  Even in animal societies where offspring stay with family unit, there seems to be a tension where an offspring will eventually challenge and often defeat, sometimes to the death, the parent and take their place.  There seems to be a natural progression in that sense; ” a circle of life” as it were.

I contemplated my relationship and thoughts about my two grown children.  I thought about how often I thought about them in any given day; how much I was concerned about their physical, mental and spiritual well being.  I often ponder over what is the appropriate amount of interjection, advice or involvement verses interference, growth inhibiting interaction.

If the above thoughts are natural, then what does that infer concerning our relationship with our Heavenly Father?  To answer that question, I turn, or more accurately am led, to scripture for the answer.  For I would never, as I do not have the wisdom, to comment on or make a judgement on the efficacy or appropriateness of the natural, that is to say the way of nature, process of offspring rearing.  Yet if in nature there is an appropriate time for separation and “going your own way” for offspring, does the same hold true for God?  Is there a time where He would say:  “You’ve learned enough, now go your own way.”?

First, I think it is important that we learn an aspect of the relationship we are to have with the Almighty.  For yes He is God.  Yes He is Creator.  Yes He is King.  Yes He is Master.  Yet I find that Jesus, when He spoke on earth, always used language with precision.  That is, Jesus meant what He said and was careful about how He said it.  Thus, Jesus primarily referred to God as, at time His or “My” Heavenly Father, but also many times as “your Heavenly Father”.  Again, it is clear Jesus did not throw around terms or concepts loosely.  It definitely seems that Jesus wants us to see the relationship we have with God as one where He is a Father, that is a perfect, Heavenly Father figure. Now also notice to whom, Jesus is making many of these statements.  In the first quote above from Matthew, this comes from when Christ is giving His; “Sermon on the Mount” where He is addressing primarily adult followers.  He is speaking of the, their, our Heavenly Father, giving to them what they ask of Him.  It would seem obvious that there is no age cut off or desire on our Heavenly Father’s part to see us stop coming to Him with our requests.  In the second scripture passage from John, Jesus is speaking of how much the Father has an individual and endearing love for His disciples and all who love Jesus Christ and believe that Jesus came from God.

Thus we now we come to the unique part, the “unnatural” part, if you will.  For Our Heavenly Father sees no appropriate time to “cut the apron strings” , no earthly progression for His children that would send them/us off “on our own”, no relinquishing of responsibility or desire for helping.  Understand this is not some depraved desire for over control, or a twisted plan to keep us shackled to Him, to keep us from reaching some fullest potential on our own.  No, this desire and longing for a continual, eternal parental relationship is out of the purest form of Grace and Love.  For Our Heavenly Father knows the dangers we face.  He knows there’s an incredibly powerful enemy out there along with our complete and utter inability to defeat that enemy on our own; no matter what our own opinion of our experience, strength and wisdom might be.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, in this case the “natural” is also the unique.  The natural is the continued loving relationship between our Creator God, Father in Heaven, with His creation, children.  How do we keep that relationship fresh and vibrant?
First it takes belief in the need for that relationship; that is faith.  Next, it requires a commitment of time to interact; that is prayer.  Also, it takes working on having some commonality of understanding; that is reading of scripture.  Underlying all of this, it takes love.  If you find yourself in a place this day, where you’re trying to or feel that you have left the presence of Your Father in Heaven, to go out on your own; I encourage you, I implore you to turn around and return to a loving, intimate relationship with your/our Heavenly Father.  If your in relationship with Him, work on making it deeper; work on making that relationship less independent and more interdependent.  No matter what might seem the natural way to go; Our Heavenly Father wants to have a uniquely personal, loving relationship with you, His child for now and all eternity.  How do we know?  He sacrificed His One truly begotten Son, that we might be brought into the family.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we are humbled and grateful, that of all the relationships You might justifiably have with us; You have chosen to be our Heavenly Father. Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when we are tempted to reject that relationship or feel that we have outgrown it and try to go and have it our own way.  Through the Holy Spirit, convict and strengthen our heart that it might lead us back to a loving, eternal relationship with You.  That in showing the world that we will always humbly submit to and follow You, our Heavenly Father; we might live, lives of praise and honor to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Then they sent to Him some Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words….” Mark 12:13

“Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and they asked him….”  Mark 12:18

“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him…” Mark 12:29

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?”  John 3:4

We sure are a questioning bunch.  We ask such things as: What’s for Dinner?, to What’s the meaning of life?  We ask questions about the future: What’s the weather going to be tomorrow?  We ask questions about the past: Why did we elect or Why didn’t we elect so-and-so?  We often ask questions to get information.  We sometimes ask questions just let out our emotions.  Questions can be a threat.  Questions can be a blessing.

But if you’ll pardoned this question which has an oxymoronic aspect by its very nature:  Should we ever question God?  If my response is no, then end of story, short article and off you go merry clicking away to somewhere else.  If I say yes, certainly, then I’m perhaps placing myself on pretty shaky ground, faith wise.  Yet did not even Christ Jesus, Himself exhort us to:  “Ask and it will be given to us”? (Matthew 7:7)

I believe that the answer for us can be found in the way that Jesus Christ handled questions asked of him, especially by the religious leaders of His day.  You see, what we must understand, take into account is the reason those religious leaders were questioning Jesus in the first place.  Scripture is very clear that the vast majority of the religious leaders did not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah.  Worst yet, the leaders believed that Jesus was not only a charlitain but a dangerous rabble rouser who might, not only upset the Jewish order of things, but bring the might of occupying Roman army down upon them.  Normally they knew how to deal with these people.  In the past they had been easily able to show the falseness and trickery of the false prophets and quickly dispatch them.  However, Jesus was all together different.  Jesus miracles were not some shoddy parlor tricks.  His preaching was not some hollow diatribe of lunatic fringe meanderings.  Hardly, Jesus was performing miracles that had never been done before and could not be explained except as a product of Divine intervention. Secondly, His teaching showed a greater knowledge, an intimate deeper understanding then any of the Jewish leaders, themselves had.  And worse still, the people loved to hear Him, loved to be around Him and watch Him perform miracles and listen to Him preach.  Yet, again for the most part, the Jewish leadership, would not, could not believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah.

Thus, because the people followed Jesus so, they needed to find a way to get the people to turn on Jesus.  The Jewish leadership had to show the people who knew more about scripture and about the Kingdom of God.  They had to find a way to trip Jesus up, so the crowds were turn away from Him.  They figured, asking Him questions was just the way.  These were not just any questions; these were loaded questions.  The questions they asked Jesus were posed in such away that Jesus couldn’t answer without getting Himself in trouble with the crowd or with the Roman authorities.  Some questions were asked to try and stump Jesus, so the crowds would see that He was not all-knowing after all.  Anytime the Jewish leadership, and they tried many times with many different representatives, tried to trap Jesus with one of these questions; they failed miserably.  In fact, they failed so many times, they stopped trying, they were so afraid of His answers and how foolish His answers made the leadership seem, they eventually stopped asking Him questions all together.

However, those were not the only questions Jesus received.  In fact, during one exchange, a scribe, who would have been a learned man of that time, was listening in.  He heard the wisdom of Jesus thwart and confound the wisdom of the Jewish leaders.  So the scribe then asked a question:  What is the greatest commandment?”  Yet Jesus did not ridicule this question or he who asked it.  In fact, Jesus used the question to give one of His most powerful answers (see Mark 12:28).  Then there was another man, a Jewish leader, a Pharisee, who came to Jesus by night to see Jesus.  When, Jesus talks about being born again, Nicodemus asked how can a man be born when he is old.   Jesus, at least at that point, did not ridicule Nicodemus or his question but answered it with a great and powerful, spiritual truth (see John 3:5).  But in both of the above questions, the two men asking the questions were doing so out of humility.  In both cases the men declared the special, in fact extraordinary wisdom that Jesus possessed and they were asking to gain wisdom from Jesus, not refute Him.

So, what impact does this have for us?  You might be saying to yourself (or to me), Doug, I would never question God in doubting His Power or as if I knew the answer to try and trick him!  Okay, maybe you or I, don’t ask our questions in such a way to try to trick God, but what about doubting Him?  I confess sometimes my questions are such as:  Why didn’t you do what I asked? or Why did you answer my prayer in this way (again insinuating that I had the better answer)?  Do we ever ask our questions with a doubt that He’s even listening?

That’s not to say we can’t ask God for understanding about why something is happening.  Yet we must be humble in doing so; acknowledging that whatever answer is received is the perfect answer, whether we would agree or not.  We need to see that it is a sure blessing that God wants to be in a relationship with us enough, the He will allow us to ask Him questions.

There’s one other aspect we must consider when asking God a question.  While we can be certain of His hearing the question and equally certain that He will answer the question, we can not have the expectation of our complete and perfect understanding of His answer.  Even with the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are still limited in our ability to truly and completely grasp the infinite wisdom, the God derived logic and thinking which is the basis for the answer.  That is where faith comes in.  We may fathom only a fraction of the unattainable Godly wisdom, behind an answer to our question.  Yet we can have complete faith that God understands all and through His Loving Grace, He will share what He can, but always has what is best for us in His plan.

Yes, let us take Jesus Christ at His Word and is Exhortation to ask that we may be given.  Yet let us also insure that our intent is pure and humble; that we know we are the creation asking of our Creator.  Let us be thrilled and praise filled that Our Creator loves us enough, wants to be in relationship with us enough, to provide His Heavenly answer.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we are eternally thankful and praise Your Most Holy Name that, through Your Loving Grace, You desire to have a relationship with us that allows us to ask questions of You having faith that You will answer.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we ask the question in a way that lacks humility and respect and assumes we know the answer better than You.  Pour Out Your Holy Spirit that will help to show us Your Wisdom although we know we will never completely understand Your Mind.  That in our asking and Your answering we will go forth in lives that bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Editors Note:  If you’re in need of prayer, check out the Prayer Request page on this site.  God bless you. 

“As He went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus..sat by the road begging.”  Mark 10:46

“And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out..’Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!’…Then many warned him to be quiet but he cried all the more….” Mark 10: 47,48

“So Jesus answered..’What do you want me to do for you?’…’that I may receive my sight’..Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go your way, your faith has made you well'”.   Mark 10: 51,52

When this story of Bartimaeus is expounded upon from the Gospel of Mark, often the persistence and faith of Bartimaues is the primary take away of the story.  And while I agree that Bartimaues’ faith and persistence are marvels to behold, I find that the greater scene in its entirety is a microcosm of the interaction of the world, sadly even an aspect of the church at times and the needed determination of people of faith.

This is a time well into Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He is on His way to Jerusalem for the last time to celebrate the Passover; then to be arrested, tried, crucified and resurrected.  Jesus has become well known in this part of the world, at least among the Jews whether they were followers of His or not.

Now they are leaving Jericho and scripture tells us there is Jesus, His disciples, a great multitude with Him and a blind beggar sitting on the side of the road name Bartimaues.  Now when scripture describes that the great multitude was with Jesus as He left Jericho, it does not explicitly mean that they were believers in Jesus as Messiah, the Christ.  Undoubtedly some were, but as I had pointed out, Jesus was a celebrity, known for doing amazing things so some may very well just have been tagging along to see what was going to happen, maybe experience something unusual that they could brag to their friends about being able to personally have witnessed.

Why do I skeptically wonder about the veracity of their belief?  Because Bartimaues starts to cry out to Jesus and instead of seeing his plight and helping to bring his attention to Jesus, who might not have initially heard him due to the throng of the crowd; they tell Bartimaues to be quiet.  There is no compassion for Bartimaues, only contempt.  Now true those who, perhaps, were not followers of Jesus may have been the ones to cruelly snap back at Bartimaues to be quiet.  However, were there no believers close enough to the situation to stand up for Bartimaues, to defend him from those trying to silence him, to be Bartimaues’ champion in bringing him to Jesus?  According to scripture, there was no one.  So Bartimaues is left to just cry out all the louder, all the more desperately.

Then, it is only when Jesus takes notice of him, that Bartimaues becomes important to the crowd.  No longer scorning Bartimaues, they become the voice of encouragement.  “Be of good cheer!”, they call out to Bartimaues, He (Jesus) is calling for you!”

Finally, notice how Jesus handles this.  For Jesus, does not use Bartimaues to shallowly bring glory to Himself, He doesn’t need to do that.  Jesus knows that He is the Christ.  Jesus has never been about being the showboat, needing to be the star of the show.  No, Jesus doesn’t proclaim loudly that He is going to heal Bartimaues.  He asks Bartimaues what he wants Jesus to do for him.  Then Jesus proclaims to Bartimaues that he can go his way, receiving his sight, for it is Bartimaues’ unquestioning faith in Jesus as the Christ.  It is Bartimaues’ faith in not listening to the fickle crowd but believing in the power of Jesus that made the difference.

Thus there are a couple of significant things for us to take from this lesson in the Gospel of Mark.  First thing, is not to be like one of the crowd.  That is that to follow Jesus Christ is not to passively be in the same vicinity as Jesus Christ; not to be hanging around to see what might happen.  We need to be actively following Jesus Christ.  If we see someone who is hurting, we need to be going to them, telling them about Jesus Christ.  Yes we need to be encouraging them, but unlike the crowd’s initial response, we need to be praying with them, crying out with and for them to Jesus Christ, not trying to silence them or shun them away because there is something about their pain or condition which troubles us.

We must also have the courage and conviction of faith to cry out to Jesus Christ.  We must understand that definitely the world, but sadly some believers as well will try to silence us.  There will be some, maybe many who will tell us to keep our faith private, that we have no business crying out in public or on social media expressing our need for or our faith in Jesus Christ.  Stay blind!  Be happy with where you are!  Who are you to believe that Christ can help you!, may very well be the retort of the crowds around us.  Don’t be discouraged or defeated!  Christ will hear you.  Christ will call for you.  Christ will heal you.

One more thing; when Christ calls you, when Christ heals you, do not be tempted to lash out at the crowd or feel superior to them.  No, instead, we should feel pity for the crowd.  We should pray for the crowd.  We should understand how blind the crowd is.  You see the crowd around Bartemeaus, like the crowds today had no understanding, no clue that their very salvation, stood right there in front of them.  The crowd then and the crowd today, doesn’t understand that they are spiritually blind and in desperate need of the healing and restoration of sight that can only come from humbling themselves and having complete faith in Jesus Christ.  It may very well be that the crowd leaving Jericho with Jesus that day was the same one who shouted “Crucify Him” concerning Jesus just a few days later.

I doubt very seriously that Bartemaues was in the crowd shouting for Jesus’ death.  Bartimaues had faith to cry to Jesus against the crowd trying to silence him.  Bartimaues had faith enough in Jesus to believe that Jesus could do the impossible and restore his sight.  May it be for You and I that we are not too proud to cry out to Jesus Christ.  May it be that you and I are not to proud to let the crowd shame us or silence us.  May it be that we have the faith in Jesus Christ that allows Christ to use that faith to heal and restore us.  And having received the healing and restoration from Jesus Christ; may we turn to the crowd and continue, in love and caring, to proclaim to the crowd the praise of Our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, hoping the some in the crowd will find the strength and faith to swim against the worldly current and come to Jesus Christ as well.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You that, through Your Son Jesus Christ, You hear us when we cry out to You.  Through Your Gracious Gift of the Holy Spirit, strengthen us to withstand the voices of the crowd to be quiet and stop publicly proclaiming our faith in You.  Also pour out Your Spirit helping our faith to not waiver, but to truly believe in the total healing power that comes to us through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when we are tempted to be silenced by the crowd or worst yet take up the chant of the crowd in silencing a brother of sister in Christ. Heal our blindness and restore our sight in You that, by Your healing, we can be used as an instrument of praise to bring others to a healing, restorative relationship with You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“They have no wine…….Whatever He says to do, do it”  John 2: 3,5

“Fill the waterpots with water….Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast”. John 2:8

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit…..”  John 15:5

Often called “the first miracle” and indeed it is Jesus’ first recorded miracle, I find there is so much happening here in addition to the miraculous changing of the water into wine.  So let’s get started.

First, because I think it is a foundational value to virtually every aspect of our lives and our relationship with our Heavenly Father and Son, Jesus Christ; let’s start with faith.  We see a tremendous amount of faith demonstrated in this story.  Who demonstrated tremendous faith?  Let’s take a look at Mary, Jesus Mother.  After Jesus’ birth, we know very little about His childhood.  We know that he minded His earthly father and mother.  We also know that Mary experienced many miracles associated with Jesus’ birth.  What we don’t have any record of or idea about is whether Jesus performed any miracles growing up.  Yet here they were at a wedding feast and an urgent need had arisen.  We don’t know how Mary became aware that the wine had run out.  We don’t know why she had a sense of urgency to rescue the bride groom from the embarrassment of having a wedding feast that had not prepared to have enough wine.  However, she became aware and felt compelled to act.  It is clear that Mary had faith in her Son.  It is also clear that she had a deep knowledge of the special nature of her Son.  We know that because, upon learning of the critical shortage of wine, she first turned to her Son for a solution.  Please take careful note of how she approaches Jesus and the way she makes the request.  Now a mother of an earthly child, might tell that child to go to a merchant and purchase some more wine.  If she wasn’t sure of how to fix the problem; she might communicate some high anxiety about the situation.  Mary does neither.  First she comes, in faith, to make the need known to her Son.  Second, although not knowing specifically how Jesus was going to correct the situation; she has no doubt, she has perfect faith that indeed Jesus is going to act to salvage the wedding feast.  She commands those servants standing by; to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.  She has complete faith that Jesus will act and that whatever action He comes up with, it will solve the problem; perfect faith.

Now we might expect her to have that faith; after all she knew how Jesus came to be in her womb and the sacred aspect of Him.  Yet we also see faith on the part of the servants.  Mind you, these are not Jesus’ or Mary’s servants; they are the wedding grooms servants.  We’re not told how much they’re clued into the urgent nature of the situation, so initially how anxiety filled they might be.  So there are these large waterpots sitting by, large enough to hold 20-30 gallons. But they were empty at the time and Jesus tells the servants to fill them with water.  One figures they might be puzzling to themselves: “Okay this is a little strange but maybe we’re washing them out for some reason”.  However, Jesus then tells them to dip a cup into one of the waterpots and take it to the master of the feast!  Now take a step back for a moment.  Jesus had not told them to take a sip of the water, now turned into wine.  He had not told them that he had changed the water into wine.  He simply told them to dip a cup into the waterpot and take it to the master of the feast.  You need to understand, the master of the feast was like a modern day wedding planner on steroids.  You see these wedding feasts were extremely important affairs that could last for a week and have every important person in the entire area show up.  So the master of the feast had significant responsibility and thus significant power.  And now these poor servants are walking up to the master, who might already be severely peeved at this point, with this cup of water?  One imagines they might have been extremely hesitant and perhaps trembling; but scripture tells us they obeyed Jesus and in faith took the cup to the master.  Imagine the surprise all around as they watched the expression on the master’s face as he tasted this most perfect wine and being so amazed at its perfection, grilled the bride groom about where it had come from and why it was only being served now instead of at the beginning of the feast where it belonged!

I also want to touch on humility and humble service.  In this case the example of perfect humility is perpetrated by none other than Jesus Himself.  Remember, this is God come to earth; the only Begotten Son of His Father God, Creator of all things.  This is the Messiah, Savior for all time.  By Jesus’ reaction to His mother’s request, we glean a sense that Jesus was not expecting to perform a miracle that day.  Yet Jesus knew His Father’s laws.  Jesus knew that to obey His Father’s laws and His will; to honor His Mother, was the only right thing to do.  So instead of telling her to see to fixing the problem herself; Jesus humbles himself and carries out His mother’s wishes.

So what do we take from this?  How does this impact us if we’re not at a wedding feast?  Much indeed.  First, Jesus was there.  Jesus excepted the invitation to be in fellowship at that wedding feast.  Jesus is willing and ready, to come wherever He’s invited.  He wants you and I to invite Him into wherever we find ourselves today.  He will show up.

Second, our worldly resources will fail us.  Again understand these wedding feasts weren’t spur of the moment gatherings.  They took lengthy and meticulous planning.  Yet with all their planning and preparation; they still ran out of wine.  Today, we plan, we store, we strive, we learn, yet with all we do, it will not be enough; something will happen, we will fall short.  Jesus Christ invites us to come to Him in faith.  Jesus Christ promises us that, as we come to Him in faith; He will supply.  In fact Jesus Christ wants something different.  He doesn’t want us to never rely on our earthly plans, resources, intelligence, ingenuity, power, physical attributes, none of that.  Jesus Christ wants us to rely solely and souly on Him as branches, rely on the vine for all their sustenance.

Additionally we must understand this blessing; what Jesus Christ supplies far exceeds whatever we can find for ourselves.  The new wine that Jesus supplied to the wedding feast was far superior to anything worldly the master of feast had ever tasted.  Also understand this;  Jesus supplied wine in this case, something physical and tangible.  Jesus Christ by His Love and Grace will save our souls, but He will also supply our physical and intellectual needs and the blessings that He supplies in these areas are far more precious, more perfect than we can obtain without Him

Finally, there’s the wine.   Too much earthly wine is not a healthy thing.  It clouds our judgement and too often causes us to loose control in harmful ways.  Yet, there is never such a thing of having too much of the wine of Jesus Christ.  As we partake of Jesus Christ’s wine, we not only will, but should loose our control, humbling ourselves to coming under Christ’s control.  So Dear Sisters and Brothers the lesson for us is to drink in faithfully, completely and often the wine of Jesus Christ and experience the wonders and blessings that we will experience as a result.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You for the amazing, grace filled Gift of salvation which is Your Son Jesus Christ.  We thank You that Jesus Christ will accept our invitation, no matter our circumstances to come to us and fulfill our urgent needs.  Help us to become the branches of His vine that we might drink in deeply and daily, being washed clean by His most precious blood and bear glorious fruit for You that brings praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

“Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying: ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being so old also?'”  Genesis 18:12

“Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord save us! We are perishing!'”  Matthew 8:25

“Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.  But only speak a word and my servant will be healed.”  Matthew 8:8

I heard a fascinating exchange on television today that really crystalized  some thoughts that I wanted to share.  Now the discussion was between a highly educated, historian, businessman and politician (HBP) and a newspaper person(NP).  In retelling the exchange I’m not going to get into details of the discussion itself because what they were discussing is not germane to the epiphany; it was how the interaction was framed that was so enlightening.  It went something like this:

(HBP): Most everyone I talk to says this about that

(NP):  But the data, the facts say that is not true

(HBP):  Well maybe, but that’s not what they feel.  They feel that this is true about that

(NP):  But again, all the data points to that not being true!

(HBP):  Look, I’ll go with how people feel and you can stick with what your data proves…..

Now this is not the first time I’ve come across this sort of interaction.  In my career as an Organizational Behavior/Improvement facilitator, I often come across very strongly held opinions/fears.  Yet when I try to get to the root of the opinion or fear, the actual experience or data that supports them; most often that data or personal experience doesn’t exist.  Yet they feel that the negative risk is out there.  It’s not only toward negative things.  I find that it is not uncommon when people want some change to happen and you start to discuss the potential questionable impacts of the change on the organization based on business or other data; they are often quick to dismiss the data because the change would make them feel better.

What does this have to do with our spiritual life?  Everything, I believe!  You see, we may be studying the Word of God, may be listening to and even agreeing with sound of profound preaching.  In our head, we may know that God is the Creator, that Jesus Christ is His only Son our Savior.  We may acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, sent to help us.  All those things we may acknowledge from a standpoint of knowledge and yet that acknowledgement can be irrelevant to our very lives and salvation if it does not evoke some sort of feeling about it.  I say that because it has been my experience that we much more often behave based on how we feel then what we think, although the two are not mutually exclusive.

The bible is full of examples of this.  Sarah did not doubt that God existed.  She had witnessed His grace to them in their journey to the promised land.  Yet she felt that having a baby in her 90’s and Abraham over 100, was ridiculous so she laughed when the angel of the Lord promised it.  At least some of the disciples had witnessed Jesus baptism and heard God’s proclamation about His Son.  They had witnessed the miracles, heard His preaching, knew He was the Son of God, yet; when the storm arose, that knowledge did not keep them from feeling terror and crying out to Jesus, though none of them expected Him to silence the tempest.  It’s not only lack of feeling or faith, the Roman Centurion felt so confident of Jesus’ power that he humbled himself and told Jesus not to come to his house but just speak the word and the Centurion’s servant would be healed.  David felt so confident in God that he went out to face Goliath, not with sword and armor, but a sling and stones because He was confident in the power of Almighty God.

Thus for us Dear Sisters and Brothers, the question is, not so much what do we know but, how do we feel about God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Now please understand, I’m not trying to disparage reading the bible or taking other steps to learn about God; no far from it.  Yet my questions for you and I are: when we finish reading a scripture passage; how does that make us feel?  When we say “Amen” at the completion of our prayer; what emotion do we have?  As we walk from a church service or bible/spiritual class, do we feel any different?

Dear Sisters and Brothers I feel that it is vital that we feel.  The whole nature of our relationship, the most significant commandment is not about knowing it is about feeling; feeling love, first for Our Heavenly Father and then for each other.  When is it appropriate to feel fear?  What or who should we feel confident in?  Jesus Christ came that we might experience the feeling of His Peace, His Joy.

So a paramount question for you and I, especially when it comes to Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is how/what are we feeling?  A second, follow-up question is; why are we feeling that?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, please feel.  In this world full of data, proof and desired logic; FEEL! Feel the love of God from God and feel a love for God in return.  Feel the love of God for each other.  Feel a sense of confidence in Jesus Christ.  Strive to feel His Peace, His Joy.  Feel those and then act on those feelings.  And should those feeling flee; pray.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you and bring you back into a feeling of close relationship with the One who feels so strongly a love for you and I; that He sacrificed His Son for us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, in Your perfect wisdom, You have granted us the ability to feel; to have emotions, to love.  We thank You for the love that You have for us and ask that, through Your Holy spirit, we may learn to love You completely and share Your perfect love with each other.  Forgive us when we either let feelings of fear or doubt drive us from You, or try to minimize or discount the power of our feelings through the search for knowledge.  That with feelings of confidence, compassion, forgiveness, joy, peace and most of all love; we will act upon those to bring praise to Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea….”  Jonah 1:4

“Immediately he arose, took up his bed and went out in the presence of them all so that they were amazed and glorified God……”  Mark 2:12

“..He arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm…..and they feared exceedingly and said ‘Who can this be that even the wind and sea obey Him!'”  Mark 39,41

So, have you ever been in a situation where you’re responsible for getting a message across to a group and they are not paying attention?  Now this could be your family, or a business group, or church group, but it is a message of vital importance and when you start to speak to them, they seem oblivious to your presence?  Think of what you’ve done to get their attention.  Maybe, you talked loudly and if that didn’t work raised your volume progressively until you were shouting.  Maybe you tried to make a loud noise to shock them and snap them into listening to you.  Maybe, especially if you were dealing with a younger group, you promised them some treat or present if they paid you some heed.

Now imagine that you’re God and you’re trying to get the attention of your creation.  Jonah tried ignoring God, disregarding Him, running away from speaking with God.  God caused a great tempest to arise to show Jonah, He meant business.

What about Jesus Christ; He is God, was God even when He walked the earth; when He started His ministry it was not as if He was getting much notice or many followers.  Scripture tells us that it wasn’t until people witnessed the miraculous healing He accomplished that His fame spread throughout the land.  Even in witnessing those healings, His disciples didn’t understand the complete totality of His power until they witnessed Him calm a raging sea and wind with just a few simple words.  Without the healing, had their been no storm to calm; how much notice would He have garnered?

What’s my point?  First let me state categorically that I do not know the mind or speak for the acts of God, in any one situation.  That is to say that I make no claim that I know God’s purpose for any cataclysmic event or can definitively explain the rationale for some specific healing or blessing.  I can not!

Yet I have observed this, having gone through some major storms of nature in my life; I find it typical that the reaction; whether before, during or after in general by the public is one of; focus on the storm, a sense of powerlessness concerning the storm and a sense of awe concerning the impact of the storm after it has passed.  Likewise, my wife is a cancer survivor. She has gone past the time when, just decades before, the vast majority of patients didn’t survive.  Both with cancer and other diseases we are hearing phrases like “miracle drug, miracle treatment or miracle cure”, thrown around.

Yet the storms do pass.  If cured, life continues with a sense of new normalcy.  And therein lies the challenge:  Is God in our normal?  Not only “in”, is God at the head, is He the priority of our normal?

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, God absolutely knows the danger, the devastation, the personal and eternal destruction that comes from a life, attempted to be lived without relying completely on Him.  He knows there is an enemy out there, literally hell-bent on our eternal death and destruction.  The enemy, Satan, could care less if we believe in Satan or not; as long as we don’t care about, give attention to, have any worship for, let alone love, our Creator, Almighty Father, God in Heaven.

Now here’s the thing, I don’t know about you, but I can and do fall into that trap.  It’s not as if I consciously reject or state hatred for God, no; but I get so focused on some aspect of earthly life, vocation, relationship, recreation, economic, that I lose all focus on God and live and make decisions as if I was the person in charge, I was the one ultimately responsible and with ultimate power.  Sometimes this comes in the depth of trials, but also, it can come at prolonged periods of success as well.

I praise God and am so thankful that, at those times, when I neglect Him, living my life without recognition of Him or reliance on Him, that He does not turn His back on me or leave me to travel the pathway to certain doom and destruction.  No, there is many a time that God has reached out in some way and gotten my attention; returned my focus to Him, sometime through a healing or blessing and sometimes through a storm.

So it would behoove us to ask frequently, unceasingly, with humility and utmost honesty, does Our Heavenly Father have our full attention?  Are our thoughts a product of a focus on Him and His teachings?  Do our acts reflect a connection, a relationship of love, first with Him and then with each other?  Are we seeking, knocking and asking?

Again, praise be to God Almighty that He gives us tools to help us focus on Him.  He gives us the ability to communicate and fellowship with Him through prayer.  He has striven to leave us lessons to guide us, that we can live by in His Words of Scripture.  He has blessed us with fellowship gatherings of our peers; where He has promised to with us as we gather in worship services.

Finally, Our Heavenly Father, gave His Only Begotten Son, to die in our place; that we may be able to be in relationship and live with Him, now and forever.  If that’s not enough to get and keep our attention then heaven help us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we declare that You are God alone, the author of our salvation and through You all blessings, peace, joy and especially love come.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when we are tempted to live our lives on our own terms, while ignoring Your presence.  We thank You, that You do not abandon us, but take measure to retrieve our attention and bring us back to You.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that through study of Your word and regular prayer, we may keep our focus on You and Your desires for our lives.  That by focusing on You and abiding in Jesus Christ, we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

 

“…’A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives and in his own house’…..Now He could do no mighty work there….and He marveled because of their unbelief.”  Mark 6:4,5,6

“Jesus said to him: ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes'”.  Mark 9:23

So I should start out with a statement of honest humility as it applies to the title.  For that I would call any of the posts that I have made “an explanation”  or say that they contain an explanation may very well be stretching the definition of the word explanation to incredible limits.  If there are any nuggets of understanding that have come from these pages they are the work of the Holy Spirit and not the wisdom of yours truly.  Yet this particular instance in the bible so profoundly intrigues plus befuddles me to an astounding limit.  Yet the lesson, the observation that we must take from it is vital to the salvation of our very souls.

So let’s begin with a couple of givens:

  1.  It is very clear that Jesus Christ is the one true begotten Son of God.  As such Jesus Christ is God.  God has come down to dwell on earth with His creation.
  2. As God, Jesus Christ is omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect without fault always victorious, never vanquished.

Now let’s set the stage for what happens in Mark (also chronicled in Matthew).  Jesus is well into His ministry.  He has been baptized by John, He has chosen his 12 disciples, He has taught His “Sermon on the Mount”, He has healed countless people throughout the land of Judea.  And now He is returning to His home town, Nazareth to teach and heal.  He starts to preach in the local synagogue, He starts to heal some people and an amazing thing happens.  In so many other places, people marveled at Jesus’ teaching, at the authority that He had.  So often they flocked to Him and brought scores of the sick and demon possessed to be healed by Him.  Plus upon Jesus healing, they gave glory to God for the miracles they were witnessing.

However, all the marveling, the flocking the praising, that doesn’t happen in Nazareth.  No, the people who knew Him best, friends and even some relatives, they took offense  at Jesus.  They thought Jesus was acting too high and mighty, after all they knew Him, they had grown up with Him, played with Him; how now could Jesus be claiming and doing what He was doing?

Now we get to the truly mysterious perplexing part for me; not that people would take offense at Him, I can certainly understand, not condone, but understand their jealousy.  But Scripture tells us, that because of their lack of faith: Jesus could do little in Nazareth.  Note Scripture doesn’t say that Jesus got mad and left, that Jesus decided to turn His back on them.  No, it appears this loving God, Son of the Most High God Almighty, desired to heal and preach the good news of salvation.  Yet, because of their lack of faith; Jesus could do little.  Jesus was prevented from accomplishing the blessings that He wanted to bring, because of their lack of faith.

I would not begin to  assume that I know or understand the Mind of God, that He, the perfect Creator of all things, would plan it so, that His creation can impact His use of power based on whether they believe or not.  And amazingly, when you look at all the aspects of creation, we seem to be the only part of creation with this attribute.  One doesn’t get the sense that the sun can say, I don’t think I’ll shine, or planets, I don’t think I’ll revolve because I don’t believe in you God.  Clouds don’t decide to rain or not based on their concept of God.  Birds or salmon don’t decide to migrate to find food and reproduce based on their agreeing that Jesus is the Son of God.  In some mysterious, yet still perfect attribute of God’s plan; our belief in Jesus Christ is a critical component to the release of God’s power in and through us.

Yet here is the vital observation.  Whether I understand it or not, scripture is very clear: FAITH MATTERS!  And please understand this Dear Sisters and Brothers, it’s not just some faith or as long as we believe in something, it is a very specific faith.  In faith we must first believe that Jesus Christ is the One True, born of a virgin, Son of God.  We must believe that He is our Savior; that He died for us and rose from the dead.   Yes our faith in Jesus Christ not only matters, it is the thing that matters.  Without that faith we can not abide in Jesus Christ and He warned us Himself when He declared:  “Without Me, you can do nothing”.

Yes, faith matters.  Yet I also confess I am too often like the man who cried to Jesus to heal his son by starting the request:  “If you can……”  Jesus replies to the man that he needs to believe that Jesus can do this.  To which the man cries out in desperation: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”  You see the people of Nazareth, did not want to believe, saw no reason to believe.  I on the other hand, want to believe, need to believe, am desperate to believe.  However, because of my fallen nature, because I will allow the devil to influence me, I will most certainly have times of disbelief.  Yet even at those times, Christ is merciful, our Heavenly Father does not desert us.  For we have within us, the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will fight and defeat the devil and bring us back into belief.  This is what I have faith in.

Have faith in Jesus Christ Dear Sisters and Brothers.  May we never find ourselves in a place or time where Christ can do little because of our lack of faith.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You are God above all and Creator of all things.  We further testify that we believe that You sent Your Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to dwell with us and to die for us, to be our Salvation.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when our faith falters and we are tempted to rely on our own understanding.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that we would never take offense at Jesus Christ or You.  Bless us with increased faith, that as we abide in Jesus Christ, we may accomplish those things which will bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

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