The “Mary” In Our Midst

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Mary of Bethany Annoints Jesus’ Feet

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” –John 12:1-8

 

John 12:1-8 is the biblical account about Mary of Bethany. Here we see how much love this woman has expressed to our Lord. She does not care about how much she is spending and who are looking. Her eyes are set upon her Lord and God, unwavering, full of devotion and truthfulness. She exudes genuine worship.

We can see about Mary three things:

  1. Being Selfless- She does not mind spending a valuable personal possession- a pure nard perfume. She does not care about losing it. All she wants is to offer to the Lord the best she can give. That is being selfless. It is pure and true.

Application:

Being Selfless is a mother’s virtue. Often, a mother would rather absorb the pain of her child if only to keep him or her from suffering. A mother would save the best portion of food for her children and would take the least craved. Selflessness is being sacrificial, thinking less of oneself and more of another especially the one he or she cares for. Any person can exude selflessness like Mary if that person knows how to give more of him or her self with no strings attached.

  1. Being Courageous- She washes the Lord’s feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair. It must have been controversial during those times but she does not care about what people would think about her. She is courageous to defy what people would say.

Application:

How can we be courageous in our everyday relationships? Do the right thing even if it is not the popular choice among your circle of friends; saying the right words even if it hurts. Being assertive is being courageous. Being assertive is having the courage to tell what other people need to hear in a nice way. Sometimes, we need to assert what is right without being too aggressive because aggressiveness would offend them more than correcting them.

  1. Being Loving- She does not care about the cost of her offering. Even if it costs a year’s wage, she does not mind. For God, she can be extravagant.

Application:

We lavish things for the ones we love. How much more for God and to those God loves! How can we show love to others?

  1. with words of affirmation
  2. giving quality time
  3. doing acts or service
  4. giving gifts
  5. through physical touch

This is the challenge to all:

Give God your best effort.

Most precious hour is everyday of your life.

Use your most valued possession for His glory.

Such devotion not only pleases God but tells the world how great He is!

 Condensed from the sermon of Mrs Thelma Japzon, Vice Chairperson of the Church Council  on March 24, 2013, WSCS Sunday at the Lagro UMC

Image credit: http://www.bible-people.info/Martha_and_Mary.htm

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Transforming Society through God’s Faithfulness

Zaccheus

Zaccheus

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)

There is a famous cartoon before, which has become a top grossing Hollywood movie- the Transformers. Two groups of robots fight each other in a robot planet- the Autobots headed by Optimus Prime and the Decepticons headed by Megatron. These robots have the capacity to transform themselves from innocent trucks or vehicles into monstrous and powerful robots equipped with high caliber guns and then back. However, while they have the power to change their appearance, they do not have the power to change their nature. An autobat will remain an Autobot and a Decepticon will remain a Decepticon from start to finish.

That brings us to focus the man in the text, Zaccheus. He was a rich man, a tax collector but many perceived him as a corrupt official. He was a very short man so he had to climb up a tree so he could see Jesus. All he wanted was to see who Jesus was but to his surprise, Jesus said that He would have to stay in his house.

Any person who wants to see Jesus must be ready for a miracle. Seeing Jesus is seeing His glory and in that instance, His glorious presence will dawn on that person, and He will never be same person again.

In the narrative, Zaccheus upon welcoming the Lord into his house felt a sudden change. He gave half of his wealth to the poor and promised that if he had cheated anyone, he would pay those four times. For a wealthy person to give up a big part of his possessions there must have been something very strong that had urged him- the power of Christ to transform life.

The greatest miracle of all has dawned on Zaccheus that precise moment. Jesus has saved him and has transformed him into a new being. This is the very reason why the Lord has come on earth- to seek and save the lost.

Are you curious to see Jesus and know who He really is? Come and see like Zaccheus and He will meet you right where you are and mend the wounds you might be hiding. He will meet your deepest need and will transform your life for good.

This miracle can transform society through those who have experienced in their lives the power of Christ and His unwavering faithfulness.

I have condensed this post from the message of Rev Daniel Miranda, District Superintendent of Northwest District QCPACE of the United Methodist Church, Philippines at our Worship Service on February 24, 2013 as part of the month-long celebration of our church’s (Lagro UMC) anniversary.

Image Credit: livingdusty.com

Changing From the Inside Out

According to the famous Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “Nothing is permanent but change”. Change is inevitable. Yet, many do not want to change. Many are so content in their comfort zones that they cannot afford moving out. The world hates change yet nothing else brings progress.

What makes people change?

  1. Personal Experience- We all learn from our experiences. Once we realize that we have made a mistake, we always try to correct it. Sometimes, we do not watch our steps until we stumble and fall. Only when we get hurt do we begin to examine our ways.
  2. Other Peoples’ Experiences- Sometimes, we learn from other peoples’ experience. We see their mistakes and the resulting circumstance, which are often unpleasant and that prompt us to stay away from similar errors.
  3. Pressure- Sometimes, people around us push us to do some changes in our life.
  4. Tired of Old Ways- There are instances when people do change because they get bored or tired of their own lifestyle. They want to have a new look, or do something new.
  5. Just for the Sake of Changing- While, some people change just for the hype of it.
  6. Conviction of the Holy Spirit- The deeper cause of inward change is the prompting of God by the power of the Holy Spirit to change your life for the better.

Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a NEW creation….

How can we describe being N-E-W?

N – E – W

Newness of Life.

Newness of life in biblical standard is being “in Christ”. The Lord Jesus is the only source of genuine change. This newness of life is a matter of the heart. We hear about “being born again”, “regeneration” and “sanctification.” All these terms refer to a change of heart: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” –Mark 7:21-22. Sin tries to build its seat in the heart of man and unless a man be “in Christ”, he is far from the newness of life.

Eternal Change.

Change in Christ is permanent and eternal. It does not revert to the old ways. This is transformation: a 360-degree turn from sin. Does it mean that we are no longer sinners if we receive Christ in our life? No. We are still sinners but there is a big difference. Before, we are sinners running after sin. Now, we are sinners running away from sin.

Witnessing.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Praise be to God! By God’s grace, we have new life in Christ. Life that is eternal, fruitful and fulfilling. However, it does not end there. In the succeeding verses in 2 Corinthians 5, we can see why God has given us new life: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” -2 Cor 5:18-20.

God has made us living testimonies of His miracle to change lives. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors of peace unto the world. God has chosen us to tell the world about His goodness and His power to mend lives. It is not a repair job or some excellent refurbishing. God has given us a brand new life; a brand new creation by His mercy and grace.

I have condensed this post from the message of Rev Allan Asuncion, Administrative Pastor of Tatay United Methodist Church, Rizal Philippines at our Worship Service on February 3, 2013 in celebration of our church’s (Lagro UMC) anniversary.

Principles for Effective Prayer

Praying Hands (Image credit: firstchurchhighland.com)

Prayer is the oldest but the most powerful weapon a Christian has. It is the key to a victorious life like a key to open the morning and a lock to close the night. Yet among the Christian tools, it is the most neglected and abused. It seems like the most boring subject matter to discuss.

According to a famous Filipino evangelist, Mike Lacanilao, prayer is the simplest cry. It is talking to God with a deeper meaning. Prayer is an outpouring of spirit and emotion, which is beyond the words that we can say. It is moving the God of the universe to act on our behalf.

An effective prayer is one that touches the heart of God to move.

 

Why do we need to pray?

  1. The Word of God commands us to pray.

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up”. –Luke 18:1

“pray continually…” -1Thessalonians 5:17

  1. We have a contest to win.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”-Matthew 26:41

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”. –Ephesians 6:18

  1. We have a position to occupy.

“…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” -James 5:16b

 

The Principles for Effective Prayer

P-ersonal relationship with Christ. John 15:1; John 1:12; Romans 8

We need to have a personal relationship with Christ for Him to hear our prayers. Not all people are children of God, only those who have received Him as Lord and personal Savior.

R-epentance and Righteousness. Psalm 66:18

The Lord will not hear our prayer if we have hidden sins in our hearts.

A-doration, Respect and Awe. Psalm 27:4

When we come to the Lord in prayer, we must come with an attitude of adoration, respect and awe.

Y-ielding to the Will of God. John 15:7

When we come to the Lord, we must be ready to submit to the will of God. We must be ready and willing to obey.

E-xpectant Heart. Mark 11:24; 1 Peter 5:7

When we come to God in prayer, we must come expecting to receive the answer.

R-ejoice in the Lord. Philippians 4:4

We must come with a joyful heart in the presence of God.

 

What does Intercessory Prayer do?

  1. Unity in the church
  1. Healing in the church
  1. Causes revival, growth and maturity
  1. Empowers the workers and lay leaders of the church

 

Pastor Allan Asuncion

I have condensed this post from the message of Rev Allan Asuncion, Administrative Pastor of Tatay United Methodist Church, Rizal Philippines at our Seminar on the Principles for Effective Prayer and Praying for One Another, which has been held in our church, the Lagro United Methodist Church last July 15, 2012 at 2:00PM.

I hope by sharing this priceless knowledge, those who would be able to read this may find a new encouragement or inspiration to pray. Prayer is the strength of a Christian just as the poster in our church bulletin board says, “Seven days without prayer makes one Weak”. Indeed, we can draw strength from talking with God and immersing into His glorious presence. There is no other way of nurturing our personal relationship with our Lord Jesus than by soaking ourselves in His presence where we can express our love and devotion for Him.

Life on earth is full of complexities that at times, we begin to hate the world. There is hope in Christ and we can experience the fullness of life that He has promised if we continue without exhaustion to abide in Him: in His word and in His presence. Then we can triumph over each day’s temptations and pass each test that comes our way, which would bring us to the fullness of Christ-likeness even while we are still here on this earth.

God Is Great

This is another great praise song unto the Lord of hosts. We have been singing this song in church for our praise and worship for several weeks already although we are still perfecting our rendition.

The song speaks so much of God’s glory and of how the whole world shall bow before Him in worship and in praise. It seems to speak of the future when all the nations shall rise to worship the Almighty God before His heavenly throne.

May we all be blessed as we listen and sing along with the song, God Is Great! Shall we all say, Amen!

“I Receive” by Israel Houghton

I have been trying to look for a song that I can use for our praise and worship teams’ spiritual retreat this coming October 25-26, 2011 at out church main sanctuary. I have been tyring to find a song that would fit our theme- “Experiencing God’s Power through Music”.

I could not find a song with lyrics about experiencing God’s power in You Tube but I have told myself perhaps I could find a song that would help explain what the theme says.

After several clicks and views, I have come across this song “I Receive” by Israel Houghton. I have found a video that looks like a small worship gathering and I have watched it.

The song speaks of receiving God’s love by grace at the cross and it has redeemed us from sin and has transformed us from within. Indeed, if we understand this truth by heart we can experience the power from God that saves and transforms. In that way, we too can receive the power to share that power unto others that they too might experience the power of God’s love in their lives.

I have tried to look for a lyric and chord sheet of the song in the net but there’s none so I have decided to buy a music sheet notation of the song from Musicnotes.com. I cannot share the sheet here because it’s patented but I would like to share the song here from the You Tube video that I have watched. Hope you will be blessed as well.

Sing a New Song unto the Lord- Psalm 98- Part II

Now, we can take this command sing a new song, one figuratively. “Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, [and] his praise in the congregation of saint.” -Psalm 149:1 KJV. We sing a new song even when we sing an old familiar tune when we sing out a new fresh encounter with the Lord, when we experience a new touch of God’s faithfulness in our lives. It is a new song in our hearts, a new expression of thanksgiving, praise and worship unto the Lord. Even an old song becomes a new song when the singing is born out of a new desire to praise the Lord.

Second, we can take it literally. “Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.” -Psalm 33:3 KJV. This Psalm speaks of making beautiful songs unto the Lord. Singing the same songs over and over may become too monotonous. It would seem like there is no improvement from singers and instrumentalists. It does not necessarily mean that the song would lose its meaning but people might get bored and perceive it as lack or preparation. Therefore, we need to create new repertoire.

With the praise and worship, as far as I know we have the freedom to choose the songs that we want to sing but freedom is not absolute. We need to employ the proper songs.

Principles to Consider:

We sing to the Lord and not to people but we need to lead the people to sing with songs that they can sing because our task is to lead the people to a meaningful worship experience. Consider your congregation.

As much as possible, let us keep the arrangement simple for the congregation. There is beauty in simplicity but simplicity does not mean mediocrity. In this area, excellence might not always be visible or perceivable because it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Technical improvements will follow. Just offer your best and the Lord will increase the ability.

Sing a New Song unto the Lord- Psalm 98

Psalm 98:1 KJV says,

“Oh, sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.” (v.1)

Sing a New Song unto the Lord

Here the Psalmist calls on the people of God to sing a new song unto the Lord, their best song unto Yahweh. However what does “new song” means?

According to Matthew Henry, Psalm 98 is a prophetic psalm. It speaks of a new song of praise for Yahweh’s redeeming love. It is a new song, as such as a song that had not been sung before; for this is a mystery which was hidden from ages and generations.

It is a prophecy of the kingdom of the Messiah, the settling of it up in the world, and the bringing of the Gentiles into it. It sets forth,

  1. The glory of the Redeemer (v. 1-3)
  2. The joy of the redeemed (v. 4-9).

If the grace of God put a new heart into our breasts, it will put a new song into our mouths. In the New Jerusalem there will be new songs sung, that will be new to eternity, and never wax old. Let this new song be sung to the praise of God, in consideration of these four things:

  1. The power of God (v.1) He has done marvelous things
  2. God has won the victory (v.1) His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory
  3. God’s salvation (v.2) The Lord has made known His salvation openly to all nations
  4. God’s faithfulness to His people (v.3) He has made known His salvation; his righteousness openly to the nations

“And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” – Rev 14:3 KJV

Image: http://www.justbetweenus.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=90660

The Lord is Our Shepherd- John 10.1-10- Conclusion

The Lord is my Shepherd

The good news is that the Good Shepherd never tires of taking good care of us. He aims to give us life and have it more abundantly. According to Matthew Henry, “Christ came to give life and perisson ti- something more, something better, life with advantage; that in Christ we might not only live, but live comfortably, live plentifully, live and rejoice. Life in abundance is eternal life, life without death or fear of death, life and much more.”

However, do not measure abundance only in terms of money because there are important things that money cannot buy. Do not compare yourself with other people because the Shepherd knows you by name calls you by name and leads you by name, which means personally. He takes care of you uniquely as your finger prints.

We may be weak, but the Lord, our Shepherd takes care of us. In Him we can be strong. We only need to learn how to follow His voice as we indulge in prayer so that the enemy might not be able to harm us. The Shepherd Himself is the source of life in all its abundance. Like David, let us find comfort in the knowledge that The Lord is our Shepherd.

Image above courtesy of: http://www.sodahead.com/united-states

The Evil One Aims to Destroy Us

A lamb being attacked by a coyote in the most typical method, a bite to the throat

The biggest threat to the flock of sheep is predation. We are open preys to large monstrous predators. False shepherds will try to drive us away from the flock but we can discern them. If they do not come in the name of the Master Shepherd, Jesus Christ, or they bear any other name aside from the Lord Jesus, we should not listen to them. If they preach any other savior than our Lord Jesus then we should not listen to them. The evil one seeks to steal from us, kill us and destroy us. He will attempt to steal all our blessings so that we will hate God. He will attempt to kill the slightest hope that we hold on to and destroy the faith that we so value.

Image: wikipedia