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/

Come, Let Us Sow the Seeds- Matthew 13.24-30

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn”. –Matthew 13:30

Tares and Wheat

This account in Matthew chapter 13 tells about the Parable of the Weeds. As the story says, a man has sown good wheat seeds in his field but during the night, his enemy has come and has sown tares among the wheat so that when the wheat sprouts have sprung and have produced crops, the tares have grown as well. When his servants have seen this, they have come to their master to report what has happened and have asked his permission to uproot the tares among the wheat. However, their master has not allowed them to uproot the tares because he is afraid that could uproot wheat sprouts also in the process. He has told them to let things be until harvest time, then, he would ask the reapers to separate the wheat among the tares and bring the wheat to his barn while the tares; they will throw into the fire.

There are four points that we can see from this gospel lesson:

  • The clear presence of good and evil in this world The parable shows a clear picture of the presence of good and evil among men. It tells us that our enemy, he devil has planted his influence among us to prevent us from bearing good fruits, hurt us and annoy us to the point of giving up in the faith. He could use people around us to distract us and lose our focus on our God.
  • Bad things happen to good people An age old question persistently occurs in the minds of many; “Why do bad things happen to good people?” This is one serious question that is so hard to answer. Yes, bad things happen even to godly people because precisely, the intention of the evil one is to create doubts in their hearts regarding the goodness of God and spell trouble in their minds.
  • The patience and loving-kindness of God This parable speaks of the end time judgment when God will finally redeem his people and send the devil and his cohorts to eternal damnation in hell. God delays the punishment for evil until the last day so that his people will not suffer the punishment that is not for them. As humans, when people wrong us, we want quick judgment and apply the appropriate punishment as the legal dictum says, “Justice delayed is justice denied”. The timeline of God’s punishment and judgment is different. He delays the punishment to save the innocent. Here we can see the patience of God toward people and his loving-kindness toward those who are His.
  • The need to enrich the good seeds In view of this truth, we can see the need to enrich the spiritual health of God’s people. Evil is the most creative force in the world and we need to equip the people of God to be victorious over it. Our Christian love, prayers and helping hands are like water and fertilizer to one another. We, as Christians should go and nourish each other with the word of God most especially within our churches then we also need to proclaim God’s words to people outside that they too may know about the Lord’s salvation.

Digested from: Sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, July 17, 2011, based on Matthew 13:24-30

Image above courtesy of: http://ihs-sonlite.com/id134.html

 

 

The Four Faces of Soil

“And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red [pottage]; for I [am] faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.  And Esau said, Behold, I [am] at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.” –Genesis 25:30-33.

Seeds Grow in Good Soil

In this narrative in the book of Genesis, we can read the account about the sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau.

Isaac’s wife Rebecca was barren so Isaac prayed to God in behalf of his wife and the Lord answered his prayer so Rebecca conceived a twin. However, she observed that the twin was wrestling each other inside her womb. She went to the Lord for enlightenment.

In verse 23, the Lord said to Rebecca that in her womb would come out two nations. One would be stronger and the elder will serve the younger.

Right from birth the younger Jacob wanted to go out first as he held on the heel of his brother Esau and that is how he got his name, Jacob meaning “he deceives”. Esau grew up a skillful hunter and earned the affection of his father while Jacob was a quiet man and lived in tents but his mother loved him.

Then one time Esau arrived home from hunting very tired and wanted to eat. Jacob was cooking red stew so Esau asked for a serving but scheming Jacob asked for a terrible condition. He asked his elder brother to sell his birthright to him. Esau readily agreed. Birthright did not matter much to him.

In this event between the twin brothers, the prophecy was fulfilled. The elder Esau lost his birthright in favor of his younger twin brother Jacob. How do we see it? Jacob deceived him by taking advantage of his vulnerability at that precise moment when he so tired and hungry. Yet at the same time, we saw Esau not giving any value to his birthright and even despised it just for a bowl of red stew.

The right of the first born is more than just inheritance. It transfers the big responsibility of taking care of the entire family in all aspects of life soon as the father dies. This is what Jacob has wanted but Esau has despised. How can you entrust such a responsibility to Esau anyway?

Application:

  • Christians should never despise service to God. They should never stop giving value to serving God because they might lose its blessing. God can always give it to another who desires it with passion. You do not want to get involved because you think that it is just a waste of your precious time. Do not lose your blessing; instead desire it that God may grant it to you.
  • The word of God will be fulfilled. Rebecca has received a prophecy from God and it has been fulfilled in Jacob. The purpose of God will always be fulfilled. The question is how we receive the word of God. We are all like soil receiving seed. In Matthew 13, we can see the four faces of soil in the Parable of the Sower: Wayside Soil- the word of God does not penetrate, Rocky Soil- the word of God does not mature, Thorny Soil- the word of God has no space, Good Soil- the word of God grows and bears fruit.

What kind of soil are we? Let us allow the word of God to transform us inside and out.

Digested from:

Choir Bible Study: led by Rev. Orlino Veron July 9, 2011

Sermon by: Rev. Rolando Abesamis, Associate Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, July 10, 2011, Vesper Service, based on Genesis 25:19-24; Matthew 13: 1-23

Image above courtesy of: http://www.st-marymagdalene.org/2010/10/a-word-of-warning-a-word-of-hope-on-the-parable-of-the-sower/

Sowing Kingdom Seeds: (Parable of the Sower)

“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”-Matthew 13:23

The Parable of the Sower is perhaps the best known and most noted parable in the Bible. Bible scholars point out three important elements in this parable;

  • the sower– the person who is living the life of Christ, out for mission, preaching, and teaching.
  • the seed– the Word of God, the insights that produces faith. Deep inside the seed is life and when it falls into the soil, it will live.
  • and the soil– the person who receives the Word.

Assimilation of the gospel truth may vary between people’s (listeners) understanding as they may view them at different angles. However, each Christian’s job is to “sow the seeds”. Whether people will accept the seeds, allow them to grow and bear fruit in their lives is no longer his or her responsibility. He or she only needs to trust God and obey the call to sow “spiritual seeds”.

The Parable of the Sower

Different Types of Soil

Pathway or Wayside– This kind of soil could be as hard as a pavement as people walk on it regularly. The seeds could not penetrate this type of soil so they remain on the surface, which makes it easier for birds to feed on the seeds. One may be like “wayside soil” at some point in his or her life. Prejudices, pride and even tradition may cause an unteachable spirit within the person. He may be too attached to his comfort zone that he could not entertain any call to change. Perhaps, bad experiences and unanswered prayers have hardened his or her heart.

Rocky Ground- This describes people who are excited about their religion. Spiritual experiences warm their hearts but they do not last. They receive the teaching with gladness but forgo the application.  It seems all superficial. Perhaps, certain influences cause them to lose the fire easily.

Thorny Ground- This describes people who become too pre-occupied with worldly affairs; forsaking spiritual responsibility in exchange for earthly pleasures.

Good Soil- This describes people who receive “the spiritual seed”, allow it to grow, mature and become fruitful and multiply.

At certain points in our lives, even as Christians, we experience all these four conditions of “spiritual soil” in our lives. At one point, we might have been hardened by despair, confused with our priorities and tired from responsibilities.

However, we need to strive to become “good soil”. The kingdom of God is like a seed that grows from small to great. We just need to be faithful with our calling to spread the good news no matter where the seeds fall. We can be sure that God will take care of the result.

Digested from a sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, July 10, 2011

Image above courtesy of: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2010/08/mindful.html

Rest for the Weary

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”-Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Rest for the Weary

In chapter 11, of the book of Matthew, we can read the narration when John the Baptist has sent two of his disciples to ask the Lord Jesus if he has been the one who is to come. The Lord told John’s disciples to tell their teacher about what he has done and the miracles that he has performed. Then He speaks about the greatness of John the Baptist as a prophet and likens him to Elijah. He also speaks about the people who has hardened their hearts toward the Messiah and refuse to repent even after the mighty works He has done before them. They have closed their understanding to the knowledge of God. He says that the Father has hid those things from the proud and revealed them to those who trust God with child-like faith. The chapter ends with an invitation for those who are tired to come to Him to find rest.

I. The Fickle-minded Crowd

Jesus himself has been exhausted with questions that seem blind to obvious answer. In verse 17, “We have piped unto you, and you have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and you have not lamented”. The crowd seems exhausted too because they do not seem to find satisfaction for their own spiritual quest. The people could not grasp the spiritual event that is happening in front of them. They could accept their spiritual decay and they seem to want to see something more.

II. Child-like Faith

In verse 20, the Lord condemns the unfaithfulness of the people then in verse 25, He offers a prayer. He says that the Father has hidden the spiritual enlightenment to the prudent and has revealed it to children. The Lord is not against knowledge. He is speaking against those who absorb knowledge and bloat with conceit. What the Lord is looking for is simple trust, a child-like faith. A child-like faith is faith that trusts God in what is unseen or unsure in full confidence that God will act. Sometimes, people want to be sure. They want to see things clearly. Faith is not a riddle to solve but an action to express.

III. Invitation to Come

In verses 28-30, the Lord has given an open invitation to those who are weary about life. Burdens come in many different packages and we may easily get confused about so many things. Even John the Baptist has been confused. However, true faith listens without condition. Here the Lord invites us to lift up our burdens to God in exchange with His blessing. Here is an antidote for exhaustion: let us bring our pain to the Lord.

Digested from a sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, July 3, 2011

 

Image above courtesy of: http://newlife.id.au/christian-living/come-to-me/

The King’s Ambassadors

“He that receives you receives me, and he that receives me receives him that sent me. He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” –Matthew 10:40-42

Jesus Sends the Twelve

The text above has come from the book of Matthew, in the tenth chapter where we can read the narration when the Lord has sent out his twelve disciples to evangelize and reach out to the people around them. It is quite a long chapter but toward the end verses, the Lord has spoken about the rewards of those who will receive them in faith.

Verses 40 to 42 emphasize three points that we can reflect on.

Welcoming and being welcomed

When we welcome God, we welcome one another and even strangers. All local churches have Outreach Ministry where the members try to reach out to people outside the church. They put into focus the needs of people in poverty, those who are sick and jobless. They welcome those people for the sake of Christ’s love. In turn, those people welcome them with gladness.

When we welcome the Lord’s disciples or the King’s ambassadors, we are welcoming God Himself in our lives. We are welcoming His peace and his love right into our homes.

Start Small

Welcoming the King’s ambassadors does not mean offering a grand reception. The Lord says that even a glass of cold water that we give to a servant of God because he is God’s servant will certainly not lose a reward.

How can we be an ambassador for God? Listen with your heart to a person in need. Even if you could not give any financial assistance, the time that you give for the little ones will never go to waste. Exercise your faith and be faithful in little things.

We can be a blessing to others

Being ambassadors for the King, we are allowing ourselves to be channels of God’s blessing to people. Not everyone may accept us but we have to do our part in sharing the good news of salvation and bringing the love and peace of God to all who we can reach and touch.

Certainly, God will reward those who welcome His ambassadors for His glory’s sake according to His riches in glory through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Digested from a sermon by: Rev. Orlino Veron, Administrative Pastor, Lagro, United Methodist Church, June 26, 2011, Divine Worship Service

Image above courtesy of: http://www.graceproductions.net

 

Which Basin Would You Choose?

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” –John13:3-5

“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.”I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” –Matthew 27:24

The above verses speak about two kinds of basins: the Lord’s basin and Pilate’s basin. They represent two ways of living: the former, a life of love and service, the latter, a life of indifference and slothfulness.

Jesus, washing the disciples' feet

The washing of the disciples’ feet is reflective of the Lord’s great love. If we will remember Mary Magdalene, she has washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and has dried them with her hair, then has poured perfume oil on his head. She has shown great devotion to her God and Master.

By washing the disciples’ feet, the Lord Jesus has left us an example to follow. He wants his disciples to serve one another in brotherly love and not to lord it over anyone for glory’s sake. The basin of the Lord is a symbol of meekness and servant-leadership. He is teaching his disciples to reach out to one another with a faith that cares, a faith that seeks the welfare of the brethren and works toward their good; showing love by helping, sharing, encouraging and building up the brethren toward maturity.

Pilate, washing his hands

Pilate’s example is one of selfishness, avoiding the responsibility and passing the blame to others. The basin of Pilate is a symbol of gross indifference and slothfulness in seeking after what is right and just. Pilate does not want to involve himself in conflict even if an innocent will suffer unjustly.

Sometimes, we do not want to get involved because we fear that certain activities would tie us down and we are afraid to give our time. Let us remember what the Lord has taught us. The Lord wants us to serve one another just as He has done.

In our Lenten reflections, maybe we can ponder, “Which basin would you choose?”

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

Images Above courtesy of: http://picturesofjesus4you.com/426.html http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1273952

Spiritual Knowledge- John 16.12-15

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth…”

A depiction of The Holy Trinity

There are things about God that we cannot readily understand. They are very profound and perplexing for human comprehension. The Lord knows this predicament, so He sends the Holy Spirit to speak to us and fill us with understanding. One important biblical truth that is so hard to comprehend is the doctrine of the Divine Trinity or One God in three distinct persons. Some people find it so hard to understand and even believe.

Someone has tried to unlock its mystery by trying to come up with a logical illustration. He said, “One person could be a father, a son and a husband all at the same time.” It sounds logical; however, the illustration is misleading.

It’s true that one person can be a father, a son and a husband all at the same time but that’s merely one person with three different functions. He cannot talk to himself like a father to a son, can he?

The doctrine of the Triune God is a divine mystery that we can clearly see in the Bible. Perhaps, the word “trinity” does not exist in biblical language, but the unique divine relationship between the three persons of God is undoubtedly present.

In Mark 9:7, about the transfiguration of Jesus, the Father spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him!” Clearly, the Father was referring to Jesus, His Son.

In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, “I AM”. Observe, (1) He referred to Abraham in the past tense and to Himself in the present tense. It is a clear revelation of His existence in eternity past. (2) “I AM” is the name, which God has given to Moses as His Name- Exodus 3:14-16. Clearly, it reveals Christ’s deity.

In Matthew 12:32, “and whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come”. This clearly reveals the unique authority of the Holy Spirit, which shows His deity.

In Matthew 29:19, we can observe in the Great Commission that Christ has given power and authority in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It goes to show the infinite equity of the three distinct Persons in One God. The divine mystery irrefutably exists and the Bible attests to it.

Yesterday has been Trinity Sunday. I pray that Spirit of God enlightens us all about this divine mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Christians Still Search for Christ- Matthew 2.1

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem…”

We Learn About Christ Through Bible Study and Prayer

As Christians, we continue to search for Christ. Perhaps, not as a Savior anymore for those who have already received Him as their Lord and personal Savior but in search of the deeper knowledge of Him.

A man and a woman who have decided to tie the knot in matrimony have somehow known each other in many ways. Still, there are things that the couple would not know about each other until they have lived together under one roof and sleep on one bed. They will soon start to see each other’s hidden flaws or discover some goodness in character that causes more reasons to fall deeper in love. They continue to know each other daily in their lives.

The apostle Paul says,

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord… that I may win Christ. And be found in Him… through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to his death…” – Philippians 3:7-10

In our everyday faith walk, those who truly desire to know Christ, and find him, will not consider pain or hardship a barrier in seeking after him. Not even death can stop them. God has blessed us because we can exercise our faith with liberty. We, in democratic countries, have never conducted our worship at the point of death unlike in some parts of the world and yet we tend to lose the fire of our first love (Rev 2:4)!

Let us grow in the knowledge of Christ for such is the beginning of wisdom. Then, and only then can we truly be wise.

Image Courtesy of: www.highpowerresources.com