Mimbres First United Methodist Church

Turn away from evil and turn toward God

It’s the first Sunday of Lent, the Resurrection season has begun. Ash Wednesday kicks it off and for the next 40 days we spend time reflecting on what it means to be a Christian. It’s a time of self-awareness and examination, when we repent of our sins and fast. The forty days represent the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan and preparing for his coming ministry. In the early days of the church it was a time to prepare new members for Baptism. In the present we tend to focus on our relationship with God and usually choose to give up something or give something in return to the community at large. Some choose to give up a specific thing like sodas or smoking, but it doesn’t have to be physical and doesn’t have to be done in a sense of rejection. You could choose to be kinder to your neighbor for forty days or you could choose to always start a conversation with a compliment. It’s not so much in what you do but who you are doing it for, every time you are tempted to do the opposite remember that Jesus endured far more than forty days without soda. Whether or not you choose to give up something for the next forty day or not it is a time for us to repent, to reflect on where we are in our walk with God and our personal relationship with Christ. Over the past weeks I have been trying to bring together the elements of Christianity, to get us thinking about what it meant to the disciples and what it means to us, what God expects from us and what Jesus taught us. To reflect on our humanity and what it meant for Jesus to partake of that humanity. To understand that while we revere the Apostles and what they did for us, nevertheless they were no greater than you or I, that we possess the same capabilities. To realize that all that was accomplished through them was by the will of our Lord and Savior Jesus. To give thanks that while Jesus was born as you and I, the Son of Man, yet He is the Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people”. [John 1:3-4]

To comprehend the fullness of what Jesus did for us we have to take a look within ourselves and comprehend the nature of the covenant that God made with humanity and for that we have to go back to the beginning and that beginning is Genesis. I am not going to go into the fall and original sin, who’s to blame etc. rather what concerns us now is the covenant that God made with Noah. “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” [Genesis 9:8-11] Why was it necessary for God to make this covenant with us? Why did God destroy the earth? “And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart”. [Genesis 6:6] Of all creation we are the only ones that God has actually repented of, twice. God was not only sorry that he made humanity but we grieved His heart. Usually when we are talking about repentance it’s us for our sins, not God, he does not sin yet he felt sorrow and regret that he created us, God felt that he had done wrong by our creation. Think about that. Exactly what does that mean, remember we can’t change Gods mind and God can do no evil, yet he repented of us. Repentance in the simplest from is “to turnabout or to turn away from” in the theological sense it is to turn away from evil and to turn towards God. So practically speaking God turned his countenance away from our evil because it pained him so much. Fortunately for us “Noah found favor in the eyes the Lord”. [Genesis 6:8] So humanity survives but buried deep within us at our core is still that seed of evil that we took with us out of the garden. There is just no way that we can atone for our sins, it is not possible for humanity to earn God’s grace. We were given a reprieve (free and clear) and still we didn’t get it, thousands of years and we were heading right back down that same road. What’s God supposed to do? God has made a covenant with us, and He must be true to His nature. He won’t destroy us, doesn’t want to in fact, yet he cannot countenance evil.

You’ve all heard the saying “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself”. Amen. So, the only way for us to receive salvation is if it is given freely and accepted and apparently, we can’t figure it out, so God decided to show us the way personally. Our true salvation begins not with Noah’s covenant, that’s the old world our salvation begins with Jesus and his ministry, if you will recall I said that the true beginning of Jesus ministry was his Baptism by John. “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”. [Mark 1:9-11] Up to this point Jesus has been practicing but this moment defines the beginning not only for Jesus but for all Christians that moment when we are accepted as children of God by accepting Gods sovereignty in our lives. The one man that does not need to repent his sins for he has none, yet he acknowledges Gods authority and God approves and the spirit descends and the Trinity is complete on earth as it is in heaven. The Messiah is at hand “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence”! [Isaiah 64:1-2] God has come and rent the heavens to anoint His servant, Jesus. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations”. [Isaiah 42:1] And God has declared him his Son “I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you”. [Psalm 2:7] I love it when the Old Testament and the New Testament connect and you get to see God’s plan in action. I get a profound sense awe and wonder that this actually happened and then I get excited because the best is still to come. But like anything worth having it has to be worth waiting for and there is always a price.

 “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him”. [Mark 1:12-13] Forty days in the wilderness. Please don’t think of this as a camping trip in the Gila. No food, no water and wild animals, we are not talking about sheep and goats here, but jackals and lions. People were regularly killed in the wilderness, it was not a Sunday picnic. It was dangerous and demanding, survival is not a game and the adversary is not someone to be taken lightly. But neither is Jesus and unlike the children of God (Israel) that had failed in the wilderness, Jesus is the Son of God and he conquers Satan and cast him away returning from the wilderness only to find that John the Baptist  has been arrested. This was a cruel blow for Jesus as John was his cousin but more importantly he was also the harbinger of the Messiah for “A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. [Isaiah 40:3] As much as John was necessary to prepare the way for Jesus so to was it necessary that John’s presence must lessen as Jesus begins his ministry, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” [John 3:30] “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” [Mark 1:14-15] Repent and believe in the good news for the kingdom of God is near. Turn away from evil and turn toward God for His kingdom is near and his Son is truly the Messiah, our Lord and Savior. Jesus will come again. I get a little bit excited when I think about everything coming together, because it’s amazing, even if for some reason your here today and don’t believe in Jesus. Consider this, according to biblical scholars Jesus fulfilled over 300 references to 61 specific prophesies written over a thousand years and by many different people in different geographical locations and cultures. The odds of fulfilling just one is like winning the Irish lottery. To fulfill all of them is impossible, well unless you are the Messiah. Something to reflect upon this first Sunday in Lent? Last week I was hard on Peter, so I’ll let him have the last words this week because Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, even when he didn’t get it right.

 “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him”. [1 Peter 3:18-22]

What Would You Do?

Today is the day that is traditionally called Transfiguration Sunday. In the synoptic gospels it is approaching the time when Jesus will begin his final entry into Jerusalem and the terrible suffering that he foretold was to commence, with His eventual death and resurrection. But for now, that time is still many days in the future and the significance of the transfiguration is that it is the second confirmation by God that Jesus is in fact His Son and the Messiah. I am going to ask you to place yourselves in your minds eye in those men’s sandals. Consider for a moment, I am going to ask you to continually remember a couple of facts. One, these men are just like you and me and as far as they are concerned, so is Jesus. They have not had the benefit of two thousand years to think about this. In their time, Jesus was a radical Rabbi, preaching the kingdom of God for all, that salvation was for everyone, not just the wealthy or the priesthood. That salvation was not earned but was freely given to those who would ask for it. That God did not want their sacrifices but rather their love and devotion. The second thing I want you to remember is that to these men Jesus was just a man. We know that he is the Son of God but two thousand years ago before his death and resurrection he was a man, born of woman and raised just like you or me. His mother changed his diapers when he was a baby and kissed his owies away when he fell. To these men he was just another man. A teacher to be sure, a worker of miracles absolutely, but at the end of the day still a man. We focus so much on His ministry and the miracles and divinity that we forget that he was foremost sent to us to be human. Jesus came to be tempted by the same sins that we are tempted with, in order that he might show us the way. So, I want you to consider this passage from the viewpoint of the three men whom Jesus took up the mountain that day. Because to them he was not God, and even though Peter had just recognized Him as the Messiah in [Mark 8:29] Jesus “asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” We will see how easily that is forgotten. We are more fortunate in that we did not know Jesus as the disciples did. I know that seems contradictory but think about it, our faith is based purely on faith not on sure knowledge, not on facts. The disciples had all the facts and still they didn’t get it. They literally witnessed the salvation of mankind and still they did not get it. They did not have the same faith that we have, now stay with me a moment, I am not saying that it was greater or less, just different, in  [John 20:29] Jesus is speaking to Thomas and “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We are all familiar with the phrase don’t be a doubting Thomas, right. So think a moment, you have never seen Jesus in the flesh or seen Him perform a miracle and yet we believe that he is alive and will return, we affirm this every Sunday in worship and confirm our belief every time we participate in the Holy Sacraments. Not so the very men who were daily with him for three years, they were able to see these things that we take on faith, first hand. And that was their problem, I think Chaucer, first used it in print but the origin of the phrase goes back much further, and that is “familiarity breeds contempt”, I know no one likes to think of that word in the same sentence as Jesus, much less connected directly to him, and I do not suggest that the disciples held Jesus in contempt on the contrary they were in awe of him. But you cannot live with a man day in and day out, watch him eat and sleep and do all the things that you and I do daily and keep them on a pedestal. I think most of us are or have been either married or in a long-term relationship before, so let me ask you how long did the honeymoon last? How long before familiarity set in and you became comfortable with each other, before dirty socks and morning breath stopped bothering you. Exactly, not too long. So, as we go through this passage, remember that at this end of history we know the rest of the story and try not to judge the other guys to harshly. Even though I am going to hammer Peter pretty good, I recognize that he is still the one that Jesus chose to build the church, our church and happily, they did eventually get it. Now that we have the right frame of mind let’s look at one of the more important passages in my opinion in the entire bible, only His birth and His final days are more significant to humanity. Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. [9:2a] Jesus did not take everyone only those three, and remember who those three are, Peter who would build the church, James Jesus’ brother who would be the first bishop of Jerusalem, and John the beloved who would write the Revelation, the only disciple that was not martyred. He did not take Matthew, Mark, or Luke. He took the three men who would be instrumental in the creation of the church. They were to witness Jesus in all his Glory “And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them”. [2:2b,3] the Greek word used here for transfigured is metamorphoō it means to change in appearance, literally Jesus’ appearance became something else. His clothes became dazzling white, beyond anything possible at that time. Both Matthew and Luke report that His face was changed and that it shone like the sun. “And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus”. [2:4] The bringer of Gods law and the defender of Gods law, together with the Son of God in all his heavenly Glory. We are talking about heaven on earth, when we pray on earth as it is in heaven, this is what we mean. The Messiah reigning on earth, this is what we are waiting for. This passage is called the Transfiguration and it’s a snapshot of the second coming of Christ and the redemption of mankind, but I think it’s also not the first transfiguration. The first was when God came to us as a man, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known”. [John 1:1-18] Now is when I need you to remember what I said in the beginning, now is the time to remember that these three men disciples of Christ and pillars of the church to come are in fact just as human as you or I. Peter the rock of the church given the opportunity to see the coming Glory of the messiah, God incarnate and the two greatest historical  figures in Judaism, I want you to put yourself in his shoes and ask yourself what would you do? What would I do? I want to believe that I could come up with something better than Peter, but that would be my pride talking. “Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” [9:5-7] You have just seen your friend, your teacher, your confidante transformed before your eyes into the Messiah that you acknowledged as such, talking to the two greatest men in your history on the side of a mountain and the voice of God confirms him as his Son.  Tells you to listen to him and you say, hey bro, this is cool, I think we should throw up a few tents and kick back for a while, figure this all out. Now I am paraphrasing that, call it the gospel according to me, but what would you do? And then “Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. [9:8,9] Poof…all gone. No more glory, no more Moses, Elijah, or God. Just Jesus, just an ordinary man, once again your Rabbi, your friend. His glory covered until his resurrection. Four men coming down the mountain. One with surety and three perhaps a little unsteady. What would you do? What would you believe? Would you believe? Would you have faith? Would you? It’s easy to look back with all the answers, we can be proud of our faith because we never witnessed the miracles and still we believe. We like to say that all you need is a personal relationship with Jesus and I believe that it is a fundamental need to have that relationship, but if you had been there on the mountain with Jesus had been witness to the Glory of the Son of Man. What would you do? Would you be terrified, would you praise his name, would you pitch a tent, would you walk away, or would you glorify God? Because Jesus will come again. We will see him as Peter, James, and John did either here on earth or in heaven. We know how the story ends so the real question I think is not what would you do? But, what will you do?

Let God Reap the Harvest

What does it mean to be a Christian in this day and age? Are we who we say we are? I have received several enquiries recently about what the way forward means for us, what does having open hearts and open minds really mean for Methodism in particular, and the church as a whole. We are the church catholic, now before you go saying I am not, catholic or at least not for a while now, let me explain. The definition of Catholic according to my friend Merriam Webster is [a]: of, relating to, or forming the church universal [b]: of, relating to, or forming the ancient undivided Christian church or a church claiming historical continuity from it. [c]: Roman Catholic, that’s the denomination. When I speak of the church catholic I am referring to [a] our universal catholicity or our belief in the church universal. We are descended through millennia from those 12 apostles whom our Lord and Savior sat at table with while inviting them to give everything they had in return, Jesus promised them nothing, but ridicule, pain and condemnation…oh and eternal life, inheritance in the kingdom of God, as children of God…not much really, just eternal life…in return for our love. 12 plain ordinary people, fishermen, doctors, lawyers, tax collectors. Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God to all, not just people like him, people with his same socioeconomic background, but lepers, prostitutes, thieves, murderers… Jesus preached to all. The kingdom of God is for everyone, the Gospel is not just for the saint, but the sinner too. God sent us Jesus to heal our minds and hearts to show us the way to salvation. Not to condemnation…desolation, not to death but rather to eternal life. But wait pastor, forgiveness isn’t for child molesters, rapists, sexual deviants, homosexuals…right? Salvation isn’t for rappers, rock stars, junkies and drunks…right? Because God doesn’t want those kinds of people…right? God doesn’t want those people. God doesn’t want his creations? God doesn’t want the broken and the lost, just the perfect and the immaculate…right? Those are the words of the enemy…again, he just won’t go away. All things are created by God, the LEB says “Who has come to confront me, that I should repay him? Under all the heavens, it belongs to me.” [Job 41:11] Pretty straight forward and while I like to study using the Lexham English Bible sometimes you just have to get contemporary, and the CEV puts it like this “I am in command of the world and in debt to no one”. [Job 41:11] Who are we to question God? “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”. [Hosea 6:6] God does not need or seek our opinion on who will be saved. We are not called to judge, we are called to proclaim the gospel, to love God with all our heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves period. Paul explains to us in 1 Corinthians what it is that he does and why he does it. As one who is also on this same walk and because I cannot speak for others, I will let Paul speak for me, that you may have a little insight, a window if you will into why it is so important to me that the church have an open mind and an open heart, while still maintaining our apostolic integrity and the original meaning of the Bible, the living word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit and taught by Jesus and those he has chosen to continue his work. Paul tells the church at Corinth “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel”! [9:16] In other words, Paul is saying, I am not doing this because I want to do this but rather because I have no choice or rather the choice is not a choice because if I don’t do it I will suffer more than if I do. Paul is compelled to serve Christ as all are who truly serve. Whether we do it grudgingly or with joyful abandon, regardless, like Paul we are compelled within us to serve God. A friend and mentor to me once told me that if I could do anything else besides pastoring, anything else, do it. If I could walk away from this calling do it, right now and don’t look back, save myself the grief and heartache. If I could not walk away, If I could not give it up, then praise God because I would never be happy doing anything else, I would never know the joy and peace of doing God’s will, and that it would be the best thing that I ever did. And he was absolutely right. It is the best thing that I could ever have done, and while I am compelled to serve God, I am the one who first sought that service, and I serve willing and joyfully “for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. [Matthew 11:30] It only seemed an imposition, a curse with no reward and nothing but trouble in the beginning, but I was looking at it from the wrong perspective, not so Paul, “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.” [9:17-18] And that’s the key, the Gospel is free of charge, it’s not meant to be withheld from anyone for any reason. We are entrusted with a commission and that commission is the proclamation of the Gospel for the Kingdom of God, for the Glorification of God. Not for reward, not at my will, not at the will of the church but at the will of God, because even “though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them”. [9:19] This is a very powerful statement, then and now. Paul was a free Roman citizen, he was a Jew, not only a Jew but a Pharisee, so he was a Jews…Jew, he knew the law inside and out and freedom always precious was even more so then, because it was not guaranteed and could be so easily lost. Slavery, never something to be desired, was especially degrading, most people would rather be a leper and free than a healthy slave. Better a death sentence than servitude, to be owned as chattel, it was unthinkably obscene for a Roman citizen or a Jew to contemplate slavery. Yet Paul considered himself a slave in service to Jesus, to the Kingdom and to God. Just so he could win more Glory for…not himself, but for God…not for an earthly king but for the King of Kings. Paul was out to win people for God and willing to do what it took, “to the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law”. [9:20] Paul was a Jew, and while he was preaching to them he kept their laws even though he now followed only God’s law, only the new covenant, yet still when he preached to the Hebrew community he did not condemn their ways, rather he preached the gospel and let God reap the harvest. “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law”. [9:21] Paul’s talking about the gentiles here, he’s talking about us. Paul did not go out and condemn the gentiles for not circumcising their children, for not following Jewish dietary laws or marriage customs. He proclaimed the gospel and God reaps the harvest. “To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some”. [9:22] To the weak I became weak. Paul isn’t talking about puny people here, he is not talking about physical strength at all, when Paul refers to the weak he is talking about the weak in spirit, the sinner, those who are cast off and reviled by society. The sinner, the weak of will, not the weak of arm. Paul brought the Gospel to those that society condemned, to those that were cast off and judged by others to be less than what was expected. Paul brought the Gospel to all of God’s people, not just those under the law. “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings”. [9:23] Sometimes I think the Pharisee never left, sometimes I think the Pharisee are us. We have to remember that our salvation is through Jesus and not the law. Does it mean that we have to go a whoring to reach those that need the word? Do we have to be homosexual, or drunk or a junkie to love them to preach the Gospel to them? NO, but neither does it mean that we are their judges. Does it mean that we have to forgo God’s law to accommodate them, Absolutely Not? So, what does that mean for us? How do we go forward? Paul gave us the answer and it’s one that many Christians have a problem with. The lectionary doesn’t include it in the reading for today and I wondered why they broke it up there. But it’s the answer to the question. “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one”. [9:24-25] G.K. Chesterton said what has to be my most favorite quote in the world. “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried”. And that is the key to the way forward for Methodism and the church universal, we must remember that no matter what it’s our eternal lives that are in the balance, and that there are going to be those who chose not run the race and there will be those that start but don’t finish, there will be those that cheat and those that seek to change the course, there will be winners and there will be losers, but it’s not our job to decide which is which, we only need to follow Jesus, preach the Gospel, and let God reap the harvest.

A New Teaching – With Authority

A New Teaching – With Authority. Most people when they read Mark 1:21-28 are all about the demoniac and how Jesus exorcised him. Even the title of the passage is “The Man with an Unclean Spirit” It’s true nothing quite spells out authority like abolishing evil with a just a word. “Be silent and come out of him” [1:25] and just like that the man is convulsing, he screams and no more demon. That is amazing if you stop and think about it, also a little scary. I mean you must put things into context, first century Jews or twenty-first century Christians. You must know the ground your standing on before you can build a foundation, or it will collapse on you. As a modern intelligent, worldly human it is almost impossible to convince us that evil spirits, demons or ghosts even exist must less have an impact on our daily lives. Humanity was no less intelligent 2000 years ago than today. True they did not have the virtually instantaneous access to knowledge that we have today, and no doubt would consider it a miracle. However, their innate intelligence was probably greater since they did not have smart phones and had to remember everything they wanted to know. Most educated people spoke and wrote several languages and had more than a nodding acquaintance with philosophy and religion. My point is they were not barbarians squatting in the mud picking their noses. They were thoughtful, well-spoken and highly intelligent people for the most part who believed most emphatically in the Greatness of God and the evil of demons. We should take a lesson from our ancestors, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. [Ephesians 6:12]

The devil’s real and he is quite happy that we do not believe in him, Satan does not want us healthy and happy if we are Christians, he wants us miserable like Job, because if we are miserable and do not believe in him then who are we going to blame our misery on…you guessed it God. The evil one knows this, and nothing makes him happier than when we question God. I am always amazed when something bad happens to people, the first thing they do is turn to God, and the first thing they ask is WHY ME GOD? Same person, only survivor of something horrific, kills everyone else except for them…goes and tells everyone, I guess I’m just lucky that’s all. The more things seem to go wrong the happier I am, because I know the enemy is trying to stop me and Jesus is not going to permit it. You see demons recognize the authority that Jesus possesses and that it is all encompassing, they knew it in Capernaum when they asked “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? [1:24]   They know his power, have you come to destroy us? [1:24] They know where he derives his authority, I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” [1:24] From God, and they were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! [1:27] Demons recognize Jesus’ authority, so why don’t we? You see I don’t see this passage the same way as the commentaries do or most people for that matter. What I see, the words that fill my bones with fire and set my heart to beating, that empowers my mind and comforts my soul. Five words A new teaching—with authority! [1:27] You see it’s not the devil that has the authority in this world, It’s Jesus. The evil in this world cannot teach us or create in us anything new, it can only corrupt what has already been created. It has no authority that we do not first give over to it, and then only because Jesus gave that authority to us first. We must give it up, we must forego our inheritance in God’s Kingdom before evil can take hold in us and that is the enemies number one goal, to strip us of the authority that Christ brought to us, that is our birthright as children of The Most High God.

Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God with the authority of God. People were amazed, they were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. [1:22] One having authority, but not like the scribes, not like the lawyers in other words. Forgive me if anyone here is a lawyer, either currently or in a past life. The Pharisee were the biblical scholars of their time. They believed in the resurrection of the body, spirits both good and bad as well as the coming of The Messiah. At the time there were 613 commandments or laws, this include the 10 big ones. As you can see with so many commandments you had to have someone to interpret them and keep track of them. The Pharisee were good at it, in fact Josephus said, “they interpret the law with careful exactitude.” That was their problem, they were too analytical, too authoritarian, they did not speak “With Authority” but rather “from authority”. There’s a difference. It’s the same difference you see in a person who recites the scripture by rote and the one who speaks it from their heart, with passion, love and clarity, something to be relished and cherished while at the same being unable to keep it to oneself but desiring to give it as a gift to others so they can know the same joy, not merely something to be gotten through, explained,… minimized. The people could tell the difference, they were amazed by His teaching because He taught from the heart of the Creator. The love of God for His creation could not be hidden from His children when it was spoken by His Son. Just like the authority of Jesus could not go unrecognized by the enemy. All those who encountered Him instinctively recognized the authority that Jesus commanded.

A new teaching—with authority! [1:27] We see it all through the bible. The first thing he does is show his authority over evil when he casts out the demon. He then goes on to Simon’s house where he shows his authority over sickness and “that evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. “And he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him”. [1:32-34] Jesus has authority to forgive sins “when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic— “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home. “And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings. [Matthew 9:2-9] Not only does he have authority over our bodies but our very souls, “Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So, they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” [John 11:39-44] Jesus’ authority is in his divinity, “Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” [John 8:28-29]

A new teaching, certainly. Jesus came to show us the way, to instruct us in the will of His Father, of our Father. With authority…definitely. None can deny the authority of Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Jesus told us “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” [John 14:6-7] When we open our minds to the word of God to a new teaching-we acknowledge the authority of Jesus over us we accept that authority for ourselves, it becomes a part of us. We accept that authority when we accept Christ into our lives and The Holy Spirit is that authority that burns within us, that Jesus promised us if only we would accept him.

Can We Change God’s Mind?

Can we change God’s mind? What a question…also one that has plagued biblical scholars, theologists and society in general since the beginning of creation. After all, if I can change God’s mind, is he really God and if so, is He a just God? Otherwise couldn’t I just buy him off with a couple of oxen and a healthy donation to the church? Hey God, here’s a thousand dollars and my prize bull, could we forget that weekend in Vegas, after all the TV says, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. I don’t think so, yet Jonah chapter 3 translates verse 10 in the NRSV exactly that way “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” [3:10] Seriously! I can change the mind of my Father, my creator, the creator of the universe, if only I will dress uncomfortably, stop bathing and eating chocolate cake? Noooo…Stop right there. Hold onto your horses and let’s look at this unfortunate translation, better yet let’s go to the beginning and start all over. We need to put Jonah and the Ninevites in their place and in their proper relationship to God. “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” [3:1-2] This is Jonah’s second chance, as you may remember Jonah ran from the Lord the first time, because he hated the Ninevites and wanted them to be destroyed. God choose Jonah as his prophet to the Ninevites and he disobeyed the Lord.

Now normally in the Old Testament when you provoked God you got fried, instead Jonah got swallowed by a big fish, not deep fried (deep sixed?), still a goner. Strange as it may sound, our Lord is the God of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness not malice, hate, and destruction. That’s some bad PR put out by the enemy, I am not saying that you cannot find death and destruction in the bible and directed by God, but only against his unrepentant enemies who have had multiple chances to repent but most often he is gracious and merciful, especially to the undeserving. Jonah is himself an example of this. Although Jonah is apparently blissfully unaware of this. God does not want to destroy anyone after all he created everyone, what potter creates a masterpiece just to break it.

At the time of Jonah’s rebellion, the world was almost totally polytheistic (oops) sorry, fifty-dollar word for people who worship lots of different gods, they have a god for everything. Got a bellyache it’s because you didn’t pay off the bellyache god, that other persons wealthy or influential, well that’s because they worship the Grand Poohbah. Whatever, worshipping a single god or monotheism was considered a little crazy, kind of like buying a new car and not taking out the extended warranty. Now remember pretty much the whole world thought this way, it would be like trying to tell people today that the world was flat, sure there are a few people who really believe this but their nuts, right. People who believed in a single god were kind of pathetic, I mean why have only one god, how powerful could he be? If one is good, two’s better and a dozen is unbeatable, right? If you only had one god then your people must be poor, socially backwards, pathetic. The Assyrians new this like we know that the world is round. This is the situation that Jonah found himself in, not only was God asking him to do the impossible he was sending him to Nineveh the capital of the Assyrian empire. The Assyrian’s had decimated the tribes of Israel, enslaving and killing them for years. Not only did Jonah have reason to hate the Ninevites in his eyes their coming destruction was justice and well-earned justice at that. Reluctantly but obediently and still with the hope that the Ninevites would reject the word of the LORD “Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.” Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. [3:3] This place is huge, think of trying to walk across New York city. The commentaries all get a little crazy about this and none of them can agree on the size of the city, everyone has a theory, all of them are rational and well thought out and all I will say is this “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,[2 Timothy 3:16] The point is Nineveh is huge and “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” [3:4]

One day’s walk that’s between 15 and twenty miles on foot, take a second and imagine that … a day … twenty miles, and only a third of the way into the city. Amazing, yes… what is AWESOME though is the message. “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” [3:4] It’s not even a complete sentence, please, if I walked in here this morning and proclaimed, “forty days more and you shall be overthrown” and left, how many of you would be like, OK, whatever, dudes crazy, lost his mind, time for a new pastor. And I think that’s the way Jonah presented it, still hoping that Nineveh would not relent. Poor Jonah, guys thick as a brick. Disobeys God, gets swallowed by a fish, cries out for forgiveness God has mercy and forgives him. Goes where he does not want to amidst his people’s enemies and preaches the shortest sermon in the history of sermons in the largest city in the world and still fails to recognize that the word of God is the word of the Creator that the universe was spoken into existence by the will of God and not by the words of Jonah. “And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.” [3:5-8]

The shortest sermon of all time, not very eloquent, not even a complete thought, delivered with malice and spite yet Jonah was merely the instrument, but still God’s instrument and the word of the LORD is powerful indeed. Worlds shortest sermon and the world’s largest conversion.

The entire city from the least to the greatest repented asked forgiveness of a God they had never heard of or believed in the day before, warned by a prophet that despised and hated them. “Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” [3:9] One and all they turned from their evil ways with no surety that it would save them. Jonah is praying for a different outcome, Jonah wants the destruction of the Ninevites and that’s the most amazing thing of all. God does not just wipe Nineveh off the face of the earth. Why? Why doesn’t God destroy all evil in the world, like he did with Sodom and Gomorrah. Too often we forget that Abraham pled for the lives of those cities. “Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” [Genesis 18:23-26] and Abraham keeps on 45, 30, 20, 10… and the LORD said, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” [Genesis 18:32]

God seeks us out. God wants us to come to him. No matter the sin. The heart of God is for all creation. No matter your personal Jonah’s, and we have all had one at one time or another in our life. That one individual that refuses to forgive you, that seeks your destruction, prays for it, goes out of their way to make you miserable it doesn’t matter to God, no matter what you have done. God pursues us to extend his mercy and love. Even the evil among us, God loves us all, He seeks to bring us into relation with Him because he cannot endure our loss. He has no pleasure in the destruction of his works. He loves our wicked world so much that he sent his only begotten son to redeem us. “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” [3:10] I am not going to get all seminary on you, partly because I haven’t been to seminary, but mostly because it’s not necessary. The Hebrew translates loosely as God relented, consoled himself, had compassion for. We do not change Gods mind. That is not possible. We can change our hearts. By changing our hearts, by showing compassion and mercy freely to others, we invite God to relent, to have compassion and mercy on us. God wants to comfort us, to love us. We know love, only because he first loved us. God has compassion for us and it’s that compassion that sent his Son to us, it’s that compassion that extends his Grace to us and it’s that compassion that forgives us, redeems us, and set’s us free. Not by our sacrifices, not because of our Jonah’s, only by faith, by sincere repentance and God’s will, will we receive God’s grace.

 

 

Listen… 1 Samuel 3:1-20

There are five keys for listening to God. 1) Location. 2) Make Time. 3) Be Still. 4) Know the Lord. 5) Obey the Lord. According to Ralph Nichols,

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

Understanding what God wants for us is no different. We must listen first, but listening requires a conscience effort on our part. You cannot multitask listening, it requires focus. What happens if you are listening to the TV and your phone rings, you pick it up and start talking to your friend. Do you keep watching TV and if you do who are you really listening to? Life happens, and we want it to.

Doctors’ appointments, work, school, grocery shopping on and on. It happens so much that we no longer hear it, we have become immune to the language of life, it has ceased to have meaning for a great many people. When you hear the same thing repeatedly the mind stops hearing it and if you do not hear it, you stop listening. Remember listening requires an effort it’s active, hearing is passive it requires nothing but presence. I think we hear the Lord all the time, we just don’t listen. Why? I don’t know. So, how do we not only hear the voice of the Lord but learn to listen for it? Not only listen but obey. It’s not difficult Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” John 10:27. We hear the voice of Jesus, he knows us, and we are meant to follow but first … Samuel will show us the way. “Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was” 3:3. What’s that old saying about location, location, location. Samuel was with the Ark, it doesn’t get much more sacred than that. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t have access to the Ark of God, and while I have the privilege of being one of Gods stewards, it would be a little, shall we say impractical to come up to the church whenever I felt the need for the Holy presence. So, the first thing we need is a personal sanctuary, a spot or place that we can feel the presence of God. It doesn’t have to be flashy or ornate, it must be somewhere you can feel secure.

Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So, he went and lay down”. 3:4-5. When is it not a good time to talk to God? NEVER! It’s always a good time to pray but if you’re expecting a reply, you might want to set aside a little alone time. Notice that God spoke to Samuel when he was relaxed and receptive, not in the middle of doing chores, or grocery shopping, (although that’s when I do a lot of praying, mostly about how I’d like to be somewhere else), but God spoke to Samuel when he was lying down. Probably not a coincidence. You must make time for the Lord or eventually he will not make time for you.

Do you have to be immobile and completely focused on God? Of course not, but it helps to eliminate distractions and focus on what you’re asking? So, the second thing we need to do is make time. “Here I am, for you called me” 3:6 Too often I found myself in my previous life asking God for this or that as I progressed through the day, still do, except it’s with a different focus. I would ask God to live my life for me, Lord would you… fill in the blank… do this for me, please Lord and I called it unceasing prayer. More like unceasing complaints. I still do this only now I ask the Lord to show me the way to… fill in the blank… that it might glorify God. Now rather than asking God to live my life, I live my life for God. I still rarely get an answer, and that’s because I’m too busy talking and not listening. So, that’s number three, be silent. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth”. Psalm 46:10 Three times God called Samuel and three times he heard God, but “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him”. 3:7 Number four know the Lord, read your Bible, study the word of the Lord. We can never understand the mind of God, but we can learn what He wants from us, we can learn as much of his mind as the Holy Spirit, indwelling us, reveals to us, we can be in relationship with Him. You don’t have to understand why God is, to know God is.

God has gifted us with the instructions so why not read them and find out how to listen, to truly be in relationship with God. “Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 3:10 Now that we know God and are finally listening… comes the hardest part, this is the point where so many of us get to and fail. The final part that everyone has trouble with, saint or sinner. Once we find a place, make the time, be still, and know God, once we hear God … then, we must obey the word of God. James said, “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves”. James 1:22 Poor Samuel once he heard the Lord, God told him some really messed up stuff. We say we want to hear the voice of God, but do you, really. I thank God that he regularly gives me what I need and not what I deserve. To hear God is not always sunshine and roses. It can be a tremendous burden.

Samuel was given knowledge of the impending destruction of Eli, and his family. Samuel’s mentor and since Samuel was so good to Eli, I am assuming that he was also like a father or at the very least a friend to him. How horrible it must have been for Samuel to be given that knowledge. Not only that but to then tell Eli, “Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.”  Eli said, “What was it that he told you”? 3:15 Samuel did not distort the word of God or put his own spin on it. He simply told it like it was, “Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him” 3:18. How easy it would have been for Samuel to lie to Eli and tell him that all would be well, Eli was getting old and Samuel was still a boy, who would have blamed him for taking the easy out. God…even though God condemned Eli because of his family still Eli acknowledged God’s will saying “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him”. 3:18 Who’s going to know if we hear God, who’s going to know if we obey or not. Not our family, not our friends, No one knows we are listening… no one except God.

Small Church?…Change the World!

Today is the first Sunday after Epiphany which means “manifestation” or “showing forth”. We are celebrating the divinity of Jesus and acknowledging its manifestation. The first time when the three kings came to witness his birth in Bethlehem, and the second time when he is baptized by John. Today we think upon the manifestation of Jesus’ divinity and his baptism is truly the beginning of his ministry and God’s affirmation that Jesus is his Son and the Messiah, but I also wanted to address the question of where this church is going and where we really want to be. I intend to do both, and it may be a bit unorthodox. What does the Holy Spirit represent for us, today and what is it we want for our church? What is it that we desire for our church? What are your expectation of the church and who’s job is it anyways to fulfill those expectations? When we say we want to grow our church do we mean we want a large church with multiple ministries a youth pastor and a local focus. Do we want a megachurch with thousands of members, several pastors and worldwide ministry with modern Christian music but no personal identity, now I am not saying that their worship is less sincere or their faith any less than mine, but when there are thousands of people to minister to how many can you actually be in relationship with, and ministry is about relationship? God is about relationship; He desires to be in relationship with us. He loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die for us. That’s how bad he wants a relationship with us. So when we ask God to grow our church, what is it we really want? What are we really after, and what does this have to do with the church in Ephesus and Paul?

Well it says that Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples” Acts 19:1. Not only that but it tells us how many, altogether there were about twelve of them”Act 19:7. Not thousands or even hundreds, not even fifty. Just twelve, and I don’t even think it was twelve because when someone uses the word about, they really mean on a good day there were twelve, but I don’t know, so Paul had a good day and twelve followers, which if memory serves me, a certain man from Nazareth also started out with that many disciples. Megachurches and even large churches all had humble beginnings, like Jesus, like the church at Ephesus. They started out small, Jesus preached in people’s homes in the beginning, in the synagogue when he could. In the street when he had to, on the side of a mountain. Wherever people gathered. If Jesus had only preached in the synagogue, few would have heard him, the Pharisee and Sadducee would have had him killed quietly and no one would have cared. If Jesus had not been baptized through repentance, and received the holy spirit, we would never have been  forgiven our sins, but Jesus knew and he told John “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” Matthew 3:15-17. The only man ever who did not need to ask for forgiveness because he committed no sin, yet he knew that it was necessary, he knew that he would have to carry the sins of the world and that repentance is the first step in redemption and ultimately salvation, our salvation.

Paul knew this when he asked “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” Acts 19:2-6. It’s not enough that we repent, we also must receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us this what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” Acts 1:4-5. Even without the Holy Spirit the disciples in Ephesus still had faith in Jesus, surrounded by people who did not believe in God, in fact the majority of the people believed in Artemis, they had built one of the most famous temples of that time in their city dedicated to her and were renowned as practitioners of dark magic.

So what does Paul and his congregation do after receiving the Holy Spirit, He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God” Acts 19:8. No dice the Jews in Ephesus were not having anything to do with Paul, his people or the Gospel. So what does Paul and his twelve do, this tiny church surrounded by people with a totally different theology, who couldn’t care less about God or Jesus, had in fact never heard the Gospel. They were not only spiritually invested in their way of life but financially as well. Their entire economy was based on Artemis and the sale of magical spell books. Why hadn’t they heard about the Gospel though, I mean there were twelve who had, who knew the significance of what Jesus had done and yet they did not tell the good news to anyone else until Paul came, why? Fear, laziness, apathy, or maybe they just didn’t want to rock the boat. Whatever the reason Paul was on fire when the Jewish community stubbornly refused to believe and spoke evil of the Way before the congregation, he left them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord” Acts 19:9-10.

Daily, for two years they preach. Paul does not tell us what the church at Ephesus was doing prior to his arrival, I don’t think anyone cares. Maybe they were preaching daily, maybe they were doing everything right and were just missing the fire that Holy Spirit provides us if we ask, and that’s the key to everything. Jesus tells us in Matthew Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7-8. The answer is within us, because we have received the Holy Spirit, but what about your neighbor, your best friend, the cashier at store, the teller at your bank, your family. The first thing that Paul asks the Ephesians “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” Acts 19:2 You have to ask the simple questions first, before you ask where are we going and how will we get there.

I don’t want a huge impersonal church, don’t get me wrong every Pastor and every congregation wants to see their church grow, wants to see the good news spread to the four corners of the globe but it doesn’t take much to make an enormous difference. One man, changed the world, one man redeemed the world. Twelve disciples, spread the news over the world. That little church in Ephesus, those twelve ordinary people, like you and me in the span of two years spread the gospel “so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord” Acts 19:10. One small church and twelve ordinary, everyday people, filled with the Holy Spirit preaching the gospel can reach an entire continent, can change the course of history. The question can never be what do we want from the church, but where do we want to take the church. Let us remember that like John the Baptist we should Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”. Jesus will take care of the rest. Amen.