ADVENT Story Revealed part 11

Tradition or What the Bible Really Say

As far as I can remember, in every traditional Christmas story heard, read and viewed, I always found Joseph and a very pregnant Mary traveling to Bethlehem on a skinny donkey. When they arrive, they find no public inn available because of over-crowding except for a space in a stable already inhabited by a cow, a donkey and some sheep. Just as Mary was about to give birth, the Bethlehem Star would burst through a hole in the roof to shine upon the newly born baby Jesus. Then shepherds would come first then the three wise men.

This version of the Christmas Nativity story, according to tradition, was first illustrated like this during the Dark Ages by the legendary, Francis of Assisi.

I must admit that I had always found this version quite magical but was it biblical? I mean, was it presented the way the Lord God intended? Let us see…

Luke 2:4-5
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

The verses above only narrated the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem with no other clear description on what was their mode of transportation or the conditions of the journey.

It may be that they did travel by donkey as tradition suggests. However, there are other considerations found in Scripture that may add to their journey story.

Nazareth is found in the region of Galilee which is about 80 miles as the crows flies to Bethlehem. At most traveling there by donkey using the established roads would take about 3 days trip. But Joseph and Mary being Jews were faced with a more arduous journey. Why? Let’s look at this map of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth.

Joseph and Mary could not take the shorter and more direct route because to do so, they would have to travel through the region of Samaria. Jews avoid travelling through Samaritan territory. Why? The people of Samaria were hated by the Jews. [To fully understand the enmity between these two people, you can open your Bible in several books of the Old Testament.]

So, what would be their route? Let’s look at the map again.

As Jews, they would have skirted the Samaritan territory by taking the much more longer and risky route. This would mean at least a week’s journey time through hazardous country. Considering this added information, I really doubted that Mary could have ridden on the bony back of an ass 20 miles a day for a week or so. More than likely, she rode on a cart accompanied with other folks making the same trek to Judea.

So, they reached Bethlehem…

Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the stories told and the movies I watched, Mary and Joseph always arrived in despiration to find lodgings because of extreme labor pains. But if you consider closely the words of Luke 2:6, ‘While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.’ I believe that what was implied was that they were already in Bethlehem for at least a day or so.

How about Jesus being born in a stable because there was no more room in the inn?

People got the idea of the stable mainly because the baby was laid in a manger. Understandable but in truth, not exactly accurate. Where the Bible only offered conjecture, archaeology may shed some light.

Based on archaeological digs in Bethlehem, the average houses looked almost like the image below.

What they unearth was that inside the house was an area for living, eating and sleeping. This living area part was on a large raised platform. The sunken area was reserved mostly for the household’s livestock which were usually kept indoors during the winter time.

Mary (in all probability) gave birth in the sunken area of a first century Bethleheman house which probably belonged to the kin of Joseph who readily took them in. By the way, the ‘inn’, in actuality, is usually the upper room or guest room built on the roof which was already occupied by another kin folk of Joseph who arrived there first. Hence the reason ‘there was no room for them in the inn’ (vs7). Fortunately for Joseph, there were enough female kin to help with the birth.

Praise the Lord God who always provide.

In my next post, we’ll talk about the part played by the shepherd and exactly who it is who was born in such humbling conditions.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 10

God’s Will Be Done [continued]

Imagine, if you will, God going over His checklist of things that are done and things yet to be done.

  • Sent angel to Zecharias.
  • Blessed a barren woman named Elizabeth to become pregnant in her old age.
  • Indwelled the child of Zecharias & Elizabeth with His Holy Spirit while still in the womb.
  • Sent angel to Mary.
  • Conception in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit.
  • Sent a dream to Joseph to protect Mary and unborn child.

Then God looks at the next item to be checked, but then He pauses for the next item was suppose to be…

  • Jesus born in Bethlehem

But there is a problem! Mary and Joseph are still in the northern village of Nazareth. Bethlehem, on the other hand, is located far to the south; about 3 days of arduous traveling time. Not too safe for a nine months pregnant woman who is quite ready to deliver.

So, Jesus is born in Nazareth, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the Lord God declared that he is to be born in Bethlehem. It’s written in Scripture… So, His will must get done

Micah 5:2
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

In truth, God saw all this before it ever happened. His solution was to use a most unlikely of person, the emperor of Rome.

Luke 2:1-3
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

This should be a reminder to us on how great our God is. For…

Psalm 22:28
For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations.

So, meanwhile…

Luke 2:4-5
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

In tomorrow’s post, we will compare the traditional way of the Christmas story to what the Bible actually say.

ADVENT Story Revealed part 7

Birth of the King’s Herald

In history, every important person entering a city, a building was always preceded by a herald. The herald’s functions is tell the people those things they needed to know about the visiting VIP.

  • In Buckingham Palace, the entry of the queen is preceded by the royal page announcing “Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
  • In the Supreme Courtroom, the entry of the highest judge is announced by the court bailer with a title like this: All stand to The Honorable (full name), Chief Justice of the United States.

In this advent story, the Lord inspired Luke (a New Testament author) to start his Gospel not with the birth of the King of kings but with birth of His herald.

Luke 1:5a
In the days of Herod, king of Judea…
  • Herod, known as Herod the Great, was the puppet king of the Roman Empire which had violently expanded it’s military control into the Middleeast. Herod was a typical despot of the time.
  • Judea of the first century was inhabited mostly by the remnants of Israel that had returned from 75 years of exile in Babylon. The Judeans or the Jews then had survived 400 years of servitude to other nation states then to finally under Roman control.
Luke 1:5b-7
…there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

Again, does this sound familiar to the story of Abraham and Sarah? Well, it should. In the Bible, there are no coincidences.

Luke 1:8-10
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

Luke 1:11-13
And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

What would be special about John?

Luke 1:14
“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”

This baby will grow up to live a way of holy discipline that is hard for many to follow. In the Old Testament it was called the Law of the Nazirites.

Numbers 6:1-5
Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to dedicate himself to the LORD, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. ‘All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin. ‘All the days of his vow of separation no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD; he shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long.”

Now, we come to his task.

Luke 1:15-17
“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

You would think that Zacharias would have jumped and danced, but instead…

Luke 1:18-22
Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.

Like the story of Abraham and Sarah, God kept His word.

Luke 1:24-25; 57-66
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

That is a very good question. This child will grow up to be the most unusual herald of them all. His name was…

John the Baptist

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 3

The Dark Side

In every story ever told, you will always find in it a ‘dark side’. We see this in fairy tales and fantasies. In Cinderella, it is the greedy step mother; in Sleeping Beauty, there is Malificent; in Star Wars, there is Darth Vader, in Harry Potter, there is Voldemort; and so on. In real life stories and yes, even in our history, it is the same.

And in this Christmas story, to better appreciate why we need a savior is to better understand the dark side… the bad news.

If you can recall, in the beginning, we had it made. But then something went wrong. Mankind sinned.

I am quite sure that everyone know a little bit about how Adam and Eve fell from Paradise. They fell because they disobeyed God’s one and only restrictive commandment

Genesis 2:17
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.”

Many have questioned God’s wisdom in giving such a command. Why did He have to give it and why so harsh a consequence? At that matter, if the Garden of Eden is suppose to be a safe haven, why would He place such a dangerous tree in it? Let’s tackle first the commandment.

Is the commandment unjust? …unfair? Why give such a command?

The answer is simple enough. God does what He wants.

Psalm 115:3
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Romans 9:21
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Now, let us tackle the fairness of the commandment. What is so hard about it? Think about it. From the tens of thousands of delicious mouth-watering fruit bearing trees to eat from, only one tree is forbidden. This is clearly no hard task.

How about the forbidden tree itself? Was it really dangerous? If so, why was it in the Garden?

Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Everything in the Garden was meant for our good, that included the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I believe that Adam & Eve were immature and not ready to handle the responsibility of having God-like knowledge of good and evil. I believe, in God’s own timing, He would have eventually allowed the eating of that fruit (Acts 10:10-15) when they reached a level of maturity.

For a certain time (though time was irrelevant in the Garden), both Adam & Eve were succesful in keeping the commandment. Until…

In every good story, there is always a bad guy. In the Bible, the villain is the Devil who comes and goes in many guises. In the Garden, he took on the form of the serpent.

Genesis 3:1
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.

The Devil became the bad guy because he aspired to be greater than God.

Isaiah 14:13-14
You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Because we were lovingly created by God, the Devil set into motion the fall of mankind.

We will continue on the dark side of the Advent story in my next post. Don’t be disheartened by the dark side. Here is a verse to remind you of hope.

1 John 4:4
You (those who are born again) are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He (Jesus) who is in you than he (the Devil) who is in the world.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Epilogue – part 3

THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES – Caesarea

Then his vision cleared and the man was gone.

“Cestus!” he called.

“Are you feeling unwell, sir?”

“On the contrary, I am feeling much better. I want you to take two of our men and ride for Joppa. Go to the tanner’s house. There you will find an old friend of ours, Peter. Bring him back here.”

Some days later, Peter was at his door with some of the brethren from Joppa who accompanied him. Peter entered but not they. Cornelius was about to hug him but remembered that Peter was the holy leader of the church, so he bowed down to him in respect.

But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”

Then Peter noticed the many people assembled. And he said to him, “You yourselves know, Cornelius, how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me?”

So, Cornelius told him of his vision and how he acted on it by sending for him. He led Peter to the other room, and said, “Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” [italics – Acts 10:27-33]

Peter took a short pause, then he began. “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ for He is Lord of all, you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

“We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

While Peter was still speaking these words, Cornelius suddenly felt deep within him an incredible sense of peace and joy that he had never experienced before. There was also something else, he felt loved. He looked at his wife and the others and knew they were all gifted in similar ways. There was both tears and joyful laughter from everyone. Then, there was songs of worship in Hebrew.

Peter, who was so moved, commanded for the brethren from Joppa to enter, so that they may witness that the Holy Spirit also fell unto these Gentiles. He then declared, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” [Italics – Acts 10:34-48]

The whole household was then baptized in a pool at the garden. Peter stayed with them for few more days until Cornelius, his wife and his household boarded the ship bound for Rome. Peter and he embraced their farewells.

As the ship sailed off, Cornelius went to the prow and placed his hands on the railing and smiled to himself. He had first come to this country in search of meaning. Now, he leave with a greater sense of understanding, contentment and a determination to fulfill a mission. Then he was joined by his wife, Trax and Cestus.

Trax then asked, “Father, what awaits us next?”

“A new ADVENTURE!”

THE END… or Is it?


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Johann Q

ADVENT Story Revealed part 1

Where the story truly begins?

Every year, at around the month of December, most of the contemporary world celebrate a well known ADVENT event; that is Christmas. By definition, Advent means the beginning of an event or the arrival of a person. It also means ‘an invention being made’, which is important for this article but this will be for later use. For now, Advent is also a traditional time period of four weeks when the religious prepare spiritually before December 25.

Though Christmas is an expected holiday, many still have no clear understanding of what to really make of it. When asked about Christmas, most would correctly answer that it is the day that Jesus Christ was born. But when asked about the more important life-changing aspects of Christmas, you wouldn’t believe how many shrugs and blank stares I get. Of course, this is not new to me.

Romans 10:2
For I (the Apostle Paul) can testify about them (Israelites) that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

Like what the Apostle Paul wrote, Biblical knowledge is sorely lacking. Many enthusiastic folks may know the gist of Christmas but a lot of it is not based on actual Bible knowledge.

So, for this Advent time, I offer myself as a fascilitator into the BIBLE that I love and that changed my life. How do I qualify? Let me state that I am not a scholar. But God had set me and many more of us who believe to be witnesses to His goodness.

So, let this Advent tour of the Bible begin. Most Christmas stories start with an angel visiting a fourteen year old girl and revealing to her that she will become the mother of Savior of the world. But a question must be asked and in need of an answer.

Why does the world need a
SAVIOR?

The answer to this, we must go way way back to the very beginning.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I think I’ll leave you to read the rest of Genesis 1 on your own. As your guide, I would like to show you how the psalmists expressed what they felt about creation.

Psalm 33:6-9
The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.
Psalm 74:16-17
Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter.
Psalm 104:24-25
O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small.

Then God made us…

Psalm 8:3-5
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? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.

How were we created?

Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God; male and female he created them.

Consider how special you are to Him.

After He created us, He was very pleased then He rested. So, I think I will pause here for now. We will tackle ‘Why does the world need a SAVIOR?’ in my next posting.

Creation is very much part of the Christmas story. And I hope that you would share this to everyone and this attitude…

Psalm 145:3-7
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Epilogue – part 2

THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES – Caesarea

The years passed and he read of the incredible growth of the church in Jerusalem. As there was incredible growth, there was also tremendous persecutions. He heard of the stoning of Steven. The arrests of Peter and John. Then there was the strange tale of a zealous Pharisee named Saul who vehemently hounded believers even as far as Damascus, but then returns to Jerusalem as a newly professed believer. Many are suspicious, but he heard that Peter took him under his wing.

Not all things were bad news. Cornelius received two manuscripts. The first was a copy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ written by young John Mark whom Jacob wrote was being mentored by Peter. When he read his piece, he could tell it was written more for non-Jews. So, he read it to his wife, his household and to anyone in the garrison willing to listen. The other manuscript he received was a copy of another Gospel of Jesus Christ written by the former tax collector but now one of the Twelve Apostles, Matthew. His manuscript was a lot more extensive than Mark’s. It is quite clear that this gospel was written more for the Jews. He was quite happy of the many references to the older Scriptures in Matthew’s manuscript. This helped when he had his weekly discussions with his Jewish friends at the local Synagogue of which he helped many of its members .

Things are changing for Cornelius. He received a letter from his father that there is a post position opening for him with the elite Praetorian Guards of the emperor. Cornelius considered and prayed about it for a long time. He accepted the position and they are set to leave by the end of the week.

He was meditating in the garden of his house when his eye sight blurred alarmingly. Every where he looked, it was blurry and dim. He was about to call for help, when a man as bright as the sun appeared and was walking slowly towards him. He then realized he was seeing a vision for the surroundings was still blurred, the approaching man was quite sharp and clear.

“Hail Cornelius!” The man said. “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” [Acts 10:4-5]


The story continues on in my next post.

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WORD Sent Forth #17

Who Pleases God? – The Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Who are the poor in spirit?

Isaiah 66:2
Has not My hand made all these things? And so they came into being, declares the LORD. This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at My word.

Jesus illustrated this in Luke 18…

Luke 18:9-14
9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

God made these promises…

Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

So, what is your part?

Matthew 23:12
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What action can you do right now? You can pray for the right spirit.

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

IS YOUR HEART CONTRITE?

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Epilogue – part 1

THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES – Caesarea

Ten years had passed. Cornelius is the garrison commander of the port city of Caesarea. As his practice, he did not keep residence in the garrison but chose to live in a small villa in the city with his wife, the Lady Pheobe, and his legally adopted son, Trax. Cestus is still with him with a number of his men from Spain who had remained loyal. They with their respective wives are now part of his household. Jacob, whom Cornelius gave his freedom, is at Antioch helping with the developing church there.

During those ten years, Cornelius kept close tabs with some of the disciples. He had heard that Jesus may have appeared to about five hundred people within a span of forty days after his resurrection. Then he got an accounting from Matthew and Simon of how the Eleven watched Jesus literally ascend into the heavens.

Just about three months since He saw Jesus last, at the time of the Pentecost, the Twelve with the newest member being Mathias, were again gathered together for their usual practice of prayer and making plans. With them were the mother of Jesus, including Jesus’ brothers and sisters, Jacob and about a hundred other followers. Cornelius had some expectation that something was going to happen but not exactly what. When he received a message from Jacob, he was filled with amazement.

While they prayed together, the room they were in was inundated with the sound like a violent rushing wind that filled the entire house. Then, a single flame of fire appeared above the heads of each of them. The feeling they all felt was indescribable. Jacob wrote that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, for they began to speak in other languages. But it did not end there. In that particular neighborhood lived devout Jews from other nations. They inquired what was that great noise of rushing wind was? Then the disciples started to talk to them in their respective languages. They were amazed because they knew that the disciples were Galileans and how was it that were conversing in their native language. More people gathered asking what was happening. Speculation upon speculation were doled up until the commotion reached the steps that went up to the Temple Mount. Before it became too chaotic, it was Peter who stood up and gave an incredible sermon about Jesus being the Christ. To Cornelius, what was most incredible was Peter speaking to all those people was feat on its own. The sermon was so arousing that three thousand people professed that they believed and the church in Jerusalem was established.


The story continues on in my next post.

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Johann Q