FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 021

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

“You are the salt of the earth,” He said. “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.” [Matthew 5:13-17 NLT]

Simon’s ears perked up when hearing about the law of Moses.

“No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Simon almost wanted to shout out, ‘how?’.

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:18-19 NLT]

Then he said something that almost stopped his heart.

“But I warn you,” the Nazarene paused. “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” [Matthew 5:20 NLT]

Simon looked out at the crowd to gauge their reaction. From what he could see, a tiny number at the edge of the crowd reacted in silent protest. Clearly, there were probably some members of the ruling class in there.

To emphasize his outright blatant statement, he began offering a long series of achievable challenges on how to divinely deal with anger, adultery, and divorces. He spoke of on how holy vows are in the eyes of the Lord. He even tackled a subject that every Jew would find hard to swallow, loving their enemies and of revenge.

The Nazarene communicated to every sort of person. To the stingy and the attention seekers, he says to offer alms for the needy and to do it in private, so that only the Father, who sees everything, will reward them. He talked about the hypocrisy in how people pray and fast, then he would show them how. To those who work so hard to gain wealth and to toil even harder to keep it, he revealed unapologetically that it was temporary and even quite futile compared to true and everlasting treasures.

He told them of not judging others but looking deep in oneself instead. Finally, he summed up all that he spoke about with the golden rule – “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12 NLT]

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 21th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

Response to the Latest News on Duterte

Most times, I avoid making any online comments about political figures in the news. However, I felt I had to weigh-in on the latest controversial speech of the President of the Philippines when after he told of a paraphrased version of the Adam and Eve story, he said… well, let’s say that he was bluntly colorful in what he called God. [video link here] But my comments will not be on his use of language.

Instead, I read something more from his speech that should be a clear sign for Christians to pay attention. If you cut out the president’s colorful language which is not cool, he does bring up a very fundamental point especially in God’s character. After the President laid out how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, he stipulated that God basically set them up for failure. How? By putting in the garden the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that would eventually tempt them to sin, after which he asked, “how can you rationalize a God like that?” I can appreciate his point of view because at one time in my early Christian days when I was reading and studying the book of Genesis, I asked a similar question, “Was God in error in putting the forbidden tree in the garden?” In my book, this is an honest question.

Of course, in truth, God does not make mistakes. But if someone asked you to show how you know this, would you be hard pressed to adequately explain? This is important, for the President had mirrored the world’s lack of truly knowing God. The Apostle Peter wrote, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer…’ (1 Peter 3:15) Christians, don’t waste time in emotional outcries. I encourage you to get yourself ready, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

For those of you who have questions about God, please put them in the comments below. I will post them in my blog. Then, in my JESUS 101 series, I and others will dedicate time and effort to guide you to an answer. How about it? Any takers?

Until my next post,

Johann Q

PS… look for my attempt to the answer the President’s underlying question in my next post – JESUS 101: Was God in Error?

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 020

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Judean Wilderness to Galilee

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennessaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were adressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were adressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 20th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

If you want to support my writing, please use my Go-Fund-Me site below.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

Please help me go mobile, donate at or share this link to others: https://www.gofundme.com/quadriplegic-needs-mobility

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 3

The Fort, Bethsaida, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The fort was in shambles. It sat on a low rise that overlooks the lake. Located about three miles from Bethsaida, it’s design is typical of most Roman forts. It was built rectangular with rounded corners and can accommodate six hundred men – two cohorts. This one was built over forty years ago to guard the fertile valley from desert raiders from the east. The walls, made from timber, were supposed to sit above an earth rampart but because of forty years worth of erosion with practically little to no maintenance, Cornelius noted several sagging breaches along all four sides. If they were attacked right now, the fort would be inevitably lost. There are six towers set in intervals along the perimeter but two of them are in such disrepair that it’s not safe to man them. Cornelius didn’t even bother inspecting the ditches outside the walls because they were non-existent.

It’s been two days since they arrived. After Cornelius had a heated discussion with the fort’s commander (who was of lower rank) about the unnecessary destruction of the village’s prayer place – called a Synagogue – and the incredibly shabby condition of the fort, he gave him his relief orders and the next day, the auxiliary troops packed up and left the fort to return to Caesarea Philippi. This left his own troops at least a week’s worth of clean up duty and the proper refurbishment of the fort. Cornelius stood watching the ongoing progress on the third level of the only sturdy structure situated at the center. He heard familiar footsteps approaching.

“How is the work going, Flavius?”

“We are focusing on the outer defenses first. We commandeered over a hundred locals to dig out the ditches. Our own lads are using that dug-up dirt to shore-up the breaches on the earth ramparts. I have men in the forest getting us timber to replace the rotted wood in the palisade and also repair the towers. I figure we will complete the repairs by week’s end.”

“I have to the go and pay my respects to the Tetrarch of the region, Herod Antipas. I’ll be riding to Tiberius.”

“Tiberius?!” Flavius’ eyebrows went up mockingly.

“Yes… he named his city after our glorious emperor hoping to curry more favors. He still hopes that the emperor will give him control of Jerusalem and the Judean region. But the emperor will not give it back to the Herods… ever, I think.”

“Hold on! We are stationed in his region. Do we get ordered around by this… Jew?”

Cornelius was smiling inside. He was tempted to correct Flavius and tell him that the Herods were not really Jews. However, there was a kin relationship. The old Herod king, who ruled this entire region because of his close friendship with Augustus Caesar, was originally Idumean. In the first book of Moses, the miracle son of Abraham and Sarah was Isaac. He married Rebekah and gave him twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob became Israel, the chosen of God. And Esau became Edom, the rejected. There was enmity between the two brothers that have been passed on to generation after generation. Idumeans are the final descendants of Esau. It is ironic, Cornelius thought to himself, that Esau’s desire was to rule it over Israel. Generations later, his descendants succeeded.

“No! We are here to keep the peace. Our presence is for show only. We are a reminder to Herod that Pontus Pilate is the Governor,” Cornelius said. He then turned and walked towards the stairs that led to his quarters. “I will take Cestus with me and twenty cavalrymen. You get them ready to ride in half an hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

When they descended into the second floor, just as Flavius was about to go down to the ground floor, Cornelius turns to him and said, “Oh, Flavius… try not to lose the fort while I am gone.”

Flavius laughed as he went down the steps. Cornelius walked briskly down the corridor and entered his quarters. Jacob had laid out his formal armor. He cringed a little at the prospect of wearing that heavy armor which is good only for pomp and ceremony. He also noted with trepidation that the red cape was laid out as well. “Jacob?” he called.

His old tutor came from a curtained alcove with Trax obediently following. They then started to help him put his armor on.

“I will be gone for two days. Why don’t you go to the village and visit your kin? And to keep this rascal out of trouble, bring Trax with you.” Cornelius playfully shoved him away. Trax clapped in excitement and grinned.

“It will be good to visit my brother.”

“While you are at it…” He goes to a heavy chest and pulled out a pouch of coins. “Find the elders of the village and give them this. There should be enough there for them to rebuild their Synagogue.”

“You are a good man, Cornelius.” He did not think so. His motives for the money is to work his way into the hearts of the locals, so he can spy on them better. Jacob noticed him brooding in thought. “Is it right with you, my boy? Are you worried about something?”

He shook his head clear and smiled reassuringly. “I am fine, my old mentor.”

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 019

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – the Journey – Judean Wilderness to Galilee

Simon and Lazarus took the rest of the day working their way out of the rugged Judean Wilderness. By the time the sun set, they had already forded the Jordan River just a mile from Jericho and camped in the Perean valley.

It took them two days to travel the mountain ridges east of the Jordan following a well travelled caravan route. The road they were on was rocky, rough and skirted the edge of a high ridge. Simon was almost dizzy as he looked down a cliff when his donkey was walking pretty close to the edge. There was unusually heavy traffic going the same direction as they were. Last time he had seen so many people on this road heading north, they were pilgrims returning home after an annual Jewish festival. Though Simon was cut off from Jerusalem’s society for ten years, he still knew that the festivals had long past. So, he wondered why all these people were travelling north. He also observed a fair number of cripples and even lepers going the same way.

They camped, as usual, away from the other camps. Lazarus came back after talking to a number of people.

“Father, they say they are all on their to find the miracle worker who has been going from village to village in the Galilee area.”

“Did anyone say who he is?”

“Someone called him the Nazarine and that it was him that caused some incident at the Temple last Passover.”

“What happened at the Temple?”

“I wasn’t there when it happened. We, that is Uncle Tahan, the girls and myself, arrived at the Temple court and found it in turmoil. Do you remember how the court of nations had animal merchants and money changers setting up booths.” Simon nodded. “Well, father, it has become far worse. It had doubled in size and these money changers have been cheating the pilgrims. Some say that the priests were behind it. When we got there, tables were turned over with those changers and others scrambling after spilled coins. Animals were running loose from their pens. Pigeons and doves were flying all over. It was a real mess. And they said that the Nazarene was responsible. Another said that after the festival, the same man went north through Samaritan country and raised the populace.”

“Raise the Samaritans?” exclaimed Simon, a little perplexed. “How did he do that?”

“People think that maybe he might be the Messiah!”

“The Messiah?” This was a little bit too much for Simon to absorb and make sense. But then, he looked around at the numerous camp fires throughout the ridge they were on. There must be more than four hundred people here, a great number of which brought their sick and the infirmed with them. Can this miracle worker be the Messiah? The Messiah according to prophecy is one who would be sent by the Lord. So, wouldn’t the Messiah have powers to heal? Simon was not sure, however, like everyone else here, he hopes it is true.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 18th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

If you want to support my writing, please use my Go-Fund-Me site below.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

Please help me go mobile, donate at or share this link to others: https://www.gofundme.com/quadriplegic-needs-mobility

 

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 017

ANDREW THE FIRST DISCIPLEfaithful-encounters-cover-w
30 AD – Bethsaida, Sea of Galilee

Jesus climbed unto his boat.

“Peter, push your boat out on to the water just a little ways.” Peter sighed, nodding his assent and pushed the boat about ten feet from the shoreline. Then he tied it off. Jesus called for the people to quiet down and gestured those in the front to sit down on the beach. Then he sat at the edge of the bow and in a very clear voice, he began to teach. Andrew himself sat on the beach with the others.

“Behold, a sower went out to sow and as he sowed, some seeds fell…” *

* Luke 8:4 NASB

Jesus spoke at length of the Kingdom of Heaven and mostly in parables, Andrew noticed. He spoke in depth and there was richness in his voice. He was so emotional his eyes filled with tears.

When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon Peter, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”**

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing.” He looked at Andrew then faced Jesus again. Then his shoulders sagged a little. “But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”**

Simon Peter and Andrew pushed the boat out and climbed on. They rowed out about a hundred feet, when Jesus told them to let down the nets. Simon Peter almost snickered at that.

“Be kind. He is not a fisherman,” Andrew whispered as Jesus was looking another way. “Don’t expect him to know that you can’t fish with the sun shining above.”

They let down the nets by the side, instead of casting them. Simon Peter wanted to pull them in easily. But then the nets tugged almost pulling both of them in.

“The nets are snagged on the rocks,” Simon Peter angrily complained.

Expecting to pull up torn up nets, they discovered their nets were so full of fish and tried to pull the catch aboard. But everytime they tried their boat listed dramatically on one side and thought the boat would turn over.

“Ho, James… John… we need you help!” Simon Peter’s voice boomed.

They quickly launched their boat and rowed out to them. John and James grabbed the other side of the net. Then, together all five of them pulled. Then they started to scoop the fish unto both boths. Soon both boats were filled with fish and seem they were on the verge of sinking. Looking at all the fish, they began to laugh in delight except Simon Peter.

He was staring at Jesus with wide eyes. Then, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”**

His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed and they too got down on their knees on their boat.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!”**

** Luke 5:1-10 NLT

When they landed, James called for their father. After some discussion, he took over all the caught fish and dealt with the gathered fish mongers.

Then, they left their boats and followed Jesus down the beach toward Capernaum.

Andrew, being surprised by seeing his brawny tough natured brother humbling himself, looked forward to be surprised where this great adventure will lead him.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 17th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS. Here we pause on the story of Andrew and return to story of Simon the Leper 10 years after he contracted leprosy.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

If you want to support my writing, please use my Go-Fund-Me site below.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

Please help me go mobile, donate at or share this link to others: https://www.gofundme.com/quadriplegic-needs-mobility

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 2

CG-book-cover-w

ENCOUNTER WITH A PROPHET

Galilee

A whistle was blown below. The men were picking up their gear and moving back into formation. Jacob went back to the wagon he rode with Trax. Cornelius got back on his horse and rode at the head of the column. As he rode, he thought more on the son of this impossible virgin birth whose name would be Immanuel. He learned early on when studying Scriptures, to pay special attention to the meanings behind names. Immanuel in Hebrew means ‘with us is God.’ There is no other way of interpreting these words. God will be born among men and the sign for mankind will be that His birth will be through a woman who have not known any man. Impossible as it sounds, Cornelius thought it made sense. He recalled another impossible occurrence in the book of Moses where God intervened and caused the barren wife of Abraham to give birth in her eighties. This was written as fact, as something that had already happened. There were a lot more supernatural events recorded in the Scriptures. Others would say that they were nothing more than tall tales… exaggerations, but not him. In his heart, he always believe them to be true.

 

A few hours later, the column reached the crossroads. To the right, the road goes to the city of Capernaum. According to Jacob, it is the trading center of the Galilee region with a population of thirty thousand people. The column turned left on a bridge over the Jordan River toward the village of Bethsaida. Bethsaida is a farming and fishing village with an estimated population of about four thousand people mostly Galilean Jews. The main village is about a mile from the lake and is enclosed by a perimeter wall. However, the fishing community preferred to keep their homes closer to the water where their boats lie on the pebbly shoreline.

The road they were on went through the main village then out the east gate. As Cornelius rode through the gate, he noted how the populace watched him and the column with outright disdain. The other towns and villages they went through, the people mostly stared with blank faces, but here their looks can almost be construed as rebellious. The reason becomes clear as the column enters the village square. The column came upon a crowd of angered men and weeping women. But they were not looking at his column. Their focus were mostly on a squad of thirty auxiliary soldiers** who were tearing down an unrecognizable building. But Cornelius figured by the reaction of the crowd that this building was significant to them. He signaled for the column to continue on through the crowd. The crowd who then realized that a greater number of Romans were there, began to disperse fearing greater violence. As his column marched by, he called to one of the Legionaries that always stayed with Cornelius.
** auxiliary soldiers are Roman Legionaries made up of foreign descent

“Cestus. You come with me,” ordered Cornelius “The rest of you march ahead with the column”

Legionary Cestus was a head taller than him. He was a veteran of the Spanish campaign and was one of the survivors who closely fought side by side with Cornelius in the trap that almost decimated their whole unit. Ever since then, he loyally followed Cornelius. Still on his horse, Cornelius rode through the remainder of the crowd with Cestus making way for him. He approached the soldiers that were tearing down the building.

Cestus then snapped to attention, took two steps ahead of Cornelius and with a commanding voice he shouted, “Auxiliaries! Cease what you are doing, NOW!”

The soldiers realized the presence of an officer, they halted in what they were doing.

“Who is in charge here?” Cornelius asked looking around menacingly.

Two soldiers stumbled out of a house hurriedly fixing their clothes. A sobbing sound can be faintly heard coming from the inside of that same house. An elder woman that was held back by some men of the village quickly dashed to the house and entered it. A scream of agony was heard within. Cornelius kept his focus on the approaching men, one of them clearly the squad leader – an optio.

“Sir!” They came to attention and saluted sloppily.

“What occurred here?” asked Cornelius. “Why was this place torn down by your men?”

“Your honor, serr. We were ordered to by our commander,” the squad leader spoke with a deep accent of that of a Syrian descent.

“Why?”

“Serr, one of our patrol was ambushed by Jewish rebels. The commander believes them from here. So, we destroy their praying place.”

“I see,” Cornelius could not fault them for following orders. “Well, you completed your task. You are done here!” He then turns to Cestus, “Cestus, take command of this men.”

“Auxiliary!” Cestus called in a commanding voice, “Alright lads. Form up into three lines and get ready to march like real Legionaries.”

“Halt!” Cornelius pointed at some of the men who were going to gather some bundled items that came from the collapsed building. He saw among the loot a large bounded scroll nicely covered in deep colored felt trim with silver tassels. He recognized what it was. It was the holy copy of the Scriptures, the Torah. He ordered, “No loot today. These items stay!”

The soldiers grumbled but they quickly went silent when the hulking figure of Cestus stared them down. The auxiliary unit was soon filing by, joining the column. Cornelius scanned the crowd until he spied a cluster of elderly men helping another older man sitting on a bench nursing a bleeding cut on his head. Cornelius called to them in Hebrew, “Please, take back what was taken.”

He did not wait for them to respond. He wheeled his horse around and went to the head of the column at a trot.

 

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q