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“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 us this day……….” Matthew 6:11

“Who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time……with persecutions….”  Mark 10:30

From the bible I want to consider an aspect of three lives: Ruth, David and Paul.  While we know the end of the story for each of these people, let’s take a moment to step back into their shoes in a time of their struggles.

First, Ruth.  In the bible; Ruth is described as a humble daughter-in-law whose heart was filled with love and service for her mother-in-law.  Ruth’s own husband was killed, but instead of returning home to her own people, she travels back to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi so she won’t be all alone.  Now here’s want I want you to consider.  Ruth may have felt a calling to be a wife and mother; she may have even been praying desperately for that to happen.  Yet she had lost her only husband and being a poor foreigner she could only daily go out to fields and pick up the scraps left over from harvesters who might have missed some grain.  Ruth continued to pray.

Second, David.  At one point early on, David had been anointed to be future king of Israel by the prophet Samuel; this was before Goliath and other triumphs David would eventually have.  Yet for a time David finds himself hiding in a cave; afraid for his very life because Saul the current king of Israel is jealous of David and wants him killed.  One can imagine that in that cave, or during his other days on the run, David is praying for God to come, praying concerning being King of Israel.  Yet here he is, eating stale bread and running like a criminal. Yet he continued to pray.

Finally, Paul.  Paul, called by Jesus Christ himself; when Paul was Saul the persecutor of early believers, to become an apostle of Jesus Christ.  A Christian group, a church if you will, not a huge building but a growing gathering of people had started in Rome.  Paul had been the apostle to the gentiles and desperately desired to go to Rome to preach the gospel and serve and shepherd the new flock.  Yet time after time the Spirit had blocked him; led him to go in a different direction.  Finally being persecuted in Jerusalem by the Jews who want to see Paul dead; Paul is arrested.  Will he never get to see his beloved flock in Rome?  Paul continued to pray.

Here’s the thing and part of it is a blessing and part of it makes it tough.  We know the ends of these stories.  The blessing is that we know that God was with them through their entire journey.  We know how He sustained them in times of distress and lifted them up to times of great blessing.  Ruth married Boaz to become the grandmother of David.  King Saul died in battle and David became the great king.  Paul left prison, made it to Rome and ministered there two years with that beloved church.  Here’s the tough part.  We don’t know the end of our story.  We’re smack dab in the middle of it.

And an example of a person in the middle of their story is an author who felt called to write a book.  He prayed and continues to pray over that book.  He did write it and it was published.  Most who have read it call it powerful.  However, in total those who have read it are few.  That author prays about the book and its success, not for fame and fortune but to be able to continue writing as he feels called.  He prays constantly and earnestly.  But here’s the point; like David, Ruth or Paul in the midst of their journey, he prays and the next day, nothing seems changed.  Nothing new has happened with the book; like Ruth, it is time to go out and glean again, like David still in the cave.  And this author wonders; what am I doing wrong?  Maybe I misinterpreted God’s calling.  Perhaps I should choose a different path.  How do I know?  That author is the same one who is writing this message.

Yet, Dear Sisters and Brothers, in my more lucid and faithful moments if anything comes through loud and clear in the stories of those three it is this; God had them and their situations; “God had this”.  God had every sequence planned, ever step needed, every day laid out about how to bring Ruth, David, Paul and we can have faith as well; you and I to where He has called us to be.  Personally for me, I must say I don’t know what His ultimate Will for my book is; maybe it will become well known after I’ve departed to be with Him.  Here’s the thing; God has this.  And His this; the this He has in store for me today; is all I need.

So we’ve been taught to pray; give us this day………which is what matters.  But it is not easy.  We are imperfect.  We want to feel certain by having specific knowledge about the next day, week, month year.  We can find ourselves confused, worried, filled with fear, wondering what are we doing wrong; why is God leading us this way.  And we sin.  Thinking we know better, we take the steps we want to take, that the world says to take and we turn from God and His plan.  Then comes the most loving miraculous “this” of all.  When we have sinned and are deserving of eternal condemnation; God turns to Jesus Christ seeing the scars of nails in His hands and feet; and Jesus Christ says to His Father:  “I got this!”  Instead of seeing our sin, God sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ who sacrificed Himself for our Salvation and we are forgiven.

Dear Sisters and Brothers know, where ever you are today, whatever your circumstances; God is saying to you; I’ve Got This.  Whether it is a valley of darkness or a bright mountain top; God has this.  And rest assured that God’s this is the only this we will ever need.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we are filled with praise that in every moment You are with us.  Forgive us when we doubt and fear because of what this world attempts to tell us is truth.  Pour out Your Spirit that we may stay strong in You to resist the temptation to leave the perfect path You have for us that leads to an ever blessed life of closeness and praise to You.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

“So they asked Him, saying; ‘Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?'”  Luke 21:7

“They asked Him, saying ‘Lord will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'”  Acts 1:6

I’m not sure if it is this way with all writers, but for me, I love to read.  Now as it comes to the end of the book, there are two major types of readers:  the first, reads all the way through never taking a peek at what is to come; the second, starts the book, but very quickly, leafs back to the last few pages and reads the end.

Ugh, I must admit I am the latter of those two types.  I try and I try; don’t go to the back, wait to see what happens, I tell myself.  Alas, at some point, I am going to break down and go to the back to read the ending.  Fortunately, no matter how surprising or different than I thought, it doesn’t spoil the book for me.  For I find myself just as intrigued about how the author will bring about that ending as I would be not knowing the ending.

Toward the end of His ministry, His disciples and a few others closest to Him, were acquiring the understanding that Jesus was truly different than anyone who had come before.  The disciples would even declare that He was the Son of God, although until the Holy Spirit, they did not grasp the full power of that revelation.  Jesus had been telling them about things that were going to happen in the near future; His death and resurrection, so that when they happened; the disciples would believe in Jesus.  So given Jesus’ ability to see the future and His special relationship with His Heavenly Father, it would seem only natural that Jesus would know about the end of the world and the restoration of God’s Kingdom.  It is also only natural for the disciples to be curious and ask about it?  They wanted to hear about the end of the story that they had been so involved in the writing.  They wanted to flip to the back of the book.

Jesus answer must have been a little frustrating.  For Jesus never gave them the clarity and definiteness of an answer they were looking for.  For one, as far as an exact date; Jesus was very clear, He did not know.  Even being God’s own Son, He was not privy to that information.  God alone knows the exact timing.  Second, remember Jesus was a human being as well as the Son of God.  That means that Jesus understood how we thought, understood our limitations as it applies to living in a linear time; that is hour to day to month to year to so on and on, kind of existence.  Jesus knew and knows that although we ask for, seemingly desperately seek after, the end of the story future truth, end a slight change to the famous words uttered in a movie: “We can’t handle the truth!”

Here’s the issue:  What if God revealed the specifics of His future plan, in detail with us?  What if God laid out His plan, perfect plan that it is, day by day to us?  Remembering that the plan is perfect, yet: What if the plan had some tragic, painful, disastrous segment included in it?  On the other hand, what if God’s plan had some glorious, uplifting, tremendously positive segment that was going to take years to get to?  Think about how much more difficult our lives could be; how much more likely we would be to miss the blessings of each day; how much more likely we would be to overlook the joys, love, needs and ministering to those God has put into our lives now because we knew and were either dreading or anticipating greatly our future.  Would Joseph have gone out to meet his brothers if he knew they would beat him and sell him into slavery?  Would Mary have gone through being Jesus Mother, if she knew the crucifixion was going to happen?

Jesus understands both our limitations and our needs.  So in love, He gave us the only answer He could.  He gave us the truth that we could handle.  Jesus gave us a framework of future times.  He warned us that His returning to heaven was not going to usher in a time of heaven on earth.  He warned them (and in so doing us) of the trials and tribulations to come.  He extolled them to remain faithful as they/we watch.

Finally, Jesus gave us much, much more.  He gave us the promise that, no matter what each day held, however the future might unfold, one future truth was certain; we are loved.  No earthly circumstances can ever sever that love.  No matter the earthly tragedy, Jesus promised that we will be comforted.  Even should our physical bodies be broken, Jesus promised safety and peace for our eternal souls.  And Jesus extolled us; concentrate on today.  For today is what we can impact.  Today is where our love makes a difference.  Today is when the world needs to see our lives faithfully lived in Love of Our Heavenly Father and in Praise to His Most Holy Name.

The story does have an end.  The ending will be perfect and glorious.  How many pages are there until then?  God only knows.  So let’s concentrate on being on the same page.  The page that truly matters right now.  The page of today.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that You are Creator God; Your existence is eternal and Your plan is perfect.  Forgive us Merciful Father when we want to overlook today, to attempt to ascertain the plan of the future.  Through Your Spirit, help us to be fully grounded in today; embracing the blessings it contains as well as seeing to the needs of others that you have placed with us.  Keep us from becoming focused on tomorrow so that we forget to praise You for today.  That we may strive to live in Your Love of today, which is the same everyday and praise Your Most Holy Name for it.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

 

“When I saw that the people were scattered from me and that you did not come within the days appointed…….Therefore I felt compelled and offered a burnt offering.”  1 Samuel 13:11, 12

“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people talked of stoning him…….Then David said to Abiathar the priest: ‘Please bring the ephod to me.  So David inquired of the Lord…”  1 Samuel 30:6,8

It is said: “Patience is a virtue.” and in trying to  give credit to the origin of that exact phrase, there is much debate about where and by whom it was first used.  Nevertheless,   clearly in the Psalms we are told to “wait on the Lord”. (Psalm 27:14)  It can be easier said then done as we see in the two examples in Samuel.

Saul had been king for over a year.  Samuel had specifically told Saul that he was chosen king by God.  God had already given Saul a great victory as king over the Ammonites.  So Saul had ample evidence that God was with him  God had also given Saul, as well as the people of Israel, other resources for success.  The law which stipulated who was to perform such spiritual things as giving sacrifices and a prophet (in this case Samuel) to give them specific instructions.  Yet Saul was in an earthly pickle.  A major army was coming against him and the people of Israel, the dreaded Philistines.  Saul had called out men of Israel to be his army and when they saw the size and weapons of the Philistine Army, we are told they became distressed and started to run away.  Saul feared he was losing control.  He felt that if he lost his men then the Philistines would attack and destroy him.  Being a good leader, Saul figured he needed to act.  Worldly leadership concepts would applaud this.  In his mind, Saul was not completely forsaking God, because he at least offered a sacrifice before going into battle.  Only one problem, God’s edict, His law clearly prescribed who was worthy to give a sacrifice and it was not the king.  Saul knew it and, out of fear, completely disregarded it.

David is in a pickle.  He had been chased by Saul for many months all across the country.  He has been forced to leave the lands of Israel and live with Philistines.  Even then, David had acted with honor and in humble service to the leaders of the Philistines.  Yet they spurned David, they told him they don’t trust him and sent him back to his city; when they decided to do battle with Israel.  Worst than that, when David returns to the city, he finds that another people have attacked, burned the city and carried off all his men’s family as captives as well as their possessions.  David’s men are so angry at him, they are planning to stone him.  Again, David has been told by Samuel that he has been chosen king by God.  God has already given David great military victories and blessings at this point.  David’s men are demanding immediate action.  Who could blame David for acting impulsively and striking out after his enemy?  But David won’t do so.  No, David takes the time to call upon the priest.  Takes time to ask of God and wait upon His answer.

The outcome of these two situations clearly show the consequences of these two men’s behavior.  Saul shows God by his behavior that given circumstances between the demands of people and the demands of God, Saul can not be trusted to rely on the Perfect, Righteous demands of God.  The kingdom is eventually ripped from Saul’s hands and he is killed in battle.  On the other hand, David shows by his behavior that he will resist the demands of the world and first reach out to and then wait upon the Lord God Almighty to answer; which God does swiftly.  God instructs David to pursue his enemy and God will deliver the enemy into his hand.  David then goes forth in pursuit and is victorious, just as God promised.

Dear brothers and sisters there is no doubt we are facing challenges, even crises in the world today.  We are also faced with a world that rewards action over almost everything else.  Don’t just stand there do something; anything!  More and more the world demands action now and tries to swiftly punish those who will not fit into its way of doing things.  However, Jesus teaches us to act differently than the world.  Jesus tells us to first and foremost, always call upon the Name of God.  Jesus reminds us that God is the Omnipotent God of all things whose power can not be overcome.  Jesus asks us to be patient and wait upon God to respond and to act.  Jesus promises us that nothing worldly will separate us from the God who created each of us, knows and loves us by name.  God will answer us.  God will keep us.  The world screams at us that if we wait upon God, it will be too late.  We will be destroyed.  God’s word shows us clearly the consequences of destruction that come by listening and acting like the world, versus the blessings and victory that come when we wait upon and then act in concert with Him.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we know that You are Creator and All Powerful God.  Yet we also confess and ask forgiveness when, in response to the world, we act first without coming to You.  Pour out Your Spirit upon us, Most Merciful Father, that we would have the patience and strength to resist the temptation to act impulsively on our own and come first into Your Presence with our petition for help.  That we would have the faith that proclaims all victory comes to those who will wait upon You, All Loving Father.  In the Name of Jesus Chris we pray.  Amen

Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” John 18:24

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God”  Romans 8:28

There was a show who’s main character’s famous line was: “I love it when a plan comes together”.  Well Annas, Caiaphas, the leadership, the High Council must have been thinking that very thing.  Also, recently, the phrase: “We got him”, has been used to announce that a very evil person has been captured or killed.  Again you can hear that phrase being passed in hushed voices among the crowd of leaders with congratulatory pats on the back.

Their plan, the plan of the Jewish leadership, seemed to be working to perfection.  Find a traitor in Jesus’ ranks; check, we have Judas.  Get Pilot to okay the arresting of Jesus; check, he gave a whole detachment for the purpose.  Arrest Jesus in an out of the way place where there won’t be any crowds to come to His defense; check, arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Now all that was left was to have a controlled trial with paid off witnesses.  Convince Pilot that it was in Rome’s best interest to kill this man.  Yep quite a plan they had and it sure seemed to be working.  Even Jesus seemed to be cooperating by mainly keeping quiet.

People scheme.  They work so hard planning nefarious deeds, thinking themselves clever and wily in their use of deceit and subterfuge.  Men believe themselves to be smarter than all others but themselves and as they put their plan into action, with seeming early successes, they become convinced of their ultimate triumph.  Their evil will prevail.  They will not get caught.  They work unseen. They are unstoppable.

Unstoppable? Unseen?  Triumphant evil?  Not Hardly.  The schemers don’t understand that they were thwarted before they used one brain cell to devise their plan.  They can’t comprehend that the evil they are devising is fitting into the Greater Good that God has had planned all along.  They have no inkling of the reckoning that is in store for them when God’s plan comes to fruition.

For you see, we needed a Savior.  If we were going to be able to inter into a perfect, everlasting relationship with God, it would have to be God’s Will that made it happen.  We sin and try as we might (often times forgetting to even try) we have not the power within ourselves to stop, let alone atone for the past sins that we have.  We needed a plan; a perfect plan.  We needed a plan that would give us the Power to be cleansed from sin once and for all.  We needed a plan that would allow us to walk reprieved into the presence of Almighty God because someone had atoned for our sins for us.  That atonement would need to be performed by the shedding of blood; the death of the perfect Lamb.  God had the only person in mind; Jesus Christ his Only Son.

So Jesus is arrested, tried, convicted, crucified and buried.  Game over.  Evil won.  But wait a second.  What this?  Resurrected? That can’t be!  “Stop preaching Him! Stop healing in His Name!”, the leaders shout.  One of their fiercest warriors, Saul, turns traitor and goes to the other side; changing his name to Paul and starts boldly preaching and starting churches.  This can’t be happening, the Jewish leaders cry out.  We won!  We were smart!  It was all going so well!

So what are we to take from this? We can take great comfort indeed.  For today is no different.  Evil people devise evil plans.  The prince of this world schemes for ways to stop the church or at the very least drive a wedge between God and His people.  They think they are winning.  They believe they have won.  But here’s the thing; Christ won upon His death and resurrection.  Christ’s victory was assured when He came to earth as a little child.  God’s plan was never in jeopardy of not succeeding; then or now!  

Take heart dear brother and sisters. God has a perfect plan for each of us.  And in the fulfilling of that plan, He will cause some earthly evil plans to never start; but He will also allow some evil plans to happen because He will turn them around and turn them into blessings for us.  Through thwarting those evil plans; He will show His Ultimate Power to the world as well as show His commitment and mercy to His people.  No evil devised against you or I will stand as long as we call upon the Name of Our Lord and Savior; Jesus Christ.  Because of God’s ultimate Power to bring the circumstances of all things to be blessings to His People, may it be that we will plan to live lives that praise His Most Glorious Name.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, the world strives hard against You as well as Your People.  We pray for Your protection from the world and the evil it devises.  We call upon Your Name to thwart the plans of the enemy and bring there schemes to naught.  We ask that You would turn their plans against them ultimately showing Your Power in this world.  Finally, we sincerely thank you, Merciful Father, that You saw fit to devise a plan for our salvation.  We praise Jesus Christ for being a willing participant in the plan knowing that it would lead to His death.  Thank you for the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ’s resurrection which once and for all defeated death and the prince of this world.  Praise be always to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”  Ruth 1:21

In the day of prosperity be joyful but in the day of adversity consider:  Surely God has appointed one as well as the other.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14

Many a wiser more gifted writer than I has attempted to come to grips with the question of pain and suffering and that is not directly my attempt here and now.  No, this is more a thought about the perspective that we have that defines pain and suffering.  In the book of Ruth, Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law.  The story starts with an affliction, a famine in the region of Bethlehem.  Naomi, her husband and two sons go to the country of Moab where they have heard there is food.  Naomi’s two sons get married and for awhile all seems blessed, prosperous.  Then Naomi’s husband dies and next her two sons.  We don’t know how.  Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem when she hears that the Lord has lifted the famine.  Naomi tries to have her two daughters-in-law stay in Moab where they will be better cared for.  One stays and one, Ruth, goes to Bethlehem with Naomi.

From Naomi’s perspective and through a certain eye even today we would say that Naomi has had it rough.  First having to move due to a famine then, losing a husband, and subsequently two sons would be hard to see as anything other than tragic.  I would not attempt to say that these things were not excruciatingly painful and would bring about remorse and mourning.  Yet Christ will proclaim, centuries later, blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.

So I wonder what comfort there might be if looked at from a different perspective and how it might change our insight to pain and affliction; especially coming from the Lord.  I at one time was a runner (some who accompanied me are laughing at this point).  I got to a point where I ran several half marathons or 13.2 miles (21.09 kilometers).  I got quite a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration each time I finished a race.  However, I will tell you, there were many days of soreness that led up to those accomplishments.  Before I started I knew that there might some discomfort in the training, but if I had a very clear idea of the amount of pain and the days and days which I would feel it, would I have started in the first place?  Looking back, I absolutely believe it was worth it.  Now to my female readers, I will apologize for this next example as I can’t begin to understand the true extent of the this process.  I have two grown children.  For my wife and I they have been and continue to be blessings throughout their entire lives.  However, I saw the impact that pregnancy had on my wife, the sickness, the tiredness, the lack of comfort and then the indescribable pain that happened at the time of birth.  Today, my wife would say it was all completely worth it with not the slightest hesitation.  But would there be any hesitation if, going in to process, a person was able to truly communicate in graphic detail to bring about a complete understanding, what the months were going to be like.  Would that make a difference?

So back to Naomi and God’s plan.  She says that she’s been afflicted, that the Lord has testified against her.  I wonder if it would have made any difference if she knew that she was going to be the great-grandmother of the greatest human king of Israel, David.  Would it change the perspective that Ruth, a Moabite, would have to come to Bethlehem (thus something would need to cause the family to go to Moab).  That Ruth would need to marry Boaz (thus to be able to marry, Ruth would have to be a widow.  Her son would need to die).  How might the perspective be different knowing that the eternal King of Kings, Jesus Christ would come from lineage of David, leading back to Ruth).

So for us today, If God were to come to us and say I plan to bless all humanity for all time to come and I plan to use you to accomplish it.  I’d like to think that I/we would exclaim Yes Lord!  Use Me!  We might ask and He might even show us the end state as people are reading about us and shouting Alleluia!  But here is where truly, the devil tries to turn us away, is in the details.  What if that plan requires an illness of ours, a seemingly, human suffering of a loved one.  If even knowing the glorious outcome, would we still exclaim Yes Lord.  If Naomi knew what was going to happen in Moab, might she have tried to convince her husband to just stay in Bethlehem and take their chances?

Faith.  The belief that God is in control and no matter what is happening to us and no matter what conclusions the world is making because of it, we are certain of the Love and Wisdom of God Almighty.  Faith.  The belief that can cause Paul to proclaim in writing, even though he had been imprisoned, beaten, threatened with death, that all things work together for good to those who Love God.

There is a saying and response that we often say in our church:  Statement:  God is Good!  Response: All the time!  Statement: And All the time!  Response:  God is Good!  I can not say that this perspective is easy.  I will absolutely admit that I am no where close to mastering this concept.  I take comfort in the fact that the humanity of Christ drove him into the garden to pray for help, even though as God, He knew the plan and the glorious outcome.  The comfort is that He knows my struggle and will be there for me when I can’t see the glory for the pain.  May the understanding be that we can and should always go to the Father to help us through.

Our most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You have a plan and that plan is a perfect one.  Forgive us when we turn away from You in disdain of your plan.  Give us Your Power to strengthen us when our weakness would have us abandon Your plan.  That it not be that we need to see the outcome, that it is enough that we are able to see You.  This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior.  Amen

 

There we saw giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants) and we were like grasshoppers in our own site, and so we were in their sight.  Numbers 13:33

Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims?  Numbers 14:3

With men it was impossible; but not with God, for with God all things are possible.  Mark 10:27

Fear, probably one of the most paradoxical concepts that we will ever deal with.  Roosevelt, famously said that “All we have to fear is fear itself.”  Is it really as simple as that?  Doesn’t our culture exalt the person who is termed “fearless”?  Yet don’t we also have thrill seekers who are completely untrained, who leap into the habitats of wild animals and get mauled to death.  And much more common and tragic, are those who do not fear texting while driving and become involved in horrendous car accidents?

Fear!  Can it stand in our way?  Sure.  The Israelites had seen the plagues wrought on Egypt by God and they had been spared.  They watched as God destroyed the Egyptian Army.  They watched God provide for all their needs day and night in the wilderness.  And now on the brink of ending their epic sojourn and crossing into the promised land, and lest we forget the land promised was promised by God, they stop in their tracks.  Why?  A few men.  In their eyes the report of a few good men.  For the spies, Moses had commanded to go and look at the promised land and report back, gave a good report of the land.  It was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey.  And at first they were ready to go in and possess the land as God had intended.  Then came the but……. But there are strong men and strong cities their….Giants.  We can’t go in there because they will squash us.  Joshua, one of the spies tries to change their minds.  Yes, we saw mighty people but no people is mightier than God, He will give us this land.  Do not fear!  And as we know, they didn’t listen to Joshua.

So we see that fear can keep us from acting.  Yet there is a story in Samuel, where King Saul acts because of fear.  He was facing a great battle and Samuel was nowhere to be found.  Saul was not supposed to be the one to actually offer sacrifices to the Lord, but because he could not wait, Saul did so anyway.  Samuel does arrive and hears Saul’s explanation for disobeying God’s commandment.  He was more afraid of the immediate threat of the Philistine Army, than God’s commandment, so he acted.  As a consequence, Samuel advises that the kingship will be taken from him and given to another (that other was David).

So there you have it; to fear or not to fear, to act or not to act.  Should I feel no fear whatsoever or should I face each new thing with fear and trembling?  If we look to men/our society for the answer, we will find very numerous and very contradictory answers.  Yet when we look at the universal reference for answers; they are few and they are consistent.  Proverbs tells us that to fear the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Jesus tells us that with God all things are possible.

Okay, I can hear the big question out there:  If God is a loving God why should I fear him?  It is very hard (at least for me) to find words adequate enough to thorougly explain (and also please understand, I do not presume to say that my understanding is truly adequate).  But if you have ever found yourself in a situation where the circumstances were completely out of your ability to control (it could be a natural event like a hurricane or maybe even slowly riding up to the top of a crest of a tall roller coaster) and seeing or experiencing the power and awe of that circumstance is but a glimpse in the concept of the fear of the Lord.  I believe we have not the ability to accurately grasp the concept of God’s power; even His power of love.  God; through His Love has graciously decided to enter into a relationship with us.  But He does not just share a tiny portion with us that we can handle; He is in it 100 percent.  And that power, the wisdom, the omnipresence, that…….perfection, should instill great awe and yes fear in comparison.

So, each day we are faced with decisions.  Where are we to go?  In this or that circumstance, what are we to do?  In the words of a rock and roll tune:  “Should I stay or should I go!”.  And often enough, it is not that we don’t have the answers; it is that we have too many answers and they conflict.  The world will tell us you would be a fool to fill in the blank; take the job, not take the job, pack up and move, stay where you are, pass up this opportunity, marry that person, invest in, on and on and on.

Dear Heavenly Father, through Your Son Jesus Christ, we were told that should we ask it will be given to us.  We know that this world will give us conflicting answers, conflicting wisdom.  So we do ask that, when are faced with decisions, that You will impart Your wisdom, such that we can handle, to us.  In addition we ask, that once You have imparted that wisdom, that You will give us the courage to overcome our earthly fears, and carry out the plan, the Perfect Plan, you have in store for us.  That our appropriate fear of You, will lead us to obedience and through that obedience the abundant blessings You have laid up for us.  That Praises of You be ever on our lips we pray, in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Amen

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