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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

So let’s begin with a couple of givens:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.  These things I command you, that you love one another.”  John 15:12, 17

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done…and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.”  Ecclesiastes 2:33

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s own life for his friends.” John 15:13

Using the ever present internet I attempted to look up the author of the saying: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.  Alas, I could not find anything authoritative concerning the person who first spoke this oft quoted mantra.  What I did find; however, was an amazing amount of articles extolling the wisdom of this comment and some who were dead set against that philosophy.

In my own experience as trainer/facilitator of adults in many different subjects over three decades, I can tell you I have seen a shift in the approach and philosophy toward work.  Decades ago,  I found there to be more a focus on work; whether it be a daily job or a life long career, toward the stability of employment, the ability from a financial standpoint to provide for one’s self and family and a modicum of time that one could spend away from work in the pursuit of other things.  The concept of “loving” work was not very prevalent.  Although, I will surely admit that there was a desire for a certain amount of “job satisfaction”; rarely did I find that to be the overriding measure of the success of “work”.

Yet over time, and partially amongst different generations, I experienced that concept shifting.  I started to hear and continue to increasingly hear more about the need  for most every aspect of effort that is being applied to “work” or vocation to be personally fulfilling and rewarding.  There needs to be a deep, sustainable joy encapsulated in virtually each day’s work shift or there is something wrong with the job or vocation chosen.  The unending quest, the “Holy Grail” if you will of work,  is the complete connection to, the earthly evaluation of the worth of effort being generated, being tied to evaluation of the worth of the self; where the ultimate goal of work is not defining what “we do” but rather “who we are”!

A reader might get the sense that I prefer the attitude of “the good old days where work was a bad four letter word” to today’s quest for the meaning of life in work.  I assure you that is not the case at all. For in that “old style” thinking of work it was far to easy to compartmentalize it.  Often people would see work as having nothing to do with God and therefore, He was never a part of it and thus I could act however I pleased while in the process of work.  God was in the church on Sunday; Monday through Friday, God never made it onto the plant floor or through the office door.  Solomon seems to have a fairly dark, depressed notion about life in general in his biblical book; Ecclesiastes, yet he several times mentioned that the proper outlook to have was to look at the work completed by one’s hands as a gift from God.

Yet when I look at how God described work to Adam as he was being driven from the garden, when I look at what Jesus told his disciples when he sent them out two-by-two to teach and heal in the towns in the country side of Judea, when I read what the risen Christ said in the “Great Commission”; never did I come across the word “love” being used as it applies to our work or even our vocation.

Why do I think this is so important?  Because of what and when Jesus Christ was talking about when He did decide to speak of love.  Understand Jesus spoke at great length about love.  Yet it seems that love was a very special way of being.  That love, being in love, the state of love was to be specially reserved for God first, then only one other aspect of creation; primarily each other.  Love was and is a gift from God to be cultivated for and returned to God and then shared with our fellow human beings.  True, those human beings may very well be our enemies; but they are still living, breathing human beings.  Jesus was also very clear; love should not be for inanimate things; money or lavish houses or costly perfumes.

When Jesus talked about an example of love; true love, He talked about the actual laying down of one’s life for the object of that love; in this case being, a friend.  Yet I believe I have seen people who love, truly love their work.  I have seen how they are willing to sacrifice virtually everything, their friends, their spouse, their children, even their health; sacrifice it all for the “work” that they do.  They so identify with what they do, that it becomes the only reason for their existence, with any and all other aspects of their life coming in second.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, none other than God, Himself warned us that He is jealous over us.  Time and time again, He showed His extreme displeasure when we put anything; built any idol which we placed in a higher priority, that we love more than Him. Can we enjoy our work? Can we see blessing and joy from our vocation? Most assuredly.  I very much enjoy writing.  I experience in writing a connection to God and a reason to love God all the more.  Yet should I ever find that I love writing more than the people that God has blessed me with by bringing into my life, should I find that I either sacrifice myself to or worse yet, sacrifice my family, friends to this process of, this work of writing; then I believe I am committing a grave sin.  Should that happen, I believe God will be swift and perhaps harsh in getting my attention to repent and change from that sacrifice to an idol.

Love God through your work.  Indeed, use your work to love others.  With that sort of outlook on work, that sort of setting of priorities; blessings will come to you through the work that you do.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; You have blessed us in that there is no aspect of human endeavor, except sin, that if we seek You we can not find You; even work.  Yet we confess that we are tempted to take an earthly view of work, elevating it to an equal status of love, an equivalent impact in our lives as You are.  Forgive us we pray, Most Merciful Father and pour out Your Spirit upon us allowing us to see that love is to be reserved in sharing first with You and then with our fellow human beings.  That all other things, earthly created should not share in our love, whether it be possessions or vocations.  Help us to seek you out, daily in the work that we do that we might find the true blessings You intend for us through the work You have appointed for us.  That in having the correct priorities; we would live lives of praise, not to us and our efforts, but to You and Your loving gifts to us.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Now, behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.”  Luke 24:13

“Simon Peter, Thomas, called the twin, Nathanael of Cana, the sons of Zebedee and two others of His disciples were together.   Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing’. They said to him, ‘We are going with you'”.  John 21:2,3

Post Easter life?  I’m posting this in late September, about 6 months away from when we last celebrated Easter.  What’s up with that?  Of course if you consider it, really consider it; while we celebrate and commemorate Easter ever year it’s by many estimates approximately 1,986 years since the actual Easter events took place.  Where am I going with this?

On one level, let’s say the historical, 30,000 foot level, there can be little dispute of the impact of Easter and what happened afterward.  Not only is the the personal salvation of all who believe in Jesus Christ as the One True Son of God, who died and rose again from the dead, who believe and call upon His name for our salvation a blessed outcome.  There was also the spreading of His Word and the starting of faith communities that have become powerful, powerful churches, a process that continues down through this very day.

Yet I think we need to reflect on a different level, in my case about the 6 foot 3 inch level or whatever height you happen to be.  What about the personal, life altering, faith affirming, joy living, devil defeating impact of Easter?  What about our post Easter life?

In turning to scripture for an example, we might think that all who followed Jesus, upon hearing that He had risen, immediately went out with the mission of spreading His gospel.  Yet scripture tells us something different.

In one instance two followers, who although not of the 11 remaining disciples were still close enough to the disciples to have heard about Jesus having risen from the dead about the same time as the disciples,  decided to leave Jerusalem on that very day.  We’re not sure what business they had in Emmaus, but 7 miles is a significant journey on foot.  And while yes, they were discussing the happenings of the past weeks, one gets the sense they were talking about in terms of a tragic memory versus an event that was motivating them to action.  They were going on their way.

Okay, but obviously the disciples handled it differently.  Obviously upon hearing that Jesus Christ had risen and seeing the empty tomb; they made immediate and profound plans of action.  Well scripture does tell us that they did meet together in an upper room.  Though again we’re told this was out of fear of what might happen to them.  In an another instance in John; many of the group decide to go fishing.  Not going fishing to be “fishers of men”; but going fishing to be fishers of fish…..for dinner.

Okay now Doug, you’re forgetting one critical thing, you might be saying to me; you’re forgetting Pentecost.  No, not really.  I realize that Pentecost had not happened yet and I absolutely agree about the power that filled them when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them in grace and blessing.  In fact, it is an important aspect to my thesis here.

You see when Jesus Christ was praying after the “Last Supper” and before He was arrested in the garden; He not only prayed for Himself and then His disciples, but then He prayed for you and I too.  He prayed for all us who would hear about Jesus Christ and believe.  He prayed that we would be One in Him, just like the disciples.  Pentecost happened.  The Holy Spirit came and the Word spread.

So now back to the 6 foot 3 inch level.  Often there is a glow to Post Easter and Post Christmas for that matter.  Especially with Easter and its location in Spring, we see the renewal of the earth and it speaks; nay, it shouts to us of the old becoming new, of God’s promise of abundant life and salvation, of a promise of rejuvenation and restoration.  But then the months drag on; Spring becomes Summer and Summer, Fall.  And if we’re not careful, Easter becomes a memory, a pleasant one, but a memory all the same.

Why?  The world and the prince of this world tries to intervene.  The enemy throws worldly life at us; there are careers to be focused on, children to be raised, bills to pay, vacations to take.  There are things to buy and things to fix.  Alas, even in our houses or worship, the year progresses.  There is the current budget to fret over and next year’s budget to plan for.  We have to fill all those upcoming committee vacancies and hopefully come up with a “bless their socks off, Christmas pageant.

Are we walking to Emmaus?  Are we going fishing?  What I love, so totally love is Jesus Christ’s response in these two situations.  He doesn’t get angry and berate them for not being focused on Him with grand plans for spreading the kingdom.  He doesn’t threaten them with eternal damnation if they don’t get their act together!  Instead, He feeds them.  In both the two men walking to Emmaus and the disciples fishing; Jesus Christ, Creator come to Earth, God, sits down and feeds them.  Jesus Christ not only feeds them physically, taking care of their physical needs; but feeds them spiritually as well.

Jesus Christ longs to fellowship and feed us as well.  He knows that we have the grace filled blessing of the Spirit within us.  Because of His experience on this earth, He also blessedly knows the temptations we face, the struggles that we hold to ourselves instead of sharing with Him.  He knows how hungry, how famished we are; even if we do not.

Easter matters.  Easter matters in Fall, just as much as it does in Spring.  Easter is love.  Easter is an expression of love, grace and salvation which surpasses all understanding which we dare not turn away from.  Jesus Christ died for You and I that we might have life.  Let us turn to, let us fellowship with, let us feast upon the salvation, the grace, the love which is truly meant to be our Post Easter Life.  In the Name of Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we can not praise enough, proclaim enough, be thankful enough for Your Plan of Salvation that transpired at Easter.  Forgive us when we neglect any effort, any attempt to try.  Turn us back through the Holy Spirit to focus on abundant life You have in store by abiding in Jesus Christ.  Let it be that we strive to lead lives that tell a distraught and downtrodden world that Easter matters, that their salvation is at hand.  That through our lives, the Spirit would beckon those whom You are calling to follow You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord.  Amen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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