“God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. God spoke to Cain: ‘Why this tantrum? Why this sulking?'”  Genesis 4:5,6

“Their plan was to turn west into Asia province but the Holy Spirit blocked their route. So they went to Mysia and tried to Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there. ….we walked from there to Philippi…..was to be a prayer meeting…we talked with them….As she listened…she believed!”  Acts 16: 6, 8, 12-14

The above two experiences are centuries apart.  One happened reasonably shortly after creation, the other reasonably shortly after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The first involved Cain, one of Adam’s sons and the other, the apostle Paul.  Yet in both cases, the Will of God, thwarted the plans of men, without a significant amount of explanation.  The reactions of the two men were exceedingly different, impacting not only their lives but the lives of those around them.

Let’s start with Cain.  Besides being one of Adam’s sons, we know precious little about Cain at this point in scripture.  The bible tells us that Cain was the older of the two sons.  As one would expect for that time, both made their livings so to speak, “off the land”.  Seemingly, both also intended to honor God; for both decided to bring their offerings before God.  Abel brought produce from his farm and scripture also tells us that Cain brought an offering from his first born animal, choice cuts of meat.  God liked Abel’s offering but did not approve of Cain’s offering.

I want to pause for a moment here, because here’s where I think we, like Cain can stumble.  Scripture does not tell us why God did not approve of Cain’s offering.  We are generations before Moses received very detailed instructions on the mountain concerning proper sacrifices.  I’ve heard many reasons put forth as to why Cain missed the mark.  Seemingly, without that understanding, we seem to feel that Cain was unfairly treated and had every right to get mad.  However, dear Sisters and Brothers, we’re talking about God, the Creator of all things, having perfect Knowledge and a perfect Plan. Is it really His responsibility to, are we His creation, owed an explanation from Him?

Here’s a vital point that I think gets glossed over, too often left out and rarely stressed enough.  The story seems to go, after the disapproval, Cain goes out, gets in a fight with his brother and then kills him; only to have his sin uncovered subsequently by God after that famous utterance by Cain “am I my brother’s keeper?”.  We get the sense that Cain was left all alone in his despair, which then boiled over in his lashing out at the injustice and smiting his brother.  But please, please, please do not overlook the intervening action from God between the offering’s disapproval and the committing of murder.  God saw that Cain was troubled.  Instead of turning His back on Cain, or banishing him right there and then; God came to Cain to try and help him.  God let Cain know that this offering was not a one and you’re done failure.  God advised Cain that he could improve and if he set his sights on improving, on doing well, then Cain would be accepted just like his brother had been.  God also warned Cain that his anger was dangerous in that it could lead to sin, which of course it tragically ended up doing.

Then there is the Apostle Paul.  One gets the sense in reading many of the letters that Paul wrote as well as his actions, detailed in the Book of Acts, that Paul was a determined individual; that in today’s vernacular we’d say he had a “strong personality”.  When Paul felt strongly about something, he did not mince words about saying exactly how he felt.  Similarly, Paul was not afraid to confront those he disagreed with including the likes of Peter, the one who Christ named the rock. Both in the letters and in Acts we learn that there were places that Paul definitely wanted to travel to; Asia for one and desperately in fact, Rome for another.  Paul mentions that he has plans and those plans, several times, get thwarted.  Paul also leaves no doubt as to who he blames for his plans not happening; the Spirit; whether that be the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ, it is a divine Spirit that prevents him. There are times in Paul’s letters where it is easy to read a sense of frustration, exasperation or even desperation at being stopped at that particular time.

Here’s the thing dear Sisters and Brothers; Paul could have become angry, he could have sulked, he could have stopped and said:  “That’s it, no Rome, no more preaching from me!”.  But Paul didn’t do that.  Instead, Paul accepted, however reluctantly so, the blocking from God and moved to where he was led.  In one case, Paul received a message from God in a dream about where to go, although again, it was not where Paul had said he wanted to go; but he went.  And because Paul went, so many knew faith communities were started, Paul received so many blessings traveling the path, God chose for him to travel.

What does that mean for us today? Think of what the world is telling us today; the worldly mantra:  I can be anything, do anything I want as long as I want it bad enough and will work tirelessly to get it.  Look at how many “I”s are in that statement. Maybe there’s some passing nod at God because some would suggest that God is the one that puts the specific “anything” in my heart so I’m okay in my single minded pursuit. Yet make no mistake, our Heavenly Father is the Creator, He has a plan, a perfect plan. My “anything” no matter how much I want it, strive for it, live for it; does not trump His plan.  So let’s say that my “anything”, that I’m striving for is aligned with His plan; is my timing aligned with His timing; is my “anything” for His glory, am I willing to implement my “anything” based on His plan?

Finally, what is my reaction going to be to God implementing His Will in my life?  If, at the moment it is different than what I had planned; so I get angry, go off sulking and do something sinful in response; the results will be disastrous both for me and those around me.  If, on the other hand, through humble, faithful prayer and study, I submit myself to God’s perfect plan, that I may have no idea where it’s leading; then I may reap untold blessings and yes even bounty that I never conceived would come my way.  Let us ask for help through the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ to have the appropriate response.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we freely accept and declare that You are the Creator of all things, including us and have a perfect plan for all things.  We are so grateful that in Your Mercy and Grace, You have seen fit to provide us with tools, such as Your Word and prayer to allow us to align our will to Your Will.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we stubbornly attempt to impose our will or reject the imposition of Your Will into our life or plan.  Through the Holy Spirit, teach us to be humbly obedient to the path You have chosen for us, knowing that it will be filled with Your love and blessings. That in living a life aligned to Your Plan for us, it will be a life of praise and glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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“Give me an understanding heart that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.”  1 Kings 3:9

“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you.”  John 14:25

“For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

I have stated before and this post is not meant to in any way shape or form be anti-science, anti-academic, or anti-intellectual.  Science and medicine and those who are well versed in those topics and subjects have done great personal feats for me and I give thanks to God for them.  This post has more to do with our mindset as we pursue greater intellectual knowledge and how we think about the process of attaining it as well as how we feel about ourselves once we’ve attained it.

Prizing education and academic learning is nothing new and seemingly today the demand for it, those seeking to obtain it, the costs associated with attaining it and the thoughts about those who don’t have it are ever more in the forefront of our societal consciousness.  Academic institutions, especially those for profit and their marketing are a significant presence in all of our media today.  The having of a degree, several degrees, advanced degree or degrees is more frequently a requirement or at least preferred characteristic that many employers are seeking out for their organizations.

While none of those current societal trends are troubling or secular in themselves, I believe we have to be very careful about how we see ourselves both in the process of attaining “higher” education and once the degree or certification has been obtained.  For the way that it is too often portrayed is that the attaining of higher level of learning is a testament to our own talents, desires, “work ethic” or vision.  Also, once we’ve attained the higher degree, we are somehow more worthy, entitled to some greater reward for our efforts, should be sought out and listened to more.  In a word we are “better”; not only better than we were before attaining the degree but also “better” than those who don’t have our level of learning.  It is all too easy for our pride to swell through the process and attainment of higher education.

Let’s take a look at this for a moment starting with the process of attaining higher learning.  Isn’t the process a testament to my desire for self improvement an accolade to my diligence and self motivation, proof of my desire for self fulfillment? As I take my classes, isn’t this a compliment concerning my tenacity?  Aren’t the grades I receive, truly and solely, “my grades” worthy of acknowledgement and glorification?  Here are some self-reflection questions I might need to ask and answer to validate those opinions.  At what point during my development in the womb did I decide and take steps to insure that my brain would function in such a way to allow me the understanding and capacity to seek this higher learning? As an infant or a toddler, what plan did I conceive and implement that allowed me to have sufficient prerequisite learning to continue into an advance state? Let me review my complete plan of all the parents, educators, administrators, mentors and many others that I perfectly put in place that led to my successfully being able to further my education.

Upon completion of this increased education, I am entitled to some or much personal glory, perhaps depending on the level I’ve achieved.  I am deserving; deserving of higher pay, greater promotions, more plush offices.  I deserve to not only be sought out for my opinion, also listened to with less questioning and my opinion should always be given greater weight than those lessors who have not achieved the education that I have.

Yes these are the fruits of “my” singular labor.  Woe to those who are not willing to give me my dues.

Solomon, known biblically and in even general lexicon (i.e. many speak of “The wisdom of Solomon) as one of the wisest living persons knew about the need for wisdom/learning and his lack of it.  His Father David was one of the greatest kings of Israel and upon his death, wanted Solomon (as was God’s plan as well) to reign after him.  The challenge was that Solomon was very young.  He knew he didn’t have the knowledge to satisfactorily govern such a vast and powerful kingdom.  So when God asked Solomon what he wanted from God, Solomon could have asked for riches, a long life, many excellent wives and children; Solomon asked for a wise heart.  He asked for knowledge to lead God’s people well, knowing good from evil.  God was very pleased with Solomon’s request and granted it to him.

Jesus Christ had been extremely diligent in teaching His disciples.  Yet at the last supper, He knew that His disciples still lacked the critical understanding that they would need to carry Christ’s message into the world.  So Jesus promised to send a “Friend”, a “Helper”, the Holy Spirit who would provide all the necessary knowledge and insight needed to carry forth the Gospel of Christ.  Jesus went on to say the Holy Spirit was not just for the disciples but for all who would come to Christ and, through Him, seek the wisdom of the Father.  The world, otherwise could never receive the Holy Spirit because they would not believe that Christ asked for Him to be sent.

Thus it would seem that, while we may indeed know, understand and desire the attainment for a greater knowledge, a higher degree, the fulfillment of that desire is more of a gift of Grace from God, than it is solely a result of our own efforts. I do not contend that it does not take effort, yet that effort builds on God given talents.  Even to have the opportunity is a blessing from God. It may take some humility to come to that understanding but it will align us more accurately with He who provided us the talents in the first place and Whose plan our gaining in wisdom is fulfilling.

Also, having attained some greater learning/education, we need to understand that it is not about being served as a reward for that attainment but finding a way to serve with the gained knowledge.  We need to remember what Christ stated that to one who has much given, much is required.

So, if we are so led, let us go and learn.  Let us strive and achieve.  Always being mindful of as well as thankful for, the blessing and gift that there is in the opportunity for and acquiring of, greater knowledge.  Let us give glory to the Name of Him where all glory, honor and knowledge resides, living a life of loving, sharing and serving to our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we affirm and declare that all knowledge and wisdom resides in You.  We are so very thankful that in Your Mercy, You have seen fit to share some of Your knowledge and wisdom with us.  We pray, as Solomon did, that You would guide us to use that wisdom and knowledge in Your service as a blessing to this world.  We also ask Your forgiveness when we see the achievement and wisdom in a prideful way, seeking our own glory.  Guide us we pray and allow us to use the wisdom You so freely provide in a way that will be praise to Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, …..how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Luke 13:34

“A certain man was preparing a banquet, at the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come for everything is now ready’. But they all alike began to make excuses….” Luke 14: 16-18

“Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her”. Luke 10:41,42

I HAD NO CHOICE!!!!  That is a phrase that seems to gain more and more traction in today’s world.  There are several reasons for it.  One of the reasons revolves around the two edge sword that is science and scientific discoveries.  Now understand this, having lost two parents and several other relatives to cancer in the past, the fact that the Lord has allowed medical science to progress in that my wife is now cancer free for many years is a true blessing to behold.  We are constantly finding out new and wonderful things about the creation that is a human being and the wonderful processes at work within us.  Yet at the same time, those discoveries can be misconstrued and taken out of a greater; mental, physical and spiritual context allowing for certain behaviors and/or human challenges to be dismissed as “I was born this way”.  Yes it appears to be true that genes are foundational physiological building blocks that definitely impact biological processes.  Though now, we often seem to rush to find a genetic reason for something including do I eat too much, drink too much, can’t control my anger and so many more.  And if some genetic connection can be found, then the answer is all too often; then I’m not responsible because I’m not responsible for my genetic makeup.  The genes made me do it.

However, there are more than just genetic aspects of the “I had no choice” rationale. In the socioeconomic realm, we so often see this reason use to excuse either committing or being a victim of egregious behavior.  To get, keep, get promoted in my job, I was required to endure the actions of or perhaps I was forced to commit certain actions of (fill in the blank with some horrific action or behavior). In today’s society, it is one thing when a child understandably claims that they were powerless to thwart or escape the actions of an adult who was responsible for them.  However, it is different for a fully functional adult to make the same claim as often as we do.

Then there are the process reasons for not making a decision like:  No one ever asked me or I didn’t have a chance to make an input or the every popular, Everyone else was doing it so i was forced to go along.

Jesus, during His ministry is constantly talking about first making and then the ramifications of making certain decisions.  Jesus talks about the decision to enter through the narrow door that leads to salvation versus the wide door that leads to destruction.  He cries out in sorrow as He laments how often He has tried to gather His chosen people together, to protect and guide them, like a hen does for her chicks, but it was not the wind or some outside force that drove the chicks, the people from Jesus; it was their own decision not to be led by Him.  Jesus tells a story that is analogous to great feast in the Kingdom of Heaven when He tells of the man who was throwing a great banquet and first invited all His friends and those He truly felt worthy to attend.  The day of banquet came and imagine the anticipation the man had to see his banquet hall filled with appreciative, joy filled guests.  Then the decisions started happening.  We don’t know why the invited guests started making excuses: “Nope got to go see some land”, “Unh, unh, I got to go see my new ox”, “OOOO bad timing, I just got married; sorry can’t make it”.  However, one by one, all the invited guests decided not to come and made excuses as to why.  The consequences of those decisions?  The chosen invitees were never going to be let in or be invited again.

Jesus Christ knows how the world can skew our conceptions and distort our reality to cause us to make unwise decisions.  Jesus Christ, the true Son of God had come to the house of Martha and Mary; and He was not alone.  Scripture tells us that at least the disciples were with Him and perhaps more.  The world of that day (as well as today) required certain behaviors from the host; something to eat and drink and the inevitable cleaning that comes after that.  Jesus was speaking, again the Son of God was speaking and scripture tells us that Mary is sitting listening.  Martha is diligently trying to fulfill the requirements of a hostess but without the help of her sister and Martha is upset.  Perhaps in Martha’s eyes, Mary had chosen to be lazy.  Jesus, patiently, gracefully and softly corrects Martha and her perception.  The Son of God doesn’t visit your house every day, and when He takes the time to speak, listening to Him, focusing on Him is the correct decision to make; regardless of how the world would think otherwise.

So again, Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is clear that our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom has given us the ability to choose.  Perhaps in some ways had it been our decision we would have left off that capability from our creation in that it allowed us to decide to partake of the fruit that led to our initial fallen nature and all the wars and evils we have partaken in since then.  Yet having choice allows us to have faith, allows us to choose love, mercy and forgiveness.  Jesus Christ is calling upon us to choose.  Although even in that call, Jesus Christ is not leaving us to our own meager devices in attempting to choose the righteous path.  For Jesus Christ has articulated His Father’s plan that They would grant the Holy Spirit come and instruct and lead us to the decisions that will lead us to redemption and salvation.  However, we do not dare cede these careful decisions to the world and its ways.  We dare not try to excuse ourselves from deciding because we feel forced to go a different path.

Thus as Joshua proclaimed let us also decide; as for me and my house, we will serve the lord.  Let us be wise as Mary to sit at the feet of the Lord.  Let us not decide to refuse the invitation of our Heavenly Father to attend His eternal banquet feast.  Let us come to the protecting wing of Jesus Christ allowing ourselves to be gathered in to Him, living lives of glory, honor and praise in and to the name of our Father in Heaven.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we freely proclaim that You have given us the faculties and the responsibilities to make choices.  Yet we also humbly confess that too often we turn from the resources that You provide and rely on our own means that lead to poor and disastrous decisions.  Hear us and forgive us when we call out to You when we stray that You, in Your loving mercy, would gather us back together in You.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us to guide us in the way, making the decisions that will align us to Your Most Perfect Will and bring everlasting Glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am He’, said Jesus, ‘And you will see the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'”. Mark 14:62

“But I tell you the truth it is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

And when I turned  I saw among the lamp stands was someone like the Son of Man…When I saw Him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said ‘ Do not be afraid, I am the First One and The Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever'”.  Revelation 1: 12, 17,18

We have a crucial question that we must ask ourselves: Is Jesus Christ a figure to us?

So let me explain what I mean by a figure and why that question is so important to every aspect of our life; physical, mental and especially spiritual.  In this case I’m speaking of a figure as personage of importance.  We have many figures around us and some are non-individualistic representations of persons or people; for example, the Pope could refer to the current person in that position or the position in general.  We obviously have individual historic figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandi and Mother Teresa for examples. I could go on citing examples of different types of figures but I think you get the drift.

So why is it important for us to consider whether we are placing Jesus Christ in the category of figure, even if it’s a separate category above all the rest?  Because rarely do I ever enter into a relationship with “a figure”.  In truth, I didn’t have a relationship with the parental figure classified as my father; I had the relationship with Henry A. Huggins. I may know the name of, certain characteristics and happenings about, view the person of our President of the United States, but that really in no way shape or form would constitute a relationship.  If we carry that line of thinking further into the aspect of historical figures, it is impossible to be in a relationship with George Washington, Harriet Tubman or Plato for example.  Thus we must be certain that we don’t see Jesus Christ as simply a figure.  That we don’t categorize Jesus Christ as some, albeit great, aspect of history and/or the Son of God as simply a title, devoid of a very much alive, personally relevant to every aspect of our life, real, individual Being?

Now as it applies to being in a relationship with Jesus Christ, our very nature causes challenges there as well.  For one, we are not God come to earth as Jesus Christ was.  We were created by God, who then breathed His breath of life into us.  Being created of this earth makes us corporeal in nature.  That is we tend to experience things through the physicality of our human senses versus the revelations of our spirit.  In fact there would be some who would discount that there is even such a thing as a “spirit”.  Yet it is in fact that spiritual realm where we encounter the Living Risen Jesus Christ.  That is not to say that Jesus Christ has no power over, or impact on the physical world, He most certainly does.  Yet His ability to be present with us in all circumstances and at all times is based on His ability as spiritual being.  As I type this please understand, it is not like I completely understand the Spiritual aspect and working of Christ for it is far above my ability to comprehend.

Also, besides the spiritual aspect of being in relationship with Christ, another challenge that we have is that we are time-linear beings.  That is to say we see things in a progression of time, there was something that happened, there is something happening now, and there will be something that happens later; the past, present and future.  John, tells us that Christ existed from the beginning.  However, we see the physical person of Christ as being a person who lived on this earth for approximately 33 years, some roughly two thousand years ago.  Because Christ became corporeal, we have challenges not relegating His existence to the time He was here on earth.

One additional challenge we have currently is also how we’re redefining our concepts of relationships.  With social media I can have “friends” who, I’ve not only never physically met, but who I only have contact with based upon the scantest and highly filtered information they allow to be “posted”.  Based on 147 characters, I have thousands of “followers” who can’t really have a clear idea of what they’re “following” based on barely enough input to build two sentences; let alone a developed dossier.

So Jesus Christ wanted, then for His disciples and followers, as well as for us today and all who will come to Him in the future, to truly understand, He is alive.  He was very clear to both those who believed and loved Him as well as those who rejected and hatted Him, that no matter what the earthly outcome of His life seemed to be, i.e. the crucifixion, that He was going to continue to live and not just live, but sit at the right hand of His Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ tried to make clear to His disciples that His returning to heaven was a blessing to them for He would then send the Holy Spirit to them to make all things clear.  We see how loving Jesus Christ continues to be in His loving comfort to John in the Revelation.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Jesus Christ is not only very much alive, in every sense of the word, this very moment; He also wants to have a living, constant, intimate relationship with you and I.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus wants to reveal His endless love and mercy for us, bringing salvation to us as He leads us to throne of His Father in Heaven. As Christ spoke longingly wanting to gather and protect the people of Israel like a hen does for her chicks; in the same way, Christ wants to gather and protect us, to be in a daily, deep, loving relationship with us.

To overcome the challenges we have in entering into that relationship there a several things we can so.  First, pray.  Pray diligently and constantly.  Pray with purpose to Christ, understanding no one willingly prays to someone or something that is dead.  No we pray to one whom we truly believe is alive and able to hear our petitions.  Second, study the word of Jesus Christ.  In the gospels, Jesus, blessedly gives us such wonderful insight into the unique individual that Jesus is.  This intimate knowledge of the thoughts and personality of Jesus Christ allows us a personage to grasp hold of and bond to.  Let us strive to move past any static, impersonal figure of Jesus, to be in a personal, constant, loving and relying on relationship with the real, living for now and evermore, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are awestruck with amazement that You would send Your Son, Jesus Christ, to live, die and be raised for us and our salvation.  We’re equally amazed and thankful that Jesus Christ longs to be in a loving personal relationship with us where He reveals Your true nature.  Forgive our limitations that cause us to see Jesus Christ as some figure of the past with little relevancy to what is happening in our lives today.  Send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and teach us about the blessings of and how to come into a full relationship with Jesus Christ.  That through that relationship in Christ we might live lives that bare much fruit and bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“I am the vine you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

“When Saul saw the Philistine Army he was afraid…….’Find me a woman who is a medium so I may go and inquire of her'”  1 Samuel 28:5,6

“If you want something done right, you’ll have to do it yourself.”

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”

“God helps them who help themselves.”

All popular sayings extolling the virtues of self reliance.  I felt the urging of the Spirit to choose the title that’s written although I believe that will turn some away from going any further and perhaps might spark disagreement with others that venture further.  As I have stated, before I claim no extraordinary scholarship in the Word so upon finishing this post if you have a different view, I would sincerely urge you to leave a comment with your view.

Yet it seems to me that we are in a world that increasingly celebrates and I would dare to use the word glorifies the self and its accomplishments.  It seems that the level of my success depends greatly on my level of self respect and self confidence. My ultimate goal is to achieve my dream.  I am told that I can achieve anything as long as I believe and yes work hard enough. I can and should rely on my judgement in all things and if I don’t understand or don’t agree, then I am perfectly right to disregard it and go my own way.

Yet here’s the problem; over and over again in both the Old and New Testament, we are taught about those people, often educated, sometimes wealthy people, pillars of society, deciding to go their own way either neglecting to consult God or rejecting His counsel, always with disastrous consequences.

Jesus Christ especially wants to stress this to His disciples as they were eating the last supper and soon Jesus would be taken from them.  As they transitioned from a Jesus in the flesh on earth, to Jesus Christ, resurrected and risen to heaven, sitting on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, Jesus wanted them to understand that they had to stay in Jesus Christ to accomplish any and everything.  Jesus Christ was clear to them and it still applies to us today:  …apart from Me you can do NOTHING!  Jesus makes no exception for strong effort or good thinking or generous behavior or anything.  When in Christ we can do great works, even greater than when Christ was on this earth; but anything we do, any effort exerted not in Christ will amount to nothing; PERIOD!

Take King Saul, now please understand this was not the Saul, who would become Paul of the New Testament.  This is King Saul who was from the smallest tribe of Israel, initially a humble man, selected by God to be the first king of Israel, although God was not happy with the nation’s request to have an earthly king.  King Saul had already shown his proclivity to be self reliant when he became impatient and offered sacrifices before battle which only the prophet Samuel and the Levite’s were allowed to do. Now an enemy the Philistines are at Israel’s door and King Saul is trying to get an answer from God about should they go into battle.  When an answer doesn’t seem to be coming, King Saul relies on his own judgement to go out and find a woman fortune teller to get his answer.

The interesting aspect of King Saul was he did not start out relying on himself.  He started out going to ask, then listening to and even following the direction of God through the Prophet Samuel.  It was during times of crises, like impending battle or later when he wrongly believed that David was trying to take his kingship away, that he forsook the counsel of God and instead, relied on his own judgement.  After all God had made him King hadn’t he?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, King Saul is a cautionary tale for all of us.  At what point or in what circumstances are we willing to forgo the counsel of God, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, what activities do we feel Jesus Christ has no part in and it is in our best interest to rely on our self, our intellect, our power?

I can hear some now saying; that’s the problem with that thought process and the faith in general; Jesus Christ doesn’t want to be in my golf game, or with me as I watch TV and/or will go to a party with me; so I guess I have to give that all up!  Not at all.  Remember that Jesus attended weddings and even supplied wine.  Jesus, that I can find, never gave a commandment against recreation.  It is possible to participate in those activities and be in Christ.  How?  First by seeing those activities as a blessing from Christ.  To walk out in His creation on a golf course (and the way I play I see a lot of His creation in a lot of out of way places on the course).  You can also fellowship and support someone in need while playing.  In every activity you can ask yourself, is there and how can Jesus Christ use this with me?

Though understand this; just because you mention Jesus Christ in something doesn’t mean you are in Him during the actual action.  Going to a party and getting so drunk that you attempt to sleep with another person’s spouse, will never be something that is done in Jesus Christ.  Deciding to cheat or steal something at work will never be something that can be achieved in Jesus Christ.

It is clear that Jesus Christ does not want any aspect of our existence to be a part from Him.  He does not want us to have our efforts amount to nothing.  Jesus Christ knows that the enemy is always trying to drive a wedge between Christ and ourselves, starting in the garden; trying to convince us the appropriateness and reward there is if we will do our own thing.  The truly grace filled amazing thing, is that Jesus Christ wants us in Him right now; just as we are.  Christ does not demand that we become perfect and then and only then can we join into Him.  Christ knows that if perfection is required first; none of us will ever be able to abide in Him.  No, Jesus Christ promises us that the more we are able to be in Him the closerto perfection He will empower us to be.  What we need to be is in constant prayer, as well as not neglecting the Word, so we will grow ever closer, our constant striving will to be ever more often, in Jesus Christ.  That through the power of the Holy Spirit, leading us in the pathways of being in Jesus Christ, we will achieve lives that are a true blessing to ourselves and others as well as bringing praise to the name of our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father. we are eternally thankful that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to us and that He not only allows us but beckons us to live our lives in Him.  Grant us through the Holy Spirit, to resist the temptation of the evil one, to rely on ourselves, turning from You and Christ and traveling down the path to our self destruction.  As we strive to live ever closer to a complete life in Jesus Christ, allow us to bare fruit that will be a blessing to both ourselves and others.  That all the world might see the wisdom and value in being in Jesus Christ and bring praise to our Father in Heaven.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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