“but the people there did not welcome Him……When the disciples, James and John saw this, they asked:  ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’  But Jesus turned and rebuked them.”  Luke 9:53-55

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.”  Luke 6:27

When the subject of change and handling change is discussed; two generations that are often brought up are the “Baby-boomers” and the generation immediately preceding them; some call them the “Traditionalists”.  What you often here discussed are such changes as; they went from horse and buggy to the jet age or they didn’t have indoor plumbing but lived long enough to see a man land on the moon.  For the Baby-boomers it is often an aspect of; they started out with black and white TV and now their streaming videos on the mobile phone.  Yet almost everywhere I hear this discussion take place, the examples that are utilized are primarily technological in nature.  Much less often are the sociological changes brought forward or if they are; it is not with the same sort of wistful, appreciative tone or nature.  You don’t as often hear examples like; they saw black and white kids get to go to school together in their life time, or they saw the definition of marriage expand to include gay couples.

Yet I think it is the social changes that have at least as profound if not a greater impact on a person’s sense of identity and the lens through which they grapple with the fundamental truths and judgments about their life and the world around them.  One reason for this, is that people may resist new technology, may; even at times fear it and the impact that it has; yet the rarely make fundamental value judgments about it. To the extent that a new technology is “good” normally has to do with the ease with which one learns to use it and how much convenience it adds.  Even when we “hate” a new gadget or the change that it brings; we don’t often equate it with an evil intent.  For example, with the nascent advent of driver less cars, there are many mixed emotions, but even with those who are adamantly opposed to that technology, I have not heard it describe about being evil.

The same can not be said for social changes.  History has shown us that as many of the significant social change processes have unfolded (at least in the United States), there is a significant amount of the population who judge the changes as evilly destructive.  Our country was going to end if we let the races intermingle in school and worse yet in marriage.  Giving women the right to vote, was going to destroy our social fabric and  there’s still an argument about whether, somehow, the woman’s right movement has destroyed the sanctity of the home.  While we’re at it we could bring up “globalism”, the LGBT movement, sports players “taking a knee”, legalized drugs and many more social changes, some would say progressions, other would characterize as upheavals, in our society.

It is not the intent of this post, nor do I have the wisdom to judge the righteousness or lack there of these movements.  What I did want to discuss is what should be our response to these and other social changes, especially if we disagree, sometimes vehemently disagree (which I in some cases do).

You see, Dear Sisters and Brothers; Jesus was a social movement in and of Himself in His time.  The way He preached His Father’s message of His Kingdom of Heaven seemed radically different for those who were hearing it.  Without a doubt the reactions to Jesus’ message were wide ranging.  Some heard Him enthusiastically, some wanted to throw Him off a cliff.  Yet Jesus was very consistent in His response and His message of response to His detractors and those who wanted Him silenced.

Did you ever hear or see written that Jesus told His followers to hate those who were against Him?  Did Jesus call out for His followers to destroy off the face of the earth those who are sinners or those who won’t except Jesus’ message?  Did the commands of condemn, massacre, despise, ridicule into submission, or other similar condemnations spew forth from Jesus as worthy acts for His followers to commit on unbelievers?

Oh by the way, the wanted to; the disciples that is.  Jesus was heading for Jerusalem for the last time and, as was His custom, He wanted to preach in some villages along the way.  Predictably, some villages would not receive Him.  Oh boy, the disciples, especially John and James were ready.  They had been with Jesus long enough to have some insight into His power.  And not only Jesus power, but the power that Jesus granted to His disciples because they were His followers.  Not listen to Jesus, not even let Jesus, the Son of God into your village; oh Jesus we’re ready for this one, John and James are thinking.  Let us at them Jesus, let us call fire down and burn them up for the insolence and insult.  One can just imagine the glean in their eyes over the thought of the just retribution.  They must have forgotten the earlier sermon where Jesus completely turns the concept of revenge and just retribution on its head when He tells them to “love their enemies”, to “do good to those who hate you”.  Jesus not only does not allow them to call fire down but rebukes them for wanting to do that in the first place.

Jump ahead a few centuries.  We’re in a place where we sometimes feel and it quite literally is in some places and times that Christianity is under attack.  We see some of the social changes and we turn to the bible and say; wait a second, this says we shouldn’t be doing that.  We find our blood pressure rising as we see Christian symbols being removed and scorned in many different places and situations.  Then we start hearing the cries, perhaps we start saying the prayers; Jesus Christ, smite these evildoers and blasphemers; these sinners and sweep them from our sight! Maybe we watch for and secretly wish for the Holy lightning bolt that will leave these offenders just smoking holes in the ground.

One can get the picture that we’re standing there with faces twisted in righteous indignation, saying to Jesus Christ; let us at them, give us great power to unleash, what do you want us to do them!?  We’re hoping for some permission to unleash the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah down on “them”.

“Love them!”, comes the answer from Jesus Christ.  “Ah, excuse me?” comes our incredulous reply.  “Yes, if you truly love Me, you will love them as I love them,” Jesus Christ admonishes us.  Then it happens, now I understand.  You see we’re all sinners.  Jesus Christ came to save all of us.  Jesus Christ loves all of us.  That there would be many who reject the message and love of Christ and hate His followers is irrelevant.  The goal of being saved by Jesus Christ, is to in turn live and love like Jesus Christ.  However, we can’t pull this off on our own.  The only way to love, truly love, unequivocally love, even with unrequited love, is to abide in the One who loves us in perfect way.  We must accept the unchanging love of Jesus Christ if we are to remain steadfast and be able to give His love in this constantly changing times.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we cry out to you in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ in these uncertain and turbulently changing times. We ask that You would pour out a spirit of forgiveness and agape love that as Jesus Christ loved all, even His enemies, we would find the strength to do so as well.  Help us to return mercy for maliciousness, forgiveness for wrongdoing and love for hate.  That this world may witness through us; the loving salvation You intended for all to have who will call upon the name of Your Son Jesus Christ.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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Well done, my good servant, his master replied, because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of 10 cities.” Luke 19:17

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ, Jesus”  1 Thessalonians 4:16

I start with a disclaimer in a way about the title.  The “Perhaps as God Sees them?” is not to infer that I believe that I have the wisdom, insight or righteousness to speak to how God sees things.  It is meant more as an aspect of potential difference between earthly and heavenly vision.

Blessings!  We may often times proclaim that we are blessed, but what do we mean by that?  We ask for and indeed are encouraged to ask for blessings.  Yet what constitutes a blessing and upon receipt of one or many; what is an appropriate reaction?  Do blessings shift based upon the eye of the beholder?

The third entry on the site Dictionary.com defines blessing as “invoking of God’s favor upon a person”.  In the bible blessings could come in the form of speaking words over a person as well as actual actions like healings, etc. Thus as we look at our lives, do we see God’s favor being invoked on our behalf?  Is the overall action of Grace in our lives the constant blessing versus individual acts?

There are two aspects that I want to look at when we think about the topic of blessing; first is there concept of size and how much does that matter.  Second is the knowledge and anticipation of blessing and how that effects its receipt.

First let’s explore size and our measurement of size.  For example, a healing from cancer, the full recovery from a stroke, the successful transplant of a major organ, would definitely seem to fit into the category of blessings to me.  God’s favor is being invoked by these medical triumphs.  But is good health a blessing?  Is going through this day, getting a clean bill of health on the annual physical, not coming down with the sickness that’s going around; are all those mainly because of the way I diet, my exercise regimen, getting enough rest etc.?  Does it take more energy or more favor from God to cure me then it does to keep my healthy in the first place?  Let’s say you and I are praying to become debt free.  If Publisher’s Clearinghouse came to our door with an enormous check that would allow us in one fell swoop to pay off all our debt, we might declare that an amazing blessing.  Yet what if we get some small work done and the person decides not to charge us to either keep us from going further into debt or utilizing some of what we would have used on that job to pay off some debt.  Is that a blessing?  Is it as big a blessing as the Publisher’s Clearinghouse? A personal example of mine is that I’m a published author who prays that his writing might have a relatively measurable level of success (perhaps landing on a bestseller list).  Now if some famous person happened to see, read and recommend my book causing it to end up on the New York Times best seller list, I would call that a blessing.  I would feel the favor of the Lord in that.  But what about the two people who purchased books recently?  Is that a blessing?  Do I discount a purchase here or there because I can’t pay the bills with that level of purchases? Is there no blessing in those small purchases, really?

Jesus teaches a parable where, depending on the translation a master or powerful king gives a small token of his monetary wealth to some servants; telling them to put the money to work while he is away on a trip.  Two out of the three servants do what they can with the money, they invest it which does have some risk associated with it and they gain some money for the king.  Yet one servant is not willing to take any risk with what is given to him, to afraid to utilize it at all, he buries it so that he knows at least he can’t lose the money.  The king has an interesting reaction to the servant’s efforts.  The two servants who took what was given to them and put it to work, although there might be some risk, were rewarded.  The one servant who buried what was given to him and didn’t allow it to provide any benefit was stripped of his money and left out in the cold.  If the king had started out saying, if you do good I’m going to put you in charge of cities, then all three servants might have worked hard seeing a large reward.  However, the gain of the two servants was not great in comparison to the master’s overall wealth, but because they were faithful in the small amounts that they had, the master figured they would be faithful enough to entrust with a much more significant amount.  In the same way, are we only looking for the “big” blessings?  Can we see God’s favor in the short rain shower when its been dry for weeks or does it have to be an all day soaker?  Can we find appreciation when we’re asking for a new car but the old car passes inspection without costing us anything?  We desperately want the promotion to manager but we’re given a new assignment that, at this points, gives us some more money and responsibility; is their God’s favor in that?  If we’re not appreciative of or can not see the favor of God unless there is a monumental happening in our life skipping over the day to day blessings that are showered down upon us; can we really be trusted to be faithfully, appropriately, appreciative at those big times?

So now that we’ve talked a little about size of blessing, what about the timing of the blessing(s)?  I know for myself, there have been times when I’ve thought or said to myself:  “Man if I only knew!”  In this case what I mean is perhaps I was in a place of consternation or uncertain expectation about some future situation.  Once the situation unfolds or the outcome happens and I clearly see the blessing that God poured out, I think how easier my life would have been if I knew that particular blessing was coming.  Yet the reality is would it really have been easier if I knew?  One example we can use is the Israelites as they left Egypt.  God had promised they were heading for the promised land; a land dripping with milk and honey.  God was physically with them at times, in a pillar of smoke during the day, and pillar of fire at night.  However that did not keep them from being fearful and complaining about starving or dying of thirst.  So if God were to lay everything out in front of me, in His plan about the future blessings to come; would that make my today better?  Would I be so impatient for that future date that I would become frustrated and downtrodden at what was happening today?  Would I be so focused on the future blessings that I would totally miss the blessing and love that God poured out on me each day leading up to the blessings?  Would I grumble at God, at His length of time to fulfill His plan or would I be praising each day?  I’m humble enough to realize my failings and my potential ungratefulness.

Bottom line is that God does bless.  I don’t remember an aspect in scripture concerning the measurement of blessings or the importance of them based on size.  Not only is God’s plan perfect, His blessings are more than sufficient for us. Also how much He communicates about His plans and future blessings is perfect as well.  Let us strive to see and receive in full appreciation and praise the favor of God that is poured out on us by His Graceful Blessings we constantly receive.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we are so thankful Lord for Your constant and merciful grace that manifests itself in countless blessings that we receive.  Forgive us when we are quick to overlook Your blessings because they don’t seem impactful enough or have not come when we think that they should.  Help us to pray for Your Spirit that will allow us to be faithfully patient, confident in Your Plan, including its timing.  That in our acknowledgement and praise we would be living lives that bring glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven'”  Matthew 18:3

“He said to them: ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'”  Mark 10:14

“Which of  you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?”  Luke 11:11,12

Jesus must have felt that having a childlike quality is pretty important.  This lesson is found in three of the four gospels.  It was one of the times that He found Himself being upset with His disciples; because they were trying to keep the children from coming to Jesus as Jesus had more important things to do.  What is Jesus getting at?  Is Jesus wanting us to act childish? Are there a bunch of brats in heaven?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus goes on to talk about the humility of a child.  In other places, Jesus talks about the faith to move mountains.  What Jesus seems to be expressing in the example of children, the characteristics that will find the kingdom of heaven, are faith, humility and obedience.

What sort of faith are we talking about? I think a story that happened with one of my children might help illustrate this.  We were driving along with my daughter, dutifully, safely strapped into her car seat.  When I was growing up, I’m not sure that car seats were even a thing, but whether they were or not we didn’t use them.  We were free to roam across the back seat because in those days, seat belts were only upfront.  However, for a time I flew for a living and we had to strap ourselves in very tightly before we took off.  What always amazed me was how similarly confining the car seats seemed for these little kids.  Okay back to the story.  As I say my daughter was in the car seat and the sun was streaming through the back window hitting her right in the face.  Without a second thought, she made the following request to her mother:  “Mom, the sun is in my eyes will you please turn it off?”  Mom, please turn off the sun; that didn’t seem an outlandish request to my daughter.  Also, I truly believe that my daughter would have been in no way surprised if my wife had reached outside the car and somehow turned off the sun (of course everyone else would have had a canipshin fit).  What I’m saying is that my daughter had complete faith in her mother to ask her anything.  Sadly, our children soon learn the limitations of their earthly parents.  They grow out of the belief that their parents can do everything (sometimes that they can do anything).  Sadly, we also transfer that same “growth” in our perception of our Heavenly Father.  As we learn about natural laws and man made processes; we start to fit our Heavenly Father, into our own perceptions of possible.  That is why Jesus so often asks about people’s faith in His ability to heal them; and praises so emphatically the Roman Centurion who has no shred of doubt that Jesus could heal his servant with just an utterance of a word.

Quite often, early on, there is a real humility to a child.  I know it may not seem like it and again it is something that can quickly change with age, but little children so often ask permission.  It is not uncommon to hear:  “May I………”  Little children want to hold hands, they don’t tend to desire go their own way.  They wanted to be connected to the bigger thing than themselves which is the family.   It is true if we’re not careful about how we respond we can teach them that they are the center of all things and that it is their right to get what they want.

Again, you may ask me if I’m off my rocker, but young children can and will be obedient.  They can learn that there is someone of greater power than themselves, namely their parents, and that their parents have certain conditions which determine what is right and what is wrong.  While children will test those boundaries, often they will still feel that their parents are a higher power, and both respect and also in a way even fear that power, yet still be in love with their parents.  Again as the child grows, often that sense of “higher power” falls away as the child feels that they are becoming equal if not superior to their parents (right around the teenager time).

Here’s where I think the challenge comes in.  We do age.  We watch a progression with our children that as they age, they become more self sufficient, more independent.  They absolutely may very well love us the same or even greater.  Yet we teach them in formal and informal ways not to rely on us as much and to rely more on themselves.  They become that wonderfully, stand on their own adult, and we are proud of them for that.  From a human perspective there is no problem with that.  Yet Jesus Christ tells us, if we use the human progression model as our template for interacting with God, to the extent we “grow” into self sufficient, self reliant, no longer seeing a need to be obedient persons, we will fail to enter into the Kingdom of God.

We find value in calling ourselves “children of God” and it is right to do so.  You will not find anywhere an admonition to be called “adults of God”. We are to always continue to look at our relationship with God as a young child; that is to say with humility, knowing that God the Father is and always will be much greater than ourselves.  With faith, that Our Father God is perfect and has a perfect plan for us.  With obedience, that we are to submit and subordinate our will and our desires, to God’s will and His commandments for us.

Let’s use one more imperfect human comparison to illustrate how important this is.  Let’s say you are one of the wealthiest, most powerful, educated parent on earth.  You have the ability and desire to many great things for your child.  However, if your child should declare that they are turning their back on you, that they will not acknowledge you as their parent and will accept nothing from you or listen to anything you have to same to them because they don’t need you.  It would be extremely difficult, with your wealth, power, intelligence and best intentions to do anything for that child.

But, Doug, you say, my heavenly Father doesn’t do the good things for me that I need or that I want him too!  We have probably all had that thought at some point.  We know best what we need and He’s not giving it.  Let’s use the you’re the very wealthy, powerful, intelligent, loving parent example again.  If your child was abusing alcohol, let’s say, and they pleaded:  “All I want from you is more alcohol.  If you loved me you would give it to me and if you won’t give it to me then I reject you”.  A loving parent would know better and would not relent and give their child more alcohol.  They would stand ready to give the much needed help, but would not give into demands they know would hurt the child.

But human parents aren’t our Heavenly Father.  We get tired, we can get selfish, our patience and mercy can be strained.  Our resources aren’t unlimited, our plan and intelligence is not perfect.  Sometimes we have no idea what to do.  Our Heavenly Father has none of the failings or restrictions.

Our Heavenly Father is all about loving His children.  He even sent His Only Begotten as a sacrifice to save the rest of us.  His Son, who now calls us friends tells us, for that relationship to work, its not that God needs but we need to humble ourselves to be His loving, faithful, humble and obedient children through which it is Our Heavenly Father’s grace filled plan to share His kingdom and all of its blessings, this day and for eternity with we, His children He so loves.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are filled with awe and amazement that You, the creator of all things, would desire to be the Heavenly Father to each of us.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would but accept that relationship as a grateful, humble, loving and obedient child.  That in receiving the blessings of a Child of God, we would live into a right relationship with You as Our Heavenly Father that share Your Light and Love with this world and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“And He said to them: ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses'”.  Luke 12:15

But O Lord of Hosts, You who judge righteously, testing the mind and the heart…..” Jeremiah 11:20

Father, the hour has come, Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You….”  John 17:1

In looking at the definition covetousness it states:  one aspect is to show a strong desire especially for material things – implying an inordinate desire for another’s possessions.

In looking at the definition of motivation it states:  the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

There is a commercial out now for a financial trading company where it shows a rich person doing outrageously outlandish, over-the-top excesses with their wealth and the tag line comes on:  “Don’t get mad get (name of the company). Now from a worldly sense, the add is cute and has a powerful message.  That message being if you see something the rich has and you want it, not to resent the rich; but come to us and we can get it for you.

Over the past few years I have been on a journey of transition in my professional life from that of being a member of the corporate world, to that of an entrepreneur.  While in that transition, it has been interesting to see the different aspects of motivation that exist is those two different worlds.

Within the corporate world, there is a general sense of getting ahead, whether it is all the way to the top leadership or not.  Getting ahead or “climbing the corporate ladder” often infers rewards of more money, more power and responsibility and greater prestige.

Within the world of the entrepreneur the motivations can be more diverse.  They can range from fulfilling a dream, to having greater freedom, to having more control, to sharing less of the proceeds with others; just to mention a few.  One of the interesting things that I found with entrepreneurs is that they almost always have an example to go by.  There is almost always someone that they know personally or someone whose story they’ve heard about that they want to emulate.  Even if the goal of the business or organization seems to be altruistic in nature; I have often found the person still has someone that they aspire to “be like”; to have the success that they have or the life that they live.

Thus we get to the heart of covetousness.  I want what they have, I want to live like them, I want to BE them.  There are some significant hazards and pitfalls we must be very careful about when we have those desires or motivations.  Now wait a second, Doug, you say to me; I don’t want to be like someone rich or powerful, heck I want to be like Mother Theresa ( a wonderful, beautiful person to be sure).

Before we get to the spiritual aspect, one glaring practical thing we have to understand; RARELY do we actually REALLY KNOW WHAT THEIR LIFE IS LIKE!  Please reread that sentence again.  So often we’re judging someone’s life, even the positive aspects, based on very limited information.  Even for those people whom we may know, are in our sphere of acquaintances or work colleagues; often what we are allowed to glimpse of their lives is  purely what they are going to want us to see, allow us insights about.  The true impact of their decisions whether business or life, is primarily known only to them, perhaps a trusted confidant/family member and therapist!  Additionally, to the extent that they are honest with us about all facets of their lives, we are still filtering those aspects based on our own experiences, values and assumptions.  Sadly, sometimes tragically we find out how skewed and erroneous those assumptions are when we try to replicate someone else’s life in our own.  Thus when I find myself motivated by trying attain what it is that “they have”, I often don’t even have an accurate clue about actually what “they have” and the true impact of having it is.

Well okay, okay I may not really completely know what “they have” but what I do know is if, I had what I think they have, I’d handle it in such a way that it would be good, no great for me!  I confess to you that I have been known, on rare occasions to play the lottery, normally when the jackpots are ginormous.  Now of course I’ve read the biblical admonitions and warnings about wealth, especially extreme wealth.  Therefore I am open to the idea that even my playing the lottery is tottering on temptation and sin.  Yet I tell myself; if that infinitesimally long shot thing were to happen, I COULD HANDLE IT.  And in fact it would be God’s will if it did!  I will at least say I don’t really count on it and am not disappointed when God has decided not to place the burden of winning on me.  The moral or at least question is:  given what God and Christ has warned about vast riches, how much am I fooling myself to say I could handle it and that I would be humbly obedient to God’s plan for the use of those gains.

So let’s start to wrap this up by now looking at this from a spiritual perspective.  After Jesus gives this warning about covetousness, He tells a parable about a foolish farmer who wants more.  Even once the farmer gets “more”, he wants to keep even more and goes through great lengths to secure it.  Once the farmer goes through all the effort and sacrifice to get the total more that he finally thinks he needs and is now ready to sit back an enjoy that more; the farmer dies that night.  In its basic tenant, coveting is mostly about getting more!  On that rare occasion we look at someone who has less, let’s say a less time consuming job, or less clients to be responsible for, or smaller house to take care of; we covet what they have because we want more, maybe more time for ourselves, more peace in our lives, more simplicity.

Jesus Christ stresses over and over and over again; Our Heavenly Father knows and will supply all that we need and that is blessedly beneficial to us.  Yet it is not a sin to want, because if it were, Jesus would not have implored that we can ask in His name, in the name of Christ to our Heavenly Father and the Father will hear and answer.  Now our Heavenly Father will reply with what is best for us, which may be different than the request that we made.

Finally, Jesus Christ teaches us, why should we be asking for, whatever it is that we’re asking for, in the first place.  When Jesus prays in the presence of His disciples and asks for His, that is Jesus’ name to be glorified, it is so that ultimately the Father’s name will be glorified.  Is what motivates us the glory of our Heavenly Father.  Is the desire that we have for the new (fill in the blank, car, house, promotion, job, retirement, etc, etc, ) to use that to glorify the name of Our Heavenly Father?  Is that where our desire rests?  It did for Jesus and Our Heavenly Father did glorify the Name of Jesus Christ above all other names.

Yet I am not Jesus Christ and I know that the fallen nature within me does not naturally tend toward the glorification of the Father but rather to my own self gratification.  So I believe I and we must pray to receive the strength to put aside our own covetousness desires and gain the true motivation to abide in Christ and glorify the Father.  It is with that motivation we can have the confidence that we will live ultimately rich, fulfilled, blessed lives in praise to our Heavenly Father’s most Holy Name.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim and praise Your Gracious Generosity to fulfill all our needs whether we know of the need or not.  We also confess that we too often look to others in the world and desire what they have for our own gain and purposes.  Forgive us when we covet what our neighbor has and give us the strength to resist that temptation, asking for those things which would bring glory to Your Most Holy Name and blessed peace and joy to our lives.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

“Then He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat’. And they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish…..for all these people'”  Luke 9:13

So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.”  Luke 9:17

Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also, and greater works than these he will do because I go to My Father in Heaven”  John 14:12

I want to take a moment to dwell on the “feeding of the five thousand” and a way we can join in.  As you recall this all starts out with wanting to get away to rest.  Jesus had sent the disciples out to preach, teach and heal in the surrounding Jewish towns and villages that Jesus was himself not going to be able to visit.  The disciples come back with stories of healing and wonderment.  Jesus leads them away to “a deserted place” so that they could rest.  However, scripture tells us that the multitude knew of it and followed Jesus and the disciples there.  Jesus, never being one to turn people away, received them there and spoke of the Kingdom of God and healed their sick.

This was a great throng, some 5,000 men, even more when you count the families who accompanied them.  Scripture goes on to say that the hour was getting late and the disciples came to Jesus because they were concerned that they were far away from any town or place and the people had been with Jesus all day.  They were worried that the people would be hungry and in fact so hungry that some would faint from hunger as they tried to return to their homes.  It would take a miracle for them to be fed out in this wilderness!

What I so love about what Jesus did is how He include the disciples in His actions.  Remember the manna that the Israelites ate when they were out deep in the wilderness and how God had caused a great wind to also blow in quail to provide for the weary travelers.  Jesus, as God, surely had this power.  Purely by His own power and devices He could have fed the 5,000 gathered listeners.  Yet in His Mercy and Perfect Wisdom, He included more than just Himself.  For this was not about some over-the-top, grandiose display of raw Divine power.

First, Jesus acknowledges that the assembled people will need to eat and then suggests to the disciples, it is up to them to feed the enormous crowd.  This disturbed the disciples, for the disciples had barely enough rations, five loaves of bread and two small fish, to spread amongst themselves let alone to try to stretch across such a vast need.  Also they did not have enough money to go and buy provisions for this great gathering.  Thus what Jesus establishes is that there is no human devised solution to feeding this throng accept to send them away and leave them to their own devices.

At this point truly try to put yourself into the shoes….or, ah sandals, of the disciples.  First Jesus tells you to tell the people to have a seat in small groups.  He is the Master and you do as you’re instructed but you have not the vaguest clue as to what Jesus has planned.  Next, Jesus asks for the five loaves and two fish to be brought to Him and He gives thanks to His and your Heavenly Father for them.  Again, you’re not surprised that He gives thanksgiving for food, no matter how meager because that is what Jesus always does.

However, now it starts to get worrisome.  There are 12 baskets there, that means one basket for each disciple (even Judas). Then, to your surprise, Jesus starts tearing pieces of the bread and putting it into each basked and breaking the two fish apart and placing just a small piece in each basket.

Your curiosity as a disciple turns to shock and some dread as Jesus hands you each a basket and tells you to go to the crowd and give the basket to each group and do not take the basket away from the group until they have eaten their fill and are satisfied.  Again, think about your hesitant steps as you approach the first small group.  Maybe there’s enough in the basket for this one group to each have something, but eat their fill? Until their satisfied?  You pick out the smallest group with the fewest men and smallest children; they won’t take too much you tell yourself.  You hand the basket to the first person and invite them to take and eat but stress that the basket needs to be passed to everyone hoping that you communicate the message not to be too greedy and grab too much out for yourself.  Perhaps you anxiously watch as each person takes from the basket, puts the lid back on as they pass to the person next to them and you’re somewhat surprised how far the food has gone in this group.  Perhaps also you’re glancing around noticing that, of all your brethren disciples, none of them have run out of food….YET.

However, now the last person has pulled food out, put the lid back on the basket and handed back to you.  You don’t dare look inside to see the sheer emptiness that must reside now in the basket.  You glance back over at the Master, Jesus, somewhat shocked to see He is staring right at you and with a nod of His head and an ever so slight smile, He directs you to continue to the next group.  You slowly approach the group, you have a lump in your throat as you ask yourself: “Are they going to be mad about how empty the basket is?  Are they going to attack me or the Master?”  You look around and notice that your brethren are all getting to their second groups and they all seem to have the same hesitation.  “This could get real ugly real quick”; you think to yourself.

You start about by excusing yourself and begging the forgiveness of the group and hoping they can scrape a little of what must be some scraps of bread and slivers of fish at bottom of the basket.  As you hand it to the first man in the group, before the man has taken the lid off, he gives you a slightly aggravated look concerning the apology you just gave.  The man lifts the lid and then his look of aggravation changes to surprise and bewilderment as he turns the basket so that you can see that it is filled to the brim with choice bread and many pieces of succulent fish.  The man is surprised by the expression of pure shock on your face at seeing the contents of the basket.  You immediately look up to see and are met with very similar looks of astonishment of the faces of your fellow disciples as they watch their second groups feast on the basket.  You then slowly turn to face Him; the Master, Jesus Christ.  No longer is there a slight grin on His face, but now it is a full blown smile!  He holds out his hands gesturing for you to continue and at that moment you understand, not the how of any of it, but you know the food will not run out.

You are now excited to move from one group to another, you are laughing, the groups laughing.  All are being fed.  The groups are thanking you for your generosity.  Although you accept their thanks, you are compelled and it easy to respond to them that they need to give thanks to their Father in Heaven for His Son who is in their midst Jesus.

Can you imagine it?  Can you place yourself in the before and after of being a part of it?  Now let me remind you, these were not highly educated men, these disciples.  They were not the crème of Jewish crop.  They were ordinary, very common men, called to be extraordinary by and through Jesus Christ.

However, that was so long ago.  The disciples are long gone and the age of miracles has passed.  Really?  You see dear Sisters and Brothers, this would all be just history, if it weren’t for the fact that Jesus Christ lives today.  The same Jesus Christ who urged His disciples:  “You give them something to eat”, sees a hungry world today and urges the same thing for us.  This is a world, yes hungry for food; but also hungry for light, truth, mercy and most of all LOVE.  Jesus Christ proclaims to us that should we but believe in Him, have true faith in Him, then we can do His works and even greater because He now is with The Father.  Please, please let us not turn from the invitation to be part of the feeding.  Let us not shy away from doing His bidding.  For Jesus Christ has the power to do it on His own, the wonderful, merciful blessing is that He wants to include us in the helping.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ and Your Plan that, through Him we might not only have our salvation but also be a part in bringing Your will to fruition in this life.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that we might have the confidence, faith and love to go forth and be providers through Jesus Christ to meet the needs and spread the word of salvation to the world in such desperate need of both.  That in being allowed to partner in the completion of Your Most Perfect Plan, we would lead lives that always bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off…It is better to enter your life maimed, rather having two hands or two feet to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…..rather than having two eyes be cast into hell fire.”  Matthew 18: 8,9

“I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…..So My Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brothers trespasses”  Matthew 18:22,35

I must freely admit that the first passage referenced above has always challenged me in certain respects.  First, upon reading it several times, I wondered what should my response truly be?  For yes I do sin and normally either singularly or in combination my eye(s) or hands or feet are involved in the sin.  Thus, based on Jesus Christ’s admonition, should I be pulling out a saw and or doing some plucking?  Okay, I will also freely admit that I am weak in that department but surely there are others of stronger faith, who also admit that they sin yet they remain with all their appendages and sight.  This is also a verse that is often thrown against me from unbelievers who question what I believe in and the strength of that belief.  What kind of Loving God would ask this of His creation and why don’t you, professing to be one of His, follow through and actually do what He commands?

Some might argue that Jesus is speaking figuratively here like when he speaks to the crowds about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  We know from the instigation of the sacrament at the final supper of Jesus and His disciples, that Jesus was using the bread and the wine as symbols of His Body and Blood.  Yet we find no later connection to a sacrament or other explanation for Jesus very pointed, graphic advice He gives above.

Well then, Jesus just didn’t really mean it.  He was exaggerating, speaking in hyperbole to dramatize the dire nature of sin and the sacrificial nature of ridding ourselves of it.  And while it is true that Jesus Christ spoke in parables, this does not fit into that category and I have always found Jesus to speak with precision in teaching us His great truths.  So does that mean, being a sinner, I need to be sharpening some implements?  By the Grace of the Holy Spirit, a different answer came which also connected some powerful aspects of Matthew Chapter 18 together.

First, I had always, and now mistakenly I believe, looked at Jesus admonition about removal of hands, feet and/or eyes and the story of forgiveness as two separate but equally powerful teachings by Jesus in this chapter.  As I just stated I now believe that was an error and these two concepts are woven deeply, mercifully and wonderfully together.  Again in error, what I concentrated on was the word “sin” and again the body parts aspect, discounting the rest.  Yet, by Grace now what equally jumps out at me is the consequence; to be thrown and endure, eternal hell fire.  Again, going back to Jesus Christ’s teachings; why would that happen, what sin leads us there?  The sin that Jesus Christ is speaking of is the sin of rejecting Jesus as the Christ, the One True Son of God and/or rejecting our Heavenly Father altogether.  You see, dear Sisters and Brothers, if there is something of this world that I see, if there is something that I can reach out and grasp, if there is a path that I choose to follow, that causes me to reject Jesus Christ as God’s Son, that causes me to claim, there is no God; then I am headed to eternal damnation.  Thus, very much so, if I can not turn my gaze from that, then I should no longer have the means of seeing.  If I can not let go of that sin of rejection, then I must cut off that which tries to hold on to it or walk along the path of godlessness!  Jesus Christ is perfectly and mercifully correct; how foolish is it to spend a short life time, seemingly (though we can never be truly whole without God) whole in this short life to spend eternity in horrible suffering.

Well if that’s the case, if I believe in God then I’m free to sin as much as I want?  Absolutely not!  Unrepentant sin will ultimately lead to our rejection of Jesus Christ.  Yet, here in this same chapter; Matthew 18, Jesus Christ gives us a sense of our Merciful Heavenly Father who loves us.  Since Jesus is speaking of sin, Peter must have some grievance toward someone that Peter is tired of continuing to forgive that person for.  So he asks Jesus, just how many times should he forgive a sin committed against him; as many as seven times.  One can imagine Jesus letting out a little chuckle as He answers Peter saying:  seven times??? try seventy times seven times.  Then Jesus goes to use a parable saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who has a servant that has a great debt owed to the King which the King desires to have paid up.  The servant cannot repay the debt and pleads for mercy to which the King mercifully and generously forgives the entire debt.  The connection here is we are the servants who owe this great debt, which is our sins, to our Heavenly Father.  It is when we earnestly, honestly humble ourselves and repent, acknowledging the Heavenly Father’s righteousness and calling upon the grace-filled sacrifice of Jesus Christ to wash away our sins, that our sins are forgiven; without the cost of sacrificing a hand, foot or eye!

That is how these two wonderful pieces of Matthew 18 come together to make a marvelously merciful whole.  Whatever is blocking our way to Jesus Christ, we must utterly and completely remove from our life at this moment; regardless of what impact it has on this life or risk the certain eternal separation from Christ and Our Heavenly Father.  Yet in humility, acknowledging our falleness, we can come to Our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ and repent of our sins, not counting each repentance as some eternal spiritual check mark on a balance sheet where we will have used up all the mercy our Heavenly Father has towards us.  Jesus Christ took upon Himself; all of our sins and then sacrificed Himself and paid our price, once and for all, that in believing in Him we may receive eternal life.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we are so thankful that You have provided both the eternal, grace-filled beyond measure, sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our personal, eternal redemption, but that You, in Your wisdom, have also given us Your Word to teach us about Your redemptive plan.  Pour out Your Strength that we might be able to cast any and all things aside, no matter how seemingly dear or important to us, that might cause us to reject You or Your Son.  Humble us that we would come into your presence in true repentance for our sins and receive Your boundless mercy and forgiveness poured out through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  That in coming  to You and proclaiming Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior and sincerely repenting of our sins, we might live a life of praise and glory to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“And not one of them falls to the ground apart from Your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered”  Matthew 10:29,30

“When you pray say…..Your will be done….Give us day by day our daily bread…”  Luke 11:2,3

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Life!  We often here many descriptions or characteristics concerning it and the things that happen in it; such as:  Stuff (or a different word) happens, Don’t sweat the small stuff, Everything happens for a reason, Life’s too short, and I could continue ad nauseam.

Yet obviously life and living is, and thus things do happen as we go about the process of living.  Some things may seem small, others are exceedingly large and impactful.  Some things are wondrously joyous while others are distressingly tragic (or seem that way).  The age old question but just as relevant today is; where is God in each and all of this; and how do we know?

Alas, in a few score of words or many pages (don’t worry this will not be the case) of dissertation, I have neither the depth of wisdom nor skill of articulation to completely answer such a far reaching conundrum.  Yet I do believe that there is a place we can look and along with prayer and faithfulness receive an answer through revelation worthy of bringing us peace and blessing as we go through life’s journey.

So let’s start with the conceptual question about whether God is some sort of all powerful but aloof and distant God who starts things in motion and then stands back and passively sees where it goes.  Or is He a God who is constantly with us at each moment, looking to guide and nurture us? Which is he?  I can think of no better place to start, reference to use then scripture and the words of Christ.  When Jesus teaches us about prayer I focus in first on the request for daily bread.  The prayer and its petition make it clear that God is supplying our day by day request.  It would also appear that lends context to the point that we’re to be forgiving others constantly, to include daily and that we want Our Father’s will to be done on a continuous basis.  Additionally, as Jesus is teaching about worry, He points out that the Father knows of our specific needs and He will supply them.  He uses the illustration of how God provides food constantly for the birds of the air.  Therefore, we should not be concerned about tomorrow.  Jesus makes it very clear that Our Heavenly Father is the God of this day and every day down to the very moment.

Okay, what about big stuff versus small stuff; what does God care about?  Again, let’s look at scripture.  Now mind you, to another sparrow, a sparrow may be an important valuable bird but back in Jesus’ day as in ours, the sparrow is not particularly regarded as a rare or immensely valuable bird.  Yet Jesus declares that each sparrow is known by the Father and not one will fall to the ground unless the Father wills it.  That’s when Jesus goes on to further say that each one of our hairs is numbered again seeming to illustrate that there is not an aspect of His creation, you and I, that is outside of His knowledge or His plan (I do wish He’d decide to keep a few more of my numbered hairs on my head but that of course is up to Him).

Sure, God is with us daily and nothing about me is too small to be of His consideration.  So what do I do with that, you may ask.  Great question.  For I’ve heard two competing extremes as I ponder the things that happen in my life.  For example, let’s say that my car breaks down.  There are some who would say, that is a completely earthly happening and God has really nothing to do with that.  On the other hand there are those would say that God not only planned that, but because I was in the process of searching for a house to buy and the car broke down right in front of house for sale; that God obviously is telling me that this is the house He has planned for me so I better go make an offer on it and start measuring for curtains.  What should my faithful response be?  I think we can look to a couple of examples for our answer.

Jesus Christ was completely human and completely God in the same person, the same existence.  So in His garden of Gethsemane experience the Spirit knew what God’s plan was but the flesh was weak in wanting to carry it out.  So Jesus prayed.  And His prayer was twofold; please don’t make me go through this if you can, but more than that Thy will be done.  Now He prayed that once and returned to the disciples, one wonders from the flesh aspect if He, not seeing in soldiers, wanted to say, yup God must be letting me go; let’s get the heck outta hear.  But being perfect in obedience and faith, Jesus stayed and prayed again until the Father’s will was known by the betrayal of Judas and Jesus’ arrest.  Likewise, Paul had written about how long he had desired to visit the believers in Rome and minister unto them, yet he had been prevented.  The prevention was not man’s doing, but it was not the Will of God that Paul go.  Paul acknowledges that his finally being able to visit Rome was because it was the Will of God that he do so at that particular time.

So in the earlier example, is my car breaking down an aspect of God’s plan?  In faith I would definitely believe so.  However, like Jesus in the garden and Paul wanting to visit Rome, I first have to be open to the Will of God and not jump to my own conclusions about why my car broke down where it did.  It may be God’s will that I meet the wrecker driver who is contemplating suicide and we talk and I pray for him, helping him to feel love.  Maybe breaking down there kept me from the person who ran the stop sign in the next intersection who would have done me great harm.  Maybe I am destined to own the house which I broke down in front of.  But if I am not humble and believe I can discern God’s Will perfectly and that it is that I am to buy that house.  I may march up to the door wanting to make an offer on the house only to find that the house is already under contract to be sold to someone else.  I may demand that the contract be broken because God has ordained that the house be sold to me.  I may scream that even louder as the police officers forcibly remove from the property.  What I don’t realize I have done is supplanted my will in place of God’s Will.

Thus in faith let us understand that daily, hourly, in fact every moment; God has a plan for us and that plan is perfect.  Yet let us equally understand that it is His plan and we must be humble in subordinating our will to His Will.  As Jesus showed us, we can make requests but a part of that request must be the understanding that we want our Heavenly Father’s Will to be done because it is indeed better for us and for all when His Will is accomplished.  Our peace and joy comes from not merely the specific revelation of what that will is but the true fact that He will part the deepest sea; crumble any fortress, defeat any army, overcome any and every obstacle to bring that plan to its and our blessed fruition.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are thankful and humbled that You, the Creator of all things would love us enough to devise a perfect plan for our lives and make it Your Will to carry it out.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we live as if no plan exists or try to substitute our will for Yours.  Pour out Your Spirit of Strength and Peace on us to give us the strength to perfectly believe and be patient upon You and the peace to know You will act and Your plan and actions are perfect.  That in seeing our experience through the eyes of faith, we may give constant praise and glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man…seeking rests and finds none….he says, I will return to the house from which I came…he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits….and the last state is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24, 26

“Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man?”  Matthew 12:29

I certainly am no scientist, no Dr. Albert Einstein nor even a Dr. Sheldon Cooper on the very popular TV show Big Bang Theory.  However I’ve heard it said and have seen in action what was said by the ancient scientist and philosopher, Aristotle who was credited with the saying, “nature abhors a vacuum”.  And by its very nature a vacuum is a space vacant of all else.  Nature will do all that it can, like causing air or water to rush in, to fill a vacuum.

What does this have to do with Jesus?  Jesus understood, because He created the realms of Nature, man and spirit and knows how they are interrelated.  For Jesus knows that while there are natural vacuums there a spiritual vacuums as well and He knows how dangerous the spiritual vacuum can be.  He knows the spiritual vacuum will not stay vacant.

I know I am constantly astounded at the level of patience of Jesus Christ.  Being fully God as well as fully man, He had the power to immediately and permanently silence the cackling Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who tagged along after Him and constantly harassed Him.  Yet Jesus Christ, ever humble to His Father’s plan for sacrifice and resurrection endured the endless, ignorant squabbling of His puny tormentors.  Again they are berating Him when they should have been praising, being in awe of and even fearing Him.  Jesus has been healing people by casting out demons.  The Jewish leadership accused Jesus of being able to cast out demons, to be in charge of demons, because Jesus was the chief demon in charge.

As He has done so often in previous occurrences, Jesus answers them in a way that completely silences, refutes and confounds their logic; but He also gives them, those gathered around and us today, a great insight into the world of spiritual truth and its potentially devastating impact on us.  Also as He is so known to do, Jesus uses and illustration to make His point.

Jesus compares a person to a house.  At the time Jesus is telling the story, there is evil residing in the house, a demon.  For some reason, some theologians say it was due to an exorcism though the scripture does not plainly tell us why the demon/evil departs, but it does.  While the demon/evil is away, the person is not idle.  The person, who is the allegorical house, improves himself; he sweeps the dirt away, picks up the clutter and puts things where they should be so that the house is now in order.  Yet the house remains vacant to a certain extent or at the very least unoccupied.  The demon/evil likes where he has been and finds no other place better, no rest on the outside.  So the demon/evil returns and low and behold he finds the person in the guise of the house swept clean, things in order but fortunately for the demon/evil and tragically for the house/person, the house is vacant.  So the demon/evil comes right back in and takes up residence again in the person along with seven other evils and thus the person is so much worse off than he was before.

Now please understand this, Jesus was not extolling the virtues of keeping the first singular evil around hoping others won’t move in.  No Jesus was making it clear that the spirit world is like the natural world in that a vacancy, no matter how neat and tidy will not stay vacant.  A spiritual vacancy will be filled.  The question is, filled with who or what.

In this same interaction, Jesus makes something else crystal clear; spiritual strength matters.  Demons, the evil of this world are strong.  It is not going to be bribed or cajoled or antagonized to leave.  To force evil to leave, something stronger must enter in, overpower it, bind it, then and only then can it be conquered and driven out.

So what are we to make of this today? How does it apply to us?  In a couple of ways.  First and foremost, do not leave yourself spiritually vacant.  This world may accept the concept of the agnostic, the person who says they don’t believe or disbelieve in God; they just don’t know.  I’m not sure that term has any validity or impact in the spirit world.  For you see we’re going to be spiritually occupied whether we choose to believe so or not.  Attempting to be vacant from either is just an open invitation for the evil one to come in and take up residence.  Plus sadly, without God on our side we will not be able to resist the occupancy of the evil one no matter how good our intentions or our belief in our strength is.  Like the illustration in Luke, we may have a sense that our own power has freed us, we may be doing things like exercising, eating right, trying to do go works and kicking bad habits and that may seem to be helping for a while.  However, rest assured, evil is lurking, evil is watching and with nothing to stop it, it will take up residence in spite of any or all earthly measures we attempt to use to stop it.

Should there be a sense that what occupies us is not God, then the only way to evict the evil is to call upon He who is stronger than that evil and that resides in no earthly person, process or thing.  We must invite Jesus Christ in, to overpower the evil, bind it and drive it from us.  We must then invite Jesus Christ to continue to reside, to take up residence in us, so that should the evil ever attempt to return, it will find no way to enter back in.

One final aspect I want to touch on; the vacant room.  You may say, hey Doug; I’ve invited Christ in and He lives with me in all my rooms, except……….  We have a great ability to compartmentalize.  We might be saying to ourselves, Christ resides in all my places except the room where we go drinking, or surfing those places on the internet, or taking those certain pills, playing that certain card came for money or, or, or.  Here’s the problem with a vacant room(s), it can damage the rest of the house.  If you have a window in a “vacant” room that gets broken and rain or other vermin get in, their impact will not be limited to that room.  The dampness of the rain leaking in will eventually lead to damage in other rooms as the water seeps through the wood or carpets into other areas.  The vermin, that is rats or roaches will eventually scurry into other parts of the house trying to find food and shelter there.  In the same way, the one spiritually vacant room won’t stay vacant.  If we will not allow Jesus Christ into that room then evil will invade that room and attempt to damage other parts of our lives as well.  All rooms need to be filled with the presence of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ promises us, if we will reside in Him, He will in turn reside in us.  There can be no better occupancy than that.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are so thankful for the guidance and lessons that You brought to us through the life and teachings of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Thank You for warning us of the danger of living lives empty of You and Your protection.  Forgive us Dear Father when we attempt to use earthly means to drive out evil and deceive ourselves into thinking that we can evict or keep evil out on our own.  We pray that You would bring Your strength to overcome and evict all evil from us and continue to reside in us that evil might never find any invitation or opening to return.  That in Your occupancy in us, we would then lead lives of praise, honor and glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” Genesis 2:15

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you fudge, you will be judged…”  Matthew 7:1,2

You are right!  However, you are wrong!  You, I agree with so I will follow you!  You, I disagree with so I will reject you!  You are going to heaven for what you do!  You are going to hell for what you do!  These are all judgements.

Judgements, oh how we judge.  It seems to me that the fact that we do judge, plus and because we judge so poorly, it is our fallen flaw.  That is to say, that we judge is at the heart of virtually all our ills, problems and sins.

Why is it such a problem?  First understand the process of it.  Regardless of the circumstances, to make a judgement is to believe and declare that I have the knowledge, the wisdom, the foresight to do so.  In a way, when I make a judgement, especially about someone else, I am placing myself above them at least within the confines of the subject of my judgement.  I’m saying, whether it is positive or negative, that I have the greater insight and stature to declare, to judge, to proclaim a rightness or wrongness of some act, word, thought or perspective.  Not only is there an air of my superiority in my judgement but then so often I go onto act or behave based upon my judgement.  I may take offense at you, or shun you, attempt to correct you or change you to what I judge to be the right or correct thing.  I might join you, support you, defend you, fight for you against all others who might judge you differently.

Okay, I’m still not clear; where’s the big problem.  The problem is we judge so excruciatingly badly.  Our judgements are so often flawed by our own perspective and lack of complete information.  Additionally, once we’ve reached our judgement, we hold onto it like a pit-bull with a bone.  I so often will defend my judgement to the death; regardless of the wisdom stacked against it.

Let’s take some biblical examples.  Remember the woman who they brought to Jesus for judgement caught in the very act of adultery.  They wanted to stone her.  This was straight from the bible, straight from Leviticus.  Hmmm, well, not quite.  You see in Leviticus it states that both the man and the woman should be put to death.  So, because you can’t commit adultery unless there were two people; where was the man?  Why wasn’t he brought out to be stoned?  Also remember, Jesus understood their hearts.  They brought the woman out to test Jesus, to hopefully find something to charge Him with or at the very least drive a wedge between Him and the people.  One does not get the sense that if Jesus had not been there, they would not have drug this woman out to stone her.  Very much a flawed judgement situation.  The disciples were not immune to misjudgment.  When a village did not receive Jesus as He was heading to Jerusalem, James and John, remember they were a part of Jesus’ inner circle, judged that it would be correct to call fire down and destroy the village.  Jesus rebuked them for their harsh judgement.  When, after speaking with the rich man, Jesus declared how difficult it was for a rich man to enter heaven, the disciples were astonished that rich people had troubles getting into heaven.  In their judgement, if anyone should be able to get in it would be the rich.  And of course not to leave out, the judgement of the human Jewish leadership, judging and condemning Jesus based upon their own understanding of scripture and validity of Jesus’ teaching.

Additionally (heavy sigh) today, how often we judge!  What party are you from?  What race, gender, nationality, religion….(fill in the blank) are you?  Sadly even in the Christian world, what denomination are you, or do you dance, drink, how often do you go to church, how much do you give; all these things are judgements that we make.  Seemingly we are getting ever more stubborn, more intransigent, more self righteous in our judgements.  Plus then we behave on the basis of our judgements; we shun some, we insult others, we hold grudges against others, we chase after some we shouldn’t; all because we are willing to judge and then believe in our judgements as the ultimate truth.

Judgement is a flaw that we pass down from generation to generation.  It is our fallen flaw.  It keeps us from seeing ourselves equal to all the rest of our Heavenly Father’s creation.  Remember the first judgement that Adam and Eve made after gaining the knowledge that they could judge good and evil; they hid from God.  So our judging often puts us at odds and keeps us away from the relationship that God wants us to have with Him and with each other.

Understand this, if we can keep from judging, how fuller, more blessed our life can be!  To the extent I can forestall judgement, I can truly try to understand the different perspectives around me.  I can truly be humble and see that I am equal to all of God’s creation.  I can be curious to learn about others and how they have come to the thoughts that they have, not necessarily wanting to adopt those thoughts, but at least gaining an understanding for the basis upon which those thoughts originate.

But we are fallen, we do judge, so what are we to do?  First, we should pray.  Pray to the Holy Spirit to keep us from the temptation of and give us the power over the desire to judge.  Second, to be repentant to not only the Lord but to one another for the judgements that we make truly asking for forgiveness.  We need to really delve into God’s word to glean the greatest wisdom that we can.  Finally, we must try to understand and live the truth that judgement rests with One Person, One Entity and that is Jesus Christ. Remember what He declared; that His (and through Him, Our) Heavenly Father, had granted Jesus Christ the power and the right to judge the earth.  Yet instead of judging the earth and condemning it; Jesus instead decided to die for it, to redeem it.  If Jesus Christ won’t judge the world; what right do we have to attempt to judge it.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; we confess that we are a people of judgement.  We judge each other and sadly, we even attempt at times to judge You.  We also confess that are judgements are faulty and evil and lead to distress and destruction.  Please forgive and restore us, Dear Father, pouring out Your Spirit of love, that we would be more about forgiveness than judgement, charity than repayment and mostly about unconditional love.  As in Your Perfect Plan, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, not to judge us but to save us, fill us with love for one another so that we will also forsake judgement of our fellow person and choose forgiveness and love instead.  That in abiding in and sharing the Grace of Christ, we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

 

“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone…..It is written, You shall worship the Lord you God…….It has been said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God”  Luke 4:4, 8,12

“…Trust in the Lord, He is your help and your shield”  Psalm 115:9

“….be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God…..For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers…rulers of the darkness of this age”  Ephesians 6:11,12

There is much said, written concerning, contemplated about self-respect.  However, there is a term that I don’t hear used much yet I think is a concept that is equally worth the mental and spiritual effort we put towards respect and that is the concept of self-trust.  Now I will grant you that is not a term that is used with any sort of frequency and I’m not sure why not.

Why the importance?  Why devote a post to it?  First because, in my experience working with groups, trust is a fundamental attribute of success in how a group can function together.  When relationships end and especially end badly; one often common theme is that one party has done something, committed some infraction that has caused the other to lose trust in them and feel they can never recover it.  Trust seems to be one of those fundamental values, underlying characteristics that drive a tremendous amount of our feelings and therefore, behaviors towards others and different situations.

Yet in this post I want to approach trust from a different standpoint, a different perspective that I believe is vital, if not critical to our spiritual success and wellbeing.  It concerns that amount of trust we place in ourselves; especially when it entails “doing the right thing” or “overcoming temptation”.

I am constantly amazed at how we (or at least I) trust myself, yet am often not willing to extend that trust beyond me.  I would not steal, but I have to keep a wary eye on you.  Trust me, take me at my word; but I want you to jump through a lot of hoops to prove what you’re saying to me.  If I say I’m going to, I’m going to….but you better show me your plan to prove that you will do it.  And I could go on and on…

So here’s the critical question:  “Is the trust, sometimes absolute trust I place in myself really justified; especially when it comes to spiritual matters?”  We might be wise to look how Jesus Christ handled temptation.

There are many mysteries around Jesus Christ that I can’t fully understand, let alone explain, yet I faithfully accept.  Jesus Christ was both completely God and completely human.  Thus Jesus Christ could be and indeed was tempted.  Yet, being also completely God, Jesus Christ was able to completely resist the temptation, remaining perfect without sin.  Yet, let us look at how Jesus Christ answered the temptations of Satan.  Jesus Christ did not declare or simply rely on or in His own power as the One Begotten Son of God that Satan should depart or be destroyed.  No, Jesus Christ quoted the words of His Father in Heaven; Jesus quoted scripture.  Jesus used the power of His Father’s words to refute the temptations of Satan and thwart Satan’s attempts to cause Him to sin.   Did Jesus have to do that or was He giving us an example to learn from, I don’t know and in fact I think is irrelevant.  Jesus was not too proud to forsake using His own words or power but instead to reach for the Words of His Father.

At another time, a time of deep distress for Jesus, when He was in the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was facing the prospect of becoming sin for all time and dying an excruciating death on the cross; Jesus did not just spend time in mediation, He did not say to Himself:  “It is time to pull myself up by my bootstraps and face this”.  No, Jesus prayed.  He prayed to His Heavenly Father for help to go through it in fulfilling the Father’s Will through the Son.

So here’s the crucial concept for us.  Whether or not we’ve ever been, I don’t see us as a particularly humble people today.  Our society extolls concepts like self reliance and self determination as great virtues.  We tell, almost preaching to our children; you can be or do anything you put your mind to or dream you can do.  So does it follow that if we or our children fall short, the problem was that we didn’t put our mind to it enough?  We did dream or want it bad enough?  I trust that I should be able to do this or that on my own?

You see, dear Sisters and Brothers, we may very well want to be good.  We also may very well understand and admit that there are temptations in this world that lead us to sin.  Yet if we trust solely, souly or even primarily in ourselves, our own power, our own determination to defeat those temptations; we do place ourselves in great peril of sinning.  I know that I am tempted in this way so I trust my own strength to stop drinking this or eating that.  I trust in my own will power to stop saying this, visiting that, watching those things.  Paul in his letter to the Ephesians spells it out plainly that without trusting in something greater than ourselves, and that being the whole armor of God; we will fail in our battle against the evil arrayed against us.

You see Jesus Christ defeated temptation the way He did because He is God.  We are not God and as His creation, in and of ourselves, we will not be equal to God.  Thus to be victorious over temptation and sin, we must humble ourselves and call upon the power of Almighty God.  We must understand that only through abiding in Jesus Christ, studying and relying on the Word of God, praying for His strength to overcome the power of Satan, can we have confidence in being able to defeat the powers of darkness.  Satan would have us believe it is a weakness to not trust ourselves, but Jesus Christ would tell us it is a blessing, an act of loving relationship; that our Creator God, cares enough for us that He will share His power with us to defeat our greatest enemy.  He gave His only Son, in proof of His redemptive love and grace filled plan for us.  Please, please let us put our full and true trust souly in Him.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly admit that we are not You and are not powerful enough to defeat the enemy of this world and the temptations he brings against us.  Yet we also confidently proclaim that we are Your creation and through You and the gift of Your power and grace; we can be victorious over the enemy and his temptations.  As Your Son taught us to pray; keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil.  Help us to rely on You and not trust in ourselves.  Forgive us when, in our own pride and arrogance, we fall by attempting to defeat the enemy on our own, with our own devices.  That in trusting in You and sharing Your victory, we will lead lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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