THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 2

THE ANNOINTING ANSWER – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius quickly wrote on his notes, ‘Can this mean a public execution?’ Shaking his head, He read on.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

This passage had clear elements of an execution. Being pierced could be as nails are being driven into hands and feet. Cornelius knew that the hands would be stretched out high and wide while the feet would be precariously nailed together on a tiny step with the legs slightly bent. Being crushed is the torturous effect of those under crucifixion. When hung like this, the lungs are crushed under the pressure. The effect is like drowning. The passage also stipulated beatings and whippings.

Cornelius was clearly not wanting this to happen to Jesus. But then, the same passage that detailed how it was going to happen in a gruesome way, also showed that we, that is, mankind will benefit. It was a redemption. It would be he who will be pierced and crushed, instead of us who truly deserved it more because of sin. Him being scourge instead of us would bring us healing and wholeness. He had to read on.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

He remembered when he fed those thousands on the Eastern side of Galilee, he called them sheep with no shepherd. When sheep have no guidance, they always wander, each to their own direction. There it is again. ‘The LORD’ that is God had purposely set up his son to go through torture and finally death. Cornelius was really having a hard time with his emotions. Intellectually, he now knows that this is why Jesus was born. He is going to offer himself to die in a gruesome way. He tasked me to find these passages and accept it. He continued on.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.

The words of John the Baptist came back to haunt him, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ He read on.

By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

There it is. ‘His grave!’ A prophetic conclusion in his mind. He is losing to his emotions again. He failed to save John. Does this mean he has to let Jesus die too?

But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

Cornelius almost lost to anger when he read that God was pleased, but then the intellect part of him took over when he saw something in the rest of the passage.

He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

Here lies an enigma? How is it that God’s good pleasure will prosper in a dead man’s hands? He could not reason it out. But instead of building up to more heated emotion, Cornelius looked up at his tent ceiling and closed his eyes. In his mind, he prayed the way Jesus taught, ‘Our Father in Heaven, what does this mean?’ It was his first prayer. He had never had a need even in the heat of battle. He wasn’t sure if he will get an answer, but he felt himself get calmer. He opened his eyes and read the last two passages.

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

[Passages in italics are from Isaiah 53]

Cornelius smiled with a sense of satisfaction, for these passages gave him some hope but yet its full truth still lies beyond his comprehension. He glanced at his cot and it beckoned him to sleep. He crawled onto it and fell asleep with the reassurance of another day.

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The story continues on in my next post.

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BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #3

If a Christian commits suicide, does he lose his salvation?

The answer is a definite NO! How can I be sure? Well, first, let us look at the basics of Christianity.

What constitute a Christian?

1. Are we Christians because we call ourselves one?
2. Are we Christians because we just believe in Jesus?
3. Are we Christians because God placed His Holy Spirit in us?

If you chose #3, you were right to do so. For those who chose #2, you are partially right, however the process of salvation is still incomplete.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory. [Ephesians 1:13,14]

So, our salvation is guaranteed not by our actions but by the Holy Spirit in us. We also have Jesus’ promise.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one…” [John 10:28-30]

Now, let me tackle the subject about a Christian who might commit suicide. I will only focus on those cases that where they gave into despair and killed themselves.

Personally, I do not know any Christian who committed suicide. Biblically, I believe that Christians are spiritually incapable of ending their lives so tragically.

Jesus will not allow it. Let us look at Jesus’ words again.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one…” [John 10:28-30]

For a Christian to commit suicide, that person would have to have been tempted to a point of absolute despair, willfully rejecting the influence of God’s Spirit in him/her. The Holy Spirit is our guide into all truth. He teaches, convicts and protects us. Christians, while still on this earth, may not be so perfect and can falter into sin, but yet God will always be there to help us recover and give us a way out.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. [1 Corinthians 10:13]

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footnote:

Someone asked me about the suicide of Judas Iscariot who hung himself after betraying Jesus. Yes, he was a follower of Jesus and was one of the chosen Twelve. Let me say first that Judas did not have the Holy Spirit indwelled in him. At that matter, none of Jesus’ disciples received the Holy Spirit until the day of Pentecost. So, they were all very susceptible to temptation of the evil one, most especially Judas who was later controlled by the devil (John 13:27).

Judas’ suicide was even more tragic because I truly believe that if he sought forgiveness, Jesus would have given it with no reservation.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 1

THE ANNOINTING ANSWER – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

The city was buzzing with all sorts of talk about what happened. The story moved from one neighborhood to another like a plague, from the lower city then to the upper, with the story becoming more incredible and embellished than the last. When the story reached the Praetoria, Cornelius was quickly summoned.

As Cornelius and Cestus rode into the fortress, he was told to report to Tribune Marcianus’ quarters.

“What is going on out there, Centurion?” He was not a happy man. “I have reports of celebration through out every district in the city. Is there another foolhardy festival that we don’t know yet? It is a good thing that the Governor is at Caesarea. He would have a nervous fit.”

“No, sir. The celebration is not due to a new festival not with Passover just a week away.”

“Then what is it, Centurion?”

“I’m sorry to say, sir, but I have specific orders that the my reports are for the Governor’s and the General’s eyes only.”

“That means the commotion has something to do with that Nazarene. Very well, Centurion, tell me this, do I put my men on high alert?”

“Sir, an increased watch may be prudent, since there are even more people coming in earlier for the Passover.”

“Foolhardy festival, that is all that is. Dismissed Centurion.”

“Begging your pardon, sir?”

“Yes?”

“This might interest you, sir. One of my informants in En Gedi sent me word that the brigand, Barabbas, has gone to the city of Ephraim, north of the city. The word is, he is trying to pass himself as a Zealot always seeking to gain their favor. I have a plan, sir, which I would like to use Centurion Flavius and his men to trap him.”

“Tell me.”

“My plan first is to circulate a rumor through out Ephraim that an unscheduled shipment of collected tax revenue will be on the northern road to the coast. The rumor will say that a wagon will be in disguised as a merchant’s wagon and that it will leave Jerusalem on the day of the Passover ceremonial meal. I believe he will jump on the opportunity, sir.”

“Approved! Get him, Centurion! The Governor and I would like to see him rotting on a cross by the end of the festival. Get it done!”
Cornelius was back at Emmaus. After all the reports were done and dispatched, he was back at that one chapter that had intrigued and mystified him before the battle. On his chapter designation, this was the forty second. On his notes, he asked ‘why such suffering and pain?’ He felt there was still something missing.

For weeks, he had read and translated many chapters. That night, he finally found what he was searching for in a grouping of passages which he designated in his notes as chapter 53. His eyes rolled down unto the first passage.

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

Cornelius smiled as he remembered the first time he saw Jesus. He was so plain looking, how could he ever be a world leader? Now, after two years of journeying with him, talking with him, he does not think that way any more. Reading on…

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.

[note: italics are from Isaiah 53]

Cornelius recognized the prophetic aspects of these passages being in the past tense. He had always appreciated on how One who is eternal sees the future as if it had already happened. In these passages Jesus would be despised and rejected. He was also given another title, ‘a man of sorrows.’ He didn’t want to think where this is going. Whatever is going to happen to Jesus, it’s going to be public. He was especially not happy about how people, which he concluded can only be the Jews, concluded the afflictions and pain he was going to suffer were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! Cornelius recalled sometime ago when he and Jacob rode by a man who was nailed and hung on a tree that the Jewish cultural belief was that being hung on a tree represented it was a curse from God. Cornelius quickly wrote on his notes, ‘Can this mean a public execution?’ Shaking his head, He read on.

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The story continues on in my next post.

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Johann Q

GOSPEL part 6

FAITH OR NO FAITH IN HIM [pg 2]

In my last Gospel article, we talked about faith in God and it’s meaning. We asked, ‘how do we put faith in God who is invisible’ unless He let Himself known… which He did. I cited 3 ways for you to get to see Him, know Him and put faith in Him. The first one I cited was based on Romans 1:18-20 where God made His eternal power and divine nature be seen in nature especially when you look with humbling eyes.

Of course, with no other context as guide, the most that we human beings can conclude from nature is that it was made by a great being with power beyond imagining.

Consider the native tribes of both North and South America. Before the advent of Christianity, they believed in an all powerful great spirit of some sort. In ancient times, Norse beliefs as well as other European religions based the identities of their many deities from what they observed in nature. A good example is the Norse god Thor, the god of thunder, who was first named so by the ancients to explain away a violent thunder storm.

Practically every culture in the world interpreted attributes of their respected deity derived from their observation of nature. But their interpretations varied so much, how were human beings to distinguish the true God. Fortunately, God did not leave it up to just our own interpretation of creation as the source of His true character. He made sure that we got His word… His written word.

The Bible Reveals Who God Is

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. It is the account of God’s action in the world, and his purpose with all creation. And it’s considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans.

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]

There is much more information about the Bible I could add here but I leave it up to you to research it on your own. What I will say is this, as the Bible is God-breathed (that is, written by men who were inspired by Him), it holds the key to life eternal. And God had intended it to be read by all of us so that we may believe.

Romans 10:17
Consequently, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Hebrews 4:2
For we also received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, since they did not share the faith of those who comprehended it.

Galatians 3:5
Does God lavish His Spirit on you and work miracles among you because you practice the Law, or because you hear and believe?

But there are always some that doubt the integrity of the Bible. This is where we, that is believers, come in.

Seeing God in the Testimonies of Believers

In the beginning of the book of Hebrews, the author had given us the image that God had first spoken to the ancient Hebrews through many prophets who ultimately wrote the Old Testament of the Bible. The main theme of the Old Testament was to prophetically point to God’s promised Redeemer. Enter Jesus Christ who is God in human form… visible to people. His incredible act and testimony was chronicled in the New Testament of the Bible. From the time Jesus ascended into Heaven, He had set into motion an era of grace that is still going on up until today. How?

On the day of Pentecost, He first set His Spirit to indwell the Apostles and a group of a hundred and twenty believers. Then He sent them out unto the world to share God’s love to people. When people looked at these believers, what they saw was God’s love.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. [1 John 4:12]

As they saw God’s love perfected in believers, they too wanted it and believed. For the past 2000 years, since Jesus walked the Earth, millions upon millions have believed.

You have heard the saying that ‘faith is seeing’, well, I pray for your sake that you would truly open your eyes, for God is not so invisible as many claims. The truth is right before your eyes if you are willing to see.

If you do believe…

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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 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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Johann Q

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.

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.

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Johann Q