God Knows The Heart

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So, the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain” their teachings are merely human rules.” You have not let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”                                                      Mark 7:5-8

As we read in the book of Mark, Jesus’ opponents which was the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem questioned Jesus about why he and his disciples were not living according to the tradition of the elders. Trying to embarrass him and undermine his authority. When with the crowd he had been teaching, they questioned Jesus about eating with ritually of the elders would never do which is to eat with unclean hands.

The tradition of the elders was an oral interpretation of Israel’s ancestral custom. The Pharisees considered this tradition legally binding all Jews, even through not all followed it. Mark’s gospel of the explanation of the purification ritual demonstrate he is not sympathetic towards the tradition.

Jesus first responded to his opponents by quoting from the Prophets and the Law, sources important than the tradition of the elders. He said his adversaries were people who honored God with the lips but not with their hearts. They taught human laws as divine doctrine which can also be found in Isaiah 29:13 which states “These people come near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”  Finally, Jesus responded directly to their question about the purification regulation. However, he addressed the crowd, not his opponents, thus resuming his position as a teacher with authority. He told the crown that nothing went into a person could defile them. Rather it was the things that comes out of a person’s mouth that defiles them. In other words, things that a person puts into their mouths such as food could not defile them, it is what comes out of a person’s mouth, which truly comes from the heart  Jesus’ new teaching about inner purity calls us to reexamine our tendency to engage in long-held traditions and rituals rather than the transformation of our hearts. It also challenges our tendency to hold on to human traditions as if they were divinely commanded. Finally, it calls us to reexamine the exclusive stance of our faith communities. This last challenge may be the hardest call of all, if our faith is predicated on a versus then understanding. Just as traditions and purity regulations helped preserve ancient Israel’s religious and ethnic identity and faith is a hostile world, so traditions and purity rules help preserve traditional biblical Christian identity. Are we like the crowds following Jesus or are  we like Mark’s first readers, are confronting Jesus. Do we hang on to traditions and rituals remaining exclusive in our thinking in order to protect our traditional faith and identity? Or do we let God open our hearts-even if such action subjects our faith and identify to change?

We need to remember what Jesus tells us as well as his disciple, God is not interested at our human traditions, which is that we come to church on Sunday mornings and sit in the pew, we then feel that we did our Christian duties until next week. We are called Christians because we are followers (disciples) of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we should live our lives according to the teaching of Christ. More important is what God told Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel 16:7 God does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Eileen

 

 

 

 

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Being Grateful

Luke 17

Non on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, Jesus, Master, have pity on us! When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.                                                                                       Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

From the time we are tiny children, our parents are constantly reminding us to have good manners. When you ask for something, what do your parents always tell you to say? Please. And when you receive something, what are you supposed to say? Thank you. When your parents remind you to say “please” and “thank you” they are helping you to understand thankfulness. Let’s say you receive a gift you really wanted for Christmas or your birthday. You are probably very happy that you have received the gift. But being thankful takes it a step further: you’re not just happy that you HAVE the gift, you are filled with thankfulness to the giver as well. You think of all the giver had to do to make sure you could get the gift. They took the time to go shopping. They paid for it. They wrapped it in pretty paper. And because you are so amazed by the giver’s generosity and love, you freely show your thankfulness by giving them a big hug, or saying “thank you” over and over, or writing a note and sending it in the mail or sending a text.
Today we are going to look at a story in Luke 17 about a time that Jesus gave an amazing gift to ten men. And while all ten of them may have been happy that they received a gift, only one of them chose to show their thankfulness to Jesus. Here we find Jesus on the border of Galilee and Samaria and he was met by a band of ten lepers. We know that the Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans, yet with this group of lepers there was at least one with this disease. Yet even through most of them were of the Jewish faith and at least one who was a Samaritan they all had this one thing in common called leprosy. In today’s world leprosy can been controlled with medicine, but in the days of our Lord it was incurable and was a slow growing and painful disease. It is infectious and contagious and as a result lepers were shunned and separated from the community into a leper’s colony. In this parable, Jesus came upon ten lepers who stood off at a distance and raising their voices saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Verse 13) Jesus responded telling them to go and show themselves to the priests. Under the Law of Moses when a person was cleansed of leprosy there was a ritual they followed which included certain sacrifices and showing themselves to the priests. What Jesus told them to do was in accordance with the law so that when they did they would be given a clean bill of health. The leprosy was a disease which the Jews supposed to be inflicted for the punishment of some particular sin, and to be, more than other diseases, a mark of God’s displeasure; and therefore Christ, who came to take away sin, and turn away wrath, took particular care to cleanse the lepers that fell in his way. The story of Jesus healing the ten lepers in this chapter of Luke appears immediately after a teaching conversation Jesus has with His disciples after one asked Him to “increase our faith.” In this conversation, Jesus indicates that obedience to God is not something extra we do to receive His thanks and rewards. Rather, it is our duty to serve Him, just like it is a servant’s duty to serve his master. Our pride sometimes twists this truth and tells us that we should expect God to thank us for all we do to serve Him. But Jesus teaches here that true faith is total dependence on God and a willingness to unselfishly do His will. This conversation, combined with the story of the ten lepers, puts gratitude in its proper perspective. God is the one deserving of gratitude because of the grace and mercy He freely gives to those of us who do not deserve it. For the benefit of His hearers, Jesus pointed out the fact that He had cleansed all ten lepers; not one out of ten. He made clear to the crowd that He had healed all who had asked for healing and not just this one man who had returned to thank Him. The other nine who had been healed had not returned to give thanks to God in the presence of the One who had healed them. Not all who receive help from God and Jesus choose to thank God and Jesus for the help they have received, but instead go on to live their lives for themselves. Luke does not tell us what the other nine did, because the emphasis is upon the one who went to Jesus with praise and thanksgiving. Perhaps the other nine only wanted physical cleansing, while the Samaritan cried out in his heart for physical, moral, and spiritual cleansing, so Jesus cleansed him immediately and completely. If the other nine had gone on to the priest praising and thanking God for Jesus’ healing them, Jesus would probably have reported this fact in some way to the crowd. As it was, the Samaritan acted in accordance with the writings of Moses and praised God and thanked Jesus (no doubt led by the Holy Spirit). Jesus showed once again that many who were not Jews came to faith in Him and praised the true God, while many who were Jews did not give God the glory that God deserved or recognize Him as the Messiah. In all of our lives, bad things happen from time to time. Sometimes these bad things are consequences for bad choices, but other times bad things happen simply because we live in a sinful world. When God created the world, it was perfect. There was no sickness; there was no death. Everything was beautiful, happy and good. But when sin came into the world, it spoiled everything! There are accidents and cancer and divorce. There are tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, crime and sickness. It is not hard to see how awful sin is!
So because we live in a fallen, sinful world, there are terrible diseases. The disease of leprosy is one of them and this disease is very contagious, this is why the men stayed at a distance from everyone else. No one wanted to be near to anyone who had this disease, so this way they also would not get leprosy. Can you image having this disease yourself and you are unable to be with your family, friends, holding down a job in order to support your family. Yet during this time when someone did get this terrible disease other would believe it was because of a terrible sin that person had committed, so they would think why else did they get leprosy. It sounds like the way people would think in today’s world. When something happens to someone, such as a bad accident, an illness, and even death itself, so many times we think wow that person most of did something wrong to get God so angry, why else would this happen, and yet this is no true at all. There are times things such as disease just happens to even Christians like ourselves, and when we do get sick it is not because of a terrible sin we had committed and that God was angry at us. Yes, we are sinners no doubt, that is why God’s love for all mankind is so great that he sent his son Jesus into this sinful world to die in our place so that we are no longer separate from God because of our sins. So different things good and even bad things do happen to all of us. However, thru all those difficult times in our lives and yes sometimes there are many days or longer when things are going on how do we as Christians get thru them. First thru pray, having a pray life is essential to all of us to get thru those times. We take the time to thank God, yes thank God for trials we may go thru for by going thru those trials will makes us stronger in our relationship with God. In the book of Romans 12:12 Paul tells us Be joyful in hope, patient in afflictions, faithful in prayer. As with the ten lepers, nine of them was so busy to get back to being normal, to get back to their families and friends. They seem to forget one important thing, the one thing that only a foreigner a Samaritan remember to do, and that would be to say Thank you, Praise God for healing him. Does that mean God heals everyone, takes all the pain of the world totally away? No it does not, first off God understand our pain whether it is physical pain, emotional pain, or any other pain, God feels and understands what we are going thru right in that moment. He does promise that when we accept him as our personal Lord and Savior that he will never leave or forsake us, found in Hebrews 13:5, this is why we need to study and be in God’s word to get us thru those times. When we read Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angles, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creations will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. What does this all mean I believe that is saying to us that thru the hardest of times in our own lives, we can have a grateful and thankful heart. God gives us many gifts thru our lives, today is called present, that in itself is enough reason to say “Thank You” God . 

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Eileen

 

 

 

Pentecost

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The day of Pentecost celebrates the empowerment of Jesus’ disciples by the Holy Spirit fifty days after Easter. The Christian holy day is often called the birthday of the church and may be celebrated with balloons, cakes, banners, red cloths, crimson vestments and candles.
Acts 1-21 describes the disciples gathered in Jerusalem with a multitude of other Jews from the Jewish festival of Pentecost, the Feast of weeks, one of the three annual pilgrim festivals of the Holy City. The feast was observed at the beginning of the wheat harvest (Leviticus 23:15-21) fifty days after the Feast of unleavened bread. Having been told by the risen Christ to remain in Jerusalem until they received “power from on high” (Luke 24:49) a large group of disciples were “all together in on place. (Acts 2:1)
The experience of the Holy Spirit described in the book of Acts fulfills promises and predictions given in both books of Luke and Acts. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. John the Baptist said of Jesus in Luke 3:16. Jesus promised the same at the beginning of Acts. John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:5)
The Holy Spirit conferred the ability to speak in other languages, so the disciples could be understood by all the Jews in Jerusalem, who had come from all over the Mediterranean world and spoke a variety of languages. This had the effect of reversing the Tower of Babel experience, in which separate languages confused and blocked communications which is in Genesis 11. The visiting Jews heard each in his or her language the disciples tell about “God’s deeds of power,” culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Peter interpreted the event for them as a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, the pouring out of God’s Spirit before the final judgment. The purpose of the display of the power of the Spirit was salvation. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21)
The gift of the Holy Spirit equipped the church for ministry and witness. Peter, who once denied knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times, spoke boldly to the crown some of whom may have cried “Crucify Him” fifty days before. Peter would lead, teach, and heal in the name of Jesus, and would soon be joined by Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, Paul and others. The manifestation of God’s power at Pentecost met a mixed reception, much like Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth (Luke 4:22-30), suggesting that the church would soon be persecuted as Jesus had been.
What does all this mean? The disciples felt a new sense of power-power that changed them from quiet, hesitate believers to bold witness to the Resurrection. This power, they said, came from the Spirit resting upon them. It was like the power we feel in a “violent wind” or recognized in fire. The fire may suggest that power needs to be channeled into uses God intends, or else it can run out of control and become destructive and deadly. In any case, the Holy Spirit was present in the experience identified by the metaphors of fire and wind. The Spirit guides our growth in faith. How have your beliefs changed if any through the years of you become a Christian? As Christian, believers of the Risen Lord as we grow closer to our Lord we can begin to see the changes of ourselves from the inside, out.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Palm Sunday

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As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: Say to Daughter Zion, see, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did  as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”                           Matthew 21:1-11

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 The significance of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem comes from the prophecy stated in Zechariah 9:9 (The coming of Zion King) The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, verses the horse, which is the animal of war. Jesus entry into Jerusalem thus symbolized his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king. However, the people greeted Jesus was not greeting him as the spiritual leader who would take away the sins of the world, but as a potential political leader who would overthrow the Romans.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Walking The Walk

Walking where Jesus walked.pngPerhaps no other symbol is more revealing of the journey of Christians through the season of Lent that a pair of Biblical sandals. Sandals speak of our journey through the promises, perils, and pitfalls of life that can only be authentically experienced through “Walking the Walk” of Jesus. To be sure, Jesus was the supreme, historical walker Biblical scholars have estimated that, during his 33 year lifetime, Jesus walked over 21,000 (400 miles from Egypt to Nazareth; 18,000 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem and back-at least seventy-five times by age 30, and 3,125 miles during his 3 year public ministry, averaging 20-25 miles per day.) And then, of course, there was Jesus 40-day walk in the desert, where he was subjected to three Satanic temptations. All this walking was more that just physical exercise, it was instilling patience, persistence, and soul-sustaining endurance in the one, who in human and Divinely resurrected form, would be God’s eternal model of “the Truth, the Way, and the Life” for the world that followed him in time.

So, how do we-how can we-follow in the footsteps of Jesus during the forty days of the Lenten season? For one thing, we can symbolically emulate Jesus’s pre-ministry walk through the desert-fasting, praying, examining ourselves, and trying to cleanse ourselves of transgressions and wrongdoings that have been haunting us for the past year. Secondly, we can discipline ourselves, through our “walk” through the Lenten season, to focus our thoughts, prayers, and actions squarely on the two greatest commandments that Jesus professed: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself”  (Matthew 22:37-39) How rewarding it is for those who, on Easter Sunday, can affirm with great Joy and Certainty:

“I walked today where Jesus walked, and felt His presence there!”

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Jesus Predicts His Death

Mark 9.png They left that place and passed through Galilee, Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.                                          Mark 9:30-32

This part of Scripture is a milepost in Jesus’ history. He was now going to Jerusalem where the cross awaited Him, Jesus carried on teaching His disciples, because a teacher must leave students behind that will continue to proclaim his message. But there was a traitor among Jesus’ disciples and Jesus knew this. he knew how Judas’ mind worked possibly better than Judas himself. 

Yet, the disciples still didn’t understand him when he told them he would rise from the dead. At that moment they were aware of the atmosphere of tragedy, but they didn’t understand the wonder of His resurrection. It was a miracle that was just too big for them to grasp, they would only understand it when it had become an accomplished fact.

Because they didn’t understand, they were afraid to ask any more questions and to be given more bad news. We might be surprised that the disciples didn’t grasp what they were so clearly being told. The human mind has the special ability to reject what it doesn’t want to hear. Are we any different to the disciples? We hear the Christian message over and over again; we know what will happen if we reject it. And if we accept it? We still accept certain parts of the gospel that appeal to us and refuse to understand the rest.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father:

            Help each of us to accept all what is true with your scriptures, help us not to be afraid of unanswered questions we may have with all of this. We ask that you will open our hearts and eyes, and mind to understand what you need to teach you and to be able to share the gospel with others.

In Christ Name We Pray

Amen

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Jesus Calls Us

 

Matthew 4   As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman. “Come, follow me, “ Jesus said, “ and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.                     Matthew 4:18-22

I wonder how many of us if Jesus was still on earth and he ask us to follow him would we drop everything at that very moment and do it? In the book of Matthew it talks about the beginning of Jesus public ministry. John the Baptist had been put to death; and Jesus had withdrawn to Galilee, not because afraid of Herod Antipas, who had put John to death, but because he had a different vision of the future. There was agitation all over Judea for a king, for someone to avenge John’s death. Jesus’ vision of the kingdom was one of nonviolence. He was not interested in revenge not even for the death of his cousin and friend but for peace. 

For Matthew, this scripture was enough to justify Galilee, rather than Jerusalem, as the center of Jesus’ ministry. It is a call for a response to God’s action. God is making a new world. Get a new sense of direction and purpose and become part of that new world. Repentance is not only about remorse, but, more important, about a change of direction.

The contrast of light and darkness is a familiar theme in describing this life direction. Jesus, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, has ushered in an age in which the repentant will move toward the realm of light, and ways from darkness, the shadow of death. The light had dawned because Jesus has arrived. Jesus issued his called to discipleship, knowing the culture, heritage, and economic status of these fisherman. He asked them to leave what they knew and were comfortable with, to come and embrace a new lifestyle with different values and goals. 

What is Jesus asking us to do? Jesus is issuing a similar call to modern, would-be disciples. We come from diverse cultures,. different worldviews, and different places on the socio-economic ladder. We, like the disciples of old, are also called to leave the comfort and predictability as we enter a life of service to God. 

The call of fisherman to become disciples is significant, because it is the beginning of the church. Jesus took the initiative, he sought out these men in the midst of their work. The call was both a command and promise. The command was to follow him. The promise was to become “fishers of people”

Peter as well as Andrew, James and John left everything and everyone to follow Jesus. He issued a powerful appeal that made disciples. And it made a real difference in their lives. How do we become disciples of Jesus Christ? It is not a great mystery. We simply follow him, Jesus calls some us to adventure of serving in the mission field in a foreign land. Others are called to adventure close to home, serving God’s people through service organizations and schools, through food pantry, legal assistance, volunteering and voting, offering prayer and healing. There are so many ways for God’s people to follow Jesus into the adventure of serving. Where do you hear, God is calling you to join Jesus in the adventure of being his disciples? What row is yours to plant? What need in your church, or community, or in the wider world cries out to your heart? How will you respond to Jesus when he says “COME AND FOLLOW ME”

Grace and Peace to You My Friends