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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He created him; male and female…Then God blessed them…Then God saw everything He had made and indeed it was very good.”  Genesis 1:27.28, 31

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

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” John 10:10

Dear readers, this intended to be a slightly shorter post (I can hear the applause coming across the internet :) ).  For being an instructor and facilitator as long as I have been; I know that no one can be forced to learn.  In the same way, no one can be forced; first, to make a decision and second should they decide to decide, what choice they decide, which can be influenced, can not be completely forced.  Ah, that free will thing.

So it is Dear Sisters and Brothers, if you are reading this and decide to continue on; no one can argue that you are indeed alive.  Your heart is beating, your lungs are taking in air and your brain synapses are firing.  So the basic, bottom-line questions is: How do you see your life? Is your (and my) life a gift from God?  Is it a burden (perhaps placed on us by God or not)?  Is it a curse?  Do please understand two things.  First, I’m asking you to think, not just about your circumstances concerning today; but how you truly see your life in total.  Second, this is not a purely academic or fuzzy, nebulous exercise.  For how you see or define your life is how you will behave toward yourself, toward God, toward others.

So (and again briefly) let’s explore this question.  First, scripture tells us in the beginning; that all God created was good, indeed very good.  God did not create us to be burdened or even cursed.  Yet we rebelled.  Surely at that point, God cursed us, turned His back on us, levied burdens on us too tough to bear.  God did not curse Cain when he slew his brother Abel.  Yes Cain was sent away but God swore to protect Him.  Look how God protected and provided for Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ruth and so many more regular, imperfect people who had faith in Him.

Yet for all that God did for us we could not find it within ourselves to save ourselves and come into a righteous eternal relationship with Him.  Again, He didn’t curse us and turn His back on us.  On the contrary, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to do what we could not.  Through His death and resurrection; Jesus Christ allowed us to come into eternal fellowship with our Heavenly Father.  To experience the true gift our life can be.

So how do we respond?  First, like an earthly gift, we can completely reject the gift and the giver, seeing no value in what is being given to us.  Or, we can see that it is a gift, but like that crazy relative that keeps giving us strange and unwanted things, we can politely accept the gift and seeing no value in it, put it way in a closet, never bringing it out or maybe just once or twice a year.  A few, fortunate ones may see the gift for the treasure it is.  Understanding that the giver didn’t just give to us one thing and then step away to see if we’d use it right or not.  No, God everyday, is adding to His gift of life.  God is teaching us, blessing us, leading us and most important of all; loving us.

Dear Sisters and Brothers; our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know that we will sometimes mistreat Their wonderful gift of life.  They also know that many will reject not only the gift and the Giver, but will also reject and be jealous of those who choose to accept the gift and be blessed by it.  Yet neither of those things will diminish the lengths that God is ready to go to sustain the wonderful gift He has given.  Today, regardless of your (or my) circumstances, God wants to give you, His Peace, His Joy, His Strength, His Spirit, His Love.  All He demands, all He expects, all He truly wants in return; is that we accept His gift and accept Him who is the giver, as well as He through and by who the gift is given; Jesus Christ.  A fundemental joy, peace and amazement await all who will truly, faithfully accept.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we give You thanks and praise for the gift of this life that You have given us.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we take this gift for granted or worse yet, see it as a burden or curse.  Restore us through Your Love and Spirit we pray, that in living into Your most precious gift, we would live lives of praise and glory to Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to your children who ask Him?  Matthew 7:11

“…..yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”  Luke 18:5

Prayer, the power of prayer, the need for prayer, the response to prayer; these are all things Jesus Christ taught about.  Jesus not only taught about them but He practiced them as well.  We see in His words, His thoughts, His deeds just how much we can learn from Him.

In the first instance above in Matthew; this portion of the lesson follows the very famous, oft quoted: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you.  Jesus juxtaposes the limitations and evil intentions of those created to the perfect loving, without limitations, Father.  If we, who are flawed, still want to do good by our own children when they ask or are in need, then why would we doubt that He who is perfect would do even better for His children?

In the next example cited in Luke; Jesus is also teaching about prayer.  He starts out the lesson about praying continually and not losing heart.  In His example, the widow is praying to a judge who is neither particularly wise or just.  The scripture tells us that the judge fears neither God nor man.  Normally the judge would have nothing to do with this poor widow and at first declines her request.  Yet the widow keeps coming back and through her persistence, compels the judge to administer justice on her behalf. Jesus goes on to make the point that God will also definitely avenge those of His who are wronged.  Jesus states that God has patience and mercy but will not be slow.  Though Jesus Christ asks this final question:  “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”.

Two amazingly powerful lessons in and of themselves.  But put these two lessons together and they become a life altering and faith affirming message.  Because maybe it’s only me, I know that there is power in prayer, I know that I have read about and seen prayers answered in amazing ways.  Yet I also know that I have found myself praying for something specific (maybe about this blog site or books that I’ve written) and how quickly I desire a response as well as how quickly, if I don’t feel the response is coming, I give up praying for it.  In a way, I find myself answering my own prayer in how quickly I give up the idea of praying on its behalf.

Now do understand that this is not the same as receiving an answer that I just don’t agree with.  The first lesson tells me whatever Our Heavenly Father responds with, is exactly what is best, what is perfect for me; no less has been provided and no more is needed.  Yet the second lesson tells me that God is always listening; that God has His timing and that it is a faithful thing for me to do, to continue petition Him for those things I believe He has laid on my heart.

The enemy would try to convince us otherwise.  The enemy would try to convince us that God does not listen to us; He is too busy, He is too uncaring, He is too judgemental to answer any request that we have.  Second, Satan would have us believe, if at first a prayer seems unheard then don’t, don’t pray it again.  Satan would have us believe that to pray for something a second time is actually an act of faithlessness instead of an act of faith.

So again, Jesus Christ gives us a life affirming message for us to live by.  Our Father in Heaven wants us to have a relationship with Him where we will come to Him and ask; seek and knock.  Our Father in Heaven does not find fault when we ask for something repeatedly, assuming we do so in the faith that Our Father will act in His time; that His will be done.  The repeated prayer does a couple of things.  First, it keeps us focused on what we believe God has put on our heart.  Second, it reaffirms our faithful belief that God hears our prayers and will answer them.  That is a lesson that can keep you and I centered on the right path, utilizing the right resource, relying on the real truth and living the better life.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are thankful and awe inspired that You the Creator of all things would allow us to make and truly listen to the petitions we ask of You.  Help us to have the faith to not fear to bring our heart’s desire to You.  Thank you Father, that in Your Mercy, You are not angered by our repeated petitions and in fact find faith in those.  Forgive us Father when we find ourselves doubting that You will even listen to us or believe we should give up if Your answer is not immediate.  That in Your timing and Your answers we would be filled with thanksgiving and praise.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

Whom will understand the message?……For precept must be upon precept….line upon line….here a little, there a little”  Isaiah 28:9, 10

“This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest and this is the refreshing.”  Isaiah 28:12

“….the knowledge of the Son of God….that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men….”  Ephesians 4:14

To study, based on the definition on Dictionary.com it means to: apply oneself to acquisition of knowledge, to apply oneself, to think deeply, reflect or consider.  Sounds kind of dry doesn’t it?  Maybe it sounds like the sort of things that scholars do.  Maybe, from a church or theological (even that word can sound imposing) standpoint I expect my pastor to do that sort of thing.  When do I have the time?  What will be my reward?

God completely understands the gulf between He and us.  He completely understands the depth of His knowledge compared to ours.  He is fully aware of our lack of understanding.  God knows our capacity or lack thereof to take in His meanings and lessons, especially all at once.  Thus God has broken down His word for us.  God has given us manageable chunks to try and absorb.  His Word is filled with precepts and then numerous examples showing the application of those precepts.

Yet you know, especially today, no worldly school (perhaps beside a seminary) is going to give me a grade for taking time to study the bible.  People at work don’t even want me to have my bible on my desk at work let alone be seen reading it.  My day is filled already and there is no “147 character” version that I can just skim through and get what I need.  What’s the point? It’s all about a bunch of old people in the past that doesn’t have any relevance today?

Dear Sisters and Brothers there is a tremendous amount of competition for our time.  Often because of our new technologies, more and more things and people connected to those things can make demands on our focus and our time.  Obviously if you’re reading this, there is something else that you’re not doing (thank you very much by the way, but if this is keeping you from bible time, please leave. :) ).

But our Creator is calling for us.  Our Creator is trying to get our attention.  Our Creator is telling us that He has something for us.  Our Father in Heaven is telling us that He has the knowledge; the knowledge to and for our rest and refreshing, our knowledge for peace and even true, lasting prosperity, all this God has for us.  And unlike, some very pricey degree plans, this is at no cost, there will be no student loans to repay.  In fact we’ve actually received spiritual aid already.  The price for that aid was very high.  Christ came as our teacher and professor, and not only that but our savior as well, dying for us to be able to come to God’s university.

Though you might ask:  What should we be studying?  Who should we be listening to?  God, through the Holy Spirit told us that as well.  Through the apostles the Holy Spirit warned us that many would come with various man-made, world focused doctrines.  We were warned that these doctrines are false and those who follow them will perish.  So what is to be the basis of our study?  It starts with He who was at the beginning and through which all came into being; it starts with Jesus Christ.  It starts with studying the Word that declares Jesus Christ, the first and only truly begotten Son of God.  Then does that mean that I only study the New Testament and even then only the four gospels?  No, Jesus Christ tells us that the earlier scriptures point to Him.  So in studying the entire Old Testament and the entire New Testament, we see the wisdom of Our Heavenly Father in its totality plus we see the consistency of His Love and His message.

One final point to be careful about though, even in our most strenuous study, even with our most amazing epiphanies, we will never completely know or understand the Mind of God.  One aspect our study should bring about is the humility of acknowledging  the incomprehensibly complex and perfect wisdom of Our Heavenly Father.  Yet at the same time, it should strengthen our faith in His all encompassing power and majesty.  It should strengthen our faith in His utter faithfulness to keep His promises to us.  For He has promised us rest.  He has promised us a peace.  He has promised to bring us through everything into His presence through Jesus Christ.  That is the knowledge that comes from and through our diligent study.  That is a reward, a degree if you will, well worth the effort to obtain. Let’s get cracking!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we admit that we long to know You.  We thank You that You have given us Your Word, You have given us Your Son as a great Teacher and Savior, that You have given us the Holy Spirit to reside within us to be a personal teacher.  Though we confess Heavenly Father that too often we neglect the time to truly study Your Word.  We also confess that we often neglect the resources that You have provided looking to our devices and doctrines to understand You.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father and lead us back to the light of Your knowledge.  That in our study we may find the rest and refreshing that You have promised, that our strength in and praise of You will become ever greater.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen

“In the beginning God……”  Genesis 1:1

” I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.”  Revelation 1:11

” I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10

The beginning and the end, Genesis and Revelation, creation and destruction, birth and death, seemingly these are topics that are easy for us to see the Hand of God in.  It is very often that we think and speak in terms of the “miracle” of birth.  Also, because so often a person’s death will not come at a time that we would have not preferred we think and speak in terms of God “calling a loved one home”.

It is not only concerning the beginning and ending of our lives, how many of us have, in our prayer rituals, a time in the morning when we pray and perhaps a day ending prayer before we go to sleep.  Don’t misunderstand me, it is great to have regular times to commune with our Heavenly Father.  Yet what about the in between time?  To what extent do we see Our Heavenly Father’s Hand in the in between?  In what ways are we willing to purposefully understand the control Our Heavenly Father has in the in between?  I ask that last question especially with those words in mind.  I don’t ask: To what extent are we willing to give up or cede control to God.  For I believe God does not have to wait for us to give Him permission to be in control.  The reality is, when we try to take control, think that we are in control, no matter how inaccurate that concept might be with the disastrous results for us that thinking has, we have not in truth wrested control of anything from God.

That may be the largest part of the problem.  You and I know that we didn’t ordain or control our birth and will most likely not control the time and circumstance of our death.  Yet as time goes on we believe that we control the vast majority of life in between.  The world at least would tell us so.  The world would tell us there is some magic number of dollars that will make us happy (although from the world’s perspective that magic number will never be met).  The world tells us if we live in this certain place, with these material things surrounding us, if our bodies look a certain way and our mate’s bodies also look a certain way, if we have this degree or that accomplishment, if we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and make something of ourself, then we will attain a truly happy and abundant life.  The world would tell us that the more we can claim we did it ourselves the happier we will be.  The world would tell us to rely on anyone, especially the All Powerful God, actually diminishes our accomplishment.

Jesus knew and knows better.  Think about Jesus ministry.  He didn’t just appear to bless babies when they were born and officiate at funerals when they died.  Jesus was all about improving the human condition in all phases of life.  He made sure that the little children could come to Him for blessings.  He blessed young people at their weddings.  He healed the sick, lame, diseased and spiritually ill of all ages and walks of life.  While He famously said that all who believe in Him will have the eternal life of the future, so much of what he preached about and blessed were the lives of the individual day; the here and now.  He didn’t leave people hurting saying, your reward is in the future.  He didn’t pass by feeding the thousands telling them how there will always be food when they get to heaven.  He came to provide life, today, and to do so abundantly.

How do I and you live into that abundant life?  It requires a restructuring of how we think and feel.  Among other things I do, I am a corporate facilitator.  I will often get to a classroom or training site early and say a prayer asking for blessing for the attending group.  At the end of the session, as much as I can, I say a prayer of thanksgiving for Our Heavenly Father’s help.  What I struggle with is seeing God in the moments in between.  In the heat of the moment when a powerful discussion is going on, an audiovisual machine might be acting up, a test is about to be given; that is when I tend to tune God out and think in terms of myself and my world only.  To understand that, in the moment, God has control over all.  He does cloth the lilies daily and give each bird its shelter and food daily.  The task is to grow in relationship to God in all times knowing that God is a God of in between also.  It requires prayer which is why Paul exhorts us to pray without ceasing.  It requires connecting to the Holy Spirit who can overpower the message of the world and keep us focused on God.

Dear sisters and brothers, The Alpha and Omega is not the beginning and the end.  In truth it is He is the Alpha through the Omega.  God is.  God is at all places.  God is at all times.  Beginning, now, end, God is there.  He is there not just as a bystander, a commentator, a disinterested third party, or critic, God is our Creator.  His love for us is for now and forever.  He sent His Son to be our salvation, not their salvation in the past, not some salvation to come in the future.  We are saved.  Then, let us live abundantly; abundant life, abundant love, abundant mercy, abundant faith, knowing that our God is the God of  all things including the in between.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim to all that You are the Alpha and the Omega.  You were at the beginning and will be at the end.  Yet we also proclaim that You are the God of our now.  Forgive us Merciful Father when we forget to rely on You and rather trust in ourselves.  Reveal to us Your presence in our lives at all times.  That through that revelation we will find ourselves living abundant lives of praise and thanksgiving in You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen


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