BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #11

How does one tempt the Lord your God?

In Matthew 4, Jesus Christ under went some very harsh temptations by the devil after he had spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness. In one of those temptations, Jesus was supernaturally transported to the very top of the Temple the height of which was about 4 stories high. The devil then enticed him…

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” [Matt 4:5,6]

But then Jesus replied with this statement.

“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ “ [Matt 4:7]

In an older translation, it reads, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ [KJV]

So, if Jesus did step off the precipice as the devil encourage, how would he be tempting God?

The truth of the matter is that the devil was right in saying that God could easily command His angels in keeping Jesus safe.

We saw this when an angel protected him when he was just a fetus in Mary’s womb. Mary would have been stoned to death if it were not for an angel revealing the truth to Joseph who claimed her as his legitimate wife. We also saw this when Jesus was a new born baby and it was an angel that protected him from being killed by Herod. There were probably many more untold instances of angels protecting Jesus as he grew up.

But I dare say that that protection was specifically there because Jesus had one goal in his earthly life and that is to die on the cross as a man with no sin at all.

What would have happened if Jesus decided to throw himself off that high ledge for whatever reason? He would have SINNED and be exactly as flawed as you and I! Would God still have angels protecting him? We (including the hypothetical Jesus that sinned) would never know! And this is the whole point of tempting God.

When a rock climber precariously clings on a cliff wall by just his finger tips or anyone else partaking in any extreme sport, do they not tempt fate/providence? Of course, they do. They knowingly know this. In fact, this is the reason why they do it. They willfully do it for the thrill.

When is this sin, however? When they presume that God will protect them even when there is no proof of divine promises.

By the way, Jesus never gave in to any of the devil’s temptations which you can read more about in Matthew 4.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch19 – part 1

ENTER THE KING – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Two days later, a big crowd gathered expectantly on the road outside the village of Bethany. The road which was already thick with foot traffic ran from Jericho down unto the Jordan River Valley going wounding up the Judean Highlands to Jerusalem. Cornelius, dressed as a local, waited with his group. Many on the pilgrimage were singing.

“Jacob? What are those songs they’re singing?” asked Cestus.

“Oh, those are the Psalms that Moses commanded us to sing on the way to Festival.”

“Look. Here they come,” Cornelius said. He was looking towards the Bethany gate as Jesus and his disciples emerged.

The people cheered and clapped. Jesus greeted many as they walked among the crowd. But they have not moved on the road to the city. Cornelius worked his way through the crowd by Jesus’ side. But before he could ask, Jesus smiled and whispered.

“We wait to fulfill righteousness.” He looked toward a side track that led to a small village. After a while, Cornelius recognized two of Jesus’ followers coming from that village leading a donkey trailed by a colt.

“Of course, it is a prophecy from Zecharia,” Jacob whispered to Cornelius. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” [Zecharia 9:9]

Peter and James placed their robes on the donkey and helped Jesus climbed on. Just as Peter and James were about to lead the donkey on the road, the men in the crowd took their own robes off and laid them on the road while the women and children tore palm branches off and waved them at him as he rode by. For the two miles to get to the city, it was like this; singing, dancing, clapping and the waving of palms.

Upon entering the Kidron Valley where there was a massive encampment, the people there too joined in. They slowly made their way, through the throng. Young people and children went ahead of the procession shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” [Matthew 21:9]

Among the crowd, there were some of the Pharisees who tried unsuccessfully to quiet those shouting out their praise. They finally pleaded with Jesus saying, “Teacher, rebuke them for they say.”

But Jesus joyously laughed and answered them, “I tell you, if these become silent, the very stones on the ground will cry out!”   [Luke 19:37-40]
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The story continues on in my next post.

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Johann Q

BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #10

How can Christians be able to worship during the pandemic crisis?

One time, I met a Christian woman who had missed several worship services because her job did not allow the time for her to attend. She was in tears when she described her situation. But then, in the middle of her story, she told me that she and another Christian co-worker would often get together and encourage each other. I told that young woman that her meeting with this other Christian is worship. Why? Because Jesus was with them.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” [Matthew 18:20]

In the news media today, I hear them say how bad it is for Christians not to be able to gather together. How little do they know. For us Christians, when Jesus is in your midst even if we’re only two, what else can we ask for?

GOSPEL part 7

THE COVENANT OF BLOOD

Once a month, usually on the first Sunday, most churches celebrate by partaking in the Lord’s Supper (Communion). This is when little pieces of bread and tiny cups of grape juice or as some churches prefer, red wine are distributed among the congregation to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Technically speaking, this practice of eating the bread and drinking the wine is a ritual. Now, I am not usually fond on doing rituals and many traditions, however this ritual is one that I just love to practice. Do you know why? Because it was Jesus who institutionalized it for us until He finally comes and claims us .

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. [Matthew 26:26-28]

I have been privileged to go to four churches; 2 churches here in Manila and a couple in Washington State and in California. And in all of them, I had heard many wonderful sermons on the first part of the Lord’s Supper about how the bread represents the body of Christ and what He endured on the cross. But because the preachers were allotted with a limited amount of time during the services, I have yet to hear about the second part. What does Jesus want us to learn about the blood of the covenant? First things first…

What does the Bible say about blood?

For the life of a creature is in the blood… [Leviticus 17:11a]

I need not have to explain why the life of all creature is in the blood.

I learned this quite young when my grandfather who was a farmer had me watched for the first time the slaughtering of a pig. I am afraid I may have to be a little bit graphic here. In those old days, the animal was still very much alive when the farmer plunged his knife into the creature’s neck severing the jugular vein. Its lifeblood gushed out in a constant crimson stream slowly and surely denying the brain of oxygen. It was not long until what was once a living creature, had then become a lifeless carcass. I was 7 years old then.

So, since blood is synonymous to life, God commanded this…

But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. [Deuteronomy 12:23]

One reason God prohibited the consumption of animal blood in the Old Testament was to teach respect for the sacredness of life. Blood is viewed as a symbol of life throughout the Bible, so much so that after mankind sinned, God had set a precedence for their redemption.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul… [Leviticus 17:11,14]

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. [Hebrews 9:22]

By definition, redemption means the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt… and innocent blood was the price.

God illustrated this to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had just sinned by eating the fruit that was forbidden. They then covered themselves with fig leaves in an attempt to hide their shame. Deep down they probably thought they were successful in hiding their guilt. Of course, God is never fooled.

gen-3-skins-wHe saw through their futile attempt to make themselves look presentable that He disapproved. Verse 21 simply stated that the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Did God just simply cause the garments of skin to appear from out of nowhere? He could, quite easily, in fact, but what was evident in Scriptures suggested that God had a large animal slaughtered before their eyes. They witnessed the blood of an innocent creature being spilled so that their sins will be covered. Instead of being totally cut off from His grace, God had provided the people of the Old Testament a way to approach Him without being destroyed by Him.

Adam passed this practice down to Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and yes even to Job. But it was in the time of Moses, in the book of Exodus, that God provided us with a clear picture of how innocent blood redeems.

It was at the time when Moses confronted the king of Egypt with the commandment of God to ‘let His people go’. Nine plagues God had already released upon Egypt and yet Pharaoh refused to obey. So, God intended to send the tenth and final plague… the worst of plagues… the deaths of the first born in Egypt. This would have included the first born of Israel if God had not provided a way for them to escape. How? Every family would have to kill a lamb and place its blood on the door frames so that God’s angel of death will pass over that house and spare their first born. Which he did.   [Exodus 11]

After the fateful event, God had commanded that an intricate system of animal sacrifices  be established as way for the people of Israel to gain forgiveness and then worship. A system that was repeated year after year. Why year after year? The system was meant to be temporary and besides which…

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. [Hebrews 10:4]

Here still lies the problem for mankind – SIN. If the shed blood of innocent animals could not truly redeem us from eternal damnation of hell, then what could?

By every right, it was one man that brought SIN in, so, it should be a man to pay the price.

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. [Romans 5:19]

The problem is that no man born in this world (i.e. born of man and woman) can qualify to God’s precedence for redemption. So, who can save us?

Enter JESUS CHRIST! Hallelujah!

The Old Testament Temple practices were never meant to solve mankind’s ultimate dilemma. It was a dress rehearsal, so to speak, for the biggest show!

The show when God enters our reality as man… Jesus Christ…

Who, being in very nature a God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:6-8]

To what end?

…and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies (cleanses) us from all sin. [1 John 1:7]

So, when you partake in drinking the cup, keep mind of what Jesus preciously shed and remember the covenant which is when God who is Holy looks at you, He will choose not see your old sinful self but the blood of Christ than covers you.

If you are not sure if the blood of Christ is covering you, then set your mind to learn and get to know Jesus Christ. Then 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.

BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #9

How do you know when God is answering prayers?

How can we as Christians see, touch, or even feel that God answered our prayers?

First and foremost, the answer is FAITH.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. [Hebrews 11:1]

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him. [1 John 5:14-15]

So, when you pray in accordance to God’s will, well… your attitude, that is your settled way of thinking or feeling should be like this next verse.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. [Mark 11:24]

If for some reason, you still don’t know whether God had answered your prayers then I offer the following theories.

  • If you ask, seek or knock and yet don’t get an answer, it may be that the SILENCE is God’s answer. However, God’s SILENCE does not mean an outright NO! We have a tendency to be impatient in our expectation of answered prayers. It would be best to remember that God’s timing is not our own.

Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. [Psalm 27:14]

  • If there is still no answer, it may be that your prayer request was not up to par. It may be wise to review your requests.

And when you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may squander it on your pleasures. [James 4:3]

BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #5

How should Christians react to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Based on the media, panic of the unknown seem to be the general reaction of the world. This is both understandable and expected. By God’s grace, the world is rallying together.

As for Christians, this is one of those times to shine brighter than the world for the glory of the Lord.

How?

1. By reflecting such a PEACE in our demeanor because we believe what the Lord promised.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.     Psalm 4:8

2. By being brave in the face of danger.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”     Joshua 1:9

3. By showing trust in God in regards to following government edicts.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.    Romans 13:1

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.    Titus 3:1-2

4. By being pro-active in prayer.

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. James 5:15

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.    James 5:13-16

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…    James 5:14-15

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.