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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.”  1 Thessalonians 2:9

“But God said to him; Fool! This night your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared; whose will they be?”  Luke 12:20

“Do not lay for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy”  Matthew 6:19

By the time Paul visits the city of Thessalonica, he has already finished one missionary journey and started several churches.  Jesus Christ, Himself had told his disciples, when He sent them out two-by-two, that it was perfectly fine for them to accept gifts of meals and lodging as a recompense for the work they were doing spreading Christ’s message.  Yet the people he came to at Thessalonica, who listened to Paul and received the message of Christ, were not the richest of the city but among poorer and did not have much of anything to spare.  Paul could have taken up a collection to pay for his expenses in staying at Thessalonica and preaching the gospel.  Yet Paul did not want anything to get in the way or burden the Thessalonians or cause obstacles to the establishing of the new church.  So Paul, a tent maker by trade, labored day and night to provide for his own needs.  What Paul was not doing was trying to enrich himself or spread his business to some new locations.  No, although Paul’s tents were not just for the church or follower’s of Christ, His desire was to honor Christ through the use of his secular work.  And Paul’s work lasted as far as the Gospel was concerned.  The church in Thessalonica did last and grew as well and continues to this very day.

Conversely, you have the parable of the foolish rich farmer.  Jesus tells us that the ground of this rich farmer yielded a plentiful harvest.  Understand, at the start of the story, the man was already wealthy.  Even so, when he received an extremely bountiful crop, the rich man did not have enough space to store it.  Now the man, already being rich, could have decided to be generous and give the extra harvest that couldn’t be stored away.  That he did not do; instead, he tore down his barn and built a larger one.  Thus now the man becomes even richer.  Yet good fortune is not done with this man, for he receives an even bigger harvest that will not entirely fit in his new, larger barn.  Now surely he is rich enough to distribute the extra that he has this time.  But, if you’re not aware of the parable, you might still have guessed by the “foolish” in the title of the parable, the man does not.  He again tears down his new larger, barn and builds an even bigger one in which he stores all his bountiful harvest and decides that he now no longer needs to work or worry about anything for he is rich enough to last the rest of his life.  In that sense he is absolutely correct, for God comes to him that very night and informs him that his life is over and all he had struggled for, will go to another.

So as we look at this, both men; Paul and the farmer labored.  The first one, Paul, labored not only in terms of preaching the gospel but also in terms of in a secular way, building tents.  Obviously, in the preaching, Paul was working for and with Christ in mind.  Yet even in the tent making, Paul’s desire was to honor Christ by using the pay he received, for himself.  Yet that alleviated the burden of poor Thessalonians having to contribute to Paul’s welfare and perhaps distracting them from Christ’s message.

In the second instance, the rich man was laboring only for himself.  Even after the man had become wealthy, his wealth was no longer sufficient.  The man felt that with each increasing gain, he must find ways of keeping that gain all to himself.  The motivation for his labor was completely self centered.  One gets the sense that as the rich man was tearing down and rebuilding his barns, he still wasn’t taking time to enjoy the fruits of his labor even as rich as he was.  Finally, after much labor and much gain, he finally believes it is time to enjoy what should be a very lavish, leisurely life style.  It would appear he might have been able to do that for all of one day.

What are we to make of this for us and our time?  Most of us have a vocation.  Most of us work.  I dare say most of us work, yours truly included, in something other than the explicit being a professional preacher of  Christ’s word.  But even if we’re not a preacher, can we see a connection to Christ in our work?  Is it possible through our work, we can either financially or in some other respect relieve a burden from those around us.  In what we do, how we do it, the gain that comes from it, can we maintain a focus on Christ in each of those processes?  Or……is work simply for us?  Is work something we do with which Christ has no meaning or impact.  Is what we do, how we do it and what comes from our work, only for our own consumption and gratification?

It is most probably, the work we do, if only for ourselves will see the material gain not enriching us or our lives for any significant length of time.  We are most likely to find much futility and frustration in self absorbed, self focused effort.

It is equally as likely that should Christ be the focus of our work, what we do, how we do it, what we do with the gain.  We will find significant immediate blessings and success in those endeavors and effects of that work will last a lifetime and longer; probably an eternity.  That would be only fitting as Christ, lived, worked, loved and died for us that we should strive to reflect that effort.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that we often see work as a singularly or mostly secular task that fulfills many worldly needs that is often separated from a focus on You.  Yet Lord, You have made it clear that any part of our life that we attempt to keep from You and Your influence will turn disastrous.  So, Most Merciful Father, we pray that You would pour our Your Spirit upon us that will allow us to seek Your influence in all we do including our work.  That You, Dear Father,  would provide us with the insight to see the work You provide us with as an opportunity to serve You. That in dedicating our work life to You, we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1

“Now the next day….He was hungry…”  Mark 11:12

“Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled…Jesus wept”  John 11:35,36

“Simon Peter answered and said: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’. Jesus answered and said to him” ‘Blessed are you…for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven'”. Matthew 16::17

My vocation for many a year before and also at least part time while writing has been as an instructor of adults.  Most often, I am an unknown quantity when I start off a class that I am teaching.  Sometimes the question is asked outright but if not, it is almost always written in the facial expressions of some in the classroom:  “Why should I be listening to you?”  In other words what credibility do I have that allows me to stand before them and teach certain aspects of whatever lesson it is that I am presenting.  Often, if I am not able to demonstrate my credibility in the subject I am teaching, I will lose a significant portion of my audience.

Well enough about me and I only started with that illustration to introduce and illustrate the topic of credibility.  For it seemed that would be question that would dog Jesus, the entire time He was here on earth as well as to a certain extent even today.  Why should we listen to Jesus Christ?

To the Jewish leadership, the main problem with credibility was Jesus Himself.  Jesus was a man and a seemingly fairly nondescript, common sort of man.  He seemed to come from Galilee which seemed to have no scriptural credibility for sending forth a Messiah.  Second, this man, this Jesus was so meek.  This surely didn’t seem to be the king who was going to oust the cursed Roman Army and lift the Jewish state to the pinnacle of all the world’s nations.  Okay, granted Jesus seemed to do a lot of miracles but there had to be some trick or maybe Jesus was really playing for the other side, the real bad guys.  Maybe that’s why Jesus had so much power over demons the Jewish leadership proposed.

Greatly because of the Jewish leadership’s skepticism and outright hostility to Jesus, the common people of Israel did not know what to make of Jesus either.  Scripture tells us they listened gladly but would often turn away, sometimes even becoming violent toward Jesus, when He questioned their motives and their human devised traditions.

Now’s here the flip side of the credibility argument I from time to time come across as to what Jesus taught and how He lived.  It goes something like this; “turn the other cheek, love your enemies, don’t be afraid, don’t worry, don’t get angry, don’t lust” and so many other things are easy when you’re God.  But Jesus being Christ doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t and can’t even understand what I’m going through for two reasons; he lived so long ago and, again HE’S GOD!  Now because Jesus Christ really doesn’t understand then His teachings don’t quite really apply.  I mean, sure, they’re well and good for Him as God, but they don’t really apply directly to me and my good ole, bad ole human nature.

Yet Dear Sisters and Brothers, here’s the most amazing, unique thing in all of existence.  Again this is something, because scripture tells it and the Holy Spirit testifies to it, that I truly, wholeheartedly believe but I can’t begin to truly grasp or understand; Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human.  Just ponder that for a moment and try to come to grips with how wonderful a gift that is.  Prior to being human, Jesus Christ knew no hunger, knew no sorrow, knew no anger; He didn’t have to sleep, didn’t have to stop and rest, no physical pain ever afflicted Him.  Yet Jesus Christ gave all that up so that He could nearly fully experience the existance of human with the one exception being, Jesus never sinned.

Jesus Christ knows anguish.  He knows hunger.  He has experienced frustration.  From a flesh perspective He tells us in the garden, He knows how the flesh can be weak.  And here’s the other amazingly, grace filled outcome of Jesus experience; He knows what to do about it.  Because He is God, Jesus knows that we are not capable, on our own of accomplishing the teachings He laid out for us.  Jesus Christ knows that on our own or even in human groups, we will fail and fail miserably.  That is why Jesus doesn’t want us to even try!  That is why Jesus said and knew by His own experience that humans, apart from God would never prevail.  That is why He extols us, He pleads with us to come to Him, to trust and have faith in Him, to call upon Him, to abide in Him.  With and through Him, all things are possible.

Is Jesus Christ credible?  Was Jesus Christ human?  Was Jesus Christ God?  Well as to human, Jesus Christ has been there, done that and has the nail scarred hands and feet to prove it.  As to God, Jesus Christ defeated death and rose again and ascended into heaven, no human has ever done that.  There is no question as to Jesus Christ’s credibility.  Then the only remaining question is; will we accept His credibility and thus live into the rich life, He sacrificed so much for us to have?

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are indeed mystified and must humbly confess that we can not grasp the true enormity of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made in leaving the heavenly realm to become fully human.  Yet we also boldly confess that we believe that Jesus Christ was fully God at the same time.  We are filled with praise and gratitude that Jesus Christ would come to share our existence with its human induced pain and suffering.  We are even more grateful that He, being blameless would do what no human could do and take upon Himself our sin and our blame so that we in turn, could come redeemed into Your presence.  Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we are tempted to trivialize the sacrifice of Jesus becoming human or worst yet, doubt that He was fully God.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us that, through the indwelling of the Spirit, we will answer the invitation to abide in Christ which is the only way to achieve our true, desired destiny.  That in abiding in Your One and Only Truly Begotten Son, we would live lives that bring praise to Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“For behold, I bring you good news of great joy…….for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord”  Luke 2:10,11

“Joy to the world, no more let sin and sorrows grow”.  “I bring you good news of great joy”  Joy?  Really?  Have you seen the world today?  Have you seen my life?  Where do I start with what’s going wrong!  Joy?  Really?  This is more like a time of depression and despair instead of joy.  Maybe there was joy back then but joy? Today?  Really?  I often I see these type of sentiments expressed in many different forums in today’s world. Thus what should be our reaction to the reason for the season.

Yes joy, really, absolutely.  So do understand, I do know depression for I have battled it.  I know disappointment, even and especially at this time of year.  From and where and why should I or do I have any right to have joy when I look at the state of the world or the state of my life?

We’ve heard an aspect or narrative of Christmas being under attack.  From the outside, it can be considered insensitive to those of other faiths or no faith, to use the words Merry Christmas.  Religious symbols should not be shown in conjunction with government or even public places.  Santa Clause is okay but Jesus Christ is not.  Yes I will admit that the worldly want nothing to do with the Christ in Christmas.

Yet I’ve also seen a trend of late in houses of faith that I believe is rooted in a proper intent but that can also minimize or, in fact, leave out the message of joy altogether.  I’m talking about the desire to strip away the colorful “mythology” that has grown around our Savior’s birth and stress the “factual reality” of the occasion.  True, the bible has no drummer boy.  We read nowhere of animals talking at midnight at the birth of Christ.  Yes the shepherds would have been looked down by most of the society at the time.  However, the very real challenge of wanting to dig into and focus on the “factual” nature of world of the time is to minimize the otherworldly, virtually incomprehensible, utterly immeasurable, joyous event and gift that took place on that day.

Joy?  Why joy?  Quite simply because God came to earth!  God came to earth!  Well Doug, you might ask, hadn’t God been to earth before?  Yes, there are brief instances where God came to earth, but only momentarily and also He came as God of Heaven, in heavenly form.  God came in a form that no person could behold and live.  Moses, one so close to God and such a wonderful servant of God, could only glimpse God’s back in passing or Moses would have been destroyed.  Now God was again coming to earth.  But now He was also coming in human form; and not just some shell or likeness of human.  No in some miracle too wonderful to fully understand; Jesus Christ was full human and fully God in one being.

Joy? Joy really?  In other religions, did’t their gods come down to earth and take human form?  Yes in the worldly religions there are stories of gods coming to earth, but more often it was for selfish or even sinister reasons.  The One True Son of God came down, not to trick, not to get revenge, not to dupe some unwitting soul; no, Jesus Christ came down for one reason and one reason only.  Jesus Christ came to save you and I.  He came for our salvation.  The only way Jesus Christ could do that was to take our place.  To suffer the judgement we so deserve and He never did.

Jesus Christ came that through Him, we might live in relationship now and forever with our Father in Heaven; to live a life of abundance, knowing a peace and yes, joy that surpasses all understanding.  Joy, absolutely Joy.

Also understand this; this was defeat for the enemy.  When Jesus Christ came, the enemy lost the war.  Yet, even though defeated the enemy still has not stopped fighting.  That is one of the reasons that this time of year can be such a fraught filled time.  The enemy will throw everything he can at this time to try to rob us of joy.  He will try guilt, sorrow, worldly desires, worldly distractions, misdirection; whatever he can do for us to lose focus and turn away from Jesus Christ and the celebration and joy that should be natural from His gift of salvation.

Not only for us, but the enemy wants to show the world, believers acting without joy at this time of year.  Why should people who don’t know Christ, feel positively toward seeking Christ if his own followers can’t or won’t feel and express joy at this time of year.

Thus Dear Sisters and Brothers, reject the world and its temptation toward darkness especially at this time of year.  While our joy can and should be triumphant, it should not be separating or prideful.  That is to say, we deserve the joy and you, unbelievers do not because we are better.  No, instead let our joy be infectious and inviting.  Let it be a shining light placed on the proverbial hill for all to see; people of faith or not.  Let the joy be humble, acknowledging that it comes solely and souly from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through the plan of our Heavenly Father, revealed to us by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Joy?  Yes Joy!  Joy to the world!  And in that more recent song written and sung a few millennia Joy to you and me!  May you have a joyous Merry Christmas as well as joy filled next year.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, that we cannot adequately express our profound gratitude at the gift of sacrifice of Jesus Christ should not keep us from trying.  We thank You that Your plan for Christ was that of salvation and not judgement.  Through Your Spirit, reveal to us the true joy and peace that we should be feeling and expressing at the coming of Jesus Christ.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father, when allow the despair of the world to rob us of the joy You so desire us to have.  Through Your Mercy and Power, restore us to a sense of joy, peace and reverent worship, that will be inviting to those who don’t You and bring praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 

“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

“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

 

” Every Kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”  Matthew  12:25

I don’t know about you but of the four primary math operations; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, division was the most difficult for me.  I don’t know if it was the physical way it was set up; you have that kind of one walled house thing with numbers outside, inside and on top?  I could never remember what was the divisor versus the dividend and quotient.  Now don’t get me wrong, in terms of math I’m not a “divide-hater”.  In fact I love it when my bills are divided in half.  Yet outside of math; as Jesus Christ pronounces; division can be a devastating process or place to be.

Let’s first define terms or concepts about what Jesus is referring to.  First, and I love this, Jesus does not just limit this concept to something large like a “kingdom”.  No, he breaks it down into ever smaller entities to include “cities” and even a “house”.  What he’s referring to here is not the concept of numbers or of size per se, but He’s referring to places where you and I have relationships.  Second, what does He mean by “divided against itself”?  To understand this point you could use concepts like divided: purpose, goal, mission or even actions.

You see Jesus was casting out demons.  Demons are the laborers of Satan.  Their actions are based around the destruction of people by tormenting them and keeping them away from accepting the Grace of God.  Those forlorn humans, in such a state of harassment by demons were physically, mentally and most importantly, spiritually separated from God.  Thus a demon had to be defeated, cast out, overpowered before a human could come into a full relationship and follow God.  The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time definitely believed in both demons as well as Beelzebub, their leader.  The Pharisees knew that no normal human being had the power to overpower demons.  Because, in their mind Jesus could not be the Christ, the Savior, the True Son of God, then the only other option must be that Jesus was overpowering demons by the being the most powerful; prince of demons.

Jesus, knowing what they are thinking, speaks an overwhelmingly powerful truth that resonates to us this very day; a house divided will not stand.  Why, in this case would that be?  Again remember the reason for the existence of demons plus their leader Beelzebub.  To torment humans and keep them from entering into a relationship with God.  As shown time and time again, a person freed from the torment of demons often turned to a relationship with God.  Thus if Beelzebub was casting out demons, just to bring glory to himself, the end result was human beings that were entering into a saving relationship with God which was exactly opposite of his reason for being; hence, the divide.  Jesus, of course quite correctly and accurately points out, over time Beelzebub’s power would come to an end because he would eventually free all to enter into relationship with God.  Beelzebub’s kingdom would come into desolation.

Let’s approach it from one other direction, this  time looking at the physical properties of a house.  A house is built on principles that will allow it to withstand the forces that can cause its destruction, like gravity, wind, rain, etc.  One aspect of these principles is the load bearing member or wall.  There are certain parts of the house specifically designed to hold up under the pressure of different forces to allow the house to stand.  Should you remove, break or divide that load bearing member it no longer has the strength to withstand the pressures arrayed against it and it collapses along with much of the rest of the house.

I’m hoping you’re seeing where I’m going with this.  I’m not one who desires to use extensive hyperbole and I do not have the historical research to state something like we live in the most divided time in history.  Yet I don’t think one could argue that we live in an extremely divisive time.  We divide ourselves along the lines of our ethnicity, gender, age, political beliefs, physical characteristics (weight, beauty), where we live, what team we follow, what we own, what religion and what sect within a religion we follow and I could continue to list our divisions for paragraphs to follow but I believe I have made my point.

I want to make something else abundantly clear; difference does not equate to division.  Just because someone is different doesn’t automatically require that they be divided from us.  No, division comes when those differences preclude us from seeing or acting together towards a common goal.  Division happens when the way that I am different must win over how you are different, which must in turn lose.  It is when differences become division that destruction will follow.

Jesus knew this for what was His goal; to bring about His own Glory, to see His own name worshiped?  No Jesus Christ had one earthly mission; glorify the Father by carrying out the Father’s plan.  Thus you see Dear Brothers and Sisters, Jesus Christ teaches us how to stay together.  We must seek after and find the overarching goal that is good for the entire house (family), city or kingdom.  We must submit ourselves to that goal and I emphasize the sub aspect in that any or all of our goals must be under and aligned with the overarching goal so that what we do brings strength to the structure versus destruction.

Would we really have such a contentious political environment if the goal was the success of all who are within our country and not just those with whom we feel a commonality with?  And perhaps greater yet; that our country’s success would not come at the cost of others in the world but lift them up as well?  If we embraced that a failure to part of our family, city, kingdom, our holy catholic, apostolic church (that is all churches proclaiming Jesus Christ the One True Son of God, our Savior) is a failure to us all; what would our world look like?

Where do we find that overarching goal?  In the Word of God; Jesus tells us: Love the Father, Love each other.  Finally, also if we only look to ourselves we will not find the strength to live into and align our goals with the Will of God.  We must pray for that strength. We must rely on the strength of Jesus Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by the Will of our Almighty Father to provide us with the strength we need.  It is together, first in relationship with our Father, then together, relationship with each other, that we heal the divisions amongst us and keep destruction at bay.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, through nature you have taught us the power to ward of destruction when things come together in unison.  You’ve also shown us the destruction that comes to those who try to go alone or in fragmented groups.  So it is that You want us to live with each other.  Forgive us Dear Father, when we divide ourselves among lines of earthly, worldly judgements that leave us prey to evil and the prince of darkness.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us and strengthen us that we would see the blessings and prosperity that come from submitting our will to Yours.  Through Your Divine Power, bring Your Church together into one entity that will testify to the world of the power of togetherness.  As You are Three in One; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, help us to live as one in the relationships You have blessed us with.  That in our triumph together we will live lives of praise to Your most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Why do we and the Pharisees fast often but Your disciples do not fast?”  Matthew 9:14

“Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Matthew 9:11

“But if you had known what this meant: ‘ I desire mercy not sacrifice’ you would not have condemned the guiltless”  Matthew 12:7

“But they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:17

It seems we are going through a confusing and somewhat troubling time for ourselves where the world is watching intently what we say and more importantly do, as to the validity of our message.  I have seen a considerable amount of work; published in media, spoken in the press and even preached from the pulpit concerning the worth of “religion” as well as the viability of the “church”.  I put both religion and church in quotation marks because I find in discussing with people, vastly different definitions and concepts for these two terms.  And I believe that it is precisely the issue that we are dealing with.  Whenever, human beings have tinkered with, tried to improve on Our Heavenly Father’s Plan, we have brought much pain and suffering to ourselves and those around us.

It seems clear to me that the religious leaders during the days that Jesus walked on this earth were very process minded based upon the way they treated the Son of God.  The religious leaders were always challenging Jesus: “He heals on the Sabaoth, He eats with sinners, He doesn’t wash His hands, He doesn’t come from the right place” and on and on.  Through the years they had taken God’s law, a law of mercy and turned it into a law of judgement and punishment.  For God heard His people’s cry and sent them the Prophet Moses to lead them out of bondage.  Yet as our Creator and One who had witnessed our failure in the garden; God knew that His people would sin, even after their miraculous rescue from Egypt.  Thus being full of mercy, wanting to be able to maintain a relationship with us, the law allowed for atonement for our sin with the purpose of reconciliation.  Yet over time, with human interpretation; the law changed from a heavenly instrument of mercy to a human process of judgement. The religious leaders of the day corrupted the law, making into some human made scorecard for judgement.  It was no longer about being righteous that leads to doing righteous; but doing righteous will somehow lead to righteous, with man judging what is righteous and what is not.  That is the world into which Jesus came.  Sadly, to a certain extent, that is a world that, if we are not careful, we are duplicating today.

Why do we do that?  I believe that it has to do with our arrogance of understanding.  We believe with each new day we have a deeper self-taught understanding of every process.  We believe that as we gain understanding about things concerning natural processes; how a seed grows, how lightning works, what a star is made of, that we also obtain all other knowledge, allowing us to attain the level of being masters of our own destinies.  Because we can not comprehend the true Mind of God, His perfect intelligence, instead of having faith in His Intelligence; we substitute our own flawed but understandable logic, intelligence in its place and then act upon it.

Thus Jesus came and crushed every form of human judgement and earthly wisdom.  The wisest and most powerful leaders came against Him with tests and questions and He silenced each and every one of them with His perfect understanding.  He told them and tells us today, those who look to their own processes, that devise their own plans for salvation travel the broad road to doom and eternal separation from God.

And Jesus Christ speaks to us today.  Yet I want to stress something that I believe jesus Christ made abundantly clear.  Churches do matter.  Religion in that it is the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the One and Only True Begotten Son of God, come to earth, crucified for our sins, died and resurrected and now living at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty and that we are to love God with all our being and love each other as we love ourselves, is of utmost importance.  However, as we take the new wineskin of Christ and start to tinker with His message; filter His words and change them based on our understanding, as we take His open invitation and change it into a process, a test to pass, to enter into the kingdom of heaven, we take religion and make it a human-made concept; church becomes a human-made institution.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, I have a limited understanding of the true nature of God’s plan for my salvation.  I do not fully grasp the gravity, the mercy, the unbelievable sacrifice of God coming to earth, taking my sins upon Himself and dying in my place.  Thus I must have faith in the Word of Jesus Christ.  I must grasp hold of, in awe and wonder, the miracle of Jesus Christ and, through the Holy Spirit, replace my limited capacity to understand with His merciful gift of revelation.  We must resist the temptation to imprint our own image on that which should be holy, His church and His religion.  In so doing, we can show the world what true faith is all about.  We will show that we reject the process of human discerned judgement and replace it with Christ designed love and mercy.  Christ is the only process we need.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim to the world there is only one knowledge that is true, only one plan that is perfect, only one judgement that is righteous; that which is Yours and comes from You.  Forgive us when we attempt to substitute our limited knowledge, our own devised plan and our faulty, limited judgement for Yours.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that although limited by our faculties, will still reveal to us the perfect will you have for our lives.  Grant us the strength and faithfulness to align our will to Yours.  That the world would then see our lives as lived in praise to Your Most Holy Name, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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