Wednesday, February 28, 2018

WOYWW: Mothers and Sons

“Big Bad Wolf” came to town, and my brother Robert bought me this pretty book, “Meaningful Bouquets”. I decided to write the names and meanings of the flowers next to the picture. 

That way, it would be more useful. 

“Promise me that these sons of mine will sit, one on your right hand and the other at your feet in your kingdom.” Matthew 20:21

In another version, it says that the mother of James and John asked Jesus that these two sons of hers be given places of honor in His Kingdom. Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking!” Mothers always want the best for their sons. We plead with God for their good health, safety everywhere they go, friendships that will influence them to go the right path, authentic faith, etc. 

Salome, the mother of James and John, had the unique position of being right there with Jesus and His apostles right after He described His death and resurrection. She could not have foreseen that James would be the first of the disciples to be martyred, slain by the sword. Herod Agrippa had started persecuting leaders of the Christians. When James was lead away, his accuser was so moved by his courage that he repented, accepted Jesus and asked to be executed alongside James. 

Salome’s other son John was the only one of the original Twelve who did not die a violent death. He passed away of old age after writing several books of the Old Testament. 

We never know what the future holds for us, and for our loved ones. We can only pray that we all finish running the race well. Jesus tells us how: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Let Us Reason Together

“Come now, let us reason together...” Isaiah 1:18

Here it is as if God is saying to me, there is a reason for your hope. You do not have to take everything I say by faith. When I teach you My ways, there is good judgment behind it. Daily we strive to pray, read His Word, obey Him, do good deeds especially during Lent. The world and all its dissenting voices may tell us we are crazy because there is no god. If there is a god, he does not care. 

But I see there is a God, and He does care. If we really want to know Him, He made a way through the Bible. But how do we know the Bible is true? God has blessed us with evidence, overwhelming data to fight deception. During the holocaust over 20,000 Torah scrolls were destroyed, and the attacks against the Bible and God’s Word continues on. But just as Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.” In John 17:17, Jesus claimed, “Thy Word is truth.” If the Bible is true, then it has to have been transmitted accurately from ancient times. Tens of thousands of manuscripts dating from 250 BC, 2 silver amulets dating from the time of Hezekiah with the Aaronic blessing, a 24 ft. long complete scroll of Isaiah, and overwhelmingly so much much more, show us the Word we have in our hands today is 95% accurate. The 5% difference is just minor variations in spelling, and word order, and have nothing to do with the message. There are 3000 surviving handwritten copies of the Iliad, but there are over 42,000 handwritten copies of the Bible today. 

Yes, let us reason with the Lord. He is not a God who is a dictator who wants us to just follow Him without knowing why. He woos us because He loves us. “I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Rev. 3:20) Yes Lord, I hear Your voice, and there is nothing I want more than to be friends with You! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

God’s Concern

“Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” Luke 6:37

I have to deal with this because I do a lot of condemning especially with politicians and the insane things they do and say. I know someone who says God answers his questions. He’s not Catholic so he sees what Catholics do with statues and processions and rosaries. One time he asked God specifically about the Black Nazarene and that yearly chaotic procession of thousands of barefooted devotees. God answered something like he should not concern himself about that. It was His concern. “I knew it was God speaking because that would not have been my answer,” the man said. 

Condemning is always God’s concern, not ours. In the third chapter of John, Jesus says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; but he who does not believe has been JUDGED ALREADY...” 

When Jesus came into the world, He was like a piercing light into men’s souls. He did not have to sit on a judgement seat to condemn us. The light reveals all our sins, flaws, hypocrisy, and meanness. Let God do the judging and let us do our part. We just need to repent, believe in Jesus and obey Him.  That way, we can stay in His light. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018


“Jesus’ appearance changed...” 
Mark 9:12

This is one of those Bible stories that is absolutely awesome and amazing, but we usually take it for granted. Jesus took 3 of His disciples up a high mountain. No one else was there but Jesus, Peter, James and John. As they watched, He was transfigured before them. His clothes became more dazzlingly white that nothing on earth could ever make it. Then if that was not astonishing enough, Elijah and Moses appeared and conversed with Jesus. The disciples were understandably terrified. A cloud came over them all, and a voice came out of the cloud: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

If we were one of those privileged to see a glorified Jesus, and hear God’s voice, I would expect it would change us so profoundly. Maybe we would like to stay with Jesus on the mountaintop forever, never to come down to the harsh realities of our every day existence. Life can be such a hard climb, and it’s difficult to hold on to our “highs” with the Lord. Harder even to commit to praying and studying the Bible every day, to being with Jesus throughout the day. 

That’s why I have a little notebook where I write my “touchstones” with the Lord. It’s a little like the memorial stones Joshua and his men laid down in Gilgal to remember God’s amazing miracle of letting them pass over the Jordan on dry ground. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, Moses set up an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel. 

It’s easy for us to forget. I am trying right now to remember the Bible verse about not forgetting what the Lord has done and I cannot even find it with google. One time a forgetful sister in community said she found an herb to help her, but when I asked what it was, she forgot the name! So I write down my experiences with the Lord, where He very clearly showed His face and His saving hand. Indeed, these mountaintop experiences with God help me get through my busy schedule, the wearying effects of problems beyond our capacities, and the inevitable discouragement we sometimes feel. 

Yes Lord, Your appearance was transformed. And even now, I trust, You are changing me from “glory to glory”. Like Saint Paul, I am certain You will finish the good work You have started in me. (Philippians 1:6)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

God’s Treasure

“You are my own special treasure...” Deuteronomy 26:18

In another version of the Bible we can read, “you are to be a people peculiarly His own...” How does it feel to be special, to be beloved, cherished, the apple of our Father’s eye? If we know this deep in our heart, if it becomes our fundamental identity as a precious child of the living God, we will be empowered to manifest His love to others. Just as it is true that hurting people hurt others, people who are sure they are loved are unafraid to love and be generous to others. 

In “The Anawim Way”, I read that “Lent is a perfect time to take up the challenge of love- the most worthwhile challenge of all. In this time of holy solitude, we ask God to bring to our minds the people whom we do not yet love, those who have offended or hurt us, our enemies.” 

Each of these people, even our enemies, is God’s special treasure, beloved by Him. Let us try to see them through the eyes of our Father. 

I remember this story of Brendan who was an up and coming DJ in New York. When he would go home to his apartment in Brooklyn, a homeless woman would ask him for money. Each time, he said he didn’t have any. She complained, “You always say no.” Brendan promised, “I am on my way to a job interview. If I get the job, I will take you out for Chinese food.” He kept his promise and surprisingly after that, they supported each other through the hard times. When Brendan lost his job, Jackie would buy groceries with what little money she had. Their lives eventually improved. Jackie was able to move out from living in the streets to a halfway house, the YMCA, and eventually to an apartment of her own. Brendan wanted to help and brought her to Target to pick out stuff she needed. Then he started a campaign online to raise $500. Their story went viral and they’ve raised more than $6000. They’ve decided to use the extra funds to help other women in need. 

Brendan was able to to see Jackie as someone worth his time, and he gained a friendship that made him a better man. Can we take a risk this Lent and see those who are different from us as God’s treasures? 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Wild Horse

“Whoever is angry with someone will be liable to judgment.” Matthew 5:21

When we are in the grip of anger, it’s very hard to control. I was once brought to the barangay because an employee accused me of hitting her. Instead of using my hands to love and be of service, I used it for harm. Never mind if she made me so mad because of her actions. My anger got the better of me. 

Benjamin Franklin said, “ A man in a passion rides a wild horse.” If we cannot reign in a wild horse, it will bring us places we do not intend to go, and we can even fall and get hurt or worse, incapacitated. Many of us have hidden resentment, or criticism against others. It simmers inside but it really should be brought out into the light to be dealt with, or it can be a poison that we swallow ourselves. Nowadays “anger management” is quite fashionable, but we can look to the Bible for advice. 

In Ephesians 4:26-27, Saint Paul says, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” We have to deal with it right away and not let the devil use it to tempt us to greater sin, like Cain’s anger with Abel provoked him to murder! We may not murder anyone, but anger can grow into bitterness, revenge and slander, all magnificent blooms in Satan’s garden! 

For Lent, let us think of people who have hurt us and forgive them, or people we have offended, and ask forgiveness from them. It is difficult to do, but oh the freedom we experience afterwards! 

The Jaws of Death

“The jaws of death shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

What a magnificent promise Jesus gave about the Church He established. Other translations include: “all the powers of hell will not conquer it”, and “the gates of Hades will not overcome it”. Indeed we can claim that no weapon formed against it shall prosper. It still stands strong in spite of persecution, prejudice, moral relativism and the redefinition of so many things in our culture. 

Faith in Jesus transforms even the hardest heart and no lie, no bomb, no law from Congress can change that. In the book, “Cain’s Redemption”, author Dennis Shere writes about how the bloodiest maximum security prison in America was transformed by Bible studies. Warden Burl Cain believes in the power of the Word to change the most incorrigible sinners into productive, principled men. Instead of frequent violent knife fights, the inmates at Louisiana’s Angola State Penitentiary attend regular Bible Studies. Within the 18,000 acres there is a school run by the New Orleans Baptist Seminary where the prisoners have the opportunity to obtain a Bible degree, and some have been sent off to other prisons as missionaries! 

Yes, the wide open jaws of death will not prevail against us when we do the work God has given us to do.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The God of the Old Testament

The Word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will give you.” Jonah 3:1

Many people see the God of the Old Testament as a God of judgment and not a God of love. It is as if God decided He needed a makeover, and that’s why Jesus came. Jesus is the meek and mild version, the loving, forgiving God. God 2.0! 

The Book of Jonah is one of the oldest books of the Bible, written in the 8th C AD. The problem of Jonah was that God wanted him to warn the Ninevites, who were fierce enemies of the Israelites, that He was going to judge them. 

The Ninevites were a violent, cruel people, known to torture their enemies. Their King would bring home the severed head of a conquered city and display it on a pole on the gate of Nineveh to commemorate his victory. There it would stay until it rotted. Sometimes generals of the opposing army would be flayed alive and bled like a lamb. These and many more atrocities made Jonah balk at obeying God. Instead he wanted God to exact revenge upon these wicked people. 

But God insisted that Jonah announce to the Ninevites His message of judgment. When Jonah finally obeyed, the King, that same horrible King and his people, repented and put on sackcloth and sat on ashes. God relented and Jonah complained bitterly. 

“I knew You were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding with steadfast love. I knew how easily You could cancel Your plans for destroying these people!” (Jonah 4:2) 

Is this the Old Testament God? Yes! The Father calls ALL people to Him, ESPECIALLY the wicked and the seemingly hopeless cases. Sounds exactly like Jesus. After all, they are one and the same God. Full of love and mercy. 

This Lent, let us draw close to Him who forgives any sin, and calls us back to Himself. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Our Father, Our Friend

“Abba Father...” Matthew 6:9

In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us how to pray. We should not babble like pagans, like people of other religions. In 1 Kings 18:26, there is an extreme example of the prophets of Baal calling on the name of Baal, dancing wildly, shouting louder and louder, cutting themselves with knives and swords, all morning up to the evening sacrifice. No answer from their god, Baal. 

In contrast, our Father knows exactly what we need even before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8). We can say the prayer Jesus taught, have a conversation with Him, but we can also stay silent in His presence. Prayer is an expression of our intimate, personal relationship with our Father who knows us and loves us best. Just as we are comfortable being silent with a good friend, or our spouse, or sibling, we can be silent with Abba. The important thing is to give Him time, a space in our heart, and a listening ear. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Love One Another

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” 
Lev. 19:18

In a way, we are the world’s Bible. Our love for one another will prove to the world that we are followers of Christ (John 13:35). Sadly, many of us fall short in this. 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi often carried a Bible around and would quote from his favorite “Sermon on the Mount”. When Gandhi met with the missionary E. Stanley Jones, they had this conversation: "Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?"

Gandhi answered, "Oh, I don't reject Christ. I love Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”

What a stinging indictment of the Christians he met and had experience with! If Gandhi met you and me today, would he say the same? That we are so unlike Christ?

Dear Jesus, please help me to be more like You! Help me to love others the way You loved. Give me the grace to obey You and be Your disciple. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Leading Us to God

“Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God...” 1 Peter 3:18

Saint Peter further wrote that 8 people were saved through water in the days of Noah. This prefigured baptism which saves us now. I think it is amazing that Peter the fisherman understood what Jesus did, and wrote about it. Unlike Saint Paul who was trained in the law and the prophets in the school of Gamaliel since he was young, Peter had no such advantage. But Peter learned at the feet of the Master, undergoing strict, rigorous on the job training. He went everywhere with Jesus, and even when he failed Jesus, the Lord used it as a teaching moment.

Jesus may not be physically present today, but if we spend time with Him and His Word, He will teach us. Indeed, His whole life was spent, used up, drained, depleted, exhausted, just so He could lead all of us to God. Any time spent getting to know Him and His ways will never be wasted time. He loves us so much that any time or space we spend with Jesus, He will pour more and more of His treasure, His promises, His life, His joy in us! 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Holy Day

“If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight... I will nourish you...” Isaiah 58:13-14

I am always on the lookout for promises in the Bible because I know God keeps His promises. Here in Isaiah, God says that if we stop engaging in our usual frantic busyness during the day God set apart, slow down and pursue what delights Him who made time and space, He will take care of us. Other translations read, “I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob...”, “and I will give you great prosperity, and cause crops to grow on the land I gave to your ancestor Jacob." This particular version ends with, “Know for certain that the LORD has spoken.”

I am not always faithful to this 3rd or 4th Commandment. Some of my work carries over to the weekend. But we should take it seriously because our Father takes it seriously. I think like all the Commandments it is really more for our benefit. We have only one life to live and to make the most of it does not mean cramming every minute and every hour with activity and movement. Some studies show that a lack of sleep and rest places us at higher risk for diabetes, heart problems, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s. It can impair our learning of new things, our memory and decision making. 

God gave us the Bible, His Commandments, and teachings, because He made us. When we buy an appliance, it usually comes with a manual put together by the maker. We have to read the manual to make optimum use of the appliance, to make it last long, and to find out all it can do. Same with us. How amazing is our Creator, that He emphasizes that once a week, we rest and delight in Him! 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Fasting God Wants

“This is the fasting I wish: releasing those bound unjustly...setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry...” 

Isaiah 58:6-7

I was listening to the testimony of David Wood. He’s totally crazy, was. He’s a changed man now, but before he was a sociopath who hit his father on the head repeatedly until his father became brain damaged. David choked a friend, and didn’t care at all when his best friend died from a parasailing accident. When he was in jail, he met Randy who was a Christian. Randy turned himself in for 21 felonies and David thought that was stupid. He was constantly ridiculing Randy and his faith. When Randy would fast for 7 days, David would fast for 10. Randy decided to fast for 40 days like Jesus. David decided to fast for 42 days. The prison staff thought he was killing himself because he would black out and fall, so on the 11th day, they put him in an isolation room where he could be watched. He was there all alone with books on philosophy , science, the Bible, and the apologetic books Randy lent him and he would study them. He studied the Bible with the intention of beating Randy at his arguments. 

It was not long after that this atheist began to realize the truth. It registered that believing life was formed without any intelligence behind it was extraordinarily stupid when even the bricks in his prison cell could not have been put together like that. Lying in his prison cell, David asked God to forgive him and prayed, “God, I don’t know if I’m going to believe in you tomorrow but I believe in you right now. If you can do anything with me, you’re welcome to it.” Now, David goes around telling everyone, even jihadists, he’s a Christian. He evangelized Nabeel Qureshi, the Christian apologist, who wrote the book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”. 

David Wood was chained, imprisoned, and now he is free. Many people are bound by anxieties, fear, insecurities, poverty, emotional wounds, sickness, depression. They may be our neighbor, our officemate, our friend. We can pray for them, talk to them, love them, share our blessings, but especially not turn our back on them in indifference. That is the fasting God wants us to do this Lenten season. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book of Life

“Choose life then that you and your descendants may live...” 
Deuteronomy 30:19

There are movies about finding the mysterious “Book of Life” so the hero can have riches and power, and sometimes bring the dead to live again. What we usually take for granted is we can all have this Book of Life. If we read it every day, we will have true riches that will not rot, need not be put in the central bank to be protected, and will not lose its value when we leave earth. We will also have power (Acts 1:8) as Jesus promised, when the Holy Spirit dwells in us and enlivens our spirit. And when we die, we can have life everlasting. 

Do we read the instructions in this amazing Book of Life so we can have everything the author promises? It says in Proverbs 4:20-23 that we have to pay attention to His Words, keep it in our hearts, our ears, in front of our eyes. It’s not enough to have the Book on a shelf, and open it when we need help or some inspiration. The power God’s Word promises is very real and can protect us from the “fiery darts of the enemy” (Ephesians 6:16). Our enemy is real but he wants us to think he’s just a figment of our imagination. If we don’t believe in him, we will not fight him and we will not protect ourselves against him. We will not go to war against the garbage he throws at us daily. Fear, anxiety, insecurity, these are all part of his arsenal. 

Let’s choose to open our Book of Life and study it so we can have all that God wants to give us! 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WOYWW: Him who Loves Us Best

I am playing with my planner. 
My desk today is out in the garden with Oreo.

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart...” Joel 2:12

For Valentine’s day, shouldn’t we celebrate the greatest love story that makes all our love stories possible? Whatever we do, we can never run far enough, or be beyond the reach of God’s love. 

“...neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

I am reminded of Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven”, which begins: “ I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears...” 

And then ends: ““Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He whom thou seekest! Thou drawest love from thee, who drawest me!” 

I know a man who tried to run from God. He tried to escape from the Lord by taking up Law and other diversions. Today he is a priest. 

Will we give our heart to Him who loves us best? 

Joining the lovely Julia Dunnit for a 
peek at desks and projects!
I find a lot of inspiration
visiting my friends here:


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Amazing Gifts!

“...every perfect gift is from above...” James 1:17

We don’t realize it but many, many gifts tumble down one after the other from heaven. I like to count my blessings and write them down in my notebook after I read Ann Voskamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts”. I’m up to 6,488 today, but those are all concrete blessings like “thank You for keeping Josh safe” or for “good sales”, etc. I have not counted how God gave me miracle skin, that no matter how many times I dirty it up, I can clean it. When I get a wound, it heals! Even the fact I can feel pain is a gift. I get a warning that I’m in danger if I get too near a heat source!  Our skin regenerates every 27 days, and even without me consciously directing my body, my heart pumps, my kidneys and lungs work, my hair grows! So many amazing gifts! 

But the most amazing gift is God’s love that surrounds us, sustains us, and allows us to grow in His light. We take so many things for granted, but God does not take us for granted. We have a Covenant with Him, and we walk in blessing!

Monday, February 12, 2018

All Joy

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials...” James 1:2

Joy? Trials? The two words do not go well together at all! Joy is what we have in our heart when all is going well, no one is sick, no one is depressed, no one is undergoing financial difficulties, no one is having a hard time teaching a child with dyslexia, no one is crying because a father deserted the family... In other words, joy would be impossible in the midst of this world full of troubles! And yes, Jesus did warn we will have troubles (John 16:33) It’s inevitable! 

So why does James write, “Count it pure unadulterated joy when you are enveloped in trials of any sort. Be assured and understand that the trial brings out endurance, steadfastness, patience and perseverance. Let endurance and steadfastness have its perfect result, that you may be perfect, mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

In the first place, my definition of joy was incorrect. Joy in the absence of suffering is not what James was talking about. I don’t think God put us on this earth to enjoy ourselves, to satiate ourselves with pleasure. We have to see ourselves as athletes running the race to the finish line. God is our coach and He puts us through our paces so that we will be victorious in the end. 

I like the story of a little boy with a basket following his dad in a supermarket. The dad picks stuff off the shelf and puts it in the basket. As the contents of the basket grows, an old lady asks the little boy, “Isn’t your basket heavy?”, and the boy answers, “My dad knows exactly how much I can carry.”

Trust. Confidence. We can only have joy beyond understanding if we know our Father loves us, has a plan for us, and knows exactly what we can carry! 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Make Me Clean

“If you are willing, you can make me clean...” Mark 1:40

If I was full of scabs and sores, surely I would be on my knees, begging for relief, healing, and restoration. The leper in the 1st chapter of Mark, pleaded with Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean!” And Jesus took pity on this wretched man, stretched out his hand and touched him, “I am willing. Be cleansed.”

Of course Jesus is willing. That’s why He came in the first place, came as a vulnerable baby, dependent on man for His first food, drink and caring. Of course He is willing. That’s why He trudged on to Calvary, knowing what was in store for Him who knew no sin. He was and is, in the eternal, the willing sacrifice who took the place of you and me. We are as wretched as that man, full of sores, and oozing wounds, and Jesus is willing to set us free of our wretchedness. We need only come to Him like the leper and He will touch us, touch our lives, and make us whole. During Lent, starting on the day we set aside to celebrate love, we will fittingly start on a journey to rediscover God’s eternal love for each one of us.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Loaves in our Hand

 "How many loaves do you have?" 

Mark 8:5

In the 6th chapter of Mark, Jesus feeds the 5,000 and He tells His disciples to feed them. Of course they were flabbergasted and said, "With what? It would take a small fortune to buy food for this huge a crowd!!!" We would say the same, don't you think? Here in chapter 8 of Mark, there are less people, 4000. The disciples ask the same thing, but with less incredulity. "How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?"

"How many loaves of bread do YOU have?" Jesus asked.

I like these passages about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, because it shows that miracles start with what we have in our hand. What we have available. I always remember when our little group giving the Good News in QC Jail was asked by the prison admin to prepare 200 gift bags for the inmates for Christmas. I was just as incredulous as the disciples! How would we do that? But that Christmas we were able to prepare 300 bags! And what a wonderful sight to behold the inmates' faces as they opened their bags to find a pair of shorts, food, shampoo, laundry soap, etc. They told us it was like they received 2 bags! It was more than they expected! And we have been able to do this for 9 years now. I know many of my friends who just give what is in their hand. And God is able to use that and multiply it!

How many loaves do YOU have? Put it in God's hand and see miracles!

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Word Before the World

And gazing up to heaven, Jesus groaned and said to him: “Ephphatha,” which is, “Be opened.” Mark 7:34

When people brought a deaf and mute man to him, and begged Him to heal the man, Jesus did something different. Jesus took the man away from the crowd, away from all the gawking onlookers waiting for miracles. He then put His fingers into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue. Then gazing up to heaven, Jesus groaned and commanded the man’s ears to hear. 

It’s good to go away with Jesus now and then, to leave the hustle and bustle of our day, to stop checking our phones, and not be slaves to the urgency of our to do lists. What do we do first thing in the morning? That sets the pace of our day. Do we put the Lord and plant His Word in our hearts first before allowing the world with its myriad concerns to intrude? Just like the deaf and mute man, if we go away with Jesus, we may be able to hear Him speak to us. If we go away with Jesus, He can open our ears to hear rightly, our eyes to see the truth, and our tongue to speak life giving words to others!

We can choose the “better portion” like Mary in  the 10th chapter of Luke. A joyful life of intimacy with the Lord awaits us if we put the Word before the world! 

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Scraps for the Puppies

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Mark 7:24

This is one Bible story I am not very happy about. A Greek woman went to Jesus on one occasion, fell at his feet, and begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. I assume that it was because she was not a Jew that Jesus answered the cryptic: “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children to throw it to the dogs.” 

If I was this poor woman, would I have understood what Jesus meant? It was like a puzzle, a mystery that required the right answer. Fortunately, the mother had the “missing piece” she needed. She answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”

Dogs? Dogs!!!! Even if Jesus meant puppies, or beloved pets of the household as some commentaries explain, it was still an insult. But this woman did not mind the disparagement. She was humble, she was focused, she was persistent, she was resolved to get her daughter healed. I think before approaching Jesus, she asked questions about Him, “researched” in a way. Who was he? Was he really a healer, a miracle worker, prophet? Along with the tidbits, she learned He was a Jew, and some called Him the Messiah who came for the chosen people. That’s why she knew the “winning answer”! 

Jesus said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” Oh, happy day when our prayers are answered! Do we know how to approach Jesus? We need to be humble, focused, persistent and resolved. Ever since the early Church, the people of God prayed back to God the Words He had given them. We NEED to know God and His promises so we stand on sure ground when we pray. 

Lord, sometimes we do not understand. Help us to understand, to trust and believe. Give us, gracious Father, crumbs from Your Table, and we shall be saved. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

God’s Plan

“...the things that proceed out of a man are what defile a man.” Mark 7:15

Jesus emphasized in Mark 7:15 that we are not defiled by what we eat. We are defiled by what we say and do. In verse 20, He points out that it is our thought-life that defines us. “For from within, out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God.” 

And so we must ask, “Why make us this way, Father? Why make man so disgustingly evil?” God is love. He is the very source and outpourer of love. He did not want “robots” that could not love back. And that is why we have free will and the freedom to accept or reject His love. When we accept God’s love, we get to know Him, and realize He made the sacrifice of His Son so would be free of sin and the power of sin. He Himself provided the sacrifice that restored our relationship with Him. In Genesis 22:8, as Abraham walked down with his son, he said, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." The plan was set in place thousands of years ago. The plan to bring you and me into our eternal home. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Honor Me

“This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me...” Mark 7:7

Only God can give this judgment for only God can see our hearts. Many of us go to church and prayer meetings on Sundays, honoring Jesus with our lips, perhaps raising our hands, but what do we do other days of the week? An evangelist said we need to do some soul searching. We go to our meetings in search of a spiritual high, and we look for another church if we do not find that high in ours. Or others look for a priest who gives a short homily so the mass doesn’t drag on too long for their comfort. 

In our parish we used to have a priest who would pointedly time his sermons. Afterwards he would point to his watch and say something like, “20 minutes only.” I talked to him saying, “Father, it’s not the length of time. If what you teach has substance, your parishioners can listen to you for a very long time!” 

Feelings should follow belief, not create belief. Our belief should come from a solid foundation grounded on the Word of God. Our hearts will be won for the side of God only if we pray and study the Bible. Otherwise we will be easily swayed by emergent churches with a great worship band and a charismatic pastor. Our lips will sing, we will praise and sing loudly. Let us make sure that we do not live in a doctrinal vacuum but know what we truly believe in. Our God is an awesome God and He should be worshiped in Spirit and truth. 

Monday, February 05, 2018

Scurrying to Jesus

“They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard He was.” Mark 6:55

Wherever Jesus went, people followed. I like the word used in this translation: scurried. It means to hasten, rush, run. Even today, people have a tendency to crowd around certain people with a gift of healing, but the enemy tries to deceive us with fake healers and crying statues. Skepticism takes the upper hand, and we do not pray over people as much as we should. 

Should we not scurry to bring the sick to Jesus? For that is what praying over them means. It does not mean that we are the ones healing them so we need not be ashamed if nothing happens. Even the disciples experienced disappointment and had to ask Jesus why their prayers did not work. (Matthew 17:16) But they did not give up. They kept praying, scurrying to bring the sick to the attention of Jesus.