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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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

Sheep Are Meek and Obedient

One great characteristic of sheep is that they are meek and obedient. In a radio sermon, I have heard an illustration about two shepherds taking refuge inside a cave. “Two shepherds with their flocks entered in a cave. Their flocks mingled together that you can no longer distinguish which sheep belong to which shepherd. When the time has come for one of the shepherds to leave, he simply stood up and called out his sheep. Immediately, his sheep stood up from among the multitude of sheep lying down and followed his voice.”  It is surely an awesome sight. In verses 3-4, we can see the image of the Good Shepherd calling His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. Do you know the Shepherd’s voice? Do you hear His voice? Do you follow His voice?

Hands in Prayer

The Lord’s sheep knows His voice because they spend time in prayer. Sometimes, in our busy schedules we forget to spend quality time with God in prayer and meditation. Yet, we know that there is no way we can recognize the voice of our Shepherd unless we spend time to listen to Him in prayer. Of course, it is not an audible voice but a spiritual voice that we discern through our fervent prayer and study of His word.

In the book, the Lord is my Shepherd, A. W. Tozer, an American Pastor who preaches about the value of prayer writes, “Stay in that sacred place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart, till a sense of God’s presence has enveloped you. Listen for His inward voice till you learn to recognize it”. Solitude in God is a healing place where God can repair the damage by the noise and pressure of the world. Prayer is always our safe place.

Image: http://www.taneyparish.ie

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Gate of the sheep pen and We Are the Sheep of His Flock

An oasis in the Negev Desert of Israel created by trees planted by the Jewish National Fund

Do you still remember the image of the two kinds of sheep pen? The Lord is the Good Shepherd and at the same time He is the Gate. He is the shepherd that sits at the opening of the enclosure. We are His flock. He keeps us safe and secure; He leads us to green pastures and quiet waters. According to Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside quiet waters”. The verb in the text suggests gentle persuasion- a shepherd patiently, persistently leading his sheep to the place where their hunger and thirst will be quenched. He does not force the issue. He does not pushes us down in green pastures neither drags us beside still waters. He patiently waits for our cry. Sometimes, he allows us to get hurt so we could learn that we cannot survive life without Him. When we start to cry, he is there to carry us on His back.

In the book, “The Lord is my Shepherd” the writer writes that in David’s day, “green pastures” are oases, verdant places in the desert where shepherds lead their thirsty flock. Left to themselves, the sheep would wander off into the wilderness and die. Experienced shepherds know the terrain and urge their flocks toward familiar grasslands and streams where they could feed; lie down and rest. In the same way, God knows our needs and thirsts. He senses our weary souls and He wants to lead us to a safe place.

Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oasis

A Sheep Is One of the Weakest Animals

Sheep

Sheep have little ability to defend themselves, compared with other species kept as livestock. Even if a sheep survive an attack, they may die from their injuries, or simply from panic. When they fall on their back, they could not stand up on their own and they could die in that position. Sheep are so vulnerable. It is interesting to think why the Lord has likened humans to meek sheep.

We are so vulnerable to the things that happen to us, even Christians. One time we feel so strong yet something we do not know would come and hit us so big that we would fall flat on our backs and it seems so hard to recover from the unexpected hard knock. We are vulnerable to sin and temptation. Like sheep, the Good Shepherd knows that we need special care and so He cares for us individually.

Image: http://www.sheep101.info/breedsW-Z.html

The Lord is Our Shepherd- John 10.1-10- Part II

Sheep pen with a gate

Before we proceed, I would like to clarify the two images of a sheep pen that we can see here in John 10:1-10. The first one in verse two is an enclosure with a gate. The second one in verse nine is an enclosure without a gate. In the former, there is a gate. In the latter, the shepherd himself sits down and serves as the gate of the enclosure.

As a caveat, in the previous chapter (John 9), the Pharisees are investigating the healing of the man born blind. The man boldly tells the Pharisees that he believes that Jesus is from God. He believes that Jesus is the Messiah. The Pharisees claim that they are disciples of Moses and they do not know where Jesus has come from. The Pharisees are supporting themselves in their opposition to Christ; that they are the pastors of the Jews and Jesus has no authority from them so therefore the people should not listen to Him.

Sheep pen without a fixed gate

In response, here the Lord describes the true shepherd of the flock and the relationship that exists between the shepherd and his flock through a parable but the Pharisees have not understood. The Lord here reveals Himself as the true shepherd- the Good Shepherd.

I propose the following points for reflection, which I will discuss in the next posts:

  • A sheep is one of the weakest animals.
  • Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Gate of the sheep pen and we are the sheep of His pasture.
  • Sheep are meek and obedient.
  • The evil one aims to destroy us.

 Allow me to invite you to follow the next posts…

 

Images:

http://leecadden.com/2011/03/20/i-am-the-gate/

http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2008/05/may-18th-one-ye.html

The Lord is Our Shepherd- John 10.1-10

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

This is my favorite image of the Lord, being our Good Shepherd. For me it is one of the most comforting attribute of the Lord. It gives the assurance of His personal loving care and protection.

In Matthew 18:12-14, the Lord has shown us a picture of how a good shepherd cares for each of his sheep. He would leave the ninety-nine sheep to look for the one that has wandered away. He would not let even just one sheep wander too far away. Apostle Paul has called the Lord, the great Shepherd of the sheep and He would not let anyone of us who come under his pastoral care perish.

In the book, “The Lord is my Shepherd”, F.B. Meyer has written: “The Lord has a:

  • Shepherd’s heartit beats with pure and generous love that counted not His own life-blood too dear to pay down as our ransom. He has laid down his life for the sheep. In the Old Testament image, the sheep gives up his life for his shepherd or owner as according to the law. The owner/shepherd would take the lamb to the sanctuary, lean with all his weight on the lamb’s head and confess his sin. The Lamb would be slain and its blood would flow out. The greatest irony of faith is that the Great Shepherd has laid His life down on the cross in order that the sheep might be saved.
  • Shepherd’s eye: takes in the whole flock and misses not even the poor sheep wandering away on the cold mountain.
  • Shepherd’s faithfulness: never fails or forsakes, leaves us comfortless, nor flee when He sees a wolf coming.
  • Shepherd’s strength: delivers us from the jaw of the lion or paw of the bear.
  • Shepherd’s tenderness: no lamb so tiny that He will not carry it; no saint so weak that He will not gently lead; no soul so faint that He will not give it rest”.

I invite you to follow the succeeding posts about “The Lord is our Shepherd”.

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

Condensed from a sermon by: Arnel Oroceo, Church Organist, The Lagro United Methodist Church, May 15, 2011

The Faith of the Canaanite Woman

“Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great [is] your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour”. –Matthew 15:28

Matthew.15.28

It must have been very difficult for a mother to see her child suffering from a certain illness. She would do everything possible within her means to find a cure. It could be very unbearable if she could not find anything to relieve her child of the pain.

In our text, we can see a Canaanite mother who went to the Lord Jesus for the healing of her child. She must have heard about the miracles the Lord has done from all over the city so she has boldly come to Him for the healing of her child.

Now, at first we see that the Lord Jesus is not responding to her screams. It must have been very discouraging on her part because she needs help very badly and immediately. The disciples have even called the Lord’s attention but the Lord has said that He has come only for the Jews.  However, the woman has been persistent. The Lord then has answered that it is not good to give the food intended for the children away to the dogs. Yet the woman has not doubted that the Lord Jesus will give what she is asking. She says, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” The Lord has been impressed with how she has acted in faith. The Lord has commended her faith and has healed her child that very minute.

Many times, people get discouraged easily when the Lord seems to take time in answering their prayer that they stop praying. Here, the faith of the Canaanite woman is a demonstration of absolute trust and confidence that comes from genuine worship.

There are two things that the Canaanite woman has displayed:

  • She worships the Lord “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” (v.25). She has acknowledged the Lord’s deity. She has bowed before the Lord, which means that she has made him the ruler over her life. She has shown a genuine submission.
  • She has shown humility “And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (v.27). She has approached the Lord not as one who deserves to receive from Him but as one who appeals for undeserved mercy. She is not a Jew and is therefore not a legal recipient of God’s grace but she rests on God’s mercy, and God has granted her urgent request.

How is our faith? Do we have the same persistence and confidence like that of the Canaanite woman? As Christians, may we be able to show a true and genuine faith.

Digested from: Sermon by: Sis. Andrea Agovida, Apprentice Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, August 14, 2011, based on Matthew 15:21-28

Image above courtesy of: http://www.warrencampdesign.com/

The Faith of Thomas

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” –John 20:24-29

Thomas the Apostle

The Bible is silent as to Thomas’ whereabouts when Jesus has come to the apostles the first time. He is not there. Perhaps he has been mourning and wanted to be alone. Maybe he could not accept want has happened to the Lord so he wanted to be all by himself. He could have been asking himself what he is supposed to do next. He has missed the wonderful miracle of the resurrection that day because is absent.

When the other apostles have told him what they have seen, he would not want to believe. Perhaps he would not want to entertain false hopes and just wants to get over with the pain. Until after a week, the Lord has come to the apostles again and this time Thomas is with them.

The Lord has shown his hands and side to Thomas and He tells him to believe. When Thomas has touched the Lord’s hands and side he cried, “My Lord and my God!”

Sometimes in our pain and sufferings, we could not easily accept circumstances that happen in our lives. We twist in pain and we want to people to leave us alone. During these times of suffering, we can tell the Lord all our worries and doubts. We can open up to Him and tell Him what we want to happen, and He will surely meet our needs and respond to our terms.

The Lord has been patient with Thomas and has taken care of his faith like a child. The Lord has not answered him with indignation but with loving affection. He is the same with us.

The Lord loves us so much that He never leaves us in any circumstance. Sometimes, we miss his blessing and counsel every time we skip church services. Let us not miss getting together as a church in worshipping God.

Even if we have struggles and we could not understand what is happening to us, let us not give up. Let the power of Christ’s resurrection fill us and rekindle our faith.

Thomas has seen so he believed. May we be among those who are blessed to believe even though they have not seen the Lord’s hands and side.

Digested from a sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, May 1, 2011

Image Courtesy of: http://www.jesus-passion.com/Saint_Thomas_Apostle.htm