Hi, My Name is Doubt!

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying,  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Matt 11:2-7

“Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared that even doubt to be a sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! — Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality.

Fredrich Nietzche lived in a time when Christianity became fundamentalist, tieing everything up so that there was no room for doubt.  The Christian wasn’t allowed to doubt, such expressions were sinful, and showed a complete lack of faith.

No doubt is not sin! Faith in our minds battles with a thousand and one emotions.  In religion and philosophy, we call it doubt, but in real life, we might call it depression, anxiety, or anyone of the many diagnoses that make up our mental health.  When God says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, God wasn’t joking—we are complex.

John the Baptist had been out there in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord.  Confronting demons both spiritual and physical, but know he was in prison. Alone, with only his thoughts and doubts to keep him company, he begins to question. Jesus responds to John’s question by telling him all the miracles that were happening and about to happen—‘John, you did your bit, preparing the way for God to move,’ doubt not!

You might be in that place of doubt this morning, and God would tell you this morning, ‘I AM is walking with you and has a plan for your life.’

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Micah

June 25, 2019. Devotions

God’s Message as it came to Micah of Moresheth. It came during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. It had to do with what was going on in Samaria and Jerusalem. [ God Takes the Witness Stand ] Listen, people—all of you. Listen, earth, and everyone in it: The Master, God, takes the witness stand against you, the Master from his Holy Temple. Look, here he comes! God, from his place! He comes down and strides across mountains and hills. Mountains sink under his feet; valleys split apart; The rock mountains crumble into gravel, the river valleys leak like sieves. All this because of Jacob’s sin, because Israel’s family did wrong.

The nations sin, idolatry, and immorality was so grave that they drew God attention.  The analogy Micah uses is of a giant striding the land, causing the things that have always been there to change. Crushed mountains, split valleys and dried up rivers.  Judah and Israel would have been foolish to ignore the signs, but ignore them they did.

The prophets often prophecied in poetic prose. God is a Spirit and doesn’t stride like a giant, and yet, God still moves. Perhaps we need to see and take note of global warming and the footprint we are leaving on our environment.  Then we should look for the spiritual and the prophetic voice, as God tries to get our attention.

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Reconciled

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. (Joh 21:15-17 NKJ)

“The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.” ― Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change

Matthew 26:33, 35 Peter speaking to Jesus boasts, “Even if all the rest lose their faith and fall away, I will still be beside you, Jesus!” …. Peter replied, “I absolutely will never deny you, even if I have to die with you!” And all the others said the same thing. Yet, when the time came to stand up and be counted the ‘Rock, Petros, Peter ’ was nowhere to be found. Now on the beach comes Peter’ moment of reconciliation.

The question Jesus asks could be twofold. “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Was Jesus pointing to the fish, representing his old way of life, or was he pointing to the other disciples, ‘is your love greater than these disciples? Peter would have felt the sting of that rhetorical question, knowing full well that he had denied the Lord three times.

After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah.” Instead of the ‘Rock,’ Peter had proved he was still the ‘Reed,’ blown around by the fear of man and public opinion, he had denied the Lord he claimed to love so much, and Jesus knew where to meet him. Twice, when Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” Jesus used the Greek word agapas, meaning unselfish love, and twice Peter replies, with philio, meaning friend. Jesus asks him a third time, this time using the word philio. Peter, frustrated responds with, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus knows where we are too!

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Believe Without Seeing

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Joh 20:24-29 NKJ)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1 NKJ)

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

In many ways Thomas get a bad rap, why shouldn’t he have the same experience as Mary and the other disciples.  Mary met the risen Lord and the tomb, and the disciples were in the locked room when Jesus appeared.  For some reason, Thomas wasn’t there the first time, but eight days later the Lord appears to them again.  This time Thomas is there, and Jesus said to him, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

The issue wasn’t one of doubt, but trust, and indirectly love.  You would have thought that by now the disciples would have been a close-knit community.  Thomas’s distrust of his friend’s words threatened to the very unity of the community.

In John’s gospel, it is those who believe without seeing that are the true believers.

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Change!

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. (Joh 21:3-6 NKJ)

“Most of what we think we know about evangelicals is wrong, or is well on its way to being outdated. Generational changes and the shifting racial make-up of evangelical Christians are changing what we think of as evangelical culture and politics.” – Deborah Jian Lee. (author of Rescuing Jesus.)

“Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen, and keep your eyes wide the chance won’t come again. And don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin, and there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’. For the loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a-changin’. – Bob Dylan.

Andrew, Peter, James, and John were the fishermen, the experts, been doing this for years.  Even though they caught nothing on this occasion, they would have gone out again and done the same thing. On this occasion, however, a stranger calls from the beach and tells them to cast their nets on the other side.  Possible questions:

  • “Who is this guy and who does he think he is telling us what to do?”
  • “But we’ve always done it this way.”
  • “We’re too tired.”
  • “Changing the nets over in too much work.”

On this occasion, they did what he said, and brought in a multitude of fish. The Millennials, the ‘Z’ generation and even some ‘X’ and ‘Y’s’ need and even want to hear the message of Jesus, seek after God, experience a new spirituality; it’s just that we keep casting nets using the three hymns, offering, and a dry sermon method. We need to be more inclusive, open and diverse.  God can cope with it—try it.

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Walking with God

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,”and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. “Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. “When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. “And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see.” Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. (Luk 24:13-30 NKJ)

I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mat 28:20 NIV)

Author Craig D. Lounsbrough once wrote, “In walking with God, it’s not about knowing the facts. Rather, it’s about knowing the God Who knows the facts.” The two disciples were walking along talking and discussing the events that had taken place, namely, the crucifixion of Jesus. Sad at the outcome, though the outcome they were looking for was not God’s intended purpose.  “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” Cleopas said. No, that wasn’t God’s plan, how about redeeming the world?

The I”AM may not walk with us in person, though I have met people before, that I didn’t know, never saw again and wondered where they came from. But the Spirit of God is always with us and walks with us daily, and knows everything there is to know, both the beginning and the end. As we are reminded by John the Revelator,  “The one whose heart is open, let them listen carefully to what the Spirit is presently saying to all the lovers of God.” (My Translation)

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Try Love

“You have heard that it was said,`You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Mat 5:43-48 NKJ)

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “`You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and`your neighbor as yourself.'” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luk 10:25-29 NKJ)

“Deep wounds are not easily healed. But the Good Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of the stranger who lay helpless on the road to Jericho and set him on the road to recovery. Each one of us can go and do likewise.” ― John LaFarge S.J., The Catholic Viewpoint on Race Relations.

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” – Gandhi.

Apparently, the Jews hated the Samaritans with a passion, so much so that they would walk the long way to their destination if the shorter route involved passing through Samaria. If you ask why there was so much hatred, nobody really knows the true reason, and it seems that they had more in common than they would like to confess.

White separatist kills fifty in New Zealand, and ISIS kills three hundred and eleven in Sri Lanka are just two of hundreds of atrocities committed around the world, and they achieved nothing.  It is a senseless waste of life.

Rhetoric has increased here in the US, with people expressing comments that are racist, islamophobic, antisemitic, and homophobic. The fact is that when you express such views, you show the world that you are unintelligent, juvenile and have an undeveloped faith. Unfortunately, you are convinced you are right because you hang out with people of a like mindset. The Apostle Paul would tell to grow-up and get some maturity. Jesus would tell you to love your neighbor and even your enemies. I say we should look for the light in everyone.

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Earth Day

The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.  For He has founded it upon the seas And established it upon the waters. (Psa 24:1-2 NKJ)

Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” (Gen 1:26 CEB)

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold; it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day. (Gen 1:31 ESV)

When I was a child, I would play with my toys, and after I was finished would put them back into there original boxes and store them away.  My friends, on the other hand, had toys that were busted, wheels missing and just thrown around. In my teenage years, I had toys to give away, miniature cars, and trucks, Lego and Meccano—all immaculate and in their original boxes. I didn’t keep them that way out of fear of my parents; I just valued what I had.

Today, we have too many Christians that treat the Earth like my friends treated their toys.  Somehow they believe that God is going to take them away and give them a new heaven and new earth to play with after they have wrecked the old one. ‘But I didn’t damage the earth,’ I hear you say. True, but did you do anything to stop others, those big multi-national corporations and governments that polluted the waters pumped poisonous gases into the air, and poured toxic waste on the earth?

God loves the earth. Like a baby birthed from the womb, words of blessing were spoken over it, and the Spirit brooded like a mother, and then they gave it to us to look after and care for, we failed miserably. But all is not lost, we can still do our bit to turn the tide.  Do it because you value and appreciate what God has given you, do it for the earth’s sake.

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Easter–Christ is Risen!

As G. K. Chesterton once wrote, ‘Your religion is not the church you belong to, but the cosmos you live inside of. Once we know that the entire physical world around us, all of creation, is both the hiding place and the revelation place for God, this world becomes home, safe, enchanted, offering grace to any who look deeply. I call that kind of deep and calm seeing “contemplation.” Richard Rohr

Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. (Luk 24:9-12 NKJ)

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. (Joh 20:6-8 NKJ)

It’s all about the etiquette of the napkin.  If you leave the table temporarily, fold the napkin and leave it on the chair. When you decide to leave, crumple the napkin and leave it to the left of your plate.

John’s gospel tells us that the napkin in the tomb was folded; Christ is coming back soon!

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Devotions for Lent–Harrowing of Hell!

That’s why scripture says, When he climbed up to the heights, he captured prisoners, and he gave gifts to people. What does the phrase “he climbed up” mean if it doesn’t mean that he had first gone down into the lower regions, the earth? The one who went down is the same one who climbed up above all the heavens so that he might fill everything. (Eph 4:8-10 CEB)

“When the gatekeepers of hell saw him, they fled; the bronze gates were broken open, and the iron chains were undone” (Cyril of Alexandria, Ancient Commentary on Scripture 11.107).

This is the day referred to by the Orthodox church as the Great Sabbath.  It’s the day when Jesus’ body rested in Joseph’s grave, while Christ descended into the lower regions of the earth to set the captives free.  Many believe that Christ went to preach the ‘Good News,’ while others believe it was more of an announcement, a declaration of victory.

The voice of our Lord sounded into Hell, and He cried aloud and burst the graves one by one. Tremblings took hold on Death; Hell that never of old had been lighted up, into it there flashed splendors, from the Watchers [angels] who entered in and brought out the dead to meet Him, who was dead and gives life to all. (Nisibene Hymns 36.11)

For the religious hierarchy, having crucified Jesus, everything was quite in Palestine.  However, down below there was a whole lot of shaking going on.

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