His Voice from the Cross #6

STORY HEARD & BELIEVED
by J. Quisumbing

Guard duty can be quite tedious at most times thought the Praetorian especially when he is tasked to watch over anyone who is not the emperor. However, for the past few days, he and his squad of men were ordered to guard a most unusual man who came from the farthest eastern part of the empire. This man is from a strange people that only had one god. There was a small population of them in the poorest quarter of the city of Rome. Except for this man, he had very little interaction with them.

What made this man interesting to the Praetorian was that though this man was scheduled to be executed, he chose to spend his last hours spinning an incredible tale to him. Chained to the Praetorian, he told him of how the son of this one God made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Then, how he purposely became a prisoner condemned to die on a cross.*

[* Philippians 2:6-8]

This man was a master storyteller. He captured the Praetorian’s imagination by transporting him back in time to that hill with three crosses. He watched the prisoner suffer cruelly more than any other condemned on a cross. He could see his battered body; his face swollen from a beating; his back shredded by a scourging; and a crown of inch-long thorns driven painfully into his scalp. With all that had happened to him, he glimpsed the true heart of the son of this one God when he pleaded for forgiveness even when those that caused him pain deserved divine punishment (Luke 23:34). Afterwhich, he learned a lesson of grace poured out through faith, when the prisoner reassured the thief who hung on another cross that he will be with him in paradise (Luke 23:43). The Praetorian was even touched by the prisoner’s concern for his mother’s earthly needs when he entrusted her well being to his disciple’s responsibility (John 19:26-27).

The storyteller then brings his tale to the final moments. In the darkest hours of his suffering, the prisoner cried out with a loud voice inquiring why God his father had forsaken him (Matthew 27:46). The Praetorian asked if the prisoner was regretting his choices and was casting blame to the one God. The storyteller explained that the words uttered was him calling out for all to hear that prophecy was being fulfilled here. He explained that everything that the prisoner went through was planned by the one God.

He thirsted and was given a vile drink of vinegar and gall. After which he declared that it was finished (John 19:30).

The Praetorian asked, “what did he mean?”

The storyteller explained that what was finished was not only the prisoner’s earthly life, not only his suffering and dying, not only the payment for sin and the redemption of the world—but the very reason and purpose he came to earth was finished. His final act of obedience was complete as is according to the Scriptures.

“Afterwhich,” said the storyteller, “the prisoner looked up at the sky, then said…

‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’

Luke 23:46

…And with those words he breathed his last.”

The storyteller’s head slumped forward on his chest. The Praetorian thought he fell asleep. As he gazed at the storyteller’s slumped head, his mind raced. Somehow, he was not satisfied with what he thought was an unsatisfactory end of the story. How can a God of justice doom His son to death? It made no sense to him. Then the storyteller spoke while his head was still slumped.

“Praetorian, I can guess what you are thinking,” he said. “When the prisoner spoke his last words, he showed his complete trust in his Father. You see, he set foot into death in the same way he lived each day of his life, offering up his life as the perfect sacrifice and placing himself in God’s hands. He knew with certainty that he will not be left in the grave.”

“How?” asked the Praetorian.

The storyteller’s head came up smiling. “He knew it because it was written in our Scriptures. ‘For thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol (hell); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.’** And sure enough, on the third day, He rose from the dead!”

[** Psalm 16:10]

“Three days! What happened to him during that time?”

“It is not easy to comprehend. Do you recall the story of Lazarus and the rich man? (Luke 16:19-31)”

The Praetorian nodded though he didn’t really understand its significance.

“That place where all dead go is called Sheol. You know it as Hades. It is written that during those three days, he went and released those who were in Abraham’s bossom. He called it paradise which was a place of comfort and rest for those that lived by faith in the old days since Adam to the thief who died on the cross beside him. After he resurrected, he eventually ascended to heaven and brought them (the ransomed dead) with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells. There, they wait and look forward to when he returns again not as Savior but as Judge to make the world right forever.” (2 Corinthians 12:2–4)

“Storyteller, I desire to be with him… with him who gave his life for me and for all of us. What do I need to do?”

He smiled and said, “You are already doing it. You have listened attentively to the story and already believed (Romans 10:17). 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 (Hebrews 11:6). Eternal life is yours because you believe.”

Then, they both heard voices approach the chamber they were in.

“Praetorian. My time is very close. Soon, I will be taken from here and my life will be poured out like a drink offering. You need more understanding. Go! Seek out other believers and learn from them God’s words and be blessed.”

The doors opened and other guards entered to lead the storyteller away. As they were almost out the door, the Praetorian asked, “Storyteller, what was the prisoner’s name?”

The storyteller smiled and said, “His name is…”

JESUS CHRIST

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved. [Acts 4:12]

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. [1 Timothy 2:6]


Author’s Note:

We finish my tale on His Voice from the Cross. This 6 part story, though creatively written, was based on the Bible accounts on Jesus Christ’s last few hours on the cross. The first 5 parts were from first hand perspectives but then I chose that the 6th part be from the perspective of a Roman guard hearing about Jesus’ story some 40-50 years after the crucifixion event.

The storyteller, by the way, is my imagined character of Paul who biblically shared the Gospel to his Praetorian guards even while chained to them.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me here at Facebook MESSENGER by audio from 3-5pm Monday to Friday. Scheduled small group chats can be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

His Voice from the Cross #5

REPRIEVED & PAID IN FULL
by J. Quisumbing

It is now the ninth hour. The day had been long and tortuous. The prisoner had suffered personal humiliation from his own people when they unjustly tried him under the cover of darkness. He was abandoned by those that were closest to him except for one. He endured a punishing scourging by a wicked whip. Mocked cruelly by foreigners then crowned with an entwined ring of thorns into his scalp. Though found not guilty, he was still condemned to death as a political pawn for the corrupt. He was paraded through the city while bearing the heavy tool of his execution on his bruised shoulder. His wrists and feet were impaled on a rugged cross. And for hours, he hung there in constant torture.

As his body lost so much bodily fluids, extreme dehydration caused him to be delirious. in opening his eyes, the world began to spin until everything became very blurred. He closed his eyes but the sensation of spinning continued. He didn’t know when he lost consciousness but when he again opened his eyes, he was standing in the midst of a very bright light. It was familiar and comforting.

Then he heard an echoing voice… “Behold… the long awaited court is in session. Assemble all…”

His vision cleared and he found himself in a vast bright arena. All around him, he felt the presence of a multidude but he could not see them. Instead, his focus was at the center, where another figure waited. Though he knew this figure was of spirit, he chose to appear as a human male. The prisoner knew him as the Accuser. Then, in the middle of a round platform appeared two human beings, a male and a female. They both stood there with blank eyes. They were not aware of their surroundings nor of where they were.

The prisoner then moved to another platform that was much higher and on it was a golden bench which he knew for certain is the Seat of Judgement. With no hesitation, he sat and knew it was his rightful place. Upon sitting, he felt another presence… a much greater and familiar presence.

Then, the Accuser launched into his tirade about the human creatures before him. He spoke like he was reciting from a long long list of transgressions made not by these individuals but by humanity as a whole whom these two represent. The Accuser spoke of deeds from humanity’s past, present and future. Since time was not a factor here, the droning of his voice seem endless. However, the Accuser would, on occasion, return to the act of the first sin that started it all.

“All they had to do was not to eat of the forbidden tree. It was an easy commandment to follow. ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’* But yet they did. These are creatures that Thou hast made in Thine image. They were so easily swayed by my trickery to believe that they could be like Thee. Even when they were discovered in their sin, they cowardly blamed everyone else including Thee, Lord. The court demands that Thy justice be done here.”

[* Genesis 2:16-17]

The prisoner again felt the loving warmth coming from the greater presence that surround him. A gentle voice whispers into his ear, “Thou knowest what to do, my Son.”

The prisoner then spoke, “Accuser, you are right to say that all of humanity have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are without excuse and have earned death… eternal damnation.** As the righteous judge sitting on this holy seat, we have come to the decision… to give them the opportunity of redemption.”

[** Romans 3:23; 1:20; 6:23a]

“How, Lord?”, cried the Accuser. “Only the righteous may enter Thine own realm.”

“Again, Accuser, thou art succinct to say that there is none righteous, ney, not even one.”***

[*** Romans 3:10]

The prisoner stood up, came down off the high platform and went to stand before the man and woman. He studied their blank faces for a few moments. Then, he turned to face the Judgement Seat to find that it was filled with another who was so bright that he could not see His face, but he knew who He was.

He nodded to him and said, “I will take their place.”

Then he woke up gasping for breath. The excruciating pain is back and in full force. But he felt it no more and knew. One more prophecy to fulfill. He called out…

“I thirst.”

A soldier poured a mixture of gall and vinegar on a bundled mesh of hyssop. He secured the mesh on the tip of his spear and raised it to the prisoner’s chapped lips. As he sipped on the sickly sweet-sour drink, all he thought was ‘done’.

Then he said…

“It is finished.”

[John 19:28,30]


Author’s Note:

When the prisoner said ‘I thirst’, he fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 69:21 which says, “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

And…

When he finally stated ‘It is finished’, he used the Greek term Tetelestai which means in essence that the debt of sin was paid.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me at Facebook MESSENGER by audio. Scheduled small group chats can also be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

His Voice from the Cross #4

FORSAKEN FOR OUR SAKE
by J. Quisumbing

The disciple whom the prisoner loves was hot and sweating profusely. He slowly scanned the sky. The sun should be shinning a quarter down from it’s zenith at this ninth hour, but the sky was unusually dark due to heavy cloud cover. The heat should be normally dry which he preferred, but the humidity in the air was thick and heavy. If it felt bad for himself, (looking up to his master on the cross) how much more worse for him.

Since midnight, the disciple tried to stay with his teacher, his master… his proclaimed friend… after his arrest in the olive grove garden by the Temple guards by order of the High Priest. He followed them to the grand house of the high priest and managed to get in because he was kin to his household. It was hard for the disciple to just standby and watch him go through a contemptable farce of a trial that the religious leaders held against his master through most of the night. He hated it most when they mocked him, hit him on the head, spat on his face, then handed him over to the foreigners for execution, who nailed him to a cross on execution hill. This was where he found him when he went to fetched the prisoner’s mother.

Looking up again at the master, he saw a look that he had never seen on him before. He saw a desperate look of despair and forlorn, like he was carrying the weight of the world. Then he watched him look up, take a rasping breath and shouted out to the heavens…

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?
(My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)

Mark 15:34

The disciple heard scared voices from the crowd behind him. Some thought that the master was calling for Elias (Elijah). Elijah was a great prophet of old who called out for fire from heaven to smote his enemies and was carried into heaven in a fiery chariot. They searched the skies for Elijah riding on that same chariot to destroy them and save him. The disciple knew otherwise.

He recognized the master’s words from the Scriptures. It was from a psalm written by King David long time ago (Psalm 22:1). Somehow, he knew that his master, who hung on the cross in such agony was not calling out blame, but instead he was calling out for all to hear that prophecy… The Prophecy made by Isaiah (Isaiah 53)… was being fulfilled here.

The disciple understood. Many a times, the master had predicted that he would be handed over and put to death. He and the other disciples strove to prevent this from happening but to no avail. He realized that this was what the master wanted to happen. For months, the master challenged the religious leaders of their hypocrisy, daring them to act. They did act and had succeeded but it was not of their design. He gazed up at the cross. This was the Lord’s doing. This was his plan.

He now understood what the Baptist meant when he declared him to be the ‘Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29), except that unlike the lambs offered as sacrifices at the Temple, this lamb had a will. And he willed to offer himself to take our place. Tears pooled in his eyes. He thought of what his master truly had to endure. He realized that the words he uttered were not because of physical pain. The real pain was being truly cut off from the presence of God… his Heavenly Father. What was most incredible was that the Lord God turned his back on his Son for love of us. It was then he heard his master’s voice echoing in his mind saying…

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16


Author’s Note:

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me at Facebook MESSENGER by audio. Scheduled small group chats can also be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

His Voice from the Cross #1

HIS INCREDIBLE PLEA
by J. Quisumbing

The prisoner’s back was on fire. More than an hour ago, he endured a scourging of 25-30 lashes. He lost count. The whip used was the cat o’ nine tails, an odious punishment tool made up of nine knotted thongs of leather with jagged pieces of metal and bones embedded in the strips. Each stroke was relentless especially when the one wielding it was so enraged because the prisoner made no noise above a moan.

His vision blurred again. By the taste of salt on his lips, he knew that more blood was profusely pouring down over his eyes from the puncture wounds on his scalp. Shutting his eyes tight and blinking a couple of times, his vision somewhat cleared. Looking ahead, he could just make out the infamous execution hill which he knew was north of the city about half a mile from the city gate. Some say that this hill looked like a half buried skull hence its name.

A little strength seem to be coming back to his bruised and cut up legs especially when the heavy burden that he was carrying on his already torn up shoulder was alleviated by the overseers. Earlier, they saw that the prisoner may not make it to execution hill because he was stumbling, falling and getting even weaker with every step he took. So, they stopped the procession, grabbed an unsuspecting spectator from amongst the crowd and forced him to carry the prisoner’s burden which was a roughly hewn cross.

The prisoner finally reached the crest of the hill. He was shoved to where the cross that he carried most of the way was laid out on the ground. Men in red tunics were busily preparing it. He turned his eyes towards a commotion on his left. Another prisoner was screaming out in pain as his hands and feet were impaled onto another cross. Hearing a grating sound to his right, he turned his head to watch another cross being erected, the bottom of which fell into a carved hole on the stony ground. It made a heavy thud sound causing the prisoner already nailed and hanging from it to scream out in agony.

He was then stripped of his outer garments leaving just a loin cloth to cover him. Then, he was roughly shoved down onto the cross. He winced as his bare torn back touched the rough surface of the cross. He braced himself with expectation as his arms were stretched out onto the cross beam. Strong calloused hands pinned his forearms down with his palms facing up. The executioners then simultaneously set the tips of nine inch iron spikes over the prisoners’ wrists. They then, simultaneously pounded those nails through his wrists, expertly missing the arteries with no bones broken. The pain was indescribable.

The executioners turned their attention to his feet. First, they tied his knees together. Then, they bent his legs a little to the left about a quarter of the way up. They rested his feet on an anchored triangle shaped wooden block. With one foot over another, they drove another long spike through, pinning them securely on the sloped block.

Just as he was bearing up to the pain of those spikes being driven into his skin, his own cross was lifted up and manhandled into position. The jarring effect brought even more excruciating pain bringing him to tears and then blacked out.

When he came to, he was gasping for air. He was not breathing properly. His chest felt compressed as he hung there with arms stretched up and his legs were limp. He realized that he can inhale but not exhale. He knew he had to put weight on his feet to exhale. But as he did so his torn back rubbed against the splintered wood, causing a constant stabbing into the open raw flesh. As painful as it was, he knew he had to do it regardless the pain he had to endure.

Then the taunts came.

From his high vantage point, he can see the north road busy with passersby going to and fro from the city. Most of them joined in with the mingling crowd that continued to hurl insults at him.

Someone in a rich robe shouted, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” Many laughed and shook their heads. Others mockingly called him the king of the Jews and that he should come off that cross to rule them. It went on and on, and even the condemned men left and right of him joined in. (Matthew 27)

Then another voice said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

The prisoner recognized that voice. It was the same voice that tried to tempt him during his time of fasting in the wilderness some three years ago. He said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”

In his ear, he can hear that same tempter taunt him. “Son of God,” he would whisper, “You have at your command, legions of angels just waiting for you to give the order to destroy those that have done this against you. These creatures are not worthy of your love. See how they mock you. Elijah once asked God to send down fire upon his enemies who mocked him. You command the elements. Reveal your glory to them and watch them grovel in the ground and beg for forgiveness. Do you not see these people?”

He does see them. He looks down at the overseers laughing among themselves and callously gambling over his garment. He cannot get himself to hate them. Then, he scanned the crowd who continue to jeer at him. He saw their pettiness & shallowness; their angers & fears; their ignorance, their frailty & many faults. He also saw inside their hearts and he knew they were lost and hungry for a better life. He once told his disciples that what he saw in people was a flock without a shepherd. He saw each of them as created in God’s image. No, he could not condemn them. He knew that one day, the time of judgment will come, but not yet.

He peered up at the sky. The sky was clear but in the distance he could see angry clouds forming. He knew that his Holy Father was angry and rightly so.

The prisoner braced his legs and painfully lifted his body up. He breathed in, looked up to Heaven and said…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)


Author’s Note:

Holy Week is just around the corner. Every Week until Resurection Sunday, I will post a story on the last words of this prisoner who hung on a rugged cross and paved a way for you and me who believe to everlasting life.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me here at Facebook MESSENGER by audio from 3-5pm Monday to Friday. Scheduled small group chats can be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 6

Christmas in the Tent of Abraham

We now have enough dark background on the reason for Christmas. And there is nothing more darker than the fact of eternal doom hanging over the heads of all mankind because of SIN. By themselves, mankind is powerless to escape. Fortunately, the Lord God is there.

Deuteronomy 4:31
For the LORD your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers, which He swore to them by oath.
Nehemiah 9:31
But in Your great compassion, You did not put an end to them; nor did You forsake them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God.

Because of God’s compassion and grace, He set into motion a plan. “The Plan!” The plan for mankind’s salvation. And an intricate part of that plan involved a most unusual birth which took place in the beginning of the New Testament. But before that fantastic event, God decided to do… sort of… a dress rehearsal, so to speak. Let us go back to the book of Genesis.

God’s plan was to choose a specific family line of whom will be instrumental in the salvation of mankind. Following 24 generations in the line of Seth (a son of Adam), we come to Abram who would later be renamed Abraham.

Abram was given a very important promise.

Genesis 12:3b
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Genesis 22:18
“In your seed (offspring) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…”

But Abram had a problem. His wife Sarai (Sarah) was barren. Does this sound familiar?

Then when Abram turned 99 and Sarai was 90, way way beyond childbearing years…

Genesis 17:1-5; 15-19
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”
Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

Weeks later, the Lord came to Abraham again.

Genesis 18:9-15
Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”
And he said, “There, in the tent.”
He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”
And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid.
And He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Sure enough, when Abraham turned 100…

Genesis 21:1-8
Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

Merry Christmas Abraham and Sarah

ADVENT Story Revealed part 2

The Intended Relationship

Greetings. Well, traditional Christmas is just 25 days away. In my last post, we (rightly so) started this Advent story in the very beginning of the Bible when God created the universe and then mankind. But what does this have to do with Christmas? Why not start with the angel’s visitation of a young woman named Mary? We will! However, other questions needs to be told first; the most important is…

Why does the world need a
SAVIOR?

To answer this, we must remind ourselves of this crucial background.

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

How special were you when the Lord God created you?

Genesis 2:4
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
Genesis 2:7a
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground…

I love watching potters with their bare hands firmly but yet gently form beautiful pottery from a lump of clay. Their love for their work is visibly expressed in how they formed their masterpieces. No wonder this Bible writer expressed this particular thought about God, the greatest artisan of them all.

Isaiah 64:8
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

But we are more than just art pieces. Remember…

Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”

And let us read the rest of verse 7…

Genesis 2:7
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Here’s a Christmas thought. Why don’t we express gratitude to God and say…

Psalm 139:14
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

Now, God did not stop there. Like a good parent, He did not set us out into the wild environs of His creation

Genesis 2:8-9
The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

He placed mankind in a safe place…

Genesis 2:15-17
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

In that enriching haven, God and mankind became closer.

Genesis 2:18-20a
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field…

Whenever, I read this part, I see this image of a father bringing his child for the first time to the zoo. What a fun time for father and child to have together. This is what our Lord God intended for mankind for eternity. (Even today, He still desires it for us.)

Now, we come to the BAD NEWS of the Advent story. In the beginning, we had it made. But then…

============================

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch24 – part 3

THE PROMISE OF LIFE – Site of the Tomb, Emmaus, Galilee

“Sir, I am not one to cast doubt, but some might say that all of this may have been staged.”

“I do not believe so, Cestus. However, it is important to have proof even if it is for posterity sake.”

“Sir, I suggest witnesses.”

“Ah yes, the guards… Where do you think they would have gone?”

“They dare not report back to barracks. That would mean instant execution for deserting their guard duty.”

“So, what do you think, Cestus?”

“I think, sir, they will run. And some will head South for Egypt.”

“Right! You take my horse and get some of our men. Go to En Gedi. I am certain they will go there first. Go capture them. We will go to Bethany. They will have news there.”

By the afternoon, they arrived at the house of Simon the leper. The old man was there with his son and two daughters.

Cornelius asked, “Is there news of the Lord?”

Old man Simon said, “Mostly rumors. However, we have a woman here who says she had seen and talked to him.”

The woman was Mary of Magdala. She was one of the women who helped bury Jesus. When she saw Cornelius, she smiled and said, “I have seen the Lord. He has risen!”

“I know Mary. Tell me all.”

The Sabbath was over. It was very early in the morning when Mary of Magdala, and another Mary, the mother of James, and Salome were bringing more spices to complete the burial process that was not finished because of the Sabbath. They were discussing on how they were going to roll the heavy cover stone when an abrupt earthquake shook the ground under them. Not long after, soldiers were frantically running past them. One was hysterically shouting that they saw ‘ghosts’. When they came upon the tomb, the stone was rolled far away. When they looked into the tomb, the body was gone. So, they panicked and went to where they knew some of the disciples were staying in the old city. It was Mary that told Peter and John. They in turn ran to the tomb themselves. When Mary returned to the tomb by herself. For awhile she wept out loud outside then she entered the tomb again and to her surprise, two men were there.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

Then she heard a call. She turned around and saw another man standing there. She thought she recognized him but could not put her finger on it.

The man said, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

She wondered if he was the gardener. So, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Then he softly said to her, “Mary! Do you not know Me?”

As she looked closer, it was the face of Jesus as she remembered him but yet different. Mary then fell on her knees and hugged his legs, crying “Rabboni!”

Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

[Italics – John 20:11-17]

Then Jesus helped her to her feet, turned her and said, “Now, go Mary…”

When she turned around, he was gone. But she knew it was no dream. She went again to the disciples and told them what he told her. She went to every house of the Lord’s followers until she arrived here in Bethany.


The story continues on in my next post.

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Johann Q

Sketching HIStory #5

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Gen 1 – God Formed Our World

Again, go ahead, open your Bibles and read Genesis 1:6-19 or click on Bible Gateway links below.

NIV     GNT    KJV

[GNT for Catholics]

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Like the Prophet Jeremiah, Albert Einstein (being Jewish himself) had no problem recognizing God’s hand in the creation of the universe. I recall reading somewhere that Einstein commented that when mankind probes the very recesses of space, they will find God staring back at them (something like that). Anyway, as spectacular as the creation of the cosmos was from Genesis 1:1-5, the verses after gave us no indication of how our own planet was developed. At that matter, verses 6-10 started up with our planet already formed and ready for seeding. Also, if we are to take verse 6 just a little bit literal, our entire planet may have been completely covered with water.

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And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault
from the water above it.
And it was so.
God called the vault “sky.”
[vs 6-8a]

What is the vault? And what does it mean ‘separate water from water’? Well, a vault is defined as a sloped ceiling like what you find in high domed cathedrals. The vault that God made is, of course, our own ‘sky’. Scientifically speaking, the sky is our planet’s atmosphere and it is made up of several layers. The most outer layer is the Ozone Layer which protects us from the sun’s radiation today. Ozone is a gas, but once upon a time, it was quite different.

God separated the water under the vault… that is the sea… from the water above it… that is the Earth’s stratosphere. God had placed a protective shell of water around our planet. Can you imagine the ‘greenhouse’ long term effect this will have on our planet? For later posts, I ask that you keep this primordial atmospheric condition in mind. For it will explain away a lot of the spectacular phenomenon we will observe until we get to Genesis 6.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day. [vs 8b]

Again, this is not an indication that the making of the sky took 24 hours. This part of the narrative is a poetic transition from one creation event to another.

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And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place,
and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
God called the dry ground “land,” and
the gathered waters he called “seas.”
And God saw that it was good. [vs 9-10]

I think the verses above is quite obvious, God caused the land to be raised above the sea. But if you look at the words closely, in the beginning, our world only had one massive land mass not like the seven continents and thousands of islands we know today. This contiguous land mass is known by scientists as the super-continent, Pangaea or Pangea. Pangea, in early geologic time, incorporated almost all the landmasses on Earth.

Now, let me say, that this concept of Pangea was proposed by a German scientist* in the early 20th century. It is interesting to note that this concept was FIRST introduced in a book written thousands of years ago.

[* Alfred Wegener, the originator of the scientific theory of continental drift, in his 1912 publication, ‘The Origin of Continents’]

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Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation:
seed-bearing plants and trees on the land
that bear fruit with seed in it,
according to their various kinds.” And it was so.
The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed
according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit
with seed in it according to their kinds.
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day.
[vs 11-13]

According to a Bible commentator, these verses refer to the second creative act. I think I’ll let you read the rest of the commentary.

The first creative act was the calling of matter into existence, which, by the operation of mechanical and chemical laws, imposed upon it by the Creator, was arranged and digested into a cosmos, that is, an orderly and harmonious whole. These laws are now and ever in perpetual activity, but no secondary or derived agency can either add one atom to the world-mass or diminish aught from it. The second creative act was the introduction of life, first vegetable, and then animal; and for this nothing less than an Almighty power would suffice.

Vegetation, therefore, did not reach its perfection until the sixth day, when animals were created which needed these seeds and fruits for their food. But so far from there being anything in the creative record to require us to believe that the development of vegetation was not gradual, it is absolutely described as being so; and with that first streak of green God gave also the law of vegetation, and under His fostering hand all in due time came to pass which that first bestowal of vegetable life contained.

It is the constant rule of Holy Scripture to include in a narrative the ultimate as well as the immediate results of an act; and moreover, in the record of these creative days we are told what on each day was new, while the continuance of all that preceded is understood.

[Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers]

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And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky
to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs
to mark sacred times, and days and years
and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”
And it was so. [vs 14]

God made two great lights…
the greater light to govern the day
and the lesser light to govern the night.
He also made the stars.
God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate light from darkness.
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day. [vs 15-19]

I feel that I have to reiterate to you that in these passages, God had not literally created the sun, moon and most especially the stars at that particular time period. We already read in verses 1-5, that the stars including our very own sun, our planet and moon were in the process of development. But doubt in the Bible have a tendency of naggingly creep into our minds. I should know, I had those same doubts, at first. But then, I was prompted to look at the literature a little bit closely.

As a rule, when it came to Scriptures, I have been trained to apply the inductive method of reading the Bible as a discipline. Part of that training was to look at the passage to see what it really ‘said’ before I can figure out what it ‘meant’. Keeping in mind that this part of Genesis was meant to be read as part poetry and part prose, I focused on the language style. Let us look at the first part of verse 14, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky”. Whenever, I read this verse out loud, my theater skills kick in. Always, at the words of ‘lights in the vault of the sky’, I instinctly look up. In other words, in a none-poetic way, this could almost be read this way, ‘let the sun, moon and stars be seen upon the sky from where you stand’. Perspective is the key! So, if I was to show God’s intention, I would paraphrase verses 14-19, this way.

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Behold! Look up in the sky! In the beginning, I have set there two great lights to separate the day from the night. The sun is the greater light and will light up your day. The moon which is a lesser light so that you would not stumble in the dark. To help the moon, you will also see in the night sky a blanket of stars laid out from horizon to horizon. Now, from these lights, you will mark your days, years and seasons some of which will become sacred for those who believe. You will read in them signs that will influence your agriculture, navigation, and yes, even your history.

Now, I probably did not do it justice with my paraphrase, but I hope you would look at the Bible in the same inductive method that I used and apply it to the rest of Genesis and the whole Bible.

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Having read how God formed our world, I think it best we have the right attitude toward our Creator, so far. The Prophet Isaiah said it best in his book.

Isaiah 40:26
Lift up your eyes on high: Who created all these? He leads forth the starry host by number; He calls each one by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

In my next post, we complete the Genesis 1 narrative with God bringing life into our world.

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Note: The Crimson Thread points to a connection between Old Testament passages to Jesus Christ.

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.

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Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 013

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ANDREW THE FIRST DISCIPLE
30 AD Jordan River Valley

“John… Are you awake?” Andrew asked.

“I am now,” he said amusingly. “I know what you are thinking. You want to leave here and search for him.”

“I have the feeling that you will argue that we don’t know what he looks like. We have no idea where to start to look for him.”

“Well… I have one idea,” John said. “We stay with the master because he knows who he is.”

“It will be hard to leave him, but I have a strange feeling we are suppose to.”

“I hope we find him soon or else our brothers will not be too happy we’re not back.”

Andrew laughed at that. “I guess we should speak to the master about returning up north before winter sets in. Simon will probably be grumpy if I, that is, we… don’t show up for Fall fishing.”

“I am sure your brother and James are killing each other as well as driving my father crazy over who is the better fisherman.”

They both laughed again. “We better get some sleep, Andrew. The morrow will be busy.”

 

Andrew was carrying some bundles into a tent. John was not far behind also carrying bundles. Then, another of the Baptist’s followers came to them and told them to meet the master by the road.

They found the Baptist talking to some soldiers belonging to Herod Antipas’ palace at Jerusalem.

“Do not extort money from your brethren or even from foreigners. Make no false accusations. And be content with your pay,” the Baptist instructed.

When he saw Andrew and John waiting, he dismissed the soldiers and a small crowd watching. Then, all three meandered toward the shade of a large tree to watch the foot traffic on the dusty road. For a long time, they just stood there looking at the passersby. John and Andrew looked at each other. John shrugged his shoulder. Then, the Baptist took a half step forward, like he saw someone he was looking for.

“Behold,” he said in a soft voice as he gestured with his hand. “…the Lamb of God!”

Both John and Andrew looked towards where he pointed. At first, they were not sure who among the foot traffic was the Baptist pointing at. Then, they noticed a lone individual garbed like what most Galileans wore. He just went off the road and started walking up a hill.

They both looked at each other, then they faced the Baptist.

“Go,” he said. “This is as it should be. Farewell.” Without saying another word, he walked away.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 13th 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