“Now in the morning…..He departed to a solitary place and there He prayed.”  Mark 1:35

“..when you pray, go into your room and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  Matthew 6:6

“He went a little farther, and fell on the ground and prayed…..”  Mark 14:35

“…pray without ceasing, in everything giving thanks, for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16

As the title suggests; it is my experience that we are a process oriented people or culture; especially in the “west”.  It goes something like this; knowledge of proper process drives the appropriate behavior.  Appropriate behavior drives the desired outcomes.  Desired outcomes equals long term success.  Thus knowing and following correct processes will lead to ultimate success.  Has to happen, case closed.

I believe that this notion is ever increasingly reinforced in our technologically based, information age.  What’s an example?  Turn on your laptop; it has to “boot-up”, it has to run through its configurations and if you do something to interrupt that process, at the very least, you’ve caused chaos and additional time to be added to the process.  At the worst, you’ll cause the machine to “lock-up” requiring a return to the beginning and repeating of the process.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I applaud and try to embrace the opportunities that this new technology brings.  This very post and site would not exist except for the new technology which supports it.  However, the challenge that arises with so many of theses processes is that process completion, that is successfully moving from one step to the other until the process is completed, becomes our basic motivation driving our behavior without understanding or embracing the fundamental reason the process exists in the first place!

So now that brings us to specific topic to explore today; is there a process for prayer?  In many books about, sermons about, blog posts about prayer, there often seems to be.  Again, what are some examples?

First, let’s start with time of day to pray.  Some would say that the very first act after becoming conscious enough to function, should be to pray.  There is an aspect that says that anything that is done before the morning prayer is not “spiritually covered” because the day has not been prayed over.  For others, the appropriate time to pray is in the evening.  This allows for the full days blessings and sins to be covered by thanksgiving praise and contrite confession.  Some set an alarm to remind them throughout their busy day to stop and take time for prayer.

How about posture?  Is prayer more effective when kneeling or is sitting okay?  On a side note, I was raised in a denomination where kneeling was the appropriate posture for prayer thus each pew had a kneeling bench.  How uncomfortable I was when I would go to a church who had no kneeling bench and we sat and prayed!!!  Can I pray while standing or even walking?  Do I have to close my eyes when I pray? (Oh by the way if your answer to this is yes; please, please don’t pray while driving)  What do I do with my hands while praying; fold them, clasp them together, is holding hands with someone else better?

What about my words and/or their sequence?  Using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide, I’ve heard it preached that every prayer needs to start with an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty, a confession, a petition and proclamation of praise.  And what about Amen?

So let’s take a look at Jesus Christ and His examples.  Did Jesus pray in the morning; most certainly.  Yet His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was in the evening.  Jesus posture for prayer?  The only reference to Jesus’ posture while praying was in the garden and the gospels referencing Him kneeling and falling face down.  Jesus Christ did give us some guidelines about praying in secret.  Jesus also gave us the Lord’s prayer as an example.  Yet He also told us we could pray for anything and His examples of prayer the night he was betrayed, in John’s Gospel, reflect other than the strict words of the Lord’s prayer.

What’s my point?  First, Jesus prayed.  Jesus, God Himself, the One and Only Begotten Son of the One Father, God in Heaven, prayed to His Father.  Yet one get’s the sense that Jesus prayed as a characteristic of life, a way of being in relationship with His (and our) Heavenly Father.  Prayer wasn’t a task to be performed, a ritual to be completed or a process to be followed.  Prayer was not solely (or souly) a means to an end, but a wonderful experience in and of itself. The goal of prayer was not to lead to a blessing, but the ability to pray to, to connect to, the Creator of all the universe was a blessing in itself.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; do you pray in the morning; awesome, in the evening; wonderful.  Are there times when you put a note, set an alarm, ask a friend, to remind you to pray; I can dig it.  Do you pray kneeling, lying down, standing up, walking, running, even driving; given that your goal is to connect in relationship and love with Almighty God; more power to you.  Do you use the Lord’s prayer? Are there special words that you believe come from the Spirit that help to focus your being on connecting with God that you use with each prayer; fantastic.  Bottom line, is prayer more than just another something Christian to do, something required in a certain way, a specified number of times, a specified position over a specified time frame?  Is prayer less about a desired outcome after prayer, but more the coming into relationship with Our Heavenly Father during prayer?

My prayer is that you and I will experience prayer as something more than a process to be completed, but as connection to be exceedingly cherished and a need ever more constantly fulfilled.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You and give You ceaseless thanksgiving that in Your Mercy and Love towards us, You have seen fit to provide for us the avenue to come to You with our thoughts, our concerns, our fears, our desires, our praises and yes, even our confessions through the connection of prayer.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would see prayer as more than a process but the natural way of being and interacting as Your Creation, with You the Creator.  Forgive us when we fall to the temptation of looking at prayer as nothing more than a menial process, to be robotically completed with little focus or intention.  Allow us to experience You, Your Love, Your Mercy, Your Power through prayer that we may find ourselves ever more desirous to be in that relationship with you.  That in and through prayer we will continue to praise Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

 

“And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him”  Mark 5-18

“Jesus did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”  Mark 5-19

I can certainly understand and agree with John’s conceptualization at the end of his gospel that there are not enough books to contain the things that Jesus did and accomplished during His short time on this earth.  Although I am constantly amazed, I shouldn’t be concerning the incredible amount of grace and spiritual/life education that is derived from each of Jesus Christ’s actions.

Take for instance the healing of the demoniac among the tombs and the herd of pigs.  We could focus on the world trying to heal or at the very least detain and deal with the forces of evil to no avail.  We could focus on the world’s fear of the man and Christ’s complete lack of it.  We could talk about the power of the healing itself.  We could learn from the instant recognition by the demonic legion of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  Orrrr, we could even investigate the seeming grace of Jesus Christ in granting the desperate request of the demons to leave the man and enter into the pigs.  All those things are worthy of our deeper exposition.

Yet, in this post, I want to focus on the interaction at the end of the story.  I want to explore Christ’s understanding of the “big picture” and how He uses the man (and will use us as well) to best fulfill Our Heavenly Father’s Plan of love, mercy and grace.  So here goes….

First, the man was definitely healed.  Mark tells us that when the people of the city came out after the report of the herd of pigs running into the sea, they found the man, clothed and in his right mind, sitting with Jesus.  We don’t know how long the man had been demon possessed but it was long enough that people of the adjoining area had tried several times to subdue him, but to no avail.

Second, we are told that the people of the surrounding town witnessed the dead herd of swine as well as this man, now healed and they reacted in fear.  It is interesting that no one came forward to acknowledge and greet the now healed man or express pleasure in his healing.  Instead, witnessing the power of God come to earth, the carnage of the herd of pigs, the unearthly healing of the man they had written off; they pleaded with Jesus Christ to depart from them.  Jesus agrees to do so.

So if you or I had been the man, having experienced the miraculous power, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ in our own being; what would have been our response?  I believe we would have been extremely grateful.  I also believe, like the man, when we saw our Savior leaving us; we would have been greatly moved with desire to continue to be with Him; to follow Him, to serve or repay Him.  In our hearts we might feel that the only way to repay His healing, also understanding that we had a debt of servitude is to be right there at His side, to accomplish any task He would have for us.

However, then Jesus steps in.  The man pleads with Jesus to allow him to follow Jesus; but what does Jesus see.  This is the region of Decapolis, that is ten cities, 10 CITIES; ten cities of population, ten cities of lost lambs needing His Salvation.  Jesus also realized that the populations of these cities might not be so open to hearing His message of the Kingdom of God and the wonderful fruits that come from following Christ.  After all, they had just witnessed an amazingly disturbing scene of miraculous healing and swine death.  As the previously possessed man was scary, now Jesus Christ was just as scary.  However, Christ does not want to leave these people alone in their fear.  Jesus does not want them to be ignorant of the graceful plan of salvation that their Heavenly Father has for them.  So, Jesus sends the, now healed man to them.  His mission for the man was a straight forward one; tell about the compassion that you have experienced through the Lord.

Straight forward yes, but was it easy.  I find it interesting that Jesus Christ uses the description, “friends” when telling the man who to go to.  I find it interesting because these were the same “friends” who had tried to seize him and put him in chains.  Do “friends” leave you to live among the tombs and smash rocks into your head?  No one would blame the man for wondering what reception he was going to receive when he went back to his home.

Yet the man did go.  The man followed the call of Christ by not physically following where Christ was, but following the command of Christ to carry out his appointed mission.  Thus again, we come to you and I.  If you have continued to read to this point, something tells me that you, like I, proclaim that you are a follower of Christ.  What I have to constantly reflect concerning myself is; on the basis of whose terms do I define “following Christ”.  I think we must be careful to ask ourselves, are we following Christ based on our own desires; our own definition of what following Christ is?  How would we know?

Dear Sisters and Brothers; we have God given talents.  And like the story of the three servants, God does not want us to “bury” our talents, either by not using them at all or only using them as we deem fit.  Jesus Christ has also promised us the Holy Spirit, who will dwell within us.  Part of what the Holy Spirit will do for us is to reveal to us how we are best to serve Our Heavenly Father.  We may want to push back.  We may disagree.  Yet, whatever our misgivings, let us never get the point where we refuse to go.  Never let us decide that it is our way or the highway as far as deciding what proper following is.  For that highway is wide and will lead to our destruction.  Let us be open to the guiding of Jesus Christ.  Let us desire to serve and follow as Jesus Christ would have us follow.  In so doing, not only is there the promise of blessings, joy and peace for us; but also the spreading of joy, blessings and peace to others along with the message of Salvation through Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, may it be that we long to follow You.  Thus we call on You to pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that we might be truly led to know how You want us to follow You.  Forgive us when we are tempted to decide for ourselves what following looks like, refusing to humble ourselves in Your service.  Allow that in our following You, we might share the Good News, of Your Love and Salvation to a world so in need of both.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

“….He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out, crying out and saying: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God!'”  Luke 4:40,41

“…there met Him, two demon-possessed men….And suddenly they cried out:  ‘What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God?  Have You come here to torment us before the time'”  Matthew 8:28, 29

If this post is to have any value, to not be a complete waste of time, you the reader need to understand that there are a couple of premises on which the post is based.  First, that scripture is true.  That is to say, what it depicts in the above instances actually happened.  That, these are not just metaphoric or allegorical figures of speech.  Thus additionally, that means that demons actually exist.  Demons are the agents of the devil and they attempt to act against the will of Our Heavenly Father.

Just to digress a moment, I find it interesting that there is a segment of society and even some within the faith, who see the discussion of the devil and even more so demons as some questionably fringe or fanatical aspect of faith, to be avoided or shunned.  In some ways I can understand this because of how demons and dealing with the concept of demons has been handled by the entertainment industry as well as, indeed, some unique sects and individuals within the Christian Faith.  Yet it is interesting that few within the faith would argue against the existence of angels; curious.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  Demons, being real, plagued the lives of people.  As agents of Satan, their mission was and is to drive a wedge between the Creator; God and His creation, us.  They have various means and tools to achieve their aim.  On the one hand it could be an aspect of physical distress.  Here, understand that I am not saying that all illness is some sort of demonic possession.  Demons, also can vex and attack the mind.  Again, not all mental illness is demonic possession.  Demons, as well can fill a person with all forms of wicked, horrible tendencies and desires and then set about having the person carry them out.  But enough about demons and their processes of which I am not an expert.  This is just to stress and drive the point home that, in every aspect, the existence of demons and all their actions are diametrically opposed to the existence, the mission, the Love of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

So here’s the fascinating point (at least to me).  According to scripture, the demons had absolutely no trouble recognizing Jesus as the Christ; the One True Son of God Almighty.  Second, they were exceedingly fearful of Jesus.  The demons seemed to have understood the omnipotent nature of Jesus Christ and their complete and utter powerlessness against Him.  Thus, all they could do was scream, cry out, wale against Jesus Christ and the impending doom they felt for themselves at His presence and power.

It is interesting in a sad sort of way, how hard it was for so many back then, as well as so many of us today; to be able to recognize Jesus Christ in the same way.  There will be some who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ ever existed.  There are some who will say that Jesus was a historical figure; but just a human leader of a particular sect.  Still others will acknowledge that Jesus lived and even proclaim that He was a good man, for some even a prophet, but with no divinity associated with Him.  Sadly, among the faith, there is a portion who will proclaim Him, Son of God, yet define that proclamation by stating that Jesus was not virgin born, but rose by His own righteousness to a level where He attained the title of Son of God; man first, God second.

Why is so difficult for us to see Jesus Christ; the true way that He is, even though our declared enemy, who is quite literally hell bent on our destruction, seems to have no trouble seeing the true Christ?  Why are we partially and in some cases totally blind to that vision?  One reason, one challenge we have is how worldly, how physical and secular our society has become.  We gravitate to those things which we feel we can prove through our human methods and understand with our human intellect.  That may seem to fly in the face of what seems to be the “New Age” movement toward all things spiritual.  Yet even here, what I’ve found, is that the spiritual nature that they talk about is all things that are knowable and understandable and to a great extent even controllable by human kind.  That there is an unseen spiritual realm, populated by entities who are beyond our understanding, much less our control and in fact are able to exert control over us which we are not able to defeat on our own; is a vision, a reality, many choose to stay blind to.  However, close your eyes and walk toward the wall in your room.  Being blind to the wall will not keep you from running smack dab into it and hurting your nose (that was only for example purposes – please don’t go walking into a wall).

Dear Sisters and Brothers take heart, for we are not destined to be left blind in this existence.  Who is the Great Physician who has come to restore our sight and defeat our enemies?  Who is it who proclaims to us “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”?  Jesus Christ.  How can we truly see Him?  We must humble ourselves, knowing we have no earthly process that will bring us to the accurate vision of Christ.  It is by the Grace of our Father in Heaven, by the gift of the Holy Spirit that we can come to the true realization of Jesus Christ.  Fortunately, we don’t have some arduous test we must pass first, come up with some exorbitant sum to pay first, sacrifice our first born child to bring about this miraculous transformation in our sight.  For Jesus Christ, passed the test, paid the price, made the sacrifice for us.  What we need do is believe in Jesus Christ and ask and allow the Holy Spirit to work within us; to not only see, but also experience the fullness of Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we at times have our vision clouded or even become blinded to the true nature, power and purpose of Jesus Christ, Your only begotten Son.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when we accept some lesser vision of our own making versus the true vision which You have provided for us.  We call on You to pour out Your Holy Spirit, that through the Spirit; we may see and experience Jesus Christ in all His Glory.  That in having the true vision of Jesus Christ and through His power, we would lead lives triumphant over all spiritual and earthly enemies to the praise of Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else be loyal to the one an despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Mark 8:36, 37

 

Oft while striding the road of life
I come across separate paths of choosing
One path promises safety, stability and gain
whilst the other is about dreams, calling and risk
All too often I try
to tread both paths at once
Only to find their direction diverging
each step on each path requiring more effort
Until virtually no forward motion is possible at all
I then realize my folly for both cannot be tread together
I find that I can no longer stand an am forced to
my knees to cry out
God which path finds you at destinations end?
God which path serves you?

Mammon?  In the passage referenced above in some translations the word used is treasure.  On the website dictionary.com, the definition is riches and material wealth.  Here’s the challenge, for this seems to be a hotly contested concept in our world today, is about the obtaining of wealth or the focus on it?

Ahh, but here’s where I have an easy out, I might say to myself.  For you see,  I am not wealthy in any worldly sense (or at least compared to the “wealthy” in my own country).  Okay, I do have a nice, modest sized house, two cars, the standard electronics with the standard connections (cable, internet, etc.).  Thus, because I am not “rich”, do not have a stack of or the gaudy accoutrements of wealth; because I’ve started a blog page where I write posts hoping to praise God, I most assuredly must by serving God and not mammon right?

As I hope the poem above illustrates, the question about whom am I serving is not an easy one, hardly ever is just a one-and-done inquiry and, if we (or at least for me) are not careful, our choices can stop us in our tracks.  You see because “to serve or “serve”, also defined on dictionary.com, means to render obedience or homage to.  Let that concept soak in for a moment; render obedience or homage to……….

Here’s where I (I will not speak for we) get into trouble.  Here’s where gaining the world can put my soul at risk.  You see it doesn’t matter what the world concludes are riches, but what do I conclude are riches or a treasure?  What are my priorities built around?

Finally, where do I see God?  And based upon seeing Him, how do I serve Him?  Again in the poem above, I use the visualization of two paths; but I would encourage you to read King Solomon’ s description of his search for meaning in the Book of Ecclesiastes, because there you’ll find many different paths or perhaps mammon.  For material wealth can be mammon but so can, having a great professional title, or having a beautiful wife and many children.  Having tons of leisure time and activities along with considerable food and drink can also be mammon.  Even great education and fame can become a treasure.

So Dear Sisters and Brothers how can you or I know, if we are paying homage to, we are being obedient to mammon?  If we are open to it, if we will be still and listen, I believe our soul; given explicit warning from the Holy Spirit, will tell us.  For a soul, especially a soul once connected to God; despises becoming lost.  Being the spiritual creations of God Almighty that we are, our spirits yearn to be connected to God, to serve Him, to reject the treasures of this world and store up the treasures of God’s Eternal Kingdom.  The challenge is we are not just spiritual creations but material creations as well.  There are times when we allow the world, the desires of the world as well as the fears of the world,  for remember, quite often we’re not obedient to something out of desire for, but from fear of, to set our priorities and drive the choices we make.

In some practical terms; do I perceive that the gain, however humble it might be comes from the vocation that I do?  When faced with a choice of time, effort, focus and desire; is my first inclination toward the earthly job that I do, calculating that it is the job from whence my ability to live comes from?  Conversely, this dream that I have, this passion that I feel is on my heart; is that about bringing glory and fame to myself?  Is my overarching plan about achieving self promotion or personal adulation?  Do I see God in my choices and do I see His Kingdom as the desired destination of my journey?

I have found that this decision, God or mammon, is not a one time thing or determination.  The world and the prince/enemy of and in this world, will continue to throw mammon of all types at us; either mammon to gain, or the fear of losing the worldly mammon that we have.  Satan will try to convince us, that we are responsible for what we have and thus our focus must be on the responsibility as well as what we have.

Yet take heart Dear Sisters and Brothers.  Jesus Christ, came and was tempted.  Jesus Christ knows our struggles.  Jesus Christ took upon Himself the burdens of our sins.  The grace of Christ’s salvation has included the Holy Spirit sent to testify to and strengthen our souls that we may withstand the temptation to focus on mammon.  Are you facing a decision today?  Does their seem to be ambiguity between what is mammon and what is God?  Take a moment to pray and be silent.  You and I will be instructed on the path, narrow as it is, too take and tremendous blessings both now and eternity will come in selecting God’s path for us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we stumble over whom to serve mammon or You.  Pour Out Your Spirit upon us, testifying to us what path You would have us choose and when we’ve strayed off that path.  Help us, through Your Mercy, to see only one true treasure, which is stored up for us in Your Kingdom.  Forgive us when, either through desire or fear, we are tempted to or even start down the wide path toward earthly mammon and destruction.  In Your love, guide us back, that our lives in and through You would be faithful examples of lives in service to You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

“Then Judas, His betrayer,….was remorseful…saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’  And they said ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’  Then he departed and went and hanged himself”  Matthew 27: 4,5

“Woe to you…For you load men with burdens hard to bear and you, yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”  Luke 11:46

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

You’ve made your bed, now you’re going to have to sleep in it!  Those responsible should have to pay!  There’s a commercial out from an insurance company that has “rate suckers” that is people who’s bad driving record drives up everyone else’s rates!  Over and over again there seems to be a desperate cry in today’s society to differentiate the blamed, separate out the wrong doers, isolate and punish the responsible.  There is a moaning and groaning taking place all throughout society concerning the lack of accountability; the lack of condemnation for wrongdoing, the need for harsher judgement.  Even in the church, too often we seek to want to divide out the “wicked” based on our definition and cast them from our midst.

I think if I listen hard enough, I can hear the groaning that might be happening as you are reading this post (if you haven’t already clicked off).  Yet I’d ask you to understand this; I am not “anti-casting”.  That is so say, I believe that there is evil and wickedness and that we should not sugar coat its existence nor try to justify it in some way.  Also understand, scripture is very clear; Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh, the priests of Baal, King Saul, Ananias plus Sapphira his wife in the Book of Acts and yes Judas were all held accountable; were all destroyed.  However, notice Who destroyed them; Who passed judgement on them; Who it was, Who had the unstoppable judgement of condemnation; Our Heavenly Father.

Yes, the world has much wickedness in it, much hatred and pain.  Yet here’s the question for us Dear Sisters and Brothers:  What’s that got to do with us?  We, who have found a peace and joy, in the midst of trouble, that surpasses all understanding; What have we to do with this unbelieving world?  I believe Jesus Christ would answer to us: Everything.  You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, one of the things that strikes me about the account in Matthew 27 about Judas, is that Matthew says that Judas was remorseful.  Now whether it was true repentance or the attempt of some earthly dodge I can’t say.  Yet in some sense Judas was sorry for what he had done.  So where was Judas to turn?  Where would someone go who wanted to find forgiveness and/or some aspect of redemption?  Would they not, at that time had gone to the synagogue?  Would they not today come to our church; or at least seek out a believer?

But what if our response is like the response of the leaders of the synagogue: “What is that to us? You see to it.” What if we were to either outright say to them or at the very least imply; you got yourself into this so it’s up to you to get yourself out of it?  What if we gave them the impression that we were a group of saved, righteous people who can only be joined by other already saved, righteous people?  I don’t believe Jesus Christ would be pleased.  I believe He might address us by saying “Woe to you………!”  I believe He’d be likely to include us with the Pharisees, Sadducees and lawyers of the time He was on earth, calling them and us hypocrites.  Explaining to us that we were piling burdens on the hurting, shutting up the kingdom against them, yet by our own actions not entering in ourselves either.

What has it to do with us?  Everything!  Why?  First because, to any extent that we might call ourselves or be called righteous, it is a gift of Grace from Almighty God.  We have not earned our salvation.  Our salvation was a gift freely given by Jesus Christ to us while we were yet sinners as well.  God’s Grace, not our innate goodness, is the only difference between us and the world.  Second, Jesus did it.  We must remember that so much of, if not the majority of Jesus’ time on earth was spent in the company of sinners.  I imagine that we think that those were rather harmless sinners, maybe a few lies, some petty thefts, but from the intense reaction of revulsion that the Jewish leaders had, I think there were some people we’d put in the “pretty disgusting” category.  While we hardly scoff at adultery today as a society, back then it was a capital offense, yet Jesus forgave it; did not trivialize it, but forgave it.

So where are the hurting to turn today?  Where are the remorseful to go?  How would those who are mad at God or who, today, are against any and all precepts of God ever get any sense that they have not burned all bridges with God? Where might they be able to look to, to see that God still loves them today; still longs to forgive them and have a loving relationship with them?  Would it not start with the very people who say they are children of God?  Would it not start with you and I, desiring nothing more than to be like Christ, earnestly attempting all we can to bring love and peace into their lives?

Finally, Dear Sisters and Brothers, do not think that this is either easy or able to be accomplished solely (or souly) on our own.  Should we try to have the love of Christ, the forgiveness and grace of Christ without abiding in Christ; we will fall back to our worldly judging ways.  Yet we have a Heavenly Father who does not want us to fail in this.  We have a Heavenly Father who is willing to send us a wise counselor of infinite strength; the Holy Spirit to reside in us and through Jesus Christ accomplish the love, even and especially for our enemies, that He desires us to have.  If you have ever had the experience of going on a service mission trip as I have, you’ll experience and witness the pain of people hurting.  Yet even then, the joy and peace of being able to share the Love of Jesus Christ with them will so surpass the sense of worldly hurt that you see around you.  What has this to do with us?  By and in the Grace of our Heavenly Father; everything.

Our most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that it is only through Your Grace that we are saved and have come to know You.  Forgive us when we believe in our own righteousness and turn our backs on those we deem to be less worthy.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would have the strength to love our enemies, help those who are hurting even if they do not follow you, risking persecution and ridicule in this world.  Bless us with Your Favor as we try to be beacons of Your Light, shining on this dark world.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them…..Then God saw everything He had made and indeed it was very good”  Genesis 1:27,31

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.'”  Exodus 3:14

God is the Creator.  God is the only Creator!  Please do this for me; look up.  What do you see?  God created that.  Now, look to your left and look to your right.  What do you see?  God created that.  Now, look down (I know, you know what’s coming next but I’m going to ask it anyway). What do you see?  God created that.  Okay, about this time some of you may be wanting to push back saying: Now Doug, when you tell me to look all around I’m seeing things I built, that I “created” or at least were created by another person.  So while I completely acknowledge that it may be true that you or some human being manipulated God’s initial creation to reform it, to build it into something different, that does not alter the fact that God created the initial components of it.  So now that we’ve established the precept that God is the Creator, take a  moment just to be silent and contemplate that all things, visible and invisible, God created………..                                          (okay times up)

Where am I going with this? First, God created some amazing, stunning, powerful beautiful things to be sure.  Yet of all the countless things, stars, flowers, waterfalls; and on and on, only one thing did He declare, upon its creation, that He created in His own image.  Again, stop and really ponder this for a moment.  Of all creation, we are the only things, you and I, that were created based upon God’s image

Next, and this may seem particularly obvious, God is talented at what He does.  Not only is He talented at it, but scripture tells us in Genesis, that God was happy with His creation.  That five out of six days of His creation, He saw what He had created and pronounced it “good” (and when God says something is good you can take it to the bank).  Yet after creating You and I on the sixth day, He, God that is, pronounced something different.  He looked at what He had created in His own image and didn’t just pronounce it good; He pronounced it, that is You and I, very good!

So I’m going to slightly deviate off topic for a moment to cover an aspect, sadly at least for me, which seems to come up within some people of faith when we discuss the creation story.  This particular aspect is that, really only man, that is the male was created in God’s image and the female was created in man’s image so, in some way she is an inferior creation to the male creation.  Or perhaps the male is more “very gooder” (I earnestly and deeply apologize to all English teachers out there) than the female.  However, scripture seems very clear in the passage quoted directly out of Genesis; ….male and female He created them.  It was only after creating them both, did He pronounce their creation, very good.

Now let’s get down to the crux of this posting.  You may be feeling insignificant.  The world may be telling you, you don’t matter.  You may have people tell you that, to make a difference, to be important, you must dress a certain way, act a certain way, step all over your fellow person, have more, be more, make more.  If you don’t fit into the world’s more; you are of little to no value.  You are inconsequential.  Don’t you believe it!  You and I are the only things created in the image of God and proclaimed to be very good.    Also, that Image we are created in did not include big houses, fancy cars, fine clothing or expensive jewelry.  Hardly, in fact we were created nude, with the provisions of God to take care of us.

Yet before we get too high on ourselves and too vain concerning our existence, we must remember; an image is not the same, is not equivalent to the original thing.  You and I are not God.  We are not the Creator.  We are not equal to the Creator.  You and I are not as wise, as powerful, as loving, in short; we are not perfect like the I AM, Our Father in Heaven, God Almighty.  Tragically, we sometimes fall victim to the temptation to believe that the image is as good as the real thing.  Jesus Christ warned of that when He replied to the rich young man who came to ask Him a question and called Him a “good teacher”.  Jesus rebuked the young man telling him that no earthly man is good; only God in Heaven is truly Good.

So the paradox of being the only thing created in the image of God is this; we can be confidently humble.  Confident that God sees value in us.  How do we know?  Because God saw so much value in us that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, do die for us and take away our sin.  Humble in that, we are not God.  We can not defeat the power of Satan on our own.  Our plans, our judgements our knowledge, our ability to love is not perfect and, unless we abide in Jesus Christ we can do nothing.  Conversely though, we are promised, and may be the only thing in creation to have this promise, that if we abide in Christ, we can do all things.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; scripture tells us that God created us.  That upon seeing us, He declared His creation very good.  That God loves us and will never abandon us and His Grace will be there for us regardless of what we do.  However, we must also be humble in our understanding that we are not God.  We are fallen and do sin.  That we must have Jesus Christ as our Savior to accomplish anything.  That we are only the image of the I AM, yet even that is enough to find peace and joy and bring praise to the Creator’s Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are humbled and thankful that You saw fit to create us in Your image and pronounce that creation, very good.  Forgive us when we forget that, although created in Your image, we are not You or equal to You.  Also forgive us when we count Your image to be nothing and value the images of this world more.  Pour out Your Spirit of Truth upon us, testifying of Your Love for us and Your desire to be with us every moment of our existence.  Give us the power to resist the temptation of this world to seek after our own image and instead abide in Yours.  That, in living into Your image, we would bring about Your will for us and the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord and in His Most Holy Name we pray.  Amen

Which is the first commandment of all?” Mark 12:28

“Jesus answered him, ‘The first commandment is Hear, O Israel, the Lord Your God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength.  This is the first commandment. And the second like it is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:29-31

This exchange, the question and the answer is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  In two of the cases, the religious leaders, those who are supposed to be the most knowledgeable ask Jesus to try and trap Him: What is the greatest commandment?  (Matthew and Mark)  In Luke, it is a lawyer, again a learned man of the people, who asks what it takes to inherit eternal life.  What I think is important to point out at this juncture is that those who are asking expect that there is one primary thing; one greatest commandment, one primary way to earn eternal life.  Jesus, as the Christ, the One true Son of God, who was with the Father from the beginning, who knew every word that preceded out of Mouth of the Father was uniquely qualified, and in fact the only One, truly qualified to answer this question.  Thus it is extremely important that we heed His response.

For Jesus Christ makes it clear to, not only the ones who ask the question, He pauses in Mark and calls our for all of Israel to listen and in that same way is calling to You and I to be attentive and listen today.  There is not just one commandment but there are two commandments that we must abide by.  There are two commandments which are the only way to truly have eternal life.  There are two commandments on which all the rest of the laws of and teachings of the prophets are built on.  Love God.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

Now understand, Jesus taught about considerably more.  Jesus taught about not becoming angry, loving our enemies, not lusting, not worrying, honoring father and mother and much, much more.  Yet all that He taught was based on the two commandments that came from His and, through Him, Our Heavenly Father.  Love God with all your being.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

Also realize how consistent this is.  For Jesus is not giving an unheard of commandment here.  Loving the Lord Your God with our entire being is layed out in Deuteronomy 6:4 and loving your neighbor as yourself is stated in Leviticus 19:18

Another of the most classic parables is taught by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke after He gives His answer.  For the lawyer isn’t done testing Jesus.  So the lawyer continues to examine Jesus by asking Him the question: “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answers with oft quoted story of the Good Samaritan.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; as I write this, there are five families grieving the loss of their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, friends who were police officers slain in a mass shooting.  In the days leading up to this we’ve witnessed the tragic deaths of civilians slain in interactions with police.  That is sadly only one manifestation of the opposite of love; hate, which is racking our neighborhoods, our country, our world.  Out of hate, people are walking into schools, nightclubs and yes, even churches and carrying our merciless killings.  Out of hate people are strapping explosives to themselves or driving vehicles packed with explosives and detonating themselves, killing scores in some twisted philosophy of service, which is truly only a service to evil.

If that was not tragic enough, much more often now, the response to these spasms of mayhem and hate is to build rage and hate in response, believing that acts of hate in response are justified in a sense of eye for an eye.  Our Heavenly Father, in the Old Testament declaring that vengeance was His and His alone,  as well as Jesus Christ’s teachings about how we should treat and love our enemies is diametrically opposed to those who feel that hate and rage in return for hate and rage is justified and worst yet, somehow righteous behavior.

Finally, Dear Sisters and Brothers, we will not be able to, can not achieve the level of love, spoken of by Jesus on our own.  We must understand that we can only love in that manner if we first call out to and accept the love that comes from Our Heavenly Father, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t build or come upon this love ourselves but are vessels to hold, return to God and spread to others,  the love that comes from Above.

So let us pray, constantly, deeply to first receive that love and then to spread that love.  Let not the shrill voices of hate, vengeance and retribution, distract or dissuade us from seeking and showing love.  Let us call upon the promise of Jesus Christ, that as we abide in Him, we can do greater things; that is to say, we can show greater love, we can be greater examples of selfless and merciful love even than He did during His time here.  Let us not grow weary of saying “I love you”, especially to those who seem to be the least willing to hear it or least likely to accept it.  That in being beacons of His Love, we will bring ever present praise and glory to His Most Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we freely admit we are dismayed and confounded by the level of hate and the extreme amount of damage that hate is causing in this world.  We first call upon Your Love to be poured out on this world and especially upon us who seek Your most Holy Name.  Pour out Your Strength, allowing us to fulfill Your commandment to love You first and then love our neighbors as ourselves.  Help us to see and define “our neighbor” as You define for us truly who and where our neighbor is.  Finally, use us to be bold in showing love and allowing that love to be triumphant over any and all hate that comes against it.  That the world would see You as the God of Triumphant Love that You Are and sing forth praises to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah….saying; ‘Arise, go to Nineveh’….But Jonah arose and fled to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”  Jonah 1:1,2,3

“…I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people….out of Egypt.  But Moses said to God: ‘ Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt”‘.  Exodus 3:10,11

“Do not be afraid Mary….and behold you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His Name Jesus. Then Mary said: ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word'”.  Luke 1:30, 38

Dear Sisters and Brothers; Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and so many other authors’ within the Word of God make it abundantly clear; God’s way is not our way.  And understand this, it is not just that God’s way is different; but that God’s way, being perfect, is far beyond our ability to truly comprehend and appreciate.  As such there is much that is inscrutable in attempting to understand God.  I start with these statements because this post is not some definitive exposition on the concept of free will.  For there is much to be contemplated concerning the concepts of predestination, supremacy of God’s plan, the Creator’s control over His creation and how He employs that control which seem all to fit into the overarching concept of freewill.

Even given that enigmatic aspect of freewill, I do believe God’s Holy Word gives us some truths that we can use to further our faith and improve our lives.  To illustrate those truths, a few well known person’s and their stories come to mind.

Let’s start with Jonah.  Besides the book of the bible that bears his name, Jonah is referenced in the Second Book of Kings where he is named as a prophet.  As a prophet, he is a man of God, required to spread the word of God to the people.  As the Book of Jonah starts, he is given a command by God to go to the city of Nineveh and “cry out against it for their wickedness has come up before me”.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  As a prophet of God, we might think that Jonah would wholeheartedly accept God’s call and strike out for Nineveh.  Jonah indeed does strike out; but not to Nineveh but to Tarshish which is completely on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea!  Yet God is not to be denied and Jonah ends up being carried in a rather uncomfortable means to Nineveh.  Jonah even prays a very anguished prayer of humility to God.  So where does free will come into play?  Throughout the entire story, at every turn; Jonah contends with God.  When the people of Nineveh repent and God is merciful to them, Jonah get’s mad.  When God tries to teach Jonah about the power of mercy when He causes a plant to grow to shelter Jonah and then causes it to die; Jonah gets angry and wants to die.  We don’t get the sense at any point in the Book of Jonah that Jonah uses his free will to accept God’s plan for him or the Ninevehites.

Moving on to Moses, we see a man who also initially flees from his people.  Moses seems to have found his place as a shepherd and family man in the land of Midian.  Yet the people of God in Egypt were in bondage and crying out to God for a deliverer; and God had a person in mind; Moses.  Now initially, Moses, like Jonah before him, tried to dissuade God from using Moses to carry out His plan.  However, Moses, relented and decided to follow God and return to Egypt.  Yes, Moses often found himself contending with the people and even when Moses rashly acted outside the direction and scope of God, He always accepted the Will of God.  So from a free will standpoint, Moses came to a point of acceptance and humility toward God and His plan becoming one of the most powerful and beloved persons in the bible.

Then we come to Mary.  Mary was a humble, believing young girl who has a miraculous encounter with the angel Gabriel.  As any of us might be in the presence of the Angel of the Lord, Mary was initially fearful at even being in the presence of an angel.  She is a virgin so when the angel mentions that she will have a child, she does not dispute with the angel or try to dissuade him from choosing her, but is curious about how it might be that she will bear the Child.  Seemingly, she might have pleaded for someone else to be granted this miracle; maybe someone of noble birth or someone who was a wife of a religious authority or other great man.  Instead her free will was to respond:  “Let it be to me according to your word”.  Thus she became blessed among all women.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, each of these stories have as their basis; a plan, Our Heavenly Father’s plan.  In each of these plans, deliverance, mercy and salvation were at stake.  Additionally, Our Heavenly Father, in His amazing grace and mercy saw fit to include His creation in bringing about His wonderful plan.  Frankly, I don’t know if Jonah, Moses or Mary had the “free will” to respond with a no.  It doesn’t seem so to me that they could thwart the Will of God.  In my mind, our take away should be that God also has a plan specific to you and I.  It may or not may involve saving a nation, but it is perfect and important for each of us.  Will we be more like Mary or Jesus Christ, for that matter, and say with humility and sincerity: Thy will be done? Or we will attempt to run from Our Heavenly Father and His plan for us?  Will we attempt to impose our will over His?  Should we find the carrying out of His plan inevitable in our lives; will we be downcast, depressed, reluctant trying to disengage at every turn?

I believe a significant aspect of our free will is in our humble, grateful, acceptance of His plan.  We can freely use our time in prayer to Him and study of His Word.  We can freely rely on Him forsaking the ways of self or worldly reliance. And as we freely move to align our will with His; we will encounter the freely given Love, Blessings and Salvation God has planned for us.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You that You have seen fit to include us, Your creation, in carrying out Your plans.  Forgive us when we try to circumvent Your Will by substituting our will in its place.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would lovingly accept Your Plan for our lives and fully live into it.  That in our reliance upon You and our proclamation of the supremacy of Your Will in our lives, we would be beacons of Your Light and Your Love to this world and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.”  Proverbs 30:5

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

I believe that there is a vital aspect of our understanding of how the Word frames our relationship to Our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ concerning our interaction with the world.  First, the world and all that is in it, of course in fact the entire universe is a creation of Our Heavenly Father.  Second, even though we are all included in and as His creation; we have the ability and sadly many have availed themselves of this ability to reject the Word of Our Heavenly Father.  Thus those who have rejected His Word have become “worldly” in nature, that is following the leader and his precepts concerning how to live without God in this world.  Make no mistake, regardless of what any bumper sticker might proclaim, the world has no desire to coexist with people of God; they desperately want us to join them and if they can’t convince us to do that; then they hate and want to utterly destroy us.  Finally and I can’t stress this enough; Jesus Christ provided us with His example, extolled and warned us with His words; that we are not to hate or want to destroy them in return.  We are to love them who hate us.

So now let me explore that interaction with the world.  For the world is going to tempt us; threaten us, attack us, try to instill fear in us, try to make us doubt or worst yet, turn away.  Knowing that, we need to know this as well, in no way shape or form, has Our Heavenly Father left us vulnerable or open to defeat by the attacks of the world.  First, God, the Creator of all things, the Beginning and End of all things, He who is perfect in every way, has seen fit to pass His word down to us.  Proverbs tells us that His word is pure.  Proverbs also reassures us that those who put their faith in God, are shielded.  Now please understand the purpose of a shield.  A shield never prevents an attack from happening.  The very fact that a shield exists is a realization that attacks exist and without a shield can be extremely injurious if not fatal.  Yet a shield can utterly defeat those attacks, can stop any injury from happening.  God is that shield for us as long as we will trust Him

Jesus is having His last supper with His disciples.  He has been telling Him about His impending leaving, the world’s hatred of Him and what the disciples are going to be facing as well.  He is speaking tribulations.  The things He is speaking to His disciples are not just for them and for the period of a few days or weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion.  No, they sober assessment of the sorts of tribulations all believers will face because of attacks by the world.  Yet Jesus instructs them to be at peace; to be of good cheer.

Now please; Dear Sisters and Brothers; this is not an exaltation to “see the glass half full” or “make lemons out or lemonade” kind of platitude.  For,. while I’m a firm believer in the fruits of having a positive attitude; a positive attitude in and of itself is not going to defeat the world.  This is not “half full”, do what I can with what I have kind of sentiment, but “my cup runneth over” with provision from Our Heavenly Father prophetic truth.  You see my attitude is all about me and my power, but Jesus Christ proclaims that to have His peace and be in sustainable good cheer from Him, those can only happen as long as we are in Jesus Christ.  Our shield only comes from trusting Our Heavenly Father.  We don’t obtain it through ourselves; we are given it from above; freely.

How do we get there?  Here again is something so amazingly love filled, so totally unnatural for us, but completely within God’s loving nature.  For do you remember when, after the transfiguration, Jesus came down and the disciples were trying to heal a young boy and could not do so?  The father begs Jesus saying “But if You can do anything…..” Jesus responds…..”all things are possible to him who believes”.  And then it happens, the man knows his limitations.  For out of the depths of his despair, out of the truth from his innermost being; the father cries out:  “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”  Jesus Christ does, and heals the child.

You see Dear Sisters and Brothers, if our being in Jesus Christ, our trusting in God, was solely and souly based on the strength of our human derived faith; we’d be lost.  We are sinners.  That is why Jesus Christ came to sacrifice Himself for our sins.  That is why Our Heavenly Father has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts.  In the purest form of love, Our Heavenly Father makes up for the imperfect faith and belief that we have.  But make no mistake, we have to ask for that help.  We have to come to Jesus Christ and confess that He is our Lord and Savior, the One True Son of God, capable of lifting us up; of giving us peace of supplying good cheer.

So don’t be amazed, be overwhelmed and/or be disheartened by the tribulations that the world slings at you.  Be in Jesus Christ and cheerfully be at peace.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we are eternally grateful that You have been completely honest about what we can expect in this life as far as interaction with the world is concerned.  We are so thankful that You have provided us Your Word to guide and comfort us.  Thank You for incalculably preserving gift of Your Son Jesus Christ and the promise of peace and cheer that comes from being in Him.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father, when we try to devise our own shields or blunt on our own, the attacks and tribulations that the world throws at us.  Guide us back to the more than sufficient shelter which we find in You.  That in living lives of peace and good cheer, that we would be living testimonies to Your Grace and Love for all Your Creation.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

“I say to you that likewise, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance”  Luke 15:7

“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, some a hundred.”  Mark 4:20

“Come you blessed of My Father….I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in……..Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 34, 35, 40

As I start out, as I have sometimes done in the past I want to state what this post is not about.  It is not a diatribe against mega-churches or some aspect of large versus small churches.

What this post is about is the pervasive fear that I hear foretold about, read about and even, at times, hear preached about as far as the decline and risk to the future of Christ’s Church.  That there is diminishing population of church goers in many countries can not be disputed.  It is also true that the influence of the Christian church in societies as far as laws that are passed and social norms that are considered acceptable are also on the decline.

Yet what I find the response within the church, especially from leadership; which I at times will freely admit to being and having this reaction, is a great fear concerning the very survival of the church.  Is that the correct response?  Does the world have the power to stop or destroy the church?  Sadly, in response to that fear, I’ve found individual and entire groups of churches who are willing to greatly modify and sometime abandon significant truths and Christ’s doctrines in order to be more inviting and welcoming to the world.  In the western world and especially in America, for most of our history, we seemed to be affiliated with the Christian church, even with a doctrine of separation of church and state.  Now that the affiliation is waning to a certain extent; we seem all the more frequently to be filled with doubt and fear for our future.

The fear seems to come from the belief that numbers are what drive church power and influence and diminished numbers is a symptom of impending death.  I’ve seen churches go to great lengths to have membership drives, which I have no problem with at all.  The trouble comes when they were hoping for triple or big double digit increases and find that perhaps only a handful have come and given their lives to Jesus Christ and they are deeply disappointed with that result.  Really?

What did Christ teach us; extol for us to do and warn us not to?  As far as numbers are concerned; Christ seemed to be very clear.  In His very first parable, He made crystal clear that the Word was not going to take hold with everybody.  Now nothing states that the four soils were exactly 25% each; but what is clear is that the majority of soils were not going to bear fruit.  Time and time again; whether it was the wedding guest parable or the ten bridesmaids parable, entering in through the narrow gate; Jesus prophesied that the majority would not commit to following the way of Jesus Christ.  Yes thousands in Jerusalem joined the church in days, but not the majority in the city, nor in Ephesus or Galatia or Corinth or Rome.  That large churches may be brining in scores of believers every week is awesome, given that they are only preaching the true gospel of Christ.  But that in no way diminished the cheering and rejoicing in heaven; when the one person, or family sincerely repents and accepts Jesus Christ.  If heaven is rejoicing; why are we afraid?

I see a modern day parallel to the disciples experience in the boat.  In the Gospel of Mark we read that they had watched Jesus preach to thousands.  They partook in the miracle of feeding 5,000. Then following Jesus’ command they enter a boat and take off across the water.  One imagines as the journey started they were feeling pretty darn good.  Huge crowds following Jesus, miracles galore and there were the disciples right in the thick of it. But then the storm came up.  Jesus was not right there and they became afraid.  Now understand, I’m not blaming them.  Anyone who has been in a violent storm in a small boat can understand their fear.  Where is Jesus?  There He is coming, walking on water and they cry out to him and His response is to Be of Good Cheer; it is I; do not be afraid!  Here’s the parallel.  We’ve seen a considerable success in Jesus Christ’s teaching in our countries.  We seen so very many and even been a part of so many blessings.  We decide to follow Jesus Christ and where He sends us.  But now the storm, in this case the world and its prince are rising.  The boat is starting to get tossed.  Some are even leaving the boat, not sure that it is the right vehicle to carry them to where they want to be.  What we must understand is Jesus Christ is still in control, He is walking with us, He is calling out to us be of good cheer and do not be afraid.

But Doug, what can we do with such meager numbers?  How can we make an impact with a congregation 3/4’s or 1/2 what it used to be?  Again numbers don’t matter.  When Jesus Christ told of those blessed by the Father, He didn’t say they fed everyone, clothed or housed everyone in need.  No; He said that you do it for one of the least of these is what makes the difference.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we are not going to change the entire world.  We’ve not been sent for that.  We are to preach and be examples of the Word to the world.  Those to whom  perhaps some aspect of inspiration through our word and deed come to follow Jesus Christ, is the work of the Holy Spirit and not us.  We are not the King of Kings.  But we are the King’s subjects.  Let us please act like those.  Let us be bold in proclaiming, but not in harshness or pride, but in humility and loving, the Word of Jesus Christ.  Let us be fertile soil, feeding, clothing, sheltering, visiting when we can.  Finally and most, most importantly; let us be joyous and confident in Our Savior Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father; knowing that Their Power is sufficient to sustain Their Church of which we are such blessed participants.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are made humble that You would think to include us and gather us together; though we are sinners in Your Great and Wonderful Church.  Thank you that You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ to wipe away our sins and to allow us to come into relationship with You.  Forgive us when we become fearful that the majority of the world, though hearing Your message, refuse to follow it.  Pour out Your strength upon us that we would continue in love, humility and with boldness to proclaim Your Word of love to all whom may not have heard it.  Let us truly rejoice over each and every person who responds to Your invitation.  That all might see the supremacy of Your Church to this world.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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