Saturday, February 15, 2014

John 7

The brothers of Jesus advised him to go to Jerusalem and carry out his ministry during the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus said that his time has not yet come. The Pharisees are looking for Jesus to kill him - so he goes secretly to Jerusalem.

Once he was at the temple, he went up there and taught the scripture. People wondered at his wisdom and knowledge. Some called him demon possessed. There is a huge division between the crowd talking about Jesus whether he is good or a deceiver.

Jesus taught in the temple, stressing numerous times that he was not acting on his own authority and the doctrine he was teaching was that on the One Who sent him. Few tried to seize him, but they could not, as his hour hour had not yet come.

During the feast of Tabernacle, there was a practice of priests drawing water from the pool of Shiloam and take it as a procession to the temple. They would then pour it at the base of altar as a means of thanking God for His provisions. Readings from Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14 were used as they mention the living water flowing from the temple.
John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.
38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
On hearing this, the reaction of the people is mixed. The temple police who were assigned to arrest Jesus returned to the Jewish leaders empty handed as they were captivated by his words. The leaders were nervous and acted negatively towards Jesus.

Matthew 18

The disciples wanted to know from Jesus, who is considered greatest in heaven. To their dismay, Jesus told them that unless their minds became like little children, they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus warns anyone who takes advantage of the simple trust of his followers - it is doomsday for them. It would be better for such leaders to have a millstone tied around his neck and drowned in the sea that cause a child who believes in Jesus to be misled.

The next warning Jesus issued was not to despise those childlike believers as their guardian angels in Heaven are constantly in touch with the Heavenly Father. The discovery of one lost sheep is more rejoiced when compared to the ninety nine which are never lost.

If one among the church is adamantly unrepentant, they are to be removed from fellowship. Jesus issued a step by step process:
- speak to that individual in private.
- if no change, then take two or three witness and speak again.
- if there is still no repentance, take the matter to the church to practice community discipline.

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It need not be a large church, just the presence of two or three individuals is sufficient. Here, Jesus is referring to the spiritual fellowship of His presence in such a church setting. He said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." A man is supposed to forgive his brother seventy seven times.

Jesus then narrated the parable of unmerciful servant. A king forgave his servant a debt of 10,000 talents when the servant begged for more time to repay his debt. However, the servant did not forgive another person who owed him far lesser amount. When the king heard this, he became angry and delivered the servant for punishment.

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We can expect our Heavenly father to act like the king towards each one of us, who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.

My Thoughts
Speaking of 'taking advantage of God's believers,' it really gets my blood boiling. 

Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult for God's children to stay together and get along well? Don't we expect church leaders to be honest in their church dealings and foster such relationship in a church setting - are we foolish in expecting such behavior? 

Don't know about you, but I am tired of church leaders sowing so much dissension and causing division among the crowd - for selfish cause. Leaders are not the only ones to be blamed - scores of devout followers are behind such leaders to improvise the teachings of Jesus and transform the so called church into religious country clubs. I wonder if these leaders are legitimately shepherding their flock, wearing the robes of Jesus Christ. Do their followers get to taste Jesus? 

When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, there was a reason if seven was sufficient. At that time, the Pharisees used to prescribe the number of times to be forgiven, and the going number was three. Peter doubled that number to six, and added one extra. Peter expected Jesus to say, "Good man - nice thinking." However, he was disappointed to hear his Teacher's answer. 

Luke 9:28-62

Jesus took Peter, John and James up to a mountain for prayers. All three of the disciples were half asleep. During that time, Jesus transfigured. He was seen to be with Moses and Elijah.

The topic they were discussing was about "his departure." Witnessing this glory of Jesus made them wide awake, and Peter suggested he build three shelters for each one of them. At that time, a cloud appeared and engulfed them, and they were frightened.

A voice expressing the special role of Jesus was heard from Heaven, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Soon Jesus was found to be alone.

The following day they descended the mountain and found a large crowd at the bottom of the mountain. A father approached Jesus to heal his son's seizures, as the other disciples could not heal him. Jesus was bit frustrated at their unbelief and they having no regard for God. He then healed the boy.

While everyone was congratulating Jesus for what he did, he called upon his disciples and said, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” The disciples did not understand a word of what Jesus said and they were afraid to ask for a clarification.

Then an argument broke among the disciples as to who had the most power and rank. Jesus brought a child to his side and told them that whoever treated this child like Jesus, and accepted Jesus was the greatest. He taught them that it was by accepting, not asserting they became great. Essentially, what Jesus conveyed was that, "Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”

John brought to Jesus' attention a man using the name of Jesus to expel demons and asked if they should stop him. Jesus said not to do so.

Turning Point
From here on, Jesus started on his journey towards Jerusalem to be crucified. He is not taking a straight path, but through Samaria and Galilee. The villagers of Samaria did not welcome him, when they learned that his destination was Jerusalem.

On the way, he called three men to follow him, and be his disciples. All three turned down that wonderful opportunity. Here is why:
- The first man, who was a scribe wanted to learn the cost of following Jesus. When he learned he had to deny everything, he turned down the offer as he was used to living in comfort.
 - The second man was thinking about the funeral of his old aged father, when he should have been thinking about his own. His love for family members weakened his love for Lord.
- The third man was looking back, instead of ahead. His heart was not fully with Jesus.

My Thoughts
We can see the disciples having lack of spiritual power to cure the child.
They argued among themselves due to lack of love for each other.

The slogan of our world is, "Size Matters." Make note and pay attention to what Jesus says. In his words, "It is the spirit and not our size that matters." Regardless of how we appear to the world, it simply does not matter. Moreover, people are talented in exaggerating their belongings. Lord knows the exact measure of what we have, as He was the one who provided us those. He is eyeing our spirit. Therefore, scoring brownie points with Him makes perfect sense.

By worldly standards, the cost of following Jesus is indeed a costly affair, and many things can come in our way.

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Proverbs Feb 15

With love still in the air from yesterday's Valentine's day, here are few notes from Proverbs 15:
  1. God delights in genuine prayers. 
  2. Even the hell holds no secrets from God. 
  3. Know-it-all's avoid the company of wise men and women. 
  4. The one with a smile on his/her face has a cheerful heart. 
  5. An intelligent person is eager to absorb more truth. 
  6. A simple God-fearing life is better than a rich life with tons of headaches.
  7. A bread shared with love tastes better. 
  8. The right word at the right time is a beautiful thing. 
  9. Greedy people destroy a community. 
  10. A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mark 9

In about a week's time, Jesus fulfills his promise that some of his disciples would witness the Kingdom of heaven before their death. He transfigured before his disciples, Peter, James and John.

They were stunned when they got a preview of Jesus changing his appearance, Moses and Elijah appearing and holding a conversation with Jesus. Further, they heard the voice from Heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

The next minute, everything seemed normal. While descending the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to share this with anyone until he has "risen from the dead."

The disciples wondered what it meant by "rising from the dead" and whether Elijah already came again and they missed him. Jesus clarified that this "Elijah" was John the Baptist.

When they arrived at the bottom of the mountain, there is a small commotion. A large crowd had gathered and were arguing with the teachers of law. When inquired about it commotion, a man said that he he brought his son who was suffering from seizures and the disciples of Jesus could not heal him.

Jesus experienced bit of a frustration in their unsuccessful attempt, and asked them to overcome their disbelief. In a single  rebuke, he drove the impure spirit and healed the boy. In private, they asked Jesus why they were unable to heal the boy. “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting,” was Jesus' response.

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Next, Jesus took his disciples to an undisclosed location and told them about his betrayal, murder and resurrection. The disciples did not understand what he was talking about, and were afraid to clarify it.

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They had a heated argument about who was the greatest. Jesus taught them about humility and service. He encouraged them to live at peace with one another rather than be consumed with selfish competition.

My Thoughts
There is a link between Mark 9:1 and Transfiguration. That maybe the reason why this chapter starts with this verse.

Power of Faith - we see Jesus overcoming the enemy with it.

Those nine disciples failed because they had not neglected their prayer and fasting life. It has to be cultivated with spiritual discipline and devotion.

Do you believe that if we lead a life of spiritual disciple and devotion, have faith in the Lord, observe fasting and lead a life of prayer, we can defeat any enemy?

I wonder how Jesus will be feeling right now, when he observes religious leaders encouraging competition among Christians for selfish motives. At church, we can witness leaders giving those innocent and childlike believers a hard time, bullying and taking advantage of their simple trust. Always, there are people to protect and support such leadership roles. However, in the words, of Jesus, "It would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea." On that day all those friends and supporters will vanish and run for cover. 

Valentines Day 2014

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being an ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the Breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Poem Credits - Elizabeth Barret Browning

Proverbs Feb 14

Ten take away's from Proverbs 14:
  1. A wise speech evokes respect. 
  2. A wise man escape quickly from the company of fools.
  3. Wise men keep their life on track. 
  4. Holy living builds soaring cathedrals. 
  5. Everyone loves a winner. 
  6. It is hard work, not talk, that puts bread on the table. 
  7. Fear of the Lord builds up confidence. 
  8. A God-fearing man will never drink water from a poisoned well. 
  9. Integrity of good people create a safe living space. 
  10. Devotion to God makes a country strong. 

Back home for Valentienes' day

Yay! I am back home for Valentine's day. Yesterday, I did not step outside the building and worked from my hotel room. I could see my office building, but the snow was covering the ground, making it risky to walk.

View from my hotel window - My office is the tall building on the left with a triangular top. Adjacent to that is the tallest one in Philly - Comcast building.

Snow covered rooftops. 

Call it God's blessing, He surrounded me with a circle of wonderful people, who took great care of me. The courteous hotel staff allowed me to stay as late as 6 PM without having to pay extra.

I told God that I would like to be home for the weekend, rather than stranded in Philly. Then after sometime, when it was almost time to check in, I called up several of my regular flight buddies to check what they were doing - some postponed their flights to Fri/Sat/Sun. They could do so, as they were regular travelers and have elite status. Now that I had lost all my medallion qualifications, I had to wait. When I was about to change my flight to next Thursday, I noticed something interesting - the flight 1661 that is supposed to be my flight is the only flight that took off from Atlanta airport and is on it's way to Philly.

Only one flight arrived from Atlanta into Philly yesterday - 1661, which turned around and was my 6:00 PM flight to Atlanta. 

My next challenge was on how to get to the airport when almost everything has come to a halt. There is a Christian driver from Pakistan, Pathros (Peter in English), whose family picks me regularly from the airport on Mondays and drops me off on Thursdays. They treat me like a family member, due to our common friend - Jesus Christ. Pathros in that nasty weather was willing to drive me to the airport. He came to the airport, picked me up, drove very carefully and dropped me off.

The airport was so empty and by then I was hungry too. Again at the airport, I have another friend who cooks the best Philly Cheese Steaks out in Philly. We have the common friend - Jesus! He made me some fish. While eating my food, I took a peek at those monitors, and noticed something interesting - despite all those weather conditions, my 6:00 PM flight was on time!

My 6:00 PM flight - 1661 was on time in the midst of all those delays and cancellations. 

We landed a bit early, and I was home by 9:15 PM. The drive home was smooth and I could not tell if it snowed in Atlanta.

With over 7100 flights cancelled on Thursday, Feb 13, how thankful should I be to God, for getting me back home, safe and on time.

All throughout my journey, I could hear God whispering, "Boy, I am the one who is in charge - why fear?"


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Remember Valentine's day

Hey Guys, with all that weather and snow don't forget that tomorrow is Valentine's day. Here are couple of short videos for you!

I am assuming you have power. If not, all you need is your valentine next to you!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Proverbs Feb 13

Ten nuggets for today, from Proverbs 13

- Intelligent children listen to their parents' advice.
- Wise men and women listen to each other's counsel.
- Diligence pays off.
- One who honors God's commands grows rich.
- Teachings of wise is a fountain of life.
- Those who embrace correction live a life of honor.
- Become wise by walking and talking to the wise.
- Wealth acquired using ill means finally end up with good people.
- One who refuses correction refuses love.
- Love children by disciplining them.

Matthew 17

Transfiguration by Andrey Ivanov, 1807

The theme of this chapter is Jesus Christ.

Jesus lead Peter, James and John up a high mountain, and is transfigured: his face shone like the sun, his clothes become as white as the light. Moses and Elijah appeared, and talked to Jesus. Peter, who enjoyed the feeling of being surrounded by such superstars, suggested he could make three memorials on top of the mountain - one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
The disciples filled with Holy fear, fell face-down on the ground. When they looked up, only Jesus was present there. Jesus told these disciples not to reveal their vision until after the Resurrection. Quoting Malachi 4:5, Jesus said that Elijah came in the form of John the Baptist to restore everything, but he was not honored. In a similar fashion, the Son of Man would suffer at the others' hand - Jesus predicted.

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At the bottom of the mountain, they met a large crowd. A father approached Jesus to heal his son, who had seizures and fell frequently into fire and water. The disciples tried healing the child, but could not. Jesus then stepped in, and healed the boy.

The disciples inquired with Jesus as to why they could not heal the boy, with the power Jesus had given them. "You are not yet taking God seriously," was the reply Jesus gave. Additionally, he said that anyone who has faith as small as a mustard seed could move mountains.

Once again, Jesus prophesied his death and Resurrection. Hearing this, the disciples were terrified.

While at Capernaum, the temple tax collectors approached Peter. Jesus explained that He was not liable to pay the temple tax, because kings demanded taxes out of strangers; not from their children. In order not to upset them, Jesus told Peter to go cast a line in the lake and take out a coin from that first fish's mouth to pay the temple tax.

My Thoughts
The disciples were unable to heal the boy due to their lack of:
- faith
- prayer &
- discipline
Apparently, they went out to perform the healing without realizing that their power had drained out due to those above three ingredients.

Matthew being an ex-tax collector is the only one who recorded the miracle related to temple tax.

Unlike other miracles, this miracle does not record the results, as to what happened later on. All we know is that Jesus asked Peter to go cast a hook in the sea (not a net). Those who know Jesus by now can be well assured that the first fish that bit the hook had a coin in it's mouth.

Remember that God had given Adam the dominion over birds, animals and fish. Jesus was able to exercise his dominion over the fish and command it to find that coin.

Apparently, this is the only miracle that Jesus did with money, and he did it for both Peter and himself. Though Jesus did not have to pay taxes, he did it for the sake of not offending the sentiments of people.

Other info
Money was well managed by Jesus. In fact, the only named position within his disciples was that of a treasurer. In those days, coins were the only acceptable form of payment in a temple. The coins of Tyre had higher percentage of precious metals in it, compared to other currency.

Typical spending of a working class family during New Testament time:
30% Clothing
20% Food
11% Religious tithe including temple tax
10% Religious festivals
10% Charitable donations
5% Illegal taxes and bribes
4% Roman tax & local tax
10% Miscellaneous including entertainment, medical, travel etc.

Mount Tabor
The traditional site of transfiguration of Jesus is identified as Mount Tabor. Here is how it looks today.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Luke 9:18-27

Jesus was curious to know what people were saying about him. The crowd had varying opinions such as Elijah, John the Baptist, One of the old prophets, etc.. Jesus directed the same question to the disciples, "Who do you say, I am?" Peter answered, "God's Messiah." Upon hearing this, Jesus issued strict warning not to share this with anyone.

Next, Jesus predicted his death. He said he'll be rejected by everyone and killed, finally to be raised on the third day.

To everyone, Jesus said that whoever wanted to follow him must carry his own cross. This means, such individuals should allow Jesus to lead - by placing Jesus in the driver's seat. He advised them to embrace suffering, by not being afraid of it, and said he would show how to do that. The way to find life was self-sacrifice.

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For those who were embarrassed to be with Jesus and the way in which Jesus was leading, he told them that he too will be embarrassed to be with them on that day when he comes with all his splendor in the company of God, the Father and holy angels.

Few of them who were there with him on that day would witness the kingdom of God prior to their death.

My Thoughts
One of the toughest job is to be a Sunday School Teacher. On the surface, it may seem like a non-demanding job with hardly any supervision. To me, I (used to) take it extremely seriously, being responsible for the souls of young children.

Sunday school is not baby sitting, while parents go off to catch wind of the latest gossip. It is shepherding those youngsters in the way of Jesus by being a model person. We ought to treat ourselves as God's ambassadors and see those kids as Lord's children. Our teaching should impart such knowledge which will leave an everlasting positive impact in their lives.

I could afford to mess up a multi-billion dollar project, but not the soul of a young child. It seems on the surface that nobody is supervising me, but the truth is that Lord is - Lord alone is watching me what I am doing with those children, and how I am sowing those seeds of 'Heavenly Kingdom' in their hearts.

Currently, I am still learning a lot about the personality of Jesus Christ. I consider myself to have the knowledge of a first grader (if that's the lowest class), with a tremendous amount of scripture to learn. Maybe one day I will be able to share the persona of Jesus, his teachings, and of course, about that wonderful place - Heaven, with those youngsters.

If you are a Sunday school teacher, please treat your role extremely seriously. Be at your best - show up at church on time, when it begins. Be a righteous person, request the help of the Holy Spirit to shower wisdom upon you, and let the right words be at the tip of your tongue while teaching. Remember - in that role, you essentially belong to Lord's army and wear His uniform..

May your actions speak louder than your words. Let others see the image of Christ shining within you, whenever they interact with you!

Mark 8

When people gathered around Jesus for three days, he had compassion towards them. The disciples found seven loaves of bread. Jesus fed over four thousand men, women and children with seven loaves and a few fish.

The Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, but Jesus said that none shall be given.

Once they were in the boat, the disciples found out that they forgot to pack bread for lunch - all they had a single loaf. They were finding fault with each other and fussing over the forgotten bread. Jesus reminded them about those two miracles of feeding five thousand and again feeding the four thousand with baskets of leftovers. His point was that they were with the provider of bread, and there was no need to make any fuss about it.

Jesus warned them to keep a watchful eye over the contaminated yeast of Pharisees and that of Herod. The disciples did not understand this concept - they thought it had to to with them forgetting their lunch bread.

Jesus healed a blind man in Bethsaida using his spit on the blind man's eyes. The blind man got a 20/20 vision once Jesus corrected his sight.

When Jesus asked everyone about what people thought about him, Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus commanded him not to tell anyone.

Next, Jesus prophesied his suffering, death and resurrection. Peter rebuked Jesus and and Jesus rebuked him back saying, "Get behind me, Satan," and said he had only human concerns and not Godly concerns.

Anyone who intends to come with Jesus has to let Jesus lead the way. We have to let Jesus be in the driver's seat.  We are told not to run away from sufferings - He will show us how to handle them.

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Anybody who is embarrassed over the leadership of Jesus or the way in which He is leading will find Jesus embarrassed of them when he arrives in His Father's glory with heavenly angels.

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Proverbs - Feb 12th, 2014

Ten nuggets from Proverbs 12.

- A life that's rooted in God stands firm.
- A hearty wife invigorates her husband.
- Those who talk sense will be honored.
- Good people never participate in gossip.
- A wise person takes advice.
- A wise person does not explode his fuse easily.
- When a wise person speaks, there is healing in his words.
- Truth lasts forever.
- God loves the company of those who keep their words.
- Good men and women enjoy a wonderful life. 

Matthew 16

In this chapter, Jesus mentions for the first time about the Church, and he prepares his disciples for his arrest and crucifixion.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and  seek a sign from him. Apart from all what Jesus told and did, they still wanted a sign. Jesus told them they could draw conclusions on their own, if they had examined the evidence. The only evidence he was going to give was that of Prophet Jonah.

The disciples forgot to take bread with them. Using this occasion of embarrassment, Jesus taught an important spiritual truth - beware of the false teachings of Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples were slow to understand the metaphor.

While at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

During that poll, many answers came up. The decision of the crowd, in this context turned out to be false. Peter had the right response - he declared that he thought Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus said that it was revealed to Peter by His Father in Heaven. This revelation was a gracious act of the Lord.
Matthew 16:17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Next, Jesus revealed to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and rise again on the third day. Peter rebuked Jesus and said this shall not happen to Him. Jesus replied to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!"

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Those of us, who desire to follow Jesus must be ready to take up our cross (see below). Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. Some of those who were standing there wold witness the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

My Thoughts
Notice how those Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and sought for a sign. In our own circles and community, we can notice this simple phenomenon - where there is faith, miracles will give confirmation; on the other hand, willful unbelief force many to be stubborn and act blind. 

Speaking of Prophet Jonah, today the 3 day lent, commemorating the memory of Jonah being swallowed by a whale is supposed to come to an end!

Those false teachings of Pharisees and Sadducees are very much around us today. Legions of people attend church in hopes of learning the word of God. What they discover there is alarming. The church leaders mislead and exploit the faithful for their own benefit - all in the name of Lord and Jesus Christ. 

Lord did not reveal the true identity of Jesus to those Pharisees and Sadducees - but He did it to Peter. 

Keys of the Kingdom - they are essentially a badge of authority. Peter was given the privilage to open "the door of faith." 

One misconception among Christians is that Peter was given some special privilege in the church. Just like others, he was an apostle. Jesus later clarified this concept of servant ministry when they asked him who among them was great. 

To deny self does not mean to deny all those things in the world. It means to submit ourselves wholly to Jesus. 

To take up the cross - does not mean in a literal sense to carry all those burdens and have too many problems. It simply means to be identified with Jesus in his rejection, shame, sufferings, and death. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mark 7

When the disciples of Jesus were eating food without washing their hands, they questioned Jesus. Jews as a general rule would never eat a meal without washing their hands and scrubbing them, especially if they had just come from the market.

They asked him, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

Jesus responded saying that the Pharisees were getting rid of God's commands
Mark 7:14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.
15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”  
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The disciples were unable to digest this, and asked him to put it in plain words.
Mark 7:20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.
21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come - sexual immorality, theft, murder,
22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” 
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Next, Jesus left for the vicinity of Tyre and was in a house, where he thought he won't be found by people. As soon news broke he was there, a Greek woman came asking him to heal her daughter, who was demon possessed. He asked her to wait for her turn after all those children of Israel were healed. With faith, she was willing to get that treatment - for the sake of her daughter. Seeing her faith, Jesus sent her back and healed her daughter.

Then Jesus went down to the Sea of Galilee, where people brought a deaf and dumb man to be healed. Jesus took the man away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man’s ears and some spit on the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up towards heaven in prayer, and commanded, “Ephphatha!" (which meant "Open up!"). The very instant, the man was able to speak and hear.

The way Mark documents this healing, “Ephphatha,” sounded like the magic word “Abracadabra.”

The only request Jesus had, was not to publicize these healing which they witnessed. However, they spread the word in excitement.

My Thoughts
My making that statement that no food can defile us, he reiterated that dietary laws of Moses - declaring all food was clean. Yes, now we can eat those exotic foods - shrimp, lobster, etc., provided we are watching out what comes out of our mouth. 

Matthew 15

The opening part of this chapter is interesting. I am very particular in washing my hands prior to eating food. I also ask my family members to do so, before sitting down for a meal. Several years ago, one day my wife started an argument that it was not necessary to wash hands before meals. She then quoted Jesus saying so in the Bible. Those days, I used to be a stranger to the Bible - did not know what it actually contained.

While the disciples of Jesus were not washing their hands prior to a meal, the Pharisees pointed it out, as they were critical about Jesus and his team.
Matthew 15:2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Jesus rebuked them for not following God's commands. He rejected the Jewish tradition because the oral law they were practicing broke God's law. It had nothing to do with the cleanliness of Jesus.
Matthew 15:10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.
11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” 
Peter told Jesus that he did not get it, and asked Jesus to explain it in plain language.
Matthew 15:17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body.
18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts - murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.
Jesus then met a Canaanite woman with tremendous faith, who approached him to heal her daughter. Jesus tried to turn her away saying He did not come to save the Canaanites. She kept on requesting and her faith surprised Jesus. He then healed her daughter.

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Sitting on a mountainside beside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus healed many.
Matthew 15:31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
He then performed the miracle of feeding over four thousand with seven loaves of bread and few fish.

My Thoughts
Washing hands prior to meals is a best practice. As Jesus pointed out, there are several other factors that defile our bodies - He is concerned about them.

In a way, Jesus broke the Jewish tradition by not washing his hands. Today, unfortunately, we have several man made traditions in our churches, that violate and contradict the teachings of Jesus. The list is too long and we have too many to list here. Regardless of what our church authorities think and teach, I have decided to follow my own consciousness along with what Jesus said in the Bible.

Notice the patience and persistence of this mother. She did not care being treated badly by the disciples and even Jesus calling her a dog. Godly mothers are like that - they would go extremes to save their children.

Jesus was impressed by observing the faith of the woman. It seems to me that having tremendous faith is one surefire way impress Jesus. On the same note, I keep asking myself, "How can I improve my faith in the Lord?" The answer I get is, "By studying the word of God." It is not by doing anything else such as praying, fasting or so. Speaking about fasting, the 3 day lent started yesterday! Apparently, hearing the word of God improves faith in God. One other aspect is the blessing of Holy Spirit.

Ten Reasons Not to Wash
1. I was forced to wash as a child.
2. People who wash are hypocrites - They think they’re cleaner than others.
3. There are so many kinds of soap, I could never decide which was right.
4. I used to wash, but it got boring.
5. I wash only on Christmas and Easter.
6. None of my friends wash.
7. I’ll start washing when I’m older.
8. I really don’t have time.
9. The bathroom isn't warm enough.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.

John 6

Lanfranco Giovanni - Miracle of the Bread

John is very selective in his writings. Between the healing of the paralytic in chapter 5 to feeding of the five thousand, there are numerous events that took place, which John did not record.

Feeding the five thousand is a miracle of huge magnitude that it is recorded in all four gospels. Even when Jesus tried to get away for some rest, the crowd followed him. Out of compassion, John records this event with more details.

Jesus asked Philip, his disciple, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

Philip replied, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Andrew, came in and said, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

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Jesus performed the miracle of taking those five breads and two fish and fed the crowd of over five thousand. After seeing the miracle, and tasting the food, the crowd wanted to make him their king. This time, Jesus withdrew by himself into the mountains.

John documents that the disciples dropped off Jesus to pray.  They were all by themselves in the boat about 3-4 miles away, when they saw Jesus walking on the water. John does not talk about Peter walking on water. Instead, he documents those people who ate the bread and fish getting in boat and searching for Jesus.

Shortly, they found him and inquired when he got there. Jesus replied, “Work for food that endures to eternal life." Further, Jesus told them to believe in God, the Father. A long conversation takes place and at one point, Jesus said, "I am the bread of life, and whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

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Notably, Jesus said, "My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Another noteworthy statement that Jesus made, which caused the crowd to argue sharply among themselves:
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
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Listening to these sayings, many in the crowd said these were hard teachings, tough to swallow, and they deserted Jesus. Apart from the crowd, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Jesus sensed that his twelve disciples had a tough time making up their mind.
John 6:67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter said they believed He was the Holy One of God. In response, Jesus said that he chose the twelve and one of them was a devil.

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My Thoughts
I find new inner meanings to all those statements what Jesus made. Thank you Lord, for being able to understand these meanings.

Notice that the Heavenly Father's goal is for everyone to have eternal life. Sadly, not everyone is willing to accept that.

Jesus said the truth, and as a result many abandoned him. Had he said sugar coated statements, and made empty promises, he would have had a very large following. Expect to be treated badly by the crowd and many of our close friends will turn away if we speak the truth.

What thoughts would have gone through the mind of Jesus, when he chose Judas to be on his team.

Complaints From Women in the Bible

Below is a collection of "Top 10 imaginary complaints from women in the Bible." One with a faith that cannot laugh and does not have a sense of joy could never be Christian. Here are "the complaints" for your consumption:

10. Eve to Adam: “You never take me anywhere different to eat, and you know I’ve got nothing to wear!”

9. Sarah to Abraham: “Maybe if you stopped treating me like your sister, we could start a family!” (Genesis 12:19)

8. Elizabeth to John the Baptist: “I cook you a nice meal and all you want is locust, locust, locust!”

7. Pharaoh’s Daughter to Moses: “Stop parting the bath water, Moses, and wash behind those ears!”

6. David’s mom to Jesse, her husband: “Do you really think it was a good idea to get David that sling? He’s going to put someone’s eye out with that thing!”

5. Manoah’s wife to her son Samson: “Can’t you clean the sink after you shampoo? I’m sick of all these long hairs clogging the drain!”

4. Elizabeth to Mary: “I love talking to you, Mary, really I do, but can you speak a little softer? This kid just won’t stop doing the rumba in my tummy!” (Luke 1:44)

3. Pilate’s wife to Pilate after the resurrection: “You never listen to me, do you?” How do you feel now ‘Mr. Wash-Your-Hands-In-Public’”? (Matthew 27:19)

2. Herodias to her daughter: “I told Herod that if he didn’t do something about this John nut, I would make sure the problem came to a head!”

And the number one complaint made by a biblical mother or wife is:

1. Mary to Joseph: “I TOLD you to make reservations!”