THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 8

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

So, Peter and Andrew positioned themselves on the right side of the stone. The round stone was resting in the bottom of an inclined groove carved into the rock. Grunting profusely, they rolled the heavy stone up the slight incline, revealing the small opening into the dark chamber. Except for Jesus, those on the ledge and steps as well as those gathered below the ledge covered their noses and mouths from the obvious smell of decay. They quickly retreated down the steps leaving Jesus alone on the ledge.

Then Jesus raised his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

Then he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

The crowd was silent. When after awhile nothing seem to be happening, some in the crowd started snickering. But then a woman gasped and with a trembling hand pointing, she said, “Look!”

Cornelius had to take a few steps back to get a better look inside of the tomb. At first, all he saw was pitch darkness. Then he could just make out some slight grayish movement deep inside. He felt the hairs on his back stand up. The crowd was startled with a few women screaming out loud as a bound hand came out of the darkness grasping the entrance wall. Jesus reached in, grasped the other hand and helped the struggling bound man out. It was Lazarus alive after four days in the tomb. He was wrapped from head to foot with linen wrappings. The bound wrappings were hardened and stiff from the herbal ointments applied when he was buried.

No one moved. Jesus, who was holding him up, called out to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

It was the sisters that reacted first as they both rushed up the steps and embraced Lazarus. Other men rushed up to the ledge and started to tear at the hardened wrappers. His father handed his robe to cover his nakedness. He was still pretty weak, so they had to carry him down.

The people were amazed and were calling loud praises to God. Those Jews whom Cornelius noted who had laughed at him bowed their heads in respect when Jesus and his disciples walked by following the happy family. There were a few, however, who were concerned about this event. They did not cheer nor praise. Some of them went ahead of the crowd, probably to report what they just witnessed.

When they finally reached their house in the village, Jacob was there waiting for them with the others. Cornelius filled him in on the incredible event. Jacob was no less astounded.

That night, they received word from Nicodemus, that the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead.
[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]
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The story continues on in my next post.

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BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #2

How, by becoming like little children, can we be saved from eternal damnation?

In Matthew 18, Jesus was approached by his disciples who asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [vs 1]

It is clear that Jesus saw that pride was behind the question, so, he called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. Then, he said a most astonishing thing.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matt 18:3]

What is it about little kids that we have to emulate? Is it because of their innocence? Well, legally speaking, no child can be held accountable because they lack the maturity to make cognitive responsible decisions. Innocent, really? Well, I love kids but they do the darndest things that I would not exactly call ‘innocent’. They may have angelic faces, but they can be… haha… such little imps. For example, whenever my wife and I were asked to babysit my brother’s 3 kids, after a week, we always go home declaring that we will not have kids of our own. I was kidding, of course, but even the Bible reveal a not so innocent description of a child’s nature.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child… [Proverbs 22:15a]

So, again what in little kids was Jesus really referring to?

As a storyteller, I have regaled many little kids with all kinds of tales. I have observed one consistency among them, that they were quick to believe in my stories, even to those that were fantasies. One other thing, they are also quick to be attracted to the hero figures of those stories.

I believe this is the attribute that Jesus wanted us to focus on. We adults have become so complicated in our thinking that we tend to forget the simplicity of what pleases God, a child-like-faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. [Hebrew 11:6]

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 7

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

They spoke privately while Cornelius and the disciple kept the crowd away. Then she hurried back to the village with her servant in tow. About fifteen minutes later, a sizable crowd was seen coming out. They were following Mary, the youngest sister of Lazarus, who was walking fast ahead of them. Martha and her father were just behind her. When Mary spotted Jesus, she sprinted the last twenty yards to him. Then she threw herself on the ground at his feet weeping loudly.

Her tear streaked face lifted to look imploringly at him and she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus helped her up on her feet and she fiercely embraced him, burying her face unto his chest weeping loudly. As Jesus returned her embrace, Cornelius saw anguish in his face. The women among the crowd were also weeping loudly.

Then he looked at Simon the Leper and his daughter, Martha and asked, “Where have you laid him?”

“Lord, come and see.”

They led him south of the village into a small canyon. The canyon walls only rose about fifteen to twenty feet up. It was narrow with only enough room for four men to walk abreast of each other. As they followed a well worn winding trail, Cornelius saw signs of excavations into the recesses of the walls. A number of them had carved circular stones about three feet in diameter covering the openings. They were burial chambers for the rich families of the nearby villages. They reached the end of the trail that opened up into a wider enclosure where Simon the Leper’s clan maintained a garden. The garden which was fenced in by a short rock wall about three feet high, fronted several burial chambers some of which were carved out halfway up the canyon walls. Rough steps were carved into the rock that led up to several ledges. Lazarus’ father told Jesus that he was entombed inside the chamber of the first ledge about five feet above the canyon floor. The ledge was only wide enough for about five to six people.

Jesus climbed the steps to the ledge followed closely by Simon the Leper, Peter and Andrew. The sobbing sisters also climbed the steps but stopped part way. Jesus placed his hand on the round stone and wept openly.

There were a number of Pharisees among the crowd and Cornelius could hear one of them whisper, “See how He loved him!”

But someone else also said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have kept this man also from dying?”

Jesus took a step back and spoke to Peter and Andrew, “Roll the stone away.”

Martha gasped and said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Mary’s head came up and looked on him with a desperate hope.

Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]

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The story continues on in my next post.

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GOSPEL part 5

FAITH OR NO FAITH IN HIM [pg 1]

When ever I share that, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8), I always run into those that find the concept a little too good to be true. Somehow, in their minds, they feel that it is way too easy to just believe and they must do more. There are probably multiple possibilities on why they think this. But I will make the assumption that this came more because they do not really know God too well and what He wants.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. [Hebrew 11:6]

The dictionary defines faith as ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something’.

It is said that…

Every body has some type of faith, people have faith in many different things, when we get into our car we have faith that it will crank and get us to our destination, we have faith that our doctor knows what he or she is doing, every body has this mindset of faith of some kind or another. No one can live a single day without exercising faith. [by William D. Brown – sermoncentral.com]

When we see a chair, do we hesitate to sit? Of course not. In fact, even when a chair does fail, we are prone to find another chair and with no hesitation sit in it. Faith in objects had always been easy for us. We know deep down that chairs are mostly dependable. Take note that the our trust to use these objects with no hesitation came from familiarity of constant use.

The same way we put faith in objects is somewhat the same when we put faith in people. The difference is that we are a lot more reserved on whom we place such trust on. That trust is dependent in how much we know about them.

– For a gal to trust a guy, she gets to know him by spending extended time with him.
– Professionals like teachers and doctors are hired based on their credentials which reflects their extensive training.
– Politicians who seek to be elected spends millions so that the masses can get to know them.

Trust in people comes because we got to know their history and test their reliability. But because people are fallible, we can’t help but be wary. So, we continue to watch and reassess.

God desires us to have faith in Him and Jesus Christ whom He sent.

How does one believe in a being whom we can not even see? By ourselves, it is impossible unless God made Himself seen and known. Did He? Yes He did. Allow me to cite 3 ways for you to get to see Him and know Him.

Creation shows His Qualities

In the epistle (letter) of the Apostle Paul to the believers of Rome, he wrote…

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. [Romans 1:18-20]

When I first read the verses above, I wondered why I did not see Him in nature before. I was intrigued to test it in my scrutiny of a tree. At first, I did not know what to make of it, until I learned to ask humbling questions. Can I make a tree? I can grow one by planting a seed then watering it, but that is as far as I can go. I can’t cause the seed to sprout nor could I will it to grow tall. Can anyone?

I always love recalling a poem about a tree by Joyce Kilmer who wrote…

old-oak-tree-w

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

I truly believe that Joyce Kilmer got it right. Who could make a tree except only God? At that matter, whenever I look at a plot of flowers of the same kind, I mean, closely comparing one flower to the next… I can not help but see one mind (a mind of a designer) behind them. Look around. Appreciate the maker of all living creatures that fly, walk, crawl and swim. Let’s not forget the cosmos.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. [Psalm 19:1]

Then, there is ourselves. Just look at our own bodies.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb… I am fearfully and wonderfully made… [Psalm 139:13,14]

So, whenever I look around and appreciate nature, my faith gets a boost of His glorious work. By the way, we (that is, all human beings) have built-in us the ability to see God’s invisible qualities, because He created us in His image. So, if anyone say that they don’t see, it is more than likely that they refuse to see.

I pray that you would look closely at nature with humbling eyes and discover our God. I pray that you would believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. [Hebrew 11:6] And God does want you to seek Him out.

In my next post, we will cover more on how God revealed Himself to us, so that we all will be a people of FAITH. I offer the Bible verse below as basis for my next post.

From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work… [2 Timothy 3:15-17]

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Well, where ever you are right now, know that God is listening for you. Talk to Him with no delay and express your faith in Jesus Christ and receive Him into your heart as your Lord and Savior. You only have to pray the prayer below once, but with sincerity, because when He enters your life, He will never leave you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you so much for loving me. I confess that I am a sinner worthy of eternal punishment. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay for all of my sins. With your help, I am turning away from all my sins. Today, I put my trust in you as my Lord and Savior and I receive you into my heart. Thank you for forgiving my sins and for coming into my heart. I accept your free gift of eternal life. Thank you that one day, I will go home to be with you in heaven. From this day on, I will follow and obey you. Amen.*

* Note: It is not the prayer that saves us but faith in Christ. The prayer is a way express belief.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 6

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

They rode out of the village and galloped down the Jericho Road. About an hour later, they reached the outskirts of Jericho near the river. They were about to ford the river when they saw Jesus and his disciples already crossing. There was a crowd waiting for him on their side of the shore. As soon as they waded out of the river, Jesus was quickly surrounded. Jesus started to talk to them and minister to the sick as he waded through them. Cornelius did not want to disturb him. He saw Simon the former Zealot and approached him. As they walked through the crowd, Simon told him what went on the past week.

“We did receive word of Lazarus’ illness about six days ago. We all thought that he was going to drop everything and return right away. But we stayed. We received two other messages. The last one read, ‘Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick.’ But when he heard this, he paused from his work, looked toward the direction of Bethany. He was looking a longtime. By the look of his face, I knew he wanted to go. Then he looked at us and said, ‘This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.’

“We thought that Lazarus was going to be healed. After all Jesus did heal the sick from a distance. Your own young servant was healed this way. Was he not? So, we did not think of it anymore. We stayed two more days, ministering and teaching. The he said, ‘Let us return to Judea.’ Peter and the others tried to sway him saying, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?’

“Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.’ We all stayed quiet because we were not sure what he meant. The he said, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.’

“Now, I thought his sickness had caused him to go into a deep sleep. We all thought that. Peter still hoping that he would stay told him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ But he just looked at all of us and plainly said, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.’

As they neared Bethany, Jesus decided not to enter the village. Instead, he went off the road and sat on a stump among a copse of pine trees. He seemed to be waiting expectantly and sure enough, Martha, sister of Lazarus, came to him with a servant. Cornelius could tell that she was slightly angry and disappointed at Jesus. She stood at a distance and said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Sighing deeply she said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Then Jesus approached her and stood before her. Her face was bowed and downcast. “Martha, look into my eyes,” he softly said to her. She slowly raised her teary eyes to meet his. Then he gave her a reassuring smile and said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” She cast her face down again in shame. Jesus ever so gently lifted her chin and asked, “Do you believe this?”

She sobbed loudly and Jesus drew her closer to him so that her face cried on his shoulder. Martha said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even he who comes into the world.”

[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]

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The story continues on in my next post.

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Johann Q

BIBLE Q & A with Johann #1

Are you considered a Christian when you go to church every Sunday?

Allow me to rephrase the title question above: Because you go to Church every Sunday, does that make you Christian?

Let me now respond with this question – If you go into a garage a lot, does this make you, a car? This is, of course, a humorous attempt, of me saying that a Christian is not a Christian because he goes to church so many times.

So, what makes a person a Christian?

– by the doing of good works?
– when you consider yourself one?
– when others and institutions label you as one?

I’ll let Jesus answer from His Sermon on the Mount.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’… ” [Matthew 7:21-23]

Jesus gave a ‘nutshell’ picture of the end of times; of people who thought they deserved to enter the kingdom of Heaven. These are people who probably went to church every Sunday thinking they were ‘Okay’. Then Jesus told them that “He never knew them.”

What does this have to do with the question above? If you really think about it, based on the passage above, it is not what we call ourselves that counts, but what Jesus Christ calls you.

So, ask yourself…

What does Jesus call you?

By the way, we go to church because we are “Christians”.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 5

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

Jacob stood up and started to slowly pace the floor. “There is much to absorb on what you said. The traditional Jew in me is cringing on some of your concept but I do find it intriguing, maybe because I have lived for so long away from the local prejudices. If Jesus is going to offer himself as the guilt offering then there can only be two questions to ask, how and when?”

“For the when, it may be a long way off, for Jesus may still have much to do to usher in the kingdom. I pray he will be an old man by then. As to the how, I believe I may know how. But I would rather not discuss it now. I have to find Jesus. You and two of our men take one of the smaller wagons and meet me at Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper. I will take Cestus with me and ride ahead. Bring enough supplies for three days and if the lad wants to come, bring him along.”

On the rode halfway to Bethany, they slowed their horses down to a canter. Cornelius was not paying too much attention to his surroundings. He had been thinking on the how question. He is convinced that sometime in Jesus’ future he will be crucified. He recalled him mentioning how the Son of Man would be lifted up and even specified the cross to his disciples. Crucifixions are Rome’s answer to dissension. It is not just an instrument of death but agonizing torture. He had seen hundreds of crucifixions in Spain so much so that he does not pay too much attention to them nor the crying pleas for a quick death. He had reasoned that they all deserved it.

When they sighted Jerusalem, they were on the road that led to the North West gate of the city. About a quarter of a mile from the gate was a fork on the road. Just off the road was a large rocky knoll the shape of which looked like a sunken skull. Cornelius looked at the top of the knoll and saw two roughly hewn poles sticking up from the ground. This would be an ideal location to execute punishment, he thought. It was high up and in sight from the city and the busy traffic on this road. As he looked at the empty poles, he shook his head thinking that this was no kind of execution for Jesus. In the back of his mind, he would not allow it. He would rather plunge his sword into him, in honor, rather than see him tortured on the cross.

They took the left fork which led them to another road that skirted the north city wall. Cornelius noted signs of the city expanding. There were already a number of structures built on the wide plain north of the city as well as an army of workers building sections of a new perimeter wall. They soon reached the other side of the city and took the road that went to Bethany. When they arrived, Simon the leper was there to greet them. There was sadness in his eyes and Cornelius noted that his robe was ripped from the neck down. Then he can hear wailing cries from inside.

“What has happened, Simon?”

“My son, Lazarus, succumbed to his illness four days ago.”

“He is dead?! I grieve for you, my friend. He will be sorely missed,” Cornelius said as he placed his hand on Simon’s shoulder. “Where was Jesus?”

“We heard he was in the area of the Jordan River Valley. Probably still is, I think. We sent messengers to him but the master had not come. I just do not understand why.”

“I will go seek him out.” He and Cestus mounted their horses. “Jacob and some others will arrive here soon. Would you tell him to await for us here?”

“Of course.”

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The story continues on in my next post.

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Thank you

Johann Q