MUSINGS

All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E Williams

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MUSINGS – October 19, 2018

TESTED

Mark 7:24-29
And rising up, he went from there to the area of Tyre and Sidon. And entering into a house, he intended no one to know about it, but he was not able to remain hidden. For a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit, as soon as she heard about him, entered and fell prostrate at his feet. For the woman was a Gentile, by birth a Syro-Phoenician. And she petitioned him, so that he would cast the demon from her daughter. And he said to her: “First allow the sons to have their fill. For it is not good to take away the bread of the sons and throw it to the dogs.” But she responded by saying to him: “Certainly, Lord. Yet the young dogs also eat, under the table, from the crumbs of the children.” And he said to her, “Because of this saying, go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

I’ll admit that this encounter with and insulting dismissal of this Greek woman has always bothered me. It seems so … so un-Messiah-like. He who came to save everyone* from every time, shouldn’t turn away anyone who earnestly seeks him. Previously he had placed no restriction on whom he healed. He had saved the life of the servant of a Roman soldier**, forgave the Samaritan woman at the well,*** and crossed the sea to cast demons from a foreign man.****

This woman comes to Jesus with high expectations because of the good things she has heard about him. Indeed his fame has spread so that, evern though he intended that no one knew he was there, he was constantly sought for. He came to seek the Lord. But the lost also come seeking him.

She falls before his feet and begs for her daughter’s release from the demons who attack her. And he dismissed her with a word often used by the Jews against non Jews, “dog”. It is equivalent to a more modern term “S.O.B.” Why these hateful words from this loving man?

Take note the he didn’t not say he would not have grant her petition. He only said, “First allow the sons to have their fill.”

She wisely heard his words and responded, feed the children first but remember that the dogs must also be fed. To her credit, she did not demand to be moved to the front of the line but only asked to be heard in her turn. Because she humbled herself, her daughter was healed. He had tested her and found her faith sufficient.

There are times I take my wants and needs to the Lord and don’t immediately receive an answer. Perhaps it is because “I’m determined to have things, but I can’t get what I want. I quarrel and fight. I don’t have the things I want, because I don’t pray for them. When I pray for things, I don’t get them because I want them for the wrong reason–for my own pleasure. (personalized from James 4:2-3) And sometimes maybe I don’t receive because my faith is being tested like the woman in our scripture reading was tested.

*1 Timothy 4:10 and Acts 27:22-31

**Luke 7:1-10 Z f

***John 4:4-10

****Mark 5:1-15

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 18, 2018

GIGO

Mark 7:14-23
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand! Nothing that goes into a person from the outside can make him unclean. It’s what comes out of a person that makes him unclean. Let the person who has ears listen!”

When he had left the people and gone home, his disciples asked him about this illustration. Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand? Don’t you know that whatever goes into a person from the outside can’t make him unclean? It doesn’t go into his thoughts but into his stomach and then into a toilet.” (By saying this, Jesus declared all foods acceptable.) He continued, “It’s what comes out of a person that makes him unclean. Evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, cheating, shameless lust, envy, cursing, arrogance, and foolishness come from within a person. All these evils come from within and make a person unclean.”

Remember that this is a continuation of the events that began at the beginning of this chapter when the Pharisees accused the disciples of being unclean because they didn’t wash their hands before they ate.

GIGO* is programmer slang that means if the input data is flawed, them the output will also be flawed. The same principle applies in logic. If the original premiss is flawed, then the conclusion will be flawed.

The Pharisees premiss was that a person could become spiritually unclean by not following the strict observance to cleanliness and dietary laws. Jesus declared this to be a case of GIGO*. It is the mind and heart of a person that makes them unclean. Proverbs 23:7 echos this thought. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Maybe we all needed to check our lives for GIGO*.

*Garbage In Garbage Out

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 17, 2018

UNCLEAN

Mark 7:1-13
The Pharisees and some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. They saw that some of his disciples were unclean because they ate without washing their hands. (The Pharisees, like all other Jewish people, don’t eat unless they have properly washed their hands. They follow the traditions of their ancestors. When they come from the marketplace, they don’t eat unless they have washed first. They have been taught to follow many other rules. For example, they must also wash their cups, jars, brass pots, and dinner tables.)

The Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples follow the traditions taught by our ancestors? They are unclean because they don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans.’ “You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.” He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions! For example, Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a person tells his father or mother that whatever he might have used to help them is corban (that is, an offering to God), he no longer has to do anything for his father or mother.’ Because of your traditions you have destroyed the authority of God’s word. And you do many other things like that.”

This is an unusual confrontation between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. In most of the recorded conflicts they have, the Pharisees ask a question of Jesus for the purpose of trapping him. Jesus in turn asks the Pharisees a country question that they either can’t answer it are afraid the answer.

Jesus did not counter their question with a question this time. He went on the offensive and attacked them directly and specifically. He points out how they use manmade traditions to circumvent the laws of God.

My first reaction is, “Go get ’em, Jesus!” But one of my favorite study technically it’s put myself into the story. I’ll try to see it through The eyes of all those involved. I can be comfortable putting myself in as one of the disciples or even Jesus. But as I look through The eyes of the religious leaders, I become very uncomfortable. I am them. That makes me question my own traditions. Do they really line up with the Holy Scriptures or do I just follow them because that is what I was taught?

How about you? Are you willing to dive into the scriptures and seek the truths for yourself? Or will you just accept what you’ve been taught?

Here is an example: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” You’ve heard it before, right? Do you believe it? Don’t. It’s not scriptural, not found in the Bible. As a matter of fact it is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. He taught that the Lord helps those who rely on Him and follow His commandments.

Are you willing to accept what I just said? Or will you study to show yourself approved? (2 Timothy 2:15)

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS- October 15, 2018

ONE MORE STORM AT SEA

Mark 6:45-52

Jesus quickly made his disciples get into a boat and cross to Bethsaida ahead of him while he sent the people away. After saying goodbye to them, he went up a mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he was alone on the land. Jesus saw that they were in a lot of trouble as they rowed, because they were going against the wind. Between three and six o’clock in the morning, he came to them. He was walking on the sea. He wanted to pass by them. When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought, “It’s a ghost!” and they began to scream. All of them saw him and were terrified. Immediately, he said, “Calm down! It’s me. Don’t be afraid!” He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped blowing. The disciples were astounded. (They didn’t understand what had happened with the loaves of bread. Instead, their minds were closed.)

Once more Jesus send his disciples across the sea. If you’ll recall, the last time he was with them, when the storm arose, and they were terrified. He called them cowards for their lack of faith. (Mark 4:35-41)

This time, after feeding and teaching the 5,000, here stayed behind to pray. The disciples were alone and battling the sea and the wind.

Here is the part I’ve overlooked every other time I’ve read this passage: from his view point on the mountain, Jesus could see that they were having trouble. That was in the evening. However, he waited until early morning to take his stroll through the waves. And then … and then, “He wanted to pass by them.”

It appears to me that, though he was watching over them, it was his intent that they continue to struggle under their own power … or use the power here had given them. The author said that they still did not understand, that their minds were closed.

How many storms in our lives do we have to go through before our minds are opened and we understand what Jesus had been teaching us?

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 14, 2018

HANGRY

Mark 6:35-44
When it was late, his disciples came to him. They said, “No one lives around here, and it’s already late. Send the people to the closest farms and villages to buy themselves something to eat.” Jesus replied, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Should we go and spend about a year’s wages on bread to feed them?” He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out, they told him, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.” Then he ordered all of them to sit down in groups on the green grass. They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. After he took the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed the food. He broke the loaves apart and kept giving them to the disciples to give to the people. He also gave pieces of the two fish to everyone. All of them ate as much as they wanted. When they picked up the leftover pieces, they filled twelve baskets with bread and fish. There were 5,000 men who had eaten the bread.

Just a few verses back we read that Jesus and the disciples had no time to rest or to eat. I think they were becoming hangery. Recent commercials by Snickers have made great use of the ideas of being so hungry that you become angry. Maybe they needed a candy bar.

Here is the scene. The disciples, with stomachs growling, come to Jesus and say, “it’s late and THE PEOPLE are tired and hungry. Send them away.” The disciples didn’t want to appear self centered before the Master. So instead of saying that THEY we hungry and tired, they appealed to his concern for THE PEOPLE. “Send them away.”

Jesus turned the tables in them and said, “YOU feed them.” This was the work for which Jesus was training them. “Feed my sheep,” Jesus would later repeat to Peter three times. (John 21:15-18) Out of the thousands who followed him, Jesus hand picked twelve for special training. These were the ones who would continue his work once he was gone from the Earth. “You feed them.”

But we can’t.”

What do you mean, ‘you can’t’? Have you tried? Have you looked? What do you have?”

How often have we come to Jesus and said, “We have nothing with which to help.”

He whispers back, “Nothing? Have you looked? Have you tried? You bring what little you have and I will multiple it!”

Maybe all you have is a dollar, a smile, a shoulder to cry on, an arm to lean on, a word of encouragement, a few tools, a gallon of gas, or a loaf of bread. Whatever you have, give as if you are giving to Jesus. He can turn a little into more than enough. They can be twelve baskets left over.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 13, 2018

THE PRICE OF FAME

Mark 6:30-34
The apostles gathered around Jesus. They reported to him everything they had done and taught. So he said to them, “Let’s go to a place where we can be alone to rest for a while.” Many people were coming and going, and Jesus and the apostles didn’t even have a chance to eat. So they went away in a boat to a place where they could be alone. But many people saw them leave and recognized them. The people ran from all the cities and arrived ahead of them. When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw a large crowd and felt sorry for them. They were like sheep without a shepherd. So he spent a lot of time teaching them.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”* Jesus, the Servant King, has no time to rest, to eat, or be alone with the twelve students he is training. His fame is spreading and huge crowds are following him or running ahead to where they know he will be next.

In Mark’s narrative there were at least 5,000 people here. They were drawn to this man for many reasons including his healings and amazing explainations of the scriptures. Some came just so that they could say that had seen this famous person. Whatever their reason for being here, they all came needing something from him. And Jesus could not turn them away because these were the lost sheep he had come to rescue. The price here was paying for his fame is nothing compared to the price he has paid for his love of humanity. His love for me and for you.

John 3:16-17
God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world.

*King Henry IV, Act III, Scene I,

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 09 2018

STEALING A HEALING?

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Mark 5:25-34
In the crowd was a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for twelve years. Although she had been under the care of many doctors and had spent all her money, she had not been helped at all. Actually, she had become worse. Since she had heard about Jesus, she came from behind in the crowd and touched his clothes. She said, “If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll get well.” Her bleeding stopped immediately. She felt cured from her illness. At that moment Jesus felt power had gone out of him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “How can you ask, ‘Who touched me,’ when you see the crowd pressing you on all sides?” But he kept looking around to see the woman who had done this. The woman trembled with fear. She knew what had happened to her. So she quickly bowed in front of him and told him the whole truth. Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace! Be cured from your illness.”

This story comes in the middle of, and indeed interrupts the story of Jesus restoring life to the young daughter of the synagogue Leander. Here is the setting, Jesus it’s in the midst of a moving mob of people. He is on the way to save the life of the daughter of a synagogue leader. And then the unexpected happened.

He stopped. He stopped and looked around as if he’d lost something. His disciples were concerned and confused. They were on the way to save a life. Why did he stop? What was he looking for? And then he said the strangest thing, Who touched my clothes?”

The answer to that was, “Everybody!” This wasn’t a stationary sit-on-the-hillside-and-teach situation. They were on the move. Everyone was follow him to Jairus’s home to see him heal a child. And, if course, everyone wanted to be as close to the action as they could get. They were talk touching him.

However, one touch was different. One touch was with a purpose. One person wanted a healing, but on their own terms. They didn’t want to beg for it nor did they want to be made a public spectacle like what was happening with Jairus’s daughter. And it appeared to have worked because the bleeding stopped and she felt better.

That, however, wasn’t enough for Jesus. He stopped this surging crowd and demanded to know who had touched him. In fear, she knelt before him and confessed. In love, he blessed her faith in him and then … and only then, he said, “Be cured from your illness.” The bleeding had stopped when she touched him, but the cure only came after coming face to face with the Master.

I gate to admit it, but I have at times been like this woman. I wanted a miracle on my terms. But it is only when you can say, “Not my will, not my way, but Yours, my Lord,” that God is able to provide what I truly needed.

Have you come pleading with the Lord or have you come to take it without acknowledging his Kingship?

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All content (except quotations) © 201p Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 08 2018

BEGGING JESUS

Mark 5:21-24
Jesus again crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee in a boat. A large crowd gathered around him by the seashore. A synagogue leader named Jairus also arrived. When he saw Jesus, he quickly bowed down in front of him. He begged Jesus, “My little daughter is dying. Come, lay your hands on her so that she may get well and live.” Jesus went with the man. A huge crowd followed Jesus and pressed him on every side.

(I’m skipping over a few verses. We’ll get to those tomorrow.)

Mark 5:35-43
While Jesus was still speaking to her, some people came from the synagogue leader’s home. They told the synagogue leader, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the teacher anymore?” When Jesus overheard what they said, he told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid! Just believe.” Jesus allowed no one to go with him except Peter and the two brothers James and John. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a noisy crowd there. People were crying and sobbing loudly. When he came into the house, he asked them, “Why are you making so much noise and crying? The child isn’t dead. She’s just sleeping.” They laughed at him. So he made all of them go outside. Then he took the child’s father, mother, and his three disciples and went to the child. Jesus took the child’s hand and said to her, “Talitha, koum!” which means, “Little girl, I’m telling you to get up!” The girl got up at once and started to walk. (She was twelve years old.) They were astonished. Jesus ordered them not to let anyone know about this. He also told them to give the little girl something to eat.

Because we so often read of Jesus’s confrontations with the religious leaders in Jerusalem, we can get the scewed perspective that all the leaders hatred Jesus. This is not true. He often spoke in the synagogues as he traveled around the country.
Here we see Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue, in the midst of a large crowd, come and fall at Jesus feet. Here was a man of importance but he did not come to Jesus demanding special attention because of his position. No, he came humbling himself and begging. His twelve year old daughter was gravely ill.

Her age is recorded here because it was important. If she were younger than twelve, she would not be accountable for her actions under the Law of Moses. At age twelve she becomes responsible for any sins she may have committed. So, Jairus was not just begging for his daughters life but also her soul.

When word comes that she had died, it is too late for the physician, the healer. It is impossible to heal the dead. But Jesus is not a doctor. He is God the Son to whom nothing is impossible.

Many thing in life are impossible in the natural order of things. However, if it be God’s good will, His supernatural power can make them possible. If we humble ourselves and fall at his feet begging, we may see a miracle, if our will and His will are aligned. (James 4:2-3)

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All content (except quotations) © 201p Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 07 2018

WHY DID JESUS CROSS THE SEA?

Mark 5:1-20
They arrived in the territory of the Gerasenes on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As Jesus stepped out of the boat, a man came out of the tombs and met him. The man was controlled by an evil spirit and lived among the tombs. No one could restrain him any longer, not even with a chain. He had often been chained hand and foot. However, he snapped the chains off his hands and broke the chains from his feet. No one could control him. Night and day he was among the tombs and on the mountainsides screaming and cutting himself with stones. The man saw Jesus at a distance. So he ran to Jesus, bowed down in front of him, and shouted, “Why are you bothering me now, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me.” He shouted this because Jesus said, “You evil spirit, come out of the man.” Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He told Jesus, “My name is Legion Six Thousand, because there are many of us.” He begged Jesus not to send them out of the territory. A large herd of pigs was feeding on a mountainside nearby. The demons begged him, “Send us into the pigs! Let us enter them!” Jesus let them do this. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the cliff into the sea and drowned. Those who took care of the pigs ran away. In the city and countryside they reported everything that had happened. So the people came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. The man was sitting there dressed and in his right mind. The people were frightened. Those who saw this told what had happened to the demon-possessed man and the pigs. Then the people began to beg Jesus to leave their territory. As Jesus stepped into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged him, “Let me stay with you.” But Jesus would not allow it. Instead, he told the man, “Go home to your family, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been to you.” So the man left. He began to tell how much Jesus had done for him in the Ten Cities. Everyone was amazed.

Isn’t this an amazing story? You’ve probably heard it before, if you’ve been in church long enough. So what can I tell that you don’t already know? You know that the demons came running to Jesus, addressed him as the Son of God, that they feared him because they knew he had the power to do with them as he pleased. You know that, after the man was freed, this foreign, non Jewish man begged to go with Jesus. However, Jesus sent him back into his own country to tell the story .. his gosple … to his own people.

But did you realize that this was the only reason Jesus crossed the sea?

This story actually began way back in Mark 4:35 when Jesus said, “Let’s cross to the other side.” That whole storm, that had the disciples so frightened during the night might well have been an attack by the god of this world* to keep Jesus from saving this tormented man.

But Jesus would not, could not, be stopped from this amazing act of grace. He crossed the raging sea for this one man. He never even left the shore. He came, he saved, he commissioned, and he left because he was needed elsewhere. (Stay tuned, there’s more to come.)

Jesus comes to each of us whereever we are. He came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10)

*2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan, who is the god of this world.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 06 2018

MASTER OF THE SEA

Mark 4:35-41
That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus along in a boat just as he was. Other boats were with him. A violent windstorm came up. The waves were breaking into the boat so that it was quickly filling up. But he was sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Then he got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, “Be still, absolutely still!” The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm. He asked them, “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith yet?” They were overcome with fear and asked each other, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”
Squire Enos Parsons Jr. wrote a gosple song, based on this scripture passage. In it he answers the question that the disciple asked, “Who is this man?” He is the “Master of the Sea,”*

The disciples did not yet fully understand why was in their boat with them. For he is more than master of the sea, he aker of the sea.** Of course he could calm the sea with a word because he is the Word made flesh. (John 1:14)

The author of John’s gosple was well aware of this traditional Jewish understanding of the Messiah Memra–the Word of Yahweh. Within the Old Testament, many times it is said that work done by the Lord was done by that Word of the Lord, whom we call Jesus the Christ our Lord.

I’m so glad that Parsons wrote, “Though the storms of life may rage
Mighty billows round you roll
Then He can calm life’s troubled sea
Oh as He did in days of old.”

When the storms of life rage in your life, take heart that the Master has promised “I am always with you until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20)

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*Master of the Sea
One night upon the sea
A ship was tossing to and fro
Breakers dashed on every hand
Angry winds around did blow
All on board were filled with fright
As the mighty billows rolled
Then they called upon the one
Who the winds and waves controlled
Chorus
When He reaches out His hand
Billows cease at His command (His command)
Winds and waves obey His will
When He says to them be still
What man is this they all did say (They did say)
That the winds and sea obey (sea obey)
He’s the one who sails with me
Oh He’s still the Master of the sea (of the sea)
Though the storms of life may rage
Mighty billows round you roll
Then He can calm life’s troubled sea
Oh as He did in days of old
And as upon life’s sea you sail
Why don’t you trust in Him who’s never ever failed
I’m so glad He sails with me
Oh He’s still the Master of the sea
Chorus
Tag:
I’m so glad He sails with me
He’s the Master of the sea.

**Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep water. The Spirit of God was hovering over the water.

And

John 1:1-3
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning. Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him.P

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MUSINGS – October 05 Friday 2018

AMAZING GROWTH

Mark 4:30-34
Jesus asked, “How can we show what the kingdom of God is like? To what can we compare it? It’s like a mustard seed planted in the ground. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds on earth. However, when planted, it comes up and becomes taller than all the garden plants. It grows such large branches that birds can nest in its shade.” Jesus spoke God’s word to them using many illustrations like these. In this way people could understand what he taught. He did not speak to them without using an illustration. But when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.

Cottonwood trees* are abunant near our summer home in Iowa. I’ve often thought that, if they had grown in the Holy Land, how much better they would have been in place of the mustard plant.

But, of course, the story isn’t about mustard seeds. It is about the kingdom of God. Jesus asks the question as to himself wondering how he who has seen the beginning, the present, and the end** is going to explain the concept of how the kingdom of God will grow on the Earth. He gives them the example of one of the smallest seeds (the original twelve followers) can grow into something huge (an estimated 300,000,000 Christians in the world today. This is the kingdom today. What can it still become in a world of over 7 billion people? The answer is it’s up to us, you and me, to keep planting, watering, and nourishing the every growing kingdom of God

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*Cottonwood trees are the fastest growing trees in North America. A young tree can add 6 feet or more in height each year. This rapid growth leads to weak wood that is easily damaged. The trees can grow to well over 100 feet tall, with eastern species sometimes reaching 190 feet. And it takes nearly 400,000 seeds to make a pound and only 280,000 musterd seeds to a pound.

** Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And Revelation of John 22:12-13 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 03 2018

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE

Mark 4:21-23
Jesus said to them, “Does anyone bring a lamp into a room to put it under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it put on a lamp stand? There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light. Let the person who has ears listen!”

Matthew 5:14-16
“You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.

Mark and Matthew may be discribing the same event or perhaps Jesus used the same illustration at different times to a different crowd. In any case the message is clear, let your light shine.

Though the analogy seems totally different than Jesus’ story about the farmer scattering seed, in both cases he requires us to share what we have. Seed and light are both symbols of the gospel.

Are you hiding your light? Have you lifted it high so that it will reach further into the darkness?

Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 02 2018

IF YOU HAVE EARS, LISTEN

Mark 4:1-20
Jesus began to teach again by the Sea of Galilee. A very large crowd gathered around him, so he got into a boat and sat in it. The boat was in the water while the entire crowd lined the shore. He used stories as illustrations to teach them many things. While he was teaching them, he said, “Listen! A farmer went to plant seed. Some seeds were planted along the road, and birds came and devoured them. Other seeds were planted on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil. The plants sprouted quickly because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, they were scorched. They didn’t have any roots, so they withered. Other seeds were planted among thornbushes. The thornbushes grew up and choked them, and they didn’t produce anything. But other seeds were planted on good ground, sprouted, and produced thirty, sixty, or one hundred times as much as was planted.” He added, “Let the person who has ears listen!” When he was alone with his followers and the twelve apostles, they asked him about the stories. Jesus replied to them, “The mystery about the kingdom of God has been given directly to you. To those on the outside, it is given in stories: ‘They see clearly but don’t perceive. They hear clearly but don’t understand. They never return to me and are never forgiven.'” Jesus asked them, “Don’t you understand this story? How, then, will you understand any of the stories I use as illustrations? “The farmer plants the word. Some people are like seeds that were planted along the road. Whenever they hear the word, Satan comes at once and takes away the word that was planted in them. Other people are like seeds that were planted on rocky ground. Whenever they hear the word, they accept it at once with joy. But they don’t develop any roots. They last for a short time. When suffering or persecution comes along because of the word, they immediately fall from faith. Other people are like seeds planted among thornbushes. They hear the word, but the worries of life, the deceitful pleasures of riches, and the desires for other things take over. They choke the word so that it can’t produce anything. Others are like seeds planted on good ground. They hear the word, accept it, and produce crops–thirty, sixty, or one hundred times as much as was planted.”

Teacher, tell us about the kingdom of God! There was a great crowd following Jesus. He told them a story about themselves and said. “Let the person who has ears listen!”

There were many who came to the seashore and each had their own reason for being there. Some came for the show, seeking nothing more than to be entertained. Some came as though to a doctor, looking to be cured. Some came out of curiosity, they saw a crowd and wondered what was going on, There were those who came to see the celebraty of the day. Some came for the teaching, seeking understanding.

Jesus looked into the hearts and minds of these people and cast his words as a farmer spreads seeds. He knew the odds of getting a return on his investment just as a farmer calculates the expenses versus the potential profit. He was looking for those who hear the word, accept it, and produce crops

Many things have changed in the thousands of years since God walked the world in the body of a man. Printig presses, radio, telivision, world wide internet, cell phones, and other advances have given us the ability to spread the seed into far flung fields. But now as then Jesus is not so much seeking a harvest as he is training Farmers.

Pick up your Bible. Read it. Study it. Be filled with it. Let the words of life grow and mature in you. Then gather your harvest and spread those seeds.

If you have ears, listen. If you have eyes, see. If you have a mouth, speak.

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And my sermons blog http://thomasewilliams.blogspot.com/?m=1

All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – October 01 2018

FAMILY TIES

Mark 3:31-35
Then his mother and his brothers arrived. They stood outside and sent someone to ask him to come out. The crowd sitting around Jesus told him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.” He replied to them, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then looking at those who sat in a circle around him, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does what God wants is my brother and sister and mother.”

Several things come to my mind when reading this section.

1 It follows shortly after his family came to take him away because they said he was insane.*

2. Jesus had told others that they must be willing to abandon their families** to be his disciple.

In the first instance his family had shown a lack of faith in him, while his followers had been faithful. And in the second, he was practicing what he preached. He was leading by example. If he was asking others to abandon their families, how much moreso did he need to choose God’s work above family obligations.

Now understand that he never meant that it was always necessary to abandon all family ties, just those that keep you from serving God. It is clear from reading the gospels that his mother was a faithful follower. The book of Jude is believed to be written by jesus’s brother, Jude, who was also a follower. So his family was not truly abandoned but they had to also be his follower.

When we accept Jesus as Savior, we are adopted in to his family.*** When we make him Lord of our life, we choose to follow his path rather than our own way.

Is Jesus both Savior and Lord of your life?

*Mark 3:21

**Luke 14:26

***Ephesians 1:5

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 30 2018

THREE WAYS

Mark 3:22-30
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “Beelzebul is in him,” and “He forces demons out of people with the help of the ruler of demons.” Jesus called them together and used this illustration: “How can Satan force out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household will not last. So if Satan rebels against himself and is divided, he cannot last. That will be the end of him. “No one can go into a strong man’s house and steal his property. First he must tie up the strong man. Then he can go through the strong man’s house and steal his property. “I can guarantee this truth: People will be forgiven for any sin or curse. But whoever curses the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He is pguilty of an everlasting sin.” Jesus said this because the scribes had said that he had an evil spirit.

It is of some note that these scribes came all the way from Jerusalem to try and discredit Jesus. See how great a threat he was to them that they would travel great distances into the countryside to do verbal battle.

The attack of these learned scholars was so weak that Christ easily destroys it with a simple analogy of a kingdom divided. In a battle of wits they came unarmed.

Jesus then issues a dire warning to them, “whoever curses the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” When the one whose whole purpose is to seek the Lord and forgive if their sins, tells you to your face that you’ve crossed a line that can not be forgiven, you should be very afraid indeed. Jesus cast out demons and performed wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit. And these foolish scribes had just called the Spirit the devil.

There are three ways to respond to Jesus: you can totally accept that he is who he claims to be, you can have doubts and honest questions that are not rejection but a settling for answers, and it is also possible to close your mind and handed your heart so that no proof no matter how obvious, will be accepted.

What is your response?

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 29 2018

FAMILY: A HARD MINISTRY

Mark 3:20-22
Then Jesus went home. Another crowd gathered so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard about it, they went to get him. They said, “He’s out of his mind!”

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “Beelzebul is in him,” and “He forces demons out of people with the help of the ruler of demons.”

We don’t have to read too far into the Gospels to see that the religious authorities really don’t like Jesus. This is understandable on a human level because he was a threat to their power and authority. So, we can not be too surprised that try to discredit him and even kill him.

However, it is harder to understand why his family would say that he was crazy. In John’s gospel chapter 7:1-13 is another story that involves his interaction with his brothers and in verse 5 we see that they did not believe him. This too is a very human reaction. Jesus himself said, “The only place a prophet isn’t honored is in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own house.”*

We had a foreign exchange student who spent most of a year livening in our home and becoming a part of our family. She stated that one of the best things about her experience was that no one knew her from before and that all they knew about her was as she was now. I think that is a very wise observation. People who knew me in my teenage years would hardly believe what I’ve become in my later years. I have unbelievers in my family also.

It is important to note that, even if dinner is his family had doubts, they cared enough about him to come to take him home, where he could be fed and cared for. I’ve come to the belief, that because of our shared history, I’m not the one who will lead them to belief. It will take an outsider to teach them. In the mean time, I try to be the outsider the others.

Can you reach your family for Christ it do they know you too well? You pray for my family and I’ll pray for you. We all need help from our friends.

*Mark 6:4

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 28 2018

.REACH, BRING, TRAIN, SEND

Mark 3:13-19
Jesus went up a mountain, called those whom he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve whom he called apostles. They were to accompany him and to be sent out by him to spread the Good News. They also had the authority to force demons out of people. He appointed these twelve: Simon (whom Jesus named Peter), James and his brother John (Zebedee’s sons whom Jesus named Boanerges, which means “Thunderbolts”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed Jesus).

We are so accustomed to thinking of the twelve apostles following Jesus that it is easy to forget that he called hundreds to follow him. In fact it is often recorded how difficult it was for him to get away from the crowd and to be alone.

On this occasion he chose twelve from among the many to receive special training, duties and power. The first appointment of officers of the first congregation. Jesus was beginning to deligate some of the responsibility. He was transforming followers into leaders.

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I became a manager was: always be training your replacement. The idea is that, if you are indispensable in that position, you will never be promoted. Jesus knew his time was short and he would need others to carry on with the work. That should be our model in building the kingdom of God; reach out, bring in, train up, and send out.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 27 2018

HARD HEARTED OR OPEN MINDED?

Mark 3:1-6
Jesus went into a synagogue again. A man who had a paralyzed hand was there. The people were watching Jesus closely. They wanted to see whether he would heal the man on the day of worship so that they could accuse him of doing something wrong. So he told the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stand in the center of the synagogue.” Then he asked them, “Is it right to do good or to do evil on the day of worship, to give a person back his health or to let him die?” But they were silent. Jesus was angry as he looked around at them. He was deeply hurt because their minds were closed. Then he told the man, “Hold out your hand.” The man held it out, and his hand became normal again. The Pharisees left, and with Herod’s followers they immediately plotted to kill Jesus.”

In yesterday’s MUSINGS I talked about the strictness of traditions for the Sabbath. Here is one more example, as I understand it: If you had mixed vegetables or fruit on your plate and you didn’t like one of the items in the mix, you could not remove the offensive item from the plate. This would be considered winnowing, selecting, or sifting which are forbidden. You could, however, eat the other items and leave the offensive item on the plate as long as you did not touch it with an eating utensil. You can remove the good from the bad but not the bad from the good.

I mention this restriction because, in an odd way, it showed the mind frame of the people in the synagogue. Jesus asked, “Is it right to do good or to do evil on the day of worship?” In their thinking, when Jesus healed, he was removing the bad from the good which was forbidden.

He was deeply hurt because their minds were closed.” Other translation say, he was “grieved for the hardness of their heart,” He had appealed to their sense of right and wrong. He asked if it was right to do good or evil, to heal or let him die. Their traditions, that had developed around the law of Moses, were more important than mercy and compassion. In the parable of Good Samaritan* he addresses this same hard hearted closed minded adherence to man made precepts

Jesus, in his mercy, healed the man. As I said yesterday, in their minds he had broken a law which demanded capital punishment.

Jesus challenged their understanding of scripture, their understanding of the law, their understanding of God’s will. He still does. Have we become closed minded or hard hearted? Do we still seek answers from the word of God? Are we open to what the Spirit is saying to us? Or have we already decided on our own what is right and what is wrong?

*Luke 10:25-37

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 26 2018

DOCTRINE, DOGMA, OR JESUS?

Mark 2:23-28
Once on a day of worship Jesus was going through the grainfields. As the disciples walked along, they began to pick the heads of grain. The Pharisees asked him, “Look! Why are your disciples doing something that is not permitted on the day of worship?” Jesus asked them, “Haven’t you ever read what David did when he and his men were in need and were hungry? Haven’t you ever read how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was chief priest and ate the bread of the presence? He had no right to eat those loaves. Only the priests have that right. Haven’t you ever read how he also gave some of it to his men?” Then he added, “The day of worship was made for people, not people for the day of worship. For this reason the Son of Man has authority over the day of worship.”

Well, the disciples have done it again. They’ve upset the religious authorities once more. They were working on the Sabbath, they began to pick the heads of grain. This probably seems to be a trivial matter to most of us in our culture. However, it was a capital offense in the Old Testament. You could be killed for working, or every walking more than 0.596 miles on the Sabbath day.

At the time of this story, the Roman conquers of Israel would not let the Jewish authorities enforce the death penalty. But that didn’t make it any less of an offense to the Jewish leaders.

Jesus remind them that the Sabbath was made for man. That is, the Sabbath is a gift from God for the work done on the other side of days off the week. It was meant as a blessing but the overly strict interpretation of the priesthood had made it more if a curse.

But he goes much further when he declared, “the Son of Man has authority over the day of worship.” Jesus was proclaiming to the legalistic Jewish rulers that He was greater than the Law and above the laws of the Mosaic Covenant because, as God in flesh, He is the Author of those laws. Far from calming their outage, he metaphorically poured fuel on the fire, a whole tanker truck if gasoline.

He came to right the wrong, to realign humanitie’s will with the will if God. And that meant a lot of people weren’t going to like the changes.

I have a small cup of gasoline myself. Imagine for a moment if Jesus came to you and told you that your religious beliefs were wrong. Ehat do you do? Do you defend the Doctrine and Dogma of your church or do you follow Jesus? Don’t just read your Bible. Study it! Does it agree with what you have believed or does it challenge those beliefs?

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 25 2018

SOME PARABLES MAKE MY BRAIN HURT

Mark 2:21-22
No one patches an old coat with a new piece of cloth that will shrink. Otherwise, the new patch will shrink and rip away some of the old cloth, and the tear will become worse. People don’t pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the wine will make the skins burst, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine is to be poured into fresh skins.”

This section of scripture has always been a mystery to me. It falls between stories of Jesus defending his disciples because of their unorthodox actions (not fasting and working on the Sabbath). Yet I’ve never seen how this section “fits” in the narrative.

It is a parable or an allegory designed to teach me something. But for years I have not understood what the teaching means.

In the natural or physically world it makes sense that you wouldn’t patch a thread bare piece of clothing with a new cloth that had not been preshrunk. And putting new wine (not finished fermenting and still off gassing) into an old wine skin that had already been stretched to it’s limits is asking for trouble.

But what is the spiritual application? And how does it relate to the scriptures around it?

In my quest for understanding, I’ve searched the writings of Luther, Wesley, Calvin, and others to no avail. It appears none of these great minds chose to untangle these verses for me.

So, prayerfully asking for the Spirit’s guidence, I once again consider what these verses are to mean to me on the spiritual level. Boiled down to their essences, they say that you can’t add new to old. “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But that can’t be right! Because that is exactly what jesus’s ministry was about, bringing a new understanding of what it means to follow God. Maybe this wasn’t as much of a defense of his disciples as it was a condemnation if the Pharisees. That they could not receive this new thought. Maybe just maybe that is why Jesus chose followers who weren’t scholars of the law. Their understanding had not already been set in stone.

Lord, let me be made new each day that my cloth and wineskin may accept your new teachings, your new Spirit without tearing or bursting. Amen.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 24 2018
TO FAST OR NOT TO FAST

Mark 2:18-20
“John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but your disciples don’t?” Jesus replied, “Can wedding guests fast while the groom is still with them? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. But the time will come when the groom will be taken away from them. Then they will fast.”

Only one Jewish holiday has the command to fast, Yom Kippur. But there were many days that were, by custom, considered fasting days. Fasting was only during the daylight hours and not on Fridays or Sabbaths.

These fasting days were to commentate some historical event in the lives of the Jewish people. Usually these were negative events such as sieges, the destruction of the 10 Commandments, et cetera. Fasting would not be done on a holiday it day of celebration, such as a wedding.

Every day in presence of the Messiah would be a day of celebration and therefore no fasting.

During the period of Lent many modern Christians do a symbol fast by “giving up” something for Lent. Along with temporarily depriving yourself you are to focus on becoming more in tune with our I in line with God’s will.

Because Christ the bridegroom is not with us, personal, private fasting can be practice as an act of contrition.

Have you ever practiced fasting as a way to strengthen your bound with God?

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 23 2018

SEEKING THE LOST

Mark 2:13-17
Jesus went to the seashore again. Large crowds came to him, and he taught them. When Jesus was leaving, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting in a tax office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” So Levi got up and followed him. Later Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house. Many tax collectors and sinners who were followers of Jesus were eating with him and his disciples. When the scribes who were Pharisees saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor; those who are sick do. I’ve come to call sinners, not people who think they have God’s approval.”

Jesus has just called another disciple. Levi (also known as Matthew) became part of the twelve special followers of this amazing man-god. And to celebrate all of the disciples along with Levi’s coworkers gathered at Levi’s home for a meal.

This, if course, like many of the things that Jesus did, offended the religious and social leaders. He’s eating with SINNERS. Shocking! Now, before you get on you high horse thinking that you’re not as judgemental as those hypocrites, what would your reaction be if your preacher, priest, or pastor went to the biker bar or strip club to spend time with the people there? Would you be supportive it look down your nose at him?

Things haven’t change all that much in the last two thousand years. The goody-goodys who fill the pews today aren’t that different from the goody-goodys of days gone by. Gossips still gossip and finger pointers still point fingers. And Jesus still says, “I’ve come to call sinners, not people who THINK they have God’s approval.”

Remember, if you are seeking the lost, you have to go where the lost are.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 22 2018

GOD OR BLASPHEMER

Mark 2:3-5
“Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus qaasaw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Some scribes were sitting there. They thought, “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?” At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts? Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!” The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never ,5seen anything like this.”

Yesterday’s Musings was about the first part of the story where the man’s faithful friends brought him to Jesus. But this is the rest of the story. There is an ironic saying that no good deed goes unpunished.

You see, Jesus did more than heal a lame person. He forgave his sins. When the scripts heard this they asked, “Who besides God can forgive sins?” For the scribes it really wasn’t so much a question as an accusation. Jesus was claiming a power that only belongs to God, the ability to forgive sins.

Most of the religious leaders saw his power and heard his teaching and rejected the fact that his was Immanuel (God with us). When Jesus claimed the right to forgive sins, the scribes saw it as blasphemy (cursing the name of God).

We have only two choices in what we believe about Jesus: either he is God or a he is a blasphemer.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – September 21 2018

FAITH FULL FRIENDS

Mark 2:3-5
“Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Because of the faith of his friends he was healed. How much faith did they have in Jesus healing power? Enough belief to go get their lame friend, enough to carry their friend what ever distance it was to the house were Jesus was living, enough to see the crowd as only one more barrier to overcome, enough to risk the wrath if the home owner (who may have been Jesus), and finally they had enough to dig a hole through the roof and lower their friend down to the healer. These were truly faithful men full of faith.

Do you have those type of friends? And more importantly, are you that type of friend?

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSING – April 05 2018

HOW WILL YOU KNOW?

2 John 9-11
“Everyone who doesn’t continue to teach what Christ taught doesn’t have God. The person who continues to teach what Christ taught has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and doesn’t bring these teachings, don’t take him into your home or even greet him. Whoever greets him shares the evil things he’s doing.

If anyone teaches or preaches something different than what Jesus taught and preached, how are you to know? How will know that you aren’t being deceived?

There are powerful, charming, charismatic teachers and preachers who have large followings. Some because they say the things that people want to hear. And some because God has blessed them. How do you know which from which?

It really is not difficult. Follow the one who teaches what Christ taught. But be careful not to let anyone deceive you. Many will come using Jesus’s name.* Just because they say, “Jesus said” doesn’t mean Jesus said or that the words weren’t taken out of context. How are you to know?

There is only one way to know what Jesus taught … read the Bible. Read it prayerfully asking God to reveal his truth to you.

Isn’t your eternal life worth a little study on your own?

*Matthew 24:4-5

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MUSING – April 04 2018

THE BUDDY SYSTEM

Ezekiel 33:8-9
Suppose I (God).say to a wicked person, ‘You wicked person, you will certainly die,’ and you say nothing to warn him to change his ways. That wicked person will die because of his sin, and I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his ways and he doesn’t turn from them, then he will die because of his sin. However, you will save yourself.

Galatians 6:1

“Brothers and sisters, if a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted.”

There are scriptures that bother me. The two quoted here are trouble me because they make me responsible (at least partially) for the sins of others. Isn’t it hard enough to be responsible for myself?

I struggle daily with “not my will, but God’s will”. Though I truly want to follow His leading, I am a strong willed (stubborn, pig-headed) child of God.

I remember holding my child’s hand as we walked through a busy parking lot. The child struggles to be free of my grasp so they can run on ahead. They would run and be completely unaware of the cars backing out of parking spots or suddenly coming around a corner. Often I am that child who would rush headlong into danger were it not for God’s hand holding me back.

This scriptures bother me because they tell me God wants me to be His hands and hold onto my brother’s/sister’s hand for their safety.

We are on the buddy system. You hold my hand and I’ll hold yours. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit we will keep each other safe.

All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams.

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MUSING – April 03 2018

I HAVE AN OILY BEARD

Psalms 133:1-2
“See how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in harmony! It is like fine, scented oil on the head, running down the beard–down Aaron’s beard– running over the collar of his robes.

My children love and respect each other. It wasn’t always so, As youngsters, there were plenty of times that they would argue and fight … sometimes physically. However, as adults, they enjoy spending time together. It truly is a good and pleasant thing. I’m extremely proud of the people they’ve become.

I think that this analogy works well in our schools, workplaces, and certainly in our churches. Where there is harmony in the group, the leader(s) of that group are blessed. Symbolically they have scented oil on their heads and beards.

Does the leader of your group have an oily beard? If not, what can you do to change the situation?

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MUSING – April 02 2018

ENTER BEYOND THE GATES AND COURTYARD

Psalms 100
Shout happily to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD cheerfully. Come into his presence with a joyful song. Realize that the LORD alone is God. He made us, and we are his. We are his people and the sheep in his care. Enter his gates with a song of thanksgiving. Come into his courtyards with a song of praise. Give thanks to him; praise his name. The LORD is good. His mercy endures forever. His faithfulness endures throughout every generation.

The psalmist rejoices that he may freely enter the temple’s gate and courtyard. What a blessing that is. However, in the time of his writing, only a very few were allowed behind the. Only the high priest was permitted to stand before the mercy seat, the throne of God.

But that all changed because of Jesus’ sacrifice. At his death “the curtain in the temple was split in two from top to bottom.”* That which serrated us from God’s presence was removed. We now “(Jesus) a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin. So we can go confidently to the throne of God’s kindness to receive mercy and find kindness,**

Now we have a new and better reason to burst for in praise and songs of gladness.

For what do you praise God this day? What is your song of gladness?

*Matthew 27:50-51

**Hebrews 4:14-16
© 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSING _ April 01 2018

HURRY – HE IS RISEN

Matthew 28:1-10
After the day of worship, as the sun rose Sunday morning, Mary from Magdala and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly, there was a powerful earthquake. An angel of the Lord had come down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and was sitting on it. He was as bright as lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards were so deathly afraid of him that they shook. The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid! I know you’re looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He’s not here. He has been brought back to life as he said. Come, see the place where he was lying. Then go quickly, and tell his disciples that he has been brought back to life. He’s going ahead of them into Galilee. There they will see him. Take note that I have told you.” They hurried away from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them and greeted them. They went up to him, bowed down to worship him, and took hold of his feet. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go, tell my followers to go to Galilee. There they will see me.”

Go tell His followers, “You, hurry away from the tomb with fear and great joy and run to make new disciples.”

© 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSINGS – March 31 2018

COWARDLY BEHAVIOUR

John 19:38-40
Later Joseph from the city of Arimathea asked Pilate to let him remove Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a disciple of Jesus but secretly because he was afraid of the Jews). Pilate gave him permission to remove Jesus’ body. So Joseph removed it. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to Jesus at night, went with Joseph and brought 75 pounds of a myrrh and aloe mixture. These two men took the body of Jesus and bound it with strips of linen. They laced the strips with spices. This was the Jewish custom for burial.

What is a coward? A person who does not do the right thing at the right time out of fear of difficulty, pain, disgrace, or humiliation. Coward pretty much finished the eleven remaining disciples of Jesus. These men who had lived with him, had followed him, who called him Master and Rabbi, ran and hid. Most had abandoned him between his arrest and the trial. And after the crusifiction not one of them came to claim the body of the man who had called them friends.

Joseph was a good man, a godly man, and a believer in the teachings of Jesus. He believed that Jesus was the the long awaited Messiah, the saviour. But he kept it a secret because here was afraid.

Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin who visited Jesus one night and said, “Rabbi, we know that God has sent you as a teacher. No one can perform the miracles you perform unless God is with him.” But he had more questions and doubts.

Jesus said to him, “If you don’t believe me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about things in heaven?”

Nicodemus, respected Jesus’ teachings but came only at night when his friends and and co-workers would not see him. He was afraid of what others might say it do.

So now two men, cowards in their own ways, claimed the body, prepared it for burial, and placed it in a tomb.

All of these men had at least some belief in this man who was executed, But they didn’t yet have resurrection belief.

Are you willing to proclaim your belief in Jesus the Christ? Or are you afraid?

© 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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MUSING – March 30 2018

WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY

Isaiah 53:4-9
“He certainly has taken upon himself our suffering and carried our sorrows, but we thought that God had wounded him, beat him, and punished him. He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds. We have all strayed like sheep. Each one of us has turned to go his own way, and the LORD has laid all our sins on him. He was abused and punished, but he didn’t open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was like a sheep that is silent when its wool is cut off. He didn’t open his mouth. He was arrested, taken away, and judged. Who would have thought that he would be removed from the world? He was killed because of my people’s rebellion. He was placed in a tomb with the wicked. He was put there with the rich when he died, although he had done nothing violent and had never spoken a lie.”

Matthew 27:12-14
While the chief priests and leaders were accusing him, he said nothing. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they’re bringing against you?” But Jesus said absolutely nothing to him in reply, so the governor was very surprised.”

Matthew 27:27-31
“Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the palace and gathered the whole troop around him. They took off his clothes and put a bright red cape on him. They twisted some thorns into a crown, placed it on his head, and put a stick in his right hand. They knelt in front of him and made fun of him by saying, “Long live the king of the Jews!” After they had spit on him, they took the stick and kept hitting him on the head with it. After the soldiers finished making fun of Jesus, they took off the cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

Eight hundred years before his birth, Jesus death was already chronicled by the prophet Isaiah. It’s not a pretty picture. Imagine that you just read it in your local newspaper. What would your reaction be? Outrage? Grief? Anger? Disbelief? Would it ever occur to you too call it a good Friday?

Here is the reason we can call it good,
“Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us.” Romans 5:8

It is good because the predicted Messiah had come and completed the task of rescuing his people from their sins.

Have a blessed Friday.

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MUSING – March 29 2018

PEACE TO PREPARE FOR WAR

2 Chronicles 14:5-7
“He (King Asa of Judah) got rid of the illegal places of worship and the altars for incense in all the cities of Judah. The kingdom was at peace during his reign. He built fortified cities in Judah because the land had peace. There was no war during those years because the LORD gave him a time of peace. So Asa told Judah, “Let’s build these cities and make walls around them with towers and doors that can be barred. The country is still ours because we have dedicated our lives to serving the LORD our God. We have dedicated our lives to him, and he has surrounded us with peace.” So they built the cities, and everything went well.”

I remember something a Marine friend of mine said as we watched the Berlin Wall being torn down. He said, “Nothing is a frightening as a time if peace.”

I thought, at the time, that it was an odd thing to say. I didn’t think much more about it at the time. However, in retrospect, I think I know what he meant. Countries use a time of peace to build up their defences. More weapons can be stockpiled during peace than during war. Resources can be used to prepare for the next battle.

I was born at the end of the second world war. I’ve lived through Korea, Vietnam, the wars in the middle East, and countless other “skirmishes”. The times between were called peace. They were never truly peace.

True peace is more than an absence of fighting. Jesus said, “I have told you this while I’m still with you. However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you. “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.” John 14:25-27

His peace is the true peace. It is the peace you carry inside you. It is the peace of knowing that the Holy Spirit dwells within you, teaching, guiding, and protecting you. His peace is with you during times of conflict not just between conflicts and wars.

Do you have the peace which passes all understanding? Philippians 4:7

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MUSING – March 28 2018

PREPARATION AND OPPORTUNITY

Nehemiah 2:1-5
In the month of Nisan, in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year as king, after some wine was brought for the king, I picked up the cup of wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence before. The king asked me, “Why do you look so sad? You aren’t sick, are you? You must be troubled about something.” (I was really afraid.) “May the king live forever!” I said to the king. “Why shouldn’t I look sad when the city, the place where my ancestors are buried, is in ruins and its gates are burned down?” “What do you want?” the king asked me. So I prayed to the God of heaven, and I asked the king, “If it pleases Your Majesty, and you are willing to grant my request, let me go to Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I can rebuild it.”

The thing that jumped out at me here is when Nehemiah said, “I prayed to the God.” think about that for a moment. He already admitted that he was really afraid. The king, to whom he was enslaved, ask him a question. And Nehemiah says he prayed to God. How long do you think the king waited for an answer? When the Master says, “Jump” the slave jumps and asks if it is high enough.

I don’t doubt that he prayed. But I bet it was a quick “Thank you.” Because he had already prayed about this for days. Nehemiah 1:4 reads,
“When I heard this,(destruction of Jerusalem) I sat down and cried. I mourned for days. I continued to fast and pray to the God of heaven”.

Are you ”prayed up” so that you’ll be ready for God’s opportunity?

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MUSING – March 27 2018

WHAT WILL YOU BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?

1 John 3:1-2
“Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God’s dear children. And that’s what we are. For this reason the world doesn’t recognize us, and it didn’t recognize him either. Dear friends, now we are God’s children. What we will be isn’t completely clear yet. We do know that when Christ appears we will be like him because we will see him as he is.”

When we are children people would always ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I wanted to be a cowboy. Not the kind of cowboy who herded cattle. I wanted to be the one in the white hat and who rode the the snow white horse. I wanted to be the one who saved the stage coach, or the town. You no the one who could shoot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand, to be the one who could ride up beside the bad guy, jump from my horse, knocking the bad guy from his horse. We’d wrestle in the dirt without me losing my hat. I wanted to be the hero.

As an adult, I never did any of those things. But I still try and live by my imagined cowboy code, to do the right thing at the right time. I try to help the underdog. I try to live in such a way that “The Spirit of the Lord is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin, to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

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MUSING- March 26 2018

DARK BLESSINGS

1 Thessalonians 5:16-20
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire. Don’t despise what God has revealed.

My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God–those whom he has called according to his plan.” Once you understand the depth of that verse, you can face each obstacle, each challenge, each setback, and each hurt, if given to God in prayerful thanksgiving, can become a blessing. It is more than a positive attitude. It is a promise from God that He can use your pain as well as your joy for His holy purpose.

Try it the next time you are tempted to cry out, “Why me?” Instead honestly tell God about your troubles, then claim this promise that He can turn it into something good.”

In my own life, I can look backward on those dark times (my valleys of death and despair) and see the way God used those. Now, if I can l look forward with that same assurance, I can praise Him in and for those trouble filled times.

Can you look backward and see the hands of God at work? Can you trust that He is still at work yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

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MUSING – March 25 2018

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

Philippians 3:1
Now then, brothers and sisters, be joyful in the Lord. It’s no trouble for me to write the same things to you, and it’s for your safety.

Paul writes, “It’s no trouble for me to write the same things to you,” or as a different translation reads, “To write the same things to you truly is not tiresome to me.”

As I’m writing these little devotions and/or my sermons, I wonder how many times I’ve said the same thing over and over? There are only so many ways to say, Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.Psalm 34:14 or Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:19.

God’s message hasn’t changed in thousands of years. But, have you heard it?

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MUSING – March 24 2018

CAT WRANGLER

Numbers 11:10-12
Moses heard people from every family crying at the entrance to their tents. The LORD became very angry, and Moses didn’t like it either. So he asked, “LORD, why have you brought me this trouble? How have I displeased you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Am I their mother? Did I give birth to them? Are you really asking me to carry them in my arms–as a nurse carries a baby–all the way to the land you promised their ancestors with an oath?

I remember a sign that was posted in the bathroom of a small Ma & Pa restaurant. The sign read, “I’m not your mother, clean up your own mess.”

I’m sure that everyone who has been in charge of other people has had similar feelings.

In a private conversation with a pastor, they said that leading Christians is like herding kittens. They are warm and fuzzy but it’s nearly impossible to keep them moving in the same direction.

I know that at times, both as supervisor and as a preacher, I’ve felt like a cat wrangler. It is frustrating at times. You feel that the you are all alone with an impossible task. Why won’t they listen?

Moses felt so burdened that he cried out to the LORD. “I can’t take care of all these people by myself. This is too much work for me! If this is how you’re going to treat me, why don’t you just kill me? I can’t face this trouble anymore.”

The LORD heard and answered Moses by providing helpers to share the burden.

Here is the question of the day: Am I a burden or am I a helper to those tasked with leading me?

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MUSING – March 23, 2018

I HAVE THE CURE

Imagine for a moment that you have been suffering under an incurable disease. This illness has ruined you physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.

Now imagine that you find a cure. In a single dose you are instantly completely healed. Not only are you free of this illness, but you are now immune to every disease.

What would you do?

Would you hide yourself away and hope that no one notices your changes? Or would you call your family and friends and share the cure with them? Wouldn’t you want to go to the hospitals and doctor’s offices and song the praises of the cure?

I have the cure. The LORD God Almighty has given me the cure through the person if His Son Jesus the Christ. I share him with you now.

Psalms 40:1-5
“I waited patiently for the LORD. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure. He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see this and worship. They will trust the LORD. Blessed is the person who places his confidence in the LORD and does not rely on arrogant people or those who follow lies. You have done many miraculous things, O LORD my God. You have made many wonderful plans for us. No one compares to you! I will tell others about your miracles, which are more than I can count.”

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MUSING – March 22 2018

HORROR AND HOPE

I just re-read the book of Lamentations, which means the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.

It is a truly horrific book full of examples of the depths of human despair and depravity. The writer documents the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of it’s enemies. The city was blockaded and people were starting to the point that mothers were eating their babies.

This is the calamity that the prophets had warned them about. But the people refused to believe, refused to accept that God would remove his protection from them. They proudly proclaimed themselves to be God’s people, all the while breaking his laws and ignoring his warnings.

A few days ago I posted,”I reject the idea of a hateful, vengeful God. God doesn’t so much bring about calamity, as step back and allow the consequences of OUR actions.” read now the words written during all the death and destruction in Jerusalem:

“Even if he makes us suffer, he will have compassion in keeping with the richness of his mercy. He does not willingly bring suffering or grief to anyone, crush any prisoner on earth underfoot, deny people their rights in the presence of the Most High God, or deprive people of justice in court. The Lord isn’t happy to see these things.

Lamentations 3:32-36

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MUSINGS – March 21 2018

DO YOU HAVE BONE DISEASE?

Psalms 32:3-5
When I kept silent about my sins, my bones began to weaken because of my groaning all day long. Day and night your hand lay heavily on me. My strength shriveled in the summer heat.

I made my sins known to you, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to you, O LORD. Then you forgave all my sins.

Let me say this first: the psalmist was not being literal here. This is a poem and poetic license is used to describe how the burden of his unconfessed sins made him feel.

I have felt that way and so have countless others. Listen,”Once my heart was heavy with a load of sin. Jesus took the load and gave me peace within.” or “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved” These hymn writers had to have felt the weight of their sins to have written these words. They and I have also been set free by confessing those sins to the LORD.

Is your heart heaven? Are your bones weak? Confess to the LORD your sins. Admit to them. Honestly promise to not do them again. Then go and sin no more.

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March 20 2018

GO OR STAY

Genesis 26:1-3
There was a famine in the land in addition to the earlier one during Abraham’s time. So Isaac went to King Abimelech of the Philistines in Gerar. The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Don’t go to Egypt. Stay where I tell you. Live here in this land for a while, and I will be with you and bless you. I will give all these lands to you and your descendants. I will keep the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.

Many times in my life I’ve ask God where he wants me. I actually pray,”Lord, push me, pull me, place me where you want me. I give you my permission to override my self will not my will but yours.”

Sometimes I’m expecting a “Go to Nineveh!*” But more often than not I’ve gotten, “Stay where I tell you.”

*Genesis 10:10

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LOVE SONGS

Isaiah 12:2-6
Look! God is my Savior. I am confident and unafraid, because the LORD is my strength and my song. He is my Savior.” With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation. At that time you will say, “Praise the LORD. Call on his name. Make his deeds known among the nations. Make them remember that his name is highly honored. Make music to praise the LORD. He has done wonderful things. Let this be known throughout the earth. Shout loudly, and sing with joy, people of Zion! The Holy One of Israel is great. He is among you.”

Sing to the Lord a new song. I remember years ago hearing the song “I Will Follow Him”* by Peggy March and thinking that it could very well be a song of praise to God. Over the years I’ve heard a lot of love songs that work as well. So if you hear me singing or whistling a love tune, quite possibly I’m praising His name.

*Love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep me away
I must follow him (follow him), ever since he touched my hand I knew
That near him I always must be
And nothing can keep him from me
He is my destiny (destiny)
I love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
He’ll always be my true love, my true love, my true love
From now until forever, forever, forever
I will follow him (follow him), follow him wherever he may go
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep, keep me away
Away from my love (I love him, I love him, I love him)
I love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
He’ll always be my true love, my true love, my true love
From now until forever, forever, forever
I will follow him (follow him), follow him wherever he may go
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep, keep me away
Away from my love
And where he goes I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
I know I’ll always love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
I know I’ll always love him, I love him, I love him
Songwriters: Norman Gimbel / Arthur Altman / Jacques Plante / Del Roma / J. W. Stole
I Will Follow Him lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES

Psalms 51:3-7
“Why do you glory in malice, you who are powerful in iniquity? All day long your tongue thinks up injustice. Like a sharp razor, you have wrought deceit. You have loved malice above goodness, and iniquity more than speaking righteousness. You have loved all precipitous words, you deceitful tongue. Because of this, God will destroy you in the end. He will pull you up, and he will remove you from your tabernacle and your root from the land of the living.”

By a show of hands how many of you have children? Okay, again raise your hands if you’ve ever been a child? Alright, put your hands down. I can’t see you and you look silly.

How many times have you heard and/or said, “I’m only going to tell you one more time”? What happens next depends on the child. They obey or they receive the consequences of their actions. Right? Why do parents correct their children?

  • To keep them from harm

  • To keep them from mistakes

  • To train them

  • Because they love them

God, our father, warns his people many times over about the consequences of their actions. If he is obeyed, the consequences disappear. If not, they come to pass.

I reject the idea of a hateful, vengeful God. God doesn’t so much bring about calamity, as step back and allow the consequences of OUR actions.

I believe in a loving God. And I believe that God corrects those whom he loves.

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TEAR YOUR HEART NOT YOUR CLOTHES

Joel 2:12-13
“But even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart– with fasting, crying, and mourning.” Tear your hearts, not your clothes. Return to the LORD your God. He is merciful and compassionate, patient, and always ready to forgive and to change his plans about disaster.”

Too often I’m much more in my head than I am in my heart. However my most honest prayers are emotional. Those times when I am so filled with joy that i can’t contain it. So I turn to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving. Or conversely when my heart is broken with such great sorrow that i can’t even put words to it when “the Spirit himself intercedes for us (me) through wordless groans.”

Our personal prayers are just that – personal. The prophet Joel said to tear your heart not your clothes. It was a custom, when in mourning or as an act of repentance, to tear strips of clothing as an outward sign. Joel was reminding his listeners that the inward was more important than the outward.

Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is an act of sacrifice. Biblically fasting is a way of intensifying the prayer.

Jesus also warms us to not put on a “show” with our prayers and fasting.

Matthew 6:16-18
“When you fast, stop looking sad like hypocrites. They put on sad faces to make it obvious that they’re fasting. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. When you fast, wash your face and comb your hair. Then your fasting won’t be obvious. Instead, it will be obvious to your Father who is with you in private. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.

We are currently in the season of Lent, which is a time of reflection, remorse, and repentance before the celebration of Easter. Traditionally people “give up” that is to sacrifice something during this time. Just remember to “wash your face and comb your hair” while your heart is torn.

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SHUT UP AND LISTEN – Part 2

Acts 2:1-4
“When Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Passover, came, all the believers were together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like a violently blowing wind came from the sky and filled the whole house where they were staying. Tongues that looked like fire appeared to them. The tongues arranged themselves so that one came to rest on each believer. All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.”

Every once in a while I say something profound. When I do, I have to give the credit to the Spirit Of God. As it says in Luke 12:12 “At that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.”

Case in point: yesterday I ended my musing with this: “How often have I missed a blessing because my mouth was open so far that it covered my ears? How often have I not heard, “Be still and know I am God.””

I have been begging God for the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on this world, on this nation, on this community, and on me.

Yesterday morning as I knelt in prayer, I took my own advice and I shut up and listened. Instead of praising God, or presenting concerns, I simply prayed, “Speak LORD for your servant is listening.”

I’ll admit it was hard to concentrate on just listening. My mind would begin to wander and I would have to repeat to the LORD that I was listening.

My bedroom window was open just a tiny crack. The wind was blowing through the screen on the window. And even though it was only a gentle wind outside, as it rushed through that small openings, the sound was intensified.

The more intently I tried to listen for the LORD, the louder the wind sounded. I was becoming irritated that this was distracting me from my meditation. And then I remembered, “Suddenly, a sound like a violently blowing wind came from the sky and filled the whole house.”

I began to chuckle and said, “Alright, LORD, I hear you. Your Spirit is already at work on the world and in me.”

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SHUTUP AND LISTEN

Proverbs 28:9
“Surely the prayer of someone who refuses to listen to God’s teachings is disgusting.”

I once worked with two people who were constantly arguing. They were so contentious that they never really listen to the other person. It was as if, while the other spoke, they were just inhaling and waiting their turn to speak. What they never heard was that often they were arguing on the same side! They were so busy preparing their argument, so sure that the other was wrong that they closed their ears and refused to hear that they were actually in agreement.

I wonder how many times I’ve gone to the LORD in prayer with my list of concerns, my want list, and my grievances; and not be prepared to listen?

How often have I missed a blessing because my mouth was open so far that it covered my ears? How often have I not heard, “Be still and know I am God.”

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WHAT IS IN A NAME?

Daniel 1:1-7
“In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and attacked it. The Lord handed King Jehoiakim of Judah and some utensils from God’s temple over to Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar took the utensils to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put them in the temple treasury. The king told Ashpenaz, the chief-of-staff, to bring some of the Israelites, the royal family, and the nobility. They were to be young men who were healthy, good-looking, knowledgeable in all subjects, well-informed, intelligent, and able to serve in the king’s palace. They were to be taught the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king arranged for them to get a daily allowance of the king’s rich food and wine. They were to be trained for three years. After that, they were to serve the king. Among these young men were some Judeans: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief-of-staff gave them Babylonian names: To Daniel he gave the name Belteshazzar. To Hananiah he gave the name Shadrach. To Mishael he gave the name Meshach. And to Azariah he gave the name Abednego.”

My name is Thomas which is the Greek form of the Aramaic name תָּאוֹמָא (Ta’oma’) which meant “twin”.

Once in a job interview I was asked, “Do you prefer Thomas, Tom, or Tommy?” I replied that too one, still alive, calls me Tommy.” To which they responded, “Oh, I’ll just call you mister Williams then,” I replied, “I didn’t say that I’d killed them.”

Shakespeare wrote, “What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Which would indicate that the name is of no importance. That it is the nature of the person (or thing) that matters. There is some truth to that. And yet I read in Proverbs 22:1
“A good name is more desirable than great wealth. Respect is better than silver or gold.”

In this scripture passage the king gave these Hebrew youth new names. You need to understand the meaning of the names to see why this was important.

Daniel = God is my Judge
Hananiah = God is Gracious
Mishael = who is like God
Azariah = God helps
Nebuchadnezzar changed their names to take away their allegiance from the God of Israel and give allegiance to the Babylonian gods as follows:
Daniel to Belshazzar meaning “Bel protect the King” (same name as Nebuchadnezzars Son or Grandson) and Bel was a Babylonian god
Hananiah to Shadaku meaning “command of Aku” a Babylonian god
Mishael to Meshaku the Babylonian moon god Aku
Azariah to Abednebo the Babylonian god of wisdom Nebo
As Daniel and his friends were very dedicated to the God of Israel, it is common sense they would not accept these names. Daniel changed the names slightly and just enough to take away the allegiance to the Babylonian gods as follows:
Daniel to Belshazzar to Belteshazzar (it is said that adding the TE may mean “Bel NOT to protect the King” changing the meaning altogether)
Hananiah to Shadaku to Shadrach
Mishael to Meshaku to Meshach
Azariah to Abednebo to Abednego

(For more see https://www.quora.com/Why-was-Daniel-given-the-name-Belteshazzar)

What does your name mean? Does it fit you? What would you name yourself?

I wonder what new name God will give me.

Revelation of John 2:17
Let the person who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give some of the hidden manna to everyone who wins the victory. I will also give each person a white stone with a new name written on it, a name that is known only to the person who receives it.

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KNOWLEDGE IS LEARNED. WISDOM IS GIVEN.

The saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” And that is true. Knowledge is like a mighty race car. However, unless that car is under the guidance of a capable driver, it serves no purpose.

Wisdom is what puts knowledge to work.

By all means seek knowledge. But pray also that the Lord our God grants you wisdom it your knowledge is worthless.

Psalms 111:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Good sense is shown by everyone who follows God’s guiding principles. His praise continues forever.

I’M A SELF MADE MAN!

And it is a fine example of unskilled labor. Grin.

One of the advantages of growing up poor (yes, I said advantage) was when you don’t have money, you have to become creative with what you do have. I’ve made passable drill bits from old screwdrivers, and screwdrivers out of nails. I’ve spent hours hammering bent nails straight again.

I know how to make butter and ice cream. I also know how to make mayonnaise, ketchup, cottage cheese and more. I learned early on the old adage “If it’s supposed to move and doesn’t – WD40. If it moved and it’s not supposed to – duct tape. There point is, when something is needed, you learn to make a “work-around”.

My parents were in their fires when I was born and my father died before my fifth birthday. Mom was never in good health. And, thought she tried, there were thing she was unable to do. Growing up fatherless there were a lot of things that I had to figure out on my own. I became confident and proud of my abilities.

And then, in my early twenties, God came into my life. I was offered the gift of salvation. And I didn’t know how to accept it. I felt the need to earn it. But that’s not how God works. “Being saved is a gift from God.”

Ephesians 2:8-10
God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it. God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.

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Isaiah 25:6-9
On this mountain the LORD of Armies will prepare for all people a feast with the best foods, a banquet with aged wines, with the best foods and the finest wines. On this mountain he will remove the veil of grief covering all people and the mask covering all nations. He will swallow up death forever. The Almighty LORD will wipe away tears from every face, and he will remove the disgrace of his people from the whole earth. The LORD has spoken. On that day his people will say, “This is our God; we have waited for him, and now he will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him. Let us rejoice and be glad because he will save us.”

His people

All people

Every nation

That sounds pretty INCLUSIVE doesn’t it?

Why do we work so hard at being EXCLUSIVE?

Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself.

Okay, I can do that … almost.

Then he said love your enemy. Wait a minute. Really?

Really!

We are ALL God’s children and it is not His will the any should perish.

His promise is for everyone of His people.

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CUSTOMER SERVIC

Jeremiah 33:2-3
“I made the earth, formed it, and set it in place. My name is the LORD. This is what the LORD says: Call to me, and I will answer you. I will tell you great and mysterious things that you do not know.”

Yesterday I placed several calls to businesses. Each time I was greeted by automated voice systems. You know what I’m talking about, right? Push 1 for this option or 2 for that. And none of them are the answer to your reason for calling. Most of us know by now that my dialing 0 you may be able to speak to a real live person. But first you hear, “Please hold for the next available agent (did they just say Asian?). Your call will be answered in the order it was received. Do not hang up and redial. Due to higher than normal traffic, your wait time will be 16 minutes.” You sit and listen to elevator music which is intermittently interrupted by a canned voice telling you, “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.” 53 minutes later you finally reach a human, who listens and then says, “Please hold and I’ll transfer you to that department.”

Only after your patience had been pushed to its limits, do you get to talk to someone who says, “I’ve made note of your request and someone will get back to you in the next three to five business days.”

Thank God that He hears and He answers. I’m so glad that I can speak directly to Him anytime and anywhere. Amen?

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TOO SOON OLD. TOO LATE WISE

As we look backward on our lives, we begin to see the rise and fall of our peacefulness and our pain. Like equal weights upon a balance scale.

I’m glad that God is just. However, I’m grateful and overjoyed that he is merciful.

I tremble at his justice. But I sing of his mercy. This is His great power to temper his justice with His love.

Psalms 90:12-16
Teach us to number each of our days so that we may grow in wisdom. Return, LORD! How long…? Change your plans about us, your servants. Satisfy us every morning with your mercy so that we may sing joyfully and rejoice all our days. Make us rejoice for as many days as you have made us suffer, for as many years as we have experienced evil. Let us, your servants, see what you can do. Let our children see your glorious power.

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I CONFESS

Now this is how to confess to God.

Nehemiah 1:5-7
I said, “LORD God of heaven, great and awe-inspiring God, you faithfully keep your promise and show mercy to those who love you and obey your commandments. Open your eyes, and pay close attention with your ears to what I, your servant, am praying. I am praying to you day and night about your servants the Israelites. I confess the sins that we Israelites have committed against you as well as the sins that my father’s family and I have committed. We have done you a great wrong. We haven’t obeyed the commandments, laws, or regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

Do you want the Lord’s full and undivided attention on you?

Can you stand (or fall on your knees) before the Lord and say

“Open your eyes, and pay close attention with your ears to what I, your servant, am praying.”

Substitute the word Israelites with the name of your nation, or race, or religion, or gender, or group, or club or whatever group of people with whom you identify. Start big and keep narrowing it down to yourself. Then be truthful, be brutally honest with yourself and God.