FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 024

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – Cleansed – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

He slowly and painfully stood up amazed as he watched the Nazarene calmly walking over to the giant and placed his hand on his arm. He looked up at him half-scoldingly and said, “Peter…” He didn’t have to finish the sentence. The big man returned a half grin and a shrug. He smiled shaking his head and then turned his attention to Simon.

Simon took two steps forward and then like he realized who he was facing threw himself on the ground and asked, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Then the Nazarene started to reach down and was actually going to touch him. The crowd simultaneously gasped and Simon flinched back. But the Nazarene was quicker. Before Simon could back away, his right hand was on his back, his left was gently grasping his arm and helping him up.

Simon felt a warm sensation through out his body. Then the first thing he noticed was that he had feelings in his feet. He actually could feel the grass under his toes. Even his fingertips were tingling. He looked at his arms to find normal skin color rather than the expected sickly white flakes and bleeding sores.

“Look at his face!” exclaimed an awed voice from the crowd.

Simon hesitated for just a moment, then lifted trembling hands to his face. What his probing fingers revealed was a whole nose restored and no sign of sores.

Then, the valley was filled with celebratory singing and dancing. Lazarus, who had witnessed everything from among the crowd, went directly to his father and embrace him. They both wept.

“Come, follow me,” said the Nazarene.

Simon, still hugging his son, followed the rabbi to a nomad tent under the trees.

“Please, sit down,” the rabbi gestured to a matt on the ground. He went over to a low table and poured water into three clay bowls. He served the two bowls first to them, took the third bowl and joined them on the matt. “Drink first, then we talk.”

A woman brought in a large plate of flat breads, fruits, some meats and placed it in the middle of them. After they ate, the rabbi called for the men that were just outside the tent. Twelve men entered including the big man called Peter.

“Andrew, please take a couple of men and follow this young man to their camp and bring everything back here.”

“Yes, master.”

When they left, the rabbi gestured for the big man and two others to sit down with them while the others sat in other parts of the tent.

“Lord, what is your name? I only know of you as the Nazarene.”

“I am Jesus.”

 

In the morning, Simon came out of his tent feeling invigorated. They were planning to pull up stakes and make the return trip to Bethany.

“Well, father, when we get home, we have to tell as many people that we found the Messiah… and show them how you were healed… and then…”

“No, I will not.”

“What! What are you saying, father? People must be told.”

“I agree, but it will not come from me.”

“Why, father?”

“Because the master asked me,” Simon said solemnly. “His words to me last night were ‘Tell not anyone about this. Go, instead to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering as is according to the law passed down by Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. It is most important that this will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’ ”

“We cannot even tell the girls?”

“Of course, we can.”

“Good. I cannot wait to see Mary’s face when you get home.”

 

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 24th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS. We will take a pause on Simon the Leper’s story and visit him again some 20 years later. Our next story is about young Mary, daughter of Simon the Leper.

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.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 023

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – Cleansed – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

The hill was a little steeper, so Simon had to slow down his descent. Lazarus was following a short distance behind. He looks up and saw that the Nazarene was already in the valley approaching the creek, working his way through the crowd. He was approaching the edge of the crowd on his side of the valley. He paused to figure out where to go. Should he skirt the edge of the gathered mass of people? It looks like the only way to get to him was through all those people. Simon hesitated.

“Father, what is going on?” His son asked as he gasped for air.

“I have to see him, Lazarus.”

Lazarus looked at him then he looked at the crowd.

“Father… No! Those people will kill you! You do not have to see you him today.”

Simon looked at him then said, “Yes, I do.”

Simon started to walk towards the crowd who were still about thirty feet away. Lazarus, not able to block or physically detain him, followed from behind.

When he was about ten feet from the crowd, Simon started to shout out to them. “Unclean! Unclean! Make way! Unclean!” At first, no one turned around, but then a young woman heard his shout. She turned around and screamed out loud. Apparently, Simon’s veil was uncovered and all the woman saw was a leperous face with no nose. Her scream came to the attention of other women and they too joined in the screaming. When people saw a leper walking purposely towards them, they scrambled out of his way. Simon managed to successfully penetrate through the crowd, so he thought he was going to make it. But then their initial surprise and panic quickly turned into anger.

Simon had to slow down because the angry shouting crowd was not moving aside as much. Then, they started to pelt him with stones. Some of the bolder ones started to come at him with long sticks. One of them hit him in the back of the head and Simon collapsed on his knees. Then they started to pound on him, hitting him on his back and his head.

Simon was dazed and his head was ringing. At one time, he thought his son was calling for him but his voice sounded so distant. Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 23rd 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.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 022

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – The Sermon – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

Simon thought he ended his sermon there, for the Nazarene paused for such a long time. But then he spoke of entering God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate and then of being wary of false prophets by deeply checking their fruit. Somehow, the delivery was a little different and Simon wondered if the narrow gate had something to do with him.

And sure enough, the Nazarene spoke of himself and said something that may be construed as blasphemous.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” [Matthew 7:21-27 NLT]

Then, the Nazarene stood up indicating he was done. The people started to clap and call out to him.

For Simon, the words of the Nazarene was heaven in itself. He had almost forgotten that he was stricken with a flesh eating disease that will sooner or later take his life. He so wanted to live not because he was afraid. But because he wanted to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven. He watched the Nazarene work his way down the hill through the crowd. It looked like he was making his way to a copse of low lying trees on his side of the stream. It was then he noticed some tents among the trees. A thought occured to him.

Suddenly, he was up and rushing down the hill with his son asking a little surprisingly on where he was going.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 22th 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.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

JESUS 101: Was God in Error? [part 1]

JESUS-101-003-w.jpg

The President of the Philippines paraphrased his version of the Adam and Eve story into his speech, after which he was bluntly colorful in his criticism of God. After he laid out how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the president stipulated that God basically set them up for failure. How? By putting in the garden dangerous elements such as the Serpent and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that would eventually tempt them to sin. Then, there is the commandment itself. Why would God give such a command? With these questions hanging unanswered, the president concluded with a question, “how can you rationalize a God like that?”

As a believer, I have to, at least, try to provide an answer.

First, allow me to tackle the president’s critism aspect on God’s being. This whole episode reminded me of another person who was critical of how God handled things. His name was Job.

Job was a wealthy man and was considered “blameless” and “upright” according to God. One day, the devil came before God where He boasted about Job’s goodness, but the devil argued that Job is only good because God had favoured him extravagantly. In the long run, after some cajoling by the devil, God had allowed the devil to put Job to the test to see after the devil’s torment if Job would turn and curse God. Job passed the first test, when after losing his business to marauders and all ten of his children to a devastating catastrophe, he still blessed God in his prayers. But then the second test was when the devil had inflicted upon his body with horrible dibilitating skin sores. At first, he seem to accept his circumstances, but after having a lengthy poetic discourse with what he thought were his friends, he bemoaned the injustice that God allowed evil people to prosper while he suffered. Job wanted to confront God and complain. Now, it would seem that Job may had gotten the upper hand of the argument, but God had a big lesson for him.

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” [Job 38:1-4]

So, what is the lesson for us? I don’t know about you, but if God decides to come to correct me in the midst of a whirlwind, there can only be two logical ways for me to face him, with fear and humility. Why? Fear is easy enough. Anyone capable of controlling the weather is worthy of fearful respect. As the Bible says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…’ [Proverbs 9:10] As to humility, the question that God brought up about where was Job… or that matter, where was I or you… when He laid the earth’s foundation… well, you have to see the logic. It is arrogance of any of us to be critical of God, especially when first you don’t have His power and lack the experiential knowledge of Creation. Fortunately, Job learned his lesson and he was blessed beyond imagining.

Meanwhile, there are many people who still wonder whether God erred and why we are paying for it? We will tackle this in my next post.

Until then blessings to you,

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 021

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

“You are the salt of the earth,” He said. “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.” [Matthew 5:13-17 NLT]

Simon’s ears perked up when hearing about the law of Moses.

“No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Simon almost wanted to shout out, ‘how?’.

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:18-19 NLT]

Then he said something that almost stopped his heart.

“But I warn you,” the Nazarene paused. “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” [Matthew 5:20 NLT]

Simon looked out at the crowd to gauge their reaction. From what he could see, a tiny number at the edge of the crowd reacted in silent protest. Clearly, there were probably some members of the ruling class in there.

To emphasize his outright blatant statement, he began offering a long series of achievable challenges on how to divinely deal with anger, adultery, and divorces. He spoke of on how holy vows are in the eyes of the Lord. He even tackled a subject that every Jew would find hard to swallow, loving their enemies and of revenge.

The Nazarene communicated to every sort of person. To the stingy and the attention seekers, he says to offer alms for the needy and to do it in private, so that only the Father, who sees everything, will reward them. He talked about the hypocrisy in how people pray and fast, then he would show them how. To those who work so hard to gain wealth and to toil even harder to keep it, he revealed unapologetically that it was temporary and even quite futile compared to true and everlasting treasures.

He told them of not judging others but looking deep in oneself instead. Finally, he summed up all that he spoke about with the golden rule – “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12 NLT]

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 21th 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.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

Response to the Latest News on Duterte

Most times, I avoid making any online comments about political figures in the news. However, I felt I had to weigh-in on the latest controversial speech of the President of the Philippines when after he told of a paraphrased version of the Adam and Eve story, he said… well, let’s say that he was bluntly colorful in what he called God. [video link here] But my comments will not be on his use of language.

Instead, I read something more from his speech that should be a clear sign for Christians to pay attention. If you cut out the president’s colorful language which is not cool, he does bring up a very fundamental point especially in God’s character. After the President laid out how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, he stipulated that God basically set them up for failure. How? By putting in the garden the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that would eventually tempt them to sin, after which he asked, “how can you rationalize a God like that?” I can appreciate his point of view because at one time in my early Christian days when I was reading and studying the book of Genesis, I asked a similar question, “Was God in error in putting the forbidden tree in the garden?” In my book, this is an honest question.

Of course, in truth, God does not make mistakes. But if someone asked you to show how you know this, would you be hard pressed to adequately explain? This is important, for the President had mirrored the world’s lack of truly knowing God. The Apostle Peter wrote, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer…’ (1 Peter 3:15) Christians, don’t waste time in emotional outcries. I encourage you to get yourself ready, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

For those of you who have questions about God, please put them in the comments below. I will post them in my blog. Then, in my JESUS 101 series, I and others will dedicate time and effort to guide you to an answer. How about it? Any takers?

Until my next post,

Johann Q

PS… look for my attempt to the answer the President’s underlying question in my next post – JESUS 101: Was God in Error?

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 020

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Judean Wilderness to Galilee

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennessaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were adressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were adressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 20th 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.

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Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

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